January 13th: Deadly Questions

 

22. Layer Cake (Matthew Vaughn, 2004)

 

So often an excellent trailer is followed months later by an average film. So I approached Layer Cake wondering if the reverse could be true as the trailer was abysmally off-putting. What a pleasant surprise it is to watch a smart film with an economical style and a very sturdy cast. Daniel Craig serves an admirable apprenticeship for his Bond role and Sienna Miller puts on some flash underwear (I’m not actually sure if she can act but she has decent career as a clothes horse to fall back on). Layer Cake deserves to join the clutch of decent modern British crime thrillers alongside Gangster No.1 and Sexy Beast. Matthew Vaughn has come a long way since being Guy Ritchie’s finance guy and has made a more watchable film than any of Ritchie’s recent dreck.

 

Tangent: Sorry to sound like a repetitive feminist but all the women in this are fucking rubbish characters, untrustworthy gobshites or mute eye-candy. What was the last decent female character in a British crime film, Helen Mirren in The Long Good Friday?

 

 

 

23. Rope (Alfred Hitchcock, 1948) #214 in IMDB top 250

 

Once again in the hands of the master, Rope is Hitch’s experiment in continuous shooting. With only 10 shots the film and adapted from the play, Rope is deliberately stage-like. Despite this, as I mentioned in the Rear Window review, you can feel that you are being guided by Hitchcock, manipulated by the easy flowing camera movements. Not much I can add to what’s already been written so I’m going to go off on another tangent.

 

Tangent: I read, courtesy of IMDB, that the film was banned in certain cities of America due to the implied homosexuality between the murderous chaps Brandon and Phillip. This implied homosexuality looks pretty tame, if obvious, in hindsight. But it’s indicative of attitudes from the time. Gay characters are morally crippled, their choice of lifestyle reflecting a lack of ethical fortitude. Have we actually managed to move on from this? Or have gay characters just climbed one or two rungs above other minority groups – meaning they can now be ‘best friends’ to the main characters?

January 6th: Just Looking


Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
#16 in IMDB top 250.

 

What can I add, when watching a film that has been written about ad infinitum and will continue to be written about? What? Well, it’s quintessential Hitchcock really, encompassing his core themes of voyeurism and sexuality within a fantastically tight scenario. Now endlessly referenced in popular culture, Rear Window, unlike Soylent Green, lives up to its status of ongoing cultural importance – in this case the film is worth the credit. It’s filmed with real economy, no shot is wasted. You feel, from start to finish, as if you are in hands of a master manipulator. The pacing is tight and never allows for any boredom because the story develops with such a gentle ease. Jimmy Stewart manages another career defining performance (how many can one actor have!) and Grace Kelly is a blinding mix of New York glamour and adventurous muse. A classic in every sense.

 

Perhaps more importantly, why hadn’t I seen this before? Embarrassingly I can’t really explain, my Hitchcock experience is relatively threadbare for a student of the cinema. Many thanks then to Russo who has leant me the Alfred Hitchcock 14 film box-set, expect to see a few more reviews of the great mans movies and I hope to be able put forward some more salient and interesting points rather than just spunking praise all over the place like an excited terrier.