CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Unique Trailers: NASHVILLE (1975)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 21, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


Some great movies can’t be made into good trailers: Just look at the atrocious jobs done unto Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm or Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges (watch the movie first, and then ridicule the trailer — the DVD doesn’t support the trailer either.). And sometimes there is an exception to this rule: Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975).

“The damndest thing you ever saw”.

The fast-paced introductions to the two dozen characters who appear in the movie is so involving and kinetic that your head is spinning with names and connections by the end of the trailer. The actual movie amazingly accomplishes the realization of these twenty-four characters as unforgettable and compelling individuals. Most movies get hung up on a quartet.

I saw this film again last week at a revival in an upscale cinema house (VIFC) in Vancouver. It was introduced by W.P. Kinsella, the Canadian novelist of Shoeless Joe, which was adapted into Phil Alden Robinson’s Field of Dreams (1989). Kinsella revealed his love for Coen Bros. Movies so I made a point to quiz him on Barton Fink (1990) after the screening.

nashville5Watching Nashville, bursting with irony and exuberance, in its 35mm glory was a great experience as much as doing the same with Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). I got chills again watching the main title sequence that features a panoramic J. William Myers Jr. painting of all the characters (featured above). Even while listening to the slow, shivery rendition of the schmaltzy folk song “We Must Be Doing Something Right To Last 200 Years” sung by a leery Henry Gibson (Magnolia, 1999). I’ve been punch-drunk in love with the film having seen it a half-dozen times. If I had attempted to single out every performer and storyline here, I’d be at the IMDB all night.

The director of Scarface (1932) and His Girl Friday (1940), Howard Hawks, once answered the question “what makes a good movie?”: Three great scenes. No bad scenes.” It’s true of Nashville, which has much more than three. Had I to choose three, I would single out a moment very late in the film where three great scenes came together in a row.

nashville1The scene is set in a tavern one night where Tom Frank, a handsome and monstrously hedonistic country singer, played by Keith Carradine (HBO’s Dexter, 2007), very gently sings, “I’m Easy” (the only won Academy Award out of five including Best Picture). Lily Tomblin (Flirting with Disaster, 1996) plays Linnea, a dissatisfied housewife and loving mother who sits in the shadows way back looking transfixed as though Tom were a siren. She thinks he’s singing to her (he is!). So does every woman in the audience who has already slept with him including Shelley Duvall, Cristina Raines, and the beautiful Geraldine Chaplin (“I’m Opal! I’m from the BBC!”). It’s such a bewitchingly vulnerable moment coated in hot tar.

“I’m Easy”

Cut to the second scene in another tavern populated by men who’ve turned up for a political fund raiser — Vote for Hal Philip Walker. Gwen Welles plays Sueleen Gay (“Let me be the… ONE!”), a waitress who dreams of becoming a major singer whose hired as the night’s entertainment. A pity she’s tone-deaf. Sueleen naively uses her sex appeal on stage, oblivious to her lack of talent, and the boorish crowd boos her performance and demands nudity. The political backhanders (Ned Beatty, Deliverance, 1972 and Michael Murphy, Tanner 88′, 1988) bribe Sueleen who is on the verge of tears that she’ll perform with superstar Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakley, A Nightmare On Elm Street, 1984) if she shows skin. What follows is one of the most searingly sad stripteases right down to the taking the socks out of her bra.

nashville2The third scene takes place in Tom’s motel room where he’s in bed with Linnea. Having had sex, she teaches him some sign language (her adorable children are deaf) and he is so engaged with her, surprising considering how he callously treats other women who fawn over him. Linnea figures its time to go (unheard by Linnea, another song “For the Sake of the Children, We Must Say Goodbye” from before could have played over it — thankfully it didn’t). Heartbroken by her leaving, Tom cruelly calls up another girlfriend by phone while Linnea gets dressed. Linnea is not affected and she kisses Tom goodbye. Having failed to hurt her, Tom hangs up the phone. Pauline Kael noted in her review that “he’ll remember her forever.”

Nashville is a masterpiece, a staple to 1970s cinema and one of the quintessential films about America. Technically, it’s also a musical. The Nashville Music Industry were appalled that the movie didn’t use any existing music of their sour grapes. The actors wrote and sung their own songs. Even those who might have gone on to become country singers were denied by the heads of Nashville because their resentment was so great.

Before the showing of the feature I attended, the audience was posed this question: Which one out of the twenty-four characters does not show up at the concert near the end of the film. The answer to who it is: kcalb nerak. Listen much earlier in the film for why this is case by Haven Hamilton to Barnett (Allen Garfield, The Majestic, 2001).


Baz Luhrmann’s “AUSTRALIA” Is Dinky-Di!

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 21, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


Funny: Moulin Rogue! (2001) is playing in the background and lo and behold the first trailer for the new film by Baz Luhrmann, after seven years, is down under here.


It looks like a cross between Tarsem’s The Fall (2008) and the Nicolas Roeg masterpiece Walkabout (1971).

“Just about the most different movie you’ll ever see.”

Throw in some sensational romance with Hugh Jackman (The Prestige, 2006) and Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm, 1989), add operatic music, shake, don’t stir and I’m there!

“We should be lovers!”
“We can’t do that…”

AUSTRALIA opens November 14th.

