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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films

 
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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 29/3/2011 1:37:40 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Melvin Van Peebles (1971)

Brothel raised orphan "Sweetback" shags and moodily stares his way across Los Angeles and down to the Mexican border, on the lam from the fuzz after killing some honky cops whilst defending a Black Panther.  Cue ninety minutes of running away from, and sticking it to, the man.

Van Peebles' most infamous and much censored veritable one man show is like some odd mix of French and Italian new wave and 60s American independent psychedelia, shot in the 1970s South Central 'hood.  Stark, gritty, technically both brilliant and terrible, and often stunning, "Sweetback" ushered in the era of the Blaxploitation genre, dedicated, as it is, to "all the brothers and sisters who had enough".  'Superfly' gets all the genre plaudits and the glossy and arguably over-rated 'Shaft' usually wins the mainstream vote, but Van Peebles' ultra cheap, rough and ready masterpiece is basically the first and last word on a genre that very quickly ran out of steam and became a boring parody of itself.  But to call 'Sweetback' a blaxploitation film is doing it a disservice and not giving it its full due as an incredibly important milestone in both African-American film making and, more importantly, civil rights.  For here was a highly intellectual individual who wasn't afraid to stir it up and cause trouble, showing white police in a less than brilliant light, at a time when the peace and free love movement of the late 60s had given way to a new era of violence, depression and revolt.  Moreover, he was doing it himself with very little help from anyone, least of all Columbia Pictures, with which he had a three picture contract.  Columbia, nor any other studio, would touch 'Sweetback' with a ten foot pole.  So, shot very cheaply (partly with a straight loan from none other than Bill Cosby, but mainly with Peebles' own money) and quickly over just nineteen days with a crew largely made up of family (Mario plays the young Sweetback in the opening scenes), friends and people off the street, 'Sweetback' is the realistic angry cinematic culmination of hundreds of years of persecution, belittling and suffering at the hands of the white man - no funky soul soundtrack (a mix of rough gospel, dischordant jazz and frantic interstitial music courtesy of an in its infancy Earth, Wind & Fire), no purple velvet suits, ridiculous platform shoes and enormous hats, no superhero protagonist.  No, 'Sweetback' is just one ordinary and innocent man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, pushed over the edge by the (relatively small) injustice he sees before him.

Despite, or maybe thanks to, the limitations of the budget, the amateur cast and crew and also the constant barriers Van Peebles faced, 'Sweetback' ends up as being one of the most sincere and honest pieces of African-American film making of the last forty years - only Spike Lee's jaw droppingly brilliant 'Do the Right Thing' treads on the same ground – hell, it may as well be a documentary, given that making the film was as much of a tribulation as Sweetback himself experiences in the story.  A brief list for you:
Every single studio refused Van Peebles outright;
He contracted an STD during one of the (unsimulated) sex scenes;
He nearly had a whole chapter of the LA Hell's Angels beat the living shit out of him after he demanded that they stay to finish the scene they were in – instead he broke one of the members' fingers and they all stayed on;
He performed all of his own stunts and nearly broke his legs after having to perform a jump nine times;
He had the constant spectre of the unions over his shoulder.  His only defence?  To carry loaded guns around.  Which then got mixed up with the prop guns.  Ah.

Many argue that the film suffers greatly from some of the (non) acting, the lack of any real script (Sweetback barely says anything throughout the entire 90-odd minutes) and the loose nature of the directing.  For me these are the things which make it what it is and which make it distinct from the Blaxploitation genre in general, even moreso when you take into account how much of a struggle the whole thing was.  A struggle well documented in son Mario Van Peebles' superb 2003 box office failing biopic/making of 'Baadasssss', which was similarly a bit of a one man show for Van Peebles Jnr.  Yes, it's brilliant.  From the same Mario Van Peebles in 'Jaws: The Revenge', 'Solo', 'Rappin'' and, egads, 'Highlander 3'.  But, as 'Baadasssss' shows us, 'Sweetback' is less important for what it is than what it did.  Forget Spike Lee's ropey studenty debut 'She's Gotta Have It' – 'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song' busted down the door for the new Black Hollywood.

< Message edited by great_badir -- 29/3/2011 1:39:07 PM >


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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 29/3/2011 1:46:08 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
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From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle
quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

I'm not sure I'd call it Sydney's best, but certainly up there. I'd give the nod to, maybe, City Streets or Street Scene.

I meant to say - have you seen Cy Endfield's Sound of Fury? It's almost a remake of Fury, based on the same incident that influenced the original film.


I would give a shout out for Dead End.  But I can't stand Humphrey Bogart - he, in my opinion, ruins what is otherwise a very good film.

Sound of Fury - blimey.  Yes, but not for years.  I've never previously linked the two and, if I'm honest, I can't really remember too much about, not even whether I liked it or not but, given it's middle period Endfield, the chances are I did.

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 29/3/2011 1:54:21 PM   
elab49


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It made my noir list here

http://www.empireonline.com/forum/tm.asp?m=1948830&mpage=11&key=

Dead End I also like. A nice small role for Claire Trevor too.

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ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 29/3/2011 10:11:48 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
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From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle
quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

It made my noir list here

http://www.empireonline.com/forum/tm.asp?m=1948830&mpage=11&key=

Dead End I also like. A nice small role for Claire Trevor too.


Ah yeah, it's coming back to me now.  I still don't rightly remember whether or not I liked it, but I have to say the stills and your review make me want to see it again.


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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 4/4/2011 1:30:51 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
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From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle


The Boys Next Door, Penelope Spheeris (1985)

Minor and long forgotten homo-erotic exploitation trash pic from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and the director of 'Wayne's World' follows two bonehead slackers, fed up with their dead end lives, as they get drunk, steal a dog, drive to LA and wreak havoc among the freaks of Hollywood, all whilst being chased (slowly) by a couple of fed up, confused and lethargic cops.

