Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun (Joann Sfar, 2015)

First off, how about a round of applause for Freya Mavor's freckles? If you thought Natalya Rudakova's freckles were off the hook in The Transporter 3, you'll love Freya Mavor's freckles in The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun... (Hold your horses, that's the name of the movie? And secondly, do people still say, "off the hook"?)  Yes, that's the name of the movie. As for "off the hook." Fuck these so-called "people." Besides, who still says, "hold your horses"? Talk about lame. Anyway, as of writing this, I have purchased a total of six dresses at my favourite thrift store (it's on Bloor St. and it's the only place I feel comfortable shopping for clothes). Now, given that I'm rather new to buying dresses, I'm still trying to figure what my size is. At first I thought I was in the 9-10 range. Then I started to think I was more of a 7-8 kind of creature (edit: 3-4 seems about right). Either way, deep down I feel as if the garments I'm getting all a tad on the small side. That is until I saw what Freya Mavor wears as Dany Dorémus is this strange retro road movie from France. Even though she mainly wears the same outfit from start to finish, every outfit she does wear is pretty skimpy. And given that Freya and I are both 5' 9", I was thinking that maybe the dresses I'm buying were in fact the correct size. Oh, and it's not that they don't fit, it's that they seem a little short. However, since Freya and I, like I said, are both 5' 9", and we both have great legs, I've decided to conclude it would a crime for us to not wear short dresses and skirts.

As for the quality of this movie. Now, that's a different story all-together. Of course, only someone who is completely dense in the appreciating beautiful women department would deny that Freya Mavor, a Scottish-born actress who is fluent in French, is gorgeous. That being said, the movie itself doesn't quite live up to lofty standards put forth by Miss Mavor (the lady). Neither does it live up to the blue Ford Thunderbird (the car). As for the her trademark glasses. Hmm, I'd say it's a tie. Everything is better than the gun. Seriously, the movie becomes a huge chore to sit through when the gun finally appears on-screen.

Traditionally, the gun is supposed to represent action and danger, but all it does in this movie is elicit yawns and/or groans. For one thing, it's a rifle. Yet it sounds like a pistol. To make matters even more aggravating, they keep referring to it as a shotgun.

Enough about the gun, let's talk about Freya Mavor and that car of hers. Well, it's not really her car. Uh, I'll get to that in a minute. Nevertheless, the pairing of Freya Mavor and that blue Thunderbird is an intoxicating combination. Add the fact that she's wearing glasses and a short light beige dress, and the combination gets even more potent.

The decision to set the film during unspecific time period was also rather ingenious. There's not a single item, phrase uttered or object that betrays what year the film takes place in. It also helped that phones are never used in the film, as nothing dates a movie faster than a phone, especially a mobile phone.

The car is timeless, the clothes are timeless, the John Carpenter-esque soundtrack is kinda of timeless, hell, even the typewriter is timeless, I loved the film's overall vagueness when it came to style. Parts of the film screamed the 1960s, while others had a 1970s vibe. Even the film's protracted title has a certain 1970s exploitation hint to it.

It's too bad the film doesn't really earn its title. I mean, those expecting to see a sleazy revenge movie along the lines of Thriller: They Called Her One-Eye or I Spit On Your Grave are going to be severely disappointed.

While I'll don't normally care about revealing plot points. Since this movie is relatively new, I'll refrain from doing so. I will say this, Freya Mavor, a tall, lanky drink of leggy water, plays Dany Dorémus, the secretary of a business named Michel Caravaille (Benjamin Biolay). After completing some important typing for Michel, Dany is asked to drive her boss, and his wife and daughter to the airport, and then drive the car back to their house.

However, instead of driving it, a blue Thunderbird, to their house, Dany decides to go on a bit of a joy ride and heads toward the sea. Of course, this decision has unintended consequences, as things get more and more stressful for Dany and her long, slender legs.

Unsure as to why all this weird shit is happening to Dany, the audience is left to figure out... No, wait. All the film's mysteries are explained in, what felt like, a twenty minute plot wrap up sequence at the end of the movie. This may sound harsh, but the final twenty minutes are terrible. As the film's unique flavour is basically flushed down the toilet. (Wow, that was harsh.) Well, the film up until this point had a sort of surreal vibe about it that was quite appealing.

