Overlooked Films

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Overlooked Films

Postby judasdisney » Sat Feb 16, 2008 2:48 am

In the tradition of Roger Ebert's "Overlooked Films Festival," here's a random list from a variety of genres that might be considered "overlooked gems":

Power Trip (2003) -- Wild documentary about a U.S. energy company trying to rebuild the electrical utility of post-Soviet Georgia, where many citizens prefer the old social safety net to the spreading Wild West capitalism.

Night Moves (1975) -- Slow-burn noir drama about gumshoe Gene Hackman uncovering post-1960s conspiracy zeitgeist in Florida, with a bleak ending.

Cavite (2005) -- Thriller/Accidental travelogue about a U.S. teenager in the Phillipines coerced into terrorism.

Cautiva (2005, Argentina) -- Coming of age film about an orphan from the 1976 Argentine coup and Dirty War who discovers that her real parents were desaparecidos.

The '70s Dimension -- a DVD-only collection of 1970s U.S. commerical advertisements, offering a unique view of bizarre forgotten trends and themes.

Anything you can add from your collection?
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Postby Sweet Tooth » Sat Feb 16, 2008 7:23 am

PUNISHMENT PARK
(From Wikipedia)

Punishment Park is a 1971 film written and directed by Peter Watkins. It is a pseudo documentary of a British and West German film crew following National Guard soldiers and police as they round up a group of members of the counterculture across the desert.

The movie takes place in 1970. The Vietnam War is escalating and United States President Richard Nixon has just decided on a "secret" bombing campaign in Cambodia. Faced with a growing anti-war movement, President Nixon decrees a state of emergency based on the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950, which authorizes federal authorities, without reference to Congress, to detain persons judged to be a "risk to internal security".

Members from the anti-war movement, civil rights movement, feminist movement, conscientious objectors, and Communist party, mostly University students, are arrested and face an emergency tribunal made up of community members. With state and federal jails at their top capacity, the convicted face the option of spending their full conviction time in federal prison or three days at Punishment Park. There, they will have to traverse 60 miles of the hot California desert in three days, without water or food, while being chased by National Guardsmen and law enforcement officers as part of their field training. If they succeed and reach the American flag at the end of the course, they will be set free. If they fail by getting "arrested", they will serve the remainder of their sentence in federal prison.

European film makers follow two groups of detainees as part of their documentary; while Group 637 starts their three day ordeal and learn the rules of the "game", the civilian tribunal begins hearings on Group 638. The film makers conduct interviews with members of Group 637 and their chasers, documenting how both sides become increasingly hostile towards the other. Meanwhile, back at the tent, the film crew documents the trial of Group 638 as they argue their case in vain for resisting the war in Vietnam.

Production:
Punishment Park was shot in 16mm with a skeleton crew of 8 people and only 1 Eclair camera. The set was extremely minimal, using only a tent enclosed within a larger tent for the interior scenes. The rest was shot on location at the El Mirage Dry Lake in California. It took only two and a half weeks to shoot. The "newsreel" quality of the film was enhanced by desaturating the color and removing the traditional hard edge of the image through the use of Harrison diffusion filters. The production budget was only $66,000, with an additional $25,000 when the film was converted to 35mm.

Cast:
Most of the actors had never acted before and were cast according to their political viewpoints regarding the Vietnam War. For example, most of the actors playing the prisoners were political activists and truly against the war. Many of the younger actors were considered radical and had already been arrested and served prison time because of their beliefs. Likewise, some of the actors playing police officers had been police officers in real life. According to Watkins, the use of non professional actors creates a "pseudo actuality."

Technical Notes
The film is an example of a uchronie, or alternate history, and of a psychodrama. It is shot in the cinéma vérité style using hand held cameras and improvisation, which lends to its realism and the real temper of the actors flaring. Initially Watkins had a carefully detailed script, but like in his other films, as preproduction progressed, he decided to allow his cast to improvise based on their own instinctive feelings. In his previous films, Watkins had only used improvisation a small amount. Punishment Park was the first time Watkins gave his cast nearly complete control over the dialogue. Their only requirement was to follow a rough outline of sequences drawn up by the director.

On one occasion the participants identified with the situation so completely that the victims began to actually attack the pursuers by throwing rocks resulting in one opening fire in return. The panic reaction of the film team, believing that the actors dropping down had been shot for real, is genuine.

Although the film itself is fictional, many of the elements found within are metaphors of social and political events of the time, such as the trial of the Chicago Seven, the Kent State shootings, police brutality, and political polarization.