Whilst Charlie Sheen is having a very humorous (albeit upsetting for Sheen himself and those close to him, I’m sure) public breakdown, I figured it quite apposite to remember his pre-mentalist career with this, his first starring role after playing third banana in John Milius' hilariously uber patriotic 'Red Dawn'.  Although still technically playing support (to, guffaw, Maxwell Caulfield), this was Sheen’s first solo big break.  By turns (unintentionally) hilarious, shocking, prescient, cheap and nasty, ‘Boys’ is like some bargain bin teenage wank fantasy edging into deep moralising and character psychology, produced from the mind of a disturbed male chauvinist.  Except director Penelope Spheeris is a very sensible woman, usually more at home with documentaries and light comedy.  ‘Boys’ is the first entry in Spheeris’ loose “troubled youths” trilogy, followed by the admirable and grittily real ‘Suburbia’ and the absolutely terrible ‘Hollywood Vice Squad’.  ‘Boys’ sits somewhere in the middle of the two, both in quality and consistency.  Not much happens for the first hour or so, except for our two anti-heroes moping around, getting drunk, complaining about their switch from pathetic school grades to low end factory work and getting the brush-off from all the hot girls and jocks.  But, as they do a last minute ditch to sunny LA, things start to go a bit tits up.  And so the remaining forty odd minutes is filled with numerous unexpected turns of events including homicides, GBH, car theft, robbery and other mishigas (those pesky kids), whilst LA cops Christopher McDonald and TV fave Hank Garrett wearily follow up leads to try and stop the pair from carrying out any more craziness.

Charlie Sheen as Bo Richards plays, for the most part, the “sensible” one.  That is he’s less keen on murdering than Maxwell Caulfield, who is surprisingly believable as murderous and psychotic low rent trailer trash Roy Alston (a part turned down by Nicolas Cage and legendarily lost by Crispin Glover whose audition was, apparently, too realistic).  Quite how Caulfield, who at the time was presenting himself as an upper class English toff (leagues away from the reality of a northern teenager, thrown out of home and earning a living as a male stripper), ended up being cast as Alston is a mystery that might never be solved, mainly because he is an astonishingly bad actor, even in this, a film bereft of anything approaching oscar worthiness.  But that doesn’t detract from what is otherwise quite a nasty little film.  It’s also worth a watch to see early appearances from Valley Girl’s own Moon Zappa and latter day familiar face/up and coming director Grant Heslov, no doubt both cast from a pool of struggling teens who would appear in just about anything as long as it got an audience and they got paid for it. 

The main reason it’s in this list is because it’s so surprisingly bleak and cold hearted, given that it’s a cheap genre pic that often can’t decide whether it wants to be a growing pains drama, an urban horror or a lads’ comedy.  By far the best thing about the film, however, is the introduction which, although style wise is completely at odds with the rest of the film, is nevertheless one of the finest credit sequences in film history and where Spheeris’ talent as a documentarian shines through – still photos of real life serial killers with a soundtrack of real interviews with people who knew them, which repeat the same old cliché and a cliché that Roy and Bo live up (down) to – “he was always a bit distant, but otherwise I guess they seemed to be normal teenage boys”.  File under interesting curio.

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 4/4/2011 1:38:21 PM   
elab49


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I would have seen this once, the week it came out, because my video shop made me. I do recall that the posters made it a heavily ordered film at the time of release - but that dropped off fairly quickly. If you're not interested in punk and think Wayne's World is a pile of steaming dog do, then Spheeris has pretty much had a lousy excuse for a career, I think.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 4/4/2011 1:41:39 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle
quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

I would have seen this once, the week it came out, because my video shop made me. I do recall that the posters made it a heavily ordered film at the time of release - but that dropped off fairly quickly. If you're not interested in punk and think Wayne's World is a pile of steaming dog do, then Spheeris has pretty much had a lousy excuse for a career, I think.


I would agree with you and I personally think Wayne's World 2 is MILES better, however her Decline of Western Civilization docs are well worth watching, as is Suburbia.  Boys - well, I think it's good or, perhaps I should say, surprising.  But I don't think it unusual for anyone to dislike it, be it because it's distasteful, offensive or outright rubbish.

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 4/4/2011 1:49:03 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle

Stir Crazy, Sidney Poitier (1980)
I don’t care what anyone says – ‘Silver Streak’, often held up as the best of the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor collaborations and a decent film in its own right, just isn’t that good.  Save for the admittedly hilarious, and now classic, scene in the train station where Pryor tries to turn the none-more white Jew Wilder into a soul brother, the rest of the film (more of a straight thriller with a couple of humorous moments, rather than an out and out comedy thriller) dodders along with not much comedy and not many thrills, with Pryor’s total screen time amounting to about twenty minutes, even less of it with Wilder (Pryor, in fact, barely appears at all for the first three quarters of the film).  I find it so not that good that I actually prefer (and do genuinely have a guilty soft spot for) ‘Another You’, which these days serves as a visual document of someone previously so full of life slowly succumbing to the illness that would eventually kill them.  ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil’ is, arguably, the most consistently funny of their outings (I can hear the collective slaps to the forehead with both of those last statements), at least if you factor in jokes per minute of screen time, even if it aims mainly for the low brow and has a less than brilliant script, but Sidney Poitier’s ‘Stir Crazy’ is by far the best film of the bunch.  It also happens to be one of the best films of Pryor’s career (not that Pryor was in too many good films – for every ‘Blue Collar’ there were two or three ‘The Toy’’s).  It might, just, also be Poitier’s best film as director.  Witness – rich toffs getting high on their soup, Wilder’s innocent enthusiasm unknowingly starting a bar brawl, big woodpeckers, “a hundred and twenty five years?!?!?  That means I’ll be a hundred and sixty one when I get out!!!”, a prison bucking bronco (and subsequent unlikely rodeo competition), “That’s right, we bad!”, swapping panic attacks, the heat box , Erland van Lidth as Grossberger (“p…..p…..pil-low…I want my pil-low”) who murdered his entire family and then murdered some neighbours because they reminded him of his family.   But he does have a beautiful singing voice.

