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16  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Armando Iannucci's The Death of Stalin on: November 07, 2017, 09:09:10 AM
 Seen at cinema 10

* This review may contain spoilers ***

A fan since seeing him credited for the satirical TV series The Day Today,I was disappointed to find in 2009 that no cinema near me was showing Armando Iannucci's (Oscar nominated) film directing debut In the Loop. Seeing news of his second movie getting a limited release,I checked listings and found it was going to be shown at one cinema once a day,by chance (?) on the week of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which led to me waving goodbye to murderous "Uncle Joe."

The plot:

Whilst reading a note from pianist Maria Yudina about wanting to see him dead as he listens to a recording of hers, Stalin suffers a cerebral haemorrhage. Gathering round their Dear Leader, Nikita Khrushchev/ Georgy Malenkov/ Lavrentiy Beria/Vyacheslav Molotov/Anastas Mikoyan and other hangers on talk about how to keep things in order as Uncle Joe gets better. As they argue among themselves,Stalin takes his final breath. Finding a power space for the first time in decades,Stalin's former old pals begin fighting to decide who will lead the Soviet Union.

View on the film:

Greatly expanding on the fake documentary style of In the Loop,co- writer/(with regular collaborators David Schneider,Ian Martin and Peter Fellows) director Armando Iannucci goes for a cinematic change of power,by working closely with cinematographer Zac Nicholson for stylish crane shots over the lavish locations of Stalin's Russia,and winding camera moves,closing in on the horrid treatment given out to "dissidents." Retaining a documentary sensibility, Iannucci finds jet-black comedy in " the moment" from the camera staying at the back of a corridor as all would-be leaders run round like headless chickens, and lingering wide-shots hilariously catches catch them each attempting to present the "correct" image Comrade Stalin would love.

Creating a union by transferring Thierry Robin & Fabien Nury's Comic-Book (!) to the screen,the writers treat the horrors of Stalin and his henchmen with an impressive level of care,with the mass murder of innocents on Stalin's "lists" and the killing of 1,500 members of the public at Stalin's funeral being treated as serious,brutal events. Perfectly balancing the harsh reality with comedic punch-lines, the writers continue building on themes from In the Loop and the series Veep of the power politicians have just being an image,as each of them fight for the smallest handout of power in wonderfully bitter,rapid-fire one-liners.

While not getting a chance to enter the power game taking place in post-Stalin Russia, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough give excellent performances as Yudina and Svetlana Stalin,with Kurylenko giving Yudina a brittleness in her hatred of Stalin,and Riseborough shoving Svetlana into very funny spots of Melodrama. With none of them thankfully having to put Russian accents on, the ensemble cast each give outstanding performances,as Simon Russell Beale freezes the screen up as the cold,heartless Beria, Jeffrey Tambor shakes with terror as Malenkov,and Steve Buscemi hits whip-smart punch-lines as cunning Khrushchev,whilst Jason Isaacs roars as the over the top Georgy Zhukov,as they all fight in the aftermath of the death of Stalin.
17  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Michael York Giallo: Phantom of Death (1988) on: November 05, 2017, 04:53:42 PM

Seen on DVD. 7

** This review may contain spoilers ***

After deciding that I would soon watch Ruggero Deodato's 1976 Italian Crime epic Live Like a Cop,Die Like a Man for the first time soon,I started checking for Horror flicks to view in the run-up to Halloween. Looking at the films from DVD company Shameless I had left to view,I spotted a Giallo by Deodato,which led to me playing the music of the Phantom.

The plot:

Whilst one of the most successful classical composers around, Robert Dominici has to keep secret from his fans,co-workers and girlfriend Helene Martell that he has an illness which makes him rapidly age. On the same day his doctor says they have given up finding a cure,Dominici is told by Martell that she is pregnant. Horrified about there being no cure,and fearing that his child will have the same illness as him,Dominici begins writing a murderous composition.

