Movie Roundup – Last Life In The Universe, Murder My Sweet, Gilda

Last Life In The Universe – A possibly suicidal Japanese librarian (he keeps failing to kill himself) hangs out with a Thai girl after his brother and her sister are killed. He’s an obsessive compulsive neatfreak while she’s a pot-smoking slob. He spends a couple days cleaning up her house (right by the beach), they fall in love and are separated and learn a lot about life and love and all that. Neither one speaks the other’s language, so they spend most of their time communicating in English, and eventually each of them spends some time transformed into their deceased sibling, both of whom are cultural stereotypes (Japanese yakuza and Thai prostitute). It’s Harold & Maude with the gap the lovers overcome being culture instead of age. It’s a beautiful movie, some of Christopher Doyle’s finest cinematography, though it’s totally different than his work with Wong Kar-wai. It looks more like Danny Boyle circa Trainspotting. It’s the only film I’ve seen by director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, though his film 6ixtynin9 has gone right into the queue. The #2 film of 2003.

Murder, My Sweet – Edward Dmytryk’s adaptation of raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely stars Dick Powell as the detective Philip Marlowe. It’s an odd choice for a hard-boiled film noir, as Powell was mostly known for his work in light musical comedies, and he doesn’t entirely pull off Marlowe, at least not as I imagine him (that’d be Humphrey Bogart in the Big Sleep) but he’s not bad. Marlowe’s hired by a bulky thug to find his missing girlfriend and manages to get himself mixed up with a wealthy family that’s being blackmailed. He gets beat up, a lot, which leads to one of the more unfortunate parts of the film, a cheesy pool of blackness that fills the screen every time Marlowe gets knocked unconscious (this many concussions in such a short period of time can be extremely dangerous, by the way, even if you’re a hockey player) that was apparently greeted with guffaws when the film eventually played in Paris. More successful is a hallucination sequence when Marlowe’s forcibly injected with heroin for some inexplicable reason. But really, the main attraction here is the Chandler dialogue. A nice, summarizing example: “‘Okay Marlowe,’ I said to myself. ‘You’re a tough guy. You’ve been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you’re crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let’s see you do something really tough – like putting your pants on.'”

Gilda – Another mediocre film noir, this one featuring a superstar-making performance by Rita Hayworth as the title object of desire. Much like in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard Eight (#8, 1996), a young gambler is adopted by an older man and shown how to survive. This time it’s Glenn Ford who’s taken in by George Macready’s Buenos Aires casino owner and would-be tungsten magnate. Things fall apart, as they must, when a woman gets involved, Hayworth in this case, Macready’s new bride and Ford’s ex-girlfriend. There’s more than just a hint of a homosexual relationship between Ford and Macready that isn’t exactly minimize by the hostility with which Ford treats Hayworth throughout the entire run of the film. Even after Macready fakes his death and he and Hayworth get married, he proceeds to lock her up in an apartment to punish her for her mistreatment of his “friend”. Of course, they all live heterosexually ever after, but we know what’s really going on. Hayworth, by the way, is as advertised, especially in her famous striptease in which all she manages to remove is a single glove. But I think she looked better in The Lady From Shanghai.

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