The Exotic Ones (1968)

I don’t know how useful this review of the 1968 creature feature The Exotic Ones (aka The Monster and the Stripper) will be to anyone reading it, since the film is very precisely my exact personal brand of trash. This locally-set novelty attempts to combine the Roger Corman rubber-suit monster movie with the post-Russ Meyer nudie cutie into one perfect swinging-60s trash pile. It has so much fun establishing a nonstop party atmosphere on its French Quarter strip club set that it goes to Matt Farley levels of effort to delay the inevitable disruption of its horrific monster – almost a full hour into its 90-minure runtime. This movie has nothing on its boozy, lingerie-clad mind beyond ogling as many burlesque performers as it can before it must sober up and deliver the horror genre payoffs promised on its poster. It’s a sloppy, horny, locally flavored party film with no clear themes or purpose beyond the cheap, simple pleasures of Bourbon Street hedonism; it’s also my new best friend.

Bourbon Street mafia types abduct a swamp-dwelling sasquatch known as The Swamp Thing from the Louisiana bayous (played by rockabilly musician Sleepy La Beef) and force him to perform onstage as part of a cheap strip club act. In color! You can pretty much guess how the story plays out once the “monster” (a shirtless, hairy oaf with vague caveman features) is displayed for the public, assuming you’ve seen any monster-in-captivity movie released since 1933’s King Kong. The Exotic Ones delays those tedious plot concerns for as long as it can manage, though, saving the entirety of its creature feature narrative for its final half hour. Everything that precedes that third-act genre shift is just a parade of go-go dancers, burlesque performers, and various other salacious sideshow acts. Some slight attention is paid to fabricating a rivalry between the club’s newest act (a shy R&B singer who’s reluctant to strip for tips) and its long-established queen bee (a daredevil stripper with flaming titty tassels and drag queen eyebrows), but it doesn’t amount to much. You can guess which one the monster falls in love with once he arrives to the scene, can’t you? And which one taunts him into a rage? You’ve pretty much already seen this movie, outside the specific quirks of its strip routines, and the producers wisely pack the screen with as large of a variety of them as possible to keep you alert & entertained.

The Exotic Ones very quickly won me over as a fan with its opening newsreel-style introduction to New Orleans as a city – a rapid-fire montage that was clearly inspired by Russ Meyer’s strip club “documentary” Mondo Topless. Machine gun-paced cuts of strippers & French Quarter storefronts assault the audience as a beat-reporter narrator invites us onto “a street they call Bourbon” in a city that’s “sleepy by day, psychedelic by night.” It’s not exactly hyperbole when he describes Mardi Gras as “a time of reckless abandonment,” but the monologue is still deliciously overwritten & tonally chaotic – harshly juxtaposing a “Get a load of this filth!” moralism with tantalizing shots of naked, gyrating flesh. I personally loved seeing local 1960s sleaze-joints documented with the same reverent, drooling eye that was typically reserved for notorious prostitution hotspots like Amsterdam’s “Red Light District” or New York City’s 42nd Street porno theater strip. I don’t know that a New Orleans-specific remake of Mondo Topless disguised as a dirt-cheap monster movie is exactly the movie most audiences needed in their lives, but it is exactly the one I needed in mine.

Judging by most genre nerds’ boredom with the Ed Wood-penned Orgy of the Dead (a film I’m personally fond of, to my discredit), this movie’s 5% monster mayhem, 95% strip routines mixture will likely not win over everyone. The go-go strip routines and the surprisingly gory violence are both far more enthusiastically wild & erratic than those in Orgy, but you must already be on the hook for that genre imbalance for the formula to work on you. It seems that even the film’s own producers—June & Ron Ormond—weren’t entirely sold on the artistic merits of this kind of amoral hedonism. Shortly after The Exotic Ones‘s release (and a life-threatening plane crash) the couple shifted into making fire & brimstone Christian propaganda meant to scare audiences away from the temptations of Hell. Oh well. I personally could have watched a hundred Bourbon Street monster movies in this same vein, but no party lasts forever – not even the “reckless abandonment” of Mardi Gras.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to Stream in New Orleans This Week 4/2/20 – 4/8/20

