Friday, June 12, 2009
After the first time I saw the opening scene of Snatch., I knew that this was going to be one of my favorite movies. Very rarely do I find myself getting so wrapped up in a movie that I find myself talking back to the movie, cheering on the characters and grimacing when bullets are shot. But there I was.
Snatch. is one of those great movies where the main character thinks "How did I end up here? I don't belong here. This is not my scene." A guy involved in illegal boxing some how gets mixed up in a very bloody chase for a giant diamond? And yet, the transition between Tommy and Turkish to Sol and Vinny is seamless that you begin to believe that everyone really is connected and there really is something to Kevin Bacon's game.
Brad Pitt's character, Mickey, stands out to me. He is such an emotional character, one that everyone rags on (almost everyone in this movie hates the "pikeys" except the actual pikeys themselves) and yet by the end of the movie he is basically the one that saves the protagonists from some of the most terrifying bad guys. I mean, Brick Top has a speech impediment and he still scares the daylights out of me.
Even though I don't have to use the closed captioning to watch this movie anymore (and props to Pablo for not even asking for it the first time he saw it), Snatch. still finds a way to seem new to me each time we watch it.
Monday, June 8, 2009
There is the story, and then there is the way the story is told. Sometimes the two...the story and the telling...work together so that the two complement each other. Such is the case with Snatch.
For the first 20 minutes of the film I still wondered exactly what was happening, but then so were the characters in the half dozen plot lines. But then as the varied lines begin to converge, so did my understanding.
Same can be said for the language of the film. The various British dialects were nearly unintelligible because of the accents and the slang which punctuated every phrase, but as I listened I gradually understood more and more just as I understood the story more and more. Except with the Gypsy language. That I had to rely on a sense of what was happening. My co-watcher offered, early in the film, to select the subtitle option, but I choose not to rely on that tool because I like to watch and hear films...not read them. (Note: Since I do not speak only English, I realize that limits my film watching tremendously...but that’s how it..and I..is).
As the film progressed and the story threads tightened, so did my understanding so by the end I could sigh, a little exhausted, and say “good story.” But man, it sure was a lot of work. That might not be bad. Good things are worth working for.
Posted by Paul Williamson at 2:27 PM
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
This is our second film noir film (both from Pablo) and I am really getting into this genre. It has been parodied so much that the actual original films from the genre seem like fakes. This one, however, packs a punch.
Bogart has proven himself to be one of my favorite actors. Pablo made the comment while watching the movie that he didn't think the romance between Spade and O'Shaugnessy was necessary or even made sense, and I found myself agreeing with him. Sam Spade is such a character by himself--witty, incredibly intelligent, strong-willed and seemingly distant from female characters, it seemed like he wouldn't actually know what to do with a woman that wasn't his secretary or his mistress on the side.
Having said that, the film is exactly what you want out of a noir film. Spade has some classic moves (like de-gunning the guy in the hallway) and Peter Lorre is just as awesome as usual. I loved that no character was perfect, but you could see where everyone was coming from. Although, you were always rooting for Spade. How could you not?
One thing that I will recommend to anyone pursuing the career of a private investigator: never, ever trust the woman who comes to your aid the first time she asks for your help. She is most likely lying.
Cannot remember the first time I saw this film or how many times since, but I do not tire of watching Samuel Spade try to figure out what his cast of characters are after and why. And the style? Well, seems a dictionary's definition of film noir could simply read "The Maltese Falcon."
Other than John Huston's masterful working of Dashiell Hammett's story, making the dialogue as snappy as Dash's original, when I think of the movie, I remember small visuals like the shadow of the agency's painted name falling on the office floor, Spade and Archer, just before it becomes only Samuel Spade. I remember the dangerous teasing of Wilma, the low angle shows of Greenstreet that makes him look even bigger than he is, and I can almost smell the lilac perfume on Joel Cairo's calling card, and feel the caressing of the black bird when it is finally in the group's hands. For a black and while film, there is plenty here for the senses...all five of them.
Yet, in all the watchings, I am never convinced of a romance between Spade and Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Perhaps it is because I am not particularly moved by Mary Astor, but I think it is largely because I don't need a romance in the story. I don't need Sam Spade to feel...just to outwit and act quickly. But that small bit does not distract from my keeping this film close to the top of any list of Pablo's films.
Call me a "typical hipster," but Wes Anderson is my favorite director. Probably because he has a way of turning an unattractive, sad character into a charming protagonist that you want to root for, despite their (many) short-comings.
For Rushmore, it's Max Fischer. On the surface, he is a creepy fifteen year old that never wants to leave his school, but is drawn to an older woman, probably to fill the void left by the death of his mother. But after a closer examination, you find that Max is wise beyond his years, tending to bond with smart, love stricken adults than his fellow classmates. He writes plays, gets drunk, sets up elaborate ways to win the heart of his love, and spends his time immersing himself in extra-curriculars. How can you not like a guy that starts a Kite Flying Society?
Anderson has a way of making the most inane conversation sound enlightening and thought-provoking. Even the line "My top schools where I want to apply to are Oxford and the Sorbonne. My safety's Harvard." shows what kind of a character Max is. And he is a character I can get behind.
Two years ago, driving McNoface's car on a five-hour trip through North Florida, out of range of any NPR stations, I searched through her stack of CDs for company. I choose the soundtrack from Rushmore, thinking a soundtrack would be instrumental and thus good drive music. It was and it was my intro to the movie. So in watching the film I heard the music in context and see that Wes Anderson delicately weaves a varied soundtrack from many artists into a fine background for his storytelling.
From early in the film, Max is an admirable character: talented, quietly ambitious, a romantic in a way, an adventurer whose interests are broad as evidenced by his extracurricular activities. But when his interest turns to a fixation on Rosemary, his interest is nearly that of a stalker and his pranks have near deadly results on his nemesis, Herman Blume.
But Max is on a journey. This is his coming of age journey. And while he seems almost dangerous at times, to others and to himself, physically and emotionally, in the end finds his place, and a place for others in his world, just as he is able to cast just the right people, even his enemies, in his dramatic stage productions.
Note to self: Add Wes Anderson to list of clever, insightful storytellers.
This movie is rich, not just in the depth of its film noir storytelling style, but in its ability to manage that style in color, rich color. Visually the film is a pleasure to watch, from the clean shiny rounded fenders of cars to the razor sharp lapels of J.J. Gittes' suits. It's a real shame we "lost" Polanski. He knows how to let a story unfold, slowly, as a detective works, slowly, uncovering details, knowing where to look for the next one, knowing how to piece them together.
The twists of the story do not rely on violence or a masterminded robbery, or some fantastic scheme. It all comes down to a personal family matter, a corruption of morals on the most personal level within a family that is manifested in the perpetration of fraud on an entire city with its most basic need...water.