Daisies (1966)

Daisies (1966) movie poster

director Věra Chytilová
viewed: 03/24/2014

I’m having an odd streak in my “great movies I’ve never seen” movie-watching of late.  I recently watched director Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (1961) but sadly the director passed away just before I saw it, while I had the DVD at home from Netflix.  And just now, planning to watch the Czech film Daisies, director Věra Chytilová passed away.  I wound up watching it in memorium, if you will.

I suppose it is not so odd with these films from a similar era, directors in their eighties, it’s just strange coincidence.   Not good news for other aging directors of great films that I’ve never seen.

Daisies is an irreverent, oddball, almost slap-stick comedy of the avant-garde.  It features two young women, Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová, acting out in bizarre, surrealist ways, with an array of visual asides, camera effects, colors, cuts, weirdness, silliness, and lots of food and eating.  What’s so refreshing about it is that it’s a feminist film but a feminist film with a great sense of fun and impropriety, but still quite polemical in its way.

It vaguely reminded me of aspects of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, perhaps the more abstract or animated sequences.  That said, the comedy is less traditional and skit-like.  It also resonated as a real contrast to a film like Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), a brilliant if intensely downbeat feminist movie.

An emblem of the Czech New Wave, it’s a wonderful, strange, and fun little film.  It’s easy to see how one could dig into it for analysis, but I’ll just leave it at that for now.

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) movie poster

director Sam Peckinpah
viewed: 03/22/2014

Much like the populist Old West outlaw Jesse James, Billy the Kid’s short life became the thing of legend, popular folklore, with many, many versions of his story told and retold and told yet again.  Director Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid from 1973 would certainly fall into the revisionist category.  It’s a fascinating assessment of the Old West, quite particular to Peckinpah’s interpretation, gritty, bloody and cynical.

James Coburn plays Pat Garrett, the outlaw turned lawman, who goes after the bounty on his old pal Billy the Kid (Kris Kristofferson) when hired by the land barons of Arizona to put an end to the Kid and his gang.  Again, like Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country (1962) and also his classic The Wild Bunch (1969), these are Westerns interested with the end of the Old West.  The film opens with Garrett’s death in 1908, shot down at the hands of men who had paid him to track Billy the Kid.  Though most of the story takes place in the 1880’s.

Bob Dylan appears as a quirky character called “Alias,” a clerk turned outlaw when he sees how cool Billy the Kid is escaping the law.  More effective than his performance is his great soundtrack for the film.  I’m by no means a particular Dylan fan, but the soundtrack is excellent, an interesting stylistic choice for Peckinpah, something of the old-style “folk music” and guitar and the modern, the unique Dylan interpretation of the style that was very much of the time of the film.

It seems that the film is about the outlaw lifestyle, embodied in the ennobled Kid.  He’s never seen doing anything truly nefarious.  He’s fighting against the law and the rich who run everything.  We’re not given some hardscrabble backstory of how the rich men ruined the poor but these characters certainly had analogues in the early 1970’s, of which Dylan and Kristofferson no doubt embodied modern archetypes, if not Peckinpah himself.

It’s Garrett who is the ambivalent villain.  He doesn’t really want to kill Billy.  He’d rather Billy ran off to “Old” Mexico where he’d be out of his jurisdiction, but he is also quite resigned that he must kill his old compadre.  And he knows that he is doing it for his own wealth and entitlement.  He has no illusions about right and wrong.

I’d last seen this film in England about 20 years ago, around the time that I was first getting interested in the Western as a genre.  I think I’m appreciating it much more today than I did then, though I recall liking it.  I’d just watched  Ride the High Country a couple of nights before and had also recently watched Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) and frankly, I am currently totally digging Peckinpah of late.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  The Western is one of the great genres of cinema.  One who doesn’t appreciate the genre is missing out on some of the best films ever made.

The General (1926)

The General (1926) movie poster

directors Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton
viewed: 03/21/2014

I had been reading a biography of Buster Keaton, simply titled Keaton by Rudi Blesh, a man who had personally known Keaton and interviewed him and his family members.  This book had long sat on my shelf but I was keen to watch another Keaton film after reading it.  There were still a couple of Keaton features that we hadn’t seen.  But in the end, I felt it had been a long time since we’d seen the film considered his masterpiece, his 1926 comedy/action/adventure The General.

