D: Don’t Look Now (1973)

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dont_look_now_b1_us1shThe Brits have a very layered way of moving up in the world of performing arts: you start at the bottom, and work your way up. I rather prefer that over the hope-you-get-noticed-and-rocket-to-fame model of American show business. One of the more interesting of these rising through the ranks stories is Nicholas Roeg, an intriguing cinematic voice who managed to keep his extremely singular nature in his ascent to the director’s chair.

After his debut feature, Performance, and its follow-up Walkabout, Roeg directed this mind-bending movie, described by himself as “an exercise in film grammar”. Based on a Daphne du Maurier short story, it’s the tale of Laura and John Baxter (Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland), a couple in the months after the accidental drowning death of their daughter. They’re currently living in Venice, where John is supervising the restoration of a decaying church. At dinner one night, they encounter a pair of vacationing English sisters (Hilary Mason and Clella Mantania) , one of whom is blind, but psychic. The blind one tells Laura she can see her dead daughter, who is attempting to warn John he is in danger if he stays in Venice.

hqdefaultThere is a lot to what she says: there has been a series of unsolved murders, and John keeps seeing a tiny figure darting about in the shadows of the winding streets, seemingly wearing his daughter’s favorite red raincoat – which she was wearing when she drowned. John himself also has the Second Sight, a notion which he vigorously denies, until he has a vision which sets in motion his doom.

Roeg is messing with the viewer from the beginning, presenting the daughter’s death in a early morning scene snipped into several converging, simultaneous storylines, separate realities that eventually merge into one harrowing whole. John’s psychic ability is foretold as he spills a drink on a slide of one of the Venetian churches he’s researching, his daughter in one of the pews; the drink causes the red dye of the slide to run (she is, of course, wearing the raincoat in the picture), bringing a dreadful premonition to him as he runs out the door to the nearby pond, too late.

Don't Look Now (5)This fragmented vision of reality, strings flailing about in an effort to wrap themselves into the cord of fate, runs throughout the movie. John wandering lost in the alleys of the seedier side of Venice, stopping suddenly and saying, “I know this place,” unaware that he is foreseeing his own eventual death; the final shock that we see coming from a mile off (like John, if he would only let himself see as the blind sister does) which is nonetheless so visceral, so shocking, (and it must be said, Christie and Sutherland are so good in their roles) it burns itself into your mind, even though you thought it prepared.

This movie was a bit of a cause celebre amongst my classmates at the time, probably as much for the sex scene as the horror story (oh, hush, you were in high school, too, at some point). Don’t Look Now presents a universe where everything is connected, but it is still a chaotic, uncaring place, full of danger and terror. I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t receive that message in high school; I’m a little better prepared for it now.

C: Carnival of Souls (1962)

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71NDHq4B8wL._SL1208_It’s strange to see Carnival of Souls so venerated now – it’s even out on the Criterion Collection. A quickly-produced low-budget movie meant as a calling card to the movie industry, now acknowledged as a classic. Well, okay, there are more than a few of those in the Collection, but it’s rare that we get to watch one during Hubrisween.

Just in case you recently switched living arrangements from underneath a rock, Carnival opens with a drag race gone wrong, as a car carrying three women plunges off an old bridge into a river and sinks immediately. While the river is being dredged for the car and the bodies, one of the women – Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) stumbles from the muddy river, unable to remember anything since the crash.

carnivalMary’s a skilled organist taking a position at a church in Utah, though she denies being particularly religious. On the way to this new life, she is stricken by the sight of an abandoned pleasure palace on the shore of a lake. Her increasing obsession with the place becomes a problem, though not as much as the ghoulish, silent white-faced man who seems to be stalking her.

Since we’re dealing with a movie half a century old, I think we can stop being so precious and just say that Mary died in that car wreck, and she’s only been pretending to be alive all this time. It’s something that anyone who’s read “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” or seen an episode of Twilight Zone has already figured out by the first half hour mark, if not ten minutes in. The difference is in the delivery of that revelation, which is where Carnival manages to edge itself into the realm of actual art.

carnival-of-soulsThere are two times in the movie when Mary finds herself in a silent world, unable to interact with any of the people bustling around her, as if she’s ceased to exist. It’s amazing how affecting something like killing the ambient sound in a sequence can truly be. These segments, and the scenes taking place in the decaying Saltair Amusement Park (an amazing setting that was only waiting to be discovered), its downbeat denouemant, are what give the movie its power to chill.

