Tightrope

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Film Title

Tightrope

Director

Richard Tuggle

Starring

  • Clint Eastwood as Detective Wes Block
  • Geneviève Bujold as Beryl Thibodeaux
  • Dan Hedaya as Detective Molinari
  • Alison Eastwood as Amanda Block

A thriller that functions as a study of the lines between the hunter and the hunted blurring and strange sexual predilections, Tightrope retains an impact as it explores one man’s journey into murky waters that are complicated by startling links with a killer.

In New Orleans, a spate of sexual murders among prostitutes and massage parlour girls is baffling the police. Experienced and tough Detective Wes Block is the main person investigating, while having his own demons to contend with. His wife left him a while back and he is caring for his two young daughters. While he’s a dedicated father, there is a void in his life that he fills with a dark and possibly damaging string of nocturnal activities, they will become integral later on. Beryl Thibodeaux works at a council centre for a rape prevention program that teaches women self-defense and offers shelter from abuse. She advises Block on certain aspects of the case, but Block is initially standoffish with her. Investigating further, Block discovers that he shares quite a lot of similarities with the killer; the main one being the frequenting of downtown New Orleans for hookers in exchange for kinky encounters. This profoundly disturbs Block, who is trying to balance the dark and good of his life carefully. Unfortunately the killer is very much on his tail and when women that Block has employed the services of start to fall, it starts to get extremely personal for Block. Added to this are his growing feelings for Beryl that seem almost foreign as he’s met by a woman who takes no guff and is far from willing to surrender. He must now track down the taunting killer, who seems to know about his own dark needs and is using it to his advantage to torment him.

The unobtrusive direction brings more attention to the story than just having visuals( which are very good at setting the seedy atmosphere) doing it for them, letting it play out as a slow burn that takes its time with what it wants to say. Richard Tuggle is in the director’s seat, though there have been claims over the years that Clint Eastwood actually directed most of it. Whatever the case with who directed it, Tightrope grabs the attention in a way that isn’t obvious, but still enthralling to watch nonetheless. Where Tightrope particularly soars is in the exploration of how Block sees women, and how his deviant side is given a kicking once the killer latches on to him. This proves to be fascinating to watch, particularly in how his relationship with Beryl forms and he begins to let his guard down, for perhaps the first time in a while. What Tightrope sometimes lacks in tension, it makes up for in character development and thematic value. Saying that, there are a number of chilling scenes, not least when Block’s family are targeted by the killer and the case gets very anguishing for him. It’s more the examination of the man and his attitudes that really makes Tightrope worth the watch, with the thriller parts still there but exceptionally allowing the other content to emerge. The seedy underbelly of things is never far from view as Tightrope isn’t afraid to project the unusual sexual angle to the murder, but these are thankfully not just there for sick exploitative material. They actually serve a purpose and to be honest, a lot of the horrible things that happen occur off-screen. Jazz is featured heavily in the film and excellently counteracted by an electronic pulse whenever darkness drives on the scene, providing a flip on the usually relaxed big band stuff that we hear in the beginning.

Clint Eastwood, through subtle degrees of vulnerability and encroaching shock, excellently layers his performance as the detective haunted by his own behaviour and having it replayed in grisly fashion. Just a stiffening of his neck or a slight uneasiness in his eyes says a lot more than simple dialogue can. Eastwood wisely doesn’t make Block an out-and-out creep, rather a tormented man who wants control and finds it through strange sexual activity. This is offset by his clear love for his daughters and how much he cares about them. Bringing the two sides together makes for one of Eastwood’s most understated yet vulnerable performance. Geneviève Bujold is equally as good playing the rape councillor who is far from a damsel and more than a match for the tough Eastwood. she is also the person who breaks down the wall Block has put up, thanks to her deep understanding and persistence. Bujold splendidly imbues her part with a sympathy and  believable forcefulness that ensure her character is taken seriously in the passionate way she helps Block and others. Dan Hedaya is somewhat saddled with role of sidekick police partner but does pretty good, while Alison Eastwood is convincingly mature as Block’s oldest daughter who just wants her dad around a bit more. It helps that she is really Eastwood’s daughter because the bond between them is very touching.

