Dennis Harvey

Dirty young man

World class '70s sleaze and Nazisploitation from Italian director Tinto Brass
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The man himself would probably enjoy his artistic evolution being described as ass-backward. After a few years' absence, Italian director Tinto Brass re-emerged in the late 1970s with two world-class sleaze hits — Nazisploitation opus Salon Kitty (1976) and the notorious Penthouse-produced Caligula (1979), which he and scenarist Gore Vidal disowned (for different reasons). Thereafter he settled into glossy softcore romps whose fetish focus made him cinema's Trunk-Junk Laureate to Russ Meyer's Bard of Boob. Read more »

Black and white

A cop has rigid moral views about his neighbors in Lakeview Terrace
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REVIEW When Lisa (Kerry Washington) and Chris Mattson (Patrick Wilson) move into their "starter house" — since it has a three-car garage, sizable pool, sweeping hillside view, and god knows how many bedrooms, perhaps they ultimately plan to buy a castle — it seems a plus that their next-door neighbor is a policeman. Unfortunately, LAPD officer Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) has a rather heavy-handed sense of justice both on and off-duty. A widower who keeps his two children on a tight disciplinary leash, he has very specific ideas about what's right and wrong. Read more »

The filth and the fury

Obscene chronicles one man's lifelong crusade against censorship
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Apologies to all Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville fans out there, but the American novel didn't get good until it shook off the last vestiges of Puritanism and risked a certain shock factor. It wasn't just the authors pushing potentially offensive social-realist (Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair) or unflattering social-elite-portraiture boundaries (Edith Wharton, Henry James, etc.) who made the upstart nation's lit suddenly comparable to the Old World's new output. Read more »

"Riot on Sunset Strip" film series

Flash back to L.A. in the '60s
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PREVIEW Break out your go-go boots for this four-day flashback to Los Angeles' 1960s experience hosted by Dominic Priore, author of Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood and Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece. Read more »

Space is the race

Sputnik Mania is a hot look at the Cold War
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When conservatives wax nostalgic for a family-values America that liberals are hell bent on destroying forever, they're basically talking about the 1950s — that last oasis of prosperity for guiltless acquisitiveness, formulaic gender roles, and general agreement not to discuss any round peg not fitting into a square hole. Read more »

"Kenny"

Eating shit while charming pants off in this Brit mockumentary
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REVIEW This first feature by the Jacobson brothers — director Clayton and leading actor Shane, also coscenarists — is about a beleaguered working-class stiff. His disgraceful (to everyone but him) job is delivering and maintaining rental portaloos (read: portable toilets) to various public events, many attracting patrons who can't keep their aim straight or food down. Kenny has a bratty son, a vicious ex-wife, unreliable coworkers, an endlessly criticizing father, and myriad other woes. Read more »

Testimonies

The SF Jewish Film Festival takes on fascism in Italy
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Italy seldom figures much in Holocaust studies, as its Jewish population was relatively small (just under 50,000) and only about one-fifth failed to survive the war — even after far more anti-Semitic German occupiers and policies wrested power from Benito Mussolini in 1943.

But statistically limited evil is still evil. Italian (even papal) complicity in crimes against Jewry has weighed more heavily on the national conscience lately, if a recent spate of meditations on the subject in various media is any indication. Read more »

Orphan storm

The SF Silent Film Fest takes on the motherless and fatherless child
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The orphan was a staple figure in silent cinema. She or he evoked the pathos required in sentimental melodramas, and also highlighted a prevalent social problem. The predicament wasn't that orphans existed so much as that orphanages did. Dickensian clichés of wicked minders profiting from the ill-keeping of abused and undernourished charges were often not far from the truth.

The notion that flowers of pure innocence might spring from this kind of environmental mire was a popular dramatic conceit. Read more »

Gore gone global

At last -- a Pakistani horror film that rocks
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(SHOULD BE A) CULT FILM Pakistan: land of the Markhor goat (a twisty-horned national animal), major software industry, ancient civilizations, field hockey, purported terrorist training cells, and extremely good-looking people of both sexes. The latter, at least, was suggested by those who went to my midwestern university a couple decades back: they were terribly urbane, funny, and cool. Admittedly, they were the next-generation cream of the country's privileged-liberal economic elite. Read more »

Sour sixteen

Tom Kalin's Savage Grace is shallow and graceless
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Tom Kalin's 1992 Swoon was a signature feature from the New Queer Cinema movement. Its dramatization of the 1920s Leopold and Loeb case seemed arresting for both its crisp black-and-white photography and flagrant disregard for still-prevalent sentiments that gay screen imagery need always be case-pleadingly positive. Read more »