The 100-Week Roundup XX

Maybe I should’ve gone out of sequence and numbered this one XXX, given the pornographic content of a couple of these films from January 2019

  • The Stewardesses 3D (1969)
  • Experiments in Love 3D (1977)
  • La jetée (1962)


    The Stewardesses 3D
    (1969)

    2019 #6
    Alf Silliman Jr. | 93 mins | Blu-ray | 1.33:1 | USA / English | X* / R

    The Stewardesses in 3D

    If I asked you to guess the most profitable 3D movie ever made, what would you say? Avatar, probably. And, er, you’d be right (in terms of pure dollars earned, anyway). But what about before Avatar came along? You might opt for Jaws 3-D, or one of those ‘80s horror franchise entries, like Friday the 13th Part III or Amityville 3-D. Or you might try Alfred Hitchcock’s shot at the format, Dial M for Murder; or perhaps the Universal horror classic Creature from the Black Lagoon. Well, all of those answers would be wrong. The correct answer — as you’ve no doubt guessed by now, because you’re not stupid — is The Stewardesses. Why?

    Boooobs.

    And, er, the rest of the female anatomy, quite frankly, because, yes, The Stewardesses is fundamentally a porno. Bow-chicka-wow-wow! Oh, but not, it would seem, one exclusively for the dirty mac brigade, as it had enough of a mainstream claim (it was advertised as being based on a novel. There was no novel) to be booked into regular cinemas as well as onto the grungy grindhouse and drive-in circuits. It ran repeatedly for decades, and was made for a pittance, so its cost-to-profit ratio just kept on going up. To be precise, off a budget of just $100,000 it’s reported to have grossed up to $30 million, a 30,000% return. (For comparison’s sake, Avatar’s return was 1,176%.) It was also technologically innovative: the director helped develop a simple and economical single-camera 3D system (the 3D films of the ’50s had been shot with two cameras and projected with two projectors), which was later used by major movies during the ’80s 3D boom, such as Jaws 3-D.

    But what of the film itself? It’s an odd mashup of porno and arthouse, with gratuitous sex and nudity bumping against mundane drama, sequences that seem more like an observational lifestyle documentary, and occasional experimental scenes. It’s hard to tell how much the film is aiming for realism and how much is just amateurish: there’s dodgy framing, weak performances, and Filmmaking 101 goofs (spot the mic), but something about the editing patterns, shot choices, and day-in-the-life subject matter feels influenced by cinéma vérité. But there are also random showcases of the 3D effect, including a game of pool and a fairground sequence, which includes point-of-view rides on a rollercoaster ride and ghost train.

    Sexy lamp

    The sex stuff is dropped in here and there around this. There’s a bit of fooling around in a cockpit at the start, although this is again played more for the 3D gimmick (some legs-akimbo feet protruding from the screen) and laughs (the old “someone left the mic on and everyone can hear” bit). But then it’s almost quarter-of-an-hour before there’s anything that could be genuinely described as pornographic (full frontal yoga); after that, it’s back to watching some of the girls go to a bar and another go on a dinner date. A surprising amount of time is spent watching girls brush their hair — sometimes topless, which makes sense in a laughably gratuitous way, but other times… not.

    The first truly explicit scene depicts a girl on an acid trip having sex with a lamp shaped like a classical bust, while superimposed inverted images show the body she’s imagining it has. I mean… you couldn’t make that shit up, right? It’s more like an experimental movie than a porno. Later sequences are more straightforward porn, not least a lengthy lesbian scene; but the final sex scene is far from titillating, returning to that odd artiness with shots of vases and statues, closeups of appendages and limbs, unhappy faces, and a disquieting score. It ends by taking an exceptionally dark turn, with a murder-suicide that seems almost entirely unmotivated by anything that’s come before. It’s certainly not how you expect them to wrap up a film aimed at titillation.

    It would seem The Stewardesses was is a film of very mixed ambitions. The end result is objectively terrible, and yet also kind of fascinatingly enjoyable and thought-provoking. It’s certainly not dull, I’ll give it that.

    2 out of 5

    * It hasn’t been rated by the BBFC since a cut version received an X in 1973. ^

    Experiments in Love 3D
    (1977)

    2019 #6a
    Darrell Smith | 28 mins | Blu-ray | 1.20:1 | USA / English

    Experiments in Love

    Where The Stewardesses makes you wonder “is it porn or is it a drama with gratuitous sex?”, Experiments in Love prompts no such quandaries: it’s porn. And yet…

    A sci-fi comedy porno short, the plot (yes, there is a plot) sees a pair of “sexy scientists” experimenting with 3D cameras under instruction from a room-sized computer that speaks with a dodgy Japanese accent, so that they can use the cameras for a university project on human sexuality. In practice, it’s a bunch of 3D trick shots performed by a pair of women in very, very little clothing. Eventually, their sexy experiments overheat the system, which attracts the attention of a nearby handyman, and… well, I’m sure you can guess what goes on from there.

