Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Critical Reactions: Revolution

Revolution is one of the most notorious failures of the eighties and the following sampling of reviews reflect that for the most part. There were some positive notices, especially a stirring defense from Sight and Sound, but for the most part the critics had their knives sharpened for the film when it came out. Nastassja thankfully was typically not included in the critic’s attacks on the film. Unfortunately her costar, Al Pacino, took most of the trauma when the blame should have gone to director Hugh Hudson and the screenwriter Robert Dillon. Revolution remains one of the colossal misfires of the eighties and, unlike say Heaven’s Gate, time has not been kind to it.

“As the films of Hugh Hudson get more ambitious, they become duller and more long winded…art without heart is rarely worth the bother…dazzlingly shot…more embarrassing than engaging.”
-David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor-

“…pretentious mishap…Kinski is completely forgettable…Pacino’s one note performance has absolutely nothing to recommend.”
-Pat Anderson, Films in Review-

“…gloriously photographed….utterly and fatally devoid of a story…the technical side is immaculate.”
-Shelia Benson, LA Times-

Revolution is less interested in organized political strategies than in personal struggle…the film makes its case powerfully and with conviction, exhibiting a scope, imagination and commitment all too rare in contemporary British cinema.”
-Pam Cook, Monthly Film Bulletin-

“…without a script…scrambled footage, epic and medium tedium, missed chance.”
-John Coleman, New Statesman-

“All in the world are making jokes about Revolution…but I found myself almost too depressed to laugh…”
-David Denby, New York-

“It may also easily be the worst (film of the year)…half-hearted….as mind boggling as it may seem there has never been one good or successful film about the most dramatic war in the history of America. Revolution not only fails to remedy that oversite, it sets back the cause 200 years.”
-Rex Reed, New York Post-

“The first words out of Pacino’s mouth makes us cringe…Pacino’s romance with Kinski is only a trifle less preposterous than his performance…a monumental mistake has been made.”
-Joseph Gelmis, Newsday-

“May kill the genre for good…there may be a smashing movie on the cutting room floor but what’s on the screen is a shambles.”
-David Ansen, Newsweek-

Revolution has been unjustly hammered….it’s intention, and it succeeds, is to create a mood…Pacino touches the heart…The note (Revolution) should, if there’s justice, be redeemed in part if not in full.”
-John Pym, Sight and Sound-

“…solemn, incoherent…could achieve the dubious immortality as the campfire classic of 1986.”
-Richard Corliss, Time-

“…sprawling fiasco…Pacino isn’t the silliest aspect of Revolution, it’s his girlfriend (Kinski)…it’s a hoot, but it’s hell on the constitution.”
-David Edelstein, Village Voice-

"The result was such a disaster that the words “Revolutionary War” were not spoken until 2000’s The Patriot, director Hugh Hudson wasn’t given another big studio budget until 15-years later in I Dreamed of Africa and Al Pacino went into a semi-screen retirement before returning in 1989’s Sea of Love.

"A disaster on par with Burton and Taylor’s Cleopatra, Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate or Beatty and Hoffman in Ishtar. To be timelier, it was an even greater disaster than Battlefield Earth."
-Matt Mulcahey, efilm-

"Revolution serves a great purpose. Don't get me wrong, for a film that depicts the American Revolution there is little to no revolution going on. The lesson is one that director Hugh Hudson and stars Al Pacino, Nastassja Kinski and Donald Sutherland learned: Make an expensive, rotten film and watch your career spiral downward. Pacino, Kinski and Sutherland recovered. For Hudson....that's another story."
-Ned Daigle, BMN-

"Revolution is a pointless, frequently cruel train wreck of a movie, atrociously miscast and laughably overmelodramatic, and apparently filmed without benefit of a script."

