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As Above, So Below

It's that rare found-footage film with a strong premise, a memorably eccentric style, and plenty of energy to burn. It's also poorly conceived, and hard…

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The Last of Robin Hood

A title as good as "The Last of Robin Hood" deserves a better movie. In fact, it deserves a good movie.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Opening Shots: The Producers (1968)

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From Raymond Ogilvie:

"The Producers" (1968),  Mel Brooks first film, uses its first shot to break taboo by sexualizing old women. The character Max Bialystock is based on a producer Brooks worked for as a young man. This producer would, like Max, make love with old women to get funding for his plays. But Mel Brooks, whose films "rise below vulgarity," doesn't end his taboo-breaking here. He goes on to apply the same gleeful irreverence to ex-Nazis, homosexuals, and voluptuous foreign blonds. Indeed, if the studio had not objected, Brooks would have called this movie "Springtime for Hitler."

Cold open on a frosted glass window with the legend, "Max Bialystock, Theatrical Producer." Behind the glass, two silhouettes kiss and giggle mischievously. The man, the taller of the two, excuses himself for a moment, putting up his finger to tell the woman to keep quiet. Slowly he cracks open the door and peeks out. Here is Max Bialystock, theatrical producer, played by the tall, portly comic actor Zero Mostel. He's checking to see that there are no witnesses to his clandestine love affair.

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prod13.jpg The coast is clear, so he gestures to the woman he is with. "C'mon," he whispers. And surprise, surprise, it's a little old lady with a perfectly pleasant smile on her face. Judging from her pearls and accessories, she's in a good financial position. She blows Max a kiss, which he energetically pretends to catch in his mouth and chew on.

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They exchange goodbyes. Max gently stops the old woman and reminds her, "Don't forget the checkie! Can't produce plays without checkies!" And she happily replies, "You can count on me, you dirty young man!" He mischievously reaches down and pats her bottom. She puts on a face of surprise and delight. Then she turns away and leaves down the stairs. Max waves giddily after her. "Goodbye! Goodbye!" Once she's out of range, his face quickly turns sour, and he says under his breath, "Old buzzard." He pulls out his pocket watch to check the time. He's on a tight schedule today. Shortly after this woman leaves, he greats another old lady for a romantic rendezvous.

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