Wednesday, June 30, 2010

End Of July. 2010. Paint, collage, pencil on Paper.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Couple of Lousy B's







Recently I watched two B movies that are part of a series called “forgotten Noir” and these two duds should find a hole to fall into and be forgotten forever. Both are part of one of those double bill dvds that occasionally appear that usually feature B programmers and 2nd feature movies. The first one “Portland Expose” begins with a documentary style voice over telling us how wonderful Portland was until corruption and vice took over their fair city. We next see Edward Binns and his Wife Virginia Gregg getting ready to open their newly bought tavern, and are being pitched big time by some guy to put in pin ball games to liven up the place and hey he might be able to make 20.00 a night on them. Binns lights up when he hears this and takes one on. Soon he’s being pressured and roughed by a another group of gangsters who want to take over the business of supplying pin ball machines along with the taking over of the unions and other fun things like prostitution. At first Binns refuses, but with the threat of acid being thrown and violence promised to his family including his nitwit teenage daughter and annoying young son he backs down and agrees to go along with the gang. One of the thugs is a pedophile (now this was somewhat risky back in 1957) played by a young Frank Gorshin before he took off doing imitations of Kirk Douglas and other show biz types. Gorshin who can’t keep his hands off young things, tries to rape Binns daughter and that’s when things start to get nasty and Binns decides to go undercover for the good guys and get the dirt on the crooks. He walks around with a very large recorder under his shirt (is that a recorder under your shirt or are you just happy to see me) which is one of the more ridiculous touches in this badly done programmer. One of the more subtle subtexts of the film is how the sordidness and cheap thrills that are offered up to Binns start to appeal to him; some of the B-girls really turn him on. There are also a few nice character actor stints, especially swell was the little known Lea Penman who plays a somewhat overweight high class (for this movie anyway) call girl Madame and her entrance in high heels and cheap fur wrap walking down an airport runway is a delight. The problem with the film is the direction by Harold D. Schuster who made such gems as Queer Cargo, (now that’s one that I would love to see), South to Karanga, The Postman Didn't Ring and many other forgotten little B’s. His direction is sluggish and cheap with badly executed action scenes along with the lousy script doesn’t help either. There is only one good scene (besides Ms. Penman’s already mentioned entrance) and that is the killing of Gorshin in which he is thrown under a freight train (the look of glee on his killer’s face as the train passes over his body is chilling). Also the cast is less than stellar with Edward Binns and Virginia Gregg doing yawn work. There is some nice Portland location photography but otherwise this is a big disappointment, and besides it’s not even Noir. The other cheap flick on the disc is really no better, and no noir. I guess you could say that the plot of this 1954 film “They Were So Young” in which a model agency in Rio de Janeiro is actually a front for a white-slavery ring that kidnaps European women and sells them on the South American sex market was quite risque, adventurous and way ahead of it’s time. That may be true, but again this film is so inept and badly directed that I finally could care less. With a silly plot that’s all over the place and a low budget cast that features Raymond Burr (any film that he’s in you just know that he is going to be the villain) and the aging pretty boy hunk B movie actor Scott Brady who was the brother of bad boy actor Lawrence Tierney. This was a German made production with many of the German actors dubbed and if you're quick you can spot in a small part Gert Frobe as the captain of a riverboat pleasure club- bordello. I will say that the clothes that the models parade around in order to temp the rich paying customers to try their wares were terrific, and unbelievably Michael Wilson and Dalton Trumbo both worked on the script and were uncredited because of the blacklist. Judging by this film they got off easy not having their names attached to this garbage. The characters and the actors who play them are made of cardboard and the lousy direction is by Kurt Neumann who is probably best known for directing the original “The Fly” in 1958, but some of his other titles peak my interest such as My Pal, the King, Wide Open Faces, Brooklyn Orchid and Two Mugs from Brooklyn. A couple of not so entertaining B movies that are easily skipped.

