Thursday, August 25, 2011

DREAMS OF THE CLOCKMAKER Trailer now online!


The October run of my show DREAMS OF THE CLOCKMAKER (described HERE) now has a trailer online for your enjoyment. You can watch it HERE on Vimeo:

Dreams of the Clockmaker Trailer from Sean Gill on Vimeo.


If your computer can't handle the Vimeo player, there's a lower-resolution YouTube version of it here.
DREAMS OF THE CLOCKMAKER will run from October 17-30 at the Wild Project.

Bronson in THE STONE KILLER finally coming to DVD

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It's not the greatest Bronson flick there ever was, but for those desiring cheap thrills and 70's Bronson crime-stomping, THE STONE KILLER sure fits the bill. I wrote a semi-lengthy review of it HERE some time ago, and now it's time to retire the VHS, cause you can get it on DVD-R from the Warner Archive HERE.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coming Soon: DREAMS OF THE CLOCKMAKER

I'm pleased to announce that my play, DREAMS OF THE CLOCKMAKER, will be enjoying an eight-performance run at the Wild Project in Manhattan, NY this October.

Submitted for your perusal, Jillaine Gill, lady on a stage. She requests your company on a mystifying voyage to one of those old, out-of-the-way places; a land of splinters and shadows and the darkest corners of the world...

It's a sweeping narrative which shepherds us from Dust Bowl occultism to a low-rent 80's magic show to troubling mystical visions of a dystopian future. Written & directed by Sean Gill and starring Jillaine Gill. It will appear this October at The Wild Project (195 E. 3rd St. between Avenues A & B) from October 17-30 with 7:00 p.m. shows on Sundays and Mondays, and 9:30 p.m. shows on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are available via Smarttix at smarttix.com ((212) 868-4444). PR by Emily Owens PR.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Film Review: THE LAST RUN (1971, Richard Fleischer)

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 95 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: George C. Scott (PATTON, THE CHANGELING), Tony Musante (THE MERCENARY, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE), Trish Van Devere (George C. Scott's wife, THE CHANGELING, THE LANDLORD), Colleen Dewhurst (ANNIE HALL, THE DEAD ZONE), Aldo Sambrell (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY). Music by Jerry Goldsmith (CHINATOWN, ALIEN, STAR TREK, POLTERGEIST, TOTAL RECALL). Edited by Russell Lloyd (THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE). Cinematography by Sven Nykvist (PERSONA, THE TENANT). Written by Alan Sharp (NIGHT MOVES, THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND).
Tag-line: "In the tradition of Hemingway and Bogart."
Best one-liner: "I don't blow boxes, man, I blow heads. When I say bang, everything gets suddenly dark!"

I was lucky enough to catch this flick on the big screen a few weeks ago during the annual jamboree of two-fisted 70's cinema that is William Lustig Presents. Poorly received by critics upon it's initial release and nearly impossible to get a hold of in the decades hence, THE LAST RUN has nonetheless accumulated something of a cult following, and I was pretty damned excited to see it for myself.
The verdict? It's a hell of a good time, and one of the great pensive n' gritty entries to the driving-movie canon; it easily can join the ranks of THE DRIVER, VANISHING POINT, TWO-LANE BLACKTOP and THUNDER ROAD. The tag-line promises "in the tradition of Hemingway and Bogart," and I think it says a lot when, A. a movie claims to be bringing you the likes of Hemingway and Bogart, B. the movie does not in fact share an actual connection to Hemingway and/or Bogart, and C. said claim does not ultimately piss you off: I suppose it's got a sufficient number of expatriates, fishing villages, hard-asses, face-punchers, and boozers to fit the bill.

Originally set to be directed by John Huston, Richard Fleischer took over when constant brawling between Huston and star George C. Scott (who had both worked together on THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER and THE BIBLE previously) soared to such heights that Huston stormed off the set and never came back. It's difficult to know precisely what caused the enmity, but Huston makes a point of mentioning his hatred for Scott more than once in this book of interviews. Fleischer picked up the pieces and does the job of a master craftsman– it has the straight-shootin', no-frills feel of a flick by John Flynn or Don Siegel.
George C. Scott plays Harry Garmes, a retired getaway driver living in a Portuguese fishing village, tinkering with cars, living out a pale shadow of a relationship with a local hooker, and, above all, feeling like a man of inaction.

GEORGE C. SCOTT IS MAD AT YOU

He possesses that beleaguered, old-guard toughness, but he feels wrongness, despite his authentic seaside lifestyle– s0 he goes after that storied "one last job," not, as one might assume, for the purposes of a retirement fund, but just to see if he's still got "what it takes," to see if he can still do what he was built to do. His passenger is Tony Musante, playing a cocksure and amazingly douchey assassin who idolizes old gangster movies and has just escaped from prison.

