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October 29, 2018

Movie Review: Cinema Paradiso (1988)


Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Salvatore Di Vita, or "Toto" lives with his mother in his small Sicilian fishing village. His father mysteriously absent, Toto looks to the kindly, grandfather-like figure of Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) for a male role model. The town’s film projectionist for the town’s sole movie theater, the titular Cinema Paradiso, Alfredo instills a love of movies in the young boy. The theater plays a vitally important role in the local community. Cutting across political and religious beliefs, the townspeople treat the theater as an important gathering place where they can all get down to the very serious business of watching movies. The small but humble theater has its vocal detractors: As some of the less tolerant villagers point out, motion pictures forms a gateway desire to life beyond their regional way of life, but this attitude fails to turn them against purchasing tickets. There is a price to pay for all this artifice, as a fire tears through the theater and leaves Alfredo blind. Toto remains at Alfredo’s side as an avid helpmate, until he is counseled by Alfredo as a young man on the way to college to pursue his dreams away from the village. Later in life as a successful filmmaker, Toto returns to the cinema, now in ruins, to unearth a hidden reel of film that is almost too heart-breakingly poignant to watch … 
Perhaps the world’s most heartfelt valentine to film watching, undisputed masterwork of world cinema Cinema Paradiso arrives on Arrow Video with a plethora of extras. It is here that this reviewer will play the Devil’s advocate. Included in this special release is the Cinema Paradiso’s more well-known 124-minute international release as was presented at Cannes, and director Tornatore’s 174-minute cut. In your reviewer’s humble opinion, the longer cut offers little more than the protagonist’s budding romance with a local girl that adds relatively little to the story. The theme of the film is how art can transcend the most mundane of surroundings and inspire others. The protagonist’s love life as an adult, as revealed early on, is of little importance. “I would call you, and a different woman would answer the telephone each time, and by their tone of voice, I could tell that none of them loved you,” his mother witheringly breaks to him upon his 30-year return to the village.

Among the many audio extras is an audio commentary with director Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus, wherein Tornatore explains how his own small
town upbringing inspired the film. Also included is the essential “A Dream of Sicily,” which features the director’s early home moves. The 52-minute documentary also includes interviews with director Francesco Rosi and artist Peppino Ducato, accompanied by an original musical score by the iconic Ennio Morricone.

The 27-minute documentary “A Bear and Mouse in Paradise,” features interviews with actors Phillippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio, is included. Trying to keep this review spoiler-free, in regards to the hidden reel that the adult Toto discovers before the theater’s demolition, “The Kissing Sequence” dutifully lists all the film’s used in the concluding montage. Many will be surprised and pleased that the majority of clips are from classical American films.

There is also the film’s original theatrical trailer, as well as the trailer used for the recent Anniversary release; the sparkling print on display is from the original camera negative; audio consists of both the uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options and there are optional English subtitles.

There is no better time to wither view or revisit this masterpiece of international cinema, and is required viewing for everyone who has ever glimpsed a world of blossoming possibilities upon the silver screen.


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October 1, 2018

Secondhand Smut #7: Living Dead Format



 Your favorite dirty column, Secondhand Smut, is back and will be reviewed random old porn with no particular order or reason; just for your eyes only. The column’s return was inspired after the author read Pete Chiarella’s A Whole Bag of Crazy: Sordid Tales of Hookers, Weed, and Grindhouse Movies. And another noteworthy book that recently came to my attention was flesh trade: tales from the uk sexual underground, in which writer Bruce Barnard goes on a mission to explore as much of the British-based sex work as possible; I liked the journey, but not its conclusion. But anyway, without further ado, let’s dive deep into the film reviews.

Butterflies (1975)

Denise (Swedish starlet Marie Forsa) is terminally bored by her unexciting life in the country where she lives with her equally unexciting boyfriend and decides to leave all that behind, go to the big city and make it to the luxurious and exciting world of fashion modeling. It is there that she meets club owner Frank (Harry Reems, no introduction needed) and the two fall in love, until the lady is disappointed when she finds out that her rich man is a womanizer.

Written and directed by Joseph W. Sarno (again, no introduction needed), this comes (quite expectedly, to be honest) with stunning camerawork and impressive visuals, but its soap opera-like plot is tiresome and the end result is ultimately boring. Watch out for a hilarious sex scene in which Reems pounds in fast forward!

Score (1974)

Set in Leisure, Europe, Jack (Gerald Grant) and Elvira (Claire Wilbur) decide to go on a swinging rampage which is supposed to start when they meet Eddie [Casey Donovan from Boys in the Sand (1971) and Boys in the Sand II (1984)] and Betsy [Lynn Lowry from The Crazies (1973)].

Directed by Radley Metzger (no introduction needed), this is featuring the expected impressive camerawork of Frano Vodopivec and stunning performers. However, the sex is vanilla and the screenplay by Jerry Douglas (based upon his off-Broadway play, which was featuring Sylvester Stallone, albeit the man does not make an appearance here) is so soap opera-like that it will bore you to tears. At its best (when it becomes comedic) it resembles the works of Russ Meyer (albeit with smaller breasts) and it is daring enough to have been refused a U.K. certificate upon its original submission to BBFC, but still that doesn’t say much.

Madam Satan (1970)

This U.S. production by Tom Gordon (who also directed) finds a bunch of Americas (mostly middle-aged men and young ladies) gathering in some sort of Satanic cult while none of them looks like the type that would join one. Nevertheless they do some black magic mumbo-jumbo (one of the guys insists on doing the devil’s horns often whilst watching other performers bang each other) amidst supposed torture (featuring slave training etc.) and lame sex, all of that within the space of empty-looking apartments.

For a film that is supposed to give you a boner this is pretty melancholic, but most of the performers look well attractive, especially considering the apparent minimal budget (evidently, this should have been a one-day wonder). The dialogues are unintentionally hilarious, and this cheapie does not outstay its welcome as it runs for less than an hour.

I Told you not to Call the Police (2010)

The synopsis on the DVD’s back cover reads ‘This experimental movie depicts a serial rapist in a new way. Instead of showing the man behind the mask, he is almost never seen. There is no attempt to humanize him in your eyes. Instead, the bold camerawork puts YOU in his place. You see the crimes through his eyes. It’s the opposite of what is done in horror movies – those movies put you in the victim’s place – there is no such point of view here. Another experimental aspect is that the crimes are not fast-forwarded, as is usually the case with taboo material. No. You must suffer in long, demented, detail, what it is like to witness such a fiend play with his prey.’

Well, if ‘experimental’ is the new word for shit handheld camerawork then the synopsis is right, and if using a rapist’s P.O.V. is somehow dehumanizing him, instead of fetishizing his actions then I think I’m getting paranoid.

Writer/producer/director Bill Zebub’s [better known for Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist (2004), but he has made dozens of zero-budgeted videos] film is not unlike the custom-made rape-fantasy videos that litter the dark corners of the internet, the only difference being that it is long and tedious (at approximately 90 minutes, it’s a torture), an ultimately boring exercise in following an unseen man raping a variety of gothic-looking girls.

Speaking of these women, I wonder what convinced them to subject themselves to this, but the acting is amateur throughout, so I don’t think they passed on the next Hollywood production in order to be in this.

On an interesting note, the serial rapist is at some point wearing a t-shirt of Dario Argento’s Opera (1987). On a disgusting note, at some other point he says that there are worse things in life than rape. Yeah? Like what? The film goes as far as showing forced incent and forced impregnation.

Although I envy the determination of some people to go that far, these videos are not for me.

Assmonster: The Making of a Horror Movie (2006)

As(s) it is thoroughly explained in the film by Bill Zebub (who plays himself) an assmonster, is a human monster (as in predator) that craves ass. Cameraman/editor/writer/producer/director Zebub’s comedy is about a bunch of filmmakers that try to put together the eponymous movie despite their lack of budget and talent.

It was inevitable with an experience of many years and several films that the team behind them would at some point make a parody of themselves, but the joke is that this amateurishly-acted long exercise in bad humor (the best gag in the film is a fart joke that involves a mobile phone) is actually better than the films it pokes fun at.

Sure, it gets boring watching metal fans with long hair, mustaches, and beards, talking to each other in high-end houses in expensive New Jersey neighborhoods, but the girls are hot, which I am sure is enough reason for many to purchase the DVD. Hell, I could be watching those girls’ stills for as long and never regret the time spent!


The death metal music featured therein is annoying (you even get a cameo from Cannibal Corpse), and the t-shirts the guys are parading with are obvious choices [and range from mainstream metal bands such as Amon Amarth to cult classic movies such as Nekromantik (1987), The Stendhal Syndrome (1996), The Return of the Living Dead (1985), and House on Haunted Hill (1959)], but these people that make those films have their hearts in the right place, and therefore they deserve our respect.

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