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.
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.
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.
The Offence (1972*)
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Produced by Denis O’Dell
Written by John Hopkins based on his play This Story of Yours
Cinematography by Gerry Fisher
Edited by John Victor-Smith
Music by Harrison Birtwistle
Kino Lorber Blu-ray (1:52)
I can’t imagine what it must have been like to see this film in theaters upon its initial release. Audiences would’ve known it starred Sean Connery – who at this point had made six James Bond films – and was directed by Sidney Lumet – who had directed 12 Angry Men, The Pawnbroker, Fail Safe and The Anderson Tapes (also starring Connery). But I don’t think anyone expected the absolute raw, unrelenting power of The Offence.
The Machinist (2004)
Directed by Brad Anderson
Produced by Carlos Fernández
Written by Scott Kosar
Cinematography by Xavi Giménez
Music by Roque Baños
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:42)
The Machinist disturbs us from the very first frame and never lets up until the final credits roll, yet when you think about it, we’re really not off the hook even then. Much of what disturbs us is watching an emaciated Christian Bale, who lost 62 pounds for the role of Trevor Reznik, a machinist with a prolonged case of insomnia. The disturbing sight of Bale is a strong foundation for more things that will disturb us in the film, grounding the audience in elements that have one foot in horror and the other in noir. Part of what makes The Machinist so powerful is in how it maintains that balance.
Unfortunately you’ll find very few Blu-ray or DVD releases in May from the “classic” era of film noir, but next month does offer some nice neo-noir titles and a couple of complete TV series sets. Let’s get started:
The guys over at Pure Cinema Podcast recently covered their top neo-noir movies, pairing them with classic film noir titles that share some type of connection whether it’s plot, theme, or some other common element. It’s a great show and I highly recommend listening to it. I enjoyed it so much that I was inspired to come up with my own list of neo-noir/classic noir pairings:
The Drop (2014)
Directed by Michaël R. Roskam
Produced by Blair Breard, Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, David Greenbaum, Mike Larocca, Chuck Ryant
Cinematography by Nicolas Karakatsanis
Edited by Christopher Tellefsen
Screenplay by Dennis Lehane based on his short story “Animal Rescue”
20th Century Fox DVD – library (1:47)
The Drop barely registered on my radar when it was released in theaters two years ago. I don’t go to theaters much (preferring to watch movies at home) and tend to gravitate towards films made between 1940 and 1980. But my friend Michael Kronenberg recommended this one, and since he was right on target with his recommendation of the Mesrine films, I figured I was in for a pretty good movie. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m stunned that more people don’t talk about this superb crime picture. Not only does The Drop contain James Gandolfini’s last film performance (which is excellent), it also features a bravura performance by Tom Hardy.