Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Tom Tykwer tackles the conspiracy thriller flick, mixing up Hitchcock, Frederick Forsyth, Alan Pakula, and Jason Bourne, armed with considerable weaponry: Clive Owen, an unabashedly lefty screenplay by Eric Warren Singer, and superb cinematography by Frank Griebe. Owen plays Louis Salinger, an Interpol agent and former British cop with a grudge against IBBC, a colossal global bank, which has become in essence arms dealer and purse strings-holder for third world potentates.
With a fellow agent, a contact within the bank, and an Italian magnate-slash-presidential candidate with the goods to blow the bank’s cover are all killed within hours of each-other, Salinger, rendered increasingly desperate, aided by a Manhattan Assistant DA, Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), attempts to locate the bank’s favourite assassin (Brian F. O’Byrne), their only apparent ticket to unravelling the dirty operations of the near-omnipotent organisation.
The result: a riveting thriller that effectively envisions modern high capitalism as the exemplar of feudal prerogative, assassination and bribery envisioned as merely the blunt end of globalised banking. It dispenses thankfully with the pseudo-profundities of Michael Clayton and gets down and dirty with a grandiose shoot-out in the
The film succumbs to some plodding last act twists, and
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
As hard as I found it to forgive the Wachowski brothers for the execrable conclusion to The Matrix series after two passable but badly overrated instalments, I have to admit that Bound, their debut, is pretty damned good; even, possibly, a small classic. Sold as a lesbian film noir, which it is indeed, but in a slightly unexpected fashion, it essentially makes a pretty obvious twist on the standard formula of the genre, where a lonely, alienated, rough-trade hero becomes smitten by a femme fatale and drawn into her double-crossing schemes.
The quirk here is that the regulation hero-schmuck is instead lean hunk of love Gina Gershon, recently released ex-con Miss-Fix-It, Corky. Her new partner in crime and the sack, sultry minx Violet (Jennifer Tilly), defines her relations with mob accountant Ceasar (Joe Pantoliano) and some of his gangland friends as “work”, as she looks for an angle to escape her life as a plaything for rich assholes.
Bound’s use of a strictly limited setting (most of it takes place in two adjoining apartments) and a small, strong cast playing out intricate games in a ticking-clock scenario, replicates the disciplines of classic genre works with unexpected precision, with the added pleasures of contemporary, punchy sex and violence, and some well-described characters. Gershon, as suave here as she ever was in her brief moment of stardom, is a pleasure, but Tilly’s one-note performance doesn’t match up, making it easier for Pantoliano to wrap the movie around his little finger, in an epic performance mixing hysteria, malevolence, and pathos. His demise is a beautifully Hitchockian moment. There’s also a wonderful contribution by John P. Ryan as his vicious overlord with a latent romantic streak.
Gershon, as suave here as she ever was in her brief moment of stardom, is a pleasure, but Tilly’s one-note performance doesn’t match up, making it easier for Pantoliano to wrap the movie around his little finger, in an epic performance mixing hysteria, malevolence, and pathos. His demise is a beautifully Hitchockian moment. There’s also a wonderful contribution by John P. Ryan as his vicious overlord with a latent romantic streak.
Happy recollections of a movie slightly disappointed: distinctly overlong and terribly mushy in its first third, Curie takes a long time to get to the phase that justifies its existence, the lengthy and riveting sequences of Pierre (Walter Pidgeon) and Marie (Greer Garson) relentlessly working through their obsession with locating that pesky new element radium. Here, director Mervyn Le Roy works with Joseph Ruttenberg’s excellent, atmospheric photography to conjure a fervent envisioning of scientific research and marital bliss as both requiring backbreaking labour and almost saintly dedication, leading to the priceless moment of the loving couple entwined above the eerily glowing dish of distilled energy which is as much symbol as element.
Pidgeon is uncharacteristically adept at playing
Mulder and Scully return, a little older and a lot more world-weary: although it proved the brand’s waning cultural potency and disappointed everyone still waiting to find out what was going on with all that black goo and alien conspiracy jazz, and is in essence an episode of the show writ large, this film is actually quite good. It helps that it retains, and indeed emphasises, the series’ key ambiguities, the mature approach to its characters and their world views, and the often cryptic, eliding approach to its generic conceits, the barely glimpsed atrocities and overall atmosphere of oppressive angst.
Simultaneously, it toys with the familiar, adding a likable element of new raffishness to the central twosome, who have long since become a strange kind of couple, with Mulder wryly satirising his own nerdish rants and Scully crashing intolerantly through situations she would have once handled with kid gloves. Amanda Peet makes a fine contribution as a conscientious FBI officer, and Billy Connelly is unexpectedly restrained and effective as a psychic with a dire past. The success of this film’s mixture of dry humour and dark moodiness confirms that the show was never meant to support that heavyweight superstructure of its increasingly incoherent central plot, and that its real pleasure was in its humane characters contend with a dark and threatening universe. As Michael Chabon said of H.P. Lovecraft, one otherworldly monster is hilarious; perceiving a universe filled only with them is profoundly disturbing.