Film Review: Lemon (1969)

Release Date: 1969
Directed by: Hollis Frampton

Janus Films, 7 Minutes

Review:

Let’s do a little quiz, shall we?

Do you hate yourself?

Do you hate yourself to the point of torturing yourself for seven long minutes of excrutiating boredom?

Do you like pretentious bullshit art?

Do you like pretentious bullshit artists that think they’re changing the world by giving it absolute dreck of the lowest and most dumbed down caliber possible?

Do you like 1950s beatnik poetry?

Do you like eating dried up pieces of cat poop?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then you’ll probably connect with Hollis Frampton’s Lemon.

This “short film”, as some academic weirdos have called this, is very much like his other film Carrots & Peas, which I also reviewed some time ago (see here) and concluded that I would never watch anything with this guy’s name on it again. But alas, I lost a bet. So I was subjected to this seven minute train wreck that felt like seven days.

All this is, is staring at a fucking lemon for seven minutes as a light slowly moves around it. This is like some test footage an amateur trying to get into cinematography would do as a learning exercise but would never show the world because it’s just some bullshit test footage. But this motherfucker made it into fucking art and some USDA prime queef patties running museums and art exhibits let this guy play this thing on a loop.

Full disclosure, I am an artist by trade. This is the kind of art I fucking hate because it isn’t art. This is pretentious, no talent bullshit that a grade schooler would try to pass off to their teacher in art class and then get a “D” because you can’t give mentally handicapped people an “F”.

There really isn’t much else to talk about because this is just seven minutes of staring at a lemon. I can do that on my own with the right kind of drugs. You know, the kind of drugs that’ll just put me into some sort of stupor, as a I stare off into space… or at a lemon I strategically placed in front of myself before before popping the magic pill.

Below I added the entire movie sped up to seven seconds instead of seven minutes so that you don’t have to waste your time like I fucking did.

Rating: 0.25/10
Pairs well with: Carrots & Peas, which is basically just staring at produce again. Also, chewing on earthworm jerky.

Film Review: The Idle Class (1921)

Also known as: Vanity Fair (alternate title)
Release Date: September 25th, 1921
Directed by: Charles Chaplin
Written by: Charles Chaplin
Music by: Johnnie von Haines (1969), Charles Chaplin (original)
Cast: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Henry Bergman, Mack Swain

Charles Chaplin Productions, First National, 32 Minutes

Review:

“I will occupy other rooms until you stop drinking.” – Edna, Neglected Wife

I had never seen this short by Charlie Chaplin until now. He has so many films and seeing them all is a big feat. Well, seeing the ones that have survived and not been lost to time.

I had no idea that this had a bunch of golf gags in it, which was really amusing and cool to see done in the Chaplin style.

There are a lot of gags and stunts that are incredible to watch, especially today when most of these stunts would be achieved by using CGI or green screens. This almost plays like a 1920s Caddyshack. Granted, there isn’t a gopher. But come to think of it, Chaplin versus the famous gopher would have been comedy gold.

Anyway, the biggest narrative focus in this film isn’t golf itself but about Chaplin’s Tramp character crossing paths with the richer class. This isn’t a new shtick for him, as the Tramp often times finds himself in these situations but with Chaplin, it’s the gags that make the movie and this one doesn’t disappoint.

The Idle Class isn’t a classic like City Lights but it is a strong and effective outing for Chaplin that only served to keep propelling his career forward.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Chaplin pictures during his run with First National: A Dog’s LifeShoulder ArmsSunnysideThe KidPay DayThe Pilgrim, etc.

Film Review: A Straightforward Boy (1929)

Also known as: Tokkan kozô (original Japanese title)
Release Date: November 24th, 1929
Directed by: Yasujirô Ozu
Written by: Tadao Ikeda, Chuji Nozu
Based on: The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry
Cast: Tatsuo Saitô, Tomio Aoki, Takeshi Sakamoto

Shochiku Kinema (Kamata), Asakusa Teikokukan, 14 Minutes (extant fragments), 38 Minutes (original length)

Review:

Yasujirô Ozu was one of the most prolific film directors in Japan for his time. He started by making comedy shorts in the silent era. He would later go on to make more technically savvy films once he started directing “talkies”. This is one of his earlier films, however.