Carnival-Of-Souls-horror-movies-2860118-500-365Producer/director Herk Harvey (who also plays the ubiquitous dead-faced man) was a veteran of numerous “mental hygiene” and industrial shorts, and went into his two-week shoot with a budget of $17,000 and a five man crew. Years of quick production put him in good stead as the shoot proceeded guerilla-style in Salt Lake City (offering a man in a van twenty-five bucks to “nearly” run over Hilligoss, for instance). Much of the movie was shot in Lawrence, Kansas, where Hervey and his cohorts were well-known and respected (“You need to shoot in my church? Sure!”).

The oddest note in the movie is struck by Hilligoss’ portrayal of Mary; judging from interviews with her and Harvey, the cold, non-social aspect of the character is a choice by the director, which Hilligoss struggled with. It may be good for the story – Mary is a character that never truly lived, and now desperately wishes to, but doesn’t know how. It does, however (and as Hilligoss feared) limit viewer sympathy for the protagonist.

carnival-of-souls-bergerFaring better is Sidney Berger as the only other occupant of Mary’s boarding house, John. John is a realistic, horny working guy, equal parts good humor, sexual bluntness and desperation. Mary acquiesces to his constant efforts to get close to her simply because her fear of the Man and the call of the abandoned park are beginning to terrify her. Even the horndog, though, is unwilling to expose himself to her increasing instability. Berger went on to a sterling career as head of the drama department at the University of Houston, and had to put up with some frequent razzing about the role, but honestly, he is, in many ways, the best actor in the movie.

Carnival did not fare well on its initial release, and was, as is so often the case, screwed over by a con man masquerading as a distribution company. It was also cut by as much as eight minutes, and since I saw the original, uncut version, that might have actually been an improvement – it does drag in parts. But when it was sold to TV, frequent airings allowed its strengths to be appreciated, and a cult grew. And this is why, even knowing the Twilight Zone properties of the script, it is possible to still watch this small, well-organized picture and still be able to pick up a chill or two.

B: Bedlam (1946)

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m-bedlam-1946Here’s a movie that kept cropping up on late night horror movie slots, causing some consternation amongst fans expecting crepe hair werewolves or cardboard robots going berserk – a reasoned, almost stately historical drama. The station’s programmers couldn’t really be blamed – this was produced by Val Lewton, who similarly produced Cat People, Curse of the Cat People, I Walked With A Zombie, you know. It starred Boris Karloff, for pete’s sake. Similar reasoning/excuses held for Tower of London (though Camp on Blood Island was a little less forgivable).

This was the last of Lewton’s movies produced at RKO, the most expensive, and the first one to ever show a loss at the Box Office. In 1945, as Bedlam was being filmed, America was dropping atomic bombs on Japan. Small wonder that horror movies were on the wane; there’d been enough horror to go around in the real world, no need to visit it in our entertainment. Lewton would only produce three more movies in his life, and when you look at what he accomplished with remarkably small budgets, you wonder how the heck that ever happened.

rp8It’s probably Lewton’s intellectual bent, as Bedlam is pretty much derived from an engraving by William Hogarth in his Rake’s Progress series. Quick views of other satiric Hogarth art is used for scene dissolves, and I can just imagine studio execs scratching their heads over that. The artwork was, in fact, excised for the TV version.

bedlam-1946-boris-karloff-anna-leeBedlam is short for St. Mary of Bethlehem’s Hospital, an insane asylum in 1761 London. Our story concerns the Apothecary General of the hospital, George Sims (Karloff) and his increasing clashes with the protege of the Tory Lord Mortimer (Billy Law), the quick-witted Nell Bowen (Anna Lee). Horrified by the conditions in Bedlam – especially during Bedlam‘s most famous scene when an inmate, gilded to portray Reason in a show to honor Mortimer, suffocates (two decades before Goldfinger!) – Nell becomes a crusader for reform, eventually losing all her standing with the politically queasy Mortimer, and finally committed by Sims and a kangaroo court to become an inmate herself at the very asylum she is attempting to reform.

