I watched Fred Schepisi’s The Russia House (1990) this weekend. The film is based on the John le Carré novel about the waning days of the Soviet Union. It was one of the first Western flicks to actually be shot in former Communist Russia. And released as it was in 1990 it was likely shot in 1989. Since it was also filmed in the fall it must have been made around the same time that the Soviet Bloc’s most important Eastern European satellite state East Germany was disintegrating and the Berlin Wall fell. Uncanny scheduling that.....The movie stars Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer. And given that it’s based on a le Carré novel it’s all about spies like them. But the movie has a hard-to-follow plot. The novel itself had a number of plot twists that would seem to pose difficulties for a much tighter movie script. But if you’re going to undertake the story you should be prepared to better define what’s going on. Schepisi (A Cry in the Dark, 1988) simply didn’t do this. But, that aside, the film was wonderful to watch because so many of the shots were of outdoor scenes of Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). The old Soviet grey streetscapes and modern fortress-like buildings are there. But so too is the extraordinary art and architecture of, say, the Moscow subway, and seemingly all of St. Petersburg.
Halloween is coming up and there’s a film this weekend at the DIA’s Detroit Film Theatre that looks quite suitable for the occasion. It’s a 1959 French film called Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju) which seems infinitely more terrorizing than the run of the mill schlock that goes for horror that H’wood spits out. The plot is about a surgeon’s daughter whose face is disfigured in an accident. He and his mistress go on a kidnapping spree, taking young women and grafting their faces on to his daughter. I get chilled just thinking about it. For more go to www.dia.org
Opening I don’t know when – if ever – in the Detroit area but soon to be coming to Toronto is Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary starring Johnny Depp. The film is based on a little known Hunter S. Thompson (he the gonzo journalist who committed suicide in 2005) book of the same name. Depp plays a Hunter Thompson-like character, a journalist, who flees New York for Puerto Rico and a newspaper seemingly outfitted with all manner of misfits. Depp, of course, played the Thompsonesque Raoul Duke in Thompson’s acclaimed book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam 1998). He also befriended the good doctor and apparently had promised him to make a movie of The Rum Diary after convincing Thompson to publish the book. The movie opens Oct. 28. (UPDATE: it's opening Friday in Dee-troit; and yes, even in Windsor)