14 posts categorized "Serial Killer"

January 08, 2015

VENGEANCE IS MINE — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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ColeSmithey.comShôhei Imamura had graduated from working as an assistant under Japan’s celebrated director ‪Yasujirō Ozu in the early ‘50s to performing similar duties for ‬director Yuzo Kawashima before being hired to work at the island country’s‬ oldest movie studio, Nikkatsu. The association with Nikkatsu allowed Imamura to begin writing and directing his own films, such as “Stolen Desire” (1958) and “Pigs and Battleships” (1961), but his audacious artistic vision proved too hot for Nikkatsu even if the company would later become a primary producer of “romantic pornography” (aka Pink Films) in the ‘70s. Imamura had no choice but to start his own production company.

Vengeance is mine

Imamura's 1963 film “The Pornographers” revealed Imamura’s deft ability to delve into the underbelly of post-war Japanese culture toward a deeper understanding of his country’s innate hypocrisies from a multiplicity of vantage points.

His following two films, “The Insect Woman” (1963) and “Unholy Desires” (1964), contributed mightily to the Japanese New Wave movement populated by such luminaries as Yasuzo Masumura, Masahiro Shinoda, and Nagisa Oshima.

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Documentaries became a focal point for Imamura in 1967 with “A Man Vanishes.” Imamura would go on to make six more documentaries, several for Japanese television, before taking a four year hiatus that would allow him time to write and prepare the masterwork of his career, “Vengeance is Mine.”

Imamura utilized Ryuzo Saki’s same-titled novel about real-life serial killer Azuma Fujisaki as the stepping-off point to write a parable of post-war Japan. Unhindered by common filmic restraints, Imamura used a complex time flipping narrative structure in conjunction with documentary film techniques such as hand-held cameras and inter-title descriptions to create a vast cinematic canvas. The inventive strategy draws the viewer through an anti-hero serial killer’s convoluted exploits over the course of 78 days between his first murder and his capture.

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Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata) is the son to a Shizuo (Rentarô Mikuni), a Roman Catholic fisherman. A flashback to an episode during the early ‘30s shows Shizuo standing momentarily defiant against the demands of a Japanese general demanding that all of the town’s fishing boats be turned over the Japanese Navy. The town’s Catholic citizens watch helplessly from the shore. Only the man’s prepubescent son runs over to challenge the general’s order by picking up a piece of wood and knocking the officer down. The young Iwao is a rebel whose instinctive violent actions prefigure a sociopathic tendency. Childhood years spent in imprisoned in juvenile detention lead to Iwao serving briefly as a translator to the American Army just after World War II. Still, his theft of a jeep lands him back in the slammer.

As if he didn’t have enough trouble, the wife (Mitsuko Baisho) that Iwao marries, divorces, and is forced by his fiercely Catholic father to remarry, becomes sexually attracted to Iwao’s father. Although their bond is only indirectly consummated, the relationship between father and daughter-in-law stinks to high heaven.

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Iwao snaps. He develops a sudden thirst for killing that his nourished by the money he steals from his victims, whose own personal lives are marred by dishonesty and, in the case of an innkeeper, a murderess.

“Vengeance Is Mine” is much more than a true-crime movie in the vein of “In Cold Blood.” Rather the film is a richly woven polemic that encompasses turbulent generational shifts in Japanese identity caused by World War II. Iwao Enokizu isn’t waiting for God's vengeance to make things right when only everything is wrong.

Not Rated. 139 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

December 11, 2014

SE7EN — CLASSIC FILM PICK

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

 

 

Se7enThe influence of William Friedkin’s groundbreaking serial killer procedural “Cruising” is evident in David Fincher’s masterpiece of the subgenre. 

The director employs shocking violence that mirrors Friedkin’s provocative use of outré displays of gay sexual expression in Manhattan's public sex clubs in “Cruising.” Fincher detonates periodic gross-out Grand Guignol elements to sustain a morbid sense of nagging suspense.

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Increasingly nasty crime scene images of dead torture victims rotting in squalid rooms as decorated by the killer compress the film’s brutality into a cinematic pressure cooker.

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We don’t witness the savagery being committed yet we feel its effect palpably. From a production design standpoint, the outrageous crime scenes are gorgeous examples of inspired cinematic artistry. An unspeakable act of hyper-violence promises to fulfill the story’s dramatic arc even though the audience isn’t allowed to see it.

