Mike de Leon's "Itim" and "Kisapmata"

From pinoydvd:

Max: I finally got a chance to see Itim and Kisapmata. The lack of subtitles was a problem especially for Kisapmata. I was able to fully enjoy Itim, though. I have to thank all the kind guys who helped me to see this movie. It proved my theories, but aside from this, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MOVIE!!! It has some really impressive scenes that stand in my mind. I, beeing italian, am as sensible as filippine people to christian religion issues, and the scene in the church with all the Jesus Christ statues is visually impressive!

I would like to talk about it longer, noting the similarities with Kaidan kasane ga fuchi by Nakagawa Nobuo and The innocents by Jack Clayton, but I'm too busy with finishing my thesis.

I need some help again. I generally understood Itim, but there are some points that still are not completely clear. Can someone help me?



I would like to better understand what was the relationship between the father of the photographer and the dead sister. He was a surgeon and the girl had an abortion. I guess the baby was their, but why kill the baby? And above all, why kill the girl and throw her in the lake?

Then , if the father knew he killed the sister, why did he accept to take part to the séance with the espiritista and everybody? So why he is a "Criminal!!!"?

Could you also please shed some more detail on the reasons why the father had an accident and is in a wheel chair?


Well, here the lack of subtitles is a disaster. They talk a lot and I didn't understand anything, except for the morbid attachment of the father to the girl and the shocking ending. Why the father first oblidge Jay Ilagan to marry Charo Santos and then prevent him even to see her or call her on the phone? Here I think I need a more detailed summury of the film story.

Please, help me, even write a personal email if you don't want to spoil the stories of the movies. I have to hand over the thesis Friday, so, please, answer me within tomorrow. Salamat!


Max: I would like to better understand what was the relationship between the father of the photographer and the dead sister.

They were lovers

Max: He was a surgeon and the girl had an abortion. I guess the baby was their, but why kill the baby? And above all, why kill the girl and throwher in the lake?

Fear of scandal, especially in that earlier time. The father is a respectable figure in society and the affair and abortion would be a serious stain. Think Vertigo and the story of Carlotta Valdez (only there the man took the baby away from the woman; Mario Montenegro (the photographer's father) is powerful but not that powerful).

Max: Then , if the father knew he killed the sister, why did he accept to take part to the séance with the espiritista and everybody?

He had no choice; he's paralyzed.

This was my main complaint with. Itim compared to Kisapmata. Both are beautifully shot, and Itim is more openly gothic in style (Kisapmata's visual style is more understated, which is closer to Mike's ideal). But Itim's antagonist is paralyzed, and therefore passive; he's the bad guy, but he can't do anything, so there's not much tension except for what Mike can drum up with his cinematography. I tend to think of Itim as a first draft of Kisapmata, where the father is fully realized: there, the father takes center stage, is a fully malevolent figure, and actively creates the final tragedy.

Max: So why he is a "Criminal!!!"?.

Because he's a man rich enough and powerful enough to do what he wants.

Max: Could you also please shed some more detail on the reasons why the father had an accident and is in a wheel chair?

Because of a stroke, if I remember correctly (correction: a car accident).

Kisapmata (SPOILERS)

Max: The lack of subtitles is a disaster

That's a shame; the dialogue is excellent, adds much to their respective characters (the father and mother talk in Ilocano, and the sense of a private relationship, of terrorist and terrorized in a language no one else can understand, is very palpable). I might also add that there is something of the character of Mike de Leon in both the boyfriend/husband and the father...

Why the father first oblidge Jay Ilagan to marry Charo Santos and then prevent him even to see her or call her on the phone?

He felt he didn't have a choice; a pregnant unmarried daughter is a huge scandal, especially for an old-fashioned family like theirs.

You need to realize that in the Philippines, face and honor is considered almost more important than actual wealth and power (the exceptions are never openly so, and are a source of much of our drama).

Once married, the scandal is past; now that the daughter has a legitimate spouse the father little by little usurps the husband's role. You also need to realize that the baby is probably the father's and not the boyfriend/husband's--which is probably why the girl went to bed with her boyfriend (to provide a less shocking source for her impregnation) and why the father so desperately wants the daughter and her child with him.


Horror: "Dagon" and "Candyman"

From Forum Without a Name:

Belatedly saw Bernard Rose's Candyman and it's wonderful, not a straight-out serial-killer movie but something altogether more complex: malevolence seducing innocence (or at least your regular girl-off-the-street scholar with above-average will of her own), the necessity of belief for existence, the cyclical nature of violence and passing on of guilt, so on and so forth, stuff Clive Barker--who's also an interesting filmmaker, but not as talented as I think Rose is--has always used in his stories.

Rose's style is wonderfully suggestive; the scenes are more intense than actually gory (well, most of the time), and the colors and textures are ravishing (and at times overwhelming--the visit to the public toilet where the Candyman comes from is something else)--this and Paperhouse mark him as an interesting filmmaker (I always thought his Anna Karenina was underrated). Also Virginia Madsen--she goes a long way towards making this all emotionally plausible, even moving.

Chris J. mentioned Stuart Gordon's Dagon, I finally got the chance to see it, and I can't believe it's gotten so little attention. It's much more ambitious than Re-animator, concurrently has more flaws (an equally demented sense of humor might have gone a long way, along with the equivalent of Herbert West--but how often can we find anyone as demented as Dr. West, or his colleague/rival?), but there's stuff here that goes beyond that first effort, including the early scenes at the village, that moment when the woman and her husband realize something's wrong (other than they're in a sinking boat and her leg's pinned between the boat's hull and a rock), and the hero's first view of his hotel room (looove that bathroom; love the second bathroom even more (what is it with good horror filmmakers and toilet bowls?)).

First-rate atmosphere and sense of building terror, but when Gordon has to pull out stops Re-animator style he does so without any hesitation (the scene I'm thinking of ranks up there with the best of Re-animator's gross-out scenes--is perhaps better because it's so realistically staged and shot). The ending has the kind of strange beauty needed to make the best and most memorable horror films. Rose is terrific, but Gordon--with his first film, this and King of the Ants, I think he's some kind of an underappreciated genius.

Tonya J.: Maybe I need to watch Dagon again - had a bad reaction the first time I watched it (it seemed so cheesy or I was in a stinking bad mood).

PS - nice, nice analysis of Candyman - I enjoyed that film; not many people shared my opinion at the time.

The bad stuff in Dagon--the cheap CGI effects--are kept to a minimum; it's the accumulation of creepy details, from the pale sailors to the webbed fingers to the beautiful woman in bed who seems unable to stand, that get to you. And I like it that even the unlikelihood of someone getting away with so much for so long is explained away.

But above all, the camerawork--Gordon's mentioned his debt to Polanski, for developing handheld shots that look over the protagonist's shoulder, so you're always looking through his eyes and never sure what's behind him, or lurking round the corner. Not many filmmaker can do that sort of thing very well (I'm thinking of Rob Zombie, Danny Boyle, Bore Verbinski, that hack who did the Dawn of the Dead remake, among many, many others).

The Great Beast: I love the Lovecraft adaptations, and the actor who plays West is one of my favorites.

On Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West: I guess he's key to what makes Re-Animator so memorable--it's the sight of him looking so intently at his next experimental objective, no matter what horror stands in his way (or rises up thanks to him), that's so unutterably funny. Plus the wonderful David Gale as Dr. Carl Hill, who literally loses his head and finds his libido along the way, makes a fitting nemesis.

