Monthly Archives: November 2008

Scarlet Street

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SCARLET STREET is a dark, grimy film noir which ranks alongside DOUBLE INDEMNITY as a prime cinematic example of the destructive power of desire. This picture is the first of the recently purchased Edward G Robinson box set I’ve got round to watching, I have to say, the print is verging on terrible but it’s paradoxically refreshing to see a battered, scratchy old transfer on DVD. Don’t get me wrong, it’s entirely watchable and you really get that Sunday afternoon, independent cinema double bill feel from it. Putting this picture on Blu-Ray would be like putting brown sauce on a perfectly cooked fillet steak.

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Robinson plays the part of Christopher Cross (Chris Cross to his friends) who is a middle aged, straight laced cashier in the local bank. The picture opens with a dinner in his honour to celebrate 25 years of loyal service. It’s this opening that really took me aback. Here we see the usually wooden tough Robinson in the role of an obviously timid, obedient, white collar employee. It’s really something to see, and you can! Have a look at the aforementioned scene below. Fritz Lang introduces the film wonderfully, the table full of sycophantic employees roaring at JJ’s (the boss) jokes, the pan to reveal Robinson receiving the watch, the emotional track in to the gently uncomfortable acceptance speech….. It’s just great.

Cross’s night is going well until he happens upon a chance meeting that changes his life forever. As is so often the case in film noir (and in life itself perhaps) its bad luck and a “dame” that provides the catalyst for that change. Leaving the party, the ever sweet Cross offers to walk a friend to the bus stop in the rain, on leaving his friend he sees a girl being roughed up by hoodlum and charges over to her assistance. It’s this meeting, this dame in this street that means life will never be the same for Cross.

The girl is Kitty March played by Joan Bennett, a cool, deeply calculating “broad” who’s love for the loathsome but slightly unconvincing Johnny Prince (played here by Dan Duryea) leads her to befriend the instantly besotted Cross and start bleeding him for cash. The scene below shows Cross coming to Kitty’s rescue and the establishing of their budding relationship in a local bar. It’s an incredible important scene as Cross, in an attempt to impress the girl, makes himself out to be an artist rather than a lowly bank cashier. It’s this lie that proves to be the seed of Cross’s undoing. …

Kitty, under Johnny’s vile instruction, starts giving Cross sob stories about having no money and needing a place to stay. Cross buys it but, not being the successful artist he’s made himself out to be, steals the money from the bank safe to finance his lies, and his lust.

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Cross gets his fingers in the till.

There’s a nice bit of back story in this picture that focuses on Cross and his relationship with his wife, Adele Cross (played by Rosalind Ivan) who berates and torments him at every opportunity. Cross has been truthful with Kitty in that he does practise painting but his seemingly amateurish attempts are scorned upon by his bulldog spouse relentlessly. There’s also the hilarious hugely oversized painting of Adele’s dead husband that hangs in their lounge that cross constantly finds himself measured against…. He isn’t half the man he was!

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Chris Cross and “the wife”

Cross rents and apartment for Kitty to live in that also provides him some studio space. One afternoon, Johnny steals a couple of paintings and gives them to a street vendor to sell on, thinking they’ll make a couple of bucks. In true Hollywood style, a prominent art dealer just happens to walk by and spot Cross’s work. Hailing it as genius he hunts down Johnny who passes the work off as Kitty’s…. Cross paint’s them, Kitty signs em’. Amazingly, when Cross finds out their scam he’s happy to go along with it, this is only because he’s been led to believe that Johnny and Kitty are not an item and that the possibility of him and Kitty being together is very much alive. Coming home early one night however, the truth of their relationship and their deception is revealed leading to a violent, depressing, haunting end. These are the pictures that make film noir such a great genre to watch. Hollywood wasn’t concerned about delivering happy endings and thus you end up with some of the most truthful stories ever committed to celluloid.

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Cross breaks

The film is fairly easy to pick up on DVD; I suggest owning it rather than watching the whole thing on youtube. It’s a great picture to watch when you’re looking for confirmation that the world is completely rotten.

Busy, Not Lazy…..

When it gets like this it feels like being trapped in a washing machine that just happens to be on the LONGEST spin cycle…… There’s a post coming in the next couple of days, thanks for continuing to stop by.