The funny thing is that it had been six years since we’d seen it.  Felix had been six, Clara four.  Memories not as strong of that time.  Not so surprisingly, Clara didn’t recall it at all.  Felix recalled odd moments more than the epic ones.  But Clara of course remembered other Keaton films that she’s liked, notably some of his short films.

When we’d seen it before, I had never seen it, so I think I anticipated it being more comic than it is.  I think that is one of the misperceptions about the film because it certainly does have some very funny bits and moments, but it’s more an adventure first, with some stunning stunts and feats.

It’s based loosely on a true story, known as the “Great Locomotive Chase” that happened during the American Civil War in which a group of Union soldiers stole a Confederate railroad engine, taking down telegraph wires and damaging the rail tracks as they went, pursued by the Southern army.  In Keaton’s version, he’s the lone man in pursuit, and his pursuit is less about the North versus the South but rather that they’ve stolen his beloved engine (oddly enough with his human beloved as a captive as well).

He chases them up and then recaptures the train and they chase him back.  It all ends in the collapse of a railroad bridge and a skirmish between the armies and the heroism of one man.  It’s a little befuddling, the story sort of making out the good guys as the South.  It makes for a harder to explain context to the kids (it’s all quite complicated if you don’t feel like being reductive).  But it struck me odd before, especially with D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), these two major silent features in which the good guys are the Southerners.  Of course, Griffith’s film is a much different ball of wax, it’s still on the surface, a little odd perhaps for a modern audience.  This time around it all made a bit more coherent sense to me but I don’t know.

The film is wonderful.  The kids were a tad restless but enjoyed the film a lot.  I can imagine them getting to see it on the big screen would have better impact.

It’s amazing about Buster Keaton.  He had such a small period of his life in which his greatest work was created.  He was limited by Hollywood and so many other things throughout most of his life.  It’s such a shame that he wasn’t given more opportunities as sound came into being.  But one can only pine for what might have been for so long.  What we have of Keaton’s is the best of much of what we have of anything.  And that stuff is pure joy.

Ride the High Country (1962)

Ride the High Country (1962) movie poster

director Sam Peckinpah
viewed: 03/19/2014

Sam Peckinpah’s 1962 Western, Ride the High Country, is a fascinating transition of the traditional and the old encountering the first wave of the modern or revisionist Western.  The film features two old faces from classic Hollywood, Randolph Scott (in his final big screen performance) and Joel McCrea, playing aging Old West gunmen in a fading Old West.  Scott is seeking redemption in one last job to reestablish his integrity, protecting a shipment of gold from the mountains to the town for a small town bank.  He enlists McCrea, who has been making his way in cheap gun tricks in “Old West” shows and carnivals, to help him out, though McCrea has other, less idealistic notions.

While it’s not entirely clear what year it’s supposed to be, this is the Old West in its last vestiges, turning toward the modern world.  And though the film begins much like a traditional Western, the film verges into territory much grittier and grimier than the clean and noble West of the first half of the 20th Century.

It’s interesting that the character that pushes the film into this sleazier territory is Warren Oates, who would come to be one of Peckinpah’s main actors.  And it’s interesting how the movie gets there.

The cowboys encounter an obsessively Christian man and his lovely daughter (Mariette Hartley) who is tired of being repressed.  She’s an interesting figure all throughout, first appearing to be a boy, dressed for work on the farm, then transposed into fancy dress as she tries to express her femininity against her father’s wishes.  But she decides to venture up to the gold mining outpost with the gunmen, to seek to marry one would-be suitor of hers that lives up there.

Only, that would-be suitor has three inbred brothers, including Oates, who share and share alike of family goods and fully expect the pretty young Hartley to be theirs in every way as much as their brothers.  The brother doesn’t disagree.

The wedding takes place in a whorehouse, with leering eyes, saucy girls, horny cowboys, and a big, buxom, flouncy madam.  The local judge, who is not the least sober as one, presides over the affair, making it legit.  But with the lustful brothers and all the others, there is an explicitness to the suggestions of rape and prostitution that the girl has somewhat unwittingly set herself up for that are much more coarse and certain than one would expect in the far more dainty 1950’s.  In fact, it’s pure Peckinpah.

