Friday, August 13, 2010

Capsule Catch-Up

Disturbia: Essentially Rear Window for teens, with a couple of knowing winks to Psycho and Vertigo in there as well, as a teenage boy confined to the house by a court order suspects his neighbour is up to no good. The title would suggest some kind of Donnie Darko-esque comment on the nastinesses hidden by the polite face of suburbia, but it’s actually just a popcorn flick. Also the love interest is a bit too much of a fantasy figure for me to take her remotely seriously.

Les Valseuses: Follows the adventures of two ne’er-do-wells stealing, breaking and entering, and, depending on how one views the complicated consent issues involved, raping their way through France, until a strange tragedy forces them, gradually, to rethink their position on life and women. An American film would have made them lovable rogues who never do anything seriously objectionable; this film doesn’t shy away from the evil side of the characters, but also provides them with a satisfactory ending which gives them emotional closure as well as an implicit comeuppance for their crimes.

Austin Powers: Nineties nostalgia classic which shows a clear love on the part of its creators for Sixties pop culture (even working in visual references to the Doctor Who stories The Daleks’ Master Plan and The Invasion); watching it now, what strikes one is that the Nineties references are the bit that feels dated, not the Sixties ones (I winced when Robert Wagner announced “The world is dead, there are only corporations”-- we all know where *that* philosophy led). Oh, and that Mrs Kensington Senior is much lovelier than her daughter; guess the modern celebration of the Cougar/MILF was a few years off at that point.

The Sweet Smell of Success: 1950s indictment of celebrity and the press culture which surrounds it, which is if anything more relevant today than at the time. Almost Shakespearian in its portrayal of a press agent and gossip columnist’s conspiracy to bring down a rising young musician, and a clear influence on Mad Men.

Manhunter: Genuinely disturbing adaptation of Red Dragon, exploring the grey area between criminal and investigator, through unfolding the complicated triple relationship shared by FBI agent Fisk, his current quarry, serial killer Dolaryde, and his previous quarry, Hannibal Lecktor. The d├ęcor and soundtrack are 1980s to the point of distraction, but, apart from leading to a couple of dreadful synth numbers, it’s mostly a good thing, helping to build up the tension through oppressive music and spare minimalism.

Mr and Mrs Bridge: The single most boring and pointless film I’ve ever seen, consisting of two hours (and about ten years of screen time) in which nothing really happens. Every so often a drama seems to be emerging, but it quickly gets stomped flat. Otherwise there’s not much to do other than develop one’s hatred for the titular characters, a boring and hypocritical man and a woman who never seems to stand up for anything, even herself.

The Untouchables: Garnered a lot of awards when it came out, but really, it didn't tell me much I didn't know (or couldn't infer) about crime and law enforcement in Prohibition-era Chicago, and I'm far from an expert on the place. Also contained a sequence of a raid on some smugglers by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, mounted on horseback (I kid you not), in which, despite the presence of Tommy guns, not one horse gets shot.

Movie count for 2010: 88