Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. Also check out our From Our Netflix Queue series, highlighting worthwhile films and TV series that are available on Netflix Instant Watch.
2010 Britain. Director: Rowan Joffe. Starring: Sam Riley, Andrea Risenborough, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Andy Serkis, Philip Davis.
The latest adaptation of Graham Greene’s 1938 novel of the same name, director Rowan Joffe sets his version of Brighton Rock against the 1964 England youth riots and casts Sam Riley as Pinkie Brown, a vicious small time mobster looking to movie up in the Brighton criminal underworld. This suspenseful and gut-twisting film noir is masterfully made; the setting, cold and eerily beautiful, is combined with superb cinematography, shot composition, lighting and editing, all of which contribute to the films inescapable atmosphere of imminent doom. Helen Mirren, John Hurt and Andy Serkis all give expectedly strong supporting performances, while Andrea Risenborough is excellent as Rose, a timid young waitress who ends up in an abusive relationship with Pinkie. That particular plot point does cause some consternation; perhaps it is because the film never quite establishes a consistent time-line, but it is somewhat difficult to believe Rose’s undying devotion to so hideous a man, no matter how much of a wet blanket she is. That said, Sam Riley is absolutely magnetic in the central role. Rarely will you see a film with a more despicable protagonist than Pinkie Brown, but Brighton Rock will hold you captivated in spite of your revulsion.
Japanese Girls At The Harbor
1933 Japan. Director: Hiroshi Shimizu. Starring: Michiko Oikawa, Yukiko Inoue.
Sunako and Dora are two school age friends who promise that they will always be together. Until, of course, a boy enters the picture. Hiroshi Shimizu’s 1933 silent film Japanese Girls At The Harbor may begin with this shopworn initial premise, but uses it to build a lovely story of the relationship between trust and love. The change in moral values within Japanese society and the lure of Western culture is certainly present within the film given the time frame (after all the main male character’s name is the very Western “Henry”), but its focus is on how the girls approach their relationships and their expectations about what love is. Shimizu’s gentle touch to the pace of the story along with some outstanding (and very innovative for the time) camerawork and editing make this a wonderful treasure. Though the DVD (part of the “Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu” 4 disc set from Eclipse) comes with an optional musical score, I found the film worked best in complete silence. That’s not a criticism of the music itself, but just a statement that the film doesn’t need the additional backing of music to shape its tone or emotions. It’s all expressed via the visuals. Shimizu’s camera stays with the characters via several long strolling tracking shots to allow us time with them, links them between scenes and frames them in different relationships to each other. In the aesthetics of the film, there’s a strong resemblance in look and feel to the “poetic realism” approach to filmmaking from France (which began a bit more in earnest a year or so after this film). Whether it was the lovely use of shadows during key moments (presaging film noir), dreamlike transitions or simply the softer, quieter acting style, I found numerous linkages between the two styles even though there are also some quite definite departures in other aspects. The entire film feels so modern in many ways via its acting, the camerawork and the crispness of so many of the scenes thàt it’s hard to believe at times this is from 1933. Regardless of when it was made and the context of its innovations, it’s a simple, beautifully told and emotionally resonating story. “Love must be generous or it’s nothing at all”.
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