Anouk Aimee

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

TRUE GRIT Remake Ain't All That

I went to see the Austin Film Society-sponsored sneak peek of TRUE GRIT last week at the Paramount. I respect Harry Knowles and Ain't It Cool News quite a bit, but the Coen Brothers' latest movie just wasn't all that. Maybe I just couldn't see through the wooden line readings and the less than stellar shot composition due to my intense hunger, having skipped dinner at the promise of a lavish after-party sponsored by Shiner Beer where food never materialized. For $45 a ticket, these local brewmasters (recently co-opted by a national shitty beer company) could have at least provided chips and salsa.
Sure, the party was "donated" and all proceeds from the tickets went to the Austin Film Society but still... serving alcohol but not food at an after-party? How irresponsible is that?
Anyway, back to TRUE GRIT. It can be argued that this movie didn't need to be re-made. The original movie from 1969 starring John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn holds together pretty well for me and doesn't seem dated. Jeff Bridges is one of my favorite actors and does a fine job as Rooster Cogburn in the Coen Brothers' remake, but he doesn't have the larger-than-life swagger of John Wayne, who always commands the frame in any shot he is in. Big stars like John Wayne just don't exist anymore, due in part to the fragmentation of media outlets over the past 20-plus years of myriad cable channels and the development of niche markets. Back in the day, there were only 3 TV networks and a handful of large movie studios -- which made stars more recognizable because EVERYONE saw their images over and over.
The dialogue in the original seemed much more natural than the dialogue of the Coen Brothers' remake. This observation is alarming to me because I have always really enjoyed the Coen Brothers' scripts and use of language and dialogue. The lack of this superior and clever language component makes me wonder if these geniuses are slipping. Maybe the Coens were just overwhelmed by the material. Maybe they got halfway into the project to find they couldn't outdo Marguerite Roberts' 1969 script but were into the movie too deeply to back out so they just sort of gave up and did a half-assed job. Maybe their hearts were not in it in the first place. Maybe they just lost interest or maybe they started to run out of money, but from the beginning of act 3 to the epilogue, the dialogue pacing was off and the delivery inflectionless and flat.
Again, maybe my intense hunger colored my (mis-)perception.
The Coen Brothers' TRUE GRIT is darker than the original movie, more in line with the book's tone. Of course, the whole "revenge is bittersweet" theme is apparent. But there is a joylessness inherent in the remake. The only sequence which reflected the special eerie otherworldly shot composition standard in Coen Brothers' movies was the sequence in which the heroine falls into a cave and encounters rattlesnakes nesting in a human skeleton.
Any Coen Brothers movie is a special treat, but I'm sad to say that TRUE GRIT is not on the same intensity level as O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU or HUDSUCKER PROXY or BLOOD SIMPLE or even THE BIG LEBOWSKI. Let's hope the Coens do better next time.
---------------------------------------by Anne Heller



Sunday, September 26, 2010

Roger & Julie Corman Receive Lifetime Achievement Award at Fantastic Fest 2010

Roger & Julie Corman Receive Lifetime Achievement Award from cinedig on Vimeo.



Producers Roger & Julie Corman Discuss Filipino Exploitation Films at Fantastic Fest 2010

Producers Roger & Julie Corman Discuss Filipino Exploitation Films from cinedig on Vimeo.


Dir. Mark Hartley Discusses MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED at Fantastic Fest 2010

Dir. Mark Hartley Discusses MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED from cinedig on Vimeo.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Venerable Austin Theatre Closes - Goodbye, Dobie