Nell still manages to reform Bedlam from the inside out, turning the huge common room into a much safer, healthier place. A Quaker stonemason (Richard Fraser), who had inspired her, is meanwhile working with the Whig reformist John Wilkes to get her another trial. Seeing that this new trial would be disastrous to him, Sims decides to give Nell the 18th century equivalent of a lobotomy, but the inmates rise against him, and while Nell escapes, hold a trial for their abusive warden, with surprising (but ultimately horrifying) results.

screen-shot-2013-08-18-at-23-05-52The Breen office hacked the script to pieces before it ever started filming, and it is still surprising what got through. Director Mark Robson recreates several of Hogarth’s prints in real space, often on hastily improvised sets (in fact, that enormous commons room in Bedlam is the church set from The Bells of St. Mary’s!). If Lewton could get this much period accuracy out of a tiny budget and some painted flats, it’s incredible he had to fight to get any work afterwards. Robson often said that he wouldn’t have been able to make movies like Earthquake if not for the lessons he learned under Lewton.

Karloff’s three movies with Lewton were probably the last of the classy horror movies he would make until he teamed with Richard Gordon in the late 50s. He always rankled when Bedlam was termed a horror movie, claiming it was historic drama. So it is… but nonetheless, here we are, talking about it during Hubrisween, because honestly – sometimes there is nothing so horrible as truth and history.


A: The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962)

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Oh, God, it’s Jess Franco.

Gritos_en_la_nocheNow, a lot of people whose opinion I respect like Jess Franco. I have yet to find that movie that will win me over to his camp, however. It may actually happen someday, but in the meantime, I ain’t holdin’ my breath. The Awful Dr. Orlof is described by some as “Franco’s masterpiece”, which means in a career spanning around 200 movies, he hit his high point on his fifth movie. Contemplate that upon the Tree of Woe, and let us begin.

France, 1912: Four beautiful women have already disappeared, and as the movie starts, number five is killed by a disfigured, caped man, who then carries her body out, guided by the tapping of a cane. The man doing the tapping is our awful title character (Howard Vernon, here beginning a lifelong friendship and collaboration with Franco), clad in opera cape and top hat. The killer is Morpho (Ricardo Valle), whose scarred face and bulging, unblinking eyes are the classic stuff of monster movies.

awful-dr-orlof-howard-vernon-orlof-spots-wandaWe are quickly introduced to Inspector Tanner (Conrado San Martin) and his ballerina fiancee, Wanda (Diana Lorys). Tanner is put in charge of the missing woman epidemic and will prove mostly ineffective (it is, in fact only due to a comic relief drunk played by Faustino Cornejo that Tanner solves anything). Orlof is trying to restore his daughter’s face, scarred in a laboratory fire years before – after his most recent failure (an unfortunate drunken woman trapped with Morpho in an empty house, a very effective scene), he determines that his next victim must be living when he attempts the skin grafts. Then he notices that Wanda and his daughter are played by the same actress…

hqdefaultOkay, we can stop right now and examine the obvious, that this is the same plot as Eyes Without A Face, released only two years previous. In this instance, Franco has an excuse: he was denied a permit to film his intended fifth movie by the Spanish State Censor, and he already had a cast and crew ready to go. He wrote Orlof in a week, figuring – as is often the case – that a horror movie would be perceived as having no particular political message. This doesn’t necessarily excuse his return to this particular trough over and over again through the years, however.

horrible-dr-orlof-1962-02-gFranco was a cinematic omnivore, and this really shows in this version of Les Yeux Sans Visage through the filter of a 1930s Universal monster movie (it’s a possibility that Orlof is a tribute to Bela Lugosi and his blind henchmen in The Human Monster), or one of the more contemporaneous Hammer gothic horrors. It’s certainly lacking the poetry of Franju’s film – the tormented nature of the daughter, the recipient of her father’s increasingly horrific attempts to restore her face (Lorys as the daughter is called upon to do little more than loll her head about on a uncomfortable-looking bed). There is some tribute paid to Orlof’s agony over what he’s doing, but it feels more like filler here. I’m sure the dreadful English dub is not helping out there, either.

tumblr_m83sl8hbSv1r4ro7yo1_500The character of Wanda the ballerina is a new addition to the story, using herself as bait when she realizes Orloff is becoming obsessed with her. The final twenty minutes of the movie, with Wanda in the clutches of the mad scientist and her worthless boyfriend the Inspector finding every excuse possible to not read her hastily-written note, is pretty compelling, though the viewer finds himself wondering why she thinks taking such a hazardous course without notifying her policeman boyfriend in advance is going to turn out alright.