A Straightforward Boy was once a 38 minute picture. A lot of it has gone missing or been damaged and the print that has been reconstructed and digitally archived is only 14 minutes. However, one can still get the gist and spirit of the story in the 14 minutes that survived to give us the cut of the film that exists now.

When I was researching this, I saw that one reviewer on IMDb referred to this as the Japanese Dennis the Menace. That’s really not a stretch, as the story follows a boy that is kidnapped and ends up being such a handful that the kidnappers return him, only to have the tables then turned again, as the kid continues to terrorize the main kidnapper’s lackey.

This isn’t an exceptional film but it is really cool seeing Japanese culture come to life in the pre-WWII era. If you like Japanese humor, you’ll probably be amused by this, especially the physical humor, as it couldn’t rely on sound. It’s not quite slapstick but it is very physical and entertaining.

Tomio Aoki, the boy who plays Tetsubo, the menace, did a really fine job. The comedic timing of Tatsuo Saitô and Takeshi Sakamoto enhanced Aoki’s performance as their reactions to him were great.

This is absolutely something that fans of Ozu’s work should check out. At least, I always enjoy checking out the early works of top filmmakers, especially when they are still experimenting with style and narrative; it helps you see how they evolved and sometimes gives their later work deeper meaning and substance. For the layman, this is probably not too exciting and there isn’t a lot to walk away with, other than it being a quick short about a funny prankster kid.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Any other early Ozu film.

Film Review: Krazy Kat – Bugologist (1916)

Release Date: March 14th, 1916
Written by: George Herriman
Based on: Krazy Kat by George Herriman

International Film Service, 3 Minutes

Review:

“I’ll teach thee bugology, Ignatzes.” – Krazy Kat

The character of Krazy Kat was conceived as a comic strip by George Herriman in 1913. He would go on to be featured in 231 films from 1916 to 1940. This is one of the first films to feature him and his friend, Ignatz Mouse.

It’s hard to really critique something like this as it is almost primitive animation. These films feel more like experiments within the style and certainly aren’t anywhere near as great as the animated shorts that would put Walt Disney and the Looney Tunes on the map, just over a decade later.

Still, without the Krazy Kat shorts, we may not have had Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, which would have completely altered the evolution of animation. Krazy Kat films kind of wedged the door open for other animated features to work their way into the public’s hearts during the earliest era of theater going.

Krazy Kat – Buglogist is very short but that wasn’t uncommon for 1916 where you could see a film that is longer than a television season and the next night, see something shorter than most movie trailers. In those early days, everything was experimental and certain rules weren’t yet established.

In this short, we see Krazy Kat try to teach Ignatz about bugs, which turns into him getting stung by a bee, right in his bum. It then goes off on a tangent about an elephant. It’s a short film with multiple personality disorder but ultimately, it shows that both friends are different yet need each other.

The drawings are pretty crude but I don’t think that the people behind this were as concerned about art quality, as they were about technical prowess and trail and error.

Since the film is so short, I’ve posted it in its entirety below.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Other Krazy Kat films.

 

Film Review: Kansas Saloon Smashers (1901)

Release Date: March 16th, 1901
Directed by: Edwin S. Porter

Edison Studios, 1 Minute

Review:

Kansas Saloon Smashers was a short one minute motion picture put out by Thomas Edison’s film company. Back in that time, his studio was at the forefront of motion picture technology and were typically the ones who made the biggest breakthroughs from a technical standpoint. Their films weren’t necessarily known for their artistic merit but more for being tests for the creative medium, as it evolved year after year.

However, they weren’t below dabbling in political satire, which is exactly what this film did.

This movie is a parody of the then famous political activist and busybody Carrie Nation. For those who don’t know, Nation was a radical member of the Temperance Movement, a group that fought against all the fun things in life like intoxication and sex. They used their influence to pressure the government into enacting laws that favored eventual Prohibition, as well as trying to force abstinence on the public.

Nation and her group were horrible people. She was also famous for wielding a hatchet that she would use to bust up taverns and destroy other people’s property. She even referred to herself as “…a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like.”

