Sunday, February 28, 2010

Three of a Perfect Pair: Part Three

(Anand Tucker, UK, 2009, 100 mins.)

Click here for Red Riding: 1980

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From the start, Red Riding: 1983 does something the other installments don't: it circles back to the past, with an introduction set in 1974 (and will continue to double back to that annus miserabilis). Characters who met their maker in the previous films come back to life, and the focus shifts to David Morrissey's DCS Jobson, a figure previously seen floating around the periphery; never defined, always a rough outline.

Prodigal son Eddie Dunford and Manchester native Peter Hunter haven't yet entered the scene. The West Yorkshire P.D. is an insular, united entity. In throwing their weight behind Sean Bean's John Dawson, they aim primarily to rebuild their economically-deprived community--not find missing girls or solve grisly murders.

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Shooting with the Red One digital camera, Anand Tucker (Hilary and Jackie) then skips ahead to 1983 and to the search for 10-year-old Hazel Adkins. As before, the action centers on men looking for perpetrators, while the female victims are just a parade of names and faces, a common problem with procedurals: the police take precedence.

Even Law & Order bests most movies in providing them with some personality,
as each witness or suspect adds shading to our knowledge of the deceased.

If Jobson looks familiar, disheveled solictor John Piggott (Mark Addy), a former Fitzwilliam resident, does not (Yorkshire's poorest end up in grubby Fitzwilliam). As 1974 opened, Dunford had just lost his father. In Piggot's case, it was his mother.

Since then, the police have charged his mentally challenged neighbor, Michael Myshkin (Daniel Mays), with Clare's murder, but Piggot doesn't believe he did it.

With Michael behind bars, he couldn't have killed Hazel. Same goes for Martin Laws' friend, Leonard (An Education's Cara Seymour plays his mother). In both cases, the police coerced confessions, but it's too convenient for the two friends to be guilty.

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To the north, where we do what we want!
-- Bill Molloy (Warren Clarke)

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Other characters also come into play, like rent boy B.J. (Robert Sheehan), who sees things everyday people tend to miss, and a medium who strikes Jobson's fancy (and vice versa). In 1974, B.J. supplied Eddie with information about one of the murders.

When Jobson and Piggott, now representing the Fitzwilliam duo, finally meet, some progress seems inevitable, except progress is a relative term in the Red Riding Tril-
ogy. Assuming they crack the case, the collateral damage could be considerable, but both go it alone until the end. Like Dunford and Hunter before them, the detective and the lawyer are loners, and loners don't tend to make out well in Peace's world.

Piggott, who lives on takeout and old soul records, has less to lose than divorced
dad Jobson. Addy, who wasted his Full Monty fame on a Flintstones movie and a forgettable sitcom, does some of his best work here as a compassionate slob.

Grisoni's adaptation lends all four men a sense of tarnished dignity, providing parallels with the likes of Prime Suspect, Zodiac, Nicolas Winding Refn's Pusher
, and James Ellroy's L.A. Quartet. The way certain characters ebb and flow
throughout the series even recalls Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy.

Separately, the weaknesses of the films become most apparent, but collectively,
they tell a harsh tale about the ways in which people in positions of power ("wolves") abuse their weakest citizens in an attempt to pave over a community's ugly past.

Along the way, they perpetuate the cycle by creating new abusers. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but grippingly told. And it's not as if this sort of thing couldn't happen again.

See it now before Ridley Scott's remake, scheduled for The Year of Our Lord: 2012.

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The Red Riding Trilogy plays the Northwest Film Forum from 2/26 - 3/4. Nineteen Eighty-Three screens Tues. and Wed. at 9pm and Thurs. at 9pm The NWFF is lo-
cated at 1515 12th Ave. between Pike and Pine on Capitol Hill. For more infor-
mation, please click here or call 206-829-7863. Images from IFC Films.
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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Three of a Perfect Pair: Part Two

(James Marsh, UK, 2009, 93 mins.)

Click here for Red Riding: 1974

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For the second film in the triptych, Oscar winner James Marsh (Man on Wire) opts for the greater clarity of 35mm, though screenwriter Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), a frequent Terry Gilliam collaborator, remains on board for all three entries.

From girls, the story shifts to women. A doc-like credit sequence tells the tale: in the past six years, 13 have met their fate at the hands of the Yorkshire Ripper.

Marsh then introduces a new character, Peter Hunter (a first-rate Paddy Considine), Assistant Chief Constable of the Manchester Police Force. Since 1974 presented the West Yorkshire P.D. as hopelessly corrupt, and since Hunter has a background in internal affairs, he seems unlikely to emerge from this inquiry unscathed.

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As requested by James Fox's Phillip Evans, Hunter sets up shop in nearby Leeds
with John Nolan (Tony Pitts), Bob Craven (Sean Harris), and Helen Marshall (Max-
ine Peake), with whom he has a history (Leslie Sharp plays his pregnant wife).

Craven, who gave Eddie such a hard time, does the same to Peter. Ginger-haired, rail-thin, and devoid of chin, Harris does menace well--and intensity, too, as exemp-
lified by his portrayal of Joy Division front man Ian Curtis in 24 Hour Party People.

Hunter meets Peter Mullan's Martin when the vicar offers him information. Their exchange encapsulates his conundrum: Hunter: "You don't like the police much, do you?" Laws: "No love lost, no." Hunter: "So when someone kicks down your front door, kills the dog, and rapes the wife, who you gonna call?" Laws: "Well it certainly wouldn't be the West Yorkshire Police--they'd already be in there, wouldn't they!"

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How deep does the rot go? Who stops it?
-- Peter Hunter (Paddy Considine)
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Later, he re-connects with David Morrissey's Jobson, who proves to be disappointingly unhelpful (in Jarrold's film, Jobson destroyed evidence for some unspecified reason).

While Eddie tried to tie three murders together, Peter tries to take one out of the investigation, because it doesn't fit, leading to threats, arson, and more killings.

As with Man on Wire, Marsh again borrows from a pre-existing music source, in this case Dickon Hinchliffe's score for Claire Denis's Trouble Every Day, another spot-on choice (Adrian Johnston and Barrington Pheloung scored the other telefilms).

By the end of 1980, the killer has been caught and the case appears to be closed. Largely due to the indelible performances of Considine and Peake, a last-minute replacement, James Marsh offers the strongest entrant in this compelling series.

Click here for Red Riding: 1983.

The Red Riding Trilogy continues at the Northwest Film Forum through 3/4. Nineteen Eighty screens Mon. at 9pm; Sat., Sun., and Thurs. at 7pm; Tues. and Wed. at 7pm. 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.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Three of a Perfect Pair

(Julian Jarrold, UK, 2009, 102 mins.)

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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.


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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Sunday, February 14, 2010

He Lost It at the Movies

(Gerald Peary, US, 2009, DigiBeta, 81 mins.)


Patricia Clarkson narrates Gerald Peary's brief, yet illuminating survey of film criticism in the United States. While recounting the history of the form with movie clips and review excerpts, the Boston Phoenix veteran solicits comments from a range of writers.

Stanley Kauffmann (The Nation), for instance, credits silent-era poet and critic Vachel Lindsay (1915's The Art of the Moving Picture) for recognizing "that the arrival of film was a key moment in the history of human consciousness. It was going to change the way people thought, dreamed, and fantasized." And he was right; it has.

Peary profiles other early voices, like Robert Sherwood, who went on to write the Oscar-winning movie The Best Years of Our Lives; James Agee, who penned The African Queen; and Bosley Crowther, who signed his own death warrant when he panned groundbreaking pictures like Bonnie and Clyde in The New York Times, paving the way for tougher-minded talents, such as rivals Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris.

From there, Peary moves on to television and internet voices, from Roger Ebert to Karina Longworth, now head critic at The L.A. Weekly. Other speakers include A.O. Scott (The New York Times), Kenneth Turan (The Los Angeles Times), Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly), Richard Schickel (Time), and Wesley Morris (The Boston Globe).

