The Hellbenders (1967) – Sergio Corbucci

So what do you say Spaghetti Westerns are about? Lone hero fighting with baddies in search for revenge/treasure/love?

Yep.

And what about the adventures of outlaws with no clear protagonists/antagonists? Anyone?

Let’s wind the clocks back to ’63. Sergio Leone sees a sad thing in his home Italy – people don’t go to see home-made movies. Instead, they prefer Hollywood blockbusters (despite what your grandma says, nothing have changed in this world).  So, he decided to take one of the most popular genres, Western, get some unknown Hollywood actors for the leading roles and make an impression that the movie wasn’t made in Italy but in USA. As an inspiration for the story and the way things are going, Leone took Akira Kurosawa’s Samurai epic ‘Yojimbo’. The film was named ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and marked a start for an era of Spaghetti Westerns.

Sergio Leone, ‘the other Sergio’ Corbucci and the third one, Sergio Solima, were kings of the Spaghettis during 60s and 70s, making the actors like Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Franco Nero, known to the whole world.

Sergio Corbucci shares some similarities with Leone – Morricone as a composer, have similar themes (both Leone’s ‘Fistful of Dollars’ and Corbucci’s ‘Django’ were inspired by Kurosawa). But Corbucci’s style is far more harsh, his heroes are much less noble, much more brutal. The visuals in his films are much more strikingly violent. Also, he worked far faster than Leone, releasing up to 4 films a year! And you say Woody Allen is fast!

Before making ‘I Crudeli’ (or ‘The Hellbenders’), Corbucci did some really awesome stuff like ‘Navajo Joe’ and ‘Django’ – classics of the Spaghetti Western genre. ‘I Crudeli’ wasn’t hailed that much as some of his other flicks and now is considered a rare and forgotten movie.

But, – guess what? – I’ve seen it. And that’s a pretty damn good movie we have ‘ere!

Style is typical Corbucci. Harsh, violent, striking… no-taboos for dadda tonight.

Morricone’s music is also present here, BUT it’s much worse than usual Morricone’s business, I have no idea why. I found Morricone’s music to be one of the weakest things in the movie.

One of the most iconic scenes in the movie is when our main characters murder a whole bunch of people to get to ‘their’ money. It’s played out in a typical Corbucci fashion – harshly, not being shy of showing us something. Even though the amount of blood & gore is limited, this scene is extremely hard to watch.

Other brutalities committed by the leads and their slow downfall (no spoilers, as usual!) is something really breathtaking.

Characters are much less Black&White, like we’re used to see them in Spaghettis. Everyone of them thinks he’s doing something for good and commits his brutalities for good and it’s up to viewer to (or not to) root for one or the other. There is no clear answer, like – ‘this guy is SO good!’ or ‘this maaan is sooo BAD!’.

Every single person in this movie has something good and bad within him. And that you can’t say who are we supposed to root for (but you start eventually – for one of them), that every single person who watches this movie has his own perception of who’s better, who’s worse, makes this movie truly unique.

It is fantastic how Director holds of from revealing who’s his favorite! This fantastic quality of this movie makes it the best character-study Western, ever.

Story is really cool. It starts of slowly,but trust me – it’s worth it.

The movie happens just after the Civil War has ended, South has lost. But a ruthless Confederate officer, Jonas, thinks that war is not over till he gets even. Even Steven, with the North. So he and his sons decide to rob the caravan to finance the raise of the Confederation. Jonas, to be able to pass through the hostile territory with the minimal fuss, while the money is hidden in a coffin said to contain the body of his dead son.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the story about struggle of Southern soldiers to accept their loss, is not typical to the Western genre. I mean, I haven’t seen a single film like it, I mean at all. I don’t wanna say there is NO such movie, only that if it is there, the print is hidden someplace deep in the sands or somethin.

Resume: not everybody’s going to like this Western as much as I did. My certain fascination with the phenomenally human perfectly-developed characters and my love towards ‘the other Sergio’s’ style made me rate this movie as high as I did. Certainly, I highly recommend to check it out if you’ll… errr… will be able to find it of course! I wasn’t joking or nothing when I said this film is real rare, this is not something lying on the shelves in your local Blockbuster.

9/10

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“Bande à part” (1964) – Jean-Luc Godard

French New Wave. It is such an awesome stuff indeed. This movement inspired lots of filmmakers all around the globe! Directors like Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Jim Jirmush, Bernardo Bertolucci, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Quentin Tarantino & Wong Kar-Wai among others were blown away by French New Wave films and referenced them in lots of their works.

It all started with a bunch of rookie filmmakers getting along and agreeing on one thing: that they hate studios badly – studios were assholes, producing only sequels and remakes, killing talent or shamelessly fucking with it. So, basically, nothing changed these days.

