He'll learn any tune you want him to.
The above poster, with its sinister art, was made for the Japanese run of a 1970 French movie titled L'aveu, aka The Confession. It was directed by Costa-Gavras, who often delves into political themes, and here Yves Montand stars as a Czech communist party official named Anton who is one day followed, arrested without warrant, and thrown in jail without charge or access to legal counsel. He thinks it's a mistake but soon realizes party officials suspect him of treason and plan to extract a confession through whatever means are required. He's subjected to isolation, sleep deprivation, and rough treatment, all presented here unequivocally as torture. And indeed when the movie was made there was no doubt what it was. But these days, in the U.S., tens of millions of people and many government officials say it isn't torture—or worse, say it is torture and should be used more. For that reason the film, in the fullness of time, now offers a double lesson—its intended one about a Soviet empire that collapsed, and an unintended one about an American empire making the same mistakes. In L'aveu the state tries to forcibly program Anton; in the U.S. millions have been programmed to accept torture simply because the state has told them to. For us, it was all pretty hard to watch, but it's a damned good movie. It premiered in Japan today in 1971.
The fog of noir creeps into San Francisco.
Once again the Noir City Film Festival gears up in our former home turf of San Francisco, and once again the event provides a perfect excuse for us to watch a few of the films. Noir City, now in its fifteenth year, is one of the most established film noir festivals in the U.S., along with those in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. However, the San Fran version sets itself apart with great promo posters like the one you see above, and others you can see from previous fests here.
This year's slate features twenty-four noir and crime thrillers, including entries from Japan, England, France, and Italy. We'll keep our musings on these films brief as always, because yet more extravagantly written amateur movie reviews are not needed online. For those in the Bay Area, we recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to see these classic movies as they were intended to be shown—on a big screen in a packed house.
The only way to learn it is to do it.
This is a really nice poster for the Italian sex comedy La matriarca. We watched it on Daily Motion, and Catherine Spaak plays a young widow who discovers her dearly departed kept a secret apartment reserved for his serial philandering. Wondering if her lack of sexual experience contributed to her husband's wanderings, and spurred to curiosity about various carnal practices, she proceeds to seduce pretty much everyone she knows, absorbing lessons along the way. She becomes particularly fixated on the wisdom of Aristotle, which leads to her comically using men as horses (see below). We're mainly interested in the poster, though, which is unsigned, but was painted by Giuliano Nistri, a conclusion we came to because he painted the alternate Italian promo which you see below, and because it's very similar to another Nistri poster you can see here. La matriarca premiered in Italy today in 1968. If you get the urge to watch it, try this link.
To a hammerer every problem looks like a nail.
In Dorothy Salisbury Davis's A Gentle Murderer a man visits a confessional and reveals murdering someone with a hammer and flees into the night before the priest knows what to do. The dismayed padre decides to search for the mysterious man who burdened him with this terrible knowledge, thus taking on the role of detective in the story, though the police are on hand to conduct a parallel investigation. Naturally, another murder will soon occur if the killer isn't caught. The plot is similar to that of Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film I Confess, but appeared in hardback two years earlier. However, the Hitchcock movie was actually based on Paul Anthelme Bourde's 1902 play Nos deux consciences, so perhaps Davis was inspired by either the play or Hitchcock's adaptation. Whatever the genesis, the result was a highly regarded mystery, considered by some to be among the best of the era. The cover art on this Bantam paperback edition is by Charles Binger, and dates from 1953.
Upon examination this movie is really bad.
We suspect 90% of women—if not more—would assume this poster is for an obscure Japanese horror movie. They'd be wrong, though, because it's actually for a lighthearted made-in-West Germany erotic film called Obszönitäten, aka Obscenities, aka Confessions of a Male Escort, which premiered today in 1971. The promo art, which is completely different from the European or U.S. art, is symptomatic of the Japanese penchant for violent imagery in erotica. We've talked about it before, and we're still trying to figure it out. The movie, though, isn't violent, at least not until the end, briefly. It's a slapstick comedy about a gynecologist who is rendered impotent, and offers a gigolo named Johnny the kingly sum of 100,000 DM for his penis, which the doctor has the ability to transplant to himself. 100,000 DM was about $27,000 back when this film was made. Would you take an offer like that? No, neither would we. Plus our girlfriends would kill us if we suddenly turned up with tiny, uncircumcised dicks. No offense to the uncut but the girls have made their preferences clear. Getting back to the movie, the only real obscenity is how bad it is. Please skip it.
It isn't whether you win the game. It's who you play.
And speaking of summer, Sharon Tate is the picture of summertime in this shot of her playing ping pong on the beach. We've seen the photo around the internet, but of course with zero information, so for the record, she's attending the 21st Cannes Film Festival, held in 1968, not in the summer, but in spring—May to be exact. But summer comes early on the Côte d'Azur. Her husband Roman Polanski was on the festival jury that year, but since that isn't actual work, he made time to be at the other end of the table here. He may have lost the game for all we know, but when Tate is your partner you've already won.
West German cinema begins looking at the world in a different way.
Confession d'une pécheresse, aka The Sinner caused a bit of a scandal in West Germany, where it premiered as Die Sünderin in 1951. The movie's depictions of pre-marital sex, prostitution, nudity, and particularly double-suicide got the Catholic church bent out of shape. Despite protests against cinemas and death threats directed toward star Hildegard Knef, the movie was a smash, seen by two million West Germans within the first two weeks of its run. So based on that preamble you know pretty much what the film is about—amid a desperate post-war backdrop a prostitute falls in love with less-than-satisfactory results. But even if the story is familiar by now thanks to the many newer films that have touched upon similar subject matter, Die Sünderin is a cinematic landmark, produced in a war shattered country that had begun to put the pieces back together in a new way, including in its film industry. The above poster, a beautiful piece by the way, was made to promote Die Sünderin's French run, which began today in 1953.
Slow down, baby. How's about I love you ’til I finish, then roll over and fall into a death-like sleep? That work for ya?
Love Me to Death was written by Alex Blake, known in real life as veteran author Charles Neutzel, who also wrote as Alec Rivere, John Davidson, Jay Davis, Stu Rivers, Howard Johnson, et al, and in 2008 published the notable sleaze industry memoir Pocketbook Writer: Confessions of a Commercial Hack. The cool art here is by Doug Weaver, who was kind enough to legibly sign it, thus saving us the usual research efforts. More of that, please. 1961 from Epic Books.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1950—U.S. Decides To Fight in Korea
After years of border tensions on the partitioned Korean peninsula, U.S. President Harry Truman orders U.S. air and sea forces to help the South Korean regime repel an invasion by the North. Soon the U.S. is embroiled in a war that lasts until 1953 and results in a million combat dead and at least two million civilian deaths, with no measurable gains for either side.
1936—First Helicopter Flight
In Berlin, Germany, in a sports stadium, Ewald Rohlfs takes the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 on its first flight. It is the first fully-controllable helicopter, featuring two counter rotating rotors mounted on the chassis of a training aircraft. Only two are ever produced, and neither survive today.
1963—John F. Kennedy Visits Berlin
22 months after East Germany erects the Berlin Wall as a barrier to prevent movement between East and West Berlin, John F. Kennedy visits West Berlin and speaks the famous words "Ich bin ein Berliner." Suggestions that Kennedy misspoke and in reality called himself a jelly donut are untrue.
2009—Farrah Fawcett Dies
American actress Farrah Fawcett, who started as a model but became famous after one season playing detective Jill Munroe on the television show Charlie's Angels
after a long battle with cancer.
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