    While there’s no doubting the primary purpose of Experiments of Love, it has a knowing irreverence that makes it pretty funny, plus a cornucopia lot of great-looking 3D stunts, that make it worth watching for more than just the relatively explicit softcore sex and nudity. Whatever you want from it (based on reasonable expectations), you’re likely to get.

    3 out of 5

    La jetée
    (1962)

    2019 #6b
    Chris Marker | 28 mins | digital (HD) | 1.66:1 | France / French | PG

    La jetée

    And now for something completely different…

    Told via a series of still photos with voiceover narration, this is the story of a man in a post-World War III future who is subjected to a time travel experiment. While others have been unable to withstand the mental strain, scientists believe that the man’s obsession with a childhood memory will work in his favour if they send him back to near that moment. With the experiment a success, the man begins to develop a relationship with a woman in the past; but the scientists want him to find a solution for their post-apocalyptic woes…

    Probably most widely known as the work that inspired Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, La jetée is a seminal piece of science fiction filmmaking in its own right. By limiting the visuals to photographs, writer-director Chris Marker creates an eerie, discomfiting atmosphere, wholly appropriate to a post-apocalyptic future of enforced experimentation. But it also fits thematically: this is a film very much about memory, and what is one of our primary prompters of memory if not photographs? “Nothing distinguishes memories from ordinary moments,” says the narrator at one point. “Only later do they become memorable by the scars they leave.” Genuinely, a pretty profound thought to chew over.

    La jetée is a film I definitely need to revisit: it’s one of those films that is preceded by such a reputation that one struggles to judge it fairly on a first viewing, when expectations are too high. Put another way: although I’m not giving it full marks, that is not to dispute its standing as a classic.

    4 out of 5

  • The Redefining Monthly Review of January 2019

    Here I go again: the 13th year of 100 Films in a Year!

    Ah, “100” films… Once upon a time that goal was a challenge: in my first six years, although I did surpass it twice, I also only just reached it twice, and twice fell short. But since then things have improved considerably: in the last six years I’ve doubled it twice (and then some, in last year’s case), and twice more ended up closer to 200 than 100. I’ve also been reaching #100 quicker and quicker — it’s less “100 films in a year”, more “100 films in five or six months”.

    That said, I’ve had a particularly good run of it in terms of free time the past couple of years, and I don’t know if that’s going to continue, so I’m loathe to boldly establish a brand-new goal for myself. Maybe next year. For the time being, my official target has technically changed, in a couple of ways. For one thing, the titular “100 films” have only ever included films I’ve not seen before, and consequently I often rewatched very little. Nowadays, I’ve countered that with my Rewatchathon (2019 being its the third year), which adds 50 films to my viewing goal. Secondly, I’ve watched at least ten new films every month since June 2014, and I intend to keep that up — and as there are 12 months in a year (did you know?), that rounds up my aim to 120 new films.

    So I guess my official minimum goal is 170 Films in a Year. Doesn’t have the same catchy ring, does it? Especially as it should technically be 120 Films I Haven’t Seen and 50 I Have in a Year. Eesh.

    Anyway, enough of that — let’s get properly started on 2019. Here are all the films I watched in the first 12th of this 13th year…


    #1 Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (2018)
    #2 Cool Hand Luke (1967)
    #3 Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018), aka Gojira: Hoshi o Kuu Mono
    #4 1941 (1979)
    #5 Rambo (2008)
    #6 The Stewardesses 3D (1969)
    #6a Experiments in Love 3D (1977)
    #6b La jetée (1962)
    #7 Glass (2019)
    #8 The Player (1992)
    #9 The Happytime Murders (2018)
    #10 Zatoichi Challenged (1967), aka Zatôichi chikemurikaidô
    Rambo

    The Player

    .


    • So, I only watched ten new feature films in January.
    • That’s bang on my minimum goal, which is a good thing, but it also means January was my lowest month since September 2017, which is less good.
    • On a more positive note: since I started achieving a minimum of ten films per month year-round back in 2015, I’ve had no more than a single only-ten-films month each year (November in 2015, December in 2016, September in 2017, and none in 2018) — so maybe getting it out of the way in January bodes well for the rest of the year?
    • Also, while this may be the joint-lowest month of the past 4½ years, before then I regularly had sub-ten months. Indeed, pre-2014, 56% of months failed to reach double figures at all.
    • I didn’t watch a film on the 5th, one of the remaining dates on which I’ve ‘never’ watched a film. Two months in a row I’ve messed that up! I’ll have to be more attentive at the end of this year and the start of 2020…
    • In fact, I didn’t watch my first film until the 9th, which is the second latest start ever (in 2011 it was the 10th). That made the film in question — Happy New Year, Colin Burstead — feel somewhat ironic, what with it being, y’know, quite well past New Year by that point.
    • This month’s Blindspot film was Robert Altman’s Hollywood satire cum neo-noir thriller, The Player.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film was Cool Hand Luke, which I had little choice about: no sooner had I included it in my 2019 selection because it was streaming on Amazon than I discovered it was to be removed a mere two days later! Just another reminder why relying on streaming services is a bad idea. Physical media 4eva!



