Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Week in Review

  • Dance of the Vampires (Roman Polanski, USA, 1967)
  • La graine et le mulet (The Secret of the Grain, Abdellatif Kechiche, France, 2007)
  • Chacun son cinéma (To Each His Own Cinema, Various, France, 2007)
  • Mala Noche (Gus Van Sant, USA, 1985)
  • My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, USA, 1991)
  • Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Sant, USA, 1989)
  • Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, France, 2007)
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm - 6th Season (Various, USA, 2007)
This week seems to have made up for a couple of quiet weeks. As I've mentioned previously, we're coming into a busy season for films, and this is the start of it.

The media preview of the French Film Festival was excellent, featuring films of a higher calibre than last year's. I already had the DVD of Chacun son cinéma, which I purchased online from Amazon France last year. It was great to see it on the big screen and it always brings a tear or two to my eyes. Apparently Madman are distributing it on DVD only, so the French Film Festival will be the only opportunity to see this on the big screen. The Secret of the Grain was an thrilling experience, and it deserves a fuller write-up than I can afford right now. More later.

This week also featured four films from ACMI's Focus on Gus Van Sant, and I'll also have more to write on this in the coming days. I saw Paranoid Park for the second time and found my enjoyment increased. This is a brilliant film that is well-constructed with some fascinating devices such as music and sound, cinematography and frame speed, and fractured narrative. I've written a short review for The Big Issue that should get published shortly, but I intend giving it a more comprehensive treatment on Melbourne Film Blog.

Dance of the Vampires
From a historical perspective, it's fascinating to see the breadth of a director's work displayed in a retrospective or mini-season like the three week Polanski season at Melbourne Cinémathèque. Dance of the Vampires (aka The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck) is not a major work by any stretch of the imagination, a fact that is divulged by the alternative title. Polanski not only wrote and directed the film, but also plays a leading role as a vampire hunter's assistant.

The film screened with Rosemary's Baby and the Polanski season continues this week with Macbeth (my first Polanski film, which I saw in the mid '70s as part of our English readings of Shakespeare) and his much-lauded first film, Knife in the Water. The season continues the following week with three shorts and Tess.

Curb Your Enthusiasm - 6th Season
I detected a distinct change from the start of this season, but it wasn't until I'd seen all ten episodes and watched the DVD extras that I learnt why this was so. Larry David wrote all the first five series, but in the sixth he brought on board some producers who worked with him on Seinfeld, and they have contributed to the writing. I found the first two episodes a bit flat compared to the earlier series. As the series progresses, the story arc travels in new directions with the introduction of some new characters and this works well. The series builds momentum and there's a few unexpected surprises, especially the hilarious finale. All-in-all, not my favourite series, but excellent nonetheless.

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