"It's so bad that one suspects there must be a good story behind it. It's not easy to goof on this scale, especially not for Mr. Hudson, the director of the Oscar-winning ''Chariots of Fire'' and the even more interesting and complex ''Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.'' The fault is not that Mr. Hudson is English or that the film was shot in Britain. There's an underlying wrong-headedness about it that, like senility, is universal in its effects."
-Vincent Canby, New York Times-

"...star-spangled silliness, and one of the biggest debacles of the 1980s."
-James Sanford, Kalamazoo Gazette-

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Odds And Ends: Harem

HAREM would turn out to be Nastassja's weakest film since SPRING SYMPHONY and a real let down after the extraordinary run of films she had just filmed. Still, HAREM is well worth revisiting if just for the lovely photography and great score by Sarde (which apparently has not had a proper release).

I recently found these lobby cards listed on Ebay, but otherwise HAREM has proven a difficult film to find a lot of material on, Nastassja's follow up film is just the opposite though. I will begin my look at one of the most pivotal, if for all the wrong reasons, of all of Nastassja's films later this week. Expect a lot more postings than you have been seeing the past couple of weeks.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Beineix's Moon In The Gutter At Ebert's Site

A couple of weeks after casually mentioning Beineix's MOON IN THE GUTTER in his new review of DIVA, Roger Ebert is now featuring an article he wrote on Nastassja Kinski at Cannes in 1984 as one of the lead stories over at his site. I've always liked this portrait of Kinski and I was quite stunned to see it suddenly reappearing as one of his top stories with a lovely shot of her from Beineix's film.
Visit the above link for Ebert's talk with Kinski and some of his views on the film that inspired my main blogs name. Also my best to Roger Ebert who I know has gone back into the hospital. I wish him a quick and speedy recovery.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Nastassja!

Nastassja Kinski turns 49 year old today. Nostalgia Kinky would like to wish her a very warm and happy birthday.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Shooting Kinski #15 (Pasqualino De Santis)

While HAREM is arguably one of Nastassja's lesser films from her best period, it is at the very least a gorgeous looking production. This is in no small part due to the lovely photography of acclaimed cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis, an artist who worked with many of the great film directors in the world throughout his career.
De Santis was born in Italy in the spring of 1927. The future Oscar winner got his start in film as an assistant cameraman with one of his earliest jobs being among other things a Steno horror-comedy. After a decade of working in this capacity the obviously talented De Santis graduated to the role of cinematographer on the 1965 production THE MOMENT OF TRUTH, directed by famed Francesco Rosi.
After working with Rosi that first of many times, De Santis' career took off and he quickly became one of the most in demand DPs in Italy. His big international break came when he was hired on by Franco Zeffirelli for his legendary 1968 film of ROMEO AND JULIET. De Santis became known for his inventive lighting techniques and the breathtaking way he could shoot actors, specifically women.
De Santis won a well deserved Oscar for his work on Zeffirelli's production and within a couple of years after he had already worked with everyone from Vittorio De Sica to Federico Fellini. It was a grand time in Italian cinema history and De Santis was a key part of it.
The sixties closed with De Santis' stunning work on Visconti's THE DAMNED, another project that would acquire him a lot of justified acclaim. He would work with the great Visconti again on another amazing productions, such the masterful DEATH IN VENICE (1971) and the lovely THE INNOCENT (1976) where he got a chance to shoot Laura Antonelli.
The seventies were an amazing time for De Santis and he continued to work with some of the world's most important directors including Robert Bresson, Joseph Losey, and Ettore Scola. His work with Bresson was particularly mind blowing as he shot both LANCELOT OF THE LAKE (1974) and THE DEVIL PROBABLY (1977). The latter film would mark a change for De Santis as Bresson demanded a more earthy and gritty style of photography which in turn would influence much of De Santis' work afterwards.
De Santis' work in the eighties isn't as notable as the seventies but that has more to do with the quality of films being made rather than the photographer's talents. By 1984 he was stuck shooting John Guillermin's disappointing SHEENA with Tanya Roberts. The similar looking HAREM would follow it and while it is not among the best projects De Santis took on his camera clearly loves Nastassja and his photography always keeps the disappointing film interesting.
De Santis health began to fail in the late eighties and his work became less and less prolific. He passed away just after his 69th birthday in the summer of 1996. His final project was, fittingly enough, a film directed by Francesca Rosi entitled THE TRUCE (1997).
Pasqualino De Santis was a rare talent and his work made all of the productions he shot noteworthy. His finest work with some of the great European directors remains awe inspiring, and his photography of some of the most beautiful women in screen history (including Nastassja) is one of the reasons God saw fit to invent cinema. May he rest in peace...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My Personal Top Ten

