Stephen and Timothy Quay, Bob Rafelson,  Sam Raimi, Lynne Ramsay, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Nicholas Ray, Satyajit Ray, Carol Reed, Kelly Reichardt, Jean Renoir, Alain Resnais, Carlos Reygadas, Leni Riefenstahl,  Martin Ritt, Jacques Rivette,

Nicolas Roeg, Éric Rohmer, Roberto Rossellini, Jean Rouch, David O. Russell



Quay Brothers, Stephen and Timothy


Brothers Quay   Art and Culture

It's a strange world that casts decor as its main character. This is the world of the Brothers Quay, in which all kinds of incomprehensible objects and machines hold the stage while human characters remain at their mercy. Disjointed, dreamy, labyrinthine, and oblique, this is a theater of the unconscious that twists everyday conceptions of space and time beyond recognition.

Indeed, this is a world of unexpected events. And not only for the viewer. The Brothers Quay exploit the accidents that arise in their own production process. And since they primarily work with puppets, accidents are bound to happen. Whether or not their creations are scripted or adventitious, they still give a sense of disjunction -- for the Brothers Quay, the absurd and the impossible lie at the base of all phenomena. These are not your typical narratives. The Brothers Quay take dreams as their models: they spin loose webs of associations, networks of images and metaphors that create a fragile, ethereal coherence in the midst of an essentially chaotic world.

Heavily influenced by animator Jan Svanlmajer and writer Robert Walser -– both of whom realize darkly humorous dreamworlds in their work -– the films of the Brothers Quay emerge in between physical and mental space. For these animators, space and time are not stabile, consistent forms; they are involuted, distorted, porous, and multi-layered. As in the visions of Lewis Carroll or Franz Kafka, characters are always at the mercy of an insidious, shifting, incomprehensible architecture.

Such is the architecture of their most celebrated film, "The Institute Benjamenta" (1995). This was their first predominantly live-action film, although splices of animation periodically emerge to heighten the disorientation. As usual, the Institute itself resides at the center of the film. And events display their requisite degree of absurdity. There is only one lesson to be learned at the Institute Benjamenta, and although it’s unclear exactly what the value of this lesson is, it nevertheless must be engrained into students’ bodies and brains by means of monotonous repetitions and castigations.

This is a dark vision. "The Institute Benjamenta," filmed in black-and-white, has the ominous, oblique quality of chiaroscuro. And when they do use color, the Brothers Quay uses a palette like that of Francis Bacon: a palette of colors that seem to have been bled of light.

BFI Screenonline: Quay, Brothers (1947-) Biography   Ewa Mazierska, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Director, from BFI Screen Online

Stephen and Timothy Quay, identical twins, were born in Norristown, near Philadelphia, in 1947. After graduating in 1969 from the Philadelphia College of Art, where they studied illustration and graphics, they won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, London. At the School of Film and Television they made their first short films (mostly lost), and met fellow student Keith Griffiths, who first collaborated with them on Nocturna Artificialia (1979), funded by the BFI Production Board. Working together as Koninck Studios, with Griffiths producing, the Quays have maintained a steady output of surreal and fastidious puppet animation films, supplemented by design work for opera, theatre and ballet. To help finance their avant-garde projects they have also worked on TV commercials, channel identification footage, and numerous music videos, including the Stille Nacht series, and, less characteristically, Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer.

The Quays are renowned for their craftsmanlike methods and their unusual sources of inspiration. Apart from their puppets, which typically look like old dolls abused by many generations of children, they construct their own sets, arrange the lighting, and operate the cameras. The films draw heavily on twentieth-century European visual and literary culture, especially the surrealist and expressionist traditions represented by the Polish writer Bruno Schulz, the painter Max Ernst, and their fellow director of puppet films, the Czech Jan Svankmajer. As with Svankmajer, the Quays' cinema is short on conventional narrative but long on enigmatic visuals; music usually plays a major part in creating a bizarre, sinister atmosphere.

The world invented by the Quays appears frozen in time, covered with dust and cobwebs, full of mirrors and strange machinery - a world stored in a locked room or glass cabinet that nobody has accessed for decades. The colour scheme often suggests the hues of old photographs: sepias, browns, and dirty yellows predominate. Nocturna Artificialia, describing the cataleptic hero's adventures when he leaves his room for the city, immediately established their individual technique and propensity for dream narratives. Subsequent films in the early 1980s, made for the Arts Council or Channel 4, paid specific homage to the team's European influences, including the Punch and Judy tradition, the artistic vortex of 1920s Paris, Svankmajer, the Czech composer Janácek, and, in Ein Brudermord, the claustrophobic imagination of Franz Kafka.

The twenty-minute Street of Crocodiles (1986), their first film shot in 35mm, decisively lifted the Quays beyond the quasi-documentary orbit. The film is a homage to Bruno Schulz, one of whose novels bears the same title. The setting is a mythical land, somewhere in pre-Second World War provincial Poland, which operates like a living organism (Schulz in his work often compared a city to a living body). The population consists of people either half-dead or half-alive, with empty heads, who move in a circular, mechanical way, oblivious to anyone else's movements. The Quays suggest that this degraded land is stored in a deserted museum and activated by an old Kinetoscope machine - something that could be interpreted as a sign of their faith in the creative powers of cinema.

Further impressive film puzzles followed, among them The Comb, a sexually suggestive dream of damaged dolls, ladders, passageways, and a live-action woman (perhaps the dreamer), and De Artificiali Perspectiva, a quirky analysis of the optical distortions of anamorphosis. Then in 1995 the Quays mounted their first live-action feature, Institute Benjamenta (UK/Japan/Germany), inspired by the writings of the Swiss novelist Robert Walser. Like the Street of Crocodiles, the Benjamenta Institute for the training of domestic servants presents a sinister microcosm, with its inhabitants leading a half-life of repetitive, largely pointless activities. Typically, the presence of actors prompted no change in the Brothers' stylistic approach: Mark Rylance, Alice Krige, and Gottfried John became willingly used as quasi-objects, scrupulously positioned alongside forks, stag horns and dripping water in a fascinating if static symphony of light and shade constructed on the prevailing Quay themes of death, decay, and nothingness.

Recent collaborations with the choreographer William Tuckett and their small insert in Julie Taymor's Frida (US, 2002) have introduced wider audiences to the Quays; while The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (Germany/UK/France, 2005), a live-action fairy-tale where a piano tuner attempts to rescue an opera singer from the clutches of a mad doctor in the Carpathian Mountains, is so bizarrely beautiful in its foggy, artificial, de-colourised way that it sure to attract new admirers. But the Quays remain director-animators for the cognoscenti - happy to live, like their films' characters and objects, in a remote, hermetic maze.

Brothers Quay Home Page


The Brothers Quay Criticism  biographical overview


Stephen & Timothy Quay - The European Graduate School   biography                      


The Quay Brothers Biography  Fandango


Stephen and Timothy Quay • Great Director profile - Senses of Cinema  James Rose from Senses of Cinema, February 12, 2004


Brothers Quay  The Brothers Quay fan website


School of Visual Arts  brief bio


TALES OF THE BROTHERS QUAY previously at Film Forum in New York City  bio info and critic quotes


Quay Brothers | CCCB  brief bio


Brothers Quay Filmography/Videography


Zeitgeist Films | The Short Films of the Quay Brothers


The Brothers Quay Collection - Kino on Video


Home Cinema @ The Digital Fix - The Quay Brothers: The Short Films ...  Noel Megahey


DVD Outsider: Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review  Slarek


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films  Yunda Eddie Feng from DVDBeaver


Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass | The New Yorker  December 12, 1977


Shifting Realities: The Brothers Quay - Between Live Action and Animation by Suzanne Buchan  from the Animation World Network, 1996, also seen here:  Suzanne Buchan


Quay twins get the image right  Barbara Shulgasser from The San Francisco Chronicle, May 31, 1996


Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi  (1998)


Life is a Dream: The Quay Brothers at the Brattle   Gary Susman from The Boston Globe, July, 1998


Raymond Durgnat - Obituary from The Age (Melbourne, Australia)  Reflections On The Legacy Of A Film Maverick, by Adrian Martin, May 22, 2002


Razorcake - The Brothers Quay  Namella J. Kim from Razorcake, May 29, 2003


Kinoeye | The Brothers Quay and Bruno Schulz  The Thirteenth Freak Month, by James Fiumara from Kinoeye, November 29, 2004


Fetish, Filth and Childhood: Walking down The Street of Crocodiles ...  Sarah Scott from Senses of Cinema, July 22, 2005


SHORTS MONTHLY: The Long Shadow of the Quay Brothers: The Maverick ...  Kim Adelman from indieWIRE, May 16, 2006


(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


Brothers Quay: The Ultra Surreal Filmmakers  Mary Vareli from Ezine articles, November 21, 2006


The Brothers Quay on DVD  John Coulthart, November 27, 2006


Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Cabinet of the Brothers Quay: Program One | The Dryden Theatre  February 16, 2007


Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino   John Coulthart, February 28, 2007


THE BROTHERS QUAY – THE SHORT FILMS 1979-2003 | Electric ...  Stephen Thomson from Electric Sheep, March 4, 2007


Hand of Hysteria: The Bipartite Body of the Brothers Quay • Senses of ...  Amir Mogharabi from Senses of Cinema, August 27, 2007


ANJA TOLAR: My Essay about Brother's Quay  October 23, 2007


Degraded Reality: The Short Films of the Brothers Quay on ...  Ricky Grove from Renderosity, December 6, 2007


Getting Dusty: Brothers Quay's Street of Crocodiles « Salt in the Code  Gwyan Rhabyt from Salt in the Code, January 11, 2008


"The Importance Of Fortuitous Accidents."  Karl J. Paloucek from Channel Guide Magazine, May 2008


RC CONTEMPORARY: Where the dust has settled: The Brothers Quay  Jeffrey Baykal Rollins from RC Contemporary, November 23, 2008


The University of the Arts presents Brothers Quay Return to Philly ...  December 22, 2008


VERTIGO | To See, If Only Once: Eurydice - She, So Beloved…   James Rose  from Vertigo, Winter 2008


They See A Darkness :: Cover Story :: Article :: Philadelphia City ...  Shaun Brady from Philadelphia City Paper, February 24, 2009


Brothers Quay to Receive '09 Coolidge Award - Berkshire Fine Arts  Mark Favermann from the Berkshire Fine Arts, March 26, 2009


WexBlog » Blog Archive » Quay Brothers in New York  Dave Filipi from Wexblog, April 14, 2009


Brothers Quay + His Name Is Alive « I Heart Noise  May 1, 2009


Stephen and Timothy Quay to receive Coolidge Award - The Boston Globe  Sam Adams from The Boston Globe, May 3, 2009


The Brothers Quay  Fourth Wall Project, May 5, 2009


Slideshow: Quay Brothers at Fourth Wall Project - Museum And ...  Jennifer Morgan from The Boston Phoenix, May 11, 2009


The Quirky Quay Brothers | Here & Now  May 11, 2009


Film and Video » Quay Brothers film sets on display in New York  Joe Beres at Walker Art Center, May 19, 2009


Quay Brothers Creepy Film Decors on Display at Parsons - Gothamist  John Del Signore from The Gothamist, July 16, 2009


The Art Department: Quay Brothers Exhibit  Irene Gallo from The Art Department, July 30, 2009


TRACKS: The Quay Brothers and the Argument for the Real - The ...  Thomas Micchelli from The Brooklyn Rail, September 2009


"Dormitorium: Film Decors by the Quay Bros.  JE at Morbid Anatomy, September 4, 2009


Film decors by the Brothers Quay - Boing Boing  David Pescovitz from Boing Boing, September 4, 2009


Dormitorium: The Brothers Quay « SheWalksSoftly  October 3, 2009


The Brothers Quay at New York's New School — Lost At E Minor: For ...  Chris Rubino from Lost at E Minor, October 3, 2009


Brothers Quay  Cranial, October 17, 2009


Brothers Quay, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt and John Evans, Robert ...   Little Things Mean a Lot, by Alexandra Anderson-Spivy from Artnet, October 20, 2009


UNHINGED || Shadow Region: The Brothers Quay Discuss the Roots of ...  Will Melton from Fused Film, February 4, 2010


The Brothers Quay Returning To Feature Film With SANATORIUM ...  SANATORIUM UNDER THE SIGN OF THE HOURGLASS, by Todd Brown fromScreen Anarchy, February 20, 2010


Celebrated Animators The Quay Brothers Return with a New Feature ...  Russ Fischer from Slash Film, February 22, 2010


Brothers Quay To Get Their Bruno Schulz On - Again  Dan Mecca from The Film Stage, February 22, 2010


The Quay Brothers get new project »  Joshua Brunsting from Gordon and the Whale, February 22, 2010


quay brothers: street of crocodiles (music by bleeding heart ...  Cows Are Just Food, March 30, 2010


maska – the brothers quay – 2010 - ephemera  Teleshadow, April 4, 2010


Comme des Garcons + The Brothers Quay: Wonderwood Ad Campaign  Nathan Branch, May 18, 2010


The Brothers Quay Introduce Wonderwood by Comme des Garçons (2010 ...  June 3, 2010


The Quay Brothers' Maska plus film without images - HP Lovecraft's ...  Paul Gallagher from The Edinburgh Festival, June 23, 2010


Metro Cinema: Tales of the Brothers Quay: Program 1  Metro Cinema, September 6, 2010


Metro Cinema: Tales of the Brothers Quay: Program 2  Metro Cinema, September 6, 2010


Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets  John Coulthart, November 2, 2012


Stille Nacht V: Dog Door   John Coulthart, June 14, 2013


Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay   John Coulthart, July 4, 2014


Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay  John Coulthart, May 19, 2015


Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay  John Coulthart, May 20, 2015


More Brothers Quay scarcities  John Coulthart, June 22, 2015


The Quay Twins: Spinning Magic From Marginalia - The New York Times  August 12, 2015


The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay   John Coulthart, August 12, 2015


Christopher Nolan Geeked Out Over the Quay Brothers at Film Forum ...  Matt Barone from Tribeca, August 19, 2015


The Quay Brothers: a nightmarish inspiration for Christopher Nolan ...  Jordan Hoffman from The Guardian, August 20, 2015


The Quay Brothers in 35mm | The Soul of the Plot  Hunter, September 29, 2015


Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired ...  Ryan Lattanzio from indieWIRE, October 27, 2015


“THE QUAY BROTHERS: COLLECTED SHORT FILMS” (Blu-ray ...  Heather Buckley from Fangoria, December 1, 2015


The Quay Brothers: Collected Short Films | Blu-ray Review ...  Jordan M. Smith from Ioncinema, Deember 15, 2015


The Living Metal Scraps and Dancing Dolls of the Quay Brothers  Tanner Tafelski from Hypoallergic, December 17, 2015


Time and the Image: The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes - Bright Lights ...  Arturo Silva from Bright Lights Film Journal, January 28, 2016


Brothers Quay - Paradox Ethereal Magazine  Mary Vareli, March 4, 2016


Animation Magazine: The Brothers Quay  John Coulthart, July 6, 2016


Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H., a film by the Brothers Quay  John Coulthart, July 7, 2016


Holzmüller and the Quays   John Coulthart, August 31, 2016


Inner Sanctums—Quay Brothers: The Collected Animated Films 1979 ...  John Coulthart, October 5, 2016


Quay Brothers Collected Animated Films (Blu-ray boxset) - BFI  October 10, 2016  (pdf)


Inner Sanctums - the Quay Brothers' distinguished Blu-ray arrival ...  Joseph Wallace from Online Animation Magazine, October 14, 2016


TSPDT - Stephen Quay & Timothy Quay


The Thing - Interview  Ryan Deussing interview from The Thing, February 9, 1996


Dream team: the Brothers Quay | ArtForum | Find Articles at BNET  Thyrza Nichols Goodeve interview from ArtForum, April 1996


Brothers Quay: In Absentia  Roberto Aita interview from Offscreen, September 30, 2001


Dreams: The Brothers Quay and "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes"  Phil Stubbs interview from Smart, 2001


Through a Glass Darkly - Interview with the Quay Brothers • Senses of ...  André Habib interview from Senses of Cinema, March 13, 2002


My Dinner with The Brothers Quay | Animation World Network  Taylor Jessen interview from Animation World Network, June 16, 2006


Reflecting the Theoretical Beyond: The Quay Brothers Talk About Art ...  Damon Smith interview from Bright Lights Film Journal, November 1, 2007


"Shadow Region: The Brothers Quay Discuss the Roots of Filmmaking."  Will Melton interview in Fused Film, February 4, 2010


Diane, A Shaded View on Fashion: The Quay Brothers on films and ...  Video interview May 7, 2010 on YouTube (3:11)


Dazed Digital | Quay Brothers x Comme des Garcons  Kiki Georgiou interview from Dazed Digital, May 19, 2010


Dazed Digital: The Quay Brothers Interview | Hypebeast  Alex Milner interview from Dazed Digital, May 20, 2010


Institute Benjamenta: Interview with the Brothers Quay | Electric ...  Virginie Sélavy interview from Electric Sheep magazine, June 8, 2010


The Quay Brothers | APEngine  Gary Thomas interview from AP Engine, July 27, 2010


Everything is Twisted Up and Strange: Stephen and Timothy Quay ...  Scout Tafoya interview from the Ebert site, August 21, 2015


Interview with Stop Motion Animation Pioneers, The Brothers Quay ...  Edward Douglas interview from Coming Soon, August 21, 2015


Brothers Quay - Vice  J. W. McCormack interview, August 25, 2015


Unseen Films: The Quay Brothers Interview.  Steve Kopian interview, October 19, 2015


An Interview With The Brothers Quay - Cartoon Brew  Scott Thill interview, January 10, 2016


Brothers Quay Interview  Video interview in 2000 on YouTube (3:50)


Brothers Quay - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Quay Brothers Exhibition | Flickr - Photo Sharing!  photo


Quay music videos


Academy Films | Academy | Music Videos | brothers quay


Quay brothers   (41 seconds) on YouTube


L'Accordeur de Tremblements de terre  (1:14)


Brothers Quay Institute Benjamenta Trailer  (1:25)


YouTube - The Quay Brothers  Stille Nacht  (1:36)


Stille Nacht quartet THE QUAY BROTHERS  (1:46)


Quay Brothers Montage  (2:22)


Rotten Flowers   (3:06)


Brothers.Quay.1992.Are.we.Still..  Are We Still Married?  (3:16)


Stille Nacht II Are we still married  (3:16)


Are we still married? THE QUAY   (3:19)


YouTube - The Quay Brothers  Street of Crocodiles (3:59)


Tales from Vienna Woods THE   (4:10)


The Cabinet Of Jan Svankmaje  (5:01)  Excerpt


Frank Zappa Willie The Pimp  Quay Brothers animation (9:28)


Dailymotion - Brothers Quay -1985- The Epic of Gilgamesh - a Arts ...  (10:17)


Brothers Quay 1985 The Epic of Gilgamesh  (10:17)


The Phantom Museum THE QUAY BROTHERS  (11:17)


The Summit THE QUAY BROTHERS  (12:31)


Brothers Quay 1984 The Cabinet of Jan..  (13:35) - Brothers Quay - The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer(1984 ...  (13:37)


The Cabinet Of Jan Svankmajer  (13:38)


Anamorphosis   (13:43)


The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble live at.  Visuals by the Quay Brothers, 2009  (13:45)


Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies THE QUAY..  (13:56)


Brothers Quay 1987 Rehearsals for Extinct..  (13:57)


The Comb THE QUAY BROTHERS  (17:24)


Brothers Quay -"Street of Crocodiles"- - Tekenfilm & Animatie ...  (20:34)


Nocturna Artificialia THE QUAY   (20:34)


Bleeding Heart Narrative soundtracking The Brothers Quay's 'Street ...   “Street of Crocodiles”  (20:54)


Anamorphosis THE QUAY BROTHERS  (25:02)


In Absentia THE QUAY BROTHERS  (30:37)


The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer THE QUAY..  (44:59)


Brothers Quay - The Cabinet... - Artists mentioned in the WIRE ...  (44:59)



Great Britain  (21 mi)  1979

User reviews  from imdb Author: Yxklyx from United States

I like the lower production value of this one. It's also the darkest Quay film - lots of shadows and you're never sure about what you're seeing. I've only seen it twice but it features a man (figurine), his bleak apartment, and a trolley that passes by, next to and through his abode. The figure ends up taking a trip on it through the city. Some of it is dream - some is reality - which is which is hard to determine. Very good music from apparently either late 19th or early 20th century. This is best watched at 1 am when all is dark and quiet. This film is in the Special Features section of the recently released DVD so some viewers might miss it.

User reviews  from imdb Author: Polaris_DiB from United States

This is the first short created by The Brothers Quay, and it shows. Their obsessive animation and dust-bunny mise-en-scene still hold, but the flow is a little off and it doesn't seem to go anywhere.

I still think it's a very incredible piece of work. These guys are deranged in their ability to create an almost perfect and seamless movement out of inanimate characters, and then to put them into a context beyond normal perception. To believe that dolls and small human-shaped figures are alive requires both the precise eye of the filmmakers (which they have in surplus, it seems) and a strong suspension of disbelief in the viewers (which is why, I think, stop-motion isn't used as often as other forms of animation... it takes a lot more work and often with a lot smaller pay-off). The fact that the Quay brothers can help create that suspension of disbelief AND put it into a confined dreamscape outside of the comfort zone of most viewers is testament alone to their skill, before even getting into the works themselves.

That's the reason why I don't think this short is as good as their later works. The problem with the flow is the same as the problem to the snippets of verse they keep cutting to: in terms of syntax, the sentences make sense, but in terms of general understanding, they're nonsense. They're either poetry with a deeper meaning missing because of the cuts between the lines, or they're just random statements.

I suppose one could argue that absurdity and nonsense is part of the point of this work. That's fair enough. This movie isn't bad, by any means. I just think it's not as good as their later works.

BFI Screenonline: Nocturna Artificialia (1979)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

As with much of their later work, it's impossible to provide a coherent synopsis of the earliest surviving film by the Brothers Quay, as Nocturna Artificialia defies attempts at verbal encapsulation at every turn. The Quays themselves acknowledged this when they said "as for what is called the scenario, at most we have only a limited musical sense of its trajectory, and we tend to be permanently open to vast uncertainties, mistakes, disorientations, as though lying in wait to trap the slightest fugitive 'encounter'."

It consists of impressions of a man, a tram and an unidentified city at night (the opening titles identify a specific Brussels street, but the ambience seems East European). Much of it seems to be the man's dream, deriving from a fixation with specific objects relating to the tram (notably its pantograph) and a more general evocation of the streets at night, but even when he appears to awaken at the end after experiencing a some kind of revelation, he finds tramlines running through the middle of his room.

Everything is glimpsed or half-heard: light and shade seem as tangible as the more solidified reality (a spellbinding sequence sees his arm caressed by passing shadows, a brief Bartókian musical motif sounding as they touch). Tension is created not through narrative but through movement (by tram and camera, in parallel or in opposition), shifting focus, shadows moving across inanimate objects to bring them briefly into eerie life.

There's occasional recourse to religious imagery: at one point the tram passes through the interior of a cathedral, and then down a street named after the Crucifixion, but these elements seem as half-awake and half-remembered as everything else. Despite being presented in multiple languages, the eight intertitles are calculatedly cryptic ("Through gradually tightening avenues, I felt the ecstasy of something nameless"). It's a Surrealist film in the term's original sense - in that its imaginary landscape is equally populated by conscious and unconscious elements and little distinction is drawn between them.

Shot on 16mm and funded by the British Film Institute's Production Board, Nocturna Artificialia is a remarkably confident piece of work, the Quays surmounting obvious technical and budgetary limitations to create a private universe entirely out of their own recurring obsessions. Their later films may be more assured, but their roots are clearly visible here.

(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


Nocturna Artificialia  Zeitgeist Films



Great Britain  (14 mi)  1984       co-director:  Keith Griffiths

User reviews  from imdb Author: Rectangular_businessman from Peru

This beautiful short made by the Brothers Quay (directors of the great animated short "Street of Cocodriles") It's a captivating tale about a master and his disciple. This may sound as something very simple, but the Brothers Quay always manage to create a unique, fascinating world, with strange but very interesting characters, and strange and surreal situations as well. The animation looks beautiful and stylish, just like the other films directed by the Brothers Quay, and this little homage to Jan Svankmajer definitely worth a look, specially if you are fan of filmmakers as Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton.

User reviews  from imdb Author: rowandt from UK

The Quay brothers style is at it's best here, with beautiful, surreal puppets telling the story of Czech animator Jan Svankmajer's life. The expressionist, stop-motion puppet work is perfectly suited to tell the story of Svankmajer's own surreal film-making. Split into several sections, the puppets (one expressing Svankmajer himself) act out the scenes, with maze-like, unidentifiable sets, dancing pins and a mesmerising soundtrack. All these elements combine into a treat for the eyes, and a severe hammering to the brain. The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer is a marvellous short, particularly of interest to fans of Svankmajer himself.

BFI Screenonline: Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, The (1984)   Michael Brooke

The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, Prague's Alchemist of Film (its full on-screen title) began life as an hour-long documentary for Channel 4's esoteric late-night film strand Visions about the work of the great Czech animator, filmmaker and card-carrying Surrealist artist. The programme was made up of extracts from Svankmajer's work interspersed with analysis from critics, art historians and Surrealists, linked by nine animated sequences by the Brothers Quay. These links were subsequently joined together and released to cinemas as a separate 14-minute short.

Even after the removal of the contextual material, what remains is surprisingly coherent and accessible, at least by the Quays' usual standards. Though prior familiarity with Svankmajer's work helps, even a complete newcomer (which would have described most of the original audience) will be able to glean that he's based in Prague, that he's fascinated by the era of the sixteenth-century Bohemian emperor Rudolf II, especially his court painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo (creator of portraits of human faces made up of fruit, vegetables, fish and other assorted objects), and that he has a peculiar addiction both to the hidden power of inanimate objects in general and, more specifically, their texture and feel.

While the Quays' film draws heavily on these elements of Svankmajer's universe, it otherwise makes no attempt at imitating his highly individual style. This was partly an expedient measure dictated by the demands of the original documentary, where it would clearly have been undesirable to risk confusing actual Svankmajer clips with the Quays' work - but it also allows them to delve far deeper into Svankmajer's philosophy by giving it an alternative interpretation via their own distinctive imagery.

The puppet representing Svankmajer bears little resemblance to the man himself: he's an Arcimboldesque representation whose head is made up largely of books. Throughout the film, he demonstrates his ideas to an unnamed child 'pupil', whose hollowed-out head he literally empties at the start, before crowning it with a small book-hairstyle of its own at the end to suggest that his education is complete.

The closing credits supply two dedications, the other being in memory of the then recently deceased Zdenek Liska (1922-1983). A major though undervalued composer, largely because his best work was produced for stage and screen, his music can be heard throughout the Quays' film in excerpts taken from the Svankmajer films Historia Naturae, Suita (1967), The Flat (Byt, 1968) and The Ossuary (Kostnice, 1970).

Hand of Hysteria: The Bipartite Body of the Brothers Quay • Senses of ...  Amir Mogharabi from Senses of Cinema, August 27, 2007  


(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films - John Coulthart  June 15, 2007


The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay   John Coulthart, August 12, 2015


Ethan Clements: The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984) by The ...  December 3, 2010


User reviews  from imdb Author: inkybrown


User reviews  from imdb Author: Polaris_DiB from United States


The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer  Zeitgeist Films


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver



aka:  The Epic of Gilgamesh

Great Britain  (11 mi)  1985       co-director:  Keith Griffiths


Edinburgh U Film Society (BFI Shorts Catalogue) review

A self-contained, if rather obscure film which is nonetheless outstandingly skilled and imaginative. Loosely inspired by the Epic of Gilgamesh, the film transforms the story into a macabre tale told with grotesque models and a theatrical mise en scène in which savage, vindictive machines whirr, slice, decapitate and imprison the unwary. It has the cold articulation of malignancy and evil commonly associated with the horrific fantasies of children's stories and games.

User reviews  from imdb Author: anonymous

This is a fascinating little short that tells the tale of two incredibly fleshed out animated characters. One is a winged creature that falls into the trap of the other, a blond monster-person on a tricycle. It's not that simple, however. The imagery, though I don't profess to understand every last bit of it, was striking and surreal. This film targets the unconscious. It seeks to evoke a response through impressions and instinct. The animation is uncanny and beautiful, as these two characters are given grace, ferocity and emotion. The camera itself becomes an implement of the animation as it cuts frantically from side to side, with as much freedom as if a live-action scene were being filmed. This illusion is enhanced further by the deft focusing. This film must have taken such a tremendous amount of vision and effort, and the result is a commendable and evocative short film.

User reviews  from imdb Author: Polaris_DiB from United States

The Brothers Quay seem, to me, to be of an elite type of film-making that tend to exploit the visual aspects rather than the sound or the narrative aspects of film-making. This is a key proof of that, wherein one can still find something of a narration but all told the movie seems to be an almost deja vu or ineffable series of movements and events.

It's easy to call stuff like this "dreamlike", which I guess it is, but it seems cheap to just stop there. One of the key aspects about this particular short is that it has two characters that are both, in a reserved and quiet way, terrifying. One who has grown up on a diet of protagonist/antagonist will probably try desperately to relate to one character's fight against the other, but if you take a moment to think about it, what really is going on here, and who is doing what? There seems to be something of a fetishism here, some approach to sexualized objects. Without any real basis in reality, all fantasy and imagery, we can just take it as it is, which is a lot. The Brothers Quay have started to have defining control over their tools and I have a lot of faith in seeing the rest of their works as I delve further into this collection.

BFI Screenonline: This Unnameable Little Broom (1985)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

Boasting the longest title in the Quays' entire output, this 1985 film is generally known as This Unnameable Little Broom, though the Quays themselves refer to it as Gilgamesh. It began life as a proposed hour-long Channel Four programme exploring aspects of the ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest known surviving work of literature, which would combine puppet animation, dance sequences (courtesy of choreographer Kim Brandstrup) and live-action documentary elements. However, Channel Four were dubious about the project, and only agreed to fund a short animated sequence as a pilot - which is all that was ultimately made.

But even when divorced from the original planned context, This Unnameable Little Broom stands up very well on its own as a short parable of cruelty and oppression. The Gilgamesh character is portrayed as a childlike figure, seemingly welded permanently to a tricycle, with a grotesquely swollen head that, Picasso-like, simultaneously presents both a profile and a frontal view. His 'kingdom' is a box-like construction, seemingly suspended in mid-air, with a distant forest just out of reach.

At the start of the film, Gilgamesh sets various elaborate snares to lure Enkidu, the forest creature, into his domain. These range from conventional booby-traps to altogether more unsettling creations, notably the desk drawer containing what appears to be a detached, pulsing vagina (the Quays' typically oblique reference to the point in the original legend where Gilgamesh sends a prostitute to seduce Enkidu). Enkidu himself is a bird-like creature, partly made up of genuine animal skeletons, whose wide-eyed guilelessness proves his downfall.

The film had numerous inspirations besides the Gilgamesh legend. The frenzied viciousness that pervades the film was a tribute to Austrian writer Konrad Bayer, the design of Gilgamesh was sourced from artwork by Heinrich-Anton Müller, one of a trio of 'outsider artists' (the others being Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern and Adolf Wölfli) that the Quays originally intended to dedicate their film to, but shyness prevented them.

However, they weren't too shy to include a back-handed swipe in the title - 'Hunar Louse' is a satirical representation of Lunar House in Croydon, the headquarters of the Home Office's Immigration and Nationality Directorate, which called the Quays' visa status into question at the time they were making the film. Though this was alarming at the time, the experience helped fuel the paranoid, Kafkaesque atmosphere that pervades their film.

(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


The Epic of Gilgamesh (or This Unnameable Little Broom)  Zeitgeist Films


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver



Great Britain  (20 mi)  1986


User reviews  from imdb Author: Jason Arber ( from London, United Kingdom

Devotees of Jan Svankmajer and Kafka, identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay distill every disturbing dream you've ever had into a decidedly unsettling short film. American by birth, the twins seem European by sensibility and have settled in London to make their films. Street of Crocodiles is one of their better known efforts and is obliquely influenced by Polish writer Bruno Schulz, who published the memoirs of his solitary life under the title, Sklepy Cynamonowe (literally translated as The Cinnamon Shops, although generally known in the English speaking world as Street of Crocodiles). The Quay's short follows a gaunt puppet who is released from his strings as he explores his bizarre surroundings: rooms full of dark shadows, unexplained machinery and strange eyeless dolls. Everything has a sense of decay and Victorian melancholy. There is a notion of a plot, possibly dealing with sexual tension, but really Street of Crocodiles is about establishing a mood and a nightmarish and deeply sinister world. The Quay's use of tracking shots and selective focus is unparallelled in the world of stop motion.

User reviews  from imdb Author: galensaysyes

I've seen this three times, once in 35mm, once in 16mm (or through a dim projector bulb) and once on video. The first time it impressed me, short as it is, as one of the best horror films I'd ever seen, if not the best. The second and third time, to my disappointment, it didn't work very well because I couldn't see it properly. Some of the detail is gossamer-fine and must be seen in a clear print on a theatrical screen (or perhaps a large-screen TV) to be seen at all. The film is elusive enough anyway. Like many of the Quays' films it takes the viewer inside a world of cracked dolls and pieces of antique machinery, where the dolls are victims of totalitarian control. Of the Quays' short films I've seen, this is the most disturbing. It's best seen, I think, apart from the others, as I first saw it. The other major ones are of a piece with it and become somewhat redundant taken in a group. The slighter ones are also somewhat tedious. The general meaning of this is clear enough, but the exact topical application, if there is one, and if it isn't explained by the quotation given, which I didn't recognize, is obscure to me. I also wonder how serious the filmmakers are when they use, and use up, their style and technique on music videos. I prefer to think of this film as I came to it originally, as one of a kind. It's an unnerving experience.

CINE-FILE: Cine-List - CINE-FILE Chicago  Kyle Cubr

This program features a trio of experimental shorts by the Quay Brothers (showing in new 35mm prints) and a new documentary short on the celebrated twins, QUAY (2015, 9 min, 35mm), by Christopher Nolan. The Quay Brothers' IN ABSENTIA (2000, 35mm) is a dark, hazy work about a woman committed to an insane asylum who frantically writes notes to her husband. Its most striking quality is how tactile it is. Shallow-focus close-ups of pencil lead, fingertips, and household objects are just begging to be felt and insert the viewer into the film in a visceral way. The soundtrack is a cacophony of distorted music and voices, which accentuate feelings of paranoia and schizophrenia. The surreal short THE COMB (1991, 35mm) features a puppet that watches a restless woman sleep and dream. The puppet's jarring movements are in concordance with the stabbing violin score. THE COMB is pure cinema that doesn't resolve into a single, easy interpretation. Perhaps the Quay's best-known film, STREET OF CROCODILES (1986, 35mm) is a rumination on spectating. A man peers into a box full of puppets that are seemingly alive. The explorer puppet meanders from room to room observing a boy playing with a mirror, screws constantly spinning, ballerinas whose arms gyrate in grotesque ways, and a group of puppets who show him phallic art. The critique here is the danger of stagnation that arises from consumerism and over-manufacturing. These three shorts distinctly showcase the Quay's avant-garde style. Narrative is kept to a minimum, favoring instead a loose, cerebral mash-up of images and sounds. Unsettling, weird, and strangely delightful.

BFI Screenonline: Street of Crocodiles (1986)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

Boasting the biggest budget for one of their short films (both then and to date), Street of Crocodiles was the first Quay Brothers film since Nocturna Artificialia (1979) to be conceived from the outset as a self-contained work. Though the BFI Production Board insisted on a recognised literary source as a condition of funding, the Quays responded by licensing a story by the Polish author Bruno Schulz, whose writing relies more on dream-logic than conventional narrative. They also departed considerably from the original, notably in the 'dance routine' involving an assortment of screws. Improvised during production, it nonetheless chimes perfectly with the Schulzian universe.

This universe is entered via an old-fashioned kinetoscope machine, examined in the opening scene by a (live-action) caretaker, who brings the mechanism to life with a gobbet of saliva before cutting the strings of the puppet protagonist, allowing him to roam free. The rest of the film depicts the puppet exploring an occasionally familiar but more often decidedly unsettling netherworld, where laws of physics and perspective no longer apply, bizarre machines perform pointlessly repetitive and unproductive tasks and a small urchin brings supposedly inanimate objects to life by casting reflected light upon them.

Ultimately, the explorer's journey concludes in a strange tailoring establishment, where he is surrounded by a trio of sinister, vaguely female figures with hollowed-out heads (each stamped with a serial number on the back), gliding as though propelled by a higher power. The tailor is portrayed as a megalomaniacal figure remodelling the world in his own image (he owns a map of Poland that is physically stitched together with yellow sutures). The rear room of his shop is full of dark and disturbing imagery: sexualised anatomical cross-sections, pulsing animal (or human?) organs riddled with pins, a woman's shoe whose high heel consists of a screw.

The increased budget allowed the Quays to shoot in 35mm for the first time, which allowed them to pay much more attention to texture, fine detail and the quality of the light. The impression of a long-dormant civilisation is conveyed by the volume of dust, grime and discarded objects (illustrating Schulz's notion of a "degraded reality"). The Eastern European feel is further enhanced by the scratchy, spiky score by Leszek Jankowski, who wrote and recorded the music before the film was made, and who was so taken with the end result that he became the Quays' regular composer.

Fetish, Filth and Childhood: Walking down The Street of Crocodiles ...  Sarah Scott from Senses of Cinema, July 22, 2005


(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey (Chris Dashiell) review


User reviews  from imdb Author: Franz_Karpa from Berlin, Germany


User reviews  from imdb Author: dzstroke015 from Canada


User reviews  from imdb Author: jzappa from Cincinnati, OH, United States


User reviews  from imdb Author: doctorlightning from United States


User reviews  from imdb (Page 2) Author: Rectangular_businessman from Peru


User reviews  from imdb (Page 2) Author: enez79 from United States


Street of Crocodiles  Zeitgeist Films


The New York Times (Vincent Canby) review


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver


Street of Crocodiles - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Great Britain  USA  (78 mi)  1987


Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) review [3.5/5]

If you're familiar with the Brothers' work, then you don't need me telling you about this. If you're not, well, I'm not all that sure I can tell you about it. Five films here, including Street of Crocodiles, Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies, Are We Still Married? The Comb, and Anamorphosis. Combining puppetry, stop motion, and lots of dust, the Quay Brothers (American-born identical twins based in London) work in the same vineyard as their apparent idol, Jan Svankmajer, the Dutch surrealist whose work is frequently the visual springboard for the Brothers' nightmarish images. And nightmarish they are, echoing the uneasy, somnolent wanderings of fevered minds the world over. You almost expect Kafka's Gregor Samsa to scuttle across the screen, or “K” to wander by, bewildered as ever. They don't, of course, but they would hardly be out of place if they did. 1986's Herculean effort, the award-winning Street of Crocodile, is among my favorite pieces of animation ever. At 21 minutes, it's just long enough to give you bad (or at least resoundingly odd) dreams for days afterwards, as it follows the meanderings of an accidentally animated puppet-man who wanders about the decrepit interior of some nameless museum. As in most of the Quays' work, everything is coated with a thin film of grime, and their characters are ancient, broken things, come to life and wandering about on strange errands whose significance you never can quite grasp. Another standout here is the recent Anamorphosis, which is an animated demonstration of the principles of this near-extinct art form, with an accompanying, illuminating voiceover. If you're among those who have yet to experience the dark magic of the Quays, here's you're chance to see their haunting, unforgettable work in a theatre, where it belongs. (Dan Lopez) dvd review

I first encountered the Brothers Quay, like many, through that pustule on the face of music, MTV. In 1988, the Quays were commissioned to contribute to MTV's series of artist-oriented promos ("Art breaks"). Whilst flipping through channels, it was hard not to stop on MTV every time they aired Dramolet, the spot that the Quays created. Despite being only 60 seconds long, the clip was a hypnotic, bizarre black-and-white creation using stop motion animation that defies easy explanation. Since that time, I have grown to truly admire the brilliant, surrealist work these two filmmakers have brought to the world. Despite MTV's attempts at shamelessly copying their work, be it in promos or videos, the Quays definitely remain servants to their own natures, despite their foray into more commercial work.

The Brothers Quay (Timothy and Steven) are indentical twins living in England. Though born and raised American, their style and intellect seems almost certainly rooted in European traditions. Their films often feature captions in European languages, musical scoring by the classic avant-garde composers of Europe, and are sometimes inspired by European literature. Often classified as "animators", the Brothers Quay are much more. Their films are vast, surrealist epics that open doors to incredible, yet untouchable, landscapes of nightmarish visions. Their worlds use harsh film-stocks, warped lenses, and an impeccable grasp of the artistry behind puppetry and stop motion. The work rarely has any sort of clear narrative or storyline, or in fact anything that distinguishes a typical film. It uses dolls, often deformed, and superbly realistic, almost antique, settings, much like a twisted doll house performance. The imagery will often amaze, if not disturb. I won't pretend to understand what drives the Quays, nor will I pretend to grasp some subliminal context to their work that no one else has. I will say that what I find fascinating is how accurate their stop-motion work is to re-creating the nightmarish quality of a chaotic night of uneasy sleep. I've never liked the attempts at explaining or rationalizing the work presented in Quay shorts, or any seriously surreal artform, so I'd advise that viewers of these films simply turn down the lights and immerse themselves.

This DVD presents 10 of the Brothers Quay's short films (technically 11 since their very first short is presented as an extra feature. The films included are:
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984)
14 minutes, Color.
The Epic of Gilgamesh (or This Unnameable Little Broom) (1985)
11 minutes, Color.
Street of Crocodiles (1986)
21 minutes, Color.
Rehearsals For Extinct Anatomies (1987)
14 minutes, Black-and-white.
Dramolet - Stille Nacht I (1988)
1 minute, Black-and-white.
The Comb (From the Museums of Sleep) (1991)
17 minutes, Color and Black-and-white.
Anamorphosis, or De Artificiali Perspectiva (1991)
15 minutes, Color.
Are We Still Married? - Stille Nacht II (1991)
3 minutes, Black-and-white, music by His Name is Alive.
Tales From the Vienna Woods - Stille Nacht III (1992)
3 minutes, Black-and-white.
Can't Go Wrong Without You - Stille Nacht IV (1993)
3 minutes, Black-and-white, music by His Name Is Alive.
Nocturna Artificialia (1979) [credited as a bonus feature]
21 minutes, Color.

The disc contains, essentially, all of the Brothers Quay independent work. Although they have done more work (including the famous Peter Gabriel video Sledgehammer), the films here were done completely under their own creative control, in their isolated studio called "Konnick." While most of the work is completely surrealistic, some of these films have distinct points.

The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer is an obvious tribute to the awe-inspiringCzech stop-motion animator of the same name, whose work (films like Faust and Alice) is the only thing capable of even comparing withthe Quay's. Cabinet has definite undertones of a young boy's mind beingemptied of typical, childhood things, and replaced with the education and desire tobecome a bizarre animator. Anamorphosis is an educational piece the Quays did for a longer film about art history. The piece is an extremely well madelook at the process of anamorphic distortion (a classical form of optical illusiondating back to the 1700's), but done in that distinct Quay style. Usually acclaimed as the "best" Quay short is Street of Crocodiles, one of their longest works. Two of the "Stille Nacht" shorts are music videos commissioned by the band His Name Is Alive, and are among their most potent modern work. Both videos featurethe similar themes of a stuffed rabbit and a fidgety, mysterious young girl. The bonus short, Nocturna Artificialia is similar in some respects to Street of Crocodiles with some of the same artistic themes. This short is, to the best of my knowledge, the earliest Quay short still in existence (their film school work was, sadly, lost some time ago).

The New York Sun (Bruce Bennett) review


Lessons of Darkness [Nick Schager]


The Onion A.V. Club [Keith Phipps]


Nitrate Online (Eddie Cockrell) capsule review


User reviews  from imdb Author: Rick O from Cambridge, Mass.


User reviews  from imdb Author: Doug Galecawitz ( from Lisle, IL (Chris Dashiell) review


Washington Post (Rita Kempley) review


Washington Post (Desson Howe) review


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Michael Machosky) review



Great Britain  USA  Canada  (2 mi)  1988

User reviews  from imdb Author: Polaris_DiB from United States

This short is utterly delightful. There's not much to it in terms of what is available to be seen and commented on, but there is a lot to it in terms of what was done and how. Instead of flecking their sets with dust and hair, the brothers Quay place a magnet in a field and let the magnet play with all the little magnetic fragments. It's creepy... but it's fun! I honestly don't know what to make of the babydoll that watches the whole thing, eventually to turn and attempt to eat a meal, but it doesn't make me want to eat anything anytime soon! I think this is more something the brothers have done in order to experiment with something they haven't yet put into a longer film, but wanted to do regardless.

User reviews  from imdb Author: Francisco Huerta ( from Mexico City

This movie comes straight out of your worst nightmares. I remember watching it when I was 13 years old; I had a fever and was staying at home. I could not forget this film until 16 years later, when I finally found who did it (and got the DVD).

There's no plot whatsoever in this movie - I guess that's what makes it so special. As every other film by the Brothers Quay, this is a disjointed trip into someone's imagination. The best description I can find of it is that it's the closest thing I've ever seen to a dream - no wonder I thought for a while this movie didn't exist, and that I had dreamed it!