As you likely already know, the governor has ordered the indefinite closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. That decree makes our weekly What’s Playing in Town report something of a sham, but I thought I’d continue to share weekly movie recommendations anyway (all in an effort to maintain the fictional veneer of Normalcy). I’ll just be shifting into Online Streaming options as a substitute for the time being.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine: a grab bag of movies Swampflix has rated 5-stars that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

Ikiru (1952) – From my review: “An alarming portion of Ikiru is dedicated to satirizing the boring, ineffective, passionless lives of government bureaucrats as they waste away behind desks affecting no measurable change in the world. As a professional bureaucrat who is currently wasting away behind a desk stacked with paperwork as I write this, my instinct is to balk at the accusation, but I can’t deny that it’s true..” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel & Kanopy.

Knife+Heart (2019) – One of our favorite films of the 2010s! From Boomer’s review: “A neon saturated fever dream, and yet it holds together in a way that is truly astonishing and thoughtful, considering that multiple people get stabbed to death by a knife hidden inside of a makeshift phallus.” Currently streaming on Shudder & Kanopy.

Local Legends (2013) – From our Movie of the Month discussion: “Just stunning in its bullshit-free self-awareness as a small-time regional artist’s self-portrait, something I strongly identify with as an amateur film blogger & podcaster in our own insular, localized community. Local Legends is a paradox, in that it could not exist without decades of back catalog art projects informing what Farley is saying about the nature of outsider art in the film, but it’s also a crowning achievement that feels like a philosophical breakthrough for Farley just as much an outsider’s crash course in his oeuvre. It’s a crass act of self-promotion, but the product being displayed is often about crass self-promotion & amateur hustling, which are necessary for a modern artist’s survival & longevity.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Streaming VOD

Cabaret (1972) – From my review: “In a best-case-scenario where our current bout with Nazi ideology is stomped out before it gains any more momentum, there will still likely be a quiet fascist contingent to keep at bay as the most vulnerable among us simply try to live fulfilling lives without having to constantly fight off oppressive bullies. In that way, the themes of this film are just as evergreen as the excitement of its stage musical cinematography, the drunkenness of its rapid-fire editing, and the sartorial pleasures of its sparkle-crotch tap costumes. That might not be good news for the world at large, but it speaks well to Cabaret’s value as a feature film adaptation, a work that’s apparently remarkably effective no matter how familiar you are with its source material or its real-world thematic substance.” A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005) – From my review: “It hits an emotionally raw nerve, but it’s also beautifully & radically honest, perceptive work. It’s pure Daniel Johnston in that way, so that the movie feels just as essential to his body of work as any of his songs or drawings.” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms.

In Fabric (2019) – From my review: “Wholly committed to over-the-top excess in every frame & decision, whether it’s indulging in an artsy collage of vintage fashion catalog advertisements or deploying a killer dress to dispose of a goofball victim entirely unaware of the occultist backstory of their sartorial selections. It’s both funny and chilling, beautiful and ludicrous. It’s perfect, as long as you can tune into its left-of-the-dial demonic frequency.” A $4 rental on all major VOD platforms.

-Brandon Ledet

A Return to Panic in the Streets (1950) in the Time of COVID-19

Last Spring, Shotgun Cinema projected the 1950 health-epidemic noir Panic in the Streets large & loud for a free screening at the Marigny Opera House, as part of that season’s Science on Screen series. As a shot-on-location noir set in New Orleans and an Elia Kazan-directed procedural drama, Panic in the Streets proved to be a solid genre entry, but not much more. As a historical act of local people-watching, however, it carried a lot of clout as something exceptional, and I was glad to have shared that experience with a live, local community. There was a warm, electric feeling in that room as the movie offered a time-machine vision of our city’s past in an entertaining genre film package.

Once the movie concluded, however, the crowd gradually disbanded before the screening was officially over. The Science on Screen series included a post-film lecture and Q&A with specialists on each particular movie’s topic, and as that night’s guest scientist began their spiel the once-enraptured crowd gradually trailed off into the night one at a time, out of apparent collective disinterest. In retrospect, we all should have stayed & listened to that lecture. Hell, we all should have been taking notes. Panic in the Streets is specifically about a plague spreading through the streets of New Orleans, where current new case rates for COVID-19 are exceptionally high, and the lecture was about how epidemics of that nature tend to spread through communities like ours. We had all gathered that night to marvel at a vision of our city’s distant past, but we were also unknowingly looking into our not-too-distant future.

