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The Suspect (2013)
Fake bank robbery with devious underpinnings
"The Suspect" (2013) is a neo-noir. Ordinarily, I'd rate a movie of this quality as average (6), but I rate this as 5 for two main reasons. One is that the basic scenario is wildly implausible. A social science experiment like the one portrayed would never get off the ground. The second is that the music is so obtrusive. The tenor of the music at times is what's needed to inject suspense into slower scenes, but too many other times the bass and drum just go on and on and on and too loudly too. The music then disconnects from the action or scene. If you can abide these issues, then I still think you have at best an average movie, with a TV-movie feel and editing. The racial angle is really amateurish, that is, how the suspect baits the cops. However, as neo-noir, it has some neat twists and outcomes that bolster the show.
Schreie in der Nacht (1969)
Seance in Gothic setting reveals past crimes
"The Unnaturals" (1969) comes closest to being a Gothic film. It is a story set mostly in a dark stormy night in an old dark house, the time being sometime in the 1920s for flashbacks and 10 years later for the contemporary portion. The old mansion houses an elderly woman (Marianne Leibl), a spiritualist in a trance and her grown son (Luciano Pigozzi). They promise revelations of past crimes of a set of monied fashionable people who have taken refuge after their car is rendered inoperative by the storm. This theme of past buried secrets and possible current misdeeds reminds me of another very different kind of Gothic film, "Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (1964), also set in an old mansion. Decadence is a Gothic feature as well as aristocratic decline or emptiness of nouveau riche.
Marianne Koch steals the picture playing an interesting lesbian. She's married to Joachim Fuchsberger, but he's too flighty for her and he has extramarital affairs. Her evident and deepest affections are for attractive women. Her desires are powerful and she doesn't stop short of using force and even extortion. She desperately wants a loyal female partner, but the two attempts she makes in the film prove unsatisfactory and then some. Koch simply grabs hold of us when she's on screen, aided by great makeup and great photography that shows her eyes and set of her jaw. Her targets also are interesting.
The rest of the plot unfortunately isn't developed or handled anywhere near as well. The men are much more boring. Claudio Camaso makes an impression but hasn't that much to do. Fuchsberger, whom we know from his fine krimi work, really has pretty much a thankless part. So does his boss (Giuliano Raffaelli). We have to wait a long time before the past crimes are shown and blend into current ones. The script isn't the movie's strong point. It lacks action and development. The climax emphasizes retribution but somehow its impact is not really emotionally impressive, despite a large-scale special effect. What's missing was character development along the way.
I'd rate this 5.5 if I could.
Edge of Darkness (2010)
Mel Gibson is out to find his daughter's murderers
"Edge of Darkness" (2010) is quite a strong picture. The ending has some hokey stuff and one action sequence with Ray Winstone that doesn't add up in my book. There are some character actions that also don't quite gel, but mostly this story of conspiracy hangs together well.
Some of its strength is in Mel Gibson and Ray Winstone, both in their acting and characters. It has kind of a pared down straight-ahead quality that moves the story forward. Gibson's thinking is advancing as the story goes and we see it in new scenes as opposed to having it explained to us verbally, and this is refreshing. Winstone's character is concocted and an amazing invention, but it does distill a picture of a state that covers up its errors and its lawbreaking by various means that confuse and create history spun in its favor.
The story is actually quite hokey and also vague on certain details. Yet the film manages to come across as moored to reality. There's skill shown in doing this.
As far as neo-noir goes, it easily falls into that category.
I enjoyed this one quite a lot. I like Winstone in just about anything. Gibson has won me over. He's sort of like a John Wayne type of actor. You don't think he's acting, but he is and he's doing a darn good job of it. He's a bulldog in this one.
A Lawless Street (1955)
Marshal Randolph Scott fights lawlessness in Medicine Bend
"A Lawless Street" is a solid b-western, directed by veteran Joseph H. Lewis, starring veteran Randolph Scott (who also helped produce the film), and supported by an extensive cast of Hollywood professionals.
