HarryTuttle's Spontaneous Impressions - H
Hanzo The Razor 2 - The Snare
The Heart Of The World
Hidden Fortress
High And Low
Higher Principle

L'Histoire De Marie Et Julien
Histoire(s) du Cinéma : Morceaux Choisis
House Of Flying Daggers
House Of Fools

How To Kill Your Neighbor's Dog
Howl's Moving Castle
The Highway

> CRIT <Hanzo The Razor 2 - The Snare
1973 - Yasuzo MASUMURA - Japan

Goyoukiba : Kaminori Hanzo Jigoku Seme
Second episode of a serie of 3, Hanzo the Razor is an adaptation from a Kazue Koike's manga, featuring Shintaro Katsu (famous for his role in the Zatoichi original serie). This one is directed by Yasuzo Masumura a serious japanese director (Seisaku's Wife), who made delirious films like this at the end of his career.
Japan, Edo era, Itami "Razor" Hanzo is a constable who enforce the law regardless for social class immunity, moralizing Samourais, rich merchants, police superiors or imperial administrators. He knows no fear, and kicks any samourai's a$$, with his chain and jitte against katanas.
After finding the corpse of a naked woman who died mysteriously after a failed abortion, Hanzo tracks down an evil plot organized by important administrators to milk the Shogun's mint, and prostitution of virgin girls in a religious temple.
Hanzo was granted of an abnormaly large penis, that he trained and built up by beating it up and screwing rice dolls (apparently more largely developped in episode 1). His questioning routine of women suspects is rather unusual. He rapes them until they ask for more, at which point he stops to make them talk. (pics below : the temple priestess in the net empaled onto him. )
Hanzo resorts to the most witty cunning strategy, disguised in woman clothes, fighting half naked most of the time the loosy samourai and ninja. Hidden in a closet, in a barrel-coffin, or in his hide-out full of blade-bobby-traps.
I have to say the soundtrack made of a mix of punk guitar and cheesy porn-music, topped by an horrible french dubbing (!) is a must! Absolutely hilarious! Each line is pricelessly flat and pointless. The gore saber fights with gushing blood and dismembering are not missing of course. Although Masumura's cinematography makes this exploitation flick a most peculiar masterpiece.


> CRIT <The Heart Of The World
2000 - Guy MADDIN - Canada

Short film - silent - B&W
reminiscent of the silent russian film posted earlier : Aelita.
a woman who controls the shape of the heart of the world, is in love of 2 brothers, but this is the end of the world...
Maddin skillfuly uses the design of silent cinema, on a strong music, fast editing, and smart old tricks.


> CRIT < Hero
2003 - ZHANG Yimou - HK

a wire-fu Rashomon with much more people on set and horses!
influence of Kurosawa (i.e. Throne of Blood in the arrows scene) is blatent. the 4-fold storyline is intersting although not perfectly articulated... the colors are just amazing! and the cinematography is pure pleasure.
the narrative is spoiled (many cliché typical to the genre tho) to overwhelming fight scenes, but that is not the reason why we want to watch this film. the noble art of chinese samourai action is respected and revered. the legend of the birth of China is the subject and that is what counts above all.


> CRIT < Hidden Fortress
1958 - Akira KUROSAWA - Japan

Kurosawa's first scope film, develops full potentiality of a stretched out mise en scene, pushing his protagonists in the corners of the wide screen, and crowded with endless troups of slaves and soldiers. Most of the film relies on the imagination of a bluffed audience as Kurosawa makes us believe a bunch of burnt wooden beams are a former magnificent stronghold, a hole in the middle of dusty mountains is a hidden fortress, bundles of sticks are a royal gold treasure, a girl in shorts is a princess and a bum without katana (Mifune) is a samourai general. The subtle dissimulating performances and the slowly uncovering narration makes up largely for the cheap art direction. A couple of glorious scenes : the one-on-one spear-duel between the 2 rival generals, the ritual fire-dance, and the crowd scenes.
Some details in the framing, sweep-transition edit, troopers pursuit in the forest, desert straying, a fallen princess on the run, a faithful general, and 2 funny idiots comfirm the influence this film had on Lucas' Star Wars.

