Woody Allen – Shadows and Fog (1991)


In a murky, seriously deranged cityscape only a studio art department could create, a giant bald strangler (Michael Kirby) is going around killing people with piano wire. The authorities are powerless (though he stomps about freely, occasionally declaiming speeches), so vigilante posses start roving the streets. For some reason, they dragoon a noisy nebbish named Kleinman (Allen) to assist them. So Kleinman goes into the fog, kvetching, and meets Irmy (Mia Farrow), a circus sword swallower (no double-entendres, please) whose clown of a husband (John Malkovich) is two-timing her with the strongman’s wife (Madonna). Add an “et cetera” here, because the big, mostly wasted cast also includes Kenneth Mars as the strongman, Donald Pleasence as a philosophical coroner, John Cusack as a student who mistakes Irmy for a prostitute, and Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, and Lily Tomlin as the real prostitutes in whose company she happens to be at the time. None of this adds up, and the whole thing moves and feels less like a film than one of Allen’s oddball New Yorker sketches. Still, as the fever dream of an art-house addict, it has its moments. Continue reading


Tinto Brass – Fermo posta Tinto Brass AKA P.O. Box Tinto Brass (1995)



This film is a series of letters, photos and video cassettes which women often send in to certain newspapers. By visualizing their story-telling (the name given by the psychologists to their fantasies) the film portrays the confessions, the secret longings, the adventures, recollections, dreams, desires and fantasies of these women. It is an open secret that most women dream of forbidden affairs, secret lovers and hasty encounters but when it comes down to it they lack the courage to pursue their dreams. Continue reading

Nami Iguchi – Inuneko AKA Dogs & Cats AKA The Cat Leaves Home (2004)


This is the first feature by Iguchi Nami, who more recently made the film Don’t Laugh at My Romance. Inuneko is also known as The Cat Leaves Home and as (more literally) Dogs & Cats or even Dog/Cat. The title refers to the personalities of the two heroines–one sly and flirtatious, the other stubborn and introverted.

Iguchi actually shot this as a 8mm feature (in 2001 I believe) before “remaking” it in 35mm. The 8mm feature is also on DVD but I don’t have it; I’d love to see it, provided subtitles are available.

This 35mm version is the one that played commercially in Japan and made it to festivals worldwide. As far as I know, it wasn’t released commercially outside of Japan, which is a shame as this is one of the most charming recent Japanese films i know. It’s shot in the long-take style preferred by many Asian independent filmmakers, but in a mode closer to, say, the deadpan comedy of Jarmusch than to the muted intensity of Kore-eda. I suppose, in the Japanese cinema, it’s closest in tone to Yamashita Nobuhiro’s Linda Linda Linda. Continue reading

John Ford – The Sun Shines Bright (1953)



John Ford’s remake of his 1934 Will Rogers vehicle, Judge Priest, combines three Irvin S. Cobb stories about the kindly Kentucky magistrate William Priest (Charles Winninger).

Set in 1905 Kentucky, it focuses on the judge’s battle for reelection against Yankee prosecutor Horace K. Maydew (Milburn Stone). Despite the judge’s popularity, it’s possible that his generosity and sense of justice may cost him the election. First he tries to persuade the eminent General Fairfield (James Kirkwood) to admit that he’s kin to Lucy Lee (Arleen Whelan), whose questionable background makes her a subject for ridicule. Next he faces down an angry lynch mob accusing a black man of a heinous crime – the frustrated vigilantes, dispersed by the gun-wielding judge, vow vengeance at the polls. Continue reading

Woody Allen – Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)


There’s a real murder and a real mystery in Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery, but these plot pegs are used mainly to allow Allen to explore modern urban relationships. Allen plays a book editor, married to Diane Keaton (who replaced Mia Farrow, for reasons which were well publicized at the time). Keaton is a free spirit, ever willing to try new experiences, but Allen is a wet blanket. When it becomes apparent that a neighbor has killed his wife, Keaton is eager to investigate the mystery, but Allen thinks her suspicions are nonsensical and doesn’t want to leave his apartment. Undaunted, Keaton finds another “Nick Charles” in the form of family-friend Alan Alda, who, along with his enthusiastic wife (Angelica Huston), joins in the investigation. Slightly jealous, Allen reluctantly agrees to go along on Keaton’s clue-hunting expedition–and it is he who discovers the corpse, who as it turned out was killed after Keaton started poking around the apartment building.
— Hal Erickson @ allmovie.com Continue reading

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