Archives for April 2013

Burt Lancaster on the big screen: ‘The Killers’ and ‘Criss Cross’

UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theater will present a terrific double bill on Saturday, May 4: two works from film-noir master Robert Siodmak, starring Burt Lancaster.

Burt Lancaster made his screen debut in “The Killers,” co-starring Ava Gardner.

In addition to being handsome and lithe, Lancaster projected intelligence, sensitivity and depth. He made his screen debut in “The Killers” (1946), adapted from an Ernest Hemingway short story and co-starring Ava Gardner. Lancaster can’t break Yvonne De Carlo’s spell in “Criss Cross” (1949), a brooding narrative of betrayal set in the back alleys of post-war downtown Los Angeles.

The evening is part of the Lancaster centennial celebration presented by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program. The celebration of Lancaster’s movies runs through June 30. The Film Noir Foundation’s Alan K. Rode is the special guest on May 4.

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Osborne shares highlights of this year’s TCM Film Festival

TCM host Robert Osborne speaks Wednesday at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. Photo by John Nowak

“She’s so beautiful, you can’t believe she’s in her ’80s, and she’s so nice,” said TCM’s Robert Osborne about actress Ann Blyth, who co-starred with Joan Crawford in the classic domestic film noir “Mildred Pierce.”

Blyth will discuss the role when the movie screens at the TCM Film Festival, which starts Thursday at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. Osborne told journalists at a roundtable on Wednesday that he was surprised that Blyth wasn’t typecast. “She was so effective as the mean daughter [Veda] that you hated. Why didn’t that affect her career? She played sweet ingénues after that.”

Club TCM at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. Photo by John Nowak

Other festival highlights for Osborne include interviews with other guests and screenings of “Funny Girl,” “Razor’s Edge,” “Cluny Brown,” and “Desert Song.”

The schedule features a strong film-noir component. “The mood is so rich, it’s a prominent part of the festival,” said TCM’s head programmer Charlie Tabesh. “We noticed that it was immensely popular last year. The theme was style and it fit in very well so we wanted to keep it up this year. People like to see these films on the big screen.”

Inside Club TCM at the Roosevelt. Photo by Edward M. Pio Roda

TCM host Ben Mankiewicz also touched on the popularity of noir and guest programming by the Film Noir Foundation’s Eddie Muller. Mankiewicz said he wants to suggest a night dedicated to neo-noir director John Dahl (“Kill Me Again,” “Last Seduction” and “Red Rock West.”)

“Dahl clearly had a keen appreciation of ’40s and ’50s noir,” Mankiewicz said.

A vintage photo of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly at Club TCM. Photo by Edward M. Pio Roda

We at FNB would love to see a Dahl night. Until then, we can get our fill of these fantastic screenings. And there’s a plethora of photos and memorabilia on display at the Roosevelt. For example, today, before opening night, there’s a special presentation of a suit Humphrey Bogart wore in “The Big Sleep.”

So now it’s back to the Roosevelt! We will be updating on twitter for the rest of the fest.

All photos TM & (C) Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc.

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On the radar: Paris pleasures, the Plaza goes ‘Gatsby’ and film fixes in Los Angeles

The City of Lights City of Angels (COL•COA) film fest at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles ends Monday night. On the slate are free screenings as well as announcements about awards and contest winners.

In the mood for a trip to Paris? In addition to the City of Light’s usual coolness, I found out about these two shows. Also, as always, there are noteworthy noirista events in New York and Los Angeles.

The Enchanted World of Jacques Demy,” at Cinémathèque française, presents film clips alongside costumes, photographs, paintings, drawings and sculptures created by artists who were influenced by the New Wave director. Closes Aug. 4.

A 200-foot long garden, created by landscape designer Piet Oudolf, marks the entrance to “No. 5 Culture Chanel,” an exhibition opening May 5 at the Palais de Tokyo. Coco Chanel launched No. 5, now a world-famous fragrance, in 1921. This show surveys art, photographs, films and music from that era, and highlights her plummy social network. (High-profile chums included Picasso and Jean Cocteau). Curated by Jean-Louis Froment. Closes June 5.

