DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Hunger

Overwhelmingly beautiful but cold, Tony Scott’s The Hunger, once dismissed back in the day, now resounds as a seminal film of the vampire genre. Consciously aloof, Scott seemed to be striving for what Ridley Scott strove for in his early days, expressive, moody and supremely visual tone pieces. For better or worse Scott would never make a film this again, quickly moving into the Bruckheimer brand of cinema.

The Hunger (1983) dir. Tony Scott
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon, David Bowie

By Alan Bacchus

The over-stylization and attention to the same kind of extreme nourish visual details and design of big brother Ridley's Blade Runner, is immediately apparent in the opening scene which cuts three different scenes together in montage. The scene which plays without sound and marred by some strangely abrupt and hokey editing is both incoherent and magical in its experimental form.

The opening scene establishes the characters of Miriam (Deneuve) and John (Bowie) a couple who stalk another couple at a Bauhaus concert. Once at home, their deception reveals itself as a feast of Miriam and John, both vampires quenching their thirst for blood. At the same, we watch Susan Sarandon playing Doctor Sarah Roberts conducting strange aging experiments on a laboratory monkey.

The first half of the picture plays out the last days of Bowie’s character. When hungry, the vampires in this story age in rapidity, and for Bowie, who after a century of life now finds pause in fulfilling his appetite. Being aware of the study of Sarandon’s character on aging might John find a cure to his ailment? The film’s most haunting scene features Bowie who approaches and attempts to confess to Dr. Sarah his own ailment, but is blown off as a nut. Scott stunningly intercuts Sarah’s hospital experiments with Bowie rapid aging over the course of the day who patiently waits outside her office. It’s arguably the most emotional scene of Scott’s career, one which resounds even more due to Bowie’s recent death.

The second half plays out the relationship of Miriam and Sarah. After John dies from the incapacitation of age, Miriam seeks out a new partner. Miriam gives into the coy attraction with Dr. Sarah, an affair consummated with one of the more famous set pieces in the film, a lengthy love scene between Deneuve and Sarandon, shot with the kind of sensual flare which would become a hallmark of Scott’s career.

The second half of the film doesn’t match the haunting and tragic power of the scenes with David Bowie. The third act seems forced to resolve itself with an unsatisfying and arbitrary action scene, albeit intense and eye popping.

It would be hard to find a more stunning film made at that in terms of pure cinematography and lighting. If the 1980’s were a dead zone decade of cinema, I'd argue the decade as being the unrivaled peak of colour cinematography. It seems as if colour film had finally matured and caught up to the richness and textures of B&W film in its heyday. And few films of the decade reached the level of visual splendor achieved by The Hunger.

***½

Friday, 29 January 2016

52 Pick Up


This underseen Elmore Leonard-penned project about a prominent LA industrialist blackmailed for his infidelity cruises through the seedy LA crime underworld in the same way Chinatown and other LA-based noir films before it. But as a time capsule of the decade, for better or worse, it’s also burdened with the vulgarities of 1980’s cinema.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Revenant

Perhaps more admirable and commendable than moving or masterful, the large scale frontier adventure tale visualized with eye-popping wide angle realism doesn't quite to add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. This is the power of that indescribable piece of storytelling/cinematic magic which when missing can make even the boldest, visionary works of art feel strangely inert.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Elvis on Tour


You don't have to be an Elvis fan to be thrilled by this treasure of a documentary depicting the elder Elvis, in the twilight of his career - the jumpsuit, the rhinestone belts, the rings, the cape, the sideburns, and the choral grandiosity of his performances - revving it up on the quintessential road trip rock doc.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Best of 2015

IT FOLLOWS (dir. David Robert Mitchell)