View on the film:

For what was then the second film they had put out,Shameless give the title a passable transfer,with the soundtrack being clear,but the picture having a noticeable amount of grain. Largely staying away from the genre until the third,and final wave of Giallo (with this,the Slasher hybrid Body Count,and the classy Gialli The Washing Machine) director Ruggero Deodato (with family member Giovanna designing the costumes) and cinematographer Giorgio Di Battista slant the Giallo to the Erotic Thriller side,with blue low-lighting covering Dominci's face,and slick camera moves gliding on his high- life. Backed by a smooth synch score from Pino Donaggio and surprisingly good practical effects, Deodato makes the murder set-pieces short and sharp,with the stylised splashing of Gialli red heightening the madness of Dominci.

Revealing the killer to be Dominci early on,the screenplay by Gianfranco Clerici/Vincenzo Mannino & Gigliola Battaglini focuses on the rapidly ageing romance between Dominci and Martell in rather mature characterisation, which whilst giving the movie a dramatic weight,does drain any feeling of urgency from the murder case being solved. Whilst Deodato says she was only included because the producer wanted her, Edwige Fenech (whose voice for the first time is not dubbed) gives an alluring performance as Martell,who is pulled by Fenech to her wits end at the change of her lover,and Michael York gives Dominci a strong dose of gravitas,in the writing of his final composition.
18  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Hammer Noir: Paranoiac (1963) on: November 05, 2017, 04:49:38 PM
Paranoiac: A paranoid. Of, relating to, or resembling paranoia.

Paranoiac is directed by Freddie Francis and loosely adapted to screenplay by Jimmy Sangster from Josephine Tey's novel Brat Farrar. It stars Oliver Reed, Janette Scott, Sheila Burrell and Alexander Davion. Music is by Elisabeth Lutyens and cinematography by Arthur Grant.

The Ashby family has been blighted by tragedy. 11 years previously the parents were killed in an accident and their younger son, Tony, was so grief stricken he committed suicide by leaping off of a nearby cliff into the sea below. However, Anthony's body was never found. The remaining siblings, Eleanor (Scott) & Simon (Reed) have been raised at the family mansion by their aunt Harriet (Burrell), and neither of them have grown into stable adults. So when an adult comes into their lives claiming to be Tony it further opens up neurotic wounds and dark family secrets.

Skeleton in the closet.

Hammer Films tag onto the coat tails of Hitchcock's Psycho with this slick and moody psychological thriller. The studio would become synonymous with reinventing the creature feature sub-genre of horror that encompassed the likes of Dracula & Frankenstein. What often gets overlooked is that in the 60s they were producing some excellent thrillers, little seen gems that didn't even get home format releases in Britain until over 40 years later! Paranoiac is one such gem, it forms part of the thriller splinter involving someone either going insane or being driven so by unscrupulous bastards.

Paranoiac thrives on slow burn pacing and atmospheric black and white photography, and features a roll call of characters who are either up to no good or are clearly skew-whiff in the head! Perfectly filmed out of the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, England, where the jagged cliff faces match the fragmented state of minds of the principal players, it's a film that benefits greatly from the acting on show. Reed is an oily drunk and a bully, Scott expertly portrays a timid gal clinging onto to her last bit of sanity and Burrell puts a shifty cynicism into mollycoddling Aunt Harriet. Pleasant surprise here is Davion as the man claiming to be Tony, not a well known name but he does a great job in a tricky role, with cards held close to the chest he handles a big shift in the character's fortunes with a smoothness that's most impacting.

It's no Psycho (what is?) and it has some minor flaws in the writing, such as an incestuous thread that is never expanded on, but this is still a moody little cracker of a thriller. Slow burn for sure, but always holding the attention right up to the deliverance of a joyously macabre finale. 7.5/10

Hi Spike,thanks for the great review,what did you think of the ending? I felt that it appeared Hammer believed that the audience would want some bang for their bucks,instead of the slow-burn terror that had featured in the rest of the movie. Btw,I saw your review on the new Mummy,Universal have recently canned their Dark Universe,after just one movie.
19  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Hammer Noir: Paranoiac (1963) on: October 28, 2017, 08:27:53 AM
I'll look for it too. I've been meaning to check out more Hammer Noir. Any good suggestions?

