And the theme for October's Marco Movie Night is...

Friday October 28th at my place
7:30 - 8:00 -- 30 minutes of trailers, interviews, film clips, parodies, etc. inspired by tonight's film selections.
8:00 - 9:45 -- Jacob's Ladder (1990) / Dir: Adrian Lyne 

I've been busy of late so pardon the lateness of the invite. This month's film selection is 1990's underrated (in my opinion) psychological horror film Jacob's Ladder. With the back to back successes of Flash Dance, 9 1/2 Weeks and Fatal Attraction director Lyne shot to the top of the Hollywood A-list and proved himself to be the leading purveyor of high profile erotica for the mass market sugared over with glossy production values and big name stars. Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin had  just inexplicably won the Oscar for Ghost, another high concept thriller wrapped around a much publicized sex scene. Either man probably had his pick of projects but they chose Jacob's Ladder; a disturbing genre exercise that was a refreshing break from the trend of slasher films loaded with lithe, disposable teen flesh.

Instead, they focused on the travails of Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins), a quiet postal worker with very real, adult problems. Jacob served in Viet Nam and returned with combat injuries and a case of post traumatic stress. The tragic death of his only child spurs the disintegration of Jacob's marriage and, quite possibly, his mind. With the help of his new girlfriend (Elizabeth Peña) and a kindly chiropractor (Danny Aiello) Jacob begins to put his past behind him and start a new life. That is, until he begins to flashback to the horrors of the war and begins witnessing grotesque, demonic figures.

Audiences expecting the illicit thrills of Lyne's prior work or the feel-good supernatural romance of Ghost were  disappointed. While it wasn't a dismal failure at the box office the film split audiences and critics alike and neither Lyne nor Rubin ever ventured again into such disturbing material. Returning to the leering sexuality of his previous films, Lyne's next feature was the critically panned box office hit Indecent Proposal and his less successful adaptation of Lolita. Rubin's later scripts would occasionally feature supernatural or fantastical elements but nothing remotely as dark and graphic as Jacob's Ladder. To my mind, Jacob's Ladder is the peak of both men's career and is a well-crafted chiller that continues to resonate and influence the genre.


And the theme for September's Marco Movie Night is...

Friday September 30th at my place
7:30 - 8:00 -- 30 minutes of trailers, interviews, film clips, parodies, etc. inspired by tonight's film selections.
8:00 - 9;30 -- Repo Man (1984) / Dir: Alex Cox  

Which 80's comedy has the most quotable lines, the best soundtrack and stars Emilio Estevez? If you answered The Breakfast Club, you're wrong.

"You like music? Listen to this. I was into these dudes before anybody. They asked me to be the manager. I called bullshit on that. Managing a pop group is no job for a man."

The correct answer is 1984's Repo Man; not to be confused with Repo! The Genetic Opera (the sci-fi musical about organ repossession) or Repo Men (the sci-fi movie about organ repossession that has neither musical numbers nor an exclamation point in its title). Repo Man is a grubby postcard from the seediest corners of LA, a brief snapshot of California's emerging punk scene and a firmly extended middle finger to the conformist, consumer society of the Reagan era; courtesy of British born writer/director Alex Cox and beautifully lensed by renowned director of photography Robby Müller (The American Friend, Paris Texas, Mystery Train)

Estevez plays Otto Maddox, a bored suburban punk with no prospects and no future who falls into the intense and ethically dubious world of automobile repossession. When a $20,000 bounty is placed on a '64 Chevy Malibu every repo man in town goes on the alert. Will Otto and his mentor Bud (a spectacularly tweaked Harry Dean Stanton) find it before their rivals do? Did the Mayans invent television? Who is the strange man driving the Malibu and why are the Feds so eager to find him? Are aliens real? Was John Wayne gay? What's that glowing light coming from the Malibu's trunk and why does it incinerate everyone who looks at it? ("It happens. Sometimes people just explode.")