Oh, and Barbara Crampton's creamy skin doesn't hurt my appreciation of the film at all (though I did enjoy the lovely presences of Raquel Merono and Macarena Gomez, who debuts on this picture--these Spanish women, they are muy beautiful)...

I forgot to mention Francisco Rabal in Dagon as the old man, who's simply magnificent here (he's had a long career, which included starring in Bunuel's Viridiana and playing the lead in Nazarin). It's his last onscreen performance, and I think a fitting finale.


White Heat

From Forum Without a Name:

Ted Fontenot: Hadn't seen i White Heatin a long time when it played a couple of weekends ago on TCM. What a performance by Cagney? He's so fantastically a "character" yet very real. Seems like I've been around a number of people like that, guys who you never knew what they might do. I usually just detached myself from them as quickly as possible and as often as I needed to.


Nevertheless, I think he should have done something horrible to the Virginia Mayo (who, in a dead on performance, may be the most gorgeous killer bitch ever) character. In terms of his character and the movie's aesthetics, it was crying out for him to do so. That he didn't, considering what his mother meant to him and Mayo's connivance in her demise, it takes some of the heat out of the last 20 minutes or so.

I thought there was still enough going on that it ultimately doesn't matter--that relationship he has with Edmund O'Brien for example--understated enough to be moving, intense enough to be creepy (why the hell does he feel the need for such close male companionship), the moment when he realizes O'Brien's betrayal is something to behold. Not to mention the next few minutes.

ted fontenot: What can't be explained away is that Cody knew his tramp of a wife had colluded to do his mother in--yet, he lets her off. It's, like, forgotten. Of course, like I said, Mayo is so damn beautiful, you could see that as the reason--if it were addressed that way. But, is there anything that shows he's obsessed with her, overcomed in some way by her?

Cagney is so outrageously direct, so insistently in your face, he makes John Wayne and Bogart look fey in comparison. It is said that even (Raoul) Walsh was thrown by Cagney's reaction scene in prison where Cody learns of his mother's death.

The camera looks as if it had to take a step back, to keep from being pulled in.


War of the Spielbergs

Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind which we saw again preparatory to visiting the actual Devil's Tower begins kind of slow, then picks up a bit with the first UFO encounter, but doesn't really engage kids of today (the music-video/Cartoon Network generation) until Dreyfus starts sculpting his living room masterpiece; then Spielberg's magic takes firm hold, and they're pretty much transfixed by the rest of the picture.

(Note that some of the best scenes cut out of the Special Edition--of Dreyfus freaking out and wrecking their back yard, and of some of the more unsettling family confrontations--have been restored, while the most disappointing scene in the Special Edition--the scenes inside the Mother Ship--have been cut out, and that this edition, on this viewing anyway, seems the most satisfying)

Despite their exposure to present-day CGI, the kids were still bowled over by Close Encounter's finale--which is more impressive, I realized, than anything in Spielberg's recent War of the Worlds. You see more of the aliens and their ships in War, they're definitely more active than the primitive puppets and models in Close Encounters, but (and here's one thing I noticed of present-day CGI), the size and mass of today's monstrous machines and creatures don't inspire much awe; they move too fast, and Spielberg doesn't spend enough time building up their entrances. Plus there's a sense of depth, of huge spaces beyond the brightly lit airfield in the earlier film that you don't feel in the later one (Spielberg wasn't contented with using a studio set, so he shot the scene in a hangar so big it had its own weather patterns).

War is darker Spielberg, with impeccable literary credentials (elements of which he tosses out or dilutes to please his totally unnecessary Hollywood star) and state-of-the-art SFX; Close Encounters is mere popcorn fare (only the barest outlines of Paul Schrader's spiritually anguished script is still visible) with Spielberg the filmmaker at his most visually inventive. Guess which I prefer?


Dark Water, the Remake

Saw Walter Salles' Dark Water remake. I like its focus on the mother-daughter relationship (something carried over from Hideo Nakata's original), but Jennifer Connelly still rubs me the wrong way (I haven't liked her since Labyrinth so many years ago), and I miss Nakata's understated style.

After watching two remakes of Nakata's films (The Ring and this one), I think I can pretty much see the difference: he's a master at establishing a quotidian world where dark things lurk in the corners. It isn't just that his film's beginnings seem so everyday (Salles captures the gritty street quality of New York, where this picture is set)--his lighting and mis-en-scene start out simple to the point of being banal, even flavorless; and he rarely if ever approaches his characters with anything closer than a medium shot.

Salles' camerawork and editing is livelier, more dynamic, and while I'd ordinary prefer Salles' style, in this case it weighs against him. He hasn't learned the lesson I suspect Nakata learned from Hitchcock (and which Van Sant failed to apply to his "Psycho" remake--well, he seems to have learned after the remake ): to create a bland, almost antiseptic texture against which he can introduce his horrors to greater effect.

Salles does elicit entertaining performances from John Reilly as a negligent real estate agent, Pete Postlethwaite as an even more negligent apartment manager, and Tim Roth as a fascinating (too fascinating--you're distracted from the main story trying to speculate about his life) white-knight lawyer. But the fact that I feel I have to praise the supporting performances instead of the lead and the overall film, well, that's not good. And the ending is ludicrous; I've heard of bad leaks, but what happens here looks as if it should have taken place in a barrel going over the Niagara Falls.

A final comment: Nakata's quiet brand of horror is fun and has generated a few international boxoffice hits along the way, but he's a softie and strict entertainment compared to Kurosawa Kyoshi, whose philosophy is at one with his style, and whose brand of horror can permanently dislocate your sensibility, or sense of reality.


Dark Water

Finally caught up with Nakata's film (preparatory to seeing the remake), and it seems to me it's a kind of correction to the coldness of his characters in Ringu. The mother-daughter relationship is the focus on this film, and not the horror-film plot; if anything, I think it's a step forward for Nakata, where he's able to use his trademark atmospheric horror to sharpen the drama of the mother's struggle to keep and protect her child (I can see where he cannibalized from this film to make his Ring Two--which, despite the thrown-together quality, I think is superior to Gore Verbinski's remake/prequel).

There is a plot flaw, which I was able to dismiss, but which could make or break someone's acceptance of the film: Nakata introduces a subplot where everything could be the mechanition of one of the supporting characters, then towards the end of the film suddenly drops this possibility outright.

But the picture feels emotionally satisfying; even the epilogue seems as much a means of closure for both mother and daughter as it is an atmospheric coda. The final ten minutes are suitably unsettling, and the full meaning behind the title (the English one, anyway) suitably gruesome. Even the final appearance of the horror/creature, which leaves something to be desired, is vindicated I think by the wordless exchange between mother and daughter, just before the climactic resolution.

Onwards to the remake, which hasn't garnered very good notices. Let's see for ourselves...

