The Science of Sleep

Stephane, a very shy and insecure young man who is socially clumsy, is falling in love with an equally shy girl. He's a very creative thinker, and everything that happens between them gets re-interpreted through his dreams. In turn, everything that happens in his dreams gets re-examined in reality. The reality also gets re-examined in reality, since he is a sincere man who constantly worries about the meaning of small physical gestures or subtle shifts in vocal tones in respect to the girl's feelings for him. Underlying it all is the fear of rejection which affects all of us to some degree, but affects shy people in highly significant ways which can completely dominate their lives. The Science of Sleep exists in the dream and real worlds simultaneously, and it is not always clear to us which we are watching. There's a good reason for that. We cannot always differentiate between Stephane's dreams and reality because Stephane himself is not completely certain which is which, and we are stuck within his point of view.

The most amazing thing about the film is that the two lead performers, Gabriel Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg, seem to understand exactly what writer/director Michel Gondry wants to achieve, which is not an easy thing to achieve in a surreal environment, and have managed to deliver astounding performances, so natural and unaffected that they seem not to be acting at all. Bernal also has a tremendous gift for comic timing, something I had not really realized from his previous performances. Those two sympathetic characterizations are the film's greatest strengths, since they draw us in and keep us involved in a story which could otherwise be considered too rambling to command ongoing focus in a world of short attention spans. The film takes a deliberately low-tech approach to special effects (think Pee-Wee's Playhouse), and that accentuates the natural, heartfelt performances beautifully. The performers are also supported by some imaginative visuals and writing by Gondry, who has already directed one masterpiece about the inner workings of the brain, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The film also has its weaknesses, primarily deriving from its complete lack of structure. I could tell you that it doesn't have an ending, but that would be a bit misleading, since it doesn't really have a storyline either, so there is nothing to end. But I'm going to ignore that for a moment and just note that the film ends in an infuriatingly ambiguous way which left me wondering if the DVD had been mastered correctly. Were there scenes missing? No. The writer/director was hoping to end the film in the dream world, thus forcing us to speculate about the underlying reality which might be driving the final dream. This was an alternative to spelling the reality out. He succeeded in the sense that the film's ending has generated considerable debate and discussion. Personally, I think ambiguity is a sign of subtlety and encourages audience involvement, so I applaud it in general, but I think this film could have benefited from a little less anarchy. Then again, perhaps that's just me thinking in linear terms and wanting to balance equations that have no solutions.

Excluding the ending, which seems to suffer from the typical pretentiousness of surrealism, the film manages to achieve something rarely seen in cinematic attempts at portraying the subconscious: The Science of Sleep is warm, human, and approachable. Stephane is happier and more competent in his dreams than in real life, which makes them a pleasant place for us to visit with him. The subconscious mind is normally portrayed in films and literature as a frightening place, and most attempts to portray it are aloof, but The Science of Sleep takes a different approach. It is the new, improved, cuddly surrealism!

C+ on our scale. One wants to reward independent filmmakers with wildly original films, but it can't be higher than a C+. It was only a moderate critical success (2/3 good reviews), and is an arthouse film, not the type of film with broad box-office appeal. How many people do you know who like to listen to other people describe their dreams?


Aurelia Petit (zipped .wmv)


The Last King of Scotland

This film remind me of a type of film which was popular in the 30s, then again in the 50s and 60s: the period adventure/drama in which a completely fictional set of characters interact with well known historical personages and against a sweeping backdrop of memorable historical events. Of course the film world didn't invent the concept. When you get right down to it, it has been the basis of some of the greatest fictional works in history. War and Peace, the greatest novel of all, is such a work, as are The Three Musketeers, Gone With the Wind, and A Tale of Two Cities, to cite a few among many possible examples.

The Last King of Scotland reminds me in many ways of a specific older film with a similar title: The Man Who Would Be King. Both films are great yarns about ordinary Europeans who find themselves getting in over their heads when they attain a surprisingly lofty position inside a developing culture. Of course, The Last King of Scotland is a modernization of the old format with new filmmaking ideas in a new world. The most important new rule has been dictated by the fact that these historical characters are within our recent memory and have been vividly recorded by the electronic media. When The Man in The Iron Mask portrayed historical characters, the actors were free to improvise wildly, and the authors were free to take virtually any stance for or against the historical characters, since few people today care whether Louis XIV is portrayed sympathetically, particularly when he is a background character. The rules for historical drama are different when dealing with characters from the late 20th century. People do care whether Hitler is portrayed sympathetically, and people know exactly what he looked and sounded like. The electronic record places a new set of demands on authors who must spin the non-fictional characters accurately, and on actors who must look and sound like people we have actually seen and heard. The pressure on accuracy was even greater in this film because the African dictator Idi Amin is not a background character, but a personal friend of the fictional character, and his co-star. To the great credit of the writers and actor Forest Whitaker, the film's portrayal of Amin doesn't conflict in any way with our perception of the real man, thus freeing us to enjoy the story.

