Upon first hearing that Mike Flanagan was going to adapt Stephen King, it's hard not to feel giddy. His care and precision for both storytelling and character is one all horror directors should aspire to. Flanagan is one of our very best modern horror filmmakers stemming all the way back to his debut ABSENTIA. Not only does he create dread and atmosphere with the best of them, but his editing techniques within confined spaces or his playfulness with time and narrative is often quite astonishing.
BLUEPRINT is a film that keeps the bigger issues on more of a micro-level, focusing on one human being's plight as he struggles to be a better person. At the same time, Jerod Harris doesn't make his portrayal all that sympathetic. He cheats, drinks and even ignores his own child at certain points. But you sense the internal conflict within and the movie, which barely lasts 80 minutes, manages to pack a significant punch that serves as a wake-up call. This is the humanistic portrayal of what's going on in Chicago that I've been hoping for.
Normally, I try to avoid lumping two movies together into one review, but Warner Archive has just released both titles within a short span of time and I watched them in one night. They represent two opposite ends of the noir spectrum but manage to carry some thematic similarities, one far more successfully than the other. NIGHT MOVES by Arthur Penn and UNDERCURRENT by Vincente Minelli are curious entries into the mystery genre which showcase directors attempting to branch out and evolve.
There is a beautifully framed shot of Roy's face with his son in the background tearing up. It's as if the camera is too close to create a genuine sense of discomfort. Obviously, there are sequences that rival most horror directors, combining Bava-like lighting at one point with a Raimi POV shot as the alien force descends down the chimney in hopes of finding a way inside to get Barry.
Recently, Pitchfork Media published a list of the top 200 albums of the 60s. It was an intimidating list to sift through, with a lot of titles that I haven't heard with artists whose discographies I mainly know via greatest hits collections. I listened to a lot of oldies as a kid, mainly through 45's and FM radio. But there are some albums that truly do stand the test of time for me. A lot of them are nostalgia trips, classics that everyone is probably familiar with, but several are new discoveries thanks to Pitchfork's recommendation.
There are multiple set pieces – the first car chase establishes how crazy Freebie is, then they top it a few times much to the shock and awe of the viewer. They get stuck in San Francisco traffic so bad that Freebie commandeers a dirt bike and chases a van through a park during an art exhibition, knocking down a huge set of dominoes. I laughed so hard at the ridiculousness of it all, including the number of times I see James Caan’s stunt double jumping vehicles left and right. It’s borderline farce since there are moments of background sight gags, surreal dialogue exchanges or odd body language.
The film begins in tight close-up of the mentally disabled Nick having to endure a series of questions presented to him by his social worker. The audience is asked to be a part of the process to the point of discomfort. Then the session is interrupted by Nick’s brother, who clearly wants more for his brother than long-term inpatient treatment. Anyone can relate to the desire for more out of life, and that’s how the filmmakers create compassion for this difficult duo. Unfortunately, Nick’s brother isn’t too bright in hatching up a way to hit the road and buy a home for a fresh start. It leads to a downfall in which Nick becomes incarcerated. From that point forward, the film is all about an immediacy of the broken “moment” where we instantly side with the imperfectly fallible.
Olive Films resurrects another interestingly obscure title with DEJA VU. As great as the transfer is, the problem is that this slog from 1985 has a plot that unfortunately has to compete with two of my favorite films, CHANCES ARE and DEAD AGAIN. One is a charming romantic comedy and the latter is a Hitchcockian thriller, both involving reincarnation. Obviously, all movies should stand on their own regardless of a recycled narrative, but DEJA VU just can't hold a candle to the others. The plot is simple: A writer becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of a ballerina in the 1930s, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his fiancee.
THE SAVAGE INNOCENTS starts with a great title alone, followed by a plot that is sure to magnetize you to the screen immediately. Although the questionable casting (initially) of Anthony Quinn as an eskimo may raise an eyebrow, you learn to adapt as the story progresses. It may riddled with dated elements and perhaps guilty of being a tad bit long, but it’s still essential viewing for Ray fans in such a pristine presentation. This is a moral case study worth pondering over long after the closing credits conclude.
The setup initially feels like slow burn Gilliam mixed with MODERN TIMES or some kind of otherworldly precursor version of CAST AWAY. The film is mannered, but it's also beautifully paced, playing with loopy existentialism and bizarre staging, so fizzy and unusual that it frequently doesn't register how acerbic and twisted the bones of the story actually are. I find myself enamored with the ridiculously repetitive absurdity from the immortal Dan Hedaya as well as Meg Ryan’s over-the-top Brooklyn accent and bad wig. The dark comic tone is refreshing as opposed to off-putting and I eventually become emotionally overwhelmed by the time Joe is lost adrift at the sight of that big, beautiful moon on the horizon. Overwhelmed to the point of tears.