Directors' top ten

Full article

1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Leone, 1966)
2. Rio Bravo (Hawks, 1959)
3. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)
4. His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1939)
5. Rolling Thunder (Flynn, 1977)
6. They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)
7. The Great Escape (J Sturges, 1963)
8. Carrie (De Palma, 1976)
9. Coffy (Hill, 1973)
10. Five Fingers of Death (Chang, 1973)

1. The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, 1965)
2. The Clowns (Fellini, 1971)
3. Don't Look Back (Pennebaker, 1967)
4. The Lower Depths (Kurosawa, 1957)
5. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Altman, 1971)
6. My Man Godfrey (La Cava, 1936)
7. Nashville (Altman, 1975)
8. Network (Lumet, 1976)
9. Underground (Kusturica, 1995)
10. Waiting for Guffman (Guest, 1996)

1. La Dolce Vita (Fellini, 1960)
2. Ivan the Terrible, Part II (Eisenstein, 1958)
3. Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962)
4. Rashomon (Kurosawa, 1951)
5. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
6. The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1956)
7. La Règle du Jeu (Renoir, 1939)
8. Metropolis (Lang, 1927)
9. Los Olvidados (Buñuel, 1950)
10. Some Like It Hot (Wilder, 1959)

1. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
2. Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980)
3. La Strada (Fellini, 1954)
4. The Godfather Part II (Coppola, 1974)
5. Rashomon (Kurosawa, 1951)
6. Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
7. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)
8. 8 1/2 (Fellini, 1963)
9. Singin' in the Rain (Kelly, Donen, 1952)
10. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)

1. La Règle du Jeu (Renoir, 1939)
2. Sansho Dayu (Mizoguchi, 1954)
3. Germany, Year Zero (Rossellini, 1947)
4. A Bout de Souffle (Godard, 1959)
5. Stagecoach (Ford, 1939)
6. Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986)
7. City Lights (Chaplin, 1931)
8. Marnie (Hitchcock, 1964)
9. Accattone (Pasolini, 1961)
10. Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958)

1. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)
2. The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1956)
3. 8 1/2 (Fellini, 1963)
4. That Obscure Object of Desire (Buñuel, 1977)
5. Dr Strangelove (Kubrick, 1963)
6. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
7. Sunset Blvd (Wilder, 1950)
8. Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1972)
9. La Roue (Gance, 1923)
10. The Birth of a Nation (Griffith, 1915)

1. L'Atalante (Vigo, 1934)
2. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
3. They Live by Night (N Ray, 1949)
4. Bob le flambeur (Melville, 1955)
5. Sunrise (Murnau, 1927)
6. The Cameraman (Sedgwick, 1928)
7. Mouchette (Bresson, 1967)
8. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)
9. Broken Blossoms (Griffith, 1919)
10. Rome, Open City (Rossellini, 1945)

1. Amarcord (Fellini, 1973)
2. American Graffiti (Lucas, 1973)
3. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
4. City Lights (Chaplin, 1931)
5. The Deer Hunter (Cimino, 1978)
6. Les Enfants du Paradis (Carné, 1945)
7. Giant (Stevens, 1956)
8. The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)
9. Miracle in Milan (De Sica, 1951)
10. Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980)

1. Ai No Corrida (Oshima, 1976)
2. Sawdust and Tinsel (Bergman, 1953)
3. Baby Doll (Kazan, 1956)
4. Lost Highway (Lynch, 1996)
5. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
6. Salo (Pasolini, 1975)
7. L'Avventura (Antonioni, 1960)
8. Ordet (Dreyer, 1954)
9. Lancelot du Lac (Bresson, 1974)
10. 10 (Kiarostami, 2002)

1. The Apartment (Wilder, 1960)
2. La Règle du Jeu (Renoir, 1939)
3. La Dolce Vita (Fellini, 1960)
4. Manhattan (Allen, 1979)
5. The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler, 1946)
6. To Kill a Mockingbird (Mulligan, 1962)
7. Harold and Maude (Ashby, 1971)
8. Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994)
9. Quadrophenia (Roddam, 1979)
10. Ninotchka (Lubitsch, 1939)

1. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
2. Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, 1982)
3. The Godfather Part II (Coppola, 1974)
4. The Piano (Campion, 1993)
5. The Red Shoes (Powell, Pressburger, 1948)
6. Sunset Blvd (Wilder, 1950)
7. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
8. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)
9. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
10. The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, 1939)

1. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)
2. Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, 1982)
3. Gummo (Korine, 1997)
4. La Haine (Kassovitz, 1995)
5. The Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich, 1971)
6. The Mirror (Tarkovsky, 1975)
7. On the Waterfront (Kazan, 1954)
8. Riff-Raff (Loach, 1990)
9. Secrets & Lies (Leigh, 1996)
10. Where Is My Friend's House? (Kiarostami, 1987)

1. The Apartment (Wilder, 1960)
2. Bad Day at Black Rock (J Sturges, 1955)
3. Fanny andAlexander (Bergman, 1982)
4. La Grande Illusion (Renoir, 1937)
5. Kind Hearts and Coronets (Hamer, 1949)
6. Lacombe Lucien (Malle, 1974)
7. The Leopard (Visconti, 1963)
8. My Darling Clementine (Ford, 1946)
9. Notorious (Hitchcock, 1946)
10. War and Peace (Vidor, 1956)

1. Annie Hall (Allen, 1977)
2. Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
3. Duck Soup (McCarey, 1933)
4. Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, 1982)
5. Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993)
6. Guys and Dolls (Mankiewicz, 1955)
7. Jour de Fête (Tati, 1949)
8. Napoléon (Gance, 1927)
9. The Pathfinder (Salkow, 1952)
10. Steamboat Bill, Jr (Riesner, 1928)

1. Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
2. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, 1925)
3. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
4. Dr Strangelove (Kubrick, 1963)
5. Faust (Murnau, 1926)
6. Last Year at Marienbad (Resnais, 1961)
7. My Darling Clementine (Ford, 1946)
8. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1928)
9. Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980)
10. The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 1969)

1. A Bout de Souffle (Godard, 1959)
2. The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, 1965)
3. A Blonde in Love (Forman, 1965)
4. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)
5. Closely Observed Trains (Menzel, 1966)
6. Fireman's Ball (Forman, 1967)
7. Jules et Jim (Truffaut, 1962)
8. La Règle du Jeu (Renoir, 1939)
9. The Tree of the Wooden Clogs (Olmi, 1978)
10. Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957)

1. The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler, 1946)
2. Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, 1982)
3. The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)
4. The Grapes of Wrath (Ford, 1940)
5. Intolerance (Griffith, 1916)
6. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1928)
7. Ran (Kurosawa, 1985)
8. Roma (Fellini, 1972)
9. Singin' in the Rain (Kelly, Donen, 1952)
10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)

I'll probably add more to this but right off the top of my head, almost all the lists have something to recommend them. Bertolucci's is the most impressive, tho.


Laurice Guillen

From Pelicula:

leonelescota: laurice Guillen , as a director, showed a lot of promise. To this day, I consider SALOME, KASAL, and KUNG AKO'Y IIWAN MO as masterpieces in their own rights. She had such a stylistic stamp on these movies: frail and feminine way of telling the stories. On KUNG AKO'Y... the character studies were displayed so compellingly that to this day I don't know if the average Filipino moviegoer would get what she was trying to achieve.

  But what happened afterwards? She fell into the trap of faceless melodramas and sitcom-y comedies. Can anyone think of any great work of hers afterwards? It seems like someone snatched the "artistic" Laurice and replaced it with a "bland" one.  

