Every month A Place for Film will bring you a selection of films from our group of regular bloggers. Even though these films aren’t currently being screened at the IU Cinema, this series will reflect the varied programming that can be found at the Cinema, as well as demonstrate the eclectic tastes of the bloggers. Each contributor has picked one film that they saw this month that they couldn’t wait to share with others. Keep reading to find out what discoveries these cinephiles have made, as well as some of the old friends they’ve revisited.
Michaela Owens, editor | Star of Midnight (1935)
When The Thin Man was released in 1934, its immense success inspired several cinematic copycats. Many films tried to duplicate the iconic series’s winning combination of wit and glamour, yet they rarely reached the same heights as Nick and Nora Charles. Still, I enjoy a great deal of them, especially the ones that co-starred Mr. Charles himself, William Powell, such as Star of Midnight with Ginger Rogers.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Powell and Rogers are an odd couple. However, there is a fun, frisky chemistry between the two of them. The way their characters tease each other is delicious, thanks to Powell’s mischievous sense of humor and Rogers’s divinely sassy attitude. By 1935, playing urbane detectives was becoming Powell’s bread and butter. Despite the sameness of many of his sleuth characters, it is sheer heaven to watch him solve crimes while cracking jokes and downing martinis, and it’s even better when he has a leading lady as brilliant as Rogers, who brings immense vivacity and charm to the proceedings.
You can watch the trailer here.
Caleb Allison, contributor | Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
On a contemporary horror bender this month I came upon one of those curiously obscure titles begging for a closer look, or in this case a listen – Berberian Sound Studio. I was not disappointed. At its core it’s a film about the fundamental power and horror capable with sound. Taking cues from David Lynch or Darren Aronofsky, and maybe a dash of Bergman, writer/director Peter Strickland entombs us in an Italian sound lab for giallo horror films in the 1970s. It’s a film that pays homage to the giallo genre but not to its graphic and excessive visual style.
Toby Jones plays Gilderoy, a meek but talented British sound mixer flown in to finesse their latest film, The Equestrian Vortex (you know you want to see that film!). He quickly comes to realize the “equestrian” of the title isn’t referring to a relaxing jaunt through the Italian countryside, but something much more nefarious. We’re given a behind-the-scenes pass on dubbed scream sessions, goblin gruntings and witch séances, alongside decidedly funny cabbage stabbings and watermelon smashings, all to reproduce the film within the film’s gruesome sound elements. We watch Gilderoy conduct over delightfully menacing analog audio equipment as he becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the film’s unsavory aural methods. What ensues is an expertly mannered and deliberate descent into psychological torment and anxiety for Gilderoy, whose British defenses eventually wear down, alongside our own, blurring the lines between reality and the film he’s making. Like the best horror films this one stays with you for days, holding your ears hostage and reminding you that often cinemas most terrifying moments come from what you can’t see – only hear. Go on then, have a listen.
Jesse Pasternack, contributor | Cold Turkey (1971)
I’ve always enjoyed the work of TV legend Norman Lear, so I decided to check out one of his feature films. This one is a satire about a small town in Iowa that enters a contest that requires everyone to give up smoking for 30 days. If they win, the town gets $25 million. This movie has such a great cast, led by Dick Van Dyke as a reverend who gets the town into the contest. It’s the type of film that uses great jokes to explore relevant subjects such as corporate-driven media stunts and addiction. Be on the lookout for Jean Stapleton, one of the stars of Lear’s All in the Family, giving a nervy verbal aria about how she’s using food to cope with not smoking (salami-wrapped gherkins)!
Laura Ivins, contributor | A Quiet Place (2018)
What would a horror movie be like if none of the characters were able to scream? This question forms the basic premise behind John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place (2018). The story doesn’t have a lot of surprises, but the film does a nice job creating suspense in a world where blind alien-monsters stalk their pray by sound. Krasinski and his co-collaborators construct a very insular setting, focusing on an isolated nuclear family trying to survive.
I love that they cast a deaf actress (Millicent Simmonds) to play a deaf character. Simmonds is very compelling as the older daughter, Regan, and her performance here makes me want to see her previous film, Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes, 2017). Also, the film is very nicely photographed by cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen, whose previous credits impressively include The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012).
Nathaniel Sexton, contributor | Targets (1968); Perceval (1978); The Green Ray (1986); A Moment of Innocence (1996); Detroit Rock City (1999); Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
This month was absolutely stacked in terms of first-time watches and a series of exceptional re-watches. So, I submit the six best things I saw this month, presented in chronological order.
Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets (1968), featuring Boris Karloff’s last major screen appearance, is the world’s first truly modern horror film, a point I may have missed when I first saw it 10 years ago. Because it concerns random gun violence, Bogdanovich’s directorial debut is more relevant today than perhaps it has ever been. Éric Rohmer’s Perceval (1978) is unlike anything else and strangely set apart from the filmmaker’s other work. Rohmer deconstructs storytelling and draws film back to its ancient antecedents in adapting the Arthurian legend, exposing the artifice of narrative by having actors read verse which narrates their own actions, employing simple sets with painted backdrops and gaudy, stagey props, and utilizing a recurring chorus that mingles, inexplicably, among the film’s principle players. In a whole other register, Rohmer’s The Green Ray (1986) is maybe the best movie about the difficulties of socially getting along, feeling apart from others and hoping desperately for something to connect you to yourself and then to another person.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s meta-textual, infinitely humanistic docudrama A Moment of Innocence (1996) may feature the greatest freeze frame ending of all time. Adam Rifkin’s Detroit Rock City (1999)—a film I hadn’t seen in nearly 19 years—surprises as a hilarious formalist masterwork, where each time the camera moves or the film cuts, it does so with a style attenuated tightly to the emotional output of the story, the moment, the sense of place, time, and people. No wonder it so captured my young imagination, even when I cared so little for the music of KISS. Finally, Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), the fifth installment in the video game-inspired series (the third of Anderson’s contributions), is a bonkers high-wire act of action brilliance and brainy self-referential play, referring back to films and games in the franchise and exploring the essential qualities of the relative mediums themselves, invoking clones, simulations, and seemingly endless baddies which, at times, appear from nowhere, as if spawned by the godly code of a designer.
Click on each title to see their respective trailer: Targets [contains violence]; Perceval [contains mild violence]; The Green Ray; A Moment of Innocence; Detroit Rock City [contains some sexual content]; Resident Evil: Retribution.