Hi Jess,my favourite from Hammer's Psych-Thriller's is the Giallo-inspired Crescendo, which is on YT:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnuR8N8MDCQ
20  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Spanish Giallo: La muerte ronda a Mónica (1976) on: October 21, 2017, 09:04:45 PM

Watched on DVD 8

** This review may contain spoilers ***

Taking part in a ICM poll for the best movies of 1976,I started checking the shelf for the DVD of Ruggero Deodato's Italian Crime epic Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man. Looking down the shelves,I was pleased to find the 1976 duo of Nico Mastorakis's debut Death Has Blue Eyes,and an enticing-sounding Giallo,which led to me meeting Mónica.

The plot:

Getting married to heiress Mónica, Federico uses her money to set-up a successful company called Eurozona. Dominating boardroom meetings, Federico starts an affair with Eva, (who is a lesbian,and deeply in love with Elena)Unknown to Federico,Elena and Eva have made plans to blackmail Eurozona out of Federico's hands. Aware of their marriage being in trouble and feeling uncomfortable around Eurozona's co- CEO/her husbands pal Arturo, Mónica is shaken when a burglar enters her house and she shoots him. Waking up after fainting from fear, Mónica finds the dead body of Federico's former business partner Diego. Dropping Diego's body in the river, Mónica soon finds her sanity to drop with it.

View on the film:

Investigating this psychological "bloodless" Giallo with a Film Noir flavour, director Ramón Fernández & cinematographer Hans Burmann make their three leading ladies appear incredible beautiful,with the extended scenes where they are naked being presented in elegant side-shots that give a playfully casual mood to the double-dealing conversations taking place. Smashing into Mónica's mansion, Fernández burns down her life of luxury with ultra-stylised creeping camera moves slithering round the house,and lingering glimpses in the corner of rooms building on the anxiety of Mónica's crumbling mind.

Laying out all of their possessions, the screenplay by Juan José Alonso Millán superbly agitates the gaps in Federico and Mónica "perfect marriage", where Federico's dangerous liaison with Eva brings out a cold Film Noir fear in Mónica of being surrounded by vipers. Racing to a wonderfully odd mad-dash double-crossing revelation to the mystery, Millán chips into Mónica's doubts over her sight with gripping Giallo sleigh of hand that in this case actually does run like clockwork, and uses the double trouble of Elena and Eva as Femme Fatale sirens who attract Mónica anxiety to their underhanded dealing.

Wrapping tightly round each other,sexy Karin Schubert and Bárbara Rey give terrific performances as Elena and Eva,who are both given an icy vibe that gives their exchanges with Federico and Mónica a venomous snap. Bouncing off Jean Sorel delicately playing the ambiguity of Federico, "Nadiuska" sizzles as Mónica,whose ruptures in paranoia Nadiuska pushes Mónica deep into the Giallo black gloves.
21  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Nordic Noir: The Hunters (1996) on: October 20, 2017, 07:10:53 PM

Watched on DVD 9

* This review may contain spoilers ***

After seeing the Nordic Noir False Trail a few weeks ago,I made a note to pick up the first of the two films (made 15 years earlier!)in the series. Finding the adaptation of Jo Nesbo's very good book The Snowman to be getting terrible reviews, (with the director admitting that production was rushed,and saying that 15% of the script that was needed to be shot was left un-filmed) I decided it was time to go on a hunting trip.

The plot:

Returning to the small town of Norrbotten after being a cop in Stockholm for 20 years due to the recent death of his dad, Erik Bäckström joins the local police force. Joining his brother Leif,Erik Finds the village to appear to be crime free,where all the people know each other,and know each other secrets, Bäckström decides to investigate a case of reindeer poaching. Learning that the poaching has been going on for years, Bäckström tries to find out why no one has been arrested,but is told by his fellow officers not to hurt local honour. Seeing his brother Leif wide smirk when standing with a group of local thugs, Bäckström decides to hunt down the secrets of the town.

