Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Film Pairings — Recent Mysteries You Probably Haven’t Seen

There are crime fiction movies and there are mysteries. They are not necessarily the same.  Few films released in the last couple of years are truly mysteries. We watch chases, slashes, special effects, but we are rarely allowed to gather the clues and try to solve the puzzle as the movie progresses. Here are two recent films that have attempted to put real mysteries on screen.  They remained under the radar.  Both deserved better.

Joseph Fiennes And Nicole Kidman
Strangerland – Seems like many films shot in Australia have a kind of surrealistic, dreamy atmosphere. Strangerland doesn’t quite reach the spiritual or visual power of Australia-set The LastWave, for example, but it maintains an other-worldliness while remaining grounded in the real world with human foibles. Directed by Kim Farrant and released earlier this year, the film stars Nicole Kidman as the mother of two children who disappear in the desert.  Did they runaway?  Were they kidnapped?  Was there something else, something not of this earth?  Kidman’s angry, controlling husband  (Joseph Fiennes) tries to hold the family and himself together the only way he knows how.  It’s not easy. Actor Hugo Weaving gives a fine, understated performance as the local law. Maddison Brown portrays the Lolita-like daughter.

Kazuki Kitamura
Man From Reno — This is my favorite of the two and a very pleasant surprise.  As a long-time San Francisco resident, I’ve gotten used to films shot here taking liberties with the geography — a character running from one street through an alley and ending up on the other side of town. But it happens all the time and it doesn’t distract from this clever, original movie.  The central characters are Japanese, living or visiting the city by the bay, particularly a young woman who also happens to be a best-selling mystery writer on an American book tour.

In the midst of trying to lose her self, he finds a handsome, charming, young and mysterious Japanese fellow with whom she can be herself.  Irresponsibly and uncharacteristically, she abandons her tour. Soon, he abandons her.  She is left to deal with a few undesirables and a lawman from Reno. Something about money and murder. All of them want to find the object of her brief affair. She does too.  Directed by Dave Boyle, Man From Reno features talented Ayako Fujitani as the writer and devilishly handsome and charming Kazuki Kitamura as the questionable lover. Pepe Serna gives a solid, award-worthy performance as the out-of-town sheriff. The film was released in 2014.

As accompaniments to the evening’s double feature, go for the Saki.  If it’s warm where you are, have it cold.  If autumn has already set in, have it warm. Otherwise, maybe some plum soda.

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