3 posts categorized "Podcast"

September 10, 2017

RUDE BOY

Colesmithey.comHowever fraught with behind-the-scenes controversy, “Rude Boy” is a priceless document of one of the greatest Punk bands in history. This music exploitation docudrama is the result of a co-directing effort by Jack Hazan and David Mingay set during 1978 and 1979 when The Clash were positioning to take over the world.

The film features recording sessions and live performance footage of songs that appeared on the first two Clash albums (“The Clash” and “Give “Em Enough Rope”).

It’s obvious that the filmmakers haven't a clue about creating narrative structure, but they know they’ve got a tiger by the tail, and to their credit they don’t let it go.

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Controversy arose when members of The Clash discovered a subplot woven into the storyline that denigrated young black men in London during the Thatcher era. The band distanced itself from the film, and never received any royalties from it. It doesn’t help that the filmmakers repeatedly return to “White Riot,” one of the band’s most misunderstood songs that the Nazi National Front adopted as their own.

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So it is with bitter sadness that any knowing audience should come to a film that so innocently captures the charismatic personalities of the band and of their raw musicality on full display. A highlight of the film arrives when Joe Strummer bangs out a couple of blues tunes on an out of tune upright piano in a small empty music hall. This scene alone is worth the price of admission.

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What storyline there is arrives via Ray Gange (playing himself) a right-wing leaning punk who inexplicably loves fiercely leftist-minded Clash, so much so that he endears himself as an unpaid roadie. Ray works at a dirty book store and collects his weekly dole amount of less than $15 when he isn’t getting drunk and going on the road with the band. Ray exposes his aspirational motivation for aligning himself with the right-wing because he wants to ride in big black cars rather than walk everywhere.

Rudeboy

Here is a backstage and close-up proscenium look at The Clash shortly before they took America by storm with a stage act that still puts every other band to shame. Joe Strummer had the goods, and the perfect band to back him up. See the proof, and ignore the film’s spackled-on political subtext. Meet The Clash!

Songs to look out for include: “Career Opportunities,” “I’m So Bored With the USA,” “Stay Free,” and “I Fought The Law.” Wow.

Colesmithey.com2

Rated R. 133 mins. 

3 Stars

COLE SMITHEY

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 pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

We delighted in drinking Samuel Adams REBEL JUICED IPA for our discussion of RUDE BOY, currently streaming on FILMSTRUCK. Pull up a chair to THE BIG FEAST!

February 07, 2017

LA LUNA

COLE SMITHEY

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 pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

Screen Shot 2021-03-31 at 6.15.21 PMBernardo Bertolucci willingly falls into every cinematic pitfall any film artist could make in this follow-up film to “1900,” an epic masterpiece that seamlessly shifts from formal to neo-realistic to sweeping romance in a wartime setting before tilting into magical realism.  

“Luna,” however, is a kitchen-sink melodrama that seems to proffer that it’s okay for a mom to jerk off her teenage son so long as she does it while he’s in a heroin-induced state.

Never mind that mom scored the smack to keep her son’s habit in check. Mother and son also kiss passionately once in public, but at least the abused boy refuses to eat out his mom when she pushes his head into her panty-clad crotch. It’s better to get these dicey plot points out of the way in order to properly address, analyze, and critique the taboo subject that puts Bernardo Bertolucci in waters far above his head.

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Bertolucci has said that, because he had given the patriarchy so much mileage with his previous films, he wanted to do something for the matriarchy. If anything he sets matriarchy back to the middle ages. Informed by the Freudian archetypes of psychoanalysis he was undergoing at the time, Bertolucci co-wrote “Luna” with his wife, brother, and regular script collaborator Franco Arcalli. The hodgepodge script that results is infuriating for a host of reasons not limited to Bertolucci’s seeming endorsement of sexual mother/son relations.

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The film is clouded with overworked (artificial) obfuscations that run the gambit. Jill Clayburgh gamely plays Caterina Silveri, an American opera singer whose husband (Fred Gwynne) dies from a heart attack just before the couple is set to fly to Italy for Caterina to perform in a Verdi opera. As a result of the death, Caterina takes her 16-year-old son Joe (Matthew Berry) with her to Italy where he instantly develops a heroin addiction with the help of a local girl. Joe’s tortured mental state is exacerbated by the discovery that his biological father is an Italian guy in love with his own mother.

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“Luna” is an indefensible film because it is built on unsupported narrative clichés that Bertolucci never resolves. Bertolucci is said to have asked if all boys didn’t “sleep with their mothers.” Whether he intended “sleep” to be literal or figurative (sexual) is a question that casts unfavorable light on his relationship with his own mother.

LUNA

It seems clear that Bernardo Bertolucci was attempting to work through personal psychological demons by making “Luna.” In so doing, the filmmaker exposes self-referential tendencies that cheapen every artistic impulse that went into masterpieces such as “Last Tango In Paris” or “1900.” When Fred Gwynne’s character pulls a piece of gum from underneath a balcony railing, the not-so-subtle nod to “Last Tango In Paris” comes across as an inappropriate piece of narrative filler. Later in the film, Caterina and Joe drive through the Parma farmhouse that featured prominently in “1900.” What was once full of life is now a socially barren landscape that mother and son view from their incestuous emotional perspective. Their taboo reality is a nightmare that will not resolve. The worst part of it is that we, the audience, don’t care.

