My Cinematic Odyssey 2014
Happy New Year! Despite the fact that there is crap in my life that needs to change, I refuse to make new year’s resolutions. I’ll fix my crap when I am damn good and ready to fix my crap. The one thing in my life that has always been a constant source of joy is film. I miss my little blog and sharing my love for all things cinematic so I have decided to reactivate my little space on the web. There will be none of this five days a week craziness though; likely a couple times a month and maybe, eventually, one post a week. I watched 317 films in 2014; to see the list click here. This was a banner year of film viewing with a mere handful of films I outrighted loathed; but let us not waste words on garbage and move onto the goodness. This list is in alphabetical order as it was too daunting to rank these gems; each and everyone adored.
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971)
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cast: Lou Castel, Eddie Constantine, Marquard Bohm, Hanna Schygulla, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Ulli Lommel, Kurt Raab
The cast and crew of a film await the arrival of their director; a project that threatens to fall apart before it even gets started. Allegedly based on the shooting of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film Whity. Funny, manic and gorgeously shot with memorable performances by all. Just one of three Fassbinder films to make this list (and a few more made the shortlist).
The Blood of a Poet (1932)
Directed by Jean Cocteau
Cast: Enrique Rivero, Elizabeth Lee Miller, Pauline Carton, Odette Talazac, Jean Desbordes, Fernand Dichamps, Lucien Jager, Féral Benga
A film in four chapters that begins with an artist whose illustration becomes animated; a series of strange and mysterious events follow. A trippy, beautiful black and white masterpiece that mesmerized me from beginning to end.
The Brick Dollhouse (1967)
Directed by Tony Martinez and David F. Friedman
Cast: Tina Vienna, Janice Kelly, Peggy Ann, Joyana, Helena Clayton, George French
A gal turns up dead and the police question her three wacky roommates. These lovely ladies divulge the events of the past few days; a whirlwind of weed, wine and nudity. A sexploitation whodunnit! Funky fashions, frisky felines and fun galore abound in this quirky bit of sixties sleaze that gave me one hundred and one laughs.
Cherry, Harry & Raquel (1970)
Directed by Russ Meyer
Cast: Linda Ashton, Charles Napier, Larissa Ely, Bert Santos, Frank Bolger, Uschi Digard, Michelle Grand, John Milo, Michaelani, Robert Aiken
Harry is a sheriff in league with a crooked politician to insure the safe passage of weed across the border. Things get considerably more complicated when one of their associates goes into business for himself; and then there is Harry’s love life! Classic Meyers with plenty of humor, action, sex, nudity and outrageous characters.
Christiane F. (1981)
Directed by Uli Edel
Cast: Natja Brunckhorst, Eberhard Auriga, Peggy Bussieck, Lothar Chamski, Rainer Woelk, Uwe Diderich, Jan Georg Effler, Ellen Esser
Christiane F. is based on the autobiographical book We Children of Bahnhof Zoo by Vera Christiane Felscherinow. The story focuses on Christiane; a heroin addict and prostitute by the age of 14 living in West Berlin. The frank retelling of Christiane’s addiction pulls no punches and Natja Brunckhorst’s performance is outstanding. A live performance by David Bowie (who also provides the soundtrack) is merely a bonus.
Come and See (1985)
Directed by Elem Klimov
Cast: Aleksey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Lauciavicius, Vladas Bagdonas, Jüri Lumiste, Viktor Lorents, Kazimir Rabetsky
Come and See is Flyora’s story; a Belarusian boy taken from his sobbing mother to fight with his countrymen during Nazi occupation. A daunting and traumatizing 130ish minutes follow! Come and See knocked me on my ass. I felt both drained and exhilirated that a film could evoke this much emotion from me. Poiginant story telling, beautifully acted and shot; much is said here without words. Stunning.
