Wednesday, November 28, 2012


It wouldn’t be exaggeration to call it one of the best cop film of recent time and it was written & directed by David Ayer, who gave us ‘Training Day’ and ‘Harsh Times’- absorbing American street crime cinema. It’s not all your hero police cop film, the two men here are working class men on traffic duty to watch the street. They are tough cops putting their own lives in peril but crimes are challenging for their mental and physical resistance and control. “One day LAPD is going to bend you over your black and white…and they are going to fuck you up the ass. Bad guys attack from up front…the department comes in from rear,” advised their anger on nose senior. They got their bravery medals, they have their normal family life but one messy affair of their routine raid puts their lives on peril. They messed with the notorious cartel and they’re after them now. 

Unlike other cop films, the film here is shot in documentary style showing us the POV of two leads where digital camera clipped on their uniforms. The plot is too episodic for film but it vehemently portrayed certain gruesome scene of crimes and represent the blunt, dark and seedy side of LA’s crime underbelly of dope, money, human trafficking and guns in ghetto of Black and Hispanic ethnicity. But the high point of the film is fine camaraderie between the lead played by Jack Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. Excluding many stretching and emotional sequence, they’re the pair hard to resist here. There’s thin line between what they’re supposed to do and don’t but their bonding is something else. If for nothing else watch it for their stellar performances and chemistry.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Along with adapting Ian Fleming’s popular and successful Bond series, the producers Harry Saltzman & Albert Broccoli approached Len Deighton to write the script for second Bond film but that encounter turned out to be birth of another spy character on screen in form of Harry Palmer based on Deighton’s novels. So came ‘The Ipcress File’, one of underrated espionage thriller starring bespectacled Michael Caine as Harry palmer. Compared to all out entertainment and stereotyped characterization of Bond franchise, Palmer films have different design and style with working class man; the films have down beat style with dark and complex feel than larger than life Bond extravaganza. ‘The Ipcress File’ was absolutely engaging espionage thriller and Caine nailed Palmer so damn brilliant. 

This second installment of Harry Palmer, funded by Bond producers is another engaging espionage thriller starring Caine back in form. The plot is set in Berlin where Palmer arrived on task to meet and check out the escape plan of Russian colonel Stok. The plot is quite contrived one entangled with war crimes, cold war and Russian-Israeli-British intelligence men. The film was made by Guy Hamilton, the man who gave us two brilliant Bond films ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ among others. I enjoyed this second installment too but the first one was so damn brilliant one. Somehow that intriguing element and darker side of ‘The Ipcress File’ is missing here. But that won’t make film a loose one. Caine is once again done it pitch perfectly and it was shot so classy reminding us many noirs.

Recommended for all espionage film fans but if you haven't seen 'The Ipcress File' then first watch that ASAP. 


Saturday, November 24, 2012

WINCHESTER ‘73 (1950)

From beginning to end this western is stamped as cent percent classic. The film is first collaboration between director Anthony Mann and wonderful Jimmy Stewart starring as morally upright gunslinger Lin McAdam. As per its prominent title, the film is a tale and journey of a rare Winchester rifle model of 1873, regarded as ‘The gun that won the west.’ To cowboy, outlaw, cop or Indian, the rifle was a treasured possession. It opens with rivalry to win the gun in bulls-eye and coin in air aim competition between two equally strong gunslingers- morally upright Lin McAdam and Dutch Henry Brown, who’s on other side of law. Though it’s Lin who won, the gun no longer remain under his possession. As some sort of inexplicable destined role, it keeps shifting its place to different men wither through cheating effort, gambling or chance. And along its course, it also keeps shifting the life of men who’re under its possession. Fate has stronger role playing here in form of gun and its beholder.

Perhaps Mann didn’t get his due during its time when western was regarded as forte of Master John Ford. But he has made some of the brilliant westerns that didn’t seem dated; perhaps he’s the one who changed the conventional western and added more dark, bitter and morally tentative side in his westerns. Stewart is always a man to watch in those golden American cinematic years and he proved his versatility number of times. He’s in great form here accompanied by extremely strong supporting cast played by Shelly Winters, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally, Millard Mitchell. The film was shot so beautifully in classic B&W frames especially all those gun blazing confrontations on screen including that absolutely breathtaking climax shoot out on rock cliff between Stewart and McNally.

Timeless Western.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


 “I have two friends in the world. One is a cat, the other is murderer.”

