Thursday, August 14, 2014

Three Films Make A Post: Blood-curdling giant fly creature runs amuck!!!

Le Saut de l’ange (1971): This is a grim, rather cynical revenge movie by Yves Boisset about a bloody election in Marseille, or rather Jean Yanne coming back from a self-imposed Thai exile to take revenge for his wife and kid who are (quite uselessly) killed for reasons of politics and money he doesn’t actually have anything to do with anymore. In Boisset’s hands, it is a somewhat dry, deliberately paced crime movie with jabs of intense, sharp violence, a basic feeling of hopelessness, and a sense of barely repressed political anger. It is, as they say, quite a good film if you like that sort of thing, which I do, particularly when it includes the handful of moments of brilliant filmmaking this one does, moments when the film stops being dry completely and somehow turns its quite down-to-earth idea of how horrible violence works mythical without actually changing its posture at all. Call it alchemy.

Because Boisset is a director of taste, the film also features fan (that would be me) favourites Gordon Mitchell, Senta Berger and Sterling Hayden.

Espion, lève-toi (1982): Speaking of Yves Boisset, there’s also this spy movie with Lino Ventura as a French sleeper agent situated in Switzerland who finds himself reactivated only to stumble through a business so labyrinthine, he doesn’t even know if the people who tell him he’s working for them are actually who they say they are. On the pacing level, this is also rather slow, but it is again a sure-handed slowness the film needs to get to breathe. It’s less overtly violent than the older movie but that’s because it is really much more useful for the film’s goal of having its audience share its protagonist’s feeling of alienation and confusion to keep the violence off-screen and ambiguous.

If you’re the type to enjoy films that are structured like a peculiarly nasty kind of chess – abstract until they become all too personal – like I sometimes do, this is a pretty perfect example of it. Parts of the film are really about what very abstract strategic goals do to the people who are part of the strategy, the moment when the blind and indifferent forces of politics turn against you, or rather, use your personal loyalties, your humanity, to make you their chess piece until its time for you to disappear forever.

Breakout (1975): If there’s a place in your heart for middling 70s action movies, that’s where Tom Gries’s film probably lives. It’s not a bad film at all, but one that doesn’t make enough use of a great cast (Charles Bronson! Robert Duvall! Randy Quaid! Jill Ireland!), and could do quite a bit more with the basic set-up of a charming rogue (surprisingly enough Bronson) trying to get an innocent rich American (Duvall) out of jail because he’s rather fond of the rich man’s wife (Ireland). And money. I know, it’s “based on a true story” but when has that ever stopped a movie from changing the truth into something more entertaining?

Despite its lack of depth, it’s still a fun enough film, if only because it provides an opportunity to witness Bronson smile and emote and wisecrack.

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