Sunday, December 27, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Le Casse (1971)
By ROGER GREENSPUN
Published: June 15, 1972
For the first five minutes, about as long as the main title credits last, Henri Verneuil's "The Burglars" suggests a degree of technical competence, of simply knowing what to do next, that is rare enough in movies these days to perhaps make up for any lack of real quality—at least to the level of passable entertainment. But by the second five minutes, technical competence has become technical quirkness, and before a quarter of an hour has passed "The Burglars" reveals itself as yet another international caper film—this time, set in Greece—that does nothing very well and almost everything in excess.
The excesses start early, with the caper, which takes place at the beginning rather than at the end of the movie. It is a jewel theft and it involves opening a safe with the aid of a handy attaché case that contains an X-ray vision TV camera, TV screen, tape recorder, three kinds of computers, miniature hand drill, metal-working vise, keys-made-while-you-wait machine such as you find in your local hardware store, and an instruction booklet. Such a machine might excite the envy of James Bond's armorer, or the delight of Rube Goldberg. But what it does for Henri Verneuil is to fill up a great deal of film time with a device rather than with an action, and that is exactly the method by which all of "The Burglars" has been made.
The devices extend to an endless (and pointless) car chase, a warehouse full of grotesque toys, an automated harbor-side granary, a spicy nightclub, and a spicy meal in a Greek restaurant — take out 10 minutes to photograph and explain the local cuisine. There are also two murders. The only reason for the first murder is to justify the second, so I suppose they belong in the category of mechanics as well.
Under Verneuil's direction, characters resolve themselves into a collection of emphatic mannerisms — the way a cigarette is lit, a nervous habit with the hands — which, together with the wooden English-speaking voices dubbed for most of the cast, tends to make people into things: cleverly automated, but things nevertheless.
There is, of course, a plot. The plot pits a good crook against a bad cop and places a million dollars worth of emeralds in the balance. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays the crook, Omar Sharif plays the cop, and Dyan Cannon plays an enigmatic woman attached to both of them. I was especially taken with Miss Cannon's part, which seems not so much a role as a succession of brief guest appearances requiring mainly that she smile and walk and wear clothes.
"The Burglars" opened yesterday at the Loew's State I and Columbia I theaters.
THE BURGLARS, directed by Henri Verneuil; script by Mr. Verneuil and Vahe Katcha, based on the novel by David Goodis; editor, Pierre Gillette; music by Ennio Morricone; produced by Mr. Verneuil; released by Columbia Pictures. At Loew's State I, Broadway and 45th Street, and Columbia I Theater, Second Avenue and 64th Street. Running time: 114 minutes. This film is classified PG.
Azad . . . . . Jean-Paul Belmondo
Abel Zacharia . . . . . Omar Sharif
Lena . . . . . Dyan Cannon
Ralph . . . . . Robert Hossein
Helene . . . . . Nicole Calfan
Renzi . . . . . Renato Salvatori
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Friday, December 18, 2009
The gangsters Ernest and Momo kidnap Fido after pretending to be customers of Fido’s mother, Clarissa the prostitute. Based on the novel Down There by David Goodis, the downwardly mobile title character reveals to
Lena that he was Edouard Savoyard, even though he now performs as Charlie Koller. Charlie stabbed Lena’s ex-boyfriend Plyne in self-defense, but Lena gets shot by Ernest and Momo in the end. FTP name this Francois Truffaut classic of the French New Wave about a down-on-his-luck keyboardist.
Answer: Shoot the Piano Player (or Tirez sur le Pianiste)
When asked about his religious views, he said, “Thank God I’m an atheist.” In 1930, he sparked riots among French right-wingers, because of the anticlerical content in his film, L’Âge d'Or. He depicted poverty among the Spanish peasantry in Land Without Bread, then made several films in Mexico, including El Bruto, The Young One, and Los Olvidados. Awarded the Golden Palm in 1961 for Viridiana, FTP name this Spanish surrealist filmmaker who collaborated with Salvador Dali on Un Chien Andalou.
Answer: Luis Buñuel
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Thursday, February 4th 2010, 7:00 pm
Rochester native and Edgar-nominated mystery writer Charles Benoit (Relative Danger, Out of Order, and Noble Lies) talks about film noir, writing noir, and the work of Dark Passage author David Goodis before the screening of the film. Benoit will answer questions and autograph his books after the talk. Regular admission price includes 8 p.m. Dark Passage screening. Curtis Theatre. Use Dryden entrance.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Here is a home film of Elaine Astor GOODIS
Withers circa 1962 or 1963.
Elaine Withers is the woman in black with the pearl necklace.
Thank you Larry for shedding light on the Mysterious Elaine!
Friday, December 4, 2009
If you know CORNELL WOOLRICH’s (1903-68) oeuvre at all, it’s most likely through the films of the standout directors who’ve interpreted it: Hitchcock’s Rear Window, for example, was based on Woolrich’s story “It Had to Be Murder,” while Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black jumps off the 1940 novel of the same name. That’s a shame, because his tales of utter, abject doom fuse Hammett’s toughness, Cain’s nihilism, and Chandler’s sense of despair into works that rank up there with his masterful crime-writing colleagues. If love & death motivate the bulk of crime fiction, in Woolrich’s world the stink of one seeps into the promise of the other until the two can no longer be distinguished — as, for example, in I Married a Dead Man (1948), in which a pregnant woman who has attempted to flee a hopeless situation by posing as the widow of, yes, a dead man is blackmailed by an ex-lover. Small wonder, then, that Woolrich spent many of his later years as a near-recluse, living — like another noir master, David Goodis — with his mother.
Paradise Cove Is Too Far: It could’ve been the name of one of the sixties TV dramas Paul Wendkos directed, during the years when shows like Naked City and Ben Casey.
Visit Mr. Bowie's site for more about Wendkos.
Since I started making notes for this piece, good obituaries have appeared in theNew York Times and the Independent, so I don’t feel obligated to outline the whole of Wendkos’s long career. He began with a regional independent film, The Burglar, which is a common way for directors to enter television now, but was extremely unusual then. The Burglar is an impeccable film noir. It derives from a novel by David Goodis, the reclusive Philadelphia native whose home town figures essentially in most of his prose. Wendkos also hailed from Philly and deployed his camera along its streets with a knowing eye; he was a perfect match for the material, as was surly sad-sack star Dan Duryea.
The Burglar led immediately to a feature contract and a number of mostly commercial films for Columbia, including Gidget and its two sequels, which led off most of his obits. . The oddity from among Wendkos’s early films, another indie called Angel Baby, has a small cult following that may grow following its recent sort-of DVD release (in Warners’ new burn-on-demand library). More on Angel Baby further down.
*There’s one discrepancy I haven’t resolved, and that’s the question of Wendkos’s age. Most reference books report his date of birth as September 20, 1922, but the obits all state that he 84 rather than 87. If I sort out the facts, I’ll report back. UPDATE, 12/3/09: Lin Bolen Wendkos says that Paul’s birth certificate bears the 1925 date. No one in the family seems to know how that 1922 business got started. Intriguing!