Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Bad Times at the El Royale

Written and directed by Drew Goddard, Bad Times at the El Royale is the story of seven strangers who stay at a hotel at the California-Nevada border in 1969 where strange things occur as it all lead to their own secrets. The film is a neo-noir thriller that explore a single night in this mysterious hotel as it also involved a major incident that occurred a decade earlier. Starring Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Cynthia Erivo, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, and Chris Hemsworth. Bad Times at the El Royale is a gripping and haunting film from Drew Goddard.

Set in one day at the El Royale hotel on the California-Nevada border in 1969, the film revolves around a group of people who arrive at the hotel as they each carry a secret as they stay for the night where things would get stranger and terrifying as it goes on. It’s a film with a simple premise that play into these visitors and why they’re in this hotel as Drew Goddard’s script showcases the life of these inhabitants in small sections of the film. Among these visitors includes a Catholic priest in Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a singer in Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), a hippie in Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), and a salesman in Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm). The hotel’s lone employee in Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman) is also a mysterious figure as he seeks to have a conversation with Father Flynn unaware of Father Flynn’s intentions at the hotel nor the intentions of the other guests. Emily has a hostage named Rose (Cailee Spaeny) while Father Flynn is trying to find something in one of the rooms in the Nevada section of the hotel. Darlene is on her way to Reno for a job while Sullivan is at the hotel for reasons that doesn’t involve sales.

Goddard’s script would give the four principle characters a segment of their own with everyone but Sullivan having their stories told in flashbacks as it relates to their motivations and why they’re at the hotel while Miles himself is someone that is troubled as his own story isn’t unveiled until its third act. Emily’s story does involve a reason why she kidnapped Rose as it relates to this charismatic cult figure in Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) who would become a prominent figure for the film’s third act. Especially as it play into secrets of the hotel as well as the inhabitants who all have something to hide.

Goddard’s direction does bear elements of style as it play into this air of intrigue into this hotel on the California-Nevada border as if it was a place of style and glamour but there’s something about it that is off. Shot mainly in Burnaby near Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada with additional locations shot in Vancouver, the film play into this world in the middle of this state border as the hotel itself is a character with its stylish rooms and a lobby that features a bar on the California side and a casino on the Nevada side. Goddard’s usage of the wide and medium shots does take great coverage of the interiors of the hotel lobby as well as the secret hallways that feature a two-way mirror for each apartment that inhabitants aren’t aware of. The usage of close-ups and medium shots would play into some of the conversations between characters as well as long takes for a conversation to happen as it is Goddard breaking away from some of the conventional elements of scenes where he lets the camera just linger and capture the moment.

Goddard’s direction also play up this air of intrigue but also this growing air of tension that is to emerge where the secrets of the El Royale starts to emerge with its two-way mirrors as well as what happened a decade earlier where a man (Nick Offerman) had hidden something in a room as it would relate to what Father Flynn is trying to find. Yet, he is hampered by the fact that he is already showing signs of dementia as the second act has him and Darlene learn about each other as well as the former’s involvement what happened a decade ago. The film’s third act that involves Billy Lee definitely adds to the suspense and drama where Goddard maintains this uneasy atmosphere that emerges where it has elements of dark comedy where Lee bears a lot of the characteristics of someone like Charles Manson. Goddard has the camera maintain Lee’s presence but also the inhabitants who realize that this is someone of a greater evil yet Lee believes there is no such thing as right and wrong as it just adds to the tension throughout the film. Overall, Goddard crafts an unsettling yet riveting film about a dark night in 1969 at a hotel on the California-Nevada border.

Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of lights for the rainy exterior scenes at night as well as the way the hotel rooms are lit from the inside and in the secret hallway as well as the look of the lobby. Editor Lisa Lassek does excellent work with the editing with its emphasis on rhythmic cuts to help build up the suspense as well as knowing when not to cut during a monologue or a conversation. Production designer Martin Whist, with set decorator Hamish Purdy and supervising art director Michael Diner, does amazing work with the look of the hotel rooms and the hotel itself as it is a character in the film with its major differences depending on what state the characters are on. Costume designer Danny Glicker does fantastic work with the costumes as it each play into the personalities of the characters and where they come from during a turbulent time in 1969.