Agree? Disagree?  

 jojo de vera: I honestly think Laurice did a great job in Init Sa Magdamag and directed one  finely crafted komiks based movie Kung Mahawi Man Ang Ulap but both these films were also made in the 80's. I wasn't impressed with Tanging Yaman but I thought American Adobo was a good enough movie. I had mixed rreactions with Santa-Santita. The first half of the movie was interesting but it fell apart midway through the movie. I thought Jericho Rosales gave one his best performances in this film.  

Agreed on Init sa Magdamag.

I like American Adobo just fine, but not so much that I'd want to see it again. No, I don't like the rest of her recent work, Tanging Yaman included (tho I thought Dolzura Cortez was okay).

There are moments in Adobo and Yaman, though, that show she's still a skillful, even graceful filmmaker; if anything, that skill has grown. 

She can do crap for the rest of her life, but I'll always remember her as the director of Init sa Magdamag (who, possibly, did crap the rest of her life). For me, that one film is good enough to erase the memory of a lot of bad work.


Joel David's Fields of Vision

From pinoydvd.com:

keating: After 48 years, my friend finally returned Joel David's book- Fields of Vision.  Grin

Here are some of our filmmakers top choices:






2. BATCH '81





one thing in common......they all have Mike De Leon's KISAPMATA on their lists.

 Cool Cool Cool

jojo de vera: in Marilou & Laurice's case they shouldn't have included their own films... if you'd notice none of the other director's included their own work.

keating: That makes Mike de Leon's KISAPMATA his best film?  Huh

jojo de vera:  guess if it's in all of their list... personally i still think ITIM is his best film.

I prefer Kisapmata over Itim myself...but that's really splitting hairs, I think; they're both very good films.

David's book was useful for the lists of various people, but his use of statistics to come up with a master list I thought was silly...so Manila By Night comes out on top? Does his being a big fan of the film have nothing to do with it?

Manila By Night is a great film, Bernal's masterpiece and all, but unspoken considerations like that tend to throw doubt on the process. I think the separate lists are more honest, and more persusasive.

And Romero was one of the few if not the only one who lists Tatlong Taong (no one asked Teddy Co, who back in 1976 rated the film above Insiang) at all. Of course at this time the film wasn't in high favor; I'd say it was only with the 1993 or 1994 screening at Pelikula at Lipunan that the film's reputation started to turn around (Teddy, as usual, was ahead of his time).


U.B. Iwerks

Got to sample a portion of the formidable U.B. Iwerks' works, particularly his Flip the Frog and Willie Whopper cartoons. The classic complaint is that Iwerks couldn't create an interesting character, or an engaging story; true to some extent, I suppose, but after watching one Flip the Frog after another, there's something appealingly, well, flip about the frog in his opening credit sequence, the way he would tinkle the keys, then look over his shoulder and burp at the audience (I think if Iwerks could have somehow transferred this mysteriously reassuring presence into the actual cartoon, he might have had something).

(I might note by way of defense that I don't remember Mickey Mouse having much of a personality, either; he was mostly the hero type (but then, so was Flip), and as the years went by and Mickey's status rose and he became the symbol of the entire Disney megaconglomerate, so many restrictions were put on his character that he became impossible to characterize (he couldn't do anything, much less do anything entertaining). All the mischief and fun drained off to the supporting characters, like Goofy and (best of all, in my opinion) Donald Duck.)

Actually, the real star of Iwerks' shorts is the animation and Iwerks' rather unique sense of humor (Chuck Jones, who once worked for Iwerks, says Iwerks is "screwy" spelled backwards). Iwerks goes for the visual gag, often surreal, often sadistic and cruel; unlike Disney, he's not averse to populating his shorts with girls--real girls, not sexless boys in drag, with breasts and buttocks and long, shapely legs, who are either wearing diaphanous negligees or are caught in their underwear, trying to put something on (or take something off). His Room Runners (1932) would seem uncomfortably voyeuristic, with Flip and various hotel staff peeking through keyholes at half-naked guests, if it wasn't so irrepressibly funny.

He's also not averse to the rather grim ending (grim, that is, if the gags weren't so funny): in What a Life (1932), one of Flip's more memorable adventures, Flip struggles at the simple task of surviving, and unlike in most Disney shorts, he doesn't miraculously find fame and fortune; the struggle continues.

Spooks (1931) is mainly remembered as Iwerks' Flip the Frog remake of his classic The Skeleton Dance (1929) with Disney, and for suffering from the comparison. It does, pretty much, but Spooks does have a plot development far more gruesome than anything in Skeleton Dance, when the host takes out his knives and decides that Flip would make a nice addition to his menagerie of bony animals (which includes a delightful skeleton flea, feeding off of a skeleton dog...).

Willie Whopper is possibly even less appealing than Flip (unlike Flip, he isn't blessed with a delightful opening number), but for some strange reason some of his adventures are quite memorable--The Air Race (1933) comes to mind, with an indignant pilot giving another the finger, and Whopper's propeller plane transformed into a rocket jet. Then there's the bizarre Stratos Fear (1933), where Whopper inhales a huge dose of laughing gas and hallucinates floating into outer space and landing on another planet: there he encounters a mad scientist who invents a ray that twists and turns around corners, and reduces objects to their end products (a cow hit by the ray becomes beef, milk, and cheese). Windows zip up, entrances narrow and slide away, a woman in a see-through dress lures Whopper into a room where she transforms into the ogrelike scientist. Iwerks might be drawing from personal experience here.

Easily the strangest of Iwerks' strange works is Hell's Fire (a.k.a. Masquerade Holiday, 1934); Willie Whopper, in full color, falls down a volcano and finds himself in an inferno populated by Napoleon, Nero, Rasputin, Simon Legree, Antony and Cleopatra, among others. Cerebrus comes out of a dog house with three heads and a nasty temper, and--naturally, considering this is hell--finds himself infested with fleas; a man trying to escape hell is tormented by a giant fiery drill, digging its way into his behind. All done in the cheeriest tone of voice, to bright music and even brighter colors, but without the jokes and comic trappings, this could be the grimmest animated short I've ever seen.

Then there's Balloon Land (a.k.a. The Pincushion Man), about a land of balloon men, women and children menaced by a creature made of needles (as potent a metaphor for the fragility of human life as anything I can think of). Strange as the idea is, the execution is even stranger: a swift and cheerfully scored cartoon where this bizarre spikey villain massacres a good portion of the population. Couldn't tell if I should be amused or horrified, and I think that's the power of the cartoon.


"Critic After Dark" available at CCP bookstore

This from Dennis Marasigan, Asst. Vice President for Marketing at the Cultural Center of the Philippines:

"We wish to inform everyone that NOEL VERA's book CRITIC AFTER DARK: A REVIEW OF PHILIPPINE CINEMA is now available at the CCP Shop, Basement Level, Tanghalang Pambansa, Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex, Pasay City.  Each copy costs P660.00. There are only a limited number of copies available, so get your copies when you watch the Cinemalaya Screenings."

Copies are also still available at Datelines Bookstore, in Cubao; Fully Booked, Powerplant Mall; and Booktopia, Libis, Q.C.

A review of the book by author and columnist Butch Dalisay, which first appeared in The Philippine Star on Oct. 24, 2005 (scroll down to the bottom of the page)

Plus a short review of the book by Olaf Moller on Film Comment's September-October 2005 issue.