Just to prove that my tastes aren’t limited to obscure and/or high fore-headed film making (mind you, some of you are probably already aware of my sincere and unashamed love for Chevy Chase and ‘Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo’), I’m including this dumb-ass 80s Wilder/Pryor vehicle, the first one to properly capitalise on the latterly popular (and relatively brief) cinematic double act of two imperfect soul mates.  Dreadful and predictable ending aside, ‘Stir Crazy’ represents the most comfortable Wilder and Pryor ever were on screen together – it was after the uncalculated and unexpectedly popular ‘Silver Streak’ collaboration, but before the behind the scenes boredom set in towards the end of the 80s when the duo were basically just doing contractual work and concentrating more on their own individual careers.  Indeed, many of their shared scenes and much of their dialogue in ‘Stir Crazy’ was improvised, with the resulting material being so good that in most instances Poitier was happy to sit back and let them basically piss around whilst the cameras rolled (rumour has it that there are literally hours of good, previously unseen, material lying around in someone’s hands), with the first couple of takes invariably being used in the finished film.  It was also the first time that Pryor’s leading comedy man status became properly apparent – though he had appeared and starred in several films of varying genres prior to ‘Stir Crazy’, some of them were strict genre pics, others were mere cameo appearances and many of them had, at best, limited releases with equally limited audiences.  At worst they were absolutely awful.  ‘Stir Crazy’ is the one film that got everything right – success, quality, equal screen time, a proper double act and frequent laughs.

It is, and I’m almost sorry to say this, a case of bottled lightning, considering the careers of those involved – Pryor’s filmic back catalogue is filled mostly with misfires, Wilder’s, except for that late 60s to mid 70s period of greatness, was similarly disappointing and Poitier’s (as director) limited and infrequent films are nothing to write home about (a trilogy of completely unfunny comedies and a couple of amateurish dramas.  Oh, and ‘Ghost Dad.  Ha).  ‘Stir Crazy’, thankfully, is a fitting epitaph to all of their careers, even if Poitier and Wilder do absolutely nothing of worth ever again.  Which is entirely likely.


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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 4/4/2011 1:53:22 PM   
matty_b


Posts: 14582
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From: Outpost 31 calling McMurtle.
Ah.

Not a fan, I'm afraid.

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 4/4/2011 1:54:34 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
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From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle
quote:

ORIGINAL: matty_b

Ah.

Not a fan, I'm afraid.


Of...?

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 4/4/2011 1:58:52 PM   
matty_b


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From: Outpost 31 calling McMurtle.
Stir Crazy...

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 4/4/2011 2:07:06 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54677
Joined: 1/10/2005


I love Stir Crazy enough for it to be one of those films you always watch even though you have it on DVD and have seen it heaven knows how many times before. I also love The Silver Streak.

quote:

 
Stir Crazy’ is by far the best film of the bunch. 
It might, just, also be Poitier’s best film as director.


true and true - although there isn't exactly a lot of competition for the latter?

quote:

  ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil’ is, arguably, the most consistently funny of their outings


You're really quite mad you know.

But they're all brilliant. Craig T Nelson is brilliant. Every scene with Grossberger is brilliant.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 4/4/2011 2:18:25 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle
quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49
You're really quite mad you know.


In my defence, I did say if you looked at it from the jokes per minute view point.  Whether you find any of those jokes funny...

Got to say I do quite like See No Evil, Hear No Evil, yes more than Silver Streak.  It's a childhood sentimentality thing.

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 4/4/2011 2:22:29 PM   
MonsterCat


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From: St. Albans, Hertfordshire
Stir Crazy is fricking hilarious. A really bad remake with Adam Sandler has to be in the works somewhere.

Unfortunately, the other Wilder/Pryor films aren't very good, but the dinner table scene in Another You makes me chuckle.





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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 4/4/2011 3:16:34 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
Joined: 6/10/2005
From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle
quote:

ORIGINAL: MonsterCat
Unfortunately, the other Wilder/Pryor films aren't very good, but the dinner table scene in Another You makes me chuckle.


For me Another You is all about Kevin Pollak's impressions, particularly his Columbo - it's amazing that he can do the wandering eye.

A close second is the bit when Pryor's sax skills are almost rumbled at the party.

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 5/4/2011 12:25:14 PM   
great_badir


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From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle
Coming very soon to your face (pardon me, vicar) - a re-appraisal of Sorcerer...

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 5/4/2011 1:18:05 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
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From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle

Because I think it’s time to give it further justice outside of my original top 150 and go over the eight odd year journey it took me to see it…

Spoilers, maybe. 

Sorcerer, William Friedkin (1977)

“Dominguez” - a small time New York hood, involved with a gang who do over a mob funded church racket
“Serrano” - a French businessman whose previously successful business is on the brink of total financial ruin
“Nilo” - a shady hitman who does a runner after a mysterious hit
“Martinez” – an Israeli rebel/terrorist who is responsible for a lethal street side bomb

Four shitheel scumbags wind up in what must be the filthiest village in South America, thanks to various unfortunate circumstances they’ve engineered of their own accord, and eek out their minimal and punishing existence surrounded by death, decay, political upheaval and all around misery, whilst being constantly reminded of their dodgy deeds back home and the fact that they’re in a place where they can’t even get a cold soft drink from the local fleapit bar.  Luckily for them, the local oil well (which is the only source of income for the village) explodes after being sabotaged by terrorists.  The oil company offers those who are interested a chance to make some serious money and the chance to escape from a living hell – a suicide mission to deliver a payload of unstable nitro glycerine, leaked from sticks of rotting dynamite stored hundreds of miles away in a small wooden hut swallowed up by dense jungle, over land in custom fit trucks, which is the only thing that will put out the intense oil fire.