I've included some photos of the very beautiful Scott Brady.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Old paintings from the 70's & 80's recently photographed












Friday, June 25, 2010

Cleo, Disco, Juliet and Gloria too.
























One Girl’s Confession 1953

I know I shouldn’t have liked this film, but I did. Cleo Moore and her breasts star in this B potboiler directed by Hugo Haas who turned out many B potboilers in his career. Cleo plays Mary Adams, basically a good girl, who works in a dump of a dive diner on the waterfront, and who doesn’t take any crap from the male patrons who make rude remarks and gestures towards her. She also has to put up with crap from the owner of the dive who yells at her, and many years before cheated our Mary’s dad out of a lot of money. So one night Mary gets her revenge and steals 25,000 big ones. But instead of breaking free she buries the moola somewhere and confesses her crime to the cops and is promptly sent up the river for 5 years. No big deal Mary tells one of her cellmates. Already the film has taken an odd turn (one of many) as Mary bides her time until she gets out and can dig up the dollars and do everything she ever dreamed of doing. In jail Mary gets a job working along side the great Burt Mustin, character actor par excellence in the prison garden that is made of cardboard & plaster of paris and not even Johnny Appleseed could get anything to grow in this little patch of fakery. But Mary and Burt plant away and soon because she is so good the warden gives her an early release. Mary is off and running but instead of digging up the loot right away she finds work in another dive this one owned and operated by none another than Hugo Haas who plays a character named Dragomie Damitrof. He’s a gambler and soon loses everything in a card game thus causing another big twist in the film. Also in the picture is the handsome hunky hunk fisherman played by Glenn Langan who is probably best know for his role as The Amazing Colossal Man and I can easily see why. Fisherman Glenn has the hots for Cleo and they slowly build up a nice little relationship with romantic interludes on a process shot beach. As I said there are many twists and turns in this nice crummy little B whose message seems to be to be careful what you wish for because it all can really blow up in your face. Cleo Moore was a pint size little sex thing, something you might find at the bottom of a cracker jack box, in fact you could probably find the whole film at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jack. Cleo was never able to take her blonde hair and curves to a good seat at the table, (it didn’t help that she was a bad actress) and neither could Hugo Haas who made several B’s with Moore in the early and mid fifties. This one must have had a budget of $1.99 and although shot on the back lot of Columbia Pictures, it looks like they filmed it in a cave. There are some nice quick day for night outdoor shots of a deco apartment house in which a pivotal 1953 party takes place in and the music for the film has to be one of the worst scores ever and I mean ever written for a film. There are some nice character actors who pop up including a very beautiful actress named Ellen Stansbury. Her look reminded me of Ann Dvorak with a touch of Ronee Blakley and Jennifer Beals thrown in for good measure who plays Damitrof‘s main tootsie and who never made another film after this one. The film also has some terrific cinematography by none other than the great Paul Ivano who goes way back to the silent years and did the cinematography for Von Stroheim’s Queen Kelly and also The Shanghai Gesture for Von Sternberg. along with tons of B and Noir films and lots of TV in the 50’s. Part of the women of Film Noir DVD set.


