#353- Black Sunday

Quick recap: A witch is executed back in the 1500s and comes back to life two centuries later to wreak havoc. She also brings to life her boyfriend/servant/ fellow vampire and/or witch who is also out to cause mayhem.

He’s a looker, that’s for sure

Fun (?) fact: The plot is loosely based on Nikolay Gogol’s story Viy. The movie is set in Russia, but played by an Italian cast who spoke English. The English was so heavily accented, however, that it was redubbed for an American release.

I too enjoy walking my dogs in abandoned cemeteries on stormy nights, dressed all in black.

My thoughts: Before I get into this review, I need to provide some context about my current relationship with horror films. I used to love discovering something scary as a kid and that extended to high school when I saw The Ring in theaters and it terrified me. And then at some point, my ability to be scared just sort of faded away, although I kind of missed the adrenaline. The last couple of years have brought some stellar horror films, including Hereditary, which I saw several months ago and I STILL have nightmares about sometimes. I won’t go too deep into the movie right now, except to say that elements of this movie are really similar to that one and thus explains why Black Sunday frightened me more than it would have had I watched it a couple of years ago.

Black Sunday isn’t scary enough to give me nightmares but it definitely gave me a sense of dread throughout the movie and I did make sure all my doors were locked before falling asleep. For one thing, it’s gory but not in a blood and guts kind of way. The first scene shows Asa the witch as she is about to be executed. The executioner brings a creepy mask of satan and then hammers it on to her face. And then they burn her alive just to be safe. When she is found a few hundred years later a man takes the mask off of her corpse. I was surprised by how realistic the skeleton was.The absolute creepiest scene for me was seeing Asa come back to life. The man who removed her mask also accidentally dripped blood on her dead body and it started the process of her returning to life. Seeing her growing her eyes back and having them return to their sockets was so, so disturbing. I really am surprised a movie made so long ago would have these sorts of details.

One thing that confused me the entire time was whether Asa was also a vampire and also her boyfriend/servant/ whatever. Several victims had distinct bite marks on their necks and it is referenced that the only way to stay safe is to have a cross nearby. Asa was definitely a witch but also worshipped satan, which makes sense. But the vampire angle just threw me off completely. This movie goes over and above to be as creepy as possible. Pretty much everything happens in the dead of night or during a storm and each setting is dark and foreboding. Adding in vampires just seems like overkill at this point.

Final review: 4/5. I was pleasantly surprised!

Up next: horrorfest continues

 

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#342- 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her

Quick recap: No idea. I think it’s about commercialism? Or maybe prostitution. Or possibly pinball.

That lady in the background playing pinball was just about the only thing that made sense

Fun (?) fact: The ‘her’ in the title refers to Paris, not the main character, like I thought while watching the entire movie. It only goes downhill from here, folks.

This scene, where a guy whispers philosophy into his coffee lasted FAR too long.

My thoughts: The movie opens with a creepy guy whispering off camera about a woman on screen. He describes her as an actress and also details what she is wearing. Then the camera switches to another woman who looks exactly like the actress, except she is facing the other way. The whisper guy describes this woman as the main character and details what she is wearing. I spent the entire movie confused because I thought the plot was about two friends who looked exactly alike, but only one kept popping up in the narrative. It wasn’t until I read the basic plot outline that I realized the whisper guy was talking about the same woman. I think it’s time to take a break from French films for a bit.

So, you may ask, what are things I know about Paris after watching this film? Well…..

  1. There was a lot of construction going on in the late 60s.

2. And the construction mostly led to ugly, expensive apartments.

3. The ugly apartments led to housewives turning to prostitution to continue their lifestyle.

4. And prostitution mostly led to affording products that have similarities to ones we have in the US.

Considering I came up with 4 things instead of 2 or 3, I think that makes me smarter than the movie. Who’s laughing now, Jean-Luc Godard??

Final review: 1/5

Up next: The Cranes are Flying

 

#337- Jules and Jim

Quick recap: Jules and Jim are best friends living in France and they love to share everything: clothes, experiences and a woman named Catherine.

I can’t choose, but I think I’m mostly Team Jim. But only after he shaves the mustache.

Fun (?) fact: Jeanne Moreau, who played Catherine, went over and above when it came to helping the film succeed. Because of the tiny budget, she used her own car to carry props around and also helped cater some scenes. When her stunt double showed up drunk, she jumped into the river on her own and when money ran out, she financed the rest.

My thoughts: Oh my god, what a whirlwind of a movie. Reading the synopsis on the dvd cover, I expected some sort of buddy romance comedy, like There’s Something About Mary. But a little more high class, because it’s French, you know. What I got instead was the craziest love triangle I can recall seeing and an ending that made me gasp out loud several times. Which I haven’t done since watching The Post (but only because Iforgot it was around the time of the Watergate Scandal).

