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Monday, July 6, 2015

5 of the Best Vengeance Seeking Female Movie Characters

Revenge can come in all shapes, sizes and forms, but there is no form I love more than that of the vengeance seeking woman. Whether it be through sheer wit, extreme violence or a mixture of the two, there’s something so thrilling about watching a woman stick it to the man in a variety of ways. Especially when the proverbial man deserves such comeuppance.

For your consideration, I have compiled a list of five of the very best examples of vengeance seeking female characters.  

Sex and Fury (Furyô anego den: Inoshika Ochô)

Sex and Fury revenge

A majority of vengeful characters start off as victims, but that would not be the case with Ochô Inoshika in 1973's Sex and Fury. Played by a very young Reiko Ike, Ochô is a low life criminal who has honed the ability to slice up mofos with her sword, making her more than capable of exacting her vengeance without any inclination of fear.

Sex and Fury is sleaze at it's best (the film also stars sleaze Queen Christina Lindberg!), but with as much sex and violence as the film has, it is beautifully made on all levels. In what is the movie's highlight, Ochô is attacked while bathing, which results in a fight scene for the ages. Quickly moving the fight outside, Ochô proceeds to take out each of her attackers one by one, in the snow, while being completely naked. During this scene, there is this wonderful shot where all that is seen is Ochô's legs as she dances around in the snowy exterior, with blood splatter and limbs hitting the snowy ground all around and her legs.

The scene is easily one of my all-time favorite fight scenes, and the music used to score it is just fantastic. Sex and Fury is exploitation done perfectly, as it takes an artistic approach to a film that is, for all intents and purposes, all about sex and violence.       

Ms. 45 aka Angel of Vengeance

ms-45-revenge

1981's Ms. 45 is a rape revenge film starring Zoë Tamerlis Lund as Thana, a girl who is raped not once but twice in the same day. After she is able to fend off her second attacker by beating him to death with an iron, she takes her attackers weapon, a 45. caliber pistol, and keeps it for herself.

After these horrific events, Thana becomes fearful that any male she encounters is a violent rapist. Due to this fear, Thana goes on a killing spree, with the target's being men who, in her mind, would mean to do her harm. Thana takes this fear and uses it as a jumping off point to swap places and become the aggressor; the one with the upper hand. She uses her looks and sexuality to seduce (mostly) scummy men with the intent of setting them up so she can shoot them with her new 45. caliber pistol.

Director Abel Ferrara does what he does best, as he gets down and dirty in this New York set revenge film. Ms. 45 is a perfect example of how great the New York city aesthetic was for cinema during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and Ferrera encapsulates all the grit and grime of New York during this time period. The city works as a perfect backdrop for a woman who has become traumatized by fear, as any corner or dark alleyway could possibly contain her next attacker. Or in Thana’s case, her next victim.

Coffy

coffy revenge

1973's Coffy is hands down one of my favorite Blaxploitation films. Written and directed by one of the greatest exploitation directors of all time, Jack Hill, Coffy is just one of many examples of the genre legend's fine work. The film stars the great Pam Grier in the titular role of Coffy, who promises to take out local drug pushers after her eleven-year-old sister is hospitalized after shooting up some bad heroin.

Coffy uses her sexuality to take her revenge – even pretending to be drugged up and looking for some action – as she lures unsuspecting scum to their deserving demise. There's plenty of sex mixed in with some great action via Coffy’s shotgun, but Coffy as a film is still played straight, opting to concentrate as much on the exploitation elements as it does the characters and story. This is a true testament to the respect Hill had for the movie he was making.

The character of Coffy is sexy, deadly, and smart, all the elements that make for a great revenge film character. Coffy is the film that put Grier on the exploitation map, and even though she's a little rough around the edge performance wise, she remains highly entertaining, especially in how well she delivers Hill’s fantastic dialogue.

(Sympathy for) Lady Vengeance (Chinjeolhan geumjassi)

sympathy_for_lady_vengeance_revenge

In the third part of Chan-wook Park's near perfect Vengeance Trilogy, 2005's Lady Vengeance is a revenge tale by way of art house cinema. With each passing film in the Vengeance Trilogy, the visual prowess becomes more and more intense, and Lady Vengeance is the culmination of these efforts. Where the film stands out most, however, is with the character of Geum-ja Lee, as played flawlessly by Young-ae Lee.