A dark film that doesn’t shy away from anything sleazy yet wisely rises above exploitation levels, Tightrope features a complex performance from Clint Eastwood that makes it extremely watchable, especially given the disturbing content. More of a character study than out-and-out thriller, the attention given to the characters is what makes Tightrope that something different.

 

The Big Chill

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Film Title

The Big Chill

Director

Lawrence Kasdan

Starring

  • Kevin Kline as Harold Cooper
  • Glenn Close as Sarah Cooper
  • Jeff Goldblum as Michael
  • Tom Berenger as Sam Weber
  • William Hurt as Nick
  • Mary Kay Place as Meg
  • JoBeth Williams as Karen
  • Meg Tilly as Chloe

A seriocomic drama about reflection on the past, the difference in generations and loss, The Big Chill is a highly resonant and extremely well written film from Lawrence Kasdan. He is aided by a fine cast that do wonderful work in this look at how times change and we can feel adrift in the world that doesn’t hold the promise it did when you were younger.

A group of former friends from college in the 60’s are reunited unexpectedly years later when one of them, the much talked about and promising Alex, commits suicide. The group is made up of married couple Harold and Sarah Cooper, disillusioned television star Sam Weber, unfulfilled attorney Meg, slightly lecherous journalist Michael, Vietnam Vet and pill-popping Nick and unhappy housewife Karen. They haven’t seen each other since their heady days in college and the funeral of Alex brings them back together under dark circumstances. The wake is held at Harold and Sarah’s vacation house in South Carolina. The main people of the group, who don’t know how to deal with the suicide of Alex, stay over the weekend along with Chloe, the much younger girlfriend of the deceased. During the course of the days, the one time close-knit faction are found to be laying bare their secrets, reminiscing on the past and attempting to fathom why Alex killed himself. The big thing that hovers over them all is that lingering sensation that the best years of their lives have passed them by and their vibrant dreams of youth have gone up in smoke. Various little dramas come to light again, like Meg wanting to desperately have a child as she feels her biological clock is ticking and Karen dealing with her unresolved feelings for Sam. Throughout the time together, thrashing out their differences and opening old wounds, they are left to ponder and work out just what to do with their lives, along with whether they can rectify what eludes them and unearth how much Alex’s death has impacted on them.

Lawrence Kasdan fashions a heartfelt yet perceptive evocation of people dealing with responsibilities and thinking back on how much they changed since college. The script that he wrote, along with Barbara Benedek, invests The Big Chill with a quick wit and revealing nature, that benefits the struggles and issues the group go through. They all feel at sea in the materialistic 80’s, when all they crave is the feeling of life and hope that the 60’s gave them being baby boomers. The plot largely revolves around the group discussing their problems, reminiscing of the good old days, smoking pot and wondering where the time has gone. Some may find that idea more than a little boring, but The Big Chill is the total opposite because of the amount of personal feeling injects do into it. You really get to relate to the characters and what they’re going through, even if they don’t know how best to deal with grief and a sense of something missing. It’s one of those things that is universal for everyone; the knowledge that life is different from how you expected and hasn’t taken the path you wanted. Thankfully as tinged with melancholy as The Big Chill is, there is a balance it strikes with quick humour long the way. The film, like the characters goes between laughs and tears, with an unexpected clarity and wisdom that shines through. Even if some of it feels a tad simplistic, the warmth and depth of the piece are always in evidence. The soundtrack is one of the best parts of the movie, recalling the youth of the characters with Motown hits and 60’s grooves. Music plays a very integral role for all of the group and also the audience, as music holds a special place undoubtedly for all of us with the wistful memories it can evoke. The opening sequence is a masterful example of combining music with telling a story. In it, each of the group receives the news and we catch glimpses of how they react, as the sound of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ plays in the background.