Juliet Of The Spirits

A financial and critical bomb when first released in 1965, Fellini’s thinly disguised autobiographical film about his tumultuous marriage to the great actress Giulletta Masina is an overwrought overdone symbolic nightmare. This was his first film in color and it is certainly colorful. Full of bright reds, op art patterns, psychedelic clothes and decor along with his usual circus of grotesque characters some real but most of them in Juliet’s mind. They overflow and spill out all over the place. Fellini really hits us over the head with his fantasies and dreams but places them on Juliet/Giulletta. His failures are now hers and ours because we have to sit there and witness it. There are many flashbacks and dreams both day and night that link us to her troubled childhood, with all the usual suppressive Catholic signs and symbols. There are the crucifixions and burnings, scary nuns (are there any other kind?), punishments for sexual curiosity, a cold and distant mother and a loving free spirit of a grandfather to mention just a few of the sublime and not so subtle images that Fellini uses sometimes with the delicacy of a sledgehammer. Deep down Juliet longs for freedom and escape from her tired boring life and her cheating husband, but she is not able to take the steps to achieve this freedom. Of course eventually she does, after a little door appears a golden light shines forth, and suddenly all the demons of her mind disappear and the final images of the film shows a peaceful Juliet wandering outside her Magritte inspired house and garden. The film is certainly beautiful to look at (the transfer from Criterion is superb) but after a while all the obvious symbolism wore me down. Still because Fellini is such a great filmmaker, I would have to say see it if you never have, but if you want to see his really great works (all in black and white by the way) check out I Vitelloni, Variety Lights, La Strada, The White Sheik, "Nights of Cabiria", La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2.


The Glass Wall 1953

Vittorio Gassman very handsome indeed, stows away on a ship coming from Europe sometime after the war that is carrying refuges and displaced people to New York to hopefully begin a new life, but he gets caught and they want to send him back to Hungry where he came from. Vittorio jumps ship, and thus .begins the cat and mouse chase as he searches for an ex-G.I. who is now a jazz musician and whose life Vittorio saved during the war when they were hiding from the Nazi‘s. Vittorio thinks he’ll be able to stay in the country if only he can find him and the guy can testify on his behalf that he saved a soldier’s life, thus according to law would entitle Vittorio to stay in America On his journey he comes across a down and out Gloria Grahame who has definitely seen better days. Gloria is in a cafeteria where she attempts to steal Kathleen Freeman’s coat as Kathleen munches down on a lot of food, while poor Gloria has to do with a cup of hot water, a tea bag from home, and a half eaten donut that someone left at her table. Yum. So Gloria takes off with the coat with everyone running after her including Vittorio who has a badly damaged rib from when he jumped off the ship and wants to help pouty Gloria to get away. A complicated story to say the least, and I haven’t mentioned half of the plot twists. My favorite being when Vittorio meets up with a Hungarian slightly over the hill exotic dancer who takes pity on him and brings him home to have a meal with her kids, her mother and her nasty brother played by the great Joe Turkel a favorite of Stanley Kurbrick’s. This is a nice little B movie that has amazing on location footage (by the great cinematographer Joseph F.Biroc) of Times Square at night that was taken with a hidden camera and there is lots of it. Personally I was in heaven seeing how the once great Square looked in 1953. There is also wonderful footage all over the town including a car ride down 3rd avenue under the El, and the final sequences at a still unfinished United Nations Building that is referred to in the film a big glass wall, thus the title of the film. Part of the Women of Film Noir DVD set.

Night Editor 1946

This is a misleading title for a sleazy very good little B film noir that is so B it starts leaning into C. The film takes place on a very hot night in New York City and a bunch of newspaper men are sitting around playing cards and chewing the fat. The Night editor for some reason that I won’t go into here starts to tell the story of a cop involved in a murder investigation. and we flashback to the low fat story of the cop played by William Gargan in what can only be described as a tortured performance. Gargan is basically a good cop and family man , but is playing down and dirty on his sweet adorable wife (Jeff Donnell) with one hell of a Cul-de-sac married high society twist that makes every other film noir dame look like Little Mary Sunshine. Played to cold as ice perfection by the very beautiful Janice Carter, who has Gargan twisted around her little jewel encrusted finger. He’s tortured over this affair but he can’t let go, and one night as they smooch in a lover’s lane, they witness a horrible murder of a young woman and they both see who the killer is. Carter practically has an orgasm over this shocking crime and actually wants Gargan to drive by the car so she can look at the corpse. “I want to see her, Tony! I want to look at her’ she screams out. I told you she was one hell of a dame. Meanwhile Gargan is conflicted over what to do, tell what he knows and he looses his family his job and probably his freedom, don’t tell and he looses his mind. That’s all I’m saying about the plot so don’t try to get any more out of me. Filmed on sets that are so compact and claustrophobic they look as if they were all built next to each other on one of Columbia Pictures sound stages, and the actors just walked through one door to the next set. Nothing fancy here. This film is so unclean that you can almost see it crawling about on it’s belly looking for a rock to hide under. The kind of movie that would make James Ellroy drool. Highly recommended. Part of the Women In Film Noir DVD set.


