Sunday, 26 September 2010
Based on Dennis Lehane's novel, Shutter Island follows two US marshalls who are dispatched to Ashcliffe Hospital; an institute for the criminally insane, which is located on a remote island. Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are charged with the task of investigating the disappearance of one Rachel Solano (Emily Mortimer) who vanished from her cell some 24 hours earlier. Solano - incarcerated for drowning her three children - left no clues as to her whereabouts, save for a cryptic message found by Daniels. Before long, our intrepid duo encounter solid opposition from the medical wing of the institute, as Dr John Cauley (Ben Kingsley) and Dr Jeremiah Naering (Max Von Sydow) refuse access to documents which may contain fragments of evidence. Add to this Daniels' grief-stricken past and the use of psychotropic drugs on already unhinged patients, and the scene is set for a debilitating excursion into a world haunted by the past and fuelled by the present terrifying locale.
If Shutter Island is really a B-Movie with A-list ingredients, it succeeds on both levels, working as a loving homage to '40s/'50s noir cinema, and as a glowing testament to the skills of an exceptional cast and crew.
Here, DiCaprio excels with what may just be his best performance to date, battling the ghosts of his part in a World War II liberation of Dachu alongside unbearable personal loss, whilst Kingsley and Von Sydow present a formidable barrier to exactly what is going on in their institute.
For Martin Scorsese, this is territory that suits his directorial skills down to the ground, full of Hitchcockian sensibilities and - fittingly - a love not just of noir-ish nightmares, but also of the inky black horror from a genre he greatly admires. Indeed, Shutter Island is often reminiscent of Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor and Brad Anderson's bone-chilling Session 9, with less out-and-out shocks than the former, but perhaps a greater sense of depth and purpose.
By combining a series of flashbacks, hallucinations and real-time terror, Scorsese has fashioned one of his best films since that golden '70s period, and is even audacious enough to leave a liberal sprinkling of clues before our eyes and ears.
With a high replay value, Shutter Island will doubtless prompt many return trips, whether or not you believe the mystery has finally been solved. One major criticism relates to the secret becoming obvious far too early (a problem many of us encountered with the likes of THE SIXTH SENSE) but this should in no way impair your enjoyment of how they get there in the end.
The Blu-ray transfer looks impeccable, with a fine film of grain, deliciously inky blacks and colours verging from vibrant to subdued while always well rendered.
With just a couple of featurettes, we're infuriatingly light on the extras front and the inclusion of least a director's commentary track would have been a step in the right direction. I guess that will happen with the inevitable 'special edition'
Monday, 13 September 2010
The basic idea is that you post the films you can happily watch multiple times. The rules are as follows:
1. Provide a non-exhaustive list of films you’ll happily watch again and again.
2.There is no rule 2.
3. Reprint the rules.
4. Tag three others and ask them to do the same.
Ian Smith tagged me, so here are my own choices.
THREE COLOURS: RED
Irne Jacob and Jean Louis-Trintignant at the top of their game in this intricate tale of lives governed by fate and numeracy. Possibly the most magnificent directorial swansong ever. Watch it and weep at the fact that Kieslowski left us way too soon.
The film that sunk United Artists, and attracted massive criticism inside and outside the industry. Happily, time has been kinder to 'Cimino's Folly' and quite right too. Full of great performances, glorious visuals and heart-rending dialogue, HEAVEN'S GATE doesn't drag for a minute and you'll love David Mansfield's celestial score.
David Cronenberg's absorbing tale of brotherly love and terrifying separation has long haunted me, and each viewing strengthens its spell. Jeremy Iron's has never been better, and it remains a disgrace he didn't get the Oscar he so richly deserved.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA
My favourite De Niro, whose performance is almost matched by James Woods. A sprawling tale of love, jealousy and betrayal, AMERICA is sometimes almost unbearably brutal and yet it's a film with almost unrivalled heart and soul. Do make sure a hankie is within reach.
Oh my!! Red face here, as I had hardly anything good to say about this film when I caught it at the cinema. Since then, Ridley Scott's continuance of the Lector saga has grown on me to the point where I rate it as his best to date. For me, Julianne Moore upstages Jodie Foster as Starling and the script - throwing in a renegade cop and a disfigured Gary Oldman - is a constant delight. Love everything about it, including that firework display which you just know Lector arranged, coldly confident about the outcome.
Dario Argento's follow-up to SUSPIRIA moves from Witches in Frieburg to alchemy in New York, with Leigh McCloskey on the trail of 'The Three Mothers'. By turns, poetic and bloody in the extreme, INFERNO is so much more than a triumph of style over substance. A horror masterpiece, no less.
KILL, BABY... KILL!
Mario Bava's sublime ghost story has lost none of its power down the years, taking the unquiet spirit of Melissa Grapps and embarking on a journey through mist-shrouded locales where the line between the living and the dead is wafer thin. Unfortunately, a big-screen airing of this classic was let down by a less-than-stellar print, but the existence of an excellent DVD does convey much of its power to chill.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Bill Murray does Tokyo, with a luminous Scarlet Johansson in tow. Grab a bottle of hooch, sit back and savour every moment, right up to that scene where the two leads grab a heartfelt farewell... or do they? As with Lynch's THE STRAIGHT STORY, it's not for our ears.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST
Two from Leone? Well, this hymn to the power of cinema has made me break my usual meme rule of not including more than one film from a particular director. Gorgeously shot, and laced with some terrific performances, WEST is often spellbinding in its beauty. Just like AMERICA, we have another swirling Morricone score which suggests the music surely came from someone/somewhere other than mortal man.
THE HOUSE OF MIRTH
Terrence Davies' stately production features an outstanding cast, lead by Gillian Anderson's amazing turn as a woman in search of a wealthy husband and the social standing such a position will bring. As Edith Wharton once wrote, "Next to death, life is the saddest thing there is".
For me, this is the one of the best American films of the last couple of decades. Multi-layered, beautifully acted and it's a genuine privilege
to watch its story unravel. My favourite scenes/performance and lines of dialogue change with every viewing. A considerable achievement from a director at the top of his game.
Robert Wise's take on Shirely Jackson's novel is - like stablemates THE INNOCENTS and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE - delightfully ambiguous on the posibliity of supernatural phenomena. The director's less-is-more approach pays dividends here, and I still go away thinking I've seen more than I actually did.
DAY FOR NIGHT
Not Trauffaut's finest, but Bissett has rarely looked so beautiful and has never been so well cast. This is a splendid film-within-a-film experience. Watch it with Ferrara's DANGEROUS GAME for an entirely different take on what can happen when cameras are whirring.
VENUS IN FURS
Jess Franco's wonderfully delirious jazz-infused trip, and the film which will almost certainly force detractors to admit he can make great cinema when the mood takes him.
Once again, Chris Walken comes alive for Abel Ferrara in a vampire film for the ages. Feral, and often extremely moving, THE ADDICTION puts most bloodsucking movies well and truly in the shade.
"To find rest takes real genius".
Many thanks to Ian for tagging me in a meme which was kicked off by Good Dog
Due to pressure of work, Ian hasn't had much time of late to work on his excellent Shiny Discs website but make sure all you Blu-ray owners bookmark his site. Ian has some exciting additions to introduce in the near future. Just click HERE
Finally, I'll tag Michael over at Lazy Thoughts From A Boomer
Nigel at Italian Film Review
Keith over at Sugar And Spice