This Week New Movies for January 29th 2013: Passions Run Wild
That Obscure Object of Desire
Adapted from Pierre Louys' 1898 novel The Woman and the Puppet by writer-director Luis Buñuel and his frequent co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière, That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) is a tall tale told on a train as wealthy, middle-aged Don Matteo (Fernando Rey) explains to the raptly curious upper-class passengers traveling from Seville to Paris why he has just poured a bucket of water over a beautiful young woman who's trying to get on board.
The flashbacks that follow tell the delicious story of Don Matteo's desperate desire-driven fixation on his 18-year-old chambermaid, Conchita, played by Carole Bouquet - and Angela Molina - for Don Matteo is so enamored that he doesn't notice that the obscure object of his desire may not just be a person with differing sides to her personality, but two different females who continuously encourage and then push him away. The dual actresses also serve to keep audiences off-balance as do absurdities like a happy pig in swaddling clothes and the background bombings and assassinations from the terrorist group RAOIJ - The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus -creating total confusion, just as Buñuel does with his final film, his last laugh.
The bright picture is made up mainly of a wide range of pastels and pale, autumnal tones. Resolution can be variable. Although exteriors sometimes lack definition with colors a bit drained, pale, and hazy, often limited to browns and greys, interiors - which make up the majority of the film since this is a drawing-room drama - have good contrast with colors and patterns in clothes and furnishings distinct. There's rich primaries in travel-agent posters when Don Matteo books his passage and flamenco dancers' costumes, a red rose behind the Conchita's ear being particularly intense. Earlier, her maid's outfit is a deep black with white blouse as bright as the background swans. Images are fairly sharp and detailed, the checks in Don Matteo's jacket well defined with no moiré and wood grain is visible. Generally skin tones - and both the girls display a lot of skin throughout - can be a bit dull and undifferentiated, with figures rather flat.
The DTS MA 2.0 Mono track, which begins with a flamenco guitar solo over the opening credits, is clear and full with bass to it and to the car door slam that follows, but the terrorist exploding of a car soon after could have a bit more oomph. Beyond the opening there's little music apart from another powerful flamenco dance scene. Dialogue is all clear and solid with no hiss at all.
Video: 1.66:1. Audio: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with subtitles, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Extras: "The Arbitrariness of Desire" 35-minute interview with Carrière, interview with fellow Spanish filmmaker Carlos Suara, "Double Dames" interview with leading ladies Bouquet and Molina, "A portrait of an Impatient Filmmaker" interview with assistant director Pierre Lary and cinematographer Edmond Richard. Studio: Lionsgate.
In this uniquely offbeat crime comedy by director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), Marty (Colin Farrell) is a struggling screenwriter in Los Angeles fighting to finish his script. Well . . . begin it. He's got the title, "Seven Psychopaths," and he knows it's going to be brilliant, but the trouble is that Marty can't come up with the seven crazy characters required to fulfill the script's promise. Enter his best friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell) - a dognapper but really he's an actor between jobs, who, with the assistance of his arch partner Hans (Christopher Walken) whose role is to return mutts to their owners for considerable reward - tries to help Marty by stealing the beloved Shih Tzu of a religious, psychopathically violent gangster, Charlie (Woody Harrelson). It's not the most perfect situation, with a homicidal maniac and his hoods hunting them down, but at least Marty now has the inspiration and motivation he needs to write the screenplay. As life and lunacy intermingle, Marty finds himself involved in a story more unpredictably wild, wacky, and violently funny than he could ever invent.
The film co-stars Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, and Olga Kurylenko.
Video: 2.40:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: "Martin McDonagh'sSeven Psychopaths," "Colin Farrell is Marty," "Woody Harrelson is Charlie," and "Crazy Locations" mini-featurettes, "Seven Psychocats" trailer for the film with cats standing in for the characters; UltraViolet digital copy for streaming/downloading. Studio: Sony.
In Ridley Scott's directorial debut, The Duellists (1977), based on a short story by Joseph Conrad, an officer in Napoleon's army, D'Hubert (Keith Carradine), unintentionally causes embarrassment to another officer, Feraud (Harvey Keitel), leading the insulted firebrand to challenge him to a duel to restore his honor. Aware of Feraud's reputation as a frequent and deadly duelist, intelligent D'Hubert refuses to fight, until Feraud questions his honor at which point he is pulled into the game and accepts the challenge. However, the meeting fails to give satisfaction or resolve the situation, setting off a life-long war between the two. Their meetings escalate in obsessive intensity and all-consuming passion, each dualist becoming more absorbed in the deadly meetings than in Napoleon's conquest of Europe.
