Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Dennis Hauck: Too Late (2016)

Dennis Hauck's first feature-length film is Too Late that premiered earlier this year. It's an exceptional film, filmed on 35 mm film and shown only on film. I don't know if there will be a DVD or Blu-Ray later on or if the film will be available on streaming sites, but I guess not. (Oh, it's available on iTunes.)

I was lucky to have the opportunity to see the film last week. While Too Late is not a masterpiece, it's an interesting film in its own right, while it's also an interesting experiment, as it consists only of five shots, each 20 minute long. (The length of a film reel.) This is not done actually very consistently, as there are some scenes with split screens, and there are some edits in the end, but all in all Too Late is a marvelous technical experiment.

Too Late is also a crime film, a neo-noir, if you will. John Hawkes is very good playing a private detective getting caught up in his own past, and there are some other known actors in small roles, like Robert Forster, Jeff Fahey (whom I didn't recognize), Joanna Cassidy and some others. The story is about a stripper working at a seedy club and getting to know some intimate secrets of the owner - or is it...? It's a bit like David Lynch and also a bit like Quentin Tarantino and his Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs: the story moves back and forth in time and you have to be careful to really understand what's going on.

The major problem with the film is that it's too talkative. The 20-minute shots get caught up in people talking, and nothing much happens on screen. There's also the familiar problem with many experimental movies: you don't really invest much interest in these people. It's more a like game, though the surprise twist in end feels more touching than anything else in the film.

Still, Too Late is a very worthwhile film and if you have the opportunity, check it out.

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog. (I hope there will be more Films.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: LBJ: The Early Years (1987)

I can't resist buying stuff like this I find on thrift stores and other places: cheap VHS cassettes with movies that probably have never been released on DVD or don't show up on TV. LBJ: The Early Years cost me 20 cents a year ago, and I finally watched it. As it's pretty long (almost 3 hours) it took me many days to watch. The series was published on video cassette in Finnish in 1989 with the title Vallan huipulla ("Top of the Power" or some such).

LBJ: The Early Years is a solid work from director Peter Werner who's had a pretty long career on TV. For some reason, the screen writer of the mini-series isn't said anywhere, not in the credits nor in IMDb. I don't know why, certainly there's no reason for anyone to hide. LBJ: The Early Years starts from the fifties, with Johnson working in the senate, but not yet being a senator. The series follows his career in politics from running for senate and later for vice-presidency. The climax is of course the assassination of John F. Kennedy on which no time is wasted. The murder is not shown, the series focuses on the aftermath of the assassination. The series doesn't go into LBJ's actual presidency. 

I'm no expert on the US history, but the mini-series seems trustworthy on many themes, like the relationship between the Kennedys and Johnson. As the series is not about LBJ's presidency, it doesn't deal with the war in Vietnam, so it can dust off the more difficult issues. 

The best thing about LBJ: The Early Years is the lead actor. Randy Quaid makes a believable and likable Johnson, with all his quirks, Texas drawl and sudden changes in mood. Quaid is full of energy, when need be, but he's very good also portraying Johnson's depression. There are many good actors in the small roles: Kevin McCarthy, Pat Hingle, R. G. Armstrong, Barry Corbin, Royal Dano, Frances Conroy... In the narration are included several newsreels, which are used to a good effect. 

I don't know if this is regularly shown on American TV, but it could very well be. 

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog here (when they show up). 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ed Gorman

Just noticed that Ed Gorman passed away. It's a damn shame, I'm sure there were more books in him. His work as a novelist, short story writer and anthologist has been great and revered by many.

As far as I know, I'm responsible for the only two Finnish translations of Gorman's work. I published two of his short stories, both of which were excellent. The first one to come out was "Layover", a thoughtful and melancholy look at people who got tangled up in crime. It was first published in my fanzine, Isku, and then it came out in Kaikki valehtelevat/Everybody Lies, the anthology of short stories that were published in my crime fiction fanzines. Then came "Scream Queen", another melancholy story, this time about some nerdy guys working in a video store and meeting the idol of their teenage years, the actor of many slasher films. It was published as a small pamphlet, with a limited print run and with Aapo Kukko's great cover illustration.

May Ed Gorman rest in peace. I know there are many people who miss him - my condolences to them. I never met him, but would've sure liked to.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

On Dylan

As everyone by now knows, Bob Dylan got the Nobel prize for literature earlier today. Now, I've never really understood why people like him and his music so much. To me his music always been a bit boring and at times obnoxious, and it's not just about his singing voice. I have a strong taste for more rhythm and more vigorous beats, and you have to admit there's not much of those in Dylan's music. I have found his orchestrations noisy and incoherent, and it's something I don't like in Bruce Springsteen either. The Big Sound just escapes me. I like it when The Byrds made "Mr. Tambourine Man" into a jingly-jangly pop song.

My ex-girlfriend and the mother of my first child is a great Dylan fan. She had to have everything Dylan ever did. You can easily see this caused some difficulties between her and me - our tastes in music were too different. This wasn't the cause for us breaking up apart, but it had something to do with it. It has also cast a shadow over me and my relationship with Dylan's music. Still, whatever I do, I just can't get the taste of it.

Of course, Dylan got his Nobel prize for his lyrics, not his music. In rock music, though, they are inseparable, but as for me, I've never really cared for listening to the lyrics. I don't really know why this is - maybe it's because it reminds me of my work, reading and writing, and I want music to be something else entirely.

There are some exceptions to my views of Dylan. I like Dylan without a noisy band, like for example here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Roman Polanski: Knife in the Water

The renowned Polish director's first feature-length film was this small-scale film - only three actors - that reflects his familiar themes of humiliation and its bond with erotics, sex and love.

Knife in the Water tells about a well-to-do couple (in communist Poland, no less) that picks up a hitcher, a young innocent guy who's got nothing to do with his life. They ask him to accompany them in a boat. The result is - almost - deadly, as tensions rise between the two men and the young woman. This is an intense little film, with a noirish jazz soundtrack by Krzysztof Komeda, well worth seeing and hearing. There are some breath-taking scenes throughout, as Polanski and his photographer Jerzy Lipman move the camera around the small sailing boat.

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog.