Monday, September 26, 2011


André Øvredal's "TrollHunter" is the bureau chief's favorite faux documentary since "This is Spinal Tap". It most often gets compared to "The Blair Witch Project", since the conceit of the film is that it is footage shot by student filmmakers who have disappeared. Supposedly others edited the footage into the film that we see.

Apparently some people are confused by the film. I actually stumbled across a review, somewhere in the vast internet, by some gormless git who gave "TrollHunter" low marks because it wasn't scary enough. Well "This is Spinal Tap" isn't very scary either. That's because both films are COMEDIES! I guess the Norwegian sense of humor is a bit dry for some entities.

It's true that unlike "Spinal Tap", "TrollHunter" is a horror film which utilizes the requisite conventions. It's also shot in really stark and beautiful places in rural Norway and has trolls. It has great fun with the conventions of troll lore like their fondness for the underside of bridges and their ability to smell the blood of a Christian man.

Otto Jesperson, who plays the title character, is great. This film has just become available on Netflix. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Devil's Beefsteak

Actually, that's mine. It's September and San Francisco just had three days of summer. Now I see fog on the horizon. Maybe we'll get a little more summer soon.

Monday, September 19, 2011


The bureau chief liked Masaki Kobayashi's 1964 film "Kwaidan"so much when he first saw it that he watched it again soon afterwards. That was back in the early 70s when there were not yet any VCRs, much less DVDs, and one had to drag one's ass to an actual theater. Recently I was curious to see it again, 40 or so years down the line.  It's not as good a film as I remembered, but has several aspects that survived the test of time.

It's a collection of four Japanese ghost stories by the writer Lafcadio Hearn. The first segment, "The Black Hair", may be the weakest, but for someone who labored in the dark satanic mills of sound editing, as the bureau chief did, it has an interesting aspect. There are no traditional sound effects in that segment. It begins in silence and then there is some minimalist music and a sound of clattering wood that syncs up to nothing in the scene. Turns out that the film's composer, the celebrated Toru Takemitsu, was also the "Sound Designer". Talk about the Music Department winning before the mix even starts.

The second segment,"The Woman of the Snow", and the third, "Hoichi the Earless", are the strongest. Both have really interesting Art Direction which Madame Le Chef pointed out serves as a time capsule from the 60s. The whole film was shot on sets. The winter landscape of the second segment features a sky with abstract eyes in it --- very evocative of the coming Psychedelia, and the ghostly palace of the third segment seems a tribute to Dali or Ernst who were still  "Modern Artists" back then. The forth segment, "In a Cup of Tea", is a little oddity, an unfinished story tucked in an unfinished story. The second segment achieves a pleasurable chill and the third segment a certain grandeur. Even though I don't rate this film as highly as I once did, I recommend it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Guard

The Guard is an excellent film if you like an intelligent mix of dark, dark humor, violence and some genuine sentiment. The bureau chief does. The film, which has not been seen by many people in this country, is ill served by it's trailer which works to make the viewer think that this is a fish-out-of-water comedy about an African American FBI agent (Don Cheadle) dealing with racist, buffoonish Irish cops. That's not what the movie is at all. Cheadle has an important role but this is the story of Sergeant Jerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson), a very complicated and very burned out cop.

The director is John Michael McDonagh who is the brother of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. The latter's film "In Bruge" is also excellent if you like (see above). The brothers McDonagh share a very similar sensibility. The film has plenty of energy and starts with a bang that tells you a lot about our hero in a very short time. The casting and acting, even in small roles, is really good. I had never heard of Slovenian actress Katarina Cas but would like to see her get a lot more work. I highly recommend this film.