Like a lot of first-time filmmakers, Peary could've organized his material better (cut a few comments, expanded others). Astute viewers will also notice that he must have initiated the project nearly a decade ago as he includes Manny Farber, who has since passed away, and Ebert, who has since lost the ability to speak (after a battle with cancer), but there's plenty of good stuff here for anyone interested in film.


For the Love of Movies opens at the Northwest Film Forum on 2/18. Director in attendance at 8pm. 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 (Bruno Calvo/Miramax) and

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Police on My Back: Part Two

POLICE, ADJECTIVE / Politist, adjectiv
(Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania, 2009, 113 mins.)

Click here for part one

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As the walking and (cigarette) smoking continues, Cristi also follows a young woman who might be Victor's girlfriend and maintains contact with Alex (Alexandru Sabadac), an informant who hangs out with the two. At home, he argues with his schoolteacher wife, Anca (Irina Saulescu), about love songs. She appreciates the lyrical allusions; he doesn't understand why people don't just say what they mean.

After four more days, Cristi's supervisor, Anghelache (Vlad Ivanov, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), orders a sting operation. Cristi doesn't want the arrest on his conscience, but Anghelache doubts that Cristi even knows what "conscience" means, so he makes him look up the word in the dictionary and read it aloud. He also states that
if Cristi refuses, he's off the force. The way Anghelache sees it, it doesn't matter that Victor isn't dealing; sharing an illegal substance still counts as "distribution."

So, Cristi makes a choice. Whether or not it's the right or correct one depends on your definitions of "right" and "correct." Cristi's moral quandary, in concert with Porumboiu's patient camera work, brings Béla Tarr, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, and even Tony Richardson to mind (I'm thinking specifically of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner), except it's actually a black comedy in disguise. And while I appreciated his feel for the everyday life of a dogged professional, I could've done without the Tarr-like scenes of Cristi eating, which go on longer than necessary.

The director's emphasis on surveillance also recalls Michael Haneke's Caché, since we're constantly watching someone, except we know exactly who's doing the watching and why (in Caché, we know that someone is watching Daniel Auteuil, but the culprit remains a mystery). Police, Adjective, which never feel as eerie, is a procedural without guns and car chases, but rather laws and correct--if outdated--grammar.

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Police, adj: police power, police corruption, police state.
-- Merriam-Webster

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Police, Adjective plays the Varsity Theater through Thurs., 2/11. The Varsi-
ty is located at 4329 University Way NE. For more information, please click
here or call 206-781-5755. Images from IFC Films and IONCINEMA.COM.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Police on My Back

POLICE, ADJECTIVE / Politist, adjectiv
(Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania, 2009, 113 mins.)

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Nothing happened for three hours.
-- From Cristi's report on Victor

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Corneliu Porumboiu's Cannes Jury Prize-winning film, his superior follow-up to 12:08 East of Bucharest (SIFF '07), isn't a thriller, but it starts out like one as an unidentified man follows an unidentified teenager around an unidentified Romanian town.

The title suggests that the former is a police officer and that the latter is a suspect, but the man could just as easily be a predator or private eye. There's no dialogue, no inter-titles; just ambient sound as the men walk and smoke, walk and smoke.

As it turns out, Cristi (Dragos Bucur) is an undercover cop with a soft heart and a stern demeanor. Victor likes to smoke hashish, and the police have found him out.

To Cristi, the operation is a dead end. He's been tailing the kid for awhile and knows that he isn't dealing. Nor has he been able to determine who's selling him the goods. THC may be illegal, but Cristi doesn't want to put Victor away for seven years.

Click here for part two

Police, Adjective, which opened on Fri., 1/29, plays the Varsity Theater
through Thurs., 2/4. The Varsity is located at 4329 University Way NE. For more information, please click here or call 206-781-5755. Image from IFC Films.