#215 The Exterminating Angel/El ángel exterminador

Watched: January 05 2019

Director: Luis Buñuel

Starring: Silvia Pinal, Jacqueline Andere, José Baviera, Augusto Benedico, Luis Beristáin, Antonio Bravo, Claudio Brook, César del Campo, Rosa Elena Durgel, Lucy Gallardo, Enrique García Álvarez, Ofelia Guilmáin, Enrique Rambal, Patricia de Morelos, and just a bunch of others…

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 35min

Exterminating

Source

A dinner party is being thrown on Providence Street for twenty people. And some sheep. And a bear.

exterminating2
Personally, we’d never even dream of attending a party without livestock

Source

As the party progresses, the servants keep leaving. But the guests eventually realise that they cannot do the same. They are stuck.

Exterminating3
Have you ever been to a party so good you cannot leave? Neither have these people. And yet…

Source

As the hours and days go by, the upper class dinner guests deteriorate and become more and more desperate, eventually contemplating murder to break their curse. But what is really going on?

Exterminating4
Honestly, we have no idea. This is above our pay grade.

Source

Like all of Buñuel’s movies, The Exterminating Angel requires some thought and interpretation. Which is not our forte. But we get the impression this is probably a comment on how high society deteriorates to the level of animals once the luxury and the societal structures they cling to are taken away.

Exterminating6
We’ll just insert this still of a herd of sheep without further comment.

Source

It’s a difficult movie to describe, but you should definitely watch it if you like any of the following:

  • Surrealism
  • Weird people
  • Herds of sheep
  • Strange conversations and non sequiturs
  • Chaos
  • Sacrifice
  • Baby bears
  • Impending doom
  • Comments on class, societal rules and human nature
Exterminating5
Or stupid people building a fire in the middle of a room with no openable windows

Source

We thoroughly enjoyed it! We understood absolutely nothing! You should watch it!

What we learned: You know, we would probably learn loads from this film on repeated viewings as it strikes us as the sort of movie you should really study. However, we still have 785 movies to go, so we’re gonna have to get back to you on this…

Next time: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

Advertisements

#174 A Bucket of Blood

Watched: April 6 2018

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone, Julian Burton

Year: 1959

Runtime: 1h 06min

Bucket

Source

In a beatnik café, pretentious poet Maxwell H. Brock (Burton) is performing his latest work, to the fascination of busboy Walter Paisley (Miller). Inspired by the artists he surrounds himself with, and also driven by their ridicule of him, Walter decides to try his hand at sculpting.

Bucket2
“So, how did we do this in Arts and Crafts again..? I just knead it for a while and then it turns out amazing? Can’t be more to it than that!”

Source

Realising that sculpting is harder than it looks, he takes a break to save his landlady’s cat who’s stuck inside the wall. However, stabbing through it, he accidentally stabs the poor cat. Naturally, he proceeds to cover the dead animal in sculpting clay and the next day he turns up to work with his new sculpture.

bucket3
“Dead Cat” is an instant success, admired by art lovers and drug enthusiasts alike

Source

Walter’s newfound success leads to admiration from his crush Carla (Morris) and other patrons of the café, and a lady gives him some heroin as a gift, as one does. This in turn leads to an attempted arrest as an undercover cop follows Walter home and tries to book him for drug possession. Afraid, Walter hits him over the head with a frying pan, killing the cop instantly.

bucket4
What do you do when you accidentally kill a cop? Why, cover the body in clay and pass it off as a life sized sculpture, of course!

Source

Walter gradually goes from underestimated and accident-prone simpleton to calculating killer who lets every small slight become justification for murder. He is, however, not smart enough to avoid killing people he knows and is known to dislike.

bucket7
“It is so sweet that you made a sculpture of a strangled woman who looks exactly like the one who spent last night insulting you very publicly. I simply must kiss you!”

  Source

Leonard (Carbone), the owner of the café, is the only one to see through his newly discovered talent, but he is making money off of Walter’s work and has a vested interest in keeping up the illusion. But how long can this go on? And who is next on Walter’s kill radar?

bucket5
“This severed head has been bothering me all week, so I clayed it!”

Source

A Bucket of Blood is the farcical version of House of Wax. The concepts are similar, but this one is more comedic and strangely also more sinister in many ways. Walter is the epitome of the stereotypical “good guy” – he sees himself as sweet, kind, underestimated and misunderstood, but if he’s rejected by someone, or made fun of, he becomes violent and murderous while simultaneously justifying his actions in his head.

bucket6
“I’m a famous and celebrated sculptor now, so you must date me. Unless you’re just a bitch and a whore!”

