Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Love on the Run (François Truffaut, 1979)

*****
France



The misadventures of Antoine Doinel are resolved as a kind of giddy melodrama. Clips from the previous four films make up his memories.

Maybe because the middle chapters were a tad under-nourished or maybe because the resolution is kept low-key and the ever-self-involved Doinel isn't forced to endure any kind of warmed-over epiphany, people lost their patience and the final of the series has the lowest reputation of the five. But in truth, it's the densest, most honest and subtly heartbreaking since The 400 Blows.

With the weathered casualty of a parent who has learned to swallow the pain and make the best of constant disappointment, Truffaut excavates and re-buries Doinel's erratic demons. He looks into the roots of his alter-ego's instability as a husband and father, and though he doesn't by any means justify it, he comes to terms with it.

He does finally allow Doinel a happy reunion of sorts, with a kiss and a pop tune. But seconds before the credits roll, there is a flash of an uncharacteristically joyous moment from Antoine's soon to be stunted childhood. It's enough to bring across the life-altering hurt of the myriad flippantly tossed aside but nevertheless searing tragedies that have compromised this 'happy' ending.

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Night Train to Munich (Carol Reed, 1940)

****
UK



An espionage thriller explicitly patterned after Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, though with an added element of gravity since it was made and partly takes place during wartime. Because everybody communicates in flawless English, it gets difficult to discern who's from which country and how they became such experts at adopting foreign nationalities and blending in with the natives. But don't let plausibility interfere with a cracking yarn, with typically witty Launder-and-Gilliat-penned banter and exciting setpieces orchestrated by then-rising-talent Carol Reed.

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The Naked City (Jules Dassin, 1948)

****½
USA



In a landmark move, producer Mark Hellinger and director Jules Dassin took their noir police procedural straight to the streets of NYC. The actors are stiff and the omniscient commentary by Hellinger - more often than not - grating. But the social detail of post-war day-to-day New York, the breathless pace and the stark, raw elegance of the visuals make the film vivid and enduring.

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