  "An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting INTO tense situations. Let's go get a drink.""An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting INTO tense situations. Let's go get a drink.""An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting INTO tense situations. Let's go get a drink.""An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting INTO tense situations. Let's go get a drink.""An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting INTO tense situations. Let's go get a drink."
S"An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting INTO tense situations. Let's go get a drink."
   "Ordinary people. I hate 'em. An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting INTO tense situations. Let's go get a drink."

  The compilation soundtrack is now considered a classic in its own right and serves as a primer for anyone interested in the early West Coast punk scene. Like the music that inspired it, Repo Man relies more on energy and attitude than coherence but with its absurd running gags, eccentric performances and memorable lines, oddball conspiracy theories, sly satire and surreal sci-fi plot elements it truly has earned its status as a classic cult film. As always, it's BYOB but snacks will be provided so if you want to "eat sushi and not pay" or "suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp" then you're in luck.


And the theme for August's Marco Movie Night is...

"Cool Movie"
Friday August 26th at my place

7:30 - 8:00 -- 30 minutes of trailers, interviews, film clips, parodies, etc. inspired by tonight's film selections.
8:00 - 9:30 -- The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988) / Dir: Vincent Ward

It's hot. Damned hot. What better way to cool off than by watching a movie with a bleak, wintry setting? Ok, how about watching a movie with a bleak, wintry setting while munching on cold cuts, gelato and cold beer? I'll admit, 'cool movie' isn't much of a theme but I really don't need much of a reason to pick Vincent Ward's rarely screened The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (not to be confused with this or this or even this - the movies most people think I'm talking about when I mention The Navigator.)

The film opens during a hard medieval winter; it is the 14th Century and the Black Plague is spreading death across Europe. Thanks to their remote location the members of a rural mining community have been spared, so far, but the fear of the plague is on everyone's mind and it seems only a matter of time before it arrives. Griffin, a young boy prone to visions, believes he knows how to stop the plague from entering the village. He and a handful of adults, most of whom have never stepped outside of the village, must embark on a pilgrimage. They must take a load of copper to the city where it can be melted down and cast into a spire. This offering, once placed atop the cathedral will appease God who will then spare the village. But first, they must dig through the mountain to reach the city on the other side of the earth.
Eventually, we go from this...

To this...

Oh, did I mention this was a time travel movie? Not only do the pilgrims travel through time they also travel to the other side of the world - New Zealand, to be exact. I don't want to spoil this unique film's many pleasures and (not always pleasant) surprises but I will say that director Ward does a great job handling the tonal shifts that come with such a fantastical premise. Knowing nothing of the world outside their village, the pilgrims simply accept that the wonders and terrors they encounter are typical of any large, sinful city; as far as they know, 20th century Auckland is a medieval city. While the film indulges in a few moments of 'fish out of water' humor it never condescends to its characters who remain grimly resolute in the pursuit of their goals. Indeed, the characters could have wandered in from a film by Tarkovsky or Bergman; had either chosen to work in a more crowd-pleasing mode. I'm not suggesting that The Navigator is a demanding epic-length meditation. It's a swift, entertaining work; but it isn't the medieval Crocodile Dundee by way of Back to the Future my brief synopsis might suggest.

A word about the transfer; good quality prints are hard to come by. The only high quality DVD transfer available appears to be on a very expensive, now out of print import. Having seen the film screened theatrically twice (in 1988 and in 1992) and having owned it on VHS I can attest to the brilliance of its B&W and color cinematography. Unfortunately, the low res, non-anamorphic copy I currently have leaves a lot to be desired; nevertheless, the film is still watchable and the beauty of its surreal imagery still shines through.

And the Theme for July's Marco Movie Night is...

Sequels That Don't Suck: or Sanjuro - A Kinder, Gentler Yojimbo
Friday July 29th at Chez Noyola

7:30 - 8:00 -- 30 minutes of trailers, interviews, film clips, parodies, etc. inspired by tonight's film selections.
8:00 - 9:30 -- Sanjuro (1962) /  Dir: Akira Kurosawa
9:30 - 10:00 -- Excerpt on the making of Sanjuro from "Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create"

Wow, has it really been three months since my last movie night? After another lengthy hiatus I'm ready to host another one. I don't normally pick sequels but everyone seemed to enjoy June 2010's movie night entry Yojimbo and the follow-up film Sanjuro, while different in tone, is a worthy companion piece. Better yet, Sanjuro works perfectly well as a stand-alone film and doesn't require any familiarity with the original at all. As usual, it's BYOB but sake and snacks will be provided.

