Miasto Skarbow

s1e11, 1080hd

Anna Mrozowska

Paulina Chapko

Babylon Berlin
s2e1 and s2e2, 720p

Liv Lisa Fries, Hannah Herzsprung and Leonie Benesch





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Strip Search

part 1 of 2

2004, 1920x1080

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Scoop's comments:

Strip Search portrays two precisely parallel situations: an female American in China being questioned by the state police, and an male Arab in the States being questioned by the FBI. The "hook" of the film is that the dialogue is almost exactly the same in both situations, with both interrogators using an arrogant attitude and cruel tactics to humiliate the prisoner.

Most of the people who saw the film misunderstood the point. The author of the film is not presenting a case that the FBI agent in the film is following actual FBI procedures, nor even that a rogue FBI agent could do so. Nor is he making a case that China treats American prisoners or any other prisoners in this manner. It's not a documentary. The point is that it is possible for a viewer to see the exact same fictional scene, one time feeling sympathy for the prisoner, the other time not. In other words, the film isn't about the characters at all. It's about your reaction to them. It is intended to provoke your thinking about this matter. If you watched the FBI agent interrogate the Arab without having seen the parallel story, would you have felt any sympathy for the Arab? Perhaps not. That is probably because you feel that the embarrassment of a few individuals is a small price to pay to defeat terrorism. Then why do you feel sympathy for the American woman in the exact same situation? After all, what's wrong is wrong, isn't it?

To make the point even more dramatic, the two interrogations produce different results. The Arab man is innocent. The American woman is really guilty of the action she has been accused of. This offers us one more dose of shame if we sympathized with the woman. Once more, the film is about us, and our reactions.

There is another point as well. Showing the American in China drives home the point that when we take away the rights of the Arab man, we take away our own rights as well. In two ways. (1) We cede additional powers to our own government when we allow them to abuse prisoners. The unjustly accused prisoner may someday be one of us. (2)  We assure that American prisoners will be treated with equal disrespect by their governments. If our government uses torture, it tells the world that the United States does not consider itself subject to the international agreements on this matter. That means Americans will be tortured when the shoe is on the other foot. When we take away rights, we give up those rights in parallel. This point is emphasized by the film's prologue, in which an American teacher asks his students whether they would be willing to give up their rights for a day in order to assure that terrorism would be defeated. After they agree,  he asks whether they would do it for ten years. The real questions are, of course, how many rights can be ceded, which ones, and for how long? The film doesn't really offer any answers; it merely poses the questions. You have to admit they are good questions.

The film is very short - only 55 minutes long with some framing devices at the outer edges, so the interrogation section is only about 50 minutes long, meaning that it's a 25 minute movie shown twice. In other words, Strip Search is really more of a single provocative idea than a fully-realized script. Even at its existing length, I felt it was a bit too long. After all, the point is made instantly, and then the script has nowhere else to go, since the characters are basically undeveloped archetypes and not real people with whom we have established any connection. It doesn't help that the dialogue is just basic hack work and that there are heavy-handed intercuts of American Presidents making idealistic speeches about freedom.

Oh, well, if you get bored with the manipulative gimmick after fifteen minutes, you can always enjoy the full frontal and rear nudity.

The Strip Search project underwent many changes, and I don't know all the details. It was originally intended to be a full-length Sydney Lumet film. The HBO site originally listed it at 120 minutes, and published a cast list which featured Ellen Barkin, Rashida Jones, Oliver Platt, and others who didn't make the cut. I suppose those actors did perform in some scenes, because IMDb lists them as having been in "deleted scenes," but I don't know why the network decided to pare the show down to just the 55 minute version.

Strip Search was the subject of considerable controversy in 2004 since it aired in the May of a Presidential election year. There was a substantial brouhaha after its first airing, and the second airing was cancelled. I just don't know the full story behind it. I can guess, but it would be all speculation. There had to have been substantial pressure exerted on HBO to persuade them to pull the film from their schedule, because they are independent and tough-minded. In turn, there must have been a substantial viewer outcry when they made the decision.



Francesca Eastwood film clip (collages below)

Louise Bourgoin in L'un dans l'autre (2017). Weak quality. I think this is a cam (1280x536)

Susan Allenback in A Dirty Shame (2004) in 1080hd

Aimee Graham, Jessie Faller and Rosie Perez in Perdita Durango (1997) in 1080hd

One time I was walking through a somewhat disreputable part of Amsterdam with my girlfriend and her ten year old daughter.  No, I wasn't corrupting children. It was in the middle of the day, and the area was filled with families. Avoiding the sex trade in Amsterdam is not as easy as you might think. The X-rated stuff is integrated into the warp and woof of the city.