Usually, when a Hollywood production is shot on-location in New Orleans, the expectation is that the audience will be doing some tourist sightseeing. 80s & 90s thrillers like The Big Easy & Hard Target were especially shameless about this, setting scenes in conspicuous tourist spots like Tipitina’s, Mardi Gras parade float warehouses, and Bourbon Street strip joints for easy, sleazy atmosphere as they drunkenly stumbled around the city. Panic in the Streets aimed for an entirely different kind of local seasoning. Directed by Kazan shortly before he fired off major hits like A Streetcar Named Desire & On the Waterfront, Panic in the Streets was something of an experiment & a gamble for the Studio Era way of doing things. The prospect of exporting productions to shoot entirely on-location in far-off cities wasn’t business as usual yet, which might explain why Kazan didn’t think to make use of the New Orleans locale in the now-traditional ways of visiting famous clubs, capturing Mardi Gras crowds, or just generally making a big deal about the environment where the action is staged. There are a few familiar shots of French Quarter exteriors (that haven’t changed at all in the last 70 years) and the film eventually concludes in a shipping dock warehouse setting that feels unique to its chosen location, but most of its drama is confined to the city’s interior spaces, which are familiar but not entirely unique.

The novelty of shooting a Studio Era film entirely on-location did lead to a different, less frequently travelled path to local authenticity, though. Over 80% of the hired cast & crew for Panic in the Streets were local to New Orleans, which is still an unusual way of doing things by big-budget Hollywood standards, even with all the productions that film down here for the tax credits. It may not do much to document what the city itself looked like in the 1950s, but the film offers something a little more precious instead: documentation of and collaboration with the city’s people. The local cast & crew sported neither the thick Y’at nor Cajun accents typical to Hollywood productions set here and it was nice to hear a movie character pronounce “New Orleans” correctly on the big screen (a rarer occurrence than you might expect). Even without that local connotation, though, there’s just a natural authenticity to the movie that arises from casting real-life characters in a majority of the roles, so that very few faces on the screen are the pristine, homogenous brand of Hollywood Beauty we’re used to seeing at the movies.

Outside its context as a New Orleans peoplewatching time capsule, Panic in the Streets is a fairly standard noir. Its central hook promises something novel beyond the standard antihero lawmen vs. wise guy criminals dynamic that usually defines the genre, but the film ultimately still adheres to those tropes. NOPD detectives and representatives from the federal US Public Health Service reluctantly team up to track down a murderer who is now patient zero in a potential city-wide epidemic of the pneumonic plague, thanks to a comprised victim. This unusual medical angle to the crime thriller drama does allow for some distinctive detail unusual to the genre: scientific jargon about “anti-plague serums,” wry humor about tough-guy cops who are afraid of taking their inoculation shots, an excuse to burn all the evidence with the infected-and-murdered man’s body just to make the mystery killer’s identity tougher to crack, etc. Mostly, the plague angle is merely used to build tension by giving local cops & federal officials a tight 48-hour window to catch their killer before his contagions become a city-wide threat.

There are some conflicts built around “college men” health officials and blue-collar detectives flaunting their authority in the investigation, but those confrontations mostly amount to angry macho men yelling about Jurisdiction at top volume, which feels standard to most cop thrillers. The rest of Panic in the Streets is a faithful amalgamation of classic noir tropes: post-German Expressionist lighting, witty retorts muttered under hard-drinking cops’ breath, a villain who looks like he was plucked from a Dick Tracy lineup, more sewer-grate steam that New Orleans has ever seen, and so on. Anyone with a built-in appreciation for noir as a genre won’t need much more than the plague outbreak premise and the New Orleans locale for the film to be of interest, but it still doesn’t go very far out of its way to distinguish itself beyond those novelties – especially considering the prestige Elia Kazan represents behind the camera.