Special makeup effects designer Toby Lindala does terrific work with the makeup in the look of Miles upon a troubling encounter as well as the look of a few characters to play into the times. Special effects supervisor Joel Whist, along with visual effects supervisors David W. Allen and Oliver Atherton, does some nice work with the visual effects as it is mainly bits of set dressing for the 1959 flashback scene as well as a few bits inside the hotel. Sound designers Casey Genton and Julian Slater do superb work with the sound in the way rooms sound as well as scenes of Darlene singing in her room and the way music is presented in the lobby. The film’s music by Michael Giacchino is incredible for its low-key yet eerie orchestral score that help play into the suspense and drama with its string arrangements and emphasis on building up the suspense with low yet heavy strings. The film’s music soundtrack features songs sung by Cynthia Erivo as well as music from the Box Tops, Deep Purple, the Four Preps, Edwin Starr, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Crystals, the Four Tops, the Mamas & the Papas, and the American Bread to play into the period of the late 1960s.

The casting by Carmen Cuba is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Charles Halford as a convict that Father Flynn knew, Mark O’Brien as a bank robber, Shea Whigham as a prison doctor, Xavier Dolan as a record producer Darlene refuses to sleep with, and Nick Offerman as a bank robber in 1959 who hides the money. Cailee Spaeny is terrific as Rose as a young girl infatuated with Billy Lee as she seems to be entranced by his teachings much to the dismay of Emily. Lewis Pullman is superb as Miles as the hotel clerk who is harboring secrets of his own as he tries to run the hotel while wanting some guidance from Father Flynn. Jon Hamm is excellent as Laramie Seymour Sullivan as a salesman who is in town yet has other motives as it relates to things in the hotel. Dakota Johnson is fantastic as Emily Summerspring as a hippie who has taken a young girl as a hostage as it relates to a cult leader she dislikes as she presents herself as someone who doesn’t like anyone as it’s a front for why she kidnapped this young girl whom she’s concerned about.

Cynthia Erivo is brilliant as Darlene Sweet as a soul singer whose career to be a solo singer goes wrong as she is on her way to Reno for a job as she contends with the chaos at the hotel as well as trying to figure out what Father Flynn is doing. Jeff Bridges is amazing as Father Daniel Flynn as a Catholic priest who has arrived to this hotel on his way back home where he is ambiguous in his motives for being at the hotel yet he is revealed to be someone that is trying to find something but also is dealing with memory loss as well as other issues that makes him an ambiguous but a person with good intentions. Finally, there’s Chris Hemsworth in a phenomenal performance as Billy Lee as this Charles Manson-like cult leader who doesn’t appear often in the film as he would play a big role in its third act where he has this presence that is discomforting yet entrancing while is filled with so much charisma that he just completely steals the film from everyone as the sight of him dancing to Deep Purple’s cover of Hush is probably one of the sexiest moments captured on film.

Bad Times at the El Royale is a tremendous film from Drew Goddard. Featuring an incredible ensemble cast, a chilling premise set in a remote location, interesting character studies, gorgeous visuals, a mesmerizing music score by Michael Giacchino, and a killer music soundtrack. The film is definitely a neo-noir inspired suspense-drama that explore a group of people in a hotel on the California-Nevada border who endure a hellish rainy night that would bring a lot of trouble and terror with the latter in the form of a Charles Manson-like cult leader. In the end, Bad Times at the El Royale is an outstanding film from Drew Goddard.

Drew Goddard Films: The Cabin in the Woods

© thevoid99 2019

Monday, October 14, 2019

Joker (2019 film)

Based on the character from DC Comics, Joker is the story of a wannabe stand-up comedian whose descent into madness would force him to become an agent of chaos and wreak havoc on Gotham City. Directed by Todd Phillips and screenplay by Phillips and Scott Silver, the film is an origin story of sorts set in the late 1970s/early 1980s as it play into a man who is struggling to fit in to society only to deal with his own mental illness and rejection from the world as the titular character/Arthur Fleck is portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix. Also starring Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Marc Maron, and Robert de Niro. Joker is a haunting yet intense film from Tod Phillips.

Set in 1981 during a time of civil and social unrest in Gotham City, the film follows a man who works as a rent-a-clown who aspires to be a stand-up comedian as he copes with his own mental issues as an act of violence he committed would give him a spark in his life. It’s a film that explore a man who would become Batman’s top nemesis and what he was before he had become this agent of chaos. The film’s screenplay by Todd Phillips and Scott Silver establishes a world that is similar to what was happening to New York City in the mid-late 1970s during a time of economic turmoil, social and civil unrest, and crime being the norm where Arthur Fleck is just a guy trying to work as a clown to make money to help his ailing mother Penny (Frances Conroy) yet he is beaten up by a gang of kids one day and is already in trouble while he often has to write a journal for a social worker (Sharon Washington) handling his case and giving him medication. Things however are getting bad as social services is dealing with budget cuts while Arthur would lose his job due to a small incident though no one was hurt.