Rumored for at least 2 years but still coming as a surprise, the staff of the dobie theatre were informed Wednesday August 18th that their last day of official operation would be Sunday August 22. Despite the fact that it was located in the center of the University of Texas campus, one of the most populous universities in the nation, ticket sales had been declining for years, despite an upsurge in attendance over the last year.
One of the first arthouse movie theatres in Austin, the Dobie virtually kick-started Richard Linklater's career with its screenings of arthouse classics such as the films of Akira Kurosawa. The theatre was also the original location for Quentin Tarantino's first film fests, which took place in the '90's.
"I want to thank Scott Dinger for starting the Dobie theatre in the late '70's - early '80's," general manager Heather Cain said to a crowd of over a hundred students gathered in the Egyptian Room to attend the very last official screening at the theatre, a sneak preview of the teen comedy EASY A, sponsored by collegemoviereview.com, on August 23.
The Egyptian Room, you ask? Yes, the four screening rooms in the Dobie were decorated according to separate and distinct themes, just like my favorite beachside inn in Port Aransas. Screen one was The Library, with bookshelves and red surtains painted on the walls. The last movie shown on that screen was fittingly the competently quirky and full of inside jokes Will Ferrell- Mark Wahlberg comedy THE OTHER GUYS, which I saw Sunday night. Entertaining spoof of cop/action movies.
Screen two, the largest room in the Dobie (which sat maybe a little more than 150 people) was my favorite, the Egyptian Room. The walls of this room had enough Egyptian symbolism painted on them to make Madame Blavatsky proud. Yes, this room was replete? with huge murals of Isis, Osiris and Horus and their attending servants. The column in the middle of the room was even painted in Egyptian lore.
"So what are they doing with the artifacts from the Egyptian Room?" I asked Manager Heather Cain on Sunday night. "Are they stripping the room? May I have some of the pieces?"
"I think they're leaving the rooms intact for now." Heather replied.
Screen three was the Gothic Dungeon. Detailed and fierce gargoyles were painted on the walls overlooking their prey from the barred stone doors. I remember seeing a Bresson retrospective sponsored by the Austin Film Society in this theatre room back in the early 2000's. It was creepy seeing JOAN OF ARC in a room that looked like a dungeon.
"What are they doing with the gargoyles?" an older gentleman asked Heather on Sunday. "May I have one?"
The fourth screen was the Art Deco Room and the smallest one in the theatre. The columns painted on the walls were reminiscent of the sets for the 1930's serial classic FLASH GORDON. Seems like I might have seen something in that room, but my green-saturated hazy mind wants to make up romantic screenings that probably never happened, like maybe seeing the Queen-fueled camp classic FLASH GORDON (1980) in that room. That would have been a classic screening, if it ever occurred.
Soon I will upload the photos of the rooms I took on the last official night that the Dobie was open to the public.
----------------------------by Anne Heller

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Works by Luke Savisky at Austin Museum of Art

New Works by Luke Savisky
Austin Museum of Art
Exhibit runs thru May 8, 2010

I attended visual artist Luke Savisky's talk at Austin Museum of Art on Thursday April 29. He has been creating video installations for over 15 years now, after studying with pioneering video artist Bill Lundberg at the University of Texas. This exhibit is relevant to the subject of exploitation cinema in that it celebrates and reflects upon the passage of the film era with all its inherent flutters and flaws, just as exploitation cinema celebrates and reflects upon the flaws of human nature.
Savisky said this exhibit marks a new phase of his work. Previously, Luke has used only traditional film projectors (35 mm and 16mm) in his installations. These projectors, despite creating a beautiful retro tableau of authentically flickering images, were quite bulky, needed constant supervision and were expensive to use. Savisky uses three digital projectors in this installation, which are lighter to transport, easier to set up and are more cost-efficient. He said that the main reason for using old school film projectors was for his own tactile pleasure (threading film, constant hands-on manipulation, etc.). When he realized these tactile sensations were not readily discernable to the audience during an installation, Savisky began to let his purist tendencies dissipate somewhat and succumbed to the digital age. In fact, his current installation is a comment on the passing of the film age into the digital age. Three digital projectors are used along with six 16mm film projectors to combine minimalist non-images (light and shadows), creating a doorway into the collective consciousness of the viewers' perceptions of images and flashing lights.
This tranquil and hypnotic exhibition is also an experiment in changing the spatial dimensions of a room with light. 3D projections within the installation convey passage through space, giving the illusion of passing through walls, like ghost images on film stock. The installation also explores the notion of film as a rectangular container versus film as light in space, two contradictory attributes of projected images. This is explored through juxtaposition of projections of light and shadows and projections of a rotating empty cage spinning in the center of the room, with which the viewer can interact.
These images are coupled with the meditative, minimalist ebbing and flowing drones of the seminal (originally) Austin experimental band Stars of the Lid, with whom Luke has been working for over 15 years, providing projections for their live performances as they have provided music for his installations. Their music and Luke's sometimes unsettling, sometimes minimal imagery, is a perfect match, calmly coaxing the viewer into other realms of consciousness.
Make sure to catch Luke's exhibit at the Austin Museum of Art before it ends May 8th. Savisky's talk is podcast in its entirety on the Austin Museum of Art website (www.amoa.org).
--------------------by Anne Heller

