Monday, April 22, 2013

'Wages of Fear' played Cannes 60 years ago today

Henri-Georges Clouzot's The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la Peur) premiered 60 years ago today at Cannes and won the Palme d'Or seven days later.

It is one of the great thrillers, possibly the most intense film ever made, and one of the finest things to come out of France since C
hampagne, Renoir and Jeanne Moreau.

Watching The Wages of Fear is like having your heart clutched in a vise for 147 minutes. Essential viewing.

Synopsis: four desperate men trapped in a South American town agree to help an oil company extinguish a raging fire on a drilling rig some 200 miles over the mountains. Each will receive a cash payment of $2,000 (about $17,000 today). The catch: they must drive dump trucks loaded with volatile nitroglycerin -- the only explosive available for smothering the fire -- across treacherous jungle roads. 

The resulting white-knuckle ride will take your breath away. Films just don't get any better than this.

I am partial to the Criterion edition of this picture. The two-disc set contains an eye-popping transfer of this mesmerizing movie, as well as an analysis of the censorship it faced in the United States for alleged anti-American sentiments. In truth, the film is more about anti-multinational-corporation sentiments and the folly of avarice.

Check it out.

The success of this film gave Clouzot the clout to make the relentlessly terrifying Les Diaboliques, which in turn inspired Hitchcock to give the world Psycho.

Nothing like a little creative competition to bring out the best in artists of every discipline.

Cinema uprising copyright © 2013 by Stephen B. Evans. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A droll Anthony Hopkins is "Hitchcock"

By Steve Evans

Saw "Hitchcock" last night with Anthony Hopkins in the title role (and wearing a fat suit), and Helen Mirren as the director's wife Alma. Better than I would have expected, although it sugarcoats many aspects of the director's persona and obfuscates others. Fans of Donald Spoto's biography will probably be disappointed. Those who've read the more recent Hitch bio by Patrick McGilligan may view the film as a benign and more-or-less accurate depiction of the Master of Suspense.

 of the picture centers on the challenges Hitchcock faced in making his most famous, if not his greatest, film: Psycho. As a recreation of a specific time and place (1959 Los Angeles) it is well worth a looky. Hopkins' performance is mostly spot-on, although Scarlett Johannson is more convincing as Janet Leigh and James D'Arcy acts like Anthony Perkins reincarnated.

The script was inspired by Stephen Rebello's excellent book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho (Dembner, 1990).

"Hitchcock" is not without flaws; I felt it could have probed deeper into the man's psyche, especially with the resources of a great actor like Hopkins. But even though it "underperformed" at the box office late last year, the film should find its target audience on home video.

"Hitchcock" would make a great double-feature with Psycho, and you'd best believe I mean the original; not Gus Van Sant's execrable remake from '98.

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2013 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.