An edge on the seat private eye mystery thriller set in 70’s Hollywood genre revisionism by Robert Altman. It begins so brilliantly and has terrific control over the pace in the middle, where the film failed to mark its point. The only thing I hate about the film is its abrupt ending which in my opinion too improbable and unlikely. It all begins with cat and ends with cat. A chain smoking wisecrack Private eye Philip Marlowe’s pet pussy is hungry and she wakes him at 3’o clock midnight. He went out to get her favorite cat food. But she’s smart pussy and isn’t duped by different brand. An uninvited friend knocked Marlowe’s door same night and Marlowe helped him driving him from LA to Tijuana. When he turned back to his penthouse in the morning, the trouble is there awaiting him and it entraps him into mess one after another. First victim was his friends wife then his friend’s suicide followed up by an intriguing investigation case and his sudden encounter town’s notorious hoodlum. The film gets murkier and comic and times but more than a smart ass detective, Marlowe here is an outsider, almost a stranger chartering into unfamiliar water leading into one after another unpredictable affairs and circumstances.

The film surely has taut adapted screenplay of Raymond Chandler’s novel but Altman took too much creative liberty in adaptation of original novel. Altman’s version initially refers the original part exactly as per the book, but shifted many things in the progression of case. There’s lot of deviation and it got rid of many characters and introduced the characters which are not there in the novel. The gangster Augustine is absolutely an idea of Altman’s brain and not Chandler. Even the ending is quite strange and antithetic and Altman changed it from the one in the novel. Altman’s version is not as hard boiled as early Hollywood noir starring Bogart. He pushed the conventional elements, made it more contemporary social satire than fifties America and he almost made Marlowe a kind of loser instead of hero who’s unable to get himself fit into shifting seventies. He’s unable to focus amid more violent, eccentric and morally bankrupt modern world where from neighbors to a close friend everyone is either dubious or weird and so out of his known world.

But it’s really interesting to watch Altman’s version for more than one reason. It has brilliant beginning and gritty middle part. Elliott Gould is just awesome and irreplaceable as Marlowe or maybe a Marlboro man referred by Sterling Hayden in the film. And Hayden is once again done terrific act as Hemingway look-a-like beast husband Roger Wade. It surely has intriguing and bizarre twist and unpredictable characters and represented the face and phase of seventies shifting America with an eye of social criticism where all those smart private eyes of the yesteryear era seems fumbling misfits.

Worth a watch without fail.


Monday, November 19, 2012

YOUTH OF THE BEAST (Japanese) (1963)

My third Seijun Suzuki film is his signature masterwork. Infact Suzuki once remarked that this was one of his first truly original pictures. It begins with ambiguous case of double suicide. A stranger violent beast infiltrates with two rival yakuza gangs and messing one against the other. The man is on mission and he’s wildest badass in form of Suzuki’s frequent collaborator Jo Shishido. It’s not exaggeration to say he’s what Belmondo in Godard films.
The film is so contemporary to French New wave cinema and Suzuki’s auteur to watch as far as form is concerned. Perhaps Suzuki is lesser popular filmmaker to his other contemporaries of Japanese cinema but one has to watch his signature use of flamboyant colors, striking framing and lighting in his films. It serves stylish visuals, slick editing and upbeat production design too. The hybrid pop score with glimpse of his irreverent humor still gives it contemporary feel to its viewers. An ugly underbelly of drug and call girl cartel, sadist mobster and downbeat ending gives it absolutely noir touch.  


Saturday, November 17, 2012

SAMURAI SPY (Japanese) (1965)

At the end of sixteenth century, the end of war gave birth to the cold war of espionage rivalry between two main clans named Tokugawa and Toyotomi. The ronins became spy agents of various clans’ spy network. A ronin named Sasuke belongs to neutral clan suddenly caught between political power espionage between two clans. He’s drawn into the espionage affair by another spy selling information on both sides to earn bounty and now he’s in trap followed by murders.

Betrayal, multiple double crosses, intrigue, unrest of power ans suspense keep baffling the screen till last frame in Masahiro Shinoda’s this samurai espionage. It’s hard to decide motives of anybody as a friend or enemy. Breaking traditional samurai plot and narration Shinoda brought to screen avant garde elements with stylistically cryptic framing and composition with props of lighting, fog, slow motion and innovative wide and high angles to watch in samurai cinema genre.   


Friday, November 16, 2012

SWORD OF THE BEAST (Japanese) (1965)

‘This mountain is dwelling for beasts. I’ll turn into wolf too before long and take my share of that almighty gold.’

Watching this third Gosha film, I tried to absorb the outcast samurai characters of his films who managed to get away from system. Unlike those heroic self sacrificing samurais for their clan, they chose their own personal codes of honour when realized how they’re blindedly betrayed by hypocrite power. And so they chose their own destiny to regain their own pride. They’re the outlaws embracing rebel against distrustful authority. That happens with Nakadai’s character in ‘Goyokin’ and also in ‘Three Outlaw Samurai’. The men of Gosha films are outlaws against the corrupt power hegemony, this film too pointed out that message quite loud and clear. 