Thar she blows! (was: In defense of Miyazaki)

From Cinephile Forum:

Uncle Jay: That's the biggest crock of shit I've ever read! What are you, Anti-American?!

Isn't that obvious? Well, anti-Hollywood, 'specially recent Hollywood.

Uncle Jay: This is why I hate critics!

Haw! That Steve McQueen or Robocop talking (He has avatars of both)? lol073.gif 

Uncle Jay: Bakshi has shown ambivalence in his characters, maybe not as thought provoking and glamorous as Miyazaki Thought provoking agree; but glamorous?

How glamorous is a family of two girls and an adult in a ramshackle Japanese home (Totoro)?

Uncle Jay: How about Linklater's "Waking Life" or George Lucas' silly but very imaginitive "Twice Upon a Time" or Don Bluth's "The Secret of NIMH"...how about French director Rene Laloux's "Fantastic Planet"...or Martin Rosen's "Watership Down" or "The Plague Dogs" or any of Brad Bird's works...ambivalence, understated storytelling and narrative sophistacation have been recognized here.

Waking Life is terrific; I love Linklater. Twice Upon a Time is only produced by Lucas (one of the few things he laid his hands on that was any good); John Korty and Charles Swenson directed. Laloux's Fantastic Planet is beautiful...but rather emotionally remote, and the storyline's trite (I do love it, though, for the artwork and creature design--an equal of Miyazaki in that respect). Rosen's Watership Down is a wonderful adaptation and Plague Dogs a harrowing work, better than the book it's based on (unlike Watership). Brad Bird's Iron Giant is by far his best work, and excellent work it is too...only it's still firmly entrenched in children's stories and it's not that understated; The Incredibles I'm just not a big fan of.

Sure they're all very good; just didn't mention them, is all.

But I stand on my position: in terms of emotinal subtlety and narrative sophistication, in terms of understated storytelling and depiction of ordinary life, I think Miyazaki (and Takahata, his colleague) are unparalleled.

Uncle Jay: ...my point is, Japan is not the superior kings of smart animation, as you seem to think!

I mention Grimault and Svankmajer in my previous post. Ever seen their works? Might as well throw in Lotte Reiniger, the Brothers Quay, and (yes, Americans) Max Fleischer, Fritz Freleng, and Chuck Jones.

Uncle Jay: Japanime stories are recycled as well!

Nothing new under the sun. All we canhope for is to present the recycled material in some new way, emphasize some point no one's thought of before. So?

Uncle Jay: It's all opinion, my friend...

And when did I say otherwise? You takes it or leaves it, or you shats out bricks.

Uncle Jay: you think Americans have an obsession with motion smoothness

So name me the postwar Disney film (prewar Disney still had the guts to experiment--and besides he had the genius Iwerks working for him) that doesn't have motion smoothness.

Uncle Jay: I think you're a overly judgmental, tight-assed, self-righteous, low-rent premadonna critic asshole who thinks his opinion is fact , belittles the people around him (especially those from America) and tries to show off as if he knows all.

Can't be Robocop. "...or there will be--trouble." And McQueen's too classy. You're not Roger Ebert, are you? How was that colonoscopy? toothhappy019.gif

Uncle Jay: You make me laugh. You're a joke, man! And pathetic...

My hands are washed of you, and this anti-American board!!

Wash away, Unkie Jay! Gotta wash after a colonoscopy... lol073.gif


In defense of Miyazaki

From Cinephile:

Uncle Jay: Miyazaki, while I admire him, is extremely overrated! "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds" (or "Warriors of the Wind" as I've known it over the years) is mediocre at best! Miyazaki has done finer work than this...

It's very drawn out, actually boring in many spots and the animation itself is rough compared to the animation of that time (since you claimed it was the "best animated Disney ever", bold statement man). But it is well-done and you can see a visionary at work here...

Give me Bakshi's early work before Miyazaki's early work anyday.

I like Bakshi's stuff for what they are--brash attacks on the establishment, and on the Powers that Be. Bold strokes, bright colors, the ambience of funk and rock.

But Bakshi doesn't have the kind of rich emotional palette Miyazaki has--subtle moments of quiet, or tenderness, or moral ambiguity worthy of Ozu or Naruse. I respect him, but I can't call him a master. And I really dislike his rotoscoped works (Lord of the Rings and American Pop, anyone?).

As for smooth animation--remember Nausicaa's budget was cobbled together from various sources, and the work farmed out to an animation studio (despite which, Miyazaki did--and is in fact famous for--doing much of the key animation himself, something rarely heard of of any animated film director). For the budget they had, I'd say it's remarkable work.

This American obsession with motion smoothness--well, all I can say is American animation usually works on a bigger budget, and emphasizes motion smoothness and lip synchronization over other values...like understated storytelling, or narrative sophistication, or emotional subtlety, for one (I'd like to see the Disney film with a figure as ambivalent as Kushana, or Nausicaa when you really study her character, or Lady Eboshi in Princess Mononoke).

If I want to look for Miyazaki's superior, I'd look elsewhere--maybe Takahata, or Yabushita, or Paul Grimault. Svankmajer is also a worthy contemporary.


Robert Towne rewrites "The Empire Strikes Back"

I always wondered what if Robert Towne had rewritten parts of The Empire Strikes Back:

Skywalker, crawling away from Darth Vader, Vader following. "Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father," Vader tells him.

"He told me enough!" Luke shrieks. "He told me you killed him!"

"No. I am your father."

Skywalker takes his lightsaber and whips it across Vader's mask with a loud CLANG!

Vader is stunned. In a shaky voice, he says: "I am your brother."

CLANG! Skywalker saber-whips him again.

"Your father."


"Your brother."


"Your father, your brother..."


"Your father and your brother!"

Luke's arm stops, frozen; Vader, faceplate dented and near tears, looks at him. "Your sister Leia and I...understand? Or is it too tough for you?"


Who Killed the Tagalog Movie?

Date: Thu, 07 Jul 2005 18:40:13 -0000
From Cinemanila:

From: "filmchronicler"
Subject: Who killed the Tagalog movie?

Who killed the Tagalog movie?
By Isah V. Red, MANILA STANDARD TODAY (undated)

Joel Lamangan and his colleagues at Directors Guild of the
Philippines were probably gnawing their tongues while watching movie
fans streaming into cinemas showing Batman Begins last week.

They could be doing the same now that War of the Worlds and
Fantastic 4 are in theaters. Meanwhile, the two Tagalog movies —
Nasaan Ka Man and Happily Ever After—showing in some cineplexes (not
all plexes want to show Filipino movies for obvious reasons—theater
operators don't make money on local movies) are pressed hard to draw
decent crowds.

This kind of scenario peeves Lamangan et al. If you've been watching
the recent awards night in which this director had the opportunity
to take on the microphone for his "thank you speech" you would know
how he detests Hollywood, even blaming it for the demise of
Philippine cinema. Also, invoking freedom of speech, he would
lambaste the present administration, citing specifically President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the
woes besetting the local movie industry.

If I were a movie director, which fortunately, I am not, I'd
probably feel the same, especially if directing a movie were my
bread and butter.

Lamangan's anger basically stems from the fact that very few movie
producers are willing to take risks at the box office these days.
Star Cinema, the movie production affiliate of ABS-CBN, and Regal
Entertainment Group of Lily Y. Monteverde are the only outfits
producing movies, although their output has diminished as well.

