Saturday, May 19, 2018

Three Films Make A Post: From his French maid, he got Private Lessons. Now his English professor is giving him a REAL education.

Croupier (2008): Despite making the British gangster movie early on in his career with Get Carter, director Mike Hodges’s career has had a strange stop and start structure – with more stops than starts – with a small number of films which tend to range wildly in quality. Croupier is fantastic, though, shot by Hodges in seemingly simple pictures, very much focussed on Clive Owen (in a fantastic performance) as a man who is nearly devoid of all actual humanity and ends up losing the bit of it he has. All the  while, the films is pretending it is a happy (or at least light) end. The film is based on a script by Paul Mayersberg that is a study of absences – the protagonist’s lack of actual human connection, the lack of scruples of the characters he interacts with, and much more philosophical voids that seem to be embodied in the roulette wheel.

Blame! (2017): Going by the productions they buy and co-produce, the Japanese arm of Netflix is on pretty good terms with Tsutomu Nihei, so this neat one-shot anime based on one of Nihei’s early manga doesn’t come as a surprise, exactly. The budget’s probably only on the level of an OVA, but the Nihei-based designs of a weird, techno-biological future city out of control are as wonderful to look at as in Nihei’s manga, and while the plot isn’t exactly deeply memorable (which fits well with the original too), it does bring standard anime and weird far future SF elements together effectively. Certainly well enough to carry ninety minutes of Nihei’s designs, action, and melancholia for a lost future.

The Hidden (1987): This is a veritable classic that crosses SF horror, action movie and cop buddy movie in what I believe to be director Jack Sholder’s finest hour. The script (by Jim Kouf) is deceptively clever in building up the tale of the body hopping sociopathic alien with the loud taste in music, hiding a surprising amount of thought about the nature of civilisation and humanity under a wonderful escalation of violence and craziness, sardonic – violent - humour and an (actually very controlled) anarchic surface.

Sholder always was at least an ultra-competent craftsman, and when a script gave him the opportunity – as this one did – to really dig into crazy action movie stuff, weirdness, and hidden cleverness, things can turn out rather special, with nary a boring or stupid second on screen, particularly not in the moments when the film pretends to be stupid. It’s what the professional blurb writer would call a rollercoaster ride of excitement, and for once, blurbese is just the right language to use.

As a bonus, we get  Michael Nouri, Kyle MacLachlan at the peak of his curious, pretty, alienness (always feeling a bit like a Lynch character, if Lynch was involved in a project or not), and a cast of strong character actors, often playing the alien.

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