Geum-ja spent 13 years of her life behind bars for a murder that she did not commit. Her tale of revenge is against the real murderer, a man who has, for far too long, gotten away with atrocities that would put fear into even the most jaded of hearts. Geum-ja is calculated, precise and very patient in how she goes about taking her revenge. She makes the right moves in prison by displaying maternal like qualities as she cares for her fellow inmates, even going as far as to donate an organ to someone who, in turn, will be forever indebted to Geum-ja. By the time she is released from prison, there are a number of paroled inmates who are more than willing to help Geum-ja, and she takes full advantage of their help to see that her vengeance is fulfilled.

Lady Vengeance is much like Geum-ja: calculated, precise and very patient. It slowly but strikingly burns, leading to an amazing final act and conclusion for the lead character.

Lady Snowblood (Shurayukihime)

lady snowblood revenge

In Toshiya Fujita's 1973 film Lady Snowblood, the beautiful Meiko Kaji portrays Yuki Kashima (aka Lady Snowblood), a character who is nothing more than an instrument created to avenge the injustices that her parents suffered.

Her father was murdered, her mother imprisoned and continuously raped, and it was this abuse that her mother went through that brought about Lady Snowblood. Yuki was purposely born for one reason and one reason only, and that is to seek vengeance for a family that she would never come to know and love. Nothing else. Revenge is her sole purpose in life and the reason for her existence. She's like a Terminator, but with far more style and grace.

Lady Snowblood is a brilliantly crafted film, filled with vibrant colors, beautiful cinematography and a fantastic score. It’s also extremely bloody and violent, and in a way that shows an immense amount of creativity.

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Thanks for digging into my list, and I very much encourage you to share your thoughts on my picks as well as share some of your favorite vengeance seeking female characters!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Take A Trip Back to the Video Store With “VHS: Video Cover Art: 1980s to Early 1990s”

VHS Video Cover Art 1980s to Early 1990s

Many middle-aged genre movie fans carry with them fond memories of video stores and the films contained within them. Of course, while the films themselves were an important factor in creating such memories, the one single thing that many of us lament most is the incredible VHS cover art that filled the shelves of our favorite video stores. The nostalgia is certainly heightened by the fact that VHS cover art (and poster art in general) has all but become a lost art form since sometime in the mid-‘90s with Photoshop and the birth of floating head posters.

Thankfully, however, there has been a small resurgence in the art form over the years, and this very much coincides with the rise in popularity of VHS as a niche collectable as spearheaded by nostalgic movie fans. This all comes into play with the coffee table book VHS: Video Cover Art: 1980s to Early 1990s. Curated by independent art director, designer, and artist Tom “The Dude Designs” Hodge – who has done some amazing retro-style poster art for films such as Hobo with a Shotgun, The Innkeepers and Wolfcop, among others – the book is born out of both love and appreciation for VHS artwork, specifically for movies that are a little more off the beaten path.  

VHS Video Cover Art 1980s to Early 1990s The Mutant Kid

VHS Video Cover Art 1980s to Early 1990s Dead End Drive In

Outside of three pages dedicated to a forward by CEO of Mondo, Justin Ishmael, and an introduction by the book’s curator, Tom Hodge, VHS: Video Cover Art: 1980s to Early 1990s is entirely dedicated to VHS cover art for rare and obscure films. The collection contains over 240 full-scale, complete video sleeves, which mixed with the ample 12” x 9” size results in a book that is simply gorgeous to look at and handle. Outside of the VHS art itself, each sleeve features the film’s title, alternate titles, distributor, release date, and, if applicable, the artist who actually created the cover art, all of which is located at the bottom of each page.  

The book is broken down into six different film genres: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi, Comedy, Kids, and Thriller, and what might be the book’s biggest strength is the fact that many of the films on display are quite obscure. Look, I consider myself a seasoned cult movie fan, and yet I came across a slew of movies featured in this book that I haven’t heard of, which resulted in myself writing down a number of titles to check out ASAP. This really speaks to the power of the artwork and the overall packaging of these films; the fact that these VHS sleeves are still able to elicit a level of excitement from someone such as myself is proof positive that the people putting out these movies knew exactly how to target their audience. Nothing says great marketing tactics quite like being able to pique our imaginations and, more importantly, our curiosities even 20-30 years later.  

