12/31/2019

"When We Were Gone Astray" - Movie Review Essay: The Merry Gentleman (2008)


"When We Were Gone Astray"
by Jen Johans


Hovering on a Chicago rooftop in the darkness looking out, the first time he sees her, she's standing in the light. Arms outstretched like the statue of Jesus she'd just seen — that she tells her co-worker made her want to run into deity's arms — her pose in the window across the street from where the suicidal hitman is positioned seems to have the same effect on the man. After Frank (Michael Keaton) takes out his target in an office nearby like a sniper, he scans the windows of her building once again. Looking for Kate (Kelly Macdonald), he discovers that she's already gone . . . or at least, that's what he thought.

Standing on the ledge of the building in his second suicide attempt of the day, Frank finds himself distracted from violence yet again by those same arms and that girl. Seeing her under a streetlight this time, she looks up to where he's standing, senses his intent, and screams — causing him to fall backwards onto the rooftop to safety — as the sound pierces through the falling snow into the night sky.

Having fled an abusive husband in a different state in a brave attempt to leave the darkness of her past behind, Kate is the type of person who usually keeps her head down. New to Chicago, she seeks solace in the peaceful little things, like the gentle kiss of winter on her outstretched arms in an evening snow or a Christmas tree she picks up on a whim, to which she can't wait to add decorations and lights.


The only person she encounters who intuits enough about her past not to ask about the remnants of a bruise from her husband's fist still hovering around her eye, after the events of that fateful night where she saved a nondescript man on a ledge, Frank wants nothing more than to meet his guardian angel. Posing as a man visiting friends in her building since there's no way she can place his face from that brief glance in the dark, Frank tries to return the favor in The Merry Gentleman by freeing Kate from her newly purchased Christmas tree that's pinned her to the ground.

"I found a girl under a tree," Frank muses in their first real conversation. Chiding himself that it's dumb, he explains, "you know, you find presents under a tree; I found a girl under a tree." Smiling, getting it — and cutting through the awkwardness like the people pleaser she is, but this time an interested one — Kate tells him with a little laugh, "well, you must've been a very good boy."

Given the way that the man who poses as a gentleman's tailor by day really earns his living, obviously nothing could be further from the truth. But yet, quiet, tender, slow, and protective, something about the way he is with Kate makes it clear that he yearns to be the man reflected in her eyes, especially when she informs him, "so far we've been pretty good for one another," after only seeing him three (okay, really four) times.

Instead of leaving the tree in the dumpster after Christmas, he takes it with them on a long romantic drive at sundown to burn the once majestic tree in a field. While watching this symbolic thing that brought them together die together in a Malick-worthy mercy kill — without even understanding the dark irony about his expertise in the area — Kate tells Frank in earnest, "You just might be the sweetest man I've ever met." And in moments like this, even in spite of everything we've witnessed thus far from the man onscreen, we're inclined to agree.


But like a candle that burns down to the wick, you can only stay in the light for so long before the darkness returns. Bogged down by real world pressures such as a love quadrangle instead of a triangle, in The Merry Gentleman, Kate is pursued not only by the right man on the wrong side of the law but two wrong men — cops — on the right side of the law. Wrong does come in varying degrees, however, in this existential, modern noirish fairy tale. When the first man with a badge in Gentleman — her abusive husband played by Bobby Cannavale — shows up to beg for another chance, the second man with a badge, Dave Murcheson (Tom Bastounes) is there to answer her 911 call.

A would-be romantic suitor that Frank inadvertently brings into her life, Kate meets Dave early into the film when she calls the police about the unidentified man on the ledge and he connects it to the contract killing Frank had carried out just before he almost jumped. Taking her to dinner under the guise of following up on her report, unlike Frank who says only what he means, when that is, he speaks at all, Dave feels the need to fill every second of silence that passes between them. Telling her what she wants to hear, and then belying his words with his actions, it doesn't take long for Kate to realize that she can't believe much of what's coming out of the Chicago police officer's mouth after all.

