Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Robert Duffin reviews his ten favourite films, Part 3

Mulholland Drive
USA 2002
Director: David Lynch
Screenwriter: David Lynch
Runtime: 148 mins
Certificate: 15
DVD Distributor: Vision Video

With a crackle of electricity and a puff of blue smoke David Lynch can have me sweat drenched and quivering as if awaking from the most horrifying of nightmares. For me, there had to be a Lynch film on the list, and I turn to American uber-critic Roger Ebert for the reason why it had to be this one: “David Lynch has been working towards Mulholland Drive all of his career. At last his experiment doesn’t shatter the test tubes.”

Contributing to its transfixing quality is the lead performance by Naomi Watts, which I think is the most accomplished female acting performance of recent times. Her initial appearance and performance as a naïve ingénue who is unfeasibly innocent towards the Hollywood machine at first comes across as weak pastiche acting. Yet this is quickly dispelled as the film progresses and her character Betty’s identity begins to crumble, and Watts is left emotionally raw. The audition scene is sheer perfection, as Watts stuns you with her versatile handling of multiple characters; you simply can’t take your eyes off her.

The pairing of Lynch and cinematographer Peter Deming creates a sublime terror in the director’s most gorgeous looking film. The noir cityscape of Los Angeles is foreboding and instils a sense of alienation, and the camera creeping around the corner of the hotel room to reveal the corpse glistening with rot gets the heart pumping. The cinephilic community that can build around Lynch’s cinematic texts are equally part of the experience of the film. Debating theories and meanings with people as equally enthused by the film gives the unique and thrillingly impossible sensation of discussing a shared dream.

Some Like It Hot
USA 1959
Director: Billy Wilder
Screenwriter: Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond
Runtime: 117 mins
Certificate: PG
DVD Distributor: MGM Home Entertainment

Billy Wilder had to be on my list and picking only one was far from easy given his ability to spin gold in any genre. Yet the classic screwball comedy Some Like It Hot wins out this time for its pace, firecracker wit and effervescent laughs.

The screenplay has a ridiculous number of guffaws. The interplay between the characters offers so many great quotable lines: “Water polo? Isn’t that terribly dangerous?” “I’ll say I had two ponies drown under me!” The script is perfectly written, combining slapstick, one-liners and, more lastingly, repetitive motifs and dialogue hooks. There are also some sublimely perfect moments such as the smitten ‘Daphne’ playing the wrong side of his double bass and Tony Curtis’ Cary Grant aping oilman (“nobody talks like that!”)

The characterisation and performances are incredibly sharp. Lemmon and Curtis as the worrier and the schemer respectively are the classic comedy duo, and when they cross-dress and subvert the expectations (Lemmon embraces his inner female while Curtis becomes the conservative) it’s even funnier. Marilyn Monroe here proves her comic acting ability with her faultless dialogue delivery; she finds the exact laugh in every witty barb (“Real diamonds? They must be worth their weight in gold!”).

The first time I saw the film I didn’t laugh out loud many times yet I knew it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. After multiple viewings I can safely call it the best comedy ever made as unlike contemporary counterparts it gets funnier the more familiar you are with it. Some Like It Hot is most definitely on the sweet end of the cinematic lollypop.

Read Part 4 tomorrow!

No comments: