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Archive for December 5th, 2012

by Mark Smith

This taunt, this partial exchange between two “old pals” from different social castes who detest each other neatly encapsulates the dark comic impudence of  Kind Hearts and Coronets, the 1949 Ealing crown jewel that sparkles blackly with class snobberies and cruelties, ironies and insults, blackmail and, most famously and funnily, serial murder (since this is a comedy countdown we’ll pass over Dead of Night an earlier Ealing gem, a frightful anthology thriller that’s hardly a side-splitter).

Even the film’s opening credit sequence has wit. Because at this late date we already know the story’s insidious content, the title card resembles a bit of Edwardiana, but the lacy border could adorn the lid on a box of poison chocolates, or maybe it’s a doily waiting to be laid out for tea served with a dollop of arsenic. An aria from Mozart’s Don Giovanni plays serenely on the soundtrack — another good touch since opera and revenge figure prominently in the plot (plus it’s the sort of cultivated music this clan of cultivated monsters would listen to).

Director Robert Hamer, who worked on an episode of Dead of Night has struck just the right visual and musical chord in this satirical overture to cold and calculated killing among the ranks of the genteel circa 1900, Britain’s “great period in murder, our Elizabethan period, so to speak…roughly between 1850 and 1925,” according to Orwell. The period of Jack the Ripper.

Dennis Price plays Louis D’Ascoyne Mazzini, a poor relation recently ascended to the title of 10th Duke of Chalfont, and we meet him on the eve of his execution, just finishing up his memoirs, the elegant Mazzini neck about to be snapped by the noose (back of said neck seen in intimate close-up, our first view of the villain). Mazzini’s rise to the dukedom began in poverty and humiliation when his beloved mama, the daughter of a Chalfont duke, was disowned by her family after eloping with a commoner, that “Italian organ grinder,” who’s really an opera tenor — Dennis Price himself, playing in mustachioed opera bouffe style (Guinness isn’t the only actor here gifted in versatility). (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

(South Korea, 104 min)

It’s hard to confront a director as controversial as Kim Ki-duk, specially when you have only heard about his controversial nature and have to judge it in some way based on the only movie you’ve seen of him: his latest. I know I should’ve seen some other films by this famous korean director before, but they have eluded me for the longest time, even though most people would think the contrary after seeing my interest in asian filmmaking in general, and korean culture in particular, he is a director that is usually mentioned when the korean industry is being talked about, specially since he seems to be on the outside making festival-pleasing movies that usually get selected to play in competition and/or usually win some prizes, as it’s been the case with his two past films. There’s even been some controversy regarding his last win, for the film that has summoned us today, because it was in competition in the Venice International Film Festival, and the Golden Lion was to be given to ‘The Master’ (2012), but at the last moment it was given to the south korean film… was it worthy of the prize given? I don’t know, because I haven’t seen ‘The Master’ yet (damn you, international distributors), but at least the word was flowing and Arirang was sung, and so all the people in the world were actually saying how Tom Cruise was involved in the final “snub” given to the P.T. Anderson film. Anyway, the film has arrived at some doorsteps, in this case mine, and I’ve been able to give it a look to see how actually controversial the film is, and given the fuzz that was out on how this was undeserving… I really can’t see why! I’t s a well done piece of filmmaking that manages to make you cringe, feel deep emotions and wonder all the time if this is how we actually act as human beings, or maybe this is being filmed in another planet, but that is just false hope, you know, we are indecent human beings with disgusting reactions, and that’s how we deserve to die. Kim Ki-duk, everyone, Kim Ki-duk. (more…)

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