So anyway. Capsule reviews of previous Netflix rentals, is what this is all about, you see. I mean to write this one several days ago, but other posts and -- let us not forget -- laziness have pushed it until today. I watched all three of these films last weekend, so my memory, and therefore reviews, of them won't be as sharp as I'd like. Also, I slept in really late this morning, and it's fuzzing up my brain. And now that my excuses are all in play, I shall proceed.
Brute Force - d. Jules Dassin (1947) - This film, if you haven't seen it, is kind of messed up. It's a prison film of the "noble criminal" variety, meaning that all the inmates we discover anything about are basically good guys who, through desperation or a brief, minor weakness, have transgressed the law. Their punishment ends up far outweighing their crimes, because not only do they have to go to prison (a fate, the movie seemed to imply, that even criminals should be spared), but they have Hume Cronyn's sadistic prison guard making their lives hell.But I don't mean to sound so negative. This is really, in many ways, an excellent film. Burt Lancaster, Charles Bickford, Roman Bohnen, and especially Cronyn, give terrific performances, and the film looks beautiful -- the last twenty or so minutes of this film highlights the odd, otherworldly beauty that black and white photography can bring to screen violence. But the "noble criminal" cliche', while fine in small doses, when taken to its extreme rankles me quite a bit. Yes, it's true, I'm not a fan of Bonnie and Clyde for much the same reason.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul - d. Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1974) - So, okay, I don't know much about Fassbinder's aesthetic (by which I mean what was planned and what wasn't) or his influences (beyond what I can try and guess at), so I'll just ask straight-out: are the sudden shots of melodrama injected into this otherwise spare, almost kitchen-sink drama, intentional? Obviously they're intentional, because he put them there, but did he intend them to play like melodrama?
Quickly, for those who don't know, this is the story of Emmi, a middle-aged German woman, and Ali, a Moroccan immigrant worker many years her junior, who fall in love and have to weather the prejudices of a German society who remembers all too well the Munich Olypmics massacre of two years previous. And to be honest, with that set up, the film is almost as schematic as you might guess. So add that to the occasionally jarring melodrama (Ali's sudden collapses and illness), and I have to ask, "Okay, so why is this still so compelling?" Because I did find it very compelling, and I have to admit that I haven't yet figured out why. Perhaps Fassbinder is trying to remind us that however much an audience might giggle at the overheated nature of melodrama, they may be doing so because they can sometimes recognize the reality of it, and Fassbinder does this by wrapping the more eyebrow-raising moments of his film in the most straightforward, stripped-down and down-played style possible. Maybe.
De Sade - d. Cy Endfield (1969) - Sorry, Cy Endfield and Richard Matheson, but this film is trash. For one thing, the film is not, as I'd previously thought, a horror film, but rather a frickin' biopic as fever dream, or fever dream as biopic, or some such nonsense. It's fractured, in any case, and not to any positive effect that I could see.
Keir Dullea is ridiculously miscast as De Sade, a man whose adult drift into perversion and, well, sadism was all instigated when he was but an innocent youth, whose uncle (John Huston, less badly miscast) exposed him to cruel and painful sexual humiliation. And there you have it. Now just imagine how the rest of a movie with such a premise might play out, but, you know, fracture it. Also, every so often put a red filter on your lens. I would also add that you shouldn't forget about tits, but I hardly think I need to point that out.
NEXT IN THE QUEUE: Young Mr. Lincoln, My Favorite Year, and Renoir's The River