May was a light movie month for me, but I still saw some worthwhile stuff, in addition to revisiting an apocalyptic piece of crap I had to rescreen for my riffing work. (You can read about that over here.)
Miller’s Crossing: A few days ago I wrote a brief review of Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key. This film by the Coen brothers is just one of the brilliant pieces of work that The Glass Key inspired. I’ve never liked Gabriel Byrne in a role more. He plays a gangster with a gambling problem whose loyalties appear to fluctuate between two mob bosses. See it. You’ll love it.
36 Hours: James Garner stars in a movie with a terrific high concept hook. Garner plays a secret agent with knowledge of the planned Normandy invasion. His mission in Spain goes bad and the Germans capture him. To try to pry the information out of him, they build a fake U.S. Army hospital, gray Garner’s hair, and do their best to convince him that the war is over, it’s 1946, and he’s been suffering from amnesia. What follows is suspenseful wonderfulness. Check it out.
Dark City: This picture appears at first to be a conventional noir tale. A man wakes up in a bathtub. He doesn’t know who he is. There’s a body in his room. He thinks he might be the murderer. Apart from that, everything seems to be running according to Hoyle until we see these pale guys in weird outfits who appear to be able to defy gravity. Oh, and our hero appears to be able to manipulate objects with his mind, at least when cornered or otherwise under stress. Why? The movie keeps us guessing about the answer for an amazingly long time, reminding me of an essential truth of storytelling. The audience doesn’t come to storytellers for information; they come to wonder.
Wagner and Me: Stephen Fry describes his admiration for Richard Wagner and how it mixes with his revulsion for the maestro’s virulent antisemitism. Along the way, he guides us toward people who can teach us a lot about Wagner, his life and times, his musical innovations, and he theaters. I’m glad I saw it.