    The 44th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    I found surprising depth in the fourth Rambo, and was one of the apparently-few people who didn’t walk away disappointed from Shyamalan’s trilogy-closing Glass, but this month’s winner has to be The Player. Mixing sharp Hollywood satire with a perverse respect for the wonders of Tinseltown, shaped into a neo-noir thriller storyline and delivered via bravura filmmaking, that includes a justifiably-famous opening oner, Robert Altman’s comeback film promised so much that I love in movies, and delivered on it all too.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    I may’ve watched several notoriously bad films this month (Spielberg’s 1941, R-rated puppet flop The Happytime Murders, gimmicky 3D sexploitation The Stewardesses), but I actually enjoyed all of them on some level. No, this choice was easy. Apparently while promoting his latest film Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, director Ben Wheatley talked about it being his first movie where no one dies. Sure, no one in the film dies, but while watching it I became concerned that I might die from boredom.

    Favourite Short Film of the Month
    La jetée may be an innovative and influential arthouse sci-fi classic, but does it have full frontal nudity displayed in genuine 3D? No, no it does not. As I wrote on Letterboxd, “whether you want a little knowingly irreverent comedy, a cornucopia of 3D tricks, or some relatively explicit softcore porn, Experiments in Love has you covered.” It’s way more fun than it should be.

    Most Explosive Orgasm by an Inanimate Object of the Month
    I’m sorry to subject you to such crudeness, my dear, gentle readers, but here’s the thing: The Happytime Murders’ trailers made a fairly big deal of its puppet’s silly-string-spraying climax, but it was already beat by (once again) Experiments in Love. The latter features a huge retro computer, which for some reason speaks with a dodgy Japanese accent, and for even less reason has a grabby protuberance that tries to grope the film’s female characters, and which eventually gets very excited and, well, shall we say shoots off… directly at the camera lens, of course, because this is 3D. Take that, Gaspar Noé.

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    I don’t always watch my stats closely, but sometimes something catches my eye. This month, my Christmas TV review soared to an early lead — TV posts are always popular, and this one went up on the 2nd, so it had almost the whole month to rack up hits. By the halfway point, it already looked unassailable. Then Glass came along, and while it didn’t do spectacular short-term numbers, a strong day-by-day count saw it creep up the chart — could it challenge, even surpass Christmas TV? Well, no — those numbers actually tailed off pretty sharpish, leaving the Past Christmas on TV this month’s clear victor. (Glass did come a respectable second though, far outstripping this month’s other TV post.)


    Real life got in the way a bit this month, so it’s been a rather quiet one (this is my first post for 11 days!) Nonetheless, there’s still a chunk of stuff to recap. For starters, January began (as always) with my review of the previous year…

    And then regular business brought this little lot…


    While my main goal only just scraped to its minimum monthly target, my Rewatchathon began by exceeding it by 25%…

    #1 Twelve Monkeys (1995)
    #2 Unbreakable (2000)
    #3 Ghostbusters (1984)
    #4 Split (2016)
    #5 Les Misérables (2012)

    …of course, when your target is “four”, 25% is “one”. Sounds less grand like that, though.

    At this point I’d normally share a thought or two about some or all of the above listed films, but instead I’m going to mention my Letterboxd account. My stats on the site inform me that I ‘review’ films on there about 50% of the time. Those aren’t proper reviews, mind — usually I’m aiming for a ‘witty’ comment, but sometimes it’s a quick initial impression, especially if a film really made me feel something (for good or ill). Sometimes those comments end up getting mixed into the full reviews I later post here; other times they don’t.

    This month, I wrote something about each of my rewatches (hence why I’m mentioning this now), which you can locate quickly as follows: Twelve Monkeys, Unbreakable, Ghostbusters, Split, and Les Misérables.


    Here’s a new regular section for 2019. (Assuming I always have something to say in it. If I don’t, I guess it’ll disappear again.) These are films I’d been specifically meaning to watch (or rewatch) this month, but for whatever reason didn’t get round to — my failures.

    For January, this includes a tonne of stuff — I’m about to name 19 different titles, enough to almost triple the number I actually watched. (If that’s the kind of level I’m operating at, there probably will be something to say here every month!) Those include some much-discussed recent streaming releases (Roma, Bird Box); some Amazon rentals I got on the cheap (First Reformed, Leave No Trace, Mandy); some films I’ve been meaning to see for yonks that recently popped up on streaming services (Gods and Monsters, The Purge: Anarchy); recent Blu-ray purchases (One Cut of the Dead, Waterworld, Crimson Peak); at least one film I recorded off TV (The Eyes of Orson Welles); some new Blu-ray/rental releases that I haven’t actually purchased yet (Dave Made a Maze, The Predator); and anything at all on 4K Blu-ray — I got a player for Christmas, and I’ve set it up and watched a few bits and pieces as tests, but not a whole film. Top contenders for that honour include Escape from New York, Mission: Impossible I, II or Fallout, Blade Runner, and Blade Runner 2049.

    One thing I can say: some of those will definitely be amongst next month’s viewing. I mean, if they’re not, I wasted money on those rentals…


    It’s the shortest month of the year! Better pick up my average weekly viewing, then, or I won’t even make it to ten…