Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Burns's 2007 Film Log

Ratings are out of 10. Movies rated 10/10 are highlighted in red.

The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932) 9/10
The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980) 8/10
A Star Is Born (George Cukor, 1954) 9/10
Murder, My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk, 1944) 8/10
And Now the Screaming Starts (Roy Ward Baker, 1973) 5/10
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964) 9/10
12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957) 9/10
Gosford Park
(Robert Altman, 2001) 10/10
The Shop Around the Corner (Ernest Lubitsch, 1940) 10/10
Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953) 9/10
The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (Michael Carreras, 1964) 6/10
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007) 9/10
Countess Dracula (Peter Sasdy, 1970) 7/10
Sherlock Holmes in Washington (Roy William Neill, 1943)
Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971) 9/10
Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007) 8/10
The Lives of Others (
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006) 8/10
Guys and Dolls (Joseph L Mankiewicz, 1955) 8/10
Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) 9/10
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (John Hughes, 1986) 8/10
The Hound of the Baskervilles (Terence Fisher, 1958) 9/10
Charlie Chan in Paris (Lewis Seiler, 1935) 7/10
Deadlier than the Male (Ralph Thomas, 1966) 6/10
Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 AD (Gordon Flemyng, 1966) 6/10
Dr Who and the Daleks (Gordon Flemyng, 1965) 5/10
Horrors of the Black Museum (Arthur Crabtree, 1960) 6/10
Night of the Eagle (Sidney Hayers, 1962) 8/10
L'Armee des ombres (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969) 8/10
The Vengeance of She (Cliff Owen, 1968) 5/10
She (Robert Day, 1965) 6/10
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001) 9/10
Targets (Peter Bogdanovich, 1968) 8/10
Billy Liar
(John Schlesinger, 1963) 10/10
The House That Dripped Blood (Peter Duffy, 1971) 7/10
Brief Encounter
(David Lean, 1945) 10/10
Island of Terror (Terence Fisher, 1966) 7/10
Dracula (Terence Fisher, 1958) 10/10
Man of La Mancha (Arthur Hiller, 1972) 8/10
Son of Paleface (Frank Tashlin, 1952) 8/10
The Paleface (Norman Z McLeod, 1948) 8/10
The Witches (Cyril Frankel, 1966) 7/10
In the Mood for Love (Kar Wai Wong, 2000) 9/10
Top Hat
(Mark Sandrich, 1935) 9/10
The Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich, 1934) 10/10
Maurice (James Ivory, 1986) 9/10
My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava, 1936) 8/10
The Beast Must Die
(Paul Annett, 1974) 3/10
Dracula's Daughter
(Lambert Hillyer, 1936) 8/10
Dracula AD 1972 (Alan Gibson, 1972) 6/10
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (Roy William Neill, 1942) 8/10
(PT Anderson, 1999) 10/10
Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959) 8/10
The Mummy's Shroud (John Gilling, 1968) 6/10
(John Palmer, 2004) 7/10
The Fog (Rupert Wainwright, 2005) 4/10
Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998) 6/10
Mystery of the Wax Museum (Michael Curtiz, 1933) 8/10
Whisky Galore! (Alexander Mackendrick, 1949) 8/10
Mon oncle
(Jacques Tati, 1958) 10/10
Cours du soir (Nicolas Ribowski, 1967) 7/10
Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007) 8/10
Straight on Till Morning
(Peter Collinson, 1972) 7/10
Good Morning (Yasujiro Ozu, 1959) 8/10
Twins of Evil
(John Hough, 1971) 8/10
Asylum (Roy Ward Baker, 1971) 7/10
Le souffle au coeur (Louis Malle, 1971) 8/10
Fear in the Night (Jimmy Sangster, 1972) 4/10
The Horror of Frankenstein (Jimmy Sangster, 1970) 4/10
Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965) 8/10
The Revenge of Frankenstein (Terence Fisher, 1958) 8/10
The Nanny (Seth Holt, 1965) 8/10
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Alfred L Werker, 1939) 9/10
The Phantom of the Opera (Terence Fisher, 1962) 7/10
Le cercle rouge
(Jean-Pierre Melville, 1970) 8/10
Our Man in Havana (Carol Reed, 1959) 8/10
Stand by Me (Rob Reiner, 1986) 8/10
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich, 1962) 9/10
Quatermass and the Pit (Roy Ward Baker, 1967) 8/10
Dracula, Prince of Darkness (Terence Fisher, 1965) 8/10
King Rat (Bryan Forbes, 1965) 8/10
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964) 8/10
The End of the Affair (Edward Dmytryk, 1955) 8/10
Dead Poets Society (Peter Weir, 1987). 9/10
Shortbus (John Cameron Mitchell, 2006) 8/10
The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, King Vidor, 1939) 10/10
Tirez sur le pianiste (Francois Truffaut, 1960) 8/10
The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941) 9/10