Arthur also has a condition where he laughs uncontrollably whenever he gets emotional or anxious as it play into the repressed emotions he is carrying as his time caring for his mother starts to overwhelm him. While he would find a source of comfort in befriending his neighbor in Sophie Dumond (Zazie Beetz), he has trouble trying to connect with the world including in his attempts to be stand-up comedy. His biggest dream is to succeed and appear on a late-night talk show hosted by Murray Franklin (Robert de Niro) yet reality would collide with Arthur following an incident where he is beaten by three Wall Street workers whom he would kill in defense on a subway. It would be a key moment in the film as the death of these three men would spark a social uprising during an election year in which one of Gotham’s richest men in Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) is running for mayor hoping to fix the city. Adding to the drama is Penny’s claims that she is to receive a letter from Wayne since she used to work for him prompting Arthur to find out more about her relationship with Wayne leading to some major revelations.

Phillips’ direction definitely evokes two films by Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy with more emphasis on the latter which was about a wannabe stand-up comedian trying to be friends with a talk show host only to later kidnap him. Shot on location in New York City as well as parts of Newark, New Jersey, the film does play into that world of a city on the brink of collapse as it’s surrounded by garbage due to a garbage strike with rats eating the garbage. Employment is becoming scarce with the poor being poorer and the rich being richer with Arthur being part of the former as he is struggling to work as a clown to help failing businesses or to entertain children at a children’s hospital. Much of Phillips’ direction is straightforward in its compositions with some wide shots of a few locations as well as to play into Arthur’s disconnect with society and reality. The close-ups and medium shots that play into Arthur’s interaction with others including a tense meeting with Thomas Wayne at a benefit play into his attempts to connect with people.

Phillips’ direction does have a few drawbacks as it relates to a few twists that play into Arthur’s revelation about himself and his mother with the latter given a storyline about a possible relationship with Wayne that never really gels out despite what is revealed. The exploration of social chaos definitely takes a cynical view of things where it play into this air of social discord between the rich and the poor with Arthur being this unlikely hero for the latter and the enemy of the former yet no one knows about his identity as the man who killed those three yuppie men. Though Arthur doesn’t take sides in this conflict nor does he condone the actions of others, the film does play into the impact he creates where Phillips is aware that Arthur is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. The film’s third act that has him face up to the realities of the world and strip away whatever delusions he and his mother had would showcase a man that has inspired a dangerous movement of anarchy that would have some serious consequences including how it would affect a young boy named Bruce Wayne (Dante Pereira-Olson). Overall, Phillips crafts a chilling yet gripping film about a mentally-ill man whose disconnect with the world would make him a master of chaos.

Cinematographer Lawrence Sher does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key colors with certain lighting moods and schemes to help play into Arthur’s behavior as well as the state of Gotham City in its growing sense of decay. Editor Jeff Groth does terrific work with the editing as it does bear some style in some of the rhythmic cuts it creates to play into the drama, suspense, and some of the film’s dark humor. Production designer Mark Friedberg, with set decorator Kris Moran and art director Laura Ballinger, does amazing work with the look of the apartment home that Arthur and Penny lived in as its cramped and in drab conditions to reflect the world they live in as well as the studio that Murray Franklin hosts his show. Costume designer Mark Bridges does fantastic work with the costumes from the clothes that Arthur wears as it would involve into the suit he would wear upon his evolution as the Joker to the clothes of other people that they wore during the early 80s.

Makeup designer Nicki Ledermann and prosthetics makeup effects designer Michael Marino do superb work with the look of the makeup that Arthur wears as a clown and its evolution that would play into his growing manic state. The visual effects work of Brian Adler, Joseph Oberle, and Kondareddy Suresh is nice for the way it presents early 1980s Gotham City in its grungy and decayed look as well as some of the chaos that occurs during the film’s third act. Sound editor Alan Robert Murray does nice work with the sound in the way music sounds on a location or in a room as well as the usage of natural sounds and voices that Arthur would hear as it play into his growing descent.

The film’s music by Hildur Guonadottir is wonderful for its ominous yet eerie music score with its emphasis on strings and brass to play into Arthur’s descent while music supervisors George Drakoulias and Randall Poster provide a music soundtrack that mixes an array of music from the likes of Claude Bolling, Frank Sinatra, Cream, the Main Ingredient, Fred Astaire, Lawrence Welk, Stephen Sondheim, and Charles Chaplin that play into the world that Arthur is in though the one major blemish in the music soundtrack is a 70s glam rock piece by a certain convicted pedophile whose name doesn’t deserve any mention.

