Sunday, October 19, 2008

DVD: Two for Two

The Fall (2008). A true spellbinder, and one of the best films I’ve seen this year. An injured stuntman in 1920s Hollywood (Lee Pace of TV’s Pushing Daisies) spins an epic fantasy yarn to a young girl in the same hospital. But the story begins to change as we learn more about the teller – and the listener. A sumptuous visual feast, and the closing montage made this movie lover’s Grinch heart grow three sizes. The performance of Catinca Untaru, who never acted before, is nothing short of astonishing.

Bonus: This L.A. Times article chronicles the movie’s tortured history.

Le Deuxième Souffle (1966). Words cannot describe the thrill that comes from knowing I’m about to see a Jean-Pierre Melville film for the first time. Too bad I’m running out of them. Criterion has done its usual sterling job with Second Wind, as it’s known in English. Lino Ventura, star of Melville’s masterpiece Army of Shadows, plays a thief who escapes from prison. Dogged by a wily detective (Paul Meurisse), he signs on for a risky heist so he can afford a final flight to America. As always Melville is more concerned with preparation, anticipation, and the codes among men than action, but when it comes it’s meticulously orchestrated. Souffle’s plot is convoluted rather than complicated, and at 2.5 hours it runs a bit long. But I’d watch at twice that length; Melville’s world is one I never want to leave.

Bonus: The film was remade last year.

Bonus Bonus: One of the DVD extras is an interview with Bertrand Tavernier, who worked as Melville’s publicist on this project. He mentions a critic who praised a trio of 1960s French crime dramas, Le Trou, Classe Tous Risques, and Souffle, all by different directors, marveling that he couldn’t find any link between them. He didn’t notice that all three were based on novels by José Giovanni, who also adapted them. Those auteurists.