The Remains of the Day (1993)


This is a really excellent film! Sir Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are unspeakable stunning as butler and housemaid to the English Lord Darlington in the years leading up to the Second World War. Hopkins plays Stevens, the master butler, a man so consumed in the duty to his master that he ultimately sacrifices his morals and love by devoting himself entirely to the service of another. Emma Thompson plays Miss Kenton, the head housekeeper, who falls in love with Stevens, challenging where his devotions lie. Stevens' morals are further challenged by his masters' misguided cavorting with powerful Germans involved in the Nazi movement; does he go along on his business in service to his master, or does he step out of his place as servant to say that what Lord Darlington is doing is wrong? Very interesting!

Anthony Hopkins as Stevens, and Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton.

This film was made by the Merchant Ivory powerhouse duo of 1990s filmmaking, who also made Howards End (1992) with a similar cast and I am assured is also excellent. Very curious to see! Anyways, The Remains of the Day allows you to see the true shining talent of Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, under the measured direction of James Ivory. Though this story has the potential to be very dry, Ivory spins a riveting and intimate tale examining the minutiae of aristocratic servitude, meanwhile keeping the whole thing humming with sensuality, tension, and restrained emotion. Along with the two leads, there is an all-star supporting cast who are allowed to give dynamic and suggestive performances, including Hugh Grant, James Fox, Ben Chaplin, Lena Headley, and Christopher Reeve (further demonstrating the brilliant career his tragic accident cut short).

Stevens, the ultimate Butler.

Miss Kenton, so much constrained passion!

Reeve as the American, Jack Lewis.

Find this film and see it in any capacity you can! Rentable anywhere respectable I'm sure. I got it from the Vancouver Public Library. I have a brand new Criterion DVD of Howards End on order from the VPL too, so I will write about that soon too!


Body Heat (1981)

Another great film to add to the list of excellent debut features is Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat. It's a moody, sexy, thrilling neo-noir film that perfectly balances it's noir roots with a newfound and more overt sexuality, displayed candidly by William Hurt and Kathleen Turner.

Hurt and Turner.

The story is classic noir (and certainly inspired by Double Indemnity). A small-time lawyer in a sleepy Florida beach community begins an affair with a married woman who doesn't much like her dull but wealthy husband. Their relationship develops to the point that they realize that the husband must disappear permanently for them to get what they want--unlimited each other, as well as the contents of the will!--so they contrive a plan to eliminate the husband and do just that. Things get sticky as everything begins to unravel and people begin to doubt their trust in one another. It's great! A moustachio'd William Hurt and a sultry Kathleen Turner star as the two lovers, and there are a few other familiar faces, including Ted Dansen as Hurt's DA buddy, and Mickey Rourke as an ex-con. (On a side-note, Kathleen Turner used to be such a babe! In the early 1980s she was the go-to sexpot actress, but now, as my friend Jane so succinctly put it, she has "morphed into a fridge," as her recent appearances as Sue Collini on Showtime's brilliant David Duchovny vehicle Californication is any indication.)

Kathleen Turner as Matty Walker.

This 1981 film perfectly captures an updated version of the noir sensibilities, with lots of suggestive dialogue, classic noir archetypes, great metaphors, and mystery right up to the ending. A great element to the whole thing is the fact that the town is going through a major heat wave which leads to some great dialogue, atmosphere, and lots of very sweaty people. Hot temperature really lends itself to noir stories, as it aids to create a mood of even further discomfort and claustrophobia, not to mention it invokes a hellish environment for our sinners to play out their lives. The heat and humidity are present to an almost nightmarish degree as all our characters quickly throw back drinks and then seemingly sweat them out instantly.

William Hurt as Ned Racine.

One obvious difference between this and the noirs of the original cycle is the overt sexual nature. This film is largely driven by sex and sensuality (the title is quite apt!) and it makes no bones about it. Due to the production code of the 1940s and 50s, studios were barred from having nudity or sex, and therefore had to find more creative ways to convey sensuality, and that came out through very suggestive and innuendo laced dialogue. Body Heat combines this style of writing, but in the more liberated 1980s America it also uses a fair amount of the naked bodies of Kathleen Turner and William Hurt.

Mickey Rourke as Teddy Lewis.

Definitely watch this film if you are interested in the noir genre, and it is highly recommended if you like a neo-noir take on things, it's a great example of a movie that embraces the past films to which it owes to much, but also adds new and more contemporary ideas to the genre. This film is great!

Hurt and Danson, in swelteringly soft focus.

The trailer: simple, suggestive, effective.


C'etait un Rendez-vous (1976)

Directed by Claude Lelouch.