Saturday, February 20, 2010

THE MODEL SHOP

THE MODEL SHOP (1969)
Written, produced, directed by Jacques Demy
English dialogue by Carol Eastman
Music by Spirit

THE MODEL SHOP, written, produced and directed by Jacques Demy, is an interesting meditation on relationships and loneliness circa 1969. This low-budget reflection of contemporary California of the times tells the story of George, an unemployed architect disillusioned with the shallow competitive money-grubbing nature of his career, whose relationship with his live-in girlfriend Gloria, an aspiring actress, is falling apart. The two are professionally jealous of each other and bicker constantly.
Gloria is bitter that George quit his promising job at the prestigious architectural firm while he is either berating her attempts to audition for acting gigs or making her feel like a whore when she is asked to do scenes naked.
George’s car is being repossessed because he hasn’t made a car payment in 2 months, due to his unemployment. This construct humorously mirrors love itself, which can be “called back” or taken away at any time when it isn’t tended properly.
George drives around trying to borrow money from his friends for his overdue car payment. Remarkably enough, the second friend he visits is a musician in the real-life California psychedelic blues rock band Spirit.
Spirit composed and performed most of THE MODEL SHOP’s soundtrack. These excellent compositions featuring the lovely guitar virtuosity of Randy California are cleverly incidentally scattered throughout the movie. One Spirit song plays on a jukebox in a diner/pool hall. Another is playing on the radio as George drives around town. Spirit’s beautiful musical passages and songs definitely add another layer of cultural integrity to this complex film.
There is a rather long dialog passage, too, where music, art and philosophy are discussed by our protagonist and his musician friend. (These dialog scenes were written by Carol Eastman, who also wrote THE SHOOTING and FIVE EASY PIECES.) This discussion is very precious, tender and innocently idealistic in a way seldom portrayed in interchanges between males. George and his friend actually appear to be sensitive and communicating on a deeper level. It’s actually quite touching but very short-lived, because the musician starts yelling at his wife to quiet the baby directly after making a sensitive and understanding statement in a much-too-brief moment of clarity and observation. Life intrudes on the moment
After this scene, George begins following a woman (the beautiful actress Anouk Aimee) dressed all in white (the color of mourning in many non-Western cultures), out of boredom and lustful curiosity. He follows her to her workplace, where women are paid to model lingerie for amateur photographers in small private rooms with bright photographic lights. George is so intrigued by this emotionally-distant yet beautiful (and slightly older) French woman that he visits her twice at work and tries to convince her to have an affair with him. She is heartbroken, she tells him, and will never love anyone again.
Another very tender and revealing discussion, this time concerning love and relationships, idealized and actual, takes place between George and this mysteriously sad model Cecile/Lola. So much is revealed concerning the depths of loneliness, bitterness and despair that a wayward and vindictive lover can bestow upon his or her mate, leaving that person a hollow and empty shell, unwilling and perhaps incapable of ever experiencing such profound emotions again. To destroy a person so completely must stem from an utterly callous and irrational disregard for that person’s emotional well-being on any level.
George has never really experienced anything like the model’s grief and loneliness, but he tries to understand and show some compassion, nonetheless. He is facing his own difficult challenge – he must report for the draft (Vietnam) in 3 days. He convinces Cecile that they can help out each other.
THE MODEL SHOP is a very well-written, well-acted, well-directed story of complex interpersonal relationships, artistic ideals, and emotional devastation set against the turbulent backdrop of late 1960’s southern California. This low-budget classic is much more intelligent than it had to be and is almost Bergman-esque in nature, with so much revealed through private conversations. The music and sound design is great throughout. It is a beautiful, melancholy meditation on relationships and the human psyche.

