Century 1977: The Duellists

The Duellists. Ridley Scott. 1977.

I had to choose between watching the bluray of Eraserhead or this (both made in 1977), and I chose this. It’s the film Ridley Scott directed before Alien and then Blade Runner, both of which are er rather good. (I especially love Alien.) So I was curious as to what he was up to before doing those two films.

I should have chosen the bluray Eraserhead. It’s been I while since I saw that, and it was on VHS.

Hm… Ah! Keith Carradine and David Carradine aren’t the same person! In any case, he’s not a very compelling lead character.

There aren’t enough eyes in the world to give this film the eye-roll it deserves.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1975: Love and Death

Love and Death. Woody Allen. 1975.

Woody Allen is terribly controversial at the moment, but this is an incredibly funny film. Diane Keaton is perfection and the one-liners keep on coming at you. Not to mention all the physical comedy.

It does tend to lose its steam with some regularity, and the standup-derived bits don’t always work. And there are some jokes (“I have come to the conclusion that the best thing is… blonde, 12 year-old girls. Two of them, whenever possible.”) that perhaps make you go more “eh?” in the current context than it did back then.

But I had forgotten that Woody Allen could be as hilarious as he’s in this film. It’s mostly a parody of all those insufferable Russian epic novels, but he manages to sneak in a couple of pokes at Ingmar Bergman as well.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1974: The Cars That Ate Paris

The Cars That Ate Paris. Peter Weir. 1974.

I’ve been cocktailing from this very old book, but I think I’m ready to move on to another book now. Oldee-tymey cocktails seem basically to be random combinations of boozes with very little finesse. I feel the need for less booze and more mixers.


This is an early low-budget Peter Weir film (that I bought while in Australia a couple of years ago). I’m not exactly a Peter Weir fan (OK, I hate his films), but I was curious as to what his earlier movies were like.

It’s well made, in a way. I mean, the cinematography is nice, and the audio is good, and the film stock is great…

And the concept is fabulous (a town of people preying on the passing highway), but it’s just a bundle of tedium.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1973: World on a Wire

World on a Wire. Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 1973.

I am no Fassbinder connoisseur, but I’ve seen my share. But I’m pretty sure this is a pretty abnormal Fassbinder film. On the other hand, aren’t they all? But this is sci-fi flick of sorts, and I don’t think that’s really his metier, is it?

It’s like no Fassbinder I’ve seen. I mean, there are some of the usual touches, like the pretty hippie boys, but the overtly romantic Hollywood scoring throughout is bizarre. Is this meant as a parody of (say) 2001 or Logan’s Run or something? Hm. That’s a bit later than this film…

Fassbinder’s “Italian” audio technique is slightly disturbing. I’m guessing that he didn’t record any audio on set, and had the actors do the lines again on a sound stage later, so the lips are always slightly out-of-sync, but more disturbing are all the foley effects. It’s like watching a radio play (with added pictures) where all the sounds are so… deliberate. When they want one of the character’s feet to make sound when he walks, they do, and when they don’t, they don’t.

But ANYWAY! This turns out to be a paranoid science fiction thing, and it reminds me a lot of the sci-fi masterpiece Liquid Sky (Which happened a decade later.) It’s got a proto-punk approach to making an sf film going on, and it’s just kinda entrancing.

But with more virtual reality. And mirrors. There’s a mirror in every single shot.

Oh, right:

Originally made for German television, this recently rediscovered, three-and-a-half-hour labyrinth is a satiric and surreal look at the world of tomorrow from one of cinema’s kinkiest geniuses.

And there’s this.

This must have been so strange to watch on TV at the time. But watching it now, the central revelation isn’t really a surprise, so there’s a certain impatience with having the protagonist discovering what’s going on, since we all understood that from about fifteen minutes into the film.

The documentary that Criterion has made for this film is quite interesting, but it includes some headache-inducingly stupid comments like that it’s “ironic” that Eva, who’s the only “real” character in the film is the one who acts the most artificially. Well, duh!!! THAT WAS FASSBINDER SIGNALLING THE ENTIRE POINT OF THE FILM!!!!


It’s emulations all the way down.

At least that what I thought Fassbinder was getting at. I mean, one of the characters says that.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1972: Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse Five. George Roy Hill. 1972.

