Equinozio (1971)

aka Equinox
Article 4733 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-10-2015
Directed by Maurizio Ponzi
Featuring Claudine Augur, Paola Pitagora, Giancarlo Sbragia
Country: Italy
What it is: Strange psychic Sci-Fi

A virus causes men to have memories of past lives, but women are not affected. When it is concluded that from this that only men reincarnate, it has repercussions…

This movie was almost ready to go to my “ones that got away” list when a copy turned up. Unfortunately, my copy was in Italian with French subtitles, and though I’d dredged up a few clues to what was going on in the movie (a man’s ESP mistaken for mental illness, a rebellion of women against men), I was quite unable to piece together what was going on in the movie until I found a short description that connected the various pieces of the puzzle, which I’ve paraphrased in the plot description above. Still, even with that to help me, I don’t feel I can really pass any judgment on this one; too much of what’s going on is tied up in the dialogue for me to adequately follow the story. Unfortunately, there’s not much on a visual level to make the movie particularly appealing, so I didn’t get much pleasure out of that. Therefore, there’s little I can do on this one rather than cross it off my list and hope that someday an English translation will allow me to give it another chance.

Electric Transformation (1909)

Article 4700 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-5-2014
Directed by Percy Stow
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Trick short

A scientist demonstrates how electricity can be used to transform and redesign objects.

This title just recently was dropped from my hunt list onto my “ones that got away” list, and upon that announcement, a friend of mine posted a link to a condensed version of the short which, though not complete, was coherent and contained everything important from the short. There was enough there to merit my coverage of it. That being said, the most interesting thing about this film is the striking use of special effects. IMDB claims that the electricity is used to “melt faces”, which I thought would turn out to be a simple form of double exposure, but instead we actually do get transformations that look like melting (sometimes in reverse), and that’s certainly an effect I’ve never seen from Melies. It’s similar to the distortion effects that popped up in a couple of Abel Gance shorts, but it’s mostly like the destruction of the city in THE PHANTOM EMPIRE. It’s this striking effect that sets this one apart from many of the other silent trick shorts of the era.

Extraordinary Illusions (1901)

aka Dislocation mysterieuse, An Extraordinary Dislocation
Article 4657 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-16-2014
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Andre Deed
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

A clown has a novel way of reaching for and using things that are out of his normal reach.

Given the events that occur during this Georges Melies trick short, I’d have to say the alternate English title (AN EXTRAORDINARY DISLOCATION) is much more descriptive than the relatively vague title under which I found this. The clown is able to have his limbs and head detach from his torso to reach the out-of-the-way objects, though sometimes the limbs seem to take on a will of their own. It’s one of Melies’s more focused trick shorts, in that it is specifically designed to demonstrate a certain trick and see how much he can do with it. As such, this is a simple and satisfying short that doesn’t wear out its welcome.

L’eventail anime (1909)

aka The Animated Fan
Article 4656 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-15-2014
Directed by Etienne Arnaud and Emile Cohl
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: History of the fan

The fan is portrayed in its various incarnations throughout history.

I’m assuming the Emile Cohl sequence of this short is the opening special effects sequence, in which an animated fan opens up and various women waving fans appear in the feathers; that’s it for the fantastic content as well. From there we get a serious of live-action set-pieces in which we see various women from history and around the world using their fans. That’s pretty much all this short features. It might have been more interesting if we saw the women and their fans in close-up, but they’re all medium shots with not particularly engrossing events happening around them. As it is, it’s only mildly interesting and not much fun, and those who are fond of Cohl’s animation will find little of interest here.

The Enchanted Glasses (1907)

aka Les verres enchantes
Article 4655 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-14-2014
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Magic short

A manic magician makes a female magician appear; the latter then performs several tricks with dancing girls.

What we have here is a variation on the Melies-style magic short, in which a magician appears and does a variety of tricks. The glasses in question are not spectacles, but drinking glasses; they come into play about halfway through the short in which the magician captures the essences of the dancing ladies in some drinking glasses, and then makes them appear and disappear in the glasses as she pours water to and from them. This is easily the most striking sequence in the short. The rest of it is smoothly done, but there’s not much here that I haven’t seen before; still, it is moderately entertaining.

The Eclipse: Courtship of the Sun and the Moon (1907)

aka L’eclipse du soleil un pleine lune
Article 4654 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-13-2014
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Comic special effects short

An astronomer hosts a get-together so that he and his fellows can observe a rare occurrence; an eclipse of the sun by the moon.

I’ve always been rather fond of this Melies short, largely due to the sections that do work. However, I did notice on this watching that it’s somewhat marred by the opening and closing sequences with the astronomer; though overtly comic, it’s not really all that amusing and takes up too much of the running time. The best part of the short is the special effects sequences in the middle. There’s a sequence where various heavenly bodies pass by, including the cranky guy on Saturn (a regular Melies character) who gets into a tussle with another heavenly body over a woman lying on a crescent moon. There’s also a surreal and oddly beautiful segment showing various heavenly bodies raining down from the heavens. However, the high point of this one is easily the eclipse itself, largely because it turns out to be something of a racy joke; watch the faces of the sun and the moon during this sequence and you should get an idea of what is REALLY going on here. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; after all, the title does mention the “courtship” of the sun and the moon. This would be one of Melies’s best shorts if the beginning and ending sequences were trimmed down.

