The Rare Review

Movies, books, music and TV

“This Gun For Hire” — This Movie For Viewing

Cover of "This Gun For Hire (Universal No...

Cover via Amazon

I’ve never read any of Graham Greene’s “entertainments,” as opposed to his serious novels, but the 1942 This Gun for Hire smacks of a good adaptation.

Alan Ladd is in it, and he ain’t no Shane:  he’s an icy killer (suitably acted), while Veronica Lake rightly holds down the iciness she displayed in Sullivan’s Travels.  This is her vehicle; with groundedness and class she enacts a singing magician (!) recruited for a righteous cause.  I liked her chemistry with Robert Preston. . . Director Frank Tuttle is uneasy with action scenes, but not, apparently, with actors.  All the same, the movie is entertaining.

The Eccentric “Fantastic Planet”

On a Fantastic Planet, blue giants enslave humans, except for the feral ones, until they get bothered by them. Then the giants intend to exterminate the humans.

This is an animated French film, from 1973, and it’s relentlessly weird. In large measure it is Yellow Submarine without the frivolity (and the music). Too, a lot of usually naturalistic nudity is featured. Civilization in Fantastic Planet is not civilized. Death and malevolence are everywhere, although so is the cruelty of nature. The film’s images can be mesmerizing, but what the narrative offers is obscure and unexplained and desultory.

(In French with English subtitles)

Corinna, The Actress (The Film, “Die Schauspielerin”)

A German film from 1988, The Actress (Die Schauspielerin), directed by Siegfried Kuhn, is about an emotionally vulnerable but also strong-minded theatre actress (Corinna Harfouche) who discards her career in Nazi Germany in order to be with her relocated Jewish beau (Andre Hennicke).  Strange times, with their ludicrous (anti-Jewish) propaganda, drive the actress to do some strange things.  A major theme in the film is that political injustice, political evil, works on the mind.  Indeed, a person may even embrace what is fatal.

An East German production, Kuhn’s opus is subtle, unpretentious and lovely-looking.  Harfouche is extraordinary: talk about power, incisiveness and personality!

(In German with English subtitles)

Mamet Remained Interesting With “State and Main”

State and Main

State and Main (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Mamet‘s film, State and Main (2000), concerns contretemps and obstacles between a moviemaking team and the citizens of a town called Waterford, Vermont, where the team is fashioning a film.  The characters captivate: William H. Macy‘s agitated director, Alec Baldwin‘s hugely popular actor and nymphet-loving pervert, Rebecca Pidgeon’s bright, affable bookstore owner, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s diffident scenarist, and many others.

Like the witty dialogue, the plot is fun except that a glaring defect springs up when Clark Gregg‘s pushy prosecutor tries to build a statutory-rape case against Baldwin when he certifiably has no case at all.  Gregg—his character—wouldn’t be that stupid.  But something else bothers me more:  Mamet, in truth, has nothing new to tell us about corruption or Hollywood folly, and that is entirely what his film is about.  All State and Main can do is dispense airy cynicism—well, that in addition to showing us that somewhere deep inside Mamet he is a glorifier of the past.  Not merely deep inside, of course, he is a conservative.

Mamet’s 1999 The Winslow Boy worked (as did his Phil Spector).  The present film almost works, but not quite.  Even so, it’s one of the most enjoyable failures I’ve seen, and if you can put up with airy cynicism you might enjoy it too.

No Smoochy For Me

Directed by Danny DeVito, Death to Smoochy (2002) is a satirical comedy in which Smoochy, a fake rhino in a kids’ TV show, induces in others hostility and the hard-charging lust for money. Why did scriptwriter Adam Resnick think the film would be artistically successful if he unleashed a string of criminal mooks who would try to murder Smoochy (real name: Sheldon Mopes)? It merely causes the piece to be tiresome and obtuse. It is not even clear what DeVito’s Burke Bennett hopes to gain by knocking off the entertainer. No entertainer, this movie.

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