Thursday, March 25, 2010

Intergalactic Brotherhood: The Brother from Another Planet

The Brother from Another Planet (1984) - Sayles
No Donny, these men are nihilist, nothing to be afraid of...
A charming reflection of 80's NY- I didn't know that PRAY graffiti person was around even back then! A mute, nameless man (Sayles regular Joe Morton) from another planet arrives in Harlem. At the mercy of immigration worker he meets at a local bar, the mild mannered brother gets a lodging and a job fixing arcade games by putting his hand over obsolete objects (he has special healing powers). This episodic film has gentleness to it. Knick knacks of Harlem residents don't act stereotypically. The only cardboard characters are über aliens (young John Sayles and David Strathairn in tight fitting black attire) who are after our renegade slave. Morton and supporting cast are great. Sayles doesn't hit you over the head with the messages of inter-galactic fraternity and 'say-no-on-drugs'. It's a poignant, nice low-key comedy. This no budget sci-fi is a real gem.

Singa Pura (Lion City): Saint Jack

Saint Jack (1979) - Bogdanovich
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Shot entirely on location in multi-culti Singapore in the 70's and starring sweaty Ben Gazzara, this Roger Corman production is a leisurely paced character study. Jack (Gazzara), an expat from Buffalo manages a big whorehouse and knows the streets and the streets know him. He's an affable fellow. But there is a danger around the corner as it comes with the territory. One day, a rival gang shows up, fronted by a knife wielding midget Chinaman forcefully offering him a heap of Swedish porn. They end up ransacking his handsome peaceful whore villa and tattooing dirty Chinese words on his forearms. But Jack is not an easy person to be fazed. He meets his match in a suave g-man (Bogdanovich) who offers him a job (running a brothel for GIs).

Robbie Müller (DP of Dead Man, Repo Man, Paris Texas)'s spacious photography with long takes and slow pans, Saint Jack feels like a distant cousin to Altman's the Long Goodbye. Gazzara fits like a glove in a slightly fed up wiseguy in Southeast Asia role with his smarmy charm. Bogdanovich is a natural storyteller. If you want to know where the names Buffalo, Singapore originated from or what the Thai massage involves, watch this film.