If nothing else, you have to admit that the original title, Gritos en la noche, or Screams in the Night, is a great title for a horror movie. Exactly when it became The Awful Dr. Orlof is opaque to me; I had assumed the change was made so it could occupy the lower half of a double bill with Ricardo Freda’s The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, but my Image DVD bears the french title L’horrible Docteur Orlof. I need more coffee before I can begin to untangle this, and I’m inclined to believe it’s just not worth it.

For some – like, for instance, me – it’s an okay way to kill an hour and thirty minutes. For others it’s going to be an unforgivable slog, though a couple of instances of shocking (for 1962, anyway) female nudity employing an obvious body double might wake them up.

Look, In The Trees! It’s Coming!

As promised, here it is, October, and you are going to get terribly, terribly tired of me. That is because October 6, this will begin:

Hubrisween 3 Black

Yes, a re-run of last year’s Hubrisween. Twenty-six days, a movie a day, A through Z. Last year it was the originator – Checkpoint TelstarThe Terrible Claw Reviews, and myself. This year, Web of the Big Damn Spider and Microbrewed Reviews  will join the “fun”.

That banner at the top of each review will take you to Hubrisween Central, a collection of links to each review as they post. And yes, there will be a 2015 version of last year’s Letterboxd page. Here’s a preview:


I haven’t been exactly idle while I’ve been gone. Though I haven’t been posting here, I’m still watching movies for that 100 Films Challenge I suckered myself into.  The need to comment on movies I watch runs deep, it seems, because I’ve still been reviewing them, but on the Letterboxd site, where I feel a little better about engaging in what Warren Ellis calls “first draft writing”. I don’t know why that is, but it’s enabled me to get them off my brain and still leave time to bank Hubrisween reviews and take care of my other writing projects. Almost. (but it was a good plan)

Here’s what you’ve missed (yes, yes, this is all on my List 2015 page, but we’re all here now):


8 1/2


The Sting

The Dance of Reality

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

The 10th Victim


Samurai Rebellion

The Lady Vanishes

In the Realm of the Senses

There. Now we’re all caught up. See you in a couple of days, then every night through Halloween.

(dammit, this song still plasters a big ol’ grin across my face!)




The Joys of Crazytown

Which is where I am, right now. I’ll try to send you a postcard.


Yeah, it's a real place. Go There, it's fun.

Yeah, it’s a real place. Go There, it’s fun.

My Day Job – well, Day as far as 19.5 hours a week go, because after that, you know, I’d be eligible for benefits – is, as usual, short-handed (gosh, I wonder why), so scramble is the operative word. Three shoots this week, somehow found time to edit one and a half stories. Fortunately, I do love this job. Just wish there were more of it.

I still work the other two part-time jobs.

I have a writing contract that is in the final stretch, and it still has a lot of work to be done.

I promised I would watch 100 specific movies this year.

Something has to give.

What that something is… is regular updates on this blog.

We’ve been here before. We’ll probably be here again. Until, against all odds, I become independently wealthy, this will probably be an occurrence frequently revisited.

I’ve tried to avoid writing about these 100 movies, but find I can’t, so I’m doing shorter reviews over at Letterboxd. Those reviews are linked on this page, so if you suddenly find you have a burning need to find out what I thought about Boss Nigger, that will be over there.

Regretfully, that means my in-depth article contrasting 8 1/2 with Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Souls will never be written. Do yourself a favor and program that double feature for yourself. There is a delightful amount of synergy there.

Things won’t be quiet here for long. Next month is October, and you know what that means:

Hubrisween 3 Black

Yes, that means you are going to get sick of me next month. And this time, there are more blogs taking part than last year, so you aren’t going to lack for horror movie reviews.

And speaking of blogathons, you have this to look forward to in November:

Criterion Banner FINAL

Yep, there’s a lot of blogs writing about the Criterion Collection and its movies on the Collection’s 30th anniversary, and honestly, I wasn’t going to take part, because as I mentioned earlier: my plate is very full and I really don’t need another run to the buffet table. Then I saw what movies had already been claimed, and it was a long list, and my eye wandered down it, and I discovered that no one had staked out my favorite movie of all time. Dammit.

So in November I am going to be writing about The Seven Samurai. This is in equal part awesome and terrifying. Writing about movies I like is always more difficult than heaping scorn on a movie that disappointed me; I want people to watch the movies that make me happy, so I don’t like to give away too much.