Layering in spiritual symbolism, The Merry Gentleman knows that while some viewers will respond to the film's undeniably christian iconography with Kate-like adoration, others — like Kate's co-worker who says she isn't a religious person but she is a romantic — will not. And to its immense credit, this dark yet understated love story about good, evil, peace, and trees respects and appeals to both types of film fans.

Sophisticated, subtle, and suitably somber, but with sparks of dry wit, old-fashioned grace, and Kelly Macdonald's incandescent aura suddenly bringing even the most serious of scenes to sparklingly buoyant life, this ensemble drama is far more concerned with people than plot. Adhering to the lyrics of the eponymous Christmas carol, it fixates on those most in need of "comfort and joy" who've "gone astray."


Understanding that behavior is far more interesting than just talking to combat silence, in his bold screenplay for The Merry Gentleman, Ron Lazzeretti takes a cue from his often quiet main character to incorporate dialogue only when he must. Augmented by the chemistry of the couple at the film's core and directed with sensitivity by Michael Keaton in his feature filmmaking debut, Lazzeretti's decision, it seems, was well worth the risk. Although I encountered the film for the first time back when I covered the Phoenix Film Festival in the spring of '09, Keaton's Gentleman has continued to fascinate me on Blu-ray a full decade later.

A highly verbal actor whose skill and speed in delivering paragraphs of comedic dialogue with athletic precision has delighted audiences since the 1980s, it's both incredibly compelling and initially, a little startling to see Michael Keaton dial back his energy and bravado. In a daring turn that's wonderfully out of his comfort zone, he moves down from a Ron Howard or Harold Ramis ten — not to a Tim Burton five — but a mostly silent one.

Emotionally and physically ill at the start of the film, which was shot in just under a month, Keaton's Frank finds himself slowly coming to life for the girl who saves him twice. But still, given the gravity of things that have been left unsaid, most importantly, where Kate really saw Frank for the first time — arms stretched wide, with falling snow between them instead of her meet cute tree — the film's intelligent enough to know that these two people can't just ride off into the sunset.


An arthouse standby with the ability to infuse even minor roles — like the wife in No Country for Old Men — with goodness and warmth, Kelly Macdonald has long been one of my favorite actresses. I'm especially fond of her major turns in Two Family House (which I loved so much that I actually programmed and hosted a screening of it in Scottsdale), as well as the acclaimed yet under seen The Girl in the Cafe, which shares a cinematographer with Merry's DP Chris Seagar. Thematically similar to Gentleman and propelled by two unpredictable, opposites attract fueled narratives, both House and Girl would play very well alongside The Merry Gentleman.

A woman of humanity and good humor who, thankfully, gets to use her own Scottish accent for the film, since to see Kelly Macdonald is to love her, she's the true heart of Michael Keaton's Chicago set tale. Therefore, it's easy to see why she'd be so instantly magnetic to so many men, both right but wrong and wrong but right alike.

Benefiting from an insightful script by Lazzeretti, who was going to direct the movie until a ruptured appendix found Keaton stepping up to the plate, Gentleman also boasts a strong supporting turn by producer-star Tom Bastounes as Dave. Making sure that we never write the Chicago cop off completely, Bastounes fills his scenes with wit and pathos while playing a role that Keaton, in his comedy heyday, might've easily gravitated to in the past.


Perhaps bored by the kind of men he's already played, it's a courageous move for Michael Keaton to branch out and doubly so to step behind the camera to take on the behind-the-scenes lead role he'd been eyeing for quite awhile. And despite a frivolous lawsuit by the film's investors who foolishly tried (and failed) to blame the director for the indie not making a big profit in its 2009 limited run, this eye-opening, critically acclaimed sleeper is so good that it makes you wish that Keaton would return to direct once again.

And while, with that history, you can totally understand why he might not, in a weirdly fitting way, it actually makes sense for the film to be undiscovered. Like the tormented Frank who, in tracking down Kate, is cautiously, tentatively optimistic about a peaceful future with somebody he can be quiet with (at least for a little while), once you manage to pull The Merry Gentleman out of the darkness, you'll find yourself wanting to share it with others and help bring Keaton's labor of love to light.

