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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.

Chilly Scenes of Winter (1975) dir. Joan Micklin Silver, starring John Heard, Mary Beth Hurt

Even among the many romantic comedies and dramas that populated the 70’s, this one stands out for its distinct voice and realistic pacing and developments. Though the writing is sharp and the movie is well-crafted, Chilly Scenes of Winter feels natural and organic, thanks largely in part to the two excellent leads, John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt, both of whom should have had far more illustrious careers than they would end up having.

Go Fish (1994) dir. Rose Troche, starring Guinevere Turner, V.S. Brodie

I suspect that if I or anyone relatively new to film had seen this movie at a formative stage of their lives that Go Fish would have made a huge impression. It’s clear Troche is aping Godard and other French New Wave artists and using off-kilter compositions and camera moves to mask a pretty straightforward story. Still, this is an important film of the New Queer Movement of the 90’s and one that proved that films with queer content could be accessible and commercially viable. A big minus for the DVD box cover for its misguided attempt to bring in straight men looking for woman-on-woman action.

Green Fish (1997) dir. Lee Chang Dong, starring Han Suk-kyu, Shim Hye-Jin, Moon Sung-Keun

Though this feels like a first film in many respects, it was clear that Lee Chang Dong was an immense talent who could tap into the unknowable desperation and ennui that so many people feel but can’t articulate. Han Suk-kyu would play the first significant Lee protagonist, subject to violent mood swings and inexplicable behavior, as if driven by a deeply embedded moral code that only he understands, and would lay the template for other protagonists to folow.

Legend of the Mountain (1979) dir. King Hu, starring Shih Chun, Hsu Feng and Sylvia Chang

Chinese opera has always been a hard sell to even modern Chinese audiences, so it’s probably no surprise that a film inspired by the tropes and craft of Chinese opera would take a long time to come to the West (Farewell, My Concubine excepted). It’s a little difficult to take seriously but the vast artistry on display, from the cinematography and staging to the ornate costumes and balletic wire-work, is motivation enough to check this weird acid trip of a movie out.

The Story of Adele H. (1975) dir. Francois Truffaut, starring Isabelle Adjani and Bruce Robinson,

The relatively no-frills directing that Truffaut would favor in his later work during the 70’s is the perfect showcase for Isabelle Adjani, whose fierce talent caused trouble on the set even as Truffaut could recognize her genius. It is indeed because of her that this film becomes a strangely empowering film even as it chronicles Adele H.’s self-destruction over unrequited love. Truffaut probably didn’t intend to make this movie as sympathetic to Adele, but Adjani takes firm enough control that we empathize with her even as she acts very questionably.

This week’s rentals: Working Girls, Innocence, Lonesome, and Yes. Tune in next week to read my thoughts on these decidedly diverse films..

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