Archive for Jon Voight

Don’t Mention the War

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2019 by dcairns

Here I would be writing about THE ODESSA FILE, since it seemed the natural follow-up viewing for BOYS FROM BRAZIL. It ought to be a more serious take on the subject of neo-Nazi resurgence, right?

I found it unwatchable — so what follows is not a review, just a series of random notes.

The script is terrible — that much I can say after ten minutes. The opening lays out the plot in a crass infodump that spoils any fun the viewer could have following an unfolding mystery, and the dialogue, my God. When a character says “X and I like you,” and Jon Voight replies in a phony German accent, “I like you and X,” it’s kind of OK because it makes a joke about how on-the-nose it is. But it’s the least on-the-nose dialogue in the film. When we first see Jon Voight with his stripper girlfriend Mary Tamm (!) their conversation is all about how he’s a freelance reporter because he likes his independence and she’s a stripper because she can earn money that way. When Voight asks a cop about a suicide, the cop goes into a loud, angry-sounding spiel about how the case is of no interest and the newspapers would never cover it, which ought to make any journalist suspicious, but (a) Voight remains merely casually curious and (b) the script wants us to believe that this isn’t a cover-up, just a cop stating the facts.Ronald Neame = world’s most festive director. He made SCROOGE, or course, but also THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, in which the expensive cast literally climbs a Christmas tree to escape. This one begins with Perry Como singing Christmas Dream as Voight drives through a lit-up Berlin. (BOYS FROM BRAZIL prominently credits its Elaine Paige number, hilariously entitled We’re Home Again, which plays for about ten seconds as accompaniment to Linda Hayden and Michael Gough’s sex-murder).

(The jocular and avuncular Neame would have made great casting as either Santa — perhaps in place of his chum Attenborough — of the Ghost of Christmas Present, maybe.)

Jon Voight, wearing a brown coat in a brown car interior drives through a brown Berlin Christmas.

In the seventies, it seems, you could get brown Christmas lights.Tamm works at a strip club called REGINA. But that may be a typo.

It’s a muddy, ugly film, especially the urban stuff. They must have wanted it that way. You can see why making it look like OCEAN’S ELEVEN might not have seemed inappropriate. Still, there are gorgeously ugly seventies films (THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN makes fluorescent striplights glamorous) and this isn’t one, even though it’s shot by the great Ossie Morris. He does get to work in b&w for some WWII flashbacks, but these are highly dubious sequences by their very nature: flashbacking away from the main character just to serve up some Nazi war crimes feels wrong wrong wrong. Can you tell I’ve been watching Claude Lanzmann?

THE ODESSA FILE stars Joe Buck; Hauptmann (Capt.) Stransky; Helena Friese-Greene; Romana; Francis Bacon; Inspector Trout; Unteroffizier (Cpl.) Krüger; Von Luger ‘The Kommandant’; Professor Karl Manfred; Dr. Ravna; and, inevitably, Mr. Slugworth.

 

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The Best Lack All Conviction

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on September 13, 2018 by dcairns

When John Boorman’s THE GENERAL first came out, I declined to see it, mainly on account of it title, which I regarded as the property of Buster Keaton. One could argue that Boorman’s film, a biopic of a real man who was really nicknamed “the general,” has a stronger claim on the name than Keaton’s, but Keaton was first. And when a film regularly turns up in top tens, I think it’s disrespectful to reuse the title. There’s too much ignoring of film history going on as it is.It’s an engaging film, though. Brendan Gleeson gives one of his most winning performances — he appears to delight in making characters seductive who just shouldn’t be. Jon Voight startles with an Irish accent that sounded pretty convincing to me though I’m no expert. Though not as beautiful as POINT BLANK or DELIVERANCE — or CATCH US IF YOU CAN, the director’ last b&w film, the movie looks good, and the director seems fully engaged in what he’s doing, which I haven’t always felt was the case in e.g. THE TAILOR OF PANAMA. I recall hearing that the film was shot in colour and Boorman decided on b&w in post — the scenes where that really pays off are the claustrophobic, noir jail cell scenes.

And it’s another of Boorman’s Owl Creek Bridge occurrences — he talks, in Michel Ciment’s august career overview, about several of his films perhaps flashing through their protagonists’ minds at the moment of death. POINT BLANK is the key one, I think, for that. But THE GENERAL actually starts with the character’s for-real demise (though Boorman omits to show that Martin Cahill wa returning a VHS tape of DELTA FORCE 3 to the video store when he was shot — apparently he can celebrate the life of a gangster but not an aficionado of shit movies) and then goes into reverse, enveloping the biopic within the moment of doom.

Crime movies have always been in love with their criminals… the difficulties arise when they lose perspective altogether, or when they fail to make us feel enough of their own starstruck admiration for the godfathers and gunmen. Cahill is portrayed as both a charming rogue and a dangerous psychopath — he’s entirely transactional in his relations with the world, amoral to the core but able to feel fully justified in any action that benefits him. And glib with it, so he can come up with reasons if called upon to do so. This all makes him unpredictable and wildly entertaining, but fortunately we’re not called upon to wholly admire the bastard. Though we might suspect Boorman does, a little too much. The real Cahill burgled Boorman’s house and stole the gold disc he got for Duelling Banjos (a moment recreated onscreen) and Boorman was apparently more amused than angered.Inviting us to share the character’s world is fine. I don’t think Cahill’s use of a car bomb to attempt to murder a forensics specialist, and torture against a suspected traitor (crucifying him on a pool table) — the techniques of terrorism applied in a purely self-serving way — are meant to be admired. (Although Boorman is WEIRD – he may find Cahill “commendably uncivilized,” like Zed in ZARDOZ.) My only real objection is to the film’s music. Firstly, because I find it poor quality as music, cheap-sounding and cheesy (opinions may differ), but secondly, because it dramatizes everything the way Cahill would want it, and with the sensibility of a true DELTA FORCE fan. When he’s shot, the music is sad. When he does a heist, the music is exciting. There’s no irony, just a mediocre stab at emotional enhancement. We can watch Boorman’s filming of Boorman’s script and not see it as endorsing this vicious bandit. But whenever the music comments on the action, it totally tips the balance.

Other than that, though, yeah, it’s a compelling Boorman. You can’t look away. Not sure how it fits in with his other works. Makes me want to see his second film with Gleeson, THE TIGER’S TAIL.