One among them, Jean-Luc Godard, made a movie “Breathless” which broke all the possible rules of filmmaking – contained jump cuts, talking directly to the camera, long monologues/dialogues and filming without a script; all of this was shot the way many Guerilla filmmakers shoot today.

At the same time, Anna Karina – young beautiful 17-year-old girl arrived to France, escaping from her native Denmark in search for a job. There she was noticed by a photographer who thought that “her eyes are wonderful” and signed a contract with young Anna. She posed for some magazines, starred in some commercials – her movements were not a revelation at all (she copied the way other models act) but her eyes were something that was truly special and was the reason she was so loved in modelling business.

Jean-Luc Godard noticed her in soap commercial and got all, ghm, fascinated by Anna Karina. He invited her in his office and asked to play a small role for which Anna would have to appear nude.

‘I have a rule’, she said, ‘no nudity!’

‘But I’ve seen you in that soap commercial where you were in the bath, nude!’ – Godard couldn’t believe in it.

‘I was wearing a suit which went to the top of my neck!’, the woman replied, ‘Your mind was imagining I was nude!’

That fiasco didn’t break Godard’s hearth, but contrary – he didn’t forget young Anna and, straight after he made “Breathless” (and it was a huge hit by the way), he invited Karina to play a leading role in ‘Le Petit Soldat’ which wasn’t involving any nudity but plenty of sensuality. She was still under the age of 18 when she played a role in ‘Le Petit Soldat’ so her mother had to fly from Denmark to sign a contract.

Eventually, Karina and Godard fell in love with each other and got married a year after.

Together, they made other well-known films ‘Une Femme Est Une Femme’ and ‘Vivre Sa Vie’ before moving on to making ‘Bande à part’.

Style shares a lot with all the traditional French New Wave stuff – filmmakers took a specific style which is considered a Hollywood’s trademark (New Wavers were sharing the fascination for Hollywood films) and added their own “charm” to the genre, creating something completely new.

Godard choose B-type Gangster film as an object of fascination here.

Cinematographer Raoul Coutard said that they choose kinda documentary-looking type of camerawork for this film to make an impression that filmmakers are making a reportage. But don’t confuse this to today’s ‘found footage’ flicks! It’s a totally different stuff! While ‘found footage’ attempts to copy the way amateurs shoot documentaries, Coutard wanted to fake the way professionals would do it.

Characters is something totally brilliant in this movie. We’re following three loners who plan a robbery. Franz, Odile and Arthur all live in their own worlds, have a hard time communicating and have no idea how to rob places (ha! Even my dog knows how…).

Love triangle in ‘Bande à part’ is the best love triangle I’ve ever seen in cinema. Franz loves Odile, but he’s not that persuasive and self-confident as Arthur, so Arthur steals Odile from right under Franz’s nose. We don’t know if Arthur loves Odile (I don’t think so) though, so we’re on the Franz’s side (at least I was).

Odile, played by Anna Karina, is my favourite female character of all times together with Mia from ”Pulp Fiction’.  She’s a child who can’t grow up, has no idea how to kiss people properly (!) and no idea about what to do with her life. Falling in love very easily, she swings between Franz and Arthur, depending on the situation they’re in. Just after asking Arthur ‘Why Franz is here?! Couldn’t we go without him?’ she may come to Franz and say the exact opposite.

My favorite scene involving Franz, Arthur & Odile is an infamous dance sequence which features voice-over narration by Jean-Luc Godard himself who explains what’s going on in his characters’ hearts.

‘My favorite dance moments were always in Godard’, says Tarantino, ‘as he literally stops the film to show these characters dancing. And the fact that the film is not a musical makes it even more sweet!’

Story is a typical B-sort kinda thing. ‘Bande à part’ is based on a pulp novel but follows in not so closely. Sadly, I didn’t get my hands on the novel, it’s a shame y’know,  so I can’t compare the two.

Same as with the previous title I was reviewing, ‘Sex and Fury’, in this movie WHAT is done is not the most important thing; what is important it’s HOW it’s done. Godard uses a B-movie structure to bring this film a light weight feel, to have some additional material to reference (Godard loves referencing other people’s work) and to make fun of B-movies and films in general.

Dialogues, monologues and the way it is done make this film something you haven’t seen before. When characters speak – and they speak a lot, – they move and perform actions that illustrate their emotions towards each other and the world as a whole, making the speeches not only awesome to HEAR but awesome to WATCH as well.

And, of course, stuff like ‘Sometimes, if you don’t hide stuff, nobody notices. I read that in an American book. ‘ or ‘Franz thinks of everything and nothing. He wonders if the world is becoming a dream or if the dream is becoming the world. ‘ is not something I’ll forget in a long time…

Resume: before I get sentimental and all that, have to say that this light, awesomely-written and beautifully acted, and wonderfully-filmed, and masterfully-directed movie deserves all the cookies. Even my chocolate ones. And your cookies. Gimme them! I’ll pass em to Godard so he’d get back to his roots.

