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Archive for the ‘SUSPENSE’ Category

La Sirga

23 May

La Sirga – directed by William Vega. Suspense Drama. 68 minutes Color 2013
★★★★★
The Story: A teen-aged refugee comes to work in a dilapidated hotel by a vast lake in Columbia and the story of everyone else comes into being around her.
~
I watch with wonder at the unfolding of this story, told at a pace and in a style perfectly suited to its sedate subject. We would call it a classical style, which means it is a style which creates a class – a class of its own – to be imbibed if possible, stolen outright if not. We are in a world of color, wind, weather, noise, and place – alien and exquisite – which seem to narrate themselves.

The director, William Vega, and the camerawoman, Sofia Oggioni and the editor Miguel Schverdfinger, and the set decorator, Marcela Gómez Montoya, have captured in true film narration the sweet morale of the teenage girl on whom our attention and care is focused.

The big lake is itself a character in the story, as is the inn her uncle is trying to make presentable for guests who surely will never come. For the basis of this story is that of The Iceman Cometh. Castles in the air are the smoke of pipe-dreams, and no one will ever inhabit them.

Each character contributes, without demur, to the dreams of the others. The trout farm, the abandoned town we visit by raft, with its inexplicable towers, the young man who desires to take her away to a “better place,” her cousin with the evil mustache, and even her uncle who voyeurs.

In the eyes of each of them, she stands for the dream of starting over.

That is a great dream, is it not? And, of course, I won’t tell you how each turns out.

The young woman is perfectly cast, so we root for her, feel for her. Her female mentor, her uncle, the cousin, the boy in the raft – all of the actors play their parts perfectly and are perfect for them.

I seldom see as unusual a film as this, set in a part of the world I never saw, never heard of, with people I otherwise would not know, and brought forth with such calm and fitting beauty.

I am grateful for it. I recommend it as a first class suspense drama – meaning one that does not depend upon murder.

Do see it. See it with friends. It will confirm the relationship.

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: INTERNATIONAL REALISTIC, SUSPENSE

 

Inside Out

21 Jun

Inside Out – director Peter Docter. Animated Feature. 102 minutes Color 2015.

★★★★

The Story: The inside of an eleven-year-old girl’s mind in crisis.

~

Even in 3-D the most noticeable aspect before us is not birds flying into our eyes, but the greater interest lying in the witty veracity of responses of the main characters to what confronts them. In this, all human comedy consists, and we are treated with an untiring and untiresome display of it, even when the film sinks beneath its own spectacle, as it is bound to do, because nowadays each film released must exceed the one before in vulgar excess, or the audience, it is imagined, will be failed and fail it.

For I long to dwell upon a detail. Won’t they allow me that, even once? Inside the little girl’s head we have such Castles In The Air as FAMILY, HONESTY, HOME, GOOFBALL, each one set up as elaborate Pleasure Islands Of Nostalgia And Habit. Oh, I want to examine one of those, see what it contains! Please! But no, we are whisked away to the next loom of catastrophe quicker than two eyes can blink or even one.

The trouble with catastrophe is that it soon becomes labored and ho-hum. Still, there is pleasing suspense in just how the two heroines will be reunited. For OUTSIDE is the girl Riley, whose thumbnail bio we are given from birth to introduce the human qualities she was born with and contains INSIDE.

INSIDE, from her first glimpse of air, Riley is possessed of and is possessed by a quintet of forces and tendencies, Grief, Rage, Paranoia, Revulsion, and Joy. Joy alone is female. Joy is Riley’s default position, and so Joy womans the controls.

But something goes wrong, and she and Grief are zoomed into a region separated from those controls and, to save the day for Riley, must get back to where they belong, a journey more picaresque and fraught than any one ever had getting back to Tara or There’s No Place Like Home.

On their way they enter many a curious station, The Warehouse Of Memory, The Palace Of Imagination, The Compost Bin Of Experience. They meet up with Riley’s imaginary childhood friend, Bing-Bong, with whom they try to jump The Train Of Thought. He’s a lot of fun, too.

I say no more, save that, as in Frozen, it was good to see two female heroes before us, and no romance. The idea of animation entering the mind was overdue, although it has always been present in Bugs Bunny without saying so. Best of all I liked the wit of the drawing and the script. If the film confuses movement for zest, that is the temptation of all cartoon.

So much was included it was hard to note what was missing, which was the presiding character of Attention – that which discerns the INSIDE with the OUTSIDE. But perhaps that was left in the hands of the audience for a job, which, with no applause, we all did accurately and with care.

 
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Posted in COMIC ACTION ADVENTURE, DRAMEDY, FANTASY, PERSONAL DRAMA, SUSPENSE

 

The Gambler

03 Jan

The Gambler – directed by Rupert Wyatt. Suspense Drama. 111 minutes Color 2014.

★★★★★

The Story: A man gets in over his head and owes a fortune to three men who mean mortal business.

~

Mark Wahlberg is a wonderful actor.

What does that mean? It means that I look upon him and wonder. I contemplate his visage, his emotion or his emotion held in check or his delivery or what his mouth is or what his eyes are, and I wonder.

What does this mean to me? It means that both of us are in exactly the right places, I in the audience doing what I am supposed to be doing and he is up on the screen doing likewise.

Various things fall in his favor as an actor. First, he seems to have learned on the job, a good way to come into the craft. Second, his essence is working-class, which in this role would seem out of place, for he plays a college English professor and the son of a millionairess bank owner – yet his presence as such is without contradiction because he has conceived the role as beyond circumstance. Irony is the razor edge of death. Third, his male energy does not prevaricate. It stands there giving him, along with his medium-height and tone, the common touch. And finally he knows how to be before a camera such that both the camera and the audience can participate being there with him.