-----Review by Anne Heller

Thursday, February 11, 2010

EVEN DWARVES STARTED SMALL

Although this is not really an exploitation movie, elements of exploitation are used throughout, such as excessive violence, maniacal laughter and midgets.

EVEN DWARVES STARTED SMALL (1970)

EVEN DWARVES STARTED SMALL (1970), written and directed by Werner Herzog, is a disturbing movie which explores the evil destructive nature of roguish mob mentality. The fact that this meanness and destruction is caused by a group of “little people” further magnifies the truly horrific nature of their destructive behavior.
The heinous acts of these midgets are in response to the imprisonment of their fellow “inmate” for allegedly raping a female instructor while the principal is away. The group of nine midgets storm the principal’s house and grounds in an attempt to free their rapist friend Pepe. They kill chickens, chase each other through the grounds, hit each other, torture each other and are always ganging up on one or another of the group.
It was shot at a low angle looking up at the midgets, giving the sense that they are the proper proportion. The world around them is overly huge and “wrong.”
These little people ridicule each other constantly. It’s miraculous that the group could ever organize enough to all throw stones at the windows of the principal’s mansion or all join to destroy the only palm tree on the island. These scenes are juxtaposed with scenes of chickens cannibalizing each other and fighting over a dead mouse. (Herzog says on the commentary track that chickens are profoundly stupid. Perhaps these juxtaposed shots further reflect the stupidity of mob mentality and social scapegoating.)
EVEN DWARVES STARTED SMALL was shot in black and white to highlight the stark contrasts of this nightmarish place where the world has so overgrown its inhabitants. The oversized natural world, further accentuated through sweeping circular panoramic shots, makes the surrealistic violence of the midgets seem more of a response meant to assert some sort of control over their environment.
Is this also a reflection of societal violence and scapegoating? Do people in “normal” society assert control over their uncontrollable natural environment by ganging up on the weaker and smaller? What is the trigger for this behavior in ordinary society? Is it just Darwinian? If so, then humanitarianism is a great lie, a sad and impractical ideal which was doomed from the start. I cry at the prospect /realization that humanitarianism probably never really existed, even when it was espoused by intellectuals in its heyday in the 20th century. Human beings are too disgustingly base to truly care about one another, and those who DO care are scapegoated and destroyed. The more one practices humanitarianism, the faster and more evilly that person will be destroyed by the stupidity of mob mentality and base animalistic tendencies. There is no hope for humanity. The rapists are lionized and the cruel destroy the just. The blossoming flowers are watered with gasoline and set ablaze as barbarians laugh, torture and cannibalize each other. Just look around.
----------------------review by Anne Heller


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

THE STUDENT NURSES

THE STUDENT NURSES (1970)
Written & Directed by Stephanie Rothman
Review by Anne Heller