The Last Days of Disco

Funny adroit comedy of manners, set in and around disco partying in the early 80’s and the relationships of a small group of waspy yuppie 20 something professionals trying to make a go of it in Manhattan. The first thing I was attracted to was the marvelous screenplay (the rap the friends have abo...ut the psychological meanings of Disney’s Lady and The Tramp is to be savored), and the lovely performances by Kate Beckinsale (perfect American accent) and Chloë Sevigny (if there is a more beautiful actress working in films today please let me know). They play co workers at a publishing firm who are also friends (ill suited) and roommates (very ill suited) who share a railroad apartment no less, and where Kate is pushy and some what mean, Chloe is demure determined and sweet. Not much really happens they dance a little, drink, date pick up a few venereal diseases and do a lot of talking , but I found them and their young attractive men friends beguiling. Maybe it’s my age. Some have complained that the styles and music are not right for the time, well yes the music, although terrific is more from the mid to late 70’s and the hair and very nice clothes look 90’s but I think that might have been part of the director Whit Stillman’s plan. There are a few sub-plots involving the corruption going on behind closed doors at the Disco, as one character says “To me, shipping cash in canvas bags to Switzerland doesn't sound honest.'' but the film is mainly about the up’s and down’s of this small group of friends. Nicely filmed in New York (the dvd transfer from Criterion is gorgeous as usual) with a great soundtrack and a final scene on the subway that is one of the most charming endings of a film that I have seen and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. One of the best films of 1998.

The African Queen. 1951




I’m still jumping up and down over the fact that The African Queen has finally come to Dvd, and in one of the most beautiful restorations I have yet seen. The film is without doubt a classic, a movie that works on all levels, the fine direction by the great John Huston, the screenplay by the equally great James Agree (that alone should make this film mandatory viewing especially for anyone interested in how to write a screenplay), and the performances of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn and who ever said that oil and water don’t mix? This is a real off the wall casting idea that one would think would have been turned down by whoever approves these kind of decisions, but happily it wasn’t and to watch these two actors at the top of their game is so fine and pleasurable that it should almost be against the law. The story is based on the book by C.S. Forester about two sad sacks whose lives get tossed and turned (literally) simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time which in this case is German occupied Africa at the start of World War I. Hepburn plays the spinster Rose (the first of many such roles for her) who along with her brother acted by the impeccable Robert Morley run a small Methodist missionary which is destroyed by German soldiers who burn and abduct the villagers to fight in their army. Morley is destroyed in his mind by this and his short but moving death scene is superb. Hepburn who is left alone among the burnt out remains of the village is rescued by the improbable Bogart as Charlie Alnutt a river rat who goes up and down the water ways in his small run down boat the African Queen delivering goods and mail, a small run down man who likes his gin and his simple life. The rest of the film is taken up with their journey on the river, which changes their lives for good. Memorable scenes abound, the ride down the rapids, the leeches, Hepburn dumping Bogie’s gin overboard, the two of them pulling the boat through the marshes, their attempt at blowing up a German war ship and the sweet and touching love that develops between them. They actually made most of the film on location and there are many stories about the difficulty of the shoot (Hepburn even wrote a book about it) plus there’s a pretty good one hour documentary on the making of the film as an extra on the dvd. The color cinematography is by the great Jack Cardiff who many consider to be one of the greatest color cinematographers in the history of film if not the greatest, and viewing the restoration of the film easily attests to this opinion. Granted the film might look a bit quaint to some 2010 viewers who like their computer generated films to be big, loud and seamless and there are some easy to pick out process shots, studio shot scenes and the use of miniatures but for me this only added to the simple beauty and charm of the film. Bogart won an Oscar for his performance over some pretty stiff competition including Marlon Brando for A Streetcar Name Desire (he was the only actor from the film not to win an Oscar) and Montgomery Clift for A Place In The Sun. Surprisingly even though Huston received an Oscar nomination for his flawless direction, the film did not receive a best picture nomination, instead the academy fools nominated Decision Before Dawn (remember that one?) and Quo Vadis two films that sit at the bottom of the deep Oscar well of forgotten films and bad nominations where they belong while The African Queen still sails on and on.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Et Cetera