David Robert Mitchell’s exercise in horror minimalism masterfully pulls off the best retro movie experience of the year. Much like the resurrection of Mad Max, and 70’s era Star Wars Mitchell deviously recreates the terror of the 70’s/80’s silent stalker character. Mitchell takes inspiration from the hypnotic Yul Bynner/Richard Benjamin walking foot chase in Westworld, Michael Myers' terrifying stalking of Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween I and II and relentless onslaught of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1984 Terminator. Mitchell’s premise is deceptively simple and with nil backstory, his ghostly baddie simply exists without question. If Mitchell painted film with just this brush he’d still have a terrifying picture, but what elevates the film is his pitch perfect depiction of the millennial malaise. Mitchell manages to make the relationships of the four central youngsters as compelling as the genre components. Mitchell’s application of the melancholy tone from the his previous picture Myth of the American Sleepover to his ironclad horror premise is a sublime cinematic marriage.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Mon Oncle Antoine

Regarded by many as the greatest Canadian film ever made. The story of a rural and wintery Quebec mining town as seen through eyes of a young teenage boy, Antoine is deservedly revered for it's poetic depiction of an aging and soon to be outmoded way of life, a timeless classic, John Ford-worthy elegance transplanted to a French-Canadian winter.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Citizen Kane

Even heady proclamations like the ‘Greatest Film Ever Made’ cannot overstate how powerful this picture is. The story of a mercurial newspaper magnate who began his career as an idealistic entrepreneur raised with a silver spoon in his mouth who, over the course of his life, breaks down to an egomaniacal tyrant is like an insatiable addiction. Welles’ tale of American big business and the cult of personality which arises from unabated success has become as fundamental to cinema as The Odyssey is to classical literature.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Still Life

Jia Zhangke's revered masterwork of the last decade shines as one of the definitive films of this unique period in political, economic and industrial change in China. Still Life, a haunting medidative work, magnificently juxtaposes the journey of two lost souls in search of their loved ones against the background of a centuries-old rural way of life about to be drowned for all eternity by rapid progress.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Tall T

 In the late 1950s the prolific duo of director Budd Boetticher and  star Randolph Scott made a number of Westerns that would influence filmmakers from the French New Wave, Martin Scorsese, Sergio Leone and more. 'The Tall T', with its minimalist aesthetic, masterfully distills the Western genre down to its core as a claustrophobic actioner of the highest order.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind is that rare case where its desire for ‘grandeur’ trickles down successfully through every aspect of production. From Selznick’s madness for control, the obscene four-hour running time, Max Steiner's memorable score, the film’s massive production elements, even down to Scarlett O’Hara’s character grand character arc, the film continually leaps over the audiences’ high expectations, which with much room to spare. Its grandeur, spectacle and pop culturally zeitgeist significance is still a marvel and remains largely untouched in the annals of cinema history.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Straw Dogs




One of Sam Peckinpah's handful or more unquestionable triumphs, a classic morality tale that furthers his career examination of violence and the specifically American perception of it. While The Wild Bunch was told using the tenets of the Western genre and the familiar themes of male camaraderie, heroism, anti-heroism and machismo, Straw Dogs has it's hero as a cowardly pacifist forced to find his latent primal urges to protect his home and family.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Legend

It takes a special kind of filmmaker at the right point in his/her career to make a film so grand and admirable a failure. No matter which version of Legend you watch - the 90-minute one with the then-'modern' Tangerine Dream score or the lengthier version with the Jerry Goldsmith score - neither one works. It’s not the score or the running time, and it’s not about what was cut out or left in. Simply put, the problem was Mr. Scott’s overindulgence with his visual palette related to character, story, tone and all the other storytelling elements.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Fat Girl

The frank and dispassionate discussions and depictions of sex of an underage teen seen through the eyes of an even younger pre-teen girl caused much discussion back in the day. The provocative effect of the exposed male and female genitalia in Fat Girl never overwhelms Catherine Breillat’s smooth and calculated character study. The graphicness of the sex is wholly necessary to the mood and a titilating piece of cinema, devious, challenging, but so rewarding.

Monday, 2 March 2015

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

This film gets me every time. The final moments, when the Chief discovers McMurphy’s been lobotomized, kills him out of pity, then completes Mac's metaphorical task of lifting the water fountain off the ground, plunging it through the window, thus releasing him into the wild to freedom, is as triumphant a climax as their ever was in cinema.