The Departed take two

"How's your mother?"
"Oh...I'm afraid she's on her way out."
"We all are. Act accordingly."

I liked this film a lot better the second time around, to be honest. Don't get me wrong, I liked it the first time around too, but I thought it was a little too detached, too cold. Somehow that bothered me less this time. It's quite a focussed, fast picture, a lesson in how to cut the fat without skimping on the details that make a story, and in particular characters, work. It's not subtle in any sense of the word, but it is effective: every detail we're supposed to notice is zoomed in on for a partial second, long enough so we see it but short enough not to hit you over the head with it. The quote above is just a throwaway line, but it summarizes the spirit of the movie perfectly, just like Sullivan's "Okay" just before he, too, goes with a spray of blood.

I know, I know, after railing about the Brave One, how can I endorse this film's all-too-obvious symbolisms and dualities/doublings? Well, maybe because Scorsese doesn't pretend, for all of his flourishes, that this is a crime movie, a movie meant to entertain first and foremost. Also, maybe, because the ending here is honest, more than many other movies of its kind, while the ending of the Brave One is flabbergastingly offensive.

One small quibble: my mother commented in the many fucks in the film. No, I don't mind the word myself, and I think it's a valid - and sometimes very effective - stylistic tool. It can really tell you something about a character, or a milieu. In this film though, I believe it's overused, not so much in quantity (237 fucks, google tells me), but because everyone uses it equally and in the same way, with the exception of Queenan and the shrink (Vera Farmiga, incidentally, it an actress I'm fascinated by). Only Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg manage to infuse something of their characters in the word, and first scene together is priceless for it: but this is not so much because of the f-word but because their profanity is so creative. The use of fuck by the two rats starts feeling old pretty soon.

Oh well. If you can't get enough of the word, you can always check out my post on the Big Lebowski. Or, of course, watch what's below.


The Brave One

So, turns out? Intelligent, affluent, left-wing people's stance on vigilantism... is pretty much the same one as that of the traditional, red-blooded conservative male kind, only more insidious because it thinks it's subtle. Both Neil Jordan and Jodie Foster clearly think they've made something revolutionary here, something nuanced and insightful, but it couldn't possibly more contrived and over the top, from the convenient "Es La Ley" sign all too obtrusively hung somewhere in the frame before Foster's first murder to Foster's ponderous, pretentious purple prose on her radio show. I can enjoy a dumb movie on occasion - what I can't stand is a dumb movie that thinks it's smart.

Weird thing is, just before the end of the movie, I had no idea what I would say about it. Well, that's not quite right, I had plenty of things to say, I just didn't know what the conclusion would be. The star rating. But ten minutes thinking it over afterwards was all it took to make up my mind. So yeah, my first pan? Coming right up.

Top 50 - #6 - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Craig guessed it, so here goes...

We see a desert. Sand, mostly. Then, all of a sudden, our eyes jump from background to close-up as one of the ugliest faces you've probably seen slides into the frame from the side. Later in the scene, a man jumps out of a broken window, meat in hand.

Later, a boy is getting water from a well when, with ominous Morricone music playing, a small dot appears on the horizon, and gets bigger and bigger as it approaches. The boy runs inside. A man appears in the doorway, walks in, eats some food.

Once upon a time in the West is the film most often regarded as a masterpiece, and when people talk about it one of the things they mention is the opening scene, and how long it takes before the first word is spoken. Once upon a time was clearly meant to be a masterpiece, but I think that the less serious-minded The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is the real masterpiece. Here also, it takes forever for the first word to be spoken: Leone always was a visceral, visual director,

For every good scene in Once upon a time I can easily think of a similar, better one in GBU, as I'll call it from now on. Take the introduction of Henry Fonda as the villain: it's great, absolutely, but does it rival the gradual reveal of Blondie? First we see his hat, his gun, his hands, we hear his sarcastig voice and then finally, see his face. The hanging scene? I'll grant that it's more poignant than anything in GBA, but it's not by far as funny as the successive hangings here, and there's no rivaling the last one for an ending.

Finally, I think GBA is more succesful because its morality is more muddled, less black and white. "the Good" really isn't all that much better than Angel Eyes, "the Bad", maybe just a little more compassionate, and I've always thought Tuco, "the Ugly", is the heart of the film. His scene with his brother is amazing, and his love/hate relationship with Blondie anchors the film, makes it about more than just three men who want money. Also here, it's not words that express it, but imaged: Blondie finally handing Tuco his cigar. Muddying the moral waters even more is the cival war, which suddenly makes what three men do so much less important. The scene jars a little with the rest of the film, but I love it, and I think it's what Blondie and Tuco do for the general that redeems them.

This film is 3 hours long, but that fact still surprises me, because while this is a deliberate movie, it never feels slow or long, and when I watch it time flies. The plot is intricate, but easy to follow, and the power keeps shifting: who has the information, who has the gun, who has the upper hand?

You can't talk about Leone's spaghetti westerns, of course, without mentioning Morricone. The score is amazing, and integral to the feel of the movie, to its texture. Just listening to the music brings back images. The amazing opening titles. The scorching sun. Weathered faces. And, of course, close-ups of eyes, tense and prepared, waiting for the guns to go off.

Recently, my love for and knowledge of westerns was called into question. My gender was the main reason, the guy even admitted to it. But I dare anyone to say now that I don't love westerns. I'm seeing The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford on Monday, and I can hardly wait.

Next up: a movie named for two guys which really is all about a girl...



My review is up at filmtotaal now. Also, I've noticed the number of visitors dropping. I understand, seeing the lack of updates. But please come back in October, ok? I promise I'll be watching many, many films and writing about them.

Also: expect a (short) post on the Brave One tomorrow. Jodie Foster as a vigilante? I don't know whether I'll like it, especially considering the definitively mixed reactions it's been getting, but I AM intrigued.


Top 50 - #7 - The Third Man

Oh, do I love the Third Man's crooked frames, and the grin on Orson Welles' face when light is finally shed upon him. Do I love Joseph Cotton's sad, drunk Holly Martins, who despite his tough guy exterior really is just a naive romantic at heart. Do I love Valli's wistful looks and Vienna's corrupted, crumbling ruins.

Did I hum Anton Karas' zither tunes all night after seeing this film again last Friday? Yes, indeed I did.

There's just so much here. Though the chase through the sewers is a little repetitive and long when seen for the n'th time, the lighting is still amazing, and that shot of Harry Lime's fingers through the grate? Fantastic. The ferris wheel scene is perfect, full of tension and then, of course, that speech. And let's, of course, not forget the final shot: Valli walks towards the camera, towards Holly, for what seems like an eternity, and then, without even a glance, walks out of a the frame. Holly lights a cigarette. Throws away the match. The End.

I won't write too much here as my next VersPers piece will be about this movie, but still: if you haven't seen it...what are you waiting for?
Next up: after a movie about the third man, a movie about three men.

Incidentally: if one of these "next-up" things makes you want to take a guess, feel free to do so in the comments. No prizes will be awarded, but it always nice to be right, right? Also, check out the link list -->

And now, with due thanks to the Shamus