Archive for The Devil Thumbs a Ride

Thumbing Rides

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on July 1, 2019 by dcairns

On the last day of Il Cinema Ritrovato there’s only one show on at a time, and apart from the big outdoors event in the Piazza Maggiore, it’s all films that have previously screened. Gives you a chance to catch up on things you’ve missed during the overstuffed phantasmagoria of the previous week-and-change.

Thanks to Charlie Cockey’s recommendation I slipped into Djibril Diop Mambety’s THE LITTLE GIRL WHO SOLD THE SUN, which was indeed lovely. This Senegalese short feature combines elements of realism with a fable-like simplicity — the technical standards and the performances are touched with a similar naivety but they get the job done: the measured pace of the action really makes you feel the distances the disabled protagonist has to cover, and Moussa Balde in the role has an uncertain way with dialogue but a wonderfully natural and forthright approach to her interactions with other characters. You love her.

Nobody in THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE inspired that kind of affection. Fiona had seen it earlier but didn’t at all mind seeing it again. Lawrence Tierney is scary as hell, a totally convincing psychopath, maybe within touching distance of his real self by most accounts. Though Tarantino’s treatment of him on RESERVOIR DOGS shows who the real bastard was.

The plot has an unexpected “boiling-a-frog” quality, where Tierney doesn’t reveal his badness to the other characters for ages — this does make the hero seem pretty foolish, because the clues are right there, and we’re made wise from the opening shot. But the suspense of waiting for the penny, or the other shoe, or the gallows trapdoor, to drop, is considerable. Lots of wildly enthusiastic supporting players too, including Betty Lawford as a memorable bad girl.

I’ll have to watch more Feist — THE THREAT and TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY also screened but I wasn’t able to see them here. I don’t think he’s a major talent but he’s very efficient and he sometimes pulls off surprises.

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The Wrong Films

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2019 by dcairns

A strange day of interventions by fate — we panted up the road to see THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH, a Henry King late silent with Kevin Brownlow intro and Vilma Banky, Ronald Colman and Gary Cooper in the leads — but I got the cinema wrong and when the lights dimmed, Renoir’s TONI appeared on the screen in a new restoration. My only regret was missing the RARER film. I hadn’t seen the Renoir before and of course it’s very fine, though none of the cast seemed able to reach the upper pitches of emotion the script demands. At one point Toni insists his wife stop screaming, when she’s been doing nothing of the kind.

But what an ending!

Then I thought we’d better get coffee so I didn’t pick the wrong cinema again, and when we got back from it, UNDER CAPRICORN was completely packed out. So we went up the road to the Lumiere and saw LA MASCHERA E IL VOLTO, a 1919 Augusto Genina film which turned out to be a splendid Italian comedy anticipating aspects of DIVORCE: ITALIAN STYLE in its jet-black approach to the comic possibilities of uxoricide. A husband who has expressed approval of Othello’s honorable way of resolving marital difficulties is undone when he discovers his wife has strayed. He can’t bring himself to actually strangle her, but he orders her to leave the country so he can tell everyone he DID kill her — so he can be a feared murderer rather than a pathetic cuckold. Things go awry when he hires for his defense lawyer his wife’s lover. A great line: “The ridiculous always seeks out those who are afraid of it.”

Then we split up — Fiona & Nicola going to see a noir double bill of THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE and THE THREAT, but succumbing to heat and sleep deprivation during the second — me going to see the brilliantly restored MEMPHIS BELLE, introduced by director William Wyler’s daughter Catherine, along with THE COLD BLUE, a new documentary made by Erik Nelson from Wyler’s rediscovered rushes, and then having a couple of Aperol Spritzes.

The immediacy gained by MEMPHIS BELLE’s colour photography now that you can actually see the B-17 pilot’s five O’clock shadow in a long shot — it’s that pin-sharp — really makes a difference in a you-are-there kind of way. Everything Peter Jackson promised and failed to deliver with his crappy colorization is authentically provided here.

We all met up for MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, which a mistake in the programme COULD have caused us to miss. As it was we had to bolt our dinner. But it was worth it. “I have never seen reds so red or blacks so black!” Fiona exclaimed. A very new 4K restoration which made this handsome, eccentric, alternately campy and poetic film glow.

“The Fall of the Blouse of Asher,” Nicola christened it. Which nails the campery aspect, but it has this compelling comic-book Bergman side to it too. Corman’s direction, Roeg’s photography, David Lee’s score, and the best ensemble cast Corman ever assembled outside of ST VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE. Very nice, very nice indeed.