Year-End Movie Survey, Question 8
What was the best older movie discovery you had in 2005?
The best discovery of an old movie for me was the little-seen Nicolas Roeg psychosexual noir, Bad Timing. It tells the fragmented story of the disintegration of the destructive relationship between the sexually adventurous Milena (Theresa Russell) and the not-as-repressed-as-he-thinks Alex (Art Garfunkel). The movie achieved much notoriety for its sexual content and a climatic encounter that borders on necrophilia. Roeg, who frames the story as a police procedural, creates a constant feeling of disorientation tinged with the possibility of violence. Harvey Keitel gives a witty performance as the lead investigator and Alex's doppelganger. The film's legacy may be the performances by the two lead actors who were never given roles this juicy and complex. Russell, one of the most beautiful actresses of the last thirty years, shows a willingness to take a character as far as humanly possible that is sadly missing from most mainstream leading ladies. And Garfunkel gives a remarkable performance that is startling in its casual cruelty. Thanks to Criterion, movies like Bad Timing now have a chance to find the audience they deserve.
I'm a sucker for cult, hence my obsession for Terry Lofton's 1985 slasher self-parody, The Nail Gun Massacre. Seriously, check it out: it won't be elevated anywhere near a Rocky Horror-level following, but I damn sure bet it'll round up enough celluloid junkies who'll burn the midnight oil with gratuitous nudity, absurd mass-murder, and bad, bad, bad dialogue. Riding those cult coattails, I discovered Richard Elfman's The Forbidden Zone, 1980's version of Rocky Horror but this time, instead of the unforgettable lyrics from Paul Williams, we're accompanied with the sounds of the director's brother's band, Oingo Boingo. And instead of Tim Curry walking us through a universe of goof, we get Herve Villechaize as the "King of the Sixth Dimension"--and a horny little bastard at that.
Released in the same year was Taylor Hackford's debut biopic, The Idolmaker. It has two amenities that top both Ray and Walk the Line: Ray Sharkey's performance as the 1950s rock promoter (loosely based on Frankie Avalon's manager, Bob Marucci), and Peter Gallagher's pop star character (loosely based on teeny bopper, Fabian) doing the fictional hit number, "Baby." Greatness--it's not Rodney Dangerfield in Easy Money greatness, but greatness nonetheless.
I'll mention Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma here, which I saw over three nights at the Cinematheque. Typically, much of it was a struggle--not boring in the way that most of his films have bored me, there are too many film clips cascading by to ever feel bored, but a struggle to make sense of, to connect all the elliptical narration to what you're seeing. (Another ongoing source of frustration is that, big surprise, clips aren't identified; that's one thing I appreciated about Los Angeles Plays Itself, Thom Andersen's stodgy insistence on identifying everything.) So you're looking at 265 minutes of a very obscure rumination on something or other, with the director making sure that you're not allowed to give in and revel in all the images the way you might in some other context; it's like an austere counter to those now tiresome collages you get during the Academy Awards broadcast. At the end, you feel as old as the movies themselves. But you know you've seen something, and I was more genuinely moved by the way a couple of the segments ended than by anything else I saw this year: first, when Godard's only comment on his closest contemporaries (Truffaut, Chabrol, etc.--seems like you spend the first half of the film waiting for some acknowledgement of Truffaut) is "These men, they were my friends," and then, right at the end, by the parable about waking from the dream, the perfect grace note to everything that has come before.