The film becomes a chase back to the town, with McCrea and his sidekick thinking to steal the gold and the brothers seeking to get Hartley back after Scott rescues her.  It ends with a semi-traditional shoot-out with Scott’s character dying and McCrea’s regaining his integrity, a commentary no doubt on the position of those old weathered heroes of yore.

The “Revisionist Western” has come to interest me more and more of late.  And Peckinpah in particular has been interesting me, his particular slant on the genre.  Ride the High Country is considered Peckinpah’s first great or important film and it’s well worth watching.

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)

Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979) movie poster

director Allan Arkush
viewed: 03/17/2014

Rock, rock, rock, rock, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School!

The Roger Corman/Allan Arkush/Joe Dante teenage rebellion movie, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School has definitely been filed in my chagrined category of movies I had never, *ahem*, seen.  When you talk about foreign cinema or avant-garde or something, perhaps it’s a little more understanding if you’ve never seen a Alain Resnais film or a particular Godard film.  But some films, especially films of the midnight movie ilk or cult status, especially one that features the great rock’n’roll punk band, the Ramones, it’s almost downright shame-facing.

How? How? How? How could I have never seen it?  Why? Why? Why? Why had I never seen it.  No good explanation exists.

It’s frickin’ brilliant.  For a late-1970’s teen rebellion film, it’s almost squeaky clean.  And cute.  Charming.  And features the Ramones in their heyday, capturing lightning in a bottle, or at least on celluloid and audio.

It’s so cute.  Really.  That’s the main word that came to mind.

P.J. Soles (who I think I remember fondly from Stripes (1981)) is as cute as cute can be as the Ramones number one fan Riff Randell.  Mary Woronov is pretty iconic as the evil school principal whose cutting down hard on anything remotely fun.  And Paul Bartel is gloriously funny as the hip unhip music teacher.

It’s an amazing.  It’s kind of like the anti-Grease (1978), with it’s all retro 1950’s rock’n’roll filtered vaguely through disco.  The Ramones exemplify a particular aspect of punk that is unrepentantly tied in a key way to the sounds of the 1950’s and early 1960’s but is entirely of itself, of a new and at the time contemporary era.  It was an amazing act of genius to land the Ramones, such a unique, bizarre thing.

It also ties back to films like High School Confidential (1958), the whole teenage movie genre, particularly with a contemporary soundtrack.  It also brought to mind the much less successful Rude Boy (1980) which was more of a film dedicated to the Clash with a story stuffed into it, but it’s probably closer in production to the Jack Arnold flick.

The Ramones were such a gloriously unlikely band.  Brilliant misfits turned punk rock gods.  Any glimpse is a worthwhile glimpse.

The whole thing is great and frickin’ cute.

Burnt Offerings (1976)

Burnt Offerings (1976) movie poster

director Dan Curtis
viewed: 03/16/2014

I think I queued up Burnt Offerings when reading about it playing at the Castro Theatre recently as part of a tribute to actress Karen Black who passed away last year.  I think the hook for me was the local angle, though, as the film is shot at Oakland, CA’s Dunsmuir House.

The film is a slow, slow burn of a horror film, starring Black and Oliver Reed, as well as pretty game Bette Davis.  They are a family, with a 12 year old boy, who rent the big old creepy mansion from oddball brother and sister Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart.  Turns out the house is sort of haunted, not that the audience ever sees a “ghost”.  The spirit infects the family in different ways, turning them murderous.

See, the house feeds on the living.  The people keep it alive, or bring it back to life.  And though it’s slow and almost boring in ways, it does evoke a cumulative sense of dread by the end.

I’m pretty sure I saw this back in childhood and found it very dull.  But now, I think it has its merits.  What’s kind of funny for me is that my mom never liked Karen Black for whatever reason and that sort of imprinted itself of me.  She’s actually quite good in the movie here, but something about her face…I don’t know.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) movie poster

director Wes Anderson
viewed: 03/16/2014 at Century San Francisco Centre 9 and XD, SF, CA

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the new Wes Anderson movie and it is indeed new and indeed a Wes Anderson movie.  Me, I really like his movies, so I get excited by such a prospect.  But even so, a Wes Anderson movie is a Wes Anderson movie, not really like anyone else’s films and if you didn’t care for Wes Anderson movies, chance is that you won’t like any Wes Anderson movies.

