Thursday, September 03, 2009

My Week of Movie Watching

Crime Wave – Simple, yet enormously effective Noir from 1954, directed by Andre De Toth. The story has been done hundreds of times – Earnest ex-con gets pulled back into crime. This one succeeds mainly because of a gritty, almost doc-like look. Sterling Hayden plays a tough, fast-talking cop. Charles Buchinsky (aka Bronson) is here, as is an uncredited Timothy Carey. Recommended.

Watchmen – The natural progression from Batman, The Crow, Dark City, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow continues in this black-as-tar, but visually thrilling entry into the superhero genre. This film does a fabulous job of doing something that I love, but seldom see in movies – It moves the good guys and bad guys so close together that they are indistinguishable from each other. This was the directors’ cut, running to 180 minutes plus, and I’m not sure all the extra detail was needed. I’m such a dork as to make a mental checklist of film references when I watch something like this, and I was busy in this one: Blade Runner and Batman for sure, but also Dr. Strangelove, The Graduate, Raging Bull, and Conrad Viedt. Neat.

Decoy – This bargain basement Noir from 1946 was a strange viewing experience. It begins with a preposterous plot to bring an executed mobster back to life. I stayed with it, however, and it picked up steam, big-time. The central figure is the girl friend of the mobster (and everyone else in the film), played by Jean Gillie. She is the ultimate double-crossing femme fatale as she goes after a hidden cache of money. The finale is sweetly ironic. Recommended.

The Kid Stays in the Picture – The story of Robert Evans, as told by the man himself. Evans was the head of Paramount during the late sixties and seventies, an era that saw the studio turn out stuff like Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, Chinatown, and The Godfather. Evans narrates over a scrapbook-like montage of images, and he is refreshingly candid about both his triumphs and disasters – Regarding his discovery that wife Ali McGraw was having an affair with Steve McQueen: “How could I have been so fucking dumb?” Highly Recommended.

La Terre – 1921 adaptation of the Emile Zola novel has strong Learish notes. An elderly farmer divides his land amongst his three good-for-nothing children, with tragic consequences. This was generally well done, although I had some difficulty keeping track of the female characters. Shot on location near Chartes, France.

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