Tag Archives: film

Plastic Planet

plasticplanet_flat4 stars
Actors: Werner Boote, John Taylor, Peter Lieberzeit
Director: Werner Boote
Studio: First Run Features
DVD release: 12 April 2011
Runtime: 95 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
DVD Features: Outtakes; DVD-ROM press kit

At the rate we’re going, we’re all going to need to isolate ourselves from the toxins we’ve dumped into our environment by diving into HazMat bubble suits. We’ll have to invent filters that keep the nano-sized particles of cancer-dealing crap out but, hey, we’ve got the technology for that… and plastics.

On second thought, no: plastics are one of the biggest sources of toxins. Bisphenol A, for instance, is a plasticizer that makes plastic, well, plasticy, and has been a known estrogenic since the 1930s. Estrogenics are those wonderful chemicals that are the secret culprits behind the bitching and moaning of the Iron John crew. Chief among them, Robert Bly has long complained that men have become too feminized, and clearly plastics are to blame, not doting mothers. I mean, look at the amphibians: scientists have been observing them changing sex, from male to female, mid-stream for years, so why not humans, too? Continue reading

Making Faces: Metal Type in the 21st Century

Featuring: Jim Rimmer
Director: Richard Kegler 
Studio: P22 Type Foundry
DVD release: 15 April 2011 
Runtime: 90 min. (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio tracks (English), Subtitles (English), 
bonus features on making metal type and the tools needed to make 
metal type, "The Creation of a Printing Type from the 
Design to the Print" by Frederic W. Goudy (silent film from the 1930s), 
A metal "k" from the Stern typeface, Rimmer Type Foundry 
catalog of digital faces
Reviewed by Brian Charles Clark, and rated 4.5/5 stars

making-faces

Jim Rimmer was a British Columbian printer and type designer who cast metal type using the now nearly lost pantographic technique. If that’s all Greek to you (or, if you’re a graphic designer, maybe it’s all greeking to you, too), you need to watch this film by book artist and P22 founder Richard Kegler. Continue reading

Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection – film review

Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection
4 stars
Actors: Gastone Moschin, Mario Adorf, Henry Silva, Jack Palance, Barbara Bouchet, Gisela Hahn
Director: Fernando Di Leo
Studio: Raro Video
DVD release: 15 March 2011
Runtime: 410 minutes (4 discs)
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Four films: Caliber 9; The Italian Connection; The Boss; Rulers of the City; in Italian with English subtitles, with an additional version dubbed in English; booklet containing a candid interview with the director; each disc contains additional interviews, documentaries and photo galleries.

DVD cover - Fernando Di Leo Crime CollectionMore whiskey, more scantily clad women, more cars and, definitely, more guns – those are the constantly recurring images in this collection of films by one of Poliziotteschi’s (Italo-crime) greatest directors, Fernando Di Leo. Add to that the incredible locations and Luis Enriquez Bacalov’s cool, noir-funk musical score, and this box set of four mob films is a feast for the eyes and ears.

Di Leo, who died in 2003, was the king of Italian crime films. If the mafia was going to exploit and corrupt the working class by infiltrating and coercing union bosses and shopkeepers for protection money, then Di Leo was going to exploit that trend by splattering it across the big screen. And splatter it does: in these four films, there might be five minutes goes by without a fist fight (including women getting socked in the mug), a shoot out (including kids being gunned down), or a car chase through city and country. And in those five minutes, there will surely be macho posturing as partners in crime double-cross one another.

These films aren’t about the forces of prescriptive law overcoming those of evil. Here, crime most assuredly pays and the winners are the outsiders — prostitutes, freelancers — who confront and defeat the organized mobs.

Di Leo laid down the blueprint for future directors of action and crime flicks. Quentin Tarantino, among many others, cites Di Leo as a key influence and Pulp Fiction bears a striking resemblance to The Italian Connection, included in this collection. He also provided a home for has-been American actors, like Jack Palance, who plays a mob boss in Rulers of the City.

