After we finished recording episode 174 in our isolated, makeshift studio at Libertine Brewery, Dave and I rejoined reality by stepping out onto the streets of SLO. Dave was hurrying off to an afternoon hike before the sun set. I was off to check-in to my AirBnB. In the brief walk to our cars I mentioned to Dave that I was really glad to learn about his passion for film (as discovered and discussed in our recorded conversation). Within that quick back-and-forth it was immediately apparent that our tastes were divergent, or rather, that all of my references are modern, 90s onward. I asked Dave to give me 3 recommendations. He immediately rattled off 5 and then amended the list and suggested that perhaps this exercise deserved more thought and he promised to follow up with an email. When that email came I figured, if I’m interested in Dave’s picks, my podcast audience may be interested too.
Always thorough in thought and text, Dave sent 13 film recommendations with a synopsis for each. I’ve divided the list into 2 parts. I’ll post the 2nd in a month. Enjoy! Leave you feedback in the comments section at the bottom of this page. ~ David Scales
Dave Parmenter’s Film Recommendations, in no particular order. Words by Dave Parmenter.
Wake In Fright (1971)
Once spoken of in reverent tones as Australia’s great “lost” film, Wake In Fright is the only motion picture to have ever premiered at Cannes twice — once after its initial release in 1971 and again decades later in 2009 after the film’s editor managed to recover an intact print after a years-long global search. Martin Scorcese exclaimed “It left me speechless” and the the influence of Wake In Fright can certainly be seen in his urban version of this outback nightmare, After Hours. As the original Wake In Fright poster asked, “Have a drink, mate? Have a fight, mate? Have a taste of blood and dust, mate? There’s nothing else out here.“
Bad Day At Black Rock (1955)
This 1955 John Sturges thriller puts a new shine on the cliche “they don’t make them like this anymore. Masterfully shot and paced, Bad Day At Black Rock somehow manages to transform a ramshackle little town smack dab in the middle of a boundless desert into a confined setting as claustrophobic as the U-Boat in Das Boot. Spencer Tracy is a one-armed ex-Marine who shows up in Black Rock in the aftermath of WWII and starts asking questions that make the local toughs a bit, well, nervous. That the weathered grey boardwalks of Black Rock are shadowed by the likes of Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Robert Ryan only further intensifies the growing dread and danger. Tracy is superb, with Shane-like coiled and suppressed powers that when finally unleashed are a sight to behold.
Dersu Uzala (1975)
Though primarily about friendship, this little-seen 1975 Akira Kurosawa masterpiece takes place in a setting of epic scope — the wilds of the Siberian frontier in the early 1900s, into which a Russian captain leads a small band of soldiers on a survey expedition. In these wilds the survey party encounters the ethnic Goldi hunter Dersu, who George Lucas allegedly “borrowed” as the model for Yoda. Certainly Lucas cribbed from Kurosawa’s movie-within-a-movie scene, in which the Captain and Dersu are lost in the middle of an enormous, freezing wasteland and caught by a blizzard, as a petri culture for his similar scene in which Luke Skywalker is similarly marooned on the ice planet of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. Dersu Uzala is an unforgettable film, poignant and beautiful and awe-inspiring — and yet somehow genuinely heartwarming.
A charming coming of age film, directed by Peter Yates of Bullitt fame, 1979’s Breaking Away points a finger dipped in Oscar gold (Best Original Screenplay) at every hokey surf-themed feature ever made and admonishes, “This is what you could have been!” Without story and character first, all you’ll ever end up with is Beach Blanket Bingo hokum for the drive-in crowd.
The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)
As a big part of the Australian New Wave of filmmaking that began in the 1970s, director Peter Weir has a number of seminal films in that canon: Picnic At Hanging Rock, The Last Wave, Gallipoli. But there is also this little-seen 1974 oddity, about a remote town in Australia whose residents stage automobile accidents with stray motorists and share the spoils amongst themselves like “wreckers” once did by luring ships onto the rocks with fake lighthouses. Of interest to Aussie New Wave fans, there is in The Cars That Ate Paris a roving gang of young hoons with spiky punkmobiles that influenced a certain young Australian who dreamt of making his own films — George Miller. A few years later Miller’s Mad Max (1979) would end up being counted as part of the cornerstone of the Australian filmmaking renaissance in the 70s, along with Wake In Fright and Walkabout.
Steve McQueen as Lieutenant Frank Bullitt.
Though rightly enshrined as containing the greatest car chase ever filmed, Peter Yates’ Bullitt is one of my favorite movies because it is the best police detective procedural I can name. This is a perfect movie. In storytelling not a frame is out of place, no cut or scene too long or too short. Indeed, Bullitt won the Academy Award for editing in 1969. Shot in San Francisco practically cinema verite style, the City itself rivals Frank Bullitt himself as the film’s lead character. What is most interesting — or fascinating — about Bullitt is that compared to modern crime thrillers, not much happens action-wise. McQueen is terse, dogged, intelligent, and probably the best actor in history as projecting that ineffable quality of “cool.” There are no fisticuffs in Bullitt, no droll double-entendres, yet the tension builds and the stakes ratchet up and up. McQueen draws his gun only once, in the last few minutes of the film, and when he fires it there is no triumph or fanfare. The camera rolls on to show only the shocked and sordid aftermath of violence. Not exactly a little-seen movie, but most younger filmgoers have likely seen only snippets of it, or worse, pan-and-scan choppily edited versions on TV.
Part 2 will be posted on October 20th.