"You tired of being stupid yet?" - Sanjuro

With 1961's Yojimbo (The Bodyguard) writer/director Akira Kurosawa upended the conventions of the samurai film with his blackly comic tale of a scruffy ronin who travels under the alias of Sanjuro.  With its compelling "man with no name" anti-hero, impressive action scenes and an anachronistic jazz-influenced soundtrack, Yojimbo struck a chord with audiences around the world and broke box office records in Japan. It's no surprise then that the studio clamored for a sequel.

Kurosawa agreed to direct the follow-up but he wasn’t about to repeat himself. While Yojimbo drew equally from Hollywood westerns and the hard-boiled detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett, Sanjuro ditches the showdowns on dusty streets and film noir trappings in favor of well appointed country estates and sunlit pleasure gardens. In Yojimbo, Sanjuro wipes out a town full of gangsters not for justice but for his own profit and amusement. In the sequel, he agrees to aid a group of inexperienced samurai in a noble cause. Along the way, Sanjuro must expose the true source of corruption in the province, rescue the family of a kidnapped chamberlain and keep his bumbling comrades from getting themselves killed while trying to appease the chamberlain's wife who insists that he try not to kill so much. One part action adventure and one part comedy of manners, Sanjuro is that rare sequel that is as good or better than the original.

And the Theme for March's Marco Movie Night is....

Hitchcock: The Master of Suspense
Friday March 25th at Chez Noyola

7:00 - 7:30 -- 30 minutes of trailers, interviews, film clips, parodies, etc. inspired by tonight's film selections.
7:30 - 10:00 -- North By Northwest (1959) /  Dir: Alfred Hitchcock
10:00 - 11:00 -- Documentary: "The Master's Touch: Hitchcock's Signature Style"

“You know, we’re not making a movie. We’re constructing an organ…the kind of organ that you see in the theatre. And we press this chord and now the audience laughs, we press that chord and they gasp, and we press these notes and they chuckle.” –  Alfred Hitchcock to North By Northwest screenwriter Ernest Lehman.

There was never any question that an Alfred Hitchcock picture would show up on one of my movie nights. The only question was which Hitchcock picture to choose? With a career spanning six decades, Hitchcock left behind a staggering body of work that kept pace with (and often led) the evolution of cinema.

Ultimately, I chose the classic North By Northwest for two reasons: firstly, it is one of the few Hitchcock films available on Blu-Ray and films originally shot in the high resolution VistaVision process make for dazzling high-def transfers. Secondly, while it is one of Hitchcock's lightest films it serves as a great introduction for anyone not familiar with his work. Together, Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman strove to make the "Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures". As a result, North By Northwest is practically a compendium of many of the director's trademark themes and motifs albeit largely played for comedic value. Hitchcock frequently had his tongue planted firmly in his chubby cheek and rarely more so than in this influential, cross country adventure.

Like most of Hitchcock's greatest thrillers, North By Northwest features a man wrongfully accused who is pursued by the authorities and the bad guys alike, a mysterious "cool blond" love interest, a suave villain, a domineering mother, imaginative action set pieces in memorable locations, state of the art special effects (for the time), witty repartee, sexual innuendo, skillful editing, a climactic showdown on top of a national monument and the most nebulous of Hitchcock's MacGuffins (a MacGuffin was Hitchcock's term for the plot element that moves the story forward and which all parties are after but which was actually of little interest). North By Northwest also reunited Hitchcock with some of his frequent collaborators who turn in some of the best work of their careers; most notably Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill, the callow advertising executive whose life is turned upside down when he is wrongly mistaken for a spy, a rousing score from Bernard Herrmann and impeccably designed titles by the great Saul Bass.

