Movie Review – Donkey Skin

Donkey Skin (1970)
Written & Directed by Jacques Demy

Among the masses, Charles Perrault’s name has never quite had the recognition of the Brothers Grimm. Perrault was a French author during the 17th century who is most well known for founding the literary genre of the fairy tale. His fairy tales, of course, were derived from regional folktales, including Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. Jacques Demy grew up hearing and reading the stories Perrault had collected centuries earlier. Since the early 1960s, Demy had been trying to work out a script to adapt one of the fairy tales. There isn’t a director I can think of that would be more suited for this type of film, Demy’s commitment to style while staying true to honest storytelling is something that makes a fairy tale pop off the page.

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Patron Pick – Solaris (1972)

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Solaris (1972)
Written by Fridrikh Gorenstein & Andrei Tarkovsky
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

Science fiction is a label attributed to a pretty diverse genre of fiction. In recent years, the move to rebrand it as “speculative fiction” has been made but has not gotten much headway in mainstream culture. “Speculative” is a much better way to describe this genre’s full breadth. In Western cinema, the emphasis is often on technological innovation, which makes sense given the very industrial, consumptive capitalist mindset. Things will set us free; items we can purchase and/or upgrade are the path to salvation. Look at how, amid a global climate collapse, we are offered ludicrous technological solutions like dimming the sun artificially rather than simply developing systems that will help us consume fewer fossil fuels. Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky also saw this in Western science fiction and sought to make cinema that captured the metaphysical and philosophical strains, asking big questions about existence and reality.

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Movie Review – Blue Collar

Blue Collar (1978)
Written by Paul Schrader & Leonard Schrader
Directed by Paul Schrader

The American automotive industry was once a significant piece of the national mythos. It was born out of the personal legend-making of Henry Ford and kept growing from there. The conflict between the companies and the unions dragged on for decades, a constant tension between workers & management that came to its fatal end with the election of Ronald Reagan, a nail in the coffin of American union power. This was Paul Schrader’s directorial debut, riding high off the acclaim from his screenplay for Taxi Driver. By the end of Blue Collar’s shoot, the filmmaker would have a nervous breakdown and reconsider his career choices. Fueled by a trio of actors with big egos and a strong dislike for each other, Schrader was at the center of a work that would prove chaotic on many fronts.

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Movie Review – Sorcerer

Sorcerer (1977)
Written by Walon Green
Directed by William Friedkin

Fate or free will? It’s a question that will likely be debated until the sun’s heat stops shining on this planet. Do we choose our path in life, or do we follow a series of steps before us? What about people who meet early, gruesome ends? If Fate is actual, then what was the point of their lives? To die, to be a supporting player in someone else’s story? We’re born into a world where many institutions and systems are already in place. We have no say in their operation save for being allowed to vote for a few representatives every few years that are funded chiefly by those same institutions. The only power we seem to have is the ability to make people in the same economic class miserable through our actions, letting our personal grievances dictate our global philosophy. It’s bleak as hell, the powerlessness of existence. 

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Movie Review – Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Written & Directed by Richard Brooks

The 1970s saw the Sexual Revolution occur in the United States. Like everything in America, this was more complex than it first appeared, and Americans overindulged to the extent that it did cause some harm to themselves. Sex is good, people should have more of it, but Americans have never been able to engage healthily. It’s either the most insane chaste abstinence or hyper-indulgence in near comical fetish. It should come as no surprise that film & television about sex have just never managed to get anything right because they become so caught up in the specter of Puritanical thinking in which the country is rooted. Looking for Mr. Goodbar was a mainstream attempt to make a movie about women’s liberation and the sexual revolution, and I cannot say whether or not it worked. The biggest problem is that it was written & directed by a man who seemed utterly uncomfortable with what was happening.

