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  • J.S.A. Joint Security Area 2000

    ★★★★ Watched 24 Jul, 2014

    A DMZ Western, with friends bonded and kept apart by the circumstance of their position and allegiances. Park Chan-wook isn't yet in his total-style phase, but he livens up this drama just enough to enhance its mournful, despairing mood instead of superseding it. Song Kang-ho steals the show as the North Korean whose betrayed trust makes him both the most furious character, and the saddest.

  • Fast Company 1979

    ★★½ Watched 23 Jul, 2014

    Could fit with DEATH RACE 2000 and ROLLERBALL as '70s sports-centric conspiracy thrillers, but it's a bit too thinly developed, dipping into corporate manipulation late in the game. Still, Cronenberg uses the naturally limited structure of drag races to space up the racing scenes with different shot setups, and the scene of a racer pouring motor oil on a nubile fan's breasts is an amusing precursor for CRASH's wilder excursions into vehicular erotica.

  • Lucy 2014

    ★½ Watched 22 Jul, 2014

    I love this movie on paper. In action, though...

  • Kung-fu master! 1988

    ★★★★½ Watched 21 Jul, 2014 1

    This is a loaded topic, an older woman falling for an underage teenage boy, but in Varda's hands it's less an examination of this kind of relationship than how people approach relationships in general. (This, too, is a loaded sentiment.) There's a certain comedy to Birkin's character roving around various arcades, searching for the eponymous video game that Mathieu Demy's boy loves to play, a grown woman going out of her way to set ideal date conditions. But Varda plays…

  • Crimes of the Future 1970

    ★★½ Watched 21 Jul, 2014 2

    Like Stereo, fascinating and a clear indication of a career to come, but somehow too dry for that driest of filmmakers. It almost feels like some of the more out-there Slothrop chapters of Gravity's Rainbow strung together, with its protagonist just sort of wandering about organizations with names like Metaphysical Import-Export in a post-woman apocalypse where men adapt socially to a lack of femininity, and then go one further and demonstrate physiological changes. Some of them make sense—one guy grows…

  • M. Butterfly 1993

    ★★★ Watched 21 Jul, 2014

    Auteurism hits an interesting wrinkle here. As Cronenberg shifts focus from Hwang's political allegory to a warped examination of broader performativity and idealization that goes with love and especially love at first sight, is Cronenberg guilty of himself acting with white authority over Hwang's text about the same subject? That thought gives me misgivings, and I also have some hang-ups about the use of shadows to make two-faced Januses of everyone, a clichéd choice for a director who has much…

  • The Brood 1979

    ★★★★ Watched 21 Jul, 2014

    It's interesting (and disturbing) that Cronenberg wrote this while undergoing a messy custody battle. Disturbing, obviously, to see one of the finest male cinematic critics of misogyny indulging in it himself, but fascinating for how evocative it nonetheless remains of maternal instincts and legacies of trauma. It's obvious from the general dramatic arc that husband Frank is maybe the only decent person in Nola's periphery, yet it's impossible not to root for her, even as her psychic distress births demon…

  • Rabid 1977

    ★★ Watched 20 Jul, 2014

    Feels more like an idea Romero let die in a draft than a controlled Cronenberg picture, too narratively and thematically loose to stick. By the same token watching Marilyn Chambers give a surprisingly strong performance, demanding not only seductive properties but anguish and rage at being forced into that dual victim/destroyer role of patient zero without her knowledge or consent. Her work first and foremost is her own, a fine showcase for someone whose day job was in a field…

  • Shivers 1975

    ★★★½ Watched 20 Jul, 2014

    A film of great promise; it lacks the sense of total aesthetic control that Cronenberg would really cement by Videodrome but it nonetheless showcases his facility with gruesome effects, creepy mood and a streak of black humor. I love that the story is set in motion by a character who could have had an acid vision forecasting Cronenberg's career of movies about people falling prey to overanalyzed, over-repressed sexual urges and bioengineering some kind of horny nuclear option to prevent…

  • Stereo 1969

    ★★½ Watched 18 Jul, 2014

    For a film called Stereo, Cronenberg's first feature is disappointingly bereft of the sublime aural control he'd evince in later work. But then, no-budget first features often sacrifice sound for image, and you can already see how developed an aesthete he was (esp. incredible given how he came to the idea of directing well into his time at the University of Toronto). The use of wide-angle lenses to subtly distort the contours of reality looks ahead not just to the…

  • Barking Dogs Never Bite 2000

    ★★★½ Watched 17 Jul, 2014

    Bong's first feature is his weakest, though its intimate scale and low-stakes black comedy makes it easy to see how finely detailed his direction is. Dig the scene of the dog-stewing janitor in the bowels of the apartment complex relating a ghost story to a colleague. The decrepit lamp above them burns out, prompting the man to place a large flashlight on the ground pointing up to give his face the classic campfire story lighting, with cutaways to underground corridors…

  • Female Trouble 1974

    ★★★★★ Watched 16 Jul, 2014 1

    The prevailing image I have of John Waters' filmography is smeared lipstick, a nod to his characters' simultaneous acquiescence to standards of beauty and their inability (usually willful) to meet them. It looks childish, like a kid who broke into mommy's makeup to carry out a rudimentary imitation, but also defiant, a deliberate smudge on the "proper" image that does as much to suggest a parallel dimension as the puke-pastel and polyester aesthetic that makes his films look like German…