- Daughters of Darkness (Harry Kümel)
- Richard III (Laurence Olivier)
- The Brood (David Cronenberg)
- La Main du Diable (Maurice Tourneur)
- Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow).
- When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse)
- For The Love of Movies (Gerald Peary)
- Joan of Arc of Mongolia (Ulrike Ottinger)
- Victor and Victoria (Reinhold Schünzel)
- Le Grand Méliès (Georges Franju)
1- Well, Halloween has come and gone…the best time of the year This year I didn’t give it its due by watching my usual favorites, (the films of Val Lewton, Carnival of Souls, Horror Hotel, The Birds, etc.). Instead I watched a bunch of new (for me) films that Criterion recommended for Spooky Season. First up was The Daughters of Darkness. Your typical overheated, Lesbian vampire film, with Delphine Seyrig and a grand off-season hotel for atmosphere. Like so many films made as the Production Code lost its clout, this film really shoves the sex and smarminess down the viewers’ throat (pardon the metaphor). This kind of thing always strikes me as less “adult” compared to all the inferred sex in the Pre-Code. It is overt and not subtle at all, almost like the filmmakers are saying,, “Lookie! We can finally show sex!” the big surprise of the film was that the hunk that everyone in the film was lusting over was John Karlen, who in about 12 years would become famous as the lumpen Harve Lacey on Cagney & Lacey
2- I usually avoid the gorier horror films. They bore me. I have to say that The Brood was lots of fun. I guess I am a sucker for any film that shows children as monsters. The rationale for these monsters, that they are a product of the mother’s anger, is delicious. You must see Bill Hader’s riff on Oliver Reed in this film on the Criterion extra. Spot on. Near Dark was another departure from my usually Halloween revels. Man! Kathryn Bigelow can do violence with the best of them. It’s nice to see a Vampire film with a ‘happy’ end.
3- For the Love of Movies is an interesting documentary tracing the history of film criticism. Starting back in the silent days, it is most interesting when explaining the great Andrew Sarris-Pauline Kael war over the whole auteur concept, with Sarris and his cohort sticking to their guns and Kael accusing them of being Gay because of it. The film posits that criticism has changed forever in recent times. We no longer to established newspaper or magazine critics to shape our taste anymore, since anyone with a blog can fancy themselves as a film critic (*ahem*)
4- The Princh has been after me for years to watch Joan of Arc of Mongolia Given the almost-three-hour running time and the ‘premise’ of European ladies captured off of an east-bound train in the Mongolian desert by a warrior princess and her pals, I thought it would be absolute torture. I am glad to say I was very, very wrong. Three hours flew by while watching this nutty and touching and beautiful feminist documentary. I would love to see this again as well see some of Ulrike Ottinger’s other films but I have to hurry since they are leaving Criterion at the end of the month! Yikes! And as if camels, Mongolian cooking, Lesbian desire and archery are not enough, we get Delphine Seyrig in a star turn as an English Mongolia expert on a research trip curiously named Lady Windermere. We also get to see the great Fassbinder star Irm Hermann as an uptight tourist who undergoes a wonderful spiritual transformation.
5- Victor and Victoria is one of the last films made at Ufa before the Nazis took control of the studio and Germany. As you probably have guessed, it is the inspiration for Blake Edwards’ Victor/Victoria. I don’t remember liking the Edwards film that much, except for Le Jazz Hot. The German version is pretty bad. It seems like it wants to be one of those early Lubitsch sex-farce musicals like Love Parade but it lacking all subtley and is just awful. The songs are glaringly out of place and everyone, especially the male lead (who is not Gay in this version) mug shamelessly. Unless you are a neurotic completist, you have my permission to give this a pass