Archive for March, 2012

Escape from New York (1981)

“Escape from New York” (1981)

IMDb

postmodern blinks

Carpenter has a very special talent to give his films a mood, an environment, the taste of a specific world. That mood is almost always associated to a very strong sense of place. Many of his films are physically located within some recognizable area, related or not to our real world and if so, always twisted in some cinematic (visual) way.

I believe he always starts the conception of each film with this idea of place and mood. Than he builds a story that allows him to explore that mood, usually something trivial and unimportant, existing to support his cinematic vision.

Here we have it. Manhattan, one of the most recognizable places in film world. Twisted to become an assumed apocalyptic world. (the fact that Plissken enters it by plane, landing on top of the WTC is an unintentional irony, 20 years before the attacks).

He uses Kurt Russell, someone who can be trusted to the kind of role he has: physically self- aware, stylish, deliberately empty. He is a nice guy, because he plays this parts with a second layer of self-reference, a blink to the audiences, always: he’s playing a role which he knows can’t be taken serious, and we get that, we know we are watching a guy acting a role while he makes fun of it. This something Bruce Willis or George Clooney are also capable of doing. It’s fun that 25 years later Russell would participate in a Tarantino film that references with a similar sense of irony these films already not serious, and the ones before this one. Russell participated in the 2 layers of irony. That’s good.

But Van Cleef is even better. He was a supporting actor in first generation westerns. He lived to become a main actor in 2 of Leone’s ironic genius westerns. And here he still has the opportunity to enter a new stage of film irony, playing a character who manipulates and observes this western of a solitary hero fighting low moral for self-benefit. 3 layers in film world, he was in them 3. That’s remarkable.

After this, Carpenter gives us all sorts of visual treats, to enrich the bizarre feel of this world. This is a worthy experience, a kind of Blade Runner without anything serious to say. It doesn’t change you, but it’s worth the ride.

My opinion: 4/5

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The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

“The Hitch-Hiker” (1953)

IMDb

opened eye

Road trip films are a very powerful genre because they convey a deep sense of oppositions merged to create a vision of unity. This something that, apart from this sub-genre, maybe only western can create so aptly, but with western we are always attached to the meaning of the films: western film is viscerally linked to a certain American vision of values, moral and ethics, and its Italian connection, to cinema itself, meta-narrative.

But the road-trip is free from so many conventions. They come in all shapes and sizes. So you can produce a road-trip movie in anyway, without being forced to obey the laws of a genre, because in the end, it’s not one.

So we have the Bonnie and Clyde, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, My blueberry nights. Each a very shiny light in its own cinematic galaxy. Each creates its own rules.

But what works all the time as a key element in these films, and what it shares with western, is how it invites the filmmaker to shoot wilderness, wide spaces, infinite roads, to portrait solitude, inner voyages, personal dramas. That’s the one thing that makes the film live or die.

This one lives. I have a growing admiration for Ida Lupino. A woman in the job mostly done by men. Giving us new versions of masculine genres. Feminine intimate calculation placed against (and over) men’s intuitions and symbols. This is a film with no relevant female characters. She delivers, I think, a kind of deeper version of this genre, specially compared with the generality of films done in these days, when the medium was not so developed as to allow emotion to be shown from such an inside point of view.

So here we have a film of tension, instead of violence. The promise of the next thing that will happen is always superior to the perspective of actually seeing that. And that’s what builds the shape of the film: the next thing. Talman gives us a very fair version for his typical character, more remarkable if we think it was still given when Brando hadn’t broken the rules for cinema acting. And naturally, a film like this necessarily depends in important parts on the performance of the actors.

So this is a film of sketched but unfulfilled actions, tension as opposed to realizations. The promise of the next landscape, the next town always mirrors the evaluation of the situation by each of the 3 characters. That’s why our bad guy keeps one eye always apparently opened, even when asleep.

My opinion: 3/5

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