TIFF Cinematheque Presents - Kathryn Bigelow
Category: Cinéma - Movies
Published: Tuesday, 18 July 2017 02:42
Written by Gilbert Seah
TIFF Cinematheque Presents - The Films of Kathryn Bigelow
The TIFF Cinematheque first retrospective on Kathryn Bigelow entitled KATHRYN BIGELOW: ON THE EDGE begins July 21.
Bigelow’s first film was the low-budget debut THE LOVELESS (an arty, hipster spin on ’50s biker movies, co-directed with Monty Montgomery and starring Willem Dafoe) Following that, she made her critical (but commercial unsuccessful) breakthrough with NEAR DARK, a grimy yet wickedly stylish tale of a pack of vampires traversing the American Southwest. This was followed by a slew of films including POINT BREAK, STRANGE DAYS and others culminating with her glorious Oscar winner THE HURT LOCKER. The retrospective arrives in time with the release of her new film DETROIT.
Bigelow was married to and divorced from director James Cameron. Their collaboration can be seen in his script of STRANGE DAYS which Bigelow directed.
Bigelow’s best films are NEAR DARK, BLUE STEEL and STRANGE DAYS, all three of which oddly enough, did not do well at the box-office.
In April 2010, Bigelow was named to the Time 100 list of most influential people of the year.
For the complete program of the retrospective with screening dates and times, please check the TIFF website at:
CAPSULE REVIEWS OF SELECTED FILMS:
BLUE STEEL (USA 1990) ****
Directed by Kathryn Boggle
BLUE STEEL is yet a another really awesome Bigelow film that flopped at the box-office. She wrote this film with Eric Red after their collaboration NEAR DARK and marks another very human emotional script with a female cop character. Just as Bigelow functions as a female action director BLUE STEEL is set in a man’s world. Jamie Lee Curtis plays a rookie cop who foils a grocery store hold-hp shooting the robber (Tom Sizemore) who pulls a gun on her. But she does not notice the robber’s gun stolen by a customer, who turns out to be a psychopath (Ron Silver) who uses the gun on a killing spree around NYC. Detective Turner (Curtis) engages in a cat-and-mouse game with the killer that consists of a series of actions set-pieces. The only problem is the sudden appearance of the killer shooting at Turner in a subway station for no reason except to provide the climax for the movie. Still, this is Bigelow at her exciting best, and BLUE STEEL is an absorbing watch from start to end. Ron Silver is the creepiest villain I have seen for a long time in a movie.
NEAR DARK (USA 1987) ***** Top 10
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
NEAR DARK is Kathryn Bigelow’s second and arguably BEST movie feature that mixes the western and vampire horror genres based on a script written by Bigelow and Eric Red. The story follows a young man, Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) in a small midwestern town who becomes involved with a family of nomadic American vampires. It all starts one night, when Caleb meets an attractive young drifter named Mae (Jenny Wright). Just before sunrise, she bites him on the neck and runs off. The rising sun causes Caleb's flesh to smoke and burn. Mae arrives with a group of roaming vampires in an RV and takes him away. The film plays like a male victim basically in a female victim role which makes sense since Bigelow is a female action director. NEAR DARK is one action set piece after another, the top two being the bar segment where the vampires terrorize a local biker bar, killing everyone before burning it down followed by a police takedown at a motel. The only problem with the film is Bigelow’s Hollywood ending where Mae, the vampire becomes human again with the couple living happily ever after.
ZERO DARK THIRTY (USA 2012) ***1/2
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
ZERO DARK THIRTY (referring to the period of time 30 minutes past midnight) is the story of perhaps the greatest American manhunt in history – the search and capture of Osama Bin Laden. The story centres on the character of naïve CIA agent who goes by the name of Maya (Jessica Chastain) who supposedly masterminded the discovery of the whereabouts of OBL. The navy seals were called in to attack the fort with the result of him being killed. But not after Maya has given out all that she has got. The script has her undergo the typical coming-of-age growing up to maturity as she accomplishes her goal. Initially, shocked but accepting the torture by the American military, she gradually grows from soft to hardened in order to get the job done. Maya finally reaches her angry peak when she confidently says to the Navy Seals, “You go and kill Bin Laden for me,” as if it is her own private vendetta. The script and director keeps the film moving fast from start to finish keeping the audience’s attention. The climatic segment of the raid on the fort in the dark of night is brilliantly executed.
