|Director:||Fernando Di Leo|
|04.07.07||Alamo Downtown||This Screening is part of event: Grindhouse All Nighter|
Welcome to the Grindhouse all night marathon extravaganza: four badass grindhouse classics preceeding a showing of Rodriguez/Tarantino's own Grindhouse feature, held at the historic Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Austin, TX. Some would say there's no better place to show this movie than right here and they'd be right. How right are they? The establishing shot of the city in Death Proof is a shot of this fucking theater. Home to five Tarantino film festivals, over five years of continued grindhouse screenings (every Wednesday at midnight), and ten years of overall excellence in obssessive film geekery, this is the midwest mecca of cinema. And what's better is that unlike NYC's 42nd street it's still around and unlike LA's most historic and prestigious movie houses it's not filled with assholes. So yeah, when I had the choice of paying 30 bucks to attend the star-studded Grindhouse Austin premiere at the historic Paraount, I opted to wait a week and a half and pay 18 bucks for a Saturday night filled with vintage classics, amazing trailers, and 200 like-minded people who want to stay up all night watching weird-ass movies. It can't really get much better.
Well, actually it could for me personally... having seen 3 of the 4 non-RR/QT films tonight's largely about thee experience and the crowd and revisiting favorites than surprises or newfound gems. That's ok though. As it turns out I got my fair shair of surprises after all.
It's damn cold and wet and raining like crap on my drive down. I get downtown, get relatively lucky with parking, and three blocks of walking in the rain later I start to hear the rumors of snow farther north and global warming and whatever. There are relatively few familiar faces here tonight, I guess the people that show up every Wednesday have already seen these films or can't afford the 18 bucks or have appointments at the methadone clinic in the morning. The house is all but filled to capacity though with a new batch of people, some of which are clearly here just for the last movie (which doesn't make any sense because it opened yesterday), some have already seen it and want to see it again, and some, like me, are here for the whole thing of it all. See, the original Alamo location is closing in a few short months, moving a few blocks away to inhabit the Ritz theater on 6th. For those that have been coming here for ten years it's the end of an era, for those like me it's one of a dwindling number of chances to soak in as much as we can before it's gone (or changed) forever.
Lars, programmer for the Alamo and curator of the ongoing Weird Wednesday series, is here to host the evening, introducing the first film called The Boss AKA Wipeout! Directed by Italian maestro Fernando di Leo, this film was all but extinct before Quentin brought it much love and attention in one of his festivals (QT4, 70s Italian Crime night with a double feature of Shoot First Die Later and Wipeout (both directed by Di Leo) followed by a midnight showing of Hickey & Boggs). In fact, I think Di Leo's entire current interest is do to QT's repeated screenings of a series of his movies here in town, so it's only fitting that it kick off the marathon.
For the uninitiated, Italian Crime movies are, understandably, analogous to Spaghetti Westerns: compared to the American films that they're trying to capitalize on and emulate, they're much more brazen, more rough hewn, more overt. They're faster, cheaper, more brutal and ruthless and serpentine and stylized and that comes through on the story level, the design and direction level, and the acting level. I guess Antonioni and Fellini used up all the subtle in Italy because by the time the 60s were over they didn't have any left.
So with that in mind, The Boss is the story of a hitman (played with supreme stone-faced death-visaged glory by Henry Silva) caught up in a vendetta between Richard Conte and the guy who raised him like a father. Along the way, someone's daughter gets kidnapped and the mob guys double cross on double cross on double cross after double cross. A lot of the talking scenes spew forth so much exposition that's so intricate and convoluted that it's easy to get lost and not know who the hell's who and what's going on. But the thing that makes these movies great is that you don't really care. The tough guys have never acted tougher, the action is intense, the music amazing, and just moment after moment is filled with something worthy of appreciation.
I first saw this movie at the Best of QT Fest that Quentin held a year ago (playing in a double feature with Brotherhood of Death, followed by the Weird Wednesday presentation of Joy House). I asked Lars if this was QT's print they were showing tonight and he answered that he didn't know of anyone else who had a print. It's generally regarded as one of Di Leo's (many) best though and it's a treat to see again. This speaks to one aspect of these films: their unavailability. Perhaps movies like The Boss or The Dion Brothers wouldn't be quite as amazing as they are if they were readily available on DVD. The fact that you can't see them without a pretty hefty search or a really great theater nearby makes watching them more of an event. So yay for me to get to see it again and Yay for Austin for having it screened 3 times in the last 10 years and yay for the Alamo for making certain clips (recorded off a poor-quality VHS bootleg) no-talking spots to forever ingrain the film into the brains of all who see it.
