A challenge begins…


So last night began this fun little challenge of mine to watch one movie each in my collection of Blu-rays for each letter of the alphabet. I have devised a working list that I may swap and change as I progress, but I plan to write weekly blog posts detailing what movies I have got though in this endeavour.

So where did I begin? Well there were a few choices for A, but eventually I landed on the rather under-appreciated Studio Ghibli movie ‘Arriety’. I’ve now watched it about 3 times inclusive of last night’s viewing and stand firm on my opinion it’s one of Ghibli’s best. The take on the classic Borrowers story is well done and pretty much sticks to source material and that theme song by Cecile Corbel is utterly enchanting. I still find the sickly kid a bit annoying but everything else, the gorgeous hand-drawn animation and scenery, the characterisation, different moments (the escapade to steal a sugar cube) and sound-design are all utter class.

As you’ll now be aware I chose 80’s French drama ‘Betty Blue’ for B and have chosen to do a full review for that which I’ll leave you to check out. Now onto letter C and beyond. I’ll report back how it all goes soon!

Betty Blue


Viewed – 02 May 2020 Blu-ray (A-Z Collection Challenge)

This was one of those guilty pleasures for me as an adolescent, hormonal teenager. Yeah it’s one of those typically French movies that’s greatest appeal was scenes of rather explicit sex and a very frank approach to on screen nudity. However, as time went buy and subsequent viewings I began to see beyond the ‘naughty stuff’ and appreciate the rather touching, albeit tragic love story at the movie’s heart.

Jean-Hugues Anglade stars as Zorg, a handyman and would-be writer in a passionate relationship with free spirited Betty (Beatrice Dalle) who are drifting through life going from one situation to another, getting jobs, making friends and experiencing life. However it quickly transpires that Betty has more than a few psychological problems and as the story progresses, those problems take a turn for the worse.

Immediately its not hard to see why actress Beatrice Dalle was the iconic poster girl of many a bedroom wall in the 80’s … she’s undeniably sexy, incredibly photogenic and exudes French chic. Although shot in a realistic fashion, the cinematography perfectly captures that European exotic and historical beauty, be it with sun-drenched beach communities, rolling French countryside or quante villages. It makes the journey the couple go on particularly captivating. Anglade is very likeable and is the viewers anchor to the otherwise wild and unpredictable Dalle who delivers an equally likeable, fun and ultimately heart-breaking performance thats very convincing. A classic of French cinema that proves just as engaging and effective as it was over 30 years ago.

I picked up the Second Sight Blu-ray that boasts two cuts of the movie. I’d recommend the 3hr director’s cut over the 2hr theatrical version as although both versions are very similar, where the story goes is handled better and not as sudden as the shorter cut. The Blu-ray itself boasts a decent image that although not that sharp has strong colours, which are a big draw here. We also get a making of (featuring new interviews with cast and crew) and some Beatrice Dalle screen tests. So not amazing treatment but the movie is in decent shape, the somewhat soft look does suit the movie, and sound is adequate in 2.0 stereo.

Verdict:

(the movie)

Theatrical – Good

Director’s Cut – Recommended

(the Blu-ray) Good

Ten from another place


Thought I would express on here my love of foreign cinema, and although I don’t get to watch as much as I would like, there have been some real gems over the years.  It is sad whenever I mention foreign (or world) cinema to anyone who isn’t exactly a cinefile, they immediately say ‘Is it subtitled?’ to which my answer is normally ‘yes’ and their reaction is to be instantly put off.  It makes me sad.  However if such things don’t bother you all that much, then the list below has some good titles to check out…

Tell No One

tell no one

Based on the novel by Harlan Coben this mystery thriller follows the story of a Doctor mourning the death of his wife, who one day contacts him via email.  A great cat and mouse whodunit with ruthless villains and a storyline that keeps you guessing to the end.  A great on foot chase and superb use of U2’s ‘With Or Without You’.

Chung-king Express

chungking-express

Discovered this during my ‘have to watch everything Hong Kong related’ phase back in the 90’s.  Yet in complete contrast to the John Woo action movies I had become addicted to, this was a sweet love story about different people and how their lives have an effect on one another.  Beautifully filmed by cinematographer Christopher Doyle to clever, multi-layered direction by Wong Kar Wai.

Howl’s Moving Castle

howl-s-moving-castle

Hayao Miyazaki … surely no need for explanation here.  I think this magical, highly imaginative fantasy based on the children’s book by Diana Wynne Jones and with glorious hand-drawn animation … is a joy.  I may even go as far as saying it’s my favourite Studio Ghibli movie, with a little less Japanese oddness compared to the more famed Spirited Away.

[REC]

[rec]

Stop reading this if you have seen the lacklustre remake ‘Quarantine’ starring that woman out of Dexter … this is a majorly scary, hand-held camera / found footage horror in the style of The Blair Witch Project but so much better.  Superb, fast-paced direction from Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza – the sequel is pretty awesome too.

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance

sympathy

The second movie I had seen by acclaimed director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker), and making up the first part of his famed ‘vengeance trilogy’.  This harrowing tale of human organ trafficking, revenge and a deaf & dumb protagonist trying to save the life of his ill sister, is raw, very violent and powerful.  Made me think a lot afterwards about right and wrong etc.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

girlwiththedragontattoo

Kind of an obvious one and in my opinion superior to the recent remake and also its two sequels.  A mystery involving a missing woman, a cool computer hacker with a troubled past and a disgraced journalist.  Excellent, career making turn from the wonderful Noomi Rapace.

Let The Right One In

let-the-right-one-in

Based on the controversial novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist and with superb, understated direction from Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), another that is superior to the remake and with a touching love story at it’s heart between two lost souls.  One of the finest horror movies of the last decade.

The Killer

the killer

The movie that put famed action director John Woo on the map.  Chow Yun Fat as a charming hitman who accidentally blinds a singer in a club during a hit.  Danny Lee is the tough cop out to catch him but discovers more than he expected.  Superb action sequences with Woo’s trademark slow-motion gunplay, and a touching story of guilt and redemption that went on to shape much of Woo’s career.

Betty Blue

bettyblue

One of my all time favourite foreign movies.  A tale of free-spirited Betty and her struggling-writer boyfriend during a wild road trip.  It’s French, its full of sex and nudity and became a cult favourite during the late eighties.  Béatrice Dalle is magnificent and extremely sexy in the lead role.

Pan’s Labyrinth

pan's labyrinth_edited

Guilermo Del Toro may be more known overseas as the man behind the Hellboy movies, but on his own turf he makes intelligent, often hauntingly beautiful movies most notably this acclaimed fantasy that crosses real world horrors of civil war with the imaginary world of a girl’s imagination.  Beautiful imagery, great special effects and strong performances makes this a true classic.

If you’re one of the crowd that just don’t do movies in a foreign language, can’t abide subtitles etc … I really urge you to give at least one of the titles above a day in court.  World Cinema can be braver, more daring and just as well made as anything from the states.

Those more than familiar with these types of movies … what are some of your favourites?  Any recommendations?  Leave your comments below…