This quick film’s plot showcases a bartender serving his fun loving patrons. After he fills a man’s bucket with beer, Carrie Nation and her peeps bust into the bar and start causing havoc. She swings her hatchet and smashes up the place as best as she can until the bartender and the police toss her out, presumably on her ass.

Kansas Saloon Smashers was a very influential film, as it inspired other studios to pump out quick little pictures about Carrie Nation. Edison Studios even produced another one called Why Mr. Nation Wants a Divorce, which took shots at her failing second marriage. Pretty juicy stuff for the early 1900s.

The most notable thing about the movie, other than its influence and condemnation of Nation, was that it employed stop-action techniques for the bits where Nation is smashing up the bar.

And since it is so short, I have posted the film in its entirety below.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other experimental films by Edison.

Film Review: Young Mr. Jazz (1919)

Release Date: April 20th, 1919
Directed by: Hal Roach
Cast: Harold Lloyd, ‘Snub’ Pollard. Bebe Daniels

Robin Films, 10 Minutes

Review:

Hal Roach may best be known as the producer of the Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang (The Little Rascals) comedy film series. However, before all that, he directed some short silent comedies in the 1910s and 1920s. Young Mr. Jazz is probably one of the most well-known.

The film is quick and simple but it is really amusing. It is only ten minutes but it uses that time wisely and gives us a fun and energetic look at the popular culture of Roach’s era.

The plot sees a young couple running away from the girl’s father in their car. The car breaks down in front of a dance hall. The establishment is run by crooks, which leads to the couple trying to stay one step ahead of the girl’s father while also evading the criminal element in the club that is trying to swindle them for all that they have.

It’s a cute and fast paced movie. While it obviously feels dated, it’s 99 years-old, the humor still works and the picture is quite hilarious.

The film stars Harold Lloyd, who was a pretty prolific actor in these sort of films and a regular collaborator with Roach. Lloyd would also go on to direct and produce like Roach and he carved out a nice place as one of the comedic giants of his day, alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

The collaborative efforts of Roach and Lloyd were pretty influential on comedy as a whole and they really helped set the stage for what would come after.

If you want to get into either the work of Roach or Lloyd, this is a good place to start and it is a short and sweet sample of what the two greats could do.

Film Review: The Outlaw and His Wife (1918)

Also known as: Berg-Ejvind och hans hustru (original Swedish title), You and I (US alternate title)
Release Date: January 1st, 1918 (Sweden)
Directed by: Victor Sjöström
Written by: Victor Sjöström, Sam Ask, Jóhann Sigurjónsson
Cast: Victor Sjöström, Edith Erastoff

Svenska Biografteatern AB, 136 Minutes (original), 110 Minutes (2013 restored version)

Review:

“Love makes one man good, another evil…” – Title Card

This is the oldest film available on FilmStruck’s streaming service, so I wanted to check it out.

This is a biopic produced in Sweden about the Icelandic outlaw Fjalla-Eyvindur, also known as Eyvindur of the Mountains or Eyvind of the Hills. In the film, we meet Kari and his wife to be, Halla. Some people suspect he is the outlaw Eyvind. A bailiff, jealous of Halla’s attraction to Kari, sets his sights on the criminal. Things escalate and Eyvind and Halla abandon their farm and retreat to the cold highlands. They have a child and are eventually accompanied by their friend, Arnes. Arnes, however, confesses his love to Halla but she doesn’t feel the same way, as she still loves Eyvind. Men arrive to finally confront Eyvind but fearing capture, Halla throws her baby off of a cliff. The outlaw and his wife escape into the harsh winter weather but find themselves in a cabin with no food. Halla eventually freezes to death in the snow and when Eyvind finds her, he holds her until he dies frozen by her side.

It’s a pretty depressing story but it does display the pure love that these two have for one another. Ultimately, despite his crooked past, Eyvind just wants to live in peace with his family.

For the time it was released, The Outlaw and His Wife was a massive epic. It featured nature and the wilderness in a way that had never been captured on film. The film truly is a landmark in cinematic history and it did wow audiences with its visuals. It is hard to deny its greatness within the context of what it is, when it was made and how it changed things in the evolution of motion pictures.

It’s not a super exciting movie, though. At least not by modern standards and I am a guy that does like old silent pictures. It’s not boring, by any means, but it is a pretty drawn out film with some slow moments.