VHS Video Cover Art 1980s to Early 1990s Avenger

VHS Video Cover Art 1980s to Early 1990s BMX Bandits

VHS: Video Cover Art: 1980s to Early 1990s is an opportunity to go back and study VHS covers in a way that is quite similar to how many of us did as we were growing up and perusing video stores. However, this time around, and because each VHS cover is literally right at the reader’s fingertips, it’s much easier to not only take in the madness that all of these films convey, but to also analyze and appreciate the artwork and intricate detail that goes into each and every piece. It’s just as easy to flip through every page of this book and find excitement in the initial impact of each VHS sleeve as it is to sit back and take a few minutes deeply analyzing everything that goes into it all. And therein lies the beauty of a book of art; you can enjoy any way you see fit at any given moment.

Monday, May 11, 2015

‘Occam’s Razor’ Looks to Carve Out Some Funding

Occam's Razor

Director and USC Film Student Alex Parslow is looking to add a little spunk to his USC graduate thesis with a Kickstarter campaign. The goal is to raise enough money so Parslow’s short film, Occam’s Razor, is not only excellent, but good enough to work as a proof of concept for a feature-length horror film.

Set in 1851, Occam’s Razor is described as a classic Gothic horror with a unique twist, focusing on a post-mortem photographer who is called into a small conservative Pennsylvania town to photograph dozens of children who mysteriously died. The photographer, however, soon realizes the spirits of the deceased are trying to communicate to him, leading him to investigate and uncover the town’s dark and twisted secret.

The film, which will star Beth Grant and Carmen Argenziano, is set to be directed by USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA-candidate Alex Parslow, who co-wrote with Andre Kovalov. Parslow and Kovalov recently made a splash with their script Apex Dark, which landed them on both the "Hit List" and "Young and Hungry List," for best unproduced screenplays in the industry. Through this they have secured representation with Lee Stobby Entertainment and are already taking meetings on the development of Occam’s Razor, and are eager to develop a fully conceived version of the short.

Please take a few minutes to check out their Kickstarter video below, and if you are feeling supportive, hit the link at the bottom of this post to donate towards their cinematic cause.

Occam's Razor Facebook Page

Occam's Razor Kickstarter Page

Monday, April 20, 2015

Salute Your Shorts: Selfie (2014)

Selfie 2014 short film

Opening with a moment of crippled intimacy between a young couple, Selfie tells the story of a young woman (Jasmine Breinburg) who finds herself on the wrong end of betrayal.

Within the first few seconds of this 7 minute short film, it is clear that the woman has just turned her boyfriend (Thomas Law) down after a sexual advance. She is visibly distressed by what occurred, indicating that he may not have taken it so well at first. Though, in the moment the viewer is brought into their world, the boyfriend is trying to patch things up by showing a level of understanding about her hesitations.

The boyfriend leaves for the afternoon, but later on in the day the two exchange text messages that bring a smile to the girl’s face, indicating that they’ve made up. Immediately after this interaction, the young woman decides to show her beau a little sexual affection by taking a topless photo of herself and sending it to him. While her intentions are innocent, her boyfriend’s are very questionable, as he betrays her trust by sharing her photo on a voyeur website.  

Written and directed by Ben A. Williams, Selfie is a companion piece to Stephen Fingleton’s short film S.L.R. (S.L.R. review). There’s a lot of connective tissue between Selfie and S.L.R., something of which gives the world contained within the two shorts a feeling that is both confined and vast. Furthermore, the way Selfie and S.L.R. intertwine with one another makes the voyeuristic elements coursing through both films all the more unnerving.

Like S.L.R., Selfie is an exceptionally made short film. There’s a slight haze and slow flowing dreamlike quality to the Selfie that exudes a tangible feeling of tranquility, something of which comes in stark contrast to the very dark undercurrents contained within the film. What’s most impressive, though, is that this is all done in only 7 minutes.

I highly recommend watching both S.L.R. and Selfie, and in that order. Both are truly impressive short movies that receive nothing but the highest marks from myself.

