June 14, 2009

Brief Impressions: The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (Scott, 2009)

Days before the release of Tony Scott's The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, I came across a handful of early reviews touting this third adaptation of John Godey's 1973 crime novel as being the best and most satisfying of the lot. As a great admirer of Joseph Sargent's 1974 adaptation, an underrated and under seen gem (and seminal "New York City" film), I struggled to understand how this could be possible, but nevertheless, my interest was piqued.

Having seen Scott's film, my immediate reaction is this: Anyone who champions this film as superior to Sargent's is immediately calling into question their cinematic taste. That is not to say this latest rendition of Pelham is a terrible film. Though Scott once again gives in to his typical directorial excess where a workmanlike, direct style would be more appropriate (see Sargent's film), he benefits from committed performances and a script from Brian Helgeland that adds some interesting depth to the main characters. But Scott's film isn't the portrait of a city and its inhabitants that Sargent's film was, and grit and personality are sacrificed at the altar of empty style. The end result: A solid, though unremarkable, surface-level thriller. And the last time I checked, the gap between unremarkable and classic was a fairly wide one.

June 13, 2009

A Random Thought: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

It fascinates me how movies of this particular genus are simultaneously crude - rough, unpolished, simple - dramatically (i.e. in terms of performance, narrative, thematics), and absolutely sophisticated in terms of technique. It goes without saying that the fight choreography is first rate, but what really caught me off guard was the cinematography, particularly the way director Chia-Liang Liu and dp Yeh-tai Huang move the camera around the action. There is a brutal, fluid elegance to the camerawork. The raw kineticism of the fights is breathtaking. The camera covers the carnage at intelligible distances for long stretches at a time, and Liu knows exactly when to cut. Over 30 years later, it's a wonder that the modern action film still hasn't learned.

Direct Cinema is back online... Again!

It's hard to believe that it has been over an entire year (15 months to be exact!) since my last blog post. It seems like only yesterday that I even decided to start up a film blog. In the interim, my life has drastically changed for sure, and really, the main reason why I stopped posting was simply because I didn't have the time or the inclination. But enough of that. The purpose of this blog is and always will be film, pure and simple, and now that I have settled into my new environs, my 'hankering' if you will, for blogging, has returned, along with another necessary component - time. So if the three of you who used to read this blog (excluding family) still do, thank you. The posts will probably start small and build up as I get back into the groove. As before, I encourage you all to post responses. After all, I started this blog as a means for sharing my passion for the cinema and generating intelligent discussions about it. But enough rambling... For the second third time, welcome to Direct Cinema. Enjoy!

-R.A. Naing