At the time of last year’s screening, I thought of Panic in the Streets as a curio that would only be of interest to locals, but I’ve seen a huge increase in outside audience’s interest surrounding it in recent weeks. Of course, most of the film’s draw all these months later has nothing to do with its ability to satisfy noir genre beats nor its value as vintage New Orleans tourism. In the time of COVID-19, many audiences are scrambling to uncover older film titles that explore the horrors & social mechanics of large-scale health epidemics. If the goal of these coronavirus-inspired excursions into plague cinema past is to cathartically indulge in the scariest possible fallout scenarios of our current global health crisis, you’re probably better off watching a modern thriller like Contagion or Outbreak instead. If anything, Panic in the Streets’s depiction of a citywide viral contamination is almost reassuringly quaint compared to our current circumstances. Containing the epidemic is just as simple as catching a few low-level criminals who’ve been passing it around among themselves, which is antithetical to how we understand the seemingly uncontainable, exponential spread of contamination that’s playing out in charts & graphs on the news this very minute.

Speaking even as someone in New Orleans (where new case rates for COVID-19 are exceptionally high thanks to massive Mardi Gras gatherings’ ominous presence in the not-too-distant rearview) who recently watched it in a crowded room, this movie is a comforting vision of an easily conquerable epidemic. I very much wish our current real-world crisis could be boiled down to just a few no-good scoundrels who need to be cornered at the Mississippi River docks. There’s a comfort to that simplicity. Instead, we’re in a much more complex mess of irresponsible disinformation campaigns, economic exploitation, and the deaths of our communities’ most vulnerable comrades – one where there cannot be a clear, decisive victory over the enemy when this is all “over.” A few dozen movie nerds remaining in their seats for the full lecture after that Shotgun Cinema screening wouldn’t have been enough to prevent these current helltimes, but it couldn’t have hurt for us to enter them better informed.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to Stream in New Orleans This Week 3/26/20 – 4/1/20

As you likely already know, the governor has ordered the indefinite closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. That decree makes our weekly What’s Playing in Town report something of a sham, but I thought I’d share some movie recommendations anyway (all in an effort to maintain the fictional veneer of Normalcy). I’ll just be shifting into Online Streaming options as a substitute for the time being.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine. It’s just a grab bag of a few movies Swampflix has rated 5-stars that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

Phantasm (1979) – From my review: “Its ‘Let’s put on a show!’ communal enthusiasm & D.I.Y. approximation of nightmare-logic surrealism is the exact kind of thing I’m always looking for in low-budget genre films. Its trajectory of starting with familiar regional slather locations like suburban cul-de-sacs, dive bars, and graveyards before launching into a fully immersive nightmare realm of its own design is a perfect encapsulation of how it somehow turned low-budget scraps into cult classic gold in the real world as well.” Currently streaming on Shudder and for free (with ad breaks) on Tubi & Vudu.

Blood and Donuts (1995) – From Britnee’s review: “It’s basically a film about a vampire that frequents a local donut shop, but it’s such a beautiful movie. It takes place almost exclusively at nighttime in what appears to be a single, smoky neighborhood in a small city. The ambiance is so trashy and beautiful. It makes me feel dirty and clean at the same time.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Smithereens (1982) – From my review: “It’s the story of a scene in decline and the newly isolated punk weirdos who find themselves fading away with it. In other words, its peak No Wave.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel.

Streaming VOD

Doctor Sleep (2019) – From Boomer’s review: “This film never feels its length, and the muted public reaction and mediocre box office returns are a personal disappointment; this film was never going to surpass The Shining, but it’s not far behind, and Mike Flanagan was right to mix the original film’s solemn meditative qualities with occasional frenetic setpieces. In a lifetime of watching movies, I’ve never been so invested or felt so much tension in my spine when watching a scene of a man eight years sober struggle to not take a drink, even in Kubrick’s opus; it’s powerful movie-making at its best, and I can’t recommend it more highly.” A $5 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Parasite (2019) – From Boomer’s review: “Money is an iron. For the Parks, it is the metaphorical iron that makes life smooth and effortless, and the iron strength of the walls that separate them from the riffraff below. For the Kims, it is the iron of prison bars that keep them in a metaphorical prison of society and, perhaps, a literal one; it is the weight that drags them down, a millstone to prevent them from ever escaping the trap of stratified social classes.” A $5 rental on all major VOD platforms.