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Johnson's Film Log (2007)

theatrical releases:

The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky) B-
Hot Fuzz
(Edgar Wright) B
The Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry) D
(David Lynch) C
(Danny Boyle) C

The Lives of Others (Florian Von Donnersmarck) B

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Saw INLAND EMPIRE yesterday afternoon at the Cameo. It's David Lynch's first feature to be shot on Digital Video and it incorporates ideas and material from Lynch's own website. Laura Dern, who's also co-producing, plays wealthy actress Nikki Grace who is warned by her Polish neighbour (Grace Zabriskie) that someone will be murdered if she accepts the part in the film On High in Blue Tomorrows that she has been auditioning for. Nikki goes on to star in the picture which transpires to be a remake of an earlier film that had to be shelved after the murder of its two leads, and the curse of that abandoned film begins to exert its influence on Nikki's life.

At this point, INLAND EMPIRE forsakes any semblance of a traditional plot driven framework and narrative coherence in a straightforward sense and delves deep into a fragmented and abstracted tale in which Lynch deftly blurs the lines between past, present and future, reality, dream and the subconscious seemingly to an even greater extent than in any of his other films. Characters take on multiple identities and move back and forth from one reality/narrative to the next to dizzying effect but other than the stylistic differences, INLAND EMPIRE also seems to depart from the thematically related, cyclic narratives in Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Where Lost Highway in particular works as the filmic equivalent of a Moebius strip, INLAND EMPIRE achieves proper closure and, surprisingly so, on a joyous and upbeat note.

The film's look has been something of a minor controversy: Lynch shot the picture on an outdated video camera and although having read enough about the film beforehand to anticipate and brace myself for the downgraded look of DV, it was still a bit of a shock to see the sumptuous images and saturated colours (Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive especially are ravishingly beautiful) that made Lynch's films to date such a feast for the eyes replaced by the murky and unrefined visuals on display here. That said, there are two points to make. Lynch has been so unequivocal about his love for digital video and his horror at the prospect of shooting on film again that we ought to be pragmatic and accept that while his films may never look as good again, we get in return an immediacy that in the long term may prove to enrich his work more than some care to admit right now.

Yes, INLAND EMPIRE looks dreary and ugly in comparison but then Lynch's films have also always been about finding the beauty in ugliness, in the same way that the image of the razorblade cut through the eyeball in Un Chien Andalou is morbidly beautiful. Beyond that, and more crucially, it intensifies mood and tone in INLAND EMPIRE more than it might have ever done on film: the close-ups of Laura Dern and Grace Zabriskie are often disconcertingly huge, lending the film even greater intimacy, while the loss of eyecandy meant, to me personally anyway, I felt less at a distance from the film once I'd gotten used to the changes. Since the image is so stripped down to the essentials, it felt more real and tangible and as a result even creepier, and in its best moments, INLAND EMPIRE is absolutely terrifying. The film's coda is easily among the scariest and most freakish moments not just in Lynch's but anybody's work and together with The Fountain's Garden of Eden sequence an early frontrunner for the best scene of the year.

And yet, while the move to digital seems to enrich Lynch's work in unexpected ways and, if INLAND EMPIRE is anything to go by, has the potential to express his obsessions and concerns even more accurately and truthfully, the freedom and greater flexibility that DV has afforded Lynch can also make him prone to self-indulgence. At just short of three hours, INLAND EMPIRE feels inordinately long: it comes to a stuttering halt as frequently as it captivates, for every moment of sheer brilliance, there are, I hate to say, stretches where it left me rather indifferent, impatient even. As with his other films, it's so rich in details, clues and ambiguities that multiple viewings are essential to make the puzzle fall into place (though Lynch's films are so intricate as to always defy complete rationalisation and one common reading) but while I was able to make enough sense of it to interpret it in a way that seemed logical to me, I find INLAND EMPIRE too undisciplined and not compelling enough as a whole to wanting to see it again, at least anytime soon.

