Monday, August 22, 2011

Artistic Consumption Log, Aug. 15, 2011-Aug. 21, 2011


Caught (1949)


Breakdown (1997, Jonathan Mostow), screened at 92YTribeca in New York
No need for me to actually write up something for this...because I already have! Here!

"Robert Ryan," all films screened at Film Forum in New York
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959, Robert Wise)
Caught (1949, Max Ophüls)
Clash by Night (1952, Fritz Lang)
The Wild Bunch (1969, Sam Peckinpah) [second viewing]
The most notable discovery for me in this quartet of films with Robert Ryan in them was Caught, a film I've been meaning to see for years, probably since first hearing about the film in the context of the release of Martin Scorsese's The Aviator in 2004; Robert Ryan's paranoid millionaire character in the Ophüls films is said to be based on Howard Hughes. The film was worth the wait; it's a terrific film that points the way toward the great German-born director's later investigations of class-based fantasies versus grim realities in something like The Earrings of Madame de... (1953). Alas, it seems to be near-impossible to find on home video, for some reason; here's hoping it finds its way to DVD eventually.

3-D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy (2011, Christopher Sun), screened at Village East Cinema in New York
The hit 3-D Category III softcore porn hit from Hong Kong has finally made its way to U.S. shores...and it turns out to be an occasionally amusing but mostly clumsy and even rather icky mess. This modern update of Michael Mak's 1991 hit Sex and Zen suffers mostly from a severe case of divided intentions. It wants us to have a good laugh over the outsize conceitedness of its main character, Wei Yangsheng (Hiro Hayama)—so obsessed with trying to become a better lover that he ends up divorcing his devoted wife (Leni Lan) in order to join the Prince of Ning (Tony Ho) at the Pavilion of Ultimate Bliss, bed a lot of hotties and get a transplant for a bigger penis—and then, in the considerably more violent and mean-spirited second hour, slap us in the face for enjoying the unabashed decadence. Frankly, though, it's hard to take its "love is all you need" moralizing all that seriously considering how entertaining it makes the spectacle of carefree sex. Plus, the sex isn't all the erotic, and the 3-D effects are generally of the "throwing shit at the audience" variety—which, by this point, I find more boring than fun. I'll take one memorable shot of a woman shoving her breasts in front of our faces in 3-D, but you can keep the rest.


Space Oddity (1969, David Bowie)
The Man Who Sold the World (1970, David Bowie)
Hunky Dory (1971, David Bowie)
My David Bowie explorations continue. It's strange in retrospect that I find Space Oddity an incoherent mess with some great moments, and that I find Hunky Dory far more cohesive even though it is just as stylistically adventurous. Somehow, though there's a sonic consistency in the later album that Bowie fails to locate in the earlier one—either that, or Bowie was just that much of a better songwriter by the time he made Hunky Dory (Space Oddity has more than its fair shares of go-nowhere filler). In any case, I pretty much have "Space Oddity," "Changes," "Life on Mars?" and even The Man Who Sold the World's "Black Country Rock" stuck in my head on an endless rotation these days. It's probably no coincidence that most of these I heard originally in Portuguese as part of the soundtrack of Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, which remains my first gateway into the musical worlds of David Bowie, a bridge I've only recently decided to finally cross.

1 comment:

Cullen Gallagher said...

I've been waiting for Caught to hit DVD R1 for years. I still hold dear my VHS copy. Barbara Bel Geddes is one of my favorites actresses. This is one of my favorite performances by her.