05 January 2010

The Detective (1968) / Tokyo! (2008)

I have to say, however blah the movies were last night, I'm really blown away by the quality of the video I've been getting. I don't know if I mentioned that I finally got a blu-ray player and it's hooked up to my roommate's projector in the living room. I've been told that we need a new cable to get the full blu-ray experience so I haven't even watched the blu-ray disc that was given to me with the player (There Will Be Blood). We've been playing with the Netflix streaming feature and I just can't believe how good the playback is through the projector. I'm sure someone more technically savvy would talk about how it isn't sharp enough or something but from my perspective, the colors are amazing and it's kind of awesome to be able to sit down in your living room and have the option of projecting any of the 350 movies on my Netflix instant queue.
As to the films, The Detective was all right. I put it on mostly because I had always meant to watch it and I felt like getting my Lee Remick on. Unfortunately Lee Remick isn't put to very great use here. It's a sort of cop drama with Frank Sinatra and it's about him trying to solve this grisly murder of a homosexual and also all this stuff about a cabal of businessmen playing real estate and development games that defraud the citizenry and lead to any number of social ills. There are a number of flashback sequences that show his life with his wife, Lee Remick, and his life as a New York police officer and so forth. I think these are the parts I found most interesting. The movie deals with several controversial subjects of its day and it's definitely interesting as a historical artifact. On the one hand, the film's attitude toward homosexuals seems much more humane than some of the other films of the sixties and seventies. It sort of shows the darkness of their lives and the torment they're subjected to by the world and it shows the hero Frank Sinatra being all compassionate about it. On the other hand, it also shows them as generally silly and deranged. I was actually a little surprised at the frankness of some of the dialogue, particularly the scene where they talk about what the victim might have had a bottle of mineral oil for and how one guy says it's not for the butt sex because you need something thicker, like Vaseline, and responds to the shocked comerades that men and women also use such lubricants. The film also tries to wrestle with drugs and addiction, if not in an all too serious manner. There's a guy giving a lecture about the benefits of LSD usage, which Sinatra chooses not to stick around for, and there's this bit about a teenage junkie prostitute that leaves Sinatra making a snarky comment about it being part of the Great Society and then later attributing that sort of thing to the kind of housing available in the city. There's also this whole other story about how Lee Remick, the ex-wife, is a nympho and how they couldn't stay married because Frank can't abide no whoring wife, although they still sleep together from time to time. The movie is really very fascinating as an artifact that stands between the production codes of the past and the deluge of more adult content that was loosed upon America in the late 60s and in the 1970s. Looking at the reviews from its time, it seems that a lot was made of the realism of the film, from the gritty realism of police work to the naturalism of the dialogue. The dialogue is really interesting because it is more naturalistic than in a great many previous films but it also seems sort of interstitial, a kind of missing link or something. Maybe that's what makes it feel like it's from the Isle of Misfit Films or something. I'm also surprised to discover that the movie is based on a novel whose sequel was filmed as Die Hard. Go figure. As I'm typing this it occurs to me that this film seems to be one of those that is more fun to consider than to watch. Perhaps I'll watch it again some time. C
The other movie I watched last night, Tokyo!, was less interesting to me. It's three short films set in Tokyo by three non-Japanese directors: Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Joon-ho Bong. The only one of these shorts I really cared for was the one by Michel Gondry. It's about this couple who have come to Tokyo and are trying to find jobs and apartments while living with a friend. The welcome wears thin. The girlfriend can't find a job, the car is towed. Things take a turn for the surreal. I didn't love it but I enjoyed it pretty much. Then is the Leos Carax piece which I didn't get at all. A few times I thought I might have figured out something that made it interesting or worthwhile but then I just got irritated by it again. It's this weird, grotesque business about a trollish man who comes out of the sewers and wreaks havoc, is arrested, is defended in court by a weird trollish lawyer from France, and is executed. It all came across as pointless and off-putting and I just didn't dig it. I actually decided to watch it because of the Joon-ho Bong thing but I was so alienated after the Leos Carax film that I couldn't really focus. Either that or it was kind of blah. It seemed all right. Like I said, I just couldn't focus... C-

No comments:

Post a Comment