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Reviews Archive - A


FEATURING:

The Adventures of Gerard
All About Eve
The American
The Anderson Tapes
Angels & Demons
Apocalypse Now
Appaloosa
Ask a Policeman
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Adventures of Gerard
(1970)

Polish director Jerzy Skolomowski seems like a strange fit for adapting Conan Doyle's vain but likeable French Colonel to the screen. It's a very peculiar film, beautifully shot but with a cartoonish eye; like someone's seen Tony Richardson's Tom Jones or a couple of Richard Lester films and then decided to follow suite, but with the style of an art movie. 

Peter McEnery is magnificent as Gerard, and his exaggerated mannerisms and fourth wall breaking fit perfectly with the visual tone. Also turning up is Jack Hawkins as a mad English renegade and John Neville as Wellington (Eli Wallach is Napoleon). There's a fair bit of bad dubbing, as befits a Napoleonic spaghetti western, and a gorgeous score by Riz Ortolani (I'd love to get hold of it, but the film isn't even available to buy let alone the soundtrack).

*****

All About Eve 
(1950) 

A great script from Joseph L Mankiewicz, although he's a merely competent director. Bette Davis and Anne Baxter are the ostensible leads, but George Sanders owns every scene he’s in.

*****


The American 
(2010)

Sophomore film from Anton Corbijn (Control being his first) sees taciturn George Clooney positioned front and centre and in a kind-of modern western set in an Italian town. 

Clooney's gun maker is on the run from the Swedes and expected to fashion and deliver a rifle. The opening sequence resonates throughout the film for good reason, and the purposefully slow pace is punctuated by occasional violence. A very European take on the western, there’s a reflective air and beautiful photography.

****

The Anderson Tapes 
(1971) 

This Sidney Lumet effort definitely shows it's age (Connery's opening monologue compares safe cracking to rape, there are some pronounced gay stereotypes) but it's so damn weird (complete with proto-electronic music/sound effects) that the result is never less than watchable. And there’s also an early sighting of an absurdly young Christopher Walken.

***

Angels & Demons 
(2009)

Shit in a hat. The first two thirds are incredibly dull, with Tom Hanks working out his clues in the impenetrable manner of Ted Rogers. The last half hour is quite entertaining, but only because it stinks the place up in how atrocious it is. Hanks is dying on his arse. The only one actually doing a decent job is McGregor, and his role is as dumb as every other part of the movie.
*1/2

Apocalypse Now 
(1979) 

Not the Redux, so this viewing returns the film to uncontested classic status in my estimation. 

I love the early synths used in late-70s to mid-80s films. They haven't aged at all, only improving with the passing of time. Three decades have possibly made elements of this over-familiar (look to Jarhead for its perverse appropriation by US troops; then, it's a film that indulges a certain majesty in its presentation of the insanity of war so it probably shouldn't be surprising). Sheen's performance and voice-over impress more and more with each viewing, while Vittorio Storaro's photography is quite beautiful.

*****

Appaloosa
(2008)

Solid, slow-burning Ed Harris western, with typically great work from Viggo Mortensen as his (Marshal's) right-hand man, and fine supporting turns from Jeremy Irons and Lance Henrikson (still able to deposit himself on a horse in his late-60s). The only downside is squinty, puffy Rene Zellwegger as a character who is difficult enough to provoke sympathy for anyway, nigh impossible with hamster features playing her.

***1/2

Ask a Policeman 
(1939)

AAP had tremendous childhood resonance with the promise of headless horsemen and smugglers' caves (like The Land that Time Forgot - dinosaurs and Nazis!). Nevertheless, the highlight continues to be Moore Marriott's performance(s). He's a bit of a Clive Dunn, since he was only 53 when this was made. Terry Jones appears to have based an entire career of ladies and old men on Marriott. 

The scene of scenes is the visit to Marriott's father (also Marriott) in a quest of the final verse of the rhyme the Marriott can't remember (Marriott: "I know some rhymes" Hay:"I'll bet you do").

****


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 
(2007)

Outstanding work from Andrew Dominik that no one bothered to go and see (well, the studio didn't exactly help matters by dumping it). Brad Pitt's dependable but the stars are really Casey Affleck's commendably dislikeable turn as Ford and Roger Deakins wonderful cinematography. 

Sam Rockwell deserves credit too for his role as Ford's troubled older brother. A magnificent western, awash with depth of character and theme, and unselfconsciously topical in its essaying of celebrity culture.

*****

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