Addendum: totally confused by Lynch's latest mindfuck and dying to have a rational explanation for it? here's a good starting point. (beware: major spoilers)


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Clint Eastwood interview

Today's Observer runs an interview with Clint Eastwood (whose new film Letters from Iwo Jima is out now; I'll be seeing it next week) and the online transcript of it is here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My week in film...

My journey into new Hammer horrors continues apace. Twins of Evil (1971) was an absolute delight, and showed me that I have underestimated Hammer's 1970s output. The photography was wonderful (cinematographer Dick Bush), and new director John Hough showed he could match the gothic atmosphere of the Studio's best work. It was certainly the finest of Hammer's Karnstein trilogy, a series based on the horror stories of Sheridan le Fanu, which opened splendidly with The Vampire Lovers (1970), plummeted severely with the dire Lust for a Vampire in 1971, and ended with this riveting and smartly crafted tale. Peter Cushing inspires both hatred in the early stages and sympathy later on: Despite his puritanical villainy, he seems to crumble before his wife, played by Kathleen Byron (of Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus).

Straight on Till Morning was made by Hammer in 1972, back-to-back with Fear in the Night. The director was the fairly unremarkable Peter Collinson, whose biggest hit was the uneven-if-entertaining The Italian Job in 1969. This is a far more interesting film than its pedestrian sister, however. There are no by-now-tired Sangsterian twists to elicit groans, but instead a fascinating pair of characters in Peter and Wendy, played by Shane Briant and Rita Tushingham. The film was slow in spots, but it had a pathos to it that doubtless will draw me back to it.

Johnson and I had a cinema trip on Saturday to see the very funny Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007). In the post-Love Actually era, this kind of film gives me hope that the British comedy film is not destined to sink into a Richard-Curtis quagmire of triteness and manipulation. Not only was it funny, but it had a satirical edge that delivered a timely FU to the Daily Mail readers of Britain.

I also took in my first film by Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, one of his more accessible films, a light comedy called Good Morning (1959). It was an amiable look at Japanese culture and family in the 1950s, and seemed to display many of the director's trademark habits, including the ubiquitous framing of shots through doorways and between pillars.

Also managed to catch Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle (1958) for the first time in several years, and it hasn't lost its brilliance a bit. So witty and insightful, with the clash of old and new, the worlds of Tati and his rich relatives, so deftly and charmingly realized in a uniquely cinematic way. I was torn between a 9 and 10 for the rating, with only the length (almost 2 hours) swaying me back towards a 9. I settled on a 10, however, because the film simply delights me.

And finally, I watched Todd Solondz's Happiness (1998). First off, I should say I have no problem with controversial issues being handled through humour. As far as I am concerned, nothing is sacred, and there is no topic that is off-limits for humour. I say that because Happiness is a very dark comedy that addresses very serious issues, namely paedophilia and child molestation. But I don't have a problem with that. My problem is that Solondz's film is so damned cynical. I couldn't detect anything redemptive in it. The film holds out no hope for its pathetic characters; I felt like I was simply being invited to sneer at them. And I really dislike movies with that kind of sensibility. It reminded me of Woody Allen's unpleasant 1995 comedy Deconstructing Harry: witty and impressive, but lacking in humanity, and displaying a positively cruel streak. I love irony and cynicism in films, but I think it must be tempered by humanity. I'm willing to concede I just didn't get Solondz: If that's the case, convince me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg on Hot Fuzz

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg talked last night at the NFT about their new film Hot Fuzz. There are only very mild spoilers and it's a nice appetitiser for the film.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Jodorowsky, Lynch, Bunuel, British war films and other news

Plenty of news and stuff to link you to so without further ado:

David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart) talked to Mark Kermode about his new film INLAND EMPIRE (to open in Britain in early March) at the NFT earlier this week.

Guillermo Del Toro is considering a new version of Tarzan as one of his next projects after Hellboy 2 and his Lovecraft adaptation At the Mountains of Madness, and he had this to say: "The idea is to try to do a version unlike any other, in the sense that Tarzan's formative years, growing through the jungle, are incredibly tough and brutal. There's always this idyllic sense of the jungle being like a Disney set and I want to portray how this guy becomes the toughest animal in the jungle".

Tartan are going to release two films by Alejandro Jodorowsky, El Topo and The Holy Mountain, individually and as a 6-disc set coupled with his debut Fando & Lis on the 14th of May.

