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Archive for March 18th, 2009

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by Sam Juliano

One of the crowning glories of 50’s science-fiction, Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, based on a short story by Jack Finney, still enthralls both genre buffs and those riveted by the notion of the fantastic seeming perfectly credible.  The story of seed pods replicating living people and changing them into emotion-less conformists who communally work towards a world order without love or compassion, offers no obstacles to believability, and leads to the most unthinkable of nightmares.  Allied Artists were themselves so caught up in the hopelessness of this “psychological siege” that they forced Siegel to add a prologue which intimated that mankind would be saved.

     The film was re-made in 1977, with Phillip Kaufman at the helm, but it lacked the original’s brilliant pacing, which has the excitement building all the way to the denouement.  Siegel employs a number of devices that keep the film in full-throttle, like characters always in motion, racing their cars, and spying each other through windows, blind and glass doors and reaching a level of unbearable tension in the scenes in the cave where the two lead characters hide beneath the wooden boards, after being chased up the steps of a long and very steep hill.  Siegel employs subtlety to great effect too, like the scene when the fleeing couple attempt to feign transformation to the soulless beings that are taking over the small town, only to be betrayed by one’s scream as a dog is about to be struck by a car.  The race against time and in the instance of this film, the struggle to stay awake, is woven into the fabric of it’s sense of urgency.  No less an authority than Jean-Luc Godard quotes the film in his futuristic Alphaville, and Francois Truffaut makes reference to it in Fahrenheit 451.  It is even suggested by UCLA Film Professor Maurice Yacowar (whose running commentary on the Criterion laserdisc in the early 90’s was one of the famous and controversial ever recorded) that maybe even the great playwright Eugene Ionesco was thinking of the film’s fearful “pods” when he wrote his absurdist masterpiece Rhinoceros, where humankind turns into thick-skinned, insensitive, conformist rhinos–pods on the hoof. (more…)

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pickpocket-1-copy 

by Allan Fish

(France 1959 75m) DVD1/2

It was more down to luck than skill

p  Agnes Delahaie  d/w  Robert Bresson  ph  Léonce-Henry Burel  ed  Raymond Lamy  m  Jean-Baptiste Lully  art  Pierre Charbonnier

Martin Lassalle (Michel), Marika Green (Jeanne), Pierre Leymarie (Jacques), Jean Pelegri (Inspector), Pierre Etaix (Accomplice), Kassagi (Master Pickpocket), Dolly Scal (Michel’s mother), César Gattegno (Detective),

Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket is a film that represents his visual and emotional apogee, a film that demonstrates his feelings about humanity in a nutshell.  He made other masterpieces for sure, two of which I have already discussed, but none were as dear to his heart as this loosely based adaptation and update of Dostoyevsky.  To quote the opening caption, “using image and sound, the filmmaker strives to express the nightmare of a young man whose weakness leads him to commit acts of theft for which nothing destined him.”  But though nothing destined him for it, he takes to it like the proverbial mallard to H2O. 

            A young man, Michel, who has been forced to give up his studies for financial reasons, steals a purse from a crocodile skin handbag at Longchamp racecourse and, though caught and questioned by police, he is released for lack of evidence.  The death of his mother from an unnamed illness briefly turns him back to the light, before a meeting with a master pickpocket gets him embroiled in a thieving syndicate.  However, when his two accomplices are arrested at the Gare de Lyon and he realises his friend Jeanne loves him, he bolts abroad and doesn’t return for a few years.  He returns to find Jeanne with a young baby by his other friend Jacques, whom she refused to marry.  Returning to thieving to sustain them, he is caught and arrested, only then realising his love for Jeanne. (more…)

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