June 29

Fellini: I'm a Born Liar (2002, d. Damian Pettigrew)

Terence Stamp remembers Fellini: “Big black guy.”

BloodRayne (2005, d. Uwe Boll)

Tonight I found a new appreciation for Uwe Boll. My first experience with his work was seeing Alone in the Dark when it first premiered and reviewing it for my school’s paper. I didn’t understand it at the time, because I was around 20 and I still believed in qualitative gauges in cinema, but even if I didn’t, I couldn’t understand it as a thing that had any kind of cultural value. It seemed to me the epitome of shitty capitalist objects, the film equivalent of an airport giftshop trinket but nowhere near as interesting aesthetically and morally as that parallel suggests. Then I heard about the self-reflexivity of Postal and I didn’t know what to make of him, but still I thought, perhaps he’s like Von Trier but not as good a filmmaker, a Puck who lets it slip occasionally that he’s conscious of the trick, a genius who feigns idiocy as a kind of performance art, who creates objects for your adoration that snicker at you behind your back. But I was pleasantly surprised by BloodRayne, not because it’s a ‘good’ movie but because it has all of these elements, borrowed from its contemporary fantasies, that makes it not all that different from them – an unpretentious Lord of the Rings, of sorts, and a special entry in the Grand Guignol tradition. A brief viewing of excerpts from House of the Dead confirmed my immediate dislike of it for its bloated CGI-laden heavy-handed battles, its frat-pleasing but unimpressive monsters, its annihilation of traditional narrative conventions in favor of game narrative, all for an audience of backseat gamers. But in BloodRayne, the battle scenes are these choreographed celebrations of severances and guttings and sudden, Sanjuro-esque bursts of blood. They aren’t things of beauty, but they are so unlike the dominant violence of contemporary cinema as to make the film unique.

Some would ignore or attack Boll’s films for their apparent capitalist anti-intellectual anti-cinematic values, or for their maker’s very public arrogance, and I felt that way when I first saw Alone in the Dark, a film that I still believe is among the most insipid I’ve ever seen. But I believe in being generous toward critical underdogs and even if there is less here than meets the eye, I fail to see how his work, or anyone’s, can be classified as ‘bad’ or ‘worst,’ when so much of what gets praise in entertainment is intolerable and patronizing.

June 28

Dark Bar (1988, d. Stelio Fiorenza)

The House of the Yellow Carpet (1983, d. Carlo Lizzani)

June 26

Wild Side (1995, d. Donald Cammell)

Phenomena (1985, d. Dario Argento)

Shortcut to Happiness (2002/2007, d. Alec Baldwin)

June 25

Edge of Doom (1950, d. Mark Robson)

June 24

Child's Play (1972, d. Sidney Lumet)

Too Beautiful to Die (1988, d. Dario Piana)

The Sect (1991, d. Michele Soavi)

Another intensely beautiful film by Michele Soavi. I could easily devote an entire image post to this film, which does not enjoy the critical reputation that The Church and Dellamorte Dellamore do but which like them represents Soavi’s distinct reinvention of Italian horror cinema, equal parts intellectual and stylistic, diverging from Argento’s style-over-substance supernatural films. The Sect is his Rosemary’s Baby – a fantasy about satanists terrorizing and impregnating a schoolteacher. Some material is more repellent than his prior films, like the ludicrous prologue that ties the story to an era of hippie death cults, but its moments of ethereal beauty equal or exceed the expectations set by The Church.

I never thought I’d say that about a film in which a woman is raped by a stork.

June 23

Nothing Underneath (1985, d. Carlo Vanzina)

June 22

Phantom of Death (1988, d. Ruggero Deodato)

Muddled paint-by-numbers of The Fly, falsely tied to Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera with which it shares very little. A celebrated pianist (Michael York) is diagnosed with Progeria and goes on a killing spree. He torments the investigating detective (Donald Pleasence) and befriends a dog while plotting the death of a woman carrying his child. Far from Deodato’s best – that is, Cannibal Holocaust, Cut and Run, The House on the Edge of the Park. Those films had teeth.