Add the fact that it had a sexy chick, a cool car and a some times synthy soundtrack, it had the potential of becoming a future cult classic alongside the likes of The Duke of Burgundy and It Follows. But it doesn't... (Don't forget the killer shopping/dress-up montage.) Oh, yeah. There's a shopping/dress-up montage. Of course, Dany doesn't wear any of the clothes she ends up purchasing (the skimpy beige dress that may or may not be two sizes to small for her is what she wears from start to finish). But still, you gotta love the fact she takes the time to try on clothes. Or you don't. Either way, the movie is... all right, I guess.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

I, the Jury (Richard T. Heffron, 1982)

How am I supposed to learn how to apply makeup in a tarty manner if they don't show it being applied? (What the hell are you babbling about?) The sexual deviant/serial killer/C.I.A. assassin, played by the striking Judson Scott, at the centre of I, the Jury likes to slather his female victims in heavy makeup before killing them. (Yeah, so?) So? We never see how he applies the makeup. And another thing, does he carry around the makeup with him? It's revealed later on in the film, directed by Richard T. Heffron (the film's writer, Larry Cohen, was set to direct but was apparently fired for some reason), that he carries around a bag that contains a red wig and a switchblade. So, I can only assume he keeps the makeup in that bag as well. Either way, I would have liked to have seen him put the makeup on the women he murdered. I know, there are literally thousands of videos out there that can help you apply makeup to your face. But those videos are mostly about cis women applying makeup in a competent manner. I, on the other hand, want to know how to apply makeup in an incompetent manner. What can I say? I'm a tart at heart. In case it isn't obvious, the Judson Scott subplot of this film, loosely based on the novel by Mickey Spillane (his debut, if I'm not mistaken), was my favourite aspect of this NYC-set detective movie.

Unfortunately, Judson Scott doesn't appear in the film right away. Sure, you get to see some of his handy-work in the early going (a tarted up, red wig-adorned woman is found dead in the park). But the film is mostly made up of car chases and Armand Assante's [thankfully] always clean shaven Mike Hammer whining about his pet fish dying (every time he enters his office, one, or some times even two, of his fish are lifelessly floating in his fish tank). Actually, I kind of liked the dead fish gag.

Anyway, I would say a good chunk of this film, especially the first half, had the feeling of an expensive TV pilot. However, that all changes when the orgy gets underway. Yep, I said, orgy. Investigating the murder of a one-armed army buddy (they served in Vietnam together), Det. Mike Hammer, with the help of his sexy secretary Velda (Laurene Landon), uncovers a vast conspiracy involving the mafia, the C.I.A., serial killers, sex clinics and mind control.

As you might expect, the serial killer/sex clinic plot line scratched me where I itch the most. What can I say? I'm a... deviant, I guess.

I don't know what this says about me, but I was rapidly losing patience with this film during the early going. And it didn't help that the Al Pacino-lite macho asshole vibe Armand Assante was repeatedly putting out there rubbed me the wrong way. Granted, I grew to accept, and eventually admire, Armand Assante's brutish performance as Mike Hammer (he is someone you don't fuck with... big time). But I wasn't having any of it at the beginning.

While the orgy scene I alluded to earlier is an obvious indicator that the tone of the film had changed. I would say the scene where Mike Hammer and a fellow detective played Paul Sorvino stand over the dead body of that tarted up woman lying at the base of the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central park was the exact moment I started to realize that this film might have some sleaze potential. I mean, the way the camera lingered voyeuristically (that's a word, right?) on her dead body was definitely exploitative in nature. And I dug that.

What? You don't think I watch movies to see finely woven plots unfold in a semi-clever manner. Uh-uh. I want to see the bloated, pockmarked underbelly of humanity exposed, warts and all. And I want to see bright colours and fashion. Sadly, there isn't that much fashion in this film. Nevertheless, the sudden uptick in this film's sleaze factor not only pleased me, it guaranteed that it would be worthy of a review.

And judging by the words I've typed so far in correlation with I, the Jury, it's clearly being reviewed.

I don't want it to seem like I'm obsessed with the orgy scene, but I think I would remiss if I didn't mention that the bulk of the orgasm faces used in the close-ups were provided by porn legends Samantha Fox (Her Name Was Lisa) and Bobby Astyr (Corruption).

The actual plot, in case I forgot to mention, involves Mike Hammer investigating the murder of... No, wait. I already mentioned that. Nevertheless, the part of the plot where we learn that the C.I.A. has employed/brainwashed a sex-crazed serial killer to murder America's enemies is kind of interesting. Think about it. The C.I.A. can kill anyone they want without it being connected to them. Just as long as the killer can get his victims to wear a red wig and tarty makeup and get them to profess their love for him in a sincere manner, they're good to go... murder-wise.