Acting was great, scenery top notch, and music was adequate. Now let’s get to the meat of the this movie: The crazy sex triangle. I’ll try to break it down here as simply as I can but really, you need to see this for itself to really understand how absurd it all is.

  1. Jules and Catherine hang out and and eventually become a couple. Jim hangs around and the three do silly things like run around a lot and ride bikes. Jim is nonchalant about Catherine.
  2. Catherine falls into the river because she’s pissed off at Jules (as I have considered many times when being mansplained to). Jim rescues her and falls in love.
  3. World War I begins and the two fight against each other since Jim is a French citizen and Jules is German. Catherine is pregnant with Jules’ baby and they are married.
  4. After the war, Jim visits Jules and finds a sweet family. But Catherine is actually miserable, according to Jules, and she acts out by sleeping with literally everyone. She is currently seeing Albert, who wants to marry her and raise the kid as his own.
  5. Jim’s solution is to throw his hat in the ring and announce his love. Jules is cool with this and will gladly divorce Catherine in order to let her marry Jim. The three live in a weird poly commune and honestly, I’m here for it at this point. Everyone seems happy and I’m surprised something so progressive was shown back in the 60s.
  6. Catherine wants a baby from Jim but no dice. She decides she’s not actually in love with him and the two separate. Jules just exists in a weird cuckhold relationship.
  7. Catherine is pregnant!
  8. Nope. Lost the baby. Jim is over this. Jules enjoys being tortured by Catherine as she continues to sleep with everyone but him.
  9. Catherine keeps getting Jim to try and talk to her but he is so over this. She threatens to shoot him but he grabs the gun and walks away.
  10. Catherine finally gets him to herself. They get in the car to talk and she drives both of them into a river, where they die. I KNOW

So yeah, what an ending. And so much drama I was NOT expecting. Part of me is really pissed off at the treatment of Catherine because she was never asked what she wanted but she was also nuts so maybe this is exactly the way it should’ve gone. Either way, I think Jules got the raw end of the deal because he stayed in love with Catherine throughout all of this. I’m not really sure how there could’ve been a good ending, except for everyone reading ‘The Ethical Slut’ and having a poly board game night. Maybe that would’ve rightfully smoothed things over.

 

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Heat

#333- Le Samouraï

Quick recap: Jef Costello is either a great hitman or a really terrible one. After completing a job he almost immediately gets picked up by the police and questioned. He manages to weasel his way out, only to find himself in trouble with the guys who hired him. What’s a hitman to do?

maybe start by wearing different clothes than the ones that literally EVERYONE identifies you in.

Fun (?) fact: The quotation about samurai at the beginning of the film is entirely fictional. This movie actually has nothing to do with samurai.

and everything to do with looking cool

My thoughts:  Crime movies are a dime a dozen on this list, but very few of them come from France. And of those, this is the only one where I could’ve kept watching for several more hours and at the same time almost lost my sanity because of the incessant bird chirping.

Director Jean-Pierre Melville borrows much of the aesthetic for Le Samouraï from America at the time- slinky jazz clubs, dapper people running around everywhere. And yet, this is very much a French arthouse film. The first 10 minutes have no dialogue whatsoever and yet, the scene is so enthralling. I also loved that there is a mystery about who this hitman is and who hired him but I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be getting any answers. Le Samouraï exists within himself. It’s even impossible to figure out whether or not he is a ‘bad guy’. I mean, he killed someone, yes, but that guy could’ve been evil or something. So I ended up dividing my time between wanting the guy to come out on top but also wanting him to get caught and pay for his crimes. It was a rare feeling to not know how I’m supposed to feel about characters.

One reason the characters are so confusing is because the audience is just thrust into the story. We don’t know how many years the hitman has operated or what business the people who hired him have. In the first few scenes, the hitman sets out creating an alibi for himself before he commits the murder. He visits a woman, Jane, and expects her to lie for him, which she does, when the police call her into question. It is assumed that these two have some sort of relationship but it could also just be that she works for him specifically for this purpose. And the police themselves make this plot even more complicated. I could never figure out whether the hitman was really bad at his job and that’s why he was caught so quickly or if the police were really good at their job and it was only a matter of time. Once again, it was hard to know who to trust.

But above all, there is that stupid bird. God, I hated that bird. I recently lost some of my hearing due to sickness and it’s been both a blessing and a curse. But watching this movie, I heard every single chirp. EVERY. SINGLE. CHIRP. I’m sure there is a fancy French reason to put that in so many scenes but I don’t have the patience to find out. I’m not a fan of hurting or killing any animal but when the guys broke into the hitman’s apartment to leave a recording device, I half hoped they would put that poor bird out of its misery. I’m sure he hated his life as much as I hated hearing him but enough is enough.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Night and Fog