Friday, 18 May 2007

Emma J Lennox reviews her ten favourite films, Part 5

The Hudsucker Proxy
USA 1994
Director: Joel Coen
Screenwriters: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Runtime: 111 mins
Certificate: PG
DVD Distributor: Universal Pictures Video

The Coen brother's The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) is my next choice which tries to recreate old fashioned love through a modern lens. The year is 1958 and it is soon to be 1959, the clock on the Hudsucker industries building states 'the future is now' and everything is aglow with the hope of modernism. Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins) and Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are the couple in question yet the real romance story is the Coens' love for cinema itself, in particular the work of Preston Sturges and Frank Capra. The Coen brothers know how to rewrite the myth, and their period films always gleam the best from nostalgia to mix with their own skewed perspective. In highly stylistic overtones The Hudsucker Proxy has several montages, acting is similar to screwball comedies and the music evokes the drama of Gershwin. Dialogue has always been crisp in Coen brothers films, but here they can hark back to His Girl Friday quality in particular Archer's character, the brassy journalist; 'I used to think you were a swell guy. Well, to be honest, I thought you were an imbecile. But then I figured out you were a swell guy...a little slow, maybe, but a swell guy. Well maybe you're not so slow, but you're not so swell either. And it looks like you're an imbecile after all!' The camera work however, is modern; slow tracks create a dynamic quality as if it was a musical that never quite got around to the songs.

Though many Coen films were in contention, I chose The Hudsucker Proxy because it is a playful film. With its cyclical symbols and its expressionist design, it celebrates an era which I adore to see; men in fadora hats and fast talking, funny women.

Dead Man's Shoes
UK 2004
Director: Shane Meadows
Screenwriters: Shane Meadows & Paddy Considine
Runtime: 90 mins
Certificate: 18
DVD Distributor: Optimum Home Entertainment
To finish the list I have chosen Shane Meadow's Dead Man's Shoes (2004). Like my other choices, the film continues the themes of travelling, memory, meaning, and effective use of music. It could have been another grim portrayal of working class Britain with dour humour yet developing rapidly is a troubling undercurrent of sadness and terror. Paddy Considine plays Richard, on one hand loving brother to Anthony (Toby Kebbell) and on the other vengeful psychopath. As in its near namesake, Dead Man, death is portrayed as an eternal, inevitable force complimented by folk music and a stalwart sense of place.

Getting picked off one by one is a gang of drug dealing delinquents. Undesirable as they may be the naturalistic style renders them as individual characters who impart amusing banter. I consider it a British trait to be able to mix humour into the darkest situations, and the initial torturing by Richard is so playful it could be part of a comedy (even members of the gang find it funny). However, in the doping scene the full implications of Richard's hatred become apparent as we witness his executions for the first time. Memory and guilt flood the drug addled brains of the remaining three as Richard observes them, 'are you the devil?' one asks, and when Richard shakes his head he questions further, 'Jesus?' Dead Man's Shoes makes my top ten for its unshakable nerve and for possessing the energy of a horror and a western simultaneously. The films I have selected fit into what I consider my philosophy of film viewing; I am a fan of experiencing the unknown and unexpected, and I value emotional over narrative identification. It may not be an infallible list but then nobody's perfect, and that's what makes life interesting.

This concludes Emma J Lennox's Top Ten!
Thanks for reading!

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