Berlin Silver Bear for best director


> CRIT <High And Low
1963 - Akira KUROSAWA - Japan

What a masterwork! Probably the best kidnapping/ransom police investigation and family drama ever made. And that is only the first half, when the tension builds up among the relatives and business partners. From the moment the face of the balckmailer is revealed, the film turns into a naturalist police investigation reminiscent of the one in Fritz Lang's M. The last few sequences even tough moving social study and subtle psychologic portrait when confronting the poor criminal to the wealthy victim. This film is an exemplary model for mise-en-scene and screen composition! Just watch how Kurosawa places his characters on the cinemascope screen, using the full potential of his set depth. Toshiro Mifune (the wealthy victim) is sometimes isolated, facing a wall seated, while everyone else turn their back on him, standing in the foreground. The Black and White photography is magnificent too.


> CRIT < Higher Principle
1960 - Jiri KREJCIK - Czech

Vyssí princip / Monsieur Principe Superieur

Reinhard Heydrich, dictator of Bohemia and Moravia, Hitler's third man after Himmler, is assassinated by a czech commando in Prague on spring 1942. The 3rd Reich declares a national mourning, and will retaliate with random executions in Czech occupied territories. Meanwhile students of Pardubice prepare their graduation exam with the latin professor, nicknamed "Mister Higher Principle" for his moral lectures. A frat joke noticed by the gestapo will bring trouble in town. A new SS commandant is appointed and 3 students are arrested without trial. Suspicion corrupts mutual respect and friendship among oppressed people fearing for their life and the safety of their loved ones. The tension unmasks propensity to individualism or forces heroism.
Through philosophy and roman history the latin professor put into perspective the condition of being occupied by a tyrant. Ironically the exam subject is a citation of Seneca, the adviser of bloodthirsty emperor Nero. This philosopher had to commit suicide when accused of plotting against the tyrant, which echoes the situation in the film.

C:+++ W:++ M:++ I:+++ C:+++


> CRIT <L'Histoire De Marie Et Julien
2003 - Jacques RIVETTE - France

I've been manipulated by Emmanuelle's charms to go and watch this... look what happen when women take over your own will. :p you'd expect any director to make something happen within 150 min? there is zero cinema challenge there, it's was written for theatre, and would look better on a stage. well i got Emmanuelle Béart nudity and sex scenes :)
so it's the story of Julien (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) a watchmaker who repair old spire clock mechanism, alone in his big house. his ex-girlfriend recently left everything behind and never returned. He dreams of a girl, Marie (Emmanuelle Béart), he met a year ago at a party and imagine meeting her again, she happens to be alone as well. in the background we have a blackmail story when Julien has compromising documents that a beautiful woman, Madame X (Anne Brochet) who is willing to pay a lot of money to get them back. the rest would be spoilers because it's based on an end twist (that was better achieved in prior films)
i've only seen Va Savoir (that wasnt as bad), from Rivette. i still have to watch La Belle Noiseuse and Céline et Julie vont en bateau.


> CRIT <Histoire(s) du Cinéma : Morceaux Choisis
2000 - Jean-Luc GODARD - France

Godard's own digested 35mm summary, in 84 min, from his made-for-TV video serial of 8 episodes (315'). I didn't see the original serie, but the glimpse I got from this piece is enough to figure this is Godard talking to himself, name-dropping all the great filmmakers of his friends, quoting literary auhors, and playing around unsuccessfuly with stroboscopic superimpressions and frame-by-frame slow motion of famous masterpiece clips. Some smart comments digressing into his personal political agenda.


> CRIT <Hotel
2004 - Jessica HAUSNER - Austria

The film is panned by the french critique, but I loved it. I like all her films. She was an assistant to Michael Haneke on Funny Games. Well to be fair, the ending is highly disappointing, falling back into conventional tricks, like if she didn't find any other way to close the story.
All the build up to the last minute is deliciously anguishing. Mostly uneventful, this "silent" film focuses on inner thoughts, social prejudice, jealousy and manic misanthropy of idle empty people with uninteresting daily life concerns. The atmosphere is bleak indeed, but the observation of human nature in these smallest moments are insightful. The careful cinematography and lingering editing of this paced thriller are masterful in my opinion.
Even if it uses the premise of horror (as a way of satire), this is not at all a scary movie. It adds up to nothing ultimately, which is really disappointing. But the objective of the film wasn't to draw a conclusion on the events presented. It belongs to this new family of films developping a careful observation of every inches of an uneventful path, instead of building the suspense to emphasize a climactic destination.

Presented at Cannes 2004, section Un Certain Regard.