The Cell (2000) – From my review: “On its own, the police procedural wraparound story that fames the high-fashion nightmares might have been the boring, thin genre exercise this movie has been misremembered as. I don’t understand how anyone can indulge on the exhilarating drug of those high-fashion kink hallucinations and walk away displeased with the picture, though. It sinks all its efforts into the exact sensual pleasures & dreamlike headspace that only cinema can achieve. It’s disguised as a single-idea genre film, but its ambitions reach for the furthest limits of its medium (and the medium of fashion while it’s at it, just as lagniappe).” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms.

-Brandon Ledet

Episode #104 of the Swampflix Podcast: Children of Paradise (1945) & New Orleans French Film Fest 2020

Welcome to Episode #104 of The Swampflix Podcast! For this episode, the podcast crew discusses all eight features they caught at the 2020 New Orleans French Film Festival, with a particular focus on the 1945 epic melodrama Children of Paradise – which is often cited as “the greatest French film of all time”.  Enjoy!

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

-James Cohn, Hanna Räsänen, CC Chapman, and Brandon Ledet

New Orleans French Film Fest 2020, Ranked & Reviewed

Of the two local film festivals operated by the New Orleans Film Society, New Orleans Film Fest is both the longest-running and the most substantial. The 30th Annual NOFF, for instance, screened hundreds of films all over downtown New Orleans last October, of which we were able to cover 10 features (and a few shorts). We’re only seeing an insignificant fraction of the films screening NOFF every year, making a festival-wide recap something of a Sisyphean task as amateur bloggers.

NOFS’s annual New Orleans French Film Fest is a different matter entirely. The entirety of French Film Fest is located at a single, beautiful venue: The Prytania, Louisiana’s oldest operating single-screen cinema. All films are at least partially French productions, all are shown in subtitled French language, and the large majority of them never see domestic big screen distribution outside of the festival. I see some of my favorite releases of the year at French Film Fest too; 2018’s Double Lover ranked near the top of my favorite films of the 2010s . There are also typically at least two screenings a year that I’d comfortably call all-time favorites after just one viewing, especially in retrospective screenings from auteurs like Agnès Varda & Jacques Demy. New Orleans French Film Fest is the smaller, more intimate festival on the NOFS calendar, but its manageability is more of a charm than a hindrance and I’m starting to look forward to it more every year.

We will be doing a more exhaustive recap of our experience at the festival on an upcoming episode of the podcast, featuring a more fleshed out review of 1945’s Children of Paradise. For now, here’s a ranking of the few films we’ve seen that screened at the 2020 New Orleans French Film Fest. Each title includes a blurb and a link to a corresponding review. Enjoy!

1. Mr. Klein (1976) – “It’s clear from the start where the story is headed, as the movie largely functions as a Twilight Zone-style morality tale, but the point is less in the surprise of the plot than it is in the ugly depths of Klein’s authoritarian, self-serving character. This is a damn angry film about the evils of Political Apathy, and a damn great one.”

2. Deerskin (2020) – “Damn funny from start to end. Not only is the idea of a jacket being so fashionably mesmerizing that it leads to a life of crime hilarious even in the abstract, but the overqualified Jean Dujardin’s straight-faced commitment to the bit sells each gag with full inane delight.”

3. Varda by Agnès (2019) – “It may not be as kinetic or as aggressively stylistic as her career’s greatest triumphs (a contrast that’s unignorable, given those films’ presence on the screen), but it’s still incredibly playful & thoughtful in its own construction, especially considering the limitations of its structure as an academic lecture.”

4. Children of Paradise (1945) – Given this one’s accolades as one of the greatest films of all time, I expected a shift into outright Movie Magic surrealism during its stage pieces that never came. Instead, it’s just a well constructed, stately four-way melodrama with a dark sense of humor and an exceptionally grand budget considering it was partially made under Nazi occupation. It’s really good, but I was prepared to be totally floored (which is my fault, not the movie’s). Looking forward to diving further into it on the podcast.

5. Sibyl (2020) – “Its only major fault is that you could name several movies that push its basic elements way further into way wilder directions; Double Lover & Persona both come to mind. Otherwise, it’s an admirably solid Movie For Adults, the kind of thoughtfully constructed erotic menace that used to be produced by Hollywood studios at regular intervals but now only seeps quietly through European film festivals.”

6. Matthias & Maxime (2020) – “Incredibly observant about macho bonding rituals & typical group dynamics among basic bros – especially when parsing out what’s considered Normal male-on-male touching vs. what’s considered Gay. It’s just a shame that same thoughtful consideration didn’t extend to knowing how to trim the movie down to its best, most efficient shape.”