North By Northwest was a major hit for Hitchcock and it's astounding that right before it he had already made Vertigo, The Wrong Man, his remake of his own film The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Trouble with Harry, To Catch a Thief, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, I Confess and Strangers on a Train not to mention hosting and occasionally directing for the weekly series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and that's only covering the 1950s! There are still the Hollywood films he made in the 1940s (such as the Oscar winning Rebecca, Foreign Correspondent, Suspicion, Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Lifeboat, Notorious and Rope, to name a few) and the films he made in Britain from the 1930s back to the silent era (most notably The Lady Vanishes, The 39 Steps, Murder!, Blackmail (Britain's first sound picture), the first version of The Man Who Knew Too Much and the silent film The Lodger - often cited as the first true Hitchcock picture).

Hitchcock would enter the 1960s with the back to back hits Psycho and The Birds. Afterward, he continued to produce and direct until the late 1970s. While the work was of lesser quality it was almost always interesting and often contained moments of brilliance. While often dismissed as a director of popular entertainments Hitchcock enjoyed a resurgence of critical respect in the 1960s as a new generation of budding filmmakers and critics would champion him as an exemplar of the auteur theory. Today,  he is widely recognized as one of the most important filmmakers of all time and there are few thrillers or horror films that don't borrow at least some traces of his influence. North By Northwest alone has become the template for many spy stories and action thrillers including the Bond films, the Indiana Jones films, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." TV series and even the period drama "Mad Men" whose protagonists share Roger Thornhill's career and proclivities, not to mention his love for finely tailored suits. Finally, North By Northwest is fun. While it isn't the most suspenseful or thematically rich film of Hitchcock's career, for pure entertainment value it's hard to beat. As Hitchcock was fond of saying, "Some films are slices of life. Mine are slices of cake."

And the Theme for February's Marco Movie Night is....

Friday February 25th at Chez Noyola
7:00 - 7:30 -- 30 minutes of trailers, interviews, film clips, parodies, etc. inspired by tonight's film selections.
7:30 - 9:45 -- Le Trou (1960) /  Dir: Jacques Becker

Marco Movie Night has been on hiatus for a while but after serving three months of hard time, I've been released on good(ish) behavior. In honor of the event, I'm resurrecting my monthly movie night with one of the best prison break films ever made: Jacques Becker's Le Trou (The Hole).

Inspired by an actual prison break, Le Trou details the escape plan of five convicts, each facing long sentences and possibly even the guillotine (France's official method of execution up until 1981!) Determined to make the film as realistic as possible, Becker chose non-professional actors for his leads, including one of the actual participants from the real prison break. Eschewing a musical score and frequently utilizing long takes, Becker generates a high level of suspense while retaining an almost documentary level of realism. Step by painstaking step, his observant camera records the prisoners' resourcefulness, ingenuity and patience; a testament to the lengths men will go in order to regain their freedom.

Originally released in America as The Nightwatch, Le Trou was one of Becker's few films to be screened outside of his native France. Unfortunately, he died shortly after completing Le Trou and never got to enjoy the film's critical reception abroad. Thanks to art house retrospectives and Criterion DVD Becker's work is finally becoming better known and now, over five decades later, Le Trou is recognized as a masterpiece.

I will provide snacks but you are welcome to bring your liquid party favor of choice. Regular attendees of Marco Movie Night know that I usually try to have some kind of themed food and/or beverage. While a batch of prison pruno would be an appropriate choice for this month's entry I've opted for freshly made piña coladas instead. After all, what pairs better with a grim, French, prison thriller than a frosty, tropical flavored beverage?

In 1979, one-hit wonder Rupert Holmes unleashed "Escape" better known as "The Piña Colada Song" on an unsuspecting public. It's an infectious pop ditty that worms its way into your brain until you want to ram chop sticks into your eardrums. For those of you who have never heard the song or never bothered to listen to its insipid lyrics allow me to recap it for you: the narrator complains about how he and his "old lady have fallen into the same old dull routine". As his wife sleeps (clearly tired from a long, passionless day devoid of meaningful contact or piña coladas) the narrator reads the newspaper and spots a personals ad that intrigues him:

Woman seeks Man (Marital Status Unimportant)
Turn ons: Pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, making love at midnight on the dunes of the cape.
Turn offs: Health food, guys with less than half a brain, faithful husbands.

