Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Movies: The Red Riding Trilogy (U.S. 2010)

For several reasons, I will keep what had been planned as a lengthy post brief.

See these movies.

OK, not that brief.

David Peace wrote a quartet of novels weaving together a decade’s worth of true crime in the north of England with his own fevered imaginings of corruption, guilt, and the merest glimmers of redemption. Those four books have been condensed into a remarkable trio of films. Each one scripted by Tony Grisoni but helmed by a different director. Characters drift between them, their roles transforming. Loose ends ravel. Mysteries resolve.

You really should see these movies.

1974 (Julian Jarrold) focuses on a hotshot young reporter who didn’t cut it in London and is back on his old stomping grounds. He’s convinced he’s onto the case of a serial murderer of young girls, and equally certain that this story will return him to the top. The poor sod has no idea he’s stumbled into a nest of tangled motives and vice that has pulled better men down.

1980 (James Marsh) sees an outsider arrive, a straight arrow cop (the brilliant Paddy Considine) called on to determine why the local police haven’t apprehended the Yorkshire Ripper. He thinks his history in this neck of the woods will aid him in his endeavors. He is wrong.

1983 (Anand Tucker) finds chickens coming home to roost, sinners struggling to the light, and Shakespeare being proven right: at the length, truth will out.

The series, which aired on U.K. television last year, has been compared to Twin Peaks, The Wire, the collected works of James Ellroy, and Zodiac. All somewhat valid, none truly accurate.

What Grisoni and company have crafted here is an epic vision of evil. Of the domestic variety, petty and insidious, dwelling in institutions, the hearts of men, the landscape itself. It’s a haunting, harrowing piece of work. It’s noir for the 21st century. Yes, you’ll like one film more than the others (I’d opt for 1980 myself). Granted, it’s not perfect. What is? But in its ambition, its execution, its belief in the power of the accretion of detail, its faith in the audience, its sheer fucking adultness, it’s the most thrilling thing I’ve watched in ages.

The movies are being screened around the country, including at Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum, in the coming weeks, often back-to-back-to-back. I pity those who absorb them that way; priests and publicans should be on call. Right now the entire trilogy is available via IFC On Demand, which is how I watched them over the course of three days. It made it easier to weep for my fellow man and rage at an indifferent God. Plus, no parking problems!

Clear your schedule. See these movies. Thank me later.