The highlight of the week was undoubtedly the masterclass world reknowned French documentary maker Nicolas Philibert held at eca. I urge you all to check out his work.

Here’s a little clip from his 2002 documentary ETRE ET AVOIR which is his best known film, but not necesarrily his best. I still find it an enchanting piece of work. He presented it in person at The Filmhouse cinema in Edinburgh last night and I was delighted to be able to show my daughter Lauren the film on the big screen, she has a lot of love for director’s Q&A’s….

It’s a man’s right to stop….

It’s nice to be able to sit at my newly repositioned pc (thanks to the female feng shui influence of my new flatmate) and get some words down on the blog. It’s been a nuts few weeks with a vast array of personal, professional and not so professional incidents and upheavals happening faster than a crowd fleeing the cinema halfway through the new Bond movie…. If they’ve managed to get that far.

On a Bond note, I’m not going to see the new picture. I didn’t enjoy the last one and have never really got what the fuss is about. Daniel Craig is a decent actor but I’ve always looked at Bond with a certain level of disdain, which kind of renders any trip to see the movie an inevitable disappointment.

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007: A load of old tosh

So, PLASTIC is finished, completed, done. It’s the longest (3 1/2 months) I’ve ever worked on one project which was great and I really think we nailed getting the atmosphere of the piece onto film. I’ve also just finished shooting a 3 minute experimental short of my own which goes by the working title SHADES OF REMORSE. This is my first crack at stop frame animation which is incredibly painstaking but wonderfully rewarding, it’s also the first time I’ve worked with an editor which is a strange experience. Handing over your tapes to someone and letting them get on with it is liberating but unsettling. Kind of like leaving your child with a babysitter for the first time, you just want to be calling every half hour to ask if everything’s fine…. is she sleeping ok….. Does she have a temperature??

From that lot it’s straight into pre production for the new Zach Rosenau picture THE INAUDIBLE CRIMES OF JASPER PIDGEON…. What a great title right? On this film I’m going to be his assistant director / producer which, considering we’re shooting the film on black and white 16mm on the tiny isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides over 2 weeks at the start of December, should present some interesting challenges and stunning results. I’m really looking forward to working with Zach; our views on cinema are very much aligned as is our passion for this project.

There’s been painfully little time for the consumption of pictures in the last 2 weeks, I feel like Christian Bale in the last third of RESCUE DAWN, all emaciated through a lack of movies. My new flatmate has been a terrible influence which has caused a tumbling off the wagon, the likes of which I’ve never experienced. The upside of that is her willingness to learn about and watch films. Last night we broke ourselves in gently.

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For all it’s predictability this is a great movie with some razor sharp dialogue, I particularly loved the way the stoner friends verbally rip up the character “Martin” (played brilliantly deadpan by Martin Starr) as he strives to win a bet that involves him not cutting his hair or shaving for a whole year, these relentless jibes really had me in stitches. From “The shoe bomber Richard Reid”, to “Scorsese on coke”, “Serpico”, “Cat Stevens” and “Late John Lennon”, the guy takes it from all angles. This movie is peppered with genuine laugh out loud moments and having not seen much of Apatow’s other stuff, I’m looking forward to checking out these films.

In honour of this film’s great dialogue, I’ve selected 3 of my favourite dialogue scenes in cinema. There could be many more of course but this is just to get the ball rolling. Feel free to chip in with your favourite scenes where the words are king…….

First up is the Return Of The Jedi scene from the Kevin Smith film CLERKS (1994). I just love the pace of the conversation and the blind logic of the reasoning. I read somewhere recently that Smith’s new film ZACH AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO was a rip off of the Judd Apatow approach to filmmaking. This is laughable as Smith was doing what Apatow is aiming for now a decade before he’d made a picture….. Enjoy.

From the comedic to the downright sharp, the opening scene of Quentin Tarantino’s visceral debut RESERVOIR DOGS (1992). There’s nothing that needs to be said about this scene other than it was the start of great things for Steve Buscemi, which in itself is reason enough to love it.

Last up is Dave’s leaving speech from the 1992 James Foley picture GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. Ed Harris is fantastic here as is Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino. You just can’t take your eyes off this scene but it’s the verbal exchange that provides its power.

So let’s have it. The cinema dialogue scenes you never tire of seeing.