View on the film:

Going down a similar country lane as the one in Lucio Fulci's superb 1972 Giallo Don't Torture a Duckling for this very early Nordic Noir, the screenplay by co-writer/(with Björn Carlström)director Kjell Sundvall dig up the superstition and Noir distrust just below the peaceful village image. Arriving as an outsider,the writers give the dialogue thrown at Erik Bäckström a brittle crunch,where one sly hand-shake can cause secrets in the town to be lost forever. Giving an excellent twist to the genres major theme of the elite being corrupt, the writers keep the mystery of the poachers tightly linked to the dour arrival of Erik into town,which exposes the police force working with the corrupt locals,which causes any trust Erik gives to his fellow officers to leak out.

Impressively starting visual themes which would be expanded on 15 years later,director Kjell Sundvall & cinematographer Kjell Lagerroos keep track on the activates in the town with sweeping crane shots over the beautiful countryside,that close in on the sniper-fire of deceit. Peeling away at the calm appearance, Sundvall paints Erik's bitter Noir frustrations in a deep black canvas,where outbursts of violence hit the screen with a blunt force.

Hanging around each other like a pack of hyenas,all of the guys playing the local thugs give outstanding performances,with Jarmo Mäkinen making gang leader Tomme Harela a psychopathic ticking time bomb, and Lennart Jähkel seeds moments of doubt into Leif,which are unable to overcome the allure of the darkness. Currently looking like he will return for an upcoming TV mini-series in the role, Rolf Lassgård gives a magnificent performance as loner Rolf Lassgård,whose failure to catch any glimpse of happiness is drawn with a superb heaviness on his shoulders by Lassgård,as Erik Bäckström joins the hunting season.
22  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Hotel Reserve (1944) on: October 18, 2017, 05:10:05 PM
Never even heard of this one. Sounds good. Smiley

Thanks Jess,I've been looking round for what there is on the film online,and the only thing I can find is a Spanish DVD,the trailer is not even on YT!

23  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Hotel Reserve (1944) on: October 18, 2017, 05:08:38 PM
Hi CJ,I've found out that the movie is based on an Ambler novel called  Epitaph for a Spy

https://www.amazon.com/Epitaph-Spy-Eric-Ambler/dp/0375713247

24  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Hammer Noir: Paranoiac (1963) on: October 18, 2017, 09:43:30 AM
Watched on DVD 8

* This review may contain spoilers ***

Keeping a TV recording of the very good The Borderlands by the side,I started look for another title to watch for a British Horror double bill. Catching me completely by surprise,my dad revealed a rarely mentioned Hammer Horror he had picked up,which led to me turning paranoiac.

The plot:

After the deaths of their parents in an air-crash the ties that bind the Ashby family together start to snap. Sinking into depression with the rest of his brothers and sisters, Tony Ashby appears to end it all by jumping off a cliff into the sea,an act which none of the other family members see take place.Taken care of by Aunt Harriet,Simon starts becoming increasingly aware of how fragile his sister Eleanor is in the mansion. Wanting all the inheritance for himself,Simon begins playing games that get Eleanor to question her sanity.Fearing that she's starting to see ghosts,Eleanor and the rest of the family discover that "dead" Tony is actually alive. As everyone appears to accept that he is telling the truth,"Tony" starts playing a paranoiac game…

View on the film:

Cracking under the pressure of her family and the re-appearance of Tony, Janette Scott gives a great performance as Eleanor,whose stuck in the mansion status leads Scott to getting Eleanor to lunge out in violently fearful,and abrasively passionate ways. Bringing light into the Ashby family,Alexander Davion gives a sharp, icy performance as Tony,whose handsome looks Davion sands down to a reveal calculating bite. Joined by a simmering Sheila Burrell as Aunt Harriet,Oliver Reed gives a cracking performance as Simon,who Reed balances between wrapping cruel mind-games round Eleanor, and falling down to the madness of the Ashby family.

