TIFF 2015 Review: Legend

Brian Helgeland’s Legend owes more than just passing “respects” to Goodfellas. It should kneel, kiss its ring and swear to handle whatever favours are asked of it. From its use of period precise music to its narration to long take club-entering shots, Legend shoots for that Scorsese vibe and view of the intoxicating power of gangster life. It doesn’t achieve that of course (primarily due to far too many moments that are inexcusably mundane), but still manages to keep a good pace and remain mostly entertaining. And that is primarily due to two key performances: those of Tom Hardy and also Tom Hardy.

Legend covers the rise and reign of the Kray brothers – the legendary gangster twin siblings who grew up in London’s East End. As the film opens, the pair are already local celebrities who ingratiate themselves with the neighbourhood while also running protection rackets and a few nightclubs. Reggie has business sense and can put things into context, but can also suddenly “lose his temper”. As violent as he can be, it feels controlled and with purpose. His brother Ron, however, is all instinct, fight first and ask questions never. He feels that when in doubt, it’s always best to stir things up. He doesn’t easily mix in with general society, though has no issues in openly proclaiming his bisexuality even though the film takes place during the 50s-60s. He begins the film in an asylum, but is released after a little “convincing” of his doctor by Reggie. Clearly no one believes he is in his right mind due to his appetite for mayhem, but Reggie wants/needs him out – they’re brothers after all. Though Reggie wrestles with it occasionally, Ron always wins the competition for Reggie’s allegiance – a battle fought more often after Reggie marries the beautiful young Frances (Emily Browning with a fantastic supporting performance by her cheekbones). Though not necessarily looking to give up “the life”, Reggie does somewhat long to simply run his new club in the West End. It’s profitable, the rich & famous drop by and it’s a sign that they have moved towards conquering all of London and acquiring that broader respect. Of course, that doesn’t fit with Ron’s plans and he actively destroys the regular clientele when Reggie has to do a short spell in prison.

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Eleven Great Tracking Shots

Though I like a really well-edited scene as much as the next person, it’s no secret that I really prize long takes and appreciate them whenever I see them. Add some tracking or quality steadicam movement in there, and I’m in heaven. With that in mind, here are ten of my favorite virtuoso tracking shots. Tracking shots have been in use since the mid-1910s, with Italian epic Cabiria popularizing the technique so much that for a while, it was known as “Cabiria movement.” D.W. Griffith of course made it his own in Intolerance, and it’s been part of cinema language ever since. Originally done by placing the camera on actual railroad tracks (hence the name) or dollies, now moving shots are more likely to be done via steadicam, but either way, long take shots with camera movement require a lot of pre-planning, set-up, and rehearsal, so I’m counting them the same whether they’re tracking, crane, dolly, steadicam, whatever. As long as there’s camera movement involved. I am purposefully excluding full films done in a single take (like Russian Ark) as being too obvious. Film buffs will know most of my picks already, but revisiting a great tracking shot is never a bad thing.

Kill Bill, Vol 1, Quentin Tarantino – 2003 – 1:52

What I love so much about this traveling shot, even though it’s relatively short compared with many of the others, is that Tarantino uses it to establish the whole space of the House of Blue Leaves, where a gigantic fight is about to take place. He can cut as close and as fast as he wants throughout that fight without the audience ever losing track of where Beatrix is compared with everyone else, because this shot established the layout of the place so well. Plus it’s cool to look at.

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Film on TV: June 15-21

The 400 Blows, playing Thursday, June 18th, at 10pm on TCM


This week TCM pays tribute to Elia Kazan, Orson Welles, William A. Wellman, François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, Mervyn LeRoy, and Vincente Minnelli, as well as throwing in some shorter director marathons for Tony Richardson (on Wednesday) and Blake Edwards (on Friday). I only highlighted a couple from those last two, but if you like them, check out the full morning schedule on TCM for those days.

Monday, June 15

3:30pm – TCM – National Velvet
One of my favorite movies growing up, probably not least of all because I was mad about anything to do with horses. Even so, National Velvet stands pretty tall among family friendly films, with a young Elizabeth Taylor fighting to run her beloved horse in England’s most prestigious steeplechase with the help of world-weary youth Mickey Rooney.

Great Directors on TCM: Elia Kazan
I gotta say I don’t really count Elia Kazan among my favorite directors – he tends to be a little message-y for me. Still, he got some great performances out of some great actors, and the Academy Awards loved him – although I’m not entirely sure that’s a positive.

9:30pm – TCM – On the Waterfront
Marlon Brando’s performance as a former boxer pulled into a labor dispute among dock workers goes down as one of the greatest in cinematic history. I’m not even a huge fan of Brando, but this film wins me over. Must See

12:00M – Sundance – Sex and Lucia
This isn’t a favorite of mine, but a lot of people around Row Three like it a lot, so I’ll let them defend it in the comments if they so choose. 🙂

See the rest after the jump.

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