44 posts categorized "Agitprop"

March 21, 2018

MANDERLAY — CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

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ColeSmithey.comLars von Trier’s second installment in his Brechtian trilogy of American culture stays true to the stage bound theatrical setting of his first installment (“Dogville” 2003) even if his protagonist heroine Grace seems not to have kept any continuity from her traumatizing experiences in Dogville, i.e. multiple rapes, torture, and various humiliations, including being enslaved before ordering the massacre of a small town.

After all, murderers are humiliated by their own bloodlust.

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Perhaps that is as it should be. That was a lot of baggage. Bryce Dallas Howard takes over the role that Nicole Kidman portrayed in “Dogville,” just as Willem Dafoe fills James Caan’s shoes as Grace’s gangster father this time around.

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Under von Trier’s fluid handheld camera there is no mistaking the parable aspect of his rigorous dramaturgy, this time dedicated to a slave plantation operating 70 years pat the abolishment of slavery. If you do the math you know that it’s Depression Era 1933. You don’t have to ponder long to realize that slavery in America continues albeit under a transmogrified state of incremental genocide glossed over with pretty words such as democracy, freedom, and capitalism.

So it is that our minimalist tale of colonialism, best intentions, and hidden agendas comes into microcosmic view when the headstrong Grace arrives at Manderlay in the company of her smarmy dad and his gun-toting henchmen and lawyers.

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A slave (Isaach De Bankolé) is strapped to a grate, about to be whipped by one of his white masters when Grace intercedes and takes the whip away from the brute with the aid of her dad’s goons. The plantation matriarch Mam (Lauren Bacall) appears from her mansion with shotgun in hand, but put in her place by Grace. Mam wasn’t long for this world anyway as it turns out but she does leave behind a book (“Mam’s Law”) which includes a “code of conduct” for the plantation. Most appalling, if informative, is the book’s dilatation of seven slave character types with titles such as “Proudly,” “Clownin’,” and “Pleasin’.”

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Grace decides to stay on at Manderlay in order to oversee the slaves’ transition to freedom. She keeps her father’s lawyer and a few of his guards. Under von Trier’s seven remaining chapter headings, Grace learns the hard way the unseen forces and brutal tactics that undo her naïve attempts at leading the slave community to any form of holistic equality.

Not since Ingmar Bergman’s trenchant Cinema has a filmmaker so efficiently tackled universal truths of human behavior that predictably veer toward duplicity, greed and the lowest common denominator of groupthink that priests, politicians, judges, and corporate CEOs wield under the guise of democracy.

“The lesser of two evils” is still immoral, n’est-ce pas?    

Not Rated. 139 mins. 

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

January 24, 2018

THE YAKUZA — CLASSIC FILM PICK

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

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Thanks a lot acorns!

Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

ColeSmithey.com



ColeSmithey.comRobert Mitchum was a hot property coming off the success of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” when he made Sydney Pollock’s “The Yakuza” in 1974. It was the same year that “The Yakuza’s” co-screenwriter Robert Towne scored big with his screenplay for “Chinatown,” which Roman Polanski crafted into a timeless masterpiece of political and familial corruption in Los Angeles. Why not write a script that guarantees a trip to Japan for some extravagant location filming?

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For his debut screenwriting effort, Paul Schrader works with Towne on “The Yakuza” to create an ambitious cinematic apologia for the atrocities levied on Japan by the U.S. during World War II, albeit on a deep personal level. The screenwriters are quick to point out in stark narrative terms the awful damage done to the Japanese by America’s fire-bombing missions that paled even the horrific destruction done by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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The film is a crash course in the ethical codes of the Yakuza, Japan’s transnational organized crime syndicate. Robert Mitchum’s World War II vet Harry Kilmer still carries a torch for Eiko (Keiko Kishi), the Japanese woman whose life he saved while serving as a U.S. Marine. Kilmer went so far as to borrow money from his fellow Marine George Tanner (Brian Keith) to help Eiko open a bar in Tokyo.

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Tanner has since switched from being a private detective to selling guns to the Yakuza. A lost gun shipment has caused the Yakuza to kidnap Tanner’s daughter. Kilmer agrees to do his old War pal a favor and travel to Tokyo to track down Eiko’s Yakuza-connected brother Tanaka (played by the amazing Ken Takakura) to help rescue Tanner’s daughter. Tanner hooks Harry up with Dusty (Richard Jordan) as a personal bodyguard whose instincts for survival are no match for Harry’s fast-twitch defense mechanisms.

