The Morning After: Feb. 3, 2014

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I’ve seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I’ll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I’ll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Z


Costa-Gavras’ French-language Algerian film Z explores the political unrest in his native country of Greece as the film explores a well known event wherein the government attempts to quash rebellion in the nation by installing an overt military dictatorship.

Celebrated French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, who recently starred in the Oscar-winning Amour, takes the lead role as the Magistrate, an analogue of future Greek president Christos Sartzetakis, who investigates a clear case of police corruption surrounding the assassination of The Deputy (Yves Montand), the leader of a leftist band of anti-nuclear protesters. The police are certain they’ll get away with it until a series of missteps and slips-of-the-tongue lead them towards defeat.

Costa-Gavras takes little time to choose sides and bring the audience with him. The sheer audacity and volume of corruption surrounding the events covered in the film is staggering and he brings that to absolute clarity. This is another perfect example of how filmmakers don’t have to rely on heavy action or quick cutting to tell an exciting, nail-biting film where every moment builds the tension until you’re left with a dizzying spectacle of accusations and a finale that is as gratifying as it is dispiriting.

Blowup


Michelangelo Antonioni’s first English-language film follows an egotistical fashion photographer caught up in a dangerous game of murder as he roams the streets of 1960’s London.

As the photographer, David Hemmings is a bit stiff, but is surrounded by stellar performances from the like of Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles and John Castle, all in incredibly brief roles. The story unfolds as the photographer captures what seems to be an innocent affair in the park on celluloid, but after one participant (Redgrave) demands all copies of the photos, he begins examining their worth and discovers a gruesome crime.

Antonioni’s film has a fascinating murder plot that doesn’t go anywhere. Instead, we’re left to explore London with our protagonist as he witnesses the bored disinterest in events around the various denizens of the city’s counterculture. Stone faced fans watch a performance of The Yardbirds before going crazy at the prospects of possessing a broken bit of one of their guitars; exuberant, white-faced protesters drive around the city at random points before settling in for a mimed tennis match in which our hero briefly participates; and a couple of other rather unusual scenes that wholly avoid the plot on display.

Are these scenes a part of his imagination or is our imagination creating these scenes? Clearly influenced by the disjointed narratives and visual styles of the French New Wave, Antonioni isn’t as concerned with creating a traditional narrative film and is instead content to give the audience bounteous images that require deep contemplation of meaning.

Bullitt


A tense potboiler featuring Steve McQueen as a brilliant cop assigned to protect a government witness who ends up dead and is blamed for the incident.

Attempting to expose organized crime in the city, an ambitious politician (Robert Vaughan) has called a Senate Subcommittee together to discuss the issue and the star witness is shot in the head while under Bullitt’s (McQueen) protection. The events look suspicious leading Bullitt to expand his investigation into the incident, leading him in pursuit of mob killers and risking his career and safety in the process.

Peter Yates may not have had much of a career to that point, but Bullitt put him on everyone’s radar. Bullitt is a tense, action-fueled cop drama set on the streets of San Francisco. The legendary car chase between Bullitt and two men who’ve been tailing him remains one of the most exciting and thrilling ever captured on film. The precision with which editor Frank P. Keller cuts the film rightly won him an Oscar for Best Film Editing. Any time you see a film with a well executed car chase, it owes a great deal to this film.

McQueen was an unquestionable star and his no-nonsense performance as Bullitt was another notch in his notable belt. His charisma broke through the rough exterior instantly endearing him to the audience. Likewise, Vaughn takes no time at all to get under the audience’s skin as a vain politician who is perfectly willing to use any method necessary to get what he wants, including throwing his weight around with judges and police commissioners.

5 Comments

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  1. I remember when I saw “Z” on TV a couples of years ago, didn’t finish it, didn’t get it. I might give it a second chance now that it’s on criterion collection (I’m a fan of these guys, I own 40+ blu rays/dvds of their sets)

    I loved Blow Up, it’s so interesting and yet so frustrating but directed with such the masterful tact of Antonioni’s that it’s impossible to take your eyes off the film. One of my favorites of the 60s.

    I haven’t seen Bullit, never been a fan of Steve McQueen, but I might give it a try for the sake of my love of cinema. I’m gonna rent it on blu ray.

    By the way, have you guys seen La Grande Bellezza? I’m curious about your opinion

    1. I noticed that Criterion Collection for “Z” is now on sale at Amazon.com for $18.00. Amazon also has “The Great Beauty” on sale for $24.00.

    2. I have not, nor am I likely to for awhile. It won’t show in my neck of the woods and I would have to wait for DVD and by that time, I have other priorities.

      1. I saw La Grande Bellezza, is a decent film with great cinematography, it’s very Fellinesque in style but not in substance. I didn’t hate it but also didn’t love it. My favorite foreign language film this year so far is The Hunt.

        I’m hoping to see The Wind Rises soon, which I feel I’m goin to love (like almost everything Hayao Miyazaki has made).

        1. The Wind Rises releases to theaters later this month.

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