And what a story it is. A humble Scottish country doctor decides that he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life in a boring practice with his staid old dad, so he spins a globe, stops it with his finger, and goes to the place he happens to be pointing at. Uganda is the prize winner, and the apolitical Scotsman soon gets an education in African power politics as he works in a clinic there. A chance occurrence vaults him into an unexpected position as Idi Amin's personal physician, from which he is soon advising the strongman on health matters that affect the entire nation. Amin is a paranoid man who trusts few people, and the doctor helps him out of few tough scrapes, so when the dictator sees that the doctor is dedicated and has no private agenda, he is quick to take the Scot's advice on many non-medical matters as well, including security and public relations. The humble twenty-something white man soon finds himself the second most powerful man in the country, and enjoys that status ... for a while.

The doctor finally has to stop ignoring the evidence around him and to accept the fact that his benefactor is both corrupt and brutal. He tenders his resignation, and packs his bags. At this point the tone of the film makes a 180 degree turn. The doctor learns that the club he has joined is like the mafia. Once in, it's almost impossible to leave. Furthermore, Amin no longer trust him because of his attempt to leave, which seems like disloyalty. Amin refuses to accept the resignation, takes away his British passport, and  issues him an Ugandan one, thus showing that his life is owned by the dictator. From this point onward the doctor's life descends deeper and deeper into hell. The film becomes a nail-biting thriller about his attempt to extricate himself from the situation he has created, a predicament made far worse by his having impregnated the dictator's youngest wife. Since the film is a modern one and not a leftover from 1960s Hollywood, the terrifying situations he faces are portrayed in graphically horrifying detail. I went with my daughter, and she was looking away a lot during this movie, later commenting that it was more tense and horrifying than any horror film she had ever seen, especially since it all seemed real.

My daughter found the film too intense, but I take her reaction as a sign of extremely effective filmmaking. This is a very powerful movie. The set-up phase is interesting enough, but I fidgeted a bit until the real movie began - when the tension started between the doctor and the dictator. From the time of his resignation, the doctor is mired in a hopeless quagmire of  situations from which it seems he can never escape. He feigns allegiance to Amin, all the while plotting to escape or perhaps even to poison the dictator before he himself can be killed. The suspense is maintained brilliantly, and the odds against him keep increasing, particularly after he is identified as a poisoner and the real father of the dictator's baby. Can he get out of Uganda? Well, if you want the answer to that question, you have to see the movie ...

... and it's well worth it.

Mr Whitaker is expected to win the Oscar for Best Actor, since he has won every other acting prize this year. The only thing which might stop him would be a sentimental Academy nod toward the superannuated Peter O'Toole, perhaps the greatest performer in film history who has never won an Oscar.

I call this a B- on our scale. The critics loved it (9/10 positive reviews), and I am surprised that it did not do better at the box office, because it is a good adventure story from start to finish, and the second half is a tremendous thriller that kept knots in my stomach. If the stars had been Denzel and Cruise, I think it would have been a hit. (Although not as good a movie.)

Kerry Washington (zipped .avi). Sweet booty! The film clip also includes the anonymous nudity. Kerry's scene is at the end.


B.S. I Love You

The Graduate (1967) was the Pulp Fiction of its day in that it was simultaneously so hip and so successful that it was widely copied. This film came close to being a Graduate clone. Our young hero romances a mother-daughter team, and in the end he runs desperately against the clock to prevent his true love from slipping away with another. He dashes for the pier, calling out her name, as he imagines her in a wedding dress, sailing off with her hunky boyfriend. It's such a blatant rip-off that the producers of The Graduate might have considered suing - in the unlikely event that this made any money.

Fat chance of that. According to TV Guide it was never made to make money in the first place. That probably would have ruined the tax breaks! The Guide summed it up as follows:

"Independently made Canadian film apparently designed to be a tax-shelter for its investors."

