The Air I Breathe

At one point in its development, The Air I Breathe must have been considered a major project. The film has a solid cast from the B+ list: Forest Whitaker, Andy Garcia, Buffy, Kevin Bacon, Brendan Fraser, Emile Hirsh. There is a slick web site. It has all kinds of ambition and a high-falutin' literary style based on an ancient Chinese proverb about the four emotional cornerstones of life: pleasure, happiness, sorrow and love. There are four separate stories illustrating each of the four basic emotional food groups, and the lead characters actually have names like "Pleasure" and "Sorrow" in the credits. That's not Joe Pleasure, or Mortimer Sorrow, but just Pleasure and Sorrow. Happiness (Whitaker) is a meek stockbroker, Pleasure (Fraser) a hit man who can see the future, Sorrow (Gellar) is a female pop star and Love (Bacon) is a doctor desperate to save the life of someone important to him. Their stories are all linked by a crime boss (Garcia). Hirsch plays Garcia's nephew. The four stories are intertwined because happiness and sorrow are intertwined in life. Get it? When combined, the four tales coalesce into a nearly circular form, ala Pulp Fiction. In tone and style, the film seems similar in many ways to Crash, a multiple Oscar winner.

The result: it was released in seven theaters for one week, the last week in January. (Three weeks ago.) It did not get a second week in any of the theaters. It grossed $29,000 in the entire United States.

What went wrong?

Well, these elements stand out:

I'll bet you've already deduced that the project is pretentious. Oh-so-serious ensemble dramas tend to lean in that direction, and this particular one leans so far that it falls over. The characters virtually speak in fortune cookie dialogue. "The things we can't change, change us."

It tries to blend too many disparate elements. As the New York Times wrote: "Among other things, Mr. Lee declares, it is a film noir variation of The Wizard of Oz and an exploration of the theme of character as destiny. Whew! That’s an awful lot of concepts for one movie to juggle." Indeed. On the one hand it wants to essay some serious themes, ala Crash. One the other hand, it's filled with gimmicky supernatural elements and violent, cavalier noir-movie gangsters. So it's Crash meets The Sixth Sense meets Pulp Fiction. Each of those films is good, but they don't mesh well. I loves me a Guinness, some nectarines, and spicy mustard. But not together.

The four stories intersect in somewhat preposterous ways, to the point where the convergences get the audience groaning. These unlikely coincidences might have been tolerable in smaller doses, but when piled one upon another and combined with the gangster's ability to see the future, they create a kind of madcap surreal world that would be more appropriate in a cocky black comedy. That effect flies directly in the face of the film's grand literary aspirations.

You can probably tell from the brief synopsis in the first paragraph that Emile Hirsch's role, as the gangster's feckless douchebag nephew, was fundamentally unrelated to the rest of the movie. It doesn't even fit into a verbal summary, except as an afterthought. That character could have been cut completely without losing anything from the film. His story was actually a fifth tale, but there are only supposed to be four emotional pillars of life. It's as if Confucius had told us that the five building-blocks of life are happiness, pleasure, love, sorrow, and douchebaggery. Having noted that Hirsch's brief role is totally irrelevant, I want to add that I'm glad he's there because he provides some comic relief in a film which otherwise takes itself much too seriously.

The distributors were almost certainly correct in their abandonment of the project. I can't see how the film could have attracted a big audience, so a wide release would probably have been throwing good money after bad, as the cliché goes.

But I'll tell you this. There's a lot of talent on display here for a rookie writer/director. He made a lot of mistakes, but he also demonstrated a lot of potential. If you think about it, Magnolia also could have been a grand epic failure for most of the same reasons I cited above, and many people would say that it was. There are very fine lines between pride and hubris, between poignancy and pretension. Magnolia negotiated the lines a bit better than this film. But Paul Thomas Anderson and the director of The Air I Breathe (Jieho Lee) were going in the same directions. They are the kind of guys who reach for the stars and wear their hearts on their sleeves. I like that kind of ambition and I like that kind of emotional intensity. I like it very much when young filmmakers, men and women who have not lived long enough to be jaded and cautious, reach for the stars. It's the Mickey Mantle theory of hitting, as applied to filmmaking: swing as hard as you can every time. You strike out a lot, but when you connect, the result is a beautiful thing to watch, and the applause is deafening. Mr. Lee failed because his ambitions involved the upper deck instead of a sensible game-winning single into the gap, but if you have to fail, that's the way to go! Maybe next time he'll knock it out of the ol' ballpark.