C: +++ W: ++ M: ++ I: +++ C: +++


> CRIT <The House Of The Flying Daggers
2004 - ZHANG Yimou - HK

Disappointingly hollow, this second wuxia opera orchestrated by the maker of Hero is a plain love story featuring a romantic triangle generating secret jealousy and competition in the midst of an underdevelopped plot showing the government hunt for subversive clans in ancient China. Costumes and sets are splendid, the photography never reach the achievements of the previous film, although some of the fights are well directed. Maybe trying too hard with too much showoff.


> CRIT <House Of Fools
2002 - KONCHALOVSKY - Russia/France

Based on a true story, in 1996, a psychiatric hospital on the border of Chechenya is abandonned overnight when the war fires up. The next morning, the director and nurses have disapeared, and the patients are left on their own. They intent take this oportunity to escape, but the bombs make them run inside untill a section of chechen rebels take position in the hospital.
Zhanna, the cute erotomane, brights up this institution and calm down everyone with her accordion. She believes Bryan Adams loves her and will come back one day to marry her. She sees him (himself) in dreams, singing "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" onboard of a glimmering train that passes every night in front of the asylum.
One of the chechen plays the accordion too and make her dance. Zhanna falls in love when he asks her in marriage. the classic Wizard of Oz farewell scene ensues... but we are only halfway through.
the film is a local story of the horror of what can be the war: opposition of brother-enemies (chechen and russian soldiers remember they fought side by side in Afghanistan), looting, snipers, bombs, starvation, hostage, black market, barter, patriotism... the director doesnt take side, and paint the good and bad guys in each side, while the patients remain arguably neutral, respected by both.
we have an amazing cast, with a good few well defined roles and precise performances. the storyline is a bit unfocused, and slowish but isnt that sort of confusion during war time? Zhanna largely borrows from the performance of Lili Taylor in Kusturica's Arizona Dreams! the accordeon and the moods. a delicate photography, mixing hard reality with glimpses of oniric visions in the midst of bullets and explosions.


> CRIT <How To Kill Your Neighbor's Dog
2000 - Michael KALESNIKO - USA/Germany

a play within a film: a playwright (Brannagh) faces doubts and anxiety because he lost the inspiration of his past success. while he directs his new play, his adorable wife (Robin Wright Penn) push forth her desire of child through the new neighbor's handicaped 8 yold girl, who will eventually help him to understand children and develop the parenthood theme of his play. several small running side-plot with a dog barking at night, a stalker-fan doppleganger, an Alzeimhered mother-in-law, and sex impotence (in bed with Robin???? no way).
An insomniac writer with an inspiration block, meets a bum at night, fan-stalker and substitutes for misdemeanors commited under his name. His doppleganger, half real, half fantasy, claims to know him better and lectures on his losy life and how he should write his books. Incidentaly, both his private life and his ongoing rehearsal are stuck in a corner, the vicious doppleganger and the crippled neighbor's daughter will help him solve his conflicts and prejudice with childhood and paternity.


