Thursday, March 20, 2008

Let's Get The Moon In The Gutter on Region 1 DVD

I have just created my first online petition, asking for the release on Beineix's The Moon In The Gutter on Region 1 DVD, which I am asking any who might be interested to sign. I don't really expect this to make any real waves but hey, it's worth trying. Here is the link and I appreciate anyone who takes the time to stop by and sign it.

Shooting Kinski: Witold Sobocinski

Award winning Polish cinematographer Witold Sobocinski has had a fascinating career behind the camera since beginning his career in the mid fifties. Originally starting out as a camera assistant after flirtations as a Jazz Musician and as a teacher, Sobocinski graduated to the role of Cinematographer in the late sixties and was soon working with such noted directors as Andrzej Zulawski and Roman Polanski. His work on Torrents of Spring, in which he shared photography duties with Dante Spinotti, marks one of his final features and it is a beautifully shot production that might not be among his greatest works but is a worthwhile addition to his filmography.
Born in Poland just before Halloween in 1929, Sobocinski is probably best known in The United States for his work with Roman Polanski on films like Frantic (1988) but it is Zulawski’s chilling and intense The Third Part of The Night (1971) that probably stands as his greatest achievement. His work is always marked with by a hyper-realistic edge that many key Polish directors have taken advantage of with the most notable probably being the two above.
Torrents of Spring would not be the first time Sobocinski had worked with director Jerry Skolimowski as the two had began collaborating as early as 1970’s The Adventures Of Gerard. Their most famous, or infamous, collaboration remains 1981’s Hand’s Up, a film that would garner them much controversy and would get them both in trouble with Polish authorities.
Torrents of Spring is a lovely and beautifully lit period based production that was done a major disservice on home video in the United States as the VHS didn’t capture Sobocinski’s photography the way it should have. Unfortunately this disappointing VHS copy is currently the only way to see the film right now in this country, and it has hurt the films reputation considerably.
Sobocinski’s son, Piotr, is just as talented as his father and his work with Kieslowski on such films Dekalog (1990) and Red (1994) is already the stuff of legend. Witold at near eighty years old is no longer working on films but his legacy behind the camera will continue to inspire for years to come…

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring Symphony Japanese Pamphlet at Kinski JP

My friend at Nastassja Kinski JP, the definitive Nastassja Kinski site online has posted some terrific scans of the rare Spring Symphony Japanese Press booklet. It can be viewed at this link. Thanks to him for continuing to run such a beautiful and essential site...and for his support here.

Soundtrack: Torrents Of Spring (Stanley Myers)

The rather rare soundtrack to Nastassja's 1989 production, Torrents Of Spring, is quite a beauty and is well worth searching out. Composed by award winning Stanley Myers, Torrents Of Spring's soundtrack is a wonderful listen and is filled with much of the emotion and longing that characterizes the best of Myer's great output.
British born Myers came into this world just before Halloween in 1930. After attending the famed King Edward's High School in Birmingham, Myers became more and more interested in music and specifically composing.
His first film score came just past his 25th birthday with the 1958 British production Murder Reported. This assignment led to many different projects in British film and television throughout the sixties.

In 1970, Myer's released "Cavatina", a stunningly beautiful piece that would find its way onto one of Myer's most famous soundtrack projects, Michael Cimino's 1978 masterpiece The Deer Hunter.
Myer's had already worked on a variety of films before meeting up with the legendary Cimino, including a couple of very notable horror productions from Pete Walker, but with the maverick director Myer's found his perfect sound and it is impossible to imagine most of Cimino's best films without the heartfelt and powerful music Myers provided for him.
Myers would find another key cinematic collaborator in Nicolas Roeg and he would score several of the great Roeg's productions through the eighties and nineties. Myers would tragically pass away just pass his sixtieth birthday due to Cancer in November of 1993.
Torrents Of Spring is not one of Myer's best known scores but it is a delight none the less, with special note going to the warm and loving "Maria's Theme" which was written for Nastassja's character in the film.
The 14 track album was released first on vinyl in 1989 and later came out on an Italian CD in 2000. It is currently out of print and used copies go for big prices as you can see here.
It is a valuable album and well worth having so if you do happen to stumble across a copy, don't hesitate in picking it up.