Few films in my nearly thirty year “career” as a film buff have had as much of an affect (effect?) on me as ‘Sorcerer’.  A film generally best known for being a poor, unnecessary and under performing remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s pitch perfect and, as far as most people are concerned, untouchable ‘La Salaire de la peur’ (AKA ‘The Wages of Fear’, of course).  For the record I love Clouzot’s original – it IS a brilliant film, a masterpiece.  But, hell, I am not ashamed to say that out of the two I prefer ‘Sorcerer’ (is that further accusations of madness I hear?).  I’ve always loved discovering obscure and long forgotten films.  Most were, and still are, shit and are usually obscure and long forgotten for that very reason – the thrill is, partly, in the chase – but the shit ones made and still make the rare gems that crop up every now and again seem even more of a worthy find.  It was through exhaustive film watching I “discovered” the likes of ‘Juggernaut’, ‘Fitzcarraldo’, ‘Andrei Rublev’, ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’ (which always seemed to be consigned to the VHS bargain bin and consequently ignored in pretty much every shop it was sold in), ‘Django’, ‘Django Kill’, ‘Strange Brew’ and ‘Blade Runner’ - it seems ridiculous now, but ‘Blade Runner’ has not always been the bona fide and certified sci-fi masterpiece it’s now accepted to be.  Time was when it was Ridley Scott’s ignored “other” sci-fi film which starred Harrison Ford, not in ‘Star Wars’ mode, doing a rubbish voice over about some confusing robots going AWOL.  Or something.  That bloke from the Guinness ads was in it too.  Likewise with the other films I’ve listed above – in the days of pricy VHS, James Ferman and an almost casual disregard for anything old or out of the mainstream (although you were reasonably well served if you were a fan of new-wave Hong Kong cinema, or anime), all of these, now accepted as well known classics, were then little known by the masses.  So too with ‘Sorcerer’.  But, unlike those other films, ’Sorcerer’ was impossible to find and it took forever to appear on my radar – it seemed to be the most obscure of known obscure films.

It’s the late 80s coming into the very early 90s and, as an almost-teenager, all I know about ‘Sorcerer’ is that it was a box office disaster directed by the same guy who did ‘The French Connection’ and ‘The Exorcist’ (which was still banned) and that some critic called Mark Kermode (who has since become the only critic I will ever have any major respect for [please note this thread is not the place to discuss your Kermode feelings]), writing for several newspapers and magazines, divided half his time going on about ‘The Exorcist’ and the other half going on about ‘Sorcerer’, a film he thought was long overdue and deserved firm re-appraisal.  By this time I’d already seen and loved the original thanks to my dad (it was one of his favourite films) via Moviedrome, back in the good ol’ Alex Cox days, and wondered how on earth an American remake could do it any justice.  I ask my dad, who I got my film buffery from, about ‘Sorcerer’.  He’s aware of it but hasn’t seen it and, besides, who needs to see a remake of an already perfect film?  Aside from a heavily edited VHS released in the first half of the 80s, which itself seems to be impossible to track down, it’s not easily available to rent or buy in the UK.  My local video rental place has it on the books, but their supplier can’t get hold of it.  There’s only a few copies in the country, apparently.  (Of course I get my dad to do all this for me because, at the time, the BBFC had inexplicably slapped it with an 18 certificate – interestingly ‘Sorcerer’s’ entry has been removed from the BBFC website since its revamp…hmmm).  As for an airing on TV – forget about it.  It remains something of an enigma. 

Move forward to the mid 90s, or thereabouts.  The internet has just about rolled out to most of the country and I’m waiting at least twenty seconds for each page to load, still confused about how all this information made its way through a tiny cable when just a few years before I was waiting fifteen minutes for The Secret of Monkey Island to load up directly from a disk on my Amiga 500.  Whilst browsing numerous film related web sites, I come across a site called the Internet Movie Database, which pretty much renders my collection of Halliwell’s books useless.  I start searching through for some films I’ve been trying to track down and remember ‘Sorcerer’.  Word on IMDB is mixed and unclear.  It has a relatively low score and it seems that few people have seen it.  I ask around my film geek friends (for, by this time, we have become confirmed film geeks with an impressive collective knowledge).  None of them have heard of it either.  Yet again it remains an enigma. 

Fast forward a bit more.  Kermode’s written a one page piece about ‘Sorcerer’ in the back of an issue of Neon magazine, praising it as one of the greatest American action thrillers of all time and certainly in the top five remakes.  I’ve been a member of the DVD revolution for a year or two and have a spanky first generation Panasonic player.  Purely by accident I find out that a full(er), albeit panned and scanned, version of ‘Sorcerer’ has been released in the States.  Fortunately, my player is region 1 (this was in the days when region 2 DVD releases were minimal, vanilla discs nine times out of ten, far more expensive than their region 1 counterparts, and many of them were not even in widescreen).  It’s quite expensive, but I can’t wait any longer.  An order goes out to Play.com.  Two weeks later it arrives.  Luckily it’s a Saturday – no work.  The disc goes in, the curtains are drawn, the Universal logo comes up.  Little prepared me for what I saw.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, given that Kermode’s one pager was the most I’d ever read about the film, and even that was vague enough to leave some huge question marks hanging over it.  It made special mention of a scene involving a rickety rope bridge, but otherwise it didn’t really give me a clue as to what unfolds over the two hour running time.

But oh my fucking god.