Eight Girls in a Barrel (1900)

aka Le tonneau des danaides, The Danaid’s Barrel
Article 4635 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-21-2014
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Trick film

A magician makes eight girls disappear into a barrel.

I have to admit that I found this one a bit disappointing. Granted, Melies’s magic trick films don’t really constitute his most interesting work, but they’re usually fast and furious and illustrate a variety of different illusions. This one has one trick (the magician leads a girl to the barrel, and she disappears into it) repeated eight times with very little variation; once you’ve seen the first one disappear, you’ve seen everything this short has to offer. Granted, there is a little variation in an end-of-the-short coda, but it’s fleeting. This one is just too predictable.

Electric Dreams (1984)

Article 4576 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-11-2014
Directed by Steve Barron
Featuring Lenny von Dohlen, Virginia Madsen, Maxwell Caulfield
Country: USA / UK
What it is: Science fiction romance

A nerdy architect buys a computer to keep himself organized. A freak accident causes the computer to become sentient, and when it begins making music for a beautiful female cellist who has moved to a floor above, she thinks it’s the architect and initiates a romance with him. The architect tries to hide the truth from her, but the computer is intent on meeting the woman, and it’s gaining power…

I’m not sure what it would have been like to have seen this movie when it was new, but watching it now is somewhat akin to entering another dimension, especially when one considers how the computer works in comparison with current computer technology. It has the primitive look and graphics of computers from the eighties, but it has a working touch screen, is capable of running all of the appliances in the house, is capable of independently composing music, emulates human speech, etc. In its time, these innovations would have probably been considered sheer fantasy, but when I look at what computers are capable of doing nowadays, the movie seems suddenly prescient. As for the story itself, in some ways it’s as old as the hills; it’s a love triangle in which one point consists of a sentient computer. Part of me feels this movie shouldn’t work, but I end up quite liking the characters (particularly Virginia Madsen’s cellist character), and I find myself caring quite a bit what happens to them. The music by Giorgio Moroder is actually quite good, and I did recognize the hand of ELO leader Jeff Lynne in a couple of the compositions. In the end, I liked this one much more than I thought I would, but at least part of that is the fascination of seeing a movie from thirty years ago envisioning the future of computing. Incidentally, Bud Cort supplies the voice for the computer.

Eureka (1983)

EUREKA (1983)
Article 4560 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-12-2014
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Featuring Gene Hackman, Theresa Russell, Rutger Hauer
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Stylistic drama

During the twenties, a prospector becomes the richest man alive after discovering a mountain of gold. Twenty years later, he finds his life beset by problems with family relationships and threatened by a mob that wants an island he possesses.

If there’s one thing I can count on in a Nicolas Roeg film, it’s that it will have its share of stylistic flourishes, and the movie at its most interesting when it’s at its most stylistic; the opening twenty minutes and a brutal murder two-thirds of the way through will be the scenes that linger the longest. As for the rest, it’s a bit of a hodgepodge; it’s a drama/love story/gangster thriller that owes (somewhat self-consciously) something to CITIZEN KANE, and there are references to “Alice in Wonderland” as well as to the Utopian novel “Erewhon”. It’s interesting but not quite satisfying. Dramatically, I’m not sure how I feel about it, nor am I particularly satisfied with it at the ending. It is very well acted, however, and it has quite a few familiar actors in it, such as Mickey Rourke and Joe Pesci. The fantastic aspects are a bit harder to pin down; some of the stylistic touches give it a sense of fantasy, and there are occult references and a voodoo ceremony thrown in the mix, but it’s hard to say if these touches ever push it into the realm of the fantastical.

Echoes (1982)

ECHOES (1982)
Article 4527 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-7-2014
Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman
Featuring Richard Alfieri, Gale Sondergaard, Ruth Roman
Country: USA
What it is: Ghost story of sorts

An artist is plagued by vivid dreams from a past life. It turns out that he has an enemy from the past who is trying to manifest himself into the artist’s current life.

In some ways, this comes across as one of the most professionally made of the movies I’ve seen lately. It’s well acted, has a decent visual sense, has a few familiar names in the cast (Sondergaard, Roman and Merecedes McCambridge), and has a potentially interesting premise in that the ghost that continues to haunt the artist down through the ages attempts to manifest himself as a twin of the artist, but who was miscarried in the womb. But the way all this supernatural material manifests itself in terms of the action of the movie is that the artist becomes increasingly rude and unpleasant, especially towards his dancer girlfriend. As a result, despite the fantastic elements, the movie mostly plays out like a really bad romantic drama, and the more the artist acts like a jerk, the less I find myself caring about him or his plight. After a while, I found myself hoping for a really downbeat ending, and I don’t think that’s what the filmmakers intended. In short, this one doesn’t work.