Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Double Indemnity

1944, US, directed by Billy Wilder

I hadn't seen this for years, and it looked quite wonderful on the big screen. As much as I remembered the performances, particularly the against-type turn from Fred MacMurray, I had forgotten just how spectacularly sour the film is -- a disturbing portrait of two people who deserve each other in the worst possible sense. It's a film that casts a long shadow, too -- it's not hard to find traces of the flinty personalities across the Atlantic a couple of years later, in fare like Macadam.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

1973, US, directed by Peter Yates

A very fine Boston film, one I can't believe I'd allow to escape me for so long. I've an ongoing correspondence with a film-loving friend, and this film provoked one of our few mild disagreements: where he was lukewarm owing to the faded "insouciance and swagger and magnetism" this was, for me, precisely what makes the film compelling, the viewer's awareness of the star's past greatness functioning as a very useful backdrop for a character who is a mere shell of himself. It's also an absolutely fascinating picture of early-1970's Boston, with Yates's outsider eye as useful here as it was in San Francisco a few years earlier for Bullitt. At times, the procession of low-rent diners and bars -- and low-rent patrons -- reminded me of Cassavetes circa Minnie and Moskowitz, although the tone is quite different.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Les Marmottes

1993, France, directed by Elie Chouraqui

I'm not quite sure why this one remained on "to see" list so many years -- perhaps a friend had mentioned it back in college, or perhaps it was the rather wonderful cast list (including the object of a major 1990s crush, Virginie Ledoyen), but there's no getting around the fact that the film was a major disappointment. The characters are far too self-absorbed to make them worth caring about, and the storyline is filled with highly artificial narrative turns over the course of a Christmas family gathering (at the well-heeled end of the spectrum); very few of the actors poke through the material, either, to get at something more interesting, though there are very occasional moments that hint at an alternative outcome (the lively opening that promises rather more than it delivers, or the deeply uncomfortable scene when one character goes rather too far in divulging a fantasy). Ms. Ledoyen is, predictably, lovely, but even she couldn't revive the film; even so, co-screenwriter Danièle Thompson clearly liked her work here since she recycled elements rather shamelessly two years later in the Christmas-set family drama La Bûche.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Les Salauds

2013, France, directed by Claire Denis

Not, I think, Claire Denis's strongest work but certainly bracing in its view of human nature, and in that respect the film leaves a deep mark; the soundtrack by regular collaborators Tindersticks is both hypnotic and distressing at times, really adding to the saturated atmosphere. However, the central depiction of the rich as terrible human beings is perhaps lacking in a certain originality. More worrying was what seemed like a degree of predictability. The problem isn't so much repetition -- Denis has used some of the same techniques over and over, often to invigorating effect -- but rather the way in which things like the appearance of her fetish actors came to seem distracting -- oh look, right on cue, here's Alex Descas. And Grégoire Colin! Vincent Lindon, though, is brilliant -- the most exhausted looking man in French film since Alain Delon's heyday. Lindon hasn't always been in perfect films, but his performances over the last ten years or so are never the weak point. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Picture Show Man

1977, Australia, directed by John Power

A feather-light film by comparison with much of 1970s Australian cinema, this is still a wonderfully enjoyable romp -- exploring a more distant cinematic past to that of Newsfront with some of the same peripatetic spirit but less ambition to social commentary. The great pleasure is seeing John Meillon in a very rare front-and-center role: so memorable as a sidekick or character actor in everything from Wake in Fright to Crocodile Dundee, here he even gets to show off his song and dance skills. Harold Hopkins is well cast as his son, too: sometimes, he's a bit too caffeinated for my taste, but the youthful energy works well on this occasion. Less successful is the return down under of Rod Taylor as Meillon's nemesis: Taylor seems removed from the spirit of the enterprise both in accent and attitude and I'm sure a locally-based actor like Ray Barrett could have done more with the role.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

L'Etoile du Nord

1982, France, directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre

Although it has a reasonably interesting colonial/exotic backdrop, Pierre Granier-Deferre is no Bertrand Tavernier (think Coup de Torchon), or even a Pierre Schoendoerffer, and his film shines brightest when it's at its most conventional, as a two-hander between two old pros, Philippe Noiret comments on the actress's attitude toward her changing looks.
and Simone Signoret (in her final film role). It says much about the actors that they can infuse such potentially mawkish material with real conviction, enough to earn a charge of genuine emotion at the film's conclusion. Incidentally, I can't watch one of Signoret's later roles without thinking of Farran Smith Nehme's acutely insightful

Friday, August 29, 2014

Le Crabe-tambour

1977, France, directed by Pierre Schoendoerffer

A compelling film on several levels: the colonial backdrop is convincingly sketched, while the film's structure, filled with flashbacks to several different time periods, plays with the viewer's sense of time in ways that ensure you are constantly on your guard. Despite the obviously constructed aspect to the story, there's also a realism that's at times almost literally queasy, since the film's present is set on board a naval vessel patrolling the stormy waters off the Newfoundland coast. Best of all, though, are the performances -- Jean Rochefort in a performance of extraordinary restraint, even by his standards, but with fine support from both Claude Rich and Jacques Perrin, the latter playing the kind of character who would seem to belong to high mythology if it weren't for the fact that he's based on a real French officer.


List of all movies

Most of the images here are either studio publicity stills or screen captures I've made myself; if I've taken your image without giving you credit, please let me know.

About Me

Boston, Massachusetts, United States