Review: Bastards

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Bastards is a neo-noir from France written and directed by Claire Denis.  This is an idea ripped from the French headlines about wealthy, powerful men and a prostitution ring.  This is my first Denis film and it is supposed to be one of her darkest so far.  I hope so, because this is very dark!

Denis has teamed with Vincent Lindon before and wrote this movie with him in mind.  Lindon plays our protagonist who is a Sea Captain and comes back to Paris after hearing the news of his brother-in-law’s suicide.  Our femme fatale for this film is played by Chiara Mastroianni who is married to an older man and lives upstairs from Lindon’s recently rented apartment.

This has a slow pace and sparse dialog, but every little thing you are seeing seems to be important.  The story is told with a few flashbacks that show us what happened the night of the brother-in-law’s suicide.  The older man living up stairs is played by Michel Subor in a small but pivotal role.  He might be the performance of the film with his body language and how he evolves through out the film. Julie Bataille plays a widow, mom and sister to our protagonist.  She is in a desperate situation with an insurmountable amount of problems to overcome.  Lola Créton is our protagonist’s niece.  She is very troubled and as the film goes on we find little clues to why.

Our story starts with the suicide of the brother-in-law and his daughter walking down a side street naked and disoriented.  We see our hero getting the news on his ship and this is all before the opening credits role.  We flash forward a month where our hero returns to Paris to help his sister get her affairs in order and to help his niece who is still in a mental hospital.  As the film goes on we don’t really learn as our protagonist learns as we are used to.  We do learn as things go on, but the audience is left in the dark for a lot of this film.  It is worth watching to the end to see where all this goes, but be warned, it is disturbing and not for the weak of heart.  This movie will stay with you for a while after you see it.

Favorite Tidbit: This film is inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s movie The Bad Sleep Well.  I hope to watch and review this film soon.

This movie is for fans of Denis and other French films tackling tough subjects.  Neo-noir fans that can handle a little darker and more disturbing content then the norm will…I was going to say enjoy this film, but I don’t think this film is meant to be enjoyed.

Review: Le Cercle Rouge

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Le Cercle Rouge translates to The Red Circle in English.  The reason I wanted to watch this was a little tidbit of trivia from the film John Wick.  When I was looking at the background of that film, the night club in one of the scenes has a red circle neon sign and the club is called the Red Circle.  Someone said this was in homage to this film.  That was enough for me to watch and review this movie.   Here is my review of John Wick:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/06/review-john-wick/

Jean-Pierre Melville wrote and directed this film and was his next to last film before his untimely death of a heart attack at age 55.  Melville wrote and directed many classic neo noir films from France and made some masterpieces, this being one.  Melville is an important influence on today’s neo noir and crime directors.  Influencing a who’s who of today’s talent.  John Woo, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Mann, Volker Schlöndorff, Johnnie To,  Martin Scorsese and fellow countrymen Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut all said Melville was a big influence on their work.  Needless to say we will be looking at more of Melville’s movies on this site as well as those he influenced.  Melville had the idea for this film in 1950 but shelved it until 1970 because of the similarities to the Asphalt Jungle that came out that year.  He held on to the idea 20 years, until he started working on this project in 1970.  Here is my review of the Asphalt Jungle:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/08/review-the-asphalt-jungle/

Alain Delon plays our main protagonist and appears in a number of Melville movies.  Delon/Melville seem to be the French version of the USA’s De Niro/Scorsese.  Bourvil plays the police detective set on the case.  Gian Maria Volonté plays a recently escaped convict on the run and teams up with our hero for a big score.  Yves Montand plays a retired cop with chemical dependency issues and knows both our lead detective and our escaped convict.  He teams up with our thieves for the big score.

One of the things this film is famous for is the 25 minute heist scene.  There are no words spoken and had to be influenced by Riffi from 1955.  I will re-watch Riffi and review it later for this site.

Our story starts with our protagonist in jail and is visited by a money man that lets him know he will be getting out tomorrow, on one condition.  A job, one that is made for him and one that he will get away clean, as long as he doesn’t screw up!  Famous last words, right?  We also have our convict handcuffed on a train in the company of our lead detective, he escapes and is on the run.  Our two outlaws meet in a very unusual way and our adventure begins.

I already mentioned how John Wick gave a nod to this film, and I think there are many more.  I can’t help noticing this has many similarities in plot points to Heat, reviewed here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/03/12/re-watching-the-classics-heat/

And the scene in the forest reminded me of a similar scene in Miller’s Crossing, reviewed here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/02/15/re-watching-the-classics-a-fresh-look-at-millers-crossing/

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I also seen small similarities in Ocean’s Eleven.  What other movies do you think used this for inspiration?  Let me know in the comments below.

There has been a remake in the work for years, with Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson rumored to be attached. From some reports this may be dead now.  A remake could be brilliant or it could be a big disaster.  How do you remake a classic of this caliber?  Worst case scenario is a remake will bring attention to the original.  This is a must see for neo-noir fans, and foreign movie fans alike.  It is a little long and the pacing deliberate, but is well worth your time.

