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On this page: AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON
THE EPIC OF EVEREST | THEATER OF BLOOD | THE WICKER MAN
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last update 14.May.14
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An Autumn Afternoon
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE  
dir Yasujiro Ozu
prd Shizuo Yamanouchi
scr Yasujiro Ozu, Kogo Noda
with Chishu Ryu, Shima Iwashita, Keiji Sada, Mariko Okada, Teruo Yoshida, Noriko Maki, Shin'ichiro Mikami, Nobuo Nakamura, Eijiro Tono, Kuniko Miyake, Ryuji Kita, Kyoko Kishida
iwashita and ryu
release Jpn 18.Nov.62,
US Sep.63, UK Oct.66
restored UK 16.May.14
62/Japan Shochiku 1h52

TORONTO FILM FEST
An Autumn Afternoon In his final picture, master filmmaker Ozu once again delicately slices through Japanese society to reveal powerful themes about human interaction. It's a story of parents and children, and the pressures everyone feels from the past and future. And while the post-war setting dates the film, its message is still timely.

By never remarrying, widower Hirayama (Ryu) has allowed his daughter Michiko (Iwashita) take the woman's role in the home. Younger hapless-teen Kazuo (Mikami) still lives at home, while eldest son Koichi (Sada) and his wife Akiko (Okada) are caught up in their own life together, bickering about buying new gadgets and clothes. Then two people get Hirayama thinking: his old friend Horie (Kita) finds a much younger second wife, while a former professor (Tono) has turned to drink to cope with ruining his daughter's life, since she's now too old to marry.

The film is made up of a variety of encounters, as a range of people discuss issues from their personal pasts as well as bigger issues relating to the nation. In one hilarious conversation, Hirayama discusses the possibility that Japan might have won the war, and although he and his friend enjoy reliving their military marches, they think it might be better that Japan lost. The implication is that perhaps it's time to let Michiko move forward as well.

Yes, this a talky movie, but the spectrum of characters are beautifully developed, each with his or her own longings and opinions. There are constant clashes between them, as well as several comical moments as most cope with the daily pressures of urban life in Tokyo with copious amounts of alcohol, all while looking for love and companionship. Hirayama even has his eye on a friendly barmaid (Kishida).

Ozu shoots this in his usual elegant style, capturing the people and the spaces they live in with an astute eye. The film has a gorgeous colour scheme, with subtle hues in each location punctuated by red and blue details. And the camerawork puts us right into each scene, watching conversations subjectively, as the actors speak straight to-camera as they address each other. It's remarkably simple, and thoroughly enveloping. And while the plot may feel lighter than air, the underlying themes leave us with a lot to think about.

PG themes
28.Apr.14
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The Epic of Everest
5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir-scr-prd Captain John Noel
with George Mallory, Andrew Irvine, T Howard Somervell, Edward F Norton, Noel Odell, Bentley Beetham, John de Vere Hazard, Charles G Bruce, C Geoffrey Bruce, EO Shebbeare, RWG Hingston, Rongbuk Lama
The Epic of Everest release UK 4.Dec.24, US 22.Mar.27
restored 18.Oct.13
24/UK 1h27

london film festival
The Epic of Everest In documenting the third expedition up Everest, filmmaker Noel demonstrates a staggering amount of stamina as well as groundbreaking technical and artistic skills. Watching this 1924 film is a mystical experience, revealing the big mountain in ways no one as ever done since. And this digital restoration makes it essential viewing.

Noel was an explorer himself, disguising himself as a Tibetan to get his first glimpse of Everest in 1913, perhaps the first Westerner to see it firsthand. After suggesting that it was climbable, the first reconnaissance trip took place in 1921, and Noel shot the first film of Everest on 1922's second expedition. Then he returned with much more robust equipment in 1924 to document Mallory and Irvine's now legendary attempt. They may have reached the summit, but no one will ever know.

Before we see anything, a lengthy text introduces the wondrous mountain known locally as Chomolungma, "Goddess Mother of the World". Noel's awe infuses his words, as he refers to "lofty solitudes" that are "unseen by man" while also taking the time to record details of the Tibetan culture and the intrepid spirit of the expedition's leaders. Yes, he is seeing this through colonial eyes, commenting on "filthy" conditions and "pagan" beliefs, mixing journalistic observation with poetic description. He is clearly entranced by everything he sees, and his photography has an eye for telling detail.

From Darjeeling, this procession of "500 men and animals" works its way up the mountain, and the film's tone becomes magical as we are dazzled by tinted images of glaciers and ice fields. Using a specially made telephoto lens, he shoots the climbers from an unprecedented distance. The film is packed with memorable moments: the birth of a donkey, the traverse across the "Ice Fairyland", a daring rescue and the heart-stopping events surrounding the deaths of Mallory and Irvine.

All of this is punctuated with majestic images of shifting light on Everest's flanks. And for this restoration, a new score by Simon Fisher Turner adds an eerie timeless sensibility , mixing actual Tibetan sounds with electronic music and orchestral richness. It's a remarkable achievement that brings this material vividly to life for an audience 90 years later. As a result, this film has something profoundly, provocatively important to tell us about our own humanity.