The next two releases from Masters of Cinema will be Claude Lanzmann's 9 hour documentary, Shoah, about the holocaust in a director's approved boxset with a 185-page booklet on the 19th of February, and Orson Welles' F for Fake (will be interesting to see how the latter shapes up against the Criterion version).

Beaver have a comparison of all available DVDs of Bunuel's Belle De Jour (new Optimum R2 vs old Warner R2 vs old Miramax R1 vs old RusCico R0).

For Nicholas Roeg fans: Beaver has a review of his 1970 film Performance (new Warner R1, the R2 disc follows on the 5th of March); DVDTimes review The Man Who Fell To Earth, and Network have announced Region 2 releases for April of Bad Timing (a Region 1 DVD from Criterion is already available) and Insignificance.

Finally, a selection of reviews of Optimum's new discs for the following British war classics (sad to note that Optimum seem to have undertaken no effort whatsoever to present these films in a decent video transfer: all films score a disappointing 5 out of 10 for image. Given that the same applies to their Ealing reissues, we feel that Optimum could and should do better than that):

Ice Cold in Alex
The Colditz Story
The Dam Busters
The Cruel Sea

Monday, February 12, 2007

Two mediocre Hammer horrors: The Horror of Frankenstein (1970); Fear in the Night (1972)

I am anal when it comes to Hammer Studios; as far as my DVD collection is concerned, I am a completist. And so I added a handful to the list, including two later Hammers, both directed by Jimmy Sangster.

Jimmy Sangster was a talented writer and producer. He scripted several of the early Hammer gothics, including the fabulous Dracula in 1958, perhaps the finest of all the Studio's productions. He scripted and produced The Nanny in 1965, another example of Hammer's very high standards. In the 1970s, however, he turned his hand to direction, with decidedly poor results. The abysmal Lust for a Vampire (1970) is best forgotten.

The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) is The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) revamped as a camp black comedy. God help us. As critic David Pirie noted in 1973, the chief problem is that the original Frankenstein film (and the ensuing series) was already replete with irony; Sangster's heavy-handed attempt to make the humour overt completely misses the point, taking away the most splendid and brilliant element of the original films. The jokes fall flat. Despite being photographed by the talented Arthur Grant, it has nothing of the usual Hammer atmosphere. Malcolm Williamson's score is as lumbering and soulless as David Prowse's Creature.

Fear in the Night (1972) is more interesting in that it does have at least two effective sequences, namely the genuinely haunting bookends. The 80 minutes inbetween is sorely lacking in suspense and interest, however. The first half is excruciatingly dull, mainly consisting of banal dialogue between Ralph Bates and Judy Geeson. The presence of Peter Cushing comes as a huge relief, but he is given very little screen time. The second half picks up pace, but is mainly silly and predictable. It was obviously very cheaply made, as only four characters carry the majority of the movie; two carry the first half virtually on their own.

My ratings?

The Horror of Frankenstein 4/10
Fear in the Night 4/10

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Where did all the great movies go?

In The Guardian, Matthew Sweet reminisces fondly about the days when British terrestrial TV showed movie classics. He builds up a good case, demonstrating that the big networks just don't bother with old movies these days.
Twenty years ago this month, the film preview pages of the TV Times and Radio Times looked like a handout from the film studies department of the University of Sussex. ... On Saturday nights, the channel continued its stately progress through the entire canon of pre-Hammer horror pictures: the complete works of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, Carl Dreyer's Vampyr, pervy monochrome Hollywood oddities starring Lionel Atwill and George Zucco. And Sunday nights were devoted to satisfying students of British cinema in the 1960s: Poor Cow, Up the Junction, Petulia, The Knack ... and How to Get It, Alfie, Georgy Girl, Charlie Bubbles.
Ah, yes. I remember both those seasons well. It was in that '60s season that my lifelong obsession with Billy Liar (1963) began. And my horror obsession had its roots in Channel Four's late-night black-and-white movies. At the beginning of every week, I'd go through the Radio Times (or both the Radio Times and TV Times back when you had to buy two every week!) and circle the films I was going to watch. Why bother in these cinematically deprived days?

Full article here.

Links of the Day

Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) talks to Sandra Hebron of the NFT about his new film Science of Sleep (opening next Friday) and his collaborations with Charlie Kaufman.

Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Spaced) argues in the Guardian that British and American humour have more in common than we like to think (the trailers for Hot Fuzz are excellent).