TIFF Cinematheque Presents - French Crime Classics
Category: Cinéma - Movies
Published: Thursday, 06 July 2017 19:33
Written by Gilbert Seah
TIFF CINEMATHEQUE Presents - FRENCH CRIME CLASSICS
This new Cinematheque series showcases post war French Crime classics, may of which are seldom seen. One of the best films in this series is the newly restored PANIQUE, a 1945 black and white film (remade by Patrice Leconte as MONSIEUR HIRE in 1989) which I got to see for the first time, and must say is the BEST film I have seen this year.
PANIQUE was selected for both the Cannes and New York Film Festivals and was received with critical accolades when it opened at New York’s Film Forum. The film is capsule reviewed below. A MUST-SEE! (Panique screens on Thursday, July 20 at 6:30 p.m.)
French Crime Classics running from July 6 to September 3 is curated by James Quandt, Senior Programmer, TIFF Cinematheque. There is a total of 25 classic crime films, several in new or restored prints.
Due to time constraints, I am unable to review at this time, all the screeners provided to me by the Cinematheque. However, more reviews will be added to this article, so please keep checking for more updated reviews.
CAPSULE REVIEWS OF SELECTED FILMS:
ASCENSEUR POUR L’ECHAFAUD (ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS)
(France 1957) ****
Directed by Louis Malle
One of Jeanne Moreau’s early films that director Louis Malle help put on the filmmaking map. Moreau does a lot of sulking and wandering around the city like a crazed lady when her lover (Marurice Ronet) fails to turn up for the rendezvous after being locked and trapped in an elevator after office hours as a result of a murder they both conspired on. The victim is the husband and the target the prize money that the two lovers hope to live happily ever after with. But as stories like these are, nothing goes as planned. A young couple steal the car and murder two German tourists with Ronet being the prime suspect. Director Malle fills his suspense thriller with lots of details that aid the story’s authenticity, especially in the segments in which Ronet is trapped in the lift. The black and white cinematography (by Henri Decae) is superb and aided by an excellent jazz trumpet score by Miles Davis. A beautifully stunning and entertaining suspense thriller!
LES DIABOLIQUES (France 1955) ***** Top 10
Directed b H.G Clouzot
Undoubtedly the best suspense murder thriller of all time! Based on the novel by Pierre Boileau, the film is the typical Hitchcock movie. It was rumoured that Clouzot bought the rights of the novel just before Hitchcock could, thus infuriating the Master of Suspense. But Hitchcock could not have made a better film. Shot in black and white with the word sinister printed on every scene, DIABOLIQUE tells the story of a mistress and wife of a boarding school owner conspiring together to commit the perfect murder. As one school colleague put it - it is really strange to see the wife comforting her husband’s mistress. Simone Signoret plays the strong mistress while Vera Clouzot plays the weak hearted wife, both abused physically and mentally by the man they plan to murder. Of course in stories like these, things never go as planned. The body goes missing and the plot twists more than once at the end. Clouzot ‘s film contains some wickedly brilliant moments. The one in which the wife begins to warn her husband of the poisoned wine he is about to down only to get slapped by him is a classic. She then quietens to pour him more of the poisoned wine. Another has her burn the evidence with a match, the light brightening up her face to reveal her reaction. As the two women leave in the car to drive back to the school with corpse in the boot, the neighbour says casually that the cops are around the major intersections theses days. One sentence of dialogue such as this one is sufficient to drum up the audience anticipation for the entire car trip. The atmosphere of the 50’s countryside France, the boarding school and emotional trappings of the two women are all wonderfully created. DIALBOLIQUE was remade with Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani in the 90’s, but some films like this one (and all Hitchcock films) should never be remade.