To call it an endurance (for the audience) movie is an understatement – surely a contender for one of the most nihilistic films ever made, nearly all of the characters, lead and otherwise, are an amazing collage of unlovable bastards.  The story does not allow for any heroism or redemption.  The title is cryptic at best (it’s actually the name of one of the trucks).  Most of the opening twenty minutes has little in the way of dialogue or exposition.  The South American location and its inhabitants are so filthy you can almost smell it coming off the screen and you can’t help but feel like you need a shower after it’s finished.  It’s scene after scene of misery.  It’s certainly not first date material and, frankly, the whole thing makes Clouzot’s original look like a Disney film by comparison.  No wonder it died at the box office.

It’s all about faces, you see.  The film’s repeating theme is different faces – how they look, what emotions do they show, are they the “bad” guy or the “good” guy, how is the stress affecting them, what do they look like when faced with, or after, death.  We start with four confident strangers, worried perhaps, but otherwise cool and calculated, three of them smartly dressed.  By the time they’ve had their mishaps and have been in the village for some time and Roy Scheider wakes up surrounded by chickens wandering around in their own shit, old men coughing up lungs and amputees probably suffering from trench foot, our four anti-heroes are wearing months old clothes and have aged about twenty years.  The toll the film takes on the audience is summed up by three separate close ups of faces – the first being a bride on her wedding day in the New York sequence.  The bride and the wedding have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film, other than the ceremony happens to be taking place whilst Scheider’s crew are doing over the church.  Friedkin, for some reason, holds on a close up of the bride in profile, a large bruise around her eye clearly apparent.  The other two are close ups on Scheider’s already characterful face – the first when he looks at himself in the mirror after being in the village for a little while, worn, tired and fed up, the second when, nearing the end of his mission and being the sole survivor of the four, he has become a ghost in the clutches of near insanity.  It’s a neat little reflection of what the audience feels during the film, how they’ve been tested by Friedkin’s all too realistic visuals.

And then there’s THAT punishingly tense sequence where the trucks have to drive over a breaking rope bridge which spans a river in flood, during a storm (see my avatar for a still from this scene).  Clouzot’s original was known for its equally tense traversing of a rotting wooden bridge hanging off the edge of a cliff.  In ‘Sorcerer’, though this scene appears, it’s almost an afterthought, with Friedkin saving all of his energy for the rope bridge.  This sequence, bizarrely homaged in The Simpsons Mr Plow episode, is jaw dropping, even now – no CGI, no stuntmen, very little in the way of health and safety.  No, Friedkin made his actors really drive the trucks over the bridge, which was really fitted with breaking wooden slats, with the trucks frequently achieving a forty five degree lean to one side.  All that was keeping the bridge from really breaking were two steel cables running either side.  Keeping the trucks on track was down to the drivers – Roy Scheider and Bruno Cremer.  As I keep saying, if people like absolutely nothing else about the film, this scene alone is hard to criticise for realism, execution, acting (not that they had to act too much with all the chaos around them) and sheer gumption.

I won’t go into the troubled history of its making (I would say see the entry in my Box Office Bombs thread for that, but it’s not there any more) and its subsequent rediscovery, because I’ve probably already bored most people reading this, if anyone is.  Instead I will simply urge everyone who hasn’t seen it to sit through it and experience it, even if you haven’t seen the original.

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 6/4/2011 12:11:50 PM   
great_badir


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Thoughts on Sorcerer.  Anyone?  Anyone??

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 6/4/2011 12:21:34 PM   
elab49


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I cannot read this just now, I'll end up plagiarising *replaces blindfold*

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ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 6/4/2011 12:23:04 PM   
great_badir


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quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

I cannot read this just now, I'll end up plagiarising *replaces blindfold*


How do you know I didn't copy and paste from an online dissertation website?!?!?!

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 19/4/2011 1:33:34 PM   
great_badir


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From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle
Two for the price of one…


 
Robocop, Paul Verhoeven (1987)

Multi-layered and intelligent Christ allegory-cum-vague homage to The Six Million Dollar Man disguised as gory futureshock B-movie sci-fi yarn and deathly black satire from the now defunct Orion Pictures, in which Peter Weller involuntarily loses a good deal of body mass and is rebuilt as a baby food eating (pedant’s note - except it’s not baby food, it just tastes like it and baby food is merely used latterly as an emergency replacement and shooting target) cyborg serving the public trust and protecting the innocent, whilst dodgy war loving big business/criminal organisation threatens to take control of Detroit’s law enforcement from its ivory towers with the help of unhinged bipedal giant robots called Ed.

As I’m sure is the case for many people of my age (early 30s), Robocop was one of the first 18 certificate films I ever saw, courtesy of a sensible film loving dad and the local video rental shop and its ever dwindling column of Betamax vids and the fantastic po-faced Simon Bates warnings ahead of the film (“this film has been given an 18 certificate which means it will contain strong language, extreme violence and scenes of a sexual nature”), at a time when the violent action spectacle was the order of the day – Die Hard, Rambo 3 and any 80s Arnie film you care to mention (most regularly rented – Commando, Predator and The Running Man).  The cover alone was enough to whet the appetite of any young teenage boy – there’s a robot getting out of a police car and underneath it says “THE FUTURE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT”.  Amazing.  When you’re that age, you watch Robocop and you see robots fighting each other, arms being blown off with a shotgun, poor Mr Kinney, a man being thrown from the back of a speeding van, cars being blown up with ridiculously large guns, a man being shot in the meat and veg, a poorly animated Ronny Cox with very long arms falling to his death after being fired, and what would happen to you if you drove into a vat of toxic waste.  It’s all a delicious orgy of extreme, silly violence – Tom & Jerry writ large with added buckets of bullets and blood.  But, as you get older, things change and Robocop takes on an altogether more interesting air of importance as your developing brain picks up on the stuff that’s going on in the background – this guy is tortured to death and is resurrected (hell, he even appears to walk on water), there are those brilliant satirical ads reflecting the general change in society, there’s much debate about human identity and what makes someone (or something) human, hefty political commentary on the potential dangers of “selling the family” silver, wealth, greed and power versus deprivation and urban decay.  And what would happen to you if you drove into a vat of toxic waste.  