Carefully restored and remastered, and loaded with tons of bonus material, this quartet of pictures is a treasure trove for lovers of action cinema as well as film history buffs.

Alien from the Deep movie review

3 stars

Alien from the Deep
Actors: Daniel Bosch, Marina Giulia Cavalli, Robert Marius, 
Luciano Pigozzi, Charles Napier
Director: Antonio Margheriti AKA Anthony Dawson
Studio: One-7 Movies
DVD release: 8 March 2011
Runtime: 102 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD, Full Screen, HiFi Sound, NTSC
DVD Features: In Italian and English; image gallery with stills,
lobby cards, box art; opening credits for the Italian version 
of the film

alien deepA hot babe, Jane (Marina Giulia Cavalli), and some guy named Bob (Daniel Bosch) who isn’t nearly as hot, are environmental activists roaming the jungle looking for do-badders. They find the evil ones in the green depths: E-Chem corporation is conspiring to dump toxic waste into an active volcano. Dumping toxic chemicals into a volcano is, in some sense (which one, though, is not at all clear) brilliant. After all, one thing real-world toxics producers want to do to get rid of their vile putrescences is incinerate them. So why not turn to Mother Nature’s Milk of Magma to settle a toxic stomach? But let’s overlook the logistics of building a complex waste-disposal facility in the bowels of a volcano and move right along to the snake milker.

The snake milker is, like all snake milkers, milking snakes for their venom. It’s a profitable business and the milkman maintains a laissez-faire attitude toward the toxics-dumping E-Chem folks who are, apparently, just a few steps away from his hangout in a crashed airplane-cum-bunker. If they’d had a couple tin cans and a piece of string they could have set up a jungle telephone system. But I digress.

After an initial run-in with the baddies under the volcano (it’s all very Malcom Lowery-ish), the luscious Jane bumps into the milkman and, um, his snakes. So there’s your love interest come a-bubbling up like boiling crude. (I’m mixing my hot-liquid metaphors, I know, but this is a low-budget review of a low-budget made-for-Italian-TV movie, so whadya ’spect?). Jane wants the milkman to help her rescue Bob, who is lost under the volcano.

All of this moves along at a fairly leisurely pace until the viewer is left wondering: is this a jungle conspiracy-romance thriller or a sci-fi monster movie? As Jane and the milkman enter the volcano, we move into the creature feature portion of our film. Continue reading

Great Expectations: A Journey through the History of Visionary Architecture – film review

Great Expectations: A Journey through the History of 
Visionary Architecture
Actors: Oscar Niemeyer, Buckminster Fuller, Le Corbusier, 
Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito
Director: Jesper Wachtmeister
Studio: Icarus Films
DVD release: 5 October 2010
Runtime: 105 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
DVD Features: Bonus film Kochuu
4.5 stars

Great Expectations, A Journey through the History of Visionary ArchitectureThere’s a funny TED Talk video called “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics” about how to make a good — and a bad — TED Talk. One way to go bad is to talk about architecture. We may be safe in generalizing from TED to the general culture: architecture makes most people grow faint and causes their eyes to roll.

Which is weird, because in and around architecture is where we engage with other people the most. Buildings great and small is pretty much exclusively where we conduct the four F’s — the two familiar ones, fight or flight, plus the two even more familiar ones that everybody forgets to put on the F-list: freeze (or space out), and fuck. Architecture is where we live all the fundamentals of, well, life. From coffee to water cooler to toilet to bed, we really, really need architecture to help house us.

Architectural history and agendas ought to be taught in grade school. We ought to be taught to find beauty in a joist, or a good coat of insulation, for the simple reason that thinking about buildings and their interactions with people, other buildings, and the rest of the world — in other words, thinking about the ecology of construction — is a good thing, like reading and writing and music and math. And if we knew more about how things went together, the costs involved (both economic and environmental), we might make smarter choices about the places we build to live and work in.

