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Sundays at Videotheque

Videotheque in South Pasadena, CA was my film school post-college. Even though I live far away now, I still make it out almost every Sunday to check out movies that I have no luck finding online, for money or otherwise. In this ongoing series, I will give my brief impressions about my rentals from the past week.

In the Year of 13 Moons (1978) dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, starring Volker Spengler

Fassbinder took the melodrama to an elevated place into potentially absurd territory. 13 Moons, which was made in response to his lover’s suicide, follows Elvira (formerly Erwin) played by Volker Spengler, as he deals with the consequences of a sex change she performed to please her lover. Even though it’s a melodrama, it’s hardly straightforward and plays more like a fever dream, peppered with long monologues about existence over scenes set in a slaughterhouse and other similarly bizarre tableaux.

The Shout (1978) dir. Jerzy Skolimowski, starring John Hurt, Susannah York, Alan Bates

My first exposure to Jerzy Skolimowski is a deeply weird, disjointed story about how a couple’s life is disrupted by a deeply strange man who claims to have learned a shout that could kill one’s opponents instantly. Apparently, this movie took advantage of the relatively new Dolby surround sound system, and I imagine this movie’s impact would be magnified with a proper theatrical presentation. I still found this extremely compelling despite being potentially alienating since the movie kept me guessing with its weird, nightmarish images and non-linear storytelling.

Il Postino (1994) dir. Massimo Troisi, Michael Radford, starring Massimo Troisi, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Philippe Noiret

I wanted to see this mainly because it was so feted at the Oscars when it came out, and I had constantly walked past this DVD on the shelf, not knowing what it was about. It was about as crowd-pleasing as I expected it to be with a nicely sympathetic performance from Massimo Troisi, as the lovestruck mailman who seeks mentorship from Pablo Neruda, who has been exiled to the island where he lives. It’s the kind of foreign film that’s safe and that people who don’t like foreign films could easily digest.

Coming Home (1978) dir. Hal Ashby, starring Jane Fonda Jon Voight, Bruce Dern

This has been accused of being a Jane Fonda vanity project since it was the first major production of her new company IPC films. It’s not as daring a story as it could have been since Fonda basically plays a traditionally feminine role in comforting the paraplegic vet Luke Martin (Jon Voight). However, both Voight and Dern turn in fine performances as vets who have

This week’s rentals: The Arbor, The Holy Girl, Deep End, Children of Heaven. Tune in next week for my thoughts on these films!

 

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