I was struck by how much a Wes Anderson movie is like a cinematic diorama.  A little world seen through perhaps a peephole, an elaborately detailed, perfectly wrought microcosm, operating almost like an automaton, wired perfectly to do its thing that it does.  In fact, in The Grand Budapest Hotel, as in a couple other of his films, Anderson uses miniatures for scenes of scale, to depict the complex totality of his universes in cross-sections.  It seemed like animation sort of opened this world up for him in Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), but here he adds it to an overall aesthetic mixing artifice with location and scenery.

The other big thing of a Wes Anderson film is his hilarious, extremely particularlized characters.  He has his group of actors that appear consistently in his films and many are here as well, playing almost cartoonish creations each of whom is “ever so” him or herself.  Again, to some, this could be a criticism, to others, it’s just wonderful fun.

The stars of Grand Budapest are Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori.  Fiennes is M. Gustave H., concierge at the titular hotel, a perfectionist of meeting every need any hotel guest should have, and also an avid lover of aged women who visit the hotel.  Revolori is the young Zero Moustafa, lobby boy in training under M. Gustave H.  It is Zero’s story being told, after all, in flashback by F. Murray Abraham, the aged Zero, relating the story to a young writer, Jude Law, who is in turn a flashback for the established writer played by Tom Wilkinson.  It’s a bit like the stacked babushka dolls, the packaging and telling of the story, miniature within a miniature, artifice within artifice.

Felix was actually keen to see this movie, which pleasantly surprised me.  Both of the kids love Fantastic Mr. Fox and were both kind of warm to Moonrise Kingdom (2012), though I guess it grew on Felix in retrospect.  I’m not entirely sure what he thought of Grand Budapest in the end.  He seemed to like it fairly well.

I do like Wes Anderson films.  I guess my favorites being Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) and with The Darjeeling Limited (2007) at the bottom of the scale.  I’d read some assessments of Grand Budapest that placed it as his best work.  I don’t know.  I still like the ones I do, but I did enjoy it quite well.  Fiennes is perfect as the impeccable M. Gustave H.

The film is a fantasy of a Europe that only possibly ever existed in anyone’s imagination and Anderson plays that well.  All of his worlds are perfected fantasies, wonderfully detailed, ornate, nearly sublime.

I’ve had a nagging question though in my mind about Anderson’s very WASPy universes.  There are Indians often, and Zero, as played by Revolori is of undetermined Mediterranean background.  I was struck by this in Moonrise Kingdom and see it here again, too.  It’s not that I think that movies should be meeting quotas of ethnic diversity or anything, but I do wonder about these wondrous fantasy worlds and why they so often seem so white.

Batman (1989)

Batman (1989) movie poster

director Tim Burton
viewed: 03/15/2014

It had been a long time since I had seen Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Kim Bassinger.  It was the touchstone of the modern superhero movie, reinventing the characters and ultimately the genre, setting forth a style that would be adopted and readopted until it was finally eclipsed.  It is still pretty safe to say that this is the movie that started a pop cultural shift that has almost utterly subsumed the summer movie period 25 years in its aftermath.

25 years.  It’s true.  I still remember standing in line for Batman the day it opened in June 1989.  I was quite a Tim Burton fan at that point and this seemed to promise something new and interesting.  And in a fair amount of ways, it succeeded.  I was also a Batman the TV show fan from childhood and was thrilled to get to see those old programs again.  I wasn’t a Batman comic book fan, per se, but I had read The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns, two books that suggested the darker sensibilities that would come.

It’s funny now, with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Burton’s Batman seems lighter by contrast.  The big difference is that Burton and company had more of a sense of humor throughout, and interestingly, also had a little more of a nod to the Adam West camp television show from the 1960’s.  By Nolan’s time, no iota of that remains.  Of course, that has a lot more to do with what director Joel Schumacher did with this series of Batman movies than what Burton did.

The kids and I have wound up watching quite a few Tim Burton movies: Beetlejuice (1988), Ed Wood (1994), Mars Attacks! (1996) and more, most of which they’ve enjoyed.  We’ve also watched a few of the superhero movies of the present, like Iron Man 3 (2013), The Avengers (2012), X-Men: First Class (2011), and others.  The superhero movie is more than alive and well.  It’s probably never been better from a shareholder perspective.