Watch it Now

Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

12/27/2019

Sympathy for the Devilish - Movie Review Essay: Bad Influence (1990)


Sympathy for the Devilish
by Jen Johans


It isn't just the video camera that he bought simply because it was on sale. An ardent acquirer of things he doesn't really want or need — such as the fiancĂ© he picked up simply because he didn't want to lose the security blanket of having a girlfriend — Michael is a man whose buyer's remorse includes his whole life.

Far beyond his tentative gait and careful diction, as Michael in Bad Influence, there's a spark of desperation that fills James Spader's eyes from the very first moment he appears onscreen. Delighted and disgusted by chaos in such a way that it's begun eating at his insides, Michael doubles over in pain at the office after he's sabotaged by a coworker jockeying for the same promotion he has his heart set on and his fiance postpones their wedding by a month.

Starting the conversation off by stating she's having second thoughts — as if playing chicken with his true nature — with her seriously long '80s hair weighing her down, Ruth (Marcia Cross) misjudges his look of panic as disappointment and reaffirms her intention to marry the L.A. stock analyst within the year. But it's not the pacification he wants.


Bogged down by WASPish politeness and consumerist yuppie pride, in Michael, we see a man who wants to assert himself but always backs down. Going to a bar to clear his head (if not his stomach), Michael eagerly steps up to play the chivalrous hero for a lovely stranger but the feeling lasts a mere two minutes before his head is pushed down and he finds himself in need of a savior as well.

With the boyfriend of the upset woman Michael bought a drink manhandling the young man and ready to start some static, Rob Lowe's cocksure Alex swoops in and intervenes on his behalf. Not content just to take things right up to the line (the way that the submissive Michael has done all day), Lowe's dominant Alex brandishes a broken beer bottle in his hand, eagerly looking for any excuse to cross it.

Strangers on a beach instead of a train, in Bad Influence, Michael acquires not another object this time but a new magnetic friend in the form of Alex who, like all magnets, attracts as much as we ultimately discover he repels while helping him break bad. Bringing Spader's spark of desperation to the front burner and setting it ablaze like a stick of dynamite, Alex goes from giving Michael advice on how to handle his workplace bully to taking active, radical steps to blow up the unassuming professional's well-ordered life.


Hidden behind one of the charismatic Lowe's megawatt smiles, not to mention a career best performance by the former teen heartthrob, Alex's influence in Influence sends the two into a thrill-seeking life of crime in order to give Michael — at one point hopping up and down like a coked up rabbit on a trampoline — an even greater high.

Unfortunately, as his black sheep older brother Pismo (Christian Clemenson) warns, when you get in bed with the devil, "sooner or later you have to fuck." And that's a realization that Michael comes to way too late, and long after he brings home a randy art gallery patron himself and — with Lowe just one floor away — does just that in a thinly veiled moment of Strangers on a Train or Rope like Hitchcockian homoeroticism. Of course, the fact that his conquest involves a videotape given Spader's breakout role in Steven Soderbergh's groundbreaking 1989 indie smash Sex, Lies, and Videotape is a wonderfully meta layer of intertextuality.

Following up director Curtis Hanson's stellar 1987 Rear Window-esque effort The Bedroom Window, which he also wrote, by the time Bad Influence was released, the filmmaker had discovered the perfect genre niche that would serve him well in future hits such as The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, The River Wild, and L.A. Confidential. Hanson's mature yet tongue-in-cheek handling of screenwriter David Koepp's startlingly clever existential allegory of good vs. evil at the start of the 1990s makes Bad Influence the rarest of guilty pleasures. It's a film that's as trashy as it is classy.


Elevated by the sultry, sun-drenched, and shadow filled neo-noir visuals of Paul Thomas Anderson's regular cinematographer Robert Elswit — here in his first of three collaborations with Hanson — as well as the dynamic, fully committed, marquee level turns by its two leads, Bad Influence is a highly compelling adult thriller from the era that churned them out with assembly line efficiency.

Even when Koepp's script pushes things too far towards the terrain of camp as Lowe's character seems to be hosting a game show called "Yuppie Punk'd," the film is filled with some truly masterful sequences that pull us right along. From one scene where Michael discovers that his hand is bloody and doesn't remember why to another where he nervously hides a dead body as a couple (who could discover him at any time) fights nearby, we're right there with the empathetic Spader as we wonder just what it is he might be capable of and what, of course, he might already have done.