The initial impression of Samurai Gennosuke Yuuki is labeled as coward samurai, he’s fugitive ronin without code who’d killed counselor of the clan and fled to his home province. Dead Counselor’s daughter and fiancé along with other clan members are in pursuit of him. Geenosuke’s samurai pride is questionable as he said while escaping ‘To hell with name and pride…I’ll run and never stop.’ Now this instantly questions us about his pride and way of samurai. We doubt- ‘If he used to be brave earlier how could he become so coward!’ There’s bounty on his head and what we follows initially is cat and mouse play.

As movie progresses we witness his victimized past and how he turned out as rebel. How against selfish and biased leader’s unjustifiable orders he become a scapegoat of another clan leader and got cheating returns. He’s just served as fooled minion like so many others who turned out scapegoats at the end. The selfish clan leaders keep climbing their ambitious political and economical gain with their under ranked samurai’s hardships and sacrifices and in return reward them with deceit and death. As Gennusuke along with a helping stable owner plans to check out the prospect of gold on mountain, he encounters number of bandits and a deadly warrior named Jurota who’s already involved in poaching of gold and started collecting it for his clan. Just like Gennusuke, he’s trying to regain his pride by dangerous adventure and in return gets victimization.

At many moments the film keep reminds me about Huston’s masterpiece ‘The Treasure of Sierra Madre’. Like that noir, the film focused on blind ambition, greed, hatred that maligns the conscience of even upright men. But Gosha’s film portrayed the ugly face of power in form of clans and leaders and the plight of samurai facing the lonely frustration of being nobody. He’s valiant hero who in order to prove his existence  and honour to be a full fledged samurai rewarded being cheated by hypocrite leaders. The film is surely Gosha’s best and it is finely shot black & white cinematography with subtle balance in framing and composition of image. The aesthetic refinement is constantly challenged by sword action and intriguing of plot and characters.

Highly recommended.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

KILL! (Japanese) (1968)

An intriguing and entertaining Samurai film to watch where bullets and swords, loyalty and betrayal run parallel to dynamic plot. Two wandering strangers arrive in a town seeking food and encounter a dispute between two clans. It’s odd pair of samurai, where one is disillusioned samurai with a past, the other is wannabe noble samurai. Their constant sweeping of sides between two rebel clans keeps the film in an interesting flow. The film has violent and brutal sword action but it’s not out and out samurai action. Along with edgy action, quirky humor go hand by hand throughout the film. And yes, it has interesting characters to watch further.

The film bears so much resemblance between Leone’s ‘A Fistful of Dollars’. The title score and background of Masuro Sato sounds so much like Morricone, its opening wide shot where a stranger ronin facing lonely town amid wild storm seeking food encounters another weird samurai also seems like a scene of Leone film. The film also bears so much resemblance to Kurosawa’s ‘Sanjuro’ and it mocks the status of Samurai by making him lurking between ridiculous idiot and smart ass. Like Mifune’s interesting queer characters in ‘Yojimbo’ and ‘Sanjuro’, Tatsuya Nakadai's Gento is a smart ass samurai to watch. Kihachi Okamoto playfully pulled the genre and source borrowed from elements of conventional samurai cinema and Italian Spaghetti westerns and it almost gave me combined pleasure of western meets samurai.

Ratings- 7.5/10 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

GOYOKIN (Japanese) (1969)

Many times I find transferred reflections of two separate genres coalesce into one that made us wonder which genre influences which! ‘Western’ and ‘Samurai’ cinema is a case study in this regard. My first Hideo Gosha film so distinctly reflects this- the horses, the revenge, the return of hero, duel fight, Morricone kind of background score and a loner protagonist. And along with all this, as per its title (Goyokin: official silver and gold) it portrays the theme of greed for gold, quite a set-up for many of westerns. Infact, as per Wikipedia, in 1975, a western titled ‘The Master Gunfighter’ is influenced from this film.

It’s hypnotic and intriguing to watch crows in the opening ten minutes of the film that reminds you Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. A young lady returns to her village home, a shack on lone island and witness severed head of his father. Tatsuya Nakadai is a reclusive ronin named Magobei Wakisaka who turned blind eyes three years ago to Sabai domain’s tyrannical kamikakushi event that murdered every last person in fishing village. Now he decides to return to finish Sabai domain but the men were ready to kill him as soon as steps his feet on land. It has emotional side too where Wakisaka’s wife’s brother is on opposite side along with a sub plot of a young girl whose family and fiancé murdered in the Kamikakushi three years ago. Along with existential and moral story between the way of samurai, it also has an interesting plot of gold greed that divert and sink the sheep full of gold bars in sea. It happens every fall during its course of journey route and it also adds thrilling adventure action in the later part of the film with grand climax.