Response:
One of Watkins' intentions for the film was to provoke strong emotional and intellectual responses. Few people had impartial reactions to the film, the majority of audiences responses were more extreme. As Watkins foresaw, this produced debates after the viewings of the film similar to the debates that take place in the film. There were many extremely negative reactions to film, largely due to the unconventional form or because it was viewed as an indictment against America. Some even linked the film to communism, claiming that the film expresses a Communist philosophy. However, many more people were outraged that a British director would make a film about American political problems in a time of crisis. The film was heavily attacked when it was released at the 1971 New York Film Festival and Hollywood studios refused to distribute it.

*** *** ***

This is probably one of the most important and disturbing para-political films of all time. Available on official DVD release for the first time last year, Punishment Park has recently been uploaded in its entirety to Youtube. Here are the links:

Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlFqhrY5Jw8

Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkYCpS5XlTw

Part 3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2ARvz4tHX4

Part 4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c967hwBxgrM

Part 5
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAN_IIldkzs

Part 6
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4T3_U9vhWlY

Part 7
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWcjGU9FwYU

Part 8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTG8HWey9WI

Part 9
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7m9TgJejKU
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Re: Overlooked Films

Postby Jeff » Sat Feb 16, 2008 11:44 am

judasdisney wrote:Anything you can add from your collection?


Oh hell, yeah!

Lilith (1964) has been on my mind a lot recently. Haven't seen it since I was a kid, staying up much too late, and it seems largely forgotten and not widely available. Jean Seberg on a day pass from an asylum, whispering something in a shocked boy's ear - what did she say?

The Reflecting Skin (1990) is the best depiction of everyday horror in the heartland that I've ever seen. Still unreleased on DVD. The black Cadillac, seen only by a young boy, cruising like a shark through the cornfields abducting his friends while his father is falsely accused of the crimes - it's a hell of a thing.
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Postby sunny » Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:43 pm

I still haven't gotten over The Reflecting Skin.

I've mentioned Eye of God (1997) before on the board. It's another one I haven't been able to forget. Highly disturbing portrait of religious mania, it is also a deeply compassionate contemplation of how much we need the kindness of others.

Night Must Fall (1964) with Albert Finney. New Wave film noir ages ahead of it's time with it's portrayal of a possibly split personality serial killer. Shocking opening sequence must have had the censors tearing out their hair.
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Postby IanEye » Sat Feb 16, 2008 7:54 pm

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Postby judasdisney » Sun Feb 17, 2008 4:21 pm

"Night Must Fall" was at a recent Seattle film festival, and I missed it. "New Wave film noir" sounds like a sub-genre I want to see.

"Punishment Park" I've got. The fascism of the late 1960s was so much more polite and innocent. Definitely worth seeing for a point of reference and comparison to current times.

"Reflecting Skin" sounds fantastic. The image of the black car in the cornfields suggests its own story, archetypal and dreamlike. Sounds like a classic "overlooked gem," right down to the description: "Still not available on DVD."

I don't know if "Reflecting Skin" is quite what I imagine -- probably it isn't -- but, to me, I wish there was an entire sub-genre of films I could find which are ridden with dreamlike images, impressionistic, made by filmmakers corollary to but not simply imitation-Lynchian ... a zone of consciousness I wish film would aspire to more often, as the promise it has the potential to fulfill as a cultural form.

Here in Seattle, we're lucky to have one of the world's best video stores: Scarecrow Video, which specializes in out-of-print or scarce or rare, as well as mainstream, films.

An example of a rare film they carry (which I couldn't resist buying) is the 5-hour uncut version of Wim Wenders' "Until The End Of The World." If you're ever in Seattle, make a point to visit Scarecrow Video.
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Postby Jeff » Sun Feb 17, 2008 9:59 pm

judasdisney wrote:"
"Reflecting Skin" sounds fantastic. The image of the black car in the cornfields suggests its own story, archetypal and dreamlike. Sounds like a classic "overlooked gem," right down to the description: "Still not available on DVD."


I downloaded a torrent of it recently. I'm going to create a Youtube channel soon, and the first thing I'll post is a clip of a haunting abduction scene.

I don't know if "Reflecting Skin" is quite what I imagine -- probably it isn't -- but, to me, I wish there was an entire sub-genre of films I could find which are ridden with dreamlike images, impressionistic, made by filmmakers corollary to but not simply imitation-Lynchian ... a zone of consciousness I wish film would aspire to more often, as the promise it has the potential to fulfill as a cultural form.


