In my opinion, Body Heat is the Noir where, Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice wished they could have gone if they had been untethered from the Hayes Code.
I hope you haven't done us in?â
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Body Heat is written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan and stars William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson, J.A. Preston and Mickey Rourke. Music is scored by John Barry and cinematography by Richard H. Cline. Plot sees Hurt as small time Florida lawyer Ned Racine who falls in love and lust with smouldering babe Matty Walker (Turner). Trouble is is that she is married, and as the affair grows more torrid, the pair begin to hatch plans to kill the husband (Crenna) so as to be together and get very rich in the process...
Well some can chide it for its debt to Double Indemnity, or even glance scornfully at Kasdan for using sex to sell his reinvention of amoral noirs of the 40s and 50s, but it stands tall and proud in my book of best neo-noirs produced. Causing quite a stir upon its release, Body Heat under Kasdan's watchful eye has most things right for a nod to the glory days of film noir. Male protagonist caught in a lusty web of deceit and murder, femme fatale so smouldering her skin literally does burn, twists and turns in the narrative, photography keeping it down low on light but expanding the colours for extra lurid effect, and a score that fuses seedy like jazz with low Bondian base strains that suddenly get attacked by a shrill to outline the hapless Racine's imploding panic. The dialogue, too, is devilish, especially when delivered so sensually by Turner's crafty honey, a lady bridging the gap between Lauren Bacall and Jessica Rabbit. Yep! Body Heat has it all going on.
That was her special gift, she was relentless.
Basically Kasdan has brought to life the suggestion involved of something like Double Indemnity, and set it in a sweltering modern day Florida. Free of any code restrictions, he unleashes the sex between the two principals and wraps his biting story around it. It's never sordid or done for the sake of selling tickets, it expertly realises the passion, trickery, and even genuine love? That's going on between Matty and Ned. Helps, too, that Turner and Hurt are terrific in performance and chemistry, while the support cast, courtesy of well thought out writing, really flesh out the plot. There's a problem for genre fans that stop it being a masterpiece all told, that of there being no shock factor come the finale reveal, but the slow boil to the outcome is positively gripping. While the visual views we get of Matty in the final frames leave a question tantalisingly hanging in the air......
Slick and sexy, tricky and teetering, Body Heat stokes the fires of noir conventions of old with some style. 9/10
All right, boys, it's Howdy Doody time.
Cold in July is directed by Jim Mickle and Mickle co-adapts the screenplay with Nick Damici from the novel written by Joe R. Lansdale. It stars Sam Shepard, Michael C. Hall and Don Johnson. Music is by Jeff Grace and cinematography is by Ryan Samul.
1989 Texas and when Richard Dane (Hall) shoots and kills a burglar in his home, his life shifts into very dark places.
A quality neo-noir pulper, Cold in July thrives because it never rests on its laurels. It consistently throws up narrative surprises, spinning the protagonists and us the audience into different territories. Fronted by three striking lead performances, each portraying a different type of character who bounce off of each other perfectly, the pic also has that late 80s swaggering appeal. Be it Grace's shifty synth based score, or the way Samul's photography uses primary colours for bold bluster, it's period reflective and tonally in keeping with the story.
With substance in the writing, moody and dangerous atmosphere unbound and tech credits at the high end, this one is recommended with confidence to neo-noir fans. 8/10
Isn't sugar better than vinegar?
**SPOILER ALERT - The last paragraph makes reference to a 1940s film that constitutes a spoiler. **
There rarely seems to be anything in between where Brian De Palma films are concerned, cinematic lovers of all kinds by and large either trash or laud his films. Femme Fatale is no different, one critic - both professional or amateur - will have it as a 1/10 movie, another will have it at the maximum rate available. Femme Fatale is high grade stuff if one is either a De Palma fan or a lover of film noir. Conversely if these two things don't tick your film loving boxes then the law of averages suggests you should have - or should - stayed/stay away from it.
De Palma opens up the doors to his fun house and invites noir lovers to come on in and enjoy. It's difficult to write about the plot because it holds many twists and turns, it's a veritable supply of uppers and downers, twisters and benders, all sexed up and pumped full of De Palma's trademark tricks and devilish rug pulls. In truth the story and set-up is predictable, but the journey is what makes the pic ooze quality and bare faced cheek, with the director giggling away like a schoolgirl in the background.
Opening up with a sequence that sees our titular fatale (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) watching famed noir classic Double Indemnity, De Palma proceeds to homage and love the film noir world. As he uses split-screens, canted angles, up-tilt shots, shadow plays etc, the narrative pulses with eroticism and impending cruelty, this really is a femme fatale based movie of the grandest kind. As events unfurl, with hapless photographer Nicola Bardo (a fun packed Antonio Banderas) caught in the web, Ryuichi Sakamoto's magnificent classical based score swirls around like some sort of peeping tom. The latter of which finds a shifty accomplice in Thierry Arbogast's noir photography.
