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May Films

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This month with Before the Devil knows you’re dead, Yella, Paranoid Park and two more.

Before the Devil knows you’re dead

Sidney Lumet (* * * * * *) is still directing films and Before the Devil knows you’re dead is his latest one. A story about a simple plan - two brothers robbing their parents’ jewelry store so they can restart their lives with the cash while their parents won’t have to worry because of the insurance. Such simple brilliant plans usually go a single way - wrong. And this one does in all possible ways.

People die, family tragedy ensues, even more people die. It’s all quite tragic, but there’s just no way the boys can go and apologise to their father for having caused the death of their mother.

Extra kudos to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Not just for having an amusing drug dealer and who’s at the receiving end of his killing frenzy eventually. But also for becoming older and fatter. In quite a few scenes during the film I had to think that if he progresses this way for another decade or two, he’ll be perfect to play Helmut Kohl in a film. Perhaps someone comes up with a good film featuring the ex-chancellor by then…

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Yella

Christian Petzold’s (*, *, *) 2007 film Yella is another decent one one. Yella manages to get out of her home town and away from her ex by getting an accounting job in a bigger town. Just that the job is gone when she arrives and the situation seems mostly dire and corrupt. She meets a financing consultant in her hotel and starts working with him. Several cool scenes of negotiations are featured with Yella both playing the psychological games they studied on their way and doing a good analysis of the situation.

While she is good at the job - too good and ambitious eventually - it never looks like it’s going to be a permanent thing which keeps the film in a certain floating imbalance that allows Yella’s past to catch up with her again.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Paranoid Park

Another teenager film by Gus van Sant: Paranoid Park. This time with a possibly even younger and more troubled boy being the protagonist: Alex enjoys skating and does so at a place called Paranoid Park right next to the railway line where all the cool kids hang out who don’t even have middle-class homes to return to. One day when hitching a ride on a passing train with a guy he got to know there, he kills a guard who’s trying to stop them.

Which means we end up with many shots of Alex worrying about how to handle this, looking at us fuzzily with big eyes all the while he has to figure out how to handle growing up, dealing with the skating, his overly-eager cheerleader girlfriend and the new more understanding girl he gets to know who suggests he writes things down so they get out.

Perhaps not as dramatic as some of van Sant’s other films but still amazing how Alex’ situation is transported in such a simple and straightforward way.

Alex writing a letter on a bench

[More a red shirt than a yellow film, though.]

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Also seen

Helen Levitt’s short film In the Street with 16 minutes from the streets of New York in the 1940s. She’s getting quite close to people in there, is great with the kids and not too shy to look into people’s windows or film them picking their noses. Almodóvar’s 1980 film Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón is a bit overdone for my taste in its mix of everything between punk and masochism in wedlock.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

June 4, 2008, 0:54

Tagged as christian petzold, film, gus van sant, helen levitt, paranoid park, pedro almodóvar, philip seymour hoffman, sidney lumet, yella.

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