The only thing going against it is that it's just too short - it was ideal for MTV, circa 1988, but it definitely leaves you expecting something more out of it.

BFI Screenonline: Stille Nacht (1988)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

The Quay Brothers made their first foray into the world of the pop promo in 1986, when they were amongst a number of animators who worked on Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer' video (d. Stephen R. Johnson). Although they had mixed feelings about their contribution, 'Sledgehammer' was one of the most influential videos of its era, and opened up new commissioning possibilities. In 1988, the US-based MTV cable television music network asked several animators to create a number of very short pieces that could be played as an 'Art Break' between the music videos that formed the bulk of the station's output.

The typically cryptic subtitle reads 'Dramolet für R.W. in Herisau', which is the first reference in the Quays' output to Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878-1956), who ranks alongside Franz Kafka and Bruno Schulz in their literary pantheon (and whose work also inspired The Comb, 1990, and the Quays' first feature Institute Benjamenta, 1995). Walser specialised in highly condensed, allusive pieces, including prose, poems and miniature dramas, or 'dramolets'. He spent over two-and-a-half decades in various institutions, culminating in the Herisau sanatorium in eastern Switzerland. On Christmas Day, 1956, he was found frozen to death in a nearby field.

None of this is explicitly dramatised in the film, but there's a pervasive impression of chilly, institutionalised loneliness. The Quays' familiar puppet animation (here looking even more cracked and peeling than usual) is here enhanced by the use of animated iron filings, which suggest the rapid formation of frost over every surface, the swaying of the individual particles suggesting a hefty buffeting by a keen, piercing wind. The puppet watches this 'frost' out of the window, then turns to a bowl that's filled with the same substance. His spoon begins to vibrate and, as if in sympathy, more spoons emerge from the wall behind him. As the picture fades to black (via a silent-movie-style iris-out), the 'frost' is starting to form on the surface of the table. To chime with the shopworn imagery, the music is deliberately distorted, as if sourced from a badly-tuned crystal radio.

The Quays received several more commissions from MTV over the following few years, the one-minute Ex Voto (1989) and what would become the three subsequent instalments in the Stille Nacht cycle: Are We Still Married?, Tales From Vienna Woods (both 1992) and Can't Go Wrong Without You (1993). They also designed an animated MTV station ident.

(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


Dramolet  Zeitgeist Films


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver



Great Britain  (14 mi)  1987

User reviews  from imdb Author: Polaris_DiB from United States

Don't watch this one if you're going to the doctor's anytime soon. The bright, white mise-en-scene (relatively brighter than most of the dust gray of most Quay brother features) has that clean, scrubbed look of a place you go for surgery. This is very different than the dust bunnies of Quay features, but on the other hand it makes their characters (made of string, wire, and rusted metal) seem that much more dirty and painful. It makes me think that watching this will give one tetanus.

I love the acknowledgements in the beginning. Offering this movie to evangelists seems a particularly harsh move on the Quays' part, but then again so much of this film is jagged-edged and rusted that maybe that direct approach fits it in an odd way.

BFI Screenonline: Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1987)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

When the Quays secured funding for Street of Crocodiles (1986), it was on condition that it was based on a recognised literary source. No such restrictions were imposed on their next film, Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1987), and the result may well be their most baffling work - at least on a first viewing.

The starting point was a piece of music that Leszek Jankowski had written for a Kafka-themed project that never got off the ground. From this, they devised a choreographic plan involving certain precisely calibrated camera movements, and built a set with these in mind. They also came up with a visual conception based on black lines, traced by a calligrapher's pen in the opening shot, but also appearing as barcodes, striped sheets and wallpaper (in an interview with the art historian Nick Wadley, the Quays described their film as "a private documentary on the straight line, that bleeds and runs and is softened by the focus"). The camera movements are also designed to reveal tiny, initially almost imperceptible elements in the décor, hidden spaces that can only be seen from certain angles and which vanish as quickly as they appear.

The thematic content was initially sourced from Le Verrou, an ambiguous painting (and subsequent engraving) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) which depicts a man reaching for the lock of a door and a woman lying on a bed - and to this they added elements taken from the work of the artist's cousin, the anatomist Honoré Fragonard (1732-1799), whose disturbing yet fascinating 'écorchés' preserved flayed human and animal corpses in poses designed to reveal cross-sections of their interior structure.

Whatever the challenges of interpretation, there is little doubt that this is one of the Quays' most visually striking creations. The first of their films to be shot in pure black and white, they make brilliant use of the contrast between the white 'exteriors' and the central room, where the black lines ultimately converge. It's also the first Quay film to make extensive use of exceptionally narrow depth of field, with the slow focus pulls as much a part of the overall choreographic texture as the movement of the camera and puppets. And for all the tantalising lack of coherent 'meaning', there's something inexplicably melancholic about the protagonists, reduced to empty, repetitive gestures and, in one case, to an anatomical structure so basic that it's barely life-supporting.

Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies  Zeitgeist Films


Washington Post (Hal Hinson) review


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver



Great Britain  (18 mi)  1990


CINE-FILE: Cine-List - CINE-FILE Chicago  Kyle Cubr

This program features a trio of experimental shorts by the Quay Brothers (showing in new 35mm prints) and a new documentary short on the celebrated twins, QUAY (2015, 9 min, 35mm), by Christopher Nolan. The Quay Brothers' IN ABSENTIA (2000, 35mm) is a dark, hazy work about a woman committed to an insane asylum who frantically writes notes to her husband. Its most striking quality is how tactile it is. Shallow-focus close-ups of pencil lead, fingertips, and household objects are just begging to be felt and insert the viewer into the film in a visceral way. The soundtrack is a cacophony of distorted music and voices, which accentuate feelings of paranoia and schizophrenia. The surreal short THE COMB (1991, 35mm) features a puppet that watches a restless woman sleep and dream. The puppet's jarring movements are in concordance with the stabbing violin score. THE COMB is pure cinema that doesn't resolve into a single, easy interpretation. Perhaps the Quay's best-known film, STREET OF CROCODILES (1986, 35mm) is a rumination on spectating. A man peers into a box full of puppets that are seemingly alive. The explorer puppet meanders from room to room observing a boy playing with a mirror, screws constantly spinning, ballerinas whose arms gyrate in grotesque ways, and a group of puppets who show him phallic art. The critique here is the danger of stagnation that arises from consumerism and over-manufacturing. These three shorts distinctly showcase the Quay's avant-garde style. Narrative is kept to a minimum, favoring instead a loose, cerebral mash-up of images and sounds. Unsettling, weird, and strangely delightful.

User reviews   from imdb Author: Polaris_DiB from United States

In the Brothers' Quay own words, taking everything as a Freudian symbol is a little too easy and kind of turns 90% of cinema into one single picture. However, this movie is so, well, Freudian. From the undertitle ("from the Museums of Sleep") to the in uteral mise-en-scene, this is a cinepoem of free association.

A lot of Quay brothers features have that feeling, but most of them are set in dusty corners, seemingly within the space of cracks in the walls and dustbunnies, what happens underneath your bed when you're not around to observe it. The use of color in this film, however, gives it a strong internal-space feeling, or to be more precise, the Quay brothers literally take us into a woman's body and send hands feeling all over her.

Essayists of haptic criticism state that a strong way to create a sense of touch from glance in film is to play with focus, and the Quays' do that a lot in most of their films. Saturating that dim slight-focus with flesh-tone sunsets makes it seem even more organic. I disagree that this area looks like something out of a Grimms fairytale... the Grimms like blood and forests, not organics and menstruation.

User reviews   from imdb Author: Avant-garde_Addict

Explaining an avant-garde film such as The Comb is like trying to explain the concept of colors to a person who has been blind since birth. The blind may conjure up their own ideas of what colors look like, but they cannot fully realize them. Such is the way of the avant-garde cinema. It simply cannot be explained through mere words due to its abstractness. In order to fully realize it, you must experience it. Viewing The Comb is like entering a nightmare netherworld unimaginable even in your darkest dreams. Much like a dream, it is difficult to explain in mere words. Like all avant-garde films, The Comb must be experienced first-hand to be fully realized. This film is set in a disturbing little world full of moth-eaten 19th century dolls, crooked passageways, rotted wood and trees and mazes of ladders leading to an other-worldly crimson sky. Surrealism is prominent throughout; it seems as if The Comb is a Salvador Dali painting animated to life. The dream scape presented in The Comb has few resemblances to the real world, as everything is given a nightmarish tilt. As in their other films, The Quays once again animate the inanimate and bring lifeless objects to creaky, jerky life.

The main character, if I may call it that, is a dirty, cracked porcelain doll who is intent on climbing a tower clustered by mazes of ladders and small passageways that all lead toward a blood-red sky. Periodically Intercut between the doll's difficult journey upwards is a woman tossing and turning in her bed, which is set in a grainy, Victorian-era room loaded with worn antiques. The brief scenes of this woman (circa 4 of the 18 minutes the film lasts) are live-action (a real human, no animation) and in B&W while the rest of the film occurs in the lushly colored netherworld made living through stop-motion animation. The woman appears to be having a nightmare which may be linked to the world the doll is struggling in. The actions of the woman echo into the doll's dream world and vice versa. At the end of the film, the relation between the doll and the sleeping woman is brought into perspective.

The Comb is very surreal and avant-garde, meaning it breaks from conventional film making practices. There is no dialogue, no narrative story, no named characters; just pure abstract avant-gardism. The nameless characters seem to be symbols, and their antics tell a story that is open to anyone's interpretation. I think The Comb expresses the relationship between Man and his Dreams. What we do in the 'real' world (displayed by the woman in bed) reverberates in our dreams (the doll's journey). I believe the woman in bed is dreaming everything that happens in the film.

There is no score, except for disjointed stabbing violins, scratches and indecipherable moaning, which adds to the already disturbing visuals. Like most avant-garde films, this will tap into your subconscious and have a strange, personal effect on you. Whenever I watch The Comb, I feel as if my life is put on hold for 18 minutes as I'm pulled into this enigmatic, surreal world. I have seen most of the Brothers Quay films and feel this is their second best, under their masterpiece The Street of Crocodiles. The Comb is highly recommended for fans of stop-motion animation, avant-gardism or just something different.

BFI Screenonline: Comb, The (1990)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

The most deliberately dreamlike of the Quay Brothers' films, The Comb is bookended by (and intercut with) a black-and-white live-action sequence of a woman asleep in bed, the implication being that these disconcerting, dislocating impressions of fairytale landscapes populated by decrepit puppets and an endless series of ladders (shot in colour) are taking place in the darker recesses of her mind. However, this is the only aspect of the film that's in any way easy to grasp, the rest setting out to wrong-foot the viewer at every turn, and the result wilfully defies verbal analysis.

Space and scale are ambiguous throughout, the central setting taking on different aspects according to the angle at which it's viewed (which constantly shifts). At the time of production, the Quays were researching the optical phenomenon of anamorphosis (the subject and title of their next film), and the distortions visible in the background décor imply the existence of hidden images. At times it appears to be a discarded theatrical set, an impression given further credence by a camera pull-back to reveal what appear to be stage flats and a proscenium arch - though it could just as easily be a forest.

As far as the foreground action is concerned (if that's an appropriate term for events just as likely to take place offscreen or in blurred areas outside the camera's immediate depth of focus), it draws on various fairytale elements - there's a sleeping beauty, and motifs of hair and ladders suggest Rapunzel - but without coalescing into anything concrete. Even the consistency of the atmosphere is open to question, as one typically enigmatic title reads "And suddenly the air grew hard".

There appears to be some kind of 'dialogue' between the sleeper and the puppet, as their middle fingers twitch in unison (this unnatural effect achieved in the live-action sequence by filming at six frames per second, speeding up the action fourfold), but the precise connection between them is never explained. The soundtrack alternates between multilingual gibberish and Leszek Jankowski's guitar-based score, which sculpts the mood without ever imposing a formal structure.

But if viewed as a purely cinematic experience, The Comb is one of the most inexplicably compelling of all the Quays' creations. Indeed, when the sleeper awakes at the end, the effect of her enigmatic smile is to prompt an immediate repeat viewing: what does she know that the viewer doesn't?

Hand of Hysteria: The Bipartite Body of the Brothers Quay • Senses of ...  Amir Mogharabi from Senses of Cinema, August 27, 2007  


Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


DVD Outsider  Slarek


The Comb (from the Museums of Sleep)  Zeitgeist Films


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver



aka:  Anamorphosis

Great Britain  (14 mi)  1991

User reviews  from imdb Author: Wayne Davidson from Melbourne, Australia

This is probably the only Quay Brothers film I have seen that is in any way conventional. I understand it was their segment used in a greater work about art styles. The Quay Brothers explore the technique of Anamorphosis (a type of visual trickery where a picture seen at certain angles can reveal a hidden image that is not noticeable when viewed front on).

As with all the Quay's work the film is beautiful and strange and utilises their trademark stop motion techniques and odd, dusty Victoriana , yet as mentioned, it's a little more conventional than usual. It comes with a charming narration and is an utterly engaging documentary on a fascinating and little known subject.

As an introduction to the Quay's work it is hardly typical, but a good place for the timid to start. Then try In Absentia for something truly strange!

User reviews  from imdb Author: Polaris_DiB from United States

I tend to find that when people review shorts of this type with prior knowledge of the makers (The Brothers Quay), they tend to talk about how the makers still manage to put their own distinct style into someone else's project. This time it feels like it's the other way around, that a professor (with a comically accented voice) is providing meaning to a Brother Quay film. It seems nothing's out-of-the-ordinary (except of course that the Quay brothers aren't ordinary) in this film.

The topic is Anamorphosis, a visual trick of painters to hide meanings in paintings by requiring a person change their focal point for it. A painting of the countryside from the front looks like a painting of a person praying under a tree from the side. An odd painting-like segment within a painting of vice and greed turns out to be a skull.

The producers of this work couldn't have picked anyone better than the Brothers Quay. It's obvious seeing most of their works that these two artists are well versed in not only art, but issues of perspective and hidden meaning. Most of their films could be considered like semiotic Anamorphoses themselves. Their doll-hero-figure makes a perfect protagonist to explore around this world of pre-cinematic animation.

BFI Screenonline: Anamorphosis (1991)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

Between 1980 and 1984, the Quay Brothers spent much of their time either making or contributing to documentaries. This was part of a conscious strategy devised by their producer Keith Griffiths to help attract television commissions and give their puppet animation wider circulation outside the confines of the experimental film. Their early work included Punch and Judy (1980), The Eternal Day of Michel de Ghelderolde (1981), Leos Janacek: Intimate Excursions and Igor Stravinsky: The Paris Years chez Pleyel (both 1983) and The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984).

Since that time, the Quays have preferred to explore their own fantastical worlds, but in 1991 they made a brief return to the documentary form with Anamorphosis, commissioned as part of The Program for Art on Film, a project backed by the Getty Foundation and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In collaboration with art historian Roger Cardinal (who had also contributed to the full-length The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer), the Quays assembled this witty exploration of a fascinating visual phenomenon which, as the opening titles explain, "plays mischievously yet revealingly with the relationship between the eye and what it sees."

Anamorphosis relies on a deliberately deformed image that can be made to reappear in its true shape when viewed in an unusual way (for instance, obliquely, or through a distorting mirror), and the Quays provide several examples. Firstly, there's a short lecture on the principles of perspective, illustrated by an example of how the eye can be fooled (a massively elongated chair appears to be normal from one particular viewpoint). Two woodcuts by Erhard Schön (c. 1535) show how subversive material can be hidden inside outwardly normal images, while an anonymous painting (c. 1550) is arranged with strategic peepholes to reveal lurking religious imagery. On a more ambitious scale, Emmanuel Maignan created an anamorphic fresco for a Roman monastery in 1642, while Hans Holbein's The Ambassadors (1533), on permanent view in London's National Gallery, is probably the most famous anamorphic painting, its obliquely-fashioned skull in the foreground hinting at the mortality that awaits even the wealthy.

The Quays alternate between their familiar puppet animation with a new technique incorporating three-dimensional cut-out figures that emerge from and retreat into the background, providing a witty visual equivalent of the anamorphic process. There is also much analysis of the original artworks, viewed in close-up and from several angles.

Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


Anamorphosis  Zeitgeist Films


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver



Great Britain  (3 mi)  1992


Long Way Down (Look What the Cat Drug In)  Zeitgeist Films

A playful and gorgeously colorful vignette set to a haunting ballad by Michael Penn.


Great Britain  (3 mi)  1992 

User reviews  from imdb Author: Polaris_DiB from United States

The Quay Brother's "Stille Nacht" series is their more commercial work, though one without that knowledge would be hard pressed to see what makes these works any different stylistically and thematically from their "independant" works. This one, Stille Nacht II (or "Are We Still Married" after the song by His Name is Alive) is basically a music video, utilizing some repeated elements from Stille Nacht I.

This short is kind of interesting to look at because it shows what can be done with music videos besides making them three-minute commercials for the band's own song you're already currently hearing. It's use is so effective that the style has been used by the band Tool (of which I am a fan) in their own stunningly claustrophobic stop-motion animation.

However, later inspirations aside, the Brothers Quay unique mise-en-scene sticks out. A sort of Alice in Wonderland characterization changes pace completely into a rabbit that interacts with a ball that came from a woman's tear. Rather than creating the "Tortured soul" effect of a Tool music video, the Brothers Quay entrap the audience into the song itself, from a band I'm not actually familiar with, but which seems to sing about the decay of relationships even as the track itself sounds like it's decaying on an old cassette tape.

BFI Screenonline: Are We Still Married? (1992)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

This was the first music video that the Quay Brothers were entirely responsible for, having previously contributed animated sequences to Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer' (d. Stephen R. Johnson) in 1986. They had previously been approached by Warren Defever, the Michigan-based founder of the musical project His Name Is Alive (alongside vocalist Karen Oliver and drummer Damian Lang), who wanted to licence extracts from Street of Crocodiles (1986) for use in one of their music videos. The Quays refused permission, but were sufficiently intrigued by Defever's work to agree to shoot a music video for him from scratch.

'Are We Still Married?' was originally released in 1991 as a track on His Name Is Alive's second album Home Is In Your Head. This is very typical of the band's work, and indeed many other releases on the 4AD label, creating a dreamlike ambience through selective distortion of instrumentation and vocals, to the point where it's often hard to make out specific lyrics. Naturally, this approach suited the Quays down to the ground, and they duly ignored the song's textual content in favour of a typically oblique evocation of childhood.

The most immediately striking image is of a young girl, whose head is barely visible, but whose ankles expand and contract in a rhythmic motion. This looks as though it was computer-enhanced, but the effect was in fact entirely mechanical - the Quays' regular technical collaborator Ian Nicholas built a hinge mechanism in the girl's ankles. Around her, a somewhat moth-eaten white rabbit plays a manic solo game of ping-pong.

The video was initially inspired by an image by an anonymous photographer of a girl standing in front of a door holding a paddle. There was also a white doorknob in the picture, which the Quays initially mistook for a ping-ping ball. Although the Quays claimed not to have read Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, there are unmistakable echoes, from the general theme of little girls growing and shrinking before one's eyes, mysterious bottles of unidentified substances and doorknobs that turn into ping-pong balls.

This last image is not sourced directly from Alice, but it fits Carroll's dream-logic approach - as did similar departures from the text in the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer's feature-length adaptation, Alice (Neco z Alenky, Switzerland, 1988), which he began work on shortly after the Quays paid tribute to him in The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984).

(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


User reviews  from imdb Author: Amy Clifford (spookytramp) from seattle


Watch: 'Are We Still Married?' by The Quay Brothers - Cinematical  Jenni Miller


Are We Still Married?  Zeitgeist Films


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver



Great Britain  (3 mi)  1992

User reviews  from imdb Author: Polaris_DiB from United States

It's not very often that I find something that is so entirely the work of unique filmmakers and still find it not nearly as good as their other works.

The Brothers Quay's Stille Nacht III doesn't have the same engaging presence as their other shorts. The motion of the fired bullet is the only thing that really stands out on it. The rest of the short is darker, much darker even than their usual lighting, and it's hard to see. The movements don't seem as up-to-speed as they usually do, and it's much harder to see what the Quays are trying to do, exactly.

Also, as a product of the Stille Nacht series, it has not the repeated imagery and re-workings of the other four segments. It doesn't feel connected at all.

Interestingly enough, parts of this short were used as the theatrical trailer for Institute Benjamenta, the Quay Brothers' live-action full-length film. And, amusingly enough, it works better as a commercial for things to come than a stand-alone work.

BFI Screenonline: Tales From Vienna Woods (1992)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

The third in the quartet of black-and-white films comprising the Quay Brothers' Stille Nacht cycle (the others being Dramolet, 1988, Are We Still Married?, 1992 and Can't Go Wrong Without You, 1993), Tales From Vienna Woods was also made with the intention of exploring imagery that they planned to develop further in their first feature Institute Benjamenta, which was then in limbo awaiting funds. In fact, so close were the short and the feature in terms of overall tone (despite the one being animated and the other live-action) that the former was subsequently recycled as the latter's theatrical trailer, in a slightly but not significantly modified form.

A clue to the film's purpose is embedded in a wreath adorning a pair of asymmetrical deer antlers: Ich bin im Tod erblüht ("in death have I blossomed" - for once, an onscreen translation is provided). This is followed by a sequence in which an animated severed hand explores a dusty archive of arcane exhibits, the central display of which consists of a table with multiple legs that's been suspended from the ceiling above a base of forest detritus, notably pine cones. As the camera circles slowly around to the front, we see that the table has been decorated with the same asymmetrical antlers, and at the back a pair of testicles can be glimpsed beneath the table top.

What the film is doing, in characteristically oblique form, is endlessly replaying the moment when the deer met its death: the film delicately but unmistakably implying (through the metaphorical use of pine cones) that it was shot in the testicles. From time to time, in the dead of night, the table regurgitates the bullet via a long-handled spoon that emerges from between its rear legs, intercut with images of the bullet emerging from the gun and commencing its journey to the target, slowed down to highlight every step.

(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


Tales from the Vienna Woods  Zeitgeist Films


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver



Great Britain  (3 mi)  1993

User reviews  from imdb Author: Polaris_DiB from United States

The Quay Brothers return to the Stille Nacht series, they return to His Name is Alive, and they make another music video based around the music and the repeated images of previous in the series (minus Stille Nacht III), and somehow they make it more disturbing and ephemeral than ever before.

Not to describe this as plot, but in this short the white rabbit returns to chase an egg and try and save it from other forces. Meanwhile, the figure with the socks (I consider her a representational relation to Alice) bleeds. The Freudian aspects of this film are more disturbing than I want to get into, but the actual interplay itself seems like the Quay Brother's darkest nightmare.

His Name is Alive's grinding, degrading music fits well into the mood of this piece. After seeing this and Stille Nacht II (Are We Still Married?), I think I'm going to make it a point to check out this band. What do you know? The Quays' more commercial work has helped actually sell something!

BFI Screenonline: Can't Go Wrong Without You (1993)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

Following their first collaboration the previous year with Are We Still Married? (1992), the Quay Brothers reunited with Michigan-based musicians His Name Is Alive to create the video for their 1993 single 'Can't Go Wrong Without You'.

Very consciously a sequel to the earlier video, this recapitulates many of its central Lewis Carrollian motifs: the girl with constantly expanding and contracting height (an effect enhanced here by standing her on scales, her weight fluctuating in time with her changing size), the paddle decorated with the image of a heart and a pair of eyes, the rabit, and recurring impressions of keys, locks and dark, mysterious secrets.

But the imagery takes on an altogether more disturbing aspect as spots of blood form on the scales between the girl's legs. A shot of a cut finger hints at a straightforward explanation, but it could just as easily be the onset of menarche. This theme of surrendered innocence is further developed via a black-clad male figure wearing a demonic mask, who seems locked in a power struggle with the rabbit, the latter trying to prevent him from obtaining a precious egg (a visual echo in more potent form of the white ping-pong ball in the earlier video).

All of this takes place in an off-kilter Expressionist world of skewed angles, doors, rickety balustrades and treacherous steps, squarely in line with The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Germany, 1919) via film noir - though the Quays add further disorienting touches in the form of glasses rolling across the ceiling and a pervasive impression that the very fabric of their universe can be unravelled by merely pulling the right thread.

(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


User reviews  from imdb Author: anirak_anna from United States


Can't Go Wrong Without You  Zeitgeist Films


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver



Great Britain  Japan  Germany  (104 mi)  1995       (view trailer)

User reviews  from imdB Author: galensaysyes

If this has a meaning beyond the one on the surface, which carries no conviction, it's one of the classic horror films. But so far I can't see that it does. The authoritarian, sexually perverse world it depicts seems the creation of someone who has never experienced oppression or obsession at first hand and has nothing to say about it. This is a totally artificial and hermetic work. On the other hand, its distance from reality and purpose allows its manufacturers to take as much time as they please to refine and distill its essence, as in a bottle. But what is it they're distilling? Whatever it is, it gives off a lovely scent. One exquisite shot follows another; the actors are perfectly cast. Alice Krige I suppose can be called a cult figure now (I'm one of the cult), and in this she has finally found the ideal environment. The film is never uninteresting but should have been disturbing, and some day I hope to find something inside it.

Time Out review  Geoff Andrew

Sometime this century, somewhere in Europe: Jakob von Gunten (Rylance) enrols at the Institute Benjamenta, a run-down edifice headed by an eccentric tyrant (John) and dedicated to the training of suitably unambitious, humble servants. Though Jakob readily submits to the repetitive regime of incredibly banal lessons in servility, he begins to wonder whether he might be sufficiently princely to rescue his melancholy tutor, Benjamenta's sister Lisa (Krige), from the suffocating half-life she leads inside the school's sinister, shadowy walls. Inspired by the writings of Swiss novelist Robert Walser, the first feature from the Brothers Quay is as outlandishly beautiful, bizarre, mysterious and inventive as one might expect; more surprising, perhaps, given their history as animators specialising in puppetry and rather abstract metaphor, is the firm grasp of narrative and the intense performances elicited from a strong international cast. Overall, the film can be seen as a (finally subversive) variation on traditional fairytale motifs, as an allegory on our progress through - as an alternative title would have it - 'This Dream People Call Human Life', or as a loving tribute to cinema's fantastic capacity for poetry. Genuinely unsettling.

User reviews  from imdB Author: August-4 from London, England

Institute Benjamenta is an oddity. Let me say that first, get it out of the way. Part of me hesitates from revealing here that it is one of my favourite films of all time because I know I'll make some people reading this mini-review approach it from the wrong angle. A film like this should never become required viewing. You should stumble across it at a repertory cinema somewhere or be beguiled by the video-box art showing the striking visage of Alice Krige as she paces before her blackboard, deerfoot staff in hand. You should find one evening that its the only thing that sounds interesting on TV, or peer at a still alongside a mention in your TV guide and wonder what on earth the picture is supposed to depict. Contained between main and end credits here is a world so visually ravishing and technically abstruse that you are only in the film while you are watching; the rules of the outside do not apply. You peer into the dreamy, foggy black-and-white and what you can't identify for certain your imagination fills out. These are the most special special effects because you wonder 'what' and 'why' by never 'how.' The Institute of the title is a school for servants, the lessons they are taught bizarre and repetitive to the point of making 'deja-vu' a permanent state of being. Is the repetition the point of it all or has the teacher lost the plot? If she has, how come we care? None of this is vaguely like real life. None of it, that is, bar the characters emotions. Or is the whole thing like real life, like Life with a capital 'L?' In the end does this sort of pondering make for a good movie? I won't answer that because I'm terribly biased. Remember the title and look it up sometime. It's the cinematic equivalent of a stunning old-fashioned magician's trick. A monochrome bouquet, a sad smile. There are images, scenes that may make the hairs on the back of your neck think they're a cornfield with a twister on the way. I tried to warn you as quietly as I could.

Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) review [4/5]


The first full-length film from the twin masters of the sublime and bizarre is also their first to utilize, to any great degree, human actors. While some may find this the ultimate departure for the team they consider to be the greatest puppeteers alive, suffice to say the Brothers Quay have created an eerie masterpiece in which living actors very adequately take the place of their less mobile brethren. Loosely based on the story “Jakob von Gunten” by Swiss writer Robert Walser, the film is set entirely within the walls of the titular institute: a bizarre, timeless boarding school for professional servants-to-be, lorded over by an entirely mad principal, Herr Benjamenta (Fassbinder regular John) and what appears to be his sexually explosive sister Lisa (Krige). Into this maelstrom (literally -- the film opens with repeated shots of swirling, spilling, splattering water) arrives our hero, as it were, Jakob von Gunten (Rylance), a butler-in-training who soon finds himself learning far more than he bargained for at the Institute. Trying to describe a Brothers Quay film with any degree of exactitude is nearly as difficult as trying to comprehend the constantly shifting degrees of meaning inherent in the images they keep showing you. As with all of the Brothers' films, you leave feeling slightly shaken, a bit disturbed, and troubled as though you had just awoken from a bitter dream you can't quite recall. Institute Benjamenta is no different in this regard -- there's even a heightened sense of the outre that comes with using real live actors against the familiar, washed-out backdrops that suddenly spring into alarming focus. Shot in hazy black-and-white with an amazing number of subtle camera and optical tricks, Institute Benjamenta is a triumph of the surreal, a masterwork of fantasy, and a breathtakingly tenebrous walk off the beaten path and into the dark, pulsing forest of dreams.


The Onion A.V. Club [Keith Phipps]

Made by identical twins who possess a single, and singular, vision, the stop-motion animation of the Quay brothers deserves the "astonishing" tag attached to the title of a new collection of their short films. Though born in Pennsylvania, Timothy and Stephen Quay are best known for the quintessentially European films they created in England. Inspired by Czech surrealist animator Jan Svankmajer, the brothers wear their influences on their sleeves in one of their earliest films, The Cabinet Of Jan Svankmajer, but from there they didn't take long to refine their style. Street Of Crocodiles (1987) is an early Quay masterpiece, creating a nightmarish dystopia using actors made from found objects, wonderfully evocative miniature sets, and graceful camera techniques. (Consider the implications of performing a tracking shot with stop-motion animation and you have a sense of the craft that goes into the Quays' work.) When these films work, as in an inexplicably moving video for the His Name Is Alive song "Are We Still Married?" (starring a melancholy, high-strung toy bunny), they work on an almost dreamlike level; trying to figure out a literal interpretation is not only difficult but distracting. This works against the Quays' feature-length, live-action debut, the torturously slow, willfully frustrating Institute Benjamenta. Released elsewhere in 1995 but only now receiving an American video release, Institute follows the educational progress of a man who enrolls at the titular establishment, a school to train servants. Inspired by the work of Swiss author Robert Walser, especially his novel Jakob Van Gunten, Institute might work better for an audience familiar with the relatively obscure early-20th-century writer's work. As it is, the film comes off as an intentionally obtuse, sub-Kafka look at alienation and bureaucracy. Visually, it's a stunner, but in the field of live-action, the Quay brothers have yet to learn the dividing line between dreamlike and somnambulistic. Those interested in their truly astonishing work will be better off sticking to the shorts.

DVD Outsider [Slarek] [Black Gloves]


Dave Cowen review 


Eye for Film (Anton Bitel) review [4/5] (Jeff Ulmer) dvd review


Exploded Goat [Kent Conrad]


User reviews  from imdB (Page 2) Author: Graham Greene from United Kingdom - UK Blu-ray [Brandon A. DuHamel]


Mike D'Angelo review


Nitrate Online (capsule)  Eddie Cockrell


Lessons of Darkness [Nick Schager]


Georgia Straight (Ken Eisner) review


Ozus' World Movie Reviews (Dennis Schwartz) review [B+]


Movie Magazine International [Michael Fox]


Mondo Cinephilia  Timothy Farrell


Boxoffice Magazine review  Ed Scheid


Institute Benjamenta  Zeitgeist Films


San Francisco Examiner (Barbara Shulgasser) review


San Francisco Chronicle (Peter Stack) review


Los Angeles Times (Kevin Thomas) review


The New York Times (Stephen Holden) review


DVDBeaver dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]  Brian Montgomery



Great Britain  (20 mi)  2000  ‘Scope

User reviews  from imdb Author: citizen7 from pennsylvania, United States

The Brothers Quay are brilliant artists whose body of work, both their puppet films and live action feature Institute Benjamenta, stands as one of the great achievements in cinema. While their new piece In Absentia does not ultimately compare to past masterpieces such as Street of Crocodiles and Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies, it's still a remarkable film that will move the viewer with its hermetic beauty.

A combination of live action and puppet animation, In Absentia details the attempts of a woman to write a letter from within the cracked, faded walls of an asylum, her progress as glacially slow as the movement of the stars. She is doomed to endlessly repeat the steps and be forever left speechless in her cell, while outside a wasteland of waring light and dark reflects her despair.

With a gorgeous score by K. Stockhausen, the film at times feels ever so slightly music video-esque, and one wonders if without the well regarded composer's music it would fall apart rather quickly. But although a lesser work, it is still a fascinating and moving one.

CINE-FILE: Cine-List - CINE-FILE Chicago  Kyle Cubr

This program features a trio of experimental shorts by the Quay Brothers (showing in new 35mm prints) and a new documentary short on the celebrated twins, QUAY (2015, 9 min, 35mm), by Christopher Nolan. The Quay Brothers' IN ABSENTIA (2000, 35mm) is a dark, hazy work about a woman committed to an insane asylum who frantically writes notes to her husband. Its most striking quality is how tactile it is. Shallow-focus close-ups of pencil lead, fingertips, and household objects are just begging to be felt and insert the viewer into the film in a visceral way. The soundtrack is a cacophony of distorted music and voices, which accentuate feelings of paranoia and schizophrenia. The surreal short THE COMB (1991, 35mm) features a puppet that watches a restless woman sleep and dream. The puppet's jarring movements are in concordance with the stabbing violin score. THE COMB is pure cinema that doesn't resolve into a single, easy interpretation. Perhaps the Quay's best-known film, STREET OF CROCODILES (1986, 35mm) is a rumination on spectating. A man peers into a box full of puppets that are seemingly alive. The explorer puppet meanders from room to room observing a boy playing with a mirror, screws constantly spinning, ballerinas whose arms gyrate in grotesque ways, and a group of puppets who show him phallic art. The critique here is the danger of stagnation that arises from consumerism and over-manufacturing. These three shorts distinctly showcase the Quay's avant-garde style. Narrative is kept to a minimum, favoring instead a loose, cerebral mash-up of images and sounds. Unsettling, weird, and strangely delightful.

BFI Screenonline: In Absentia (2000)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

Given their preference for working with pre-recorded scores, the Quay Brothers were natural choices for the BBC's Sound On Film initiative, which showcased collaborations between filmmakers and composers. Discounting filmed stage works, In Absentia was the first authentic Quay film since Institute Benjamenta (1995), but attracted most attention because it was a collaboration with Karlheinz Stockhausen, elder statesman of the twentieth-century musical avant-garde.

It was sourced from Zwei Paare ('Two Pairs'), an electronic piece originally composed for the opera Freitag in 1991. Long-term admirers of Stockhausen's work (one of their earliest professional commissions was the cover design of a 1973 book, Stockhausen: Conversations with the Composer), the Quays agreed to make the film before hearing the music. But when the recording arrived, they were disconcerted to discover that it consisted almost entirely of electronic howls and distorted human cries, with very few melodic, harmonic or rhythmic elements to latch on to.

But this relentlessness fitted their chosen subject, which was a depiction of the mental state of one Emma Hauck (1878-1920). Diagnosed with dementia praecox, she was incarcerated in Heidelberg's psychiatric clinic on her thirtieth birthday in 1909. There, she wrote obsessively to her long-absent husband, the letters consisting of barely legible scrawls rendered doubly incomprehensible by being layered on top of one another. The Quays had encountered her letters at an exhibition at London's Hayward Gallery, Beyond Reason (1996-7), which showcased work from the Hans Prinzhorn collection of artworks and artifacts created by the inhabitants of mental institutions.

But Hauck herself doesn't appear properly until halfway through the film, by which time her mental state has already been established by means of time-lapse studies of light patterns moving around her room, its furniture and windows, as well as low-angle shots of a childlike automaton aimlessly kicking its legs to and fro. Much of this is shot in black and white, with occasional flashes to colour shots of a demonic, horned, insectoid creature.

When Hauck appears (albeit mostly seen from behind), the film's focus narrows, with great emphasis placed on extreme close-ups of the objects central to her existence: the pencils, the sharpener, the paper, her cramped, clenching hands, blackened fingernails, endless stubs of broken-off lead, and finally the letters themselves, packaged up and 'posted' uselessly into a grandfather clock. It's one of the most unflinching depictions of psychosis on film, and one of the most unnervingly convincing.

(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


The Ensemble Sospeso - The Brothers Quay  Joshua Cody from Sospeso


Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


In Absentia  Zeitgeist Films


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver



Great Britain  (24 mi)  2003


DVD Outsider  Slarek  (Excerpt)

Now here's a curiosity, a series of animated pieces set to a selection of songs by The King's Singers. Those of you of a younger age may not be aware of these fellows (there are still going strong, I gather, albeit with a modified line-up), a vocal ensemble group formed at Cambridge University who came to prominence in the 70s singing cappella versions of well known pop songs and whose facial animation during performance sometimes bordered on parody. Their work here provides a structurally complex (you've never heard Oranges and Lemons sung like it is here) and melancholic basis for one of the Quays' most abstract and unsettling works to date. There are plenty of familiar Quay elements on display, including blank-eyed dolls, small rapidly oscillating objects, a wooden anatomical model (a fascinating if rather creepy creation), diffused imagery, and a sleeping figure whose arm is under independent control, and in terms of its light levels this is probably the brothers' darkest film to date.

(Animation) Songs for Dead Children (2003) - Quay brothers in AvaxHome



aka:  The Phantom Museum: Random Forays Into the Vaults of Sir Henry Wellcome's Medical Collection

Great Britain  (12 mi)  2003


Strictly Film School (NYVF 2003 notes)  Acquarello

My favorite entry from the program, the brothers Quay create yet another beautiful, haunting, atmospheric, and exquisitely tactile composition of stop-motion animation and live action as an unseen visitor wanders an empty museum that houses a curious repository of medical school paraphernalia. Observing and manipulating the antique dolls, prosthetic limbs and mechanisms, and surgical devices, the video creates an indelibly poetic meditation on the biological processes of human existence.

BFI Screenonline: Phantom Museum, The (2003)  Michael Brooke from BFI Screen Online

The Phantom Museum was originally commissioned by the Wellcome Trust as a video installation for the British Museum exhibition Medicine Man: The Forgotten Museum of Henry Wellcome, which ran from June to November 2003. This provided an opportunity for the public to examine some of the rarer items in the extraordinary collection of American-born pharmaceutical pioneer Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936), who assembled over 125,000 medical artifacts, many of which are currently stored in London's Science Museum and normally viewable by appointment only.

Typically, the Quay Brothers' film consists more of a series of impressions of the Wellcome collection than a guided tour, their approach summed up by its subtitle 'Random Forays into Sir Henry Wellcome's Medical Collection'. A linking device (shot on grainy black-and-white Super 8 stock) involves a man clad in a black suit and white gloves ascending staircases, warlking along corridors, switching on lights and investigating rooms full of cabinets bearing tantalising labels ('Shrunken Heads - Scalp').

Interspersed with these are much sharper colour sequences, depicting various objects in Wellcome's collection. Sometimes they're displayed as static museum pieces, sometimes rotated, and occasionally animated. Many of the exhibits are explicitly sexualised, from the diagram demonstrating the use of a chastity belt (next to an example of the real thing) to tender Oriental sculptures of human lovemaking. Many of the collection's many dolls come apart to reveal their anatomically-correct innards - one female body has a baby in her walnut-sized womb, connected via an umbilical piece of string.

Prosthetic arms and legs abound, in one case attached to a live human body, while there are plenty of dead ones glimpsed in the collection's storerooms, their lipless mouths fixed in a permanent grin. If the film is often unsettling, this is less because of the Quays' proven feel for the uncanny than for the way the Wellcome collection itself inescapably exploits our most fundamental fears: of birth, sex, mutilation and death.

The Quays originally edited the film to pre-existing recordings of the music of Czech composer Zdenek Liska (previously featured in The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer in 1984), but were unable to clear the necessary rights. In the final version, filmmaker-musician Gary Tarn provided a plangent semi-electronic accompaniment, occasionally interspersed with sound effects, notably in the shot of an old birthing chair and forceps being pressed into service on an invisible mother-to-be, whose baby can be heard crying as it emerges.

(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


Quay Brothers Short Films 1979-2003 DVD review | Cine Outsider  Slarek, December 1, 2006


The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


User reviews  from imdb Author: rinopie from United Kingdom


User reviews  from imdb Author: bob the moo from Birmingham, UK


The Phantom Museum  British Museum site for the Henry Wellcome Collection, with two downloadable excerpts from the Quay's The Phantom Museum


The Phantom Museum  Zeitgeist Films


Phantom Museums - The Quay Brothers Short Films - DVD Beaver



Great Britain  Germany  France  (99 mi)  2005  ‘Scope


The Village Voice [Karen Wilson]


Evoking fairy tales, European art, surrealist literature, and daguerreotypes, London-based directors the Brothers Quay confound their viewers with as much lush imagery as they can cram into a frame. The twins, Stephen and Timothy, have been making eccentric animation, short films, music videos ("Sledgehammer"!) and commercials (Coca-Cola!) since the late '70s, but The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes is only their second feature, after 1995's Institute Benjamenta. The story—about a beautiful opera singer falling captive to an evil doctor, his fetishistic housekeeper, and the doc's innocent piano tuner—is only important in that it gives the Quays a foundation for their fabulous animated tableaux. The doctor's bizarre musical machines whir. They click. They act out primal scenes. And though loose themes like the divide between master and servant resonate, in the end (which mirrors the beginning) it all makes less sense than it did when we started. No matter. As Dr. Droz (Gottfried John) explains to the tuner: What we are seeing is the most rational irrationality—and all sheer artifice anyway.


The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes  Michael Sicinski from the Academic Hack

There are two major problems that torpedo this film, and they glom onto each other like viral cells, replicating and mutually mutating in an exponentially expanding wretchedness. The Quay brothers (I refuse to capitulate to their self-congratulatory mythmaking by calling them "the Brothers Quay" -- this is not the Victorian era) are filmmakers accustomed to the short-form, and they lack the most basic sense of humor. Piano Tuner is clearly attempting to function as an evocative but unresolved mood piece, providing enough information to imply a dreamlike narrative, with multiple presents and temporal reversals and spatial ambiguity. But as short filmmakers, what they actually accomplish is the stringing together of discrete and unrelated ideas, in little five to ten minute bursts. There's a music thread, an automaton thread, a stop-motion "uncanny" thread, and much much more. The only thing tying any of this together is a wispy, soft-focus, oh-so-Victorian fear of female sexuality. Poor Amira Cesar is reduced to a doe-eyed hysteric in need of mental fine-tuning by the titular rationalist, and there's never a sense that the Quays are critiquing these antiquated stereotypes. Instead, they clearly take them, as well as themselves, with a deadly level of seriousness. They have created something sui generis -- the only reasonable comparison beyond their own work would be Guy Maddin's worst film, Twilight of the Ice Nymphs -- but the result is suffocating and precious. At the end of the screening I wanted to boo, but didn't feel like it was worth getting into.

Time Out London review  Geoff Andrew

The all-too-long-awaited follow-up to the Quays’ wonderful first feature (‘Institute Benjamenta’) is as imaginative, eccentric and visually seductive as one expects from these seasoned explorers of the uncanny. Great expertise is again evident in the blending of live action and puppet animation in the tale of Malvina (Amira Casar), a beautiful opera singer abducted during a performance by the sinister Dr Droz (Gottfried John). The mad inventor whisks her away from her lover, subjecting her to a life of mournful seclusion on a remote tropical island that is his home and kingdom, whither Felisberto (Cesar Sarachu), a piano tuner, is meanwhile summoned to repair seven automata…

In other words, the film’s a weird fairy tale, a Gothic fable of obsessive desire, magical prowess and bizarre coincidence that owes at least as much to painting, literature, music and myth as to cinema. (In fact, save for Borowczyk and a handful of horror movies, it’s hard to divine much common ground between this and most cinema likely to screen these days.) The pace, in keeping with the feverish, dreamlike hothouse isle on which the delectable damsel’s kept against her (lack of) will, perhaps tends a little too much towards the languid, and Sarachu’s performance comes over as clumsy; Assumpta Serna as Droz’s devotee also seems slightly adrift, so only Casar and John have the full measure of the piece. Still, no one expects conventional pleasures from the Quays, and for those who like their movies different, ambitious and luscious to look at (Nic Knowland’s ’Scope camerawork is extraordinary), there’s much here to enjoy.

Slant Magazine [Nick Schager]

Eleven years after Institute Benjamenta, Stephen and Timothy Quay return to the land of the live-action—and the fixations that have defined their groundbreaking stop-motion animated work—with The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, a tragic fairy tale drenched in otherworldly visual splendor. As with Institute, this new film concerns the appearance of an interloper at a secluded forest mansion, in this case piano tuner Felisberto's (César Saracho) arrival at the villa of Dr. Emmanuel Droz (Gottfried John), who has abducted and imprisoned beautiful opera singer Malvina (Amira Casar). Felisberto has been hired to fine-tune not pianos (of which Droz has none) but seven wondrous musical automatons—stop-motion creations housed in giant boxes and viewable through widescreen glass windows—and it is here that the Quays most directly and evocatively dramatize their overriding preoccupation with the dialectic between waking and slumbering life, the rapport shared by the tangible and the illusory, and the magical animation of inherently inanimate objects.