The Big Chill boasts a simply star-studded cast that are given a moving and frequently funny script to work with and deliver natural, unaffected performances in the process. This is a beautiful ensemble of acting that allows everyone a chance to shine. Kevin Kline is very good as the amiable joker Harold, who has his own deliberations to deal with along the way. Glenn Close beautifully supplies a nuanced turn as the earth mother and good listener, who attempts to keep everyone and herself together and not fall apart. The typically sardonic personality of Jeff Goldblum covers the seedy journalist character, while Tom Berenger sells the feeling of alienation that fame has brought him over the years. William Hurt is on lugubrious form as an overly cynical and morbid man whose life is like an empty shell and needs some lightness to brighten it. Mary Kay Place has the right amount of humour and pathos to bring Meg’s need for a child to life, complimented by some wily observations. Rounding out the main group of reunited friends is JoBeth Williams. She quietly but noticeably gets across the aching want for some love that her character finds has missed her, and there is a real tenderness to her pining for Sam. Meg Tilly, as the youngest member of the cast and most youthful character, has a boundless and quirky energy of a girl who doesn’t react to death the way you’d think. Her character is mainly a symbol of the exuberance and wistfulness of being young and idealistic, that the group is wrestling with the knowledge that they aren’t anymore. The whole cast works convincingly together, selling the fact that their friendship despite the years remains quite intact and there to be rediscovered over the weekend of rumination.

A nostalgic as well as very honest depiction of bittersweet grappling with all sorts of change and facing up to the different ways that life affects us, The Big Chill still has a large impact of being moving and amusing. This is largely thanks to the splendid direction, script and cast that make the experience really something.

Body Double

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Film Title

Body Double

Director

Brian De Palma

Starring

  • Craig Wasson as Jake Scully
  • Gregg Henry as Sam Bouchard
  • Melanie Griffith as Holly Body
  • Deborah Shelton as Gloria Revelle

An outrageously and stylishly updated reworking of Vertigo and Rear Window, Body Double dials up the lurid material and shocking content. It may bite off more than it can chew, but Body Double is by and large a spellbinding example of Brian De Palma’s signature direction and his gleefully unapologetic content.

Jake Scully is a B-movie actor with a big problem. As he often stars in horror films(frequently as a vampire) he has to be in confined spaces. The trouble is that his latent claustrophobia has evinced itself of late and has lost him jobs. Out of work, things get worse when he finds his girlfriend cheating on him. He moves out and is struggling to find a job, when he meets the charming Sam Bouchard. Also an actor, he takes pity on Jake and takes him under his wing. Sam is currently house sitting for a rich friend and offers Jake the place to stay. Jake jumps at the chance and is taken to the panoramic house in the Hollywood Hills. Sam points out that there is a display that will interest him in one of the houses nearby. With a telescope, Jake views the sultry dancing every night of Gloria Revelle, a beautiful, young housewife. What starts as just a glancing curiosity slows gives way to increasing obsession on Jake’s part. Added to this is his realisation that a strange-looking figure is also observing Gloria with ill intentions. Continuing to grow more infatuated with her, Jake follows her and observes her, once again seeing the grotesque figure looming large. Sadly, through his obsession , Jake is unable to stop Gloria’s brutal murder at the hands of the stalker. As the only witness, he can’t do much as the police know that he was also covertly watching Gloria and didn’t report what he saw. Jake can’t help but feel guilty about his indirect involvement and how he could have prevented the murder. Yet various things are not adding up and what seemed coincidental may in fact be pre-meditated. Still shocked, he finds himself more determined to unravel events that look very untoward and discovers a link between the slaying and the world of X-rated movies. Desperate Jake is soon lead into the dark recesses of the adult film industry, where the gorgeous porn star Holly Body may hold the key to everything.