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Review: Victim

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Victim is not a timeless story, in fact if taking place in today’s world it would be almost pointless, and that’s a good thing.  This is a British film, filmed in Black and White with classic film noir shots.  This film would never have been made in Hollywood in 1961.  This is a very interesting film for its time, It raised quite a stir.  This film wasn’t even allowed in the United States at first, then this film was giving an X rating upon release.  To see how times have changed, when this was released in 1986 on VHS it was given a PG-13 rating.  In Britain it currently has a PG/12 rating.  This film has no scene of violence or sexuality to speak of.  This was the first English language film to say the word “homosexual” in it.  At the time this film was made, homosexual activity between two males was illegal.  At this time in the early 1960’s the police had been really lax in enforcing this law.  That did open up the opportunity of blackmailers to take advantage of the law.  Law Enforcement was pretty lax at trying to find these blackmailers as well.  That is the basis for this film.

We start with Barrett, played by Peter McEnery running from the police.  He eventually gets caught and is questioned why he has stolen over 2,000 pounds from his employers.  He is flat broke and the detectives quickly determine that he has been blackmailed.  The whole time he is running, he is trying to get a hold of our hero, the lawyer Melville Farr played by Dirk Bogarde.  We soon find that Farr and Barrett knew each other and may have had a relationship, this is very ambiguous and depending on the editing of the version you see, may be more or less so.  Farr is married to a wife, played by Sylvia Syms, she seems pretty forgiving, especially given the times this film takes place in.  When Farr is brought in by the detectives for questioning we get some harsh news and Farr starts his own investigation to find the blackmailers.  This has some holes in the plot for sure, like if you’re a blackmailer why would you blackmail the young single working class man, instead of the rich lawyer with a wife?

This film may have been one of the things that helped get the laws for gays changed in Britain, which came 6 years later in 1967. In that way this was a very timely and very important film in the early 1960’s and is worth viewing for capturing a pivotal time in human rights.  Outside the politics of this film, we have a decent plot with some twists and turns, a red herring here and there, but not an overly satisfying mystery on its own.

Re-watching the Classics: The Narrow Margin

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The Narrow Margin is directed by film noir great Richard Fleischer.  Martin Goldsmith and Jack Leonard were nominated for an Academy Award for best writing.  Even though this was an Oscar nominee it is very much a B-movie taking only 13 days to film.  The film stars the queen of the B movie noir Marie Windsor.  The hardboiled detective is played wonderfully by Charles McGraw.  His gravelly voice and great one liners makes for one cool character.

A line from the film as our hero describes what kind of dish our femme fatale is before he meets her: ” Sixty-cent special. Cheap, flashy. Strictly poison under the gravy”

This is also Jacqueline White’s last movie, she got married and moved to Wyoming with her husband after this film.  It was her most successful film.  Hard to say where her career would have gone if she stuck it out a little longer.

The story starts when our femme fatale is being escorted by two L.A. detectives back to L.A. to testify against the mob.  One of our detectives is shot and killed protecting our witness.  Now our hero has to out smart an unknown number of mob hitmen while protecting our femme fatale that he doesn’t really like, on a train with very few places to hide.

Favorite Tidbit:  This film was actually made in 1950 but Howard Hughes who owned the studio at the time heard good things about it and wanted to view it before its release.  He forgot about it while it sat in his projector room for over a year.  The other story of the delay is Hughes liked it so much he wanted to change it from a B-movie to an A-Movie and putting Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell in it.

The Narrow Margin was remade in 1990, I haven’t seen the remake since it came out.  I’ve watched the original many times in the last few years.  I will have to re-look at the remake and compare it to the original at a later date.

This is a classic that should be seen by any film noir fan!  If you haven’t seen it in awhile go watch it right now!

Review: Inferno

Inferno is a 3D film-noir!??!  This movie is filmed in 3D, a very popular thing in the early 50’s and 20th Century Fox was a little late to the game.  This was their first film in 3D and didn’t come out until 1953.

This has film noir great Robert Ryan playing a millionaire that is abandon in the desert and left for dead.  He has a broken leg and has to survive on his own with very little water and food.

We also have frequent femme fatale Rhonda Fleming as the wife that leaves her rich husband in the desert to die.  Her motivation for doing so, is falling in love with the desert guide 3 days before, played by William Lundigan, and a circumstance where her husband falls from his horse and breaks his leg.

This is written by Francis M. Cockrell who wrote a lot of crime and thriller stories for the big and small screen.  Inferno is directed by Roy Ward Baker who directed many crime and horror projects for movies and television.

Our hero’s thirst for survival is based on his need for revenge on his wife.  We almost have 2 films here, the survival story of our hero and out femme fatale covering up the murder she thinks she’s committed.  Both come back together for a final conclusion in the end.

