Saturday, June 3, 2017

Three Films Make A Post: The flesh is weak. Wax is forever.

Death Race 2050 (2017): G.J. Echternkamp’s film isn’t another sequel to the direct-to-video films based on the idea - minus the satire and the humour - of the Roger Corman-produced Death Race 2000 but a Roger-Corman produced remake of the original. That means broad, crude and sometimes funny satire is back in again, the production design is cheap yet insane, and Malcolm McDowell is the chairman of the United Corporations of America and looking like he’s having fun hamming it up and talking nonsense.

I for one welcome the return of weirdness, though I still prefer the original movie with its rather more pointed satire and its much superior stunt work. However compared with the usually deplorable quality of contemporary Corman productions, this one works out rather well by being mostly entertaining and more often than not even funny.

Klute (1971): The first film in what is sometimes known as director Alan J. Pakula’s paranoia trilogy (the other films being The Parallax View and All the President’s Men) is a giallo plot treated through the lens of US 70s hyperrealism, leading to a film that’s much more interested in the female main character’s Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda doing a brilliant job) psychology than it is in its murder mystery or its titular character (Donald Sutherland working wonderfully as a foil for Fonda to work with/against), mostly using said mystery to further emphasise thematic connections concerning trust and self-knowledge and 70s big city malaise in  the mystery and in Bree’s life. In the case of Klute, this isn’t a criticism, mind you, for Pakula’s direction and Fonda’s acting really come together to form something special and harrowing. Plus, the suspense scenes that are there are a rather brilliant bonus. I could have gone without the scenes between Bree and her psychiatrist which only tell the audience directly what the acting has made clear all along but then I’ve never been much of a fan of therapy scenes in movies.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muire (1947): This somewhat well-known (he wrote ironically) romance with a ghost between Gene Tierney (beautiful, alive) and Rex Harrison (dead, and supposedly a crusty sea bear which does use up a lot of my ability to ignore the improbable, much more so than his being a ghost) is ahead of most horror films of its time by indeed featuring a real ghost. As directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (not showing much of the talkiness classic movie buffs seem to either love or loath him for), it’s a highly effective romance I’d call a tear-jerker if that wasn’t making light of its delicate sensibilities. It’s the sort of film classic Hollywood was excellent at, an escapist tale of beautiful people and heightened emotions that looks and feels effortlessly luxurious.

In fact, the film’s emotionally so convincing I can hardly bring myself to be annoyed by its dubious idea of waiting one’s whole life away for a love one doesn’t even remember as the height of romance. Having to buy George Sanders as really hot stuff still confuses the heck out of this heterosexual guy, though.

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