A combination of allusions both classical (Orpheus, Lazarus) and esoteric (a recurring anecdote about ants, spores, and insanity that forms one of the film's thematic cruxes), the brothers' story follows Felisberto (himself a doppelganger of Malvina's true love) as he's entranced by Droz's housekeeper Assumpta (the lusciously mysterious Assumpta Serna), uncovers the mad doctor's plan to stage an opera starring Malvina that will bring catastrophe to the cultural establishment that's shunned him, and endeavors to rescue the captive princess. However, with the Quays treating their actors like expressive puppets, Piano Tuner's pulse-pounding passion is derived not from narrative plotting—which, though more linear than Institute, is obscure and lethargic by design—but from stunning close-ups of their cast's expressive countenances (John's in particular) and ominously ethereal imagery (as in a backwards-running moonlit sequence). A sense of manipulation pervades the proceedings, with the performers mechanically moving about environments that, constructed with wire, dirt, flesh, and fog, come across as large-scale variations of the Quay shorts' claustrophobic, tracking shot-navigated milieus.

Snow globe visions and gnarly mouth nightmares swirl together in this darkly lyrical fantasia, the brothers' employment of ominous wind-tunnel drones, pulsating underwater-ish shadows, and a burnished palette of silvery black-and-whites and heightened colors giving the film a sense of the unreal and real symbiotically blending together. That this journey through an eerie unconscious landscape is ultimately little more than a collection of familiar Quay constructs and motifs makes Piano Tuner both sumptuously self-contained and frustratingly insular, the directors offering up a private world not easily traversed without at least passing knowledge of their eccentric oeuvre. When married to a general lack of momentum, this abstruse state of affairs requires one to embrace Assumpta's opinion that "after a while, you get used to the confusion." Quay novices will likely beg to differ, but for those on the filmmakers' bizarre, idiosyncratic wavelength, such opaqueness in no way makes this unsettling descent into dreamlike imaginativeness any less haunting.

Time and the Image: The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes - Bright Lights ...  Arturo Silva from Bright Lights Film Journal, January 28, 2016


Obscure Object: The Brothers Quay's “The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes”  Jeff Reichert from indieWIRE, November 14, 2006


The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2005) | PopMatters  Michael Barrett


(: the truth is out there :): The extraordinary Brothers Quay    James Rose, September 30, 2006


The Onion A.V. Club [Scott Tobias]


The Piano Tuner Of Earthquakes | Film at The Digital Fix  Noel Megahey


DVD Outsider  Slarek


Eye for Film (Anton Bitel) review [4.5/5]


CiNEZiLLA [Jason Meredith]  Jack Gattanella


Floatation Suite [Sheila Seacroft]


TIFF Report: The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes Review - ScreenAnarchy  Todd Brown, September 9, 2005


The Brothers Quay Returning To Feature Film With SANATORIUM ...  SANATORIUM UNDER THE SIGN OF THE HOURGLASS, by Todd Brown fromScreen Anarchy, February 20, 2010


SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review review [2/5]  Richard Scheib (Sandro Matosevic) review


Mondo Cinephilia  Timothy Farrell


ReelTalk (Donald Levit) review


Mark R. Leeper review [+1 out of -4..+4] [Scooter Thompson]


Film Freak Central review  Walter Chaw


User reviews  from imdb Author: el-mno-p from Newcastle, England


User reviews  from imdb Author: Polaris_DiB from United States


User reviews  from imdb (Page 2) Author: tedg ( from Virginia Beach


cinemattraction (Martin Tsai) review


Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review


Ozus' World Movie Reviews [Dennis Schwartz]


Bina007 Movie Reviews


The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes  Zeitgeist Films


Variety (Leslie Felperin) review


The Japan Times  Giovanni Fazio


The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes | Culture | The Guardian  Peter Bradshaw


The Independent (Anthony Quinn) review [1/5]


Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) review [3/5]


Los Angeles Times (Kristine McKenna) review


New York Times (registration req'd)  Jeannette Catsoulis, November 17, 2006, also here:  The New York Times (Jeannette Catsoulis) review


DVDBeaver dvd review  Brian Montgomery and Yunda Eddie Feng



Great Britain  (12 mi)  2007


DVD Outsider  Slarek  (Excerpt)

A live action musical interpretation Orpheus' quest to rescue his dead lover Eurydice from Hades, bristling with extraordinary monochrome imagery, into which colour quietly bleeds in the later stages. An appreciation of the music is probably required to get the most out of the film, despite its visual splendour, and it's not as instantly recognisable as a Quay Brothers work as the two preceding shorts.

VERTIGO | To See, If Only Once: Eurydice - She, So Beloved…   James Rose  from Vertigo, Winter 2008


The Black Lodge [James Rose]


Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay  John Coulthart, May 20, 2015


Qubeka, Jahmil X.T.


OF GOOD REPORT                                               B                     85

South Africa  (109 mi)  2013                  Website     Trailer


An extremely provocative South African film, where the director was born in South Africa, raised in East London, educated in English, where his first feature film is something of an homage to genre pictures, including film noir, as it is shot in low contrast Black and White and features a lead character, Parker Sithole (Mothusi Magano), a teacher by trade who is besieged by hallucinations, yet never utters a word.  The film certainly plays on audience expectations, where it’s hard to believe anyone entering the theater could have possibly anticipated what this film delivers, as it’s a bit mind blowing.  With only one film under his belt, Qubeka is already the bad boy of South Africa, a bit like the brash style of Tarantino, but Qubeka is much more experimental, where the director does resort to exploitive and often horrific imagery, including the naked body of a minor, which has generated criticism that he’s a child pornographer, yet supposedly the film was made to elevate a public discussion on social issues, specifically gender violence.  One might question whether the best way to elucidate the issue is to make a film where an adult brutalizes a young girl, but that is one of the fundamental problems in South Africa, where according to the Human Rights watch in 2001, “for many South African girls, violence and abuse are an inevitable part of the school environment.”  This is a nation where educators misuse their authority and sexually abuse young girls.  It’s not young boys that are impregnating young girls, it’s those with money (which the kids certainly don’t have), the stereotypical “sugar daddy.”  In one South African province alone, KwaZulu-Natal, today there are somewhere between 10 – 15,000 female students that become pregnant each year, astonishing figures, which don’t even take into account the number who may have contracted HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.


Initially scheduled to premiere at the Durban International Film Festival, the largest in South Africa, the film was banned prior to the screening on child pornographer issues, something that took the filmmaker completely by surprise as he wasn’t aware they banned films in South Africa post 1994, where prior to that they banned everything, “including Eddie Murphy movies.”  The Durban Festival has a history of protest, and of showing taboo work, where even during the apartheid era when films were routinely banned, the festival found a way to show those films.  Within about 10 days, the court overturned the ban, as the actress playing the 16-year old child is actually 23, and allowed the film to be seen on the final day of the festival.  Mind you, this film offers no moralizing or lectures of any kind, and isn’t remotely a message film, but is a hugely subversive take on genre films, using a radical musical score from Philip Miller, much of it drawn from his LP Music for the Films of William Kentridge, whose unnerving dissonance keeps the audience disoriented and provides a shattered sensibility, reflecting the psychological breakdown of the lead character, Parker Sithole, who served time as a soldier before reporting for duty in an impoverished rural South African township with no local connections, yet he comes with excellent recommendations, a man “of good report” during a time of teacher shortages, so he’s seen as exactly what they need and is immediately enlisted as a school teacher, where everyone involved with the school has high hopes for this shy and quietly introverted man.  So with inverted expectations, it’s a bit shocking to see him instead develop into a deranged psychopath, where the film shows the early origins of a serial killer, where Parker becomes sexually involved with a beautiful underage girl, Nolitha (Petronella Tshuma), something of a sirenesque Lolita who turns out to be one of the students in his class, but rather than end the relationship, he escalates the time they spend together, becoming more and more sexually obsessed, where he does little to hide his prurient interest in her.  


Using flashbacks and dream sequences, along with frequent hallucinations, Parker goes berserk when Nolitha leaves him, becoming Othello to her Desdemona, often veering into the horror genre, where the past and present converge and it’s often hard to distinguish between some of his mad ravings that exist only in his head and what actually happens, much like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000).  While offering a convincing portrait of a tortured man who can’t help himself, it recalls Peter Lorre in M (1931), a psychopathic pedophile who can’t stop himself from kidnapping and murdering little girls.  Parker is a miserably lonely man, likely stripped of all dignity during apartheid, endlessly wallowing away his time as a soldier, where he learns to kill, slowly losing touch with the world as he descends further into the moral abyss, escalating into utter depravity, becoming a nightmarish vision of Hell on earth where he hermetically seals himself away from the world outside, utterly alone with his handiwork.  We see what he does, which for some will be graphically excessive, generating gasps in the audience, and we see him get away with it, at least temporarily, where he lives to do it all over again, like a deadly parasite attaching itself to another living form.  Opening and closing with the same visual motif, a man stumbling through the desert, where the camera shows nothing above the waist and focuses only on his dirty boots covered in mud and dust, a highly effective device, as the film is about the arrival of a stranger, a non entity, someone with no local roots, who comes bearing excellent recommendations, a man “of good report,” where much like the white-gloved, overly polite boys in Haneke’s Funny Games (1997), no sooner have they brutally murdered one family before they move on to the next.  Of interest, this is a South African and Icelandic production, where one wonders where the Icelanders came into the picture.  The director, who was present for the screening, suggested he would love to come back to this character in about 20 years and pick it up again.  When he made it, he was hoping it would become a cult film.  It’s a strange and intensely moody portrayal of a post-apartheid society that fails to recognize the continuing existence of an evil presence lurking within, that lives invisibly among us, where over the end credits the film turns to color with an animated red Devil dancing off to the side, a laughing reminder of more victims yet to come. 


Global Comment [Mark Farnsworth]

Originally banned in South Africa, “Of Good Report” also features a strong silent type, albeit a psychopathic one in teacher Parker Sithole. The film’s opening is from the point of view of a shambling monster picking teeth out of his head, like a horror movie walking onto the set of a Sergio Leone Western. Through seamless flashbacks we stitch together Parker’s murky past as a U.N. soldier and a widely respected educator. A drunken liaison with the stunning Nolitha at a bar proves to be the catalyst for the already disturbed Parker to delve into the very depths of depravity when she is later revealed to be of his new pupils.

Jahmil XT Qubeka’s filmis startling, not only for the controversial subject matter but also for the sheer audacity and competency of his direction. Parker shouts, growls, bleats, cries and howls but never speaks-some feat when he is in virtually every scene, at times his hang dog face elicits sympathy. A risky sexual encounter with Nolitha in a toilet cubicle turns into nerve-shredding suspense when her friends are locked outside. We should be shouting from the rooftops for Parker to get caught, but instead we are deceived into rooting for him to escape, because Qubeka manipulates his audience just like Parker manipulates an entire community. “Of Good Report” then leaves the same savage aftertaste as “Cold Fish” or Richard Stanley’s “Dust Devil” and a character in Parker Sithole as shocking as Travis Bickle or Patrick Bateman.

In Review Online [Calum Reed]

Of Good Report, the striking feature-length debut of South African filmmaker Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, opens with the scene of a battered and bloodied man stumbling across a treacherous African desert. It's a particularly unsettling opening for what is, on paper, a seemingly familiar domestic drama about an affair between a male teacher and his female pupil, but one that immediately implants an underlying sense of gruesome volatility that never quite detaches itself from the film's core.

With its stark black-and-white photography and mournful brass-driven musical accompaniment, Qubeka’s style casts the African continent in an altogether different light, immersing us in the cultural identity of the locale but draining away its natural mystique. The Africa of this film is a wilderness rife with primal sexuality and simmering aggression, its monochrome veneer visually hinting at its later detective-led noir plot elements. The film’s story structure, too, bears elements of a classic noir mystery like Crossfire (1947), melding flashbacks and hallucinations into the central narrative with comfortable ease.

In the dread-inducing way that it is able to shift perceptions of its tortured male character, Of Good Report echoes William Wyler’s The Collector (1965), whose antagonist Freddie Clegg slowly transforms from a harmless mummy’s boy to an erratic potential psycho. The psychological turmoil of the teacher, Parker (Mothusi Mangano), bears some similarities to that of Clegg, but unlike Terence Stamp in Wyler’s film, Magano is too disconcertingly opaque and expressionless when called upon to convincingly relay the introverted man’s disturbed inner life.

Even if the acting isn’t always up to par, though, Qubeka’s direction picks up enough of the slack for the film to make an impact nevertheless; his mirroring of the film’s opening and closing sequences is especially effective at heightening its impact as a cynical tale of past trauma and unforeseen danger. Qubeka’s directorial command provides Of Good Report with a lasting bitterness and visceral power rarely seen in cinema these days.

The film you're not allowed to see  Charl Blignaut from City Press, July 28, 2013                   

Of Good Report, denied a classification by the Film and Publication Board, views SA through a prism that makes for uncomfortable viewing. Charl Blignaut sees what you’re not allowed to

The biggest problem when it comes to the discussion around the banning of Jahmil Qubeka’s Of Good Report is that few people have seen it. I have.

It was available to journalists as an online screener ahead of the Durban International Film Festival.

Unfortunately, I saw it on a computer and not in a cinema. I have no doubt it’ll be even more impressive on a big screen.

And it is impressive. Shot in black and white as a homage to film noir, it’s a very dark comedy told as an African Western by a bona fide auteur. It’s a fresh, confident, quirky and accomplished art-house movie with excellent performances and a genius score. It takes experimental South African film up several notches.

What it doesn’t do is wag a moral finger or try drive its message home. It isn’t a piece of social realism or a “message film” (whatever that is). It’s not the kind of film that pushes a line in “nation building” that government film agencies are so keen to see on our screens (think Darrell Roodt’s Yesterday).

Neither does it push a notion of “social cohesion” because it’s about social disintegration and a country of crumbling morals – where an older man, a man “of good report”, can get away with murder. And our sugar daddies do, every day.

When the film maker approached the National Film and Video Foundation for funding they rejected his application because, they said, it doesn’t “offer a protagonist we can root for”. They advised him to look at Red Dragon or Dexter to up the lead character Parker Sithole’s moral convictions.

But easy comparison or classification evades this film. And this makes the debate around its depiction of underage sex even more complicated.

Because the language of the film is difficult, its classifiers will need to understand film language first. And if you see the film, you will wonder if they do.

The sex scene in question is stylised and absolutely inexplicit. It’s the least of the problems the film raises. Yes, the girl is 16, but so is the age of consent.

The Film and Publication Board (FPB) is governed by an act that says she must be 18 or older. The actress playing her is 23.

Where “the aesthetic element is predominant, the image will not constitute pornography”, stated former chief justice Pius Langa. By this definition – a landmark judgment by the Constitutional Court on the FPB’s definition of pornography – Of Good Report is not pornography.

It’s not an overtly political film either. When it takes a jab at political corruption it does so symbolically – President Jacob Zuma talking on the TV while a poster of him is stuck to a wall next to it. The message is clear, but you have to work to find it.

Most people who end up seeing this film will probably not even realise, by the end, that Sithole doesn’t utter a single line of dialogue in it.

He’s a miserable and comical man, stripped of his dignity by apartheid and hardened by his former life as a soldier. He is a killer who is unable to get in touch with his emotions.

In one scene, we finally see him cry. Except he doesn’t. The tin roof of his room is leaking and water is dripping on to his face. When he meets Nolitha, she offers a small glimmer of joy in his dark life.

Yes, she’s a Lolita. She thinks it’ll be fun to seduce this man in authority, her teacher.

She appears to even enjoy the sex. Perhaps it’s this that really upset the FPB.

Here we have a real and complex character who doesn’t easily fit into the portrayal of South African women as either virgins or whores – as academic Sarah Dawson argues in The Con, an online magazine.

Dawson saw the film when helping make selections for the Durban festival. She proposes our problem with Nolitha is we don’t know how to classify her because we barely recognise her rights in our patriarchal society.

The banning, she writes, “has happened purely because the sexualised young female of Nolitha doesn’t yet have a proper meaning in this society”.

As Of Good Report’s powerful final scene ends, it instantly took its place in my all-time South African top-10 favourite films.

Our poor moral report - City Press  Senzo Mchunu from City Press, August 19, 2013


“Of Good Report”? - Africa is a Country  Zachary Levenson from Africa Is a Country, August 19, 2013


Reopening the debate about censorship, art and its value ... - Africiné  Hans-Christian Mahnke


Of Good Report |


Durban Festival Opening Night Screening Canceled as Government ...


Durban Fest Offers Rare Spotlight on African Cinema - The ... 


Of Good Report: The serial killer movie they tried to ban -  CNN interviews the director, August 21, 2013


Of Good Report: The Serial Killer Movie they Tried to Ban  Eric Ford interviews the director from Houston Style magazine, August 21, 2013


Qubeka Brings Anarchy, Mayhem, Dissent to S.A. Biz | Variety  Alex Stedman interviews the director from Variety, July 18, 2013


Quillévéré, Katell


LOVE LIKE POISON (Un Poison Violent)                     B+                   91

France  (92 mi)  2010


When you were here before
Couldn't look you in the eye
You're just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry

You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You're so fucking special

But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here

I don't care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul

I want you to notice
When I'm not around
You're so fucking special
I wish I was special

But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here

She's running out the door
She's running
She run, run, run, run

Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You're so fucking special
I wish I was special

But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here
I don't belong here


—“Creep,” by Thom Yorke, Radiohead, 1992


From the opening pan of parishioners singing inside a church, this film shows how French culture remains dominated by the influence of the Catholic Church, yet is also a rapturously beautiful coming-of-age story of a sensitive young 14-year old girl, given a thoroughly intelligent overview as seen through the observant eyes of this female writer/director.  After attending a private girl’s boarding school, Anna (Clara Augarde) returns to her small town home to spend the summer, where she is reunited with her over-controlling mother (Lio), her sexually candid but dying grandfather (Michel Galabru), along with Pierre (Youen Leboulanger-Gourvil) a cute young boy who enjoys spending time with her.  What immediately grabs our attention is the use of music, where the old English folksong “Greensleeves” sung by Barbara Dane, has a mesmerizing effect, where the piercingly melancholic mood is heart rendering, sung during a downpour of rain that falls over the French countryside.  This sets the tone for the use of more songs, each bearing a personal stamp of intimacy, many of them folk songs from an earlier era.  This music coincides with a young girl’s self-awakening, the discovery of her own body, and the effect she has on the opposite sex.  At the same time, her parents are going through a bitter separation which leaves her traumatized by their seemingly petty bickering.  The other main character is the parish priest (Stefano Cassetti), a bearded, wire-rimmed young man who expresses genuine interest in the lives of others.  As she prepares for her confirmation, one of the more interesting scenes is Anna expressing her doubts to the priest, who reminds her that this is quite common with people of faith, that Mother Theresa continually doubted her faith throughout her life, so this shouldn’t in any way diminish her thoughts of herself as a primarily good person.   


The film is understated and low key throughout, where Augarde as Anna is surprisingly assured in this her first screen role, where her character yearns for a kind of individuality and freedom she doesn’t have, that no one has, as problems seem to fall on the shoulders of everyone, holding everyone back.  Even in the tenderest moments between mother and daughter, this will be followed by an all too depressed mother who remains bitter and angry at her father, becoming overly critical and hurtful in her remarks to Anna.  The film plays out like a short story, as the attention to meticulous details of small-town life is essential to the overall mood of Anna’s experience, as her life unfolds through a series of vignettes that she shares with various people, where her maturity and kindness feels more highly evolved than others around her, where perhaps only the priest has a pretty good window into her character.  At her confirmation, the Bishop brought in to speak chooses excerpts from the Apostle Paul which are a harsh reminder of sins of the flesh, which is the only message he’s conveying to a group of teenagers who pretty much only have thoughts of the flesh on their minds at that age.  This example of the Church being so out of touch with their everyday lives contrasts heavily with Anna’s own rhapsodic sexual discoveries, which are a universe of walking contradictions, the sacred and the profane.  The real showstopper, however, is the extraordinary use of an all woman’s choir singing the Radiohead song “Creep,” (heard here on YouTube:  scala creep radiohead  4:45), which reverberates like a church choir, but with a much more humane message that speaks so earnestly about the transparency of the human soul, where all we ever really want is to feel human.  


The Flickering Wall [Jorge Mourinha]

The teenage daughter of a divorcing couple begins to feel the first pangs of love just as she is about to undergo her religious confirmation. Sensitive coming-of-age tale as seen through the eyes of people struggling with issues of identity and faith, sensibly performed and directed.

CIFF 2010: LOVE LIKE POISON  Ben Sachs from Cine-File


A fourteen-year-old girl returns from Catholic boarding school to spend the summer in her small-town home, where she must confront her parents’ separation, her grandfather’s slow death, and the attentions of a cute boy in the neighborhood. This is familiar material, to be sure, but writer-director Katell Quillévéré displays such feeling for her characters and setting that the film doesn’t feel like a series of clichés. She’s also surprisingly frank in depicting sexual subject matter without letting it overwhelm the story at hand: This isn’t THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, but it isn’t Catherine Breillat territory, either. Quillévéré is after a holistic portrait of adolescence, and her tone–probing, attentive to small things, and honest in its emotional content–reflects the manner in which many teenagers aspire to see themselves. Also commendable is the film’s treatment of Catholicism, which is serious without turning reverent or critical: Anna may come to doubt her religious teaching, but Quillévéré wants us to know that doubt is perfectly natural, too. In recent movies as diverse as Krzysztof Zanussi’s A WARM HEART and Daniel Sánchez Arévalo’s GORDOS, European cinema has provided images of religious and secular values operating in mature co-existence; and LOVE LIKE POISON provides several more. (The character of a self-effacing, soccer-playing priest is especially charming.) This is more of a cultural achievement than a cinematic one, but it’s edifying all the same.

Love Like Poison (Un Poison Violent)  Jonathan Romney at Cannes from Screendaily

Small communities, Catholicism and burgeoning sexuality - it’s a classic, some might say over-familiar, combination in French debut features. But it’s rarely carried off with such confidence and subtlety as in Love Like Poison, Katel Quillévéré’s superb drama, which has already won the 2010 Jean Vigo Prize for first features.

Given the low-key quality of the narrative, there’s nothing obviously commercial in the film, apart from the presence of two stalwart names with some mainstream cachet - Lio and veteran comic actor Michel Galabru. But the film’s sheer command, and the candid central performance by promising newcomer Clara Augarde, will win the film equal support from critics and audiences on the festival circuit, which should help it to respectable sales in a select art-house bracket.

Fourteen-year-old Anna (Augarde) has returned from boarding school to her village in Brittany, where she lives with her mother Jeanne (Lio) in the house of her elderly, ailing paternal grandfather Jean (Galabru). Anna’s father Paul (Neuvic) is absent - he turns up only late in the film - as he and Jeanne have broken up.

One gap between them, it seems, is Jeanne’s committed Catholicism, which Paul doesn’t share and has only recently become a problem for them. Things are complicated by the increasingly depressed Jeanne’s attraction to easy-going young village priest Père François (Cassetti). Anna, meanwhile, is caught between her own religious convictions - she’s due for her confirmation - and her teenage sexual stirrings, which are awakened by choirboy Pierre (Leboulanger-Gourvil), a precocious squirt who’s in a hurry to get beyond best-friend stage.

Not a great deal happens, but when it does, it means a lot: two funerals, a couple of faintings on Jeanne’s part, and a genuinely tense moment between Jeanne and François in which it looks as if he’s going to have to do some soul-searching and fast.

There are also some delicate, but boldly handled, scenes of exploratory physicality between the two kids, which Augarde and the engaging Leboulanger-Gourvil carry off fearlessly, but with just the edge of nervousness that the material calls for.

Galabru, generally associated with broader material, brings an imposing sense of crumbling physicality - it’s anything but a vain performance, given the actor’s age and girth - and has a good time as a blustering rager against piety. Some unsettling sexually-charged scenes between the old man and Anna are carried off with a shrewdly judged tone that shows how much Quillévéré is on top of her material.

The film is beautifully shot by Tom Harari, who captures faces and the Breton landscape with equal sensitivity, and a very individual soundtrack includes English folk songs, church choirs and a highly unconventional Radiohead cover over the end credits.

Variety (Alissa Simon) review

Small in scale, but beautifully written, extremely well-played and sensually lensed, "Love Like Poison" from first-time French helmer Katell Quillevere centers on a middle-class 14-year-old in the Breton countryside about to celebrate her confirmation in the Catholic church. Winner of the 2010 Jean Vigo prize, this naturalistic coming-of-ager encompasses the cycle of life from adolescence through infirmity, confirming the ongoing demands of the flesh and the way they frequently conflict with religious faith. Kudos, strong reviews and name adult cast will draw auds in French-lingo territories with extended life in ancillary. Quality fest item could find niche distribution offshore.

When Anna (newcomer Clara Augarde) arrives at the remote village home of her ailing grandfather (Michel Galabru) during spring break from her Catholic boarding school, she finds her father (Thierry Neuvic) has finally left her devout mother (Lio). While her mother seeks consolation from local priest Father Francois (Stefano Cassetti), Anna cares for her earthy grandfather and explores her budding sexuality with neighboring teen Pierre (Youen Leboulanger-Gourvil).

After a trio of short films, Quillevere appears an assured director of actors, achieving an impressive credibility in both familial heart-to-hearts and scenes of teens on their own. Although her depiction of the relationship between the mother and the priest occasionally feels a little heavy-handed, she makes entire pic underscore theme of the contradictory impulses between one's imposed education and inherent instincts.

Obviously a personal story, prize-winning script by Quillevere and Mariette Desert opposes Anna's youth and beauty with her mother's jealousy over loss of same and her bon vivant grandfather's last stirrings of physical pleasure. Anna's wrestling with her faith is mirrored by Father Francois's own struggle, while protag's essential innocence and the provincial setting offers a refreshing change from current spate of pics about promiscuous, disaffected urban teens.

As Anna, curvaceous redhead Augarde reps a true find. With her lively intelligence, malleable features and sexy figure, she can look forward to a long career. Meanwhile, octogenarian comic actor Galabru steals every scene he's in, bringing an affecting poignancy to a man who has lived life to the fullest but now faces death. In smaller parts, the rest of the adult cast acquit themselves strongly.

Standing out among solid craft credits, the lush location camerawork of Tom Harari fluidly shifts between handheld and dolly work. The well-chosen music track, including hymns and American folk tunes, anchors pic's mood of melancholy and rapture.

French title refers to a Serge Gainsbourg song, though sales agents may want to find a more resonant, less forbidding English moniker.

Camera (color), Tom Harari; editor, Thomas Marchand; music, Olivier Mellano; music consultant, Frank Beauvais; set designer, Anna Falgueres; costume designer, Mahemiti Deregnaucourt; sound (Dolby Digital), Emmanuel Croset; line producer, Mathieu Verhaeghe; casting, Sarah Teper, Leila Fournier, Francois Guignard. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 14, 2010. Running time: 92 MIN. review [2/5]  Eric Lavallee


Soft Touch  Dustin Chang from Floating World


The Hollywood Reporter review  Bernard Besserglik


Creep (Radiohead song) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


scala creep radiohead  “Creep” Scala & Kolacny Brothers (4:45)


SUZANNE                                                                B+                   92

France  Belgium  (91 mi)  2013             Website


Quillévéré’s earlier film, LOVE LIKE POISON (2010), is a beautiful coming-of-age story, one that reflects a rare insight into the mindset of female youth, often using superb choices of music to expand the depth of character.  Along with Xavier Dolan, the Canadian French-speaking wunderkind from Montreal, both are among the best of the new directors in probing the interior worlds of today’s youth, where Dolan uses more experimentation, such as wildly colorful artificiality mixed with heavy doses of realism, continually changing the film speed, literally immersing the audience in music, along with shifting moods and atmosphere.  Quillévéré is often harsh, brutally honest, heavy on the stark realism in this French working-class drama, but ultimately generous, reaching for a poetic intimacy with her characters, where both use music and novelesque detail to accentuate complexity, ambitiously covering 25 years here in just 90-minutes, where what’s left unsaid or the spaces in between scenes often express more than words could ever do, which means both directors rely upon powerful performances, giving the audience something they’re not used to.  That is certainly the case here, which has one of the more beautifully photographed openings, as it’s a colorful montage of exuberant young kindergarten age girls getting dressed up in red, sequined costumes and feathers in their hair, along with sparkle on their faces, just before they give a dance performance.  It’s exactly the sort of thing every young girl experiences and it’s a moment to be showcased publicly in front of eager parents with their cameras, where applause and approval greet them afterwards, where it’s a wondrous expression of the innocence of happiness. 


Jump ahead ten years, Suzanne (Sara Forestier) and her younger sister Maria (Adèle Haenel) are flirtatious teenage girls living with their widowed father, (François Damiens), who’s often away for extended durations driving a truck, but we also see times when he picks them up after school in his truck, where the warm enthusiasm shows.  They are a close-knit family, where the two girls do everything together, always looking out for one another’s interests, while they also join their Dad on regular visits to their deceased mother’s grave.  What quickly develops is Suzanne has a mind of her own, often at odds with everybody else, including her father, where her idea of independence is not having to listen to anybody tell her what to do.  When she gets pregnant, letting the school inform her father, as she hates confronting him, their relationship instantly deteriorates.  Jump ahead five more years, where Suzanne and Maria are seen frequenting bars hauling around her son Charlie, often asleep on her shoulder, but he’s passed around whenever someone wants to get up and dance.  When she meets Julien (Paul Hamy), something of a punk gangster with a flair for gambling, irresponsibility, and leaving out the important details, where he tends to get in trouble, often having to leave town on the spur of the moment.  When it’s time to make a quick dash, Suzanne leaves Charlie behind, where she doesn’t see him for another several years, but hears that he’s living with a foster family from her attorney inside a prison cell.  Without providing any backdrop of this development, the news is received like an emotional cluster bomb, where she literally drops from the impact.


Forestier’s strength is never overplaying any scene, showing quick bursts of infuriorated emotion followed by an immediate attempt at a getaway, usually protected by her sister, where she doesn’t stick around for the lectures or moralizing.  Her dizzying love affair with Julien went from being a deliriously rapturous expression of never wanting to say goodbye to never being mentioned again, but when she receives a necklace from him she literally melts.  She’s an emotional whirlwind of changing moods, a wandering soul that follows her heart and her desires at the expense of everything else, where the audience may be as exasperated with her as her father, but the director always presents her in a non-judgmental light, where the film continuously explores her unique qualities that make her what she is.  When her father has to sit in court and listen to the unending list of charges being made against her, none of which she denies, it’s an utterly devastating moment, as this is not the vivacious little girl we saw in the opening shot.  Co-written by the director and Mariette Désert, this is a stunning exposé of indefatigable strength followed by incredulous naïveté, where she’s instantly elated or sullenly depressed, but never for a second does she express vanity or pretension.  The bracing scenes of realism with the intoxicating allure of love have rarely been captured with this degree of melancholic immediacy, eventually leading to pure heartbreak, where Quillévéré creates sympathy for a woman who would otherwise typically be seen as an outcast.  The hauntingly atmospheric music composed by Verity Susman from the all-girl English band Electrelane offers an impressionistic palette, where this beautifully observed, pieced-together drama has a way of rendering its full impact at the end, once we get a fuller picture of her life, where music high priestess Nina Simone sings the Leonard Cohen song live at Montreaux in 1976 over the end credits, seen here in Rome 1969 at the Teatro Sistina Nina Simone - Suzanne (Live) - YouTube (6:28). 


Cannes 2013: Suzanne – review | Film |  Catherine Shoard at Cannes from The Guardian, May 17, 2013

This up-tempo drama from a young French woman director is acutely observed and at times almost unbearably moving

 There may be only one female director with a film in competition at Cannes this year, but new work from women opened both the Un Certain Regard and Critics' Week sidebars. Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring (which kicked off the former) was all swag and slebs; Suzanne could hardly be less concerned with shopping. The second feature from 33-year-old Katell Quillévéré, it's the sort of woozily shot, remorselessly emotional, acutely observed socio-realist soap that both confounds and confirms chick-flick prejudice.

Baldly recalled, it sounds like a telenovela: Suzanne and her elder sister, Maria, live with their widowed father in the Languedoc. We see them first in primary school, then as Suzanne (Sara Forestier) is about to leave secondary and announces she's pregnant. Flash forward five years and Charlie is part of the family (his father is never seen or spoken of) and Suzanne works in the office of the trucking company that employs dad. Then she falls in love, with Nicolas (Paul Hamy) who feels the same, but he's a small-time gangster, and when he must leave, Suzanne must choose between him and her family.

It weighs in at just 90 minutes, but Quillévéré crams in 25 years of life, with chiming between the early and late scenes; it takes time to absorb. The rapidity of the jumping between years cuts both ways: the pace is kept tight, but you're often left reeling, not given space for events to settle before their repercussions have already become bread-and-butter to the characters. It's a device that lends the film unusual oomph but after a few too many slaps can feel manipulative.

Yet the brilliance of Quillévéré's direction is in the performances she coaxes from her cast, and the clear-eyed, non-judgmental way she presents them. François Damiens, a Belgian actor previously seen bumbling about in the likes of Heartbreaker and Delicacy, is brilliant as the father: almost unbearably moving in a courthouse scene in which a roll-call of minor charges are levelled at his daughter, whom he hasn't seen for years. As the sister who moves from tearaway to matriarch, Adèle Haenel is terrific, too; but Sara Forestier is just indelible in the lead, brimful of feeling and sympathetic stupidity, now depressed, now quixotic, never obvious or vain.

Mostly, Quillévéré manages to match her lead (there's a brilliant shot from a window of Suzanne and her boyfriend parting), but from time to time the switchback tempo and on-the-button music cues (the Leonard Cohen song is reserved for final credits) highlight Forestier's brilliance by comparison.

Suzanne  Allan Hunter at Cannes from Screendaily, also seen here:  Suzanne | Reviews | Screen

The second feature from  Love Like Poison director Katell Quillevere confirms her talent for capturing the precious moments that can define and shape a life. Suzanne offers snapshots of the title character from carefree child to careworn adult. There are rare moments of joy, reckless decisions, heartache and much more in a film that feels like  flicking through a family album filled with births, deaths, wrong turns and piercing regrets.

The random nature and episodic structuring of the film presents a problem as it tends to work against a complete emotional investment in what is   unfolding. Too many gaps in the narrative are left unexplained or there is such a compression of developments that it risks feeling superficial at best  or melodramatic at worst. Quillevere may be guilty of striving to achieve too much in such a conventional running time but there is still enough in the trials and tribulations of Suzanne’s downbeat life to engage the heart and secure further

Festival exposure and a decent theatrical life for the film. Quillevere has a real gift for bringing out the best in her performers. The early scenes of children putting on a show and the giggly fondness between the young Suzanne (Apollobia Luisetti) and her sister Maria (Fanie Zanini) are among the best in the film; fresh, naturalistic and entirely true to life.

They are also among the happiest even as we are made aware of their mother’s death and the widowed father (Francois Damiens) who does his best to care for them. The mood darkens  as we quickly jump forward to the day the father is called to school to be informed that Suzanne (Sara Forestier) is pregnant, to a  kiss that means everything to Suzanne and her boyfriend Julien (Paul Hamy), to the day she abandons her son and other stops along the way in a life that tips into a downward spiral.

The intensity of Sara Forestier keeps you on the side of what could be construed as a fairly selfish, irresponsible character and there is an equally impressive performance from Adele Haenel as the adult Maria, a woman who remains a loyal and loving sister through everything that happens.

It is only when the narrative moves forward too rapidly that it starts to lose its grip. Years pass, lives change in the blink of an eye and there is no chance to let things breathe or give each moment the weight it really requires. Elements of thriller and melodrama do not always successfully gel and yet they are balanced by the surges of emotion that Quillevere extracts from particularly telling acts and their consequences.

An atmospheric, haunting score by Verity Susman considerably enhances the changing moods of a film that in its finer moments can readily stand comparison with the films of the Dardenne brothers.

Fabien Lemercier  at Cannes from Cineuropa

In addressing with Suzanne [festival scope], which opened the Critics' Week last night at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, the path followed by a character over a 30-year period, Katell Quillevéré, already noticed on the Croisette in 2010 with her first feature Un poison violent [trailer] (Love like Poison), has set the bar pretty high. A risk accepted and crowned success with a romanesque film, sensitive and moving, borne along by an excellent Sara Forestier in the role of a young woman who tries to take short-cuts and inevitably pays the price.

From this shred of fate over which there wafts a hint of bad luck, the director culls a very clear and affectionate portrait of a family of modest means in the depths of France, that of truck-drivers, working women and waitresses, barbecues in shabby courtyards, children placed in foster families, bars and clubs in which people try to escape, and small-time dealers. This world of solitude where family ties serve as lifelines is conveyed by Katell Quillevéré with a healthy energy, an excellent screenplay (co-written by Mariette Désert) skilfully addressing the time factor, and intelligent staging (without any ostentation), effectively swinging from the intimate to a vaster perception of the outer world.

It all starts with the innocence and laughter of childhood for Suzanne (Sara Forestier) and her sister Maria (Adèle Haenel), lovingly raised by their protective father (François Damiens) in a working-class suburb in the South of France. The absence of their mother, who has passed away, does not seem to weigh on the two little girls who soon become "grunge" and rather forward teenagers. The film is set in the 1990's and the first stroke of fate is about to fall: school-girl Suzanne gets pregnant and gives birth to a boy, Charly, whom she raises alone in the family home. Maria leaves to work in Marseille, though the very strong bond of affection between the two sisters lasts until Suzanne falls madly in love with Julien, a young lout (Paul Hamy) trying to wheel and deal at the race-course. Borne along by passion, Suzanne follows him and disappears, abandoning her young son who is taken care of by the grandfather. A few years later, the young woman finds herself in prison after committing a burglary with a break-in and violence. Julien is on the run, and Suzanne, devasted by loneliness and guilt, discovers that her son has been placed with a foster family. She pays him a visit when she gets out and tries to make her life over after getting back togther with her sister and father. But the smart Julien, who has risen in the ranks of the criminal world, turns up by chance. The couple get back together against a backcloth of drug trafficking with Morocco, which doesn't prevent Suzanne from giving birth to a daughter. Once again far from her family, the young woman pursues her chaotic destiny, but unpleasant surprises are still lurking in her path…

Going one better as compared to her first feature film, Katell Quillevéré (born in 1980, just like Suzanne) has several strings to her bow as a filmmaker. Overcoming with great ease the difficulties inherent to the plot and wide time-span, she succeeds in giving her characters real consistency, even for the most secondary roles (Corinne Masiero, Anne Le Ny), with the overall quality of the acting also worthy of praise. Anchored in social realsim which is perfectly recreated and using music very effectively (composed by Verity Susman from the English band Electrelane), Suzanne deploys a rather irresistible charm in the touching wake of a young woman on a desperate quest for love and freedom. 

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river...  Dustin Chang from Floating World


HEAL THE LIVING (Réparer les vivants)

France  Belgium  (103 mi)  2016 ‘Scope                        Official site [UK] [Andrew Robertson]

The temptation to cliche is great and Heal The Living's subject matter - a cardiac transplant - invites phrases like 'heart-wrenching' and 'haunting' which though accurate are less than this film deserves. It's based on a novel of the same name by Maylis De Kerangal and its events unfold slowly, not quite metronomically, the occasional skipped beat a counter-point to the steady flow of its story. The only antagonists in Heal The Living are time and distance and human frailty, death in triptych.

There are moments of hypnotic beauty, small gestures of comfort documented with an omniscient kindly distance, a dawdling angelic remove. Slowly, steadily, the circumstances of a single life-saving operation are constructed.

Startling and unflinching, this is a film that documents tiny kindnesses amongst the visceral and technical in a way that demonstrates an almost perfect simultaneity of compassion and craft such that it nearly defies description. Strong performances from its cast turn a seemingly slight set of events into something that is gripping.

Katell Quillévéré's direction is assured, equally adept in depictions of twilight surfing expeditions, of tense surgical explorations, in and among alleyways and apartments, theatres musical and operating. She shares writing credits with De Kerangal and veteran writer (and previous collaborator) Gilles Tuarand. Their efforts are partnered with an almost flawless effort in subtitling translation (at least in the version Eye for Film saw at the 2017 Glasgow Film Festival) that ably copes with some relatively abstruse vocabularies. The one oddity (merguez becomes hot dogs) is easily forgiven; the meat of this story is elsewhere.

It's hard to single out any performances, though César nominations suggest someone has tried. Anna Dorval as the transplant's recipient, Dominique Blanc's surgeon, and Emmanuelle Seigner's turn as the mother of the donor are all note-perfect, and Tahar Rahim's performance as the transplant counsellor produces one of the film's most touching moments. Even in small roles - Gabin Verdet's Simon is the all too human source of another's hope, focus of others' grief - the performances are touching.

Alexandre Desplat's score is well-used, but the sound in general is phenomenal. Environmental noises are integrated smoothly, in particular the lead-up to the accident that makes Simon's heart available. Perhaps the most striking sonic note is over the end credits - Five Years from Bowie's Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars is song enough, but the semantic weight of a song about time running out from the beginning of the career of a legend now passed is, well, palpable.

At once cerebral and humane, compassionate and clinical, Heal The Living is so staggering in its emotional intensity, even honesty, that it itself rejuvenates, reaffirms - it will make your heart sore, then soar.

Slant Magazine [Derek Smith]

Structured as a loose triptych, Katell Quillévéré's Heal the Living approaches death in prismatic fashion, which allows for its all-encompassing compassion for and understanding of people on every side of a tragedy. Quillévéré deftly slides between three separate dramas surrounding a teenager who's left brain-dead following a car wreck, giving equal attention and respect to the parents, the doctors preparing for the potential use of the young man's still-beating heart, and a woman coming to terms with her impending need for a heart transplant. Heal the Living negotiates matters of the heart in both intangible and material terms, vacillating between the corporeal and spiritual as the emotional consequences of death clash with the cold, dispassionate machinations of a hospital whose concerns lie with healing and not consoling.

The film opens with an ethereal sequence that eloquently sets up Quillévéré's interest in the transition between states of being, from the physical to the metaphysical. The camera exudes a spectral quality as it glides above 17-year-old Simon (Gabin Verdet), leisurely admiring young, healthy bodies in motion as Simon skates to the house of the friend who will drive them to the beach for an early-morning surf. This fluidity of movement continues unabated as three friends ride wave after wave and later make their way back home—and as the driver of the vehicle imagines the road as the ocean surface, it's almost natural how he drifts off to sleep and crashes the car on the side of the road.

Katell Quillévéré's film allows the sorrows of losing a life and the joys of saving it to remain congruent.

Heal the Living's focus then shifts to Simon's parents, Marianne (Emmanuelle Seigner) and Vincent (Kool Shen), who must grapple with the fact that he's brain-dead and is only on temporary life support. Quillévéré keeps a respectful distance from the grieving parents, acknowledging their pain without conveying its depths and as such potentially succumbing to exploitation. In this very same moment of anguish, a young doctor, Thomas (Tahar Rahim), offers his condolences as he struggles to find a way to tactfully ask Marianne and Vincent for consent to use Simon's healthy heart for an emergency transplant. Such dualities are carefully balanced throughout the film as impending death and incomprehensible grief repeatedly run up against the mundanities of medical bureaucracy and its potential for healing.

After receiving approval to use Simon's heart, Thomas informs his supervising doctor and the two share a brief, celebratory high-five. In most films, such a display would seem crass, but Heal the Living allows the sorrows of losing a life and the joys of saving it to remain congruent. The high-five, Simon's unfinished tattoo, and a call to Simon's phone that comes through while his father holds it on the drive home from the hospital all serve to deepen our sense of pathos toward all the characters, grounding them in a reality that's always both individually unique and universally shared. Even the emotional swell of a melodramatic flashback briefly showing Simon's initial flirtatious encounter with his future girlfriend plays as an earned reprieve from the heartache and a tender, melancholy reminiscence of the loss of youth.

As Heal the Living moves into its final section, which depicts a woman, Claire (Anne Dorval), about to receive Simon's heart, Quillévéré refuses to shy away from the material realities of death and the body. The surgical procedure is depicted in great detail, beginning with Simon's heart extracted from his body and put on ice. This final section brings the film full circle, literalizing its themes with a striking resonance and restraint. Matters of life and death are unflinchingly presented not as awe-inspiring or terrifying, but merely natural components of existence. As Quillevere effortlessly weaves these various stories together, a delicate, understated tapestry is revealed, portraying the thin line between life and death and the dichotomy between mind and body as almost imperceptibly fluid rather than rigid and clearly defined.

Writing: Movies [Chris Knipp]

It all comes together

Katell Quillévéré's third feature adapts Maylis de Kerangal’s bestselling French novel (Mend the Living), a humanistic medical thriller about events leading up to a heart transplant. It begins with Simon (Gabin Verdet), the bleach-blond surfer boy whose car accident makes him brain dead and his perfect organs available for replacing others' failing ones, if his devastated parents, Marianne and Vincent (Emmanuelle Seigner and Kool Shen) are willing. Meanwhile there are closeups of the medical professionals involved, young cardiologist Thomas Rémige (Tahar Rahim) and his master Docteur Pierre Révol (Bouli Lanners) and nurse Jeanne (Monia Chokri). Then we observe Claire (Anne Dorval of Xavier Dolan's Mommy), the lady who is to receive Simon's heart, a lesbian classical pianist and mother of two college-age sons (Finnegan Oldfield, Théo Cholbi) whose heart's days are numbered.