Once again Nakadai is in brilliant form and he’s the spirit of the film. The film has well etched characters with fine support of antagonist Tatewaki (Tetsuro Tamba), Samon (Kinnosuke Nakamura), the queer helping hand of Wakisaka and beautiful Oriha (Rurika Asaoka). It has innovatively shot and brilliantly choreographed sword action and the snow clad hilly locales in color gives its chilly edge of mystery and atmospheric tension. Simultaneous action of masked devils beating drum beats and final duel between Nakadai and Tamba is surely highlight of the film.  

Absolutely love it…looking forward to more of Gosha.


Monday, November 5, 2012


‘Of all the seven deadly sins, jealousy is the most deadly.’

The film is a drama and it tells an absorbing story of an impulsive obsessed lover in form of Ellen Berent who couldn’t withstand anybody between her and the person whom she loves. First it was her late father and the next is the person who quite resembles with her father. She met him by chance meeting in train reading his novel. The writer instantly ensnared in her charm and starts committing. And she wouldn’t mind ditching her fiancé to marry Richard. But it’s after marriage that she starts showing her true color, where blinded by obsession and envy she not only mind killing her hubby’s crippled young brother but also her own son in womb. What’s height of her jealousy is that even while dying she tried her last attempt to pull the things as per her obsessed wish.

It’s Gene Tierney film all the way and she represents both enigmatic dual persona of impulse and grace on screen. It’s not an exaggeration if I say that she’s the sole reason to watch this drama. It’s slow drama build in resplendent colors of early Hollywood. And it’s divine to watch heavenly Tierney in colors. She was nominated for Oscar but it was the year when Joan Crawford had given her best in ‘Mildred Pierce’. However the film managed to win an Oscar for its cinematography. 

Ratings- 7/10 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

THEY LIVE (1988)

The golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules.

How many horror films gives you food for thought in provoking and intriguing manner? John Carpenter’s ‘They Live’, is surely an underrated cult horror in that regards. Unlike zombie, ghosts or and blood gore slasher thrill of this long stamped B genre horror, this film represents an everyday horror of our existence where the face of society and its rulers are more horrifying and striking. And it's not to just for our senses but for our heads too. The film is based on a short story ‘8 O’clock in the Morning’ by Ray Nelson, the film is sci-fi horror on surface but underneath it represents the rampant ugly face of society feeds on loose and corrupt human spirit which seems almost a reality now. It unravels the mask of society driven by consumerist capital world.

The protagonist is a drifter who’s facing hard times and lost his job after economic collapse in his hometown. He came to another city in search of work and success. He is the fellow America who believes in nation and his fair chance to earn his bread and butter and rise above. As soon as he enters the city, he encounters a blind man delivering provoking speech to the passerby. Next he sees a man on road hooked to a television programme as some sort of zombie. Soon he gets a labour work on a construction site and befriends another worker who led him to a community ghetto where people like them survive. The man soon finds out a suspicious activity going on around and inside church. Much to his ambiguity a police raid grab the preacher and other men dealing with suspicious activity inside church. He visits church and find out a pair of sunglass. The man who discarded everything that giving him clue now facing the seedy reality, the moment he wears the pair of glasses. The world starts crumbling down for him; as now he’s facing the world in its stark ugliness where men are aliens and the world is big matrix puzzle. He’s now heading for quest with his awakening but how long will he survive in the world where power, money, politics and law is ready to annihilate forces like him.

It punch the audience’s head with it’s dialogues, visuals and signs that throughout the film made all of us think hard about the world and state we’re living. A man on television with bad transmission constantly keep stating-

"Our impulses are being redirected. We are living in artificially induced state of consciousness that resembles sleep. They have created a repressive society and we are their unwitting accomplices. Their intention to rule rests us with the annihilation of consciousness. We have been lulled into trance. They have made us indifferent, to ourselves, and to others. We are focused on only on our own gain. Please understand, they are safe as long as are not discovered. That is their method of survival. Keep us asleep, keep us selfish, and keep us sedated."

From indoctrination through education, consumerism catch through bombarding of advertisements all around to political brain wash through sloganeering and glorious history and psychological programming through television channels. Ah, there are number of things that I go on and on to describe the wake up call signs that the film portrays to the working middle class society of the world. THEY LIVE WE SLEEP written on a wall. And all those billboard signs on the city, the dollar note showing THIS IS YOUR GOD. This is one hell of movie of metaphors and symbols that pointing us the ugly reality that remains unchallenged by programmed mindsets. Carpenter who made some of the striking horror films like ‘The Thing’ and ‘Halloween’ made something so unusual that I won’t mind giving it Cult status. As near the end of the film, we hears the line uttered on television that partly hitting his critics and audience with a self mocking tone- “All the sex and violence on the screen has gone too far for me. I’m fed up with it, filmmakers like George Romero and John Carpenter have to show some restraint.”

Grab it as soon as possible.

Ratings- 8.5/10