Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (India, 2020)

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is the movie that happens when someone reads an announcement for an academic talk about how 70s masala films are kind of gay, and then is like: “Interesting idea. What if I make this into one of those mid-level local films that are popular now?”

Let me preface this by saying of course it’s great this movie got made and it did well. It’s better than about 95% of Hindi films right now, which I don’t even do the honour of watching. But I have a bone to pick with it, because it’s a gay mainstream Bollywood movie that references the homoeroticism of all my gay faves from the 70s, and IT BORED ME.

But how?

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Malaal (India, 2019)

I have a love-hate relationship with Bhansali, because I hate the stories and the morality of his films and love his aesthetics and how campy he is. Depending on the balance between each, I end up loving some of his stuff and hating the rest. He only produced this and didn’t direct it, which is probably why I loved it. Thanks to Angie for telling me about it.

Malaal is a remake of a Tamil film I have not seen, but more obvious to me is the influence of Titanic, a film I like in theory and hate in practice. It’s set in the year Titanic came out, but there is really no attempt at any kind of period setting except a few film posters, a few men’s vintage shirts, and the lack of computers and mobile phones. The lack of phones really is the reason for the period setting, I think, because it makes the plot make more sense.

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Rosita (USA, 1923)

I first watched this colour restored version of Rosita at Il Cinema Ritrovato last year, but didn’t have time to review it then, so I rewatched it recently and am reviewing it now.

Rosita reminded me of a good modern Bollywood movie, because it is so very mainstream, but it’s not simple. It’s a heroine movie like a big Bollywood actress would make at the top of her career, or the female flipside of say, a Fairbanks adventure movie.

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Simon, king of the witches (USA, 1971)

Simon, king of the witches is a parody of sorts of Manson/cult/occult-sploitation movies.

The titular Simon (Andrew Prine) is a megalomaniac quack who lives in a storm drain with a rentboy he befriends. He can either actually do magic or is convinced he can do magic. Some bored and stoned rich people invite him to perform at a party, but they laugh at his weird and unspectacular magic act and the organiser further mocks him by forging his payment check.

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Sie tötete in Ekstase (West Germany, Spain, 1971)

Jess Franco films usually gross me out a little too much to completely enjoy them, but they’re always aesthetically pleasing and sometimes have a few good points, so I check out any that seem interesting.

Sie tötete in Ekstase is about a scientist, Dr. Johnson (lol), who conducts experiments on foetuses. This lands him in hot water socially and politically, and when a bunch of other scientists denounce his experiments as blasphemy, his permission to experiment gets revoked and his lab gets trashed, he has a breakdown and kills himself. His wife (Miranda Soledad) goes on a killing spree to avenge him.

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Mirzya (India, 2016)

Mirzya would almost be a perfect movie for me, if it wasn’t for one fatal flaw it has which completely ruined the movie for me.

The flaw is very spoilery, so proceed under the line break at your peril. It is a feminism and male violence related problem, if that helps. And no, I did not find this bit told this way in any version of the legend I could find so you can’t blame it on that.

But here is what’s good about Mirzya:

– the aesthetics. If that one flaw wasn’t so fundamental, the aesthetics would easily make up for it. It’s decadent and dreamlike, but not as stuffed full of stuff as a Bhansali film. It’s like an issue of L’Officiel de la Mode turned into film but Indian.

– the songs (excellent songs, excellently staged)

– the leads are incredibly attractive, Harshvardhan Kapoor with his body urge and Saiyami Kher with her gorgeous gold-coloured eyes (although whoever did the make-up on this had no idea how to make up light-coloured eyes)

– it has lots of horsies

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Filibus The Mysterious Air Pirate (Italy, 1915)

I’d seen Filibus The Mysterious Air Pirate a number of times already, because it happens to be one of my favourite silent films, but this was special.

Firstly because it was the first time I’ve seen it with live music and on a big screen. Secondly, the screening I watched was of the new restoration of it, which will be released by Milestone later this year, so that seemed like a good reason to review it. This is why I used two pictures pilfered from the Wexner Center for the Arts, because they are from the restoration, and you will see how superior the image quality is.

Filibus The Mysterious Air Pirate is the sort of silent movie I wish would be used to introduce people to silent film instead of things from the misguided and arbitrary silent canon. It really challenges popular perceptions of early film and even of the Edwardian/WW1 period, because it has a really progressive and unusual story, it’s fast-paced and easy to follow, and it’s not too long.

Spoilers for a 104 year old movie! Also, read the awesome Silents, Please! review.

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L’ Uragano (IT, 1911)

When I get bored, I turn to the Desmet collection, and it never fails to give me something interesting.

L’Uragano is an early drama by Pasquali film, an important and influential early studio.

Gretha/Renata has to get a job after her parents die, but gets mixed up with human traffickers who force her to work in an upscale brothel, the “Salon”.

Rudolf/Andrea is a fuckboy who has been seeing Agatha/Clotilde, whom he does not love (why see her, then, Rudolf?). He sees Gretha and falls in love with her but loses track of her on the street; he ghosts Agatha to try to find her. Agatha finds out he’s ghosted her and vows revenge.

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