I felt he should have had the Oscar for The Departed. I felt he should have had the Oscar for The Fighter, but the withdrawn character he played was neoned-out by the electricity of Leo and Bale. He’s a first class screen actor. Will someone please hand one to him?

The picture is beautifully directed in terms of narrative intrigue. The director allows every actor forward into their talent. Jessica Lange, always a touchy actor, holds herself in strict check to play Wahlberg’s mother. John Goodman is filmed half naked, which grants us the power of his mass and the mass of his intelligence. Brie Larson holds us as the student taken with Wahlberg. Michael Kenneth Williams makes great book as the black money-lender. Alvin Ing is the still point of a knife in the role of a Korean gambling king. Richard Schiff plays a tip-top scene as a porn broker.

Every scene counts. Every scene is delicious to look at and never distracts with that fact. The music is mad and neat. It is perfectly cast. It is elegantly written. Grieg Fraser has filmed every scene color-right, and the unusual frequent use of closeups brings us into the situation every time. Production design, art direction, costumes, editing – all are unexceptionable.

The Gambler is the best movie I have seen all year.

Oh, this is the second of January, isn’t it! Well, you know what I mean. Take a gamble. See it.

 

Gone Girl

24 Oct

Gone Girl ­ – directed by David Fincher. Drama. 140 minutes Color 2014

★★★★

The Story: The wife of a man disappears unaccountably, and the community is in arms.

~

This piece has the opening beauty of a Hitchcock picture: a wrong-man-accused is his most frequent theme. But Hitchcock knew such a theme could not be dragged out at this length, for we have to wait over two hours for this shaggy dog to stop wagging its tail.

Ben Affleck is the lug whose wife has disappeared, and, as usual, he is completely credible. The wife is played by Rosamund Pike and she is equally credible because she plays a part of a woman who likes no one and therefore one is not obliged to care whether she lives or dies. Perfect casting: January Jones country. Kim Dickens is particularly effective as the policewoman striving to sort the case out as is Carrie Coon as Affleck’s twin sister and Lola Kirk as a low-life lady Pike meets on her way, and Tyler Perry as Affleck’s powerhouse lawyer.

The picture is effective in its opening two acts but falls asleep on itself as it generates nightmares to jack itself up. We are asked to enter into unnecessary, unsupportable complications, whereas all we care about, after a point, is Will the villain be trapped or not and how. Once the perfidy is arranged for us, we need no further perfidy to crown it. It is a film that does not realize that third acts always needs to get on with it.

The production is sumptuous, but the producers have made one stupid error, which is to hire the author of the novel to write the screenplay – for the reason the film exhausts itself is her jamming everything in the book into it. The interest of the neighbors and the press, for instance, would be better felt than seen. So would the episodes with Neil Patrick Harris. All we need is the scene in the hospital with her afterwards. How she did it is of no interest at this point. That she did it is everything, and all we need to know to put ourselves in the shoes of Affleck.

For film is not an imaginative medium. Which is to say, literature requires reading and reading requires one to fill in the lacunae with one’s imagination – how people look, sound, gesture, and how crowds are, one makes up for oneself as one reads.

In film the work of the imagination is done by everything being shown. Unless, even better, it is not shown. That is to say in film no imagination is required; so what is left unshown counts enormously to sustain interest, humor, and tension. Film narration, at least in suspense film, depends upon what is left out. And most films are suspense films.

Too bad here.

Vulgarity, as MGM long ago proved, consists in showing everything.

As to whether it is necessary for you to see this film I leave it out; yes, I leave it to your imagination.

~

 

 

Side Effects

06 Mar

Side Effects ­– directed by Steven Soderbergh. Suspense. A psychiatrist prescribes a new drug to a suffering young woman, and the results are as prescribed, alas. 106 minutes Color 2013.

★★★★

Side Effects, a right properly titled piece, falls into the category of Hitchcock suspense, by which I mean that it is arranged around a falsely accused man.

In Hitchcock’s many versions of this situation, To Catch A Thief, North By Northwest, Saboteur, I Confess, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Birds, Strangers On A Train, Rebecca, The Wrong Man, and so forth, something allows us to get behind the falsely accused character. This is not always solved by casting, but it is always enforced by Hitchcock’s treatment of the character. After all, these characters were not always played by Jimmy Stewart. Hitchcock’s usual strategy is to have the character thus falsely accused start the first act by evincing a really good sense of humor and be limber in his life. The humor may disappear with the tension of the story, but it has given us him as a human enjoying his life, and thus we don’t want him to lose it.

In the case of Side Effects, we have in Jude Law no Jimmy Stewart. He is a good actor but a cold one and seemingly empty. I don’t really care whether he lives or dies. And our chance to identify with him is crowded out by the fact that as written his character is not humorous but a workaholic. He is not enough fun for us to take to our hearts in such a tale.

Why a non-America actor is playing this part anyhow is a bafflement. His being from The British Empire adds nothing to the role. It would be a good part for Tom Hanks in his late thirties, and a perfect one for Adrian Brody and Robert Downey Junior right now – and for any number of other American actors, including black ones, presently in their thirties or early forties.

So the film fails to engage on a personal level, and we are left with a cunning story, beautifully told by the director and cinemaphotographer and editor. We go to a movie to see them, too, of course, and they do not disappoint, but they are not the one’s we need to identify with.

The story involves a troubled young woman sorely depressed upon the release from prison of her husband, well-played by Channing Tatum. Catharine Zeta-Jones is excellent as her former shrink. And Rooney Mara plays the young woman herself. She is taken to a therapist after an attempt at self-injury. The therapist is played by Jude Law.

The story held my attention from beginning to end, and I enjoyed and accepted its modulations into and out of peril. That is what suspense films are for, aren’t they? But I feared nothing for its hero, which is not what suspense films are for.

 
 
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