I have added a side scroll of my personal top ten favorite Nastassja films for anyone interested. I might eventually expand it to twenty but for now it is just the ten.

Critical Reactions: Harem

I have unfortunately not been able to find many critical reactions to HAREM. The following are just a few I found online. I will add more in the future as I find them.

"It is hard not to be impressed by the single-mindedness of Joffé who, with only a few shorts to his credit, garnered $10 million, Kinski and Kingsley, and made his own movie...What might have been an intriguing clash of cultures soon dissipates into a listless drama of will they/won't they, until the Tragic Irony of the finale falls completely flat. Fine credentials (attractive decor by Trauner, delicate photography by De Santis) but little inspiration."
-Time Out-

"This film's two well-known stars -- Nastassja Kinski as Diane, a sophisticated trainee on the New York Stock Exchange, and Ben Kingsley as Selim an Arab mogul -- are hard-put to bring life into this beautifully photographed but under scripted romantic drama...it is an interesting role reversal, Diane has no qualms about bedding down an attractive man, but Selim's harem is purely decorative -- he does not share her cavalier view of sexual relationships. The twist is that Selim is not really that bad -- in spite of the fact that he has kidnapped the girl, he actually feels compelled to uphold a time-honored tradition that he doesn't really believe. Selim is an aesthete who wants to embrace the ways of the Western world."
-Eleanor Mannikka, All Movie Guide-

"Some years after graduating from the French film academy IDHEC, Joffé made his big screen debut with a lavish but ill-conceived English language film called "Harem" (1985), in which a lonely Arab prince (Ben Kingsley) kidnaps a woman (Nastassja Kinski) off the streets of New York in order to introduce her to a different lifestyle, against her will. The movie wasn't very good, but over a million people went to see it."
-Lisa Nesselson, ArthurJoffe.com-

The clipping presented at the top is available at the official website for Arthur Joffe. Unfortunately there isn't a lot of information on HAREM there either.

Labels Added

In order to make Nostalgia Kinky more user friendly I have added the labels for all my past posts to the side of the page. This will hopefully make it easier for visitors to select which films that they are most interested in reading about. I will probably go back and narrow some of the labels down as they are quite sprawling right now, but I hope adding them on the page makes past posts a bit more accessible.


