422 posts categorized "Video Essay"

October 30, 2023

BLUE VELVET — SHOCKTOBER!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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THE BLOOD OF DRACULA

ColeSmithey.comIn 1986 David Lynch broke the language of cinema wide open in the same way that Jackson Pollock did with the art world in the early '40s.

Using a minimalist filmic palate for a neo-noir set in small town America, Lynch blends surrealist elements into a suspenseful story of adult sexual awakening (vis a vis BDSM) juxtaposed against violence, mystery, and mental illness.

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Using iconographic character names drawn from '50s Americana iconography (see Frank, Sandy and Ben), and a moody musical score to match, Lynch presents returning hometown boy Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan).

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After his father suffers a heart attack while watering the family lawn, Jeffrey unearths a severed ear in a field that he crossed thousands of times in his youth. Unspeakable acts are being carried even in America's most seemingly provincial towns. Every city has its "bad side of town."

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Our curious protagonist finds a willing ally for his impromptu private investigation into the mystery of the ear's owner in the local police detective's romantically inclined daughter Sandy (Laura Dern). On the surface, Sandy seems like natural girlfriend material for Jeffrey, but this guy has a taste for the exotic (if incestuous) that vanilla Sandy can't fulfill. 

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However, Jeffrey is unprepared for the psychological and emotional upheaval that will devour him when he stalks the fetishized life of Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), a sultry nightclub singer used to playing rough with a very debauched criminal named Frank (Dennis Hopper). The bi-polar Dorothy has a nasty little taste for kink.

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"Blue Velvet" is David Lynch's greatest cinematic achievement next to "Eraserhead." His balance of symbols, and artful use of montage, is at its most poetic and powerful. His metaphoric allusions about the dysfunctional nature of the ideal "American Dream" family incite hellish visions of the abusive father (as embodied in Hopper's character) and the traumatized wife/mother who needs saving from her idealized son.

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Every role is perfectly cast. Dennis Hopper's portrayal of a whacked-out crime boss is terrifying. Lynch's haunting small-town mystery carries an indescribable undertow that kicks like a spastic mule in heat. 

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"Blue Velvet" is the closest that any filmmaker other than Buñuel has ever come to such a daring cinematic feat.You can bet that Quentin Tarantino took notes from "Blue Velvet" in creating "Reservoir Dogs." Here is a film that alters everyone who sees it.

Rated R. 120 mins.

5 StarsModern Cole SF SHOCKTOBER!Cozy Cole

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THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS — SHOCKTOBER!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

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ColeSmithey.comEd Gein's legacy of a body-flaying serial killer, which also provided Hitchcock’s “Psycho” with its inspiration, gave novelist Thomas Harris the unsavory elements he used to build “The Silence of the Lambs.”

The fact that director Jonathan Demme turned Ted Tally’s screenplay adaptation into a masterpiece of film horror reflects an array of ingenious choices: fully developed characters, exquisitely fulfilled by the actors in each of their roles. The unusual storyline boasts two sets of opposing protagonists and antagonists.

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Jodie Foster’s character, FBI trainee Clarice Starling, makes for a highly empathetic central character. Headstrong yet engaged in a constant battle of insecurity, Clarice isn’t about to squander the opportunity to track down a serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill” when Agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, assigns her to interview convicted serial murderer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, in an iconic role).

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“Hannibal the Cannibal” is the ultimate anti-hero. A hyper-intelligent former psychiatrist and highly skilled painter, Dr. Lecter has been laying in wait for a visit from someone like Clarice, whom he can mentally dissect and manipulate. Lecter knows his chance to kill will come again. The audience knows it too. However, unlike our disgust at Buffalo Bill’s crimes, which targets overweight women whom he murders for their skin, we secretly want to see the charmingly malevolent Dr. Lecter in action. Hannibal’s alternately cheerful or crass demeanor has a knowing wink about it that Anthony Hopkins milks for every drop of diabolical ingenuity available.

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The bizarre mentor/apprentice relationship that develops between Clarice and her criminally insane subject makes for a compelling mix of visceral —almost sexual — tension and dark humor. For all of her naiveté, Clarice is perfectly capable of matching wits with the demented doctor, even though it takes her some practice to get it right.

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Anthony Heald’s Dr. Frederick Chilton is a petty bureaucrat whose ambitious political goals put him at odds with Clarice. His character presents a different type of villain. Even Clarice’s trusted FBI mentor Jack Crawford fails to come through when Clarice most desperately needs assistance. She is always on her own.

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“The Silence of the Lambs” is indisputably dynamic in every technical detail. Jonathan Demme uses high camera angles to create chilling visual compositions. The film constantly seems to change direction. A tense subjective sequence seen through Buffalo Bill’s night-vision goggles ramps up the suspense with an organic filmmaking technique that puts the audience temporarily inside the mind of the killer. For a few brief moments we, know the fear of the would-be victim and her lurking attacker.

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The effect is petrifying.

Winner of five Academy Awards, “The Silence of the Lambs” is the only horror film to ever sweep the Oscars.

Rated R. 118 mins.

5 StarsColeSmithey.com THE BLOOD OF DRACULA
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NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE — SHOCKTOBER!

ColeSmithey.comColeSmithey.comWelcome!

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Thanks a lot acorns!

Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

ColeSmithey.com

ColeSmithey.comColeSmithey.comTHE BLOOD OF DRACULA

THE BLOOD OF DRACULA

NosferatuWerner Herzog's inspired homage to F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent film is an appropriately chilling telling of the Gothic tale derived from Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Klaus Kinski delivers a delightfully unhinged performance as the bloodthirsty vampire Count Dracula who takes advantage of a real estate broker (Bruno Ganz).

Naturally, the vampire has to travel in his coffin on a ship infested with plague-carrying rats.

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Herzog plays with surrealistic compositions that are truly terrifying.

Plague carrying rats are a thematic symbol in this twisted tale of horror.

Nosferatu1979

Isabelle Adjani brings her immutable beauty to bear as the broker's fearful wife, fated to suffer Dracula’s blood-hungry bite.

Screen Shot 2023-07-29 at 5.23.13 PM

"Nosferatu" is filled with delightfully scary touches and recreated camera angles from Murnau's original that add a historic context to this masterpiece of horror from one of the New German Cinema's most prolific and enduring members.

Rated PG. 107 mins.

5 Stars COLE MONSTERCozy Cole

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