Beginning the themes that would re-appear in the excellent Amicus Giallo The Psychopath, director Freddie Francis & cinematographer Arthur Grant blend the Gothic smoke of Hammer Horror with dazzling Film Noir stylisation, with the isolation of the Ashby mansion being reflected in water and deranged family members spying on each other in shadows. Backed by a spidery score from Elisabeth Lutyens, Francis brings frightful doubt into the mansion with crisp side shots giving the impression of ghosts/mysterious figures,and a digging deep inside the foundation,allow Francis to unmask fiery secrets.

Loosely based on Josephine Tey's novel,the screenplay by Jimmy Sangster wonderfully uses each Ashby family member to set the other one off to psychological horror,from the fury of mourning from Harriot,to the screams of Eleanor and the cackling weirdness of Simon. Whilst the ending is too neat and tidy,Sangster brilliantly makes Tony a Noir loner trapped in a horror nightmare,with the "love" Eleanor has for Tony edging towards a risqué undertone,and the ambiguity of this Tony being real or fake making each of the Ashby's feel paranoiac.
25  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Hotel Reserve (1944) on: October 15, 2017, 01:04:29 PM

Seen on TV. 6

** This review may contain spoilers ***

Recently re-watching the enjoyable Gris title A Touch of Larceny,I started looking for other easy-going Gris/Thrillers starring James Mason.Whilst searching round,I found that the BBC were showing a Thriller with Mason,which led to me reserving a viewing.

The plot:

Seeing war on the horizon in 1938, Peter Vadassy decides to apply for French citizenship,whilst going on a photographing holiday and staying at the remote Hotel Reserve. Going to collect his latest photos,Vadassy is gripped a spy who says photos of French military installations have been found on his camera. Taking a closer look,Vadassy discovers that a fellow guest has secretly switched his camera. Freed,Vadassy is told he must find out who took the photos,at the Hotel Reserve.

View on the film:

Taking not one,but three directors to make (!),the mix of the trio leads to a constantly unsettled changing of tone. Put together by editor Sidney Stone,the film darts between a murky Spiv tale and a jet-set Thriller abrasively, with it going from stylishly low shadows and seeping steam,to the light-Thriller sunny outdoors with no shading of dour darkness intact. Being the main person who almost keeps things together, Lennox Berkeley delivers an excellent score, (he sadly only did 4 scores) which pounds on the anxiety and unease of Vadassy's secret mission.

Going into the hotel from Eric Ambler's book Epitaph For A Spy, John Davenport (who was literary editor of "The Observer newspaper) casts an eye on espionage in tense exchanges between Vadassy and his fellow guests at the hotel,with the clipped exchanges between them all signalling hidden secrets. Finishing Vadassy's mission with a twist that would later be used in a large number of Gialli, Davenport cleverly makes the twist work by having Vadassy casually build the wrong impression in swift asides. Joined by a simmering Herbert Lom and elegant Patricia Medina as Andre and Odette,James Mason gives a terrific,dashing performance as Vadassy,who spies on the hotel reserves.
26  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Nordic Noir: Echoes from the Dead (2013) on: September 27, 2017, 03:56:35 PM

Streamed on Netflix.

7

** This review may contain spoilers ***

With the adaptation coming out next month,I decided to start reading Jo Nesbo's Nordic Noir The Snowman. Whilst looking for info on the upcoming movie,I stumbled on title I've never heard of before,which led to me listening to the echoes.

The plot:

Returning to the island of Öland 24 years after her 5 year old son Jens disappeared, (with the now-dead local weirdo Nils Kant being the former main suspect) Julia Davidsson finds her dad Gerlof and his best friend continuing to investigate for links Kant had to Jens disappearance. Planning to stay just a few days,Julia extends her visit when Gerlof's friend dies in a sudden accident. Whilst she comforts her dad, Gerlof and Julia receive a envelope,containing one of Jens shoes.

View on the film:

Returning to the mystery on a small island, co-writer/(with Birgitta Bongenhielm) director Daniel Alfredson & Fredrik Bäckar go for an oddly cosy atmosphere, via the rugged,isolating terrain being covered in misty clouds and wide crane shots above the beautiful countryside. Putting together fragments of the past,Alfredson lands on a dour Nordic Noir atmosphere in extended flashbacks glazed with a stylish decaying gold and late 60's long hair and blood-stained cars.