Lelouch's early morning, high-speed romp through the sleepy streets of Paris. I have watched this so many times and it stills mesmerizes me. This has become somewhat of a cult short film, and there has been lots of debate and speculation as to what kind of car was driven, and by whom. Some car boffins somehow figured out by analyzing the engine sound and gear ratios that it was a Ferrari 275 GTB, though later I believe Lelouch himself claimed he piloted his own Mercedes 6.9 to make this film. Either way, regardless of what kind of car, it has inspired many, many imitators, but never any duplicators. Fantastic and thrilling short cinema! Turn up the volume for full engine effect!

UPDATE: Thanks to my cousin Ian for sending me this short interview with Lelouch as they re-drive his 1976 route thirty years later in the same type of car he did. If you speak French you'll be able to glean some interesting facts, but if not... learn French! Tres interessant!:


Mutual Appreciation (2005)

I was at the library picking up a few movies and noticed this was on the shelf. I was tempted to get it too, though I've already seen it and I think I've hit my movie-borrowing limit, so I didn't. But YOU should, because this is a great movie! Andrew Bujalski has earned both his lovers and his haters due to the "mumblecore" sub-genre that his films are often categorized in. Which is a shame because so people get caught up on labels and genres, and being someone who struggles with labeling and defining genres beyond horror/thriller/comedy/action/adventure etc., Mumblecore refers to a type of lo-fi filmmaking about pretty average, young, slightly impoverished people and their problems with relationships, employment, and love, and its characters stumbling, stuttering, and mumbling like real people through their dialogue. The haters say it's emo crap, and the lovers say it's the new American cinema, with ties and references back to the French New Wave, and the birth of American independent cinema, in particular the early films of John Cassavetes. I say, I enjoyed this movie.

The trailer here pretty much gives you a good taste of what to expect, and if you do see this and like it, then see Bujalski's other films, Funny Ha Ha (his debut, 2002) and Beeswax (2009). Have a look at the trailer! I'd write more but now I have to go to work!


Le Samourai

I've been terrible lately with keeping up with posts! I'll get some done today.
ANYWAYS, it seems as though every 18 months or so a new Air album comes out that I am unaware of, and I discover it 6 months after the fact somehow. And it's happened again. They put out "Love 2" in March and I've just found out about it, only because I was leafing through an old magazine from March! Now this isn't really a music blog, but the reason I am posting about this is that I was looking up one of their songs on YouTube and found it linked to this Jean-Pierre Melville film, Le Samourai, which is one of my favorites.

Alain Delon as Melville's hitman Jef.

Now I'm not usually a big fan of fan-made mash-ups of movies and music because usually it's kinda sloppy and what not, but for some reason this really works for me. One thing that bugs me about fan made stuff is that often there are dialogue scenes that are just muted and music plays over there, and that kinda bothers me. But this film is so contemplative and the dialogue is so sparse that it really works. Melville's films work on a highly visual level and Le Samourai is a great example of that. It stars Alain Delon, one of Melville's regulars, as a loner hitman in Paris.

There's a lot of this in Melville's films...

And a lot of countryside meetings between gangsters in black cars.

And Citroen DS's.

And lonely Metro shots. In short, everything I like in movies.

So take a good look at this clip, it has a great track by Air, who appear to have returned to form with this album, and enjoy a taste of Melville's Le Samourai. And of course I highly encourage you to see the entire film. Sadly, I don't own this yet, but it's on my lists of acquisitions. One Criterion DVD at a time.


Rolling Roadshow

This summer, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Levi's are putting on a rolling roadshow of famous and historic films being screened in locations significant to those films! They have also created some fantastic new movie posters for the films they are showing!

I won't be able to go to any of the screenings but, man that would be cool! Here are the films and locations and dates:

08/06/2010 - JACKIE BROWN at Del Amo Fashion Mall, Torrance, CA
08/07/2010 - DIRTY HARRY at Washington Square Park, San Francisco, CA
08/08/2010 - THERE WILL BE BLOOD at Kern County Museum, Bakersfield, CA
08/08/2010 - CONVOY and RED DAWN at Fort Union Drive In Movie Theatre, Las Vegas, NM
08/13/2010 - THE BLUES BROTHERS at Old Joliet Prison, Joliet, IL
08/14/2010 - ROBOCOP at the Russell Industrial Complex, Detroit, MI
08/19/2010 - ROCKY I, II, and III on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
08/20/2010 - ON THE WATERFRONT at Pier A Park, Hoboken, NJ
08/27/2010 - THE GODFATHER: PART II on a rooftop near Little Italy, New York City, NY

Check out the Rolling Roadshow website for more details.