Sunday, January 4, 2015

Film Pairings — Two Very Different, And Nearly Flawless Films

Often I put two movies together because of some tangible similarity — plot, character, cinematic style, even setting.  These two are none of the above.  The only thing they have in common is that they are really good.  But they couldn’t be more different

A Most Wanted Man — This is one of the last films with Philip Seymour Hoffman in a leading role.  I was well into the film when I became increasingly conscious of its familiarity.  I immediately checked.  The movie was based on a novel of the same name by John Le Carré.  I should have known, of course.  Espionage, terrorism and innocence are brought to a boil with the same sense of double crossing, blind alleys and distrust that permeate the master’s books and with same frumpy realism brought to almost all of the film manifestations of his work. Hoffman is consequential in a role of a relatively inconsequential man.  Burnt out and perhaps down to his last chance to do right, Hoffman has perfect pitch for a man so seemingly ordinary, so disappointed and so weary with the world. Directed by Anton Corbijn, the film also features Rachel McAdams, and Willem Dafoe.

Point Blank — Not the least bit frumpy or subtle, Point Blank might be one of the sharpest, tightest, and oddly most stylized crime films ever.  It surprised me that Lee Marvin turned out to be the perfect lead. I’ve always found him a credible and an interesting actor — The Big Heat, for example — and strong in supporting roles. But carry a two-hour movie?  I wouldn’t have thought so. He does. The only other quality the two movies share is that they are based on popular novels by master craftsmen.  In this case the book is The Hunter by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake). Marvin plays Walker — a character named Parker in the series of books that has spawned other films. Walker was cheated out of his wife and his share of a job, both thefts by his best friend.  But all Walker really wants is his share of the take. He and the movie move toward that goal with a vengeance. This is a powerful film with a great deal of credit going to Marvin.  It’s also a beautiful, moody, well-lit, incredibly designed and photographed work of art. Directed by John Boorman it also features a striking Angie Dickinson as well as fine performances by Carroll O’Connor, Keenan Wynn and Lloyd Bochner.

If its cold outside nothing wrong with a little cognac or other brandy to keep you warm and mellow while you watch two great movies. 

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