Musante plays the sort of guy who greets acquaintances by cupping his hands over their eyes from behind and shrieking "Guess WHOOOO?"

Completing the circle (or, rather a triangle) is Musante's girlfriend Trish Van Devere, who may or may not be playing a couple of angles. However, the job turns out to be of a larger scope than anticipated, and soon there are police, thugs, and international mobsters jockeying for a piece of the trio– naturally, car chases, shoot-outs, double-crosses, and punches-to-the-gut ensue.
The cinematography by Ingmar Bergman's frequent DP Sven Nykvist is fantastic, only amplifying the existential undertones. He never was one for bright colors, but goddamn, the man knew how to frame a shot. In fact, with all the turtlenecks and brooding, occasionally you'll think you are watching a Bergman film!

The editing by Russell Lloyd (Huston's main editor) is even-tempered and lends the film a subtle sort of rhythm. The lack of editing in the well-staged car chases is a major plus– after seeing so many modern, jerky-cam chase scenes, it was a breath of fresh air; you can tell what the fuck you're looking at! Rounding out the talent, Jerry Goldsmith puts together an occasionally ridiculous, occasionally sumptuous Morricone-style Euro-score which is a great compliment to the action and brooding scenes alike.
In the end, it's a suspenseful, expertly unraveled character study which ends on a note of brutal poetry. And I love seeing flicks like this at the movies– at my screening, during a fairly understated action sequence, an old lady in the audience actually screamed in alarm at some gunplay. I think everyone involved would be proud. Except for Huston, who'd probably be attacking George C. Scott's projected image with a machete. Four and a half stars.


-Sean Gill

Friday, August 5, 2011

Junta Juleil's Top 100: #55-51

55. WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART (1990, Clint Eastwood)

Overshadowed by the subsequent acclaim of UNFORGIVEN, WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART remains somewhat forgotten, but the film, for me, is cleary Clint's masterpiece. And it's as much "about" Clint (and his iconic tough guy status) as it is about John Huston. Clint is the Huston stand-in here (as "Wilson"), and the film loosely chronicles the making of THE AFRICAN QUEEN, when Huston collaborated with writer Pete Viertel (here, "Verril"), who also wrote WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART. It tackles some of the most difficult questions which all filmmakers, writers, and artists have, at one time or another, been forced to confront: How does one come to terms with the desire to live out one's own stories? How does one reconcile the multiple, fractured personae that grow out of this eternal, internal debate of thought vs. action? A lot of the greatest American filmmakers of the era (Huston, Fuller, Peckinpah, etc.) seemed to be chasing (and sometimes successfully, for what it's worth) that elusive macho persona. For 'Wilson,' however, the mouthing-off, the barfights, the drinking, the womanizing- it's never enough. He seeks adventures and experiences that raise the stakes exponentially, until it's putting lives at risk and coming face to tusk with the most powerful, unpredictable creatures on the planet. He becomes something of a pure force of Id, with 'Verril' (played exceptionally by Jeff Fahey) acting as his Ego, his conscience, and the only voice of reason amid the chaos. The film's not entirely a somber rumination, however- it has visceral action, witty exchanges, and thrilling visuals. It's highly enjoyable. But when it all comes down to it, the film's impact is something akin to long night of excess and libation- the exhilaration of endless possibility and unlimited hubris is taken down a notch by the punch in the guts of the morning after. Something lost, something gained.

54. DEEP RED (1975, Dario Argento)

I previously gave four reasons why DEEP RED is an enduring masterpiece, not just as a giallo, but as something that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the other magnum opuses that emerged from the cinema of the 70's. Here they are:
#1. The visuals. DEEP RED pops and astounds in a manner that puts other filmmakers to shame. Whether it be incredible camerawork that was only possible because they were shooting non-synch sound, magnificent closeups with precise tracking, or exquisite architecture framing the scenes, Argento hits every shot out of the ballpark. And even though it lacks the sustained lighting of SUSPIRIA, I still might name this as Argento's most beautiful film. Every lesson he learned from Bava is on display here, and it is visually breathtaking.
#2. GOBLIN. In their first collaboration with Dario, Goblin shines, crashing onto the scene as a combination of ELP, J.S. Bach, and 70's hardcore bass lines. They would later evolve into Italo Disco of similar weight, but here they are perfect. I think anyone would be ecstatic to have this stuff be their theme music.
#3. The banter. Daria Nicolodi and David Hemmings cultivate a genuinely amusing relationship, with arm-wrestling and awkward Italo-British tension. The fact that it's done with Hawksian zest reminds the viewer that all too often, banter is utter crap or detrimental to a story.
#4. The ornately crafted mystery. Argento keeps a flawless balance between the heroes, background characters, and the audience, with each knowing more and less than the others at any given time. Layers of mystery are peeled away visually (writing on a steam-covered mirror, a walled-in room, a buried mural) so that YOU discover the answers firsthand, along with the characters. And the icing on the cake is the fact that a crucial clue divulging the killer's identity is hidden in plain view at the start of the picture, and not unveiled at the end as a deus ex machina letdown. It holds you in its grasp until the final, absurdly abrupt moment... "You have been watching...DEEP RED."