Like Tell No One, a French version of an American crime story way better than Hollywood could do it, this is a ridiculously vivid, clear, humanistic and tasteful version of what seems the most conventional US TV medical drama material, and you cannot but admire it, while in the back of your mind still wondering, why did she bother? Quillévéré's leap forward as a director of complex, demanding movie dramas - with more budget and more name cast members - is also a step back out of the raw indie territory she inhabited in her first two movies into a safer, more mainstream, even if demanding, work.

But it's still an ambitious, complex film, and not only does she never slip into the saccharine territory that the material threatens to draw her into, but she provides some lovely touches, while the whole fits together impeccably. In a lovely opening passage Simon leaves his girlfriend Juliette (Galatea Bellugi) in the wee hours, leaping out the window, races a pal, suits up and surfs - water sequence magnificently shot to show both perfect marriage with the waves and threat of death. Then comes the fatal drive, turned into a sea death as sleepiness of all three youths makes the road and horizon fade into soft waves, the crash just a bang, no messiness. This whole Simon passage, a model of its kind, is of a sublime simplicity and physicality, delivering nothing but a sense of youth, health, and impermanence. The only further development of Simon is equally physical: to seduce Juliette at first meeting, he successfully races her rail car with his bike, leaps over his bike in a move I've never seen, climbs up breathless to the platform, and they kiss.

Later, the film gets equally intimate in a lower key in following Claire as she interacts with her concerned sons Maxime (Oldfield) and Sam (Cholbi) and attends a piano concert by her beautiful protégée and former lover Anne Guérande (actress and pianist Alice Taglioni). She also meets with her cardiologist, who will perform the transplant; Drs. Rémige and Rémol will remove Simon's heart. Claire's scenes require a refocusing effort from the audeince after the intensity of the earlier passages, all of them at a high pitch further heightened by Alexandre Desplat's piano-based score. The presence of the well-known French movie composer is a sign of the glossier production, but Thomas Marchand, the editor, whose presence is more essential, was present on the director's first two films. Claire's sequences apparently add to a barely outlined character in the novel, and they're still relatively flat after the vivacity and invention of Simon's sequences and the high pitched emotions of his parents' grieving.

A turning point in the film, and a key to its humanism, comes when Marianne and Vincent, still in great grief, come to accept the goodness of allowing their son to be an organ donor.

The still boyish Rahim, who gently elicits this decision, is a good choice for exuding human kindness, and the film's best moment and best evocation of the magic of the medical miracle this story is about comes when he carries out a ritual farewell to Simon in the operating room following the boy's parent's directives, and it's at this moment that this tasteful and economical film indulges in its one repeat sequence, Juliette's tearful face in the light of dawn and Simon's leap out her window: rhythmical repetition, a joining of the circle, death and life.

Still, for all this beauty, though onne may not miss the oddness of the director's debut Love Like Poison, one does miss a bit the wildness and emotional extremity of her sophomore effort, Suzanne, which also put Adèle Hanel on the map. What Réparer les vivants, heavily publicized in France and widely distributed there, does do, is show that Quillévéré is a directorial talent both recognized and worth continuing to follow. "Un feel good movie" is a French term, which critics have applied, and this does what one of those should: it leaves you feeling good.

Review: In Katell Quillévéré's HEAL THE LIVING ... - ScreenAnarchy  Dustin Chang [Kyle Mustain]


'Heal The Living': Venice Review | Reviews | Screen  Lisa Nesselson from Screendaily [Fabien Lemercier]


J.B. Spins [Joe Bendel]


Katell Quillévéré's Mesmeric Melodrama "Heal the Living" - Village Voice  Nick Schager [Kent Turner]


Heal the Living - Curzon Artificial Eye


Daily | Venice + Toronto 2016 | Katell Quillévéré's HEAL THE LIVING ...   David Hudson from Fandor


Interview: Katell Quillévéré on HEAL THE LIVING ... - ScreenAnarchy  Dustin Chang interview from Screen Anarchy, April 16, 2017


Katell Quillévéré: 'With each film I try to renew myself'  Wendy Ide interview from The Guardian, April 16, 2017


'Heal the Living' ('Reparer les vivants'): Venice Review | Hollywood ...  Boyd van Hoeij from The Hollywood Reporter


'Heal the Living' Review: Katell Quillévéré's Wrenching ... - Variety  Guy Lodge


'Heal the Living' is a heartfelt, surprising story that ... - Los Angeles Times  Kenneth Turan [Sheila O'Malley]


Quine, Richard



USA  (99 mi)  1956


Time Out review


Several classic Hollywood notions combine here: that capitalism is tickety-boo as long as businessmen aren't corrupt, that one dumb broad can defeat the wiliest crooks in the business, that a male and a female goody will inevitably fall in love. With the rallying cry of 'Somebody's got to keep an eye on these big businesses', Judy Holliday, in a variation on the part that made her in Born Yesterday, takes on the wicked businessmen and rallies Middle America behind her. It's pernicious, but fun.


The Solid Gold Cadillac -  Jeremy Arnold


The hit Broadway stage version of The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956), written by George S. Kaufman and Howard Teichmann, ran over 500 performances beginning in 1953 and starred the famed stage actress Josephine Hull. She was 67 when she took on the role, and she earned raves.

But when the Columbia Pictures film version was released in 1956, moviegoers instead saw 34-year-old Judy Holliday in the part. It turns out that the play as originally written had actually called for a much younger actress, but it was rewritten to suit Hull; screenwriter Abe Burrows simply changed things back to the original conception.

Certainly Holliday was already as famous as Hull, a grande dame of the stage who had also left her mark in Hollywood with memorable performances in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and Harvey (1950). Holliday had scored big on Broadway with Born Yesterday and recreated that role to astonishing success in the movie version. In fact, Hull and Holliday both won their only Oscars® in the very same year, with Holliday taking Best Actress for Born Yesterday (1950) and Hull nabbing Best Supporting Actress for Harvey. With Jose Ferrer winning Best Actor for Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), another stage adaptation, and All About Eve (1950), perhaps the best movie about theater ever made, winning the rest of the major awards including Best Picture, it was definitely a Broadway-themed Oscar®: night. And just to hammer home the point, the greatest movie about Hollywood ever made, Sunset Blvd. (1950), lost the Best Picture award that same evening.

The Solid Gold Cadillac, a corporate satire, Holliday's comedic abilities are aptly displayed. She plays a dizzy blonde who owns ten shares of stock in a major company and basically serves the profiteering board members their comeuppance. Paul Douglas co-stars as the former head of the company who joins forces with Holliday; a romantic subplot between the two was added for the movie. The stars' chemistry was a known commodity, as they had already worked together a few years earlier on stage in Born Yesterday. Narrating the movie from off-screen is George Burns, a job held by Fred Allen on Broadway.

Critics loved
The Solid Gold Cadillac. The New York Times raved that "[Holliday] is knocking the role completely dead... She's an actress who has the ability to move mountains." Variety noted that the production "achieves a plushy look without the use of color or big-screen assists" (though there is a color sequence at the end). Indeed, that "look" landed an Oscar nomination for Best Black-and-White Art Direction, though the movie won only for Best Black-and-White Costume Design.


Film Appreciation: The Solid Gold Cadillac - Thinking Cinema  Dana Lemaster


DVD Savant (Glenn Erickson) dvd review


DVD Verdict (Barrie Maxwell) dvd review


Channel 4 Film capsule review


TV Guide review


The New York Times (Bosley Crowther) review


The Solid Gold Cadillac - Wikipedia



USA  (91 mi)  1956


Time Out review


Breezy comedy, with gargantuan Baccaloni (a popular New York opera singer of the '50s) pissing off Italian-American couple Holliday and Conte by interfering in the birth of their child. Holliday has no special religious convictions but her boozy father-in-law-to-be insists she confirm her faith before the sprog is born. Holliday is vivacity itself; Baccaloni is a roly-poly firecracker; and the script by cult author John Fante (from his own novel) strikes just the right note.


Full of Life -  Jeremy Arnold


In the comedic drama Full of Life (1956), Judy Holliday and Richard Conte play a married couple a few weeks away from having a baby. When their kitchen floor collapses, Conte brings in his Italian-American father, played by Salvatore Baccaloni, to fix it. Baccaloni not only repairs the floor but also builds a large, unnecessary fireplace, all the while attempting to indoctrinate them on Catholicism which he feels they have abandoned.

Driven more by its characters than its plot,
Full of Life is probably most notable for being the work of writer John Fante, who adapted his own novel for the screenplay. Fante is best known today for his Depression-era novel Ask the Dust, which was made into a movie by writer-director Robert Towne in 2006 and is one of four Fante novels to center around the fictional character of Arturo Bandini, a struggling writer. While that character does not figure into Full of Life, Conte does play a writer who bears many resemblances to Bandini.

Full of Life was Metropolitan Opera star Salvatore Baccaloni's American film debut. "Amusingly corpulent and mannered," The New York Times said of him. "Judy Holliday, usually outstanding, is decidedly in his shadow as the wife... Conte is excellent as the husband."

Also in the cast is Esther Minciotti, the intrepid Italian-American mother specialist, who played virtually the same mother role in The Undercover Man (1949), House of Strangers (1949), Marty (1955) and The Wrong Man (1956).

Fante's script, with its frank depiction of pregnancy, ran into some trouble with the Production Code Administration. "It plunges into the details of pregnancy with very little discretion and little exercise of good taste," was the verdict. The offending scenes were somewhat toned down but
Full of Life remains frank for its time, and for his efforts Fante received a Writers Guild nomination for Best Written American Comedy.


The New York Times (Bosley Crowther) review


Quinn, Tom


THE NEW YEAR PARADE                                   B                     84

USA  (87 mi)  2008                    Official site


Written, directed, produced, shot, and edited by Tom Quinn, so one would think his imprint is all over this film, and perhaps it is, as it’s a sprawling work of raw, unedited emotions, shot over several years on a shoestring budget, supposedly $7,000, yet offers vital insight into the harsh realities of a particularly unpleasant divorce, leaving the kids to fend for themselves like damaged goods.  Set in the working class neighborhood of South Philadelphia, the film uses the Mummers parade as a backdrop, which is a Mardi Gras-like event where rival costume-laden marching bands take to the streets in a battle of the bands competition, which includes guys lugging around those gigantic bass fiddles.  What we learn is that generational continuity has been maintained by the tradition of this event, where fathers march with sons, and then their sons, which is what makes this family split so disastrous.  Jack and Kat are the affected children, Greg Lyons and Jennifer Lynn Welsh, whose lives are crumbling right out from underneath them and there’s nothing they can do about it.  At 16, Kat is in high school where she’s worried about her first boyfriend, yet when she learns that her mother was having an affair with someone else, she can’t seem to trust her mother anymore.  The counseling offered is a joke, so she puts up her best front that none of this matters.  Her father’s violent outbursts however send her into tears, as it’s obvious her parents can’t live under the same roof anymore, leaving everyone devastated.   


Jack, in his mid twenties, works at a local bar and plays sax in his dad’s marching band, the South Philadelphia String Band, who are largely featured in this film, both in endless rehearsals and finally in competition, but he’s growing irritated by his dad’s destructive behavior in splitting up his family, a guy who claims he wants to stay together, but then does all the wrong things to guarantee they stay apart.  While we catch glimpses of them in their daily lives, much of this has an amateurish feel, but not necessarily in a bad way, more in the way the film feels sloppily assembled.  But this lack of polish accentuates the raw emotions which are surprisingly real, especially in the gutty performance by Jennifer Welsh, whose already messed up teenage life is simply in turmoil, but she pretends she can handle it, and remarkably, for the most part, she does.  Her astonishing confidence is underscored by moments when she simply falls apart, as she nearly has to jump into her boyfriend’s lap to get his attention.  But somehow, she prevails, and despite the father and son thing going on, she’s really the heart and soul of the film, as she’s so conflicted about her mother’s heartbreaking actions.  


The parental behavior on display is tragically self-centered, where Jack tries to assume the role of the more responsible big brother, but he’s conflicted as well and considers jumping ship and playing in another marching band, separating himself from his father, who’s embarrassing him and become too big a burden to bear.  Their parents don’t make it easy.  What makes it worse is all the talk among the members of the band, as all the family secrets are suddenly an open book.  How do kids and young adults handle their business being the subject of jokes and ridicule all over the street?  Not easily, as both would rather be just about anyplace else than where they are.  Kat goes through a tug of war between her two separated parents, and at her tender age, she’s expected to choose between them?  That’s a horrible thing to ask of her when all she really wants is her first kiss, and a guy to appreciate and accept her while her world is coming apart.  The performances by the kids especially is very good, while the parental missteps are hauntingly memorable,

as the pain they inflict is unstoppable, a lit fuse waiting to explode.  The film doesn’t condescend or offer any real conclusions or moral lessons other than in life one endures.  It’s a grim, but realistic portrait of the emotional carnage left behind by parents who stop caring about one another.  The director brings a very observational style to his work, and despite its flaws, the quiet moments are perhaps its best, as that’s what draws us into the world of people we grow to understand and occasionally admire. 


Chicago Reader  Andrea Gronvall

Two grown siblings are blindsided by their parents' breakup in this gritty but delicately nuanced indie drama, which plays out against the backdrop of the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia. The son (Greg Lyons), a doughy but soulful bartender, is so intent on doing the right thing by everyone that he almost loses himself, while his teenage sister (Jennifer Welsh) resents mom (MaryAnn McDonald) but has qualms about moving in with dad (Andrew Conway). Writer-director Tom Quinn draws heartrending performances from his four nonprofessional leads and grounds this cinema verite feature, his first, by involving the South Philadelphia String Band, working-class stalwarts who exude integrity and venerate family and tradition. 85 min.

NewCity Chicago    Ray Pride

Tom Quinn’s genial, four-years-in-the-making “The New Year Parade,” winner of a Slamdance jury prize, is a study of the effects of divorce on the members of one South Philadelphia family across the course of a single year. Set in the world of Mummers, or competitive marching bands, Quinn’s great stroke beyond marshaling the time scheme of the film is getting the motions (and emotion) of hundreds of musicians on screen in such lucid fashion. The seemingly improvised performances have a sweet, ragged edge, and the music swells. Nothing musical on film has touched me the way the first viewing of “Once” did, but “The New Year Parade” is a song in the heart. With Greg Lyons, Jennifer Welsh, Andrew Conway, MaryAnn McDonald, Irene Longshore, Tobias Segal, Paul Blackway, The South Philadelphia String Band.  90m.

eFilmCritic Reviews  Jason Whyte

A hit at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, Tom Quinn’s heartbreakingly real human drama is among the best indie dramas this decade. A working class family in urban Philadelphia is going through some pretty tumultuous times; the parents are breaking up, the twenty-eight-and-still-living-at-home son is trying to take that next step in life, and his teenage sister is experimenting with losing her virginity. Spanning the course of a year and utilizing a kind of documentary style filmmaking that feels like we are voyeurs in the lives of these people, Quinn is able to make us feel like this domestic drama is really happening, but it is also thanks to great song selections from Elliot Smith and amazing, real performances from his leads (Jennifer Lynn Welsh as the precocious daughter is a knockout) that makes this film very unique and brutally honest. I also admire the fact that this film was made for nearly no money yet is so rich in scope and drama that it is easy to overlook. It’s kind of awesome to see.

Philadelphia City Paper [Sam Adams]

Tom Quinn sets the dissolution of a South Philly family against the backdrop of string-band culture, making for a low-key but satisfying blend of melodrama and observant naturalism. Greg Lyons and Jennifer Welsh play the children of oddly named South Philadelphia String Band leader Mike McMonogul (Andrew Conway) and wife Lisa (MaryAnn McDonald), whose infidelities split their marriage apart. Although his cast is largely composed of nonprofessionals, Quinn draws relaxed performances from most, especially rock-scene veteran Lyons (current Eastern Conference Champions and former Laguardia/Trip 66 drummer), although Conway seems uncomfortable with some of his more dramatic moments. The film's best parts have little to do with its leading roles, or even its story. Quinn spent a year hanging around with real Mummers, and the time he put in shows in the film’s detailed but unforced capturing of a culture often reduced to fat drunks in drag. At times, Quinn literally loses the plot, wandering off to let some banjo-playing veteran reflect on years of Mummery, but the stories, and the faces, are so engaging you don’t mind the diversion.

THE NEW YEAR PARADE  Facets Multi Media

Set in the Irish-American, blue collar community of South Philadelphia and bookended by the traditional Mummer's Parade, The New Year Parade charts the destabilizing effect the separation of Mike and Lisa has on their two kids. Jack (Greg Lyons) is 25, a bartender and featured player in the South Philly String Band, led by his dockworker dad. Kat (Jennifer Walsh) is 16, a smart high school student whose steady boyfriend wants more from her. Both appear to be coping, but the hurt and doubt cannot help but come out in different ways. Kat believes that their parents will reconcile and keeps the situation secret, but as months pass and tensions mount, she becomes isolated between family and friends with no one to confide in. Meanwhile, Jack is forced to mediate between his parents and carries the burden of the family finances, while questioning his loyalty as the impending divorce adversely affects his own personal relationship. Just as fidelity is central issue in their divorce, Jack contemplates an almost greater transgression: moving to another club. Written with great tenderness and sensitivity and cast with a combination of professional and first-time actors (including the majority of the actual South Philadelphia String Band), this film authentically captures the heritage of the Irish and Italian neighborhoods where fathers and sons pass on the traditions that define their culture. Writer-director Tom Quinn shot and edited the film with a minimal crew over several years and creates a very moving melodrama without trivializing the emotional turmoil that his characters endure. His actors -- all of them new faces -- respond with open and honest performances that cut right to the heart. Winner of the Grand Jury prize at the Slamdance Festival, The New Year Parade is one of the most assured and poignant independent films of the year.

User comments  from imdb Author: J_Trex from Philadelphia

This was a fascinating "reality show" type movie set in Philadelphia from Jan 2004 to Jan 2005. The subject matter of the film is a working class family in South Philly going through a messy divorce, the relationships between the Father, Mother, Daughter, & Son. There is a great deal of tension due to the impending divorce. The Father & the Son belong to the South Philly String Band, which marches in the annual Mummer's Day parade each New Year's Day. The story is thus twofold: the dynamics of the family going through the divorce process and the Mummer's Day parade backstory, which is actually the main story and what gives this movie a special edge, especially if you live around Philadelphia and watch these parades each year.

The casting and screenplay did have the appearance of a "reality show". I'm sure there was a screenplay but it's hard to tell while watching the movie. That's not to say the dialog was anything less than outstanding, it just had a spontaneous character to it. It seemed very genuine working class Philly.

The cinematography was outstanding, with many excellent pictures and scenes of South Philly, Mummer's preparing their costumes & practicing their music & dance routines, the screenplay and backstories were great.

As a Philly native, I really loved this movie, but even if you live in LA or NY or Dallas, this is worth checking out. It's a very good movie and as Indie movies go, quite excellent.

User comments  from imdb  Author: marque63 from Los Angeles

I had the privilege of seeing this yet to be released film at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City where the director spoke to the audience after the film was viewed. As of this writing, the film does not yet have a distributor, but hopefully, it will, and this review will entice the readers to go see it. I was not involved in the making of this film at all, but I appreciate the artistic endeavors of the creators to get their work seen.

The story is about a troubled family, where the parents are separated and the grown son and younger daughter are trying their best to deal with the traumas it has caused them. The father and son are members of an all-male band in South Philadelphia, and much of the action surrounds their involvement in helping get the band in shape for the annual New Year's Day Parade. Mother works several jobs to make ends meet, while the daughter is in high school and has a paper route. There are hopes that the parents will get back together, but it seems doubtful due to the breakdown in communications between the adults. In fact, the mother and father have very little on-screen footage together, making it seem that their love for their children is the bind that had kept them together as long as they were and that the communication in their 25 year relationship is sorely lacking.

The daughter has anxieties over the separation, which causes the mother to get a school counselor involved. She also has the responsibility of getting chores done after school while the mother works, in addition to getting her own meals and dealing with the various boys who are interested in her for one reason or another. Considering that all four major players are played by unprofessional actors, they all do an outstanding job. The actress playing the mother reminds me of a younger Joan Allen, while the actor playing the father in certain close-ups reminded me of Barry Williams ("The Brady Bunch"). And the children? They are not cotton candy examples of Hollywood actors trying to play real people; They are real people just doing what they were chosen here to do-play real people, and they all do it darn well. If the actress playing the daughter chooses to make acting a career, she could do well; She has an innocent Christina Ricci like quality to her, and is very pretty, without being glamorized like the typical teen actors we are used to seeing in movies today. There is a scene after the parents have a violent argument where the brother consoles the sister that is very touching. I have not seen anything like this in domestic films of this nature, making it much more than just a typical Lifetime TV Movie.

I could also relate to the scenes involving band preparation for the parades as I spent several summers in marching bands, and at least on the North East coast, these events are very important to communities big and small. The costumes for the Mummers are outrageous and fun, and the editing was brilliant as well.

In this day and age when big brassy spectacles are all that make money in movie theaters, films like this tend to go unnoticed. As an adult near the age of the parents, I could also relate to their inability to express themselves to each other and yet be more open to their children and expect to get their loyalty over the other parents. Several strong messages I got from the film were just because a couple is married for a long time and has children, doesn't mean that they have fully and emotionally matured. Some people never do; In fact, some people I know say that most people never do. This is a sweet film that says hang in there, kiddo, we know life is rough, and we're all having a rough go of it. Married, single, young, older.

While apparently the print I saw is not the finished work, what I saw certainly impressed me as an artist to say what I saw I liked, and this film's festival awards did not go undeserved. Best of luck to the creators as they work on getting this out to the mainstream.

J.J. Murphy


Hammer to Nail [Mike S. Ryan] (Jay Seaver) review [5/5]


Indiewire  Eric Kohn at Sundance


Director's statement  Scott Macauley interview from Filmmaker magazine, November 18, 2008


The Hollywood Reporter  Deborah Young


Variety  Peter Debruge 


TimeOut Chicago  Ben Kenigsberg


Chicago Tribune  Michael Phillips


Roger Ebert  


Qurbani, Burhan


SHAHADA (Faith)                                                   B-                    80

Germany  (88 mi)  2010


This film starts out promising enough with the introduction of multiple characters expressed with a stylish realism through different chapter headings, but eventually despite the headings, three stories become interwoven into a larger fabric about Muslims living in Berlin, as seen through the guilty conscience of a Muslim police officer who accidentally kills another woman’s unborn fetus, feeling unending streams of remorse, the daughter of an Imam who secretly has a back alley abortion with horrible consequences, and two Muslim coworkers who develop a homosexual relationship which is forbidden under Islam.  According to the director, this film was his college graduation thesis, thinking it was perhaps a bit “too edgy” for American audiences, as if no one has ever read Dostoevsky before or seen movies that dealt with these themes, while cris-crossing the narrative wouldn’t happen to resemble CRASH (2004), BABEL (2006), or fellow countryman Fatih Akin’s THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (2007)?  This film actually won the Best New Director Award at the Chicago Film festival, not because he’s talented or innovative, but because his Islamic idealism matches what Americans want to hear from the Muslim world.  That being the case, the gritty realism displayed at the beginning was thrown out the window in favor of wishful thinking and ambiguity, as none of these three stories actually has a resolution.  This style of interwoven film actually works to build suspense or complexity, but this director does neither, as instead the stories simply deflate into thin air. 


While two of the three stories deal with devout religious beliefs, the story of the guilty policeman shooting an illegal Bosnian immigrant who was accidentally caught in the crossfire when he was aiming at a burglar, has no Islamic religious references and simply deals with age old questions of guilt.  However the story of Sammi (Jeremias Acheampong), a devout African Muslim, does seek religious guidance from the Imam (Vedat Erincin) when he begins to reciprocate his best friend’s gay affections.  Using wisdom that all Americans would love to believe, the Imam suggests that the Koran has many passages to describe what’s right and what’s wrong, but only Allah really understands the love in one’s heart, claiming Islam is a religion based on love, suggesting there is no love that Allah would deny.  Now of course, there’s no Imam in the world who would utter such a thing or practice such tolerance, or Catholic priests for that matter, and very few Jewish rabbi’s and Protestant ministers, as the director appears to be going for the entire rainbow coalition. 


The most intensely urgent of the three stories surrounds Maryam (Maryam Zaree), the daughter of the Imam, a somewhat westernized, independent thinker who conceals her self-inflicted abortion by taking illegal medicines.  When the bleeding persists indefinitely, she believes this is a sign from God and against the more liberal teachings of her father, developing strict fundamentalist interpretations as if the Apocalypse was upon us, as it is certainly within her.  Her sudden rigidity shocks everyone, from her friends, family, and Muslim community, as if she became deranged overnight.  While the last two stories feature characters who attempt to reconcile their behavior with Islamic teachings, of course, they can’t, as their behavior is forbidden, as it is under the Catholic Church as well, under archaic religious interpretation which outlaws abortions and homosexuality.  While the filmmaker acknowledges that this liberal thinking Imam does not represent reality, it instead reflects the views of his grandfather, as the filmmaker himself was raised Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish, which required a real balancing act to theorize a kind of love that they all have in common.  As it turns out, the chapter headings, which feel unnecessary with names like Sacrifice and Devotion, are named after a step of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.  It'a hard not to think this isn't a similarly contrived Muslim version of Paul Haggis's CRASH.     


The Flickering Wall [Jorge Mourinha]

Three Berliners, children of immigrants, are torn between their beliefs in the Muslim religion and their desire to live their lives the way they want to. Thoughtful mosaic melodrama that has something to say about contemporary Germany and says it very clearly and confidently.

The Hollywood Reporter review  Deborah Young at Berlin

BERLIN -- Western Islam in several variations is examined in "Faith" ("Shahada") through the intertwined stories of three young German-born Muslims. A film school graduation project that landed in Berlin competition, written and directed by Burhan Qurbani, shows a promising new talent grappling with an over-written script and too many characters, none of whom come across as real people viewers can care about. Another problem is the somber open-ended finale which leaves too much open to interpretation to satisfy most audiences.

Still, the effort to communicate is there and it's a relief to find the subject of religion treated, for once, without making the seemingly obligatory reference to terrorism, such as in Bruno Dumont's "Hadewijch," another recent tale of faith gone bad. Here, caught between their religious upbringing and the liberated lifestyle of the West, the young characters fixate on lines from the Quran to find an easy way out of their moral dilemmas.

In some ways, the film itself takes the easy road out of the problems it poses, coming to facile, feel-good conclusions like, "Everyone decides how to live his faith," and "The Quran is a book of love that guides and consoles us, but can't tell us what to feel." This approach may create maximum consensus with audiences, but does not a deep film make.

"Faith" is structured in chapters with mythic Arabic/English titles like "Beginning of the Journey," "Sacrifice" and "Self-Sacrifice," which portend intriguing things to come, but unfold more banally as a series of dangerous sexual liaisons.

The most significant of the stories belongs to Maryam (Maryam Zaree). The German-born daughter of a tolerant, kindly local Imam, she first appears as a rebellious nightclubber out on the town with her girlfriend. Barely minutes later, she's having a deliberately provoked abortion in the disco toilet. The sight of the fetus so shocks her that she turns into a half-mad bigot who upsets the entire community with her raving desire for God's punishment.

The growing attraction between Sammi (Jeremias Acheampong), a young Muslim believer, and Daniel (Sergej Moya), who works in the same packing plant, throws Sammi into a wrenching inner struggle with his homosexual desires, which are forbidden in the Quran.

Ismail (Carlo Ljubek) is a cop racked with guilt over the accidental shooting of a pregnant woman, who lost her unborn child as a result. When he bumps into her again, Leyla (Marija Skaricic) so inflames his imagination that he leaves his wife and son for her. The story is utterly improbable but the two handsome, brooding young actors raise the temperature a few notches.

Blending urban cityscapes with subtle Orientalisms, the visuals have a very distinctive look. Yoshi Heimrath's cinematography is evocative throughout, from the endless warehouse to the humblest dwellings.

Variety (Boyd van Hoeij) review

Three Muslims in Berlin struggle to do the right thing in Burhan Qurbani's good-looking feature debut, "Shahada," a German film-school exam project that was a surprise inclusion in this year's Berlinale competition. Tackling hot-button issues that are contentious in many religious communities, including abortion and sexual orientation, Afghanistan-born Qurbani's level-headed approach thankfully avoids preachy melodrama, but it never quite gets under his characters' skin, either. Topical pic should see further fest play and decent B.O. in Germany, with minor Euro niche potential a possibility.

Maryam (Maryam Zaree) is the daughter of a liberal imam, Vedat (Vedat Erincin), a widower. Very much a Westernized girl, Maryam wonders whether the difficult aftermath of her messy illegal abortion is a punishment from God. Too ashamed to talk to her father about it, she drifts into more radical religious thinking.

One of Vedat's students at his Koran school is Senegalese Muslim Sammi (Jeremias Acheampong), who works at a market hall with his best friend, Daniel (Sergej Moya), a German. Sammi's developing feelings for his friend, who is gay, are difficult to reunite with his firm religious beliefs.

At Sammi and Daniel's workplace, a thirtysomething cop of Turkish origin, Ismail (Carlo Ljubek), checks the papers of the immigrant workers. Last in line is Bosnian Leyla (Marija Skaricic), who was a victim of an accident that also involved Ismail, who has never been able to forgive himself for it.

Maryam's and Sammi's stories, focusing on the generation of religious youngsters who have to reconcile forming their identities with living between two cultures, are the strongest. Qurbani neatly explores the effort it takes for them to live by the rules of their religion, and also suggests that these rules aren't set in stone because each individual is different. The story of Ismail -- who is older, has his own family and is the least religious of the three protags -- never quite feels part of the mix, despite editor Simon Blasi's nimble cutting between the occasionally overlapping storylines. Pic's division into chapters ("Devotion," "Sacrifice") isn't really necessary.

Though Qurbani, who also co-write the screenplay, shows a deft hand in setting up his scenes, he is not quite as successful in taking them through to their final payoff, and there's no sense at the end of the film that we know any of the characters very well. The director's tendency, as with the films of Ferzan Ozpetek, to circle the protags with his camera while the music swells on the soundtrack to illuminate their inner struggles doesn't always work. Some of the thesps, notably Zaree, are much better at conveying their feelings with words and actions than with simple looks.

"Shahada," which can be roughly translated as "faith," looks very good, especially for a first feature (not only for the director but also for the d.p. and production designer). Handsome widescreen lensing, in a combination of static shots and handheld camera during the tenser moments, is aces, and transfer from HD to 35mm is spotless. Production and costume design firmly place the story in contempo Berlin's Muslim community, with Maryam's changing sense of dress a subtle indicator of what her character is going through.

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm, widescreen), Yoshi Heimrath; editor, Simon Blasi; music, Daniel Sus; production designer, Barbara Falkner; costume designer, Irene Ip; sound (Dolby Digital), Magnus Pflueger; creative producer, Leif Alexis; casting, Karen Wendland. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 16, 2010. Running time: 88 MIN.

Radford, Michael



Great Britain  (113 mi)  1984


Time Out


Sensibly realising that science fiction is always a distortion of the time at which it was written rather than a prediction of the future, Radford aligns himself with Anthony Burgess' suggestion that the book only makes sense as 1948, with its food rationing, its housing shortages, bad cigarettes and Churchillian slogans. The look of the film certainly achieves the right rubble-strewn, monochrome period feel with precision and genuinely cinematic scope. Perhaps the greatest hurdle cleared, however, is the problem of incident. Radford's achievement is to have incorporated the impossible preaching and crazed ideas into the fabric with hardly any loose threads. The locations look very like modern Britain; and Burton at last found the one serious role for which he searched all his life.


All Movie Guide [Andrea LeVasseur]

Filmed during the actual dates in 1984 as described in the book, Michael Radford's adaptation is the preeminent film version of George Orwell's infamous novel. The stark gray settings effectively set the mood of a totalitarian state. John Hurt is a beaten-down Winston, whose weathered face shows every result of his tortured existence, especially during the final devastating scenes with the Thought Police. Suzanna Hamilton does what she can as Julia, bringing some human warmth to the otherwise grim and desolate surroundings. In the last performance before his death, Richard Burton conveys Inner Party member O'Brien with a strange fatherly compassion that makes his sadistic role all the more disturbing. In contrast to some other flashy and visually inventive future dystopia movies, 1984 focuses on the plight of humans with an austere landscape, washed-out colors, and severe close-ups signifying the omnipresence of Big Brother. In general, 1984 faithfully follows the book in story, character, and tone, which makes for an authentic if thoroughly depressing and slow-paced movie.

Ted Prigge

George Orwell is probably one of the greatest writers of all time. And his "1984" is probably his best (although I might argue it could be "Animal Farm"). The novel, written around 1948, I think, is a bleak story of a future where there is peace but the expense is a totalitarian state where everyone is miserable and afraid because there are TVs everywhere where "Big Brother" watches so you don't do anything treasonous. It's a frightening idea and pretty much illustrates that "Give Peace a Chance" might be a bad idea.

Michael Radford (director of "Il Postino") directed this film, ironically made in 1984 within the dates the book took place. He paints a futuristic world which doesn't resemble anything else before. There are no flying cars, monorails, or anything. The world is just a ruin with run-down buildings and plain old buses and what-not. In every room, there is a big television where Big Brother, the symbol of the state, is watching and the Thought Police are always the threat of even thinking of a treasonous act.

Our protagonist is Winston Smith (John Hurt), who really looks like he has been beaten down by the state in all senses of the word. He is a state worker who rewrites history the way the government wants it and in his spare time, writes in a journal about his dreams of having rampant sex, which is prohibited. One of his co-workers, Parsons (Gregor Fisher), is the symbol of the ultimate defeat of the state, since he is constantly telling of his love for everything that embodies Big Brother. In one darkly humorous scene, he talks about the processed meat and how it isn't even meat and that's why it's good.

Winston runs into (literally) a woman named Julia (Suzanna Hamilton) who's also a government worker and who passes him a note (Hello? Junior High?) saying she loves him and wants to meet him. They carefully plan their meetings and end up having intense sex in a far off place where no one, not even Big Brother is watching. Their sex is not actually about love, but as a form of rebellion and expression of their way to anti-supress themselves. They try to join the rebellion, headed by an O'Brien (Richard Burton, in his final performance), but that turns out to wind them up in prison and a torture sequence on Winston where he is beaten into admitting that 2 + 2 doesn't equal 4 and stuff like that. It's a horrific scene in all senses of the word.

"1984" the film works because it wonderfully embodies the bleakness that was the book. All of the scenes are drearily set and the film is as depressing and thought-provoking as the book...well, maybe not as thought-provoking. And John Hurt and Richard Burton are fabulous in their respective parts.

I highly reccomend this film for anyone who loved the book, but for anyone else, it's not going to be fun. It's a highly depressing film that is so dark that you might have to watch it in two sittings. But the message is still there and that's what counts. If you want a livelier film (and a better one, in my opinion), try Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." But this one will do if you're looking for a good intellectual film.

DVD Times [Gary Couzens]


DVD Savant (Glenn Erickson)


The SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review  Richard Scheib


1984 and Brazil   Nightmares Old and New, by John Hutton from Jump Cut, April 1987                      


Movie House Commentary  Johnny Web and Tuna




Foster on Film - Dystopias


Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert)   January 1, 1984


The New York Times (Vincent Canby)


IL POSTINO                                                             B+                   92

aka:  The Postman

France  Italy  Belgium  (108 mi)  1994


And it was at that age...Poetry arrived                                                                                                           
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.


—excerpt from La Poesía (Poetry), from Memorial de Isla Negra, by Pablo Neruda, 1964


An immensely popular Italian film that screened in American theaters for nearly two years, long after the video release and its initial cable run, spawning millions of new Pablo Neruda fans across the globe, as the film is a fictionalized account of an incident in Neruda’s life, adapted from the 1985 Chilean novel Burning Patience (Ardiente Paciencia, or El Cartero De Neruda) by Antonio Skármeta, which takes place in the early 1970’s on Isla Negra, the tiny Chilean village where Neruda lived, but is transported to a small Sicilian island in the film shortly after his exile from Chile in the early 1950’s when the Communist Party, embraced by the Marxist poet Neruda, was outlawed in Chile.  Nominated for five Academy Awards, winning for Best Musical Score, where for several years it was the highest grossing film ever made in a language other than English, the film is one of the few foreign-language films to be nominated for Best Picture, something that hadn’t happened since Bergman’s CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972) and the Costa-Gavras film Z (1969).  The film is largely a dream project of the lead actor, 41-year old Massimo Troisi, who was known mostly as a comic actor in Italy, but bought the rights for this movie and even helped write the screenplay, as he identified with the lead character.  Postponing heart surgery to make the film, the actor was extremely limited by his physical restrictions on the set, yet provided a poignant and enduring performance for which he will always be remembered, yet died tragically of heart failure one day after the shooting finished.  The film’s fascination with the poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) is instantly compelling, as he’s known as the greatest poet in the history of the Spanish language, so when he decides to make this remote little island his home in exile, the residents, nearly all illiterate fishermen and their families, light up with excitement while watching cinema newsreels of the upcoming event, where the railway station in Rome that greets Neruda’s arrival was actually commissioned by Mussolini for the arrival of Hitler, but it wasn’t finished in time.  Choosing a charming mountainside villa with an outdoor terrace located between a volcano and the sea, the high cliffside location is probably the only luxurious home on the island, reachable by a winding dirt road that overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea.  While Neruda once lived on the island of Capri in a villa owned by Italian historian Edwin Cerio, this film was shot on the nearby islands of Salina (rural and beach scenes), part of the Aeolian islands north of Sicily, and also Procida (harbor and village scenes), one of the Flegrean Islands off the coast of Naples, where the sunny, idyllic locations lend themselves to a dreamy, slow-moving, romantic adventure. 


Set in a tiny Italian seaside village, it’s the story of a simple man, Mario Ruoppolo (Massimo Troisi), who breaks from tradition by being disinterested in being a fisherman, which makes him a bit of an outcast, and also out of a job.  So when he sees a sign on the post office (which doubles as a telegraph office) for a mail delivery man who has his own bicycle, it’s like a scene out of de Sica’s BICYCLE THIEVES (1948).  Inquiring within, he meets the rotund telegraph operator (the marvelous Renato Scarpa) who is looking to hire a temporary postman to deliver mail to the island’s lone customer, Pablo Neruda, where he’ll need a bike to climb up the cliffs.  The anonymity of the island is part of its charm, as there are no cars, few roads, but there are plenty of fishing boats in the harbor, which, outside of the church, becomes the town’s only thriving activity.  So when Mario arrives at Neruda’s door, he’s viewed as just another one of the nameless citizens inhabiting the island, all but ignoring him.  While Mario can read, he’s flabbergasted to learn that nearly all Neruda’s mail is coming from females, an observance he amusingly shares with his boss, who never forgets to remind him that Neruda is also a fervent communist, where concerns for social justice are something his boss admittedly shares with the poet, perhaps taking refuge in his political beliefs, as nearly all the residents on the island are poor.  To Mario, Neruda is a poet of love, jealous of all the women that flock to him, while to his boss, Neruda is a man of the people, a poet of the mistreated, reminding Mario that he shouldn’t linger and bother such an important man, but should at all times show him the respect he deserves.  Of course, Mario is a man who can’t help himself, as he’s a dreamer who’s curious about such an important man in their midst, where he can’t take his eyes off the poet (who looks surprisingly like the man himself), wondering about each and every thing, eventually blurting out his own interest in becoming a poet.  Neruda’s advice, upon reflection:  “Try to walk along the shore, as far as the bay, and look around you.”  Over time, Mario’s incessant questioning leads him to spend more time with Neruda, where his quizzical nature and halting speech seem so pure and innocent, almost childlike, yet the ever patient poet seems to delight in offering paternal wisdom, as it probably breaks up his day with these daily visits, often coming even when there’s no mail to deliver.  But there is no more excitable moment than when Mario rushes up the mountainside with earth-shattering news, where you’d think the Pope had died, but like a mandatory trip to the confessional, Mario needs the poet’s advice, as he has fallen madly in love.  


The woman in question is Beatrice Russo (Maria Grazia Cucinotta), the lovely barmaid that works in her mother’s restaurant and bar, spending her days all to herself for the most part as the men are away at sea.  Mario is literally starstruck upon laying eyes on her, stunned, tongue-tied, unable to speak, where she may as well be an imaginary woman that exists only in his imagination, a beautiful woman loved from afar, where he excitedly asks the poet to write a poem to help him win the girl’s heart.  Reminiscent of Cyrano’s poems to the beautiful Roxane in Edmond Rostand’s classic Cyrano de Bergerac, Mario is positively befuddled when the poet refuses, stumbling over himself with unleashed anxiety, “Poetry doesn't belong to those who write it; it belongs to those who need it.”  Exasperated, with a sense of utter desperation, the poor man is flummoxed, lashing out sarcastically at the poet, “If you make this much of a fuss about one poem, you’re never going to win that Nobel Prize.”  Neruda, of course, takes it all in stride, as he’s romantically living with a mistress that will eventually become his third wife, Chilean singer Matilde Urrutia (Anna Bonaiuto), seen dancing together on the flowered outdoor terrace overlooking the sea.  While this may sound like the most far-fetched and sentimentalized story, it’s far from it, where both Troisi and Noiret are brilliant together, like long lost brothers who affectionately shelter each other from the storm, always warmhearted and intimate, having long conversations on the beach, where Mario’s driving needs are constantly spoiled by the seething rage of Beatrice’s mother (Linda Moretti), who is sure that communist poet is leading that boy into her daughter’s pants, pleading with the local priest to do something about it.  But sincerity wins out in the end, where the film becomes a brilliant blend of romanticism and social realism, where Neruda’s time on the island is short, able to return to his native land, where time goes by and Mario feels the poet has all but forgotten him, where he has to assume his own responsibilities.  But there’s a lovely turn of events when Mario returns to the villa to send items left behind, a nostalgic twist that gets at the heart of love and friendship, where he makes a recording of all the beautiful sounds that are unique to the island, including the heartbeat of his soon-to-be-born son, and sends them along, finding an extremely eloquent way to express a poetic finale, reminding viewers of the universal appeal of poetry and its ability to touch the very heart of humanity.  Neruda’s work is deceptively simple in the way it celebrates the beauty of everyday objects and people, loving women, loving life, and his fellow man.  The passion that Neruda exudes in his writing made him the object of great affection by women all over the world, where he was married three times, though his final love was Matilde Urrutia, the eventual love of his life, for whom he wrote The Captain’s Verses (Los Versos del Capitán) which were published anonymously in Italy in 1952 and not released under his own name until published in Chile in 1963.  Neruda’s home in Chile was also a seaside residence, where he identifies with the ocean because of the internal movements of the waves, becoming something that remains alive in the rhythm of his poems.  Surrounding himself with the vocabulary of his poems, “Her eyes were the color of faraway love,” he never accepts reality as it is, but expects us to relate to history in a creative way, to offer a better alternative.  Much of his life was spent in exile, yet as a poet he is a national hero in Chile (no one fills that position in America), where his poems give identity to a continent and to a country.      


Il Postino, directed by Michael Radford | Film review - Time Out  Geoff Andrew

When, in 1952, the exiled Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda (Noiret) takes up residence in a house on a quiet little island off the Neapolitan coast, the fan mail he receives is so copious that the postmaster hires Mario (Troisi), the none too bright son of a local fisherman, to deliver the celebrity's mail. At first, Mario is simply star-struck by Neruda, who responds with understandable wariness to the postman's gauche attempts at conversation; soon, however, he's teaching Mario about metaphors, and when the postman falls for Beatrice (Cucinotta), a lovely but rather aloof barmaid, the poet agrees to try to help him win her with words. Inspired by an incident in Neruda's life, the story's engaging blend of easy humour and sunny romance takes hold from the start and never lets go. Much of its seductive charm derives from the excellence of the leads: Noiret does his gruff but malleable turn to perfection, while Troisi (who died soon after filming finished) exudes a simplicity of heart, mind and soul that never seems excessively sentimental. Mercifully, Radford avoids making the small peasant community too glamorously Arcadian. Old-fashioned it may be, but it knocks the spots off pap like Cinema Paradiso.

Il Postino: The Movie | Academy of American Poets -

Based on true events, Il Postino portrays the story of a shy postman who develops a transformative friendship with the exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. On a tiny island off the Italian coast in 1953, the postman has been given the job of delivering mail to the town’s new resident. He is astonished by the remarkable amount of mail from women that Neruda receives, and forges a relationship with the poet to learn the secret of his unlikely power over women. Through their friendship, Neruda not only helps the shy postman capture the town’s most beautiful woman, he also inspires the postman to see himself and his quiet fishing village a in lyrical way.

Nominated for five Academy awards, the film is a graceful masterpiece with beautiful performances by Philippe Noiret as Neruda and Massimo Troisi as Mario Ruoppolo, the postman. The film was Troisi’s dream project, and despite his failing heart he insisted on seeing it through and ultimately died the day production wrapped.