Putting us in the dress shoes of our conflicted, morally tested lead, the level to which we hold our breath and try to plot our way out of the men's toxic relationship is a credit to the strength of Koepp's work and foreshadows his future mastering moments like precisely like that in tense thrillers including Jurassic Park and Panic Room.


Daring to subvert audience expectations so that even when we see a game Michael start to make out with a woman at a party, it doesn't appear as though he's fully aroused until he catches Alex from above watching him score, there's a lot going on beneath the surface in a film that could, in other hands, have merely served as fodder for a sleazy Cinemax movie after dark.

A powerful early indicator of the talent involved both in front of and (especially) behind the lens in Hanson, Elswit, and Koepp, Bad remains sophisticated, even when it occasionally succumbs to the basest instincts of a by-the-numbers erotic thriller, including a blink-and-you-missed it denouement.

And while the '90s were a largely hit or miss time for the two leads — particularly Lowe, following his own Sex, Lies, and Videotape scandal at the DNC — it's an absolute treat to see the two desperately try to acquire everything in sight before realizing they're not only desperate but devilishly fucked.


Now Available


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

In the Key of Noir - Movie Review Essay: I Walk Alone (1947)


In the Key of Noir
by Jen Johans


To hear Lizabeth Scott's jaded torch singer Kay Lawrence tell it in I Walk Alone, "all the songs sound alike these days." And with their good and evil tales of antiheroes, bad decisions, and femme fatales that together create an instantly recognizable cinematic melody, Kay might just as well have been talking about the film noir genre where the tropes had been established a decade earlier in their nearest relative — '30s crime pictures.

Most evident in standard cops and robbers fare or gangster epics like Scarface, the moral quandaries of right and wrong permeated through the era's socially conscious films as well, including the union centered Warner Bros. crime melodrama Black Fury, which Walk director Byron Haskin had lensed for Michael Curtiz back in 1935.

An existential B movie noir, I Walk Alone knows the rules of the genre well and embraces them with as much matter-of-fact resignation as recent parolee Frankie Madison (Burt Lancaster) does when he sees vertical shadows on the ground and informs his friend, "bars, Dave, I guess I'll never get away from 'em." Yet while Frankie observes this with a hint of despair onscreen, Haskin appears to have taken the bars of noir as a challenge to stage a great escape offscreen.


Understanding the standard notes of noir that must be played, in the 1947 production, he opts for a different arrangement and fills his chorus with character actors like Scott, Lancaster, and a knockout Kirk Douglas, all of whom did some of their best work in the genre. And once they start singing the wry, lyrical dialogue penned by Red River scribe Charles Schnee, I Walk Alone sounds like a dream.

It looks like one too, thanks to the contribution of the great cinematographer Leo Tover who painted the lush Hold Back the Dawn and The Heiress with light during the exact same decade that he let the shadows and fog take hold here. Most importantly, as not only a former cinematographer but an award winning Warner Bros. special effects wizard who'd developed a rear-projection photography system that helped advance the medium and also worked on such landmark films as They Drive By Night, and Arsenic and Old Lace, Toller had a vital ally in Haskin.

Together, the two men knew how to make Walk's symbolic and sumptuous visuals count. The end result is a sexy, grown-up noir that shocked critics like Bosley Crowther of The New York Times who thought it violated the Hays Code and The Nation's James Agee who dubbed it "unclean, unclean" upon its post-World War II release.

In I Walk Alone, Lizabeth Scott's Kay Lawrence isn't the only one who's jaded. Long before we encounter the torch singer who feels she's "sung too many torch songs," the picture finds Lancaster's Frankie out after a fourteen year stretch that's changed the man so much that he believes that he can now smell fear. Desperate and angry, with Frankie hoping to get what's coming to him from his old partner Noll "Dink" Turner (Douglas) even though we know right away that it's hopeless, Haskin's movie feels like it would play perfectly as one half of a double bill with Straight Time, Dog Day Afternoon, or any number of other dead-end neo-noirs of the 1970s.