The Plaza Hotel in New York is hosting “The Great Gatsby Getaway” contest. One winner and a guest will win film-premiere tickets, a night at The Plaza, plus an f&b credit. The movie hits theaters May 10. Broadway nitty gritty: Alec Baldwin plays a gangster on the lam in “Orphans,” a revival of Lyle Kessler’s 1985 play at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Closes June 30.

“Blade Runner” is one of many great movies showing as part of AFI’s event.

The American Film Institute (AFI) Night at the Movies, a one-night-only event, takes place Wednesday, April 24, at the ArcLight Hollywood, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd. This is a chance to see classic movies with the filmmakers and stars who made them. It’s a great lineup, boasting some top-notch noirs. You can also see the schedule for Classics in the Dome, eight films that will show early next month.

The much-anticipated Turner Classic Movies Film Festival starts Thursday, April 25, and runs through Sunday, April 28. This year’s theme is cinematic journeys. We at FNB will be out at this fest in full force, natch.

The Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) will host a Dashiell Hammett evening on Saturday, April 27, at the Los Angeles Athletic Club (downtown). Hammett is remembered for for his contributions to hard-boiled crime fiction and his stand against McCarthyism. Join Hammett scholar and granddaughter Julie M. Rivett as she explores her grandfather’s controversial political life, his relationship with Lillian Hellman, and the decades of consequent troubles that have tangled Hammett’s estate. Ticket includes dinner and parking; cash bar.

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French thriller ‘In the House’ opens intimate, mysterious doors

In the House/2012/Mandarin Cinéma, Cohen Media Group/ 105 min.

“In the House,” a new thriller by François Ozon, made me think of this quotation from Alfred Hitchcock: “I’m a writer and, therefore, automatically a suspicious character.”

In Ozon’s story-within-a-story film, there are two writers – a 16-year-old student named Claude (Ernst Umhauer), precocious and a bit of a pretty boy, and jaded, middle-aged Germain (Fabrice Luchini). With one poorly received novel under his belt, Germain now teaches in a French high school and struggles to endure his students’ mediocre essays.

But his passion for teaching is reignited when he reads some of Claude’s writing –personal, thoughtful and fresh – and certainly far more promising than the work his classmates produce. Germain shares his enthusiasm with his wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) when he brings the assignments home at the end of the day and discusses them with her.

Claude has picked a provocative topic: a voyeuristic account of a classmate’s everyday home life, cozy and comfy, unlike Claude’s apparently more deprived situation. By tutoring Rapha (Bastien Ughetto), Claude gains up-close access to the family, observing their seeming contentment as well as sensing the underlying frustrations of Rapha’s sexy and mysterious mom (Emmanuelle Seigner) and his easygoing, jocular dad (Denis Ménochet).

Against his better judgment, Germain encourages and evaluates Claude’s literary efforts, even though he knows it is a risky experiment. Germain lectures him on the process of writing, the purpose of literature. As Claude’s creative muscle builds, the line between reality and fantasy is blurred, and the stakes are gradually, dangerously raised for all the players in this riveting domestic drama.

I am always curious about the work of director-writer François Ozon, perhaps most famous for “Potiche,” “Swimming Pool,” and “8 Women.” He has an easy touch with bold subject matter, a knack for humor (whether deadpan, dark or absurd) and a talent for making well paced, well acted thrillers that reflect his inventive, sometime s cheeky, vision while paying subtle homage to old-school suspense masters like Hitchcock, Henri-Georges Clouzot and Claude Chabrol.

Where Ozon falters slightly with “In the House” is in the movie’s visuals. Perhaps because it’s based on Juan Mayorga’s play, “The Boy in the Last Row,” Ozon’s version feels a bit too theatrical and stagebound. That said, telling the tales are terrific actors (Luchini, Scott Thomas and Seigner in particular). And, driving the suspense, Claude’s true motivation remains intriguingly elusive throughout.