Yet, the director likes to blame Hollywood for the demise of
Philippine cinema. Lamangan probably has forgotten that Hollywood
has always been in the consciousness of Filipinos since cinema
became the newest invention of the 20th century. Doesn't he remember
that even before he was born Tagalog movies (as they were referred
to at that time) were merely produced to cater to a specific class
in Philippine society? And the model of the films produced by
Sampaguita and LVN studios was film noir, then le genre du jour of

And even during the period considered by contemporary Filipino film
historians as the second golden age of Philippine cinema, which was
the period in the mid-'70s to the early '80s when young directors
Lino Brocka and Ysmael Bernal, Hollywood films were the dominant
entertainment fare.

Giving in to the protestations of this group of directors, President
Ferdinand E. Marcos, during his dictatorship, tried to limit the
entry of Hollywood movies in the country. As a result, fly-by-night
movie producers surfaced and came up with soft-porn stuff (and
sometimes hardcore. Thanks to the strict censorship laws at that
time, all the actual sex scenes were excised from the theatrical
versions shown in theaters. (However, some unscrupulous producers,
in collusion with theater operators and bookers successfully
reinstated the scenes when shown in rundown theaters in Manila and
the provinces).

Serious directors like Brocka and Bernal struggled to win audiences
to their movies. But it seemed that most of them had already been
seduced by the sex kittens willing to be ravished by their male
partners in the slew of trash produced by individuals who were not
concerned about movies as art but whose motivation was mainly to
make a fast buck from movies shot in less than 10 days and whose
actors did no more than bare their bodies and engage in some crudely
choreographed sex acts.

The deluge of soft porn flicks also threatened Hollywood movies in
the Philippines for a while. Joel Lamangan may not have been aware
of this because as he claims he was in detention for being a
political activist.

Now, who killed the Tagalog movie? Not Hollywood, for sure. The
Filipino producers who kept on turning out mediocre movies should be
held liable for the death of the industry.

Interesting article, and Mr. Red has a point: Hollywood has been around, and we are producing poor product.


But that isn't the complete picture. During the '50s and '70s a vibrant world cinema existed, one that doesn't exist today, or isn't as vibrant.


During the '80s and '90s Hollywood discovered that the foreign market is at least as important if not more important that the domestic market. Big-budget flops like The Last Action Hero and Waterworld could actually make their money back if they sold their movie in large territories like Japan and Europe. In fact, the world-wide premiere was invented during this time, partly to discourage piracy, partly to take advantage of the popularity of brand names like Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, and the like.


This development had several consequences. First, big Hollywood movies could not flop--they made their money back overseas, meaning Hollywood had incentive to produce more of them. Second, this meant more aggressive marketing and distribution aimed at overseas markets, something they had not paid as much attention to before. 


This trend helped kill Hong Kong cinema, which at present is a shadow of what it once was in the '80s and early '90s. The trend has also further depressed filmmaking in most of Europe (except most notably France), and the non-anime feature production in Japan.


Two of the strongest non-Hollywood film industries today, France and India, are characterized by protectionist policies that either limit Hollywood films, or support local film production.


Definitely, as Mr. Red says, on the question of who killed Filipino film, there is blood on our producers' hand, who have made much mediocre work. But there is also blood on Hollywood's, and the sooner we recognize this fact, the better.



Kim Ki-Duk's 3-Iron one-ups his previous works by providing us with not one but two main protagonists who don't talk over the length of the film; in that sense it's about as silent a film as anything done recently, and in the way it sets atmosphere and mood, introduces its characters, and have them and their relationship develop over the course of the film, it recalls the strategy of storytelling of silent films--the simple, telling image, the tiny detail in close-up, the use of movement, or lack of it.


Beyond that, it's possibly the most fully developed and poignant of Kim's films that I've seen (haven't seen that seasonal thing, though), focusing on a relationship the way Bad Guy did; unlike Bad Guy, there's no troubling questions of misogynistic exploitation--the goy is passive and, as someone says, "good-hearted," and the girl goes with him freely of her own volition (I'd like to say Kim leaves behind the kind of "shock cinema" he used to exploit to capture our attention and gain our sympathies, but the scenes of golf balls used sadistically pretty much invalidates that assertion; the explicitness and gore is much reduced, though, I'll say that much). Kim frames their respective states of loneliness in such a way that it seems the most natural thing in the world for them to come together.


What happens next, of course, is more debatable. I'd much prefer to have the film remain at a realist level, but Kim has a tendency towards mysticism, and I'll admit the turn the film does take in the latter half is about as intriguing and ingeniously filmed as anything I've seen recently.

Ernest Lehman, R.I.P.

Ernest Lehman, R.I.P

If only for the wonderful trip that was North by Northwest and for the noirish goings-on of Sweet Smell of Success, he'll be missed.


TCM Marathon: Two Fritz Lang Thrillers, etc.

Friday morning was It's Love I'm After (1937), a delightful little comedy starring Leslie Howard as famous stage star Basil Underwood, wooing fellow actor Joyce Arden (Bette Davis), only along the way young Henry (Patric Knowles) has asked Basil to drop by his fiancée Marcia (a very young Olivia de Havilland) and convince her she isn't in love with Basil. I've mostly known Howard opposite Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, an otherwise nice little movie that doesn't really do Howard any favors: he's too old for the role, and his character is basically a drip. The younger Howard in more, uh, 'civilized' roles was far funnier and livelier, and forceful enough to stand his own against the elemental nature of Bette Davis. De Havilland is also a delight, a pretty little ingénue with the amorous nature of an octopus (when Howard sneaks into her room to 'rape' her--hoping to scare her enough to reject him--she throws off his timing by wrapping her arms around his neck in a judo death grip). With the wonderful Eric Blore as Diggs, a very much put-upon Jeeves-type butler.

The rest of the morning was spent anesthetized. When I finally got to look at a TV set, it was evening, and all about cars, and Harold Lloyd and Babe Ruth in Ted Wilde's Speedy (1928)--not an easy comedy to watch, when your abdomen's got stitches ("Ha! Ha! Ha! Ow! Ow! Ow!"). Lloyd doesn't get as much adulation from auteurists, which is a pity, I think; Harry Langdon neither, come to think of it.

Midnight they screened The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), which makes sense, when you think about it--in a way, it's about cars too. Possibly the loveliest car-accident sequence ever, when Tim Holt and Anne Baxter take a spill down a snow bank--but I forget, it was a horse carriage (but there was a car involved). Anyway, lovely, lovely sequence, all tinkling bells and sparkling snowfall and the chill, dead air of winter (I think Welles filming in a freezer set--I remember reading that somewhere--helped, plus as a radio man even the quality of the silences (in this case, as if the whole set had been encased in cotton) would have been important to him).

Foreign import was Jiri Menzel's Closely Watched Trains (1967), which was a nice little comedy about how the Czechs showed their resistance to Nazi tyranny (and, by implication, Soviet tyranny) by living life as fully as possible. Vaclav Neckar as the hapless trainee embodies the film's conflict by doing what every good, Nazi-resisting Czech feels is impossible: he fails to get it up. He gets sympathetic looks and helpful suggestions from everyone except the Nazi officer of course, who looks at him as if from Mars (good sex is not in the Nazi program; absolute power should suffice).

