The American Friend

The last film in my Golden Week of film watching was this 1977 Wim Wenders neo-noir starring Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz.

And it was a good film to end off a week of good film watching.

It told the story of a man who was diagnosed with leukemia and was contacted by a French mafia guy and asked to bump off a rival gang member, and promised big bucks to help support his family when he died. Dennis Hopper’s character was a fake art seller who was involved in organising the hit, but he ended up becoming good friends with Bruno.

There was not a whole lot of action, the story concentrated more on the friendship between Dennis and Bruno, and did it very well. Both actors were most excellent in their parts.

It was fascinating to see late 1970’s Europe, especially the Paris underground (where a hit took place), which was immaculate. Hamburg though looked like a rather depressing place back then.

Wim casted three other directors in the gangster roles.

I did find it a tad long, but overall this was an excellent film to end my week of films.

Date watched: May 5th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2019: 14

The Skin I Live In

This is a Spanish 2011 psychological horror starring Antonio Banderas, and directed by Pedro Almodóvar.

The story is about a brilliant surgeon whose daughter is raped by a local man. She commits suicide after undergoing psychological treatment, so the surgeon sets out on revenge. From there the story gets quite twisted, in a perverse sort of way.

It is though a bit predictable, but it doesn’t really matter as the rest of the film is reasonably well done and moves along well. The acting is good, especially from the lead actress who had a very difficult part to play, and the direction and cinematography were slick and efficient.

Recommended stuff, if you don’t mind reading subtitles.

Date watched: April 29th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2019: 9

To Catch a Thief

This is the third film I have watched in 24 hours, I need to up my final count of the year.

Hitchcock films are always worth watching, especially when they have Cary Grant, and this one was pretty decent, but not the best.

The story is about Cary’s character being accused of stealing jewels from the rich and wealthy in a resort town on the Mediterranean. In the past he was a infamous cat burgler nicknamed “The Cat”, but someone was copying his modus operandi, so he had to figure out who it was to clear his name. There was of course a pretty woman involved, in the form of Grace Kelly who was excellent along with Cary. Alfred made his cameo near the beginning of the film, on a bus sitting next to Cary.

There was a lot of dialogue, a bit too much I thought, but of course with Cary delivering his witty lines in that Cary Grant way it was quite enjoyable. The locations were fantastic too, the French Riviera was a stunning place even back in 1955.

It was filmed in widescreen, and in Technicolor (very vivid colours), and of course the cinematography was perfecto, so it looked absolutely fabulous.

This is not the best Hitchcock film, it was lacking suspense, but I still found it to be an enjoyable and entertaining film.

Date watched: December 30th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 90

OMD – Souvenir

After watching the synth documentary I saw this in the recommended section on YouTube. It seems to originally have been a DVD-only release from 2007.

The story starts off with OMD about to perform in Dusseldorf at Night of the Proms, we see them backstage looking a bit nervous and getting ready to go on. They then go to the stage and the opening credits begin.

The story then goes back to their beginnings and through all of their albums, their breakup, their solo careers, then finally to their reformation. And of course we go back to Dusseldorf where we see part of the concert there.

It is all very well done and quite interesting, although this is really more for fans than casual observers. I wouldn’t say I am a fan, but I like some of their songs, so I found this quite watchable, and it is always good to learn about bands and how they go about making music. Both of them basically had no music training when they started OMD.

There were no interviews with other people around OMD, no managers, wives, or even other musicians, it was all told by a narrator and the two founding members themselves in their own words. Maybe it was done on a budget, but it all looked professionally done with no frills.

Yet another good music documentary, I may just watch another tonight…in fact I feel like learning more about Willie Nelson.

Date watched: October 28th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 70

Taxidermia

This is a 2006 Hungarian/Austrian/French surrealist comedy-drama horror film.

A few minutes in it became a bit of a shocker, with scenes that were just a tad hard to watch. I won’t go into details, but after watching cosy Hollywood films this reminded me that true film-makers don’t hold back, especially East-European film-makers.

It was split into three parts, following three generations of men. The first involves a dim-witted and quite perverse soldier who is under the control of an army lieutenant. The second part is about his son, who is a professional speed-eater, and the last part is about his son who is a taxidermist. The stories are intertwined, and are mostly either quite disgusting or gory, with added humour or bizarreness.

It is very well filmed and acted, and after the first act, which was the most disgusting of all, I found it to be very entertaining and quite funny. It is certainly not a film you would want to watch with anyone with a closed mind when it comes to film…just watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre instead. But, if you like something very different, and don’t mind watching speed-eaters projectile-vomit into buckets after a contest, then this is a highly recommended watch.

Date watched: August 3rd
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 51

Hallam Foe

This is a 2007 British drama film set in Glasgow, and is based on a book of the same name.

The story is about a young man who suspects that his step-mother murdered his mother. He leaves home and goes to Glasgow where he basically starts stalking a woman who looks likes his real mother, and falls in love with her. There is more to it of course, but the story is still quite simple.

Everything about this slightly quirky film is good. The acting is superb, the photography is simple and efficient, the pacing is spot-on, and there is a good balance of drama and humour.

The fellow in the lead role is Jamie Bell who has been in big Hollywood films such as King Kong (more of a Wellywood film actually), Jumper, and Fantastic Four. He is married to Kate Mara.

Also in the film is Sophia Myles who played Lady Penelope in the Thunderbirds film, and was also in Transformers: Age of Extinction (just for the money I am sure). Ewen Bremner had a small role as well.

There was not a lot of Glasgow in it, but it looks like a very decent place to visit someday.

So it was a good watch, not overly special at all, but a good way to fill in some time on a hot Sunday afternoon.

Date watched: July 29th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 49

Andrei Rublev

This is a 1966 Russian film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (he of Solaris and Stalker fame, both excellent films), based loosely on the story of Andrei Lublev, an icon painter in 15th century Russia. It has been called one of the greatest films of all time.

It is a long film at 183 minutes (depending on which version you watch), and is very heavy going. The story follows Andrei and his painter friends as they leave their monastery and find work painting in a cathedral.

The story is told in seven episodes which follow Andrei, or other characters that were part of his story. The story was very religious and had concepts that were too religious for me to follow, or required some back knowledge of Russian history. The sometimes confusing subtitles did not help.

But, the film-making, acting, and sets were all superb, very much like a Kurosawa film. The attack on the old Russian city of Vladimir was quite well done and looked quite dangerous in some scenes. Unfortunately there was some obvious cruelty to a horse in one scene, which I never like to see, especially in a film. The acting was so natural, it seemed as though you were watching a documentary rather than a historical drama.

Fifteenth century Russia was obviously a barbaric place. There was a lot of killing and torture, famine, and general mayhem. But, at the same time, people were trying to live as best they could and make a life between all of the chaos. At least that is what this film showed us.

I am not really sure I would class this as one of my greatest films of all time. Perhaps if I went to film-appreciation school I might learn more about it, and better understand what was going on. But, it was certainly epic stuff, and despite the heavy going was interesting and thought-provoking.

This article explains the film much better than I ever could. Read it, then watch the film.

For me Stalker was a better film, confusing too, but mermerising.

Date watched: July 21st and 22nd
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 47