Saturday, September 25, 2010

Classic Soup #1

Classic Soup is a new, sporadic, series from LiE covering varying older films seen for the first time with short reviews and commentary.

Directed By: Jules Dassin
Written By: Jules Dassin & Auguste Le Breton
Novel By: Auguste Le Breton

Quiet, calculating, and captivating, Rififi is an exercise is visual narrative where dialogue and sound are deemed lesser by comparison to tension and shot composition.

This is most likely for the best considering that the dialogue is rather weak (minus a few moments int he finale), and the acting of some of the characters a bit comical. Luckily, the strength of the writing lay in the story and characters. Their flaws, weaknesses, and strengths all present themselves over the 2+ hour runtime, leaving its impression right at the heart of the viewer.

At times I felt as if the story dragged, and certain items, such as backstory for our characters, weren't nearly as well formed as I would like. Yet if you're looking for a film that combines beautiful camera use for pure tension, Rififi is one of the masterworks of that art.

Overall Score: 8.50/10

Directed By: Robert Moore
Written By: Neil Simon

Maggie Smith, David Niven, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, Eileen Brennan, Elsa Lanchester, James Cromwell, and even Truman Capote. What more could you possibly expect than absolute zaniness?

And luckily enough it's the zaniness that works best for the film. Not the kind of movie that builds up to a punch line, so much as build up to memorable characters. Each of whom undergo a series of goofy situations which may or may not work for you.

By today's standards it's a very lighthearted affair. In many respects it builds a formula which has been emulated time and time again (to varying degrees of success). For me, I found Falk to be a real stand out here. In the respect that it desperately makes me want to seek out more of his performances. He channels a side of Bogart that's just over the top goofy in every way.

Unfortunately I can't say I was overly amused by all the characters (especially Sellers as Sidney Wang... going borderline racist I'd say). Not to mention, it's a rather slow paced film for its story. Perhaps, I would have been better served to see it under different circumstances.

Overall Score: 7.00/10

Directed By: Fritz Lang
Written By: Fritz Lang & Thea von Harbou

Gripping, intense, and socially applicable, M is in many respects a crime epic. As this child murderer roams the streets we see the struggles of the police, the frustration of the criminal element, and the fear of society. Wrapped up into a beautifully shot film, Lang truly outdid himself with this one.

The dialogue is superb, to the point in which it blends message and opinion wonderfully. It has a goal, and finds the appropriate medium to present it. 

Supporting the writing, Lang creates a sense of tension, fear, and anxiety through countering moments of silence and noise. Our main villain is given a sense of understanding, but equal contempt, with a brilliant performance from Peter Lorre. All of which culminates in a final speech that is simply breathtaking to the nth degree of powerful. 

Always reaching for that little bit more, the only thud for me lied in the final shot. I understand why it ends that way, the final message on crime and punishment. Yet, I can't help but feel as if, given much of the story lay in the chase, and not the court, a more suitable final shot could be found. Still, the one brief moment, against the backdrop of near 2 hours of perfection, seems incredibly mundane.

Overall Score: 9.50/10

That about does it for this installment - if you have any recommendations/comments let me know as always!

1 better thoughts:

Will said...

Love this idea for a new series. No one commented yet, so maybe I'm the only one. Hopefully not! Anyway, I saw Rififi like ten years ago and thought it was good but kind of boring. I'd have top see it again to even begin to remember anything else about it. Never saw Murder By Death.

I love M though. Truly tense and exciting to watch, which is no small feat for a movie made in the 1930s!

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