Saturday, January 8, 2011

Week of January 7 to January 13 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Three big films at the Tropic are being held over for another week: THE KING’S SPEECH, BLACK SWAN, and THE FIGHTER. It’s not difficult to understand why. These are three of the hottest movies of the year. Just last week, the Writers Guild and the Producers Guild announced their nominees for best picture, and this trio made both lists, so it’s a safe bet that they’ll also be in the Academy Award list when it is announced later this month. A triple Don’t Miss alert.

Meanwhile, Scot and Matthew are using the flexibility of The George digital theater to keep things interesting with some new treats. This week it’s a mix of a French charmer and a searing documentary.

INSPECTOR BELLAMY, is the last film from legendary French New Wave director Claude Chabrol, who died last September (and will almost surely make the Oscar montage of lost souls this year). His new movie is a combination of a country house drama and a detective story. Chabrol has often been described as a French Alfred Hitchcock. He co-authored the first serious study of Hitchcock’s work, and was clearly influenced by it. When you see the opening scene of Inspector Bellamy, with the camera panning over a cemetery and the sound of a whistler in the background, you pick up on that tone.

Gerard Depardieu is the eponymous inspector, on vacation from Paris at his home in the south of France, when he is confronted by a self-confessing “sort of” murderer who wanders into his garden. The inspector can’t resist the busman’s holiday of investigating this crime, but he also has to deal with his naughty younger brother who comes visiting, and his loving wife, who wishes they had gone on a Nile cruise instead. It all makes for "a nifty mystery told in an unconventional but charming way" ( that shows Depardieu at his shambling best, and provides a memorable adieu from Chabrol.

A FILM UNFINISHED provides a different window on the Holocaust, looking at it through German propaganda eyes. Discovered in Nazi vaults after the war were reels of a silent film titled Das Ghetto, which purported to show life in the Warsaw ghetto as the Nazi’s wanted it to be shown, with rich Jews enjoying their wealth and callously ignoring their poorer brethren. But then an additional reel was discovered that showed how the propaganda was staged. This film about a film about a film is a fascinating look not only at the particular event, but at why documentary cinema can be as creative as narrative film. Or, as the Dallas Morning News puts it, A Film Unfinished “reminds us of film's inherent capacity for lying.”

The Monday Night Classic continues its Damsel in Distress theme with Otto Preminger’s 1944 film LAURA, starring Gene Tierney as a woman “surrounded by luxury, mystery and scheming men,” Clifton Webb as the gentleman who Pygmalion-like trained her, and Dana Andrews as the detective investigating her murder. “A highly polished and debonair whodunit.” (Time Magazine)

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