The casting by Shayna Markowitz is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Rocco Luna as Sophie’s daughter Gigi, Josh Pais as Arthur’s boss, Leigh Gill as the midget clown Gary, Carrie Louise Purtello as Martha Wayne, April Grace as Arkham asylum psychiatrist, Sharon Washington as Arthur’s social worker, Glenn Fleshler as a clown named Randall who would give Arthur a handgun, Hannah Gross as a young Penny in a flashback scene, Brian Tyree Henry as an Arkham hospital clerk who makes a discovery about Arthur, Marc Maron as Franklin’s producer Gene Ufland, and Dante Pereira-Olson as a young Bruce Wayne. Other notable small roles include Shea Whigham and Bill Camp as a couple of detectives asking Arthur some questions about what happened the yuppie murders.

Douglas Hodge is terrific in his lone scene as Bruce Wayne’s caretaker Alfred Pennyworth who confronts Arthur while revealing things about Arthur’s mother. Brett Cullen is superb as Thomas Wayne as the billionaire who is running for mayor to help Gotham as he isn’t fond of the poor believing that some of them are trouble while he would have an encounter with Arthur that doesn’t go well. Frances Conroy is fantastic as Arthur’s mother Penny as a woman feeling ill as well as having delusions with claims about a relationship with Thomas Wayne though she did work for him as she is waiting for a letter from him. Zazie Beetz is excellent as Sophie Dumond as a neighbor of Fleck who would befriend him while sharing her own disdain of the rich but is not as cynical like everyone else knowing right from wrong.

Robert de Niro is brilliant as the late-night talk show host Murray Franklin who would play a role in Arthur’s own descent into madness after making fun of his stand-up performance as he is someone Arthur wanted to meet as this comedic idol. Finally, there’s Joaquin Phoenix in a tour-de-force performance as Arthur Fleck as this wannabe stand-up comedian and rent-a-clown that feels rejected by society and is constantly abused while overwhelmed with his duties to take care of his mother. It’s a performance that has Phoenix display an amazing air of physicality as well as play into someone that is troubled who later does horrible things as he is a man to be pitied and not revered as Phoenix creates this balance of a man that becomes lost in his own madness.

Joker is a marvelous film from Todd Phillips that features a great performance from Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role. Along with its ensemble cast, grimy visuals, study of mental descent and isolation, and an offbeat music soundtrack, it’s a unique character study into a man who starts off as someone trying to be good only to become a villain though there’s parts of the narrative and direction that doesn’t work as it play into the journey that this man would endure. In the end, Joker is a remarkable film from Todd Phillips.

Related: Taxi Driver - The King of Comedy - Batman (1989 film) - The Dark Knight - The Lego Batman Movie

© thevoid99 2019

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Face of Another

Based on the novel by Kobo Abe, Tanin no kao (The Face of Another) is the story of an engineer whose face is burnt due to an accident at work as he is given a new face that would become troubling. Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and written by Abe, the film is an exploration of identity where a man is given a new face but would deal with what happened to him and the new face he’s given. Starring Tatsuya Nakadai, Machiko Kyo, and Kyoko Kishida. Tanin no kao is a chilling yet rapturous film from Hiroshi Teshigahara.

The film follows a man who is given a new face following an accident that left his face burned at work where he deals with the surgery and the changes his new mask gives him. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it is more about a man dealing with what happened to him and a chance to re-enter society only to feel more of an outcast. Kobo Abe’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot as it’s more of a character study on its protagonist Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai) who spends much of the first act either at his home with his wife (Machiko Kyo) or talking to Dr. Hira (Mikijiro Hira) who has been experimenting with creating new skin as he believes he could help Okuyama but is concerned about the Okuyama’s state of mind. The film’s second act would be about the mask based on another man’s face that Okuyama would wear but also recollections of a film he saw that is about a scarred girl (Miki Irie) who works with World War II veterans and is concerned about the idea of another war emerging. That subplot would also play into Okuyama’s concerns about his look when he was covered in bandages as he would go into a slow descent of intrigue and deceit into its third act.

Hiroshi Teshigahara’s direction does bear elements of style in its visuals yet much of the compositions that he creates are straightforward. Shot largely in Tokyo, Teshigahara’s direction play into this air of intrigue throughout the drama as it relates to Okuyama’s visits with Dr. Hira as he works in a room that is surreal in its surroundings as if the man himself is offbeat. The scenes in that film are either presented in a wide shot or in a medium shot with some striking compositions to play into Okuyama trying to get himself back in the world. Notably as he would walk around Tokyo in his bandaged state and later wearing the new face that he’s given where much of Teshigahara’s direction is straightforward yet showcases this air of detachment that would occur in Okuyama’s mind. The element of surrealism doesn’t just play into the office and rooms of Dr. Hira but also in the film that Okuyama saw about the scarred girl and her own journey that included her time with her brother (Kakuya Saeki) that would include close-ups of her face.