The only nudity comes from some random strippers in a gratuitous strip club scene involving the unnecessary Emile Hirsch character in the "fifth wheel" story.

However, Buffy gets tied to a chair with her legs exposed up to her underpants (Hankster-approved!) and also has a sex scene with Brendan Fraser. You can see those here.



  • * 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.








Ilsa, the Wicked Warden


Ilsa, the Wicked Warden is chronologically the third in the Ilsa films starring Dyanne Thorne, but that is basically a post facto distinction. It does feature Dyanne Thorne, but is not an official Ilsa sequel. In fact, it was first released as Greta, the Wicked Warden, then re-named Wanda, and finally Ilsa. It was directed by Jess Franco and produced by Erwin C. Dietrich, and they retrofitted the film to capitalize on the popularity of the Ilsa films. Many scenes in the final version were not even in the original script, most notably one involving a tiger, which was added to ride the coattails of the newly released Ilsa, Tigress of Siberia. 

The story is simple. Wanda ... er ... Ilsa runs a woman's prison hospital, but also makes and sells dirty 8mm films of the inmates. A woman (Tania Busselier) wishes to find out what happened to her sister at the institution so she concocts a plan to get herself committed. She soon discovers that day-to-day life is controlled by a single prisoner (Lina Romay), who is the girl-toy of the warden (Dyanne Thorne). The doctor who helps Busselier get committed turns out to be a traitor and is murdered. Busselier was then afraid she would be there forever but in the end, as usual, things go against the evil Ilsa.

Satisfied by a "no full-frontal clause" in her contract and a job for her husband, Howard Maurer, Dyanne Thorne was persuaded to jet off to Portugal and Switzerland to make this film. Director Jess Franco, having no money to speak of and living in no permanent address, was not especially afraid of being sued for breach of contract, so he tricked Thorne into showing full-frontal anyway. Franco would simply holler "cut," and keep the camera running. When Franco filmed the most graphic scenes, Thorne and her husband were sent on an innocuous tour of England. Lina Romay is involved in what is probably the most disgusting scene. Lina takes a crap, wipes her butt with a magazine sheet, then forces Busselier to "lick her culo." For those who have not tried wiping with glossy paper, it doesn't work very well, which makes "lick my culo" all the more disgusting. 

Despite the deceptions, Thorne and Maurer have nothing but praise for Jess Franco, and the film turned out to be a pretty good WIP film. It includes two shower scenes, a cat fight, girl/girl action, torture, and lots of nudity.

In addition to Thorne, Tania Busselier and Lina Romay showed everything, as did many unknowns.














Lake Placid 2


A really bad movie, but it has some very attractive ladies with some nice breast exposure in good light.

Jasmina Toshkova & Yana Marinova go topless in the water and then meet a very bad ending. Caps and three clips.





V. J. Kewl also shed her top and has that same bad fate. Caps and a clip.

Sarah Lafleur does not lose her top and she survives. I guess there is a moral to the story. Sarah however shows some nice cleavage climbing back in a boat. Caps and a clip.







Notes and collages


Lisa Kudrow

Episode 213







Ghost Son


Despite the best efforts of cast and crew, this ghost story is bland to the point of being boring, and totally uninventive. Even the ending is a yawner. Even the title basically gives away the whole movie.

Stacey (Laura Harring), an American, and Mark, a South African, fall deeply in love and marry. They move to Mark's farm in South Africa and are very happy, until Mark has a car accident and is killed.

Grief stricken Stacey decides to stay at the farm, and soon discovers she is pregnant. But after the baby is born, Stacey is besieged with feelings that her son is possessed by the spirit of Mark, who wants her dead so that she can spend eternity with him.

Unfortunately, this is one of those movies that sounds much better than it is. The best thing about it, I'm afraid, is the nudity and skimpy pokie-filled outfits worn by Laura Harring.

Laura Harring






Several film clips from the early 70s slasher film "Flesh and Blood Show," which was one of the earliest pioneers in the genre. 

A film clip of Julie Graham in Dirty Tricks

A film clip of Jessica Alba in Awake. No nudity, but a brief look at at her areola outlined behind a white top. And she's mighty cute.

A film clip of Phoebe Cates in Paradise

A Johnny Moronic film clip of Robin Tunney in Open Window. His collages are below.


A film clip of Amber Tamblyn in Spiral. She's topless, but nothing is showing. Sample right.
Vanessa Hudgens shows some plumber's crack at LAX
A color-adjusted version of Eva Mendes in We Own the Night. (Makes it much sexier.)

Two captures of Elizabeth Pena in Across the Moon