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Movie Review – Three Days of the Condor

Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfield
Directed by Sydney Pollack

The CIA is one of the most evil and chaotic institutions in the United States. The formation of the CIA in the wake of World War II amounts to a political coup by the business class. Anticommunist sentiments were running high in the Truman administration in the wake of the war. The Soviets were gaining ground in a Europe attempting to heal from fascist destruction. However, the United States ushered many “useful” Nazis across the Atlantic to help build a new world order that put America at the top of the heap. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the CIA’s precursor, scheming to undermine any communist growth in the world. The OSS would eventually hire a group of wealthy and educated white men who saw this as an opportunity to turn the world into their playground, become the secret agents they’d read about in a growing & popular genre of literature at the time, and for some (the true believers) they operated with religious fervor to destroy communism. These agents turned global politics into a deadly game they played against people trying to survive and make their nations better and amongst each other, games within games. 

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Movie Review – The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye (1973)
Written by Leigh Brackett
Directed by Robert Altman

“There’s a long goodbye/And it happens every day.”

So go the lyrics of a song you will hear many variations of while watching The Long Goodbye. To say this film upset many people, both critics & the general audience, would be an understatement. The character of Phillip Marlowe was a highly revered cultural icon to the adults of the 1970s. In tandem, Humphrey Bogart, forever connected to Marlowe, was seen as the epitome of the movie detective. You cannot watch any American detective film or television series without it being profoundly influenced by that ur-text. So when iconoclastic director Robert Altman released his adaptation of The Long Goodbye, it was not initially well-received. However, The Long Goodbye would be re-released in the same year with a new marketing campaign and find an audience that truly loved it.

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Movie Review – Serpico

Serpico (1973)
Written by Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler
Directed by Sidney Lumet

All Cops Are Bastards. That was the commonly accepted stance in most of America for quite a while. Then 9/11 happened, and it was used as an opportunity to militarize police in America to the degree that had never happened before. That was simultaneously happening as cultural worship of first responders was seeded. I definitely think firefighters and paramedics do vital work, but they were pushed aside in the ensuing years or mashed into this current insane “Back the Blue” cult mentality. Information in America is delivered in bursts of overwhelming amounts that no average person can process & parse. This is why most Americans don’t even know about DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services (1989), where the Supreme Court ruled that “police have no specific obligation to protect.” But for people that have been awake for a while, they didn’t need that ruling to explain it to them.

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Movie Review – The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972)
Written by Paul Zindel and Alvin Sargent
Directed by Paul Newman

Americans are haunted by their alienation. It begins when you are a child, as your natural inclinations towards curiosity and play are effectively beaten out of you on all fronts. School is one institution that does much of the beating in conjunction with your parents and the Church. Most people learn how to conform and gel with the group so that every chugs along without a hitch. However, there are always some, the ones with the most cruelty visited upon them that they can’t get past it, that remain sunk in the mire of human development. That number grows in times like these, as people increase the rate of everyday cruelty. The callous way so many want to “return to normal” while COVID-19 is still a threat to health, those with disabilities and autoimmune issues are ignored. The increase in public outbursts is another sign of people losing their minds over inconveniences because that’s the only thing they demand out of life, that their treats be easy to access. It’s enough to make you grow to hate the world.

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Movie Review – Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry (1971)
Written by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Jo Heims, and Dean Riesner
Directed by Don Siegel

We are incredibly easy to manipulate. If you go up to a random person in the United States and ask them about crime in the country, they will inevitably say that crime is on the rise. In general, that isn’t true. Crime has been plummeting throughout the U.S. since the 2000s. If you narrow it to specific crimes, you’ll get spikes in thefts & robberies, but violent crime is declining. That said, the United States still ranks #1 globally in violent crime and incarcerated citizens (there’s a cyclical connection going on there). But we must also consider what is categorized as a crime and what is not. Corporate wage theft is not considered a crime, and it is rampant in every corner of the country. Police violence is placed as the opposite of “crime” when it is one of the most egregious, naked displays of state-sponsored organized crime. The 1970s was an era of high crime, and in typical American fashion, reactionary thought led to dreams of “blow the brains away” of “sniveling punks.” The avatar of this shoot first, don’t even ask questions after mentality is, of course, “Dirty” Harry Callahan.

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