Teshigahara also maintains a low-key approach to the suspense during its second act as it relates to Okuyama living in an apartment where the superintendent’s daughter (Etsuko Ichihara) believes there is something weird about him. Even as Okuyama starts to go into places in his new mask that he has to wear for 12 hours as he ponders if those who know him recognize him or know anything about him. Its third act would play into Okuyama taking advantage of his new identity but also play into his descent into the air of immorality that would parallel with the journey of the scarred girl feeling lost over her own place in the world. Even as the film would have Teshigahara use surrealism to play into this dark world that Okuyama and Dr. Hira would create as the latter becomes concerned over what he created while the former would relish in his new discovery of immorality. Overall, Teshigahara crafts a haunting yet engrossing film about a man who gets a new face that would later shape his identity and state of mind.

Cinematographer Hiroshi Segawa does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its usage of natural lighting for scenes in the day as well as some vibrant and eerie textures in the lighting courtesy of Mitsuo Kume. Editor Yoshi Sughihara does excellent work with the editing as it has some unique rhythmic cuts including a few jump-cuts to play into the drama and surrealist moments of the film. Art directors Masao Yamazaki and Arata Isozaki, with set decorator Kenichiro Yamamoto, do amazing work with the look of the apartments that Okuyama lived in as well as the place that Dr. Hira works at.

Costume designer Tamiko Moriya does terrific work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with the clothes the characters wear. The makeup work of Tachiro Akiyama does fantastic work with the look of the mask and its design as well as the scar on the girl in the story within the film. The sound work of Junosuke Okuyama is superb for its low-key approach to sound as well as capture sound in its natural settings. The film’s music by Toru Takemitsu is incredible for its mixture of dense and low-sounding percussive textures to play into the mystery and drama along with a more traditional orchestral-based score for the story within the film.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles and performances from Eiko Muramatsu as a secretary at the place where Okuyama worked at, Eiji Okada as Okuyama’s boss, Hisashi Igawa as a man with the mole on his face who is paid money to have his face used as the prototype for the mask that Okuyama wears, Kunie Tanaka as a mental hospital patient, Minoru Chiaki as the building superintendent who gives Okuyama an apartment to live in, Etsuko Ichihara as the superintendent’s daughter who likes to play with yo-yos, Kakuya Saeki as the scarred girl’s brother, and Miki Irie in a terrific performance as the scarred girl who deals with her deformity and worries about the world believing that Japan is going to war again. Kyoko Kishida is fantastic as the nurse who aids Dr. Hira in the surgery as she is sort of the film’s conscience as she raises concern about what Dr. Hira is doing as well as being aware that his mysterious wife is watching them.

Machiko Kyo is excellent as Okuyama’s wife who would take care of him for much of the first act as she is concerned with what is happening to him as she doesn’t appear for the second act only to re-emerge later in the third where she would encounter her husband in his new identity. Mikijiro Hira is brilliant as Dr. Hira as a surgeon who performs the surgery as he is also a psychologist as he tries to help Okuyama with his new identity but also deal with his own actions as he becomes conflicted in his accomplishments and the drawbacks it might bring. Finally, there’s Tatsuya Nakadai in a phenomenal performance as Okuyama as an engineer whose face is burned by an accident at his job as he would get a new mask as it’s an eerie performance from Nakadai when he’s covered in bandages while the mask he would put on would add a layer of discomfort into his performance as someone that starts to descend into madness.

Tanin no kao is a spectacular film from Hiroshi Teshigahara that features an incredible leading performance from Tatsuya Nakadai. Along with its ravishing visuals, top-notch ensemble cast, Toru Takemitsu’s intoxicating music score, and study of identity, it’s a film that explore a man trying to get a new face only to lose aspects of himself while delving into surreal moments that play into his descent into madness. In the end, Tanin no kao is a sensational film from Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Hiroshi Teshigahara Films: Pitfall - Woman in the Dunes - (The Man Without a Map) – (Summer Soldiers) – Antonio Gaudi - (Rikyu) – (Princess Goh)

© thevoid99 2019

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks (Halloween Edition): Teen Horror

For the 41st week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We continue the Halloween-based theme by focusing on teen horror films as it’s a popular part of horror as it play into young people getting themselves into some fucked-up shit and either act stupid to get themselves killed or they grow up to handle the situation. Here are my three picks all based on films that came out in the 2010s:

1. The Cabin in the Woods

Drew Goddard’s 2011 horror film is based on a simple premise that’s been done a million times in which five college kids go to a cabin in the middle of the woods and all sorts of shit happen where each one gets killed off. Yet, it’s a film that has an added twist that include the fact that the fate of these kids are controlled by an underground force where two technicians are the ones controlling the fates of these kids and how they’re killed. Yet, it would take a couple of characters to break away from their stereotypes to make a discovery that would amp things up as it is one of the finest horror films of this decade.