The cast is amazing. Even if all the names are unfamiliar, their faces and voices are. Most people will know Wallace Ford. He's the town doctor and friend of Scott, always ready with counsel. Angela Lansbury is a traveling showgirl and singer, the wife of Scott. They've been separated for years, until she is booked into the town. Their love still burns bright, but will she move on or not, because she can't take the violence her husband attracts. Jean Parker, memorable from the 1944 "Bluebeard" is on hand as the wife of a rich rancher (James Bell); she's having an adulterous affair with businessman Warner Anderson. Anderson usually played doctors and military men, upright figures, but here he's very shady. He wants to get rid of Scott and take over the whole town, making money by re-opening the mines. He's in cahoots with John Emery, an actor with a distinctive voice who is memorable in the sci-fi "Kronos" (1957). This pair hires Michael Pate as the gunslinger to take out Scott. Pate has always been an actor in heavy demand. Let's not forget his role as a vampire in the West in "Curse of the Undead". Then, in smaller but notable parts, are Ruth Donnelly, the Warner Brothers veteran, and Jeanette Nolan. Last, there is a big guy named Dan Megowan who did quite a lot of TV work. Among his movie outings is "The Creature Walks Among Us" in which he played the Gill Man.
With a cast like this, it almost doesn't matter that we are watching yet another western. Westerns give us a comfort level and familiarity as a viewer. This one has no outside vistas of beauty. All the action is in and around the main street of the town, which becomes a lawless street. There's an adult western gloss to it, as we get into the characters. But this aspect is not overdone. Director Lewis does what he can to give us some interesting shots. No classic here, but one that I've returned to watch a second time. The people in it seem real and draw us in.
Napoli spara! (1977)
Action galore as Leonard Mann goes after Henry Silva
"Napoli spara!" is high on action, very high. It proceeds in almost an episodic way. It does have a single overriding plot, which is the attempt by police officer Mann to get his man, Santoro, played with his usual charisma and effectiveness by Henry Silva. Silva has the star power that is essential for bringing this film to life and making it hang together.
The plot has the clever feature that Mann unknowingly saves Silva's life from an attack by fellow gangsters who regard him as far too violent and a man who must be stopped. Indeed, Silva is violent as one bank robbery shows. He relishes the dangers and even being chased by police and outwitting them. Subsequently, when Silva has Mann at his mercy, he returns the favor. They're even, going into the last and final phase of Mann's search and destroy mission.
Along the way, there is near constant action, as we see violent Naples. Once I got the idea of how this "story" proceeded by fits and starts, almost being secondary to the action, I realized that this was a creative method of its own. Just relax and let the action flow. It comes first. What this means is that story details and expositions of detective work and transitions are sometimes rushed or omitted or rely on coincidence.
It's all a bit slapdash. Yet there is logic to it. A purse snatching team on a motorcycle is pursued by a taxi driver who actually is a cop, and he was introduced by picking up a fare at her apartment. She is a totally minor character who, nonetheless, is completely and beautifully nude when he arrives, and she nonchalantly acts as if this is completely normal. The taxi driver then hooks up with Mann as part of his team. You see, it all makes perfect sense. Later on, this team holds up a card game being played by gang leaders, and a letter is found in the wallet of one that provides another link. So it goes.
Then, as part of the landscape of crime we are being shown, we are suddenly at a park where a child molester attempts to make off with a little girl. People spot him and are beating him up when Mann arrives. He's a very busy cop. The molester ends up in jail where other inmates castrate him. During this ruckus, Silva, who has earlier been captured, makes his escape. You see, it all ties together.
In this way, by methods of story-telling that seem to be unique to the Italian crime films of this entertaining era, we get virtually non-stop action and interest. Character is not a big high point. It is attempted when Mann tries to reform a ragamuffin who lives and hustles on the streets. This diverts the film from its otherwise tough course.