53. THE PIANO TEACHER (2001, Michael Haneke)

Hoo boy, we're gettin' into the rough stuff. A near-minimalist masterwork on the whacky things we want and the whacky things we only think we want. I shouldn't give too much away here, but it's the tale of an extremely, uh, committed masochist-pianist who's about to take things to a new and jaw-dropping level with her latest student. Oh, and she lives with her mom. Anyway, I suppose what I'm saying is that this ain't the movie you bring back over Christmas break to watch with the folks.
Isabelle Huppert, who's kind of the female Harvey Keitel when it comes to sheer, cuckoo devotion to the art of acting, delivers her finest, most subtle performance. (And, while obviously the Oscars are an exercise in senselessness which generally serve to only hasten the sweet union between head and wall, I have to point out that Renée Zellweger was nominated- for BRIDGET JONES' DIARY, no less- over Huppert that year, which infuriates me to such a degree that I may at any moment explode.)
Anyway, the less said, the better, but Michael Haneke's quotidian "horror" films (i.e., FUNNY GAMES, CACHÉ, BENNY'S VIDEO, et al.) are some of the best stuff around, and I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with his output if you haven't already.

52. THE BEGUILED (1971, Don Siegel)

It's difficult to single out one film from Don Siegel's exceptional oeuvre (DIRTY HARRY, THE SHOOTIST, CHARLEY VARRICK) and call it his 'masterwork,' but my gut reaction after viewing THE BEGUILED is to do just that. It's an atypical work, not merely for Action/Western icons Eastwood and Siegel, but for studio-financed American cinema as a whole. It's the sort of film that sticks with you for hours, days, and weeks… Based on a novel by Thomas Cullinan, it invokes the spirit and temperaments of Poe, Bierce, Hawthorne, and Capote, and the resulting film possesses a sort of 'Southern Gothic psychedelic existentialism.' It almost has the feel of SPIDER BABY combined with THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY. As the Civil War rages, a small Confederate girls' school carries on with business (nearly) as usual, learning French and proper napkin etiquette even as cannons blast and patrols pass by. Their existence is interrupted by a wounded Union soldier, McB (Clint Eastwood), who isn't quite the saint that he pretends to be...of course, neither are they.
Stifling, hypnotic, even baroque, the film is presented from an omniscient perspective: different characters' thoughts, memories, and hypocrisies bleed into one another, like wreckage upon wreckage. You can blame it on the war or you can blame it on human nature, but no one- not even the sweetest, most innocent of little girls- emerges from this thing unscathed.Clint gets a chance to really ACT this time: it's not chewing on a cigarillo, gunning down dudes, or growling one-liners; the legendary Geraldine Page maintains a calm exterior which brilliantly belies her inner tumult; and Lalo Schifrin delivers his most mature, complex score (full of deep, echoey flutes, mournful oboes, and intricate harpiscords), and it perfectly complements the mood of the film. An eloquent meditation on survival, human folly, psychosexual longing, and race (and bookended by Clint singing, a cappella), THE BEGUILED is truly a masterpiece.

51. LE CERCLE ROUGE (1970, Jean-Pierre Melville)


Jean-Pierre Melville– he's sort of the gold standard for cinematic "cool," and he imbues his films (they're mostly somber gangster flicks) with an elegant detachment which has reverberated across the decades and influenced almost every crime film made in its wake. As far as Melville goes, LE CERCLE ROUGE is one of his absolute best. Beginning with an ersatz Buddha quote and ending in a maelstrom of, uh, melancholy, the red circle brings together a suave, mustachioed Alain Delon; a wild-eyed, badass Gian Maria Volonté (of Sergio Leone fame); and a dapper but glum alcholic Yves Montand, who suffers incredible, creepy-crawly marionette hallucinations during unfortunate bouts with the D.T.'s. Yes, this unlikely trio is brought together for a tremendous heist sequence which rivals the classic in Jules Dassin's RIFIFI, and they are investigated by cat-loving sad sack cop André Bourvil who pursues them across a cool blue, olive drab landscape occasionally punctuated by sharp bursts of red. It's got the bonds of Hawksian friendship tempered by French existential foreboding– and it has shaped the worldviews of filmmakers from John Woo to Quentin Tarantino. One of the greats.