2. It Follows

David Robert Mitchell’s 2014 horror film revolves around a young woman who has sex with a guy who gives her a sexually-transmitted disease as she is then stalked around by dead people. It’s a film that plays into the dangers of promiscuous sex where Maika Monroe, in a breakthrough performance, deals with what happens to her as she and her friends try to find a way to hide from the dead and these supernatural beings. It’s a film that is much smarter than it should’ve been while also offering something that is more about characters and consequence than emphasis on cheap scares and gore.

3. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

A trio of boy scouts team up with a cocktail waitress from a strip club to kill a bunch of zombies wreaking havoc in a small town. It’s a film that never takes itself seriously as it play into the idea of growing pains and trying to fit in with older high school kids as some of them are total assholes. Even as two of the scouts want to go to the senior high school party but have to deal with the zombies as they’re joined by the other scout who still wants to do boy scouts stuff. It’s a film that often brings in laughs while not afraid to use gore in a comical manner as well as showcase teens for who they are as one of them gets to cop-a-feel a zombie trooper’s bare breasts.

© thevoid99 2019

Monday, October 07, 2019

Eating Raoul

Directed and co-starring Paul Bartel and written by Bartel and Richard Blackburn, Eating Raoul is the story of a prudish couple whose lifestyle is threatened by swingers living in their apartment building until an accident gives them an idea to get rid of them and realize their dream to open a restaurant. The film is a dark comedy that explore different lifestyles and what a couple would do to maintain their safe and calm lifestyle. Also starring Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran, Susan Saiger, and Buck Henry. Eating Raoul is a witty and whimsical film from Paul Bartel.

The film is the simple story of this couple who are considered snobbish and prudish due to their lack of interest towards sex as they try to raise money to buy a house for a restaurant they want to create yet they are threatened by the antics of swingers who live in their apartment building. It’s a film that sort of makes fun of the world of swinging and some of the silliness of the lifestyle while there’s this couple who are totally square and find themselves with an idea of killing swingers and stealing money to fund their restaurant as it happened by accident. The film’s screenplay by Paul Bartel and Richard Blackburn follows the lives of Paul and Mary Bland (Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov respectively) as the former just got fired from a liquor store for refusing to sell awful cheap wine while the latter is a nurse often sexually harassed by horny patients.

Their problems are worsen by horny swingers in their building as one of them who is a patient of Mary breaks into their apartment and tries to have his way with Mary until Paul hits him with a frying pan and the guy is dead. Upon realizing how much money swingers have, they turn to Doris the Dominatrix (Susan Saiger) who gives them advice on what to do as she isn’t entirely fond of swingers either while the film’s second act begins with the arrival of a locksmith named Raoul (Robert Beltran) who is also a burglar as he gets wind of what the Bland are doing as he helps them in favor of a cut. Yet, their alliance with Raoul would cause trouble where Paul would learn what Raoul does with the bodies but also something much more.

Bartel’s direction does have elements of style in terms of its approach to absurdist humor while much of the compositions he creates are straightforward. Shot on location in Los Angeles, Bartel play into the world of sex shops and the swinging lifestyle in a comical manner while presenting the Blands as a couple who sleep in separate beds yet they do love each other. There are some wide shots in a few scenes yet much of Bartel’s direction involves close-ups and medium shots that include a few long shots to play out the drama and some of the humor. Notably in scenes that play into the Blands trying to kill some swingers with Mary playing some form of fantasy as it is played for laughs with some dark humor. Once Raoul gets involved, the film’s mayhem does increase but it also lead to some chilling and dark moments about what Raoul does with the bodies but also some of the money he makes though it lead to some funny moments of Paul trying to figure out what he’s doing with help from Doris. The humor as well as some of the approach to suspense and comedy play into the third act as it play into Raoul’s activities as well as the Blands taking extra steps to reach their dreams of opening a restaurant. Overall, Bartel crafts a weird yet delightfully fun film about a prudish couple who kill swingers for money to fund their own dreams of a healthy restaurant.

