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Tag: Max Von Sydow

The Exorcist

by on Oct.29, 2010, under Daily Review

Tubular Bells. That’s what this one is all about. Many films have catchy theme tunes, but this one is about as haunting as it gets. Mike Oldfield’s perfectly crafted score echoes through the film as we witness the possession of a young girl by an obscene spirit. The mother is at the end of her tether as any parent would be in this situation. The score is not only the sound of the movie, but the theme of their lives, we see a breakup of a household, a cry of help to medical science and finally religion, which seems to run the course of the film. But is it religion that saves Regan and takes the spirit or pure dedication on behalf of a guilt ridden man?

Let me break down the plot. A young girl, Regan (Linda Blair) becomes antisocial to the point of her actress mother Christine (Ellen Burstyn) having to seek medical help. Agitating the problem, uncovers a deeper problem, possession by the devil. Meanwhile, a local priest Father Karras (Jason Miller) is at conflict over his demented mother, haunted by the loss and the incarceration which leads to her death. His Father questions his son’s choice of career, hinting with a better vocation, his mother wouldn’t be in this situation. An instant question of faith. Karras is asked into the lives of Christine to help with Regan. I should have also mentioned the devil hunter, Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow), a priest dedicated to the art of exorcism.

The film is beautifully shot, very sterile and documentary for the most part with a cold wintry feel, low on colour, which allows the actors to truly take centre stage. This film is about people, interaction, emotion and loss. Christine is a single parent, wealthy, but lonely with only her daughter, Regan as any form of real company. Regan is without father desperate for attention. Father Karras is battling with his faith over the loss of his mother. He’s determined he’s made the correct vocation although still blames himself for his family’s hardship. The relationship between Karras and Christine is reflective in sex, wealth but reversal in the mother sibling role. It’s this connection which gives us the final conclusion, making a choice for a mother.

Dick Smith creates amazing effects here. A veteran in the art and here does a sterling job. I love Regan’s neck swelling up, but the full possessed Regan is very hard to beat. As far as scares goes, this one allows a slow build up through it’s clinical style to allow a sudden killer shock. Christine walking along the corridor towards Regan’s room is one of the first big hitting moments, opening the door to see the bed bouncing all over the place.

It’s been said that Director William Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty had a difference of interests and artistic differences with the finished result of this film but it’s hard to fault and seems about as perfect a movie as could have been made. This is a big film, clever, deep, questioning and thinking at all times. It’s a great film with a very difficult subject matter; child possessions are always tricky through walking the balance of decency and believability. This was back in ’73 and as terrifying today as it was back then. Many have tried to recreate and nearly all fail. This is the original possession masterpiece.

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Sleepless

by on Sep.30, 2010, under Daily Review

Argento’s return to form some might say. It was hyped at the time and I actually remember enjoying this one when it came out, straight to DVD. I’d built it up to a godlike level but forgave it for a lot of what it isn’t or couldn’t live up to. This time around, I’m watching with fresh eyes and less expectation; also directly on the back of Phenomena, how will it sit?

The plot is a complex giallo murder crime flick. A retired officer (Max Von Sydow) is pulled back into a re-opened case which he worked on some years earlier. A dwarf crime novelist, who was the main suspect, committed suicide, leaving the case at a loose end. But someone is back, using the dwarf’s literature as an MO, slashing up girls in a gruesome style.

The film is a kinda homage to all that’s gone before. Argento has cherry picked his way back into the genre by recreating some wonderful set sequences, which are all very familiar and a real joy to watch. The plot is crazy and swings all over the place, but irons out perfectly. Gore is top form here too with Sergi Stivaletti in the hot seat creating some amazing effects and some vicious nasty stuff.

Argento has collected the best of his past and the best he could recruit too. Von Sydow brings credence to the film, Goblin reformed especially for this and knock out a stunning fresh new score. Franco Ferrini script and Ron Taylor on DP. A perfect team by anyone’s standards.

That window is back again! The first murder, a brilliantly played out scene with a girl (Barbara Lerci) stalked on a train. Great pace and a great sequence of events which truly captivate the viewer. At her demise, I was actually awaiting the head to crack through the train window, but this time, a bit subtler as she is left, screaming and dragging her bloody hands down the glass as the train pulls into the station, her friend awaiting on the platform. Stunning stuff.

One further point, Argento seems deeply rooted with the idea of trauma generated at childhood, a haunting which emanates to a point of character decline to a downward spiral of violence. This theme is repeated through many of his films and at play here. Finally, a quick word about his use of colour. As I’ve mentioned, we’re getting a lot of his past through reflection which couldn’t be created without some blue, red and green gels. The disco scene is beautifully lit, a celebration in itself. Likewise, rooms are pained in contrasting reds and blues, a subtle yet distinctive sign of his move back to grace.

Give this one the opportunity it deserves. It’s a stepping stone to what could be a welcome return, and also a tip of the hat to previous accomplishments, and also very enjoyable.

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