“In the House” opened Friday in New York and LA at the Landmark.

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The Noir File: Gene Tierney is the deadliest of femmes fatales in ‘Leave Her to Heaven’

By Mike Wilmington and Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir and neo-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

Gene Tierney exudes cool menace in “Leave Her to Heaven.”

Leave Her to Heaven” (1945, John M. Stahl). Monday, April 22, 10 p.m. (7 p.m.).

What’s the most important thing a woman can give to a man? Staggering beauty, brains and breeding? Check, check, check. Sanity, however, does not always make the list, at least in the case of Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) and Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde), the principal characters in “Leave Her to Heaven.” The two meet on a train and marry, tad hastily. Richard soon discovers that beneath his wife’s exquisite surface is a green-eyed monster with murder on her mind.

John M. Stahl’s stylish adaptation of Ben Ames Williams’ best-selling novel of romance and suspense is one of the most unusual of all ’40’s film noirs. For one thing, it isn’t photographed in expressionistic black and white, but in gorgeous color, all the better to set off Tieney’s delicate beauty and that of Jeanne Crain, the gal Richard mistakenly didn’t marry. It takes place not in the city, but in a pastoral lake home, surrounded by green trees and blue sky. Ellen comes from an affluent family; Richard is a writer.

Still, “Leave Her to Heaven” does boast a classic film noir plot and one of the supreme movie femme fatales who’s not the person you want standing behind you on a high staircase, with no witnesses. (With Vincent Price.)

James Dean

Friday, April 19

1:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.): “Blackboard Jungle” (1955, Richard Brooks). A movie/pop culture trail-blazer, adapted by writer-director Brooks (“In Cold Blood”) from Evan Hunter’s novel of New York City juvenile delinquency. Glenn Ford is the dedicated new teacher, Anne Francis is his supportive wife, Louis Calhern is the faculty snob and Richard Kiley is the enthusiastic fellow teacher who gets his vintage jazz record collection smashed by his students. Among the juveniles, a stellar bunch, Vic Morrow is the bad kid, Sidney Poitier is the good kid and Paul Mazursky is a creepy little hood. The credits song was the smashing debut of Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”

3:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m.): “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955, Nicholas Ray). James Dean became the movies’ all-time romantic teen-age icon when he pulled on his red jacket and played a confused knife-wielding kid named Jim Stark in this lyrical and violent drama of high school crime in the L. A. suburbs. Natalie Wood as Judy and Sal Mineo as Plato make up the rest of the movie’s main threesome of outsiders, the teen hoods include Corey Allen as Buzz, Dennis Hooper as Moose and Jim Backus is the father whom Jim wants to stand up for him. In 1955, Nick Ray’s most famous film was adored by American teenagers and by French intellectual cinephiles and cineastes. It still plays like a fever dream of movie love and violence.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “His Girl Friday” (1940, Howard Hawks). With Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell and Ralph Bellamy.

Saturday, April 20

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Freaks” (1932, Tod Browning). With Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles and Wallace Ford.

Jessica Rabbit

Sunday, April 21

10 a.m. (7 a.m.); “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988, Robert Zemeckis & Richard Williams). If Raymond Chandler and Chuck Jones had ever sat down together over a few beers, this is what they might have come up with: a fantastic amalgam of classic private eye mystery and brilliant razzle-dazzle Looney Tunes cartoonery – undoubtedly the greatest animated film noir feature ever made. The movie creates an alternate world and a different 1947 Los Angeles, where humans and cartoons co-exist.

Most of the noir detective story archetypes are here – the tough shamus (Bob Hoskins as Eddie Valiant), the murder suspect (Charles Fleischer as long-eared fugitive Roger Rabbit), the femme fatale (Kathleen Turner as cartoon bombshell Jessica Rabbit), the suspicious boss (Stubby Kaye as studio head Marvin Acme) and the formidable lawman (Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom).