MARIA’S LOVERS (1984) marked one of the major career highpoints for Nastassja, which makes the disjointed and flawed follow up film, HAREM (1985), seem all the more disappointing. The very odd HAREM is not a total failure and has its pleasures but it would be the least valuable film Nastassja had made since SPRING SYMPHONY (1982) several years earlier.
HAREM was the brainchild of writer and director Arthur Joffe. The French born Joffe got his start in the early part of the eighties on a series of acclaimed short films before graduating into HAREM, his first feature length production. HAREM feels very much like the work of an inexperienced filmmaker as it never finds a consistent tone, and Joffe makes the mistake many young filmmakers make with their first production in that he attempts to tell the audience everything while convincing them of very little.
The opening shot of HAREM is a bit of a perfect encapsulation for everything that is wrong with the picture. Joffe begins his film with a visually impressive shot of the Statue of Liberty as it is being worked on by construction workers in the mid eighties. This overtly symbolic shot (the lady liberty in a cage…get it?) feels so overbearing and Joffe fills HAREM with needlessly heavy handed shots like this one. It is as though he isn’t totally convinced by his own material, and shots like this opening only point out the film’s failure to connect with its audience.
The main problem though at the heart of HAREM isn’t Joffe’s direction, which is at times very nicely done when he just allows the film to play, but is the script. Co-written with first time screen writer Tom Rayfiel, HAREM asks the audience to accept some of the most implausible situations imaginable. Unfortunately the script is so poorly conceived and rendered that there is never a moment where we fully accept what is happening to Kinski’s character or her reactions.
Nastassja plays a lonely New York stock broker named Diane, who is kidnapped on a boat to Liberty Island and ends up in another country in the harem of a sheik. While in this foreign land, Diane learns the ways of the harem and eventually falls in love with the sheik. That is, in essence, the plot of HAREM and it is as ridiculous as it sounds.
The opening shots of HAREM, outside of the Statue of Liberty shot, are actually quite good. Joffe does a very good job at showing us the kind of like Diane is living and why she might be unhappy with it. He also photographs New York exceedingly well and it should be mentioned that the cinematography by Italian photographer Pasqualino De Santis is lovely. Unfortunately the film begins to fall apart as soon as Kinski is kidnapped. Joffe’s script stops allowing her to behave like a real person at this point and even the most skilled of screenwriters would have trouble selling how accepting this independent young woman is to the conditions she is thrown into.
HAREM could have perhaps worked as a romantic fantasy had the role of the sheik been cast better, but unfortunately the usually reliable Ben Kingsley gives one of the blandest and most unconvincing portraits of his career and there isn’t a spark of chemistry between him and Kinski.
Kingsley was on a major role when he shot HAREM. He had won the Oscar just a couple of years previous for GHANDI (1982) and he was becoming one of the most respected actors in the world. There is no questioning how great of an actor Kingsley is but his performance in HAREM is nearly unbearably smug and stilted. Of course much of the blame lies in the script, but Kinsley’s attempt at being a tender misogynist comes across horribly wrong. There is never a moment when we can even begin to believe Diane would fall in love with him and their scenes together finally become laughable.
Kinski does the best she can with the material and she is extremely good in the early New York scenes (Joffe should have abandoned the HAREM idea and just made a film about this interesting character’s life in New York) but, like Kingsley, there is only so much that Nastassja can do with the material offered her. HAREM is finally one of her weaker performances but at the very least she is incredibly beautiful as photographed by Santis, it is just a shame that the script lets her down so badly.
HAREM does have its virtues. As previously mentioned it is an exceptionally photographed film and the score by Philippe Sarde is extraordinary. Joffe handles the quieter scenes in the film exceedingly well and some of the shots of the harem have a nice hallucinatory hazy feel about them. Still the film is ultimately disappointing and even with its virtues it is hard to recommend it.
HAREM would open up in Europe in the late fall of 1985. Amazingly it would do quite well upon its release and it was a multiple Cesar nominee. It isn’t hard to argue with the accolades presented to the Costume design and photography though as they are sublime. Joffe has been relatively unprolific since HAREM and it would take him five years to follow up his first feature film, with ALBERTO EXPRESS in 1990, and he has only completed two films since.
HAREM would get a delayed and short US release and appeared on video and laserdisc in the late eighties courtesy of Vestron. To my knowledge, and please correct me if I am wrong, HAREM has never been released anywhere on DVD. Used copies of the VHS are not hard to come by here as the film has never built any kind of substantial following in the States.
HAREM is said to be quite popular in France and I have heard it remains a staple on television over there. I have also heard that the Vestron video I am familiar with is edited but I have not been able to verify this. I would be most curious to see any extra footage but I doubt seriously that it would change my opinion of the film, one of the most disappointing of Nastassja’s golden period.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Odds And Ends: Maria's Lovers

