El Aura (2005)
Written and directed by Fabián Bielinsky
Produced by Ariel Saúl, Victor Hadida, Cecilia Bossi
Music by Dario Eskenazi
Cinematography by Checco Varese
Edited by Alejandro Carrillo Penovi, Fernando Pardo
IFC DVD (2:18)
One of the things I appreciate most about film festivals and shows like TCM’s Noir Alley is the presenter’s ability to convey how film noir developed organically from events happening in the culture at the time those films were made. Those who excel at such presentations help audiences understand how post-WWII fears and anxieties greatly contributed to a sense of cynicism in films produced in the 1940s and 50s. Add to that the variations of what we once accepted as well-defined male and female roles in our society, the threat of communism, the problems of veterans returning home to a different world, and much more. Without these presenters as guides, it’s often difficult to navigate our own history while trying to understand the stories behind the stories, much less the experiences of filmmakers working in other countries. I explored some of this with El ángel desnudo (1946), the first movie discussed in the book Argentine Cinema: From Noir to Neo-Noir by David George and Gizella Meneses. Today, I’ll look at El Aura, a more recent Argentine noir which draws heavily from its cultural background.
Gary “Gal” Dove (Ray Winstone) has had a good run as a safe-cracker, so good that he and his wife DeeDee (Amanda Redman) can afford to retire from London bank jobs and relax at their Spanish villa. All is well until an old associate named Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) demands that Gal pull one more heist for London crime boss Teddy Bass (Ian McShane). If you’re a fan of classic film noir, you’ll recognize this as the basic set-up from Out of the Past (1947), but the similarities pretty much end there.
It may seem that September offered a lower-than-usual number of movies, but when you consider that I actually watched four seasons of TV (I previously discussed The Night Of and Alfred Hitchcock Presents Season One), I saw quite a lot. In order to get October off to a good start, I’m limiting my comments to the bare minimum.
If you missed Part I or Part II from September, look no further. Part II is going to go by quickly, so here we go…
September is off to a rather slow start, due mainly to watching a few TV series, one of which you’ll read about below. I hope you’ll find something here to explore. If not this time, well, there’s more on the way…
The Night Of (TV 2016)
Directed by Steven Zaillian, James Marsh
Written by Richard Price, Steven Zaillian
Based on the British television series Criminal Justice by Peter Moffat
HBO DVD – library (8:51)
I live in something of a cinematic vacuum. My friends and co-workers often seek to set me free from said vacuum by tempting me with current TV shows, assuring and often promising “You’ll love this show!” They’ve attempted to lure me into the television universe with Game of Thrones, Orphan Black, Orange is the New Black, Fargo, The Leftovers, Big Little Lies, Westworld, and many more. I’ll usually ask them if the show is ongoing or if it’s ended. Is it one season or two? More? How many episodes? How long is each episode? When I start doing the math, I figure out that I can usually watch anywhere from five to eight movies during the same amount of time it would take me to watch one season of just about anything. So I usually pass.
But one of my co-workers told me that I might like the HBO series The Night Of, a self-contained season with eight hour-long (give or take) episodes. I’d heard positive things about the show but also knew it wasn’t being talked to death nearly as much as a show like Game of Thrones, so my interest level increased a bit. I had a long Labor Day weekend coming up, so I decided to give it a try.
Overall I felt like August was a slow month, but I did manage to see quite a few films, most of them for the first time. If you missed the earlier parts of the month, please check out Part I and Part II. Here’s Part III:
Night Moves (1975)
Directed by Arthur Penn
Produced by Robert M. Sherman
Written by Alan Sharp
Music by Michael Small
Cinematography by Bruce Surtees
Edited by Dede Allen, Stephan A. Rotter
Warner DVD – Interlibrary loan (1:39)
Recently released on Blu-ray from Warner Archive
In the first half of Night Moves, private detective Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) is showing a woman named Paula (Jennifer Warren) a sequence of chess moves from a famous match originally played in the 1920s.
“It’s a beauty,” Paula says after Harry shows her the sequence again.
“Yeah,” Harry replies, “but he didn’t see it. He played something else and he lost. Must’ve regretted it every day of his life. I know I would have.”
In a way, I’ve just given away everything about Arthur Penn’s brilliant neo-noir Night Moves, and then again I’ve given away nothing. Night Moves is one of those movies that’s been largely overlooked for the past 40 years, at least by the majority of the moviegoing public (and sometimes even Gene Hackman fans). It’s a great film for many reasons (which I’ll elaborate on in a moment), but it demands from the viewer a patient and careful eye. It also requires at least two viewings (this was my third) to fully appreciate its wonders, and for a 40-year-old film, that’s asking a lot. Yet the rewards are tremendous.