Black Coal, Thin Ice

BAPFF: Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)

It’s hard to write about this Chinese-produced, Golden-Bear-winning film festival staple without talking about noir. The monochromatic English title hints at the film’s debt to the genre: a series of gruesome, unsolved murders; an alcoholic, disgraced detective; an enigmatic, beautiful femme fatale; an overarching sense of uncertainty. But the Chinese title – Bai Ri Yan…

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Halfway into Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Joseph Gordon-Levitt – battered and bloodied – ascends a fire escape, consumed by trepidation. We know this because he continues to grimly intone his fears on the narration track, and because there’s a woman waiting for him in the hotel room at the top of the…

Aaron Pedersen in Mystery Road (2013)

Mystery Road (2013)

Mystery Road does, as the title suggests, concern a mystery of sorts. An indigenous teenage girl is found murdered on the outskirts of an outback Aussie town, and Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen, fantastic) investigates. His inquiries turn over dusty rocks, disturbing the dark creatures from their hiding places. In spirit of noirs like Chinatown…

The Killing (1956)

The Killing (1956)

The Killing is designed to be confusing. Stanley Kubrick’s third feature concerns a crew of two-bit crooks who plan and execute a heist on a racing track. Their scheme is convoluted enough – six people needing to be in the right place at the right time doing the wrong thing – and is further complicated…

Ewan McGregor in The Ghost Writer (2010)

The Ghost Writer (2010)

The Ghost Writer is a tense, understated thriller, eschewing violence for political intrigue. Director Roman Polanski channels his classic noir Chinatown, with Ewan McGregor’s ghost writer standing in for Jack Nicholson’s private detective, with the corruption here inspired by Tony Blair rather than California’s seedy underbelly. There’s also an inversion of Polanski’s “predicament” in Pierce…

(2001) Memento: Cut Extended

It’s August, 2013 and I’m watching Memento for the seventh time. Next to me is my partner’s sister. We’re about fifteen minutes into the film, and she comments, “Oh, so it’s like it’s running backwards?” It’s funny how the context surrounding a film can change. Back when Memento was first released, it was “the backwards…