Criminal Woman: Killing Melody (1973)
Directed by Atsushi Mihori
Cast: Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto, Chiyoko Kazama, Masami Sôda, Yumiko Katayama, Ryôji Hayama, Shinzo Hotta, Seiya Satô
Maki has landed in a woman’s prison after attempting to kill the Yakuza boss who killed her father. In prison she befriends a group of women that help her seek her revenge. One of the women however is the girlfriend of the Yakuza boss who threatens to spoil their plans. Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto are always a winning combination in my book. Both ladies lend their considerable charm and talent to this pinky thrill-ride full of action and violence.
The Dance of Reality (2013)
Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Cast: Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Jeremias Herskovits, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Bastián Bodenhöfer, Adan Jodorowsky, Axel Jodorowsky
I got a double dose of Jodorowsky this year with the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune and The Dance of Reality; the latter being his first film in twenty-three years! A semi-autobiographical retelling of Jodorowsky’s childhood packed with symbolism and Jodorowsky’s own philosophies. Alejandro’s son Brontis is superb in the role of Alejandro’s father Jaime and Pamela Flores steals every scene she is in with her melodic delivery as Alejandro’s mother Sara. A charming and sentimental journey loaded with gorgeous unforgettable imagery.
Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 (1972)
Directed by Shunya Itô
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Fumio Watanabe, Kayoko Shiraishi, Mitsuo Andô, Yuki Arasa, Kai Atô, Hiroshi Hayashi, Shinzo Hotta
Matsu is brought out of solitary confinement for a prison inspection. During the inspection she takes the opportunity to attack the chief warden which causes a riot. The prisoners are sent to a work camp as punishment. A bad-ass group of women including Matsu escape leaving a trail of dead bodies behind them. I reviewed this one and gave it a five out of five; one of the best women in prison films around! Read my review here.
Gate of Flesh (1964)
Directed by Seijun Suzuki
Cast: Jô Shishido, Kôji Wada, Yumiko Nogawa, Tomiko Ishii, Kayo Matsuo, Kuniko Kawanishi, Misako Tominaga, Isao Tamagawa
Prostitutes living together in an abandoned building take in a wounded thief who threatens to tear the group apart. A bittersweet story of love and hate, friend and foe and above all else survival. These women have some pretty severe punishment for those who don’t abide by the groups rules. I watched three Seijun Suzuki directed films this year and enjoyed all of them immensely. It was a difficult decision to leave Branded to kill off of this list (Heat-Haze Theatre and Branded to kill both made the shortlist). Suzuki is truly a master behind the camera; the use of color in this film could almost be called legendary.
Heavy Traffic (1973)
Directed by Ralph Bakshi
Cast: Joseph Kaufmann, Beverly Hope Atkinson, Frank DeKova, Terri Haven, Mary Dean Lauria, Jacqueline Mills, Lillian Adams, Jamie Farr
An animated tale sprinkled with live action sequences about the adventures of unemployed cartoonist Michael Corleone. Serious family Dysfunction, racism, poverty, prostitution and violence all come into play in the animated sequences while we get occasional live-action glimpses of Michael’s real world existence. Another bittersweet story to make the list although not without some humor. The animation is lovely and the story is engaging and lively. This was given to me as a gift by a friend this past September and I have already watched it three times.
Intrepidos Punks (1980)
Directed by Francisco Guerrero
Cast: Juan Valentín, Juan Gallardo, Ana Luisa Peluffo, Princesa Lea, Martha Elena Cervantes, Alfredo Gutiérrez, Guillermo Lagunes, Olga Rios, Rosita Bouchot
A bad-ass bike gang bust their compadres out of prison and are pursued by the law. The Intrepidos Punks are a bunch of thieving, raping, drug-taking, violent motherfuckers sporting some of the most awesome punk getups you will ever see! This Mexican made masterpiece is mandatory viewing.
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Laura Antonelli, Jennifer O’Neill, Rina Morelli, Massimo Girotti, Didier Haudepin, Marie Dubois, Roberta Paladini, Claude Mann
A wealthy aristocrat who has openly taken a lover becomes destructively obsessed with his wife after learning she may also be having an affair. The aristocrat Tullio is an arrogant douchebag; a pretty terrible human being. L’Innocente is a bleak but beautiful film with elaborate sets and costumes and perfect performances that surprised, angered and elated me.