Without giving his wife a second thought (which, the narrator concedes, "sounds kind of mean.") he replies to the ad and insists that:

I've got to meet you by tomorrow noon (which doesn't sound pushy or creepy at all)
And cut through all this red-tape (apparently there are all sorts of forms you have to fill out before committing adultery)
At a bar called O'Malley's where we'll plan our escape. 

He arranges the rendezvous only to find out, in an O'Henryesque twist, that his date is none other than his own wife!  Seriously, "The Piña Colada Song" is like Gift of the Magi for adulterers. As it turns out, she's as fed up with their marriage as he is. You might think such a scenario would lead to counseling, a messy divorce, possibly even a guest slot on the Jerry Springer show but you'd be wrong. Instead, both spouses laugh it off and the marriage is saved when they realize they share a heretofore unknown fondness for tropical mixed drinks, sex in public places and a mutual desire to cheat on one another. Clearly this is a healthy relationship destined to last - they might even make it to last call.


And the Theme for October's Marco Movie Night is....

Marco Movie Night of the Living Dead
Friday October 29th at Chez Noyola
7:00 - 7:30 -- 30 minutes of trailers, interviews, film clips, parodies, etc. inspired by tonight's film selections.
7:30 - 9:30 -- Dead and Buried (1981) /  Dir: Gary Sherman
9:30 - 10:00 -- DVD behind the scenes footage

Dead and Buried
failed to make much of an impression upon its initial release but this under-appreciated chiller about reanimated corpses got a second life, as it were, on home video. Over the years Dead and Buried has built up a small following (as has director Sherman's debut film Death Line AKA Raw Meat). Like a good mortician, the cult film afficionados at Blue Underground have cleaned up the corpse, dressed it up with some tasteful special features and made it presentable for viewing. They even invited many of the original cast and crew to show up and say a few kind words of remembrance.

With Halloween around the corner it's only fitting that this month's film selection is a horror film.  Dead and Buried takes place in Potter's Bluff, a sleepy New England town with a scenic coastline, a quaint downtown and friendly locals who could have stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Of course, if you've ever read anything by H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King you know to stay the hell away from such towns which invariably play host to all kinds of horrors. Potter's Bluff might be a nice place to live but it's a terrible place to die as many visitors find out. It's up to the local sheriff to figure out what's going on but when recently buried victims are seen walking around town it's almost more than he can bear. 

Although Dead and Buried was originally conceived as a black comedy director Gary Sherman was ordered to tone down the humor and forced to insert additional scenes of gore. While Sherman's original vision was compromised the end result is still entertaining and strikes a good balance between gothic atmosphere, visceral scares and gallows humor. Sherman is greatly aided by script doctoring courtesy of producer Ronald Shussett (Alien) and Dan O'Bannon (Alien, Return of the Living Dead), moody cinematography by Steven Poster (Donnie Darko) and some top notch make-up effects by the legendary Stan Winston (Terminator, Aliens, Predator, Jurassic Park, etc.).

Despite its tonal shifts Dead and Buried still delivers the horror goods but never takes itself too seriously. Released at a time when most horror films had fallen into the grueling "masked-killer-stalks-teens" slasher formula Dead and Buried stood apart by featuring adults in the leads rather than the usual cast of expendable, scantily clad coeds. Instead, Sherman and company have crafted a fun supernatural detective story that would have been at home in the pages of Weird Tales or EC Comics and features a twist ending that would have made Rod Serling proud.

And the Theme for September's Marco Movie Night is....