20. Magdalene

After one of her career best performances in Maladie D’Amour, Nastassja returned to European screens two years later with one of the most disappointing productions of her career, the very unfortunate Magdalene (1989).
Magdalene could have been such an interesting film that its failure at nearly every turn proves most disheartening. Directed with zero energy by Monica Teuber, a former actress probably best known for her roles in a few Fassbinder productions, Magdalene is a boring and lifeless production that even a first rate cast can’t manage to salvage.

Starring along with Nastassja in this rather dreadful production is the typically reliable Steve Bond, David Warner and the always great Franco Nero who are all woefully underused under Teuber’s direction. The plot, a weak mixture of tepid romance and historical drama, tells the tale of a priest who falls in love with a prostitute. Also mixed in is an odd side plot on the writing of the hymn “Silent Night”, which attempts to say something spiritually profound but doesn’t.

The cumbersome script is credited to Teuber and it gives Nastassja and her co-stars some of the most undistinguished dialogue of their careers. Had the film been competently directed or photographed, something might have been made from Steuber’s script, which at its best feels a bit like a Hallmark movie of the week, but nothing here works. Magdalene is the worst film Nastassja appeared in up to this point and it remains one of the weakest points in her entire canon.

The usually reliable cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi, who had done such great work on seventies productions like Appassionata and Beyond Good and Evil, even comes up short here as Magdalene is a dreadfully bland looking film. Part of this isn’t helped by the lack of a widescreen DVD release but I doubt even that would help this poorly lit and drab looking production from being anything other than an eyesore.

The music, credited to first time composer Cliff Eidelman, is an un-engaging as everything else in the film. Too subtle at some turns and too overblown at others, Eidelman’s music never feels connected to the images on the screen. Perhaps the soundtrack to the film, as there was one released, works better but I don’t have it in my collection.

The biggest regret of the film is that Steuber doesn’t give Nastassja enough opportunity to work with her iconic cast-mates like Nero, Janet Agren and Katharina Bohm. Instead she is stuck in lackadaisical scene after lackadaisical scene with Bond who sleepwalks through the production as if he realized early on it was a disaster.

Nastassja does the best she can with the material, which admittedly isn’t much. She is as effective as the script allows and nearly transcends it in a couple of scenes but Steuber never gives her any room to breathe. The whole production, including Nastassja’s performance, feels like it has a heavy and lifeless weight on top of it.
Magdalene played in some areas of Europe as Silent Night and was released quietly on VHS in the early nineties here in the States. I have heard some discrepancies’ with the films running time and I can’t verify that the VHS version I have is actually the uncut version. It feels like about five hours long as it is so I can’t imagine even more footage would help, although of course I would welcome seeing it if it became available.

Teuber, who also produced this film, is a wonderful actress but I can’t say the same for her directing skills, at least going by this production. She has one more film to her credit, 1994’s Jamila which coincidently stars Nikolai Kinski. Magdalene could have been a spiritually entrancing and moving film but it’s barely watchable. Stuck in between the majestic Maladie D’Amour and the much more interesting Torrents Of Spring, Magdalene is one of the least noteworthy films in Nastassja’s distinguished canon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rare Scans: Behind The Scenes On Cat People

Today I offer up this series of wonderful behind the scenes shots taken from the Cat People special edition DVD. I don't believe many of these have appeared online before so enjoy.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Maladie D'Amour: Odds and Ends

Maladie D'Amour was an extremely difficult film to find any material on so I don't have much more to add here. I will just let these wonderful images from the movie, where Deray seems to pay tribute to Nastassja's work in Polanski's Tess, close out my look at the film.

My look at Magdalene will began soon.

