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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.


Under the Sand (2000) dir. Francois Ozon, starring Charlotte Rampling

A subtle melodrama whose impact steals up on you as you realize just what is happening to the main character. I saw this movie with no idea of what it was about, and it was so much better that way. The only thing I will say is that Charlotte Rampling and Ozon work together to make a complex, affecting portrayal of a woman and her struggle to accept what has happened to her.

Beaver Trilogy (2000) dir. Trent Harris, starring Richard LaVon Griffiths, Sean Penn and Crispin Glover

I have not really delved into underground cinema in my film education, but the Beaver trilogy seems to be a great film to start with since it highlights the potential to find weird and innovative stories in places most people would never look. Basically, a cameraman for the TV show Extra is testing a new camera he has just bought when he accidentally comes upon a young man in a parking lot. The young man regales him with his celebrity impressions and later invites the cameraman to come to the local talent show in Beaver, Utah. The two other films feature Sean Penn and Crispin Glover in re-creations of the original short and in them we can see the subtleties of the changes in narrative and how they reflect the director’s interests and obsessions. It feels exploitative at times, but the experiment is strangely watchable despite the first two films being filmed with practically no budget.

Memories of Underdevelopment (1968) dir. Tomas Gutierrez Alea, starring Sergio Corrieri, Daisy Granados

It seems these stylish, politically charged black and white movies were popular in Cuba. In Memories, there are elements of Italian neorealism, French New Wave and perhaps a little of Mikhail Kalatozov and Sergei Urusevesky’s influence, especially in I Am Cuba. The film focuses on a bourgeois intellectual who has decided not to leave Cuba even after the Communist revolution has taken over, and it’s both a detailed and evocative exploration of his character as well as a fascinating document into Cuban society at the time and how the country was struggling to adjust under its new regime.

The Rapture (1991) dir. MIchael Tolkin, starring Mimi Rogers, David Duchovny

The fact that this movie could have been made at all is truly bizarre. It was Tolkin’s first feature and the only things he had to his name were some well-acclaimed novels. It also talks about apocalyptic Christianity sincerely and just how weird the mythos of those beliefs are. Mimi Rogers is definitely the highlight, since the movie is at its heart, a story about overcoming addiction and coming to terms with one’s identity, and she knows how to make her suffering palpable. It’s Bergman for the 90’s.

Wandering Ginza Butterfly (1972) dir. Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, starring Meiko Kaji

This movie feels like a weird amalgam of the two series that Kaji had featured in before (Stray Cat Rock and Female Convict Scorpion). It’s about a woman who is trying to escape her criminal past but must resort to the acts that put her in prison in the first place.The film is passable but it is nowhere nearly as stylishly directed as any movie from either of those series and is really only saved by Kaji’s performance.

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