Instructive to compare this to an earlier work in roughly the same time and milieu (but shot in Hollywood): Fritz Lang's great Hangmen Also Die (1943), based on the real-life hunt for the killer of Reichprotector Reinhard "Hangman" Heydrich (Hans Henreich von Twardowski). Menzel worked as an insider, from inside the Czech psyche; Lang worked as a fierce propagandist, and while his Czechs don't seem outlandishly false (other than their American accents--Lionel Stander for one really stood out), you can see a difference. But Lang's Nazis are perfect--have the right mix of martial bark and arrogance--and he captures the atmosphere of fugitive desperation (unlike Menzel, of course, he was completely free to do so). As the plot twists and turns, it's terrifying to watch the Nazis pursue the trail relentlessly, ruthlessly (Lang knows of the kind of swift thoroughness and ferocious intelligence they're capable of, great wolfhounds who never give up the scent): when a solution is finally offered, it comes at the end of a knot of facts and clues so tangled up (thanks to the Nazi's determined hunt and the Czech's equally determined evasions) as to be impossible to believe. Lang, with a thoroughness comparable to the Nazis, doesn't let this pass: he offers a conclusion that allows even for the improbability of that 'final solution.'

In between courses, a sherbet: Lloyd Bacon's Larceny, Inc. (1942) has Edward G. Robinson and his band of men buying a leather goods store besides a bank; his plan is to tunnel under the store's basement into the bank's vault, only customers and special holiday sales keep distracting the would-be criminals. Robinson's a wonderful comic, and his predicament reminds one of a situation in a Graham Greene novel, where the protagonist insists on heading for damnation, only redemption keeps getting in the way. It's a pity he didn't do more comedies ("Ow! Ow! Ha! Ha!").

Finally (and just in time, too) another Lang thriller: While the City Sleeps (1956) might be his remake of the classic M, only set in an American city, and instead of a microscope peering at the various strata of German society, the lenses zoom in on the inner workings of Kyne, Inc., a kind of multimedia empire based on Luce's Time, Inc., with shades of Charles Foster Kane thrown in (the great K emblem you see everywhere is like a continual reminder). Memorable performances from everyone concerned, from Dana Andrews as a smart reporter to Thomas Mitchell as a gruff news editor to George Sanders as the sleek head of a wire service to Vincent Price, especially wonderful as the media empire's weak-willed heir. If it doesn't quite reach the same level as M, that may be because the focus is tighter, on a corporation instead of a culture, and the allegory less evocative. Plus, John Drew Barrymore is excellent as Robert Manners--quiet, with an impudent sexuality--but he's no Peter Lorre.

TCM Marathon: Anthony Mann films

So I spent all night watching monster movies; think I got any rest? No, because the next day was Anthony Mann's birthday, and they were running his movies all day! Taking into consideration the fact that my temperature was veering wildly from normal to a hundred and three, all those desperate hoodlums, vigilantes, and fugitives running, crouching, shooting, grappling and most of all sweating onscreen had my most profound sympathies (not to mention attention).

Missed the first, but the second at seven in the morning, The Bamboo Blonde (1946), was fresh out of the Second World War, about Ralph Edwards as Eddie Clark, a farmer turned soldier who meets a torch singer called "The Bamboo Blonde" (Frances Langford); he leaves for the war, gets her face and name painted on his plane, comes back home to meet the girl again--all hunky-dory, only Eddie's original fiancée wants to marry him, and sees Langford as a threat. Mann directs this all with what for me was uncharacteristic cheerfulness (I've only previously been familiar with his noirs, both urban and western) and froth. Very enjoyable piece of fluff.

Desperate (1947) was more familiar ground: trucker Steve Randall (Steve Brodie) is forced by gangster Walter Radak (Raymond Burr) to participate in a robbery that goes horribly wrong; a cop is killed, Randall runs and goes into hiding, and the gangster's brother is arrested for the crime, eventually sentenced to death for it. Randall's situation isn't pleasant--he has to prove his innocence as well as keep out of Radak's clutches--but it's Burr's sweatily intense performance as Radak that makes the film: he really cares for his brother, and because of this and a sense of vengeance he hunts Randall relentlessly, ruthlessly. When they meet up again he plays a particularly neat gimmick on Randall: he sits him across the table and gives him up to midnight to live (about ten minutes) and when they execute his brother, he's going to execute poor Randall. Ten minutes of staring at a sweaty, staring Raymond Burr: I'd rather be shot right off, myself.

Two O'Clock Courage (1945) was something a bit unusual (for me): Tom Conway played a man who's lost his memory and maybe has committed a murder and he has only taxi driver Patty Mitchell (Ann Rutherford) to help him. Witty dialogue instead of rough and realistic: kind of a change for Mann (again, for me). Glad to see he can handle this kind of lost-memory comic mystery thriller.

Side Street (1949): Farley Granger as a mailman who steals a bit of money and is haunted by his crime. Classic noir, where Mann makes the very buildings of the city press in from above, and you feel an increasing lack of air and space and freedom (Granger can actually act, too). Wonderful fare for slightly delirious people running a high fever, really recommended.

Devil's Doorway (1950): Robert Taylor plays a civil war veteran who comes home to help his tribe run their lands and fend off their racist white neighbors; when sheep farmers insist on taking their flocks grazing across his tribe's land, things quickly get from bad to worse. It doesn't have the claustrophobia of Side Street (the film was shot in the beautiful slopes of Colorado), but does have same sense of things closing in on you, trapping you, overwhelming you: this is about as vivid a cry against Native American racism as anything I can think of (and far cannier and honest than the few that are). Mann seems to have had a huge head start on John Ford about rethinking the role of Native Americans onscreen (of course he started later), and I imagine he wasn't apologetic about it then or since.

The Naked Spur (1953): the quintessential Mann and, I'm sure, considered by many to be his masterpiece, about Howard Kemp (James Stewart) and his hunt for the wily Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan). The two men gather a group of characters along the way--young Lina (Janet Leigh), prospector Jess (Millard Mitchell), and reckless, slightly undependable Roy (Ralph Meeker, who'll go on to play one of the most memorably unsavory Mike Hammers in Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly). They're all actually variations on the two men, by turns innocent, practical, sensuous and unscrupulous, and it's interesting to see them sway towards one man or the other, depending on circumstance; the shifting relationships point up and illuminate the basic difference between the two men.

The quintessential Mann style is evident here too--plenty of medium to long shots, capturing the action clearly, and for the climax a sense of space and location so precise it comes together to form a three-dimensional image in your head (Meeker below, Ryan above, Stewart sneaking in from behind). The ending is something I've debated about with people (some find it implausible; others argue it makes perfect sense); I'll probably be debating it with people--and myself--for years to come.

Cimmarron (1960): Mann in his late, epic period, and I don't see him getting any more slack here than in his early days, though his camera has spread out considerably (in The Naked Spur it seemed his camera roved over a relatively small area of a few miles per sequence (in Desperate and Side Street it seemed like a few blocks, even at times only a few square feet); now he seems to be taking in the classic Western vista of endless horizons and distant mountain ranges. The emotions have become bigger, too: instead of just the mean bickering between a few losers, it's become the struggle of pioneers, the foundation of a state, the slow movement of generations.

