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Archive for March, 2011

Director: Robert Siodmak

Producer: Michael Kraike

Screenwriter: Daniel Fuchs

Cinematographer: Franz Planer

Music: Miklos Rozsa

Studio: Universal 1949

Main Acting: Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, Dan Duryea

A beautiful arial shot of dusky Los Angeles is our introduction into the lives of doomed couple, Steve Thompson ( Burt Lancster) and Anna Dundee (Yvonne De Carlo): two lovers who can’t seem to stay apart despite all the negative aspects that arise when they are together. Told in flashback after about 12 minutes of real-time narrative, we are treated to the particulars of this complicated romance. Steve left his comfortable surroundings and local neighborhood to get away from the woman he could not cope with emotionally. He hopes that the forced distance and non-communication could extinguish some of the passion he knows is hurtful to both of them. On his return, the obsession is still tangible and he can’t help but drop into the “old place” to get a glimpse of his beloved ex-wife. The saloon is basically empty except for past ghosts that still haunt Steve. As hard as he tries to run from his former life, the pull is too great. This is what Criss Cross is about—inescapable memories and failures that continue to influence future activities. No matter how obvious it appears to Steve that he and Anna are not good for each other, they will continue to remain intwined by some seemingly larger force that will eventually destroy them. A deadly dance of fate and preordained misery. (more…)

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Director and Producer: Orson Welles

Screenwriters: Orson Welles, William Castle, Charles Lederer, and Fletcher Markle

Cinematographer: Charles Lawton Jr, Rudolph Mate, and Joseph Walker

Music: Heinz Roemheld

Studio: Columbia Pictures 1948

Main Acting: Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles

Double and triple crosses. A femme fatale with dubious motivations. A scheming rich husband. Unsympathetic characters with few redemptive qualities. I could be describing the majority of film noirs. I could also be describing The Lady From Shanghai. Welles got to direct his then beautiful wife Rita Hayworth and does the most perverse thing imaginable…he orders her to cut her flaming red hair short and bleach it blonde. Take the biggest female star at the time and render her unrecognizable—what more proof could you need to acknowledge that Welles was someone who welcomed controversy and thrived on tension and conflict. To make matters worse—or more appealing, depending on whom you ask—he created an ultra-convoluted story that is hard to follow and even more difficult to decipher. In fact, the knotted complexity of Welles’ noir classic picks up right at the beginning with Michael O’ Hara’s tongue-twisting opening monologue that begins: (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK/France 1954 103m) not on DVD

Aka. Monsieur Ripois

No more Manchester puddings

p  Paul Graetz  d  René Clément  w  Hugh Mills, René Clément  novel  “M.Ripois et la Nemesis” by Louis Hémon  ph  Oswald Morris  ed  Vera Campbell, François Javet  m  Roman Vlad  art  Ralph W.Brinton 

Gérard Philipe (André Ripois), Valerie Hobson (Catherine Ripois), Natasha Parry (Patricia), Joan Greenwood (Nora), Margaret Johnston (Anne), Germaine Montero (Marcelle), Diana Decker (Diana), Martin Benson (Art), Eric Pohlmann (landlord),

It is always delightful to walk in a city one loves, but to do so in pursuit of a woman, that is better still.”  Question, starter for ten, no conferring; name the city?  Only a Frenchman, right?  Paris?  Non, think again.  Roll through the rest of the great French cathedral cities, still non.  Exasperated I give you the answer…London.  No, that cannot be.  No Englishman would say anything so continental.  And you’d be right, no Englishman did.  Yet it’s still London all the same. 

            Knave of Hearts is better known as Monsieur Ripois, but that refers to the French language version of the same film.  That film can be tracked down, but how many know and have seen the English language original?  How many indeed have heard its star Gérard Philipe use the king’s modern Anglo-Saxon?  Sadly, the answer to both questions for many would not be in the affirmative.  I only finally got to see the film myself thanks to a friend’s generosity and when I did, it’s safe to say that it was like a breath of air being let in on a warm summer’s day (OK, it’s only May as I write, but it’s been warm enough).  (more…)

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Paul Giamatti with first-time actor Alex Shaffer in Tom McCarthy's superlative suburban drama "Win Win"

by Sam Juliano

     Tom McCarthy has won the trifecta after his third turn at directing, and he’s done so in impressive ascending order.  To boot he’s proven he’s exceedingly gifted with actors.  After the New Jersey native made a star out of dwarf thespian Peter Dinklage in the off-beat The Station Agent, he took on more audacious subject matter in his moving immigration saga, The Visitor, which yielded the finest performance in veteran Richard Jenkins’ career.  Now, with the aptly titled Win Win McCarthy gets two chemistry-fueled top-flight performances from Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan and a star-making turn from a high school wrestler named Alex Shaffer who was found in a talent search.  But performances and deft direction are only a part of the equation as to why this seemingly modestly conceived drama makes a fair claim as the best film of 2011.

