Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ennio Morricone Festival, pt. 3

dir. Giulio Petroni

J.P. Law heads out for a cold dish.

February 13, 2007 - 35mm/Film Forum

On the off chance you or anyone you know decides to massacre a family in the Western part of the United States of America in the 19th century, make sure they kill ‘em all. Death Rides a Horse takes the familiar trope of a young child, witness to his family’s death, growing up to wreak havoc and take revenge, bloodying the landscape along the way (see Once Upon a Time in the West). Unlike Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West, John Philip Law does not take his time in becoming the baddest most feared of all gunmen. His pride won’t let him admit that, but he reluctantly takes the aid of an old outlaw, played by Lee Van Cleef, who happens to be hunting the same gang of rapin’ murders.

Young, handsome John Philip Law will have nothing to do with compromise or bribery and will stop at nothing for his revenge. His fury has warped his perspective of his familial tragedy. The images have been playing in his mind for 15 years to boiling point. Anytime one of the gang members are in sight, passion takes over in the form of a red-hued replay of that specific gang member’s part in the massacre over Law’s steaming eyes. Ennio Morricone provides a thumping, rhythmic, primal score to these moments that is the stuff of dreams and has since become the stuff of legend. I’ve done well to not specifically reference how his scores have been used in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, though in this case, Mr. Tarantino borrowed not just the music cue, but the fury of revenge close-up/red-hued flashback, and to great effect. In a picture more subdued, such as Death Rides a Horse, the insanity of a gut-curling score and stylized close-up pack an emotional wallop.

Lee Van Cleef delivers another brilliant and emotionally complex performance here, as the convict who is not all he appears to be. His swagger as he trots his horse around a buried-to-the-neck Law is both charming and mean with a balance of manner practically unique to his on-screen persona. While The Big Gundown is his swan song, the legendary “Bad” makes us love him yet again.

It would be an understatement to call this trailer "awesome." Watch it.

dir. Maximilian Schell

Wedding Crashers, starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson

February 14, 2007 - 35mm/Film Forum

This tired, unnecessarily moody thriller, featuring a barely existing, unnotable score by Ennio Morricone is the low point of narrative contrivance in an otherwise nearly perfect selection of challenging, complex and mostly unseen classics in the Ennio Morricone program. Director Maximilian Schell takes a little whodunit and throws so much disinformation at you that it becomes bogged down with nonsense.

Jon Voight plays a young go-getter detective taking and shunning advice from a dying old detective. They’re investigating the very mysterious death of yet another detective. The corpse of the murdered detective is played by Donald Sutherland, the lifeblood of so many fantastic ‘70s pictures. The case and point being the lack of pulse in End of the Game. Mr. Voight, who plays innocence wrapped in a rough exterior very well, is unaware of the very personal battle being waged between his old, doddering partner and the suspected murderer. The movie opens many years earlier as the two friends pick up a young lady.

“I could murder her right in front of your eyes and you couldn’t prove it.”

Both the tagline of the picture and the overarching thematic “haunt” of End of the Game lies in that line, spoken by the murderer to the detective (best friend to best friend, rival to rival). The movie would be better off as a tale of cruel obsession with pride, and if it were more focused on the dying old man, it would be a better picture. Instead, Jon Voight unnecessarily takes center stage and observes. Madness, friendship, themes of regret and frustration for a life lost and lives lost; these are all interesting things presented in the blandest possible package. Fog rests heavily over the countryside as the two detectives explore the crime scene, but the heaviest fog distorts what could, in fact, be great if it were less Love Me If You Dare and more The Conversation.

This is part of the ongoing Morricone Festival coverage.

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