This visually stunning film - cinematography by Frank Tidy - focuses its attention on the classist society that developed these two individuals and induced their murderous behavior in the name of preserving honor - a microcosm of war. The Duellists was awarded Best Debut Film at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival. The excellent cast also includes Albert Finney, Edward Fox, Robert Stephens, and Tom Conti, with production design by Peter J. Hamton and costume designs by Tom Rand.
Video: 1.85:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Extras: 25 minute video interview with Carradine, "Dueling Directors: Ridley Scott and Kevin Reynolds" 30 minute video interview with fellow directors Kevin Reynolds and Scott discussing The Duellists and an archival interview with writer Gerald Vaughan-Hughes, commentary and isolated score by composer Howard Blake, reversible cover with original poster art. Studio: Shout Factory.
White Zombie (1932) is a much beloved cult classic horror film - despite the melodrama, wooden, acting, and 69 minute running time - because of its peculiar, otherworldly quality, its creepy atmospherics, and its being the first feature film to feature zombies. True they're just the living dead of voodoo mysticism rather than the flesh-eating hunters that populate the popular sub-genre that now exists, but the film is the more interesting for that since it focuses on the fear of loss of individuality and free will, becoming an unquestioningly obedient, docile and soulless slave - or wage-slave - rather than fear of becoming lunch.
Young banker Neil Parker (John Harron) and his hotty, young fiancée, Madeleine Short (Madge Bellamy) meet plantation owner Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer) on their ship to New York and they're invited to hold their wedding and honeymoon at his Port Prince estate in Haiti. But Beaumont intends to prevent the marriage and seduce the bride-to-be for himself. Not surprisingly, his plan doesn't work out but, fortunately for him, he knows a guy called Murder Legendre (Bella Lugosi), a voodoo doll-carving masterful mesmerist/druggist who staffs his sugar-cane factory next door with zombies, thereby avoiding union strikes, lunch hours, and paying for health-care packages.
Legendre is happy to help neighbor Beaumont out with a narcotic potion to give to Madeleine before the wedding which will make her appear to drop dead. But after her funeral, when, Legendre resurrects Madeleine for Beaumont, she's now just an unmotivated creature who spends her time staring into space - much like a fast food worker. For, it turns out that Legendre wants Zombie Madeleine for his team and also to have control of Beaumont. Lugosi, staring out from beneath bat-like eyebrows with matching moustache and goatee as he commands his expressionless workers with his mind is utterly hypnotic and only adds to the dream-like mood of the film.
White Zombie was directed by Victor Halperin from a screenplay by Garnett Weston. It has eerie black-and-white cinematography by Arthur Martinelli and edgy editing by Harold McLernon who uses split-screens, wipes, and dissolves in original and imaginative ways. The moldy gothic design was created by Ralph Berger from Universal Studios' warehouse of previously used props and sets.
Both the remastered version and the raw, "unenhanced" version of the White Zombie transfer are included in this set.
Video: 1.33:1. Audio: LPCM 2.0 Mono. Extras: White Zombie the raw, "unenhanced" version of the film transfer, commentary by film historian and author Frank Thompson, interview vintage conversation with Lugosi. Studio: Kino.
The Cold Light of Day
Young Wall Street trader Will Shaw (Henry Cavill) arrives in Spain for a week-long sailing vacation to visit his family, all the while dreading dealing with his disciplinarian father, Martin (Bruce Willis). Thankfully, relief comes when his family are kidnapped by intelligence agents. Now he only has to take on a web of intergovernmental lies and secrets and, in a matter of hours, find the maguffin briefcase at the heart of the mystery in order to bring down the whole spy-ridden conspiracy while uncovering his father's CIA membership and covert connections to partner Jean Carrack (Sigourney Weaver). Rooftop running across Madrid and fleeing from the forces of justice ensues.
The film was directed by Mabrouk El Mechri and co-stars Verónica Echegui, Roschdy Zem, and Joseph Mawle.
Video: 2.40:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: TBA. Studio: Lionsgate.