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Rating History

The Flying Guillotine (Xue di zi)
4 years ago via Movies on Facebook

The Return
The Return (2004)
5 years ago via Movies on Facebook

Minimalistic and foreboding tale of two brothers, who are surprised when their AWOL father reappears after 12 years and takes them on an impromptu fishing trip. As Dad's essentially a stranger, their voyage is wrought with a very odd tension. His authoritarian stance on parenting is ironically countered by his ineptitude at it; the kids are soon in fear of this unknowable, enigmatic figure as he changes the vacation's itinerary at will. A mysterious phone call sends them off to an island, where Dad has a bit of unexplained "business" to attend to, involving a steel box (a classical Hitchcockian MacGuffin). Phallic imagery comes to the fore, when a tower is introduced, seeming to be sole man-made structure on the island, looming ominously in the background. Practically every exterior shot is overcast, with a grey filter over ugly nature shots. This is not a Russian travelogue, rather a simple story of ascending to Manhood, and whether a father should be a role model or a tyrant.

"The Return" is so simplistic that you can attach a number of different interpretations to it; that the father remains forever unknowable, the motive or purpose of his bizarre "business trip" forever lost, adds plenty of ambiguity. My pet theory is that this is really about the death of the glorious Communist republic (Dad's constant ordering-about of the kids, and refusal to act without a consensus, would reinforce this), with the children representing the intelligensia and proletariat. Their uncertainty at the end is a great reflection of Russia's awkward transition into a "democracy". And what of the box? The knowledge of the Czars, of Trotsky, Lenin, Marx, lost due to public indifference.

I'm probably just pulling that out of my ass, but you can see there's lots of room for interpretation. Watch "The Return" with your dad, if you have a dad who'd care to watch an artsy subtitled flick with you. The rest of us can be glad that we're completely unlike our fathers (or maybe that's just me).

The House With Laughing Windows (La casa dalle finestre che ridono)
6 years ago via Movies on Facebook

Artsy psychological thriller is slow-going but builds to an unforgettable gender- and genre-bending climax. Body count is low compared to other giallos, but what we lack in stage blood is more than compensated for with a constant atmosphere of apprehension. As a painter, imported from the Italian mainland, becomes more and more invested in his task of restoring a fresco of Saint Sebastian, his sanity becomes increasingly fragile. While it may not be intentional, the badly remixed mono-to-stereo soundtrack lends even more to the subjective reality.

There's a lot going on under the surface, too: the church, rebuilt after the downfall of the Fascist regime, becomes a potent metaphor for a perverted, dying religion. The helpful priest still conducts his ceremonies in Latin, and his altar boy has an unquenchable appetite for virgin flesh. What we later learn of them should best be left unspoiled. The town's cops are bumbling, drunken fools and the mayor is a midget. Anyone who wishes to divulge the secret of the original fresco painter, who mysteriously set himself ablaze while his sisters watched, has an annoying habit of dying before spilling the beans.

Avati, an acclaimed director of comedies, does a more than capable job stepping into the shoes of Mario Bava. Throughout all the gloomy, Gothic creepiness, there is a theme of sexual repression leading to insanity. All the love scenes are accordingly chaste, and all the women have serious issues of their own. To say nothing of the religious figures. Well worth checking out just for the titular piece of art direction.

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky
10 years ago via Movies on Facebook

Achieves an operatic grandeur in its badness, its story is the definition of "ludicrous" and simply an excuse to demolish humanoid latex models filled with red karo syrup. If you're like me you won't be physically able to stop laughing at this.