A prime example of what can happen when 1970s-style grittiness/paranoia is mixed with together with the burgeoning urbanity of the 1980s, I, the Jury is the best of both worlds: a glossy action-thriller with enough sleaze to satisfy fans of both 1970s and 1980s cinema.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Born in Flames (Lizzie Borden, 1983)

You know what this movie really needs? (A sense of humour?) No... Well, yeah, it could have been funnier. Now, I'm not saying it should have been Romy and Michele's High School Reunion funnier, but still, a little levity would have helped the film's ultra-earnest temperament go down a whole lot smoother. Damn, why did I bring up Romy and Michele? Now I want to watch it. Seriously, I don't even know why other movies bother to exist, as nothing will ever top the sheer awesomeness that is Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. Maybe instead of watching it, I'll just fold scarves or whatever. Anyway. What was I saying? Oh, yeah. You know what this movie–which, I might as well mention, is called Born in Flames–really needs? That's right, it's needs Lydia Lunch. I ain't kidding around, it needs her sneer badly. Well, to be fair, Adele Bertei's sneer is nothing to sneeze at. Nonetheless, the film, directed by Lizzie Borden, could have really used some Lydia Lunch. (Yeah, well. She's not in it... so, get over it.) Okay, now that we got all that nonsense out of the way, let's see how many "isms" I can use while describing this movie. The most obvious and most important one is feminism, as it permeates the proceedings like an estrogen haze. Mmm, an estrogen haze. Oh, to have rivers of uncut estrogen coursing through my veins. Yum. Soften my wiry skin, you sweet, sweet elixir, you. Make my nipples... (Focus!) Huh? Sorry 'bout that.

Yeah, you could say the film is definitely pro-feminist. It's also pro-socialism, anti-racism, pro-lesbian, anti-classism and pro-Bogosian (the film marks the acting debut of writer Eric Bogosian and, for some reason, the acting debut of Strange Days director Kathryn Bigelow).

You could say the film is kinda anti-Mark Boone Junior as well. I mean, to see a non-bearded Mark Boone Junior cock-blocked on the subway by a couple of a vigilante lesbians was beyond infuriating. Wait a minute. No it wasn't. In fact, it was the complete opposite of infuriating. There's nothing I despise more than watching men trying to talk to women in public. It would be fine if both parties wanted to talk to one another. But the woman doesn't want to talk to you, so leave her the fuck alone. I can't tell you how many times I've watched men try to strike up conversations with women on the subway. And every time it happens, I want to crawl under the nearest pile of garbage and die. It's just so embarrassing.

Luckily for the subway riding woman in Born in Flames, her Mark Boone Junior-related problems are solved by a couple of members of a radical feminist group that may or may not have ties the Women's Army. Of course, Mark Boone Junior is just doing what the patriarchy has repeatedly allowed and encouraged him to do. And that is, openly suppress women.

Now, you would think that equality would reign supreme in the New York City portrayed in this film. After all, the so-called "Social Democratic War of Liberation" was apparently won ten years ago. And even though, the U.S. is currently a socialist, Bernie-approved paradise, women, minorities and the working poor are still being screwed over.

With rape, racism and unemployment running rampant across the country, it leaves Isabel (Adele Bertei), the host of a pirate radio show called "Radio Ragazza" and Honey (Honey), the host of "Phoenix Radio," no choice but to fight back against this oppressive society.

While the ideas bandied about in this film are large in scope, the execution is actually quite minimal. Saddled with a minuscule budget, Lizzie Borden, using stock footage of riots and civil unrest and clever editing techniques, has made a low-budget epic with science fiction overtones. Or, I should say, slight sci-fi overtones.

Although the world depicted in this film might have seemed far-fetched in 1983, it's like watching a documentary when compared to today's current political climate.

In fact, some of the dialogue sounds eerily similar to discourse I regularly hear in the media nowadays. Which, in a way, makes Born in Flames all the more relevant. Of course, that doesn't mean the film isn't overbearing at times. The characters don't really talk to one another, it's more like they speechify at one another. That being said, the film is definitely a must-see for fans of punk rock (the film's scrappy theme song is a snotty riot), NYC in the early 1980s (the film would make an excellent double-bill with Downtown '81 or Vortex), leftist radicalism and hardcore feminism.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Satan Was a Lady (Doris Wishman, 2001)

