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Swingers (1996)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
In 1996, Jon Favreau establishes the lingo, philosophy and dating apparatus for single 20-something males in the new millenium, 9 September 2003

In a single word- Money! I first saw this film in 1998 as a buddy of mine brought it home from the video store when I was trying to get over a girl. It worked! Five years later, finding myself in the same predicament, I go to the video store- it worked again!

What could be justly labeled a step-by-step video on social aptitude in the new millenium, "Swingers" lays out the guidelines for today's single man. How long do you wait before calling a girl whose digits you just got? How do you wing your boy? What are the perils of decending to "teddy bear and ice cream" discussions with a girl? Why do you want to be the guy from the R-rated movie instead of the guy from the PG-13-rated movie guy? How do you succeed in showing a girl how money you really are? Favreau's script provides these and many other useful tips for the modern male hoping to survive life in the dating scene.

Favreau's character, Mike Peters, is an aspiring actor who works an open-mike night at a local comedy club. Moving to L.A. from Queens to help himself get over his girlfriend of five years and seeking fame, Mike is down--really down--by his inability to shake her from his system. The melancholy romantic is consoled by his friend from back home in Queens, Rob (played by "Office Space" star Ron Livingston); but it is the antics of his savvy and street-wise sidekick Trent "Tee" Walker (masterfully played by Vince Vaughn).

With T-bone's coaxing and pushing, Mikey is forced back into the dating scene. Rusty at first, he eventually learns to cope and the film culminates in an impressive dénouement and an ending that has me on the edge of my seat, my eyes a-glow and my fists clenched in victory.

This film is full of cinematic treats as well. From Scorcese and Tarantino parodies that follow discussion of the two directors to a cruise down the Vegas strip to walking shots through Hollywood clubs, Swingers has the feel of a late night at a club or an evening at home with the boys playing hockey on Sega Genesis. Other interesting and original eye-candy is to be found in the repetition of "the Club" in everyone's car, in the way each key player drives his own car in an almost funeral procession way and in the form of a communicable answering machine. Although often--erroneously--labeled asrealistic or retro, the formalistic traits of this film are quite amusing and worth looking out for.

In the end of the day, Swingers is an exceptional film--entertaining from start to finish, smart, classy and all a man needs to succeed in today's dating world. The film leads you--or at least me--to re-evaluate things and realize how money you really were all along. And the hope is rejuvenated: somewhere in some smoky, swing club is a beautiful baby--my Heather Graham--waiting for me at the end of the bar.

4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Bob, a high-roller from Montmartre's glory days, decides to ante up one last time, 16 June 2003

In this classic film by Jean-Pierre Melville, Bob (Roger Duchesne), a brigand from the glory days of pre-war Montmartre has served hard time due to his refusal to use violence in a famous bank robbery. His techniques made famous while in prison, Bob returns to Montmartre to find it changed into a bourgeois wasteland. Finding racketeering too dangerous a trade, Bob turns to gambling and finds himself rendered sterile by his compulsive gambling. Finding himself on a long losing streak, Bob decides to end the drought when alerted to the possibility of pulling off the biggest heist in history--the 800 million franc robbery of the impenetrable casino in Deauville. When things don't go exactly as planned, Bob is lured once again by chance. What will be the result?

A classic tale of the chasm between old and new, pre-war and post-war and the inability to adapt to change, Melville makes this very clear in the opening scenes with a masterful shot of the funiculaire separating the basilica of Sacré Coeur from the red-light district of Pigalle, accompanied by a musical scale implying descent and Melville's voice over saying Montmartre represents two worlds--heaven and hell.

Belonging to the old world, Bob remembers the days of plenty, the pre-bourgeois, pre-nazi days of prosperity, finding himself blasé and used up by the new world. Having all but given up on himself, he has taken in a protegé Paolo (Daniel Cauchy), who he attempts to form in the old method, with an abhorrence of the pimps, sharks and outsiders who found the war a prime opportunity to bring their instituttions to decadent Montmartre. Having allowed himself to be imprisoned to save the life of Paolo's father, Bob, who knew no father growing up, becomes the paternal figure for Paolo, surrendering everything to him, including the love of Anne, a gorgeous young woman "well-developed for her age" (Isabelle Corey, then only 16 years old).

Realizing he'd ceded everything to Paolo, which is represented by the image of a broken Bob returning home at the early hours of the morning to find Paolo asleep in his bed, having triumphed at seducing Anne and hitting the jackpot on Bob's personal slot machine--something Bob had yet to do; Bob decides to surrender games of chance and after a 20-year hiatus from crime, return for the big payoff.

Tipped by a nightclub owner and gambling accomplice, Roger (André Garet), Bob, Paolo and a team of safecrackers join forces with Roger in the seemingly-impossible task of cracking the Deauville casino's state-of-the-art safe. When a tough, no-nonsence Parisian police commissioner (Guy Decomble), who'd befriended Bob when he'd saved his life also, is clued in on the robbery, he does all he can to stop the robbery without having to place his old friend behind bars. When things go awry with the heist, Bob is lured once again to the stakes of chance, showing the impossibility of living in two worlds.

In a plot thickly interwoven with intriguing characters, sub-plots, love, envy, deceit and passion, we have a tale that clearly depicts the separation of the old world from the new and the inability of existing in both. Good/evil, old/new, heaven/hell, chance/action--many binary opposites work together to create this masterpiece. A bittersweet ending decides the fates of the endearing characters, Bob, Paolo and the lovely Anne, completely dismantling all that was forged throughout the film.