As is befitting of a film by Brian De Palma, Body Double sports oodles of visual effectiveness and cinematic flourish from the very start. He frequently teases and tests us with what we are witnessing and how true it is, best envisioned by a series of scenes in which we believe we are watching the film, only for it to reveal that it’s the making of a film in the story. A fantastic example is when Jake makes his way on to a porn set and it is played out to the tune of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’. At first it just appears to be part of the filmic story, before pulling back to show that it’s an adult production within the confines of the plot. We, as the audience, are permitted to be unwitting voyeurs throughout Body Double, whether we like it or not, due to the use of point of view shots to illustrate the illusion of watching. I must confess that in the latter half of Body Double things start to feel a bit rushed, especially in comparison with the slow burn of the earlier pacing. But the outrageous core and De Palma stamp ensure you keep watching as it redeems itself once Holly takes centre stage and brings a much-needed shot in the arm. So it does get uneven in stretches when it could have been tighter and a bit more coherent, but I found myself very engrossed by Body Double that I can somewhat overlook its collection of flaws and bask in the sheer unpredictability of it all. Body Double is a sly beast that is very mysterious and shrouded in red herrings, that you may not quite realise at first glance. Brian De Palma is very impish in what he presents, frequently reeling us into a twisted fantasy that has its tongue jammed firmly in cheek. He is not caring about whether you squirm or find the content repulsive; this is his vision and what he wants to put out there, like it or not. If anything, the winding plot takes a backseat to the directors love of things cinematic and how manipulative the medium can be. A major plus in Body Double(along with the luscious cinematography) is the mood-setting music, courtesy of Pino Donaggio. Using an electronic pulse to produce a slinky and scintillating ambiance, its music that really gets its talons into you and gorgeously sets a scene. The score is akin to the dance that Gloria performs; it invites you in yet knows how to tease and be mysterious.

Craig Wasson is a bit of a wooden actor, yet that very thing is used to great effect in playing the unlucky and low-rent star, caught in a web. His very ordinariness and nothing too special appearance plays in well to the way that he becomes utterly besotted with someone he barely knows and then more than a little suspicious that something stinks. Gregg Henry lends an ingratiating and seemingly supportive presence as the actor who helps Jake, but who may be very different behind it all. Melanie Griffith appears late in the film, but immediately makes an impression as the seductive but brighter than you’d think adult film star. While being obviously attractive, Griffith digs into a street smart attitude and subtle vulnerability of a girl who knows how to handle herself, but doesn’t quite realise the extent of how deep she’s in. Both a smart and confident performer( watch as she reels off just what she will do and not do in a movie) and a pawn, the part of Holly is memorably envisioned by Melanie Griffith. Seen with not much in the way of dialogue, Deborah Shelton is still extremely enigmatic and beautiful as the ill-fated woman, whose demise throws Jake into a tailspin.

I wouldn’t say Body Double is the best film from De Palma, yet it definitely displays some of his finest visual direction and penchant for referencing Hitchcock in typically daring style. Body Double, though uneven, is still a very intriguing thriller that reels you in to the mystery and sleazy aura that if builds so well as it surprises you with some very serpentine twists.

Upcoming Stuff On My Blog

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As I’m starting to get back into the swing of things following my move, I’ve decided to get a sense of order. Now I can be notoriously disordered a lot of the time, but I think it’s good to get a bit of balance and routine. I’m still exploring cinema and discovering various things. So here are a few ideas of what will probably feature on my blog in the coming weeks and months.

More Brian De Palma Movies and Martin Scorsese

I want to see more movies starring the amazing Meryl Streep

Hopefully a good few foreign language movies

A good helping of Classic Hollywood

And the Rocky franchise

If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section.

Happy Birthday Glenn Close

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Sensational and highly talented Glenn Close turns 70 today. I have always admired her acting abilities and how easily she slips between characters. From being so calculating and frightening in some movies to being sympathetic and motherly in others, Close does it all and always convincingly. I can’t think of a single bad performance she’s given, which says a lot about her talent. So happy birthday Glenn Close, you’re a real legend.

