Hal Hartley – Fay Grim (2006)

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Hal Hartley’s dark comedy “Henry Fool” was an indie masterpiece that effectively and accessibly meshed Hartley’s literary influences with his specific minimalist style and some of the most memorable characters of the last decade. Now, Hartley takes the characters he created for that world and launches them into a surprisingly different direction in “Fay Grim,” a worthy follow-up and rare art house sequel.

When we last saw our antiheroes, Simon had won the Nobel Prize for his profane and controversial poetry, Henry had fled murder charges by allegedly going to Stockholm using Simon’s passport, and Fay was left with a young son after Henry had impregnated and married her seven years earlier. The handwritten, multipart opus Henry had been flouting, “The Confessions of Henry Fool,” was largely thought to be a horrible novel, literary excrement perpetuated by a vulgar man with a vivid imagination. Continue reading

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Michael Powell – The Phantom Light (1935)

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synopsis

Three talented screenwriters collaborated in adapting Evadne Price and Joan Roy Byford’s play The Haunted Light to the screen as Phantom Light. This British chiller-diller-thriller begins with the mysterious murder of a lighthouse keeper. After his death, the region is plagued by shipwrecks, each heralded by a “phantom light” beaming from the lighthouse. Female detective Binnie Hale teams with new keeper Gordon Harker and navy officer Ian Hunter to solve the mystery. Directed with a sure and steady hand by Michael Powell, The Phantom Light is infinitely superior to the quota-quickie melodramas then flooding the British film market.- Hal Erickson
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J. Lee Thompson – Cape Fear (1962)

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Plot Synopsis by Hal Erickson

After an eight-year prison term for rape and assault, Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) is set free. Immediately making a beeline to Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), the former prosecutor responsible for Cady’s conviction, Cady laconically informs Sam that he intends to “pay back” the attorney for his years behind bars. Conducting a meticulous campaign of terror, Cady is careful to stay within the law. Sam, realizing that Cady intends to wreak vengeance by raping the attorney’s wife (Polly Bergen) and daughter (Lori Martin), tries to put the ex-criminal behind bars, but has no grounds to do so. Chief Dutton (Martin Balsam) tries to help Sam with a few strong-arm tactics, but succeeds only in having the courts take Cady’s side in the matter. Things come to a head when Sam moves his family to the “safety” of a remote houseboat on Cape Fear river. Cady shows up unannounced and is about to ravage Bowden’s wife and daughter and when Sam turns the tables. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – Torn Curtain (1966)

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A double agent has to contend with enemies on both sides of the political fence as well as the woman he loves in this hriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Prof. Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) is an gifted American physicist who, at the height of the Cold War, decides to defect to East Germany. To his surprise, his fiancée, fellow scientist Sarah Sherman (Julie Andrews) follows him, and she soon discovers Armstrong is no traitor, but acting as a secret undercover agent. As Armstrong attempts to ingratiate himself with political and scientific factions in East Germany, Gromek (Wolfgang Kieling) becomes his guide, though Armstrong is aware he’s a government agent assign. Continue reading

Michael Winterbottom – Butterfly Kiss AKA Killer on the Road (1995)

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Winterbottom’s theatrical feature debut Butterfly Kiss was released into UK theatres in August 1995. Set in a dystopian environment limited almost entirely to motorways, service stations and motels, it charted the dysfunctional lesbian relationship between the violent and erratic Eunice (Amanda Plummer) and the credulous Miriam (Saskia Reeves). In so doing it offered up a portrayal of Britain that had not previously been seen on its cinema screens. Although the film garnered mixed responses, a couple of reviewers such as Derek Malcolm seized on it as heralding the arrival of a remarkable new talent in British cinema (2). Indeed, the film was to lay out many of the themes and techniques that would come to define Winterbottom’s oeuvre.
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Adrián Caetano – Crónica de una fuga aka Chronicle of an Escape (2006)

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Quote:
The goalkeeper of a little-known soccer team is kidnapped by a Argentinean government squad and sent to a detention center. After months of torture, he plots his escape with three other young men.

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If American moviegoers have plenty of reasons to feel icky about government-sponsored kidnappings and hidden prisons, “Chronicle of an Escape” gives them another good one, by viewing a fact-based Argentinean story through the stylized lens of a horror film. Laced with dread that builds to a thoroughly gripping third act, it should do well with art house audiences who like their history lessons to come with a shot of adrenaline. Continue reading

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