Director Paul Verhoeven was (and still is) no stranger to controversy – his early Dutch films were a mix of high fore headed character driven Euro erotica and close-to-the-bone criticism of the state, dealing with all sorts of issues from the Dutch class system to WWII resistance factions and stuck-in-a-rut growing pains, not to mention homosexuality and physical violence.  With the benefit of hindsight and his subsequent catalogue, Verhoeven and Robocop are a perfect match but back then he was, perhaps, nevertheless an odd choice to head up a very American action film – Robocop was mainstream entertainment, more dumbed down violence for the Mary Whitehouses of this world to piss and moan about even though they hadn’t seen it or knew absolutely anything about it.  At least that’s how it seemed and, for a long time after its release, the film was known for being not much more than a good and very violent action film with mostly impressive special effects.  But Robocop wasn’t just that, writer Ed Neumeier (in a script Verhoeven initially discarded as Z-grade trash) made sure of it – interwoven with the main backbone of the story are themes coincidentally close to Verhoeven’s heart, and themes that he had already spent the previous decade exploring in his Dutch “human interest” stories.  It wasn’t until Criterion released the film on laserdisc in the mid 90s, complete with a fresh transfer, deleted scenes and commentary, that people really began to see Robocop for the clever piece of film making it really is – it actually IS a high fore headed human interest piece.  Just with arms being shot off and a man melting after driving a van into a vat of toxic waste.

Not that it’s all Verhoeven’s show, mind.  One of the most memorable things about Robocop is the special effects which were incredible back then – the character of Robocop escapes “man in a suit” syndrome thanks to Rob “Mr Enthusiastic” Bottin’s jaw dropping work on the suit which makes it look heavy and bullet proof, the model making (aaaahhh, models – thems were the days) and attention to detail is something to behold and it also contains the best stop-motion work since Ray Harryhausen.  Factor in some incredibly realistic scenes of suffering and, of course, the greatest melting man sequence in cinema history, and the film ticks all of the right boxes.  As does the casting – despite featuring not one single A-lister, everyone in the film fits their roles perfectly, with Weller particularly impressive as Murphy/Robocop fully embracing the tragic journey his character takes, diminutive and usually type-cast Nancy Allen as ass kicking Lewis, Dan O’Herlihy as the clueless but cool OCP boss, Miguel Ferrer as slimy good guy Bob Morton, Kurtwood Smith as shit kicking nut bar Clarence Boddicker, Felton Perry as comice relief Johnson and eternal nice guy Ronny Cox in an absolutely brilliant turn as total bastard Dick Jones.  Not forgetting Paul McCrane as poor old Emil, who drives a van into a vat of toxic waste.

So here we are in 2011, nearly twenty five years down the line, and Robocop’s political and social themes are surprisingly prescient in 21st century Britain – a strong and long established public service on the brink of forced melt down and an ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor, where the hard working man is out on the street fighting for at least minimum wage and the crooked businessman is laughing all the way to the bank.  Sound familiar?  For that is the basis of Robocop’s Detroit of the (near) future.  But let’s not dwell on the politics of Verhoeven’s second English language film because, as we know, Robocop is really all about a man suffering from the effects of driving into a vat of toxic waste.




Robocop 2, Irvin Kershner (1990)

Which brings us nicely onto Irvin Kershner’s much (and, in my view, unfairly) criticised ultra-violent follow-up Robocop 2, where a shiny new Murphy and partner Lewis are still pounding the streets, but this time they have to deal with police corruption and a new designer drug which has taken the city and many of its inhabitants (including kids) by storm.  The police are in an even worse and powerless state than before, whilst OCP is making even more money and has even wilder designs on its design for future law enforcement – the Robocop 2 project, which is the logical, and lethal, progression from ED-209. 

I love Robocop, but I also love Robocop 2, maybe even to an equal degree.  It’s arguably nastier and funnier than the original and it ramps up everything to 11 – the special effects, which were brilliant in the original, are even more impressive in the sequel, especially when watched now (and, frankly, they make most of today’s CGI offerings look dreadful), the human identity theme becomes even more of a focus (despite those that argue this element is almost completely lost in the sequel) and, in drug baron Cain (played by the ever freaky Tom Noonan), it features one of the great bastardly screen villains of all time.

Kershner’s sequel doesn’t quite pick up from where the original left off, but it continues with similar themes – political uprising, what it is to be human (again), big business still with its ugly paws all over the public system and a society where the only way to stop your car from being stolen is to install an intense high voltage “alarm”.  Yeah, okay, it’s WAY less subtle than the original, we are re-introduced to a slightly different Murphy than the one we became familiar with before and the whole path Hob’s sub-plot takes is incredibly unlikely.  But otherwise Robocop 2 is every bit as worthy.  One of Robocop 2’s triumphs, for me at least, is the genuine comedy on show – as opposed to the original’s sly and subtle satire, the sequel goes for a more obvious display.  Many are put off by that and think it jars sharply with the otherwise dark and grim story being told, but I think the two off-set each other nicely.  Peter Weller may have hated the whole thing (and was, by then, getting massively pissed off with sweating away up to five pounds every day), but there’s a certain comedy majesty when Robocop can’t even effectively stop a bunch of unruly kids beating the shit out of a shopkeeper and his store – Murphy becomes a veritable Captain Planet, firing out friendly advice to kids (“and now a word on nutrition”) rather than shooting first and asking questions later.  If nothing else, Robocop 2 scores for the moment a clearly perturbed Murphy says “I’m having…trouble” before walking himself over to a electric main and shocking his system to restart. 