I think its reception suffered because it appeared at the height of Lynch's appeal, and seemed "Lynchian" simply because it was otherwise uncategorizable.
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Re: Overlooked Films

Postby IanEye » Mon Feb 18, 2008 10:18 am

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Postby Jeff » Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:27 am

FWIW, I've created the RI youtube channel, and posted a couple of clips from The Reflecting Skin:

http://www.youtube.com/user/RigorousIntuition
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Postby judasdisney » Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:09 am

Jeff wrote:FWIW, I've created the RI youtube channel, and posted a couple of clips from The Reflecting Skin:

http://www.youtube.com/user/RigorousIntuition


Disturbing
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Postby streeb » Wed Feb 20, 2008 6:26 pm

The Rubber Gun is a Canadian movie from 1977, about the drugs/arts/music/gay subculture in Montreal. The characters play themselves, with Stephen Lack as the star. Lack also starred in Scanners, and he was notoriously awful in that movie, but he's wonderful here. I saw it once on Red Deer TV at midnight, in 1989. On a whim I taped it, and I still have the tape. I don't know anybody else who has seen this incredible film - aside from this guy:

THE RUBBER GUN * * * * setting: P.Q.
(1977) Stephen Lack, Allan Moyle, Pam Holmes-Robert, Pierre Robert, Peter Brawley, Joe Mattia.....Story of a group of counter-culture drug suppliers -- as opposed to drug pushers -- (led by Lack) and the university student (Moyle) who wants to study them. Effective, fascinating and off-beat drama is hip and extremely well- done with a atypically charismatic performance from Lack. Despite the realist, improvised-feel, it has a strong narrative and character development. Not for all tastes. Great music by Lewis Furey. sc: Stephen Lack with John Laing, Allan Moyle. dir: Allan Moyle. 86 min.


http://www.pulpanddagger.com/movies/r3_b.html
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Postby Jeff » Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:41 pm

streeb wrote:The Rubber Gun is a Canadian movie from 1977, about the drugs/arts/music/gay subculture in Montreal....


I haven't seen The Rubber Gun, but before I saw Allan Moyle's name attached to it I was thinking of him and Montreal Main (1974), which I'd thought he'd directed, but he only wrote and starred. (Stephen Lack's in this, too.) I saw it on TV years ago. I don't think it would air today, given its NAMBLAesque content.

"In Frank Vitale's autobiographical study, he plays a photographer living among the assorted outcasts, junkies, and artists populating Montreal's Main. Quieter and more introspective than most of his friends, Frank becomes smitten by Johnny, a fourteen-year-old from the suburbs. But the relationship is doomed by the startling degree of hypocrisy and possessiveness that boils over among the group when they discover the intensity of Frank's feelings about the boy."
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Postby streeb » Thu Feb 21, 2008 2:11 pm

Interesting... to be be honest, I always thought there was something a little creepy about having two adolescent runaways larking around on the Deuce in Times Square. http://www.robinjohnson.net/timessquare.html

And Moyle recently made a Michael Jackson bio?!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0411377/

I've wanted to see Montreal Main ever since I saw Rubber Gun, but never managed to catch it.
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Postby judasdisney » Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:08 am

The Return (Russia, 2003) -- A moody, monochrome coming-of-age mystery about a Russian father's strange and sudden reappearance after years of disappearance. Metaphoric about Russian authoritarianism, but also primal about family bonds. Really haunting, dreamlike.
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Postby Jeff » Tue Feb 26, 2008 12:39 pm

Cutter's Way

From its wiki:

One rainy night, Richard Bone's (Bridges) car breaks down in an alleyway. He spots a large, mysterious car in the distance. A man dumps something into a garbage can. At first, Bone thinks nothing of it and proceeds to meet his friend, Alex Cutter (Heard). The next day, a young girl is found brutally murdered in the same alleyway where Bone abandoned his car. He becomes a suspect. When Bone spots the man he thinks is the murderer in a parade later that day - the very wealthy local tycoon J.J. Cord (Stephen Elliot) - Cutter begins to take an interest in the mystery that unfolds. His interest soon becomes an obsessive conspiracy theory that develops into a troublesome investigation with his skeptical friend and the dead girl's sister (Ann Dusenberry) along for the ride.

About it's troubled history with the studio, director Ivan Passer said "You can assassinate movies as you can assassinate people. I think UA murdered the film. Or at least they tried to murder it."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutter's_Way
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