Salute Your Shorts 4.5

Thursday, March 19, 2015

CNAMB’s Best Movies of 2014

I’m a little (a lot) later than normal with my best of the year list, which I can partially attribute to myself being completely unable to stop cramming in films from last year. It’s hard to have an end game when there are always so many movies that I feel I need to see. Another big factor in my lateness, however, is the whole having a baby thing. It’s tough to watch movies, let alone write about them, when one's world is overflowing with blown-out diapers and Desitin. But alas, such poopie covered walls have not been able to fully contain my movie watching, so I am very happy to finally present to you my list of the best films of 2014!

Now, normally I write a whole lot more about the movies that make my best of the year list, but this year I am keeping things pretty simple. You know, because diapers. In any event, pull up a chair, kick off your shoes and… wait, put your shoes back on with them stank ass feet! Now, where was I… oh, put your shoes back on and enjoy CNAMB’s Best Movies of 2014!

20. Night Moves

night_moves

Expertly crafted by Kelly Reichardt, Night Moves is – like most of Reichardt’s work – a subdued and beautiful film where events are allowed to naturally unfold for both the characters and audience alike. The film – which focuses on a trio of young Eco-terrorists as they attempt to blow up a hydroelectric dam – is tense in the most subtle of ways, leaving behind a feeling of unease and unsurety.

19. Edge of Tomorrow

Edge-of-Tomorrow-poster-3

A beautifully-executed Sci-Fi actioner, Edge of Tomorrow is as exciting and smart as it is funny and well acted. Both Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise nail it, and it's nice to watch Cruise perform without feeling like I'm watching Tom Cruise.

18. Life Itself

Life itself

Inspirational and, at times, devastatingly sad, Life Itself is a touching celebration of the life and eventual death of a man whose impact on film is as great as anyone who's ever lived. As a life-long movie lover, Roger Ebert (and Gene Siskel alike) was a huge part of my life growing up. And as someone who has been writing about movies for over 6 years, Ebert is simply an inspiration. His shadow will always linger over film criticism.

17. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

captain-america-winter-soldier

Despite hearing a lot of positive things beforehand, I was trepidatious about a new Captain America film, especially when some people referred to the camerawork as being too shaky. Regardless, I still found myself giving it a shot, and thankfully so, as The Winter Soldier is an enjoyable film that simply hits all the right notes, and it does so with assurity. Furthermore, and one of the biggest reasons why it makes my list, The Winter Soldier features some downright dazzling action sequences, which are all the more impressive in their variety and craftsmanship.

16. The One I Love

the one I love

Charlie McDowell makes his feature debut with a highly assured and original film about a couple who – in an attempt to breathe life back into their marriage – spend a weekend at a beautiful cottage. The film is essentially a relationship-driven dramedy, though it is vastly more complex than that. And it’s those minute complexities paired with wonderful performances by Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass that make The One I Love such a fascinating and enjoyable watch.

15. John Wick

John Wick

Stylish, slick and filled with immensely satisfying action sequences, John Wick is easily the biggest action surprise of 2014. The story is simple, but there is complexity to the characters and their relationships with one another that feels very refreshing for the genre. There's also a lot of world building, which makes the film feel as if it exists in an alternate universe. An alternate universe filled with crime and murder, mind you.

14. Cold in July

cold in july

Since 2006’s Mulberry Street, Jim Mickle and Nick Damici have been on an impressive run, crafting some of the best horror movies of the past ten years. With Cold in July, team Mickle and Damici tackle the crime genre with a 1980s set tale of murder, deception and revenge, as led by a group of highly unlikely and extremely complicated accomplices. The results are impressive, as Cold in July is a taut, well-acted and stylish slice of Southern Noir that, along with Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin, represents a new era of independent crime thrillers.

13. Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes

2014 was one hell of a year for horror, but no other horror film last year impacted me quite like Starry Eyes. Propelled by an excellent performance by Alexandra Essoe, Starry Eyes is a hypnotically visceral and mentally jarring film about a struggling actress who, due to being spellbound by fame, will do whatever it takes to get her opportunity to shine.