So yeah – I like it.  A lot.

Having said all that, it doesn’t contain a man driving a van into a vat of toxic waste…

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 19/4/2011 3:02:52 PM   
elab49


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I think I'd probably give more credit to Robocop's reception as something of a satire - the TV inserts featured in quite a few reviews I'm pretty sure and that, and the corporate slamming, were pretty strong themes. And also extremely funny.

I quite liked the sequel but I don't think I've seen it since I got the first multi-pack set so it's a bit vague. Great reviews though. I thought betamax was pretty much a goner by this release - the video shop I worked in got rid of them all probably by early '87? But then, I saw Robocop at the cinema. Another one I saw two in the same day. Happy days

< Message edited by elab49 -- 20/4/2011 10:15:48 PM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 20/4/2011 10:13:27 PM   
great_badir


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So no one else has anything to say about Robocop and the fact I unashamedly announced my potential equal love for the sequel?

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 21/4/2011 8:38:22 AM   
Miles Messervy 007


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Love the fact that you reference toxic waste at the end of each paragraph The original is brilliant, first saw it only a year ago, and you cover everything I like about it in your review. Haven't seen the sequel, though.

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 21/4/2011 12:44:25 PM   
great_badir


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Give the sequel a go - it really isn't as bad as IMDB suggests.

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 21/4/2011 12:59:19 PM   
vad3r


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Your move, creep.


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ORIGINAL: horribleives
To paraphrase the great man himself:

Vad3r won't go anywhere near this.

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 21/4/2011 1:27:14 PM   
impqueen


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Not a massive fan of Robocop but it still has the honour of forming early childhood filmic memories for me, Murphy losing his hand and the melting death at the end were images burnt into my mind from about the age of nine.

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 26/4/2011 1:41:07 PM   
great_badir


Posts: 4662
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From: A breaking rope bridge in the middle of the jungle

quote:

ORIGINAL: impqueen

Not a massive fan of Robocop but it still has the honour of forming early childhood filmic memories for me, Murphy losing his hand and the melting death at the end were images burnt into my mind from about the age of nine.


I've always liked it, but I think I've liked it more as I've got older. I expect I'm appreciating the comedy aspect more and also the many subtleties of the story itself. But, like you, it formed a good part of my film buff blossoming, along with any number of 18 rated 80s action flicks, both good and bad - just thinking back to the time when, in the space of three days, I rented all four (as there were then) American Ninja films. Annoyingly I've still yet to see American Ninja 5

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RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 5/5/2011 6:08:46 PM   
great_badir


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Spoilers ahead...


Medium Cool, Haskell Wexler (1969)  

Superb vérité docu-drama made by one of the grumpiest and most cynical men in Hollywood.  Robert "no way am I the same in absolutely everything” Forster stars as John Cassellis a liberal, smart ass, womanising local Chicago TV news cameraman who loves his job and will hot foot it to whatever news story is going, as long as it's interesting and different – everything from a just-happened fatal car crash, a human interest story, political upheaval, civil rights and activism flies under his keen radar.  Paralelled with the increasing unease and violence hanging over America at the ass-end of the 60s (nearly all of which is featured or commented on in one way or another), is the film's own small human interest story, as Cassellis becomes enamoured with a struggling cowpoke widow and her young pigeon fancying son.  A human interest story which obviously ends in tragedy, whilst Chicago's 1968 political stew simmers over and the city collapses amidst (real) violence.  

'Medium Cool' is one of only two "proper” "fictional” (quotes used on purpose) feature films Haskell Wexler has made as director in his near 60 year technical career (the other is the little seen and very under rated 'Latino', which tracks the overthrowing of the Sandanista government in mid 80s Nicaragua).  Otherwise, Wexler is best known for two things:
1 -  being one of the hardest working and most highly praised cinematographers of all time;
2 - being an all round curmudgeon.  

Without wanting to denigrate his cinematographer/cameraman credentials (with a mightily impressive C.V. crossing several styles and genres, he was one of the first DP's and directors in Hollywood to apply guerrilla style techniques, normally reserved for documentarians and independents, to major mainstream releases, giving them a realistic and gritty edge previously unseen in big studio pictures), point 2 is far more important in this particular case.  Because, without point 2, 'Medium Cool' probably would not exist.  At least, if it did, it wouldn't be anything like what it is.  And what it is is an incredibly well crafted, measured, even handed and perfect time capsule of America during one of its most tumultuous periods of the 20th century.  Because Wexler was (and still is) a massive grump, 'Medium Cool' analyses and criticises everyone and everything – activists, the police, the military, politicians, students and even journalists have Wexler's very critical eye cast over them and none of them escape a bit of no-no finger wagging.  For example, in the opening scene we see Cassellis and his soundman stealing coverage of an early morning car accident that's just happened – the horn is stuck on and the bloodied corpse of its driver (a young woman) is laid out next to the car.  After a few minutes the two men drive away.  And only then do they call for an ambulance.  And Cassellis is supposed to be our "hero”.  The film then cuts to a busy drinks party and features several real and (then) well known journalists discussing the morality of what they do, their rights as journos and how important their job is – one woman (an actress given the lines in the script) accuses them of being intrusive and unnecessarily escalating the situations they might be covering, whilst one of the (unscripted) journalists defends himself by saying that in the middle of any major conflict he innocently becomes everyone else's enemy as, by default, they assume that he is sympathetic to and working with the opposing side, despite the fact that journalists by their very nature are unbiased.  And so all of the major events in 60s America are peppered throughout the film both objectively and in passing – the Vietnam war, Martin Luther King's famous speech and assassination, both Kennedy assassinations, the hippy movement, black power etc etc.  All are featured, but none have specific comments made about them – they influence another scene, or form a backdrop to something a character says.  These motifs repeat throughout the film – no side is taken in preference over the other – and constant questions of journalism ethics and social responsibility are posed to the audience.  Like, for example, if you happen upon two news stories in the same place, which one do you go for?  Do you plump for the "black man hands in $10000 he found left in his cab by a previous fare” story, or do you go with the opportunity to interview several black activists who have a lot to say and are prepared to be very candid about their struggle?  Of course, you go with the black man handing $10000 to the police – it's the late 60s and interviews with black activists talking about their struggles are ten a penny.  But who's heard of a black man handing in $10000?!?!?  Now THAT's news!  (Just to be clear, that's a cynical comment on 60s racial views).  Wexler punctuates all this tension and commentary by mixing real documentary and news footage (the 1968 national Democrat convention and associated National Guard riot training) with the fictional elements of the film, with the two often colliding in the same scene – the aforementioned drinks party with scripted actors talking to unscripted journos, black actors given the real words of black activists in a fictional environment and, with what the film is best known for, the final sequences which focus on the Democrat convention's initially legal and peaceful protests ending in a riot as an unprescedented 23000 armed National Guard and police officers (brought in by then Chicago Mayor Richard "Nice Guy” Daley) go up against 10000 protestors made up of all walks of society – men, women, children, black, white, asian.  What else was going to happen?  That's right – riots, weeks of unrest and a protest song by Graham Nash.  

