Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The 4th Man, The Woman Next Door, Salò and Tokyo Drifter

The insane movie watching in the first month of the New Year continues. After this week, this excessive movie watching will hopefully stop. I have been watching movies faster than I can write about them.

The 4th Man (1983 movie directed by Paul Verhoeven): Rating 8/10

Long before Basic Instinct came along, Paul Verhoeven directed this gritty and interesting movie about a deadly femme. The movie is not subtle but packed with tons of symbols and foreshadowing, which makes it an enjoyable watch because the viewer is able to clue onto things much before the main character does. The opening scene lets us know straight away what is in store – a spider is shown trapping its insect victims. The scene is shown while the credits are rolling so initially I didn’t pay attention to how many victims the spider traps. But half way through the movie, I realized the number had to be 3. And sure enough, it was. And then the title of the movie makes sense, the 4th man refers to the 4th victim of the mysterious Christine Halsslag (played with utmost creepiness and coldness by Renée Soutendijk). Jeroen Krabbé plays a popular writer, Gerard Reve (same name as the author of the book on which this movie is based), who is invited to give a speech in a small town. Along the way, Reve encounters a series of bizarre incidents and even has some hallucinations (which turn out to be premonitions). But he dismisses all of this when he meets the chilly blond Christine. Reve falls for her immediately. In a drunken state, Reve comes across old home movies of Christine’s past husbands. At this point, the viewer is fully aware what fate could have befallen to her 3 ex-husbands. But Reve is lust crazy not only for Christine but for Christine’s new fling, Herman. Eventually, he does see the truth for what it is and tries to warn Herman lest one of them becomes the 4th man.

La Femme d'à côté (The Woman Next Door, 1981 movie directed by François Truffaut):
Rating 7.5/10

Gérard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant play two former lovers (Bernard and Mathilde respectively) who find themselves reacquainted by chance after 8 years or so. Both are now married and Bernard even has a little son. Initially, he tries to ignore Mathilde but eventually he falls for her again. Their fiery relationship boils over until it ends up in a public fight in front of all their families and friends. Just as things seem to be getting back to normal, the fire is lit once more for an explosive finale. The movie starts off interestingly but it gets a bit too predictable near the end. Not bad though.

Salò (1976 movie directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini): Rating an unwatchable 0/10

With all due respect to Pier Pasolini, no one should have to watch this movie! I never thought I would see a movie which would make movies like Tokyo Decadence and other shock Japanese/Korean movies appear like light hearty family movies. Now, I knew this would be graphic (words like 120 days of Sodom and Marquis de Sade gave that away) but I had no idea it would be so poorly done and be utterly boring. Pasolini wanted to make a political statement against the evils of Fascism with this. Fair enough, but could he not have made an interesting expose of the crimes that men, yes men, would stoop to for the sake of entertainment? The picture quality, the music and the editing were all choppy in my copy. And the acting is not that great either. Enough said.

Tokyo Drifter (1966 movie directed by Seijun Suzuki): Rating 7/10

Yakuza movies have come a long way since the 1960’s but a lot of the core ingredients can be found in this Suzuki movie – gangs making complicated deals, gangster trying to go clean, and the question of loyalty to name a few. In fact, this movie could be considered a precursor of sorts for the 90’s wave of Japanese crime movies. Two of the most interesting aspects of this movie are the usage of colour and music. The opening scene of black and white ends with a bright red colour image ( Sin City used the same technique with a bright red dress against black and white in the opening scene). And then there is the main character’s ever dependable blue suit. White snow, yellow backgrounds which change to red depending on the mood of the scene, etc all add to the visual appeal of the movie. The catchy title song adds to the movie’s appeal; the title song is repeated through the movie and the main character is found singing it as a monologue of sorts. However, other than these two aspects of colour and music, I found the movie slow and dull in parts. The story is straight forward -- a gangster and his boss are trying to go clean but they are sucked back into the business by a rival. This leads to killings and chases. Until, everything is resolved in the end. More or less…..

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