“Nothing is as it seems” was the thematic starting point when Nicolas Roeg envisioned the iconic horror-drama Don’t Look Now (1973). The phrase not only matches the recurring events in the film where John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) desperately tries to make sense of what he sees, but also informs the artistic rendition of the idea, “doubt what you see,” imbuing the audience with a sense of mistrust. The imagery and editing style of the film are aligned with this thematic statement, reaffirming the film’s status as not just an awesome horror flick but also an art film where every element is carefully and purposefully designed, performed, and built to elicit a specific response from the audience.
Brattle Theatre Film Notes Posts
In 1999, Stanley Kubrick cast then-married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman to play well-to-do Manhattan doctor Bill Hartford and his wife, Alice, in what would be his final film, Eyes Wide Shut. The film’s cryptic title and mysterious, sexy trailer, set to Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing,” caught my eye, especially as I was a teenage Kubrick fanatic and closet Cruise admirer. After nearly three hours in a darkened theater, I wasn’t sure what I had seen, but I knew I liked it. Looking back almost twenty years later and after many repeat screenings, I’m not sure the film is as sexually liberated and transgressive as I once thought. Herein, then, I take a closer look at the film’s messages on marriage, fidelity and Tom Cruise’s mysterious on-screen sexuality.
Alonso Ruizpalacios’ Museo, aside from being a virtuoso piece of filmmaking, is unique in that it considers the precarious morality of history museums. Based on a 1985 heist, in which two thieves made off with 124 artifacts from Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology, it explores the tension between a country’s cultural “heritage” and the indigenous cultures that the country robbed and appropriated.
Exactly four decades after Jacques Tourneur terrified audiences with his quick and moody werecat horror film Cat People in 1942, Paul Schrader – following the success of American Gigolo – released a nearly in-name-only remake. The cultural climate in 1982 was vastly different than when Tourneur was making his film. Schrader’s remake, after all, came in the same year as the gleefully excessive epic Conan the Barbarian, the ultra-gory remake of The Thing, and slasher films like The Slumber Party Massacre and Friday the 13th: Part III testing the limits of on screen carnage. But where was the sex?
Few monsters have as strong of a cinematic tradition as the werewolf. Nearly as soon as the first silent films were made, the werewolves appeared in them. Though these films were inspired by both mythological folklore and accounts of “real” werewolves, the movies seem to have largely ignored the fact that in these old tales, lycanthropy affected both men and women. Ginger Snaps not only aims for a bit of gender equality amongst these shapeshifters, but it does so by pointing at the obvious female markers within werewolf mythology.
The 1980s were an incredible time for practical effects, and a great time for horror films. The unique and terrifying cinematic experiences made during this era — from The Thing to Hellraiser — owe much to masterful animatronics and other practical effects. But there’s one film that seldom gets brought up in the horror special effects conversation: The Company of Wolves.
When Jennifer’s Body came out in 2009, I thought it was the coolest movie I had seen since Mean Girls. The film followed Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) and Needy Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried), two BFFs as they navigated boys and high school. If that wasn’t stressful enough, Jennifer gets sacrificed to a satanic cult and becomes a boy-eating demon. To quote from the film, hell is a teenage girl. Or rather, is the teenage girl just a victim of the hellish patriarchy?
Like the sweet stray dogs that run and play during the opening scenes of Mon Oncle, Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot lives a free, unstructured life in an older section of Paris. He chats with neighbors, stops in the local pub, and takes things slowly. His only appointment is to pick up his 9-year-old nephew, Gérard after school. Hulot loves Gérard and the feeling is clearly mutual. With his uncle, Gérard can be a kid. He plays with other boys, gets his clothes dirty, and eats too many sweets. He has fun.
At the end of Army of Darkness, the final film the Evil Dead trilogy, we see our hero, Ash (Bruce Campbell) back at his workaday job as a clerk at S-Mart department store. Having just survived a barrage of challenges after being transported back to the Middle Ages (everything from dangerously skeptical knights to monstrous Deadites), Ash looks comfortable and assured in his familiar, modern-day surroundings. Ever the show-off, Ash brags that the people he encountered in the 1300’s – from commoners to royalty – offered him the chance “to lead them, to teach them, to…be king.” Ash’s cockiness is soon disrupted by the shocking appearance of a female customer-turned-Deadite. Despite her promises to swallow Ash’s soul, the Deadite is quickly defeated by our hero’s wily sarcasm and rapid-fire shotgun blasts.
During the first few seconds of John Wick: Chapter 2, the motorcycle sequence from Buster Keaton’s 1924 film, Sherlock Jr. is projected on the side of a building in New York City. This is no accident: The influence Keaton has on the John Wick franchise and action movies is immense. Technological advances aside, the influence is easy to discern: the stunt work, the cinematography, even the fundamental use of physical action as a form of storytelling. But while action movies have long exuded a serious, no-funny-business demeanor, John Wick: Chapter 2 honors another enduring element of Keaton’s work: slapstick.