East Meets Western Vol 2: Spaghetti Asian Noodle Westerns
Friday September 24th at Chez Noyola
7:00 - 7:30 -- 30 minutes of trailers, interviews, film clips, parodies, etc. inspired by tonight's film selections.
7:30 - 9:45 -- The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008) /  Dir: Ji-woon Kim
9:45 - 10:15 -- DVD behind the scenes footage

Fast, furious and over the top western set in 1930's Manchuria which owes as much to Indiana Jones and Mad Max as it does Sergio Leone's classic western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Short on plot but long on thrills it packs more entertainment value and imaginative action set pieces than any dozen Hollywood summer blockbusters. I guarantee you that The Good, The Bad, The Weird is the best South Korean western you've ever seen.

It’s a well known fact that Sergio Leone's classic western A Fistful of Dollars is a blatant rip-off of Akira Kurosawa's equally classic samurai film Yojimbo (a previous Marco Movie Night entry). Also well known is the fact that Kurosawa's samurai films were deeply indebted to the Westerns of John Ford (and, in the case of Yojimbo, Dashiell Hammett's pulp thriller "Red Harvest"). A Fistful of Dollars established the subgenre that would become affectionately known as Spaghetti Westerns; films set in the American Old West but typically shot in Spain with Italian crews and a melting pot of actors and investors from across Europe. A Fistful of Dollars was a huge success for Leone and made Clint Eastwood a major star. Together they would make two more Spaghetti Westerns culminating in the epic masterpiece The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. While the Spaghetti Westerns subverted the conventions of the classic Hollywood Western by filtering them through a darker European sensibility these violent tales of morally ambiguous characters were greatly influenced by Yojimbo's cynical and opportunistic protagonist; a samurai without a master, an anti-hero whose independent streak and rugged individualism owes no small part to the mythical cowboy image propagated by Hollywood Westerns.

Like a snake devouring its own tail it seemed inevitable that Asian filmmakers would bring things full circle by making their own ersatz westerns. Unlike the Spaghetti Westerns, these Eastern flavored westerns (perhaps we should call them Noodle Westerns?) are clearly set in their countries of origin and no one in the cast pretends to be anything other than Asians. Instead, the familiar western trademarks appear as intentional anachronisms and the results have been amusingly post-modern and aggressively experimental such as the deliberately stage-bound artifice of Thailand's dream-like Tears of the Black Tiger or Japan's surreal Sukiyaki Western Django.
The Good, The Bad, The Weird (henceforth GBW) from South Korean writer and director Kim Ji-woon is easily the most accessible of the current Noodle Westerns. GBW benefits from a time and setting that actually makes its western trappings seem somewhat plausible: 1930's Manchuria, a hostile desert full of mountain ranges, horse riders and a railroad that just begs for a spectacular train robbery which Kim and company promptly deliver on. Aboard the train is a delegation of Japanese officials carrying a treasure map to an ancient Qing fortune that could give the Japanese the advantage they need to win the Sino-Japanese War. Lying in wait is the vicious bandit and assassin "The Bad" (Lee Byung-hun) whose mission is to steal the map for a rival concern. Unbeknown to The Bad the bumbling but resourceful thief "The Weird" (Song Kang-ho) has already boarded the train and robbed the Japanese officials. Meanwhile, the virtuous bounty hunter "The Good" (Jung Woo-sung) shows up with the intention of capturing The Bad and The Weird and claiming the bounties on both their heads.

The Weird, not realizing the map's true worth, finds himself pursued by both The Good and The Bad as well as thieves, Chinese bandits, opium dealers and the Japanese Imperial Army. GBW like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly features a trio of ruthless characters hot on the trail of a buried treasure during the midst of a war; both films feature black humor, memorably staged gunfights and end in a three way duel. While director/co-writer Kim borrows Leone's central premise and shares some of Leone's love of expansive vistas and extreme close-ups that’s where the similarities end. Despite its obvious debt to Leone GBW owes more to the early whiz-bang ingenuity of such wunderkinds as Spielberg, Lucas and Jackson and the gearhead kineticism of George Miller. Every cowboy knows that if you plan to ride fast and hard you need to pack your saddlebags light and director Kim makes sure to bring along only as much character development and plot coherence as are needed to reach the end of the journey. Less important things like political subtext, social commentary not to mention basic laws of physics would only slow him down but chances are you'll be having too much fun to notice they're missing.

