Archive for the ‘Directed by Michael Powell’ Category

Public Enemies

14 Dec

Public Enemies – directed by Michael Mann – action adventure drama . Bank robber John Dillinger is hunted down by idealist G-man Melvin Purvis. 2 hours and 20 minutes color 2009.


Shot with an impenetrable suavity that dooms it, we are kept from this picture even as we try to penetrate its tricks, its angles, its lighting, its attitude of Aren’t We Making A Movie Though! For it is a movie, not about its characters or story, but about Movie Making. Yet, for all its technical virtuosity, it is badly recorded, so one cannot hear what people say. Christian Bale, he of the face of shattered glass, plays Melvin Purvis the man who tracks down John Dillinger in 1934 , but although false calling seems to be the key to his character, we have no sense that Purvis is in the wrong profession, beyond a certain natural distaste for the distasteful aspects of it. This is partly because Depp’s line to Bale about it is inaudible, and partly because Bale is an English actor playing a Southern aristocrat, and Southern aristocrats have hotter blood, hot blood being a gift beyond Bale’s capacity. Cold blood, yes, hot blood no. Johnny Depp is playing a part ideally suited to Brad Pitt, that is to say the part of a man whose sexual appeal seduces everyone in sight, male or female and who is a lot of fun. And Marion Cottillard is appealing but she too is not American. She brings a great deal to the part, and is probably the best actor up there, but she has everything but Van Camp’s Pork And Beans, which is the one thing you need in that role. The shame and the blame lies with the director, though. The nine-lives story of Dillinger’s elusive, cat-like, getaways and the drying up of his career are clear and interesting and cautionary for us all. On his deathbed, Dillinger, wearing a Clark Gable mustache, watched Gable in Manhattan Murder. Public Enemies needed to be shot with the simple plainness of the gangster movies of its era, the 30s, instead of as this affected and fancy farrago.



Peeping Tom

24 Oct

Peeping Tom –– directed by Michael Powell –– macabre drama about a photographer who kills with his camera. 101 minutes color 1960

* * *

Not as bad as it was said to be at the time of its release, and not as good as it was in later years claimed to be. Its interest does not lie with Powell’s famous sense of color, which is really simply bad taste in Technicolor. Nor does it consist of our interest in this film as a noir, for it cannot be a noir, since it is in color and since it was made 10 years after 1950 when the era of noir ceased. No, a picture of this kind must depend upon our interest in the personalities of the principals, and here they are not sufficient to the task of holding it. Carl Boehm is the leading actor, good looking, blond, and very German, which indeed he was; he was the son of a famous conductor. But why is a German called upon to play a role perfectly suited to Dirk Bogarde? Anna Massey his opposite in the film is the daughter of Raymond Massey, and she resembles him when in profile. She also has the habit as did he of an over-articulating mouth, which she cannot help, but she also delivers her lines from the same inner place her father did, which is that of well-projected unbroken recitation. This wrecks vulnerability. She is costumed oddly, also, for one cannot understand how she can afford such smart clothes when her circumstances are shabby genteel. The direction of this material is skewed throughout, particularly in the film studio scenes, which are handled with contempt as burlesque rather than as serious attempts to make a commercial film. Powell hated the studio system at Pinewood and this hatred sabotages these scenes and displaces the drama going on in them. Worst of all, the film is mis-titled. It has nothing to do with a peeping tom. It has nothing to do with voyeurism, so, if the slimy title did not disgust the reviewers of that time, it certainly must have disappointed them. It is simply a picture about a peculiar maniac. The commentary which accompanies it is numbingly dumb. It reads into the picture symbols where there are really only cymbals. Let us preserve a disrespectful silence then and say no more.


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