Cinematographer Gary Thieltges does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward in terms of its visuals with some low-key yet colorful lighting for some of the swinger parties. Editor Alan Toomayan does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the humor and suspense. Production designer Robert Schulenberg does fantastic work with the look of the Blands’ apartment with their collectables and rack of fine wine as well as the more outrageous look of the swingers’ party. Sound editors Val Kulowsky and Christopher T. Welch do terrific work with the sound as it is largely straightforward along with the way music is heard on a location or in another room. The film’s music by Arlon Ober is wonderful for its playful and kitsch-like score that feature some humorous moments in the film while its soundtrack features an array of music ranging from easy listening to a Spanish cover of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels’ Devil with a Blue Dress On by Los Lobos.

The film’s marvelous casting feature some notable small roles from co-writer Richard Blackburn as the real estate agent James, John Paragon as a sex shop owner who gives Paul a hard time, John Shearin as a patient of Mary who would later try to harass her at her home, Edie McClurg as a woman in fur at a swingers party, Richard Paul as the liquor store owner who wants to sell shitty cheap wine, Ed Begley Jr. as a perverse hippie, and Buck Henry in a terrific small role as a horny bank manager in Mr. Leech who wants to have his way with Mary. Susan Saiger is excellent in a dual role as Doris the Dominatrix and as a receptionist nurse at the hospital where she is full of personality as the former who isn’t fond of swingers while helps Paul find out more about Raoul to see what he does while Saiger’s role in the latter as a nurse is more low-key.

Robert Beltran is excellent as Raoul Mendoza as a locksmith who is also a house burglar that helps the Blands make more money while also making some money on the side as he also has a keen interest in Mary for sexual pleasure. Finally, there’s Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov in amazing performances in their respective roles as Paul and Mary Bland as a prudish and snobbish couple with love for wine and nutritious food who are dealing with horny swingers in their apartment building. Bartel displays that curiosity and frustration as a man that just cares about giving people good wine but later is filled with jealousy for Raoul later in the film as he provides a low-key approach to comedy. Woronov provides some charm into her role as well as someone who is curious about sex and pot although she is conflicted as it relates to her encounters with Raoul.

Eating Raoul is a marvelous film from Paul Bartel that features enjoyable performances from Bartel, Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran, and Susan Saiger. Along with its offbeat look at the world of swingers, the film is a strange yet exuberant comedy that isn’t afraid to get dark while also finding a way to keep on bringing in the laughs. In the end, Eating Raoul is a remarkable film from Paul Bartel.

© thevoid99 2019

Friday, October 04, 2019

Pitfall (1962 film)

Based on a novel by Kobo Abe, Otoshiana (Pitfall) is the story of a miner who leaves his employer and treks out with his young son to become a migrant worker where they are followed by a mysterious man in a white suit. Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and written by Abe, the film is an experimental feature that explore elements of surrealism and drama as it play into a simple premise that becomes troubling. Starring Hisashi Igawa, Kazuo Miyahara, and Kanichi Omiya. Otoshiana is an evocative yet haunting film from Hiroshi Teshigahara.

The film follows a miner who leaves his job to find a new job as a migrant worker as he brings along his young son where they’re tailed by a mysterious man in a white suit while finding themselves in a desolate small village. It’s a film with a simple premise as it plays more into some of the social politics of post-war Japan as it relates to rural areas where not much progress is happening where a miner is with his young son as they trek through the area to find work as a migrant worker hoping for something better than mining. Kobo Abe’s screenplay does have a traditional structure as much of its premise takes place in the first act where a miner (Hisashi Igawa) has deserted his place in one mine to go to another place to find work yet he is followed by this mysterious man (Kunie Tanaka).

Upon meeting a shopkeeper (Sumie Sasaki), the miner encounters the mysterious man where it would become deadly as it would lead to an unusual second act where the miner becomes a ghost seeing what this town had become and later learn of a political struggle involving two mining factions as one of them looks exactly like the miner. Even as the second act has a reporter (Kei Sato) trying to figure out why the miner was murdered believing it has something to do with this conflict between two union leaders.

Hiroshi Teshigahara’s direction has elements of style in its approach to surrealism but it is also low-key in its simplicity. Shot on location in Kyushu, Teshigahara does use stock footage of mining in Japan as well as this growing political and social struggle that was emerging in the 1960s that is removed from the post-war boom in Japan’s major cities. The usage of stock footage adds to the film’s offbeat tone where it does play like a documentary mixed in with a traditional fictional narrative yet it would come into play during its second act following the miner’s death as he’s trying to understand what happened to him. Teshigahara’s usage of close-ups and medium shots get him to showcase some of the action including the murder as it is witnessed by the shopkeeper and the miner’s son (Kazuo Miyahara) who would remain silent throughout the film not exactly sure what he saw.

