Archive for Out of Sight

Three-Dimensional Chess

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2020 by dcairns

I read Walter Tevis’s The Queen’s Gambit years ago and loved it. His other filmed books, The Hustler and The Man Who Fell to Earth are great too, and made good movies but the books are still worthy of investigation. The Color of Money doesn’t really have anything much in common with Scorsese’s film and you can see why they chose a different story (“but the book had a very good love story,” said Scorsese in Edinburgh, which was nice of him to note). And there’s an unfilmed sci-fi novel, Mockingbird, which is really beautiful.

I’ve also been impressed with Scott Frank’s stuff — he adapted Elmer Leonard for Soderbergh (OUT OF SIGHT — still maybe SS’s best movie) and from the audio commentary on that one you could tell he was going to direct, and probably be really good at it. And THE LOOKOUT, his first film, was terrific. Like all the promising middlebrow genre filmmakers of his generation, he did time in the Marvel salt mines but the one he wrote, LOGAN, is said to be GOOD. I wasn’t paying attention and thought A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES was just some Liam Neeson movie so I skipped that but now I have bought a DVD of it for 50p because WOW Scott Frank’s miniseries of The Queen’s Gambit is a beautiful thing.

From my memory of the book I can affirm that the CGI visualisations of chessboards are pretty much what Tevis wrote. It’s very faithful though some melodrama early on is removed, which I came to accept as a good call. Though maybe Tevis gains something by making his heroine more damaged.

I can’t recall the clothes in the book — I had a vague impression that Anya Taylor-Joy is more glamorous than the Beth Harmon who Tevis gave us, but I’m probably misremembering. But boy, ATJ is a magnificent screen presence. Her glamour is increasingly weird and witchy so she’s a credible outsider. In fact, everyone in this is terrific, down to the smallest roles — each minor player defeated by ATJ, for instance, is a little one-scene cameo and they’re all uniquely human and different.

Photography, design, music, cutting, are all weapons-grade delicious, and as the story moves through the sixties Scott allows himself a subtly evolving stylistic palette that reflects developing film language of the period without ever becoming pastiche. You don’t see more surefooted choices than this. He could maybe have taken some of them even further, but his caution is probably part of the reason why he hits absolutely everything he aims at.

Nothing negative to say about this show at all, it may be the best American film or “film” of the year.

The Sunday Intertitle: Race Day

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2020 by dcairns

Obvs Soderbergh’s LOGAN LUCKY should be triple-featured along with LOGAN and LUCKY, which came out close enough to it to be a bit confusing to this old man.

It’s quite nice — the plot is neat (though aspects of the prison break had me wondering how on earth anyone on the outside could know this was possible — yet two guys NOT in prison plan a successful break-out), the characters are fun. Smart script by Jules Asner for some reason credited as Rebecca Blunt. It has Seth McFarlane and I still don’t like anything that guy does, but as he’s playing a creep whose story function is to get punched, he wasn’t too damaging.Little Farrah McKenzie, playing Channing Tatum’s kid, is the star of the show, followed by Daniel Craig, essaying another Foghorn Leghorn voice. (Upon beholding him in KNIVES OUT, my sainted mother declared “You can cut his head off but I’ll keep the rest of him.”) Adam Driver continues to be able to do anything, seemingly.On this one I felt like Soderbergh’s cinematography (rich like OCEAN’S 11 even without the aid of neon) was better than his editing. There are lovely passages like a-lying-in-bed montage where each image bleeds through at different speeds on different sides of the frame — did he do lighting changes on set like in CITIZEN KANE or is it just the wonders of colour correction? But that’s a directorial choice. The actual ordering of images and cutting within sequences didn’t strike me as particularly deft, with scenes dying out on weak notes and a lack of clarity in their linkage. The two deleted scenes included on the DVD should have been in there, also (whereas I recommend the outtakes from OUT OF SIGHT for the sheer “WTF were they thinking?” quality of the bath essence dialogue).

But it’s fun. Almost made me forget this was Trump country and I should hate these people. Well, one shouldn’t hate. (The UK trailer for the film used alternate takes and different versions of gags which made for a snarkier, more Coens-like portrayal of the characters, presumably calculated to appeal more to smug Brits like me.) But, owing to events that overtook the filmmakers, politics does become the trumpeting elephant in the room. Like, if King of the Hill were airing today, it would be a much darker, more unlovely show.