These characters then wonderfully rub elbows with the royalty of cartoondom: the likes of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Betty Boop. The live action and animated stuff are expertly blended and the result is classic neo-noir for the nostalgic and the young at heart. It’s an absolute detecto-delight.

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In ‘Ruthless,’ director Edgar G. Ulmer moves (temporarily) from Poverty Row to Paradise

Ruthless/1948/ Producing Artists/105 min.

“Ruthless” was recently released on Blu-ray by Olive Films.

By Michael Wilmington

The Czech-born émigré film director Edgar G. Ulmer, as noir as they come, was called the King of Poverty Row by some of his cultish admirers.

Pictures like Ulmer’s 1945 low-B film noir “Detour,” his 1939 African-American ultra-indie “Moon Over Harlem,” the 1951 low-fi sci-fi “The Man from Planet X” and the 1955 cheapo Western “The Naked Dawn” stretch the limits of cinematic ingenuity stimulated by minuscule budgets. In Ulmer’s undisputed masterpiece “Detour,” the director shows buildings lost in the night and fog – a spine-chilling effect – because there was no money for a street set.

“Ruthless,” by comparison, is a fairly lush production, with a multitude of richly detailed sets, high production values and a cast that ranks just below A-level. The film has that sense of impending evil and doom that also marked Ulmer’s 1934 Boris KarloffBela Lugosi horror classic “The Black Cat.” Even when “Ruthless” becomes absurd – as in the fervidly ludicrous climax – it’s always fun to watch.

Zachary Scott, the great film noir lounge lizard, here plays the ruthlessly successful financier Horace Woodruff Vendig.

Zachary Scott, the great film noir lounge lizard, here plays the ruthlessly successful financier Horace Woodruff Vendig who cheats, double-crosses and sleeps his way to the top, then shrugs it off when a one-time ally commits suicide. Louis Hayward is his often-abused and appropriately named best friend Vic Lambdin.

Sydney Greenstreet is Buck Mansfield, a fellow businessman and rival who’s not quite ruthless enough. Diana Lynn, double-cast, is the love (or loves) of Horace’s life. And that ace noir heavy of heavies Raymond Burr pops up as well. All this for a director who usually counted himself lucky if he got actors like Tom Neal and Ann Savage, the doomed couple in “Detour.”

Scott, a sometimes underrated actor (he was tremendous in both “Mildred Pierce” and in Jean Renoir’s “The Southerner”), manages to show the warmer, more seductive qualities beneath the ruthlessness of Vendig. Greenstreet seems miscast playing a guy named Buck. But he has a good time as the vengeful ex-tycoon, as does Diana Lynn (twice) and Burr, who can occasionally, though not here, seem like a second-string Greenstreet.

Sydney Greenstreet plays Vendig’s rival who’s not quite ruthless enough.

The subject of “Ruthless” is wealth, its hypocrisies and the price it ultimately exacts from the soul of the taker. The obvious inspiration for “Ruthless,” which was based on a novel by Dayton Stoddart (I know, I’ve never heard of him either), is the film of films, Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.” From Kane, Ulmer and his screenwriters borrow the multiple flashback structure, the deep-focus camera virtuosity, the theme of the sins behind great fortunes, the foil of the humanistic best friend (Hayward) and the main character with three names.

Edgar G. Ulmer

As for Ulmer – the low-rent auteur who persevered through often threadbare productions, including “Damaged Lives,” a low-budget 1933 cautionary drama about venereal disease – “Ruthless” must have made him feel as if he’d migrated temporarily from Poverty Row to Paradise. While “Ruthless” is not as good as “Detour,” it does show that Ulmer could have functioned very well, if the powers that be let him move more often to the right side of the tracks. (The rumor is that the director was banished to the likes of Producers Releasing Corp. and Eagle Lion because he’d seduced the wife of a major studio bigwig.)

