I was going to post something on the Don McKay trailer, but… yep, the moment’s passed. Intriguing (to-scale) cast, perhaps a couple too many reveals, but a nice end point. Wait… does this qualify?
Like fellow Tegn import In the Sign of the Virgin, 1974’s In the Sign of the Taurus blends good-natured, silicone-free sexuality with a rib-nudging story that puts moral hypocrisy in its cross hairs and amusingly advocates for personal freedom, sexual and otherwise. Written and directed by Werner Hedman, the film tells the tale of a small Danish town whose way of life is apparently sustained by the lavish tax payments of single benefactor. When he dies, it’s revealed that his will stipulates in order for the town to receive the bulk of his estate, a child must be born out of wedlock in, yes, the sign of Taurus. Both debauchery and political talking out of the sides of one’s mouth ensue.
A whole slate of these astrologically-tinged films were produced in Denmark in the 1970s, and while they don’t overwhelm with originality of plotting (they basically all offer up noodling variations on the issue of sexual repression versus a healthy embrace of libidinal pleasure), their production value, ribald energy and airy sense of streamlined purpose go a long way toward making them enjoyable genre entries, easy to be appreciated for what they are. While it’s true there is a pinch of hardcore action (far less than even 20 or 30 seconds worth, I’d say), this film and the rest of its brethren are softcore skin flicks at heart — goofy, grounded movies where the narrative actually drives all the sexual acting out.
And, like other entrants in the series, In the Sign of the Taurus puts its strength in its female characters, here most embodied in the form of brothel owner Carola (Lone Helmer), who expresses no small amount of bemusement at seeing her burgh’s moral beacons, with whom she’s already very familiar, tripping over themselves to “take one for the town.” Anne Bie Warburg, Kate Mundt, Bent Warburg and Ole Soltoft also appear.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case with a sapphic, screen-captured cover that certainly (if less than crisply) sells the salacious nature of the material, In the Sign of the Taurus comes to DVD on a region-free disc in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a native language Dolby digital soundtrack, removable English subtitles, and an animated top menu screen with additionally animated dozen chapter selections. The video transfer is remarkably free from grain, other debris, or any edge enhancement, but there are of course some minor issues with color consistency; while flesh tones look healthy and the focus details are solid, saturation tends to ebb and flow a bit. The only bonus feature, alas, is a two-and-a-half-minute image gallery slide show of stills from the movie — some of which are behind-the-scenes material, but most of which are not. If the effort were made, one would think some of the players would be available and interested in talking for some sort of retrospective overview. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C+ (Movie) C- (Disc)
The violations and indignities that the written word suffers in Hollywood are many and sundry, but screenwriters get their say in Tales from the Script, a highly interesting documentary built around wide-ranging conversations with 46 big screen storytellers, from John Carpenter and Frank Darabont to Bruce Joel Rubin and William Goldman. Eschewing voiceover narration or some artificially manufactured chronological narrative structure, the movie instead more or less embraces chaos theory, loosely grouping its anecdotal insights with title cards.
Yes, Tales from the Script is exclusively a talking-head affair, which lends it the feel of a cultured curio — a selling point, to be sure, for cineastes, but something of a hurdle for general audiences. (There’s also a hefty companion book to the film, underscoring a certain academic worth.) A lot of the observations herein are pointed but somewhat generic. Steven de Souza (above) amusingly and perceptively notes that there are people in the room during a story meeting who basically “make their day,” work-wise, by offering comment on your script, so such an environment encourages even dumb, from-the-hip remarks over more thoughtful silence.
Some stories, however, are pure, unadulterated gold, like Guinevere Turner hilariously recounting her work experience with director Uwe Boll on BloodRayne, Darabont talking about being offered a $30 million budget for shooting The Mist with a different ending, and Rubin ruefully recalling a Disney executive taking him to lunch and surreptitiously picking his brain for ideas for Armageddon by just letting Rubin talk about his work on Deep Impact. Director Peter Hanson and co-producer/co-writer Paul Robert Herman are also smart enough to include in the mix a number of writers laboring chiefly in the straight-to-video realm, which keeps Tales from the Script grounded in reality, providing an accurate, unblinking look of the balancing act between art and commerce that is screenwriting, and moviemaking in general. (First Run, unrated, 105 minutes)
The usual framing perspective of drugs and sex and rock ‘n’ roll tales gets a kick in the pants with The Runaways, a boozy, pungent, femme-centric coming-of-age flick that chiefly connects courtesy of a nervy, burgeoning adult performance by Kristen Stewart, and a smart, economical sense of period style.
Written and directed by Floria Sigismondi, the music-fueled film is a nervy, nervous piece of celluloid-captured acting out — a flick for fans of Garage Days, Lords of Dogtown, SLC Punk! and
Almost Famous, peddling the true story of the groundbreaking, all-girl 1970s rock band of the same name. Set in Los Angeles, it revolves mostly around two valley-girl teenage misfits, paint-huffing guitarist Joan Jett (Stewart, above left) and recruited lead singer/sex kitten Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), who bloom under the Svengali-like influence of outlandish impresario Kim Fowley (Revolutionary Road‘s Oscar-nominated Michael Shannon). With their tough-chick image and punchy, unvarnished talent, the band quickly earns a name for itself, touring Japan and touching off a sensation among young girls there before backbiting and Behind the Music-style flameout predictably ensues.
Some of the snapshot excess here seems designed or included chiefly for effect (who takes a phone call while having sex on an ironing board, for instance?), and the nature of the movie’s source material (it’s based on a book by Curie) additionally becomes something of a problem, in that the film never fully takes shape as either a true ensemble piece (two members of the Runaways, including Alia Shawkat, above right, have literally almost no lines) or something more explicitly through the eyes of Curie. Since the latter flamed out (and became a “chainsaw artist,” the end credits tell us) and Jett went on to a successful solo career, there’s a lingering disparity that hangs over the film. Narratively, it feels miscalibrated in small but significant ways, never truly getting at the heart of Curie and Jett’s relationship, but instead just flitting around its boundaries in mock-provocative ways, like a much-discussed kissing scene between the two actresses. Style and energy go a long way, though, and The Runaways has at least those elements in abundance. (Apparition, R, 102 minutes)