Et Cetera the on line literary magazine asked me to illustrate 4 poems by Jos Smith. You can view them at this link.

http://etceterart.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Member Of The Wedding. 1952


It’s rare when Broadway plays or musicals are turned into films and the original stars are cast for the film. There are exceptions of course Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame, Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, but more often than not the original actor or actress are cast aside for a more bankable star. The other night I watched a film version of a strong Broadway play from the early 1950’s that featured all three of the original Broadway Cast. The film was “The Member Of The Wedding” and happily Julie Harris, Ethel Waters and Brandon de Wilde were allowed to recreate their stage performances for this 1952 Fred Zinnerman directed film that was based on the play and novel by Carson McCullers. This famous story about a 12 year old tomboy and outcast who is reaching out for maturity and her own place in the world is something that many of us can relate to. Harris was 27 years old at the time of the movie, and her performance is so good that I never doubted that this was a 12 year old gawky gifted adolescent. Harris in her movie debut is brilliant and very touching as the conflicted Frankie Addams who doesn’t know who she is or where she belongs. Her Frankie is angry, annoying and neurotic but she is also smart, imaginative and caring, especially so with the black housekeeper Bernice played by the extraordinary Ethel Waters and her young cousin who lives next door John Henry played with depth beyond measure by the young Brandon de Wilde who also made his movie debut. The story follows a few days during a hot summer down south (actually filmed in Colusa California) as the Addams family gets ready for the wedding of the soldier boy son and his pretty young thing of a fiancé. The main conflict of the story arises when Frankie truly believes that she will be allowed to go with her brother and new sister in law on their honeymoon and to take part in their life because as she says they are “the we of me“. Sadness and heartbreak of course follows with much more on the way before the film ends on a note of guarded optimism . Most of the action of the play and film takes place in the kitchen of the Addam’s theatrical & more than rundown house, but Zinnerman opens the film up nicely and is helped a great deal by the brilliant cinematographer Hal Mohr who began his career in 1915 and serves up many beautiful close-ups of the actors notably in the scene in the kitchen as dusk comes on and Waters sings the gospel "His Eye is On the Sparrow" while cradling Harris and de Wilde in her arms. It doesn’t get any better than this. Harris received a best actress Oscar nomination losing out to another Broadway star who at 45 was also making her movie debut in a role that she also created on Broadway, Shirley Booth in “Come Back Little Sheba.” With a music score by Alex North, and a beautiful crisp dvd transfer.
The photo used is one of my favorite photographs by the great Ruth Orkin. Member Of The Wedding Party. 1951. Julie Harris, Ethel Waters, Carson McCullers; opening night party.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Limits Of Control 2009