Source

We loved his first attempt at sculpting Carla’s face, the extremely pretentious Maxwell and the morbidity of the whole film. We also understand perfectly why Roger Corman made so many films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe – it’s a match made in heaven! Or probably hell, to be quite frank.

bucket8
“If it’s hell, can I still be king..?” “Of course you can, Mr Futterman.”

Source

What we learned: It’s not easy being surrounded by (pretentious) artists if you’re not one yourself. And also a simpleton…

Next time: Ben-Hur (1959)

#114 House of Wax

Watched: June 11 2017

Director: André De Toth

Starring: Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Roy Roberts, Charles Bronson

Year: 1953

Runtime: 1h 28min

house of wax

Source

House of Wax is an old favourite of Sister the Oldest, stemming from her love of Vincent Price in her teenage Goth days (we’ve all been there). A remake of Michael Curtiz’ Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), it stars Price as Professor Henry Jarrod, an eccentric sculptor who works with wax figures.

house of wax2
His obsession with his Marie Antoinette hints at his brewing insanity. Then again, she’s quite the looker!

Source

When Jarrod’s business partner Matthew Burke (Roberts) is in need of some quick cash, he proposes to the artist that they burn down the museum to collect the insurance. Jarrod, who has a close, personal relationship with all his creations, is not exactly on board, so Burke tries to kill him. The museum burns down and Jarrod disappears and is thought to have perished in the fire.

house of wax3
In reality, he has but gone the way of his figures

Source

Fast forward a few months, and Burke dies under mysterious circumstances, his body disappears from the morgue, and his delightful (possible) fiancée Cathy (Jones – a.k.a. She of the Tiny Waist) meets the same fate. Simultaneously, Professor Jarrod reappears with plans to open a new wax museum, this time with a Chamber of Horrors included, showing historical crimes as well as recent, local ones. Coincidence?

house of wax4
“Why, yes, there is an incredible likeness between my former partner who tried to kill me and whose body disappeared from the morgue, and my recreation of his death. I really am that good.”

Source

Sue Allen (Kirk), Cathy’s roommate and only witness to her killer, grows suspicious when visiting the museum and finding that Joan of Arc is the spitting image of her dead friend, though her suspicions are mostly written off as the silly ideas of a hysterical woman. Her own likeness to Jarrod’s Marie Antoinette put her on the artist’s radar, and tensions mount.

house of wax5
“I told her not to touch the artwork! That’s it. She must die.”

Source

House of Wax holds up incredibly well and is an excellent and creepy feature. We love the image of the melting wax figures, everything about Cathy (our favourite), Vincent Price’s iconic voice, and the grotesque plot.

house of wax6
“No ding-ding without a wedding ring!” – Cathy, paraphrased. God, we loved her.

Source

Originally made in 3D, it is easy to see how that would have added to the experience, and some scenes are clearly inserted mainly for the 3D effect. Unfortunately, we’ve only ever seen it in 2D, but perhaps one day we’ll have the chance to watch it in the same way as its original audience. One can only dream…

What we learned: Don’t kill people’s creative works for money. Or, money and art do not always work well together. Something to that effect.

Next time: Mr Hulot’s Holiday/Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953)

#106 An American in Paris

Watched: May 14 2017

Director: Vincente Minnelli

Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guétary, Nina Foch

Year: 1951

Runtime: 1h 53min

American

Source

An American in Paris marks a return to the wonderful world of musicals, and it’s a great one at that. Jerry Mulligan (Kelly), an American ex-soldier and aspiring painter, has taken up residence in Paris after the war ended. While his accommodations are small, IKEA has nothing on this guy’s smart living solutions, and he spends his time sleeping, painting and trying to sell his work in the streets of the city.

american2
His low sales numbers might be attributed to him berating and insulting potential customers

Source

He also spends time with his pianist neighbour Adam Cook (Levant) and the latter’s associate, singer Henri Baurel (Guétary), and together the three dance with adorable old ladies and talk about their lack of success. In between all these fine activities, Jerry also makes time to teach local kids English through the medium of song and dance.

american3
An elaborate dance routine really is the only way to teach kids these days

Source

Mulligan finds himself a sugar mama in Milo Roberts (Foch) who promises to make him a household name, but falls in love with Lise Bouvier (Caron) who, unbeknownst to Jerry, is already engaged to marry Henri. Complications ensue, but so too do magnificent dance numbers.