At any rate, the clubs have sex shows around the clock, and they post barkers outside to hawk the shows to passers-by. One particularly aggressive guy said to me, "C'mon in, buddy. Hot action. We have real fucking, not fake fucking like those other clubs." I indicated wordlessly that Linda's child was with us, and the guy said, without skipping a beat, "Hey, pal, people of all ages like REAL fucking. It's fun for the whole family."

Well, if you find the family that he had in mind, this is their family movie!

Even if you're a major movie buff, you've probably never heard of Barry Gifford, although he indirectly contributed quite a bit to the movies of the 90s. Gifford wrote several noir novels about the sleazy underbelly of border life, with names like: "Wild at Heart", "Baby Cat-Face", and "59 Degrees and Raining." David Lynch has made two of his books into the films Lost Highway and Wild at Heart. The books all include the same basic cast of characters, mostly featuring a couple called The Sailor and Lula, so any movie about those characters (including Perdita Durango herself) is most likely based on all the books in one way or another. The Perdita Durango movie is closest to "59 Degrees and Raining," the story which elevates Perdita from a background character to the focus of her own story. This film may share some characters and a pedigree with Lynch's Wild at Heart, but it is not stylish surrealism like a Lynch movie, nor is it smart tongue-in-cheek satire like Pulp Fiction, nor a creatively sociopathic romp into social criticism like A Clockwork Orange. Instead, it is a farcical, over-the-top gore-fest in the modern equivalent of Grand Guignol. The most similar movie I can name is Natural Born Killers.

Rosie Perez plays Perdita Durango in this film (Isabella Rossellini played the part in Wild at Heart), as a cynical hooker who finally meets her love match, a man who is a voodoo priest, a bank robber and a grave robber all rolled into one, a guy who does a hokey Santeria act where he hacks up dead bodies and finishes by ripping out the body's heart. Most women are scared of him, as well they might be, but not ol' Perdita. She knows he's a con man, and suggests that his act is way too tame, and that he could make it more authentic and peppy with live human sacrifice.

To this end, they kidnap an incredibly "white bread" couple of Gringo teenagers. The chick is played by Aimee Graham (Rollergirl's sister). The long-term plan is to rip out their hearts while they are still alive (ala the Aztecs), then eat their flesh as part of the act. Perdita gets a trifle hacked off, however, when voodoo-boy decides to rehearse by eating Rollergirl's sister while she's still alive and naked, if you catch my drift.

After a substantial amount of rape and other physical and mental abuse, Rollergirl's sister and her boyfriend are finally deemed ready for the human sacrifice and cannibalism, so they are stripped naked and covered with feathers in preparation for the first show. Since only one of them needs to die, Perdita and voodoo-boy have a vote to see which one, and they allow the victims to participate in the referendum. The Wonder Bread twins get really ticked off at each other and start bickering because each voted for the other to be killed. Finally, Rollergirl's sister gets chosen in the tiebreaker, the show begins, and the girl is about to get her heart cut out, when some other bad guys show up at the Santeria ceremony with machine guns and start blasting away.

Perdita and Voodoo-boy and our teens manage to escape, only to get into another bloody shoot-out with some DEA guys headed up by Tony Soprano. No problem. After they escape again, they get to drive a hijacked truck of human fetuses to Vegas, where the fetuses are to be essential in testing some new cosmetics. More bad guys double cross each other, more blood spills, and  ...

Well, I'm sure you know that the various bad guys and Feds all have to figure it out somehow, using the Socratic method, assiduous logic, and especially automatic weapons.

This film is basically an attempt to out-Tarantino the master, but it gets strangely trapped somewhere between very broad satire (ala Stone's Natural Born Killers) and a straight-out attempt to milk humor from exaggerated gore (ala the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis). The script gets funny, then it gets sentimental, and some scenes are even icily serious, as if no farce had preceded them. The movie ends, for example, with Rosie in tears, walking down a Vegas street with the sad music signaling the movie's end.

Overall, the whole show is basically an anarchistic, adolescent jerk-off-fantasy movie designed for the young male market. The film is sometimes racist, and generally glorifies rape and violence. I guess this was meant as satire.

Fun for the whole family.