Isabella Rossellini Does “Green Porno”

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 20, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

greenpornoThe Sundance Channel is releasing Green Porno sex-pisodes (available in the US and will be made available elsewhere in July), a collection of short films starring, co-directed, produced, conceived and written by Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, 1984). Rossellini, she of the sexy bottom lip, is so joyfully perverse here. Against purposefully small-scale sets that are simple, colorful and textured, she is dressed as an insect and describes what her sex life would be like as an insect. Yes, you just read that. Watch these two naughty, albeit very sweet episodes. They’re also educational!

Green Porno | “Earthworm” Episode

Green Porno | “Snail” Episode

And the circle of life continues.

UPDATE: January 5, 2009

Green Porno has two seasons worth of fourteen two-minute episodes. The first deals with more insects like the “Mantis”, the “Spider” and the “Dragonfly”. Titles for the second sesaon, which focuses on creatures of the sea, include the “Angelfish” (“B is for…” “Butterfly.”), the “Barnacle” and the “Whale”. The most provoking title in the bunch is “Why Vagina?” Many men, however, are prone to ask “Why, Vagina?” Rossellini, bless her soul, has been hanging around David Lynch (Inland Empire, 2007) and Guy Maddin (Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, 2002) too much. Lucky bums!


Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 20, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


BRAND UPON THE BRAIN! (2007) Trailer

brand_brainThe Criterion Collection, always a class act, is releasing the DVD (#440) of Brand Upon The Brain! (2007) by cult Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin. Brand Upon the Brain! was one of my absolute favorites when given a limited release last year. It was number five on my list of the best films of 2007. Isabella Rossellini (King of the Corner, 2004) takes her madness to overdrive whilst crashing into a basket full of kittens with her vocal narration (“The Past! The Past!!!”). Rossellini is as fearless as when she and Maddin last collaborated on The Saddest Music In The World (2003), where she played a morbid brewery owner who had her legs replaced with prosthetics made of glass and filled with her very own beer.

You have to see it to believe it.

Brand Upon The Brain! is another twisted homage to silent pictures and Luis Bunuel (L’âge d’or, 1930) with Maddin’s stylistic fingerprints smeared all over it. This one is a surreal memoir to Maddin’s childhood where he lives on a remote island with his family. His mother (Gretchen Krich, Henry Fool, 1997) is forever watching young Guy Maddin from her Gothic lighthouse tower with an ungainly periscope. She communicates through a speaker that like deranged gargling. Title Cards stand in for much of the dialogue — “Guy, come home for supper or I’ll sell your island!!”. Maddin’s father stands in as a mad scientist practicing ghoulish experiments in his dungeon. I get so giddy every time I think of “Orphan Nectar”.

And it’s much funnier than E. Elias Merhige’s BEGOTTEN (1990)!

Special screenings of Brand Upon the Brain! were performed by live orchestras and narration read aloud by either Isabella Rossellini, Crispin Glover (Back to the Future, 1985) Laurie Anderson, John Ashbery, Guy Maddin, Louis Negrin, and Eli Wallach (The Ugly from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, 1966 AND he was also starred with Rossellini in King of the Corner — See it. It’s really good.). Also included is a new documentary featuring interviews with the director and crew members, deleted scenes, trailer, a new essay by film critic Dennis Lim, and two new Maddin-directed short films: It’s My Mother’s Birthday Today and Footsteps, an oddball featurette behind the making of the Brain!’s sounds effects. The DVD will be released in early August. I can’t wait!

The rest of Criterion’s August slate includes Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (an upgrade of #17, 1975), Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s The Small Back Room (#441, 1949) and Keisuke Kinoshita’s Twenty-hour Eyes (#442, 1954). Some day I’ll brave the gag reflex and watch Salò, and while I’m at it I’ll also see Dusan Makavejev’s Sweet Movie (#390, 1974).

Jim Jarmusch’s Upcoming Project (2009)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 19, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


American indie favorite Jim Jarmusch, whose directorial debut Stranger Than Paradise was one of my favourite films of 1984, is currently filming his new thriller The Limits of Control in Spain. Bill Murray (Rushmore, 1998), Tilda Swinton (Best Supporting Actress for Michael Clayton, 2007) and Jim Jarmusch are reunited after their splendid collaboration with Broken Flowers (2005). In that film, Murray played an emotionally paralyzed and middle aged Don Juan whose odyssey involves revisiting past lovers and finding the mother to his estranged son.

The Limits of Control centers on the trademark Jarmusch loner, played by Jarmusch regular Isaach De Bankolé (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, 1999), this time plotting a heist. Other actors involved are John Hurt (Love and Death on Long Island, 1998), Gael Garcia Bernal (The King, 2006), Hiam Abbass (The Syrian Bride, 2004), Paz de la Huerta (Chelsea Walls, 2001), Alex Descas (Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, 2003), Youki Kudoh (Jarmusch’s Mystery Train, 1989), Luis Tosar (Miami Vice, 2006) and Jean-Francois Stevenin (The Man on the Train, 2002).

Hopefully, Jarmusch’s new film will stay on the level of Broken Flowers and not slide down into the hell of Year of the Horse (1997). The release date is the first quarter of 2009.