A Belated Buffy Post

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As many people will know, Buffy the Vampire Slayer celebrated its 20th anniversary on the 10th of March. I was planning on doing a post, but the house move got in the way. Never fear, as I’ve decided to still do a post about the greatness of the show, just in belated yet graceful fashion. I love Buffy so much, it has to rank as one of my favourite shows ever. Watching as the eponymous warrior fought the powers of darkness while grappling with her personal life was entertaining television of the highest. As I could about the show for hours, I thought it better to condense my feelings into something more concise. So without further ado, here are the five reasons that Buffy the Vampire Slayer rocks like no other.

It knew how to scare you:

As a show that delved into the supernatural, it was only right that many things that our sarcastic heroine would battle would be creepy. And when I say spooky, I’m talking nightmare inducing at times. The villains and forces of darkness where never dull and had just the right amount of fright to creep you out.

It can make you laugh:

The sarcastic and often darkly humorous aspects of the show where always in high supply. In a show that was dark, laughs were generated frequently due to the comic timing of characters and the often outrageous things they would have to battle.

And just as quickly break your heart:

The amount of times I felt emotional watching Buffy are too many to count. It really knew how to get you emotional because of how well written it was. Tragedy and death formed large parts of the show, yet where always searing and ready for the tears to fall.

It’s highly innovative:

From the musical episode ‘Once More, With Feeling’ to the creepy and largely silent episode ‘Hush’, Buffy was always a show that was willing to take creative risks and challenges. And a lot of them largely paid off, which resulted in the show being a force to be reckoned with.

And of course the amazing title character:

Smart, sassy and kick ass to a fault, Buffy Summers has to be one of the strongest women warriors to hit television screens. Played to perfection by Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy is a girl you can gravitate towards on a lot of levels. In the beginning, she just wants to be a normal teenager though her destiny is what stops that. Over the course of the show, she grew into a woman accepting her destiny and learning how to embrace it. In short, Buffy Summers is a feisty and relatable heroine of steel and heart.

There are many other things I could list, but I’m trying to be concise as I know I’ll ramble given half the chance. All I have left to say is that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a show that will never get old.

 

My Other Site

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For anyone whose been reading my blog, you will know that I’m setting up an erotica blog. I can report that I have successfully done so, but it will take time for me to make changes to it which may explain the Spartan look. It is in the infancy of its content, but I have posted a teasing first part to a story. For the time being, I’ll largely be on here blogging about movies because it is my biggest passion. The other blog will be not as prolific for a few weeks, then I’ll get it going for you all. I’m currently doing stuff at my new house, when that clears the erotica blog will come into full swing. So here’s the address https://bunsareallthatyourequire.wordpress.com/

I’ve Come to a Decision

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This is in regards to my last post where I asked about writing erotica. I have now decided that I while set up another blog exclusively for that in the future. At the moment, I’m still doing things in my new house and settling in so this may be in a while. In my opinion, it will be easier to manage as I can write about movies here and change it up on another site. I know I can strike a better balance then. I hope everyone thinks that it a good idea. I personally think it will prove beneficial and allow me to focus more on movies here.

Should I Write Some Erotica on Here?

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I’m asking this question because I’ve noticed that I seem to be pretty adept when talking about erotic aspects of movies. I did write an erotic piece ages ago and that surprisingly had a good reception. I wanted to put the question to all of you to see what you thought. Would you mind if I wrote erotic stories on here? Of would it distract from my movie reviews? Whatever your take, please give it.

Two Women

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Film Title

Two Women

Director

Vittorio De Sica

Starring

  • Sophia Loren as Cesira
  • Eleonora Brown as Rosetta
  • Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michele

A harrowing account of a mother trying to protect her daughter in the dark days of World War II, Two Women is strikingly told and excellently acted. Occasionally it gets a bit meandering, but the grim power and authentically moving performance from Sophia Loren make Two Women a must see.

