Hey folks, Harry here with a play out from Sherlock Jr, once again stepped in and out of the fabric of film to report to you about many subjects this time out. SO peruse away... read even... have fun... It's off to Chicago for me...
From Sherlock Jr.
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY research screening running just under 2 1/2 hours, considerably shorter than earlier screenings. The film moves right along, leisurely at times but never less than compelling. Very brave performance by Matt Damon at Tom Ripley. I love it when these hot stars are confident and take on risky parts. I mean, the teenage girls aren't ready for Matt to play a nerdy gay guy who can violently yet calmly murder people. But the young cast (Damon and G. Paltrow) don't make this a teen film. It is an event for 25 year olds and up, though younger serious filmgoers will come and like it too. All performances are strong and there are suprises galore. Even though we shouldn't like Ripley, we do. Something about his character appeals to our own hidden secrets and we sympathize with him. Director Minghella continues to prove himself a master director who surrounds himself with great talent on screen and off. The cinematography around Italy makes you want to fly there tonight. The art direction and costume design are stunning, evoking the 50s yet still feeling very contemporary. Some great jazz (Chet Baker, Charlie Parker) played in the background but essential to the plot and a funny scene in a jazz club where Damon and Jude Law sing with an Italian about "Americanos." Tom Ripley is an amazing impersonator and a sequence where he appears to be singing "My Funny Valentine" as Chet Baker is truly spooky.
A beautiful title sequence is long as it sets up the story with sepia and other monochromatic overlays setting off the uncrowded series of credits giving each person their proper due. During this set-up some confusion about music that Ripley listens to is caused because shortly after he says he doesn't like jazz while we earlier saw him listening to it. Evidently a time shuffle and it will be interesting to see if it changes. The focus group had a only a few quibbles and really liked the unexpected ending which is totally different than PURPLE NOON, the wonderful Rene Clement 1960 French thriller based on the same book. Having seen that recently reissued film will not spoil enjoyment of this one though if you haven't seen PURPLE NOON, wait until after seeing TALENTED MR. RIPLEY because the surprises at the end of PURPLE NOON will be even better seen after TMR.. Wim Wenders 1975 AMERICAN FRIEND with Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz is based on a follow-up book RIPLEY'S GAME and while not as successful, it worth a video rental.
Thanks for setting folks straight about my inspiration with my TOY STORY 2 review. SHERLOCK JR. at 45 minutes, is one of the most perfect films ever made....funny, touching, innovative, surreal and proof that Keaton was totally in control of his every move. This movie is a lesson in the language of film and inspired Ernie Kovacs, PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, PLEASANTVILLE and so much more. Did Loki Trickster's previously use the name Sherlock Jr.? I have used it for over 15 years when writing about film in fanzines and the like. I have tried to write you news and reviews before but something was screwy with my computer, stuff got bounced back and I gave up. But a new computer came just in time and I couldn't pass up the chance to tell you about TS2. Sorry if you felt I gave away too much. But it is packed with so much more.
The Miyazaki retrospective is traveling around the country to about 10 cities courtesy of Miramax, Disney and a subcontract to feisty distributor Cowboy Releasing, partially run by Noah Cowan who program the Toronto Film Fest midnight shows. Can't wait to see several films never screened in theaters before. This may be the only chance for some of them as Disney plans video releases of several. PRINCESS MONONOKE is stunning though in an odd quirk of fate, Miyazaki's deal with Disney states none of his films may be cut and this is one that could lose 15-20 minutes and be improved (I'm ducking those tomatoes and screams of sacrelige). I've seen it 3 times and the length is more acceptable with successive viewings. Do make sure you see it in the biggest screen possible and with the best sound. Hopefully Miramax will provide audiences with a context to fully appreciate this epic and understand why it is absolutely the opposite of a Disney animated. Check out the terrific new book HAYAO MIYAZAKI-MASTER OF JAPANESE ANIMATION by Helen McCarthy ANIME! A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO JAPANESE ANIMATION, etc.) from Stone Bridge Press. Thorough commentary on all the films and lots of stills (though too few in (stunning) color. Can be ordered by calling 1-800-947-7271 or at email@example.com.
BOYS DON'T CRY is a very powerful first film based on the true story of Teena/ Brandon/ Teena. A documentary a few years ago caused a stir and the dramatization of a young woman who prefers to pose as a man and what happens to her when the male friends of his/her girlfriend find out is devastating. Since we know the outcome, it is nerve-wracking getting there. At times I was reminded of the more powerful scenes from THE ACCUSED...did I really want to experience such graphic and violent acts? For purposes of having a powerful impact...yes. Reviews have been and will continue to be strong. It took guts for Hilary Swank (of Beverly Hills 90210) to pursue this part. But I'm glad she did. Though you know it is a female masquerading as male from the start, you slowly at first, and then suddenly, start to believe...and understand how everybody could be fooled. BOYS DON'T CRY should prove to be controversial and probably will be hated outside of urban areas. Fox Searchlight is rumored to be considering promoting this on radio station that play music on the soundtrack....a 12-24 age group. What a mistake. Few teens under 16 should see the film because of its powerful imagery, strong sexual sequences and graphic conclusion yet a misleading campaign could result in them sneaking in. Many will be shocked and upset and some right-wing groups could go on the rampage.Its message about tolerance should be required for young people but I think each kid needs to be treated differently. Just as with KIDS, some are ready and other not. Incidentally, Chloe Sevigny of KIDS gives an amazing performance also as a sensitive, confused white trash girl who falls for Teena.
Jumping to classics:
Tod Browning's DRACULA is touring in a new 35mm print accompanied by the Kronos Quartet playing a new Philip Glass score. It has just come out of video but is quite an experience live. DRACULA holds a fond place in our hearts but in reality its lack of music bogs it down. Now Glass has created a perfectly eerie musical mood. Some may not take to the repetiton in Glass' work...I'm not a big fan...but it did work beautifully for me. Ever see HAXAN-WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES? For years repertory theaters played this 1922 Swedish horror classic in a print with a bizarre narration by William Burroughs. The other films of director Benjamin Christensen are practically unseen but the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley will show a good selection of them. I can't wait to see SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN, a 1929 version of A.A. Merritt's book. I hope to file a report on some of these films.
Finally, I hope many of you got a chance to see THE YELLOW SUBMARINE in its (very) limited theatrical reissue. It is very fine on DVD but can't match the big screen, DTS digital 6 track surround experience in a theatre. The sound is amazing. First time the Beatles have agreed to having their music digitally remastered. Don't be suprised if they do it to all their albums. The colors look better than ever and the missing "Hey Bulldog" has been added for the first time outside of England. Most people don't realize that YELLOW SUBMARINE was released in mono. The last video release (12 years ago for a short time until legalities got it pulled) was in a bad fake stereo format. Is the animation itself great. Not necessarily but the design is so amazing that one's jaw drops repeatedly.
MGM had no faith and evidently home video though theatrical might hurt video. Is that a first...a home video company not wanting theatrical first? But a limited number of bookings happened after the Castro in San Francisco pushed hard and Apple insisted there be at least some engagements. When it opened with no ad support but solid press coverage and did big business, MGM decided to take more bookings. It looks like they'll take any theater with DTS Digital if a print is available so bug your local theaters.
This film opened the doors for everything that followed in animation. John Lasseter cites it as a major influence (along with Miyazaki). This guy has good taste.
Enough for now.