Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson





Building façade in Cannes, France

Short films seen at the 1987 Seattle International Film Festival…

Berliner Blau: Very strange meditation on the Berlin Wall. The title means “Berlin Blue.” Lots of strange images all revolving around the Berlin Wall. Trick photography is used to have people walking on top of, behind, over and around it.

Beyond Kabuki: This stunner uses stop-action animation and other techniques to take traditional Japanese kabuki to its logical (or illogical) extreme. There are many effects that would be great in a horror/sci-fi/fantasy movie, particularly one where a woman materializes out of a rnirror. Created by a local Seattle filmmaker, Janice Findley.

Cityshape: Interesting shapes. Sort of an animated Matisse painting.

Dance of the Dragon: Another mini-horror movie but with less wit than Rabbit. A studly young man gets a tattoo of a dragon on his arm but refuses to pay. (How do you repossess a tattoo?) The tattoo takes its revenge in its own gory way. The really scary thing about this is, if the filmmakers had had enough money, this probably would have been 90 minutes long.

The Extinct World of Gloves: I don’t know where this came from. It wasn’t in the schedule anywhere, but it showed up on awards night when they were re-showiing the best of the shorts (i.e. the ones still lying around the Egyptian Theater office). An excavator unearths a bunch of old gloves and a reel of film. He plays the film and there are several mini-movies all featuring gloves as the actors. There is a Charlie Chaplin-type comedy, a romantic adventure, a Fellini-like movie, a science fiction epic (with a film reel can as a flying saucer), a war epic, and even a glove version of Chien Andalou. Wonderful stuff! From the credits, I would guess that it came from Czechoslovakia (or Gloveland).

A Greek Tragedy: A Dutch animated short. This won an Academy Award for best short subject. Amusing if inconsequential.

Lupo the Butcher: Remember this title. It is destined to become a cult classic. Comes from the same Vancouver studio that produced Bambi vs. Godzilla. Lupo is an unpleasant sort who has a sign in his butcher shop that reads: THIS IS NO LIBRARY! BUY OR GET OUT! It should have read: THINK SAFETY! Wonderful fun for the kiddies (if they have really sick minds).

Metal Dogs of India: A fun collage of images and music with a beat. Its main interest is the fact that all the images were drawn directly on the celluloid making it the only movie that I know of which was made entirely without a camera.

The Misunderstanding: Another one of those weird things that lapsed Catholic filmmakers come up with. A nun goes around killing apparently innocent people (cripples, children, etc.) in horribly violent ways. A German flick filmed in Portugal. The final scene is particularly weird.

La mort du rat: This one popped up because it is a perennial favorite. The title is French for “Death of the rat” and it involves a worker who has a very bad day. He comes home and hits his wife who hits their child who hits the dog which bites the cat which…

Mr. Muff Takes a Dive: Mr. Muff takes a very long dive in this animated featurette. Cameo appearances by Wile E. Coyote and the Starship Enterprise. The surprise ending has Freudian overtones.

Musician’s Day: The narration is from Erik Satie about his daily routine. With animation to illustrate. Why does this film exist?

Nexus: According to the schedule, saw this short, but I can’t remember it.

Night on the Town: Claymation gets gross. Really gross. This is the sort of horrible nightmare that Edvard Munch and George Romero might come up with if they were feeling really bummed out about things. If you see it, you will not forget it. And believe me, you will try.

Object Conversation: Lots of weird shapes and dislocated words. Interesting for the first 30 seconds, but it went on for another 560.

Rabbit: A mini-horror flick/cautionary tale. A businessman is driving across a long, boring stretch of desert and to pass the time he drinks beer and tries to run over jack rabbits. (He keeps score on the side of his car.) The rabbits, however, have the last laugh.

Suspicious Circumstances: Interesting film that uses photographs and animation, sort of like the segues in the Monty Python TV shows. Seems to be about something very deep.

Sweet Dreams Love: Sort of a Dutch Fritz the Cat except with people instead of animals. A woman finds a burglar in her home and makes him feel at home.

Swimming: A history/celebration of swimming. Would make a good YMCA commercial.

Tribute: Stirring music, a succession of images from the 1950s interspersed with blackouts. A tribute to the memory of the filmmaker’s brother. Very moving even if you can’t figure out why.

Your Face: The winner of the Best Short award and Scott Bob’s personal pick (because I hadn’t yet seen The Extinct World of Gloves). This is by Bill Plympton, whose drawings you have probably seen in magazines and newspapers. In three hilarious minutes you see every variation that a pen and ink artist could possibly come up with for playing with a face.