Adapted from the echoes of Johan Theorin's novel, the screenplay by Alfredson and Bongenhielm give the Nordic Noir themes of corrupt major businesses and unsolved mystery an excellent mature twist,as the decades the Davidson's (played by a great Lena Endre and Tord Peterson) have spent grieving over the death of Julia's son Jens are cut open with new doubt on the identity of the killer. Re-tracing Nils Kant's (played by an unsettling Felix Engström) footsteps, the writers give the mystery a visceral burn with the extended flashbacks unveiling the psychopathic horrors lurking behind the islands peaceful image,as the echoes of the dead grow louder.
27  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Real-life Nordic Noir: Out of Thin Air (2017) on: September 26, 2017, 02:31:12 PM

Streamed.

Details on the case:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geirfinnur_case

7

"Once the confession is taken-once it's in the air,it corrupts everything."

** This review may contain spoilers ***

A fan of the Nordic-Noir genre,I caught up with the superb Nordic- Noir inspired Spanish mini-series I Know Who You Are just before it left the catch-up service. Watching the last ep,I got "recommended" a "Ripped from the headlines" doc about a murder case in Iceland,which led to me breaking the ice.

The outline of the doc:

In January 1974 Guðmundur Einarsson disappears,with the police not being able to find any clue over where he might be. Later,on the 19th of November 1974 Geirfinnur Einarsson disappears under similar circumstances. Known for being "Bad lads" the police arrest "Gang leader Sævar Ciesielski,his four friends,and Ciesielski's girlfriend Erla Bolladottir. Feeling the anger from the public over Iceland's loss of "innocence", the police put pressure on Erla Bolladottir to give them the confession they want.

View on the film:

Going from 1974 to the present day, director Dylan Howitt blends archive footage with tasteful re-constructions. Making the voice- overs reading the diary entries of the six suspects the main focus, Howitt brings the fading days of Iceland's innocence back in drab 70's colours,with a careful obscuring of the actors faces helping to place the viewer in the shoes of the speaking suspect. Deconstructing the case with interviews from Erla Bolladottir,still serving police officers and extracts from the diaries of the other five suspects, the "open" state of the case leads to the conclusion becoming blurred with the horrific "interrogation" methods the police used criss-crossing with the failed attempts to appeal the convictions,as the ice fails to break.
28  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Nordic Noir: False Trail (2011) on: September 25, 2017, 06:38:06 PM

Seen on TV 8



** This review may contain spoilers ***

After watching the very interesting 2017 doc Out of Thin Air,I started thinking about watching a new title from the Nordic Noir genre. Picking up a newspaper on the way back home,I was excited to spot that a Nordic Noir I've read a lot about was to be shown,which led to me locating the true trail.

The plot:

Leaving the police after a fellow officer killed himself over a case he was investigating, Erik Bäckström is forced to return in order to help find missing Elin Ledin. Being more of a forensic investigator, Bäckström finds himself uncomfortable around the aggressive style of policing officer Torsten. Whilst being taken out on a hunting trip by Torsten, reports come in that Ledin's body dissected body has been found in the woods they are going to. As the cops pat each other on the back, Bäckström begins suspecting that Torsten has a connection to the murder.

View on the film:

With one of the main themes of the genre being the police taking on the corrupt business elite, the screenplay by Stefan Thunberg & Björn Carlström give this staple of Nordic Noir a bare-knuckle twist,by making the police themselves be corrupt. Smartly limiting links to the first film to brief mentions that add depth to Bäckström's coming out of the wilderness,the writers make Torsten an attention-grabbing psychopath,whose swagger with a badge can't stop Bäckström chipping away at a macabre murder mystery, or the writers unveil disturbing family secrets hidden in Nordic Noir shadows.