19. Maladie D'Amour

Maladie D’Amour is a good film made great by four exceptional performances from by Michel Piccoli, Jean-Claude Brialy, Jean-Hughes Anglade and especially Cesar nominated Nastassja Kinski. If the film itself isn’t finally one of French director’s Jacques Deray’s finest, it is at least an absolute must for fans of Kinski, which makes its troubled distribution history all the more frustrating.
After the disastrous Revolution, Nastassja dropped out of sight for a couple of years. Maladie D’Amour marked her return to the big screen and it also marked the beginning of her first European phase away from Hollywood. Her risky move would be rewarded with the previously mentioned Best Actress nomination and a whole slew of European critical acclaim, but unfortunately her American fans have had to put up with just import copies or not seeing the film at all as it has never had a Stateside release.

The talented Deray was nearing sixty when he shot Maladie D’Amour in the early part of 1987. The award-winning director had begun his career as first an actor in French film in the early fifties before becoming an Assistant Director by the end of that decade. He shot his first feature in 1960, The Gigolo, and would become one of the most prolific French directors of the next few decades, working in nearly every conceivable genre. While never gathering the acclaim or respect of some of his peers, Deray’s best films (such as the films he made with Alain Delon) are really special and noteworthy.

Nastassja’s male co-stars in the film are some of the finest she ever got to work with. Piccoli and Brialy are bona-fide legends to European film fans and I can imagine Nastassja, who would have grown up watching many of their best films, must have been quite honored to work with them. The late and much missed Brialy is especially good in a smaller role in the film. Anglade has become one of France’s most respected actors but in the mid eighties he was still mostly just connected with his ‘Cinema du Look’ appearances in such wonderful productions as Luc Besson’s Subway (1985) and Jean-Jacques Beineix’s smashing Betty Blue (1986). His work here opposite Piccoli and especially Kinski shows him to be one of the finest actors to come out of France’s second new wave.

Maladie D’Amour, which centers on a love triangle between a young hairdresser and two doctors, sprang from the mind of Oscar nominated writer Daniele Thompson and if the story for the film is a bit clichéd Thompson’s dialogue is still fairly rich. Thompson got her start as a writer in the mid sixties but didn’t really catch fire with the public and critics until the early eighties with a series of films she wrote for young Sophie Marceau. Thompson’s career would take a surprising turn in the late nineties when she would turn to her attention to the director’s chair with the really wonderful La Buche. She is currently working on a much anticipated new film entitled Le Code a Change with Emmanuelle Seigner and is developing rapidly as one of the key female directors in modern film.

Maladie D’Amour is a very handsome production that is bogged down a bit by the period that produced it. Cinema du Look had been so overwhelmingly influential by 1987 that it seemed like for a brief period nearly every film coming out of France had a glossy sheen over it, even when the material didn’t necessarily call for it. So whereas a film like Subway still feels incredibly alive, Maladie D’Amour seems a bit dated. One wishes a more low key and simple touch, which isn’t to take away from the work Deray or cinematographer Jean-Francois Robin, as it would have suited the film a bit more.

Thompson’s storyline is also a bit troubling. While her dialogue and ideas are strong, the film ultimately feels more than a little passé, especially in the second half when a particular secret about Kinski’s character is revealed. Still, all of this is just nit picking as the work in front of the camera is so strong that the minor problems the film has almost vanish.

Maladie D’Amour is finally more than anything else very much an actor’s film. The film is one of the strongest acting pieces of the late eighties as all of the performances here are filled with so much subtlety and depth that one wishes they were all granted Cesar nominations.

Maladie D’Amour is a key film in the career of Nastassja Kinski as it was one of the first where she gives notice to the wonderful character actor she has become. Thinner and a little less electric than she had ever appeared before in a film, she disappears wonderfully into her role and some of the finest work of her career can be found in this film.

Maldie D’Amour would hit French screens in the fall of 1987 to solid critical acclaim for the most part and fairly healthy business. The film’s failure to secure an American release is troubling and extremely unfortunate. My copy comes from a widescreen subtitled import VHS and isn’t in the best shape. I am aware of a Japanese DVD release but have had no confirmation as to its print quality or if it has an English subtitle option. Any further information on DVD releases of the film would be most appreciated.

Maladie D’Amour is one of the great secrets in Nastassja Kinski’s filmography to many of her American fans. One hopes it will eventually get a Stateside release so more people can have the opportunity to see this flawed but still special little film.