Thursday, November 13, 2014


Fast Company (1938): I know, Edward Buzzell’s film is only an attempt to launch another detective couple like The Thin Man’s Nick and Nora Charles, but I really like the resulting mystery comedy a lot. Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice as our central couple have highly enjoyable chemistry, the dialogue’s fast and very funny, and the mystery plot goes by sprightly and without major hindrances to the enjoyment of the dialogue, so there’s little about the film that isn’t enjoyable and charming. It is not quite on the same level as the first Thin Man yet who’s making comparisons while he’s charmed?

As an added bonus for the bookish like me (and hopefully you), our heroes work as rare book traders and part-time book detectives, a fact I would probably make more of in my imagined remake where she is the more action oriented and he the one who stays behind, but it’s still the sort of thing that helps the movie become something a bit more than just an easy attempt to jump on a bandwagon.

Cut-Throat Struggle for an Invaluable Treasure aka 塞外奪寶 (1982): Despite beginning with a massacre of Shaolin monks and the ensuing theft of the Buddha’s teeth, this Hong Kong martial arts film directed by Hui Sin and Leung Wing-Tai is more of a comedy than anything else, if a comedy not prone to the outer heights and depths of martial arts slapstick. In its choreography, its sense of humour and its needle-dropped score, this is pretty much a typical second tier film of its time, and like a lot of these films, it’s damn entertaining while doing what it does with professionalism and style.

The fights are pleasantly varied in style and form, their execution is fine, and the film has a nice flow to it, even if the plot is just going through the motions to get from one fight to the next. As an added, and unexpected, pleasure, Cut-Throat Struggle is also full of very pretty location shots for its characters to fight in, adding the cheapest of all special effects.

Seraphim Falls (2006): David Von Ancken’s fascinating film starts as what looks like the final act of a modernist Western, but gradually turns into something much more surreal, the film’s outer landscapes mirroring those of the protagonists, until the difference between the metaphorical and the real becomes diffuse; people who like connections coming from Abrahamic religions will have particular fun here. In its own, peculiar way, Seraphim Falls does tell a very Western-like redemption story, even if it at first pretends to be more of a Spaghetti Western-like tale of vengeance; it’s just that the film’s concept of redemption is a bit different from that of many movies in the genre that came before it. While it is going on its way to redemption, the film plays with various audience expectations (like who the hero of the tale might be), and gives Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan, as well as a bunch of excellently cast minor characters, much space for performances that are at once real and as idiosyncratic as the film needs them to be.

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