Archive for the 'Film' Category

Films from my trip to San Francisco

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Here is what I saw during my recent visit to my great aunt Merkie in San Francisco:

Criminal Code B+
Fascinating early Depression jailhouse drama heavily invested in a lost emotional world of empathy for the reprobate. The incestuous shades in the relationship between the warden (the former DA who put most of the men in the joint, played by Walter Huston) and his devoted daughter makes one think Robert Towne might have seen this small Howard Hawks B-feature before ginning up his part for Huston’s son in Chinatown.

Night World A-
A wonderful, very short, pre-code masterpiece. {{It lasts only an hour, although there is far more here than in most 2½ hour Hollywood Summer fx commodities.}} Superb direction makes one forget that this gem is set entirely within a single New York nightclub. Rarely has pure classical B-movie formula looked so assured and provided escapist pleasure so effortlessly. And the best thing about this 1931 jewel is that it features a slew of peripheral African American characters (including one with a serious minor part) and yet it is not painful or embarrassing to watch.

Turn Left At The End Of The World B
Israel’s Negev desert circa 1969 where immigrants (drawn to the wasteland by unfulfilled promises) endure mindless industrial work (until they strike), an utterly desolate environment, and the vicious intrigues and transgressions of a too-small community. The vision of [English-speaking] Indian and [French-speaking] Moroccan Jews forced to merge their very different styles of propriety, as seen through the eyes of two teenaged young women who become fast friends, lends this film its interest (along with a Cricket sub-plot, which never fails with me).

An Inconvenient Truth B+
Al Gore’s Keynote presentation works surprisingly well as a movie. My criticism would be with the slide show itself, which is chillingly effective, yet flattens its dramatic arc more than one might expect. The narrative is one of mounting evidence more than compelling emotional setup and payoff. In fact, this is remarkably unpropagandistic, abjuring so many of the 20th century’s refined techniques of audience manipulation in favor of a style more like Current TV than Leni Riefenstahl.

The Proposition B+
Nick Cave’s “Vegemite Western” {{Greg and I collaboratively came up with this one.}} set in a very desolate Outback Australia. Compelling performances amidst a dark and dusty frontier universe of betrayal and violence between stiff British Empire lawmen who look like they stepped over from Jackie Chan’s Project A and ruthless criminals straight out of Sergio Leone. You know that born-again Cave has written the script when you look around and realize that you can’t find any unambiguous Christian redemption for anyone in this moral universe.