Saturday, May 19, 2007

May 19th Log

2007, D.J. Caruso, United States

1st Viewing, Theater

Alfred Hitchcock’s films continuously get remade in all sorts of forms, even if indirectly. Disturbia is not a direct remake, but certainly one that uses the basic premise of the 1954 masterpiece Rear Window. Here the film is transformed into a new age of technology and through young suburban teenagers. While nowhere close to the level of Hitchcock’s masterwork, Disturbia is actually pretty effective. At least for the first two thirds of the film, as the last portion resorts to the unsuspenseful “scare” tactics including sudden bursts of loud noise. What makes Hitchcock such as master is that he never needs to resort to such tactics, and instead he played with the minds of the characters and the audience. I guess it is unfair to compare this film to one of the greatest in the history of American film, so for the most part Disturbia is effective. There is a sexual tension to the film that might have been more fully developed (rather then implied) had it been rated R, but clearly this is marketed more for a teenage crowd- notably for the many young fans of rising star Shia LaBeouf. LaBeouf like the rest of the cast is not bad, but the best performances come from the supporting roles (Carrie Ann Moss as the mother, David Morse as the villain, and newcomer Sarah Roemer as the beautiful new neighbor/love interest).

1969, Jean-Pierre Melville, France / Italy
1st Viewing, DVD

Army of Shadows opens with a stunning sequence. A long shot in which we see German soldiers marching down the Champs Elysees. It is a symbolic moment and one which sets the tone for what it one of the most controversial yet critically acclaimed films in the history of French cinema. Completed in 1969, Army of Shadows did not see and American theatrical release until 2006, and now it gets a magnificent DVD treatment with the release of Criterion Collection outstanding 2-disc set. The film is an upsetting one to watch, but remarkable for its masterful direction and performances. Jean-Pierre Melville adapted the film from Joseph Kessel’s novel, and ultimately made a deeply personal and haunting film about the French Resistance. Army of Shadows was made in-between Melville’s most famous works (Le Samourai and The Red Circle), and the though this is a war film, you can certainly recognize his uses of the gangster filmmaking style. Melville skillfully shifts from still moments to sudden contrasts of action and violence signified again by the camera work of which includes fluid tracking movement. Above all Army of Shadows uses a minimalist style in the way Melville uses visual framing, and off-screen sounds as devices for subtle symbolic expression. Heightening this are the minimal performances capturing the tone of tragedy over melodrama and silent gestures over dialogue. The entire cast is excellent, with the always terrific Simone Signoret being an especially memorable. Film comes full circle ending with tragic and unhopeful title cards, and a final shot of the Champs Elysees that recalls the disturbing opening image of the film.


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