When times are bad, the most economical way to enjoy oneself (other than masturbation) is to head down to the neighborhood independent video store and check out a gem from the past. Luckily, Austin has the two best independent video store chains in Texas (if not the United States) – Vulcan Video and I Luv Video, both with interesting and extensive collections. From the DVD racks at Vulcan Video South, one can rent ‘70’s liberated sexploitation classic THE STUDENT NURSES, written and directed by the first woman to be awarded the Director’s Guild of America fellowship, Stephanie Rothman. She started working for legendary low-budget filmmaker/producer Roger Corman in the late ‘60’s doing second unit work at AIP and New World Studios.
Screened on 35mm as part of the Alamo Drafthouse’s Weird Wednesday series in May, THE STUDENT NURSES (1970) is not a typical sexploitation movie. Sure, the nudity and sexual openness is there, but it’s not all for laughs. Stephanie Rothman scripted a socially compelling, well-written tits & ass movie which confronts the topics of racism, socio-economic inequalities, rape, abortion, medical ethics, public health issues, human rights, the Vietnam war, free love, LSD and drug experimentation.
Four sexy college roommates are taking their nursing internships at the same time. Sharon (Elaine Giftos) is assigned to the terminal care ward, Lynn (Brioni Farrell) to public health administration, Priscilla (Barbara Leigh) to gynecology and Phred (Karen Carlson) to psychiatry. Lynn falls for a local leader of La Raza Latino resistance movement and starts a health clinic in the barrio. Sharon falls in love with her patient, a brooding young poet with cystic fibrosis to whom she teaches the ways of sexual fulfillment. Priscilla has an affair with a rogue pharmacist and gets pregnant from their shared acid trip on the beach. Phred encounters her own psychiatric difficulties when she vehemently opposes the abortion her gynecologist lover gives Priscilla in their apartment bedroom. These four beauties have ample opportunities to disrobe and fornicate, of which they take advantage, much to the delight of male viewers. These are liberated women at the height of the sexual revolution, after all, and are as intelligent as they are horny and beautiful.
The action quotient is quite high as well. There’s a very bloody gunfight at the resistance movement headquarters in which two policemen are shot and killed and several members of the group are badly hurt. An anti-(Vietnam) war protest consisting of spookily-dressed young people of all races painted like skeletons becomes violent, with cops beating protesters. The trip sequence on the beach consists of confusing sensory and memory montages with hyper-sensual overtones.
In short, THE STUDENT NURSES is a thoughtful and compelling reflection of the times, expressed through real women’s perspectives. But, it’s still fun and titillating, despite its sobering treatment of subject matter.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Girls on Film: The Shackles of Age

I know this is not about exploitation films, but it IS relevant because without women, you can't have exploitation movies. Women are grossly mistreated throughout all facets of the entertainment industry and ageism is a real issue. Looks and performance don't even matter after the age on your driver's license reads 3-6. God help you if you are even 4 years older than that but still look and act like you're 20. Men mature with age, women get thrown in the trash. Let's hope these attitudes change because a lot of beautiful, strong, mature talent is being wasted.
Thanks to Cinematical's Monika Bartyzel.
Girls on Film: The Shackles of Age


Monday, January 11, 2010

Stuntman Gary Kent at HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS

Gary Kent's autobiography, Shadows and Lights: Journeys with Outlaws in Revolutionary Hollywood, is now in its second printing. You can find it at BookPeople, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.


Gary Kent, Biker Stuntman
Alamo Drafthouse Downtown
May 17th, 2006
--------by Anne Heller (for WHOOPSY magazine)

