Review: Victoria

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Victoria is a German neo noir from 2015 that has been getting rave reviews. The film takes place in real time and was shot in one take! This is amazing, and though I’m not a film student or know much about how things work behind the camera, I do appreciate the difficulty of doing this type of film. With all that said, does this make a good film?

The film starts out with Victoria, played by Laia Costa, having a night out at the dance club. When she is leaving, she meets four men trying to get into the club, but follow her outside. Victoria takes to one of the men and decides to join them for the rest of her night.

From there Victoria decides to help the gang when they need a driver for a small job. This is when this movie really takes off! I’ll be honest, the first hour of this film is boring. It is a very slow burn, but stick with it. I understand to make this film in real time with one take, we have to build a foundation on why our protagonist would help these four strangers(even then you ask yourself “why is she doing this?”) Once you get through the first hour of this film you are in for one hell of a ride!

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I’m not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed in this film. Based on the reviews and articles I read on this film, I had very high expectations.  If you take away the fact this is in real time and shot in one continues shot it is a average film. With that being said it is still worth watching for the fact it is one continues shot and well done with no edits, this boosts this film to a very good film. I give props to Sebastian Schipper for his direction and the cast for basically knowing where the story was going, but ad-libbing most of their lines along the way. This is an unique movie experience that you have to watch at least once. Enjoy the roller coaster ride, even if the pull to the top is a little slow, you will remember the ride for a long time.

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Review: The American Friend

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The American Friend or Der amerikanische Freund is a neo noir from 1977 by director Wim Wenders. Wenders wanted to do a film based on a Patricia Highsmith book. His first choice was The Cry of the Owl, but when the rights to that book were already taken, Highsmith offered him Ripley’s Game, a new Ripley book that was not published yet.

I still have not read a Highsmith book, I know, I know…I hope to soon. I do have to say I don’t get the Ripley character at all in the films I have seen. I have seen Purple Noon, which I found interesting, and my favorite film with the character, it is also the first one. I need to re-watch Ripley’s Game and The Talented Mr. Ripley because it has been over a decade since I have seen them, but remember being underwhelmed by them when I originally saw them.

I was really looking forward to seeing American Friend after reading all the great reviews and seeing it is highly rated by most. If you can’t already tell I was not a huge fan of this film. I will not say it is a bad film, it has a lot going for it, I guess my expectations going in may have been to high.

Dennis Hopper is good and has a very unique take on the Ripley character and Bruno Ganz is very good as the innocent man that gets sucked into Ripley’s world.

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The story starts out with Ripley having a dead artist, who isn’t really dead, paint new pictures which Ripley sells at auction. Jonathan(Bruno Ganz), is a framer who thinks something is a miss with these paintings. Ripley takes offense to this and goes into a scheme to convince Jonathan he is dying and should take an assassination job to make money for his family before he dies.

There is a lot of cool things going on in this film, like a number of great directors playing criminals throughout the movie. The locations are interesting and fun to see. I liked Ganz’s internal battle on what he should do. I didn’t get Ripley’s choices all the time, and I don’t think Ripley thought out a lot of what he does, maybe he is too much of a real psychopath and isn’t supposed to make sense all the time. I wanted to know more about why these hits on the mafia were happening. How did Ripley and his partners find out about these hits?

This maybe one of those films that are better on a second or third viewing, or after you read the books it is based on. I think fans of the Ripley character will enjoy this film. Like I said this is not a bad film and worth a viewing, but I did not find it as good as I had hoped it would be.

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Francine Prose wrote a great review of this film and obviously loved it much more then I did. After reading this review, I would like to go back and re-watch it and hope I find it more entertaining then the first time.

https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/3866-the-american-friend-little-lies-and-big-disasters

 

Article: 10 Great European Neo-Noir Films

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Jessica Kiang over at Indiewire has put together a nice little list of European neo noir films. I will be adding a few of these to my queue for sure. Is there any European neo noir films that should have been mentioned that were not?

Here is a link to the full list and article:

http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/10-great-european-neo-noir-films-20160121?page=1

Film vs. Film: M(1931) vs. M(1951)

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Here we look at the German Expressionist all time classic M and the 1951 Hollywood film noir remake M. A story about a serial killer of children and vigilante justice. Can a re-make hold a candle to one of the all-time greatest films ever? Well let’s step into the cage for an all out noir brawl.

Round 1: Direction and Cinematography

M from 1931 is directed by one of the all time greats, Fritz Lang. Even Lang has said this is his favorite film of his career. Released in 1931, this film broke new ground in so many ways. This movie also used filming techniques that all film noir would crib from over 9 years later.

