250 Favorite Classic Films in no particular order
⇨ Vertigo (1958)
Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere.
Happy Birthday Elisha Vanslyck Cook, Jr. (December 26, 1903 – May 18, 1995)
Happy Birthday Richard Weedt Widmark (December 26, 1914 – March 24, 2008)
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As you can most likely tell, I am a huge Jean-Pierre Melville fan and while I have not loved all his movies that I’ve seen (I’m looking at you, Bob Le Flambeur and Leon Morin, Priest) I have loved a majority of them.
And now, after months of knowing of this director, one of my all time favorites, I have finally gotten the chance to watch what many call his “masterpiece”, Army of Shadows, and what a masterpiece it is.
The film follows a group of Resistance fighters during World War II, fighting the Vichy, the Gestapo, basically anybody under Hitler’s fascist regime. But we don’t often see Nazis or Hitler. What we see is the Resistance and the fight they are bringing.
These men and women are spies who live in terror and paranoia, but they stick to a strict moral code not to rat on friends and to kill yourself before they get any information out of you and compromise the entire network. They fight a battle they are never sure of, for a cause they don’t know and won’t know will win in the end. And they are shadows. They move around and supply information to the allies, hide and impersonate, even kill, all under false names and addresses. These people are often killed or commit suicide anonymously. Their sacrifices are never known.
Melville and the man who wrote the book for which the basis of the film was provided, Joseph Kessel, were both former French Resistance fighters. Whether their experiences were channeled into this film is a mystery, but it certainly seems like it with its realism and honor driven moral mentality.
Army of Shadows is exceedingly gloomy. Its hopeless story and mindset, its dour characters and its grey color palette are all certainly depressing, but it succeeds and entertains on levels other films of the genre cannot even touch.
Jean Peters in a still for ‘Pickup on South Street’ (1953)
HAPPY 113th BIRTHDAY BOGIE!
Humphrey “Bogie” DeForest Bogart
December 25, 1899 - January 14, 1957
Jules Winnfield, 101
Ernest Chiriaka is awesome.
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I’ve been in a recent espionage kick and haven’t gotten around to updating the blog, so for that I apologize. Into the review now.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of my favorite novels. I liked it so much I’ve read it two or three times over, party because I love the characters, the story, and the dense atmosphere, and partly because I didn’t understand any of what happened on my first couple of run throughs.
Truth be told, the movie adaptation for one of my favorite books is not perfect, but masterful and extremely well done.
George Smiley, played by Gary Oldman, is a top ranking spy for British intelligence who is forced into retirement. Unfortunately, as time passes, certain people within this web of espionage find out that there is a mole, and he’s been there for years. Together with a tight group of information grabbers and spies, Smiley goes back in his mind and interrogates others for what happened in the past, and everything that happened in that time, trying to track down when the mole came in, what he’s been doing, and, most importantly, who he is.
The book was long, and trying to condense that into a two hour movie was probably a challenge for the screenwriters, and the movie definitely suffers for that. The original screen adaptation was a miniseries, 8 episodes, at an hour long each, with Alec Guinness playing the lead role. There were going to be some problems.
The main problem is with who the mole himself is. Not many of the characters who are definite suspects are every touched upon or fully developed. Their focus on just one character and the things he does will make it obvious to anybody who hasn’t read the book just who the mole is.
I guess I didn’t have any problems with the plot, however, after reading the novel a few times over and adding anything that wasn’t in the movie into the puzzle of my own head.
The real power comes in the form of the performances, which are also masterful. Gary Oldman deserved that Oscar more than Jean Dujardin did for the Artist (and I adored the Artist). His tired and restrained attitude to the role is incredible. It also helps the movie that Benedict Cumberbatch, of Sherlock fame (and I’ll talk about that show later), plays my favorite character in the book, and outshines any of the side characters by miles.
Another fine thing I have to point out is Tomas Alfredson’s direction. It’s a densely plotted puzzle, relentlessly suspenseful, even when absolutely nothing is happening, plot-wise. He places the camera so that we’re always looking around corners, and every scene is lined with tenseness. Nothing is supposed to be happening within the Circus, no one is supposed to have found out about anything this big, and that’s what makes the movie such a ride.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a blast, at least to me it was, and will no doubt be a blast to anyone who has read the book. And if you don’t care about plot, than this movie is for you too. A well crafted spy thriller that I enjoyed and rave about far too much.
1. Brick (Rian Johnson, ***.5/****)
2. Un Flic (Jean-Pierre Melville, ***.5/****)
3. The Killer (John Woo, ***/****)
4. Killer’s Kiss (Stanley Kubrick, ***.5/****)
5. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, ***.5/****)
6. The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang, ***/****)
7. The Lady From Shanghai (Orson Welles, ***.5/****)
8. Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller, ****/****)
9. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, ****/****)
10. The Naked Kiss (Samuel Fuller, ***/****)
11. The Stranger (Orson Welles, ***.5/****)
12. Kiss of Death (Henry Hathaway, ***.5/****)
13. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, ***.5/****)
It has been a very good Noirvember. For me.
L.A. Confidential, 1997 (dir. Curtis Hanson)
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