The film is based on the book Burning Patience by Antonio Skarmeta, which takes place in the early 1970s on Isla Negra, the tiny Chilean village where Neruda lived. The story follows the growth of a young postman whose only job is to deliver mail to Neruda, paralleling the changes in his inner life with the political upheavals in Chile.

Nathan Wolfson's review of "The Postman"

In 1970, Salvador Allende, after three unsuccessful attempts, finally became president of Chilé. He was, arguably, the first democratically elected Marxist to ever become a head of state. He began to implement the ideas of his Popular Unity platform and quickly became a target of the imperialistic tendencies of international business. The first major international accumulator of capital to grow wary was the American-based ITT corporation. By 1973, through their enlistment of the US Central Intelligence Agency, international capital was able to subject Chile to a violent military coup (in which Allende was killed). Aided by the United States, General Pinochet's bloody military dictatorship pandered to the interests of foreign investors for sixteen years. Allende's murder sent a resounding message around the world: mess with the interests of the rich and "we" will kill you.

The poet of the proletarian (as well as of the lover and beloved), Pablo Neruda, had been nominated for the same, "communist" party ticket but bowed out once Allende (a seasoned politician) expressed an interest in running for the presidency that fourth time. As fate would have it, Neruda died the same year that Allende was killed by American-backed forces. What would have happened had Neruda become president is open to speculation. His political attitudes, the social milieu in which he lived, and his achievements as a poet (Kenneth Rexroth--the father of the beats--once called him "almost certainly the leading poet of his type") are a matter of record.

Michael Radford's Il Postino (The Postman), now playing in Arcata, draws from this real life intermingling of left wing politics and poetry, while taking some liberties with the facts surrounding Neruda's life. These liberties belie a radically different agenda from that embodied in the life and work of Pablo Neruda. Drawing from--and occasionally diverging radically from--Antonio Skarmeta's novel Ardiente Paciencia (Burning Patience), Radford presents us with a set of scenes drawn largely from Skarmeta's book set within a somewhat altered scenario. Skarmeta's book was set in Chile prior to and during the Allende presidency. Il Postino takes place on a small Italian island, during and after Neruda's fictitiously composed exile there.

The film takes a cynical stance regarding the ability of the inhabitants of a rural fishing village--and, perhaps, of the film's audience--to understand political issues. The stance implies that working towards social equity is not worthwhile.

Prior to Neruda's arrival in the narrative, we are introduced to Mario. Early in the film, he goes to a movie theater. The newsreel Mario sees depicts the arrival of Neruda, recently cast out of Chile, at an Italian railway station amid protests aimed at convincing the Italian government to let Neruda stay. This newsreel forms a microcosm of Il Postino's attitude both towards the working people in the film and towards those who view the film.

The black-and-white images of the newsreel at first appear to mirror the simplistic voice-over accompanying the images of Neruda walking through a train-station full of protesters. The verbal narrative paints a dichotomous picture of Neruda's political consciousness and those of the newsreel's expected viewers. We, the newsreel implies, will view Neruda as an eccentric (perhaps even as a subversive) for his political views. At the same time, his notoriety as a poet (and, even more so, as a celebrity) will be what matters to us most.

Never mind that Neruda speaks eloquently of our plight as exploited individuals. Pay attention to "Neruda, the poet of love"--and to his romantic aura. But just as black-and-white images are really composed of varying shades of gray, the film subverts itself by pandering to an a- political/apathetic/right-wing understanding of the social world while unintentionally demonstrating this bias to us at the level of a sub-text.

This attitude of post-modern indifference to matters of politics and economics is a frightfully pervasive, implicit, rightist theme underlying many interludes in the film. An initial example occurs with the characterization of Mario's boss, Giorgio.

Giorgio runs the local post-and-telegraph office. Neruda is coming to town and will be receiving bags of mail each day that need to be delivered to his semi-remote home. Giorgio needs an individual to make a single, arduous special delivery every day. With un-acknowledged shades of DeSica's Bicycle Thieves (sic) in the air, Mario is granted a job paying "just enough to go to the cinema once a week" in light of the fact that he owns a bike.

The telling exchange between Giorgio and Mario occurs during their first encounter. In introducing the new postman to the standards of his office, Giorgio states plainly that while he is a "communist" he expects to be called "sir". This kind of ironic utterance is echoed through three or four similar scenes throughout the film.

On the surface, the humor is undeniable. Beneath that, however, lies a contempt for attempts to achieve social equity. The implication is that perhaps the most we can hope for from a movement for social justice is a good laugh based on its hypocrisy. But Radford suggests that we can expect more.

The "more" is not the political reality of being exiled embodied in Neruda's plight. This is part of the statement that the film makes. And it is certainly a necessary plot device inasmuch as it explains why Neruda is in Italy. But the "more" we can expect from social activism exposes itself more subtly.

One result of progressive political participation Radford presents is the untimely death of our beloved postman. Towards the end of the film, through a series of flashbacks, we see the recently politicized Mario attend a "communist" rally. When the rally is dispersed by the police, a small riot ensues. In the tumult, Mario is killed.

One is left with the feeling (expressed by Mario's wife), If only he hadn't gotten involved with radical politics! If only he hadn't gone to that rally on that fateful day! And so on. These views are expressed in the presence of Neruda, so she refrains from directly blaming him. But the implication is there, since Neruda inspired many of Mario's beliefs. And Neruda is visibly shaken with a kind of remorse mixed with disillusionment.

Of course, if it wasn't for "that poet" Mario might never have married the woman he fell in love with. This tension is at the root of the dichotomy Radford constructs. On one side of the balance, all these ideas about equality and democracy expressed by Neruda are either ridiculed or portrayed as dangerous. On the other side of the scale, we find Neruda the poet of love. It is this side of his pursuits that are heralded. Whether in the romantic love he and Matilde shared or in his ability to communicate the state of romantic ecstasy in verse (that permits others to find their own paths to such a destination), Neruda's actions are vindicated when unattached to concern about political, social and economic domination.

There are problems with comparing a film to the book from which it was derived. In most instances, I prefer to view the film as an independent creation and attempt to appreciate it on its own terms. But with Il Postino, examining some of the ways in which the film differs from its inspiration, Ardiente Paciencia (Burning Patience) offers insight into the films implicit argument against social awareness. There are many variations between the two texts. For example, as already mentioned, they are set in two different countries during two different periods of time. I'll describe just two indicative variations between the two works.

First, in the film, Neruda is portrayed as entirely uninterested in continuing contact with the people he has been living with--whose lives he has touched--once he departs from the fishing village. He stirs things within the hearts of the villagers, plays matchmaker for Mario, inspires the name of the new couple's child, informs Mario's political and aesthetic sensibilities--and then fails to write to or publicly speak of his Italian interlude. As one of the most cynical characters in the film comments, when a bird is done eating, it flies away.

In the book, however, Neruda remains much truer to the spirit of camaraderie he expressed about--and imparted to--the people of the small village near where he lived. Even in his absence, he still thinks of Mario. In the film, Mario turns to making a recording of characteristic sounds of the fishing village to send to Neruda (as a way of reminding him what he has left behind and how intensely Mario still feels for him). In the book, Neruda writes to Mario, sends him a Sony tape recorder, and asks Mario to make just such a recording because he is missing the village so much.

The film creates an implicitly two-faced radical intellectual who appears to live by an out-of-sight-out-of-mind principle. Without faulting the film for not faithfully adapting the book to the screen, this particular re-arrangement of the plot serves to further undermine our faith in the character of Neruda and the ideas of communalism he personifies.

Another telling discrepancy between the book and the film involves Mario's death. In the book he doesn't die. He grows old with his family, experiences the transformation of Chilean society under Allende (before the violent halt), and outlives Neruda. His politics and his love of Neruda do not kill him. These parts of his personality set Mario free.

Both of these inversions (who writes whom and who dies) demonstrate the underlying subtext present throughout much of Il Postino. I have little problem with a screenwriter altering a book however much to create a meaningful, independent film. But the manner in which this film reworks the book that inspired it serves to denigrate the potential for even mildly venerating work for social justice.

The message: Speak of metaphors about the sunset. Watch the sea's rippling waves. But pay no attention to the fellow removing the money from your pocket that you have earned. You're better off exploited than working for change.

The problem: Neruda's possible nagging doubts towards the end of his life not withstanding, I find at the core of Il Postino an undermining of the aspirations of all people (such as Neruda) who spend their lives working for justice.

Il Postino - Culture Court  Lawrence Russell 


The History of the Academy Awards: Best Picture - 1995 [Erik Beck]


The Movie Scene [Andy Webb]


Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


ReelViews [James Berardinelli]


Review for Il postino (1994) - IMDb  Dragan Antulov


Review for Il postino (1994) - IMDb  Pedro Sena


Il Postino / The Postman | Review by Chris Tookey


Movie Reviews UK  Damian Cannon


Jersey Film Society - review


Il Postino (1994) - Michael Radford - film review - Films de France  James Travers


Il Postino Blu-ray (Italy) -  Svet Atanasov


The DVD Journal | Quick Reviews: Il Postino: Collector's Series


Edinburgh U Film Society [Neil Chue Hong]


Film locations for Il Postino (1994) - Movie Locations


The Postman | Variety  Derek Elley


BBCi - Films (DVD review)  Almar Haflidason


Tourists threaten Il Postino beach | Environment | The Guardian  John Hooper, May 10, 2007


Washington Post  Hal Hinson, also seen here:  Hal Hinson 


San Francisco Examiner [Barbara Shulgasser]


San Francisco Chronicle [Peter Stack]


Los Angeles Times (Kenneth Turan)


The Postman (Il Postino) Movie Review (1995) | Roger Ebert


The New York Times (Janet Maslin)   also seen here:  Movie Review - - FILM REVIEW: THE POSTMAN (IL POSTINO); A ...


FILM; The Required Deceptions Of 'Il Postino' - The New York Times  May 28, 2000


Postino: The Postman - Wikipedia



France  Germany  Italy  (102 mi)  2011


Michel Petrucciani: Cannes Review   Kirk Honeycutt at Cannes from The Hollywood Reporter, May 13, 2011

Doc about the French jazz pianist is a clear-eyed, non-judgmental portrait of an artist as a permanent young man.

If you only knew jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani through his recorded music, you’d know this was an extraordinary individual. His phrasing, the electricity of his right hand and the cleanness of his improvisations take jazz to the very heights of artistry. But as many jazz aficionados know and Michael Radfords film Michel Petrucciani will make known to many more, one needs a better word than “extraordinary” to describe this man.

For Petrucciani was born in the south of France with osteogenesis imperfecta — or brittle bone disease — that prevented him from growing beyond three feet and subjected him to a life of pain as bones broke constantly, even as he was playing. None of this caused him ever to stop. He lived life in a rush — “I hate wasting time,” he says early in the film — knowing that with his affliction he would not enjoy a long life.

The film chronicles his overindulgence in food, drugs, wine, women and discarded friends as he raced against time, playing sometimes 10 hours a day and performing over 200 concerts in a year. He died at age 36 in New York in 1999, not so much from his handicap as foolishly going out into a cold New Year’s Eve with his fragile lungs and then catching pneumonia.

Radford has assembled ample footage and interviews with his subject from many friends and other sources along with numerous interviews with colleagues and lovers to pull together a clear-eyed, non-judgmental portrait of an artist as a permanent young man. Even spurned lovers and friends have mostly kindly things to say about a man who so blazed through their lives that they still have a startled, dazed look about them.

Here, clearly, is a charismatic, dazzlingly talented individual that lived every moment to the fullest. His 36 years is more like 72 for anyone else. He even managed to learn fluent, colloquial English in six months.

What the film never says is that music may be what nourished him, that every hour at the piano may have added an hour or more to his life. Another thing the film only barely mentions  is that his deformity, if you will, may have added to his genius. To witness in archival footage the rapidity with which the fingers of his right hand hits the piano keys defies all understanding of that part of the human anatomy. How can fingers move so fast? They don’t seem to with a “normal” person’s hand.

The one great fault with this doc, which makes an ideal film for special runs in art-house venues and, of course, on TV and DVD, lies in Radford’s unwillingness to identify his interviewees. In press notes he claims such identification is “irrelevant.” No, it’s not.

Otherwise though, the film has much to stay about overcoming fate, loving life and living with eternal optimism.

Michel Petrucciani  Jonathan Romney at Cannes from Screendaily

It’s always a labour of love to make a jazz film, a jazz documentary even more so - especially when the musician subject is no longer around to promote it. But the labour pays off beautifully in Michel Petrucciani, Michael Radford’s fond and informative portrait of the phenomenal jazz pianist, who died in 1999. Petrucciani’s life is a story of exuberant triumph over challenge, and of the pleasures and prices of living life to the full.

The film takes a four-square but effective documentary approach, stitching together archive footage with interviews, and features enough of Petrucciani’s performances to make this a must for jazz buffs, whether or not they’re fans of the subject himself (major jazz names interviewed include Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano and John Abercrombie). This will be a hard sell theatrically outside jazz-loving France, where it’s released in September, but its DVD prospects should be brisk.

The film represents a confident return to non-fiction for British director Radford, best known for 1984 and Italian-language hit Il Postino but a documentarist through the 1970s. Here, Radford takes an unshowy and intensely sympathetic rather than reverent approach to the life
Petrucciani, who was born in 1962 in Montpelier, France with the condition osteogenesis imperfecta, sometimes known as ‘brittle bone disease’.

As an adult, Petrucciani grew to only three feet, while his fragility meant that he often broke his bones and that his extremely energetic playing style was a constant physical risk. The son of a jazz guitarist father, Petrucciani fell in love with piano after seeing Duke Ellington on TV at the age of four. Rapidly becoming a prodigy, he played his first professional concert with trumpeter Clark Terry at the age of 13 - although some friends are quick to debunk the myth about the gig being an entirely impromptu marvel.

Through a friend, the pianist visited California, where he was befriended by saxophonist and mystic Charles Lloyd. A phenomenal transatlantic career followed, with Petrucciani becoming the first non-French artist signed to legendary label Blue Note. Success also brought the opportunity to indulge himself, and much of the ’80s, we learn, was spent in a wild rush of champagne, cocaine and partying.

Petrucciani, we learn, was irresistible to women and, one former consort claims, was as talented between the sheets as on the keys. In interviews filmed at various stages in his life, Petrucciani is candid about his hedonistic tendency to overdo things - a penchant which, friends suggest, contributed to his early death. This portrait is anything but reverent about the pianist - we learn from his ex-wives and girlfriends that he had a habit of leaving one abruptly to take up with another, and associates reveal, albeit sketchily, that he had a callous side.

But what emerges, not least from footage of the man himself, is that Petrucciani was a hugely charismatic and ebullient character. Most importantly, we get insights into his blindingly rapid and inventive playing; and ample, hugely pleasurable footage of Petrucciani solo, or in tandem with greats such as Lloyd, Konitz and Stéphane Grappelli will make non-converts want to go out and discover the music.

Radok, Alfred


THE DISTANT JOURNEY (Daleká Cesta)                   A-                    94

Czechoslovakia  (103 mi)  1949


A modernist Holocaust film made just a few years after the end of WWII using an experimental film style that includes archival film mixed with re-enactments which offers a vivid feel that resembles Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone.   The film opens like the Nazi Academy Awards, as one by one, each top ranking official, from Hitler to Goebbels on down, introduced in a huge title boldly displayed onscreen, is seen at the podium offering a rousing speech for the fatherland, like a series of Nazi greatest hits, accompanied by marching troops and bold Nazi symbols.  After a blitzkrieg of Nazi images, another realist story begins about a female Jewish doctor in Prague who refuses to leave her country, despite the rising tide of anti-Semitism and violence, claiming this is her country and her language.  So her family decides to stay with her instead of emigrating abroad, even after she marries a fellow doctor, a Gentile man for protection, beautifully expressed during a time when anti-Jewish laws were being written, where being Jewish was outlawed, where one of the guests actually commits suicide afterwards, all happening offscreen, which introduces Jewish symbols, using a split screen, where a Jewish menorah is seen in a small square off to the side of the main images of a Nazi military parade, a method used to juxtapose the two events happening simultaneously throughout the film.


Also of interest, the dialogue occasionally completely disappears, turning the story into a silent film, using shadows and other Expressionist images, also barely lit film noir imagery with occasional jolts of energy from a mixture of avant garde jazz music and orchestral passages to enhance the mood.  All in all, it was rather difficult to follow the narrative, as the characters resembled one another, and one did need to have a knowledge of history to understand the nuances, such as the use of the Terezin (Terezienstadt) concentration camp in Prague as a show camp, supposedly built to protect the Jews, a mythical idyllic city cleaned up, with children singing in the corner of the frame, giving the Red Cross from the West a view of Jews living in peaceful harmony before the curtain falls after they leave, turning from a transport camp, a waiting station until they could be transported further East into the death camps, into another one of the Nazi crematoriums where nearly 100,000 died, including 15,000 children. 


One by one, where all the Jews are marked by the mandatory wearing of a Jewish star, the doctor’s family is shipped off to the camps, while a Jewish band plays music as they are herded like cattle down the city streets, leaving her in a state of bewilderment, not knowing what happened to any of them, while she herself is eventually fired from her job, and all the other Jews are rounded up to live in a cramped ghetto without walls, totalling some 150,000, until eventually she and her Aryan husband are among the last to be transported to the camps.  When the scene shifts to the camps, we see them building the crematoriums, with brief documentary images of actual dead bodies lying in an open field.  Unfortunately, this film begins to resemble a style of miserablism, with unnecessarily exaggerated displays of sadistic Nazi temperament, always displaying the most openly cruel behavior possible.  The filmmaker Radok was himself imprisoned in the last months of the war in the detention camp of Klettendorf near Wrocław, from which he managed to escape, so the material is never anything less than genuine and riveting.  The film had a limited release, suppressed by the Soviet state which controlled Czechoslovakia after the war, which may have actually altered the film in its present form, limiting the view of widespread theft of Jewish possessions, and perhaps suppressing the sentiments of the non-Jewish Czechs, such as the father of the groom who failed to attend the wedding, as the film was not really seen until some forty years later, after the fall of the Iron Curtain.  Today, the film contains historical perspective, like Rossellini’s OPEN CITY (1945), as it was filmed so near the end of the war and features many of the devices used by Roman Polanski in his early terrifying horror film REPULSION (1965), such as the use of offscreen sound, a mix of the real and unreal, vivid use of music, particularly percussion, and an understanding of Expressionist cinema.


CZECH MODERNISM IN FILM: The 1920'S to the 1940's  Charles Coleman, Facets Film Programmer


Confronting the horrors of history head on, Radok and his crew shot this first feature film about the Holocaust just three years after the war ended. The film combines actual footage with reenactments and Expressionist camera setups to create a vivid, immediate look at the concentration camps. With Blanka Waleská, Otomar Krejča. Directed by Alfred Radok, Czechoslovakia, 1949, 35mm, 103 mins.


Czech Modernism in Film: The 1920s to the 1940s  JR Jones from the Reader


Czech director Alfred Radok lost his father and grandfather in the Holocaust and spent several months in a detention camp himself, which makes the poetic control of his 1949 drama -- the first to confront the subject -- even more impressive. He carefully charts the growing anti-Semitic persecution in Prague, as a Jewish doctor tries to protect herself by marrying a gentile, then watches her relatives being shipped off to a transport camp in Terezin. Though the movie is filled with striking expressionist images, Radok also weaves in documentary footage of the Third Reich, telescoping the dramatic action into a frame within the frame that echoes the victims' powerlessness.


Village Voice  J. Hoberman (excerpt)

"Czech Modernism" includes only two postwar movies—one, Alfred Radok's 1949 The Distant Journey (December 10), is a masterpiece. Among the first movies to represent the Holocaust, Distant Journey focuses on a Jewish doctor who briefly forestalls her deportation to the "model" concentration camp at Terezin by marrying a Czech colleague. (Their wedding dinner is a remarkable blend of gaiety and terror— the proper bourgeois guests marked for death by their mandatory Jewish stars.)

Like Orson Welles, Radok was a man of the theater and his use of film form has a comparable audacity. Distant Journey is filled with outsize shadows and shimmering reflections; it interpolates newsreels and noir angles, using a spare, mournfully jazzy soundtrack to underscore its expressionist touches. Once the action shifts to Terezin (where Radok's father and grandfather died), the fantastic is a function of the movie's verisimilitude.

This horrifying, emptied-out world seems distinctively Czech—or at least Kafkaesque—with its gnarled old people and vast warehouses filled with confiscated Jewish belongings.

Something similar happened to the movie itself—withdrawn after a brief run and locked in the vaults for the better part of two decades. In his history of Czech cinema, novelist Josef Skvorecky links The Distant Journey to the Czech new wave of the 1960s, remembering it to have been "as much a revelation to all of us as were the films of Véra Chytilová, Milos Forman, or Jan Nemec"—all of whom were profoundly influenced by this "tragically premature and anachronistic work of art."

The Reeler  Peter Hames


Central Europe Review   an extensive review by Jiří Cieslar


New York Times   Bosley Crowther


Rafelson, Bob


Bob Rafelson | Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos | AllMovie  Hal Erickson

The nephew of famed playwright Samson Raphaelson, American director Bob Rafelson decided to forego the expensive education planned for him and take up cross-country vagabondage instead. He worked in a rodeo at 15, became an ocean-liner deckhand two years later, and a jazz drummer a year after that. He entered Dartmouth College, after which he worked as a deejay on an Armed Forces radio outlet. As a writer, Rafelson toiled in numerous New York-based TV shows, then travelled westward to try his luck in Hollywood. His breezy, patchwork writing style was perfectly suited to the Beatles-like TV sitcom The Monkees (1966-67), wherein Rafelson worked as writer, director, and coproducer (with Bert Schneider). In concert with then-partner Jack Nicholson, Rafelson penned the script for the surrealistic Monkees feature film Head (1968), which he also directed. The film was suitable impetus to the Columbia Pictures higher ups to bankroll another Rafaelson-Nicholson collaboration. Five Easy Pieces (1971), was an intensely personal and somewhat autobiographical study of a young man (Nicholson) whose alienation with the status quo causes him to chuck the security of his musical career and his wealthy family for a life of drifting. The critics loved Five Easy Pieces, but were less enthusiastic about the 1972 Rafelson/Nicholson concoction, King of Marvin Gardens, in which Nicholson played the establishment figure, while fellow 1970s icon Bruce Dern played the dreamer. Stay Hungry (1976) was a story of bodybuilding juxtaposed with the changes in the New South, boasting an early leading role for Arnold Schwarzenegger — and the first-ever nude scene for costar Sally Field. Critics of Stay Hungry called Rafelson on the carpet for his credit-grabbing attempts to become an "auteur" director, even though these same critics had applauded Rafelson's auterism in his earlier productions. With The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) — again with Nicholson as star — Rafelson lost much of his critical support for having the audacity to turn out a purely commercial product. Actually, Rafalson's improvisational style had gotten slicker as he gained more experience. Bob Rafelson's most recent film was Mountains of the Moon (1990) a lavish but still distinctly Rafelsonesque period piece about a 19th century "anti-establishment" rugged individualist, explorer Sir Richard Burton.

Film Reference  profile by Rodney Farnsworth

Bob Rafelson is a neglected director mainly because he lays bare the myths essential to America. He does not sugarcoat the bitter dose of his satire, as do Coppola and Altman. A distaste on the part of mainstream critics has caused attacks upon, but mostly the neglect of, Rafelson's The King of Marvin Gardens , which is his most representative film. Head is bound by the conventions of the teenage-comedy genre and shows few marks of Rafelson's authorship; Stay Hungry is a minor work that sustains his standard theme of the dropout—this time it is a Southern aristocrat who falls into the underworld, which is ambiguously mixed with the business world above. Something of a popular success, Five Easy Pieces certainly demands attention.

Five Easy Pieces was the first expression of the burned-out liberalism that was to become the hallmark of American films of the 1970s. Rafelson's film expresses the intelligentsia's dissatisfaction with its impotency in light of an overweening socio-economic structure. Either capitulating or dropping out seemed the only choices. The film's protagonist seeks escape, from a successful but unsatisfying career as a concert pianist into the world of the working class—first as an oil-field worker and then, at the end of the film, as a logger. The film centers on his foray into the bourgeois bohemia of his family's home—a sort of ad hoc artist colony under the aegis of his sister. The world we see is both figuratively and literally one of cripples. His sister's lover is in traction. His father is a paralytic. All are emblems of a pseudoclass, without a vital motive force, that the protagonist rejects, but cannot replace. The protagonist's sole contribution to an intellectual discussion among his sister's friends is an obscene comment on the senselessness of their phrase-weaving. In the largest sense, Five Easy Pieces is about the American intellectual's self-hatred, his disorientation in an essentially anti-intellectual society, and his resulting inability to feel comfortable with his capacity to think and to create.

The King of Marvin Gardens cuts through the American dream—the belief that every man can achieve riches by ingenuity. The protagonist becomes drawn into his brother's success dream. Rafelson sets the film in pre-boom Atlantic City—an emblem of economic desolation. The locale's aptness is affirmed by the scene of the protagonist's sister-in-law throwing her make-up into a fire. Her ageing face, without make-up, is seen against the dilapidated facade of boardwalk hotels. Her gesture (and in Rafelson's uncommitted world we daren't ask for more) of defiance is directed against what has been the female share of the American Dream: the male has traditionally taken for himself the power that comes of wealth and left woman the illusion called "glamour." Another symbol is the blowing up of an old hotel; it collapses in a heap like the dream of entrepreneurship the protagonist momentarily shares with his brother.

Rafelson's elliptical style creates tension and interest in the opening moments of thrillers like The Postman Always Rings Twice, Black Widow , and Man Trouble , but this style makes for occasional plot confusion. It is often hard to tell whether the ellipses are accidental or part of aesthetic strategy. In one instance, whatever the intent, an ellipsis poetically seems to suggest a shudder of horror at the human condition and a desire to drop out entirely from it: Rafelson suddenly presents us with the strangely clipped, abrupt walkout of the protagonist at the end of Black Widow. The films focus on what is the main theme of Rafelson's films of the 1980s and 1990s: betrayal from those closest to you, especially from within the family group. Rafelson cannot ever be said to have been caught up in the recent sentimentalism about the traditional family structure. In his filmic vision, he places no trust in the values found there.

Only in the unconventional pairing between the explorer Burton and a liberated aristocrat (exhilaratingly played by Fiona Shaw) in Mountains of the Moon does one find a positive vision of marriage and human trust, achieved only after the hero drops out from the competitive struggle for grants toward explorations and for credit from the findings. Burton experiences betrayal from Spekes, his boon companion during the exploration of the mountains at the source of the Nile River. While the film tries but fails to exonerate Burton of any deep complicity in British imperialism, it does pointedly show how powerful English interests seek in every possible way to harm his career and discount his accomplishments because he is of Irish birth. The socio-historical impact is otherwise weakened by the narrative. Whereas Rafelson's thrillers benefit from elliptical expositions, they play considerable havoc with much of the first half of Mountains of the Moon. Rafelson has failed to gain audience popularity and rare critical approval because he does not soften brutal political deconstruction with dazzling techniques. He devotes his attention not only to the straightforward expression of his themes but to getting brilliant acting out of his casts. He forces them to explore the darker sides of their characters—each a microcosm of society.

Biography for Bob Rafelson -  Shawn Dwyer biography from Turner Classic Movies


Bob Rafelson: Information from  biography


Bob Rafelson | American director and producer |  biography


Bob Rafelson  The Indie King, which includes a biography, from Film Festival


the lecture bureau presents... Bob Rafelson  profile


New York State Writers Institute - Bob Rafelson  profile


Bob Rafelson - Screenrush  biography


Bob Rafelson - Overview - MSN Movies


Bob Rafelson  brief bio from NNDB


Bob Rafelson @ Filmbug  brief bio


Bob Rafelson from No Good Deed - at  brief bio and filmography


Bob Rafelson  Mubi


Bob Rafelson's 'Five Easy Pieces' is the quintessential film of the so ...  Cinephilia and Beyond (Undated)


Film View; THE STORY IS THE SAME BUT HOLLYWOOD HAS CHANGED  Janet Maslin from The New York Times, April 26, 1981


Boardwalk Xanadu: Time and Place in The King of Marvin Gardens ...  Boardwalk Xanadu: The Time and Place in The King of Marvin Gardens and Atlantic City, by Maria San Filippo from Senses of Cinema, April 10, 2001


Five Easy Pieces - Bright Lights Film Journal  Andrew Culbertson, August 1, 2007


Bob Rafelson | Popdose  Ken Shane from Popdose, November 19, 2009


Michael Wood reviews 'Five Easy Pieces' · LRB 9 September 2010  Michael Wood from The London Review of Books, September 2010


TSPDT - Bob Rafelson  They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They


Bob Rafelson | The New Yorker  October 24, 1970 interview


Film Journal Interview  Bob Rafelson and His Odd American Places, includes an interview by Peter Tonguette from The Film Journal, October 2004


The Monologist and the Fighter: An Interview with Bob Rafelson ...  Franz Müller and Rainer Knepperges interview from Senses of Cinema, April 14, 2009


BFI | Sight & Sound | One for the road: Bob Rafelson and 'Five Easy ...  David Thomson chats with the director from Sight and Sound, September 2010


Bob Rafelson · Article · The A.V. Club  Noel Murray interview, November 22, 2010


Bob Rafelson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



USA  (86 mi)  1968        Director’s Cut (110 mi)


Chicago Reader (Dave Kehr) capsule review

After NBC canceled their innovative sitcom, the Monkees and their TV brain trust, Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, hatched this big-screen psychedelic freak-out (1968), a narrative cul-de-sac of genre parodies, musical numbers, smug antiwar statements, and bilious McLuhan-esque satire. Scripted by Rafelson and Jack Nicholson (who would next collaborate on Five Easy Pieces), it's uneven but mostly a blast, with great tunes like Harry Nilsson's "Daddy's Song," Michael Nesmith's barn burner "Circle Sky," and Gerry Goffin and Carole King's grandiose "Porpoise Song." Rafelson directed; with cameos by Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Frank Zappa, Annette Funicello, Sonny Liston, Teri Garr, and Victor Mature. 86 min.

Time Out review


Rafelson's first feature, made when Monkee mania had all but died, Head proved too experimental for the diminishing weenybop audience which had lapped up the ingenious TV series. It flopped dismally in the US, and only achieved belated release here. Despite obviously dated aspects like clumsy psychedelic effects and some turgid slapstick sequences, the film is still remarkably vital and entertaining. Rafelson (who helped to create the group), together with Jack Nicholson (co-writer and co-producer), increased the TV show's picaresque tempo while also adding more adult, sardonic touches. The calculated manipulation behind the phenomenon is exposed at the start, when the Monkees metaphorically commit suicide. The typical zany humour is intercut with harsher political footage and satire on established genres of American cinema, exploding many a sacred cow into the bargain.


Head (1968) - Articles -  Jeff Stafford


It sounds like someone's LSD flashback. Frank Zappa, boxer Sonny Liston, Annette Funicello, female impersonator T.C. Jones, San Francisco's legendary topless dancer Carol Doda and other cult celebrities appear in a movie scripted by Jack Nicholson and directed by Bob Rafelson (Five Easy Pieces, 1970) that showcases the TV-created pop band The Monkees in the leading roles who in one scene play dandruff in Victor Mature's hair. Entitled Head (1968), this Cuisinart-puree of pop culture infused with anti-establishment posturing and served up in the then-current style of a trippy experimental film could only have happened in the late sixties when Hollywood studios were in a try-anything phase to capture the rapidly receding youth market. Rampant use of recreational drugs among Hollywood's elite and film industry personnel might have had something to do with it too.

Virtually plotless with a free-form structure that owed a lot to the scattershot sketch format of TV's "Laugh-In" (1968-1973),
Head was like the anti-A Hard Day's Night (1964) for cynical hipsters. Instead of depicting David, Micky, Michael and Peter as the endearing goofballs worshipped by teenyboppers across America, it deconstructed their image, revealing them to be a synthetic by-product of Hollywood marketing. The irony was that The Monkees were in on the joke and were only too happy to spoof their once popular TV series (1966-1968) and their pre-packaged personalities. Head also marked Bob Rafelson's feature film debut after an apprenticeship of producing and directing episodes of The Monkees TV series. And it was clearly a transitional film for Jack Nicholson who already had penned several screenplays including The Trip (1967) and was on the verge of stardom without knowing it - Easy Rider (1969), released the following year, would catapult the actor to overnight success.

Initially called Untitled,
Head was an unconventional project from the beginning. According to author Patrick McGilligan in Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson, "Bob, Bert [Schneider, executive producer], and Jack, with the four Monkees in tow, went to Ojai [California] for several days. They smoked "a ton of dope" (as Davy Jones recalls) and tossed ideas into a running tape recorder...The script was set up to have the least continuity imaginable, and only the slenderest plot trigger - the four Monkees leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge in an effort to escape the mental prison of a black box, which was "Head," meaning pothead, but also meaning all the rules and straitlaced conventions inside one's head that inhibit enjoyment of life. With their tapes and notes, Nicholson and Rafelson went away to the desert for inspiration. According to at least one account, they scribbled a treatment while tripping on acid."

By the time filming began on
Head, The Monkees were less than happy with their circumstances. Not only were they feuding with Columbia over their contracts and salaries but they felt betrayed by Rafelson and Nicholson after they were informed that none of them would receive a writing credit on the film. "We were disappointed and angry," Micky Dolenz said. "Mike was furious. He took all the tapes and locked them in the trunk of his car!" As a result, Micky, Davy and Mike (without Peter's involvement) refused to show up on the first day of shooting which infuriated Rafelson and Nicholson. After a day of negotiations, filming resumed with all four band members but relations between the Monkees and their director were decidedly strained after that...and Mike, Davy, Micky and Peter never received a writer's credit for their contributions.

Head was completed, Rafelson and Nicholson launched a guerilla advertising campaign in New York City, plastering stickers for the film everywhere on taxicabs, signs, police helmets, you name it. At one point they were even arrested for being public nuisances but their efforts were in vain. The critics were unimpressed and the film held little appeal for anyone who wasn't a fan of the Monkees' TV show. Dolenz stated later, "Because the film was rated R, most of our fans couldn't even get into the theatre to see it in the first place and those who did just didn't have any idea of what we were up to." Nicholson, however, maintains even today that Head is one of his proudest accomplishments and still calls it "the best rock-'n-roll movie ever made." Despite its commercial failure, Rafelson was equally pleased with it, comparing it often to Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963).

The remarkable thing about
Head is how well it holds up today despite being mired in the counterculture of the sixties. Some of the satirical jabs and anti-war rhetoric are as timely as ever, particularly the scene where Micky attacks a defective coke machine in the middle of an Arabian desert set. Or the scene where a deranged football player (Green Bay Packers' middle linebacker Ray Nitschke) repeatedly tackles Peter in a foxhole while chanting, "We're number one, we're number one!" Rafelson and Nicholson also have fun spoofing different movie genres and in one Western burlesque Teri Garr gets to deliver the immortal line "Suck it, before the venom reaches my heart!" after being bitten by a rattlesnake. The film's uneasy mixture of comedic throwaway bits with actual newsreel footage of Viet Nam and other flash points of the sixties gives it a subversive edge though some critics found it pretentious. "There was this one very disturbing sequence," Dolenz recalled, "in which Bob used that famous piece of news footage of Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan pulling out a snub-nosed .38 and shooting Vietcong Captain Bay Lop in the head....At one point in the movie it is shown thirty-two times simultaneously in split screen."

In the end, The Monkees may have had the last laugh since they were finally able to play their own music in
Head after being dubbed by studio musicians in their television show (The band members, with the exception of Michael Nesmith, weren't real musicians when they were first hired for the TV series but learned how to play by the time Head went into production). And Head includes some of their best songs such as Nesmith's all-out-rocker "Circle Sky" (recorded before a live audience in Utah), Tork's two "Summer of Love" ditties, "Can You Dig It" and "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again," "As We Go Along," a Carole King-Toni Stern composition featuring the guitar work of Ry Cooder and Neil Young, plus "Daddy's Song" by Harry Nilsson and the psychedelic opening number, "Porpoise Song," written by Jerry Coffin and Carole King.

Years after being ridiculed as an infantile imitation of The Beatles, packaged for fickle teenagers, The Monkees are finally getting a little overdue respect for
Head whose cult continues to grow whenever it is shown. And Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson have nothing to be ashamed of either.


not coming to a theater near you (Leo Goldsmith) review


Shock Cinema (Steven Puchalski) review  Fernando F. Croce


Head (1968) - The Criterion Collection


3B Theater


User comments  from imdb Author: Brandt Sponseller from New York City


The Spinning Image (Graeme Clark) review


All Movie Guide [Donald Guarisco]


TV Guide


Channel 4 Film


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [2.5/4]


The New York Times (Renata Adler, Vincent Canby) review


FIVE EASY PIECES                                               A                     96

USA  (98 mi)  1970


You don’t sit down and say, “I’m feeling alienated today, I think I’ll make a movie about alienation.”   —Bob Rafelson (director)


Shot while Nixon was secretly bombing Cambodia in the winter of 1969 – 70 and released in September 1970, the same year as the Kent State shootings, 100,00 people marched on Washington D.C. protesting the war, and the Beatles released Let It Be.  A 60’s counterculture film, Counterculture of the 1960s, one that reflects the mood of rebellion and alienation during the Vietnam war era, one of the first to be viewed by mainstream audiences portraying the dissatisfaction of an anti-hero while also using a new indie style in American cinema, where the minimalist approach in telling a story is a different way of expressing itself, a complete turn away from the action and Hollywood glamorization which shoots for overkill, like PATTON (1970) which won the Best Picture and George C. Scott the Best Actor (which he refused to accept) at the Academy Awards that year.  Perhaps the industry wasn’t ready yet to recognize and herald in a new era in filmmaking driven by naturalistic performances, but the film, screenplay, and two acting performances were nominated for Academy Awards and certainly left its mark with pitch perfect direction and a moody self reflection that continues to challenge the collective consciousness of the nation.  It remains a classic example of dropping out of society, as seen today in the films of Kelly Reichardt like OLD JOY (2006) and WENDY AND LUCY (2008), where disenchantment with the system overall may not lead to any specific new answers, but it does send one in search of new directions.  Shot by the brilliant Hungarian cinematographer László Kovács, a lover of naturalist landscapes and fresh off his work in EASY RIDER (1969), his use of differing location shots exquisitely depicts the central character’s state of mind, as it moves from the oil fields of Bakersfield, California to the scenic Pacific coast highway to the upper class exclusivity of the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound, Washington. 


Displaying an array of skills we only see early in his career, Jack Nicholson gives the performance of his career in Bobby Eroica Dupree, a brooding outsider layered in an understated and downbeat realism that borders on miserablism and discontent, a gifted classical piano student who left his upper class background and traded it in for a life on the road, working the hot and back breaking work as a rigger on the oil rigs, living in a trailer, spending his time drinking beer in cheap bars and motels and bowling alleys while living with his girl Rayette, Tammy Wynette stand-in Karen Black in one of her more superb roles as a pretty but dim-witted waitress with a mouth that won’t quit, where at one point he tells her “If you wouldn't open your mouth, everything would be just fine.”  She smothers him with her undying love, while he prefers to keep a safe distance, making no commitments which he obtains through male cruelty and infidelity, regularly spending nights away from Rayette and sleeping with whatever comes around, which includes Sally Struthers in one memorable scene.  When his co-worker on the rigs, Elton (Billy Green Bush) lets it slip that Rayette is pregnant, Bobby flips out in a full tantrum, pissed that his life is suddenly in full view for others to pass judgment upon, especially since he went to such trouble to disappear to the ends of the earth where no one would find him. 


Around this same time he visits his sister making a classical recording in Los Angeles and learns that their father has had several strokes and can no longer speak, where she urges him to visit, perhaps for the last time.  Initially walking out the door without her, Bobby repents in anger and disgust when he realizes he must ask Rayette to come along, which turns into the comic sequences of the film, acerbically written by Carole Eastman under the name Adrien Joyce at the time (the entire film is really a connection of extremely well written sequences), as they pick up two lesbian hitchhikers, one of whom (Helena Kallianiotes) constantly chatters away about how the world is filthy and fucked up and a waste of time to live in, like a Travis Bickel monologue from Taxi Driver (1976), endlessly griping and complaining for the duration of the trip, a marathon of annoyance that is a marvel of comic invention Crap and more crap and more crap - YouTube  (1:23).  During this segment they stop at a local diner where Nicholson does his infamous chicken sandwich request to a befuddled waitress (Lorna Thayer), hold the chicken, all in an attempt to get a side order of toast which was not on the menu Five Easy Pieces Diner Scene - YouTube (1:53).  When his sarcasm gets them kicked out, his iconic reputation for being a wise ass was solidified. 


By the time they get to Puget Sound, Bobby parks his girl in some cheap motel while he goes to visit his family, calling in every few days to report nothing’s happening, while in reality, he gets the hots for Susan Ansbach, a young pianist who is studying music and also engaged to his brother Carl.  In little time the audience gets a sense of what Bobby was running away from, as this little den of secluded artists is really a picture of family dysfunction, superbly exposed by the roving eye of the camera which catches every meticulous detail.  When Rayette shows up unannounced after a week or so with the subtlety of a Mack truck, it turns out to be a hilarious contrast in social class, each more contemptible than the other, where it’s difficult to tell which one he’s ashamed of the most, his family or Rayette.  In the end, of course, nothing compares to the loathing he feels for himself.  Nicholson does have a brilliant monologue alone with his father Jack Nicholson: Five Easy Pieces ("Life You Don't ... - YouTube (3:15), where he attempts to make some sense out of his messed up life, where he continually fouls things up so bad that he has to run away from his own stupid mistakes, a haunting scene that actually includes tears, perhaps the only Jack Nicholson scene on record to do so.  When he makes his escape, it comes in the most unexpected fashion, a moody, existential moment where he takes stock of his life, all shot in a masterful style of picturesque quiet and understatement Five Easy Pieces (8/8) Movie CLIP - I'm Fine (1970 ... YouTube (2:12).


Time Out review  (link lost)                             


Rafelson's second film - in which Jack Nicholson, seemingly a redneck oil-rigger, turns out to be a fugitive from a musical career inherited from a family of classical musicians - is a considered examination of the middle-class patrician American way of family life. Centreing on Nicholson's drifter, the film unswervingly brings him into confrontations with his past as he equally unswervingly attempts to evade everything, preferring to make gestures rather than act consistently. The result is less a story and more a collection of incidents and character studies, all of which inform each other and extend our understanding of Nicholson's mode of survival: flight.


Time Out Tom Huddleston

Hollywood’s early-’70s identity crisis produced a multitude of masterpieces, but few are fit to stand alongside Bob Rafelson’s autumnal 1970 tragedy ‘Five Easy Pieces’. In his most restrained and arguably finest role, Jack Nicholson plays Robert Eroica DuPea, a cultural refugee from a well-to-do musical dynasty hiding out in a California trailer park and trying unsuccessfully to drink and screw away his deep-seated sense of shame and self disgust.

It’s a film of stark, superbly judged and beautifully sustained contrasts, the soundtrack hopping confidently from Tammy Wynette to Chopin as Bobby and his waitress girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black) travel from the lusty, sun-baked south to the cerebral, rainswept north to pay final respects to Bobby’s dying father. Refusing to submit either to gross sentimentality or pompous pontificating, Rafelson and co-writer Adrien Joyce play their themes like piano keys, touching lightly but effectively on ideas of masculinity and mortality, class and creativity, family and frustration.

It’s not a particularly subtle film – some of the supporting characters, notably Black’s dogged but witless Rayette, are written and played a little broadly – but it is a magnificently insightful and engaging one, flipping effortlessly from icy realism to heated melodrama while always maintaining a darkly comic, at times quietly satirical undercurrent. All of which is reflected in Nicholson’s phenomenal central performance, for Bobby is himself a kind of actor, playing at being ugly, mean and self-sufficient in a doomed effort to disguise his absolute emotional emptiness, feeling himself exposed layer by layer as the film approaches its devastating climax.