Teshigahara’s direction also captures a lot of coverage into the locations with some unique wide shots of the local village that is desolate and what the miner would later see as a ghost when the village was thriving. It would be a sharp contrast to what is happening as it play into this conflict between union leaders with the miner’s double Otsuka running a new mine that is thriving as he is baffled by what happened at the old mine pit as he would figure out what is going on while the opposing union leader Toyama (Sen Yano) would also go to the old mine pit to find out what has been happening. Yet, it all plays into the fates carried out by this mysterious man in white as well as the miner who deals with some of the futilities of death. Overall, Teshigahara crafts a rapturous yet chilling film about a miner’s desire for a better life is stopped by a mysterious figure who plays with the fates of many.

Cinematographer Hiroshi Segawa does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it play into the desolate landscape of the location with its natural approach to lighting and usage of available light for a few scenes set at night. Editor Fusako Morimichi does excellent work with the editing as it help play into the suspense and drama with some rhythmic cuts while maintaining some long shots and knowing when not to cut. Production designer Kiyoshi Awazu and art director Masao Yamazaki do terrific work with the look of the shopkeeper’s shop in its ruined state as well as the village itself when it was a thriving place at the time. The sound work of Kenji Mori, Junosuke Okuyama, and Toru Takemitsu does superb work with the sound in capture the atmosphere of the locations as well as help play into the usage of sound to play up the drama and suspense. The film’s music by Toshi Ichiyanagi, Yuji Takahashi, and Toru Takemitsu is incredible for its array of music ranging from dissonant string-based pieces, traditional Japanese folk and woodwinds, and low-key orchestral cuts that help play into the drama and suspense.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from Hideo Kazne as a corrupt policeman who uses the shopkeeper for sexual favors and Kazuo Miyahara as the miner’s son who would see what really happened but is unable to understand what is going on as he prefers to get candy from the shopkeeper’s shop. Kei Sato is terrific as the reporter trying to understand what is going on as well as see if there is anything off about the murder while Kunie Tanaka is superb in his mysterious role as the man in the white suit who seems to be a man in control of the fates of everyone. Sen Yano is fantastic as a rival union leader in Toyama who believes something about the miner’s murder isn’t right as he is convinced it’s a conspiracy against him. Sumie Sasaki is excellent as the shopkeeper as a woman who would witness the miner’s murder but would give police officials false reports as it would play into her own morality and fate. Finally, there’s Hisashi Igawa in a brilliant dual performance as the poor miner and the mining leader Otsuka where he displays that air of confusion and frustration in the former while being more reserved and suspicious as the latter as is disturbed that the murder victim looks a lot like himself.

Otoshiana is an incredible film from Hiroshi Teshigahara. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, an eerie music score, and chilling themes of death and fate amidst a social and political struggle in rural areas of Japan. The film is an exploration of a man trying to find work in an unknown world only to deal with the fact that he has no control of his fates and its aftermath. In the end, Otoshiana is a sensational film from Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Hiroshi Teshigahara Films: Woman in the Dunes - The Face of Another – (The Man Without a Map) – (Summer Soldiers) – Antonio Gaudi - (Rikyu) – (Princess Goh)

© thevoid99 2019

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks (Halloween Edition): Period Drama Horror

For the 40th week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We begin the annual Halloween edition with period drama horror as horror films sometimes don’t take place in modern times but also in the past. Here are my three picks:

1. Vampyr

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 film that explores an occult student’s fascination with vampires as he goes to a village where vampire supposedly lurk. It’s a strange silent film of sorts with sound effects from Dreyer who explore this young man’s obsession with the occult and vampires as he falls for a mad doctor’s daughter whose sister is believed to be bitten by a vampire. It’s got some amazing visuals that play into a man thinking about vampires and what it would be like to become a vampire.

2. Kwaidan

Masaki Kobayashi’s horror anthology based on the folk tales of Lafcadio Hearn are set into different periods of Japan through four different stories. It all play into the world of ghosts as it involves a samurai warrior leaving his wife for a governor’s daughter in one story. Other stories include a woodcutter’s apprentice making a deal with a ghost, a blind musician singing songs to ghosts much to the dismay of a monastery, and the fourth and final story is a fragmented one about a writer trying to a write a story about a battle between a samurai and a ghost.

3. Crimson Peak

Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror drama set in the early 20th Century is probably one of the finest films of the 2010s so far as it revolves around a young writer marrying a mysterious man as he takes her to his home that he’s trying to rebuild with his sister yet the house is haunted with ghosts. It’s really one of the most beautiful-looking horror films that I’ve seen yet it offers so much more in terms of its look but also a story of loss and longing as it features a terrifying and intense performance from Jessica Chastain who I feel gives a career-defining performance in that film.

© thevoid99 2019