La Grande Bouffe (1973)
Directed by Marco Ferreri
Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, Ugo Tognazzi, Andréa Ferréol, Solange Blondeau, Florence Giorgetti, Michèle Alexandre
Four friends get together to eat themselves to death; and it is a comedy! La Grande Bouffe does have a few emotional moments but it is a very funny film with a great cast. The four men Mastroianni, Piccoli, Noriet and Tognazzi have fantastic chemistry and play off each other perfectly. Dark and whacky fun!
La Notte (1961)
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Marcello Mastroianni, Monica Vitti, Bernhard Wicki, Rosy Mazzacurati, Maria Pia Luzi, Guido A. Marsan, Vittorio Bertolini
An examination of an unhappy couple and their deteriorating marriage. Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti have all turned up multiple times in films I watched last year. All three are exceptionally talented so it is no surprise they were gamefully employed. La Notte is a lovely and sad reflection on love won and lost.
Love At The Top (1974)
Directed by Michel Deville
Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Romy Schneider, Jane Birkin, Henri Garcin, Georges Beller, Georges Wilson, Estella Blain, Florinda Bolkan
A shy bank employee confides to a friend his success picking up a beautiful young woman during his lunch break. The friend, an author, convinces his banker buddy to quit his job and embark on a series of quests to become a wealthy ladies man. A dark comedy that made me laugh often but is not without some tragedy along the way. A perfect performance from the great Jean-Louis Trintignant and memorable turns from Jean-Pierre Cassel, Romy Schneider, Jane Birkin and especially Florinda Bolkan (her character is a riot).
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cast: Margit Carstensen, Karlheinz Böhm, Barbara Valentin, Peter Chatel, Gisela Fackeldey, Adrian Hoven, Ortrud Beginnen, Wolfgang Schenck, Kurt Raab
Martha, a single woman in her 30s whose recently lost her father and is caring for a crazy over-bearing mother accepts a marriage proposal from the arrogant Helmut. This film literally tore me to shreds. I hated Helmut with every bit of hate I have in me! Martha’s life is a nightmare but she refuses to leave the horrible sonofabitch. A frustrating, downright infuriating glimpse of a seriously unhappy marriage. Margit Carstensen always gives an immaculate performance but this absolutely takes the cake. Karlheinz Böhm (who you will recognize from Peeping Tom) elicits a hatred that is penetrating and unforgettable.
Mondo Keyhole (1966)
Directed by Jack Hill and John Lamb
Cast: Nick Moriarty, Adele Rein, Cathy Crowfoot, Carol Baughman, Pluto Felix, Christopher Winters, Penelope Faith
A serial rapist living behind a seemingly respectable existence with a nice home and a beautiful young wife attempts to keep his secret hidden; or is it all an illusion? “Each of you must distinguish for himself between the scenes of cold reality and those of pure illusion; the line between them is blurred at best.” One of my favourite roughies that ranks along with Michael Findlay’s Flesh trilogy. Rapist/husband Nick Moriarty convinces as a real sleaze while heroin-addicted, sex-starved wife Adele Rein is adorably ignorant and loyal to a fault. Enough nudity, drugs and sixties sleaziness to fill two movies. Great fun!
Revengers Tragedy (2002)
Directed by Alex Cox
Cast: Christopher Eccleston, Derek Jacobi, Diana Quick, Jean Butler, Andrew Schofield, Paul Reynolds, Justin Salinger, Eddie Izzard, Marc Warren, Fraser Ayres
Based on Thomas Middleton’s play published in 1607 but set in a post-apocalyptic Liverpool. Liverpool is ruled by an evil Duke with a nest of spoiled and unruly sons while Vindici, believed to be dead, has recently arrived in Liverpool seeking revenge against the powerful Duke. Vindici will stop at nothing to avenge the death of his wife and several of their guests; a crime perpetrated by the Duke and his sons on his wedding day. Vengeance is sweet as a rose but it can also sting like a bee. A funny, tragic and quirky twist on classic literature with a most magnificent and enigmatic Christopher Eccleston in the role of Vindici, Derek Jacobi as the creepy Duke and Eddie Izzard as the Duke’s son Lussurioso.