CINE-FILE: Cine-List   Ben Sachs

The films of the so-called American New Wave were united by an effort to translate European arthouse aesthetics to a U.S. idiom. They fluctuated wildly in their success, but FIVE EASY PIECES is one of the era's few enduring masterpieces. Much of its success derives from its central antihero, Bobby Eroica Dupree, an invention worthy of epic literature but realized in wholly cinematic terms. Carol Eastman (working under the pseudonym Adrien Joyce) wrote the character specifically for Jack Nicholson, an actor whose moodiness and darting intelligence have never been better deployed. Dupree's alienation is always a wonder to behold, as the character constantly switches allegiance between his performing-arts background (which comes through in moments of off-handed arrogance) and the perceived authenticity of the working class (which he attempts to emulate by living in a trailer and affecting macho self-confidence). Everything he does is a failed attempt to divert his angst: Working on an oil rig, picking up every blue-collar girl that comes his way, even (in the movie's creepy final shot) trying to rid himself completely of his identity: Nothing can satisfy this soul determined to live in exile. Working with the great naturalist cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, Rafelson says as much about the film's locations as he does the lead character, plumbing the zeitgeist in such disparate locations as the oil rigs of central California and an upper-class manor off the coast of Washington state. This beautiful but haunted island is the setting of FIVE EASY PIECES' final act, where Nicholson's prodigal son returns to visit the dying father he loathes. The place is populated exclusively, it would seem, by neurotic musical prodigies: It's the closest equivalent in U.S. movies to the penitential "resorts" that Ingmar Bergman's late-period characters are always flocking to; and this may be, overall, the most profound U.S. film to take inspiration from Bergman's cinema. While taking a page from Bergman's drama of painful self-examination, FIVE EASY PIECES--collaborative filmmaking at its finest--extends such scrutiny to an entire generation. Note: Facets will be screening a new print of the film in celebration of its 40th anniversary. It purportedly restores all of the film's grainy, sun-bolstered majesty. (1970, 97 min, 35mm)

Last Week - CINE-FILE: Cine-List  Ben Sachs

FIVE EASY PIECES is one of the indisputable masterpieces of the New American Cinema, displaying a complexity worthy of epic literature in wholly cinematic terms. Carol Eastman (working under the pseudonym Adrien Joyce) wrote the character of Bobby Eroica Dupree specifically for Jack Nicholson, and it's one of the greatest gifts a writer has ever given to a screen actor. Drawing on the actor's moodiness and darting intelligence, Eastman created an unforgettable antihero, a contemptuous jackass who's also a wounded, pitiable soul. When we first meet Dupree, he's a surly blue-collar type working on an oilrig; we quickly learn, however, that this life is only an epic charade, an attempt to convince the world he isn't really a blue-blood piano prodigy. Yet the charade is a failure, as Dupree lashes out at his friends and cheats constantly on the sweet-hearted girl naive enough to love him (Karen Black, in the movie's other immortal performance). Few U.S. films have depicted so precisely the love-hate relationship between a certain type of intellectual and the working class. The opening passages of FIVE EASY PIECES are careful not to condemn Dupree's arrogance; it's clear that he sincerely respects the authenticity of blue-collar America, even if he can never emulate it himself. (Beneath Dupree's pouting is an unspoken feeling of betrayal by American culture for being far more stratified than it presents itself to be—a sentiment at once immature, jaundiced, and highly relatable.) He displays a similar ambivalence in the movie's final act (to which the film drifts, novelistically, after a brief stint as a road movie), when this prodigal son visits the dying father he hasn't seen in years. The family manor sits on a small island off the coast of Washington state: Rich in natural beauty and appearing chilly even in summer, it's the closest equivalent in U.S. movies to the desolate islands that Ingmar Bergman's characters are always retreating to. Indeed, this may be the most successful response to Bergman's cinema that American movies produced, climaxing in a scene of confession that taps into an almost universal pain. (Nicholson purportedly wrote this scene himself, which may explain why the feeling of self-examination cuts so deep; there's nothing else like it in his career.) There are other noticeable influences of European art cinema in Bob Rafelson's direction, namely Michelangelo Antonioni's portraits of modern alienation; but one of the reasons that FIVE EASY PIECES is so extraordinary is that it manages to speak through its influences instead of simply imitate them. Working with the great naturalist cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs (who also shot EASY RIDER and most of Peter Bogdanovich's best films), Rafelson gives each location a vivid sense of place, devoting as much attention to forgotten decor as he does to psychology. (1970, 97 min, 35mm)

Chicago Sun-Times [Roger Ebert]  January 1, 1970


The title of "Five Easy Pieces" refers not to the women its hero makes along the road, for there are only three, but to a book of piano exercises he owned as a child. The film, one of the best American films, is about the distance between that boy, practicing to become a concert pianist, and the need he feels twenty years later to disguise himself as an oil-field rigger. When we sense the boy, tormented and insecure, trapped inside the adult man, "Five Easy Pieces" becomes a masterpiece of heartbreaking intensity.

At the outset, we meet only the man -- played by Jack Nicholson with the same miraculous offhandedness that brought "Easy Rider" to life. He's an irresponsible roustabout, making his way through the oil fields, sleeping with a waitress (Karen Black) whose every daydreaming moment is filled with admiration for Miss Tammy Wynette. The man's name is Robert Eroica Dupea. He was named after Beethoven's Third Symphony and he spends his evenings bowling and his nights wearily agreeing that, yes, his girl sings "Stand By Your Man" just like Tammy.

In these first marvelous scenes, director Bob Rafelson calls our attention to the grimy life textures and the shabby hopes of these decent middle Americans. They live in a landscape of motels, highways, TV dinners, dust, and jealousy, and so do we all, but they seem to have nothing else. Dupea's friends are arrested at the mental and emotional level of about age seventeen; he isn't, but thinks or hopes he is.

Dupea discovers his girl is pregnant (his friend Elton breaks the news out in the field, suggesting maybe it would be good to marry her and settle down). He walks out on her in a rage, has a meaningless little affair with a slut from the bowling alley, and then discovers more or less by accident that his father is dying. His father, we discover, is a musical genius who moved his family to an island and tried to raise them as Socrates might have. Dupea feels himself to be the only failure.

The movie bares its heart in the scenes on the island, where Dupea makes an awkward effort to communicate with his dying father. The island is peopled with eccentrics, mostly Dupea's own family, but including a few strays. Among their number is a beautiful young girl who's come to the island to study piano with Dupea's supercilious brother. Dupea seduces this girl, who apparently suggests the early life he has abandoned. He does it by playing the piano; but when she says she's moved, he says he isn't -- that he played better as a child and that the piece was easy anyway.

This is possibly the moment when his nerve fails and he condemns himself, consciously, to a life of self-defined failure. The movie ends, after several more scenes, on a note of ambiguity; he is either freeing himself from the waitress or, on the other hand, he is setting off on a journey even deeper into anonymity. It's impossible to say, and it doesn't matter much. What matters is the character during the time covered by the film: a time when Dupea tentatively reapproaches his past and then rejects it, not out of pride, but out of fear.

The movie is joyously alive to the road life of its hero. We follow him through bars and bowling alleys, motels and mobile homes, and we find him rebelling against lower-middle-class values even as he embraces them. In one magical scene, he leaps from his car in a traffic jam and starts playing the piano on the truck in front of him; the scene sounds forced, described this way, but Rafelson and Nicholson never force anything, and never have to. Robert Eroica Dupea is one of the most unforgettable characters in American movies.


One Big Real Place: BBS From Head to Hearts  Criterion essay by J. Hoberman, November 28, 2010


Five Easy Pieces: The Solitude  Criterion essay by Kent Jones, November 25, 2010


Five Easy Pieces  Criterion essay by Michael Dare, February 11, 1990, also seen here:  Liner notes from the original Criterion Laserdisc 


Five Easy Pieces (1970) - The Criterion Collection


Michael Wood reviews 'Five Easy Pieces' · LRB 9 September 2010  Michael Wood from The London Review of Books, September 2010


Five Easy Pieces - Bright Lights Film Journal  Andrew Culbertson, August 1, 2007


Bob Rafelson's 'Five Easy Pieces' is the quintessential film of the so ...  Cinephilia and Beyond (Undated)


Five Easy Pieces - Turner Classic Movies  Jay Carr     


Five Easy Pieces - Film (Movie) Plot and Review ... - Film Reference  Thomas L. Erskine


Slacker Film Guide


The Greatest Films (Tim Dirks) recommendation [spoilers]  also seen here:  AMC Filmsite [Tim Dirks]


Thoughts on "Five Easy Pieces"  Ken D. Kraiker


Reflections on "Five Easy Pieces"  Stuart Fernie and David Dieni


Jerry's Armchair Oscars or . . . They Wuz Robbed [Jerry Dean Roberts]  Jack Nicholson for Best Actor (winner, George C. Scott, Patton)


One for the road: Bob Rafelson and ‘Five Easy Pieces’  David Thomson chats with the director from Sight and Sound, September 2010


indieWIRE  Peter Bogdanovich [Nick Hasted]


Cinespect [John Bleasdale]  also reviewing KING OF MARVIN GARDENS


Welcome to Emanuel Levy » Five Easy Pieces: Masterpieces of the ...


Five Easy Pieces: Criterion Collection | Happy to Hang Around  Drew Morton from Pajiba


Film Misery [G Clark Finfrock]


Edward Copeland on Film (Iain Stott)


epinions Criterion DVD [Stephen O. Murray]


The L Magazine [Justin Stewart]


The Tech (MIT) [Stephen Brophy]


Movie Reviews UK  Damian Cannon


The Stop Button [Andrew Wickliffe]


Gone Elsewhere [Marco Trevisiol]


Movie Martyr [Jeremy Heilman]


DVD Verdict [Nicholas Sylvain]


DVD Movie Guide [Colin Jacobson]


DVD Savant  Glenn Erickson, America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, Criterion Blu-Ray [Jamie S. Rich]  America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, Criterion Blu-Ray, also seen here:


The QNetwork [James Kendrick]  America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, Criterion Blu-Ray


DVD Verdict - America Lost and Found: The BBS Story Criterion Collection (Blu-ray) [Gordon Sullivan]


DVD Town  Christopher Long, America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, Criterion Blu-Ray


Parallax View [Sean Axmaker]  America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, Criterion Blu-Ray Five Easy Pieces Blu-ray Review


Erik Lundegaard  Walter Frith


Qwipster's Movie Reviews [Vince Leo]


British Film Institute  Geoff Andrew    


The Village Voice [Nick Pinkerton]


SBCCFilmReviews [Byron Potau]


The DVD Journal  JJB


The Defeatist Completist [Mike Maguire]  M.P. Bartley


Edinburgh U Film Society [Stephen Townsend] [Doug Cooper]


Brilliant Observations on 2120 Films [Clayton Trapp]


Goatdog's Movies  Michael W. Phillips, Jr.


Montreal Film Journal [Kevin N. Laforest]  Brandon Stahl


FIVE EASY PIECES  Facets Multi Media


Combustible Celluloid [Jeffrey M. Anderson]


The Fresh Films Review [Fredrik Fevang]


All Movie Guide [Michael Betzold]


Five Easy Pieces  Beautiful Stills from Beautiful Films


nicorama » Blog Archive » Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970)  movie poster


Channel 4 Film


TV Guide




Time Out  Joshua Rothkopf


Film review: Five Easy Pieces | Film | The Guardian  Peter Bradshaw, also seen here:  The Guardian 


Five Easy Pieces was oddly conservative for a 1970s Jack Nicholson film  John Patterson from The Guardian, August 6, 2010


Jack Nicholson  David Thomson from The Guardian, August 5, 2010


The Observer  Philip French


The Daily Telegraph [Geoffrey Macnab]


Los Angeles Times  Glenn Kenny interviews the director, April 21, 2010


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) recommendation [Great Movies]  March 16, 2003


Movie Review - - Rafelson's 'Five Easy Pieces' Bows  The New York Times, September 12, 1970, also seen here:  New York Times (registration req'd)


FILM; Nicholson On Age, Acting And 'Being Jack'  Dana Kennedy from The New York Times, September 22, 2002


Laszlo Kovacs, Cinematographer, Dies at 74  Douglas Martin from The New York Times, July 26, 2007 [Gary Tooze]


Time magazine interview with screenwriter Carol Eastman  March 20, 1972


Five Easy Pieces - by Carole Eastman  The screenplay


Five Easy Pieces - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



USA  (103 mi)  1972 


Time Out review  Tom Milne


An irresistible movie, not least for its haunting vision of Atlantic City as Xanadu, a stately pleasure dome of genteelly decaying palaces, run-down funfairs, and empty boardwalks presided over by white elephants abandoned to their brooding fate. It's like some unimaginable country of the mind, and so in a sense it is as two brothers embark on a sort of game (Atlantic City provided the original place names for the Monopoly board) in which they exchange their lives, their loves and their dreams. One has retreated, like Prospero, from the pain outside into the island of his mind; the other pursues an endless mirage of get-rich-quick schemes which will let him escape to an island paradise. Their fusion is a stunningly complex evocation of childish complicity and Pinterish obsessions, inevitably leading to tragedy as the obsessions founder on reality. One of the most underrated films of the decade.

User comments  from imdb Author: Infofreak from Perth, Australia.

Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson's creative relationship began because of The Monkees. Rafelson directing and Nicholson writing their weird and wonderful psychedelic cult classic 'Head'. After that the two teamed up for one of the early Seventies best loved movies 'Five Easy Pieces'. A couple of years later they did it again with 'The King Of Marvin Gardens', though inexplicably it doesn't have the reputation or the high profile of their previous collaboration. I really fail to see why. File it under "great lost 1970s movies" alongside 'Scarecrow', 'Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia', 'Tracks', 'Fingers' (and add your own personal favourite to the list). Marvin Gardens features a really strong and controlled performance from Nicholson in the lead role, an introverted DJ with a show in which he spins "true" tales. But even better than Nicholson is Bruce Dern, a wonderful actor who never became a superstar like Nicholson, Pacino or De Niro, despite a long career of consistently good character roles in movies by Hitchcock, Roger Corman, Walter Hill, Hal Ashby, John Frankenheimer, Elia Kazan, Sydney Pollack and many others. Dern is absolutely wonderful as Nicholson's brother, a dreamer and Mob hanger on. He comes back into his brother's life with a nutty get rich quick scheme which ends up going horribly wrong. This is one of the very best performances by Dern I've ever seen, and his scenes with Nicholson make this essential viewing for any 1970s buff. Added to that are excellent performances from Ellen Burstyn ('The Exorcist', 'Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore') and newcomer Julia Anne Robinson (her only movie role - too bad!) as the women in Dern's life, and nice bits from legendary musician/actor Scatman Crothers ('Black Belt Jones' and appearances in no less than four 1970s Nicholson movies) and the underrated John P. Ryan ('Runaway Train', 'It's Alive', 'Class Of 1999'). 'The King Of Marvin Gardens' is a slow and thoughtful movie, but once you get into the rhythm of it, an extremely rewarding one. One of Nicholson's best, and Dern is just dynamite. Highly recommended.

Bob Rafelson: The King of Marvin Gardens | Film | The Guardian  Derek Malcolm, December 29, 1999

It took some time to decide whether to put Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces or his later King of Marvin Gardens on to my 100 best list. Both films, made in the early 70s, starred Jack Nicholson and expressed the particularly American angst of the period.

In Five Easy Pieces, Nicholson plays a man - whose middle name is Eroica, after Beethoven, and who once studied to be a concert pianist - who rejects middle-class aspirations in favour of a messy life as an oilfield rigger. In King of Marvin Gardens, he is an introspective all-night talk jock whose brief hope of getting away resides in his brother's moonshine plan to win a gambling concession in Hawaii. Both films are funny, poetic and touchingly observant of the kind of American society you don't often see on film. But they are deeply melancholy at the same time, as if there's no rational reason for their characters to behave as they do, only cracked emotional ones.

Rafelson had great success with Five Easy Pieces, which pitched Nicholson into stardom every bit as much as Easy Rider. But the more tragic and acutely personal Marvin Gardens is perhaps ultimately the more reverberating film, pitching into real tragedy with a ludicrous murder at its end. In any case, Rafelson, hard as he continued to try, in particular with Stay Hungry and The Postman Always Rings Twice, never managed the same amazing grace again.

What made Marvin Gardens so good was the dovetailed playing of Nicholson as the talk radio man and Bruce Dern as his conman brother - hopeless cases who can't manage their lives or the equally well-drawn women who come into contact with them. Dern lives with an ageing blonde, played by Ellen Burstyn, and her pretty step-daughter (Julia Anne Robinson) and the film achieves a sexual contest between them. Rafelson's portrait of a wintry Atlantic City as a down-at-heel holiday and gambling resort seems to point up the characters' disillusion. Only Louis Malle, in Atlantic City, pitched a tale into such accurately crestfallen waters.

Rafelson, David Thomson has said, is "a raconteur of vivid, touching events, himself looking on from the dark". And in both films what we see are people we can't dislike, and who seem very real, struggling to make sense of lives which have ceased to be capable of the kind of redemption they hesitantly seek.

It's possible that, after this extraordinary beginning, Rafelson's kind of highly personal cinema became more and more difficult to make. More likely, however, times moved on without him. It happens to the best of directors as well as the worst.

Boardwalk Xanadu: Time and Place in The King of Marvin Gardens ...  Boardwalk Xanadu: The Time and Place in The King of Marvin Gardens and Atlantic City, by Maria San Filippo from Senses of Cinema, April 10, 2001


BFI | Sight & Sound | One for the road: Bob Rafelson and 'Five Easy ...  David Thomson chats with the director from Sight and Sound, September 2010


Cinespect [John Bleasdale]  also reviewing FIVE EASY PIECES dvd review [3.5/4]  Pam Grady


DVD MovieGuide dvd review  Colin Jacobson


Movie Reviews UK review [4/5]  Damian Cannon


DVD Verdict (David Rogers) dvd review


Spirituality & Practice (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat) review


Ozus' World Movie Reviews [Dennis Schwartz] (Christopher Null) review [3/5] [Variety Staff]


The King of Marvin Gardens – review | Film | The Guardian  Peter Bradshaw


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [3/4]


The New York Times (Roger Greenspun) review



USA  (102 mi)  1976


Time Out review


After the sombre melancholy of Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens, Rafelson pursued his interest in social dropouts and marginal life-styles with this offbeat comedy drama. Bridges oozes carefree charm as a young Alabama heir caught up in a property speculation involving a gym, but instead investing his interest in Arnie and his muscle-building pals. His relationship with gutsy working gal Field helps fill out the picture, although the preponderance of loose narrative threads tends to leave one with an impression of individual scenes rather than any sense of coherent plot. The scene in which Bridges slips though a hole in the social hedge to join a bunch of fiddle players in a country hoedown epitomises the gentle, quirky feel of the film. Based on a Charles Gaines novel about the rootlessness of the so-called 'New South', it has its slack spells, but Rafelson's sure feel for the inexpressible subtleties of emotional relationships is evident throughout.


User comments  from imdb (Page 2) Author: Dick Connors from Bloomington, IN

This is one of the weirdest movies I've ever seen. There's something about movies made during this time period - the late 70s, and maybe the very early 80s - that is very distinctive, though I can't really say exactly what it is. It might have something to do with the coloring and lighting and the way it looks visually - there's less "artistic" style, and the aesthetics are more candid looking. It might also be because there seems to be more nudity in those older movies than the ones that are made now. One of the movies this reminded me of is "Caddyshack." Another is "Used Cars" with Kurt Russell. "Stay Hungry" has a really loose story that has very little cohesion. It's almost more of a series of vignettes and oddball scenes (and I do mean oddball - I don't know where they came up with some of the random weirdness in this film) very loosely revolving around a central story of an idle heir (Bridges) whose life intersects with Field and Schwarzenegger's characters.

It's not the plot that makes this movie good, it's the series of strange scenes that make it up. It's almost like someone took a bunch of comedy sketches from the old Saturday Night Live and strung them all together. But the end result is a delightfully bizarre film, the kind of movie that could never be made today because it's just too unstructured and offbeat. This film was written by Charles Gaines, who also created "Pumping Iron." Gaines is a bodybuilding aficionado which would explain the common thread of bodybuilding in both of these films and the presence of Schwarzenegger. (Jon Danziger) dvd review


There's little doubt from looking at the case housing this DVD which member of the cast went on to pump up the box office returns in a slew of action movies. It's Arnold front and center, oiled up and with a bad haircut, and a sticker on the packaging reminds us that Schwarzenegger won a Golden Globe for his performance—Best Newcomer of 1977. But this isn't a movie for fans of his Pumping Iron years or of his best shoot-'em-ups (The Terminator would surely top that list). Instead, this is a moody coming-of-age picture from Bob Rafelson, at the height of his years as an angry young man—his work in the last couple of decades has been decidedly uneven, but this movie is very much of a piece with the director's early work. Stay Hungry was preceded by Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens, and this film may be the most overlooked of the three. It's certainly a mercurial and unusual picture, but it's from arguably the last great period of American filmmaking, and features three performances that changed the courses of actors' careers.

Jeff Bridges plays Craig Blake, orphaned heir of Birmingham, Alabama; he's got oodles of eccentric aunts and uncles and cousins, and lives the lonely bachelor's life in the epic family manse, a man with money but nothing else in his life. He's involved with some real estate developers, who dream big dreams of the New South, and want Birmingham to be at the heart of it—to that end, they want to build a skyscraper, and the only thing standing between them and stories of glass and steel is a seedy little gym. Blake is deputized to negotiate a buyout with the gym's owner; capitalism isn't what motivates him, however, and he gets caught up in the world of the people he's supposed to help get rid of.

Blake gets sidetracked not just by the scene, but especially by Mary Tate (Sally Field), the perky young thing behind the front desk, and the sometime girlfriend of Joe Santo (Schwarzenegger), in training for the upcoming Mr. Universe competition. Bridges is terrific in the lead role, fulfilling the promise he demonstrated in
The Last Picture Show; that was an ensemble piece, and here he's asked to carry the picture, and he does so admirably. This is Field's first screen work of any significance, and this performance goes a long way toward eradicating the image of her as either Gidget or Sister Patrice; this seems like a necessary transitional performance for her, making possible her work in movies like Norma Rae and Places in the Heart. And even with superstardom, the Governor of California was never much of an actor; but here, for the first time, he's human, and lacks the annoying self-consciousness and smugness that characterizes so much of his later work.

As Joe Santo, Arnold is Blake's ambassador to the backwoods of Alabama; Joe can play the fiddle and swill moonshine with the best of them. (Arnold doesn't fake the fiddle playing very well, though.) And Blake returns the favor by taking Joe and Mary Tate to a party of the nouvelle riche, where they are hopelessly condescended to and mocked, as if they were a
Hee-Haw roadshow. The weak link of the piece is probably Thor, the gym owner who starts stupid and ends violent; he's necessary as a plot element, but he's not very convincing, and R. G. Armstrong gives a cartoony performance. The cast is peppered with notable supporting players, though, including Fannie Flagg in high dudgeon, Ed Begley Jr. begging to get his clock cleaned by Bridges, and Scatman Crothers as a long-suffering Blake family servant. It's worth sticking with this movie, if only for the mad spectacle at the end of bodybuilders flooding the streets of Birmingham like so many greased-up Pamplona bulls.  


DVD Savant (Glenn Erickson) dvd review  Fernando F. Croce


The Onion A.V. Club [Nathan Rabin]


DVD Verdict (George Hatch) dvd review


Reel Film Reviews (David Nusair) review


This Distracted Globe [Joe Valdez]


Movie House Commentary  Johnny Web and Tuna


KQEK DVD Review [Mark R. Hasan]


Spirituality & Practice (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat) review (Christopher Null) review [3/5] [Variety Staff]


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [3/4]


The New York Times (Vincent Canby) review



USA  (102 mi)  1987


Time Out review  Geoff Andrew


From its opening shot - Theresa Russell's split reflection in a make-up mirror - both the theme and the over-schematic symbolism of Rafelson's thriller are immediately apparent. For Russell plays a homicidal psychopath whose killings of various wealthy husbands are investigated by a Justice Department workaholic (Winger), who slowly but surely becomes a kind of mirror-image of her Protean prey. The story and treatment are familiar from '40s noir thrillers, but it's clear that Rafelson is attempting something more than mere homage. Disappointingly, the femme fatale - apparently in love with her husbands even as she plans their demise - is presented as somehow more female, fulfilled and complete than the career woman, who in turn eventually discovers both dress sense and the joy of sex with her opposite's next victim-to-be. There are things to enjoy - committed performances, Conrad Hall's elegant camerawork, a script that becomes pleasurably tortuous towards the end - but the film finally offers far less than meets the eye.


PopcornQ review  Cherry Smyth

Reading mainstream films subversively, lesbians have often constructed heroines who do not officially belong to them. The persistence of the dyke invention of lesbian heroines urged me to reconstruct a mainstream Hollywood movie, a psychological thriller, in which the best thrills happen only if you impose a lesbian reading. At the time of its release, Black Widow met with mixed (let's say heterosexual) press reviews, keen dyke response privately, and severe dismissal from some dykes in public. For several reasons, I believe Black Widow is ripe for another spin. While I do not wish to argue that Black Widow is ultimately a progressive text, it does reveal ambivalences in the patriarchal order and the heterosexist gaze and opens spaces for a transgressive lesbian sexual subject.

Sharon Stone's character in Basic Instinct may be distinctly antifeminist, but was cited popularly as a lesbian heroine.

Black Widow lends itself to a similar kind of ironic reinvention. Here we have a rich, young, beautiful woman, the eponymous Catherine (Theresa Russell) who picks up and poisons her husbands with the skill of a brain surgeon. She is discovered and sought after by a rather dowdy and workaholic federal agent, Alex (Debra Winger), who needs a bit of hands-on excitement. It's a classic chase movie, with the familiar, and so compelling, ugly duckling motif thrown in. What is less familiar is that not only are there two female protagonists, but that Alex develops an obsession with Catherine far beyond the call of duty.

The psychological motivation is thin. When Alex tells her boss that "no one knows why anybody does anything," the gate opens and the psychiatrist has bolted, leaving the field of supposition totally accessible for a dyke interpretation of motivation. Alex's reply, which deflects her boss's concern that she is obsessed with Catherine, acts as a comic cypher for all the times dykes have no answers for the "why." "Why do you always have to have your hair so short? Why don't you ever wear a dress? Why do you have to be so public about it? Why do you enjoy licking pussy?" Alex may be obsessed, but she's not going to see a doctor. She has become a hunter.

Theresa Russell as Catherine is young, stiff, bereaved, and stylish, conjuring up the image of Catherine Deneuve, not only in Belle de Jour, but also in the later and much more dyke-embedded The Hunger. As a widow, however, Catherine is not upset enough, which the spectator may read as a betrayal or as an opening for a story of female revenge, of a husband killed because he deserved it, murdered because he tried to thwart his much younger wife. Catherine is already constituted as a "bad girl," therefore, ripe for transgressive lesbian identification.

To Catherine men are disposable. She swots up enough specialized knowledge to catch her professional mate, exposing hetero-desire as being as superficial and simple to mimic as a game show. Alex, by contrast, is contructed as operating in an adolescent presexual state of distraction. Her reluctance to socialise with her male colleagues (except when playing cards) reinforces the trope of Alex as a lesbian who doesn't know it. Yet. Black Widow is a slow time-bomb of a movie whose formula is charmingly predictable and whose lesbian subtext is so unimaginable to itself that its frissons have endless repercussions. As soon as lesbianism is suggested it is quickly denied.

Washington Post (Rita Kempley) review

SORRY, BUT ONE of the many dark delights of the detective thriller "Black Widow" is seeing "Blue Velvet" villain Dennis Hopper get his -- wooed, webbed and then poisoned by his loving wife, a seductive serial killer.

Theresa Russell and Debra Winger costar as the wicked widow and the Justice Department drudge who picks up Russell's paper trail while researching a mafioso's murder. The mobster, a New York publisher and then a Texas toy tycoon (Hopper) all die of the same rare disease -- and two of them are survived by their newlywed wives. Or is it wife? Winger's boss pooh-poohs her suspicions, forcing the fledgling agent to pursue the case on her own.

Winger, that homespun heartthrob with a cat's purr and a doe's eyes, makes merry work of this widow's chase. Her character is sexually repressed workaholic Alex, whose obsession with murderess Catherine -- a killer who probably reads Cosmo -- finally releases her pent-up womanliness. Winger gets a 10 on the charismometer and gives the film its warmth and innocence. Russell, a wry sensation as Marilyn Monroe in "Insignificance," plays this femme fatale for keeps.

After careful study, chameleon-like Catherine makes herself into the perfect wife for the billionaire bachelor of the moment. Her fourth fiance', for instance, confides a ridiculous wish to build a hotel under the Kilauea volcano. "God," she gushes, "in the right place, it would be fantastic." Whether it's an airhead he wants -- or an egghead, or a ditzy Dallas belle -- he gets what he deserves.

The relationship between the women, as unpredictable as lava flow, is left deliberately ambiguous. Unnerving and mysterious undercurrents keep us guessing as to the possible outcomes of this glossy game of cat-and-kitten.

Ron Bass wrote the solid and entertaining screenplay that never falters till its end, which suffices -- even surprises -- but fails to live up to Catherine's devious promise. Director Bob Rafelson (creator of the Monkees, director of "Five Easy Pieces" and the man who launched Arnold Schwarzenegger the actor) creates a coherent, soundly paced and smart production.

Rafelson draws memorable cameos from a quirky supporting cast that includes B-movie queen Mary Woronov as a dictatorial scuba diver, Diane Ladd as the sister of the Texas toymaker and Nicol Williamson as the Seattle philanthropist who dies happy (if a little prematurely) as Catherine's third hubby. James Hong is especially hardboiled as an island P.I. named Shin. "You been looking for someone for four weeks?" he sneers at Alex. "Once I looked for somebody for 18 years."

Despite the department's skepticism and the lack of cooperation from local dicks, Alex prevails in this liberating vehicle for gal gumshoes -- a leap from those doddering old dears from England to a female with the quiet intensity of a Real Detective.

User comments  from imdb Author: ShootingShark from Dundee, Scotland


User comments  from imdb (Page 2) Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico


Film Freak Central review [Travis Hoover]


Dragan Antulov retrospective [6/10]


SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review review [3.5/5]  Richard Scheib


DVD Verdict: Black Widow  Rob Lineberger - DVD Review  Scott C


Washington Post (Paul Attanasio) review


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [2.5/4]


Siskel & Ebert  (video)


The New York Times (Vincent Canby) review


Rahmanian, Hamid


DAY BREAK                                                            C                     74

Iran  (84 mi)  2005


An atypical Iranian film with plenty of European stylistic touches, which detracts from the eventual power and authenticity of the subject matter.  Iranian films are known for their raw, simplistic storytelling that get to the heart of the issue without resorting to cinematic gimmickry.  This film attempts to accentuate the Iranian judicial system, which is revealed in a dramatic ten minute sequence, which is then re-hashed from every different perspective again and again for the rest of the film, much of it left to the viewer’s imagination.


One prisoner is facing the death penalty, ironically less than 9 months from the date of his crime, which is a far cry from the decade-long jurisprudence that takes place here in America.  A man kills his boss, a crime which is undisputed, but the reasons are never provided, so we see the process of a prisoner woken up in the morning, examined by a physician so that he is in good health, as he cannot be executed unless he is, and then he faces his accuser in the presence of a judge who offers the victim’s family the right to forgive the prisoner or take retribution themselves against the prisoner.  We witness a rope placed around the neck, the prisoner placed on a small stand, and the victim’s family has the right to pull the stand away or negotiate another settlement directly with the prisoner.


Our prisoner witnesses this process with another prisoner, as they are both condemned for execution on the same morning.  The other prisoner is forgiven, but he must donate his family’s house as payment for his crime.  Our prisoner’s proceedings are delayed, as the family has not shown up for the last three scheduled executions, leaving him and his family in a state of purgatory limbo, as the exact same process will have to be re-scheduled again until the victim’s family arrives.  To further dramatize his agony, we witness several suicide attempts while in prison, or a prisoner fight that breaks out where he steps into the middle in order to be blamed, attacking a guard that intervenes, guaranteeing solitary confinement.  What we are seeing is a condemned man punishing himself even further.  Each time he is given a reprieve, the other prisoners celebrate by singing and dancing, looking like something out of a poorly rehearsed Youssef Chahine film, which specialize in exotic musical numbers. 


What we witness is the same sequence of events, the prisoner rising in the morning by guards walking him to the physical examination, intercut with flashbacks and dream sequences, all of which allow for different possibilities, all of which are playing out in his head.  It becomes impossible to know what is real and what is imagined, but eventually it becomes like a Twilight Zone episode where Dennis Weaver dreams that he is condemned to die, and the court proceedings replay in his head over and over again like the myth of Sisyphus, his own internalized psychological hell from which he can never break.  He can not, even awake, separate himself from the sequence, knowing it will re-occur again and again, that he is condemned to participate in this sequence forever.  The power of the film is the negotiation sequence with the family, the judge, and the condemned prisoner, as that is a revelation to most of the world’s eyes.  The rest of the film, shot in a dark, colorless, shoddy-looking video, we’ve all seen before, put to a better use, as it’s simply a swirling variation of the same theme.     


Raie, Motjaba


BIRTH OF A BUTTERFLY                                   A                     97

Iran  (110 mi)  1997


One of the best examples of the beauty and magic of Iranian films, where the heart is always connected to primeval forces, the dawn of man, the miracle of life, mortality and faith, filmed in the remote mountain areas of northern Iran and Azerbaijan, this film has spectacular landscapes, extraordinary camera composition, and a truly unique use of color, cinematography by Mohammad Davoodi, art direction by Malak Jahan Khazzai.
I.  The Birth
The film opens with a spectacular montage of unusual, abstract rock formations rising out of the desert, revealing homes carved into these rocks.  There is an eerie chorus, akin to Kubrick’s 2001 monolith music, birds can be heard, the wind, the color blue predominates against the natural dirt and earth, blue doors, fences, skirts, dresses, and suits.  A mother can be heard wailing in childbirth.  Her two children, a boy and a girl, are alone, guarded by a serious looking stepfather who locks the boy in the house, later released by a kinder uncle who brings them both to the refuge of his green grape vineyards.  After a visit by the stepfather, the boy hears the uncle crying in the vineyards, so he runs away into a mountain of clay, where his father was buried in an accident.  He sees his stepfather, also in tears, following him into town where the color blue has turned to black.  All villagers are weeping over the death of his mother.  Voices, like ancient souls in anguish, wail over the tears.


II.  The Path
A young boy, Mandanay, walks with a limp and lives with his sick grandmother.  His family plans to visit a holy shrine the next morning.  Mandanay sleeps under the stars.  His father transports people in a tractor-driven cart and leaves early in the morning without him, so he walks alone, led by a few mischievous boys who throw him into a pool of water at the base of a waterfall before running away.  Mandanay discovers a multitude of chrysalises that will turn into butterflies, some fly away as water glows from the green moss on the rocks, where drops, like silver, illuminate the landscape and water flows out of trees.  An old man offers him a dry change of clothes, wrapping him in a green cloth while listening to the boy’s plans to make a vow, not for himself, but for his ailing grandmother.  The old man is impressed, telling him as he gathers water, “Your leg may be limp, but not your heart.” 
They both walk towards town.  Mandanay offers to carry the water, which is heavy, and is being brought to “pilgrims” along with an iron rod for a friend in town who needs it.  The old man thanks him for his generosity and lays down on the road under the green cloth to take a nap, while Mandanay walks on alone.  He sees the town in a vision under a special light under a cloud, where an ancient chorus of voices is heard as birds soar in the sky.  But then he sees the tractor broken down carrying his grandmother, who is moaning that this is a sign of death, that she’ll never make it to the shrine.  But Mandanay hands his father the rod, which is all he needs to fix the tractor, and they drink the water he has brought, his father tells his son, “We are pilgrims.”  The music changes to serene, symphonic music as they continue to head for the shrine.  A distant shot reveals the tractor small against the giant desert landscape.  But it gets dark and they must stop in a village before they reach the shrine.  Mandanay decides to go on alone in the dark.  The music at the shrine turns into a mixture of East and West, where a man is playing an instrument inside the shrine.  Mandanay asks for the holy man.  They gesture he is asleep.  Mandanay sees the green cloth.  The ancient voices soar as the old man raises his head and smiles at him. 
III.  The Butterfly
A young man walks down a road past an old man who is playing Eastern music in front of his home, which is surrounded by flowers, past a little boy who is chasing butterflies in a lush green field, a color so luminously green that it is intoxicating, particularly after the first two episodes which took place in an arid desert.  He walks into a forest past a river surrounded by moss and trees, across a bridge, where he enters a village.  He is the new teacher is a small village that has not yet built a school, so he sleeps on the floor of the mosque and teaches the Koran to a circle of young boys.  One brings a jar of butterflies to class each day and they can be seen flying around the room when he is asked to read the scriptures.  The teacher feels at home, warmly greeted by the villagers, and expresses his inner peace.  “Nature, rain, the songs of birds are voices which give me cause to rejoice...I’ve become like a butterfly.”  He is warned by the town’s headman, “The nightingale sings ‘I’m in love,’ but the butterfly flies towards a flame and dies without complaining.”
The teacher tells the headman that the river may flood, that the village needs to build fortifications along the banks.  The teacher sees one man in tears complaining his cow has been lost, instructing him to stop weeping and start looking for it, then another man in tears complaining his son went to the city to work for 3 months, but it’s been 9 months and he hasn’t heard a thing, comforting the man with gentle words, “Don’t worry, he will return home soon, God willing.”  Next thing you know, the cow was found, the son returned, the villagers were beginning to think of the teacher as a Messiah.  When the river floods, they all gather outside his door, asking him to pray for a miracle to make the flood subside.  He tells them, “What you want is a Saint’s job, I am an ordinary man,” refusing to pray for their miracle. 
The next day, only two boys show up for class, one, the boy with the butterflies, was late as the flood washed out the bridge.  The teacher asks him to read the scriptures, instructing him to fly across the river the next day “like your butterflies.”  No one in town would speak to the teacher.  Wherever he goes or sits, they move away, and if he is seen talking to one of the children, the parents grab the child away from him.  So the teacher goes to see the headman, but he also turns away, agreeing to visit him the next morning.  The teacher pleads with him, “I am not a prophet, I can’t make a flood recede.”  The headman responds, “The people need your prayers.  The worst that could happen would be for your prayers to go unanswered.  If everyone felt every prayer had to be answered, no one would pray except for the prophets.  You wouldn’t pray because you feared people would lose their faith in you.”
The next day, the boy with the butterflies comes after the teacher and says he must come quick, that only he, the teacher, can help.  So they run out the door, the teacher following the boy, until the teacher collapses, exhausted.  When he looks up to where the bridge has washed away, the boy is walking on the water across to the other shore.  The teacher enters the water, is waist deep in the water and is in tears.  The boy turns and stares at him, as a butterfly lands on the teacher’s scarf.    


Time Out review

Three stories encapsulate different aspects of traditional moral instruction. The first sees a stern father banishing his young son from the household to spare him the sight of his dying mother; the second follows the good deeds of a devout disabled boy left at home when his family visit a religious shrine; the third shows the dilemma in which a teacher finds himself when local villagers are eager to believe he possesses spiritual powers. The didactic lessons will be more obvious to Iranian audiences than to Western eyes. That said, the rugged landscapes are striking and there is a captivating reverence in the way the director films a bowl of apples, for instance, or a rippling pool.

Chicago Reader (Jonathan Rosenbaum) capsule review

Mojtaba Raei's episodic, three-part 1997 feature is a good example of the vital Iranian cinema our cultural gatekeepers rarely allow us to see, without the packaging and automatic charm of Gabbeh or The White Balloon but with plenty of artistic credentials of its own, a film so deeply involved in its own brand of Islamic thought that the absence of easy access to outsiders is part of its special fascination. (This is also true of Mohsen Makhmalbaf's very bad early feature Fleeing From Evil to God, though in contrast Raei is clearly in command of the material.) Filmed in remote mountain areas of northern Iran and Azerbaijan, Birth of a Butterfly can be recommended for its landscapes, compositions, and employment of color. From the first episode, which begins with a montage of abstract rock formations leading to dwellings carved into a hillside, Raei's choice of settings and sense of how to film them is often astonishing—though I didn't always understand what was going on thematically or emotionally, I was held throughout by the enchantment of the natural surroundings. Ironically, the last and most comprehensible episode culminates in kitschy calendar art and a heavenly choir evoking 50s Hollywood religiosity, but prior to that I was reminded more of Alexander Dovzhenko or Sergei Paradjanov. As for the stories, one finds men weeping a lot and isn't always sure why, but the world they're passing through is infused with beauty and magic.

The New York Times (Stephen Holden) review

Mojtaba Raei's mystical meditation, ''Birth of a Butterfly,'' was filmed in the mountains of northwestern Iran, where the people's elemental relationship with nature is colored by an intense spiritual faith. Consisting of three parables in which that faith is tested, the movie suggests that Christianity and Western culture have no monopoly on turning out religious kitsch. Although ''Birth of a Butterfly'' is comparatively restrained and tasteful as these things go, it imitates the Hollywood technique of using gushy music to underscore moments of revelation.

The protagonist of one parable is a shining-eyed teacher who leaves civilization behind to trek through the wilderness and instruct the children in a remote mountain village. Exuding a charismatic radiance, he becomes an informal adviser to the community. When one man who has lost a cow wonders where he can find it, the teacher suggests he look in a certain field. Another man is waiting for his son who disappeared a year ago to return. The teacher counsels patience and says the son will soon come back.

When both insights prove true, word spreads through the village that the teacher is a prophet. And when a flood threatens the community, the villagers plead with him to intercede with God. Even after the teacher insists he has no special powers, they refuse to believe him and stalk off angrily.

The miraculous upshot of the parable could just as well be Christian as Islamic (in the entire movie there's no mention of Allah), and can be summed up in one sentence: And the faith of a child shall lead them.

The other parables are not as clear-cut. In one, a man whose wife is critically ill blames his innocent stepchildren. In another, a young boy on a pilgrimage to a sacred spring whose waters are supposed to cure all ills engages in a dialogue with an old man he meets along the way.

''Birth of a Butterfly,'' which will be shown on tomorrow at 5:45 P.M. and Monday at 9 P.M. at the Museum of Modern Art as part of New Directors/New Films, is best appreciated as a kind of visual poem in which human beings are seen as intelligent wildlife clinging to the rocks of a harshly beautiful natural landscape. The faith the movie explores seems to spring naturally from an environment where human life is so entirely at the mercy of the elements that catastrophic events are assumed to have spiritual and moral dimensions.

Raimi, Sam


Sam Raimi - Director - Films as Director:, Other Films:, Publications  Steven Schneider from Film Reference

Director, writer, producer, and occasional actor Samuel Raimi was born the third of five children, and was raised in a large home in Franklin, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. His father, Leonard Raimi, a furniture and appliance store owner, staged and shot elaborate home movies, and Sam quickly became "fascinated by the fact that you could capture reality, however staged, with an 8mm camera, replay it, edit it, and make things happen in a different order than they did in real life."

When he was just eleven years old, the younger Raimi made his first film. At age thirteen, he bought his first 8mm camera, using money he had earned from raking leaves. The movies he made at this time ranged from slapstick comedies that resembled and were inspired by his beloved Three Stooges, to a huge "Civil War extravanganza using props and costumes with fifty extras." Sam and his older brother Ivan (with whom he would later co-write Darkman and Army of Darkness ) were constantly experimenting with different camera techniques in order to get the strangest angles possible—a preoccupation evident in his films to this day. At the age of fifteen, Sam and his friend Bruce Campbell (who would go on to attain cult status as Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy) began attending classes taught by industrial filmmaker Vern Nobles. Nobles hired Sam as a production assistant, and after directing his own amateur films (as well as some commercials in the local Detroit area), Raimi enrolled at Michigan State University. There he met future business partner and aspiring producer Robert Tapert. Sam, Ivan, Tapert, and Campbell formed Renaissance Pictures, and after a few early efforts by Raimi ( It's Murder! , Within the Woods , and Clockwork ), they struck gold with The Evil Dead in 1982.

Stephen King called The Evil Dead , "the most ferociously original horror movie I have ever seen," and this unexpected compliment brought the picture instant credibility. Made on a budget of approximately $50,000, Raimi's backers were at first annoyed because the film appeared to be a comedy, when they thought they would be getting a horror movie. But it is precisely the director's trademark combination of gore and slapstick (otherwise known as "splatstick"), along with his innovative camerawork—particularly his use of demon point-of-view shots—which made the film a hit. The Evil Dead , an expanded version of Raimi's earlier short, Within the Woods (also starring Campbell), tells the story of five students who travel to a creepy cabin in the woods for a weekend break and are cut off from the outside world when a bridge collapses beneath them. In the basement of the cabin, the students find the Book of the Dead (bound in human skin) and a tape recorder. The tape's narrator warns of the evil dead, malevolent demons he has unwisely summoned. Sure enough, the evil dead show up, and all hell breaks loose. One of the female student goes outside and is raped by possessed vines, a scene which incurred the wrath of moralists in Britain, and led to the film being prosecuted under existing "video nasty" legislation. Although The Evil Dead 's super low budget is unintentionally revealed at times, the film's kinetic camerawork, over-the-top gore, and sheer intensity insured its status as a cult fave.

In 1985, Raimi teamed up with friends Joel and Ethan Coen (who hit the big time a year before with Blood Simple ) on the flawed but inspired Crimewave. In this movie, a pair of cartoon-like exterminator/hitmen kill the owner of a burglar-alarm company, and proceed to stalk the partner who hired them, his wife, and a nerd framed for the murder, who tells the story in flashback from the electric chair. Two years later, Raimi would direct the next installment of The Evil Dead on a substantially higher budget than his previous efforts. Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn retells the entire story of the first film in about ten minutes, and develops the franchise's underlying mythos, thereby paving the way for the third and most whacked out installment, Army of Darkness , in 1993. One crucial difference between Evil Dead II and its predecessor is that the latter is a more overtly comic film. The gore is still there, in spades, but as one critic puts it, "the flying eyeballs and lopped-off appendages serve as the functional equivalents of custard pies and buckets of whitewash rather than anything psychologically retrograde."