In CinemaScope with Leonard Maltin

Years ago, I was visiting some friends who were watching Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill on one of the cable movie channels. I, of course, had already seen it at a movie theater, so I was biting my lip in order not to ruin any surprises for anybody. But I was silently waiting for one of my favorite little scenes. After the supposed climax, Keith Gordon sits in a nice restaurant with Nancy Allen explaining to her in graphic sexual detail how Michael Caine’s female half reacted when his male half got turned on by Angie Dickinson. Off to one side there was this lady who sort of looked like Jean Stapleton (but wasn’t) at another table eavesdropping. Her face went through all sorts of contortions as she heard all these disgusting details. Imagine my disappointment when the scene came up, and the lady wasn’t there! In a supposedly unedited, uncut movie! I later learned that the lady wasn’t there because, when you show a movie shot in widescreen on TV, something has to go because the the TV screen has totally different dimensions than the movie screen. On another occasion I read an article about how Andrew Sarris wrote of seeing The Graduate on TV and how he’d gotten a new appreciation of Mike Nichols’ direction from the way he kept switching the camera back and forth between Katherine Ross and Dustin Hoffman in the final scene, where they are on the bus. But Nichols didn’t do that. The original theatrical version stayed on both of them continuously in that last shot. But since the TV screen is so much narrower, somebody had to do some tricky editing to show both actors. The moral here is: even though the big controversy these days is over colorization of old black and white movies, what may be even more detrimental to the director’s art is the fact that a lot of people these days are seeing films for the first (and maybe only) time on a TV set through video cassettes, cable, or regular TV. And when a CinemaScope movie gets put in a TV screen format, you lose literally almost half the movie. “In CinemaScope with Leonard Maltin” is not the name of a movie but rather a tribute to the art of CinemaScope. Mr. Maltin (film historian, film writer, and special correspondent for Entertainment Tonight) gave a somewhat brief intro to some 90 minutes of clips of great moments in wide screen. He explained how CinemaScope was originally seen as a gimmick to fight the encroachment of television in the 1950s. However, it has since come to be seen as an artistic film medium in its own right. For an hour and a half, festivalgoers were treated to some magical widescreen moments: in Howard Hawks’s Land of the Pharoahs, every working actor and extra in California is seen parading around in Egyptian costumes. Pre-historic ape men fighting until one of them throws a bone in the air which becomes a space ship that becomes part of an outer space ballet to a Strauss waltz in 2001: A Space Odyssey. A narrow screen prologue details the end of civilization and then explodes into a wide screen car chase with Mel Gibson and a couple guys on a motorcycle (who look like the sort of people who hang out in Seattle’s Broadway district) in The Road Warrior. Rita Moreno, George Chakiris and friends kick and dance across the screen singing “America” in West Side Story. Julie Andrews (impersonating a man impersonating a woman) sings “Le Jazz Hot” while in the audience a macho James Garner ponders his sexual orientation in Victor/Victoria. Jeanne Moreau rides her bicycle with Jules and Jim through an elongated black and white French countryside. Woody Allen pays tribute to New York City in wide black and white cityscapes set to “Rhapsody in Blue” in Manhattan. Hooray for Hollywood. (Seen 28 May 1987)


A Tribute to Dennis Hopper

Easily the biggest night of the 1987 Seatle International Film Festival, a packed house watched some of director and actor Dennis Hopper’s finest moments on screen: the famous Jack Nicholson bits from Easy Rider, a knife fight with James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, some tender loving moments with Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet, etc. Bellevue Journal-American movie critic Brent Northup moderated a Q and A session with Hopper. Questions (which were submitted by audience members) dealt frankly with his drug addiction and his fights with people in Hollywood. A lot of women were apparently turned on by his Frank character in Blue Velvet. Hopper is acting in a lot of movies these days, in case you haven’t noticed. And he is directing a new movie called Colors, with Robert Duvall and Sean Penn, which may or may not be out for Christmas. He is totally off cocaine, dope, and alcohol, but he apparently is still doing nicotine (in violation of Seattle city code on the Egyptian Theater stage). His answers were refreshingly candid, and he didn’t hestitate to dismiss questions that were really stupid (and some were). Afterwards, they showed The American Friend, in which Hopper starred for Wim Wenders. A German homage to American film noir, it was even better the second time around. (Seen 31 May 1987)