School of the Holy Beast (1974)
Directed by Noribumi Suzuki
Cast: Yumi Takigawa, Emiko Yamauchi, Yayoi Watanabe, Ryouko Ima, Harumi Tajima, Natsuko Yashiro, Marie Antoinette, Emi Shiro
Maya poses as a nun at the Sacred Heart Convent to discover what happened to her mother years before. A nunsploitation and pinky violence flick that lived up to my expectations. Torture, both inflicted and self-induced, sex, nudity, violence and as an added bonus well filmed with loads of creative flourishes. Yumi Takigawa is intense and what an ending!
Directed by Jesús Franco
Cast: Howard Vernon, Doris Thomas, Anne Libert, Jacqueline Laurent, Montserrat Prous, Kali Hansa, Francisco Acosta, Manuel Pereiro
I watched Sinner early in 2014 and it was one of the last reviews I did; read it here. It is one of Jess Franco’s best in my opinion.
The Skeleton of Mrs. Morales (1960)
Directed by Rogelio A. González
Cast: Arturo de Córdova, Amparo Rivelles, Elda Peralta, Guillermo Orea, Rosenda Monteros, Luis Aragón, Mercedes Pascual, Antonio Bravo
Dr. Pablo Morales is a taxidermist in an unhappy marriage to Gloria, a bitter prude and highly religious woman. After several long years Dr. Morales has finally decided something needs to be done. Arturo de Córdova is so likable as Dr. Morales you root for him 100%! A dark and hilarious comedy with a seriously charming performance by Córdova.
Story of O (1975)
Directed by Just Jaeckin
Cast: Corinne Cléry, Udo Kier, Anthony Steel, Jean Gaven, Christiane Minazzoli, Martine Kelly, Jean-Pierre Andréani, Gabriel Cattand
Based on the book by Pauline Réage (aka Anne Desclos) about the erotic adventures of O. In the film version O is a fashion photographer who is taken by her lover Rene to Château Roissy to be trained as a submissive. Enduring all manner of pain and humiliation O emerges a changed woman. Corinne Cléry was a solid choice to play O; she is beautiful, confident, sexy and powerful. The sets and costumes were lovely and the kinky opulence of the whole thing really hypnotized me.
Directed by Allen Savage
Cast: Jennifer Welles, Gary Judis, June Adams, Sue Beaudry, Sheila Britt, João Fernandes
I did a review for Submission as part of the Stepping Into Something Weird project I did with David at My Kind of Story. Read my review here. I loved a lot of Something Weird films but this one was probably my favourite overall. Jennifer Welles is perfect.
Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974)
Directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet
Cast: Anicée Alvina, Olga Georges-Picot, Michael Lonsdale, Jean Martin, Marianne Eggerickx, Isabelle Huppert, Maxence Mailfort, Claude Marcault, Nathalie Zeiger
An eccentric young woman named Alice is kept in a convent while they investigate the murder of her friend. The lines between reality and fantasy become blurred as the tale unfolds. The visuals in Successive Slidings of Pleasure are its strongest asset; every frame is gorgeous. The cast are terrific especially the beautiful Anicée Alvina who plays Alice and her delightfully cheeky attitude towards everything and everybody. Successive Slidings of Pleasure is truly one of a kind. This is one of three films directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet I watched in 2014; a director well worth exploring. His film Trans-Europ-Express also made my shortlist.
The Ultimate Degenerate (1969)
Directed by Michael Findlay
Cast: Uta Erickson, Michael Findlay, Earl Hindman, Janet Banzet, Suzzan Landau, Yolanda Cortez, Rita Vance, Kim Lewid, Donna Stone, Clint McCook, Cindy Freemont
The Ultimate Degenerate was another film reviewed for Stepping Into Something Weird. Read the review here. Michael Findlay’s sleazy, psychodelic roughie was one of the highlights of Stepping Into Something Weird!