Raimi made his major-studio debut with Darkman in 1990, which he co-wrote as well as directed. Although he tried to secure the eponymous lead role for his friend Campbell, the producers opted instead for established star Liam Neeson. The film—a moderate success at best—concerns a scientist who is horribly burned by a fire in his lab lit by criminals. Using the synthetic skin he had invented, he seeks revenge under different identities. After Army of Darkness , Raimi teamed up with the Coen brothers once again, this time on The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), which he co-wrote. In 1993–94, Raimi also co-produced a pair of Jean Claude Van Damme action spectaculars, Hard Target (directed by Hong Kong legend John Woo), and Time Cop. In addition, he found great success as executive producer of the hit schlock television shows Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. Raimi returned as director on the revisionist Western, The Quick and the Dead (1995), starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, and a pre-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio. But his critical breakthrough came three years later, in 1998, with A Simple Plan , in which Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton play brothers who find a bag full of money in the woods, with disastrous consequences. As well as being Raimi's first heavyweight, serious film, it was also his first shot at directing an adaptation of a bestselling novel (written by Scott M. Smith). A Simple Plan wound up garnering two Oscar nominations, for Best Supporting Actor (Thornton), and for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. Raimi's next feature, the tepid Kevin Costner baseball vehicle For Love of the Game (1999), led some fans to believe he was selling out. But that view should change with his upcoming film, Spider-Man scheduled to appear in 2001.

Sam Raimi > Overview - AllMovie  biography from Hal Erickson


Sam Raimi: Biography from  biography


Sam Raimi - Yahoo! Movies  biography


God of Filmaking Sam Raimi director of Spider Man  biography and film reviews


Sam Raimi  biography and filmography from NNDB


Deadites Online - The Fan's Official Source For Evil Dead


Sam Raimi - Overview - MSN Movies  bio


Sam Raimi - Filmbug  bio


Sam Raimi | All About Sam Raimi - Moviefone  bio


Sam Raimi Biography from  brief bio


Sam Raimi Biography (2006–)  Film Reference


Sam Raimi Filmography  Fandango


Sam Raimi Movie Box Office Results


BFI | Sight & Sound | Film of the Month: A Simple Plan (1998)  Philip Kemp, June 1999


Optimus Prime Films | Directors | Sam Raimi  May 25, 2000


BFI | Sight & Sound | For Love of the Game (1999)  Andy Richards, July 2000  Spider-Mensch, Michael Auschenker, April 25, 2002


BFI | Sight & Sound | Film of the Month: Spider-Man (2002)  Kim Newman, July 2002


The Three Faces of Spidey: Spiderman 2 • Senses of Cinema  Violeta Kovacsics, October 28, 2004


Sam Raimi is Spartacus! in New TV Series for Starz ...  Nix from Beyond Hollywood, October 27, 2008


Sam Raimi reveals why he loves horror from the set of Drag Me to ...  Patrick Lee from Blastr, April 14, 2009


Set Visit: Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell -  Ryan Rotten from Shock Til You Drop, April 14, 2009


'Drag Me to Hell': Sam Raimi's Genre Curse - The 62nd Cannes Film ...  Richard Corliss at Cannes from Time magazine, May 14, 2009


Sam Raimi has horror in his clutches - Los Angeles Times  Gina McIntyre feature and interview from The LA Times, May 28, 2009


5 DISTURBING SAM RAIMI MOMENTS  Buckminster Schumacker III from Screen Junkies, May 28, 2009


Sam Raimi's star Vehicle | Sound On Sight  Ricky D. from Sound On Sight, May 28, 2009


Sam Raimi Tortures His Actors for Your Amusement | Little Gold Men ...   Eric Spitznagel from Vanity Fair magazine, May 29, 2009


Hell and Back Again: Sam Raimi drags himself back to horror with his new film  Steve Biodrowski from Cinefantastique Online, June 1, 2009 


Retrospective Interview: Sam Raimi on swinging from Evil Dead to Spider-Man  Steve Biodrowski feature and interview from Cinefantastique Online, June 2, 2009


The Phil Nugent Experience: A Sam Raimi Report Card  Phil Nugent, June 10, 2009


Sam Raimi and Lucy Lawless, Bloody and Naked - TV Feature at IGN  Matt Fowler from IGN, June 30, 2009


BFI | Sight & Sound | Drag Me to Hell (2009)   July 2009


Sam Raimi to Direct World of Warcraft Movie - Giant Bomb  Ryan Davis from Giant Bomb, July 22, 2009


Sam Raimi Does World Of Warcraft: Will It Be Brilliant Or Rubbish ...  Stuart Heritage from Heckler Spray, July 23, 2009


The week in geek: Can Sam Raimi raise his game for World of Warcraft?  Ben Child from The Guardian, July 23, 2009, also including photo gallery here:  World of Warcraft: Catalcysm – concept art collection


Sam Raimi to produce 'Refuge'  Steven Zeitchik from The Hollywood Reporter, September 23, 2009


Cinematical Article (2009)  Directors We Love: Sam Raimi, by Jeffrey M. Anderson from Cinematical, October 11, 2009


Sam Raimi Vs. Christopher Nolan -  Batman Vs. Spider-Man: Who Is the Better Director? by Joey Campbell from Mania, October 13, 2009


Tobey Maguire, Sam Raimi Out of Next SPIDER-MAN  Anna Robinson from Alt Film Guide, January 11, 2010


'Spider-Man 4' delayed; Tobey Maguire, Sam Raimi out ...  GMA News, January 12, 2010


Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi part ways with Spider-Man franchise ...  The Telegraph, January 12, 2010


Lions Gate Buys Sam Raimi Film About Jew Ghost « Heeb Magazine  Heeb magazine, April 6, 2010


Sam Raimi, Robert Downey Jr. Confirmed for Wizard Of Oz Prequel ...  Jennifer Ross from Paste magazine, June 10, 2010


Episode 48: Darkman (1990, Sam Raimi) / Darkman II: The Return of ...  Alan Smithee, June 30, 2010


Sam Raimi to do apocalyptic scifi western  Annalee Newitz from io9, July 20, 2010


Sam Raimi to Direct 'Earp: Saints for Sinners' - Screen Rant  Chris Schrader from Screenrant, July 20, 2010


Sam Raimi lassoes Wyatt Earp for sci-fi film | Reuters  Borys Kit from Reuters, July 20, 2010


Tarantino to pen ‘The Shadow’?  Tom Powers from Cinefantastique Online, August 4, 2010


Random Facts About Sam Raimi and His Films: His Underrated Gem ...  Kristy from the Bloodsprayer, August 27, 2010


TSPDT - Sam Raimi  They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They


DGA Interview  How to Make a Scary Movie...Sam Raimi on The Gift, by Darrell Hope interview from DGA, March 2001


Sam Raimi discusses Spider-Man  Steve Biodrowski interview from Hollywood Gothique (2002)


Film Monthly Interview (2007)  Sam Raimi Talks Spider-Man 3... And Beyond, by Paul Fischer from Film Monthly, April 22, 2007


Spider-Man 3 Interviews: Director Sam Raimi | Superhero Hype  Superhero Hype interview, April 22, 2007


Sam Raimi Interview - Drag Me to Hell at Comic Con 2008 Video  Rebecca Murray video interview from, 2008  (1:39)


Sam Raimi's 'Spider-Man' regrets: 'I would have done everything ...   Gina McIntyre interview from The LA Times, May 18, 2009


Dailymotion - Sam Raimi Talks Vampires In Spider-Man 4 - a Film ...  FearNET video interview on YouTube  (1:09)


Sam Raimi Interview WORLD OF WARCRAFT Movie, Oz, The Hobbit Saturn ...  Steve “Frosty” Weintraub video interview from Collider, June 25, 2010 (8:30)


501 Movie Directors: A Comprehensive Guide to the Greatest Filmmakers


Sam Raimi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Happy Birthday Sam Raimi from James Franco from James Franco ...  YouTube (4:11)



USA  (82 mi)  1982


Time Out review

Raimi's first feature, a sensationally bad-taste effort which narrates the rapid decline into demonic mental and physical possession of a clean-cut, all-American holiday party holed up in a mountain Tennessee retreat. The woods come alive, devils possess the living, and Tom Sullivan's amazing make-up effects climax with a final fiery exorcism which makes George Romero look like Playschool. Short on characterisation and plot but strong on atmospheric horror and visual churns, this movie blends comic fantasy (EC Tales) with recent genre gems like Carrie and Texas Chain Saw Massacre to impressive effect.

Lessons of Darkness [Nick Schager]

Countless imitators later, The Evil Dead remains a dizzying bloodbath in which gore proves both nasty and amusing. Setting the template for thousands of subsequent followers, Sam Raimi’s debut film charts the saga of two guys and three girls as they embark on a vacation in a remote forest cabin where, in a creepy dungeon decorated with a torn The Hills Have Eyes poster, they discover the Book of the Dead and an accompanying audio recording. Once played, said tape lets loose the surrounding area’s demons, who proceed to possess the hapless twenty-somethings save for Ash (Bruce Campbell), a sweet, somewhat timid guy who begins the evening giving his main squeeze a necklace and ends it by chopping her head off with a rusty shovel (severing the inflicted’s limbs being the only method of stopping them). Raimi’s rollercoaster cinematography seems no less gimmicky now than it did in 1981, creating a freewheeling vibe that contributes to the goofy comedy that underlies the film’s over-the-top gross-out scenarios, which primarily involve Campbell – in an iconic turn both sweet and terrified – having his face splattered with crimson goo. No serious subtext to be found here, just vigorous love and respect for the simultaneous horror and humor inherent to the genre, here epitomized by an infamous sexual assault carried out by animated tree branches, the chilling sight of girlfriends morphed into milky white-eyed ghouls who taunt victims with nursery rhymes, and endless POV shots that place one directly in the line of Raimi’s projectile-fluid fire.  Fernando F. Croce

Stumbling upon a Book of the Dead that zombifies folks might have in the previous decade pointed toward unearthing the characters' own political unrest; here, it's a green-light for unspooling rivers of gore, oozy but giddily unthreatening. Armed with zero budget and tons of film-school antsyness, Sam Raimi and pals hit the woods for the quintessential shoestring horror hit, mining the ol' chestnut about spelunking youngsters stranded in a log cabin fending off demonic forces till dawn arrives. Bruce Campbell, Dudley Do-Right jaw continually moist with splattered viscera, plays Ash, the kind-of leader, in the sequels upgraded into chainsaw-toting Curly and surly knight, but mostly the pantsy here. The opening session is all ominously scuttling cameras, breaking through windows and darting past trees when not hiding behind a swinging pendulum; once the demons are loose, it's full-on slaughterhouse slapstick. Ellen Sandweiss gets raped by malevolent weeds before picking up where Linda Blair left off in The Exorcist, Betsy Baker morphs into a gurgling, white-eyed bobble-head doll while Hal Delrich hacks possessed girlfriend Sarah York with an ax until blood literally douses the lenses. Limbs are rudely separated from their owners, goo squirts from orifices, and the zombies melt until their creamed-corn guts spill all over Ash's hilariously disbelieving mug. For all the bug-eyed panache, the gremlins-at-the-wheel pyrotechnics get wearying, all the more so for trading the radicalized tropes of '70s horror films for jokey film-class flailing. Still, what sets Raimi apart from the condescending emptiness of his buddies the Coens (Joel, incidentally, is credited as assistant editor here) is his lack of snarky distancing -- power outlets start bleeding, but Raimi is always alongside his characters, preferably as a disembodied track zooming into a screaming mouth.

Evil Dead   Ed Gonzalez from Slant magazine

Twenty years after its original theatrical release, Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead still feels like the punchiest horror flick this side of a Dario Argento gialli. Made on a shoe-string budget, The Evil Dead is difficult to assess for what initially seems like nothing more than B-movie schlock. Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his friends take a weekend trip to the woods only to stumble across the mysterious Book of the Dead. Spells are unleashed, friends go zombie and Ash is forced to test the limits of his squeamishness. Raimi's script is riotously deadpan, his compositions undeniably breathtaking and inventive. The director relentlessly fashions the film's first half as a creepy-crawly sweat chamber with evil seemingly taking the form of an omniscient, roaming camera. Raimi takes so much joy in poking fun at his five protagonists you might wonder why Kevin Williamson even bothered Screaming. Artist Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) is literally raped just outside the film's infamous cabin, busy twigs and branches suggesting horny woods at play. Despite the signs (the difficult-to-start vehicle, the fallen bridge), no one else believes the woods are alive. Ash and his girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker) share an intimate, peek-a-boo moment through which Ash gives Linda a necklace. When he is later forced to kill her, Raimi takes great joy in referencing this coquettish exchange of affection. Ash is horrordom's most memorable wuss, victim to both a hissing group of crazed friends and to Raimi's lightweight yet burdensome mise-en-scène. Now infamous for its over-the-top gore and cheesy effects sequences, The Evil Dead is most impressive for Raimi's unnerving wide angle work and his uncanny, almost unreal ability to suggest the presence of intangible evil via distant headlights, bleeding light sockets and, in the film's most awesome set piece, a simple game of cards. Raimi actively teases his protagonist for not being a man. Ash may return for the sequel, but The Evil Dead's finale suggests that he was never really up to the challenge.

The Greatest Films (Tim Dirks) recommendation [spoilers]  Evil Dead Trilogy


DVD Times  Anthony Nield, Evil Dead Trilogy


Jerry Saravia review  Evil Dead Trilogy


Deep Focus (Bryant Frazer) review [A-]  Special Edition


not coming to a theater near you (Rumsey Taylor) review


SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review review [4/5]  Richard Scheib review [4/5]  Slyder


Classic Horror review  Nate Yapp


Shooting Down Pictures » Blog Archive » 933. Evil Dead II (1987 ...  Kevin Lee, September 3, 2007


Images (Gary Johnson) review


Film Monthly (Gary Schultz) review


Beyond Hollywood review  Nix


ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [3/4]


Home Theater Info (Doug MacLean) dvd review


The World's Greatest Critic! [J.C. Maçek III]


Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review


Movie Martyr (Jeremy Heilman) review [3.5/4] : The Evil Dead


DVD Verdict (Mike Jackson) dvd review


Digital Retribution dvd review  Collector’s Edition


The Digital Bits dvd review [Limited Edition]  Todd Doogan


Q Network Film Desk (James Kendrick) dvd review [2.5/4]  Limited Edition


DVD Town (Dean Winkelspecht) dvd review  Limited Edition


DVD Verdict (Patrick Naugle) dvd review ['Book of the Dead' Limited Edition]


Moda Magazine (Kage Alan) dvd review [Limited Edition]


Cinescape dvd review  Anthony C. Ferrante, Limited Edition


Monsters At Play (Lawrence P. Raffel) dvd review ['Book of the Dead' Limited Edition]


DVD Savant (Glenn Erickson) dvd review  Limited Edition (Jeremy Frost) dvd review [4/5] ['Book of the Dead' Limited Edition]


DVD MovieGuide dvd review ['Book of the Dead' Limited Edition]  Colin Jacobson - DVD Review  Doc, Limited Edition


The Evil Dead: Limited Edition Blu-ray vs. Ultimate Edition DVD  Steve Biodrowski from Cinefantastique


DVD Verdict (Clark Douglas) dvd review [Ultimate Edition] 3-disc


Bloody-Disgusting review [5/5]  Ryan Daley, Ultimate Edition 3-disc


Twitch (Todd Brown) review  Tim Janson, Ultimate Edition 3-disc


DVD Town (Tyler Shainline) dvd review  Ultimate Edition 3-disc


DVDActive (Gabriel Powers) dvd review [8/10]  Ultimate Edition 3-disc


Home Theater Info (Doug MacLean) dvd review  Ultimate Edition 3-disc


KQEK (Mark R. Hasan) dvd review  Ultimate Edition 3-disc


Fulvue Drive-in dvd review [Ultimate Edition]  Michael P. Dougherty II


DVD Talk (Ian Jane) dvd review [4/5] [Blu-Ray Version]


DVD Town (William David Lee) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


DVD Verdict (Dan Mancini) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


DVD ("Fusion3600") dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


FEARnet [Scott Weinberg]  Blu-Ray


Eye for Film (Gator MacReady) review [4/5]


Bill's Movie Emporium[Bill Thompson]


Mutant Reviewers from Hell review


Cinema de Merde


And You Thought It Was Safe [David DeMoss]


Dark Horizons (Garth Franklin) review


It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie review [-2.5/5] B-Movie Reviews (Andrew Borntreger) review [2/5]


Daily Film Dose [Alan Bacchus] (Timotei Centea) review [8/10] (Christopher Null) review [4/5]


Edinburgh U Film Society (Keith H. Brown) review


Frankie Paiva review




Gods of Filmmaking


Deadites Online - The Fan's Official Source For Evil Dead


Sam Raimi Bruce Campbell Evil Dead Blu-ray Commentary Clip -  Matt Patches from UGO, August 17, 2010, including YouTube  (1:42)


Evil Dead Continues Cross Country Tour  Bryan from Famous Monsters, March 2, 2010, also seen here:  Famous Monsters » Sam Raimi 


EVIL DEAD by Sam Raimi  Screenplay Online


Motion Picture Purgatory (Rick Trembles) review [image]  comic


Entertainment Weekly capsule dvd review ['Book of the Dead' Limited Edition]  Dalton Ross


Variety review


BBC Films (Almar Haflidason) dvd review 



USA  (84 mi)  1987


Time Out review

Not so much a sequel, more a self-parodic reprise, like some black comic nightmare in the damaged brain of sole survivor Ash (Campbell). This time though, tired of cowering in the corner, Ash gets tooled up with a shotgun and a chainsaw, and lets the monsters suck on some abuse. Meanwhile, four other victims - none of whom has ever seen a horror movie - arrive at the shack and start settling in, unaware that they'll be dead by dawn. The dialogue has been pared to the bone, the on-screen gore toned down, and the maniacal laughter cranked up to full volume. Using the same breathless pacing, rushing camera movements and nerve-jangling sound effects as before, Raimi drags us screaming into his cinematic funhouse. Delirious, demented and diabolically funny.

Slant Magazine review  Fernando F. Croce

Where the original Evil Dead was a juggling act of film-school antics and genuinely evocative creepiness, Sam Raimi's sequel/remake is full-on gore slapstick, more Tex Avery than Dario Argento. All of the first film is wittily telescoped into the opening five minutes, recapping how Ash's (the inimitable Bruce Campbell) weekend getaway in the woods got interrupted by evil forces unleashed by the Book of the Dead, right down to the ominous final tracking shot straight into a screaming mouth. Daybreak gives the hapless hero some much-needed time-out, but, since the film is shaped as a wide-eyed comedy of bravura kineticism, it doesn't take long for the frenetic splatter gags to kick off again. Indeed, for the most part, Evil Dead 2 places Ash as straight man to Raimi's delirious camerawork, with no prankish stone left unturned—winking setups, rotating sets, disorientating lens tricks, forced perspectives, and blood geysers erupting from shotgun blasts. Raimi delights in using sinister movement to suggest unseen menace: In one showstopper, the demonically skittering camera chases Ash from room to room inside the cabin, crashing through door after door, then losing him along the way and retreating back into the woods. A new batch of victims (including Denise Bixler, Dan Hicks, Kassie DePaiva, and Richard Domeier) eventually turn up, donning monstrous make-up and blank eye-caps, though Raimi, despite the picture's pricier budget, remains dedicated to the original's brand of guerilla ingenuity and retro-chintz. The hero's decapitated beloved rises from her grave to provide a little stop-animation ballet, trees crush houses like beer cans, and a skull-faced demon's neck stretches to the sound of shrieking chimpanzees—fond Ray Harryhausen shout-outs all, but my favorite is Ash facing a chortling deer-head trophy. (A literalization of the title of Pupi Avati's underrated chiller The House With Laughing Windows, maybe?) Yet Raimi's resourceful restlessness ultimately pushes the movie beyond gooey genre pastiche and into uniquely absurd farce. Ash may lose limbs as he chainsaws his way through the installment, but Evil Dead 2 holds together as the giddiest treatment of viscera this side of Peter Jackson's Dead Alive.

Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987) - Articles -  Richard Harlan Smith

With Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987), writer-director Sam Raimi pulled off a typically impossible feat – he made a sequel to a cult movie milestone ("the ultimate experience in grueling terror") that was widely considered to be better than the original. Initially, Raimi had wanted to press on from the exposure afforded him by The Evil Dead (1981) to a sequel that would catapult its benighted protagonist Ash (Bruce Campbell) into the Middle Ages. When moneyman Dino De Laurentiis came aboard (at the behest of Stephen King, then making his own directorial debut with the De Laurentiis-produced Maximum Overdrive[1986]), the power behind the newly minted De Laurentiis Entertainment Group demanded a scenario more in line with that of Raimi's original cult hit. With a budget ten times that of The Evil Dead, Raimi's follow-up has a more aesthetically pleasing look and a host of special effects that pays homage to a score of horror and suspense classics: the canted angles of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), the anthropomorphic trees of The Wizard of Oz (1939), the fruit cellar of Psycho (1960), stop motion animation reminiscent of Ray Harryhausen, the boarded-up windows of Night of the Living Dead (1968), the "blood flood" from The Shining (1980), the rays of light streaming in through a sundered wall from Raising Arizona (1985) and it's anyone's guess whether Ash's perambulating hand was a nod to The Beast with Five Fingers (1946), The Crawling Hand (1963) or Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965).

With Evil Dead II, Sam Raimi took the opportunity to experiment with time cuts, which advance the action one significant piece at a time in the manner of comic book panels. This technique is most pronounced in the now celebrated setpiece in which Ash amputates his stump with the help of nominal heroine Annie Knowby (Sarah Berry), whose father has unwisely unleashed ancient evil upon the world. In addition to the forward momentum gained by telescoping these events, this editing tack brackets the dumb fun (which so often metastasize into full blown surreal slapstick) with an authorial intelligence that was not lost on moviegoers whose enthusiasm turned Evil Dead II into an instant cult classic rated slightly higher than Raimi's gnarly original. Raimi had grown up on the punishing physical comedy of The Three Stooges and the hyperkinetic cartoons of Tex Avery, which bent the physical world to the demands of animated high comedy. In Evil Dead II, Raimi and crew freshen the shopworn formula of inanimate objects coming to an horrific semblance of life (a gimmick driven into the ground with the trifecta successes of The Exorcist [1973], The Omen and Carrie [both 1976]) by making these items (a rocking chair, a gooseneck lamp, a stuffed deer head) not just so much telekinetic flotsam and jetsam but characters in their own right, who taunt Ash in witchy high octaves, pushing him to hysterical, transcendental laughter even while promising he'll be "dead by dawn."

In a 1988 interview with British journalist Jonathan Ross, Sam Raimi projected for himself an inevitable loss of creativity that would come with the assignment of bigger budgeted studio projects. Indeed, as Raimi became the A-list director-for-hire of such popular successes as A Simple Plan (1998), For Love of the Game (1999) and the Billy Bob Thornton-scripted The Gift (2000), the stately, tasteful manner of his craft seemed a betrayal of his salad days as a DIY splatterpunk using Milk Duds to thicken his bathtub ichor. If Raimi had been suspected by his early fan base of having sold out prior to the New Millennium, his helming of Columbia's mega budget Spider-Man franchise from 2002 on was likely the final coffin nail for the faithful. Yet while these summer blockbusters (the final budget of Spider-Man 3 is calculated to have hit $350 million) seem, at least superficially, to be anathema to the hands-on Raimi aesthetic, there is an obvious and reassuring kinship shared by Ash of The Evil Dead canon and Spider-Man's Peter Parker. We meet both characters on the cusp of adulthood and witness their maturation being interrupted by occult forces, supernatural events that change them physically, complicate their love lives and compel both to rise above their fears and physical limitations to become unlikely and initially unwilling heroes. Although Raimi rarely works in full-on horror these days, Ghost House Pictures, the production company he founded with Evil Dead producer Robert G. Tapert, remains a strong brand in the genre with such box office hits as Boogeyman (2005) and The Grudge (2004) and 30 Days of Night (2007).

The Greatest Films (Tim Dirks) recommendation [spoilers]  Evil Dead Trilogy


DVD Times  Anthony Nield, Evil Dead Trilogy


Jerry Saravia review  Evil Dead Trilogy


Classic Horror review  Chrissy Derbyshire review  Michelle Le Blanc and Colin Odell


Juicy Cerebellum (Alex Sandell) review  Halloween party pick review [5/5]  Slyder


ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [3/4] (Mel Valentin) review [4/5]


Mike Bracken review [5/5]


SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review review [4/5]  Richard Scheib


Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review


DVD Review e-zine dvd recommendation Mike Long


Q Network Film Desk (James Kendrick) dvd review [3/4]


Cinescape dvd review [Collector's Edition]  Steve Biodrowski


The Digital Bits dvd review [Regular and Limited Editions]  Florian Kummert


DVD Talk (Ian Jane) dvd review [4/5] ['Book of the Dead' Limited Edition]


DVD Verdict (Harold Gervais) dvd review [Limited Edition]


Monsters At Play (Lawrence P. Raffel) dvd review ['Book of the Dead' Limited Edition]


DVD Clinic (Scott Weinberg) dvd review [5/5] ['Book of the Dead' Limited Edition] (Greg Malmborg) dvd review [8/10] ['Book of the Dead' Limited Edition]


DVDActive (Dustin McNeill) dvd review [8/10] ['Book of the Dead' Limited Edition]


Fulvue Drive-in dvd review [Divimax Edition]  Dante A. Ciampaglia


DVD Talk (Daniel Hirshleifer) dvd review [3/5] [Blu-Ray Version]


DVD Verdict (Ryan Keefer) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


DVDActive (Marcus Doidge) dvd review [8/10]  Blu-Ray


DVD ("Fusion3600") dvd review [Blu-Ray Version] (Timotei Centea) review [8/10]


Audio Revolution (Bill Warren) dvd review


The Spinning Image (Daniel Auty) review


Digital Retribution dvd review


DVD Talk (Gil Jawetz) dvd review [5/5]


Mutant Reviewers from Hell review


Eye for Film (Gator MacReady) review [2/5]


Horror Express review  Finn Clark


Serdar Yegulalp retrospective [3.5/4]


Lars Lindahl review


Edinburgh U Film Society (Keith H. Brown) review B-Movie Reviews (Andrew Borntreger) review [4/5]


Variety review


BBC Films (Almar Haflidason) dvd review


Washington Post (Richard Harrington) review


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [3/4]


The New York Times (Caryn James) review



USA  (96 mi)  1990


Time Out review

Dr Westlake (Neeson) is on the verge of perfecting a synthetic skin which conceals disfigurements; the problem is, the skin dissolves in sunlight after 99 minutes. When his laboratory is ransacked and blown up by gangster Durant (Drake), Westlake is left for dead, face down in a vat of caustic chemicals. But he survives (sans visage) as Darkman, an avenging angel who uses temporary masks to impersonate and destroy his enemies, while simultaneously attempting to win back his estranged love (McDormand). Drawing self-consciously on the 'misunderstood monster' tradition of Universal's golden age, Raimi's major studio debut abounds with conflicting ambitions, juggling pathos, horror and incongruous slapstick as it attempts to meld (with variable success) an archaic narrative structure with a kinetic, modern visual style. Neeson's performance encapsulates these contradictions, mixing camp histrionics with moments of touching precision. But the breathtaking action sequences find Raimi in his element: wild, woolly and occasionally wondrous, Darkman has the chaotic charm of untrammelled, undisciplined talent. (John Nesbit) review [4/5]  also seen here:  Sam Raimi, Darkman: Old School Reviews  (links lost)

I must thank Roger Ebert for recommending Darkman when it was first released in 1990, when most critics generally panned it. His praise for Sam Raimi's low budget film intrigued me enough to check it out before it vanished from the theaters, and a number of scenes have remained in the long time pleasurable memory zone. Recently re-watching Darkman on DVD, I find the film continues to hold up as entertaining melodrama and offers hope for the Spider-Man series.

After two misfires with mainstream releases For Love of the Game and The Gift, it's refreshing to see Raimi taking on the essentially cartoon characters of Darkman and creating a believable universe in a visually rich environment with touches of pathos. Although most Raimi cultists loyally stand by his Evil Dead trilogy in hopes that he'll transform Spiderman into a worthy film, the best indicator of Raimi's ability to work with cartoon material lies with his vastly underrated Darkman.

Liam Neeson (destined to star in Schindler's List three years later) carries the film as Darkman, an identity scientist Peyton Westlake takes on after being horribly burned and left for dead. Westlake has been working on synthetic skin, developed from digitally transforming photographs, but unfortunately the skin breaks up at the 99th minute.

Similar to Hitchcock's protagonists, Westlake is a victim of random circumstance. His girlfriend, Julie (Frances McDormand, six years before she strikes gold in Fargo), discovers compromising papers from her boss that prove extensive corruption and leaves them in Westlake's lab. Mobster Robert Durant (Larry Drake) and his henchmen show up for the papers, blow away Westlake's lab assistant, thrash and trash Westlake and lab, and leave him for dead as the lab explodes in a beautifully filmed fiery inferno.

Alive, but deformed with burns covering 40% of his body, Westlake anonymously is treated in the hospital by removing nerve endings to make his life tolerable. Ironically, rendering him in this manner subjects his mind to high stages of rage and episodes of extreme strength, similar to the Incredible Hulk without changing green, but now he becomes a creature of the shadows—Darkman.

He sets off to win back his girlfriend, but cannot do so in his deformed condition. Using scientific intelligence, Darkman reconstructs his lab, collects photographs of his adversaries, and creates duplicate masks to extract revenge on Durant and his crew of mobsters in plots reminiscent of Mission Impossible that set the bad guys against each other.

This provides some great humor and also establishes another Hitchcockian theme—the idea that evil dwells within us all. Raimi beats us over the head with that theme often, but as a cartoon this is perfectly acceptable—this isn't exactly in the same territory as Notorious, but I can imagine the Master of Suspense enjoying Raimi's work here. The depiction of good and evil within the protagonist demonstrates that Raimi understands how to bring a measure of depth to characters that would be left paper-thin in more traditional treatments. One memorable sequence with the evil Durant's cigar cutter evokes physical reactions in the audience without even showing the blood, and a subsequent parallel scene with an enraged Westlake crunching a carnival worker's fingers further establishes his theme associating our protagonist with his dark side.

Credit the main actors for translating Raimi's screenplay into the flesh. McDormand delivers the goods believably as the loyal girlfriend, conflicted when Westlake apparently dies. Her part could be expanded more, but the film allows Neeson to demonstrate his acting skills to a much fuller degree. His over the top scenes of rage show excellent comic timing, but he shows a great deal of range. The quieter moments with his pained looks add far more sympathy for his character than we'd expect in such a screenplay.

Darkman contains many pleasures that film aficionados will appreciate. Incorporating Chicago locations in the mix and combining warm sunlit open spaces with darker closed in sets, cinematographer Bill Pope (The Matrix) captures great explosive scenes, surreal dream sequences with lots of reds and yellows, and really gloomy scenes in darkened alleyways with the despondent Darkman character.

Overall, this film shows off Sam Raimi's vision and gives the clearest preview of what we can expect of his Spider-Man. Should the large budget movie fail, we can still bring out this far less seen DVD as definitive proof that Raimi remains one of the better directors working in the business. Of course his Evil Dead fans have believed this for years.

Edward Copeland on Film (Damian)


Dorkosphere [Alex Miller]


SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review review [3.5/5]  Richard Scheib (Rob Gonsalves) review [5/5]


Mark R. Leeper review [-1 out of -4..+4]


Classic Horror review  Jenn Dlugos


Bill's Movie Emporium [Bill Thompson]


DVD Verdict - Darkman Trilogy [Dylan Charles]


FEARnet [Scott Weinberg]  Darkman Trilogy


DVD Verdict (Harold Gervais) dvd review


DVD Talk (Daniel Hirshleifer) dvd review [2/5] [HD-DVD Version]


DVD Town (Dean Winkelspecht) dvd review [HD-DVD Version]


DVD Talk (Joshua Zyber) dvd review [2/5] [HD-DVD Version]


DVD Verdict (Ryan Keefer) dvd review [HD-DVD Version] (Ryan Erb) dvd review [3/5] [HD-DVD Version]


Fulvue Drive-in dvd review [HD-DVD Version]  Nicholas Sheffo


DVD Town (Dean Winkelspecht) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


DVD Verdict (Patrick Naugle) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


DVD Talk (Brian Orndorf) dvd review [2/5] [Blu-Ray Version]


High-Def Digest [El Bicho]  Blu-Ray


The Horror Review [Horror Bob]


Draven99's Musings [Chris Beaumont]


Qwipster's Movie Reviews (Vince Leo) review [2.5/5]


Cinephile Magazine [Richard X]  Richard Saad


Georgia Straight (Steve Newton) review


The Spinning Image (Graeme Clark) review (Brian Orndorf) review [5/5]


Mutant Reviewers from Hell review


Blood Brothers [Matt Reifschneider]


The Flick Filosopher (MaryAnn Johanson) review


PopMatters [Bill Gibron]  capsule review


Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second  Adam Batty


Gods of Filmmaking


Entertainment Weekly review [B]  Owen Gleiberman


Variety review


BBC Films (Almar Haflidason) review


Washington Post (Rita Kempley) review


Washington Post (Joe Brown) review


Siskel & Ebert  (audio)


The New York Times (Caryn James) review


DVDBeaver dvd review [HD-DVD Version]  Yunda Eddie Feng



USA  (81 mi)  1993        Director’s Cut (96 mi) 


Time Out review

A calculated tilt at the cross-over mainstream audience, this second sequel eschews the hardcore horror of The Evil Dead and the splatter comedy of Evil Dead II, in favour of a swashbuckling comedy. Catapulted back in time, chainsaw-wielding hero Ash (Campbell) joins forces with the inhabitants of a besieged castle - and damsel in distress Sheila (Davidtz) - in their battle against an army of skeleton Deadites. With its stop-motion effects and knockabout humour, this plays more like a Ray Harryhausen version of El Cid than a horror movie, with plenty of slapstick but very little gore.

A Film Odyssey [Robert Humanick]

With the reluctant hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) having been unwillingly sent from his haunted cabin in the woods back to medieval times, the opportunities for camp indulgence in Army of Darkness have been considerably expanded upon from those in the first two Evil Dead films. Looser than the overdrawn original film but not as tight or relentlessly original as the second, this capper to Raimi’s schlock horror trilogy is wicked fun in delightfully bad taste, the visual gags coming fast and cheap as Ash disposes of any possessed creatures that unwisely crosses his path with prowess and brio to spare. Here, the zombies take a backseat to a skeletal army that wages war against the local castle residents, led by a chainsaw and shotgun wielding Ash (“You see this? This is my boom stick”). The feel is fittingly haphazard, moving from one outrageous visual gag set piece to the next without a moment more of screen time dedicated to the necessitated plot than is absolutely necessary. Perhaps no moment of the film is funnier (at least to knowing film geeks, a la Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still) than when Ash, commanded to retrieve a sacred book that can return him to his own time, tries to cover up his failure to remember the magic words needed to do so with perfectly timed ineptitude. With loving references to the legends of King Arthur, Gulliver’s Travels and The Three Stooges abound, Army of Darkness succeeds thanks to its indulgences into the utterly ridiculous.

CINE-FILE: Cine-List -  Kian Bergstrom

Also known as BRUCE CAMPBELL VERSUS ARMY OF DARKNESS, this is the third and, so far, final film in Raimi's saga following the moron Ash (Campbell) as he strives to save the world from the legions of the damned. Dripping with glee, ARMY OF DARKNESS revels in its gore-splattered Deadite lunacy, featuring a plot that's little more than a series of contrivances for visual puns, hackneyed romantic clichés, and action set-pieces of virtuosic, if incoherent, energy. Every poke in the eye, every zombie glare, every threat upon one's edible soul is an opportunity for Raimi's teenage sense of humor to show itself, making this perhaps the most 3 Stooges-inflected action-horror film ever made. Certainly it's the lightest film Raimi's ever made, an effervescent dollop of self-mockery capping off a stage in his career of wild-eyed experiment and go-for-broke invention. This is filmmaking at it's happiest, glorying in the bald capacities of cinema to shrink, duplicate, and transform its actors, to mold and mistreat space, to weirdly stutter and truncate time. Merely getting to move the camera is enough pretext for Raimi to set up an elaborate genre reference or visual gag, and the intricate stupidity of Ash, thrust back in time to Medieval England to fight the zombies he unleashed from the Necronomicon in the previous two (modern day) films is an elaborate counterpoint to his surprisingly badass versatility with a chainsaw and broomstick. In this lead role, Bruce Campbell, long-time muse to Raimi, demonstrates a self-effacing, deeply sensuous performance style that's long been under-recognized. One of the great physicalists of screen acting, Campbell's anti-naturalistic tics, too-careful gestures, and winking, self-aware line readings form a kind of over-saturated scaffold upon which the campy drapery of the narrative hangs. A scene-chewer in the best possible sense, Campbell steals every scene, dominates every shot, never missing an opportunity to deflate the film's artifices or turn his fellow actors' work against them. In the face of his mugging, defamiliarizing body, everyone else plays permanent catch-up. This is the last great Raimi film to date, and a milestone in Campbell's career. "Hail to the King, baby."

Classic Horror review  Chrissy Derbyshire

Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness is not a great horror film. Not an auspicious start to any review. Let’s take it one step further. Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness is not a horror film at all. It’s a madcap comedy, avec zombies – but don’t expect Shaun of the Dead either. This third and (thus far) final film in the Evil Dead series is an amalgam of Three Stooges and Monty Python style comedy antics and groovy Harryhausen-esque special effects, all squeezed into an Evil Dead plot so thin it looks ready to rupture at any moment.

The long-suffering Ash (Bruce Campbell) was, if we remember, transported back in time at the end of Evil Dead II. For those of you who don’t remember, never fear: an inexplicably re-shot flashback sequence will explain all. Suddenly, Ash finds himself responsible for saving the Medieval world from the deadites. This, in true Ash parlance, really pisses him off. Campbell is in fine form here, turning a wispy plot and weak script into a whole that merits its unquestionable cult status. He has more lines in this film (the film being generally a lot more ‘talky’ than the previous two) and, despite having little to work with, really develops the antiheroic, arrogant yet lovable character of Ash.

One aspect of Army of Darkness that might truly be called classic is the playful creativity of the special effects. In one particularly memorable sequence, Ash smashes a mirror, and from the shards spring dozens of reflected mini-Ashes who proceed to attack their original in a most ungrateful manner. Eventually they force Ash to swallow one of their number, causing him to grow an evil twin from his shoulder. One gets the impression that Raimi poured all his comic tastes into the character of ‘Evil Ash’, who is far more silly than he is scary, especially in the hilarious fight scene between Ash and his evil clone.

Then again, the whole concept here is more silly than it is scary. The deadites, for instance, seem far more inclined to swing a farcical punch than to swallow anyone’s soul. Resurrected skeletons scream and get blown up – and if you listen carefully you can hear one utter a whispered threat to rip off certain tender parts of Ash’s anatomy.

Embeth Davitz is another predominately comic foil as Sheila, Ash’s love of the moment, whose function (like most women in Evil Dead films) appears to be to scream a lot and become possessed. Unlike Evil Ash (also played by Campbell), she is, unfortunately, not very funny at all. Raimi is a miracle-worker in many ways, but Davitz would be better moulded by a carpenter than by a director. Still, her performance and those of some of the other non-actors in this film cannot take away from Bruce Campbell’s no-holds-barred performance. He’s a great physical actor, he works brilliantly with Raimi, and this combination of actor and director will always be classic.

Watch this film with expectations of comedy, and you won’t be disappointed. It’s good fun, even if it ain’t art. However, I would urge you not to expect horror, or you certainly will be disappointed. Finally, if you’re deciding between editions of Army of Darkness, choose a copy that includes the alternative ending. Look out for this cracker of a sequence. It includes the best line in the film and, in my (never humble) opinion, one of the best closing lines in film history.


An alternate ending (shown in Europe and available on the official "bootleg" DVD amongst others) has Ash waking up a century too late in a post-apocalyptic world.

The Greatest Films (Tim Dirks) recommendation [spoilers] Evil Dead Trilogy


DVD Times  Anthony Nield, Evil Dead Trilogy


RevolutionSF (Kenn McCracken) recommendation  Evil Dead:  An Appreciation, Evil Dead Trilogy


Jerry Saravia review  Evil Dead Trilogy


Army of Darkness – Review & Retrospective  Steve Biodrowski from Cinefantastique Online


not coming to a theater near you (Chiranjit Goswami) review  lengthy (Rob Gonsalves) review [5/5]


a wasted life  Bryin Abraham


Jay's Movie Blog  Jason


John Beachem review [4.5/5] (Jesse Hassenger) review [4.5/5]


SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review review [2/5]  Richard Scheib


Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review


ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [3/4] (Travis Lowell) review [5/5]


Movie House Commentary  Johnny Web


Film Freak Central dvd review  Bill Chambers


Fulvue Drive-in dvd review  David Milchik (John Teves) dvd review [4/4] [Boomstick Edition]


DVD Verdict (Christopher Kulik) dvd review [Screwhead Edition] Blu-ray Screwhead Edition [Matt Paprocki]  also here:  Blogcritics - DVD review [Matt Paprocki]


DVD Verdict (Mike Jackson) dvd review [Director's Cut] [Limited Edition]


DVDActive (Warwick Gaetjens) dvd review [9/10] [Director's Cut]


DVD MovieGuide dvd review [Director's Cut]  Colin Jacobson


DVD Town (John J. Puccio) dvd review  2-disc Special Edition


A Guide to Current DVD (Aaron Beierle) dvd review [Limited Edition]


DVD Town (Dean Winkelspecht) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


DVD Talk (Adam Tyner) dvd review [3/5] [Blu-Ray Version]


DVD Verdict (Gordon Sullivan) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


Frank's Reel Reviews (Loron Hays) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


DVDActive (Gabriel Powers) dvd review [8/10]  Blu-Ray


DVDActive (Marcus Doidge) dvd review [5/10]  Blu-Ray (R. L. Shaffer) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


DVD ("Fusion3600") dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


Mark R. Leeper review [low +1 out of -4..+4] (Jay Seaver) review [4/5]


Mos Eisley review


Lars Lindahl review (Brian McKay) review [4/5]


Exploitation Retrospect review  Dan Taylor


Mike Bracken review [4/5] review [4/5]  Slyder


Georgia Straight (Steve Newton) review


Bloody-Disgusting review [3.5/5]  The Thinker


KQEK (Mark R. Hasan) dvd review


Celluloid Dreams  Simon Hill


The Spinning Image (Graeme Clark) review B-Movie Reviews (Andrew Borntreger) review [3/5]


Mutant Reviewers from Hell review


Mutant Reviewers from Hell review


Sci-Fi Movie Page (James O'Ehley) review


The Flick Filosopher (MaryAnn Johanson) review (Timotei Centea) review [8/10]


Mondo Digital  also reviewing EVIL DEAD


Talking Pictures (UK) review  Sweets for the Sweet, by Ed Cooper, also reviewing CANDYMAN, BRAIN DEAD, and HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH


Gods of Filmmaking


Entertainment Weekly review [C+]  Owen Gleiberman


Variety (Peter Besas) review


BBC Films review  Nick Hilditch


Washington Post (Richard Harrington) review


Washington Post (Desson Howe) review


Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) review [2/5]


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [2/4]


The New York Times (Janet Maslin) review


DVDBeaver dvd review  Mark Wilson



USA  Japan  (107 mi)  1995


Time Out review  Geoff Andrew

This engagingly hyperbolic homage to the style and revenge fantasies of the spaghetti Western centres on a deadly tournament - organised by Hackman, boss of a township called Redemption - to find the fastest gun in the West. Enter a motley crew, among them Sharon Stone's Eastwood-like interloper, who has a secret agenda of her own... A deadpan black comedy, Sam Raimi's fast-paced movie looks and sounds like a Leone oater but more so. The violence is heightened by an intelligent, often hilarious use of special effects. Stone, who co-produced, is surprisingly effective in the lead, and Hackman's Herod is wonderfully, unrepentantly villainous. Terrific fun.

Tucson Weekly (Zachary Woodruff) review

Sam Raimi, best known for the Evil Dead series, directs this surrealistically action-packed Western (based entirely on a gunfight contest) as if he'd taken the title to heart and slowing down would kill him. Every sequence spills over with visual punchlines, obnoxiously funny zoom-in shots and ferocious one-liners. It's almost too much movie for itself, and protagonist Sharon Stone can't anchor the picture the way it needs; her Clint Eastwood-style sullenness lacks substance. But the gallery of supporting actors, which includes Lance Henriksen, Leonard DiCaprio, Gene Hackman (doing a twisted take on his evil sheriff role from Unforgiven), fill the movie with so much wanton charisma that Stone's performance as the "straight man" actually starts working after a while. It's a weird picture where A-movie and B-movie qualities are blended at such a high velocity that you start to lose track of which is which.

VideoVista review  Donald Morefield

A lone rider arrives in the western town of Redemption, seeking vengeance for her murdered father - a marshal who challenged the criminals that killed him. Back in the mid-1990s, following her attainment of stardom in Basic Instinct, in between action roles in Total Recall (opposite Schwarzenegger), and The Specialist (with Stallone), a 'wild west' picture with Sharon Stone was quite an enticing prospect. Here, she plays 'the Lady', later identified as Ellen, a novice gunfighter joining a duelling contest organised by town despot Herod (Gene Hackman, performing a cheekily extravagant variation of his Oscar-winning 'Little Bill' Daggett supporting character in Eastwood's Unforgiven).