JUDEX (France/Italy 1963) ****
Directed by Georges Franju
JUDEX (original creator Louis Feuillade) is a French mysterious hero who punishes evil men like a judge passes sentences. The plot revolves the evil banker Favraux, receiving a threatening note from Judex (Channing Pollocak) demanding that he pay back people he has swindled. He is later drugged by Judex and locked away. But Favraux is not the only villain in the piece. Meanwhile, the former governess, Diana (Francine Berge) , kidnaps Favraux’s daughter Jacqueline (Edith Scob) to try to get the banker's money. At the same time, private detective Cocantin (Jacques Jouanneau) bumbles his way (like an Inspector Clouseau) trying to figure out what is going on. The film is rich in period atmosphere especially in the costume ball segment where JUDEX makes a surprise appearance wearing a costume with the head of a hawk. The film wonderfully transports the audience into the style of early French cinema.
MADEMOISELLE (UK/France 1966) ****
Directed by Tony Richardson
A film that is seldom seen but should for the many famous names credited to it - among them director Tony Richardson (TOM JONES, THE ENTERTAINER), actress Jeanne Moreau (also seen in ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS in this series), gay writer/poet Jean Genet whose story is based from and Marguerite Dumas who wrote the script. MADEMOISELLE (Moreau) is evil as evil can get. She is shown breaking eggs in a nest and replacing the squashed eggs in the nest for no reason except to show that she is some psychopath. She is a school teacher in the village causing havoc by flooding the farms, committing arson and poisoning the farm animals while the villagers blame the Italian woodcutter, Manou, (played by Ettore Manni) for their losses. The film only hints at the reason she is committing all this evil. The film plays like a suspense sexual thriller and yes, Jean Moreau is finally seduced by the hot sweaty harry hunk of the Italian. A weird art film that is by no means boring but fascinating from start to finish.
PANIQUE (PANIC) (France 1946 ) ***** Top 10
Directed by Julien Duvivier
The first film (before Patrice Leconte’s MONSIEUR HIRE with Michel Blanc) based on the novel Les Fiançailles de M. Hire by Georges Simenon, PANIQUE has all the elements of a film classic. The plot is a beauty and the beast like story with all the villagers at the end of the film lynching who they think is the murderer of a an innocent girl. After an elderly woman is murdered, the murderer realizes that Monsieur Hire (Michel Simon), a solitary Jewish neighbor on the courtyard where the main characters live, knows who is responsible. The murderer and his girlfriend, Alice (Viviane Romance) manipulate local opinion against Hire, who is ostracized by the community. It does not help that M. Hire falls in lvd with Alice. He tells Alice his every move, making him more vulnerable to the murderer. They then plant evidence in Hire's apartment to confirm popular suspicions. Director Duvivier builds up on the suspicion and mistrust by the villagers on the stranger, criticizing the small French town mentality. The butcher questions the the preference of his pork chops to be bloody hen M. Hire buys the, and another is suspicious of the gifts M. Hire offers to a little girl. The town is interested in cheap gossip, tacky entertainment like lady wrestling and taking matters into their own hands. Beautifully shot in black and white with M. Hire wonderfully performed by Michel Simon, PANIQUE is a thrilling tragedy from start to finish.
TIREZ SUR LE PIANIST (SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER) (France 1960 ) ****
Directed by Francois Truffaut
One of Truffaut’ more obscure but no less impressive feature, SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER follows the adventures of a bar’s pianist, Charlie played by French singer Charles Aznavour after his bother runs to him for hiding. The film is part thriller part romance but it is these little details of the film that creates the charm and magic of this sensitive film. One scene has Charlie contemplating whether to ask Lena (Marie Dubois) to have a drink or to be more subtile by asking her if she was thirsty. When he immediately turns to her to utter by mistake, “Let’s go for a drink,” she has already walked off. The execution of musical numbers like the rendering of “Framboise” also does the trick. Aznavour is no great actor, by Truffaut milks the charm that has made this singer so famous. Again, the are lots of shots of women’s sexy long legs here as in Truffaut’s other films especially L’HOMME QUI AIMES LES FEMMES. I saw the film only once 20 years ago and was not really impressed then, but am now.