American4
Making the most out of the fact that it was filmed in colour

Source

There are so many great scenes in this film, such as the introduction of Lise with the different sides to her shown through dance, the old lady Kelly dances with in the café, and of course the grand finale which we cannot even begin to describe. We have an affinity for musicals, especially ones with great dance numbers, and so this one was right up our alley.

american5
We also have a weakness for serial killer thrillers, so were ever so slightly disappointed when they both survived their first date by the river in the fog…

Source

The story itself is fine, although it might just be an excuse to throw in some truly excellent dance scenes. That hardly matters though because the musical scenes are well worth the ticket price alone (in our case, borrowing a free DVD at the library – thank you social democracy!), and we’ve found new ways to enjoy another favourite pastime – reading books.

american6
It really is the only way to read

Source

American7
…except for this way, of course

Source

If you like dancing, music, Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, romance, snarky pianists, fantastic costumes, clever solutions to small living spaces, or just interesting new ways of doing everyday activities, look no further than An American in Paris. It really does have it all.

American8
Yes, fountain lovers – there’s even something in there for you

Source

What we learned: When you ain’t got any money it takes on a curious significance.

Next time: Strangers on a Train (1951)

#88 The Red Shoes

Watched: March 6 2017

Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Starring: Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring

Year: 1948

Runtime: 2h 14min

Red shoes

Source

Victoria Page (Shearer) is a young, ambitious ballet dancer who, after a party, is invited by ballet impresario Boris Lermontov (Walbrook) to try out for his company. At the same time, young composer Julian Craster (Goring) gets a job with the same company coaching the orchestra. As Vicky rises to be the new prima ballerina (after the old one got married), Julian also rises through the ranks as a composer. The culmination of both their work is a new ballet, The Red Shoes, based on H. C. Andersen’s classic fairy tale. Julian composes while Vicky dances the lead.

Red shoes2
While the others work, Lermontov does his very best impression of a creepy old man

Source

The ballet is a great success, and its two rising stars fall in love, something Lermontov is none too happy about. He fires Julian, and Vicky, though torn, decides to go with her boyfriend. She marries him and he starts composing operas, also to great success. However, despite her meteoric rise to fame in Lermontov’s ballet, Vicky spends the following year out of work.

red shoes3
We strongly suspect Julian didn’t like other men’s hands this close to his wife’s hoo-ha..

Source

Next season, Vicky goes back to Monte Carlo on holiday with her aristocratic aunt and runs into Lermontov again. He convinces her to dance The Red Shoes once more, but on the night of the performance, Julian comes and demands his wife choose between him and the ballet. Crazed (or possessed?) by this ultimatum, Vicky loses her mind and her control, just like the protagonist in Anderson’s fairy tale.

Red shoes4
Ah – innocence ruined by the lure of passion. It’s like the fairy tale reflects the fate of the innocent ballerina…

Source

It’s clear that Lermontov is supposed to be some sort of parallel to the shoe maker in the fairy tale, but honestly, he’s not the devil here. He encourages her ambition – an ambition that comes from her, not any outside force. Sure, his encouragement comes from mainly selfish reasons, and he may have some ulterior motive of his own, but at least he want her to follow her passion. Julian seems to think she should be content being the wife and muse of a talented composer, despite her own obvious talent which she is unable to develop once they leave the company. In our opinion, Julian is the bad guy here.

red shoes5
It doesn’t help our impression that he shows up for her performance  wearing something very close to a Nazi outfit and goes straight for the boobs

Source

This film is spectacular and definitely a new favourite of ours. It’s an intriguing story with great, often eccentric, characters (we particularly love the other members of the ballet company), gorgeous costumes and breathtaking dancing. The performance of The Red Shoes – a ballet within the film – is wonderful and somewhat reminiscent of the Berkeley musicals from the ’30s, beautifully incorporating cinematic effects with amazing dancing to tell the story.

red shoes6
We’re quite certain that the audience cannot be replaced by an ocean in a real live performance.

Source

It seems to us that women’s ambition is a dangerous thing (in which case Lermontov is the devil), although we’re not sure for whom. Is it scary for the men who lose control over them, or for the (fragile) women who will crack under the pressure of trying to balance a traditional role (doting wife and house maker) with a professional career? Possibly both, but it seems like women tend to pay the price – especially in morality tales and fiction (let’s not even go into the sexual undertones of this film and, indeed, the fairy tale on which it’s based).

What we learned: A happy and full life should have room for love and ambition. To have to choose is unfair (especially when it’s one gender asking the other to choose while they themselves can have it all..). Also, things haven’t changed much for ballerinas in the last 7 decades, judging from the parallels between this film and Black Swan (2010).

Next time: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)