This is not a traditional film-noir, being filmed in color and 3-D, with stereo sound to boot.  The effect is well done, with the beauty of the desert setting and Fleming’s red hair and blue eyes popping in vivid Technicolor.  I watched this on television so I didn’t get to watch this in 3-D.  There was a few of these 3-D noir films made in the 1950’s, it would be cool to see these released on 3-D Blu-Ray.

This is not a widely viewed film with under 600 viewer ratings on IMDb.  I actually think this would be enjoyed by a wider audience then just crime and noir fans.  I think the outdoors enthusiast as well as western fans may enjoy this as well.

A Video Essay of Film Noir by Drew Morton

This is a cool video essay from Drew Morton.  This is educational as well as entertaining.  Here is the link to the first part:

http://blogs.indiewire.com/pressplay/watch-film-noir-basics-from-the-maltese-falcon-to-bound-to-inherent-vice-a-video-essay-20150203

Here is the link to Part 2:

http://blogs.indiewire.com/pressplay/watch-what-are-the-parts-of-a-good-film-noir-story-20150317

Drew Morton is doing 5 of these and I can’t wait to see the rest of them.

Re-watching 25th Hour

25th_Hour_Poster 25th Hour is a neo-noir from a not so likely source, Spike Lee.  This takes place in New York, so Lee isn’t a bad choice.  Lee has actually been making some great neo-noir and crime films before and since this.  I really liked Son of Sam, Inside Man and though it isn’t as good as the original, I thought Oldboy was pretty good.

This film revolves around Monty, played by Edward Norton.  Norton is one of my favorite actors in today’s films.  He usually picks pretty strong scripts and always does a great job.  Monty is going to jail tomorrow and is going out with his friends for one last night of freedom.  Monty is a drug dealer that gets busted and doesn’t know who ratted him out.

His girlfriend is played by Rosario Dawson, is she our femme fatale?  She is another actress I’ve liked in most of the things she has done.  Barry Pepper plays the sleazy stock broker that thinks he’s better than everybody else.  He plays the part well.  Our hero’s other friend is played by the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays a shy teacher with a bit of a dark side.  Other standouts in the cast are Brian Cox as Monty’s father and Anna Paquin as a high school student.  We also see Isiah Whitlock Jr. as the DEA agent and swearing like only he can.

The film is based on a book by David Benioff who also wrote the screenplay, his first. He has gone on to do many more screenplay adoptions for movies and television.

We have a lot of great stuff in this film and one of the things I forgot about was this being made in New York City in 2002, the loss of the Trade Centers is an import part of the back drop.

The movie opens with Monty and one of his mafia friends picking up an abandon dog, left on the street to die.  Monty takes the dog in as his own.  I guess this is to show our hero is a good guy at heart and a drug dealer by necessity.We flash forward to Monty’s last day of freedom and we have the occasional flash back to explain how we got to this point.  Monty needs to make a decision, go to jail for 6 years, run, or suicide, all of which, him and his friends consider on this final night.

Favorite tidbit:  Edward Norton says he believed in this project so much that he used all his earnings from Red Dragon to help make it.  This seems to fit Norton, do a few big films so he can do many small films he believes in.  I always look forward to anything with him in it, and this might not even be in his top 10 films, but it is a good film worth seeing.

A must watch for Norton, Dawson, Hoffman or Spike Lee fans, as well as neo-noir fans.  It’s a film that will make you think and stay with you awhile after you see it.  What would you do in this situation?

Review: Beware, My Lovely

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Beware, My Lovely is based on a play, based on a short story that is written for the screen by Mel Dinelli.  Dinelli was a writer on many film noir and thrillers through his career.  It is directed by Harry Horner who also directed Vicki, a film noir I plan on watching and reviewing on this site at a later date.

Of course the attraction to this film is its two leads, both film noir legends.  Ida Lupino not only starred in many film noir movies, she also wrote, directed and produced.  Something not to common for a female in the 40’s and 50’s.  Lupino is an under rated talent in the history of Hollywood and more people should know about her.   Robert Ryan known to play an intimidating tough guy in film noir, war and western movies.  In real life he had the make up of a hard man, at 6’4” and a World War II vet with boxing experience, you can see why he was perfect for a lot of the roles he played.  Though these traits got him a lot of tough guy roles, he was a pacifist in real life.

This film opens with Ryan cleaning a house, when he opens a door and sees a dead women on the floor.  He takes off on the run and ends up at Lupino’s house, hired as a handy man.  Ryan’s character is a dangerous schizophrenic that imprisons Lupino in her own home.

This is a very claustrophobic film, with a cat and mouse element.  Not sure if this is the first film of its kind but has to be an influence on future works like Misery, The Panic Room,and especially Funny Games.  This had to influence in some ways many horror movies as well.  This shot is one of the coolest shots I’ve ever seen:

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This is slow-moving pot boiler that gets hotter and hotter as it goes.  If you’re a fan of Lupino or Ryan you need to check it out.  This is not a widely viewed film with less than 1,000 user votes on IMDb, and should be viewed more, especially by film noir, thriller and even horror fans.