Thursday, June 13, 2013

Daddy's Evil Plan

     And the second installment of the 2010 rewind series finds me covering an Italian true crime thriller, a romantic dramedy of errors, and a tribute to the best worst Dad ever.  Today's selection is really about some LITTLE films that most of you were probably completely unaware of.  I hear echoes of a time JUST before TheMovieFrog was set loose...

  Angel of Evil - The Salamander actually caught this on Netflix Instant Play and insisted that I make it a part of the rewind series so I decided to check it out.  It is the first film that I have seen from Italian director Michele Placido but it reminds me very much of the French crime thrillers I have seen in recent years such as Headhunters and particularly the Mesrine films.  Highly stylized violence with a charming but reprehensible leading man that still packs more surprises than your average American action flick.
     I am likewise unfamiliar with the career of leading man Kim Rossi Stuart, who plays the infamous outlaw Renato Vallanzasca with cockiness and vulnerability.  The actor has the charisma to pull off that most precious of characters: the one you love to hate.  He refers to himself in the third person and you loathe him for it, but then he almost gets killed and you ache at the thought of no longer getting pleasure from detesting him.  It is a fine performance, which only suffers by inevitable comparisons to both Vincent Cassell as Mesrine and Edgar Ramirez as Carlos the Jackal, both in movies released around the same time.
     Which is really my one complaint with the film overall.  It's just not QUITE as good as those other flicks.  I enjoyed it but it felt a little like watching an American remake of a great European picture often does, something in the formula seemed a little hinky.  Maybe the problem is that Italian acting and film making styles are rather demonstrative and in a film where the lead character has such a naturally bombastic personality a guiding hand that takes a little more time with the subtleties is more in order...3 1/2 of 5 stars.

  Plan B - The debut feature from out German writer/director Marco Berger has disproved my previous impression that Wolfe releasing dealt strictly in lesbian themed films.  Apparently they distribute films about gay men as well.  In this picture, one man (Bruno) decides to try and get his ex-girlfriend back by seducing her new lover Pablo, who is rumored to be bisexual.  Of course, over the course of the story the men fall in love with each other for real, etc., etc.
     As I'm sure you can guess from just that briefest of synopsis, the film has three primary weaknesses.  The first is that the plot is such a hackneyed, contrived thing.  Obviously.  The second is that the film is totally predictable, and unspools exactly as anyone who has watched very many "gay" movies will expect it to.  The third is that the primary character's motivations are so petty, and his methods so deplorable, that it is difficult to garner much sympathy for him or his rather unbelievably discovered emotions.
     Fortunately, most of the little details are a bit more acceptable.  The script takes this improbable situation and injects it with so many vivid, valid details that you almost begin to believe it.  Bruno and Pablo's overall journey is ludicrous, but the little steps that they take along the way are nicely handled.
     The film's other saving grace is that the primary actors Manuel Vignau (Bruno) and Lucas Ferraro (Pablo) both do decent jobs with their roles and there is a LITTLE sizzle to their onscreen chemistry.  They are both best when they play towards awkwardness, maybe because the premise itself is so clumsy.  I wasn't angry about the time I lost watching Plan B, but I'm not coming back if they make a Plan C...3 of 5 stars.

  Daddy Longlegs (aka Go Get Some Rosemary) - This largely autobiographical film from the Safdie brothers tore up the independent film circuit in 2010 although the chances are probably quite good that you've never heard of it before.  Star Ronald Bromstein won the Breakthrough Award at the Gothams.  The film itself was given the Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirits.  All of this despite the fact that it looks not so much like a low-budget film, but a no-budget film.  In fact, the whole thing might have been shot on a Super 8 camera the brothers found in their parents attic (just a wild guess).  So why did people like it so much?
     Well, two reasons.  First, the script tells a small scale story very, very well. It is basically a character study, one that delves into a very extreme character.  Rather than try to neatly sum up a personality with so many disparate sides, it gives you episodes in the course of a life.  Many of these seem so contradictory that it is hard to believe that they are all about the same person.  Slowly, laboriously, you begin to understand the man as a whole.
     Of course, this sort of tale would never work without a strong central performance, and Ronald Bromstein gives just that.  He never seems to judge or condone Lenny, he just is Lenny.  We may be shocked at Lenny, even appalled by Lenny, but we can never bring ourselves to hate Lenny.  Both lovable and infuriating, Mr. Bromstein's performance allows you to put yourself emotionally into the shoes of Lenny's children with regards to how you perceive him.  Which is, of course, seems to be the Safdie's intention in this backhanded tribute to their father...4 of 5 stars.

  Related articles:  Monsieur Cat-Hunter (Headhunters review)

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