The Deadly Dream – Limping Man

May 6, 2011

I grew up watching Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt.  Loved that sound of bubbling on the soundtrack, and those nasty run-ins with Moray Eels!  So, when The Deadly Dream, a TV movie, came out in 1971, I had to watch.  Even at the age of 14, I knew it was junk, but my friends and I found it amusing, and my nascent interest in surrealism was tickled by the premise of the confusion of reality and the dream.  I caught up with Lloyd Bridges again in The Limping Man (1953) the double-feature on my DVD of The Scar.

Bridges plays a man returning to England to pick up with his war-time love after being stateside for six years.  She’s a real dreamboat, and an actress to boot, but she  doesn’t meet him at the airport as planned.  As he walks from the plane, the man behind him asks for a light, they pause, and a sniper shoots the man dead!  The corpse has a picture of Bridge’s lady friend on him, but that comes out later.

The film is a passable suspense story that seems ripped off from The 39 Steps, Hitchcock’s films in general, and The Third Man.  Stylistically, it’s no great shakes, although I liked the sequence of shots below, as Bridges runs after a man he believes is implicated with the shooting.  A little bit of noir-expressionism on the London riverside.

  

I enjoy films that show the seedy side of life in London in the 50s (Dance with a Stranger, Night and the City), and there was some of that here.  The ending of the film is so unexpected and so outrageous, I didn’t know whether to laugh or smash my video screen.   This is one case where I will keep completely mum so you can make your own unbiased judgment if you watch it!

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Les Biches – Chabrol (1968)

March 4, 2010

Got to hand it to Chabrol, he knew how to keep politics and art separate when he wanted to.  1968, and what does he make, a jewel-like exercise in psychological storytelling.

Les Biches means, the does, or fawns, and also the girls, or chicks, with connotations of bad girls.  One is a street artist who draws fawns on the sidewalk, and is picked up by Stéphane Audran, a rich, bored, bi-sexual ice queen.  The other girl is a bit of cipher, and she becomes absorbed by, and obsessed with the identity of her keeper.  There’s a bit of Hitchcock’s Vertigo here – one woman being transformed into another, albeit from very different motives.  There’s not much suspense – the end is clearly foreshadowed early on – and the male character in this dysfunctional ménage is rather ambiguous:  what will he do at the end when he arrives to find that the double has killed his lover…accept her as a replacement?

The cool, precise aesthetic that is the draw of this film struck me forcibly during this brief sequence showing Frédéric rising from her bed, dressed in immaculate white pyjamas, in her rather spartan bedroom.  Look at how she gets up – she doesn’t bend her back at all!  Her posture is ramrod straight.  It looks as if she is sliding off the bed quite naturally, but every element of her movement is controlled and thought out, like a model, an actress, a creation.

This blogger gives an extended treatment in the same vein to the climactic murder scene, focusing on the precise camera work and editing of Chabrol.

 


Ladies in Distress – Chabrol & Pakula

February 22, 2010

 

The film world is not one that features lots of strong women characters, unless their strength is heavily overlaid with softness, and unless they are in distress.  Two females here:  the first is Catherine from Claude Chabrol’s Masques; the second, of course, is Bree from Klute – both are victimized by predatory males and need saving by a handsome young man.  At least they show a lot of spunk in the process!

These two go together well in their sort-of minimalist approach to the thriller, and the creation of a stifling atmosphere of “paranoia.”  In Masques, we find a young man staying at a plush country estate with a fabulously popular host from a French TV game show – a gong show for old people, without the gong.  The young fellow is writing his biography, so he says, but he is obviously searching for clues about a missing woman.  The host’s young female ward, Catherine, is a wilted flower of a young woman, under continual medication, sensitive to the sunlight, tall, slim, and pretty in that emaciated pale way that some French women bring off on-screen.  We learn that the older man is a monster behind his mask, willing to kill his mother for a good picture by Monet, and probably killing with poison the young woman whom he is also fleecing of her inherited wealth.  The cat and mouse game between the young and the old man ends with the priest of TV good feeling de-frocked on-screen, and the two young people happily betrothed.

This film is very clever and witty.  Small bits of dialog are so revealing.  The host is horribly allergic to feathers – they will be his death!  When his thug-chauffeur is carrying the drugged body of the young girl to her nasty end, he comments, “Oh, she’s light as a feather.”  Little touches like that abound in this film, and all the characters are wonderful, but especially Phillipe Noiret, as the devil with a beaming face.

Chabrol visits again the theme he treated in Ten Days of Wonder:  the evil, controlling God-the-Father, but with a lighter touch.  The only problem I have with the film is that Catherine’s impetuous infatuation with the young houseguest – she brings him some hangers and then embraces him passionately and without preamble! – seemed very odd to me.  Was she spending her time there waiting for a new guest to fall in love with..?

The woman who needs saving in Alan Pakula’s Klute, is not a pretty young thing – she’s a hard-as-nails independent prostitute.  The man stalking her is unseen by her, ever watchful, powerful, rich, and psychotic.  Anyone who has watched a lot of movies won’t be surprised by anything that happens in this film – do we need to be surprised to feel suspense? – all the tension comes from the characters.  We know that Klute will save Bree, but will they stay together?  Will Klute ever open up and … smile?  Will Bree ever allow herself to not be in control of her life and feelings?  That’s the real suspense story. 

The film is eerie and sinister.  In this age of cell phones, pocket digital equipment and cameras, the tiny reel-to-reel tape recorder at the center of the psychotic vortex is a devilishly scary prop.  The dispatching of the villain, wonderfully played by Charles Cioffi, is simple, clean, and abstract,  in keeping with the look and feel of the movie.  A real pleasure, this one.