Here's a few of the interesting movies I've "enjoyed" the last few weeks (enjoyed in quotes because I'm not sure the word applies to a couple of these epics)...
Like, for instance, The Horseman
, an Australian revenge movie that's been getting some attention for its unrelenting tone. Well, there is that! Basically an updated (and infinitely cheaper) version of the George C. Scott movie Hardcore
, Horseman follows the single-minded quest of a bereaved father who wants to know how his daughter wound up in a porno movie and then O.D.'ed on heroin. A pest exterminator by day, "Dad" gets pretty wound up when he finds the folks responsible and employs the tools of his trade to cadge out information. Suffice to say this involves fish-hooks, bicycle pumps, propane torches, hammers and other tools applied to some rather delicate areas of the anatomy. It's actually fairly well done, but I'm not sure if that's a compliment or a reason to avoid...
On a completely different note, Criterion's just released a blu-ray of Bigger Than Life
, a Nicholas Ray "slice of life" film from 1956 starring James Mason. Mason plays a school teacher who comes down with a not-particularly specific but fatal disease. Fortunately, Doctors have discovered a possible miracle drug ("Cortisone!"). Unfortunately, the Cortisone drives Mason insane... but it's that very peculiar, 1950's version of insane, where the victim doesn't curl up in a ball or eat dirt, but instead remains remarkably cogent and erudite while getting mean and unpredictable. In this case, Mason becomes a harsh taskmaster to his incredibly patient wife and young son. It sounds like I'm making fun of the movie, but it's actually quite compelling and the glorious full color picture is amazing. And having had Cortisone shots myself, I guess I finally have an excuse for my erratic behaviors.
Also recently out on blu-ray is David Lynch's Elephant Man
, which hasn't lost any of its power. I like Lynch's later movies, but this early effort is probably his most "traditional" and genuinely emotional. There are some achingly poignant scenes, and one of the best tracking shots ever, pushing in on star Anthony Hopkins the first time he sees the deformed Elephant Man. Just when the camera hits the close-up, a single tear comes down Hopkins' cheek. I imagine this has stuck with me because I attended a lecture by Lynch just after Elephant Man's release where he was asked about this very shot. How did they do it, time the push-in and the tear so well? Lynch's answer? Luck. They just got it. The blu-ray also comes with an informative documentary about the real Elephant Man (there were quite a few dramatic liberties taken for the film), but the pristine black and white presentation is more than enough reason to spring for this edition.