Saturday, March 12, 2016

Movies Seen: March 5-March 11, 2016

Sometimes my eclectic tastes in film scare even me a little:

Finding Vivian Maier (2014) is a perfect film. I have had a years-long fascination with hoarding and collecting, wanting to be an appraiser for a number of years a while back. I grew up an Air Force brat, where hoarding was kind of impossible when you have to move every couple of years, and I think that experience has triggered a sort of anti-hoarding behavior in myself. When I do get something, I automatically look to get rid of it. Not because I don't like an object (whether it's a book, or DVD, or could be anything), but if I get use out of it and don't need it anymore, I look to sell or donate it. Vivian Maier, a nanny, was a hoarder who moved around the country and kept her hoard with her. A young man, John Maloof, finds a few hundred photograph negatives at an auction that he snaps up for a history paper. He realizes the pictures were taken by this mysterious Maier, and goes about buying her other possessions that were also sold. Soon, this woman's things have taken over Maloof's life. She kept everything. He begins researching her life, not because he is the inadvertent custodian of her estate, but because of those original negatives. Her street photography is stunning. She had a natural gift for capturing a shot, and much of what Maloof and co-director Charlie Siskel show us is fantastic (I dabbled in photography a few years ago, and some of Maier's work floored me). This film is like a mystery, Maloof unfolding the story of this strange woman, warts and all. I saw this on Netflix and wholeheartedly recommend it. On IMDB, a rare 10 out of 10.

The Beast (1977) is something else entirely. Walerian Borowczyk's much-maligned take on the Beauty and the Beast tale is a sexually explicit and unsuccessful film. Some scenes go on too long, his anti-church opinions are on full display, and much of his script seems convenient and odd. I do give him credit for trying to tell a story with the explicit sexual scenes, but I am still looking for that one film that can do it successfully. Opulent locations, and a beautiful (and often nude) leading lady in Lisbeth Hummel keep this from being a completely unwatchable disaster. I gave this a 4 out of 10.

Spectre (2015) completes Daniel Craig as James Bond's story arc that began with "Casino Royale." Here, Bond finds out the source of all of his problems dating back to that film as he investigates the titular crime organization. Craig is still a morose Bond, and I wish Monica Bellucci had a larger role. The biggest problem here is the length of the film. A half hour could have been lost easily. The story is interesting, the production is spectacular, the Oscar-winning title song is okay, and the action sequences are good. As of this writing, Craig may not return to the role, it will be interesting to see what the next film will bring. An 8 out of 10 on IMDB.

Immoral Tales (1976) is the second Borowczyk film I watched this week. Like "The Beast," it is full of nudity and anti-church storylines. Four different tales ranging from the then present-day to the Borgias, De Sade, and Madame Bathory are featured. Not as sexually explicit as "The Beast," this still provides a ton of sex and the "immorality" of the film's title comes through with issues like incest and murder. Once again, the female cast is beautiful and easy on the eyes, and it's hard to remember that what you are seeing is in fact immoral while appreciating the female form. Borowczyk's best film that I have seen is still "Goto, Island of Love," perhaps because it is the least sexually explicit of the three films I have screened so far? Not "great," this gets a 6 out of 10.

I have a few films half-watched that will hopefully make it into next week's column. Thanks for reading.

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