But almost anybody can be better with better stuff and the one big advantage of working on Poverty Row is that you’re left alone if you can get it done on time and on (you’ll excuse the word) budget. Ulmer and his charmingly disreputable and penny-wise films will always be special treats to devotees of black and white Hollywood.

Now let’s go watch 1960’s “The Amazing Transparent Man.” I hear the reason the Man was transparent is that there was no money for another actor.

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COL•COA film festival kicks off with a comedy

“It Happened in Saint-Tropez,” a comedy directed and co-written by Danièle Thompson, is the opening night film at the City of Lights City of Angels film fest (COL•COA) tonight at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles. It is the movie’s North American premiere. Now I must go and get gala-ready!

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Film noir features prominently at TCM Classic Film Festival

Cinematic Journeys: Travel in the Movies is the theme for the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival, which takes place in Hollywood April 25-28. The lineup will explore how movies can carry viewers beyond their hometowns to distant or imaginary locales, where they can be transformed by great storytelling.

What I’m most looking forward to, though, is the slew of film noir treats and the special guests that make the fest so memorable. They are:

The Killing
In person: Coleen Gray

The Night of the Hunter

The Narrow Margin
In person: Jacqueline White

Bonnie and Clyde
In person: Robert Benton

Notorious

On the Waterfront
In person: Eva Marie Saint

Cape Fear
In person: Polly Bergen

The Lady Vanishes
In person: Norman Lloyd

They Live by Night
In person: Susan Ray

Mildred Pierce
In person: Ann Blyth

Try and Get Me

Badlands
In person: Ed Pressman, Billy Weber

Gilda
In person: Debra Winger

The Birds
In person: Tippi Hedren

Three Days of the Condor
In person: Max von Sydow

Dial M for Murder
In person: Norman Lloyd

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The Noir File: ‘The Set-Up’ is a highlight of Robert Ryan Day

By Michael Wilmington and Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir, sort of noir and pre-noir on cable TV. All movies below are from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

Robert Ryan plays the role of Stoker Thompson with dignity rather than sentimentality, with realism rather than melodrama.

The Set-Up” (1949, Robert Wise). Wednesday, April 10, 2:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m.). Boxing was a sport that the quintessential film noir tough guy Robert Ryan knew very well. Ryan was a four-year college boxing champion at Dartmouth, and later, when he became a Hollywood star, one of his finest roles and movies came in Robert Wise’s low-budget gem “The Set-Up,“ where Ryan played a seemingly washed-up prizefighter named Stoker Thompson – he’s been set up to lose what will probably be his last fight. Stoker’s craven manager Tiny (George Tobias) has been paid to insure Stoker throws the fight, by a crooked gambler (Alan Baxter), who has a big bet against the veteran. Tiny thinks it’s a sure defeat anyway. But Stoker still has his pride, still has his memories of what it was like when he was almost great and he doesn’t want to lie down in the ring, even if the mob will punish him severely if he doesn’t.

The film, which is based on a narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March, plays out in real time, beginning shortly before the fight, ending shortly after it. Wise, who is at his best as a director, gives “The Set-Up” relentless pace, tension, compassion and a marvelously seedy low-life atmosphere of matter-of-fact corruption and impending doom. Audrey Totter (in an untypical sympathetic role for this classic film noir dame) plays Stoker’s worried wife Julie. Wallace Ford is a salty old ring guy and Alan Baxter is Little Boy, the natty gambler who has the bet down and the muscle to back it up.

Ryan, one of the great film noir heavies, could play sociopathic bad guys like few other actors on screen. But here, he endows Stoker with the humanity and the grace under pressure that this great actor always had, but that we rarely see in his classic noir villain roles. Ryan plays this proud, beleaguered, supposedly over-the-hill fighter with dignity rather than sentimentality, with realism rather than melodrama, and with an intimate knowledge of the ways men can inflict bodily harm on each other for money.

