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Author Topic: L.A. Confidential (1997)  (Read 4289 times)
cigar joe
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« on: April 15, 2012, 09:48:16 PM »

Director: Curtis Hanson, Writers: James Ellroy (novel), Brian Helgeland (screenplay), and Curtis Hanson. Starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, and David Strathairn.



Synopsis:

Three Los Angeles police officers: Detective Wendell "Bud" White (Crowe), Detective Jack Vincennes (Spacey) and Sergeant Edmund Exley (Pearce), are caught up in various seemingly unconnected story lines that weave into an intricate tale where a historical event "Bloody Christmas" where LAPD cops beat a bunch of Mexicans up sets the tone for the whole film.

Smith, White, Exley, Vincennes



An opening montage, explains that underneath the glowing assumption that California/LA is the land of milk & honey a mobster named Mickey Cohen has taken over the organized crime rackets in Los Angeles (vacated by the departure of Bugsy Siegel)  Cohen, however, is arrested on income tax evasion and sent to prison on MacNeil Island in Washington state, leaving a power vacuum and the rackets he'd expanded for years are up for grabs. Gangland style assassinations begin as someone begins to take over. The police, led by Captain Dudley (Cromwell), intercept  various wiseguys moving in to take over from out of state beat the shit out of them.

A rich developer, Pierce Patchett (Strathairn), on the side runs a stable of high-class hookers out a a club called the Fleur-de-lis who are cut by plastic surgery to look like movie stars.



Sid Hudgens (DeVito), publisher of "Hush-Hush," a Hollywood sleaze magazine, is in cahoots with Vincennes setting up celebrity busts for headlines and kickbacks.

Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) is one of the Fleur-de-lis girls who is a dead ringer for Veronica Lake who falls for White.

I discovered James Ellroy's L.A. Quartet series of novels, The Black Dahlia (1987), The Big Nowhere (1988), L.A. Confidential (1990), and White Jazz (1992) while living in Montana after a sort of cold turkey I experienced when I had devoured all of the Dashiell Hammett's, James M. Cain's, Ross MacDonald's, and Raymond Chandler's I could at that time get my hands on. They were all great reads, but unfortunately, this was before I really began to appreciate Film Noir and get a stylistic visual from those series of films of the world Ellroy was depicting.

Of course I had seen "The Maltese Falcon", "The Big Sleep", "Double Indemnity" and "Murder My Sweet" but they were made before the neo-realistic phase of the Noir series so they didn't really count.  L.A. Confidential according to Curtis Hanson was an attempt to depict '50's LA but not in a stylistically noir way, "no long shadows" so they consciously decided to show the '50's looking forward towards the future rather than highlight Film Noir. He needn't have bothered, the widescreen alone effectively negates the claustrophobic noir stylistic. Noirs were mostly about urban alienation and obsession, the majority of urban topography is vertical which suited the 3:4 aspect ratio well.

But, what L..A Confidential does is incorporate Los Angeles' overall elongated horizontal urban structure into an effective neo noir.  A plus is that the film even incorporates more actual 50's LA locations and interiors than for example the film Chinatown (story line circa 1930's) did, though this could be for the simple fact that way less 30's LA was still extant in 1973 than 50's LA in 1996. What locations they didn't have they reconstructed and the blend is seamless. The film looks that good.





The action sequences are great

The sountrack and period music juxtaposition is excellent.

Even with all this stated attempt to shy away from classic noir stylistics they do creep into the film here and there with dutch angles and Venetian blinds.







whats not to like:

However one glaring WTF omission is what I like to call the "romance of the fedora" aside from the DeVitos' character Sid Hudgens and James Cromwell's Dudley Smith, fedoras are absent, missing in action. It just doesn't feel quite right, it would be sort of on par with making a Western without cowboy hats, the characters look naked. -1

DeVito sporting one of the few fedoras



Ok I can understand somewhat where Hanson is coming from in a commentary he states that he wanted to make a film that didn't feel like a period piece because he was concerned about getting funding, but you could at least have had 1/4 of the cast wear fedoras and one of the leads. The Author James Ellroy on his commentary on the DVD for Crime Wave "Sterling Hayden-- That is my Bud White. That is my Bud White! fuck Russell Crowe in 'L A Confidential.' I mean he was okay, but he's a shrimpy little shit  Bud White as Bud Whites go. Sterling Hayden is the real deal. Look at this! He's not even acting. Look at that hat!" 'nuff said.