U themes
3.Sep.13
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Theater of Blood  
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir Douglas Hickox
scr Anthony Greville-Bell
prd John Kohn, Stanley Mann
with Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Milo O'Shea, Eric Sykes, Robert Morley, Jack Hawkins, Diana Dors, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Robert Coote, Arthur Lowe
price and rigg release US 5.Apr.73, UK May.73
73/UK 1h44
Theater of Blood Despite the American spelling in the title, this deranged, gleefully grisly 1970s horror-comedy is thoroughly British. It's also utterly unforgettable, bolstered by witty acting and filmmaking that draws out some startlingly moving subtext. Utterly essential for movie fans, it also features one of Price's best ever performances, combining crazed hysteria with darker emotional resonance.

Hammy West End theatre actor Edward Lionheart (Price) doesn't take criticism well, and tips over the edge when he's snubbed in the Critics Circle Awards. With a mob of homeless "meths drinkers", he sets out to kill the critics one-by-one in gruesomely Shakespearean ways. While the diminishing circle of critics grows increasingly nervous, Edward's inventive methods keep him one step ahead of two detectives (O'Shea and Sykes). So chief critic Peregrine (Hendry) consults with Edward's daughter Edwina (Rigg) in an attempt to figure out who'll get it next.

The film hilariously portrays critics as pompous, heartless jerks who deserve what's coming to them. Played by a fine array of larger-than-life actors, they even have witty names like Hector Snipe (Dennis Price) and Solomon Psaltery (Hawkins). There's also the lecherous Trevor Dickman (Andrews); Meredith Merridew (Morley) prances around carrying two fluffy poodles; and Oliver Larding (Coote) is easily lured to his death by a free glass of wine. And then t

Meanwhile at the centre, Price orchestrates the carnage with so much flair that we can't help but root for him. Always in an elaborate disguise, he lurks in the background of almost every scene and perfectly captures Edward's mad intensity. He may be a killer on a rampage, but his pride has taken a serious battering over years of terrible reviews. As his daughter, Rigg has some strong moments of her own, and gets to play out one of the film's nuttiest twists. And O'Shea is essentially the film's lone straight man, stating the blindingly obvious to these melodramatic attention-seekers.

The film moves along at a brisk pace, expertly directed by Hickox to playfully mix modern London with each murderous Shakespearean set-piece. Greville-Bell's script is riotously knowing, mercilessly lampooning both actors and critics in a kind of psychotic adult version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in which each writer gets his or her just desserts. And along with the riotously grisly deaths, there's even a fabulously bonkers swordfight.

15 themes, violence, innuendo
13.May.14
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The Wicker Man
3.5/5  
dir Robin Hardy
scr Anthony Shaffer
prd Peter Snell
with Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsay Kemp, Russell Waters, Aubrey Morris, Irene Sunters, Walter Carr, Ian Campbell, Leslie Blackater
lee release UK Dec.73, US Jun.75
restored UK/US 27.Sep.13
73/UK British Lion 1h32
The Wicker Man Restored to director Hardy's original version for its 40th anniversary, this "final cut" is a lot of fun, mainly for the iconic British thriller's gonzo early 1970s sensibilities. No, it hasn't dated particularly well, and Hardy's rampant misogynistic tendencies feel even more appalling now. But it's still an unmissable one-off.

Deeply religious West Highlands police detective Howie (Woodward) takes his seaplane to investigate reports of a missing child on Summerisle, a dramatic island far off the Scottish coast, where the wealthy, charismatic landowner Lord Summerisle (Lee) has led the locals into pre-Christian pagan beliefs. Treated as a suspicious interloper, Howie's investigation is repeatedly thwarted by uncooperative residents who seem bizarrely sinister as they offend his sensibilities with their disdain for the church and free sexuality.

The film is like a riot of late-60s hippie imagery, with flower-power sprites cavorting naked in the fields, holding midnight orgies in graveyards and singing rude pub songs. Classic characters include Cilento's licentious teacher Miss Rose and Ekland's hilariously oversexed Willow, daughter of lively pub owner MacGreagor (Kemp). And Lee is frankly amazing. But it's Woodward who keeps us engaged. Can Howie possibly find this missing girl? Will he resist Willow's siren call? Is his impulsive decision to disguise himself as the jester in the May Day parade a big mistake?

Deeply of its time, the soundtrack is packed with now-ridiculous songs performed by the cast members, including the continually recurring Corn Riggs (with lyrics from a Robert Burns poem). The imagery is just as dated, with naked women everywhere while the men remain either clothed or carefully cropped by the camera frame. And even the collision of Christian and heathen worlds feels oddly quaint. On the other hand, there's now an eerie resonance in the island's desperation about their failing crops and the resulting dire economy. Maybe a big pagan ritual can fix that.

Even with all of this period nuttiness, the film holds our attention as Woodward's increasingly frazzled Howie gets deeper and deeper into the mystery of this strange place and its elaborate mythology. In the end, the movie grabs our imagination with its twisty plot. And that finale on the windswept cliff-top with the giant wicker man is still indelible.

15themes, sexuality, violence
29.Aug.13
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