Monday, July 12, 2010

Noisy Assaults

Noise. 2007

Late one night a young woman listening to music on her ipod and carrying a large framed graduation photo of herself gets on a train in the Melbourne underground. She’s not paying any attention to her surroundings as she sits there listening to her music and looking at her portrait when suddenly she notices a man in the next seat with his back to her slump over and fall to the floor. This gets her attention and she goes over to see if she can help, but she realizes that he is bloody dead. Looking up she suddenly sees dead and bloody bodies, men and women young and old sprawled all over the train. Panicked and screaming she sees that one of the victims a young man is still alive and runs over to comfort him. The young man dazed but not mortally wounded gets up and goes over to one of the slumped bodies where a gun lies, picks it up and fires another round into the already dead body. The girl screams and realizes at the same time that we do that the murderer is in the car with her. So begins the very good and compelling murder mystery from Australia “Noise“. In the mid 70’s and early 80’s Australia had a vibrant film industry going and produced many terrific films that also introduced us to new directors and actors many of whom went on to world wide fame. I would get my hands on as many of these films that I could. most of them on bad quality videos. Then something happened and it seemed that the industry dried up, or we just weren’t getting the latest products in this country. So I was delighted to see that finally I had the opportunity to once again watch a film from down under. Set during Christmas, (it’s summer there) the story is not only about the race to capture this maniac, which is sometimes running in the background like an annoying dripping water faucet but is also about the personal stories of the men and women who are on his trail. Chief among them is a young good looking charismatic constable played by Brendan Cowell who in one of the unusual plot devices is suffering from tinnitus which causes a ringing in his ears, and may be a symptom of a more serious disease. It also provides us with one of the meanings of the title. Set mostly at night with much of the action taking place in a claustrophobic surveillance trailer that is manned by him, and a tough female partner who comes and goes to the job on roller skates (another nice touch) the young constable comes up against some strange and sometimes menacing characters who pass through the night and the trailer and who might offer clues in the solving of the case. There are of course the nasty police commanders and detectives that one expects to come across in these kind of films, but there is also a female detective who is kind and compassionate and who just happens to have a hair lip, and let me ask you when was the last time you saw a female character in a film with a hair lip. Idiosyncrasies abound. I could quibble about some dense and somewhat confusing plot developments, and an ending that might not please some people but these are minor compared to the pleasures that this unconventional and surprising movie offer. Written and directed by Matthew Saville who has mostly done television work. One of the ten best films of 2007. Highly recommended.

Assault on Precinct 13. 1976

A reworking of Howard Hawk’s cult western of 1959, “Rio Bravo” John Carpenters sets his urban “western” in a scary rundown L.A. neighborhood where gangs roam the deserted streets freely causing havoc and violence. Carpenter clues us in from the opening titles on the influence of Rio Bravo an...d Hawks by the editor’s credit listed as John T. Chance. This was John Wayne’s name in Rio Bravo and which Carpenter used as his pseudonym as the actual editor of the film. The action begins with the killing of several members of a violent street gang by the police who then join forces with other gangs to get their revenge on the police and anyone else who gets in their way. Precinct 13 is being shut down and the new commander in charge of getting it closed down and moved out is a young African American rookie well played by Austin Stoker who has to deal with much more than just the closing down and transferring of the precinct. He’s up against it when he Reluntedly agrees to the temporary boarding of several convicts including a likeable but notorious murderer also well played by Darwin Joston when one of them gets violently ill on the bus that is transferring them to a new prison and death row. Also in the building are a couple of secretaries, both wonderfully acted by Carpenter regular Nancy Loomis and newcomer Laurie Zimmer who disappeared after this film and a nearly comatose civilian who takes refuge in the jailhouse after witnessing a horrible murder (this scene made me gasp out loud) by one of the gang members. In a minute of anger and revenge the man takes off in a car after the gang and knocks off one of them with a gun he finds at the scene of the crime. This of course sets off the gangs who are soon attacking the precinct to get revenge in a series of relentless nerve shattering night scenes. The members of the fort I mean precinct have very little ammunition, all the phone lines have been cut and things are looking very bad indeed. Made on a shoe string by Carpenter who besides writing, editing and directing also did the very effective tingly music score and was two years away from making his seminal and influential horror film Halloween. In Precinct he is busy using themes and situations that will turn up in many if not most of his future projects. The isolated setting, characters fighting off against immensurable odds enemies that at times seem inhuman and strong attractive female characters who take control of the dire situations and almost single-handedly save the day. Also of note is the night time cinematography of Douglas Knapp who keeps the gang members in shadowy backgrounds as they surround the precinct thus making them even more menacing and scary. One of the ten best films of 1976.


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