Of all those tough and perceptive movies that show the dark side of professional boxing – “Body and Soul,” “Champion,” “Fat City,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight” and the others – “The Set-Up” may be the best. Once you hear the final bell, you’ll never forget it.

Wednesday, April 10: Robert Ryan Day

7:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m.): “Crossfire” (1947, Edward Dmytryk). With Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Robert Young and Gloria Grahame. Reviewed on FNB November 20, 2012. [Read more…]

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Neo-noirs now playing: ‘Trance,’ ‘The Company You Keep,’ ‘Room 237,’ ‘The Place Beyond the Pines,’ ‘Spring Breakers’

By Michael Wilmington and Film Noir Blonde

The Noir City film fest starts tonight at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Additionally, Joanna Lancaster, Susie Lancaster, actor Ed Lauter and author James Naremore will attend tonight’s screening of a new print of “Sweet Smell of Success” at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood.

And in case you’re more of a full-color fan, there are a several interesting neo-noir titles opening this weekend and currently playing in Los Angeles theaters. (Check your local listings for showtimes.)

Trance/2013/Fox Searchlight Pictures/101 min.

Danny Boyle’s new movie “Trance” begins with the theft of a world-famous painting (Francisco Goya’s spooky “Witches in the Air”) from a London auction in mid-sale. It continues through all kinds of slick neo-noir alleys and crannies of bloody gangsterism and psychological mystery, and ends with an unraveling that twists and turns, and changes a lot of what went before.

What seems to be happening at first is a clockwork heist of the painting, complete with smoke bombs and switcheroos, by a brutal but stylish gang led by the fashionable Frank (French star Vincent Cassel). One of the auction house’s employees, Simon (James McAvoy), tries to save the painting by encasing and running off with it. (Or does he?). And he’s stopped and cracked on the head by Frank. (Or is he?)

Soon we discover that Simon is part of the caper, that the painting has now disappeared and that, because of the head-crack, Simon hasn’t the foggiest where it is. So Frank hires a luscious and oh-so-smart American hypnotherapist named Elizabeth (played by Rosario Dawson), to unlock the priceless secret in Simon’s mind, which she confidently tries to do. (Or does she?)

Boyle is rejoined here by his first screenwriter John Hodge (of “Shallow Grave” and “Trainspotting”), along with Joe Ahearne, who wrote (and directed) the 2001 TV film, also called “Trance,” on which this “Trance” is based. Like “Shallow Grave,” there’s a touch of meanness about the movie along with a roller-coaster speed, which can slightly discombobulate and even alienate you, while still giving you a dependably thrilling ride.

The actors are all top-chop and compellingly neo-noirish, including the hypnotic Dawson, the spellbound McAvoy, all the heavies and especially Cassel. The film, shot by Boyle’s usual camera-mate Anthony Dod Mantle, is full of glowing colors, helter-skelter action, pungent villains and sumptuous sights – the most sumptuous of which is the beautiful and brainy Ms. Dawson. As they said in the heyday of ’40s noir when a real femme fatale walked by, hubba hubba.

The Company You Keep/2012/Sony Pictures Classics/125 min.

“The Company You Keep,” a political thriller based on a Neil Gordon novel, is Robert Redford’s ninth film as a director and his first as both actor and director since 2007’s “Lions for Lambs.” Contemplative, nostalgic and insightful, “Company” satisfies, despite being a little short on suspense.

He plays Jim Grant, a public-interest lawyer and single father, who lives a quiet life in a suburb of Albany, New York. Grant’s peaceful existence is shaken up when an ambitious reporter named Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) reveals that Grant is a former Weather Underground activist wanted for murder.

Grant must leave his daughter behind as he leaves Albany to find the person who can clear his name. As Grant backtracks through his past associations and across the country, he’s pursued by the FBI and by Shepard, eagerly digging for more details to use in his next story. Grant has more than one secret, natch.

