Friday, February 26, 2010

Three of a Perfect Pair

RED RIDING: 1974
(Julian Jarrold, UK, 2009, 102 mins.)


red riding poster.jpg

It isn't often that a fully-formed cinematic or televisual trilogy comes along. More often than not, the third part in a series arrives only after the first two have proven themselves in terms of box office, ratings, or revenue. Critical acclaim doesn't hurt, but it's no guarantee of further funding. In the case of the Red Riding Trilogy, Channel 4's risk, to team three filmmakers with three books, paid off. After a well received run in the UK, IFC Films ac-
quired the trio for art house distribution in the US, where it's already off to a strong start.


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Last seen making the rounds with an extraneous adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, director Julian Jarrold signed on for the first adaptation of David Peace's quartet of cult novels about the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper (only Red Riding: 1977, the book in which the killer comes to the fore, failed to make the cut due to financial limitations).

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Yorkshire exile Peace (The Damned United) provides Jarrold with the opportunity to
tackle something considerably darker than the costume dramas that have become
his stock in trade, such as Becoming Jane, his best known film (though Peace wrote
the Red Riding novels in Japan, he's since returned to the North of England).

Red Riding: 1974 also gives Andrew Garfield the chance to reunite (briefly) with Peter
Mullan after Boy A, in which the two played parolee and parole officer. Garfield, who
next appears in David Fincher's The Social Network, plays Eddie Dunford, a crime cor-
respondent covering the case of missing 10-year-old Clare Kemplay. He suspects a connection between her disappearance and that of two other girls in 1969 and 1972.

The Yorkshire Post mustn't pay very well as he still lives at home with his mother (though he'll eventually move out). His colleagues include hard-drinking hack Jack Whitehead (Happy-Go-Lucky's Eddie Marsan), while his contacts at the West Yorkshire P.D. include Assistant Chief Superintendent Bill Molloy (Warren Clarke) and Detective Chief Superintendent Maurice Jobson (David Morrissey, star of the third installment).

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You don't know anything. You're just a boy.
-- Paula Garland (Rebecca Hall) to Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield)

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In the course of his inquiries, Eddie speaks with Leonard Cole (Gerard Kearns), the young man who found Clare's body (Mullan plays a family friend), property develop-
er John Dawson (Sean Bean, heftier than usual), and Paula (Vicky Cristina Barcelona's Rebecca Hall gone blonde), the mother of a previous victim, with whom he enters
into an ill-advised affair. And that's the point at which it all starts to go south.

As the genre dictates, Eddie becomes a man obsessed. Despite warnings and
brutal beat-downs, he plunges ahead with his semi-legit investigation, although
it's hard to tell exactly what's driving him, other than the thrill of the chase.

Consequently, Jarrold successfully sets the scene--the Polaroid-like look of his Su-
per 16 piece stands out--but Red Riding: 1974 feels more like a character sketch than a proper procedural. Further, Garfield is often outclassed by actors, like Hall, who can go deeper faster, though he does suffer spectacularly (he's better in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus). Consider it more of a prologue than a first chapter.

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Click here for Red Riding: 1980

The Red Riding Trilogy plays the Northwest Film Forum from 2/26 - 3/4. Nineteen Seventy-Four screens on Fri. and Mon. at 7pm; Sat., Sun., and Thurs. at 5pm. The NWFF is located at 1515 12th Ave. between Pike and Pine on Capitol Hill. For more information, please click here or call 206-829-7863. Images from IFC Films.

3/2/10 update: by popular demand, the NWFF has added an additional screening of Nineteen Seventy-Four. It now plays on Wed., 3/3, at 9pm and Thurs., 3/4, at 5pm.
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