But this is an important movie to me. I’ve never written about it at length before. I haven’t had my yearly re-watch of it yet. So I’m going to try to forget the increased audience this event is going to bring in, and try to do it honor. And that will take time.

Wish me luck. I’ll see you around.

I May Be Too Stupid For Some Movies

100I’ve been binging on a lot of quality movies lately, trying to make the deadline for this 100 Movie Challenge I managed to get myself into (the number of ways I find to make watching movies feel like work is utterly astounding to me). That’s not my favored way of doing things. I like to sit back and ponder what I have just seen for a day or so. Okay, to be honest, if I don’t like what I’ve seen, I like to take a couple of days to figure out just how mean I’ll be to it. But my general covenant with movies – You entertain me, and I agree to be entertained – works and works well. I rarely have to be mean.

Didn't totally understand. Doesn't matter.

Didn’t totally understand. Doesn’t matter.

But sometimes I have to admit I’ve just not entertained as much as I am bumfuzzled. I’ve been going through a lot of movies with extraordinary imagery lately, and the processing on those takes longer. Some, like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “magical autobiography” The Dance of Reality are lush but fairly accessible – I had to satisfy myself with a briefer-than-usual review on Letterboxd just to get it out of my system so I could work on the more difficult tasks, all the while aware that the clock was ticking and I’ve got to cram in ten of these movies a month to make my quota, and win the challenge. Which has no prize other than finally watching movies I’ve been telling myself I really need to watch.

Now first up on that list is Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, which I grant you isn’t as jam-packed with symbolism or hidden meanings as something like 8 1/2 (which is one of the movies I’m still processing), but it is, unmistakably, all about the imagery. There is a well-deserved Academy Award for Cinematography given to Nestor Almendros (though Haskell Wexler will point out to you that he shot at least half of the movie, if you give him half a chance).

daysofheavenfeaturedNow for a personal digression: I recall reading an article sometime in the 80s about the difficulties of being a film’s producer, and one of the passages that really stuck in my memory talked about the wonderful director the project was lucky enough to score, but who demanded that the movie only be shot during “golden time”, the hour before and after sunset and sunrise, increasing the budget by drastically limiting the shooting time available. It is only now that I realize this somewhat bitter and bemused paragraph was about Terrence Malick.

Days of Heaven is beautiful, have no doubts on that front. When a movie evokes Wyeth’s Christina’s World (and I had a print of that on my wall for years), and does it well, that’s art. Where it falls down for me is the story.

The time is 1916. Richard Gere is Bill, a hot-tempered sort who flees Chicago when, in a fit of rage, he accidentally kills a foreman in the steel mill where he’s working (the foreman is Stuart Margolin, and who among us has not desired to murder him at one time or another?). Bill hops a train with his young sister, Linda (Linda Manz), and his lover Abby (Brooke Adams). They wind up working on an enormous wheat farm in the Texas panhandle owned by Sam Shepard (The Farmer isn’t even given a name).

days-of-heaven-92One problem for our peripatetic trio – besides Bill’s temper – is that they’re living under the lie that Abby is also Bill’s sister, but they don’t bother hiding their feelings for one another. The other problem is The Farmer becomes enamored of Abby (it’s Brooke Adams, who wouldn’t be enamored?). Bill overhears a conversation that indicates that The Farmer has only a year to live, and convinces Abby to marry the smitten Farmer, so their fortunes will be made. The last problem is that The Farmer is a genuinely good man, and Abby falls in love with him, too.

No, wait, the last problem is that plague of locusts. And the fire that burns the entire farm. And Bill, once again, accidentally killing the Farmer (who was, to be sure, trying to kill Bill). And then the law on their heels. And…

Days2_low-789890The cult around this movie perplexes me. It is beautiful to look at, I cannot stress that enough. These are all fine actors. That story though… that’s only one step removed from a TV miniseries from the same era, and one of those would have been better scripted, to boot (apparently Malick just let the actors improvise for a good while to “find the story”). I find I don’t have a problem with overwhelming imagery, as in 8 1/2 or Dances of Reality, as long as those images are backed up with ideas. So much of the two Malick films I have seen thus far – this and The Thin Red Line – seem to be about the beauty of nature  providing a contrast for man fucking up. I get that. I got that with Easy Rider. Can we move on?

There are more Malick movies, these are just the two that were on The List. I will watch more; my resistance against these two have not been enough to turn me against Malick (though I know plenty of people who have not only walked away, but are driven to screech on social media whenever I mention him). What has been presented has been presented so well that I feel there must be something I am missing. And I am not sure which may be the true failing here – my missing whatever it is or thinking that there is something I am missing.

