It was a challenge within a challenge this weekend just gone, as I cast a huge net to try and bring the ’1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ quest in on time! I set myself target of 14 films over the two days, this proved to be a bit of over ambitious thinking on my part as I ended up on 12. Which I was still happy with! Apologies if the following reviews seem somewhat short, but I’m now trying to focus my efforts on watching more films, rather than writing about them – which believe it or not actually consumes more time! Part II of the weekend viewing will follow in a separate post.
Anyway enough of my ranting and deep breath…
#280/ 365 – ‘La Confidential’ (1997) – 132 mins
IMDb Challenge #165/ 250 – Ranked #70 – DVD Collection
1950’s Los Angeles is the seedy backdrop for this intricate noir-ish tale of police corruption and Hollywood sleaze. Three very different cops are all after the truth, each in their own style: Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), the golden boy of the police force, willing to do almost anything to get ahead, except sell out; Bud White (Russell Crowe), ready to break the rules to seek justice, but barely able to keep his raging violence under control; and Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), always looking for celebrity and a quick buck until his conscience drives him to join Exley and White down the one-way path to find the truth behind the dark world of L.A. crime.
In this smouldering mystery thriller which is devilishly dark and convoluted, the characters are passionate, but in different ways and about various things. They immerse themselves in the same whole-heartedly, you find yourself doing. And, whilst L.A Confidential is mostly a character piece in the midst of its mystery and intrigue, the movie also has some unforgettable plot twists and a killer climax.
#281/ 365 – ‘Amadeus’ (1984) – 180 mins
IMDb Challenge #166/ 250 – Ranked #83 – iTunes
Locked away in an asylum, former court composer Antonio Salieri (F Murray Abraham) recounts his tale of bitter jealousy and revenge toward the upstart genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce), who rose to fame before his and the eyes of the Viennese aristocracy.
Amadeus is not a biopic in the traditional sense, as its more a look at the intense obsession and jealousy Salieri had with the great Mozart himself. The relationship seen between the two men is a complex one, Salieri although he is gifted and his works are respectable he not quite the genius enough to compose it. F Murray Abraham is memorable in the role, as the scheming Salieri. – “All I ever wanted was to sing to God and then He made me mute. Why? Why did he deny me the talent?“, and well deserved the Oscar he won for the performance.
#282/ 365 – ‘Chinatown’ (1974) – 130 mins
IMDb Challenge #167/ 250 – Ranked #68 – DVD Collection
Los Angeles detective Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired by a woman claiming to be a Mrs. Mulwray to spy on her husband. Shortly after Gittes is hired, the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) appears in his office threatening to sue if he doesn’t drop the case immediately. Gittes pursues the case anyway, slowly uncovering a vast conspiracy centering on water management, state and municipal corruption, land use and real estate, and involving at least one murder.
Does film noir have to be shot in black and white? Well ‘noir’ does mean black, but who cares. Because, despite shooting in colour, Roman Polanski completely encapsulates that Forties noir atmosphere in this contemporary thriller.
With its hard-edged dialogue and ever unfolding plot Chinatown does require plenty attention. But stay with it and theres plenty to be admired in Robert Towne’s dark Oscar-winning storyline that is compelling throughout.
Faye Dunaway impresses richly as the femme fatale, who early on makes it impossible for us to know what her true intentions are. However make no mistake, though, this is Jack Nicholson’s movie, his breakthrough glittering role before hitting stardom.
#283/ 365 – ‘The Third Man’ (1949) – 104 mins
IMDb Challenge #168/ 250 – Ranked #65 – iTunes
Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), An American writer arrives in post-WWII Vienna only to find that the friend who waited for him is killed under mysterious circumstances. The ensuing mystery entangles him in his friend’s involvement in the black market, with the multinational police, and with his Czech girlfriend.
From one film noir to another. And one in the more traditional sense. But with Carol Reed innovative directing which imbues so much style, dashes of black comedy, meticulousness in its twisty, but perfectly balanced storyline (written by Graham Greene), and inventive cinematography – could The Third Man be the most quintessential film noir of all time?
Whilst the first hour of the film gives way to one of fantastic setup. It’s in the final forty minutes with its famous and iconic scenes that elevates The Third Man to one of the greats. In Harry Lime it features one of the most charismatic villains ever to grace the screen to which Orson Welles appears just three times but his presence dominates throughout.
#284/ 365 – ‘Requiem for a Dream’ (2000) – 102 mins
IMDb Challenge #169/ 250 – Ranked #63 – DVD Collection
Paralleling the lives of Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), a lonely, TV obsessed widow, and her son Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and his drug dealer friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). After learning that she will make an appearance on a TV game show, Sara tries to lose weight so that she can fit into her prized red dress, and becomes hooked on diet pills. Meanwhile, Harry and his friends are taking heroin and cocaine. We then witness the disastrous consequences and the downward spiral their lives take as a result of their addictions.
For all its cinematic tricky and editing. Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream is a perfect representation of where style completely outweighs the substance. From frame one and throughout you are bombarded with an onslaught of the same drug related imagery to make the film a pretentious and dreary watch.
#285/ 365 – ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004) – 108 mins
IMDb Challenge #170/ 250 – Ranked #62 – iTunes
Shy Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) meets free-spirited Clementine (Kate Winslet) and they start a rocky relationship. One day she seems not to recognise him and Barish discovers she has visited Lacuna Inc. and had all memories of him wiped. An angry Barish decides to undergo the same procedure, but begins having second thoughts.
Despite all the films twists and turns, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is primarily a unique romantic comedy, and one that is not constrained by the normal expectations of the genre.
Director Michel Gondry shines, both for the magical cinematography and the ensemble cast, in which, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are wonderful together throughout. Though special praise should be given to Charlie Kaufman quirky screenplay as here, it shows he’s a writer who thinks on a completely different field than to most. Eternal Sunshine is a film that rigidly at the same time focuses on storytelling and character. Not quite perfect, but still highly recommended viewing.