7. House of Cardin (2020) – “Not at all interested in matching the avant-garde artistry of its subject in any formal way; it’s about as forward-thinking in its filmmaking style as an I Love the 60s special on VH1. However, the vibrant, playful art of Pierre Cardin more than speaks for itself, and stepping out of that portfolio’s way read to me like a great sign of respect.”

8. Celebration (2019) – “Without any contextual info about how this late-career misery differs from YSL’s earlier, more youthful fashion shows, this behind-the-scenes glimpse fails to communicate anything coherent or concrete. Like the worst of the ‘elevated horrors’ of recent years that it stylistically emulates (if not only in its spooky score), it’s all atmosphere and no substance.”

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to See in New Orleans This Week 3/18/20 – 3/25/20

As you likely already know, the governor has ordered the indefinite closure of all Louisiana movie theaters in response to the COVID-19 crisis. That decree makes our weekly What’s Playing in Town report something of a sham, but I thought I’d share some movie recommendations anyway (all in an effort to maintain the fictional veneer of Normalcy). I’ll just be shifting into Online Streaming options as a substitute.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for movies that you can stream at home while under quarantine. Let’s start with the last few movies Swampflix rated 5-stars that are currently available for home viewing.

Streaming with Subscription

The Housemaid (1960) – From Britnee’s review: “I absolutely loved this movie. It kept me on the edge of my seat for its entirety, and I was surprised to see how far it pushed the envelope. I was in complete shock by how dark certain parts of the film were, and that’s a film quality that I will always have mad respect for.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel.

The Future (2011) – From my review: “The official, miserable onscreen death of Twee Whimsy. This time-obsessed breakup drama for a pair of listless thirty-somethings captures that post-youth stare in the mirror when you first realize you’re not special and that life is largely pointless & devoid of magic. It’s a painful but necessary rite of passage, one that directly mirrors my own experience with wonder & self-worth over the past ten years.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Mister America (2019) – From Britnee’s review: “Gregg Turkington has a great moment where the ‘documentary’ crew follows him hunting for VHS tapes in the actual trash (destined to become future Popcorn Classics for On Cinema), and it’s something that I personally related to way too much.” Currently streaming on Hulu.

Streaming VOD

True Stories (1986) – Our current Movie of the Month! From Boomer’s intro: “A fearless peeling back of Byrne’s public persona (as unobtrusive as it is) to lay bare the core of this being called ‘David Byrne.’ It’s truly a celebration of the specialness of the mundane, and even the specialness of something as ugly as suburban tract housing. Who can say it’s not beautiful? There ought to be a law.” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Mildred Pierce (1945) – From my review: “Even with all the Old Hollywood elegance classing up the joint, this manages to land some perfectly outrageous fits of drama & dialogue that outshine even the over-the-top fervor of Crawford’s post-Baby Jane psychobiddies. That combination of the refined & the obscene is exactly what makes it such a joy – an exquisite clash of violence & melodrama.” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms.

Upstream Color (2013) – From my review: “A closed loop of human connection and subhuman exploitation that makes for a legendarily weird trip for as long as you allow yourself to remain under its spell. It’s just also an uninviting one that doesn’t reveal its true shape until you’ve made it all the way through the loop yourself.” A $3 rental on all major VOD platforms.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to See in New Orleans This Week 3/12/20 – 3/18/20

Here are the movies we’re most excited about that are playing in New Orleans this week.

Movies We Haven’t Seen (Yet)

The Hunt A Blumhouse cheapie thriller that updates the frequently adapted short story “The Most Dangerous Game” for the MAGA era. This is the kind of throwaway genre schlock that would normally be released DTV with little to no fanfare, but it somehow became an alarmist talking point for Fox News last year – a nontroversy that ultimately delayed its release for months, earning it (likely exaggerated) cultural cachet as Dangerous Art. Playing wide.