Henry Silva's really great in this, as is the dude who plays the hand-gesturing cop. I really think it's a testament to whoever did the English translation that he could fit something close to sensible communication in the midst of all that hand motion, quick talking and odd cadence of speech. The net effect is a really bizarre vocal performance matching the mannerisms and gestures of what's on screen perfectly, but often sounding odd, not to mention hilarious.
I think the big surprise of the film however, and this was spoiled when Quentin introduced it because he couldn't help but comment on it, is the part of the daughter. When the daughter gets kidnapped (in a great scene driven by fantastic music, the score of this film is absolutely top-notch), the offending brutes threaten her with the expected male maneuvers. At first the actress plays really shy and humiliated, and then she has this great turn which becomes a really funny returning gag through the rest of the film. It's completely unexpected from an American viewpoint and serves as a great example of differences between American and Italian crime.
Preceeded perfectly with select vintage trailers, The Boss went over great and its somewhat deliberate pacing interspersed with really energizing action sequences tempered the audience for the night, but did nothing to prepare them for the craziness that is Revenge of the Cheerleaders.
|04.26.06||Alamo Downtown||This Screening is part of event: Best of QT Fest|
Day three of the fest started off with dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse... Poor saps who didn't get badges... we got to eat, drink, and be merry like 200 feet away while they hung out on the stairs for hours. I was seriously stressing that we would miss out on seats because we didn't get out of there till 6:30 but our row seems to be reserved for us now... and it doesn't look like there are enough badgeholders here to want these seats anyway. What's going on here? Did AFS only sell like 60 badges? I'd really like to get a complete total just to kinow. I seem to remember the frenzy to get a good seat for QT6 being much higher. It filled up by the time things go underway of course, but still... I mean we're talking about Wipeout here!
Ever since seeing Rulers of the City (AKA Mister Scarface), this movie has jumped to the top of the list of films I'm most excited to see this week. Tim gets up and tells us that Quentin's not here so he's gonna read a complicated paragraph about the fest's sponsor: Ustudio. True enough, the paragraph has phrases in it like "global revolution" and "highly distributed talent" and even manages to use "aggregates" as a verb. I picture 75% of the QTfest audience's eyes glaze over (the remaining 25% of course belonging to ustudio employees feeling good about themselves in their reserved seats and weirdo people like me and Roland who sort of have to know this language even though some of us (like me, for example) don't really want to). Luckily, mercifully, Quentin shows up and introduces the night in what I think may be the most energetic, excited, and informative intro to date (at least for QT6 and this one). He's explaining the roots of Italian gangster movies, the differences between romanticised American films and films that come from a place where everyday people actually have to deal with the mob in some way every day, and that Hong Kong's violece ain't got nothing on Italy. WHile what he's saying makes sense, I think it's also Italy's collective taste in film that makes things so brutal and raw. You see the same exact difference between American and Italian westerns and you know... there's no Tombstone or Boot Hill outside of Naples. Still though, for whatever reason, Italian films know how to kick some ass. Wipeout is no exception.
AKA The Boss ("Wipeout is like the best title ever but The Boss... Henry Silva and Richard Conte in The Boss... The Boss might be a better title"), this movie is about a hitman and a Don battling an evil Colabrian trying to bully his way into the family. Sounds familiar to I Kiss the Hand right? Well it sort of is, except where I Kiss the Hand is a pretty deliberate dramatic movie with splashes of action and violence, Wipeout is a mouth agape actiony violent-as-fuck movie with splashes of drama. You don't see Henry Silva crash into a car and break it clean in half as it falls off a bridge and blows up in I Kiss the Hand. You don't see Henry Silva launch three or four grenades into a movie theater just to make sure the bodies are charred beyond recognition there.... nope for that you have to see Wipeout. Wipeout ALSO plays similar to No Way Out (AKA Tony Arzenta, not the Kevin Costner flick) in that Richard Conte plays the Don but the star of the movie is a hitman ("In America you can never have the hitman be the start of the movie. You might get a movie where Henry Silva plays a hitman out to get the main star but you have to go to Italy to get movies where the hitman IS the star") who gets double crossed... but this is a Fernando Di Leo movie not a Duccio Tessari movie so there are all sorts of twists on genre convention and high-octane tough-guy dialogue thrown in too. Oh what's this? a scene where it looks like someone's gonna play a bit of soccer to establish their sypmathetic character's affinity for an annoying innocent child character? Nope, kick to the nuts. Scene over. Oh great, now they've kidnapped the Don's daughter (kidnapped by student radicals no less) and plan to gang rape her while she cries and gets all hurt and blah blah blah. nope, she loves it. she's too much for them. she wears them out. She's got a specialty that's freaky. She's hungry for more.