12. Frank

Frank movie poster

Naturally, a film where one of the lead characters wears a giant paper-mache head is going to be strange, and Frank is as strange as you'd expect. Thankfully, however, it's not strange for the sake of being strange. In fact, Frank is a clever and surprisingly earnest (and sometimes even heartbreaking) film about a group of crazy musicians – lead by musical genius Frank – as they attempt to record an album and make it big. The performances are great all around, but the crème de la crème is Michael Fassbender, who is THE perfect person to play the quirky titular character

11. Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the '70s

Eurocrime

Whether it be specific types of genres, franchises, eras, or simply just a specific film, I absolutely love documentaries about movies. In fact – and I’ve said this in the past – I enjoy movies about movies as much as I enjoy movies. So, yeah, if you followed that, then you can guess that Eurocrime! is way up my crime-ridden alley. Focused on the Italian Poliziotteschi (Eurocrime) genre, Eurocrime! s an incredibly detailed and immensely enjoyable look at a genre that is criminally ignored by genre film fans.

10. Short Term 12

short-term-12

Short Term 12 is a simplistic character-driven drama that found a way to pull at my rusty ol’ heartstrings. And let’s face it, that’s not an easy thing to do. The film -- which takes place in group home for troubled teens – can be a bit of a tough watch at times; however, it's also quite touching. The emotional impact is honest and genuine, and nothing about it ever feels forced for cheap dramatic effect.

9.  Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story Of The VHS Collector

Adjust Your Tracking The Untold Story Of The VHS Collector

Hey, I could sit here and explain to you why I loved this documentary about modern-day VHS collectors, but it’s so much easier for us both (well, me) if you read my review!!

Nostalgia Swells with 'Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector' (2013)

8. Blue Ruin

Blue ruin

I found few things more fascinating in 2014 than the opening of Blue Ruin. The almost completely silent opening to this ultra-low budget revenge thriller had me creeping closer and closer to the edge of my seat until the shit finally hit the fan. From that point forward, Blue Ruin kept me on my toes with its unpredictable story and challenging predicaments, and all carried on the back of a wonderful performance by Macon Blair, who plays a refreshingly flawed lead character Dwight. 

7. Jodorowsky's Dune

jodorowskys dune

I honestly do not think there is anything more enthralling, fascinating or enchanting than watching Alejandro Jodorowsky talk about his unfortunately failed journey to get his version of Dune made. In fact, his passion for the project and incredible magnetism had me feeling as if he was trying to sell me on being a part of the film. It worked.

6. We Are the Best!

We Are The Best

I have a soft spot for coming-of-age films. I also grew up what one would consider a rebellious punk rocker. Those two things alone are nearly enough to sell me on a film such as We Are the Best! Telling the tale of three teenage girls finding their place in the world through music and, more importantly, friendship, We Are the Best! is a charmingly earnest look at the bumpy road that is adolescence. I don’t think I could have been more delighted watching three misguided but well-meaning “rebels” attempt to get out their angst through music.

5. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

birdman

To be completely upfront, I actually watched Birdman just as I was finishing putting this list together, so it hasn’t had much time to sit with me, making it a little difficult to place on my list. I can confidently say, however, that Alejandro González Iñárritu’s follow up to my favorite film of 2011, Biutiful, lived up to my sky-high expectations. Iñárritu’s satirical look at fame, ego and perception is refreshingly clever, and the film is a technical achievement, with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki continuing his steady stream of incredible work.

4. The Guest

the guest

Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett somehow followed up the well-received You’re Next with one of the single most entertaining films of 2014. The Guest is a delicious genre stew made up of action, mystery and horror, and it’s all served up by Dan Stevens, who gives a standout performance that’s as charming as it is intense.

 

It should be noted that my top three films of 2014 are quite interchangeable. It’s really tough to nail down which is my favorite when I absolutely love all three, and it doesn’t make it any better that each of these films are completely different from one another. So yeahhhh, these are my top three favorite films of 2014, in no particular order:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The grand budapest hotel

At this point, I’d say Wes Anderson has just about perfected his style, and it’s everything that is inherent to Anderson’s particular style of storytelling and filmmaking that results in an incredible piece of work with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Every single frame of the film is gorgeous down to the last detail. The set design is impeccable, and I love the mixture of techniques Anderson utilizes such as stop motion animation, miniatures and matte paintings. While I will need to see the film a few more times to know where it stands in Anderson’s oeuvre, it very well could be my favorite the filmmaker has done.