It is the Second World War and in Rome, widowed shopkeeper Cesira is struggling to cope with the constant uncertainty and bombings that terrify everyone. Her main priority is keeping her 12-year-old daughter Rosetta safe, no matter what. Having saved up some money and collected what she needs, she heads with Rosetta to the hills of her childhood, looking for sanctuary. The journey to the hills is fraught with difficulties and horror, but the two persevering women carry on. Once in the poor but a lot more sheltered regional village of her past, Cesira attempts to carve a life for her and Rosetta until the war calms down and they can return to Rome. Along the way, Cesira becomes attracted to young idealist Michele, who also harbours romance for her. Though she develops feelings for him over time, her primary concern is Rosetta and Cesira knows that her impressionable daughter has a crush on him. Times are tough due to shortage of supplies and amenities, though resourceful Cesira tries to make the best of things by foraging food and just protecting her daughter from the horrors of war as long as she possibly can. Yet just as it seems safe for Cesira and Rosetta to return to Rome with the war seemingly hitting a turning point, they encounter brutal tragedy at the hands of Moroccan soldiers.

Vittorio De Sica wisely brings his credentials as a purveyor of neo-realism out here, highlighting the stark and unforgiving fallout war can cause and especially on those left behind. None of the film is varnished or dressed up to look smooth, it is depicted with astonishing naturalness and harsh reality thanks to De Sica’s expertise. It deftly captures the way that a war can impact on people and their lives, one minute it seems calm, the next minutes it is a mass upheaval. There are those out there that will dismiss the film as overly episodic, but by and large, it’s an honest picture of the sea saw of terror and not knowing when . Two Women is not without nicer moments of people attempting to raise their spirits, but these are coupled with scenes of shock and grit that never lets us forget that this is only a temporary respite from a difficult time. Some parts do feel a bit rushed and there are parts that linger too long for their own good, yet the bigger picture and power of the piece always manages to bring it all back to something exceptionally genuine. The last half especially will emotionally devastate and shock viewers with its intensity and raw, visceral content that leaves a mark. The black and white cinematography highlights the bleakness of war and what it does to people, both emotionally and physically. If Two Women had been in colour, a lot of the impact would have dissipated. Music is employed sparingly but appropriately, allowing the main story and themes of survival to flourish but also give an emotional pull when required.

Sophia Loren is simply put powerful and forceful in the lead role; it’s no surprise she won the Academy Award for her raw and heart-rending work here. The role of Cesira is embodied so naturally and with grave, hard-working determination by Loren that you can’t tear yourself away from the screen. She excels at colouring the role with the deep maternal instinct and love, without resorting to melodrama and needless overdramatising. Sure Cesira says what she thinks and can be very feisty, but in the hands of Loren, we glimpse the little nuances of the character that complete the whole. We get many sides to the woman; the caring side, desolation and vulnerability, along with an outspoken attitude and unwavering strength that all make it a triumph of intensity and authenticity. From the first moment you see Loren cradling her daughter from harm and screaming that she wishes the war would end, you just know that the performance is going to be something special. Before this film, Sophia Loren had largely been cast in parts that were merely glamorous and weren’t ones that showcased the talent she had. She really showed off her abilities with this award collecting part, that will haunt the mind for days to come and established herself as an actress to be reckoned with. Eleonora Brown forges a realistic and convincing bond with Loren as the young innocent daughter, whose experiences leave her shell-shocked and she has to grow up quicker than expected. This tender relationship is the heart of the movie and is played magnificently. Jean-Paul Belmondo has probably the least demanding role of the central three, but nonetheless conveys the free thinking and opinionated feelings of the young idealist.

Anchored by the superb work of Sophia Loren showing her mettle and the honest direction of Vittorio De Sica , Two Women is a dark and stark evocation of the horrors endured in World War II and the power of a mother’s love.