     A major hit at the Sundance Film Festival, McCarthy’s film is a winning entertainment that weds acute and perceptive social issues with the big emotions that are mostly flubbed in the big-studio fare.  It’s the kind of film that is all-too-rare in its consummate artistry, as it is in its feat of making familiar issues fresh and engaging.  Win Win is the answer one should pose to those who find all kinds of reasons why they believe American movies lag behind other national cinemas, and it’s a textbook example of how seemingly modest concerns played out on a small stage can yield results so dynamic that the film leaves many more intricate films in the dust as a fully realized emotional experience. (more…)

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Director: John Brahm

Producer: Robert Bassler

Screenwriter: Barre Lyndon

Cinematographer: Joseph LaShalle

Music: Bernard Herrmann

Studio: 20th Century Fox 1945

Main Acting: Laird Cregar and Linda Darnell

John Brahm had a big hit with 1944′s The Lodger. Starring up-and-coming character actor Laird Cregar in the role of Jack The Ripper, the film was a successful remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s silent version in 1926. The popularity of the newer version directly led Twentieth Century Fox to team up Brahm and Cregar again and make another feature together. This time they were entrusted with the adaptation of the novel, Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton. With screenwriter Barre Lyndon also returning to his role, the movie went through some interesting changes from the book. The most important difference, as far as film noir is concerned, had to do with altering the time period in which the novel was placed. A contemporary setting was discarded in favor of a turn-of-the-century period piece that was closer in spirit to The Lodger (if a formula isn’t broken why fix it, must have been Zanuck’s view). The Victorian era so critical to the earlier film was again highlighted to help make Hangover Square a repeat box office sensation. This critical change has led many to: a.) View Hangover Square as something other than noir. And b.) Consider it basically a remake of Brahm’s own The Lodger. (more…)

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Martijn Lakemeir as Michiel in exceptional Dutch film "Winter in Wartime" (Oorlogswinter)

by Sam Juliano

The developments in Japan continue to have us cringing, yet maintaining our confidence that the worst part of this global calamity is now behind us, and that workers are getting the situation under reasonable control.  The mass exodus of course is telling, and our hearts go out to those adversely affected by the disaster and particularly to our friend “Murderous Ink,” in Tokyo, who has heartwrenchingly reported first-hand on the terrible arc of the tragedy that has befallen his countrymen.  It’s always difficult to come up with words at such a time, and so many of us are occupied with our state of affairs, with quite a bit of guilt and helplessness.  We remain very moved at your plight, my friend, and ask if there is anything we can do in your behalf.  As Dee Dee has reported this week, the International Red Cross and other organizations welcome any show of generosity in behalf of the Japanese people directly affected by the terrible events of the past two weeks.  (post script) Marilyn Ferdinand has suggested a worthwhile charity in her comment below.

Back in our hedonist environs, many of us continue to entertain ourselves in the spirit of “life must go on” mode, though certainly with more than a little guilt, a sentiment well express by our dear Longman Oz last week from his Dublin abode.  Maurizio Roca is now approaching the half-way point of his exceedingly popular ‘Film Noir Countdown’ and his last half-dozen essays have showcased some quality writing and some welcome surprises.  Noir fans -or better yet movie fans gleefully await the unveiling of the creme de la creme over the coming weeks.  Allan Fish’s “Fish Obscuro” series, Bob Clark’s animation coverage, Jamie Uhler’s ‘Getting Over the Beatles” series and Jim Clark’s stellar review of Lourdes all made a splash over the past seven days at the sites.  Dee Dee again graced these pages with the results of her latest noir contest and giveaway but I am loathe to discuss the results.  Ha! (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Note – This one’s a personal request for Sam over the phone 5 mins ago

(France 1926 38m) DVD1

A notre père et mère

d/w/ph/ed  Dimitri Kirsanov

Nadia Sibirskaia (younger sister), Yoland Beaulieu (older sister), Guy Belmont (young man), Jean Pasquier,

Dimitri Kirsanov is hardly a name that comes to readily to mind to even the hardiest film buffs.  Yet in the twenties he was a pivotal director in the French avant garde movement, a pioneer of many of the dreamy trick effects that soon were to become commonplace.  Many film buffs know of Man Ray, of Jean Epstein, of Louis Delluc and of the early Jean Vigo, yet Kirsanov remains an enigma, his films lost seemingly in the mists of the past. 

            His most famous film remains Menilmontant, and its many adherents included none other than Pauline Kael.  On one hand, it does have a linear story, and yet on another it seems to make the rules up as it goes along, from scene to scene.  It begins with a famous shot of lace curtains being grabbed at from inside a house.  A door handle is vigorously shaken from within.  A couple emerge frantically from inside, as they are being grabbed by an assailant.  After a feverish struggle, the assailant grabs an axe and murders them both.  Cut then to two teenage girls playing by the nearby river, trying to coax a cat down out of a tree.  The youngest runs off home, but finds a crowd gathered round the bodies of her parents and runs back to the older sister in an understandable hysteria.  We next find them by the graveside of their parents, before time shifts forward – beautifully illustrated by the overgrown nature of their parents’ grave – and we find them in Paris.  (more…)

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