The tension isn’t as strong as it needs to be in a thriller and the denouement, in Michigan’s upper peninsula, seems a bit tacked on – something we’ve seen many times before. But, for me, those were minor quibbles. Redford creates an unforgettable mood of wistfulness and regret, of love lost and found.

He elicits memorable performances from an outstanding cast, which includes Julie Christie, Sam Elliott, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper and Susan Sarandon. Shot by Adriano Goldman, the naturalistic cinematography and striking compositions serve the story well.

“Dissent can be dicey,” says Sarandon’s character. In “Company,” Redford takes a nuanced look at a dicey chapter of American history.

Room 237/2012/IFC Midnight/102 min.

No matter how many times you’ve seen Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980), it’s unlikely you’ve delved into its subtext and symbols, and dissected its meaning(s) to the extent that the talking heads have in a new doc called “Room 237.”

Director Rodney Ascher puts the spotlight on die-hard fan/theorists who have spent years studying this mesmerizing, iconic yet flawed film starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers and Danny Lloyd.

These fans (ordinary folk as opposed to industry-insiders, authors, academics or other experts) offer extensive and elaborate arguments for their interpretations, which range from the movie being a metaphor for genocide to proof that Kubrick faked the Apollo moon landings footage.

You may walk out believing none of the theories, but the energy, enthusiasm and imagination of these diligent decoders is great fun from start to finish.

The Place Beyond the Pines/2012/Focus Features/140 min.

“The Place Beyond the Pines” is the Iroquois Indian phrase for Schenectady, New York. Schenectady is where this madly ambitious neo-noir – about father and sons, motorcycles and bank robberies, and tragic destiny – takes place and where the movie was shot, super-documentary style, by director/co-writer Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”) and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (“Hunger” and “Shame”).

Watching the collision between an outlaw and a cop, and its aftermath, is often riveting. The cast, an unusually good one, is topped by Ryan Gosling (as a carnival motorcyclist turned bank robber) and Bradley Cooper (as the cop). Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne and Ray Liotta are supporting players.

It’s a terrific-looking film. Cianfrance and Bobbitt shot the movie in a kind of coldly sunny blur of metallic speed and near-constant movement that starts out with a five-minute-long tracking shot.

“The Place behind the Pines,” unlike most big-star Hollywood vehicles, is something the people involved obviously cared about, that they wanted to be great. And it had a chance. The problem is the third act, which is by far the weakest. The dramatic devices are too easy to spot, the resolution too pat and some of the scenes too hard to swallow.

Spring Breakers/2012/A24/94 min.

Harmony Korine’s movies – up to and including his latest, “Spring Breakers” – are mostly outlaw pictures and weirdo comedies about people who don’t want to grow up, or shouldn’t have to: kids, crooks, artists. “Spring Breakers” is about four college girls who take off for collegiate revels in Tampa, Fla., and begin to descend into Hell.

It may be the apotheosis or culmination of all the Korines: a picture that starts off, as many have noted, like an arty “Girls Gone Wild” video, inflated to Hieronymus Boschian or Pieter Brughelian beach party proportions, and ends up doing a riff on the Al PacinoBrian De Palma 1983 “Scarface,” mashed up into “Charlie’s Angels” gone homicidal.

It’s a sometimes fascinatingly dumb movie, about fascinatingly dumb people doing fascinatingly dumb things. The story makes absolutely no sense. But some of “Spring Breakers” is great – namely the shimmering, sun struck , stunning cinematography (part of the movie was shot quasi-verité at an actual spring break) by Belgian/French maestro Benoit Debie. And there’s the amazingly entertaining gangsta-pranksta performance by James Franco. His brain-fried hip-hop-druggie, Alien, who calls his bed an art piece and plays piano and AK47s, is a triumph of charismatic dopiness and rebel posturing.

The ending is beyond ridiculous and not funny enough to save things. The four femme stars (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) could have used better parts and better lines, but what the hell? The movie’s credibility vanishes after the restaurant robbery scene anyway, which is shot flashily, in a “Gun Crazy”-style single take.”

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