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Dark, forbidden and sinister

The Darkroom
Anchor Bay Entertainment

With all the M. Night Shyamalan fakes making flicks with twist endings, it's easy to get jaded and apply every road-tested conclusion to the latest mystery-occult movie you're viewing. Maybe I'm getting stupider for watching them 'cause I didn't foresee this twist in the distance. And it's a good one.

A guy who was found wandering in the woods covered in blood hasn't been able to remember anything about his pre-bloodied existence for the last 50 years. He suspects the worst, as he keeps having violent images of a gargoyle-like creature attacking beautiful girls. After testing for a miracle drug that can help restore his memory turns out violently bad, he escapes a mental hospital, becomes homeless and is befriended by a young boy. The punk's wicked stepdad invites the crazy, silent brooding loon to live in the family's tool shed — it's a kid buddy-movie combo that Disney, in all its years, never bothered to try.

Of special interest to Xena fans, Lucy Lawless plays the kid's meek and mousy mom, totally against type — and she's a blonde to boot. Incidentally, that's not the twist. I'm not telling you the twist. But mark my words, it'll end in blood! And, yeah, tears. —Serene Dominic

 

TCM Archives: Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Vol. 1
Warner Home Video

The notion of "pre-Code Hollywood" has always been an enticing one. The idea that, before the prim censors got their hands on motion pictures, the studios were busy crafting degenerate and debauched fare in the '20s and '30s speaks directly to a prevailing belief that dirty minds are eternal. While the content of the movies made before the self-imposed Hays Code was indeed shocking, looking at the three films presented in the first volume of TCM's Forbidden Hollywood series, it's not for the reasons one may think. Adultery and the notion of "kept women" runs rampant through Baby Face (presented here in both its released version and a previously unseen, unedited version) and Red-Headed Woman (with Jean Harlow), while Waterloo Bridge cuts through the crap and just goes ahead and makes its protagonist (Mae Clarke) a prostitute. However, a weird sort of inverted sexism is far more prevalent and offensive; the women here are the predictable shrill subordinates; yet they also manage to be sexually manipulative and shrewdly exploitative in ways that are near-cartoonish in nature. Sure, you may get a flash of Jean Harlow's boobs in Red-Headed Woman, but what will truly shock you is the concept of gold-digging as Nietzschean virtue that Barbara Stanwyck represents in Baby Face. —Jason Ferguson

 

To the Left of the Father
Kino video

A young man escapes a strict pious upbringing by fornicating with his sister and fleeing his residence, only to return to his farm home years later for a turbulent reunion in this first feature from Brazilian television director Luiz Fernando Carvalho. To the Left of the Father runs almost three hours, but its style is more of a meditative, Alexander Sokurov-like character study than an expansive epic. It's based on an acclaimed novel by Raduan Nassar, and much of the film's poetic narration is presumably lifted from it, using the passage of time and its excruciating repercussions as a recurring motif. With his tactile, exquisitely detailed imagery and mastery of montage, Carvalho juxtaposes quiet languor with unexpected emotional breakdowns, at times reaching the startling immediacy of horror. Selton Mello's soul-searing performance as the incestuously disturbed leading character is an uncomfortably authentic revelation. A 12-minute interview with Carvalho reveals him to harbor a Robert Bressonian capacity for cinematic philosophy as much as talent. —John Thomason

Jeff Meyers, Michael Hastings, Corey Hall, Serene Dominic, Jason Ferguson and John Thomason are film critics for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

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