The Lynn Bracken/Bud White romance wasn't all that convincing didn't seem to be any chemistry there it needed more time to get fleshed out at least.

If this film really wanted to be a neo noir masterpiece it didn't have confidence or the nerve to push that envelope, Hanson's reluctance to embrace Noir and go with the safe money gives us at the denouement the happy Hollywood ending. The bad guys are all dead and 2/3 of the good guys live. -1 final score 8/10










 
 

« Last Edit: April 16, 2012, 04:40:50 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2012, 01:19:16 PM »

Great review for a great movie. It would definitely be a classic with a less hollywood-like ending.

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« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2012, 05:31:22 PM »

so if the cops wore fedoras and a few more cops were killed, this movie would be a 10/10?

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« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2012, 05:49:41 PM »

so if the cops wore fedoras and a few more cops were killed, this movie would be a 10/10?

correctamundo  Afro Afro Afro Its too Hollywood as it is.

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« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2012, 07:21:15 PM »

correctamundo  Afro Afro Afro Its too Hollywood as it is.

I understand those criticisms, but I think it's a bit harsh to penalize the rating that heavily.
 While fedoras were A) commonly worn in the 50's; and B) a big part of film noir, it seems a bit harsh to penalize it a point just for that. But hey, whatever floats your boat  Wink

RE: the ending, I can understand penalizing a point based on the ending; ending can be one of the most important -- if not THE most important -- parts of a movie. And there have been some great movies with awful endings (prime example is Red River, and we've recently discussed what some of us believe is a bad ending in The Killing -- though IMO that movie is nowhere near as good as Red River). And in those cases, some people will actually penalize the rating, while others will just say  eg. "10/10 besides for the ending"
However, whether the good guy(s) live or die at the end doesn't seem to be THAT important to penalize it that heavily, IMO. In most movies -- including noirs -- the good guys will live and bad guys will die, at the end. Good guys can be killed earlier in the movie, but once you've made it to the last scene, if you're a good guy you will usually live. So I had no problem with the ending.

---------------------------------------------

Overall, While I enjoyed this movie, I had a hard time with the fact that it's difficult to really figure out what kind of movie this is -- is it a Drama? Is it a Comedy (like a spoof on noirs?) Or perhaps both -- which I hate? One thing that REALLY annoys me in a movie, it is when it doesn't have a clear identity, and tries to be a Comedy and a Drama. I hate that. Sure, Dramas often have humorous parts: eg. there are many such parts in Leone's movies (Frayling says Leone's movies have a "carnival atmosphere.")
But there is never any doubt whatsoever that those movies are NOT Comedies.  A good Drama, can have many moments where the viewer will chuckle, but will be very clear that it is a movie that should be taken seriously (whether it's a Drama or a Thriller or a non-Comedy-Western or whatever). I need to know whether or not I should be taking the movie seriously.

Two more examples of this:
A) Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. It really feels like a comedy (no doubt the dumbass music videos have a lot to do with that), and I never felt I could take the movie seriously.

B)The Graduate: It feels like the first half (his affair with Mrs. Robinson) is a Comedy, and the second half (once he goes on the date with Elaine Robinson) is a Drama, before reverting to a Comedy in the final scene.


« Last Edit: April 16, 2012, 07:26:17 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2012, 02:43:54 AM »

Haha you should read Shakespeare.

Some movies go far beyond that (which I love): while most movies are alternatively comedy and drama, some of them are at both at the same time.

Examples:
- some Coen Brothers movies
- In Bruges
In these movies, you're not going from laughs to tears, you're doing both on the same time. And I'm not talking black humor.

Anyway, the point is: IMO, most of the best plays and movies on Earth have the intelligence to be both comedy and drama. Because that's how life is.

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« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2012, 04:03:08 AM »

I understand those criticisms, but I think it's a bit harsh to penalize the rating that heavily.
 While fedoras were A) commonly worn in the 50's; and B) a big part of film noir, it seems a bit harsh to penalize it a point just for that. But hey, whatever floats your boat  Wink

Like making a film about Hassidic Jews and you want to modernize in and nobody's wearing hats.