Ilarge_gEG1V9vPaC5DPUxnCifKrKjitzQ am much more kindly disposed toward Picnic at Hanging Rock. Rather famously, it concerns the class of a girls-only boarding school in Australia who go on a picnic on Valentine’s Day, 1900 to the titular rock, a huge misshapen piece of volcanic stone jutting out of the forest. Four girls, against the prior orders of the school’s headmistress, climb the rock. Only one comes back, in a panic. One teacher goes in search of them, and she vanishes.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is mainly about the wear and tear on the people left behind by that singular event. The school and its personnel; the townspeople; the roommate of the ringleader of the missing girls, who was desperately in love with her; the son of a visiting English family who saw the girls wander off and becomes so obsessed with them that he spends the night on the Rock, hoping to find a clue as to what happened.

picninc_at_hanging_rockThere is an underlying feeling of the supernatural at work, but never so overt or clear that one can say, “Aha! This is what happened!” Which has always presented a problem for the movie, especially in America, where we like our mysteries solved (That last sentence really needs a font that implies sarcasm). Even knowing that this is going to be the case, the pining in your soul for an answer, any answer, is going to be extreme. Although the story is entirely from the imagination of novelist Joan Lindsey, many have tried to research the incident, only to be stymied when they can find no corroboration. It’s rumored the production company started a rumor that it was true story, just so people might not come to the film expecting any sort of closure.

Lacking an explanation, then, Picnic at Hanging Rock, while telling a period piece in a time and a place almost none of us have experienced, still manages the magic quality of veracity; though the images are pretty and often poetic, it feels real, as we are forced to ponder similar incidents which have no explanation, no end, no matter where or when we may be. This was Peter Weir’s third crack at a feature film, and he demonstrates a remarkably sure hand at a tricky subject, ably aided by his actresses and one of the more remarkable physical locations that was just waiting to be discovered.

wingsofdesire1I said last week that I like to leave things on an upbeat note when possible, so I’ll finish up with another movie also packed with remarkable imagery, but one that I could understand and appreciate: Wings of Desire.

Wim Wenders, after the success of Paris, Texas had wanted to make a movie about Berlin, which was, at the time, still a city divided by the Wall. In trying to find a hook on which to rest this movie, he at one point hit upon the idea of guardian angels. And here it begins.

Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander are Damiel and Cassiel, two angels who watch and observe the people of Berlin. They can hear the thoughts of these people, but it is their lot to watch but not interfere. The most they can do is, with a touch, impart a bit of grace, a calm, a peace. It sometimes helps; sometimes it does not. The two are part of an apparent flight of angels in the city; one of the best sequences is Cassiel slowly walking through a library, luxuriating in the chorus of thoughts, nodding to his fellow angels, each at a person’s shoulder, observing. Wandering through the story is Homer (Curt Bois), an elderly writer, who may or may not be the original Homer, immortal and eternally pursuing and preserving the story of Man.

imageThe thrust of the story concerns Damiel’s growing disenchantment with his angelic lot and a desire to become active, to, in short, become mortal. There are two things that drive this desire: a female trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin) in a failing circus, whom Damiel first encounters complaining about the angel wings the Ringmaster wants her to wear; and an American actor (Peter Falk, playing Peter Falk), who can sense the angel’s presence, and tells him how good it can on this side of existence.

The thematic touches are simple and glorious throughout; the angels’ world is black and white, only humans see in color. And perhaps the most striking scenery is provided by that Wall, which seemed so damned eternal in 1987. It is a frequent backdrop, covered in graffitti. When the angels walk through it to the Soviet side, the sight of those closely guarded walls so white and clean is shocking.

wings-of-desire2Hollywood, of course, sought to remake Wings of Desire after its success, and as usual sought to “improve” it. I’m not sure about the “improvement” part. City of Angels has much more of a three-act structure and solid through-line to it, but Wings of Desire, slipping in and out of Damiel’s quest, follow other threads, other people, manages to take an extraordinary, truly supernatural story, and make it feel more real that any number of movies built on carefully-studied Syd Field script models.

I really liked it, is what I’m saying. Am I missing anything Wim Wenders was trying to say? Does that matter? I liked the movie. I’m likely to tell other people to see the movie.

And really, that’s what this is all about.


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