Intercut with all this real drama is the kitchen sink story of Eileen (Verna Bloom) and her son Harold, respectively husbandless and fatherless thanks to the war in Vietnam.  Eileen is a Southern housewife of modest means and her son Harold has little in the way of company other than his mother and his pigeons – a simple life which Cassellis stumbles into after years of dating smart young modern women and living life in the professional fast lane, which itself is put to a stop when he's ousted from his news job after he discovers his work has been fed by the station to the FBI to inform them of any nefarious goings on.  Despite being a very small (in terms of screen time) part of the film, it is the film's heart and what ultimately makes it tragic as, just as Cassellis is beginning to settle in his private life, all hell breaks loose when Harold decides to go for an innocent wander round the city, without telling mom, to release one of his pigeons just as the innocent protest sparks off and things on the streets get nasty.  Cue Eileen, mistakenly of the belief that Harold has somehow got caught up in the ruckus and contacts Cassellis who is busy covering the convention in Chicago's Ampitheatre (much of the Convention footage shot by both Wexler and an in character Forster would be used in subsequent international newsreels), wandering through the real riot, trying to find her son.  Wexler notoriously purposely planned principal filming to happen during the convention protests as he, correctly, predicted that they would result in a riot.  And this is where the film's main meeting of fact and fiction takes place as Eileen, dressed in a simple bright yellow dress which makes her stand out in a sea of uniforms and pastels, takes us through the various stages of the riot from the initial sit in, through howls of "the world is watching” as international news cameras cover the goings on, to the first tear gas canister being used, right up to first blood as a young man's head wounds are tended to.  It's during these scenes that we hear the film's most famous line "look out Haskell, it's real!” (actually dubbed over in post production) and where the fact/fiction meld blurs even more.   

Partnering up with the real tragedies on display is the completely grim end to the Eileen/Harold/Cassellis story – Harold returns home unharmed, oblivious to the craziness going on just a few blocks away, to find the place empty and himself locked out.  We cut to a panicking Eileen and Cassellis in Cassellis' car, trying to find Harold.  Something in the car goes wrong and they crash, mirroring the fatal crash that opens the film.  The camera draws back over the wreck, up to a scaffold and turns – we see Wexler, behind another camera, filming the scene.  He then turns the camera towards the screen – the audience – making us question the ethical points raised in the film.  After all, we've just watched a real and fictional tragedy take place, but we're watching it for our own entertainment.   'Medium Cool' was originally released to (heh) lukewarm reviews – Roger Ebert famously wrote about his admiration for what the film was trying to say and its technical brilliance, but ultimately felt it was lost amongst a redundant tacked on sub-plot.  Many critics accused it of being pretentious and over reaching but, when compared with pretty much any late 60s counter-culture film you care to mention, it's anything but.  Apart from one brief montage of hippies at a concert (used, along with a soundtrack of music by Love and The Mothers of Invention compiled by Wexler's cousin Mike Bloomfield, to highlight the opposing sides of the political coin), the film is very conservative and straight down the line.  There's no fight-the-system anger of 'Easy Rider', no trippy and far out themes as seen in 'The Trip', none of the  embarrassing and immediately dated psychedelia covered in 'Psych Out' and none of the clever-dickery going on throughout pretty much all of 'Zabriskie Point'.  One of the best things about the film is the audio which runs over the credits, made up of real on-the-scene-and-as-it-happened recordings during the riot of journalist observations and interviews with members of the public on the ground.  One interview, with an elderly conservative man, sums up the film and, arguably, that moment of time, perfectly – "I came down here to tell these kids to stop being idiots and to stop protesting…but it turns out the kids were right – I got gassed by the cops.  So go on kids!”

< Message edited by great_badir -- 5/5/2011 6:10:13 PM >


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Post #: 389
RE: Great Badir's Favourite Films - 6/5/2011 1:47:21 AM   
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Posts: 606
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Napa, CA
Well I've not seen 'Sorcerer', in fact I had noticed the pic in your av on various occasions and wondered where it was from - now I know. Obviously not seeing the film precludes me from having an opinion but I just wanted to say I loved the review you gave it. From you seeking out a copy to finally watching it, it was a really interesting and insightful read. Great job! Now I need to do myself a favor and track it down. 

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