NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Wednesday December 1st 2021

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Movie Corner: Last Night in Soho

Movie Corner: Last Night in Soho

Universal (2021) ★★★★★ By HOWARD MCQUITTER II Last Night in Soho to its credit is quite spellbinding, thanks in large part to cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung (who also is the cinematographer with director Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz . What director Edgar Wright does convincingly well is how he segues genres, drama, horror and mystery. Adding to this fascinating film is a tribute to many 1960s rock/R&B songs. (The title for Last Night in Soho is a reference to a 1960s rock band, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich.)             The story begins with a young woman, Eloise (Thomasin McKenkie from JoJo Rabbit), with big aspirations to go London to be a fashion designer but not without a warning about moving to the big city from Peggy (Rita Tushingham). Eloise loves 60s music and styles. Her first nights are in the dorm with some other students who love to party and go to bars. She feels out of place but she does go to the bars with them. Eloise, not satisfied living with the other students, rents a second-floor apartment from an old landlady (Diana Rigg).        But before long, Eloise begins to have strange dreams (some might say hallucinations, or maybe reincarnation) about a woman named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), from the 1960s, with aspirations to be a famous singer. But Eloise is pulled into these dreams like a spectator as this glamorous blonde goes into her performances, seemingly gliding through with singing and dancing before crowds and louche men. However, these dreams become darker leaving her to believe she's no longer a spectator, but something more sinister. She wants to find out what really happened to the promising talented woman. But a clue may be on the way from her landlady who, attempting to ease Eloise's agitation, remarks, "This is London. Someone has died in every room in every building..." And Eloise remembers what Peggy warned her [...]

Movie Corner: Melvin Van Peebles

Movie Corner: Melvin Van Peebles

He's the ManMelvin Van Peebles (1932-2021) Melvin Van Peebles. Photo by John Matthew Smith By HOWARD McQUITTER II The African American filmmaker-actor Melvin Van Peebles, a fiercely independent filmmaker, could make memorable and remarkable films on a shoestring budget such as the 1971 bombshell film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song about a Black pimp who kills two policemen for beating up a Black militant and how he eludes law enforcement. (His son Mario, is also an actor/director.) And with Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, in particular, but in conjunction with his body of work (his directorial debut is Watermelon Man in Hollywood), the man is often known as the "Godfather of Black cinema". (The late Black director Gordon Parks is also a modern pioneer of Black cinema.) Mr. Melvin Van Peebles graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a B. A. in 1953. He decided to travel heavily in Europe, Mexico and the United States taking on jobs such as postal worker, painter, street performer and for a while in the air force. Fluent in French, while he lived in Paris he wrote several French-language novels, including La Permission (1967), turning it into his first feature film. The genre is a romantic drama released in France, and in the United States (as The Story of a Three-day Pass) the next year. Van Peebles in Hollywood used largely nonprofessional actors and technicians, usually African Americans. He fit well in the blaxploitation era drawing huge success with African American audiences and drawing much criticism from many white critics. Violence, nudity, scurrility, gangs and drugs dominated much of not onlySweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, but in many blaxploitation films by him or other directors. But what's often misunderstood by many viewers - both Black and white - of blaxploitation films, the messages are really anti-drug in nature. Feeding into the backdrop of Van Peebles' films, as well as other blaxploitation directors, is whatever [...]