Archive for the '2008 films' Category

Persepolis (2007)

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Persepolis the film is an adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s comic-book memoirs, Persepolis and Persepolis II. It’s the rare adaptation that takes its origin material and turns it into something similar, yet new and wonderful. The two-volume memoirs are favorites of mine, so it would have been easy for the film to disappoint. Yet Satrapi’s collaboration on this work shows. It retains the books’ engaging, simple artwork and adds movement, yet contrasts it with still illustrations as well. The film mirrors the books’ humor, and Satrapi’s young girl in early 80’s war-torn Iran is engaging, as in the book. This film is visually arresting; the story is both particular and universal, as in the best memoirs.

Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

This week’s selection for Take-Up’s Monday Night Noir series at the Parkway was Sam Fuller’s Underworld U.S.A., which is not available on DVD. Though his film’s aren’t widely known, Fuller is often included on lists of “auteur” directors:

From Wikipedia:

In film criticism, the 1950s-era auteur theory holds that a director’s films reflect that director’s personal creative vision, as if they were the primary “auteur” (the French word for “author”).

Auteur theory has had a major impact on film criticism ever since it was advocated by film director and film critic François Truffaut in 1954. “Auteurism” is the method of analyzing films based on this theory or, alternately, the characteristics of a director’s work that makes her or him an auteur. Both the auteur theory and the auteurism method of film analysis are frequently associated with the French New Wave and the film critics who wrote for the influential French film review periodical Cahiers du cinéma.

In the film, a 14 year old boy, Tolly Devlin, sees the silhouette of a man beaten to death by four men. His father was the victim, and he declares he’ll seek vengeance on the killers. He soon becomes a criminal himself, and bounces through the correction system, until he stumbles on a way to take his revenge on the men, who have become national crime bosses. The adult Tolly, played by Cliff Robertson, works both with the mob and the government, and plays them both for his own ends. Ultimately, though, he is the doomed hero of a noir movie, without hope of redemption either from a mother figure, or his lover. Shot, he collapses underneath a “Give Blood Now” poster.

Unlike most noir films, Underground, U.S.A. doesn’t have a femme fatale. Tolly’s lover is a hooker with a heart of gold, instead. Even though it was made about a decade later than most classics of the genre, it contains the noir theme of an ethically wavering man whose future is menaced by threats from the past. Fuller’s film is full of bitter humor and images. Most interesting, I thought, was the plot point that the mob opened espresso shops, not bars, as fronts for drugs and prostitution. The audience found this hilarious each time it was mentioned; perhaps it was the foretelling of Starbucks, et al.

Next week’s noir at the Parkway is Monday February 4, 2008 with Our Man in Havana. It is written by Grahame Green and directed by Carol Reed, the same team responsible for The Third Man. It is also not available on DVD; revival screenings like this one are rare treats.

Lady from Shanghai (1947)

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I watched Lady from Shanghai last year on TCM, but it is much better on the big screen. In noir tradition, there is a big lug of a guy with dodgy morals (Orson Welles), the femme fatale (Rita Hayworth), the smart, irritating man (her husband), and an incomprehensible plot. No matter, for the style is mesmerizing, as is the closing scene in the house of mirrors. Welles was married to Hayworth at the time. Is the movie a metaphor for his powerlessness in the wake of her beauty and fame?

Double Indemnity (1944)

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

The first of Take-up’s Monday Night Noir series, So Cool So Cruel, at the Parkway was Double Indemnity, one of the best early film noirs. The style or genre of noir is American, and got its name from the series of French translations, Serie Noire, of American writers such as Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich, and Dashiell Hammett.

Fred MacMurray’s slick insurance salesman is seduced by the sultry Barbara Stanwyck into plotting her husband’s demise. Some of Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler’s excellent dialogue is so dated that the audience can’t help but laugh, which is too bad, because we miss the next zinger. MacMurray’s sexual banter with Stanwyck is exhilarating, but more intriguing are his interactions with his co-worker, the claims investigator he’s trying to fool. Terms like love and close friends are tossed about as if they’re ironic, yet with an emphasis that points to something more real.

If you plan to check out other films in the So Cool So Cruel series, go early. The lines for tickets and popcorn were long and labyrinthine. The movies and theater I recommend, but the popcorn–not so much.

January 21, 2008 The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

January 28, 2008 Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

February 4, 2008 Our Man In Havana (1959)

February 11, 2008 Night and the City (1950)