René Clément – La baby-sitter aka Jeune fille libre le soir (1975)

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Whatever one says about the plot of this film is going to be a spoiler. Let’s just say that a girl takes a baby-sitting job for one night and in the morning finds that things are not what they seemed and she is in a big load of trouble.

The film has been trashed by just about everybody who ever bothered to write about it, and that’s unfair. At least among Clément’s thrillers – Les felins, Le passager de la pluie, La course du lièvre à travers les champs, etc – it can stand its ground, sharing their dreamlike ambiguity and opaque plot structure. It may not be a masterpiece, but it’s certainly a worthwhile couple of hours. Continue reading

Noboru Tanaka – Edogawa Ranpo ryôki-kan: Yaneura no sanposha AKA Watcher in the Attic (1976)

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Watcher in the Attic is a 1976 Japanese film in Nikkatsu’s Roman porno series, directed by Noboru Tanaka and starring Junko Miyashita.

In 1923 Tokyo Lady Minako is the owner of a shabby boarding house with a collection of bizarre characters for tenants. Gōda, one of her tenants, spends most of his time in the attic spying on the other tenants through holes he has drilled into the ceiling. During one of his peeping sessions, Gōda witnesses the murder of one of the tenants at the hand of Lady Minako. Gōda becomes obsessed with Lady Minako, and determines to commit a grotesque murder in order to prove to her that he is her soul mate. He kills another tenant – a priest – by dripping poison into his mouth through the ceiling. A series of grotesque murders follow. The film ends apocalyptically with the Great Kantō earthquake which kills both of them during their intercourse. Continue reading

Krzysztof Kieslowski – Krótki film o zabijaniu AKA A Short Film About Killing (1988)

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Death from the very beginning — a rat decomposing in the water, a cat hanging from a railing as giggling children run off. In Krzysztof Kieslowski’s expansion of the Decalogue: Five segment (“Thou shalt not kill”), the commandment bounds individual and governmental killing into one object of anguished contemplation. Biblical intimations also figure in the bar exam summation (“Since Cain, no punishment has been capable of improving the world”) of apprentice attorney Krzysztof Globisz, one of the three Warsaw dwellers whose path ominously converge; the others are a 20-year-old drifter (Miroslaw Baka) and a jaundiced, middle-aged cabbie (Jan Tesarz). The obscured-vision effects of Slawomir Idziak’s dirty-sepia filters — characters encircled by soiling irises — suggest isolated realities clashing appallingly in the most excruciating murder since Torn Curtain’s farmhouse killing: a mid-ride throttling, Tesarz’s writhing foot emerging bare from shoe and sock, a heavy body dragged through an almost Tarkovskyan marsh before the final bludgeoning at Bakas hand’s. Continue reading

Henri Decoin – Les Inconnus dans la Maison aka Strangers in the House (1942)

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Synopsis:
Since his wife left him, almost twenty years ago, the once brilliant lawyer Loursat has slumped into a life of despondency and drunkenness. He lives in a vast empty house with his teenage daughter, Nicole, with whom he hardly communicates. One fateful day, something happens which pulls Loursat back from the abyss: he discovers a dead body in his house. When his daughter and her group of rebellious young friends are charged with the murder, Loursat decides to take charge of the case.
— scarabus Continue reading

Elio Petri – L’assassino AKA The Ladykiller of Rome (1961)

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The film is a frequently clever examination of a cynical social climber who finds himself in trouble. Arrested at his home and complete with a phoney alibi to cover his infidelity, our antique-dealer hero soon learns that he’s under suspicion for having murdered his ex-lover. Unfortunately for him, he’s not noted for his loving-kindness (he takes financial advantage of the desperate as he relieves them of their valuables) and is, romantically speaking, a cad, having exploited the soon-to-be-deceased lover for career purposes while romancing a younger bubblehead under her nose. All of this inhumanity seems to point to his being the killer, plunging him into a Kafka-lite nightmare that forces him to face up to his own brutishness. Continue reading