Sunday, 23 September 2012

Watched This Week - 17-23/09/12

The Wages Of Fear (1953, Henri-Georges Clouzot)

A film that simply could not be made in America right now, is Clouzot's The Wages Of Fear. Of course William Friedkin remade it in 1977 with his Sorcerer but at that point in time the US was still undergoing its renaissance, a time where character driven cinema thrived and did not fear emotional honesty and more than a hint of nihilism. The plot of Clozout's film could not be simpler; a group of men of various nationalities residing in a poverty stricken South American village get the chance to earn money by transporting two dangerous trucks full of nitroglycerine. Part road movie, part thriller, the film sure takes its time to get going while it introduces the main players. Its 156minute length is well earned by getting us close to the men who at any time during the second half could ignite without a chance of survival. The teaming of characters Joe (a verging on elderly ex-gangster) and Mario (a younger man about time) in the second truck makes for the main thematic point of the film. Like all road-movies, from Ford's Stagecoach to Alfonso Cuarón's Y Tu Mamá También, the journey takes its travellers on a quest of self-discovery or perhaps without the personal recognition of the characters has the audience discover  and think over its ethos. Here, the young daredevil Mario is partnered with the worn down Joe as the two exchange experiences and beliefs. Whereas Mario is cocky, young, and naive enough to refuse his morality, Joe is world weary and old enough to see the end. Death hangs over every moment of their mission with the long and perilous path laying before them representing life itself, epitomising its fragile nature. The ending didn't sit well with me at first, a problem that has since calmed though an unfortunate element I cannot completely excuse.When keeping in mind the reading of the film I've skimmed over here the ending makes sense, however, I still feel that Clouzot's climax is ill judged and tonally at odds with the film's extensive runtime. For the most part The Wages Of Fear still impresses to this day and more than earns its place as one of the finest thrillers ever made, though of course it's much more than that.

Radio Days (1987, Woody Allen)

Radio Days wouldn't make my top 5 Woody Allen films, though it certainly would crack my top 10. It's a wonderfully warm film bathed in all the earnest nostalgia that audiences lapped up from his recent Midnight In Paris, a film so easy to revisit time and time again, acting like a cinematic comfort blanket. Of all of Allen's collaborations with Mia Farrow and Diane Keaton this was the only time they shared a film, though Keaton is a fleeting presence whereas Farrow is a main focus. Here Woody Allen guides us through past events in where radio was at the midst of, or perhaps influenced. Though I'm sure many examples were entirely fictionalised or just exaggerated upon the film is certainly one from the heart, a deeply personal look back in time to radio's golden age. Farrow, as the ditzy waitress propelled into the business through a chance run in with the mob is a pleasure you'd expect from such a fine and loveable performer. I must say that it's Diane Wiest's naive (yet fussy) in love Aunt Bea that always makes the film for me, her desperate and sincere desire to find herself a suitor is charming when coupled with her conflicted desire for perfection. In fact in a word that's how i'll leave Radio Days best summed up, charming. 

City Of Lost Children (1995, Jean-Pierre Jeunet/Marc Caro)

Before the likes of Amelie came along to dominate the world cinema market as well as many hearts, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's work was a tad darker to say the least, though just as much fairytales as his 2001 classic. City Of Lost Children is a strange film that I won't even try to explain or analyse here; it's best left to see for yourselves and I'm not wiling to dedicate that much time and space to this multifaceted fantasy. In it's simplest form it's an adventure of a man's attempt to regain his brother from the hands of a mad scientist, it's a bizarre and quirky affair (as you'd expect from Jeunet) a melding of Terry Gilliam and Charles Dickens almost. Despite the richness of its thematic concerns such as mortality, imagination, and the difficult juggling of age and the duality of mind/body, the propelling narrative is light and brisk. For those not willing to delve deeper into the film, nothing will be lost as long as they surrender themselves to a rather loose sense of logic and the surrealist imagery throughout. City Of Lost Children is a fun ride that never ceases to amaze in its loosely screwed on debauchery. Marc Caro's set design is as breathtaking as it ever was with Jeunet's energetic compositions rarely stopping to take a breath, if only to admire the eccentric universe he and Caro created. 

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