The Invisible Man Elizabeth Moss reroutes her Olympian acting showcases from artsy-fartsy projects like Her Smell & Queen of Earth to enhance a Blumhouse horror cheapie in the Universal Famous Monsters tradition. In this case she’s the gaslit, traumatized target of the titular Invisible Man – reshaping the typical purpose of the source material to center the villain’s female victims instead of his own leering persona. Directed by Leigh Whannell, who recently killed it with his technophobic action thriller Upgrade. Playing wide

Wendy Nearly a decade after sneaking the (surprisingly divisive) arthouse fairy tale Beasts of the Southern Wild into mainstream distribution & Oscars consideration, local film dweeb Benh Zeitlin is back with a proper follow-up: an abstracted interpretation of Peter Pan. Playing wide.

Movies We Already Enjoyed

Swallow An eerie, darkly humorous thriller in the style of Todd Haynes’s Safe, in which a newly pregnant woman is compulsively drawn to swallowing inedible objects – much to the frustration of her overly controlling family & doctors. Our favorite movie we caught at last year’s New Orleans Film Fest and CC’s favorite movie from 2019, full stop. Playing only at Zeitgeist Theatre & Lounge.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire Céline Sciamma’s latest is an 18th Century lesbian romance that builds towards an explosively emotional climax on a foundation of silent glances & subtle, electric body language. Everything Sciamma touches is gold, and this is no exception. Playing only at The Broad Theater.

Little Women Greta Gerwig’s directorial follow-up to Lady Bird is an ambitious literary adaptation that scrambles the timelines & narrative structure of its source material to break free from the expectations set by its cultural familiarity. Major bonus points: yet another featured role for 2019 MVP Florence Pugh, who had a legendary year between this, Midsommar, and Fighting with my Family.  Returning to The Prytania Theatre for a one-week run.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to See in New Orleans this Week 3/5/20 – 3/11/20

Here are the movies we’re most excited about that are playing in New Orleans this week.

Movies We Haven’t Seen (Yet)

The Invisible Man Elizabeth Moss reroutes her Olympian acting showcases from artsy-fartsy projects like Her Smell & Queen of Earth to enhance a Blumhouse horror cheapie in the Universal Famous Monsters tradition.  In this case she’s the gaslit, traumatized target of the titular Invisible Man – reshaping the typical purpose of the source material to center the villain’s female victims instead of his own leering persona.  Directed by Leigh Whannell, who recently killed it with his technophobic action thriller Upgrade.  Playing wide

Wendy Nearly a decade after sneaking the (surprisingly divisive) arthouse fairy tale Beasts of the Southern Wild into mainstream distribution & Oscars consideration, local film dweeb Benh Zeitlin is back with a proper follow-up: an abstracted interpretation of Peter Pan.  Playing wide, but The Prytania has multiple live Q&A sessions with Zeitlin listed in their showtimes.

Ace in the Hole (1951) This classic Kirk Douglas noir was director Billy Wilder’s first critical & commercial failure in the initial time of its release, but has since gradually earned respectable stature as a standout of its era.  It’s especially notable for eviscerating the ethical shortcomings of the newspaper journalism industry in its time.  Playing Sunday 3/8 and Wednesday 3/11 as part of the Prytania’s Classic Movies series.

Movies We Already Enjoyed

Portrait of a Lady on Fire Céline Sciamma’s latest is an 18th Century lesbian romance that builds towards an explosively emotional climax on a foundation of silent glances & subtle, electric body language.  Everything Sciamma touches is gold, and this is no exception.  Playing at The Broad and AMC Elmwood.

Birds of Prey Harley Quinn emerges from the beloved-by-all Suicide Squad in a hyperviolent, femmed-out action comedy of her own where she beats the shit out of dirtbag men, models sparkly costumes, and mugs directly at the camera for two hours of pure sugar-rush. Instantly one of my favorite superhero pictures of all time, and it felt nice to finally enjoy a Deadpool-style movie for once (it helps that Margot Robbie is, unlike Ryan Reynolds, actually funny). Playing wide.

The Lodge Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala follow up their art-house torture porn oddity Goodnight Mommy with another story about spooky children being isolated in close quarters with their overwhelmed female guardian.  Boomer reports that he initially found it effectively chilling but wildly uneven, then was gradually won over by it over the next few days to the point where he gave it a 4-star review.  Make of that what you will.  Playing wide.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to See in New Orleans This Week (French Film Fest Edition) 2/27/20 – 3/4/20

New Orleans is stilly groggily recovering from this year’s Mardi Gras mayhem right now, but there truly is no rest for the wicked (or the festive, apparently). The 23rd annual New Orleans French Festival is here to shake us out of the Ash Wednesday fog and back into the routine of watching challenging Art Films in public, even though this period of post-Mardi Gras sloth seems better suited for binge-watching Trash TV on the couch. Wake up that Carnival-addled brain of yours before you get lost forever in an endless flood of Love is Blind episodes . . .