However, featuring an over-the-top final moment with Douglas (for which the actor has taken full credit), unlike those two films, I Walk Alone is saddled with an ending that feels out of step with the rest of the picture. And while it dulls some of its hard edges with the type of misguided musical moments that were common in the genre — as well as an all in one night, largely one set approach that makes you question Lancaster's character swings and the film's logistics — overall, this noir works far too well for it to be so forgotten.

A mature effort, Walk was based upon the play Beggars are Coming to Town by Theodore Reeves. As stylistic as it is natural, even in a few instantly quotable, lusty double entendres from scene stealer Kristine Miller, Schnee's script is filled with surprisingly wistful, half optimistic, half pessimistic sentiments ideally suited to characters in their thirties who've been around the block a few times. Unafraid of complex conversations that, just like in unrehearsed real life, spiral off in any number of directions over a period of minutes, in I Walk Alone, two long, talky sequences stand out.

Dropping lines that still feel fresh today, in a drawn-out dinner date between Scott and Lancaster, she suddenly confesses, "I've never been out with a man who didn't keep talking about himself and end up thinking he knew all about me," before marveling that tonight — opposite the chiseled, silent as a vault ex-con who can smell fear — the opposite is true.


And this recurring theme of expecting the unexpected when it comes to the man who just can't escape the bars of his past continues on in a heartbreaking hold-up sequence where Frankie learns the hard way just how much the world has changed in fourteen years. Discovering that he can't use a gun to rob a bureaucracy or board of directors in a scene with Kirk Douglas that Douglas plays with so much amused venom that you half expect poison to drip from your TV, I Walk Alone proves it's far more sophisticated than one might expect.

Though still not as fun or frisky as the director's Lizabeth Scott led follow up, Too Late for Tears, this film, which I hadn't seen in decades, hits much harder as an adult when you're closer in age to the characters onscreen. A towering figure if there ever was one, with his masculine, musically clipped cadence and unflappable charisma, Lancaster easily draws you into the film's conflict so that you're on his side before he even crosses those shadowy bars in the very first sequence.

However, intriguingly going against those expectations, in the first of seven films Lancaster would make opposite Douglas and the first and only one where he received second billing, it's Douglas as the handsome shark — leaning back in his chair like the chairman of the board — who really gets under our skin.


Lounging like a playboy in his robe or running his hand through his hair as though he could shake Lancaster right out of it, the ease with which Douglas tells his worried henchmen that he can handle his old friend foreshadows his '50s climb to the A-list with star turns in films like The Bad and the Beautiful, and 2 Weeks in Another Town (also written by Schnee).

Likewise when, as Scott sings, Walk makes "a fool out of someone who cares" as Lancaster temporarily allows himself to be handled, the coolly calculating Douglas helps propel the film forward until our leading man changes his mind. Of course, then, having stared Douglas down every time he unleashes that deadly smile, we're eager as ever to walk along with Lancaster's fool so that he won't have to go it alone, regardless of the rushed ending and a few minor bumps along the way.

An existential melodrama sung in the key of noir, the harmonious I Walk Alone teaches us that, even if the song sounds the same, with this cast and crew fiddling with the arrangement, it'd be foolish not to care.

Now Available


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

12/17/2019

"Loves Music, Loves to Dance. Husband Included." - Movie Review Essay: Deep Water (1981)


Loves Music, Loves to Dance. Husband Included.
By Jen Johans


Melanie (Isabelle Huppert) dances with her lover while her husband Vic (Jean-Louis Trintignant) plays chess. Vic eyes the moves she makes as he makes his own five feet away, playing visual chicken with her dance partner who's turned on as hell but doesn't know quite what to do when her husband's in the room. Where should he put his hands? His mouth? He tries using both at once and Vic doesn't flinch.

Vic knows his wife; he's the reason they're dancing, after all. Seeing her restless — sometimes going to change a record, or join another lover at the piano, or follow a third into the woods as if the handsome clarinetist were the Pied Piper — Vic knows he can't begin to keep up with the men, let alone compete with them sexually.