If it had been sued I think the defense would have been that it was meant as a parody of the Graduate's genre, focusing on the mother of all Graduate-style pics, the original. I guess there could have been some justification for that. Some reviewers have identified this as a comedy, notably the N.Y Times, which gushed, "Some gifted people are involved in what turns out to be a neatly organized morality comedy with bright contemporary trimmings." Based on that I guess it was considered hip and funny at the time, but looking back from today at the films made in the 67-71 period, it's pretty damned hard to tell which ones are comedies and/or parodies. If I ever had the cultural context necessary to make that determination, I have lost it in the intervening years. For example, I really can't tell you whether this film's topless go-go dancing scene with the runaway zoom lens (below) was hip or was making fun of other films which tried to be hip. It's stuck in the back of my head that for some reason we used to think it was groovy when the camera would zoom in and out rapidly on some action while bad rock songs played in the background. Like, it was psychedelic, man.

Suffice it to say that the film is no longer hip.

Or funny.

Peace, brother.

It does have one thing goin' for it. Joanna Cameron, aka The Mighty Isis, topless. Beautiful smile. Beautiful body.

Joanna Cameron (zipped .wmv)







* Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe).

* White asterisk: expanded format.

* Blue asterisk: not mine.

No asterisk: it probably sucks.


Catch the deluxe version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles, here.







Electronic Lover

Electronic Lover is a cheapie exploitation flick made in New York in 1966. A character known as "Master" orders his slave known as "Brother" to place his high tech camera in the windows of women so he can spy on them using his computer wall, make love to himself in a mirror, then dream about the women visiting him. Brother, by the way, is mute, so 90% of the dialogue comes from Master.

Women include Natura, Linda Boyce and Ute Erikson. Natura and Ute Erikson do sort of a lesbian thing. Several aspects are unusual for 1966 including full frontal from Natura and Linda Boyce, and inter-racial lesbian sex.

IMDb is still waiting on 5 votes. This is part one of a Something Weird Video DVD on "Girls & Gadgets." This, to me, is a bottom feeder, but then I feel that way about most of the New York grindhouse material. At least this one tried something slightly different, which is worth considering. We will call this a C-, good enough for fans of this obscure genre.


Linda Boyce







Ute Erickson









Blame it on Rio

The Time Machine is back in 1984 for "Blame it on Rio".

Michelle Johnson did some rather explicit full frontal nudity ...

... and then was joined by a very young Demi Moore on the beach. Demi was topless but her long hair pretty much covered her up.






Notes and collages

The Ladies of Sci-fi/Fantasy

Not of this Earth

Becky LeBeau








"The Hunger"

Episode "The Sloan Men"

When Judith (Clare Sims) meets her husband's family for the first time, her mother-in-law (Margot Kidder), has some disturbing and surprising news for her. She tells her that the Sloan men are not what she thinks, that they can control women with their thoughts. So both women go out to destroy the source of their husbands' powers. Clare's sex scene is very hot, the guy just touches her on the shoulder and she has sex with him in front of everybody at the museum.

Clare Sims









A really stacked Adrienne Barbeau in an off-Broadway musical called Stag Movie (circa 1970). This accompanies other Barbeau rarities in the video section below.

Lynda Carter - Battle of the Network Stars.

(And Mr. Kotter as a bonus!)

Nicole Sheridan in The Ultimate Fear of Speed

Callie Thomas in Scandal: The Big Turn-On


Here's a rarity. I had not realized that the DVD of Ruby Cairo has a slightly different version of the love scene than some previous VHS and/or broadcast versions. If you are familiar with the scene, you will immediately recognize two things about this version (1) There is a very brief additional bit of Andie MacDowell exposure (seen left) (2) The scene does not have the omnipresent dark blue filter!

Another rarity. The seldom-seen Open House, which includes Adrienne Barbeau's only film nudity after Swamp Thing. It was about five years later, and she had trimmed down quite a bit, which cost her a little heft in the chest. The quality is abysmal, but it's better than el zilcheroo, which is what I had yesterday. Sample capture to the left.

And another. This video is from ABC's Battle of the Network Stars, from the late 1970s. There is a slight-see through of Barbeau (left), but the highlight is definitely Wonder Woman Lynda Carter in a VERY revealing suit - see captures above in the images section.

Finally, two from Fear City. A lot of nudity from Melanie Griffith, and a bit from Rae Dawn Chong.