Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cloak and Dagger at the Brattle

Yes, I'm lucky to live close to The Brattle Theatre, one of the last repertory cinemas in the country. Last week, I caught four of the films in their Cloak and Dagger series, two of which I'd never seen.

The best was probably Carol Reed's brilliant film version of Graham Greene's satirical novel, Our Man in Havana. Alec Guinness plays a vacuum cleaner salesman who gets recruited by MI6. Its got great location photography in 1959 Cuba, and several juicy performances. An odd film, though, tonally. I loved it but I wasn't really into it, i.e. it was hard to root for any particular character, although it was brilliantly put together.

Well, North by Northwest was clearly the best, but I wasn't counting it, because I've seen it many, many times. Enjoyable as always. And a beautiful expression of modernism.

Ministry of Fear was a 1944 film directed by Fritz Lang. It was interesting to watch, although not a very good movie. Terrible dialogue, and some shaky acting dooms it. Ray Milland is decent as an innocent man caught up in a Nazi spy ring in wartime England. There are nice moments, but not enough to really recommend this for anyone but Lang completists.

The Ipcress File. I've actually seen this 1965 film before. I watched it with my father on television probably around 1978. It made a huge impression, especially the brutal torture scene that concludes the film. It's a very good movie, both the anti-Bond, and a film that is very close to Bond. It's got music by John Barry, set design by Ken Adams, and it's edited by Peter Hunt. Michael Caine's Harry Palmer is, of course, very different than Bond. A Cockney spy with an attitude. A good film.

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