Hey! I read this book when I was a teenager. And that was in the previous century! I’m amazed at how many scenes are familiar to me still, so it made a huge impression, apparently. Some of the scenes (like when the guy started talking about the dog and the springs) I knew exactly how would go when the character started in on it.

So I guess in addition to being memorable, director George Roy Hill must have made a pretty faithful adaptation of the book.

That said, I don’t think the film is completely successful. There’s so much shouting; as if Hill felt that the source material needed sprucing up by having the characters shout a lot. But perhaps the main problem is that the guy playing the protagonist is a total cipher. He’s had a charisma bypass.

Still, you have to give a mainstream film credit for being so quirky.

It seems like the book is a particular favourite of certain types of people.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1971: Out 1: Noli me tangere

Out 1: Noli me tangere. Jacques Rivette. 1971.

It’s a Saturday, and I should be working, but instead I’m watching this 12 or 13 hour movie from 1971. I’d read about it before, because it’s a pretty famous film (or perhaps infamous), and Carlotta released a really handsome collection of it on Bluray. 2K, but beautifully restored while keeping all the 16mm grain (i.e., an unusually high bitrate for a 2K bluray).

I usually avoid knowing anything about a film before watching it, but this time I’m happy that I did, because one of the articles about it said that it’s the kind of film that you don’t really have to pause while going for a pee, because not much will have happened in the meantime. That’s a liberating thought. On the other hand, there are some very short scenes between the really long talky ones that would be a shame to miss, so I’m not sure it’s good advice.

In some ways, this film exemplifies what Drew Daniel wrote in that book about Throbbing Gristle, and I’m paraphrasing from memory: Sometimes the avant-garde is the R&D division of the entertainment industry. Because this must have been such a statement in 1971, but now, after decades of Big Brother and other really long TV shows without overt scripting, it’s mostly a reasonable, interesting, good film.

But the actors here are better (even brilliant), and the editing and cinematography is on fleek. And the little drips of paranoia and conspiracy throughout are riveting.

I did find the improvisations with Thomas’s theatre troupe to be sometimes excruciatingly boring, but perhaps that’s the point, because Lili’s rehearsals are interesting.

OK OK, I didn’t finish the entire thing in one day. It’s now Sunday, but that’s fine because this weekend is Pretension… Ascension… Presumption… One of them there christian weekends, so I have tomorrow off! Hah! No Monday!

I made it to about hour eight yesterday before I had to take a break and watch RuPaul, so I’ve got… five hours left? Let’s go!

Despite not being an er information-dense film, there are so many characters here that intersect in various ways over so many hours that I’m going into an associative fugue. “Isn’t that the guy…?” “Is that the woman who…?” “That can’t be that guy, can it?” Since the plot is based on conspiracies and unknown connections, it makes it all a rather tingly experience.

OK, I wrote the stuff above mostly during the Thomas theatre exercises, but now the film is over. For such a long film, it goes past quickly. If I were to re-edit it, I’d just drop the Thomas sequences, because the rest aren’t really excessive. And the Thomas sequence don’t really seem pertinent to, well, anything. Is that the point? He’s a vortex sucking the energy out of everything?

But that’s only two or three hours. I wonder what they did to cut it down to the four-and-a-half version called Spectre.

Anyway, if you decide to see any thirteen-hour movies next weekend, it should be this one. Run out an buy it now; the box set is a large number of bluray discs and probably even more DVDs. Search for “Out 1” on popular shopping sites. It’s probably not going to be available forever.

But what’s the name of that beach where they retreat to at the end? Where the “Obade” is? I want to go on holiday there right now!

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1970: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Billy Wilder. 1970.

What a strange and awkward film. Is Wilder going for a 40s comedy but updating it embarrassingly with a gay panic storyline?

But it’s mostly just a cod-standard Sherlock Holmes story. Although slightly more irreverent than usual and not based on a Conan Doyle story.

It’s pretty entertaining. But it’s so… incongruous. It’s not the sort of thing you’d expect to find as a theatrical release in 1970. A TV episode; sure. A film; no.

Ah! It was conceived as a three hour extravaganza with an intermission; an entire evening at the cinema. The studio didn’t like the idea, so it was cut down to a more sensible two hours and several plot lines were edited out.

It failed at the box office, which I think is no great surprise. The bits that were edited out were discarded and there’s apparently no hope of recreating the original extravaganza.

This blog post is part of the Century series.