There are over a dozen titles screening at The Prytania in the coming week for the New Orleans French Film Festival (and tracking any goings on beyond that event sounds absolutely exhausting), so we’re going to keep this week’s local screenings round-up as simple as possible. Here are some recommendations for movies to see at one the city’s most consistently rewarding film fests, with blurbs lifted from the New Orleans Film Society‘s own listings for the lineup.

French Film Fest Screenings at The Prytania

Children of Paradise (1945) – “Poetic realism reached sublime heights with Children of Paradise, widely considered one of the greatest French films of all time. This nimble depiction of 19th-century Paris’s theatrical demimonde, filmed during World War II, follows a mysterious woman (Arletty) loved by four different men (all based on historical figures): an actor, a criminal, a count, and, most poignantly, a mime (Jean-Louis Barrault, in a performance for the ages). Thanks to a major new restoration, this iconic classic looks and sounds richer and more detailed than ever.” Friday, Feb 28, 2:15 pm

Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) – “Demy’s 1964 masterpiece of music and romance stars Catherine Deneuve as an umbrella shopkeeper who is separated from her mechanic boyfriend (Nino Castelnuevo) when he is called for military service. The film was fully restored in breathtaking color in 1992 under the supervision of Demy’s widow, filmmaker Agnès Varda. Umbrellas won the Grand Prize at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for five Academy Awards. The restored soundtrack features Michel Legrand’s unforgettable score remixed in stereo.” Sunday March 1 & Wednesday March 4, 10:00 am

Mr. Klein (1976) “In Occupied France, Mr. Klein (played with perfection by Alain Delon) exploits the situation of the Jews by buying and selling their works of art. When a Jewish man of the same name surfaces in Paris, Klein comes under suspicion and experiences the persecution of his countrymen firsthand. Also starring Jeanne Moreau, this rare and celebrated film from 1976 was blacklisted American director Joseph Losey’s first film in French, and it won the coveted César Awards for Best Film and Best Director. This restored version has finally arrived in theaters to ecstatic praise from major critics.” Sunday March 1 & Monday March 2, 12pm

Varda by Agnès (2019) – “The final film from the late, beloved Agnès Varda is a characteristically playful, profound, and personal summation of the director’s own brilliant career.  At once impish and wise, she acts as our spirit guide on a free-associative tour through her six-decade artistic journey, shedding new light on her films, photography, and recent installation works while offering her one-of-a-kind reflections on everything from filmmaking to cats to feminism to aging. A warmly human, touchingly bittersweet parting gift from one of cinema’s most luminous talents.” Sunday March 1, 5pm + Wednesday March 4, 12pm

Deerskin (2020) – “The latest from Quentin Dupieux (the brains behind the delightfully outrageous Rubber, about a sentient tire on a killing spree), Deerskin follows amateur filmmaker Georges, who becomes obsessed with his new deerskin jacket. Convinced that his jacket must be the only one in the world, Georges is led down a Tarantino-esque path to rid the world of all competition. Played with total commitment by Academy Award® winner Jean Dujardin (The Artist), the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and also stars Adèle Haenel (Portrait of a Lady on Fire).” Saturday, Feb 29, 8:30 pm

Sybil (2020) – “Premiered at the most recent Cannes Film Festival, French director Justine Triet’s Sybil brings together an all-star cast with Virginie Efira (Elle, Victoria), Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue Is The Warmest Color), and Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann).” Thursday Feb 27, 7:45pm + Tuesday March 3, 12pm

Matthias & Maxime (2020) – “The latest feature from the 30-year-old French-Canadian auteur Xavier Dolan, who premiered six films in Cannes and received too many jury awards and prizes to mention. Matthias and Maxime stars Dolan and Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas in the lead roles, with longtime Dolan muse Anne Dorval playing his ailing mother.” Wednesday, March 4, 7:45 pm

-Brandon Ledet