It’s possible architecture and construction were taught in ancient times, as part of the normal school that goes into growing an adult(ish) human. Birds learn it, bees learn it, humans can learn architecture, too. Indeed, the root of our word “poetry” is an ancient Greek one meaning the sometimes all-too-familiar action “to make” and, by association, the agent practicing the action, the “maker.” But then, in the olden days, pigs knew how to make brick houses and wolves knew how to blow them down.

So much we’ve lost. Now our concern is getting the kids to soccer in the minivan which, when you stop and examine the interior, is a lot like a house in some ways. Continue reading

Conceiving Ada – film review

Conceiving Ada
Actors: Tilda Swinton, John Perry Barlow, Bruce Sterling, 
Timothy Leary
Director: Lynn Hershman Leeson
Studio: Microcinema
DVD release: 28 September 2010
Runtime: 85 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
DVD Features: Q&A with Swinton and Leeson about “Technolust”

conceiving adaA terrible thing happened on the way to the paperless office: a certain cadre of computer geeks got stars stuck in their eyes, blinding them to things like plot, dialogue and acting and causing them to crash face first into a big pile of chips.

That’s the sort of neo-romantic blindness we’ve come to expect from Bruce Sterling and the late Timothy Leary but Tilda Swinton? Sad, but true: Swinton seems to have this thing for Lynn Hershman Leeson that keeps her from recognizing just how idiotic Leeson’s ideas for movies are.

Of course, to say Swinton is actually in this movie is a little deceiving. She does get a bit of face time, if ghostly and barely visible (because she’s translucent) count. Swinton plays Ada Augusta Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron the poet and the inventor, more or less, of computer programming. Ada worked with Charles Babbage on his analytical engine in the mid-nineteenth century, developing an algorithm that is generally recognized as the world’s first computer program. Continue reading

Ginevra’s Story – film review

Ginevra’s Story: Solving the Mysteries of Leonardo da Vinci's 
First Known Portrait
1999, Documentary, 55 minutes
Directed by Christopher Swann, produced by Richard Somerset-Ward, 
     narrated by Meryl Streep
Released by Microcinema International
4 stars

DVD cover Ginevra’s StoryUsing X-rays to literally delve beneath the surface of this mysterious portrait, Christopher Swann’s 1999 documentary is a fascinating examination of a beautiful painting.

One of only three portraits of women by Leonardo da Vinci, the subject of the painting was the 16-year-old Ginevra de Benci, a member of a wealthy family. The portrait may have been Leonardo’s first commission; he is thought to have been 22 when he painted it in 1474. The picture hangs in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. – or, rather, the upper half of the painting hangs there.

For at some point in its past, the picture was mutilated: the bottom half was cut away, so that Ginevra is portrayed only from about mid-bust upwards. Ginevra’s Story shows how art historians, using computer-aided design technology, reconstructed the bottom third of the painting. The reconstruction is based on sketches of Ginevra’s hands in the Windsor Castle art collection, and on comparison with Ginevra’s “sisters,” the Mona Lisa and the “Lady with an Ermine.”

The documentary also shows how the painting was restored. The varnish Leonardo applied to the surface of the painting had yellowed over the centuries, considerably dulling its colors. Before and after images show how Leonardo was, already at 22, a master of shading and subtle detail. And X-ray and infrared reflectography delve beneath the surface of the painting to reveal Leonardo’s preparations for the picture.

Like all of da Vinci’s women, Ginevra is enigmatic. This girl, especially, is austerely so: her pale skin, far away eyes, and sad expression make her appear as if she were resigned to a life without joy. In fact, she was likely a very expressive poet (though none of her work survives), and was the muse to the poet and Venetian diplomat Bernardo Bembo who courted her with knightly, platonic devotion that was the custom in Florence in her day. But, too, she was married to a much older man whom she may not have loved, so life may indeed have been sad for her.

Narrated by Meryl Streep (in English) or Isabella Rosilini (in Italian), Ginevra’s Story is highly recommended for art lovers and educators.