Gary Kent, stuntman extraordinaire and stunt coordinator for many biker and action films of the late 1960’s and 1970’s, was on hand to answer questions and impart knowledge upon the Weird Wednesday midnight crowd for the screening of Hells Angels on Wheels ( dir: Richard Rush, cinematographer: Laszlo Kovacs, starring Jack Nicholson and Adam Roarke) on May 17th.
“Gary Kent is the legendary stunt coordinator, who did the stunt co-ordination on this movie (Hells Angles on Wheels), who set those guys on fire in Werewolves on Wheels -- which is one of my favorite moments in the cinema. He was second unit director in Dracula vs. Frankenstein which we’ve shown here before. In Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets, he rigged the bullet squibs, in Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, he led the Dallas unit crew filming in what was supposed to be the Fillmore Auditorium… it’s amazing the stuff Gary Kent has done,” Weird Wednesday host Lars said by way of introduction.
“I doubled Jack Nicholson on 4 different films,” Gary Kent told the crowd. “I had just worked a couple westerns with him up in Utah, where I lied to get the job. I said I was a stuntman but I wasn’t. I didn’t know what to do but Jack hired me nonetheless. Then he got this biker film (Hells Angels on Wheels). He called me up and said, ‘Do you want to go up to Bakersfield and double me again and stage some fights and I said sure!
“So I worked on this picture with Chuck Bail, one of the best stuntmen in Hollywood. Bud Cardos, a friend of mine, he and I were bucking broncs for $15 bucks a day in L.A. when we got this picture.”
“This was the crème de la crème of the independent group at the time,” Kent told the audience. “Richard Rush as director,… Laszlo Kovacs, probably a lot of you know his works – he escaped from Hungary during the revolution. He and Willie Zsigmond filmed their escape. They had to hide their film in haystacks during the day and pretend they were peasants. When they finally got out, they started getting work in Hollywood. This was one of Kovacs’ first American films.”
“Jack Starrett, a fine director in his own right, makes an appearance as Officer Bingham in this movie, reprising his role from the biker movie Angels from Hell,” Lars pointed out to the audience. “You’ve got Bud Cardos, who does fights with Gary and who has a great sequence as a menacing guy at this hotel, along with doing the great fight scene in the pool. Gary has directed a couple of films. There’s also Bruno VeSota who’s a great director and directed Daughter of Horror. It speaks well of Richard Rush that he could get along so well with so many strong-willed actors and directors.”
“Also, this was one of the first films Sonny Barger ever did,” Kent continued. “As you know, Sonny Barger was the real leader of the Hells Angels Oakland chapter.
Shortly after the start of this film, two motorcycle groups come together in the town. Adam Roarke and Sonny Barger play the two leaders and they kiss each other. Adam told me that it took him about two weeks to get the taste of Sonny Barger out of his mouth. It was great working with Sonny. He had a great sense of humor. A lot of the Oakland Angels played extras in this film.”
“Oh, here’s another story about working with Nicholson,” Kent said. “Jack used to always step off his horse while looking down at the ground. I said, ‘Jack, you look like you’re afraid you’re going to step in some horseshit every time you do that. Step off like you know where you’re going, Look straight ahead.’ Jack said, ‘Good idea.’
“You’ll notice there’s a fight in a deserted swimming pool in this picture and Jack walks to the lip of the pool and jumps right into the fight without looking down. It’s about a 15 foot drop straight down on concrete. I said, ‘Jack, that’s not what I meant when I said look straight ahead!’”
Look for more stories of his stunt work in legendary biker and action movies in Gary Kent’s autobiography, which is almost complete and should be on bookshelves by this winter.
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Saturday, January 2, 2010

CINEMAPOCALYPSE Day 2 Part 1: Eddie Deezen & Co. at SURF II



I was lucky enough to go on the CINEMAPOCALYPSE road trip that Zack and Lars of the original Alamo Drafthouse took up the West Coast back in April of this year. The footage from the first day of the CINEMAPOCALYPSE tour is the very first post of this blog, before my intro to EXPLOITATION CINE DIGEST.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Quentin Tarantino Introduces SIEGE OF FIREBASE GLORIA



Quentin Tarantino says a few words about biker movie THE LOSERS before introducing Brian Trenchard-Smith's SIEGE OF FIREBASE GLORIA at CINEMAPOCALYPSE screening in August at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.

Welcome to EXPLOITATION CINE DIGEST


EXPLOITATION CINE DIGEST is a collection of articles, reviews and video clips concerning exploitation cinema (mainly of the 1960's and '70's) written, produced, edited and compiled by film scholar (and filmmaker) Anne Heller.  The video posts are culled from my video archives of director and actor audience interviews at various theatres (mainly Austin, Texas-based original Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas).  I hope you will enjoy and visit often!

Friday, April 24, 2009

EXPLOITATION CINE DIGEST Presents CINEMAPOCALYPSE West Coast Tour Day 1: New Beverly

Here are the three youtube posts I put together of the first night in L.A., two of which feature Sybil Danning. This trip is fun!