Monday, January 14, 2008

Films We Saw This Week

Casa de Los Gatos had a relatively uneventful week of reading, cat-harrassing, and watching films. We'll admit to a terrible weakness for BAD movies - MST3K bad - but we try to keep our hand in, so to speak (in what, we won't say) by occasionally putting a few good ones on our Netflix queue.

So it was that over the past week we saw two that really really impressed. (OK, we saw Invasion of the Giant Spiders too, and that was so bad it sucked black holes in the galaxy.)

Cache (Hidden; 2005; Winner, best director, Cannes Film Festival)

We put this one on the queue because we recently watched The Battle of Algiers, which was brilliant and deeply disturbing but also encouraging: the triumph of the human spirit over small-minded bureaucratic cruelty and the banality of evil. Cache, directed by Michael Haneke, stars Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, two of my favourite French film stars. Binoche reveals through her luminous portrayal of a middle-aged woman whose husband is hiding some very disturbing secrets her great talent as an actress; while Auteuil is painfully convincing as a man with something ugly in his past that he has successfully ignored for most of his life.

The French colonization of Algeria and the subsequent ill-treatment of the Algerians, both in their native country and as refugees in France, set the stage for a disturbing expose of racism. Maurice Benichou plays Majid, the victim of Auteuil's racism, and France's; and the stunningly gorgeous Walid Afkir plays Majid's son. The ending leaves one hanging, deliberately in order to be more disturbing. We're not going to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that if you don't watch this one, you've missed out on some incredible filmmaking.

Daibosatsu-toge (Sword of Doom; 1966)

Starring Nakadai Tatsuya as Tetsue Ryonosuke. Special guest star Mifune Toshiro. Those who remember Nakadai as the aged King in Kurosawa's Ran know what a tremendous actor he is.

He does not disappoint. This is one of the best samurai movies ever made. It's a study of a psychopathic personality who edges closer to breakdown with every minute. He sets up the circumstances of his doom, and it finds and devours him. Nakadai is powerful as a man who has abandoned himself to his own internal chaos. Mifune gives his usual scene-stealing performance as a teacher of swordfighting to young samurai.

If you like Japanese film, samurai movies, martial arts, psychological drama, great camera work, this is a film to see. There is a definite Kurosawa feel to the camera work. B/W, beautiful, and disturbing.

Casa de Los Gatos returns to its regular viewing of truly stupid and pathetic movies today. We might just review a good one or two next week. Stay tuned.

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