Sex isn't something Vic seems terribly interested in overall in Michel Deville's Deep Water . . . except when it comes to the Delilah to his Samson as Melanie's sexuality seems to fill him with as much disgust as the men hoping to bed his wife right before his eyes. Her naked body — even the sight of one breast exposed when her dress strap breaks — seems to incite obsessive repulsion as does the fact that she refuses to cover up to spite him. For Vic, it isn't misogyny but Melanie. He makes a tentative pass at the sweet wife of one of Melanie's lovers but does so halfheartedly. Facing internal defeat, Vic tells her that she's the type of woman he wants to love but it's no more than a passing thought. The man can't control his nature and love her or hate her (or more likely both), that nature is Melanie.

Raising his young daughter alongside Melanie in a French seaside town, their unusual marital arrangement to stave off divorce is a sudsy open secret. Yet while his wife flourishes in the company of so many adoring men — some of whom their young daughter likes better than others because they come bearing gifts — Trintignant's perfumer prefers to spend what little time he has away from his family with the pet snails that he keeps on their secluded property instead.


Vic observes the little creatures that most would turn into escargot with as much interest as he has watching Melanie and her men dance. Although initially we assume the attraction is because he feels like a sexually humiliated snail of a man, as the film continues, we wonder if his hobby has a different impetus altogether. Perhaps he admires the snails because — like the men who sneak off at parties to change into a bathing suit with his wife or drag their lips slowly down Melanie's neck even if he's nearby — Vic knows he could end their life at any time. In fact, he might have done so already, and not only to the snails. And that's the main thesis that initially piques out interest in Deville's 1981 slow burn psychosexual thriller, which was released in France as Eaux profondes.

Toying with one lover's nerves at a party by taking credit for an unsolved murder after the man thanks Vic for being cool with him dating his wife, we watch as Vic's chess skills spring to life and fear that (more?) violence will follow.


A stellar adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's 1957 eponymous novel from the country that seems to understand how best to bring her tales of sexual obsession to life, Trintignant's restrained yet dynamic portrayal of Vic is magnetic after the very first scene, and we watch him with Vic-like intensity.

Just like French filmmaker Jacques Demy's Model Shop plays particularly well with Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Deep Water feels like it would make a thrilling double feature with Stanley Kubrick's thematically similar tale of marital temptation and warfare, Eyes Wide Shut. Additionally, if you can find it, it's a great one to visit now before Fatal Attraction director Adrian Lyne releases his own adaptation of Highsmith's novel in 2020.


Bringing multilayered complexity to a role that, on paper, reads like a mere strumpet, the way that Isabelle Huppert uses silence and her eyes, combined with the length of time she takes to give someone her verbal or visual attention foreshadows the outstanding work she would do in this (and every) genre in the years to come. A tremendously talented actress, perhaps best suited to the many shades of noir, if ever there was a woman born for Highsmith, it's Isabelle Huppert.

Testing the patience of some twenty-first century film fans, Deep Water waits quite awhile to let us in on the first plot twist and longer still before it eventually reveals its whole hand. And while I found myself wishing that Deville would've used even more of the running time to — in taking a cue from Huppert's performance — play up the duality of the proceedings, the '81 feature still works considerably well, nonetheless.


A largely forgotten French neo-noir with a potent antihero turn by Jean-Louis Trintignant, while the film belongs in the great pantheon of unhappily-ever-after movies, its tense, nasty, twisted little plot helps set it apart from the rest, even in scenes where it misses the mark. In the latter respect, it features a fascinating yet unfortunately largely unexplored angle wherein Melanie and Vic's daddy adoring daughter is not only not bothered by rumors that her father might be a killer but is actually proud of it . . . which thrilled and chilled this fan of the genre.

Yet despite a few stumbles, it's safe to say that you'll be easily seduced into dancing along with the film. Just be careful not to stand too close to the edge — or another man's wife — while he watches you squirm and plays chess.

(Availability Note: I recently caught this film on MUBI, where it played for thirty days before disappearing. If you'd like to check out MUBI so you can catch more films like Deep Water, click here to get 30 days free on me.)


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.