The archetype of cool in French director Jean-Pierre Melville’s cinema, for most, is the fedora-and-trenchcoat wearing killer Jef Costello in the 1967 policier Le Samourai. While Alain Delon’s performance was a trend-setter for the gangster film, I would argue Melville’s finest achievement came five years earlier, in 1962. Le Doulos (meaning “the hat” or “the one who wears the hat”, signifying a police informant) is perhaps Melville’s strongest noir, despite the fact he would make many more later into his career; Le Deuxieme Souffle and Le Cercle Rouge in particular stand out.
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As if performing careful, clinical cuts with a scalpel, visual artist Jeff Desom deconstructed the iconic backdrop of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window for a short film essay that has been shortlisted for the 2012 Vimeo Awards. Desom used only the original footage from the 1954 work; the beloved back courtyard of Rear Window‘s Greenwich Village apartments is here in all of its glory, planted just beneath the bedroom of the film’s hobbled protagonist, L.B. Jeffries, played by James Stewart.
“You have made your mother very proud”—for those familiar with Charles Kaufman’s 1980 film Mother’s Day, that seemingly endearing sentence will never have the same innocent and touching quality anymore. It was the punch line that succeeded graphic scenes of rape and violence committed by Mother’s gruesome twosome, framed in what The New York Times called an “absurdist comedy” while the director himself referred to it as a satire. Kaufman’s version will be released on Blu Ray soon, but that’s not the only thing that gives the film a current twist.
Darren Lynn Bousman (of Saw 2-5 infamy) directed a same-titled remake of the film, or better, a reinterpretation. While there’s no official U.S. wide release date yet, Bousman will attend the Midwestern premiere of the film in Chicago, on Saturday, 7 May at 11.59PM at the Music Box Theater, and the film has been released in countries such as the Netherlands just in time for the commercial holiday. But in this case, most mothers will be happier receiving the standard bouquet of flowers than a trip to the movie theater. For all of you brave people, an intro to both films.
It’s difficult, and probably pointless, to try and isolate which film was Sidney Lumet’s best or most enduring. The fact that he made three of the best movies of the ‘70s (three out-and-out masterpieces in one decade) is more than enough.
Although he was active for six decades, for me—and presumably many others—it was the ‘70s when he did his best work, and that work does the near-impossible: it totally reflects its time and provides indelible commentary on—and for—that era; while managing to anticipate our world, almost 40 years later. This is beyond prescient and bordering on prophetic. Of course, it has as much to do with the screenplays as his direction, but it’s to Lumet’s credit, and indicative of the dilemmas that drove him, that he gravitated toward this material.
In this series, I intend to revisit certain acclaimed films with inflated reputations. The films I chose will not necessarily be without merit (I feel Chungking Express is a fine film for example), merely ones which are not as masterful as the critical community would claim. I do not intend to review these films, but rather refute the critical consensus of select “untouchable” works of cinema. First up Chungking Express:
Overwhelming critical praise for a work of art gets my attention; and why shouldn’t it? Critics consume art professionally. The impeccable taste of the most esteemed critics lends reliability. This is why Chungking Express’s high placement (#8) on the “UK Critics Top 10 Films of the Past 25 Years List”, published by Sight and Sound (and the word “masterpiece” floated in various reviews) made it a personal must-see. However, reading such hyperbolic raves beforehand has a tendency to saddle a film experience with impossible expectations. Chungking Express was no exception.