Archive for the ‘Fist of Film’ Category

Fist of Film: Bellocchio’s Best

March 19, 2010

For a while, it looked like we had lost Marco Bellocchio. Following his 1965 debut Fists in the Pocket, the Italian philosophy student-turned-director was an indelible presence at the art house. His satires on the hypocrisy of church, state and middle class displayed tremendous filmmaking flair, earning comparisons to Jean Vigo and Max Ophüls. Then his films stopped crossing the Atlantic.

Intellectual bitterness was out of fashion until a new generation of directors like Il Divo Paolo Sorrentino, La meglio gioventu ’s Marco Tullio Giordana and Sabina Guzzanti’s Viva Zapatero took up Bellocchio’s slack. With the Silver Ribbon-winning Vincere, he’s back in theatres. In typical fashion, the love/hate story of Benito Mussolini and his lover Ida Dasler is also the story of how fascism seduced a nation. Here’s five more of his films you need to see.

I pugni in tasca (Fists in the Pocket) (1965)

In a sun-baked estate, a family of epileptics idles away the days driving each other crazy. Alessandro (Lou Castel), however, has a plan to end the generational disease forever. Flaunting his own perverse streak, the 26-year-old Bellocchio got his relatives to fund a film about the ultimate dysfunctional clan, and then shot it in the house where he grew up. The simmering rage impressed many, but Luis Bunuel and Antonioni both gave their acolyte’s first film the thumbs down.

La Cina è vicina (China is Near) (1967)

How do you follow one of the great debuts of the 1960s? By unleashing your deviants into the world. While Prof. Malvezzi breaks into politics on the socialist side, his promiscuous sister Elena (co-scenarist Elda Tattoli) brings the class war into the boudoir. On the outside looking in are a scheming pair of office workers who think marrying into this bunch will be their ticket to the good life. The vicious satire is set to a score by Ennio Morricone.

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Fist of Film: Matt Damon’s Bottom Five

March 12, 2010

Matt Damon has enjoyed quite a ride. The game-changing Bourne trilogy transformed him from the only Oscar-winning Bruce Weber pin-up into a muscular box office behemoth. The WMD thriller Green Zone reunites Damon with director Paul Greengrass and looks set to reap further millions this weekend. It wasn’t always, thus, however. Here’s a look at the Cambridge-born star’s least profitable earners, written in the hope hidden gems will be uncovered and bitter laughs had. Box office figures are kindly taken from Box Office Mojo.

Geronimo: An American Legend (1993)
Box office: $18,635,620
A beardless Damon tags along as part of a party led by Robert Duvall, who applies his best grizzle to the role of an Indian hunter. Duvall’s white whale is the legendary Apache renegade Geronimo (Wes Studi). Released after the success of Unforgiven, the film doesn’t so much revise history as honor the facts. For Damon’s teen following, it moved with all the pace of a three-legged horse. Genre expert Walter Hill (The Warriors) directed a script from John Milius (Red Dawn) and Larry Gross.

All the Pretty Horses (2000)
Box office: $15,540,353
Pairing director Billy Bob Thornton with the 1992 National Book Award-winner seemed like a good idea at the time, as the Sling Blade star had yet to go full lunatic. The material is Cormac McCarthy, so there’s the inevitable run by a Texas teen (Damon) ‘cross the border, where he breaks some horses and falls for a simmering Penelope Cruz. It was all too elegiac for the studio, who hacked Thornton’s original three-hour cut and left the film to languish at the box office. What’s left is a great novel with palsy.

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Fist of Film: They All Played Alice

March 5, 2010

The Rev. Charles Dodgson’s devotion to Alice Liddell is well-known, but is his fictional Alice really that plum a role? After all, it’s Alice’s task to act as audience avatar, a perplexed witness to the nonsensical residents at the bottom of the rabbit hole. Regardless, starlet Mia Wasikowa is the latest to fluff the tresses of the Victorian era’s dizziest blonde. While audiences flock to the Burtonized Alice in Wonderland, we thought it would be beamish to survey who else once ran with White Rabbits.

May Clark in Alice in Wonderland (1903)

The first surviving film that drew on Lewis Carroll’s fantasia was filmed by Cecil Hepworth, partly on the estate belonging to travel agent Thomas Cook. For the heroine of what would be the longest film yet produced in Britain, the Brighton filmmaker cast May Clark, a 14-year-old who had been doing odd jobs at his studio. Both Clark and the Hepworths’ dog Blair would reappear in Rescued by Rover (1905). Download it at Archive.org

Gladys Hulette in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1910)

Seven years after The Great Train Robbery, Edwin S. Porter directed a version for Thomas Edison. He cast the 14-year-old Hulette, a stage actress who didn’t share her contemporaries shame over appearing in silent films. The one-reel adaptation was well-regarded, despite excising many of Carroll’s characters. As an adult, Hulette appeared in John Ford’s Western The Iron Horse (1926).

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