For a slick western thriller that also counts Clint Eastwood's seminal High Plains Drifter (1973) among its varied influences, perhaps this particularly astute casting of Hackman as the chief villain, might be viewed as one borrowing too many from Eastwoods' oeuvre... But director Sam Raimi, and screenwriter Simon Moore, have crafted such an obviously affectionate homage to both stylised 'spaghetti' westerns, and traditional Hollywood horse operas, and then blessed the film with simmering undercurrents of both femininity and feminism (Stone's Ellen is a notable amalgam heroine - seemingly inspired by Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, and Jane Fonda's Cat Ballou), that even such blatantly developed influences, aesthetic and narrative, do not, in any significant way, detract from this film's board appeal to mainstream cinema tastes.

Other principal castings for The Quick And The Dead - of Russell Crowe, whose stardom was clearly ascendant back then; and the 20-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio, just ahead of his leading role in Baz Luhrmann's modernist Shakespeare, Romeo + Juliet (1996), plus extremely talented supporting actors such as Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Tobin Bell, with superb veteran, Pat Hingle - provided further evidence of the filmmakers' savvy in assembling team players capable of roundly expressing peculiar individualities for their often ironically-mannered iconic western roles. In fact, every key role in the unfolding drama of sudden death is perfectly balanced for easy recognition by genre fans of several wild-west archetypes; from the undertaker Doc Wallace (Roberts Blossom), and victimised saloon-girl Katie (Olivia Burnette), to grungy outlaw, 'Scars' (Mark Boone Jr), and local sleaze, Dred (Kevin Conway), a rapist and paedophile.

It's not immediately clear, in the timetable of clock-strike scheduled gunfights, who is most likely to end up shooting the hateful villains, or the boastful gunslingers (a Sioux Indian, named Spotted Horse, claims invulnerability to bullets; Henriksen's charismatic trick-shot artist, 'Ace' Hanlon, is fatally exposed as an unskilled fraud by Herod's expertise), but there are few genuine surprises here. It's to be expected that Herod will manipulate proceedings to such an extent that he ends up shooting his immodest son 'the Kid' (a rather unsympathetic DiCaprio), and that the villain is wily enough to pit reluctant hero Cort (Crowe, underplaying almost to the point of invisibility), against vulnerably-anxious heroine Ellen, necessitating their rule-breaking ruse to counteract and prevent a wicked twist of fate that Herod plans for them.

Raimi employs numerous camera tricks or displays of prosthetics to enhance, with consummate wit and savage humour, the wounding and killing scenes. This cannot be praised as a modern classic of the western genre, but neither is it a complete flop (as its US box-office receipts had suggested). It's unlikely to be found on any critic's top 10 listing of cult movies, either. The Quick And The Dead is merely a competent production, a lively mix of clichés and talent, which is quite satisfactory by anyone's standards.

not coming to a theater near you (Adam Balz) review


Edward Copeland on Film (J.D.)


Scott Renshaw review [5/10]


Raging Bull Movie Reviews review  Vanes Naldi, Dan McGowan, and Mike Lorefice


Steven Krut review


Movie House Commentary  Johnny Web


ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [2/4] (Carl Langley) review [4/10]  also seen here: [Carl Langley]


Rob Furr review


Linda Lopez McAlister (c/o inforM Women's Studies) review (James Brundage) review [4/5]  also seen here:  James Brundage retrospective


The Digital Bits dvd review  Todd Doogan


DVDTalk [Jamie S. Rich]


Digital Retribution dvd review  Julian (Robert Edwards) dvd review  Superbit Edition


DVD Talk (Jason Bovberg) dvd review [3/5] [Superbit Edition]


A Guide to Current DVD (Aaron Beierle) dvd review [Superbit Edition]


Moda Magazine dvd review  Brian Orndorf, Superbit Edition


DVD Town - Blu-ray [James Plath]


DVD Verdict (Eric Profancik) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]


DVD MovieGuide dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]  Colin Jacobson


The Spinning Image (Graeme Clark) review


Georgia Straight (Ron Yamauchi) review (Scott Weinberg) review [4/5]


Mutant Reviewers from Hell review


Qwipster's Movie Reviews (Vince Leo) review [2.5/5]


Movie Hell (Michael J. Legeros) review [C+]


Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review


Gods of Filmmaking


Entertainment Weekly review [C]  Owen Gleiberman


Variety (Todd McCarthy) review


BBC Films review  Matt Ford


Washington Post (Desson Howe) review


Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) review [1.5/5]


San Francisco Examiner (Scott Rosenberg) review


San Francisco Chronicle (Mick LaSalle) review


Los Angeles Times (Kenneth Turan) review


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [2/4]



USA  France  Germany  Great Britain  Japan  (121 mi)  1998


Time Out review  Geoff Andrew

In fiction at least, no plan is ever simple, especially if crime's involved. So when the chance discovery of a wrecked light aircraft on a snowy Minnesota nature reserve places $4m in easy reach of farmer Hank (Paxton), his dim brother Jacob (Thornton), and the latter's ethically challenged buddy Lou (Briscoe), they should surely have known not even to think about keeping it. Still, they're only human, and soon they're arguing over how to hang on to the cash, without arousing the suspicion of friends and families, and desperately trying to conceal the crimes that follow, as if by destiny, hard on their initial lapse from honesty. Raimi takes the old story about dishonour among thieves and renders it fresh through the calm, cool, steady assurance of the telling. The aura of familiarity extends even to the snowscapes, but the sturdy characterisation and taut plotting, which charts the progress towards deadly infighting with all the rigour of a philosophical syllogism, make for an impressively lean thriller.

Memphis Flyer (Hadley Hury) review

Potential viewers of A Simple Plan should not be deterred by those trailers and stills of Billy Bob Thornton, in a major supporting role, wearing glasses duct-taped together over his nose and an old knit cap that plasters greasy hanks of hair down around his face. These promotionals, exacerbated by a goofy grin filled with seriously yellowed teeth, suggest that the writer and star of One False Move and Sling Blade may have finally strayed too far over the line into caricature. As it turns out, in A Simple Plan Thornton brings very quietly and subtly to life one of the most interesting tragicomic characters in recent American film. The performance is one of the chief surprises and satisfactions among many in this arresting morality play, adapted for the screen by Scott B. Smith from his best-selling novel, directed by Sam Raimi, with cinematography by Alar Kivilo, design by Patrizia von Brandenstein, music by Danny Elfman, and an acting ensemble that includes Bill Paxton, Brent Briscoe, and Bridget Fonda.

A Simple Plan is a deceptively simple film in which we are reminded – as we too infrequently are by many current films – that drama is not only not afraid of simplicity but recognizes the mastery of it as an essential step toward artistry in the form. Focused tightly on relatively few characters, its storyline correspondingly taut, A Simple Plan sustains the conviction of its good script and actors, its intelligent direction, and strong visual elements; its exploration of good and evil goes deep rather than wide. It is precisely the creative team’s determination not to cover their commercial demographics by throwing in extraneous characters, plot lines, and cinematic kitchen sinks that makes this project refreshing and, despite a few flaws, has earned it several nods in the early awards competitions. The film is involving, disturbing, and highly entertaining.

Set during the long winter in a small town isolated among the forested hills and rolling farmlands of eastern Minnesota, the film’s tone of irony is established immediately. The snowy fields are clean and white, the hills etched softly in the pale sunlight, the stands of trees rise with the timeless authoritarian grace of nature. It is the human figures that cast the only ambiguous shadows in this pristine landscape, and the movie wastes no time in letting us know that, as in any good tragedy, it’s often the good, moral, and happy man – played here by Paxton in his best role and performance to date – who casts the longest shadow.

In part because of the corkscrew-like circumscription of Scott’s screenplay and in part because of Kivilo’s evocatively stark cinematography, A Simple Plan has the odd sensibility of a dark Jacobean drama laced with the mordant humor and ironic fatedness of some medieval Norse saga. There are some important surprises in the story, but much more significantly this is a tale of inevitabilities. Playwright Arthur Miller has said of his Death of a Salesman that the audience response he wanted to incite “was not ‘What happens next and why?’ so much as ‘Oh, God, of course.’” The “why” of A Simple Plan comes early: Hank (Paxton), his brother Jacob (Thornton), and Jacob’s buddy Lou (Briscoe) discover a small plane that had apparently crashed in the woods some time ago; its pilot is long dead and stashed onboard is $4.3 million. “It’s the American Dream in a goddamned gym bag!” crows Lou. “You work for the American Dream,” protests Hank. But he doesn’t protest long. Though we know where this is headed, the “what happens nexts” of this tale of corruption keep the suspense hissing along like a long-fused bomb. But it is specifically the “Oh, God, of course” toward which A Simple Plan ineluctably moves – fueled by the unadorned humanity of Paxton’s and Thornton’s performances – that separates this film from the pack of postmodern noir drivel and gives it staying power.

BFI | Sight & Sound | Film of the Month: A Simple Plan (1998)  Philip Kemp, June 1999

Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan may resemble other recent small-town crime films, but its emotional power and subtlety put it in a class of its own

Early on in A Simple Plan, a man cautiously enters the fuselage of a crashed plane. The pilot is sitting in his seat, his head shaking as if in pain or incredulity. Thinking he's still alive, the newcomer speaks to him and starts forward. His movement causes the fuselage to tip, lurching him forward into the pilot - the crows that have been feeding on the dead man's face erupt in a tumult of angry squawks and stabbing beaks.

It's easy to guess how the Sam Raimi we know and love, splatter-happy director of The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Darkman and The Quick and the Dead, would have built on that scene. Easy to imagine the in-your-face shocks, the crow-haunted nightmares, the vengeful zombie with a half-eaten visage chewing its way up the cast list. The humour would have been gleefully ghoulish, the characters and violence pure cartoon, the genre conventions teased and twanged and mercilessly mocked. But A Simple Plan is the work of a very different Sam Raimi, a film-maker who here austerely rejects hyped-up camera tricks and jokey shock effects and creates living, complex characters whose fates we care about. The result is easily his finest film to date.

The subtlety and the pervasive sense of unease are matched from the start by Danny Elfman's insidious score (hailed by Paul Tonks in Gramophone magazine as "the most daringly original score from Hollywood in years"). Like Raimi, Elfman has come a long way from his cartoonish beginnings (a frequent Tim Burton collaborator, he scored the first two Batman films and A Nightmare Before Christmas). Here, he sets up the chill, edgy mood with an off-key duet between detuned piano and banjo, like a distorted reflection of small-town rural values; they're joined by an eerie ensemble of flutes, alto through bass. By the time the three men (Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Brent Briscoe) stand beside the wrecked plane, debating what to do with the stash of loot fallen literally from the sky, there's little doubt where we're headed. Things are already going badly wrong, and they're going to get worse.

The corrosive effect of an ill-gotten windfall on ordinary lives is no new theme, of course (Shallow Grave, to look no further), and the use of bleak, near-monochrome Minnesota snowscapes - in fact shot in Wisconsin, since the Minnesota winter turned disobligingly mild - inevitably recalls the Coen brothers' Fargo. But Raimi's film never feels derivative, thanks not least to the strongly individualised performances he's drawn from his lead actors. Paxton proves once again that he's one of the most underrated (and understated) actors in Hollywood, his Hank a "nice, sweet, normal guy" horrified to find himself sucked down to disaster by one brief capitulation to his own worse instincts. As his brother Jacob, Thornton gives a masterfully gauged portrait of a man whose emotional insights - which are as acute as anybody's - are constantly wrong-footed by his mental limitations. His performance is all the more moving for never lapsing into the sentimentality that tinged his similar role in Sling Blade. Only Bridget Fonda, as Hank's wife Sarah, doesn't quite come together as a character - not the actress' fault but the script's since it requires her to switch a little too abruptly from moral revulsion to all-out avidity.

But A Simple Plan shares with Fargo something more than a use of rural winter backdrops: its stern, absolute morality, as starkly black and white as crows against a snowfield. An alternative title, in fact, might have been that of the film which gave Paxton his previous best role: One False Move. Hank's single moment of weakness, allowing himself to be persuaded by the less-grounded Jacob and their third accomplice Lou (Briscoe) instead of holding out for integrity, leads with horrifying inexorability into the abyss, making their destruction complete. Utterly different in tone as Raimi's earlier films may have been, they held in common with this latest work a sense of the fearful flimsiness of everyday normality. Just one rent in the fabric of things and darkness is let loose.

But while the plot moves with inevitable momentum to its dénouement, it's far from predictable. Central to the film's dramatic impact is the way its moral centre shifts, quite unexpectedly, from Hank to Jacob. To begin with Hank clearly occupies the moral high ground: he's honest Mr Normal, the guy we identify with, while Jacob's eager venality aligns him with the shiftless Lou. When Lou describes the cash as, "the American Dream in a goddam gymbag", Hank retorts (a touch pompously), "You work for the American Dream, you don't steal it." But as Hank embarks on his slow slide into perdition, it's Jacob, a seemingly gormless figure with his protruding teeth and cheap taped-up glasses, who takes on the role of conscience. By the time he asks, "Hank, d'you ever feel evil? I do", he is confronting the questions his brother is desperately trying to evade.

The key point of transition is the scene when Hank, blackmailed by Lou to hand over some of the cash, comes to persuade his brother to help him gain counter-leverage by framing Lou. As the scene progresses it emerges that for all his slowness of brain, Jacob's scruples are finer than Hank's. Where Hank sees Lou as a contemptible lowlife against whom any tactics are justified, Jacob sees a friend he is being asked to betray. His distress as Hank piles on the pressure is pitiable, and he gives in only when offered the one bribe he can't resist: that Hank will help him regain their father's farm.

Before Raimi took it on, A Simple Plan was to have been directed by John Boorman. (A scheduling conflict with The General obliged him to withdraw.) It may well have been this transfer of moral stature that attracted Boorman to the project; one can imagine the film as a snowbound counterpart to Boorman's Deliverance, another study of everyday guys destroyed by a headlong train of events, and of an individual's self-image (Jon Voight then, Paxton now) fractured and degraded under pressure. But Raimi makes the film his own, carrying over from his previous work the sense of encroaching paranoia as formerly solid ground starts to give way beneath the feet and the avenues of escape are blocked off one by one.

Scott B. Smith, scripting from his own novel, charts his characters' descent into hell with remorseless control and impeccable narrative logic. At each step it's made clear how, at that panic-stricken moment and with no benefit of hindsight, these people could hardly have done other than they did. With each turn of the screw the options narrow down, until Hank, broken and weeping, a gun in his hand, finds himself forced into committing the final, lethal act of destruction. His grief is the more lacerating since by doing so he shatters the only thing to emerge from the grim events, a new-found closeness to his formerly estranged brother.

A Simple Plan is bookended by Hank's voice-over. At the outset he reflects how, despite the dullness of his daily round, a man like him should feel blessed in having "a wife he loves, a decent job, friends and neighbours who respect him." At the end, looking back on the betrayals and deaths, the ambitions raised and crushed, the ruin of that modest measure of contentment, he muses sombrely: "There are days when I manage not to think of anything at all. But those days are few and far between." There's more unbearable anguish in those few spare words than in all the gore and mayhem of Raimi's previous output.

Deep Focus (Bryant Frazer) review [B+] (Carlo Cavagna) review [B+]


Nitrate Online (Eddie Cockrell) review


“A Simple Plan” avoids the shallow grave -  Charles Taylor, December 11, 1998


The Goblin’s dilemma in Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan and Spider-Man  Boyd White and Tim Kreider from Jump Cut, Summer 2003


World Socialist Web Site review  David Walsh


Scott Renshaw review [8/10]


Louis Proyect review


Images (David Ng) review


Nick's Flick Picks (Nick Davis) review [C]


Film Freak Central review  Bill Chambers


n:zone (Daniel Kelly) review


Matt Prigge review [3.5/4]


Jon Popick review [4/4]


Christian Science Monitor (David Sterritt) review


ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [3.5/4]


Jerry Saravia review


Movie Reviews UK review [4/5]  Michael S. Goldberger


Film Scouts (Karen Jaehne) capsule review


Edwin Jahiel review


Ain't It Cool Movie Reviews (Harry Knowles) review


Crazy for Cinema (Lisa Skrzyniarz) review (Rob Gonsalves) review [3/5]


James Bowman review


The Onion A.V. Club [Joshua Klein] (Bill Gibron) review [3/5]


Q Network Film Desk (James Kendrick) review [4/4]


DVD Verdict (Sean Fitzgibbons) dvd review (Robert Mandel) dvd review


Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review


Mixed Reviews: The Arts, The World, and More (Jill Cozzi) review


Richard A. Zwelling review [4/4]


Harvey S. Karten review


Walter Frith review [3.5/5]


Mark R. Leeper review [+2 out of -4..+4]


Scott Mendelson review [A] (Dan Smith) review [10/10] review


Plume Noire review  Fred Thom


Qwipster's Movie Reviews (Vince Leo) review [3/5], Choices for the Cognoscenti review  Arthur Lazere (Chris Dashiell) review


Eye for Film (Angus Wolfe Murray) review [3/5]


George Chabot's Review


The Tech (MIT) (Vladimir Zelevinsky) review


Movie Hell (Michael J. Legeros) review [B-]


Ruthless Reviews review  Erich Schulte (Erik Childress) review [5/5]


Mondo Digital  also reviewing THE GIFT


Gods of Filmmaking


Entertainment Weekly review [A]  Owen Gleiberman


Variety (Glenn Lovell) review


The Japan Times [Giovanni Fazio]


The Boston Phoenix review  Peter Keough


Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) review [3.5/5]


San Francisco Examiner (Walter Addiego) review


Philadelphia City Paper (Sam Adams) review


San Francisco Chronicle (Edward Guthmann) review


Los Angeles Times (Jack Mathews) review


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [4/4]


The New York Times (Janet Maslin) review



USA  (121 mi)  2002


Time Out review

With the stir and crash of Elfman's opening theme, the vertiginous weave of the credit crawl and the hardbitten noir voice-over ('Who am I? Are you sure you want to know?'), this accomplished blockbuster announces itself as a stylish piece of pop myth-spinning. Director and writer afford the old Marvel comic strip the reverence film-makers used to reserve for the Scriptures - which is not to suggest that they miss the fun of it. Every inch the nerd's nerd, Maguire is adroitly cast as Peter Parker, a brainy orphan with a suppressed wild streak and a lot of growing up to do. When the worm turns (courtesy of a GM spider bite), his elation is palpable, a testosterone rush which sends him sky-high. The first thing is to score some greenbacks to impress the red-head next door (Dunst). Meanwhile. Dafoe's arms inventor, Norman Osborn, is the fly in the ointment, trying on his own altered ego - the Green Goblin - to test-Spider-boy's moral mettle. Despite the movie's solid storytelling virtues, it must be admitted that the action spectacular scenes are a somewhat disappointing, and that Dunst is little more than an old-style scream queen.

Slant Magazine review  Ed Gonzalez

Everyone wants to be a superhero, even Stan "The Man" Lee. On the April 29th episode of The Simpsons, Lee was convinced he could turn himself into the Incredible Hulk if he pulled a Homer Simpson fit of rage. Poor Lee. Screwed by Matt Groening just when he got the chance to see himself all green and greased up for his fanboys. As played by the perpetually angst-ridden Tobey MaGuire, Spider-Man is less cocky webslinger than rebel-without-a-cause. No, Spidey ain't no wuss. As envisioned by director Sam Raimi, Lee's hyphenated superhero is an existential geek tortured by his superpowers. When a super arachnid bites Peter Parker on a class trip to a hi-tech gene splicing facility, he's kick-driven past that final leg of his adolescent cycle and wakes up with the stud body it takes everyone else half a lifetime to sculpt. Amid the muscle mass, Peter is still a quintessential dork. "Don't be ashamed of who you are," says Uncle Ben not long before irony shoots the wise man in the heart. Spider-Man is a superhero caper cleverly disguised as a coming-of-age saga. With great power comes great responsibility so Peter must negotiate more than silk-clogged pores when the Green Goblin (a carefully campy Willem Dafoe) goes bump in the night. Raimi's millenium Spider-Man is both sensitive and realistically self-serving, rescuing women from rapists but never forgetting that he's got bills to pay. Spidey also does his own PR work, saving a toddler from a fire after the city calls for his arrest. He may be too late to save New York City from Osama Bin Laden (see the film's awesome WTC wink) but Spider-Man is still needed, even if Raimi's New Yorkers treat their superheroes like yesterday's fad. Spider-Man is cheesy and drags at two hours, but Raimi does right by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original creation via an old-fashioned comic-book aesthetic worn on Kirsten Dunst's bright red hair, the Daily Bugle newsroom pyrotechnics and Aunt May's prayers to God. In the end, Spider-Man delivers New York from evil, stares at the face of a selfishly earned moral view and, during the film's bittersweet finale, learns that it sucks being a teenage superhero in love.

Deep Focus (Bryant Frazer) review [A-]  also seen here:  Radio Silence 

Handing Sam Raimi $130 million and the lucrative Spider-Man franchise was anything but a sure bet. Yes, it was a smart move given Raimi's undeniable talent and inherent affection for the material, but the guy hasn't exactly been a box-office dynamo. Moreover, I haven't had much use for anything he's directed since his early masterpiece The Evil Dead, save for his tense A Simple Plan. There are fans who argue that Darkman is a terrific comic-book movie, but I'm not among them, and he was unable to draw any flavor out of genre gimmes like The Quick and the Dead and The Gift.

What a relief, though, that he stood at the helm of this film, investing it with the proper degree of respect for Spider-Man's origin story, a great contemporary mythology. In order to sell this stuff, you have to play it incredibly straight. The result is a wonderful blast of nostalgia; the fancy digital effects that allow Raimi to fashion the kind of web-slinging sequences that seemed impossible to put on film just a decade ago turn out to be essential to setting the film's giddy mood, but simultaneously trivial. In comparison to the disarmingly retro characters, the life lessons delivered with a conviction that's gone missing from the movies, and the breathlessly melodramatic romance at the story's core, they're window dressing and filler.

In case you're completely unfamiliar with this stuff: Spider-Man is Peter Parker, a geeky honor-student-with-few-friends type who's bitten by an unusual spider and subsequently develops superhuman strength, the ability to climb walls, and a cool "spider sense" that warns him of impending danger. The Marvel Comics version was always sort of a Superman knock-off-Parker even works as a newspaper photographer, echoing Clark Kent's career as a reporter-with the key difference that Parker wasn't just mild-mannered, like Kent, but was actually an ordinary schlep. And, boy, did creator Stan Lee beat him up. Being a Marvel superhero was never a piece of cake, and the early issues of The Amazing Spider-Man were full of loss and mourning.

Tobey Maguire, with a poker face punctuated by sad yet dreamy eyes, plays the character to near-perfection just by showing up. Kirsten Dunst plays Mary Jane, for whom Peter carries a torch, with a dash of pathos adding a smidge of depth to her reliable girlishness. And the equally dependable Willem Dafoe plays Norman Osborne with the supernatural aplomb that he brought to such characters as Max Schreck and Jesus. It's in the scenes where Dafoe has manic, staring-into-the-mirror conversations with his villainous persona, the Green Goblin, that Raimi takes his Spider-Man closest to the edge-and gets a massive payoff for taking the risk.

Screenwriter David Koepp has made some changes to the comic-book continuity in a bid to streamline affairs-notably combining two female characters into one and giving Spider-Man organic web shooters instead of the science-project contraptions Peter assembled in the comics-but has wisely maintained the cornpone stylings of the original, including the gentle presence of the elderly Aunt May and Uncle Ben as Spider-Man's foster parents and the "With great power comes great responsibility" tagline that defined Stan Lee's ambitions for the character. Indeed, the film carries that lesson to unexpectedly heartbreaking lengths. Like The Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man is grandly, emotionally affecting in a way that it had started to seem that Hollywood blockbusters never would be again.

So why isn't this, like, A-plus material? For one thing, while the action scenes are admittedly virtuousic-especially for comic-book fans who have long imagined how this sort of material might be translated intact to film-they're also utterly phony. That Spider-Man gets so much mileage out of its human characters makes it that much more jarring when Tobey Maguire turns abruptly into a cartoon. More significantly, for all its virtues, Spider-Man as a film is missing a strong personality of its own. Raimi seems to have directed mainly by getting the hell out of the way. Sure, some of the touches-like the shots of Peter teaching bully Flash Thompson a well-deserved lesson by kicking, repeatedly, directly into the camera lens-have the startling energy of vintage Raimi, but his generally vivid, in your-face style seems finally to have been mostly subsumed by the rigors of studio filmmaking.

When the resulting film is this good, I can't complain too much-it just feels as though it's been wiped clean of directorial fingerprints on the way into the camera (and the digital-effects workstations), and I prefer movies that feel a little more handcrafted. Those cavils aside, Spider-Man is almost as exciting a kick-off for a summer movie season as we could hope for. (And George Lucas will have a lot to live up to when Attack of the Clones opens on May 16.)

BFI | Sight & Sound | Film of the Month: Spider-Man (2002)  Kim Newman, July 2002


The Goblin’s dilemma in Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan and Spider-Man  Boyd White and Tim Kreider from Jump Cut, Summer 2003


The Greatest Films (Tim Dirks) recommendation [spoilers]  Spider Man Trilogy (R. L. Shaffer) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version] [The High Definition Trilogy]  Spider Man Trilogy


DVD Verdict - The High Definition Trilogy (HD DVD) [Dennis Prince]  Spider Man Trilogy


Movie ram-blings (Ram Samudrala) review  Spider Man Trilogy


DVD Talk (Loren Halek) review [4/5]


World Socialist Web Site review  Alex Lefebvre


National Review (Robert A. Georgr) essay ["New Yorker, American"]  May 7, 2002


Spider-Man as Everyman -  Charles Taylor


Spider-Man swings along with brio  David Edelstein from Slate


Decent Films Guide (Steven D. Greydanus) review [B+]


SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review review [2.5/5]  Richard Scheib (Dominic Varle) review [B]


Images (Gary Johnson) review


Jigsaw Lounge (Neil Young) review [7/10], Choices for the Cognoscenti review  Arthur Lazere


PopMatters (Cynthia Fuchs) dvd review [Deluxe Edition]


d+kaz. Intelligent Movie Reviews (Daniel Kasman) review [B-]


Nitrate Online (Elias Savada) review


ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [3/4]


Goatdog's Movies (Michael W. Phillips, Jr.) review [2.5/5]


Dark Horizons (Garth Franklin) review


Nick's Flick Picks (Nick Davis) review [C+]


Juicy Cerebellum (Alex Sandell) review


Ruthless Reviews review  Jonny Lieberman


Ain't It Cool Movie Reviews (Harry Knowles) review


Mark Reviews Movies (Mark Dujsik) review [3/4]


Crazy for Cinema (Lisa Skrzyniarz) review


Mixed Reviews: The Arts, The World, and More (Jill Cozzi) review


Jerry Saravia review [3.5/4]


Mark R. Leeper review [low +2 out of -4..+4]


Jon Popick review [9/10]


Harvey S. Karten review [3/4]


Q Network Film Desk (James Kendrick) review [3.5/4]


Home Theater Info (Doug MacLean) dvd review (Joel Cunningham) dvd review


DVD Talk (Geoffrey Kleinman) review [4/5]


DVD Talk (Jason Bovberg) dvd review [4/5] [Superbit Edition]


DVD Verdict (Michael Stailey) dvd review [Superbit Edition]


DVD MovieGuide dvd review [Superbit Edition]  Colin Jacobson


DVD Journal  Damon Houx, 2-discs


The Digital Bits dvd review [Widescreen Special Edition]  Todd Doogan, 2-discs


DVD Verdict (Mike Pinsky) dvd review [Deluxe Edition]  2-discs


DVD Town (Dean Winkelspecht) dvd review  2-discs


DVDActive (Richard Logan Powell) dvd review [10/10] [Widescreen Special Edition]  2-discs (Jeremy Frost) dvd review [4/5] [Blu-Ray Version]


DVD (Matt Brighton) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version] (Rob Gonsalves) review [3/5]


RevolutionSF (Kenn McCracken) review


The Filmsnobs (James Owen) review


The Filmsnobs (Stephen Himes) review


Beyond Hollywood review  Nix


PopMatters (Todd R. Ramlow) review


Looking Closer (Jeffrey Overstreet) review


Film Monthly (Michael S. Julianelle) review


Accessible movie reviews (Joe Clark) review ("Le Apprenti") review [8/10] (Chris Madsen) review [4.5/5] (Brandon Curtis) review [4.5/5]


Movie Martyr (Jeremy Heilman) review [3.5/4] (Collin Souter) review [4/5] (Chris Dashiell) review (Nathaniel Rogers) review (Scott Weinberg) review [5/5]


Brilliant Observations on 1173 Films [Clayton Trapp]


Sci-Fi Movie Page (James O'Ehley) review review  Widge (M.P. Bartley) review [4/5] review  Zack Schenkkan


The Land of Eric (Eric D. Snider) review [A-]


One Guy's Opinion (Frank Swietek) review [B]


Talking Pictures (UK) review  Jen Johnston


Newsweek (David Ansen) review  He's Got The World On A String, May 6, 2002


Newsweek (David Ansen) review  Movies: Spy Vs. Spy, June 10, 2002


Xiibaro Productions (David Perry) review [3/4]  


3 Black Chicks Review Flicks


Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review


Eye for Film (Angus Wolfe Murray) review [2.5/5]


Plume Noire review  Fred Thom [Sean Axmaker]


Village Voice (J. Hoberman) review


Bright Lights Film Journal review  Alan Vanneman (capsule review)


Mutant Reviewers from Hell review


Motion Picture Purgatory (Rick Trembles) review [image]  comic


Gods of Filmmaking


TV Guide Entertainment Network, Movie Guide review [3.5/4]


Variety (Todd McCarthy) review


BBC Films review  Neil Smith


Guardian/Observer review


The Japan Times [Giovanni Fazio]


The Boston Phoenix review  Gary Susman


Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) review [3.5/5]


Seattle Post-Intelligencer review  William Arnold


San Francisco Chronicle (Mick LaSalle) review


Los Angeles Times (Kenneth Turan) review


Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [2.5/4]


The New York Times (A.O. Scott) review


DVDBeaver dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]  Gary W. Tooze


SPIDER-MAN 2                                           B                     84

USA  (127 mi)  2004                  Director’s Cut (135 mi)


State of the art special effects film, complete with explosions and flying debris all about, multiple car crashes, and hysterical, panic-ridden street bystanders who scream while chunks of buildings fly every which way, and huge parts of the city get demolished.  There is even an elevated train derailment shot partially in Chicago, as there is no elevated train in New York.  All the while Spider-Man is fighting the bad guy, here played to a T by Alfred Molina as the mad scientist, Dr. Otto Octavius, whose experiment has gone awry, turning him into a demented, evil villain, Dr. Octopus, with four, octopus-like steel extremities, each like a horrible, insatiable iron serpent, supposedly controlled by the mind of the doctor, but the extremities turn the tables and instead control his mind.  While Toby Maguire is busy saving the world as Spider-Man, he is also late for work, misses opportunities to be with his girl friend, and they each grow tired of his futile explanations that always sound so lame, ultimately losing interest in him.  So his personal life is a wreck, living in near poverty.  Add to this, he may have been personally responsible for killing his own uncle, so his Son of Green Goblin cousin has developed a psychopathic hatred against Spider-Man, as he holds him responsible for his father’s death. 


Within this predictable format, there are several slow and quiet moments of poignancy, as Maguire is hesitant, circumspect and humbled by his awesome responsibilities, even losing his powers from time to time as he questions who he is, whether he just wants to be a man, or live with his extraordinary responsibilities which prevent him from living an ordinary life, just like apprentice witch Kiki in the Miyazaki classic KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE.  Maguire’s reluctance prevents him from developing a relationship with the woman of his dreams, Mary Jane, played in her usual whiny, self-centered manner by Kirsten Dunst, who here, with her vacuous stare, resembles a silent movie siren, complete with getting tied up at the end, as if on the railroad tracks before an oncoming train, and true to type, an explosive wreck does occur where she needs to be rescued by the hero.  However, what’s interesting is there are scenes that go against type, several where the super hero is seen as vulnerable and even (gasp) unmasked, where someone in the crowd acknowledges, “He’s just a kid.”  There is a level of complexity here that can be emotionally gripping, and there is a flowing majesty to the Spider-Man whirling through the stratosphere flying from building to building.  If you can get past all the violence and the loud, horrid soundtrack with its chorus of neverending sorrows, there’s a kinetic energy to the whole experience with moments of genuine pathos. 


Time Out London review

What’s a superhero to do when he fancies – nay, loves – a girl but there’s a whole load of crime to fight in the big, bad metropolis? Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) hits a mid-career existential crisis in this superior follow-up to the original, and the result is all the more interesting for it. Sure, Spidie still emits goo from his wrists and swings through the streets in pursuit of comic book criminals (there’s no terrorist threat in this New York City), but he does so with a heavy heart. Superman was always most intriguing when he was battling his own powers – cowering at the sight of Kryptonite or drunkenly flicking peanuts at bartenders in ‘Superman 3’. Now, poor old Parker joins the line-up of good guys having a crisis. He’s fed up and depressed. Hell, he doesn’t even know if he wants to be a crimefighter anymore, goddammit! Welcome to twenty-first-century America; where even superheroes need a shrink.

The problem? Sweet old Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is still on the scene, tempting Parker to renege on his earlier commitment to duty over domesticity. But there’s trouble brewing in the world of science: maverick nuclear physicist Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) accidentally turns himself into an eight-limbed, metallic creature who looks pretty nifty in a black leather coat and sunglasses. Molina makes a great bad guy; less of a caricature than Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and more menacing as a result of scrimping on the camp histrionics.

It’s not all neuroses and nuclear science. Two centrepiece showdowns between Octavius (or ‘Doc Ock’ as the Daily Bugle tags him) and Spider-Man – the first on a speeding subway train, the second on a derelict pier – make for excellent, gripping viewing. All in all, this sequel is a blockbuster with both a heart and a brain. And Raimi leaves the door wide open for the next, hopefully welcome instalment. review  Ian Haydn Smith

US critics have been so ecstatic in their praise of Spiderman 2, it seemed all-too-inevitable that the film would prove a disappointment when it finally arrived in the UK: another over-egged blockbuster, like last summer's Hulk, whose triumph of narrative complexity, which favoured ambiguity over conventional Manichean characterisation, was undermined by a botched ending and a ridiculous realisation of Bruce Banner's oversized alter-ego. (At least Ang Lee's offering fared better than the lacklustre adaptation of Alan Moore's 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen'). In his review of the film, Roger Ebert claimed that Sam Raimi had not only created the best comic hero film since the trend became fashionable again in 1978, (following the release of Richard Donner's Superman), but also one that desrved to transcend its targeted summer blockbuster market and appeal to more refined cinema-going tastes.

So amidst such hyperbole, it is a pleasure to report that Spiderman 2 is actually very good. A more rounded and satisfying entertainment than its predecessor, its characters have a depth rarely seen in summer films, and those expecting thrilling set pieces will marvel at the battles on the face of a skyscraper and on top of a subway train. Gone are the moments where the webbed-wonder looked ill-matched with the background against which he had been animated. In its place are impressively staged fight sequences across the city skyline. Punctuating these are moments of pathos, as we watch Peter Parker attempting to cope with ordinary life; no mean feat when you've been up all night fighting crime and saving lives.

The film's major strength is its finely-tuned script. From a story co-written by Michael Chabon, whose novels are well-versed in the stylised world of comic book storytelling ('The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' is a wonderful example of a novel that has its cake and eats it – revelling in the pleasures of comic hero lore while at the same time debunking the notion of these myths and poking fun at their heroic foibles), Alvin Sargent's screenplay takes great pleasure in exploring Peter Parker/Spiderman's troubled existence. The opening half hour feels more like a male version of 'My So-called Life', detailing Parker's attempts to hold down a job, continue his studies at college, pay the rent and look after his aunt, all the time ensuring that life is safe in the metropolis. Far from simulating 'nerdiness' the way Clark Kent does in order to cover his true identity, Parker is one of life's genuine losers. Indecision, embarrassment and bad timing ensure he is seen by all as a joke. It's only when he is unmasked in front of a group of subway commuters, shocked by how young he looks, that his awkwardness becomes understandable. Unlike other super heroes, Spiderman is a fledgling, whose powers and temperament are still adjusting to the hormonal imbalances that make most teenagers' lives hell.

This awkwardness permeates the all-too-believable relationship between Parker and Mary-Jane. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst offer relaxed, unshowy performances, whose ordinariness makes them accessible and likeable, and which has you rooting for them from start to finish. Dunst in particular is wonderful. In a cinema overcrowded with conveyor belt starlets, her persona harks back to an earlier age of screen idols, whose individuality, both in performance and appearance, transformed them from actress to idol. Unusually mature for her years, Dunst's choice of roles has only enhanced her image: enigmatic and original amidst the airbrushed world of Lohans, Biels, Olsens and Duffs.

Sargent's script also fleshes out the support characters. May Parker (Rosemary Harris) plays to the film's core values of responsibility and moral strength in the face of adversity and self-interest, and also makes for a credible – and perhaps cinema's first – septuagenarian action character. James Franco's Harry Osborn is a much darker and tortured soul, with the film's coda offering a glimpse of the story to come in part three. And as Doc Oc, Alfred Molina makes for a worthy adversary. Playing him with a mixture of charm, menace and barely suppressed hysteria, he is a more rounded and entertaining villain than Green Goblin, his prosthetic limbs transforming him into one of cinemas more distinctive megalomaniacs.

It's unlikely that a better film will hit our screens this summer. Raimi, like Peter Jackson, has lost none of the mischievousness of his earlier work in moving to a larger canvass. That both have allowed a degree of sentimentality to creep in is forgivable, considering their achievement. Whether you like their films or not, both have visualised what Michael Chabon called 'the inspirations and lucubrations of five hundred ageing boys dreaming as hard as they could'.

New York Observer (Andrew Sarris) review

Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 , from a screenplay by Alvin Sargent, based on a screen story by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Michael Chabon (and the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko), turns out to be surprisingly and delightfully superior to Mr. Raimi's first Spider-Man (2002). But you don't have to take my word for it. Since I never aspired, even in my grouchy childhood years, to be a comic-book connoisseur-least of all comic books about superheroes-at the recent press screening of Spider-Man 2 , I enlisted the services of two pre-teen consumer consultants, Ezra and Fallon. With the consent of their parents, also in attendance, I asked them which edition of Spider-Man they preferred. They both came down on the side of Spider-Man 2 , which surprised me somewhat, since I'd imagined the opinions of youngsters and adults might diverge regarding the two versions-after all, Spider-Man 2 is much more a grown-up love story than its predecessor.

From the beginning, Spider-Man the superhero has enjoyed an edge over his comic-book superhero predecessors, Superman and Batman. For one thing, Spider-Man is not nearly as forbiddingly omnipotent. Indeed, in the movie, he is strikingly vulnerable-we get to see him in a state of powerlessness and helplessness as he's tossed around like a rag doll by the octopus-like tentacles of arch-menace-to-civilization Dr. Octopus, a position of mortal jeopardy we don't really see Superman or Batman in.

As a child, I recall experiencing something akin to an erotic thrill whenever someone I liked onscreen was saved at the last minute from a dire fate. Both Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and the love of his life, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), find themselves occasionally on the edge of extinction, a fate they face with superheroic sangfroid. This is the grace note of their final union-Mary Jane Watson is found to be worthy as much as he is found brave enough to make a commitment to his sweetheart, despite the danger in which his crime-fighting prowess places her. We're back in the Middle Ages of knights and their lady loves, albeit with Spidey and his sweetheart displaying a romantic intensity few medieval movies ever attain.

There are several possible factors to explain why Spider-Man 2 took off so spectacularly from the unfulfilled premises and promises of the original Spider-Man . Mr. Raimi has clearly experienced a deepening vision of his subject, enhanced by the screenwriting prowess of Messrs. Sargent and Chabon. The maturing roles of Mr. Maguire and Ms. Dunst, and the electrifying expansion of the quasi-maternal Aunt May character by Rosemary Harris, has also added greater depth to the original comic-book characterizations. Perhaps the greatest boon to the Spider-Man sequel is the curiously masochistic pseudo-visionary villain, Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), with his dream of perpetual fusion, who becomes the tabloid-headlined "Doc Ock" with his diabolically energized steel tentacles. Add to this the throwaway pathos of Broadway superstar Donna Murphy as the ill-fated Rosalie Octavius and the sweetly old-fashioned B-picture ambitiousness of having Mary Jane Watson "star" in a small Greenwich Village production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (which Louis Kronenberger once brilliantly summarized as "everything counts and nothing matters").

I must confess, there was a stretch in the film when I felt a childish gee-whiz exasperation with the way Spider-Man was perpetually mistreated and misunderstood by the very people he was trying to save from criminal harm. As Peter Parker, he's unable to hold a job either as a pizza-delivery boy or as a photographer for nasty newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), whose malicious diatribes against Spider-Man make Charles Foster Kane look saintly by comparison.

Worst of all, Peter Parker continues standing up Mary Jane despite all her overtures and advances. She finally seems to give up on Peter and starts a whirlwind romance with a glamorous astronaut who just happens to be John Jameson (Daniel Gillies), the son of Spider-Man's bitter enemy. Here, the essential intelligence of the film is confirmed by its refusal to discredit Mary Jane's suitor in any way. Indeed, John Jameson is not only drop-dead gorgeous as a future husband for Mary Jane, but he even seems to have a sense of humor. If Mary Jane is to leave him at the altar (as so many of her Hollywood sisters did in the past), she'll have to do it on her own and without any encouragement from Peter or the scriptwriters. I wouldn't have thought that today's children would embrace Hollywood's elective affinities, but I seem to have been wrong.

I now think that I was far from being alone in my disappointments with Mr. Raimi's first Spider-Man film for not resolving the romance between Peter and Mary Jane. My more cynical friends assured me that the two had to be kept apart for the sake of the inevitable sequels. After all, does Clark Kent ever marry Lois Lane? Get real. Well, folks, Mr. Raimi and his collaborators have gone and done it, and I, for one, am happy they have. This may create a problem for Spider-Man 3 , but as a comparatively impoverished movie lover, I don't have to face any stockholders with explanations as to why I risked the commercial viability of a future production.

Lest I drown in my own euphoria, let me reassert my professional skepticism: I was less than ecstatic about the gimmicky metal appendages attached to the villainous Dr. Octopus, which my esteemed colleague, Gene Shalit, aptly described as an Erector Set. Fortunately, Mr. Molina is charismatically ambiguous enough to project complex feelings despite his ridiculous encumbrances. His not entirely unsympathetic monster is made to seem humanly redeemable by his recollections of how he'd once inspired Peter Parker, the science student, at Columbia.

Despite the emotional amplitude of the dialogue, what drives the love story most strongly is the overwhelming spirituality of the camera's love affair with Ms. Dunst. I haven't seen such luminous close-ups since the great screen stars of Hollywood's Golden Age. Who would have thought that Mr. Raimi, the director of horror films, would light up the screen with such a chaste depiction of love, and without a trace of lechery?

The Three Faces of Spidey: Spiderman 2 • Senses of Cinema  Violeta Kovacsics, October 28, 2004


The Greatest Films (Tim Dirks) recommendation [spoilers]  Spider Man Trilogy (R. L. Shaffer) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version] [The High Definition Trilogy]  Spider Man Trilogy


DVD Verdict - The High Definition Trilogy (HD DVD) [Dennis Prince]  Spider Man Trilogy


Movie ram-blings (Ram Samudrala) review  Spider Man Trilogy


Spider-Man 2: Spidey Agonistes. - Slate Magazine   David Edelstein


Flak Magazine (Stephen Himes) review


“Spider-Man 2″ -  Charles Taylor


Pajiba (Jeremy C. Fox) review


d+kaz. Intelligent Movie Reviews (Daniel Kasman) review [C-]


Film Freak Central review  Walter Chaw


The Film Journal (Peter Tonguette) review  comparing the film to SUPERMAN II


Goatdog's Movies (Michael W. Phillips, Jr.) review [4/5] (M.P. Bartley) review [5/5]


The Filmsnobs (James Owen) review


Looking Closer (Jeffrey Overstreet) review


Slant Magazine review  Ed Gonzalez


Jigsaw Lounge (Neil Young) review [7/10]


PopMatters (Cynthia Fuchs) review, Choices for the Cognoscenti review  Scott Von Doviak


Mark Reviews Movies (Mark Dujsik) review [2.5/4]


Jerry Saravia review [3/4]


Beyond Hollywood review  Nix


Nick's Flick Picks (Nick Davis) review [C+]


Ruthless Reviews review  Jonny Lieberman


Jay's Movie Blog  Jason


The Onion A.V. Club [Nathan Rabin]


Decent Films - faith on film [Steven D. Greydanus]


The New Yorker (Anthony Lane) review


New York Magazine (Peter Rainer) review


CNN Showbiz (Paul Clinton) review (Erik Childress) review [5/5]


Q Network Film Desk (James Kendrick) review [4/4]


DVD Talk (Ian Jane) review [4/5]


DVD Verdict (Dan Mancini) dvd review


DVD Talk (Shannon Nutt) review [5/5]


Home Theater Info (Doug MacLean) dvd review


DVD Review e-zine dvd recommendation  Alan Lindsay


PopMatters [Bill Gibron]  2-disc Extended Cut


DVD Town (James Plath) dvd review  2-disc Extended Cut (Chuck Aliaga) dvd review  2-disc Extended Cut


Fulvue Drive-in dvd review  Nicholas Sheffo, 2-disc Extended Cut


Movie Gazette (Anton Bitel) review [8/10]  2-disc Extended Cut


A Guide to Current DVD (Aaron Beierle) dvd review [Extended Cut]


DVD Talk (Holly E. Ordway) dvd review [3/5] [Superbit Edition]