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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A Death in the Gunj (India, 2016)

I really only watched A Death In The Gunj for Jim Sarbh and Kalki, but I ended up liking it more than I thought I would.

This is one of those “tense house party where everyone has secrets and someone is having a nervous breakdown” movies, which I like when they are proper melodramas. This isn’t a melodrama, it’s arthouse, which I generally don’t like. But sometimes arthouse movies are alright.

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The Black Prince (India/USA/UK, 2017)

The Black Prince was not shown in theatres where I live, and I’ve desperately wanted to see it ever since, because the cast was as if someone had been playing madlibs with my favourite actors.  Shabana Azmi (!!!), David Essex (!!!!!!), Amanda Root (!!!), Keith from Boyzone (????!!!). Coincidentally, I had recently seen David Essex perform live when I watched it, another plus.

Now that I’ve seen this, I don’t know if you can call it a “movie”  so much as “a confused one page essay by a first year student about Duleep Singh’s life as a metaphor for the modern struggle for an independent Sikh state, acted out by human-shaped forms”. If a combo of Shabana Azmi and David Essex cannot save your movie, then my friend, you have a problem.

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Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (India, 2019)

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is almost my ideal mainstream movie. Accessible, positive, and with enough of a progressive or critical slant that it isn’t asinine. It’s also a good movie, because it knows exactly what it wants to be and achieves it exactly.

This was not released in theatres where I live, which surprised me, because this seems like a prime region for progressive family movies, but all we get is awful Indian government approved patriotic nonsense. I guess the desi audience here is more conservative than I bargained for. But it is on Netflix, which is a miracle, because our Netflix never has anything.

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