When the leading lady in Doris Wishman's Satan Was a Lady decides to exploit the secretary who works for the man she's currently blackmailing for monetary gain, I thought to myself: Now we're getting somewhere. Don't get me wrong, I loved the kooky vibe the film was putting out there up until this point. And I even loved the songs by Glyn Styler, who plays "Ed Baines," the lead character's musician boyfriend. But the film was missing that certain something. That all changes when Cleo Lauren (Honey Lauren), a self-described whore, tells Lotte (Laudet Torres) that if she hands over the names of her boss's richest clients, she will give her a makeover. My eyes lit up like a rotten Christmas tree, one of course that's been set on fire and tossed off the roof of a recently condemned Denny's, when she says this. I was like, oooh, I can't wait to see what Cleo's got in store for Lotte. Seriously, someone cue the makeover montage. Unfortunately, Lotte refuses to hand over the names of her boss's clients. Which is a freakin' shame. Or was it? Think about it. Lotte doesn't need a makeover. Her glasses, her hair, her mousey clothes are pretty much perfect. In other words, I wouldn't change a damn thing. As for Cleo. She's the last person who should be giving fashion and style advice. I mean, for starters, look at that mane of unkempt hair sitting atop her head. It's a fucking mess. Um, hello? Helena Bonham Carter called. She wants her hairdo back. Zing!

If you're wondering if this film is in anyway connected to Doris Wishman's Satan Was a Lady from mid-1970s. You can stop right this minute. Other than the fact that they're both directed by Doris Wishman, the film's have nothing really in common. (So... why do they have the same title?) Your guess is as good as mine. It does make sense, if you think about it. Who else would remake their own movie some thirty years later and have them be totally different movies? I'll tell you who, Doris Wishman.

While it was somewhat troubling to see a Doris Wishman film that employs live sound (most of her classic films were shot without sound), you can still see subtle flourishes here and there that prove that she's still got it.

Got what, I'm not quite sure. But it's blatantly obvious whose behind the camera. This sleazy exploitation noir/musical practically oozes Doris Wishman at times.

While the production design isn't as gaudy or as heinous as it is in her other films. The furniture, the wall art and the decor in general is still pretty egregious. And, of course, I mean that in the nicest way possible. If I want to see uninspired production design, I'll watch any random porno film made during the last fifteen years. On the other hand, if I want to see furnishings that will make me gag by simply looking in their general direction, I'll watch a Doris Wishman film.

And, judging by the words I'm currently typing, it looks like I just did. It's just too bad every other film I watch couldn't be a Doris Wishman film, as they are simply better than most of the crap I watch. Okay, maybe "better" isn't the right word. But they're definitely more interesting.

Take, for example, the way Glyn Styler combs his hair. It's a thousand times more interesting than 99% of the stuff I see in most movies. I ain't kidding around. In fact, I would put Glyn Styler's floppy side part up there with the likes of Kyle MacLachlan's floppy side part from Showgirls. (Didn't you say that just the mere sight of Kyle MacLachlan's floppy side part in Showgirls gave you a yeast infection?) Yeah, so? (Aren't yeast infections bad?) Are you kidding me? I would kill for a yeast infection, especially one that was induced by a floppy side part.

Speaking of Showgirls, the strip club scenes are a real hoot and a half. Mainly because the strippers strip in reverse. That's right, they start off naked, and slowly put their clothes on... to the cool, hip, way-out songs of Glyn Styler.

In case I forget, the plot basically about a Miami whore who dreams of buying a fur coat. Wait. There's got to be more to it than that. Let's me see. A Miami whore, low on funds, decides to blackmail one of her clients in order to buy a fur coat. Um, yeah, that's pretty much it. Of course, this plan of hers hits a few roadblocks along the way; she eventually turns her attention to her clients' son (Hans Lohl, a.k.a. the worst actor ever). But that's the gist of it. Oh, and the actor who plays the client the Miami whore is blackmailing is called "Edge." No, not The Edge, just Edge. Is that crazy or what?

As far as other Doris Wishman-fostered anomalies go. I would say the cat with bum paw and lesbian strip club bartender were my favourite. The sight of Cleo's cat limping around her shitty apartment will break your heart. And while there's nothing really that odd about a lesbian strip club bartender, the part where she's turned down by that sun-baked whore with the long blonde braids was kinda off. I mean, what kind of person says no to what will surly be a night of super-wild lesbian sex? It makes no sense.

Oh, and who wears fur in Miami?!? Though, it does explain why Cleo's hair looks like an abandoned bird's nest most of time. (Huh?) The humid weather in Miami isn't exactly hair-friendly. (Oh.)

Anyway, Doris Wishman, who was pushing 90 when she made this, proves that you're never too old to make sleazy trash. Oh, and Glyn Styler rocks.