A londoni férfi (2007)
Miroslav Krobot witnesses a crime, recovers the loot, and tries to live with his secrets
"The Man from London" is the first Bela Tarr movie I've watched, so I'm hardly in a position to evaluate his work critically. I'll say right off, I like it very, very much, so much so that, although I would easily rate it an 8, I've gone to a 10 to indicate a judgment that this movie will stand the test of time and be regarded as excellent. Whatever, it certainly belongs near the upper end of the scale.
This is a film noir done in 2007, so we have to call it neo-noir, but that's only a category. This film is very original and much more.
What does this film have? Tremendous cinematography. The scenes and faces will not be forgotten. The emotions conveyed by the actors will register strongly. What you are seeing will draw you in to a high degree.
For Tarr, location is extremely important. Locations become characters. The people are very important. The interaction of the two then becomes very important.
Tarr is expressing himself in his take on cinematic language and adding to that language. He is like an innovative jazz musician, but he is working in film. The communication goes beyond story and plot, way beyond. We are dealing with far more, because we see a facsimile of life, but one that's not real life at all but images and people with whom we journey for a time as they go through their lives. The movie form of expression is very deep and can be improvised in many new directions. Tarr here has used long and unbroken takes as his language. He has used light and darkness. He has used offscreen voices, as when the detective counsels the wife of the slain thief. He has used confining locations, adjacent to the ocean. Even eating a bowl of stew or a thin soup or sweeping out water from a shop play a part, and so does its hateful owner. Overhearing conversations plays a part, and so does the weight of conscience. The misunderstanding and poverty and suppressed feelings of anger and frustration at 25 years of poverty show up in Krobot's wife. His dreary and endless routine of undressing, sleeping, eating and working come in, and so does his paternal love of his daughter. It is no wonder that Krobot will buy a fur for his daughter, and again we see Tarr mercilessly skewer the merchants.
Krobot tries to help the murderer, and it leads to a tragic result. He is well cast. His features, his very trudging, are superbly employed in Tarr's palette. So also are the other actors well cast.
The IMDb plot summary is quite detailed. I need not repeat it. The story is simple. A man sees a murder, recovers the loot, and then lives with the consequences. It's what Tarr does with this story in bringing it to life that counts. The details count, from clothing to a look of apprehension on Krobot's face, to drying out damp money, and to the suspicions of the experienced police inspector. Tarr has watched over every detail and made them all significant.
The ways that the camera pans are often technically astonishing. It is not how we human beings see things ordinarily. It is a technical art being used to enhance, focus and deepen how we feel and experience. It is natural in the sense of being made into vision, but yet it is art, it is constructed. The point of it is to express the emotions at a wordless level that the person on screen is feeling, and at the same time to communicate a feeling directly to us the viewers. It has two purposes at a minimum.
Year of the Gun (1991)
Rather tedious below-par thriller
Why are movies released that have several of the possibly more suspenseful and/or informative scenes in a foreign language and unsubtitled? It's so easy to make subtitles. This is incomprehensible. I find the same thing in Killing Zoe as here.
That's a side issue. This isn't a terrible movie but it's not very good either. It just proceeds along its way without ever developing much tension or interest. Despite the possibilities, it comes across mundane. The problems trace back to story, script, boring acting, and flaccid direction. It's a clumsy effort. Sharon Stone actually uplifts the movie, and that's the last thing I expected! The lead actor, Andrew McCarthy, should have been accorded a more intelligent role. He looked and sounded like Charlie Sheen, but with much less charisma.
An American journalist secretly writing a novel about the violent Red Brigades happens to have not one, but two, close friends who are involved with them. This he does not know. Eventually the word gets out and his life and that of a photographer (Sharon Stone) are imperilled.
Those who like European political thrillers will want this for completeness, but it's well below the good ones.