Friday, December 12, 2014

Five Fabulous Couples on Film

If you have thought that Kenneth Branagh was an excellent actor but not particularly sexy or romantic, you have never seen him in "Dead Again." Believe me, unless you have ice in your veins, this film will quicken your pulse much more than his "Henry V" ever did. Back when Emma Thompson and Kenneth were married to one another, they made this movie together. It is so Hitchcock worthy that if there were such a prize, this film should have won it hands down.  These two are second to none with acting ability. Put them in a Hitchcock like film and they make others trying the same look like rank amateurs. We open in a earlier time in Hollywood in the earlier part of the twentieth century. Kenneth and Emma are married to one another and are superstars. She is brutally murdered. He is convicted of killing her and is executed. He claims to the end that someone set him up. Cut to present day and we have two people, Emma and Kenneth again, as two characters who could not be any less like that glamorous duo. Yet it seems as if they have been reincarnated both as to solve the crime as well as to find one another again. There is a heck of a twist coming in this movie and it is beyond clever. My hat goes off to whomever came up with that brilliant and startling part of the screenplay. If you hate thrillers, suspense, Hithcock, etc., never fear as this is also a love story at its very best. When I heard that the two of them split in real life, it was almost as if the two characters in this film had split and thus very sad. 

In Body Double, Craig Wasson moves into a colleague's house when he splits with his lover.  While there he sees some strange goings on through a telescope, including a possible murder. Melanie Griffith is a porn star who may have been involved in this crime. It is with her entrance into this film that it really takes off. I'd never seen her before and I immediately sat up and took notice of her. The voice alone which she uses to play "Holly" is just fantastic. She does a tour de force performance in this film. The scenes where she as Holly talks about her career in porn films is delivered totally deadpan and is utterly hilarious. I like her acting even better here than her "Working Girl" performance. Make no mistake though, this is a murder mystery too which is the director, Brian DePalma's, specialty. It is one of his very best films.

The Postman Only Rings Twice. Jessica Lange, the wife of a older man who owns a cafe in Depression era rural California, has an affair with a young drifter who comes to work for them, Jack Nicholson. They decide to kill the husband so they can be together with the husband's money.  This is James M. Cain's classic novel written in the early twentieth century. It was first made as a film in the 1940s with Lana Turner and John Garfield. Incredibly, this remake was roundly panned with everyone's preferring the earlier version. I thought they were nuts. Lana Turner and John Garfield were good in the roles but they were no Lange & Nicholson. These two really let loose and they are quite a match for one another both as characters, murderers and lovers. Cain's novels are also excellent. Cain captures a California, for one, that is utterly gone today. The screenplay is every bit as good as the novel. This should have been a classic with everyone but it is only a classic with a few of us instead.

I think that the earlier version, 1946, is a close runner up though. This version follows the Cain novel exactly whereas the remake changes some things for the film. It is well worth seeing both.

The Princess & The Warrior  I've been waiting for a second wave of great German film making and it has arrived. His name is Tom Tykwer and I've seen 3 of his films now, all brilliant, and most importantly, all different! Here is a director who does not need to make the same film over and over again, Thank God. This film has a plot that intersects and characters that intersect and it is the intersections that are the pivotal parts of the film. The greatest intersection occurs between leads Potente and Fürmann who meet literally when he causes her to be run over by a huge truck. He saves her life. When she recovers, she tracks him down but he won't allow her into his life until fate causes their lives to intersect once again during a bank robbery. I won't say anymore because I could ruin it for you but there are more intersections to come. This is an absolutely wonderful movie. Be grateful that its only intersection with "Run,Lola, Run" is that the director is capable of making 2 equally fabulous but very different movies.

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