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Great Scenes – THE CHURCH

We’re back!! After a brief hiatus in which my wife and I picked up and moved from NYC to LA – our freaked out cat in tow – we’re finally settled in and ready to begin anew! But enough about boring ol’ me – let’s get back to celebrating the thing we love here at Isle of Cinema - movies! Today we feature for your delight a great scene from Michele Soavi‘s La Chiesa (The Church), a movie which I rushed out to buy back in days of VHS after seeing the masterpiece that was Dellamorte, Dellamore (Cemetery Man). And while ultimately The Church cannot compare to the glory of Dellamorte, Dellamore (part of the “zombie new wave” which includes Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive and Sam Raimi‘s Evil Dead II), it nevertheless has some incredible moments and fantastic camerawork which make it worthy of your time. Check out this ambitious opening in which Soavi – a protege of Dario Argento – exhibits his usual genre-blending and kinetic “flying eye.” A nice way of getting us back on track and rewarding you for bearing with us! Check back for more transmissions from the Isle of Cinema – now broadcasting from Hollywoodland

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April 12, 2012   No Comments

Existential Swordplay – SOUL OF THE SWORD

SOUL OF THE SWORD is a superlative Wu-Xia from the Brothers Shaw.

Most of my Shaw Bros. love has thus far been directed at kung-fu mastermind Lau Kar Leung (here and here), but there were other great directors and kung-fu choreographers in the Shaw stables, and plenty of great movies like this one – 1978’s Soul of the Sword [Sha Jue]. LKL’s once partner, Tang Chia handles the action choreography in this Wu-Xia film directed by Hua Shan (who gave us the classic Super Inframan), but it isn’t the action alone which makes this movie so watchable. Wu Xia: the closest thing Americans have to it is the genre of Western fiction – by authors such as Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey – but instead of The Wild West it’s an effervescent green Sherwood forest-like China, populated by colorful swordsmen with unique powers who endlessly greet one another: “I’m Fox Tail, carrying the jade sword of the mystic mountain.” “I have heard of you. I’m Fire Head, my teacher was your grand teacher’s teacher. I look forward to double crossing you soon.” The Wu Xia of the 60’s and 70’s (Come Drink With Me, The Magic Blade) were elegant and full of bluster, and in all honesty somewhat dull. But not this one – it’s grim, gritty and pulls no punches. Ti Lung plays “Nameless,” a swordsman on a quest to unseat the current “King of Swords” and become the greatest martial artist in the world (i.e. China). As an orphan, Nameless witnesses the masked King of Swords kill a swordsman whose wife then commits suicide, and the event inspires him to seek a life of power in order to defend the weak. But when we meet him as an adult he has forgotten all but his quest: he is arrogant, aggressive and cruel, with a single-mindedness which lays waste to friends and lovers. While today’s Wu Xia – like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Hero – are mostly critical of notions of heroism, this was one of the first to subvert conventions, and it is certainly more subtle and rewarding in its critique of the Warrior’s Code. The direction is slick, the acting superb (with Ku Feng and Norman Chu lending their talents), and the fantastic ambiguous ending underlines the existential crisis facing all heroic quests – whether they be personal journeys or great revolutions. But what really lifts the movie is the B story, when Nameless falls in love with the very same woman (the beautiful Lin Chen-Chi) as the one who’s suicide first set him on his journey (the beautiful Lin Chen-Chi). And it’s this surreal twist – of a swordsman haunted by a love which may destroy his quest – that raises the bar and gives the film a surreal, Buñuelian quality – like a martial arts version of Cemetery Man! And that’s just plain awesome – a surprise jewel in the Shaw Bros. treasure chest which I suggest you unearth immediately.

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April 27, 2011   No Comments

Great Zombie Flick – CEMETERY MAN

CEMETERY MAN is the last in the holy trinity of the zombie new wave (alongside Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive).

Also known as Dellamorte Dellamore, this 1994 Italian production directed by Dario Argento protegee Michele Soavi, is an existential delight, a horror film which embraces the Pirandellian tradition – wherein suffering characters are hyper-aware of themselves as just that – characters. Rupert Everett turns in a Bruce Campbell-caliber performance as Francesco Dellamorte, a lonely graveyard attendant (whom everyone calls “architect” for some reason) who discovers that the dead in his graveyard rise 7 days after being buried (an homage to 1958’s I Bury the Living perhaps?). The town’s bureaucracy can’t help him, so he finds himself having to “re-kill” the dead with the help of his trusted assistant, Gnaghi – an Addams’ Family reject. But soon the lines between the dead and the living become blurred, as does Dellamorte’s sanity. The subplot involving the beautiful Anna Falchi as a mystery woman who appears as several different characters (both dead and living) brings to mind Luis Bunuel and further enhances the surreal overtones. Add to that a mind-blowing ending and what you have is a lowbrow zombie flick treading some seriously highbrow water. Plus it’s got tons of nudity! There’s been a long rumored sequel/remake in the works, based on the same source material- the Italian Dylan Dog comic. But it’s doubtful it’ll be as good as this genre classic.

May 26, 2010   No Comments

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