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by Michael Barrett

16 Jul 2015

Retaliation (1969)

Retaliation is a Japanese yakuza action movie with style and attitude. When the hulking Jiro (Akira Kobayashi) gets out of prison after eight years, he’s recruited to play two gangs against each other in a real-estate deal (getting farmers to sell their land for a factory) on behalf of a third gang that’s supporting his old fourth gang that now consists of himself, a blood brother, and their ailing godfather. Hanging around Jiro all the time, while remaining aloof and cynical, is the brother (Jo Shishido of the pouchy cheeks) of the man he killed eight years ago, who vows to kill him when all this bothersome business is over.

by Michael Barrett

15 Jul 2015

Photo: Ricardo Vaz Palma

Although Tip Top is based on a police procedural by Bill James, the murder case is subordinated to a comedy of eccentric characters muddling through various mix-ups. Indeed, in what amounts to a non-spoiler, prospective viewers should be advised that the movie never wraps up its investigations, instead ending abruptly in its curious digressive manner.

While many characters populate this circus, the main spotlight falls on two women from Internal Affairs sent to the town of Villeneuve (literally “new city”) to investigate whether police corruption is involved in the murder of an Algerian informant whose body was found in a public park. They’re played in a funny, annoying, and fascinating manner by Isabelle Huppert and Sandrine Kiberlain. Cagney and Lacey, they ain’t.

by Michael Barrett

9 Jul 2015

Have you heard the one about the mother who has to tell her grown daughter that she doesn’t know which one of three men is her father? You’ve probably heard of it under the name Mamma Mia, the ABBA musical. Less well-remembered is Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, a Hollywood comedy shot in Italy at the dawn of the MPAA’s rating system. This means it’s a sex comedy in which the characters have actually, at some point, had sex—and in some cases are even having it now, as opposed to merely talking about the possibility of threatening to have it.

by Michael Barrett

9 Jul 2015

Now available on demand from Warner Archive is Kid Glove Killer, a well-made B-picture in the crime genre that had a good fresh hook for 1942. The trailer, included as a bonus, trumpets “something new” out of the mass of common mysteries. That new thing was what we call forensics, the scientific investigation of evidence while the police around him are standard conclusion-jumping hard-boiled flatfoots ready to sweat a confession out of innocent mugs.

The hero is advertised on the poster and the trailer as “Police Chemist Gordon McKay” (Van Heflin), as if introducing a new series character, though this is the only adventure that materialized. He comes across like a flip, semi-cantankerous Sherlock Holmes with microscopes and cameras and projectors, who’s ready to make like Mr. Wizard in explaining his procedural gizmos. He’s supposedly human by the way he baits his almost equally jaded assistant Jane Mitchell (Marsha Hunt), who embodies America’s wartime schizophrenia about women in the workplace. She must be smart and competent (and pretty), but she must also aver that she “hates chemistry”,and that it’s “no job for a woman” who’s only marking time to fulfill her destiny with a husband.

by Michael Barrett

8 Jul 2015

The central story of Spring begins when Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), the kind of beautiful, temperamental, and possibly crazy foreign woman that American boys are always falling for in movies. First, however, the film takes its time getting to that point, with much set-up about the painful life Evan’s leaving behind in California: his mom’s death, drunken bar fights, a nowhere job, and general malaise, all shot in an intimate, handheld, yet heightened expressive style marked by color filters and delicate lighting effects.

By the time Evan gets to a small coastal town in Italy, where he decides to try farm work after traveling with two loud, drunken, stoned British yobs, Evan’s more than ready to reinvent himself by shedding the shell of his former life. Louise is doing basically the same, only much more literally.

//Mixed media

Double Take: 'The French Connection' (1971)

// Short Ends and Leader

"You pick your feet in Poughkeepsie, and we pick The French Connection for Double Take #18.

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