What We’re Watching – 2/28/2011
Someone once said that movies are like an addiction, and the only way to cure it is to watch more movies. Wiser words couldn’t have been said. In my never-ending pursuit of watching all things worthwhile, I’ve come across stories and characters that have taken me from the mean streets of Manhattan to the nostalgic, dreamlike world of an Italy long since passed. The toughest thing about loving all kinds of movies (and I mean all kinds), is trying to keep up with what is out there. I want to see everything, from the great silent films of the past to the latest blockbuster release, and all that’s in between. I guess the thing that I can be happy about is that there will never be a shortage of great films from around the world—there will always something to see, a gem just waiting to be discovered.
With that said, here’s what I’ve been watching lately:
Little Dieter Needs To Fly (1998):
In the last couple of years, I’ve become a big fan of Werner Herzog. His films Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), Stroszek (1977), and Fitzcarraldo (1982) have all shown that Herzog is a filmmaker obsessed with the very idea of obsession and human nature. This may be seen more so in his documentaries, such as Grizzly Man (2005) and Encounters At The End Of The World (2007). Little Dieter Needs To Fly is a documentary that isn’t really about obsession or the absurdity of human nature taken to the extreme, but simply tells the incredible true story of Dieter Dengler, an American fighter pilot shot down in Laos during the Vietnam War and held captive as a prisoner. Through Dengler’s own testimony, we hear how he survived the savage conditions of the prison camp, his daring escape, and how he struggled to live in the harsh environment of the jungle. This is a riveting documentary, inspiring the film Rescue Dawn (2006), also directed by Herzog.
I watched Federico Fellini’s Amarcord years ago, and from what I had remembered, I didn’t enjoy it too much. Now, movies don’t change, but people do. With the recent release of the Criterion Blu-ray edition of the film, I decided to go back and revisit it. Just to let you know, I now own the film. This movie, perhaps, is one of the most nostalgically touching films made about youth. Although he never admitted it, this is clearly a film about Fellini’s childhood. However, this film is not based on the actual reality of the past, but the magical extravagance of memory, of how we wished our childhood was. We see the young, playful boys of this story as they go to school, live with their families, and try to feed their burgeoning sexual urges with women, all set in an Italy affected by WWII and the onset of fascism. This is a fun, playful, hilarious film, and I’m glad that I allowed myself to give it a second chance.
What do you get when you mix Guillermo del Toro, Ron Perlman, and the horror genre? One hell of a movie, that’s what! This is a great film, a disturbing and fantastical story that is also surprisingly moving. The film stars Federico Luppi as Jesus, an old antiques dealer who unfortunately stumbles across a device made by an inventor in the 16th century. This device, unknown to Jesus, is a magical piece of hardware, and when it attaches itself to Jesus’s skin, suddenly gives him the vitality of youth. We see him quickly become more energetic, full of life, and even looking younger. However, it also gives him the attributes of a vampire: hunger for blood, fear of the sun, and eventually the risk that he may live forever this way. Ron Perlman plays Angel de la Guardia, the son to a mean old man desperate to retrieve the device for his own selfish needs. The make up work here is remarkably done, and as Jesus’s face and body start to literally fall apart on him, I was reminded of Jeff Goldblum’s decaying body in David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1985). If you haven’t seen this film, make this a must on your list! (Note: do NOT see the Netflix Watch Instantly version of this movie, as the video quality is absolutely horrible).