Daily Archives: October 25, 2007

TOUCH OF EVIL Retouched

Reprinted from my 2007 collection Discovering Orson Welles, but with illustrations added. (The first of these is a photo taken near Antibes, France, where the revamped Touch of Evil was scheduled to premiere, until Beatrice Welles threatened a lawsuit and halted the screening. Much later, she sent a letter of apology to Janet Leigh that I got to read at one point. Fortunately, this didn’t prevent me from enjoying a wonderful day with Janet Leigh, her daughter Kelly, and several others on the Côte d’Azur, capped by this photo of the Touch of Evil re-edit “crew” and then followed by a memorable dinner.)

The following —- an account of my work as consultant for Universal Pictures on the re-editing of Touch of Evil in 1997-98, based on a studio memo -— is the only thing I’ve ever written for Premiere. I knew one of the editors, Anne Thompson, from her previous stint as assistant editor at Film Comment, and when I proposed this piece to her, she checked with other editors at the magazine and reported back that there was a lot of enthusiastic interest. When I asked her what approach I should take, she urged me to write a first-person account of my experience of the project from beginning to end, which yielded a first version.Read more »

Slipstream

A screenwriter on deadline (writer-director-composer Anthony Hopkins) appears to be losing his mind and his life to his characters. But neither the screenwriter nor the characters compel much interest and the jokes are lame, so the only sustained point here is the aggressively eclectic filmmaking style, an anything-goes affair in which even the more striking moves tend to work against one another. (The ‘Scope framing undermines the effects of the rapid-fire montages, and even Hopkins’s most memorable ditty is a throwaway played over the final credits.) Not so much ill conceived and misdirected as unconceived and undirected, this is folly on a grand scale. With Stella Arroyave (Hopkins’s wife and producer, playing some version of herself), and, among the more recognizable names, Christian Slater, John Turturro, Michael Lerner, and Kevin McCarthy. R, 96 min. (JR)… Read more »

Bella

Winner of the audience prize at the 2006 Toronto film festival, Alejandro Gomez Monteverde’s first feature may have more heart than head, but it’s as interesting for what it leaves out of the romantic story as for what it retains. A waitress (Tammy Blanchard) at a Manhattan Mexican restaurant gets fired for coming in late after discovering that she’s pregnant. The manager’s brother (Eduardo Verastegui), who works there as chef, is so angry that he quits on the spot and spends the rest of the day with his new friend, taking her to meet his parents. We never learn who’s the father of the waitress’s child, but we do get some backstories about both characters, especially the chef (who used to be a soccer star and, unlike the waitress, is part Mexican), and these peopleactors as well as charactersare engaging enough to suspend most of our questions. PG-13, 91 min. (JR)… Read more »

A Flower In Hell

What’s reportedly the first on-screen kiss in Korean cinema appears in this potent and grim 1958 melodrama by Shin Sang-ok, set in Seoul after the Korean war. A country rube turns up looking for his older brother, who by now has entered a life of crime, stealing from U.S. army warehouses and pimping for a prostitute (Choi Eun-heedescribed as the Korean Mary Pickford and therefore shockingly cast against type) who services American soldiers. Frank about other forms of corruption, such as bribery of the police, this sordid tale is limited only by its simplistic characters. (The prostitute is a standard-issue femme fatale, seducing the innocent brother and snitching on her lover.) It culminates in an impressively staged action sequence involving a train heist, followed by a showdown in a muddy wasteland that reflects the probable influence of The Wages of Fear. In Korean with subtitles. 87 min. (JR)… Read more »

Imitation

In this tedious 2006 Canadian road movie, a Mexican woman (Vanessa Bauche) in Montreal accepts the help of a smitten grocery clerk (Jesse Aaron Dwyre) to hunt down a man whom she initially refers to as her brother but who turns out to be the husband who left her in Mexico. This development and the backstory behind it is as unengaging as her budding relationship with the clerk, but cowriter-director Federico Hidalgo, without bringing much urgency to these and related matters, still spends 87 minutes spelling them out. In English and subtitled Spanish. (JR)… Read more »

The Ring

Probably the most visually sophisticated of Alfred Hitchcock’s silent pictures and certainly one of the best, this 1927 release sets up an edgy romantic triangle in a traveling carnival that involves two boxers (Carl Brisson and Ian Hunter) and a snake charmer (Lillian Hall-Davies). Significantly, this is one of the few movies for which Hitchcock is credited with the screenplay (though an uncredited Alma Reville, his wife, also worked on it). 72 min. (JR)… Read more »