Screen Shot 2022-04-11 at 5.45.28 PM

It seems clear that Bernardo Bertolucci was attempting to work through personal psychological demons by making “Luna.” In so doing, the filmmaker exposes self-referential tendencies that cheapen every artistic impulse that went into masterpieces such as “Last Tango In Paris” or “1900.” When Fred Gwynne’s character pulls a piece of gum from underneath a balcony railing, the not-so-subtle nod to “Last Tango In Paris” comes across as an inappropriate piece of narrative filler.

Later in the film, Caterina and Joe drive through the Parma farmhouse that featured prominently in “1900.” What was once full of life is now a socially barren landscape that mother and son view from their incestuous emotional perspective. Their taboo reality is a nightmare that will not resolve. The worst part of it is that we, the audience, don’t care.

Rated R. 122 mins.

1 Star

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

April 09, 2016

JAFAR PANAHI'S TAXI

COLE SMITHEY

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 pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

TAXIIranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been a critical darling since the release of his debut feature “The White Balloon” in 1995. It was Iran’s Academy Awards submission for Best Foreign Film before the Iranian government requested the film to be withdrawn in response to the U.S. trade embargo that began that year. The film won a slew of awards including the Camera d’Or at Cannes.

Taxi

His next film “The Mirror” (1997) also attracted numerous awards, and further pushed Jafar Panahi’s name onto the world stage as a prominent Iranian film artist. However, trouble arrived when his third film “The Circle” (2000) was banned in Iran for its “dark and humiliating perspective” by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Guidance. “The Circle” nonetheless went on to win best film awards in San Sebastian and Montevideo.

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By then Jafar had become a lightening rod for negative authorial attention, as evidenced during a stopover at JFK International Airport (one his way from Hong Kong to Buenos Aries) during which time he was handcuffed, detained, and threatened with jail. He wasn’t allowed to have an interpreter or to place a phone call. This is serious stuff for a filmmaker whose films are tame by American standards.

His next two films (“Crimson Gold” and “Offside”) continued to draw the ire of Iran’s government. So much so that he was arrested in Iran in 2009 before being released with the government-line excuse that the arrest had been an error. In 2010 the government lie was exposed when Jafar, with family and friends, were arrested and taken to Evin Prison. There, Jafar remained for nearly three months, during which time he went on a hunger strike that brought about his release until his trial six months later. The Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Jafar Panahi to six years imprisonment and a 20-year ban on making or directing any movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media, as well as leaving the country except for Hajj holy pilgrimage to Meca or for medical treatment. Panahi was ultimately released from prison (at the call of numerous international filmmakers and notable film critics) and placed under house arrest.

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This primer about Jafar Panahi’s film history is a necessary window through which to view his current films. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It would be irresponsible to pretend that you could arrive cold to “Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” to judge it on the film’s merits alone, even if many (if not most) audiences who watch the film streaming on Netflix, will do.

“Taxi” has no credit sequences naming its title or actors. In this way it is a non-film along the lines of Panahi’s “This Is Not a Film” (2011), which he filmed entirely within the close confines of his apartment, and had to be smuggled out of Iran on a thumb drive.

TAXI 2

So it is that Panahi’s “Taxi” brings up questions about how he was able to drive around Tehran in a common yellow taxicab, inside which the entire film is set. Jafar picks up passengers (though he never charges them) who carry on discussions about aspects of Iranian culture, mostly associated with crime. The film serves to show a prism of daily life in Tehran, something that Western audiences have very little knowledge of. The movie sits somewhere between cinema vérité and a filmic selfie. By Western standards of what constitutes a movie, it leaves much to be desired but that isn’t to say it isn’t entertaining, informative, and interesting. Do critics give Jafar Panahi a free pass in light of his special circumstances? You bet. Does he deserve such exclusive protection? I would argue yes.

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Panahi’s through line theme for “Taxi” comes to the fore during a conversation with his 10-year-old “niece,” who uses her compact digital camera to capture a film-within-the-film. She reels off the list of “rules for a distributable film” that her teacher has provided.

  • Respect the Islamic headscarf.
  • No contact between men and women.
  • Avoid sordid realism.
  • Avoid violence.
  • Avoid the use of a tie for good guys.
  • Avoid the use of Iranian names for good guys instead use the sacred names of the Islamic saints.

Dogma 95 it isn’t, but the tenets provide a brief window into the mindset of how Islamic ideology is being propagated in a modern context.

By this point in the film, Panahi has already introduced Mr. Arash a [good-guy] character wearing a tie. Mr. Arash is a longtime friend of the family who wants to show his former neighbor a closed caption videotape of his mugging at the hands of a married couple. We never get a look at the video clip he shows Jafar on his iPad but we do get a sense of the man’s impulse to forgive his attackers.

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Panahi ties together his film’s theme of turn-the-other-cheek justice during a conversation with another family friend (referred to as “the flower lady,” ostensibly for the bouquet of roses that she carries). The flower lady is an attorney with a professorial demeanor on her way to visit a young woman imprisoned for attempting to attend a soccer game. Just as Jafar is banned from making films in Iran, this attorney is [unofficially] suspended from practicing law by the bar association. The smiles that Jafar and his attorney passenger share reveal a confidence of character that seems to override the harsh social conditions imposed on them.

Making films in Iran is a tricky business, but Jafar Panahi’s powerful urge to tell filmic stories about his home country overrides the constant fear he lives with day in and day out. “Jafar Panahi’s Taxi,” may not stand up as great piece of cinema, but it is well worth seeing if only to understand some similarities and differences between Islamic and Western culture.      

Cole & Mike

In our debut podcast episode of LA GRANDE BOUFFE (THE BIG FEAST), Mike Lacy and I discuss Jafar Panahi's Taxi" Enjoy!

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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