Graham (notice how much she looks like Heather in that first one)



Madeleine Stowe and Joy Gregory in Blink (1994) in 1080hd

One of the most difficult challenges for a screenwriter of thrill-based entertainment (horror films, thrillers, murder mysteries, etc.) is to hold the audience's attention in the set-up stage, especially if the premise is complicated. Doing just that is one of the many things that Dana Stevens did right in this, her first screenplay. Although the gimmicky premise required the transmission of a lot of information, the first 25 minutes went well, transmitted the many necessary facts in a painless manner, and got the audience involved in the characters.

The overall premise could have made this just another gimmicky film in which the killer, or an important witness, or an intended victim, has a unusual medical malady. (Multiple personality disorder or amnesia, anyone?) In this case, the set-up is kind of a really complicated version of "Wait Until Dark." The key murder witness is blind. Well, actually, she was blind until six weeks ago. Since her transplant, she is still kinda sorta still blind, but she can also kinda sorta see. Sometimes she sees things clearly, but more often not. Most important to the plot, she seems to have some kind of a delay in her nervous system. Stuff happens before her eyes on Tuesday, but she doesn't actually see it until Wednesday. To make matters even worse, some of her visions are flashbacks to events which happened decades earlier (before she lost her sight), so she is trapped in a world of dimly perceived sights which may or may not be clear, and may or may not be happening as she sees them.

For example, she went to a mirror and saw herself in the mirror as a child - the last thing she saw before she lost her sight twenty years earlier. Then she saw her friend in the hospital, although the friend had actually been there the day before. Given those facts, how could she know whether the criminal she saw was someone she really saw then and there, or someone from a day before, or even twenty years before?

To say the least, the police found her testimony to be lacking in credibility. In fact, they didn't even believe her at all when she first tried to report the crime - until a murder victim was found and the investigators stumbled into the formerly blind woman living in the apartment below the victim, thus supporting completely what she had reported earlier. The thrills of the thriller are generated by the woman's repeated sightings or visions of the murderer she may or may not have seen the night of the murder. Does she keep seeing him? Is he following her? Or did she ever see him at all? Since her vision is still developing, she can never really be sure what she is seeing, and she perceives most things as if in a fog or a distortion mirror.   

The film was intended to function as a murder mystery as well as a thriller. The murder mystery portion of the development just doesn't work at all. When the police finally figured the case out, the relationship between the victims was something that we could not have solved from our theater seats, because the solution hinged on something hidden from us - the fact that one of the victims was killed by mistake. Furthermore, the criminal was never developed as a character, and his motivation, while eventually sufficing as a satisfactory explanation for his actions, got tossed in from deep in left field. On the other hand, if we forget about the cerebral part of the puzzle and react to the visceral portion, Blink is actually a pretty effective thriller, because director Michael Apted managed to keep the audience in the POV of the semi-blind woman, thus experiencing her paranoia and confusion.

The best part of the film, the element that lifts it above the dozens of similar films that go straight to video every year, is the character development. It is done so well that the gimmicky premise is soon fully internalized and accepted as a given. The four good characters - two cops, the blind woman, and the blind woman's doctor - are all developed, and are all real people. Like all of us, they said things they regretted, they said things that were politically incorrect, they hurt each other, they goofed off when they should have been working, and they made mistakes. The lead detective and the blind woman did fall in love, as required by movie convention, but not until after a lot of hesitation and false starts. Even after they fell in love, the screenwriter was daring enough to suggest that their mutual obsession got in the way of the bone-crunching detail work necessary to real police investigations. In time, the detective dumped the woman on a uniformed cop so he could get back to the station and get some work done. He then ducked her calls, not because he was mad at her, but simply because he had a job to do, and jobs don't stop so people can fall in love. That was pretty damned effective, because (1) it was true-to-life (2) it made things more emotionally satisfying for us when they overcame the problems and worked things out sensibly.

The director brought something very interesting into the film - the sights, and sounds and geometry of Chicago. I used the word "geometry" with a great deal of consideration, because Michael Apted plays his own visual games with the changing geometric shapes of the city of Chicago, just as Jean-Pierre Jeunet did with Paris in Amelie. The camera angles are set up to catch the triangular symmetry of the entry stars to the El, or the unique curve of the train's approach, the diamond of the Wrigley infield, or the repeating rectangles of the skyscrapers whose details are lost in the morning fog. This is a very impressive subtlety that really invokes the feel of the city on a very deep level for those who have been there. It makes the film smell like Chicago.   
I suppose the script is probably a bit too ambitious - romantic triangle, thriller, mystery, psychodrama, character study - but the overall impact is positive. It works. While not without flaws, this is a good little thriller with some complex and deep character development, and I got into it.



Rose MacGowan in Flatt magazine, whatever that is