Wipeout, like Mister Scarface, is actually pretty slow in a few places. I don't want to make it seem like this movie is absolutely perfect and if only more people could see it then it would replace Citizen Kane on all those lists... but the thing with both movies is that there are so many cool moments padding the slow scenes that the occasional threat of boredom completely leaves your mind afterward. All that remains is the tons of cool shit that you just saw, not the scene where the already-established-as-angry Calabrian acts angry.
But you know, enough of that. let's get back to the cool stuff. Silva's relationship with the aforementioned nympho daughter is flat-out awesome. He takes apathy to an entirely new level. When asked if he'd bump her off once he gets tired of her, he simply states "honey, I'm tired of you NOW!" She talking to much? "Just screw, baby; don't think." At one point Silva realizes that he's "spent a week between her legs while all hell breaks loose" and slaps her around a bit. she seems to like it. I think, because this girl's such a nympho, this may be the only QTfest films that I see with no rape scene. I told you it was different.
Gianni Garko's also in this and I have to confess my ignorance here. Harry says he plays the Police inspector who talks more with his hands than his mouth, but I thought he played the police inspector on the Don's payroll. I remember him as being young in Five for Hell but he's got a mustache in this so I can't be sure. In either case, the dubbing on the guy who talks with his hands is truly excellent. You can tell that he's talking so fast and with so many body gestures that it must have been a real task to fit english dialogue in there. Who knows if what we heard was anywhere near what he said, but what we heard was pretty great. He manages to be the jaded experienced cop, the comic relief wise-cracker, and the jittery overstressed caffeine junkie all in one character.
And then we get to the music. Absolutely fantastic score by Bacalov. There's a riff with a sliding bass and distorted guitar that fit so well into the muddy sound mix that at some points I wasn't sure if something was exploding or it was just the music coming in. There were three or four recurring "themes" (if you can call a rising and falling 4/4 drum beat a theme) that builds the movie up and pays it off repeatedly. It's a pretty fine line with these films that use the music over and over... in the case of Who Saw Her Die I loved the music at the beginning and was really tired of it by the end but with this one it just works. Instead of getting tired of it I think it's burned into my brain forever. Awesome music... wonder if there's a score out there somewhere.
Also, Quentin played trailers for The Nickel Ride and The Don is Dead beforehand. Both of these trailers are absolutely phenomenal... who knows how good the movies actually are. Why they don't cut trailers like this nowadays is beyond me and a real shame. I guarantee that if a trailer came around that exhibited this level of creativity and design that it would sell tickets.
And I guess a few intro tidbits even though they're covered on AICN/Cinemastrikesback/dumbdistraction... Quentin has a new Texas drink that he calls Period on the Beach: Big Red and Malibu Rum ("for when you want to get that 14 year old girl drunk so you can..."). He also paid extreme compliment to Austin by saying that this is the epicenter. The Earthquake of film knowledge and appreciation starts here and ripples out to everywhere else (I imagine Harry Knowles has a lot to do with that but honestly feel the scene is getting more and more potent... we're about at critical mass here, do not be surprised if another big boom of Austin talent pops up soon), and of all the filmmaker's Quentin's introduced to us here for the first time, Italian crime Maestro Fernando Di Leo is the biggest success. He's right though... when I look back at the titles of previous QTfests, I see a lot of movies that are fairly commonplace now but were absolutely forgotten 5 or 6 years ago. All I can say is that if I ever move out of this city, it'll be to wherever Quentin opens his movie theater when he retires (Tim: "It's a moral imperitave that you watch exploitation cinema").