Quote

RE: the ending, I can understand penalizing a point based on the ending; ending can be one of the most important -- if not THE most important -- parts of a movie. And there have been some great movies with awful endings (prime example is Red River, and we've recently discussed what some of us believe is a bad ending in The Killing -- though IMO that movie is nowhere near as good as Red River). And in those cases, some people will actually penalize the rating, while others will just say  eg. "10/10 besides for the ending"
However, whether the good guy(s) live or die at the end doesn't seem to be THAT important to penalize it that heavily, IMO. In most movies -- including noirs -- the good guys will live and bad guys will die, at the end. Good guys can be killed earlier in the movie, but once you've made it to the last scene, if you're a good guy you will usually live. So I had no problem with the ending.

---------------------------------------------

Overall, While I enjoyed this movie, I had a hard time with the fact that it's difficult to really figure out what kind of movie this is -- is it a Drama? Is it a Comedy (like a spoof on noirs?) Or perhaps both -- which I hate? One thing that REALLY annoys me in a movie, it is when it doesn't have a clear identity, and tries to be a Comedy and a Drama. I hate that. Sure, Dramas often have humorous parts: eg. there are many such parts in Leone's movies (Frayling says Leone's movies have a "carnival atmosphere.")
But there is never any doubt whatsoever that those movies are NOT Comedies.  A good Drama, can have many moments where the viewer will chuckle, but will be very clear that it is a movie that should be taken seriously (whether it's a Drama or a Thriller or a non-Comedy-Western or whatever). I need to know whether or not I should be taking the movie seriously.

Two more examples of this:
A) Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. It really feels like a comedy (no doubt the dumbass music videos have a lot to do with that), and I never felt I could take the movie seriously.

B)The Graduate: It feels like the first half (his affair with Mrs. Robinson) is a Comedy, and the second half (once he goes on the date with Elaine Robinson) is a Drama, before reverting to a Comedy in the final scene.



You thought this was a comedy? you watch the same film?

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« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2012, 08:28:32 AM »


You thought this was a comedy? you watch the same film?

not silly stuff, as in The Three Stooges. More as in outlandishness, specifically all the stuff with DeVito. Especially when you consider that you often hear his voice-over (make it seem almost as if he is narrating, and the story is all being viewed from his humorous perspective)

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« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2012, 03:19:32 PM »

L.A. Confidential according to Curtis Hanson was an attempt to depict '50's LA but not in a stylistically noir way, "no long shadows" so they consciously decided to show the '50's looking forward towards the future rather than highlight Film Noir. He needn't have bothered, the widescreen alone effectively negates the claustrophobic noir stylistic. Noirs were mostly about urban alienation and obsession, the majority of urban topography is vertical which suited the 3:4 aspect ratio well.

This comment about widescreen reminds me of the debate we had about Polanski's Chinatown.

Could someone enlighten me as to what the part I have bolded below in a quote from Barry Salt's "Film Style & Technology" means:

Quote
"The result of wide screen projection was that true wide-angle lens photography was effectively no longer possible. This was because with wide-screen projection the full vertical angle of the taking lens was no longer represented in the screen image, and since the sides of the screen had also been moved out to encompass a wider visual angle for the audience, the same impression of normal perspective that had previously been obtained with a lens of focal length 35 to 40 mm. now required a lens with a focal length of approximately 25 mm.. Compared to this, an 18 mm. lens, which was the widest available in the 'fifties, no longer gave the extreme 'wide-angle' impression that it had given before, and so the visual effect of the 'wide-angle lens' style was lost. And because of the shape of the image as projected, the possibility of arranging strong diagonal compositions in one way or another was lost. However depth of focus and the possiblity of staging in depth had not been lost if short focal length lenses were used, but since their distinctiveness and noticeability had now gone, interest in using them receded."

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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2012, 04:47:29 AM »

This comment about widescreen reminds me of the debate we had about Polanski's Chinatown.

Could someone enlighten me as to what the part I have bolded below in a quote from Barry Salt's "Film Style & Technology" means:


I think this would be clearer if the author had shown illustrative examples of what he's trying to explain, say an identical comparison shots of a location with the 35-40mm focal length, the 25mm focal length, and the 18mm focal length.

