Saturday, June 23, 2007

Revisit: The Lost Weekend

A Paramount Pictures release 1945

Directed by Billy Wilder

Written by Billy Wilder & Charlie Brackett

A writer (Ray Milland) struggles with alcohol addiction over the course of a five day binge.

Nominated for seven Acamedy Awards, and winner of four, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor, The Lost Weekend shocked audiences in 1945 with it's frank, relentless, realistic portrayal of addiction. Like with many of his films, Wilder chose an unpopular subject and somehow turned it into a smash - partly due to the strong performance of Ray Milland as addict Don Birnam, and partly due to the way the film deals with the taboo subject matter head on. Audiences had never seen anything like it before - crass, revealing, and fully realized, The Lost Weekend gives a full picture of the struggles of the addict, including some particularly terrifying hallucination scenes. The film was also the first to contain a theramin in the soundtrack, an instrument which later became associated with B sci-fi pictures.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Revisit: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

A Faces Distributing Company release 1976

Written and Directed by John Cassavetes

A proud strip club owner (Ben Gazzara) is forced to come to terms with himself as a man when his gambling addiction gets him in hot water with the mob, who offer him only one alternative.

Gazzara and Cassavetes were frequent collaborators, but their individual efforts culminate in this film, which tells the story of a drunk gambler who gets in over his head. Cassavetes uncomfortably close shots and lingering camera, mixed with the improv, emotionally driven acting style results in a rich, full protrayal that leaves a bitterswett mix of sadness, humor, and the complex emotions of real life. Gazzara's strip club owner character is constantly emasculated while trying to maintain his high roller image, setting up an interesting play in sexual politics. Make sure to watch the 138 directors version - its worth the extra thirty minutes.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

NY Asian Film Festival

The Annual New York Asian Film Festival starts this Friday at the IFC Center. Highlights include a screening of Takashi Miike's unreleased in the US Zebraman, anniversary showing of John Woo's Hard Boiled, shorts from Old Boy helmer Chan Wook Park, and more. This seventeen day orgy of new films will introduce you to buffalo-busting action flicks from Thailand, cartilage-cracking gangster films from Korea, and the first gore flick ever made in Pakistan!

You can find the full screening list and purchase tickets here.

Hard Boiled


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Revisit: Julius Caesar

An MGM release 1952
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Written by William Shakespeare (play)

An epic version of Shakespeare's classic play of betrayal and repentance.

Brando recieved his third of four consecutive Oscar nominations for this film, in which he appears all of about twenty minutes. In that twenty minutes, however, Brando gives one of the most intense performances of his career as Marc Antony, delivering Shakespeare's classic "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech with such unbridled passion that it almost makes sitting through the rest of this snoozefest worth it. Edmond O'Brien makes an appearance as well, and is the only other actor on the screen who can seem to captapult this epic-in-scope retelling of Caesar beyond being a mere big-budget stage play. Mankiewicz has some interesting shots in there, but this one is for Brando fans only.