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LawrenceA

Recently Watched Foreigners

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David Golder (1931) - French drama from director Julien Duvivier. Harry Baur stars as the title man, a vastly wealthy and powerful financier and dealmaker. He's as ruthless as he is successful, and as the film begins, he refuses to help his former business partner get out of a jam that will leave him broke. The distraught man commits suicide, an act which causes Golder to slowly begin taking stock of his own life, particularly the spendthrift ways of his wife Gloria (Paule Andral) and his spoiled daughter Joyce (Jackie Monnier). As Golder's health begins to deteriorate and his fortunes fade, he learns how those around him truly feel. Also featuring Jean Bradin, Jean Coquelin, Camille Bert, and Charles Dorat.

 

This was the sound film debut for both director Duvivier and star Baur, and they craft a moving character study, an examination of what drives powerful men, and what the outcome of such a life can be. There are some rough patches, such as visible crew shadows and obvious miniature effects, but not enough to sink the film. This movie makes a nice addition to any list of films concerning the idle rich and the downfall of "big" men.   7/10

 

Source: FilmStruck.

 

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Westfront 1918 (1930) - German WW1 movie from director G.W. Pabst. The film follows a small group of German infantrymen during the waning days of the war. The "Student" (Hans-Joachim Moebis), a young eager soldier, volunteers for dangerous messenger duty in order to grab time with a nearby village girl (Jackie Monnier). Karl (Gustav Diessl) pines for his wife back home, but a trip back during leave doesn't bring the desired results. And all around them rains death and destruction. Also featuring Fritz Kampers, Claus Clausen, Hanna Hoessrich, Else Heller, and Vladimir Sokoloff.

 

This makes for an interesting companion piece to this same year's All Quiet on the Western Front. This movie is a bit rawer, with some minor fondling and cursing that wouldn't have made it into a US film, even during the pre-code era. The performances are all good, and I especially liked the turn by Clausen as an intense lieutenant in over his head. There's a section in a beerhall with a USO-type show featuring musicians, a raunchy singer, and a clown, that goes on a bit too long. The last 15 minutes or so are some of the most devastating war scenes in film. Highly recommended.   9/10

 

Source: YouTube.

 

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The Neighbor's Wife and Mine (1931) - Minor Japanese domestic comedy from Shochiku and director Heinosuke Gosho. Atsushi Watanabe stars as a playwright who moves with his family to a small rental house out in the country so that he can use the relative quiet to help finish his new play. He still ends up dealing with all manner of annoyances, including from his wife (Kinuyo Tanaka), his young daughter (Mitsuko Ichimura), and Madame (Satoko Date), the wife of their next door neighbor. Madame is a singer in her husband's jazz band, and their musical practicing makes work impossible. 

 

This just-under 1 hour comedy is the earliest Japanese film that I've seen with sound, as they were slower to adopt the new technology, and in fact a number of noted directors continued in the silent format for another few years. The jokes are of the light-chuckle variety, and the performances, featuring several Shochiku studio regulars, are all fine. At one point, Watanabe is heard singing the chorus of "The Broadway Melody". There just isn't enough here to make this stand out at all.   6/10

 

Source: FilmStruck.

 

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La Tete d'un Homme (1933) - French crime drama from director Julien Duvivier, based on a novel by Georges Simenon. Harry Baur stars as police Chief Inspector Maigret who's leading the investigation of the murder of a wealthy old woman stabbed in her home. The case leads to creepy, terminally-ill medical student Radek (Valery Inkijinoff) who sees this as his chance to a leave a mark on the world. Also featuring Alexandre Rignault, Gaston Jacquet, Henri Echourin, Marcel Bourdel, and Gina Manes.

I was impressed by the odd-looking Inkijinoff, even if his character doesn't always quite make sense. Director Duvivier utilizes a number of novel cinematic techniques, such as, instead of having an investigator move from location to location, he is shown addressing people on a projected screen, with the projection changing locations. It's a disconcerting way of showing location changes. This was an interesting police film, a bit ahead of its time, and any chance to see Baur is worth taking.  (7/10)

Source: FilmStruck.

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Blade of the Immortal (2017) - Japanese samurai fantasy, based on a manga series, from Magnet, HanWay, and Warner Brothers, and director Takashi Miike. In Japan during the feudal era, disgraced samurai Manji (Takuya Kimura) agrees to help young girl Rin (Hana Sugisaki) seek revenge against Anotsu Kagehisa (Sota Fukushi) and his Itto-ryu, a band of master fighters and killers. One samurai and a little girl may not seem like much against a veritable army of warriors, except that Manji has one distinct advantage: 50 years ago he was infected by "bloodworms" thanks to a mysterious priestess, and now he's seemingly immortal. Also featuring Hayato Ichihara, Erika Toda, Kazuki Kitamura, and Chiaki Kuriyama.

Ultra violent and with streaks of dark comedy running through it, this is an excellent samurai action film for those with a strong stomach for hack'n'slash mayhem. The performances are good, and I was very impressed with Hana Sugisaki as the vengeance seeking young Rin. There are lots of interesting costumes and characters, and although the movie runs nearly 2 and a half hours, that seems necessary to make room for all of the plot points. While most of the story is resolved by the end, some things are left unexplained, such as who or what the priestess is that wonders in and out of the story. That may be left for potential future installments, although as this proved to be a disappointment at the Japanese box office, any sequels look unlikely.

One of the major selling points of this movie is that it is the "100th film from director Takashi Miike." He's had an interesting, and obviously very prolific career, that in many ways matches the Japanese film industry of the last 25 years, with its many highs and lows. Miike first made a name for himself with a series of stylish, surreal and ultra-violent yakuza gangster pictures, culminating in the cult favorites Dead or Alive (1999) and Ichi the Killer (2001). Other noteworthy films include the bizarre musical The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001), the outrageous black comedy Visitor Q (2001), and perhaps most famously, the graphic thriller Audition (1999). Miike received the best notices of his career for the 2010 samurai epic 13 Assassins. His films' styles range from the cheapest looking, shot-on-video bargain-basement exploitation trash, to slick, widescreen affairs that match any top-notch Western cinema productions. Due to the often shocking, offensive, and absurdist material in many of his films, critics both in Japan and elsewhere have been slow to warm to him. This latest movie has many of the classy touches of 13 Assassins, but with the added manga-inspired videogame qualities of many Japanese action films. I recommend it to fans of the samurai genre, but I don't know if it would win any new fans to the genre.  (7/10)

Source: Magnet Blu-ray.

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