Coming up next... an ape funeral, a silent classic, and a shitload of dynamite!

Previously on the countdown:
#60-56
#65-61
#70-66
#75-71
#80-76
#85-81
#90-86
#95-91
#100-96
Runners-up Part 1
Runners-up Part 2

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Film Review: HEIST (2001, David Mamet)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 109 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Rebecca Pidgeon (THE SPANISH PRISONER, STATE & MAIN), Sam Rockwell (MOON, THE GREEN MILE), Delroy Lindo (CROOKLYN, BROKEN ARROW), Ricky Jay (HOUSE OF GAMES, MAGNOLIA, DEADWOOD), Patti LuPone (Broadway star, WITNESS, DRIVING MISS DAISY). Written and directed by David Mamet (HOUSE OF GAMES, HOMICIDE, THE SPANISH PRISONER).
Tag-line: " It isn't love that makes the world go round."
Best one-liner: "My motherfucker is so cool, when he goes to bed, sheep count him." or maybe "Never liked the Swiss, they make them little clocks, these two cocksuckers come out of 'em with these little hammers, hit each other on the head. What kind of sick mentality is that?"

I thought I'd take a break from the countdown to make a few concise, mathematical observations about David Mamet's film, HEIST. I saw this film on the big screen upon its initial release, which, hard as it may be for me to comprehend, was in fact ten years ago. It's a taut little crime flick, populated with razor-sharp performers and rapid-fire dialogue. It's probably slightly more "fun," than the average Mamet flick as well (I mean, compared to, say, HOMICIDE or OLEANNA...). Ricky Jay gets a lot of deadpan one-liners,

In the Junta Juleil rulebook, Ricky Jay is one of the few people permitted to walk nonchalantly away from an explosion without drawing my ire.

Rebecca Pidgeon dons a lot of redunkulous diguises, including that of a "flannel-luvin' lesbian," Gene Hackman punctuates a lot of verbal exchanges with that 'mischievous old man laugh' he's been refining since the beginning of his career,

Delroy Lindo cultivates the idea that he has ice-water in his veins, Danny DeVito hoots and hollers like a mad ape (and punches the 'Pidge in the process– wait a minute, I like that!... I shall therefore refer to Rebecca Pidgeon as "The Pidge" from this day forward),

The Pidge smolders.

and Patti LuPone sneaks booze into her morning coffee. In short, it has a lot of character and is a damn good time.

Yet I make those notations having recently re-watched it. With the thousands of movies I'd digested between 2001-2011, until last night I could remember almost nothing about HEIST. I remembered the cast, and that there were double crosses and thieves and fast-paced witticisms, but largely I remembered that most of the film seemed to center around three ideas, or rather, three words: "fuck," "job," and "gold."

The reconstruction of the film in my head went something like this: "Fuck the gold job." –"Fuck the job!? Fuck the gold!" "Gold job fuck!" –"Job fuck gold!" "Gold fuck job!" –"Fuck gold fuck job, gold fuck!" And so on and so on.

FUCKING GOLD JOB FUCK!

So, upon revisiting HEIST, I decided to test these recollections against cold, hard statistics. (Now, as I continue, I would like to say that only Mamet and others of his literary caliber are allowed to get away with this sort of thing; there's a mighty fine line sometimes betwixt poetry and juvenilia.) I discovered this: in 109 minutes, there were thirty-two golds, fifty fucks, and fifty-one jobs. You may be disappointed in the tally, as it certainly doesn't approach the legendary films which go bananas with the f-word, for instance, but there's still more than one of those three words being uttered every minute, an even more impressive feat considering that there are many wordless, multi-minute heist sequences peppered throughout the film. But, in a way, my previous impression goes far in establishing the economy with which Mamet tells a story (and perhaps even Mamet's greater intentions). You see– this is indeed a movie about a job, some gold, and some people fucking each other over. Well-executed as it is, perhaps Mamet is making a comment on heist movies: as Godard said, all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun; perhaps it follows that all you need to make a post-1990's heist movie is a job, some gold, and some f-bombs? And the Pidge. Mustn't forget the Pidge. (And I'll leave you with those pleasant thoughts of the Pidge before I begin analyzing post-Nixon obsessions with the gold standard in relation to HEIST!) Four stars.

-Sean Gill