There is no doubt in my mind that Jim Jarmusch is a talented and intriguing director who made one of my favorite films of the 90’s Dead man. However his latest film “The Limits of Control” is a hit and miss affair with Jarmusch juggling many genres in the thin air along with references to film, literature and pop culture plus obtuse interludes with secondary characters who are captivating and intriguing in various degrees. This game or rebus of a movie is ostensibly about a cool detached hit man played by the cool detached actor Isaach De Bankole who has a preference for tight form-fitting iridescent blue suits and purple shirts, and is on a mission that at times seems impossible for the viewer (me) to deal with. Jarmusch holds off letting us know who De Bankole is going to hit until the final minutes of the film, and by that time I could care less and had me thinking “all of that for this?” The movie begins conventionally enough with an airport scene where the lone man, as he is known gets his puzzling philosophical instructions from two operatives who are lounging about and who send him on his way to Spain to do the job. Not so fast because the game is just beginning. In Spain the lone man visits museums where he views paintings which soon appear as objects and clues that the mysterious secondary characters give to him after asking the question “You don’t speak Spanish, do you?” By the 3rd or 4th time we hear this ludicrous question, I was ready to scream or fling my ice cream sandwich at the television. They also exchange cute little matchboxes, which contain writings on small pieces of paper, and in one case diamonds. Tilda Swinton shows up in a blonde wig and cowboy hat, looking like John Kelly in his Joni Mitchell drag and gives a small talk about how she loves movies. Swell and great we all love movies and this one is so overloaded with movie references that I swear it started to tilt to one side of my television screen. I immediately thought of Welles (who Swinton also refers to) and of course Godard and Hitchcock. One of the operatives who turn up is a sweltering nude hot babe (just before she shows up the lone man is seen viewing a painting of a nude young woman in the museum, and how cool is that) who tries to seduce the lone man in having sex with her, which he won’t do, because he doesn’t have sex when working. This reminded me of the Godard “Laziness” sequence in Seven Deadly Sins in which Eddie Constantine is too lazy to have sex with a seductive young thing. Contempt also comes to mind. The game goes on and on and I wasn’t exactly bored as I was numbed by the repetitiveness of the plot. John Hurt and an awful looking Gael García Bernal pop up in cameos as does Bill Murray who is the big bad capitalist and prey for the lone man. The highlight of the film is the lush deep color saturated cinematography by the great Christopher Doyle.

Open Box #4 1971. 15" x 11 1/2" x 10" + detail


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Open Box #9. 1971. 7" x 5 x 10" Mixed




















The original notebook sketch, the piece itself and several details.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hartley
























Just finished reading Marsden Hartley The Biography Of An American Artist by Townsend Ludington, and I wish I could recommend it, but I really can’t. I found it too dry and dead. I mean Hartley lived during the most interesting and exciting times of the Twentieth Century but the author to my mind doesn’t capture the spirit or color of the period. I also would have liked to know more about his sexuality, and I don’t mean in a prurient way. I don’t know if the author is gay or not, but he pretty much sidesteps Hartley’s homosexuality. Of course it’s there but it almost as if Hartley wasn’t gay. He also misses opportunities to discuss his friendships with other gay artists, Demuth is mentioned but then he’s dead and gone. To be fair he does touch on some of Hartley’s unpleasant traits including his dance with Nazism and his anti-Semitism “He did not agree with the nazis policies toward the Jews, but he thought they had some right to want to purify their nation and he half sympathized with their charge that the Jews had over stepped their privileges. “If (the Nazis) must have them out of politics, out of art, out of banking, that is their business.” He also wanted very much to meet Hitler. Needless to say this information about one of my favorite artists is troubling. The author also leaves a dull and flat impression of the spirit of the times in New York, Paris and Berlin, I would have liked more details and color, and also Ludington’s portraits of all the famous and exciting artists and writers of the period that Hartley knew are gray. There was a lot of pain and suffering in his life, poverty, neglect, hostility to the art world, gee sounds familiar, and the time that he destroyed over 100 of his paintings because he could not afford the storage fee was heartbreaking, and he died just when his extraordinary work was getting the attention and rewards that they so deserved.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lil Picard Exhibition