Confronting everyone against director Kjell Sundvall and cinematographer Jallo Faber rural coloured backwoods, Peter Stormare fires on all cylinders as Torsten, with Stormare making him a snarling rogue,whose rapid-fire mouth is matched by his casual use of brutal violence. Haunted by his last case, Rolf Lassgård gives a great, worn-down performance as Bäckström, who lashes out at the frustrations of the jammed mechanics that is the police, but is balanced out by Lassgård with a Noir loner single mindedness to uncover the true trail.
29  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / First Postman Always Rings Twice adaptation: Le dernier tournant (1939) on: September 02, 2017, 04:14:19 PM

Watched via torrent.

10

* This review may contain spoilers ***

Being just one of a handful of people to attend the screening,I found myself utterly gripped a few months ago by Ivo van Hove's National Theatre Live adaptation of Obsession/The Postman Always Rings Twice. Looking round for movies to watch for a poll on the best films of 1939,I found a review by fellow IMDber dbdumonteil about the first ever filmed adaptation of James M. Cain novel,which led to me excitingly waiting for the postman to arrive.

The plot:

Drifting from town to town, Frank Maurice covers his money issues by being lucky with the roll of a dice at gambling. Stopping at a 24 hour food and drink pub, Maurice is welcomed in by owner Nick Marino and his wife Cora. Not having any friends,Nick invites Maurice to stay on and work as a handyman. Falling for each other at first sight,the passions of Maurice and Cora lead to them making plans over how to kill the "Old man." Planning a fake power cut, Cora hits Nick over the head,and plans a fatal mood,but is interrupted by a visiting police officer. As Cora tries to explain the "accident" to her husband, Maurice begins drifting back into his old ways…

View on the film:

Appearing out of a mirage in the pub, Fernand Gravey gives a magnificent performance as drifting Noir loner Maurice. Stinking of booze,fags and cards,Gravey gives Maurice a shifty presence,which never eases as Maurice's rigid back is constantly up against the wall from the doubting Nick and the ruthlessly seductive Cora. Caught between two deadly lovers, Michel Simon gives a performance bursting with warmth as Nick,who greets Maurice with open arms,that Simon decays into doubt,as all of Nick's kindness gets thrown in his face. Made just before she became a socialite of the Occupation, Corinne Luchaire, (whose dad was Nazi-backing politician Jean Luchaire,whose family enjoyed the good life with the Nazis,until the liberation led to Jean being killed by firing squad,and Corinne being banned from acting,and dying penniless of tuberculosis at 28) gives a magnetic performance as Femme Fatale Cora,with lingering close-ups zoning in on the viper glances Luchaire gives Cora playing all the cards close to her chest.

While Luchaire enjoyed the high life,this became director Pierre Chenal last film in France until 1946,with the Jewish Chenal fleeing France with his wife Florence Marly (who along with starring in Film Noir classics Krakatit and The Damned,co-stars here) for Argentine. Delivering the first adaptation of Cain's novel,Chenal & cinematographer Christian Matras strike a winning number with a cracking evil under the sun Film Noir atmosphere,reflecting the life of Maurice,everything is covered in a dust which gives the Marino's entanglement with Maurice a grubby appearance. Keeping Maurice as an outside, Chenal mischievously curses Maurice with ladders and black cats that are joined by ultra-stylised first person shots cornering him,and never giving Maurice the chance to fully embrace Cora.

Working from a translation of Cain's novel by Sabine Berritz,the screenplay by Charles Spaak and Henri Torrès strike the trio with jagged dialogue,that in moments of calm barely hides the viper poison about to be unleashed. Handing Nick's trust to Maurice,the writers seep Cora and Maurice's harsh pessimism out into the open of the bitter end,as the postman rings twice for the first time.

30  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Spanish Neo-Noir: The Body (2012) on: September 01, 2017, 08:34:37 PM
Never heard of this movie (or the TV series you mentioned), it sounds great! Have added it to my list. Where did you see it, Netflix?

Thanks for the comments XHC,I caught the film on Netflix UK,and Arrow have just put the first 10 eps of the series out on disc (it was shown as one 18 ep "mini" series in Spain,but the BBC have split it in two.)



https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072N3RV8Q

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