The Raid 2

the raid 2 berandal

Every once in a while an action film comes along and redefines the genre. Enter the Dragon, The Road Warrior, Hard Boiled, Drunken Master II, and what have you, are the types of movies that come in and kick us in the balls in ways that they hadn't been kicked before. With its hard-hitting action sequences, amazing and highly original choreography and beautiful camerawork, The Raid 2 is one of those films. In a year where we were blessed with a cornucopia (yes, cornucopia) of amazing action films, The Raid 2 stands out as a landmark piece of work that raises the bar for all action films to come.

Under the Skin

Calvary

No best of the year list of mine would be complete without an insanely divisive film being at the top of my list, and no film fit that bill more in 2014 than Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. Heck, even I wasn't so sure about the film as I was watching it, and that’s simply because Under the Skin is not an easy movie to take in. It is, however, a fascinating film to break down and dissect because it is so very deeply layered. Supported by a wonderful, understated performance by Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin is a deeply layered and immersive watch with a finale so haunting that I couldn’t shake the imagery for days.

Honorable Mentions

Guardians of the Galaxy * Happy Christmas * The Grand Piano * Oculus * Ida * Milius * Brick Mansions * The Babadook * The Taking of Deborah Logan * Cheap Thrills * Joe * Big Bad Wolves * The Sacrament * Here Comes the Devil * Journey to the West * The Last Buck Hunt * The Equalizer

Monday, February 9, 2015

Inga (1968): A Sexual Odyssey

Inga (1968) Theatrical Poster

Soon after her mother passes away, Inga (Marie Liljedahl) is sent to stay with her aunt, Greta (Monica Strömmerstedt). Greta is an attractive middle-aged woman who only seems to be focused on two things: money and her much younger boyfriend, Karl (Casten Lassen). Unfortunately, however, Greta is broke, and without money to feed his gold digging ways, Greta risks losing Karl, too. Worse yet, Karl begins to show some interest in the pretty and significantly younger Inga, something that incites a touch of jealousy in Greta. As a way to stay financially stable as well as keep Karl by her side, Greta selfishly uses Inga as collateral, setting her up with a wealthy older man named Einar (Thomas Ungewitter) in exchange for weekly payments. This arrangement is unknown to Einar, however, as his sister is the one who set up the deal with the hope of making her brother happy.

Written and directed by Joseph Sarno, 1968’s Inga is a Swedish sexploitation film that is, at its heart, about a young, beautiful girl growing into adulthood. More so, however, it’s about a girl who will come to find herself sexually.

Inga (1968) sarno

Inga is first introduced as she gently removes a sheer chiffon peignoir to reveal a modest nightgown. She then proceeds to make her way towards a set of shelves that are placed directly in front of the audience’s perspective. Located on the shelving are a number of children's wind-up toys, which Inga curiously inspects with a wide-eyed, almost childlike curiosity. As the music box style score adds to the playfulness of the scene, Inga spends a moment with each toy, smiling whimsically at the joy these simple items bring to her at this very moment.

After this introduction, the film cuts to a kinetic opening credit sequence that consists of numerous sexually charged teenagers dancing to some groovy psychedelic music. These free-spirited teenagers come in stark contrast to what we had seen from Inga only minutes before. In fact, this opening almost serves as the impetus for the journey ahead of Inga; a young, innocent and attractive 17-year-old girl who will see a major change in her life materialize throughout the course of an 82 minute film. This change will come in the form of a sexual awakening, as her childlike innocence at the beginning of the film will slowly shed to reveal a woman who is ready to embrace her sexuality, much like the dancing teenagers seen during the opening credits.  

Inga (1968)

Inga has been labeled as a softcore film – even receiving an X rating when originally released in the US (a re-release garnered an R) – but I place a big emphasis on the word soft. There is certainly a fair amount of nudity in Inga. There are even a number of highly sexualized situations. In fact, the entire tone of the film is driven by sex, which is essentially the point of a sexploitaiton film. With that said, this is 1968, and soft for 1968 is certainly tame by modern “soft” standards. You’ll definitely see a lot more “action” if you keep your channel tuned to Cinemax late at night.

Regardless of how tame it is compared to today’s standards, Inga is certainly an extremely erotic piece of cinema, and this is especially represented by a few key sequences. One of the more notable moments being a scene where Inga is standing in front of a mirror after a shower – examining her body in a way that would indicate she is beginning to acknowledge herself as a sexual being. Soon afterwards, Inga notices Karl peeping in her window from the street below. At this point, Inga does something quite out of character, as she begins to remove her clothing to reveal her nude body before putting on a lace nightgown – and she does so right in front of the window as Karl watches. This would be a turning point for Inga, as this event sets off a masturbatiry awakening of her sexual desires as Karl furiously revs the engine of his sports car before driving away in sexual frustration.