There is a charming and quite marvelous small retrospective of the artist, writer and art world legend Lil Picard now on view at the Grey Art Gallery at NYU. I should note here that I knew Lil as did ...practically everyone who was active in the art world of the 1950’s and onward and I found her to be a very nice and interesting woman. She was born in Germany in 1899, wow and died in 1994 so she was nearly 100 years old when she passed wow. She had a life that could make a good film, escaping from Hitler’s Germany, arriving in New York City with her second husband Dell, who was a sweet and charming man, Lil became a designer of hats, and the lover of many. She was soon involved with the New York Art Scene, and did happenings and theatre pieces along with her collages, assemblages and paintings and wrote extensively on the New York Art Scene for German publications. Lil was also a strong feminist, political activist and like most of us was involved in the Anti-War Vietnam Movement. I recall seeing many of her art works at her apartment when I would visit her, but I really got to know her work a few years after her death when an art appraiser I knew asked me to work with him on her estate. There were tons of pieces or so it seemed and it took many weeks to measure and catalog each work, and sometimes the task took its toll on me, making me depressed and anxious. The show which is very nicely put together features probably the best pieces by her, and happily the show is not top heavy with her paintings which I thought the weakest of her art. I always liked her self taught looking assemblages and collages which are messy and full, and there are many of these in the show including her pointed cosmetic ones, all nicely installed. These are works that you want to pat on the head, maybe give a pinch to the cheek and a nice big hug. The show is on until July 10th.

photo of me and Lil Picard taking part in World Works 1970

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Magic Marker Paintings. 1968. Different Sizes.
























I was 19 years old when I did these.

Small Brick Structure In A Box 1971. Mixed. 7" x 5" x 4 1/4"

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Untitled Sculpture. 1983. Mixed. 9" x 8 1/2" x 3"

San Diego Boxes. 1984. Mixed.





Each box measures 8 1/2" x 3 1/8" x 4 1/2"

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sherlock Holmes. 2009.



I was hoping that the newest Sherlock Holmes film would be a Victorian children’s pop up book of a movie but instead it’s a loud confusing superhero video game for easily bored teens. Using the overused plot that many Victorian thrillers have been using of late you know the one about the secret or...ganization with the evil supposedly upstanding citizens plotting to take over the world or committing grisly murders or both. But this film pushes it up and out of the 19th century into the 21st by the use of fast, dizzying and gimmicky editing along with violent and way too many unnecessary fight scenes that are so dark and kinetic that at times you can’t tell who is hitting whom. Robert Downey plays the great detective and Jude Law his loyal sidekick but they are both way too modern to do any justice to their Victorian poses and are not very compelling or endearing to boot. There is some subliminal homoeroticism back and forth between them, which we’ve come to expect from contemporary interpretations of Holmes and Watson, (I guess this began with Billy Wilder’s much more subtle and elegant The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes) but Guy Ritchie plays it safe and introduces a romantic foil played by the very attractive and appealing Rachel McAdams as the shifty and thieving Irene Adler for Sherlock and a nearly invisible fiancé pushed into the frames for Watson which no doubt was introduced to ward off any walking out on the movie by the teens and young women who had probably ventured into the theatres or rented the film to see these two heartthrobs strut their macho stuff. The plot which is thin and stringy is very confusing with too many characters who come and go and go and come and lots of dialogue that gets lost because of the loud heart pounding score and the lightly spoken conversations and studied British accent that Downey puts on, not very convincingly I might add. Downey can be very fine when playing lost and bewildered American schnooks and losers, but to me he is totally miscast as Holmes. Jude Law is his usual eye candy self but he’s way too young and unlived in to play Watson, Holmes’s much put upon friend and partner in solving crimes and sharing rooms. The story line is dense and confusing (no less than five writers are credited with writing the screenplay) with a very unsatisfying ending where everything is hastily explained and tied up into a not so neat little package and placed in a Victorian Chinese box. Granted the film which was photographed by the great Philippe Rousselot looks beautiful, grimy and gross with great computer generated effects and really cool details and there is one terrific big French giant of a villain who livens things up a bit, but overall my heart still belongs to Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. .
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