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The convoluted narrative holds secrets about Tanner, Eiko, and Tanaka that cause Mitchum’s stoic character to take violent action, even against his own flesh. Although clunky by modern editing standards, “The Yakuza” is a fascinating film that earns its sequences of shocking violence, and pays off with a crisis of personally expressed morals that transfer from Eastern to Western philosophy through Tanaka and Harry Kilmer.

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Robert Mitchum was in his stride when he made “The Yakuza,” doing a movie every year and making it look easy yet poignant with every performance. “The Yakuza” is a beautifully flawed film that nonetheless catches you off guard when you least expect it.

ColeSmithey.com

Rated R. 112 mins. 

4 Stars

Documentarian Jeremy Workman ("Who is Henry Jaglom," "Magical Universe") joins the boys to talk about Sydney Pollock's THE YAKUZA (starring Robert Mitchum, Keiko Kishi, Ken Takakura, and Richard Jordan). 

Although it was Cole's idea to do Mitchum's follow-up to "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," Jeremy still had his diary notes from seeing THE YAKUZA way back in 2001. Cole broke out a bottle of Hitachino Nest's REAL GINGER BREW because it only seemed right to have a legit Japanese craft beer on the show. This is one damned fine beer. Bon appetite. 

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Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

August 23, 2017

THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

ColeSmithey.com

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!

Cole Smithey on Patreon



 

Screen Shot 2023-06-02 at 6.44.01 PMCreated during America’s ham-fisted effort at producing propaganda films during the early 1940s era of World War II, “The House On 92nd Street” stands as a noxious example of patriotic pap disguised as faux docu film noir.

For all of the film’s publicity about it featuring actual FBI footage, the filmmakers couldn’t be bothered to use the film’s promised 92nd street location; the building featured was located on 93rd street just east of Madison Avenue in Manhattan’s Carnegie Hill district.

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The picture was made following the same period that Luis Buñuel was hired to edit U.S. propaganda films for the Museum of Modern Art from 1940 to 1942 before Government agents got a hold of Salvador Dali’s 1942 autobiography that named Buñuel as an atheist and a Marxist.

The powers in charge had misunderstood Buñuel’s political persuasion when he replied that he was a “Republican,” meaning that he sided against General Franco’s fascist regime which was responsible for the deaths of more than one million civilians during the Spanish Civil War. Therein lies a clue about where American political leanings bent. Dali's revelation caused Buñuel to be fired from his post at MoMA.

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Hokey as a three-dollar-bill, “The House On 92nd Street” layers on heavy-handed voice-over narration by newsreel standard bearer Reed Hadley about the oh-so-reliable FBI’s ability to defeat foreign (namely Nazi) spy operations attempting to take seed on U.S. soil. J. Edgar Hoover’s name gets dropped a lot. Bombastic music underscores a pre-roll that credits all but the “leading players” as F.B.I. personnel.

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“Actual F.B.I. surveillance films” show men carrying trunks into the German embassy in Washington D.C. Director Henry Hathaway professedly shot the footage himself, guerilla-style. Nevermind that the pulp story by Charles G. Booth takes place in Manhattan. Fifteen minutes of such preamble is necessary before William Eythe’s double agent Bill Dietrich is ordered into action to investigate shenanigans at Elsa’s Dress shop at 53 E 92nd street. Signe Hasso plays Elsa Gebhardt as a villain with avarice dripping from her every movement and word.

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Although loosely based on the F.B.I.’s Duquesne espionage ring which captured more than two dozen spies and traitors, “The House On 92nd Street, is most memorable for Elsa’s last minute transition into male form with the aid of a man’s suit, hat, and a handsome pair of two-tone high-button shoes. I wonder if the film’s producer Louis de Rochemont (of “March of Time” newsreel fame) would have given the film’s leading part to William Eythe if he knew that Eythe was a closeted gay actor. Considering that J. Edgar Hoover exerted his considerable will over the picture, perhaps all is as was intended.

ColeSmithey.com

Either way, “The House On 92nd Street” is a laughable piece of American propaganda for all of the reasons you’d expect. The U.S. political machine has never understood how to under-promise and over-deliver. Rather the reverse is always proven to be true. With cartoon villains and overconfident heroes like these around, no one is safe.

Not Rated. 88 mins.

1 Star

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

 

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