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Morgan Freeman’s veteran police detective William Somerset is seven days away from retirement. The bachelor is ready to leave the noisy (unnamed) city behind for a house he has waiting in the burbs. Complications arise. A murder victim is discovered - a morbidly obese man gruesomely forced to eat his way to death. “Gluttony.” Further murder discoveries reveal individually tailored killings dedicated to the Seven Deadly Sins (Gluttony. Greed. Sloth. Pride. Lust. Envy. Wrath.). Before the film’s end, each of the biblical transgressions will be tangibly represented in order and in blood.

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The first murder coincides with Brad Pitt’s hot-to-trot new detective David Mills being teamed up with Somerset. Mills’s five years of working homicide in another city haven’t prepared him for a case like this one, and Somerset senses that his new partner is in over his head.

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Over the following days, Mills gradually earns Somerset’s begrudging respect, with some assistance from Mills’s anxious Midwest wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow). Tracy’s dinner invitation to Somerset results in a bonding event that sticks in the viewer’s mind.

Seven_Se7en

The heart of the story is the budding friendships between Somerset, Mills, and Tracy. The attachment of the three compatible individuals creates a calming substance of extended family, of which the audience is an integral part. It is this very thing that allows Kevin Spacey’s ominous psychopath John Doe to complete his series of seven horrors at the trio’s expense, and elevates the film’s coldly ironic denouement.

Se7en

Although he previously directed “Alien³,” “Se7en” is the movie that put David Fincher on the map. The film’s iconic look and lighting design led to it being copied so much that it’s possible to forget that “Se7en” was the model. Even its kinetic title sequence established a fresh template to be emulated. You walk out of the movie feeling like you’ve been sucker-punched. Few films pack such a wallop.

Rated R. 127 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

June 04, 2014

THE VANISHING — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

 


ColeSmithey.comGeorge Sluizer’s spellbinding adaptation of Tim Krabbé’s horror novella “The Golden Egg” is such an expertly layered suspense thriller than it serves as a textbook archetype of the genre. It is that rare movie that successfully breaks an essential rule of dramaturgy — in this case that “good must always triumph” — in the interest of being true to a story with only one inevitable end. It’s the kind of movie that no grandmother wants to see, and they shouldn’t.

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In scenes as measured as anything Hitchcock committed at his height of form, George Sluizer introduces Rex Hofman and Saskia Wagter, a pair of young Dutch lovers vacationing in France during the Tour de France.

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Johanna ter Steege’s freckled faced strawberry-blonde Saskia comes to represent the absent object of Rex’s stifled affection, but not before winning the audience’s heart too.

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Saskia is terrified of the dark. She suffers from recurring nightmares about being trapped in a golden egg in which she floats alone in space forever. If it sounds like a premonition; it is.

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With bicycles attached to the car’s roof, the couple runs out of gas on a dark road at night. They argue. Rex abandons Saskia. He pays a price of profound dread before he gratefully sees Saskia waiting in a bright patch of road at the end of a long tunnel the next morning. Sadly, the couple’s encouraging reunion is brief. A stopover at a gas station for cold drinks is all it takes for Saskia to vanish from Rex’s life forever, thanks to the handiwork of a madman.

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Sluizer introduces us to the self-admitted sociopath, chemistry teacher Raymond Lemorne, in an elliptical sub-plot movement that explains the backstory of Saskia’s methodical kidnapper in seamlessly woven flashbacks.

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The filmmaker works with an optic image system of passages to confine the viewer within Raymond’s claustrophobic mindset. Raymond is so afraid of being confined that he has a special permit that allows him to drive without wearing a seatbelt. The audience is covertly manipulated to empathize with Raymond’s family man antagonist as we watch him interacting with his wife and children. Sequences of Raymond practicing his skills to kidnap a woman at various locations ramps up the sense of dread.

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When we are reconnected with Rex, three years have passed. He looks older, haggard. He has a new girlfriend who acknowledges Rex’s obsession with discovering the truth of what happened to the love of his life. Still, she’s at her rope’s end. Rex still puts up posters with Saskia’s picture, asking for information. He goes on a television news program to challenge the kidnapper to come forward without fear of being punished, for the sole purpose of satisfying Rex’s romantically fanned curiosity.

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The adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” couldn’t be more apt in this situation. Rex does indeed meet his lover’s kidnapper. The enemies go on a dark journey to discover Saskia’s fate.

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The romantic connection between Rex and Saskia enables the film to achieve its catharsis, through an entropy of both choice and fate.

Not Rated. 107 mins. 

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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