But we never watched a few things, like Nolan’s Batman movies or Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films.  These came too early for the kids ages.  And I’m a little conflicted about how interesting I think they are to share with them.  That said, I thought that it is interesting to see some of the superhero movies that they’ve missed, for context, or in some cases because they warrant it enough.

Case in point: Burton’s Batman.

Interestingly, Clara was bored by it, but Felix liked it and was interested to see Burton’s Batman Returns (1992), which I sort of thought we might see initially.  Now, I’m not as sure.  It’s still a possibility.  (We still haven’t gone back for the Star Wars episodes I-III.)

This 1989 Batman was quite the thing in its day.  And I would suggest that it mostly holds up today.  Keaton was always an unlikely Batman, but he proved himself quite compelling in his two goes of it.  And Nicholson might not be the most ideal Joker, but he’s probably the best thing in the movie.  He gets all the best lines and is the darkest, funniest thing throughout.  And the set and costume designs, these came to utterly define the new dark superhero movie, these weird mash-ups of Art Deco, Gothic, what have you, ridiculously over the top, rather insanely unrealistic but quite marvelous as well.

Some of the effects are better than others.  This was 1989 and everything hadn’t gone digital yet.  The digital effects of armoring the Batmobile look kind of cheap.  The leaping/soaring Batman is kind of slow and obviously wired on a track.  And really, as great as Keaton is, this was back at a time when everyone on TV and movies didn’t spend their lives at the gym and never took off their shirt to reveal a sculpted torso.  In Keaton’s case, there is little question that it’s the suit that has six-pack abs.

The film is actually quite funny.  And not all of this is purely in Nicholson’s camp, though as I mentioned, he gets all the best lines and gags.  There is the humor about the television news people when it turns out that make-up and hair products may be poisoned, so they appear looking ruffled and spotty.  The Joker makes any number of not just visual gags but physical, cartoonish ones.  The humor and style are a significant difference between today’s superhero movies, which are nowhere as outwardly humorous.

In the 25 years since its release, there have been other significant turning points in the genre.  The first X-Men movie X-Men (2000), Raimi’s Spider-Man series (pure digital action), Nolan’s Batman films (probably the “artistic” high mark of the genre), and most recently Joss Whedon’s Avengers movie (really, Marvel’s multi-film build up of the Avengers franchise is something more massive than any one film).  Game changers come along every so often and it’s not even such an obvious pivot that moves things forward in a different direction.

But Tim Burton’s Batman did have that massive effect, reinventing a genre that was barely a genre but which would come to massively take over Hollywood pop culture in time.  The film itself is good, not really great (I always thought I preferred the sequel, not sure anymore).  I state my opinion of it just to help separate what I think of the film from what I’m tyring to say about the impact that it had at the time and cumulatively.

The present day situation has a lot more to do with the state of Hollywood, the way films are marketed, special effects technology, and box office receipts.  Hollywood’s always been more about what have you done for me lately than really showing a track going back a quarter of a century.  And it’s probably a bit reductive to give Batman (1989) too much credit.  The action-movie, the “summer blockbuster”, the “popcorn films” reaped input from many other genres and successful films.  But this film was the turning point for superhero movies.

Body Double (1984)

Body Double (1984) movie poster

director Brian De Palma
viewed: 03/14/2014

Director Brian De Palma’s Body Double is sort of his Eighties mash-up of Alfred Hitchcock’s Read Window (1954) and  Vertigo (1958), with a pornographic theme and lots of great Los Angeles location shooting.

I think it’s fair to say that De Palma has had his day in cinema.  I don’t know how great I really think any one work of his is and it’s been a long time for me on a few of his most notable films.  But he was no slouch and even in this rather extremely derivative flick starring a likable but not really star-quality Craig Wasson (who? right?), this is not a great nor terrible movie.

The funny thing is I always remembered liking it as a teen, though that might have been for all the nudity.  I did encounter it on cable television.  It is a decent riff on Hitchcock, though it’s no Hitchcock itself.

Really, Melanie Griffith is the best part of the film, another tip of the hat to Hitchcock as her mother Tippi Hedron was one of Hitch’s icy blondes.  She plays a porn star and a jabbery, upfront, gal of the Eighties, with her little girl voice, that New Wave coif, and frequently unclad body.  She’s actually only in the film quite briefly, but she’s by far the best thing in it.