And the Theme for August's Marco Movie Night is....

Grrrls on Film
Friday August 27th at Chez Noyola

7:00 - 7:30 -- 30 minutes of trailers, interviews, film clips, parodies, etc. inspired by tonight's film selections.
7:30 - 9:30 -- I Shot Andy Warhol (1996)  /  Dir: Mary Harron
9:30 - 10:30 -- Excerpt from Ric Burns 2006 film Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film

"Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex."
- From the opening of The SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto by Valerie Solanas

Valerie Solanis waved her gun pointing at the floor
From inside her idiot madness spoke and bang Andy fell onto the floor
I believe life's serious enough for retribution
I believe being sick is no excuse and I believe I would've pulled the switch on her myself.

- "I Believe" by Lou Reed and John Cale from the album Songs for Drella

"In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes."
- Andy Warhol

On the afternoon of June 3rd, 1968 frustrated writer Valerie Solanas walked into the office of artist Andy Warhol and shot him along with Mario Amaya, a visiting art critic. She then turned the gun on Fred Hughes, one of Warhol's employees and was about to execute him when the gun jammed. At that moment, the elevator arrived and thinking quickly Hughes ordered the distracted Solanas to take the elevator and leave. She left behind a scene of bloody chaos and strode toward her own 15 minutes of fame when, a few hours later, she approached a rookie traffic cop and turned herself in. “The police are looking for me and want me,” she said then handed over her gun. “I shot Andy Warhol,” she explained. “He had too much control of my life”. Later, when asked by reporters why she had shot the famous artist she said "I have lots of reasons. Read my manifesto and it will tell you who I am."

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Riveting Thriller - HIGH AND LOW

HIGH AND LOW is considered one of master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's minor works - which of course means it's still better than most other movies.

Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune) is a self made man; a slum kid who worked up the corporate ladder to become a wealthy executive. Now he lives in a fortress of glass and steel high above the slums he came from. As the story begins, we learn that Gondo has secretly borrowed against everything he owns so that he can take control of the company himself. But before he can hatch his business plan, his only son is kidnapped and held for ransom, forcing Gondo to pay up and risk everything he has worked for. And no sooner has he made this decision that his son is discovered on the premises - turns out the kidnapper grabbed the chauffeur's son by mistake! Now Gondo must decide: to lose his fortune by paying the ransom or to lose his soul by letting a poor man’s son die?

This ‘either/or’ duality informs every aspect of Kurosawa's High and Low, a.k.a. Heaven and Hell (the film’s original Japanese title). These themes are reinforced visually by the recurring image of Gondo’s sleek, modernist home perched high above the dirty, ramshackle slum. He can look down into the slum but Gondo learns too late that resentful eyes are looking back up at him. The binary motif of the film is also reflected in its unusual two act structure: The first act unfolds almost entirely within Gondo's living room and at times feels like a stage play. The effect is claustrophobic and establishes that Gondo is completely cut off from his old life; the windows block the noise and stench of the outside world and the air conditioning keeps him cool as those below suffer in the sweltering heat. One could almost say that Gondo no longer breathes the same air as other people.

If the first act is a confined domestic drama (with a dash of corporate intrigue thrown in) then the second act is a sprawling police procedural, as Kurosawa shifts the focus away from Gondo and follows the police as they hunt the kidnapper. Their search takes them from Yokohama’s busy train system, through its slums and into the bars and drug dens where the city's most desperate and vulnerable gather. The detectives meticulously piece together the clues until a portrait of the kidnapper begins to emerge. By the time Gondo meets the kidnapper face to face Kurosawa has created an indelible dual portrait. Kurosawa doesn’t ask us to condone or forgive the kidnapper; merely to try to understand why he did what he did. As in his earlier film Stray Dog, Kurosawa explores the terrifying ways that fate can propel two similar people down two wildly different paths.

Check out this and other film related posts at Isle of Cinema.