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A woman leaves an abusive relationship to begin a new life in a new city, where she forms an unlikely and ironic relationship with a suicidal hit man (unbeknownst to her). Enter a worn, alcoholic detective to form the third party in a very unusual triangle as this story begins to unfold. Written by
The most poetic crime drama you'll ever see in your miserable life
The main character doesn't say a word for the first half hour. But in that half hour, if we're paying attention, we get more insight into the depths of a man's soul than if we had just read his 500-page autobiography.
The Merry Gentleman is billed as a crime drama, but that label hardly does it justice. The same way "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold" broke the spy genre, the same way "2001: A Space Odyssey" broke the scifi genre, the same way "Pink Floyd -The Wall" ain't no average musical, this film is anything but your average crime drama. For starters, there's not a single car chase, gunfight, blimp explosion or any of the standard crime drama clichés. Instead, the tension & suspense is masterfully built around secrets. We begin with a secret which only the main character and the audience know. Then there is a secret which the 2nd character only knows (which the audience must slowly piece together). And finally, we have the main character's ultimate secret which is so cryptically presented that it may take you a few days of introspection before you figure it out.
This film is very much like a challenging poem whose meaning is elusive at first glance but whose mood & style sinks into your mind over time. Dialogue is sparse, but every line packs a whollop. In particular, pay attention to the analogy of ghosts & angels which crops up several times both verbally & visually. One of the characters says something like "Ghosts and angels are the same, except ghosts are haunted while angels are blessed." OK, it may not mean much at first, but by the end of the film the significance is absolutely beautiful.
Which brings me to the cinematography: absolutely beautiful. I'm no film school student, but I know what images affect me, and these scenes certainly did. Contrast (gleaming white snowflakes at night), perspective (long corridors at the morgue), symmetry (a lonely theatre marquee) and surrealism (a Christmas tree burning in a wheat field) are just some of the artistic touches you have in store. I can honestly say that I cannot think of a finer directoral debut than Michael Keaton in The Merry Gentleman.
I won't even get into the first rate acting, the haunting musical score, or Katie's adorable accent. This movie is just about perfect. The only reason why I'm giving it only 8 stars instead of 10 is that I'm a real hardass.
By the way, DO NOT WATCH THE TRAILER. DO NOT READ THE DVD DESCRIPTION. AVOID ALL DISCUSSION OF PLOT. This movie is best enjoyed if you know absolutely nothing about the story. The challenge (and the fun) will be even greater.
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