Glenn Ford as Yancy "Cimarron" Cravat, newspaper editor, is wonderful; I've always thought Ford in other films to be an inexpressive lout, but here he looks huge, even monumental, the kind of immovable object irresistible forces love to try their luck against, and the perfect centerpiece for this kind of sprawling Western. John Ford and Mann like to use actors like John Wayne and Ford for their strong jaws and barrel chests, poised against the sky; Ford for a poetic effect, Mann for an at times ironic one. Mann's the more 'modern' director in a way, more open to psychological motivation (though it's hard not to see anything psychological in Ford's The Searchers), and I think you can see that his use of Ford (Glenn, I mean) is as critical as it is ostensibly iconic.

Part of the drama is, of course, the gradual conquest of Oklahoma, part the cost this conquest represents to Cravat's other, better half, his petit yet equally formidable wife, Sabra Cravat (Maria Schell). Every time he puts his life on the line, goes up against the powers that be, goes off into the vast outdoors to try his luck against nature and everything else, there's a consequent reaction from Sabra, a cry of sane self-interest: What about your wife? Your kids? Your self? Must you be so idealistic, so unselfish all the time? Must you go against the flow of everyone, just when things are about to go well? Is actual success anathema to you? By film's end Mann shows us the darker side of heroes: that they often have failed marriages and stunted (if equally well-meaning) offspring, that they're in some ways harder on loved ones and friends than on the ostensible enemy (at least the enemy gets their attention). Perhaps my favorite of the Manns I've seen that day, at least for now; I know, Spur has the higher rep, and I'm sure time and a gradually recovering sense of proportion will guide me accordingly, but for now I've fallen in love with this newly discovered bit of outsized melodrama, and the glow has stayed with me. Or maybe it's the fever speaking.


TCM Marathon

I was looking at an early Harryhausen effort--Mighty Joe Young (1949). Well, actually it's Harryhausen assisting the great team of effects master Willis O'Brien, director Ernest B. Schoedsack, and Merian C. Cooper. When I saw this the first time it left me cold; I was still under the spell of their earlier effort, King Kong. This time around, despite my efforts at sleep, I couldn't help getting up from time to time to enjoy the corny idealism of it all--that a young girl can have a giant gorilla for a playmate, that they can have a semi-sordid adventure in New York where they make a lot of money and dress up in glamorous clothes and even get Joe Young drunk (but--the girl is not once molested--not even whistled at) and still come back to Africa safe and sound. Schoedsack whips this along at a cheery pace, and O'Brien's Joe Young is, if anything, more marvelously expressive than Kong; he just isn't given as grand a role to play, and ultimately isn't as moving (only more cuddly). There is visual beauty here, if you want to look for it: Joe Young thrashing the artifice of the New York 'jungle' club (he kills more than one so-called 'king of the jungle' and no one holds him accountable for it); the young ape sitting melancholy inside a heavy cage; the ape cradling a little girl as they fall from a burning tree.

Harryhausen's Mysterious Island (1961) has music by Bernard Herrmann, and I can't help feeling he's recycling themes here from Vertigo and North by Northwest, among others; still the music does give the movie a classy feeling of nervous tension, of--shall we say, suspense? I was under NPO that night (Nothing per orem), and studiously avoiding the Food Network--and here I see a giant Harryhausen crab, fat and bright orange, battling a group of island survivors, then falling into a hot spring--instant boiled crab, and of course they had to eat the delicious results after (I'd already been salivating back in the fight sequence (And aren't live crabs not orange, but dark gray or green? Never mind)). Later they fight a giant chicken, then roast it over an open fire. Ah, suffering. Drool, drool.

Then Nemo comes in the person of Herbert Lom--and he was magnificent. Wearing a tight wetsuit (over a reasonably slim body), a speargun in one hand, a huge conch slung over the back, doomy melancholy hovering at the brow, ounce for ounce he was a match for James Mason's memorable Nemo in Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He felt more diminished when he actually entered the Nautilus, as the limited production budget couldn't keep the inside machinery from resembling Willie Wonka's chocolate factory, but still--this, from Chief Inspector Dreyfus of the Surete? Impressive. The director Cy Endfield, sounded vaguely familiar--didn't he direct some TV episodes of MASH? Nope. Universal Soldier--nope, not the Van Damme dumbkompf, a George Lazenby dumbkompf. I haven't seen a single other movie from this man.

The 1929 Mysterious Island, directed by Lucien Hubbard, Benjamin Christensen, and Maurice Tourneur, uses none of the characters from the Verne novel but does have Lionel Barrymore in all his magnificent masochism as Count Dakkar, who builds a kingdom and a submarine, is deposed, and struggles to regain his power. It's a strange mix of synchronized sound and silent film (Hubbard seems responsible for the sound parts), with strangely beautiful miniatures, eerily realistic underwater effects, pudgy underwater people (they look like Munchkins after a body shave), and a blatantly fake 'dragon'--really, a crocodile with fins pasted on (you get to realize why Harryhausen's stop-motion creatures are so effective: because they give so much more of a real performance).

Willis O'Brien's 1918 Ghost of Slumber Mountain is a charming 19-minute tall tale told to some credulous youngsters, about an hermit (O'Brien) seeing creatures emerging from the woods--the "thunder lizard" (a brontosaur, of course); the "two-legged monster" (a T-Rex), and "horned beasts" (triceratops) fighting it out. Marvelous how, even in these primitive conditions, even with this obviously tiny budget (the creatures are rough, barely recognizable), O'Brien's monsters still show not just life, but personality: they roar, scratch their noses with their clawed feet, chomp hungrily at bleeding flesh. And the grainy, flickering photography only adds to the illusion that this may all be real--or the cinematic equivalent of a fevered dream. Wonderful stuff.

Then, at a quarter past four came a real fevered dream--George P. Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane's The Manster (1962), which my friend TJ had warned me about, an unholy blend of '50s SF horror and Japanese Gojira-style filmmaking. Set in Japan and complete with accessories--smoking volcano, hidden laboratory, wretched caged creatures, impotent Japanese cops, running around (can't have Japanese monster horror without those), the film is about sinister (but are there any other kind?) Japanese scientist Dr. Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura, who's no stranger to these pictures, being a veteran from a Mothra movie and the 1957 The Mysterians) invites American reporter Larry Stanford (Peter Dyneley) to his mountainside retreat, realizes he'd work better as guinea pig than publicist, and injects him with an experimental drug; Stanford shrieks, tears his shirt open at the shoulder to reveal a blinking eye (a moment Sam Raimi couldn't resist borrowing for Army of Darkness), and proceeds to grow an extra head. As I suspected; an extra head is pretty much like a third leg; more impressive than actually effective in helping the creature defend itself, or hunt its prey. The Manster lopes along at its monstrously misshapen pace, till finally Stanford stands forth before a slim sapling, shrieks a few extra shrieks, and completes the split into two creatures (behind a tree, then one-shot, two-shot, then the two falling away from each other). Dramatically speaking nothing much, tho Suzuki has a near-tearful moment where he says farewell to an especially hideous caged creature--looks like Gollum, only with a pair of fried-egg eyes that somehow half-slipped the pan--that turns out to be his long-beloved wife. After a whole insomniac night of watching monster movies, clear out of my mind with three bags of antibiotics, a few milligrams of morphine, and a couple of thousands of milligrams of Tylenol running in my veins, you can imagine what I thought of all that.