MARIA'S LOVERS would mark the end of an era for Nastassja as it would be her last English language film for almost a decade that would garner any real serious critical and popular acclaim. The film was also important in that would garner Nastassja one of the only major awards for her acting she ever received. It remains one of her finest performances and one of the best films she ever appeared in.
The biggest collectible for fans of MARIA'S LOVERS is the elusive soundtrack, however the film also had many desirable promotional items and different poster designs...some of which I have highlighted here.
I will begin my coverage of Nastassja's next film, HAREM, later this week an will soon be looking at the disastrous REVOLUTION... a work that effectively ended Nastassja's initial period in America.
I hope everyone here enjoyed my look at MARIA'S LOVERS and that it might cause a few to give it a first or perhaps even second look. It is a special film that has been under the radar for too long.
My posts on HAREM will begin later this week.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Kinski on the Cover

Delightful is the word that pops into mind when looking at this very rare cover that is currently being auctioned on eBay.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

16. Maria's Lovers

The Russian film director Andrei Konchalovsky was born in the late summer of 1937. He became interested in both theater and film early in his life and would begin an extremely noteworthy career in both just after his twentieth birthday. Konchalovsky is a massively important Russian director who was, among other things, a friend and collaborator with the legendary Andrei Tarkovsky. MARIA’S LOVERS is notable not only in that it marks Konchalovsky’s English language film debut but it also marks one of the first English language films ever to be shot by a Russian director.
The Gerard Brach scripted MARIA’S LOVERS focuses on a small American town, just after World War Two, that has been spiritually and emotionally ripped apart. The opening newsreel footage of WW2 vets suffering from Post Traumatic Stress syndrome and general combat fatigue is haunting stuff, and Konchalovsky’s handling of the material immediately alerts the audience that MARIA’S LOVERS is going to be an extremely serious minded piece of work.

The story centers on Ivan, a damaged soldier returning home from the war to his drunken father and his lost love Maria. Ivan, played with a beautifully scarred intensity by John Savage, is struggling with a loss of not just a couple of years of his life but also his soul. Kinski’s Maria is the one thing that got him through the horrors he witnessed and was a part of, but when he returns he finds that she has taken up with another soldier named Al, played well by Vincent Spano.
Everyone in the film seems to be in love with Maria. Ivan’s father, characterized wonderfully by the iconic Robert Mitchum, is obsessed by her as she reminds him of his late wife. A travelling guitar playing stranger, Keith Carradine, becomes equally entranced by her but Maria really only loves Ivan, unfortunately he becomes impotent around her even after they are married.
MARIA’S LOVERS is marked by the remarkably sensitive direction of Konchalovsky, the searing and poetic performance of Kinski and the picture perfect photography of DP Juan Ruiz Anchia. It is a tender and moving portrait of personal alienation and stands as one of the five best films that Nastassja Kinski ever had the chance to appear in.
The film works best in its scenes between Kinski and Savage, as their relationship slips further and further down a hole of doubt, frustration and sexual tension that can’t be satisfied. Savage is remarkable in the film and the internal strife he is experiencing is palatable. The film also soars in the moments Kinski shares with Mitchum. She would speak of his penetrating eyes after making the film and he does stare at her with a kind of desire and longing that is extremely rare for modern English language cinema.
The film falters a bit in that it is perhaps overly ambitious at times. It is questionable whether or not the travelling Carradine was really necessary as it does take away from the main storyline, but his inclusion does give Kinski’s Maria an outlet for the blossoming sexuality that is overtaking her.
It is this repressed sexuality that gives the film its most remarkable scene, involving a tour de force moment with Kinski alone in her bedroom. It is one of the most heartbreakingly erotic and beautifully performed scenes of Nastassja’s career and Konchalovsky’s direction of it is splendidly tasteful without feeling compromised. It is one of Kinski’s great moments where she is confronted just by the camera and her own internal solitude, a solitude that she was able to portray as well as an actor that has ever been filmed.

