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Picks by Richard von Busack

Dial M for Murder (1954)
Plays Nov. 19-Dec. 2 at the Castro Theater

A pair of gold-handled scissors outacts cast members Ray Milland and Robert Cummings. "I was running for cover again. This was coasting, playing it safe," Alfred Hitchcock admitted to François Truffaut. The actor John Williams plays one of those urbane, omniscient Scotland Yard detectives who peopled post-WWII mysteries; most viewers leave the theater remembering Williams, as well as the murder scene, which Hitchcock tricked out with a below-floor-level camera. Another trick is Grace Kelly's mood-wardrobe, which becomes darker as the film proceeds to its climax. Dial M for Murder was the most prestigious film made in the 3D process, and this new NaturalVision print is an excellent example of how the process worked when it worked.


Felicia's Journey
Opens Nov. 19 at selected theaters

Atom Egoyan's new film is lacquered with style; the look of the film deliberately recalls the bronze colors and livid furnishings of Michael Powell's great Peeping Tom. Bob Hoskins plays a killer of women, a fussy gourmand with a bit of a mother complex. Hoskins, roly-poly but sinister, recalls Alfred Hitchcock so beguilingly that it's an effort not to whistle Borodin's "Funeral March for a Marionette" when he turns up onscreen. Opposed to this intriguing figure, his newest prey, Felicia (Elaine Cassidy), seems too innocent a lamb, and the film is more engrossing than frightening.


Grand Illusion (1937)
Plays Dec. 3-9 at the Castro Theater

Unbelievably, an original camera negative was discovered for this masterpiece, which was censored, confiscated, denounced in its time. This reissue, then, is like a new translation of a classic. There's much to be rediscovered in this phenomenally charitable story about the end of the old aristocratic regime. In the lead is Erich von Stroheim, as a crippled Prussian commandant in charge of a WWI prison camp. His French prisoners include a mechanic turned officer (Jean Gabin, the Bogart of the French cinema) and a well-off Jewish soldier (Marcel Dalio), whose presence stirs the anti-Semitism of the aristocrats. Renoir's transitions in time and place are distracting; repeat viewings smooth these out, though, revealing the perfection of this film.


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From the November 22, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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