M from 1951 is directed by one of film noir’s favorites as well, Joseph Losey. This was Losey’s third film and one he didn’t want to do. He didn’t figure he could re-make a work by Lang, but was broke and took the job. He would go on to make many more classics after this film. The cinematography of this film is very good looking. The street scenes of Los Angeles are a great time capsule to see. Some of the scenes might even be more creepy then the original, like the mannequins scene. Though there is nothing wrong with Losey’s direction, we are talking about Lang and one of the most influential films ever, so we need to give this round to the original. M(1931) 1-M(1951) 0

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Round 2: Screenplay 

M(1931) is written by Fritz Lang and his then wife Thea von Harbou. They really wanted to make a film about the most horrifying criminal they could imagine. Loosely based on a real case of a serial killer targeting children, Lang and Harbou could not think of anything more scary to make a film about. Still to this day, this subject mater is fairly taboo in film and television. Can you imagine how shocking this story would have been in 1931?

M(1951) Leo Katcher, Norman Reilly Raine and Waldo Salt took the original script and revised it for an American setting and audience. They added another dimension to the script with the drunk lawyer character played by Luther Adler. They did take away the element of the beggars union hunting to find the killer, which did take a bit away from the story.

I have to go with the original again in this round. Though the remake made some interesting changes, those changes are not enough or good enough to sway the judges. M(1931)2-M(1951)0

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Round 3: Male Lead

Peter Lorre became a household name around the world from this film. He is so scary, yet you feel sorry for him at the same time, it is a brilliant performance from one of the all time greats.

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David Wayne steps into some big shoes and bravely does the character totally different then Lorre. It is a great performance where he actually seems a bit scarier then Lorre in a few scenes. Maybe the scariest part of Wayne’s performance is that he looks a lot more normal then Lorre when he is hunting for his next victim.

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This round has to go to Lorre, though I liked Wayne’s performance. Lorre just has that it factor that makes him so watchable in almost anything. M(1931)3-M(1951)0

Round 4: Supporting Cast

The original film used real life criminals and the beggars had some amazingly interesting looks. Small people, men with wooden peg legs, and the blind are very interesting to watch.

The 1951 version has Raymond Burr, Howard Da Silva, Jim Backus and Norman Lloyd just to name a few of the cops and gangsters that appear in this film. Though this is a close one, but I have to give the round to the remake. M(1931)3-M(1951)1

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Though the remake showed a bit of brilliance in the last round, the fight goes to the original by a landslide. Though both films are good in their own right and the remake is a very good film noir the original is a masterpiece. Both are worth your time to seek out and watch. Now that a remastered version of the 1951 film is available, look for a copy.

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Favorite Tidbit: Both of these films where banned at one time or another. The original was banned a few years after its release in Germany by the Nazi party. Both Lang and Lorre fled Germany because of their Jewish heritage. The remake was basically shelved after some of the crew was put on the Communist Blacklist. Losey would soon flee to Europe after this film.

 

 

Review: The Silence

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The Silence(2010) is a thrilling neo noir from Germany directed and written for the screen by Baran bo Odar. This is based on a book by Jan Costin Wagner. In traditional noir fashion this film starts out with a grim scene that has happened in the past. We than flash forward 23 years where the exact same crime has been committed again. The movie continues to bounce back and forth between the two-time periods to clear up some questions, but leaves us asking more questions in this interesting story of past guilty and differing shades of evil.

We start out with a young girl riding her bike down a country road as two strangers played by Wotan Wilke Möhring and Ulrich Thomsen follow her. Thomsen gets out of the car and chases her down as Möhring watches on from the car. Things don’t just go to far here, they go way to far as the young girl is killed. Möhring helps his friend dispose of the body and we flash forward 23 years. When another young girl goes missing and they find her bike in the same field as the previous crime a retired detective played by Burghart Klaußner thinks it is the same man. He teams up with the current detective on the case played by Sebastian Blomberg. Will our duo solve both crimes? Are both crimes committed by the same people? How has the original murderer and his accomplice not been caught in the last 23 years. How does this crime affect the people in this town?

This film covers some dark material, from pedophiles to child pornography to serial killing. I do have to say this is done in classic film noir style in the way the grotesque is implied and not put on the screen to shock like most modern films. The story is very complex and you will be left with questions at the end, just like a real life case. This film is German, but could have easily taken place in any rural town. I really enjoyed this film and think most noir fans will too. If you are questioning whether you should watch this do to some of its subject matter, I encourage you to give it a try. Like I said this film is not in your face or over the top with shocking scenes, but is an interesting look at a subject way to prevalent in society today.