It’s funny about Wasson.  Perhaps from my familiarity with him in this film and maybe another, he’s recognizable. I think in some way I thought of him and Bill Maher being the same person at some point (purely physical resemblance).  He’s got an affability but isn’t a compelling star, something that this movie kind of needs.

It’s a story about an actor on Hollywood’s lower rungs, who splits up with his wife and ends up house-sitting a crazy house (the Chemosphere).  From here, he spies on a sexy neighbor, who he ends up falling for, only to wind up witnessing her murder from afar.  He figures out that he was tricked by a “body double”, Griffith’s porn star and has to track the body down to find out who set him up.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood appear on set of the porn shoot, lip syncing what will become a version of their video for “Relax”.  It’s actually a little confusing at that point.  And I swear (would have sworn back in the day) that Wasson’s vampire get-up is actually Billy Idol’s outfit from “Dancin’ with Myself”.

It’s one of those odd kinds of movies where the sum isn’t quite the whole of the parts.  The LA locations, Melanie Griffith, numerous strange little things make it a reasonably entertaining film.  It was actually kind of funny to see again after so long, since I think I did like it quite well back in my youth.

Byzantium (2012)

Byzantium (2012) movie poster

director Neil Jordan
viewed: 03/12/2014

In this day and age, if you want to make a vampire movie and you don’t want it to be derivative, you’re best off not making a vampire movie.  Vampires have gone from the odd depths of horror to straight-up mainstream popular genre.  And the sheer numbers of vampire books, shows, movies, it’s become a more and more pedestrian affair.  Their ubiquity has led to such a watered-down and multi-modified series of permutations of the vampire legend that each little universe has come to define the “rules” of being a vampire.

Sunlight?  Mirrors? Being asked indoors? Fangs?  Sparkling in sunlight?

All this said, I guess that I was oddly cynical to queue up a vampire movie, even one by a director like Neil Jordan who I have liked quite a bit in the past, but probably held moderately low hopes for in this film that came a went rather quickly.  The film does however star both Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan, two beguiling actresses.  And I felt like I could use a less heady film for the moment.

But surprisingly, Jordan does not disappoint.  If anything, if this movie had been made during a dearth of vampire stories rather than the spate that we are in, it might well have garnered more and better attention.  I suppose it’s not unique enough to stand out from a crowded shelf on looks alone.  But it is indeed a richer, more interesting, and moving motion picture than I anticipated.

Adapted for the screen by playwright Moira Buffini from her own work, it’s the story of a mother and daughter pair of vampires who have eked out an existence for 200 years.  Though mother and daughter, they pass themselves as sisters, Arterton the elder in her early 20’s, Ronan her daughter trapped at the age of 16.  Their story unfolds as they flee to a small English seaside village, running from their past and some mysterious hunters.

Arterton’s Clara has earned their living as a prostitute (for all 200 years), and has been eternally protective of her far more innocent daughter.  But this is the time and place that everything comes out, a return to the place that it all began, the same seaside from all those years before.

And interestingly, the vampire mythos on display here are Irish-oriented, involving a cave and an unnamed power, an isolated island, birds, and blood.  Why they need to be asked in to a dwelling?  Sort of arbitrary.  They don’t have fangs.  They can’t “turn” one another.  Again, all this quibbling over the specifics of the take on the vampire concept.

But I actually did like it.  Arterton I’ve found lovely since I first set eyes on her a few years back in Clash of the Titans (2010).  Saoirse Ronan has struck me from trailers and movie posters since she came on the scene.  Really the first thing I saw her in I suppose was Hanna (2010), which was also very surprising and good.  It’s one of the natures of movies, beautiful young actresses, personas, riveting attention.  I like them both.

And for Neil Jordan, the Irish director of A Company of Wolves (1984), Mona Lisa (1986), The Crying Game (1992), Interview with the Vampire (1994), The Butcher Boy (1997) (a personal favorite), he has proven himself to me yet again that he’s got more substance than so many.  He works here with cinematographer Sean Bobbitt who has made his name working with Steve McQueen on his films, paints a lovely world here, the decaying English seaside and its rugged coast.

Really, quite a good film.