Monday, April 28, 2014

Film clips - dated movies, a "western" & a Maple visit

Sign of the times. At one time we use to date movies by the look of cars and men’s and women’s fashions and hairstyles. Over the last two decades a better way to date movies has been to look at the computers on characters’ desks. But even more recently a way of dating movies is to look at the cell phones they’re using. This weekend I saw the movie Could This Be Love? (Pierre Jolivet, 2007) starring Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Bonnaire, a toss off vapid romantic movie if ever there was one and obviously for these two well-known stars a vehicle to make some quick bucks. Yes, the sets had flat screen computers so the movie looked pretty up to date. But the giveaway was the characters' flip phones and lack of larger smart phones. Another "recent" movie suffering the same fate is In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009, the same guy behind Veep the TV satire starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a send up of the back room corridors at the highest levels of British and U.S. politics - and not for the faint of heart; if this is what politics is like I want no part of it. In both these movies cell phones were so ubiquitous there were jokes about them. But, hey guys, you were so 2000 first decade. 

Finally I’ll have a chance to visit the renovated Maple Theater. I haven’t been to the storied Maple since Landmark Theatres owned it. New Detroit-based management Cloud Nine Theater Partners headed by Jon Goldstein, took it over and remade the venerable showplace stem to stern, putting some stylish film-going luxury into the building, reopening it almost a year and a half ago. But I haven’t been to it since. The reason? Hate to say, but I haven’t found the line up as interesting as I thought the new owners would make it. Despite being an art house cinema the films have been more mainstream and certainly not as edgy as what used to screen there. Recently the theater showed Le Week-End (Roger Michell) starring Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan), which I’ve been dying to see. But it wasn’t held there long enough so I missed it. But this week the much-anticipated thriller Locke (Steven Knight) starring Tom Hardy opens Tuesday. And – a bonus - just like Le Week-End, it’s a UK-made film. Hopefully I’ll make it to the Maple.

Kurosawa. Last week I took in the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 movie (am I allowed to use the word “movie” instead of “film” in the same breath as Kurosawa?) Yojimbo at the DFT, in connection with the DIA’s big Samurai exhibit that’s now on. The movie stars Toshiro Mifune, who is central to Kurosawa’s oeuvre (that’s also a word you say in the same breath as Kurosawa). For all its critical acclaim the movie has a pretty flimsy plot and descends into unintentional farce several times. But what’s great about this picture is Mifune himself. He’s a master under total control from the moment he first steps into a frame to the movie’s last seconds. It’s all - gloriously - about him. What’s more this picture is nothing other than a Japanese western. In fact, it was the basis for the great spaghetti-western master Sergio Leone’s 1964 's Fistful of Dollars and you can see why. Mifune as the samurai Sanjuro is the Japanese version of the steely calculating calm Clint Eastwood.

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