Inga (1968) movie

Something else worth noting is that Inga's curiosity for the playful toys in the film’s opening comes to be a clear echo of her curiosity for playful sexuality, and this theme carries on throughout the film in a number of fascinating ways. For example, early on there's a scene between Greta and Karl in which Greta picks up a wind-up toy drummer, turns its key a few times, and places it back down again. As the toy drummer begins rapidly playing his drum, Greta turns to Karl and the two begin passionately kissing. The furious drumming seemingly representing the rapid heartbeat of the two lovers as they are overtaken with sexual lust. Later on in the film, as Inga (who is accompanied by Einar) is about to go to sleep, she walks over to a wind-up toy marching band, picks it up and places it next to her bed before laying down. After Einar leaves her room so she can sleep – but not after the two share an innocent kiss – Inga winds up the toy marching band and captively watches as it walks off and towards the camera. It’s as if she is watching her innocence as a child walk away, leaving her adult self behind.

Despite being a sexploitation movie, Sarno shows a lot of respect for Inga and her sexuality. Never is Inga or her sexuality exploited in a mean or nasty fashion. In fact, as a film, Inga is more a celebration of womanhood as well as a celebration of a woman's growing sexual needs and desires. The liberating and artistic approach to Inga's erotic journey towards sexual adulthood is what makes Inga such an important sexploitation film, as Inga’s excursion is presented in a fascinating fashion that never compromises her innocence nor her independence.

 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Soulmate (2013): Suicide-Crossed Lovers

Soulmate DVD Art

After losing her husband and surviving a brutal suicide attempt, Audrey (Anna Walton) relocates to a remote cabin to take some time to heal from both her physical and mental wounds. While there, however, she discovers that her new abode is filled with a horrific past of its own when she begins to hear strange sounds. 

Writer director Axelle Carolyn’s Soulmate (2013) opens with the graphic image of Audrey attempting to take her own life. It’s a visual that leaves quite a visceral impact as well as nicely sets up the unstable mindset of Audrey, who is clearly not dealing with the death of her husband all too well. Surviving by the skin of her teeth, she’s a shattered woman who could fall back into a suicidal mindset at any second. Whether it be her current state of vulnerability, the dark nature of her recent past or a mixture of the two, Audrey is left wide open to the spirit that comes to haunt her. And it is this element of the film where its biggest strength lies. On the other hand, however, there is an inconsistent tone that hinders the film, and while there are certainly moments of horror, Soulmate is far from what one would consider a proper horror film.

Soulmate 2013 Anna Walton

Soulmate takes a classic approach to creating atmosphere, and the entirety of the film’s first act is effectively creepy as a result. With a dreary English countryside filled with howling winds painting the backdrop, Soulmate is simply saturated with dread. The slow and steady camerawork paired with endless silence and impressive sound design allows the viewer to be swept up into the mystery set up early in the film. Unfortunately, however, at the point when the ghostly apparition is revealed, things take an odd turn into near romantic drama territory, something that results in the film losing any sense of fear that was previously built.

The depiction of the ghostly apparition is specifically startling in how underwhelming it is, in that it’s simply a slightly translucent guy wearing some old fashioned clothing. The interactions between the apparition and Audrey are also a little silly, but that is nearly unavoidable when talking about a ghost and human having in-depth conversations about life, love and the failed pursuit of happiness that has led them both to the point in which their lives are now. Now, as a relationship-driven, character-based ghost film, these interactions work for what they are, but the fact that the film postures as a horror piece for the first act, they are tonally problematic.

Soulmate 2013 Anna Walton 1

While Soulmate is ultimately a bit of a failure, there is still much to glean from the final product in terms of filmmaking, atmosphere and a solid performance from Anna Walton. In the end, Soulmate feels very much like a very well-made lifetime movie. And that's not necessarily a dismissive statement as much as its simply the perfect way to describe the tone of the film. It should also be a good indicator as to whether or not the film is the right choice for you or not.

You can find Soulmate on Amazon and iTunes

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