Rating: 10/10

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“Sex and Fury” Review

When filmmakers introduced a ‘first kiss’ for a Japanese film in 1946 (people kissing were covered by umbrella), it was incredibly late for Europeans & USA. As a comparison, America, at that time, was in a ‘Production Code’ era which came as a result of the depraved films coming up on-screen. More than 20 years earlier, in America’s pre-code era, nobody was afraid of kisses or presenting people in sexually suggestive situation.

In 40s and 50s, even though sex was a taboo, Japanese started shoving more flesh on-screen, as, when all the war and post-war depressions came, people wanted to go to theatres and see some… ghm… nice-looking people naked. That’s why pornsites are gaining popularity these days, during the repression, right?

In 60s, Japanese started producing their erotic pictures, called Pink films. The differences between the Japanese erotic/porno pictures of that time compared to those made by Europeans or Americans are huuuuuge. And Japanese win. Why? This is funny, but because of limitations. Americans and Europeans could shove whatever they like – they were able to show erected genitals on-screen. As the image has some sort of shock value to it, they just keep making these shots, because it’s an easy way, babe. While Japanese didn’t have that right. They couldn’t show THAT much. So, they had to come up with the ways to make you think that you’ve seen more than you actually did – and that always work great!

In ‘Reservoir Dogs’, you never see the ear being sliced but the image comes up in your head. This image is far more gruesome than something Tarantino could show you. Because your imagination, maaaan, works better than Tarantino’s production designer.

Same with sex – as Japanese couldn’t operate by ‘show me your genitaaals, your genitaaals!’ principle, they had to come up with some super-creative way to show sex. And the result is Pink films.

‘Sex and Fury’ came by when Pink films were a very popular type of entertainment. In the 70s huge Japanese studios realised they could make some money out of it and started their own, high-budget Pinky productions. Another huge hit by that time were Samurai movies – all the ‘Streetfighters’, ‘Ladies Snowblood” and other films about a bunch of people fighting for different causes. So, some Pink film directors produced a genre-hybrid, something inbetween Pink & Samurai movies (means apart from suggestive erotic imagery, films contained some neat fight scenes).

Director Norifumi – or Noribumi – Suzuki was already huge in Pink film market at the time he directed ‘Sex and Fury’. He made some totally mind-blowing stuff and was known for the strong visuals, absolutely phenomenal fight scenes and strong sexual imagery. What can I say – all of this is incorporated in ‘Sex and Fury’.

The story is very similar to ‘Lady Snowblood’ and similar revenge flicks, so there is no surprises here. Father of a little girl was killed by the member of a gang and when this girl grows up and becomes super bad-ass fighter, she kicks the bad guys in their fucking faces with a huge motherfucking sword. Yep.

The way it is shot is very unique to Japanese films. Nobody makes movies this way. Nobody. This film mixes sex & violence brilliantly and some scenes kick ‘Kill Bill’ ass (‘Kill Bill’ exploits only violence, avoiding sex – Tarantino is no Kubrick).

Red Snow fighting sequence is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see on screen. Heroine is battling the bad guys nude, dancing on the snow. We see her feet moving, sword slicing through the air and men guts, blood dripping down on the white snow.

Later on in the movie, Christina Lindberg’s character plays with Reiko Ike’s some Japanese card game. The scenes contains zero sex or violence, but it is one of the most intense and innovative scenes I’ve ever seen on film.

The final moments of revenge are shot beautifully as well.

Acting is probably the only really weak point of this film. Christina Lindberg – beautiful, young and sexy Swedish actress with huge eyes, was inserted here because of her beauty not talent. Sadly, some moments of her performance were not natural at all (she fakes any emotion apart from orgasm quite shitty) so some dramatic moments involving her character looked almost comical, well that is a shame. Reiko Ike is quite a good actor, some say that she ‘was born to play this role’… eeh…. maybe. She’s no Heath Ledger, but no Kristen Stewart either.

Okay, finally I got to the point you wanted me to get to, perverted assholes! Sex. There is plenty of sex in the movie, but it is shot incredibly tastefully and maybe even rather not revealing enough for you, Western reader. That means you’re open to imagine some of the things, so, like I pointed out in my ‘Reservoir Dogs’ analogy, sex will strike you as they don’t show you the regular uninteresting in-and-out action, if you know what I mean (and I mean the closeups of fucking private parts), leaving you a plenty to imagine. And that’s where Christina Lindberg, who fell short in the acting category, shines. Her VERY white Swedish skin is always filmed on the background far from white. That creates an effect similar to the one in ‘Red Snow’ (blood-on-the-snow) sequence. And this is beautiful.

Resume: this film is so good that even some bad acting won’t kill the greatness of it. It’s one of these Grindhouse films you won’t stop loving. It’s a B-movie shot better than most of the A-pics.

Rating: 9.5/10

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