The Drop Box

February 3, 2008

La Moustache (2005)

La Moustache poster 

“What if I shaved my moustache off?” Marc (Vincent Lindon) asks his wife, Agnes (the always excellent Emmanuelle Devos). “No idea. I like you with it. I don’t know you without it.” And so immediately, willfully and with some pleasure, Marc shaves his moustache off. But instead of being surprised or dismayed, Agnes doesn’t notice at all; their friends Serge and Nadia, with whom they dine later that night, don’t notice anything unusual either. Marc doesn’t bring it up, but he’s visibly shaken; and worst of all, when he finally does confront Agnes, he’s told he never had a moustache – more than a bit upset, he thinks he’s the victim of an elaborate joke orchestrated by his wife. 



January 30, 2008

This Sporting Life (1963)

Richard Harris in This Sporting Life

Men collide into one another on a rugby pitch, a confusion of bodies and sounds; someone’s punched in the face, falls bloody to the ground, gets carried off – a distraction. The Hobbesian poetry of this opening scene could stand in for the entire film: full of violence, turmoil and confusion, ending in devastation. Directed by Lindsay Anderson, This Sporting Life is considered the last of the major British New Wave films; containing both an angry young man and a kitchen sink, the film was the Rank Organisation‘s late entry into the field, and when it failed financially, the social realist trend in British cinema essentially died.



January 27, 2008

They Live By Night (1948)

They Live by Night poster

I’ve tiptoed around Nicholas Ray‘s movies for ages: I love the stuff I’ve seen, particularly Johnny Guitar and In a Lonely Place, but I haven’t seen a lot – something about the burden of expectations… But when Ray’s first feature, They Live By Night, was recently made available on DVD, I took a chance. It looks like an easy one, part of a cheapo double feature with Side Street, but the film is a revelation. An absolutely devastating noir starring Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell as Bowie and Keechie, the eponymous lovers on the lam, They Live By Night highlights in particular what a great director of actors Ray was, right off the bat. He’s no slouch with the visuals either: often noted for his expressive use of camera and color, here Ray works us over in black and white, following the misbegotten couple from the first bated breath of romance to its last gasp.


January 18, 2008

The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three poster

Walter Matthau is a particular favorite of mine. The greatest curmudgeon in movies (with the possible exception of W.C. Fields), Matthau brought his gruff wit to comedy classics like The Bad News Bears, The Odd Couple, and the highly underrated A New Leaf, but was equally at home in thrillers like Charade, Fail-Safe and the excellent Charley Varrick. His sense of timing is without equal, his vocal control is amazing, and his reactions are works of art – I’ve never seen such subtle double (and triple!) takes as the ones peppered throughout A New Leaf; Matthau can create meaning with the slightest motion of his eyes. And what a face!

Walter Matthau and Jerry Stiller in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three


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