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Mireille Darc, Jean Yanne, Jean-Pierre Kalfon
A bourgeois couple travel across the French countryside to visit a dying father and secure an inheritance. Along the way they pass countless violent car accidents, meet some unusual folks and become entangled in bizarre circumstances. Meanwhile, each is having an affair and plotting each other’s death. These two are freaking nuts! This couple is so obnoxious I could not help but laugh at how audacious and ridiculous they were. A funny, strange and dark comedy/drama with plenty of social commentary and solid performances from Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne.
Wicked City (1987)
Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri
A peace pact has been reached between the human world and the black world. The Black Guard has been set up to keep balance between the worlds and have been assigned the task of protecting the 200 year old Giuseppi Mayart whose presence is imperative in the signing of a new peace treaty. The assignment of the two black guards Renzaburō Taki, a human male and Makie a female from the black world was no accident and their involvement has the potential to change the world forever. Fabulous animation, a solid premise and lots of laughs and action in the best entry I’ve seen from the genre yet! I will definitely be checking out more Japanese animation in 2015!
The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976)
Directed by Matt Cimber
Cast: Millie Perkins, Lonny Chapman, Vanessa Brown, Peggy Feury, Jean Pierre Camps, Mark Livingston, Rick Jason, Stafford Morgan, Richard Kennedy, George ‘Buck’ Flower
The Witch Who Came From the Sea is one of the most unique American made exploitation films I have ever seen. The film and especially central character Molly Stayed with me for days after and garnered a perfect 5/5; read the review here.
World On a Wire (1973)
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cast: Klaus Löwitsch, Barbara Valentin, Mascha Rabben, Karl Heinz Vosgerau, Wolfgang Schenck, Günter Lamprecht, Ulli Lommel, Adrian Hoven, Kurt Raab, Margit Carstensen
Fassbinder tries his hand at sci-fi and the result is a 3 + hour epic cybernetic, visually arresting, perfectly performed masterpiece. It made my Criterion top ten list over at The Droid You’re Looking For; check it out here.
Made the Shortlist: My Night at Maud’s (1969, Directed by Eric Rohmer), The Living Skeleton (1968, Directed by Hiroshi Matsuno), The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai (2003, Directed by Mitsuru Meike), Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973, Directed by Shunya Itô), Witching and Bitching (2013, Directed by Álex de la Iglesia), Trans-Europ-Express (1966, Directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet), Veronika Voss (1982, Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder), The Exquisite Cadaver (1969, Directed by Vicente Aranda), The Debussy Film (1965, Directed by Ken Russell), Mystics in Bali (1981, Directed by H. Tjut Djalil), The Colour of Pomegranates (1968, Directed by Sergei Parajanov), Through the Looking Glass (1976, Directed by Jonas Middleton), Viridiana (1961, Directed by Luis Buñuel), Immoral Women (1979, Directed by Walerian Borowczyk), Conversation Piece (1974, Directed by Luchino Visconti), Zero Woman Red Handcuffs (1974, Directed by Yukio Noda), Branded to Kill (1967, Directed by Seijun Suzuki), Inferno (2009, directed by Serge Bromberg & Ruxandra Medrea), Lady Terminator (1989, directed by H. Tjut Djalil), Ludwig (1972, directed by Luchino Visconti), Love is Colder Than Death (1969, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder), Neo Tokyo (1987, directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri & Rintaro & Katsuhiro Ôtomo), Silip: Daughters of Eve (1985, directed by Elwood Perez), Snowpiercer (2013, directed by Joon-ho Bong), Star of David: Hunting for Beautiful Girls (1979, directed by Noribumi Suzuki), Highway Patrolman (1991, directed by Alex Cox), Bellissima (1952, directed by Luchino Visconti).