Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Film Pairing — Image, Identity And Illusion

If I had it to do over, I might choose photography, rather than writing. Though the truth is I love being involved in both, even though these two particular films are cautionary tales pointing elsewhere.  The first is a truly American film, and the second truly French. The first has considerably more action.  The second is saturated in suspense. Both fittingly boast fine cinematography.

Jake Gyllenhaal In Nightrawler
Nightcrawler — It doesn’t get any sleazier. Jake Gyllenhaal sees an opportunity to use his lack of character and social conscience to take videos of bloody crime scenes and horrendous accidents to cash in. He gets to the scene first and rearranges things if need be to meet the “if it bleeds, it leads” business model of sensational TV newscasts in L.A.  Gyllenhaal is the hyena-like scavenger, a thief turned entrepreneur who feeds on what’s left of the kill. It’s hard not to imagine the film as an indictment of our culture’s out-of-control greed. Free market gone wild.  You may wish to take a shower after the film is over; but it is magnificently thought provoking. Released in 2014, Nightcrawler was directed by Dan Gilroy.  It won a slew of awards. Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton also appear.

Romain Duris in The Big Picture
The Big Picture — This film is a bit more seductive and considerably subtler.  However, like Nightcrawler, the film’s major strength is the performance of the main character.  In this case it is Romain Duris who plays a dissatisfied but successful attorney.   He slyly keeps us in suspense about his true nature. He accidently kills his wife’s lover.  Realizing it would be a slam-dunk murder case for any prosecutor, our man takes off, cleverly taking the identity of the victim, whose passport is easily forged and who is a free-lance photographer often on extended assignments. If our man must go into exile, why not take this opportunity to live out his avocation as well as his childhood dream of becoming a photographer himself?

As the New York Times reviewer suggests the film conjures thoughts of Hitchcock, and Highsmith’s Ripley – though the film, based on Douglas Kennedy’s novel, is very much its own. Directed by Eric Lartigau the film also features Marina Föis, Niels Arestrup, Branka Katic, Catherine Deneuve and Éric Ruf.

Because Nightcrawler is so hard-edged, one might think of having a glass of whiskey on hand.  For The Big Picture, we might look to Paris and/or Belgrade for inspiration. Maybe Rakija, a strong brandy. Serbia is also known for its mineral waters.

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