The film also does a remarkable job at presenting America at one of its most pivotal moments. The fact that it took a Russian director, a French Screenwriter, a Spanish photographer and a German actress to do it makes it all the more incredible. MARIA’S LOVERS is one of the eighties great lost films, and the muted reception that greeted it frankly astounds me to this day.
MARIA’S LOVERS was shot on a relatively low budget in less than two months on location in Pennsylvania and was produced by the Cannon group. Cannon eventually became known as more of an outlet for action films, but for a while with films like this one and LADY CHATTERLY’S LOVER (1982) they were really trying to be a more serious player in the world cinema market.
The film would open across Europe in late 1984 to some acclaim but it was greeted by just mixed reviews and poor box office when it opened in the States in January of 85. Kinski’s wonderfully heartfelt performance as Maria was honored with the coveted Silver Ribbon award from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists and Konchalovsky was nominated for best foreign film director at the 1985 Cesar awards. The Silver Ribbon was a big deal for Kinski as it would mark one of the only times that the critical establishment finally recognized her as the wonderfully effective actress she was.
MARIA’S LOVERS is a really special film and it is absolutely essential for fans of Nastassja Kinski. It is currently available on Region 1 DVD in a fairly good widescreen presentation that unfortunately only includes the trailer as an extra.
Konchalovsky would thankfully be given more attention for his directing skills with his next movie, the very exciting and well made RUNAWAY TRAIN (1985). He has since worked in both American and Russian films and is currently working on a production called THE FORBIDDEN CITY with Alec Baldwin.
MARIA’S LOVERS would mark the end to Nastassja’s golden period as a star in America. After shooting HAREM, she would film REVOLUTION which would prove disastrous and she would work almost exclusively in European films for the next decade. When thinking of this I can only agree with Nastassja’s quote concerning her friend Roman Polanski’s exile from the States…”It’s America’s loss.”

Soundtrack #9: Maria's Lovers (Gary Remal)

The MARIA'S LOVERS soundtrack by Gary Remal Malkin is extremely hard to find. I am afraid it has always alluded me so I won't be able to post a review for it. His music in the film is quite striking, specifically the love theme that repeats several times throughout, and is used in a spare and effective way. I will post a full review on the album here in the future if I can ever manage to get my hands on it.
The song, MARIA'S EYES, featured in the film was actually written by co-star Keith Carradine (who supplied the lyrics) and director Andrei Konchalovsky (who supplied the music). It is a simple but haunting track that works perfectly well in the context of the film, and it fits its setting very well. The song is a available on the album, and I believe (although I could be mistaken) that a single was released as well.

For an interview with Remal, please visit here.

To see more information on him, may I recommend this link.

For information on the rare soundtrack, please look at this page.

Nastassja On Maria's Lovers

Unfortunately there are not a lot of quotes by Nastassja that I have been able to locate on MARIA'S LOVERS. However, here are two focused mostly on her co-star Robert MItchum that I was happy to find.

"Ah! Awesome! You know? He's one of those people who you think you will never meet-certain stars, certain actors. You just don't think they're real! He's always haunted me. He's one of those people who have been haunting me since I was little and I always watch his movies. But to meet him-and to look for the first time into his eyes!
I remember our first scene together, when I looked into his eyes, and it was...inexplicable. I felt everything just dissolve until there was nothing but those eyes!
He gave such a lot to me too. I remember the second scene we did. I was nervous and I kept screwing up and we had to keep doing it, again and again, but still he stayed there giving me his strength and patience. You know some actors wouldn't do that, but he gives so much. In the beginning he appears as if he doesn't give a damn, and then he sits down. And once he's with you, he's really with you."

"First of all, I really admired him, but I didn't know him. He didn't talk much. You could tell he needed time to warm up. But Robert was extremely helpful to me and told me things, which I wrote down, and of course, I sat and listened to his stories and just loved to be there. Then he gave me a little ivory elephant-I think it was an antique-with a chain at the tail and a teeny little baby elephant attached. In the story of MARIA'S LOVERS the son comes home after the war and tries to have a baby with my character Maria, but they can't have a baby. Robert said the baby elephant was the little baby. And right after the film I had my first baby."