Film noir meets the game of love and chance in Melville's masterpiece, one of the greatest films of all time whose influence can be found in all that has come after. A benchmark in the crime genre and a classic in camerawork with the shots of Montmartre, the roulette wheel, etc., this game of chance, with its binary opposites and characters torn between two worlds is a must see for all lovers of cinema and French film noir and policier films.

Topkapi (1964)
17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Classic Jewel Heist à la Jean Reno set in Istanbul, 14 June 2003

With beautiful camerawork in Istanbul and Greece and an equally intriguing plot, Jules Dassin brings to the screen a film worthy to be considered alongside his masterpieces "Du rififi chez les hommes" and "Naked City". Peter Ustinov follows up his Oscar-winning performance in "Spartacus" with a second award for best supporting actor, while playing a "schmo"--a lowly, disgraceful, British rogue living in Greece as the self-proclaimed "un-crowned king of the nightlife": Arthur Simon Simpson. Getting involved in much more than he bargained for, Simpson enters a ring of double-crosses as an informer for Turkish Intelligence while still hoping to line his pockets with filthy lucre.

The show, however, is stolen by the seductive, raspy-voiced Elizabeth Lipp, played by Greek beauty Melina Mercouri (who was also in the starring role of Dassin's "Phaedra" two years earlier--as well as "Pote tin Kyriaki" (1960), "La Legge" (1958), and "Celui qui doit mourir" (1957)--and whom the director would marry two years later). The curvy enchantress draws in Walter Harper (Maximilian Schell) and Cedric Page (Robert Morley I), offering them their cut on the biggest heist ever--the theft of the sultan's jewel-encrusted dagger from the Istanbul Museum.

However, there is a problem. The museum is impenetrable, equipped with a state-of-the-art alarm system that requires a strong man to hoist an acrobat from above the museum and slowly lower him into the treasure trove while avoiding security (à la "Mission Impossible" and "Oceans Eleven"). An unattended, even ironic, ending makes this film a classic in the genre as the dénouement keeps the viewer attached to the screen all the way up to the credits.

Not quite the masterpiece of a "Bob le Flambeur" or "Rififi", this film is in the top ten of its genre and is crucial in its intrigue and influence on future heist ("casse") films. Highly enjoyable, with the right balance of humor, suspense and allure (thanks to Melina Mercouri) to establish it as a touchstone in the genre, Dassin's caper is a cinema classic.

23 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
Before there was Bogart..., 12 June 2003

In the greatest gangster film of all time, Duvivier brings to the silver screen a gripping tale of love, passion, friendship and loyalty, as Pépé le Moko (Jean Gabin) reclusively hides in the seedy, underground of the Casbah quarters of Algiers. Elusive and dangerous, Pépé is considered one of France's most wanted at-large criminals. However, upon meeting a beautiful "parisienne", Gaby Gould (Mireille Balin), Pépé discovers that his heart is in Paris. Willing to risk his life and freedom to pursue his new love, Pépé takes to the streets of Algiers to find Gaby.

An enlightening look at French Algeria in the early 20th-century, Pépé le Moko is a cultural and historical masterpiece as much as it is a classic film. Examining the diversity of the inhabitants of the Casbah and exploring its architectural layout, this film provides for an extremely interesting postcolonial, anthropological, even Freudian (architectural) reading.

The friendship that develops between Inspector Slimane (Lucas Gridoux), a native Algerian investigator sent to capture the fugitive, and Pépé adds an element of perplexity, as the inspector is caught in a crux of friendship and loyalty and his duty to the state.

What ensues is a heartwrenching scene between the disconsolate gangster pursuing his beloved Gaby while being pursued by his inspector friend and the French Algerian police. One of the greatest endings in the history of film, Duvivier exposes the sovereignty of the heart, even the heart of a brazen criminal.

Duvivier's best effort and the greatest gangster film ever, this film ranks in my top ten of all-time. To truly understand Humphrey Bogart, Edward Robinson, Robert Mitchum and Al Pacino, one must first discover Jean Gabin, the archetype gangster for the crime genre. Duvivier's masterpiece is a film that all lovers of cinema simply must see.

55 out of 78 people found the following review useful:
Psychoanalysis in Cinema, 4 June 2003

As a follow up to his monumental documentary "Nuit et brouillard" (Night and Fog), Resnais continues in his war motif with a chilling and powerful statement on the post-modernist, post-war world. An incarnation of a Marguerite Duras screen-play, "Hiroshima mon amour" depicts the confusion surrounding an eracinated and war-stricken people.

Questioning the possibility of Mimesis--"Tu n'as rien vu à Hiroshima. Rien!" (You saw nothing in Hiroshima. Nothing!)-- Resnais rejects the notion of re-creation or imitation, conforming to the philosophies of Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida and thus calling into question his own efforts in "Nuit et brouillard." At the same time, he adheres to the Aristotelian ideal that the purpose of Mimesis is the cathartic effect produced by pity and terror, and not merely the representation.

Appealing also to Freudian psychoanalysis, the characters are forced to re-examine the effects of the pathology in attempt to reconstruct the past and determine the cause. (Notice Resnais' use of lighting in the reconstruction scene.) Subtle clues throughout enable the viewer to piece together the story and perform their own psychoanalysis of the situation. A young woman from Nevers, France vows to "never" return to her hometown and the viewer is left to determine the cause.

In my opinion, one of the top ten films of all time, "Hiroshima mon amour" is a work of art that all lovers of cinema must see. Resnais is a cinematographic genius, and his ambivalent depiction of post-war Japan and France in the characters of "Him" and "Her" make this film a cultural landmark as well as masterpiece of post-war, post-modernist art.