It's a picture awash with dupes, dopes and vengeful criminals, where the themes of identity, duality, sexuality and distorted perceptions gnaw away at those investing fully in the viewing experience. Some critics (prof and amat) have lazily likened the film to David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, as if De Palma in 6 short months watched Lynch's movie and then knocked this film out! The copy-cat charge as funny as the rug-pull that De Palma pulls here. Besides, as any film noir lover will tell you, this has more in keeping with Fritz Lang's 1944 noirer "The Woman in the Window" than Lynch's film, which is no bad thing at all, and De Palma knew that. 8/10
It's a picture awash with dupes, dopes and vengeful criminals, where the themes of identity, duality, sexuality and distorted perceptions gnaw away at those investing fully in the viewing experience.
I could do without Harvey tossing one off though!
Listen Harry, in case you lose me in traffic, this is the address where I'm going.
The Long Goodbye is directed by Robert Altman and loosely adapted to screenplay by Leigh Brackett from the Raymond Chandler story. It stars Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, David Arkin, Jim Bouton and Mark Rydell. Music is by John Williams and cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond.
Private Detective Phillip Marlowe (Gould) tries to help a friend who is accused of murdering his wife, but he is quickly thrust into a world of bluffs, deceits, alcoholics, violence and a suspicious suicide.
Much has been made about how Altman and Brackett tampered with the Chandler source material, so much so I have seen and read some venomous arguments/diatribes as regards the film's worth. Venturing into it for the first time I was forewarned that it plonks legendary Private Dic Phillip Marlowe into a 70s setting, that it satirises the gumshoe aspects of decades previously to put Marlowe as a sort of man out of his time. Then there's the controversial ending thought up by Brackett, and the casting of Gould as Marlowe that caused some consternation to Chandler purists. So as much as I adore Bogart and Powell's takes on Marlowe, I ventured into The Long Goodbye with an open mind. And I'm so glad I did.
I love it, I really do, I found it so easy to dissociate this neo-noir version of Marlowe with the hard boiled film noir versions from the classic cycle. This Marlowe is a riot, abused and used by those around him, he is world weary to the extreme, he can't even bluff his own cat, who it appears is probably his only real friend. He sleepwalks through life quipping away to himself because nobody else cares to listen anyway, and he chain-smokes, how unfashionable! But he is always cool, even when faced with hostile cops or murderous thugs, his coolness is not for shaking. Attaboy Phillip.
Cynical but very at ease with itself, the picture pulses with classic noir themes of betrayal, loyalties and moral corruption. It also looks and sounds ace, with a desaturated 70s sheen blending in with the emphasised sounds of everyday West America life. Oh and Gould is just triffic to boot. Great stuff, annual viewing requirement assured here. 9/10
This Marlowe is a riot, abused and used by those around him, he is world weary to the extreme, he can't even bluff his own cat, who it appears is probably his only real friend. He sleepwalks through life quipping away to himself because nobody else cares to listen anyway, and he chain-smokes, how unfashionable! But he is always cool, even when faced with hostile cops or murderous thugs, his coolness is not for shaking. Attaboy Phillip.
Thank you for bringing it to our attention! Even if you feel it's hardly a must see.
Everybody oughta listen to his mother.
Boston criminal Eddie 'Fingers' Coyle (Robert Mitchum) is in the mire, the cops have him bang to rights and he's facing a long stretch in the big house. However, if he turns informant he will keep out of poky...
For far too long this film had been stuck hidden away in pirate hell, thankfully it finally saw the light of day and can be seen for all its glory. Peter Yates directs and Paul Monash adapts the screenplay from the George V. Higgins novel. Supporting Mitchum are Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Steven Keats and Alex Rocco. Music is by Dave Grusin and cinematography by Victor J. Kemper.
It's a film noir lovers picture, a throw back to the halcyon days of the first wave of noir back in the 1940s. So who better than a battered pug faced Mitchum to front up the story? Pic is perpetually downbeat, with the air of despondency hanging over our protagonist like the grim reaper. The underworld painted by Yates and his team is smartly stripped down to basics, it's a world that is after all, always moving in secretive circles. There's no frilly glamour here, there's crime and consequences, realistic street operations, and brilliantly there's believable characterisations.
With dialogue dominating the narrative, it's not one for the action junkie - though the set-pieces are superbly staged by Yates, this is a neo-noir of high respect to previous blood lines. And it boasts a quite brilliant turn from Mitchum whilst not copping out at the finale. Noir heads rejoice! 9/10