> CRIT <Howl's Moving Castle
2004 - MIYAZAKI - Japan

It's a really intelligent film for children, or for children at heart (and grandparents with their grandchildren), playing the Shreck "I'm an ugly monster needing love" chord, without the smartass punchlines. A beautiful and rich story (maybe too complex for kids), constructed like a medieval fairy tale (although the encironment looks like the 19th century), with some great animated scenes, although generally based on stop motion patches (instead of frame-by-frame hand drawn animation) which gives a seamless flow to the vehicles. My favorite character is the fire-spirit, very funny.
Ironically Miyazaki developped his story in an (imaginary) England? The style is very european, even the monsters are not his usual japanese style. Is it based on an existing legend? It's surprising, but works very well because it's not a cross-culture hybrid.
What stroke me was his usual japanese inspiration doesn't show much on his latest, if at all. Howl/Hauru is maybe the only character with a japanese look (his animated attitude and look departing from the ensemble in my opinion). The flying ships are also manga typical (similar to what Oshii did in Avalon or Innocence, from Masamune Shiro)
Apart from these minor details, I felt like watching a european animation. The color scheme, the background design (faithful to 18/19th century english cityscape), the characters/costumes are all definitely distinct from the japanese style. Even the wicked witch is closer to Triplets of Belleville. The rubber monsters seem to come from neither culture.
The story is actually inspired by a children tale (by british author Diana Wynne Jones), which does not appear in the credits, so I was wondering about this change of inspiration.
The castle being animated with stop-motion patches features a greater detail definition and lighting, since they are not re-drawn for every frame, while the characters are painted in plain colors.
Without animation expertise/fanatism, I found this film to be perfect for children accompanied by their grandparents, like a tender cross-generational link. It's more than that of course. The popular theme of Shrek (I'm a monster and I want to be loved for my inner beauty) takes a whole new dimension here, without the heavyhanded sympathy forced onto us by Dreamworks, forcefuly served by funny catchlines. Ghibli suggests a whole different language for children, more poetical and symbolic, somehow more mature, whereas Shrek's target of choice is more adult than kids.
The story is even a bit complex at times, because there are a lot of secondary characters who appear only briefly, and their ties to the rest of the story is unclear, or their appearance has changed.
So I wonder how kids react to that, but the main meaning of the film flows naturally and everything seems evident without excessive emphasis.
I'm thinkin of the flashback sequence to Howl's childhood, Sophie's family members (almost entirely abscent in Sophie's mind throughout), Sophie's unexplained age alteration (back and forth during her supposedly unbreakable spell) or the partial hints to the war between unidentified nations. All work on a subliminal level, beyond logic inconsistancy, which is rather uncommon for children films.
The symbolic level of this story, comes out directly from medieval fairy tales (Andersen, Grimm...) that Disney used to adapt, where each character has a psychoanalytical function to relieve children anxiety and develop their personality (see Bettelheim's book).
It's particularly brilliant here. We absorb the whole film like a dream, without questioning the logic, the magic, nor the curious leaps/blanks in the storyline.
Each character is very simple, almost one-dimensional, and intervenes at a very precise moment along Sophie's journey : The sacrecrow, the old dog, Calcifer, Suliman, the witch and the king.
Calcifer, the fireplace demon, is excellent! His animation is really funny, yet more grotesque (in a manga way) than the others. His japanese voice successfuly develops a delirious personality.
One "disturbing" detail is how the line between goodies and baddies is so naively brushed off... as both Howl and the witch, Sophie's archenemies (a subtle fear instilled by urban legend and gossips), become her best friends in a wink, without begging, without any extraordinary climactic battle that usually defeats the evil side.
sidenote on the title : the english title is too much of a spoiler (howl), I don't know what is the literal japanese translation, but in the french version, Howl is called by its japanese name (Hauru), and the title is Le Château Ambulant (The Walking Castle).


> CRIT <Hukkle
2002 - György PALFI - Hungary

from a true story of a mass poisoning murder in a small rural town, Nagyrev (Hungary) in 1912 during 2 decades, that was the largest crime in this country's history.
this is not a mute film! but there is practicaly no dialog all along, only the ending folk song tell us what happened.
this is a gorgeous visual film for photography lovers. many close up, exploring the focus depth, textures, small moves, mechanism, machines, insects, farm animals. some masterfull plan-sequence, original camerawork and a rythmic editing.
the noises of nature, and farm life play a central role to sink us into the very quiet and slowish atmopshere. an old man with a hicup, sheep, pig, bees, ladybird, mole, cat, dog, fish, frog...
the women of the village stick together as more and more caskets drive up main street, and more people queue at the sanitary dispensary. a policeman watches without a clue...
this is very slow and uneventful, but the beauty of images makes this journey feel like a peaceful stroll in the country. cynic, eerie, grotesque, awkward.

European Discovery of the Year (European Film Awards 2002)
official entry of Hungary for the Academy Awards


> CRIT <The Highway
1934 - SUN Yu - China

a group of young men work hard on the building of the chinese road network, critical to the chinese army deployment against the invader.
8 young men are portrayed with each a different personality: the charismatic leader, the silent hardworker, the wise, the fat and rough, the musician, the skillful, the chief, the monkey-faced useless comic. struggling for food, and unemployed, enjoying simple gathering into the barest misery...
they all believe in the necessity of building roads and work hard for it, singing patriotic songs and pulling the heavy roller on dusty roads.
they meet 3 girls in an inn, a singer and an acrobat (Li-li Li), beautiful and cheering.
the enemy will buy the treason of the local town owner, who will try to bribe these men into stoping the road construction to ease the imminent enemy attack. but they refuse and are thrown in prison. their friends will do their best to rescue them and save the country!
it's funny, and enjoyable in a too classic way. but the ending shows an original use of footage overlaping for ghost effects. there is some poetry and graphic shots too. would u believe there are full frontal men nudity (workers bathing naked in a river peeped by the 2 girls) in a 1935 chinese movie!!!