Here is something that may help to figure it out: http://www.creativephotobook.co.uk/pg04011.html

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« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2012, 09:53:08 AM »

Great, thanks CJ - once I've cracked it I'll report back!

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« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2016, 07:37:01 PM »

Yeah, it's pretty good.

Quote
Time has treated L.A. Confidential (1997) well. Though modestly successful, it was overshadowed by Titanic's colossal success. Curtis Hanson's slick neo-noir has aged far better, a multilayered tale of crime, corruption and media sleaziness that's irresistible.

 1950s Los Angeles stands on the verge of chaos. Several gangland hits and a restaurant massacre bring in three LAPD officers: Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), ambitious straight arrow; Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), flamboyant advisor to a TV series; and Bud White (Russell Crowe), bad-tempered detective. They trace a conspiracy involving businessman Pierce Padgett (David Strathairn), crooked cops, a prostitution ring and city officials.

 Hanson and photographer Dante Spinotti borrow from Chinatown and Mulholland Falls while adding personal touches. It's a classy blend of modern sensibilities and noir grittiness, with clipped pacing, staccato dialogue and oodles of period style, underlined by Jerry Goldsmith's score. Hanson delivers action in brutal bursts: a botched arrest turned pointblank gunfight, Ed and Bud's dustup, Bud interrogating a crooked D.A. (Ron Rifkin). Only the finale skews conventional, and after two hours' build-up it's more than satisfying.

L.A. Confidential explores the disconnect between L.A.'s image and reality. The media, represented by tabloid scrounger Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), burnishes L.A.'s image through film and television while scoring off its seediness. Police routinely beat and murder suspects; having bested mobster Mickey Cohen, they'll stymie the Mob by any means necessary. Padgett runs a prostitution ring whose clients, including Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger), resemble movie stars; Jack flits between the celebrity and police worlds, finding corruption in both.

 Scenarist Brian Helgeland confects an intriguing slow-burn mystery. Captain Smith (James Cromwell) sics the cops on three black suspects; only Exley's quick-thinking prevents a premature massacre. Their investigation moves fitfully: Ed resents Bud's violence, Bud hates Ed's ambition; Jack's more interested in his show than crime. L.A. Confidential plays their personalities against each other, cleverly manipulated by the villains. The plot turns on telling details ("Rollo Tomasi") rather than obvious errors, culminating in a compromised conclusion.

 Russell Crowe's tough-minded performance made him a star; he's rarely been better. Guy Pearce emphasizes Exley's zealousness, growing tougher while never compromising. Kevin Spacey nails an unusually likeable role: he's a cynical celebrity yet the cleanest protagonist. Kim Basinger's conflicted femme fatale, David Strathairn's smarmy businessman and James Cromwell's slimy Captain provide stellar support. Danny DeVito's narration adds humorous punctuation.

L.A. Confidential is the rare movie that gets everything right. From its well-crafted plot to the seamless style, it's a modern classic. 9/10

http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2016/03/la-confidential.html

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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2016, 08:51:17 PM »

I had read the novel before getting a chance to watch the film and the differences were staggering but as a whole, the main story seems intact. I don't understand why Basinger won an Oscar for the role because all she did was look the part but the chemistry between her and Bud White was lacking as was mentioned before. It's funny that there seemed to be dislike for the ending since in the book Dudley Smith actually survives and the last page is Bud White and Exley saying they will take him down. But that doesn't seem to be much of a cinematic ending then shooting down Dudley Smith. This reminds me that I need to get around and read Perfidia.

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« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2016, 09:13:46 PM »

I wasn't super-impressed with Basinger either but she wasn't a fatal flaw.

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« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2016, 02:14:22 AM »

I had read the novel before getting a chance to watch the film and the differences were staggering but as a whole, the main story seems intact. I don't understand why Basinger won an Oscar for the role because all she did was look the part but the chemistry between her and Bud White was lacking as was mentioned before. It's funny that there seemed to be dislike for the ending since in the book Dudley Smith actually survives and the last page is Bud White and Exley saying they will take him down. But that doesn't seem to be much of a cinematic ending then shooting down Dudley Smith. This reminds me that I need to get around and read Perfidia.

Did you read the other novels too which form the LA quartet?


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