‘Kill Your Darlings’ tells noirish backstory of beat poets

Kill Your Darlings posterKill Your Darlings/2013/Killer Films/104 min.

Thinking about the 1940s, an era largely defined by World War II vets and the women they came home to, it’s easy to forget the generation just after – the post-war crop of young people on the cusp of adulthood as the long battles finally ended and the course of history forever changed.

I was reminded of that watching “Kill Your Darlings,” a dark story about poet Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), the relationships he forged with other beat-generation writers while at Columbia University and his connection to a 1944 murder.

As a student, Ginsberg clashes with academic convention. On the personal front, he quickly falls under the romantic spell of fellow student Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), a feline beauty: polished, urbane, subversive and jaded. Through Carr, Ginsberg meets the rugged and dynamic, as well as older and more established, Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and the bizarre, dope-addicted literateur William Burroughs (Ben Foster). On the fringe of their circle is Carr’s mentor-turned-stalker (and one-time lover?), academic David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall).

Director and co-writer John Krokidas masterfully renders the period and its prejudices, and elicits exceptionally good performances from his energetic cast – they are all memorable, especially Ben Foster as Burroughs. Jennifer Jason Leigh, as Ginsberg’s mother Naomi, is also a standout. Though it doesn’t play as a thriller (it’s not trying to, particularly), “Kill Your Darlings” tells the tense, disturbing, sometimes-moving backstory of a few inspired and reckless geniuses who redrew the boundaries of literary expression.

“Kill Your Darlings” opens today in LA.

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Film noir events crowd the calendar this month

There is much to entice noiristas this month in Los Angeles and elsewhere. So much, in fact, that I’ve compiled this handy list.

Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame star in "The Big Heat."

Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame star in “The Big Heat.”

Tues., Oct. 8 @ 1 p.m.: “The Big Heat” (1953, Fritz Lang) plays on the big screen at the Bing Theater, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036.

Additionally, “The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema,” featuring the work of cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, runs at LACMA through Oct. 11. “Luis Buñuel and Gabriel Figueroa: A Surreal Alliance” runs Oct. 12-19.

Wed., Oct. 9 @ 7:30 p.m.: Writers Bloc hosts a conversation with Valerie Plame, memoir author and former CIA Operations Officer. At the Ann and Jerry Moss Theater at New Roads School, 3131 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404.

Also starting Oct. 9: The Aero and Egyptian theaters host the inaugural Beyond Fest, “an international buffet of badass cinema” that showcases recent horror gems along with classics. In-person guests, live music. Beyond Fest runs through Oct. 31.

Thurs., Oct. 10: The 49th Chicago International Film Festival opens with a gala screening of “The Immigrant.” This year’s fest is dedicated to the late great Roger Ebert. The CIFF runs through Oct. 24. The fest’s After Dark slate of titles never fails to intrigue.

"Sunset Blvd." will screen Oct. 19.

“Sunset Blvd.” will screen Oct. 19 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

Sat., Oct. 12 @ 6 p.m.: Redcat in downtown LA hosts a panel discussion on the controversial French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot and his contribution to 1960s aesthetics. Screening of “La Vérité” (1960 Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language Film).

Sat., Oct. 12 & Sun. Oct. 13: The Vintage Fashion Expo premieres at its new home in Los Angeles at The LA Convention Center.

Thurs., Oct. 17 @ 7:30 p.m.: Writers Bloc hosts a conversation with Norwegian author Jo Nesbø (“Headhunters”) whose new novel is Police: A Harry Hole Novel. At the Goethe-Institut, 5750 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036.

“Moonrise” plays Oct. 21 at the Billy Wilder Theater at UCLA in Westwood.

“Moonrise” plays Oct. 21 at the Billy Wilder Theater at UCLA in Westwood.

Sat., Oct. 19 @ 2 p.m.: Illustrated presentation on “The Corner” and screening of “Sunset Blvd.” (1950, Billy Wilder) at the Egyptian Theatre (part of the Egyptian’s 91st anniversary weekend). Los Angeles historian Marc Chevalier will discuss the social nexus of Hollywood in the golden age: Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights (now West Hollywood). Followed by “Sunset Blvd.,” which features Schwab’s Pharmacy as a location.

Mon., Oct. 21 @ 7:30 p.m.: “Moonrise” (1948, Frank Borzage) at the Billy Wilder Theater at UCLA in Westwood. A luminous and rarely screened crime drama starring Dane Clark, Gail Russell and Ethel Barrymore.

Tues., Oct. 22 @ 1 p.m.: “Shockproof” (1949, Douglas Sirk) plays at LACMA’s Bing Theater. Written by Helen Deutsch and Samuel Fuller; starring Cornel Wilde and Patricia Knight.

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Alfred Hitchcock by the numbers

This terrific chart appeared in The Guardian in August; copyright Adam Frost and Zhenia Vasilev.

hitch_10 copy4

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‘Chinatown’ screens to mark aqueduct’s 100th anniversary

Chinatown posterThe Natural History Museum in downtown Los Angeles will mark the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct by hosting a screening of the neo-noir masterpiece ”Chinatown,” directed by Roman Polanski and written by Robert Towne. Doors open at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27; the screening starts at 7 p.m.

David Ulin, book critic of the Los Angeles Times, will moderate a brief panel discussion with history professor William Deverell, cultural commentator Sandra Tsing Loh and Christine Mulholland. They will discuss the facts and fiction in Polanski and Towne’s iconic look at greed, power, lust and the rise of modern Los Angeles. This event is free, but space is limited. RSVP HERE. Use the Exposition entrance. You can bring a picnic or buy dinner from on-site food trucks.

We love this film so much we reviewed it twice: FNB’s review and Mike Wilmington’s review.

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Film Noir Blonde’s beauty picks for fall 2013

Guerlain's 2013 collection clearly channels film noir. Love the berry-colored lips and nails.

Guerlain’s 2013 collection clearly channels film noir. Love the berry-colored lips and nails.

Try pairing a half-moon manicure in this sumptuous shade with nude polish on the toenails.

Try pairing a half-moon manicure in this sumptuous shade with nude polish on the toenails.

Bond No. 9's latest New York City swoon: Perfumista Avenue.

Bond No. 9′s latest New York City swoon: Perfumista Avenue.

Designer Tory Burch said her mother's vanity table inspired her new fragrance and beauty collection.

Designer Tory Burch said her mother’s vanity table inspired her new fragrance and beauty collection.

Phylia de M, a hair restorer/thickener, is receiving rave reviews.

Phylia de M, a hair restorer/thickener, is receiving rave reviews.

Kate Winslet for Lancome is inspiration for any femme fatale.

Kate Winslet for Lancome is inspiration for any femme fatale.

Add a pop of bright color to emphasize your eyes with Lancome's Art Liner 24H.

Add a pop of bright color to emphasize your eyes with Lancome’s Art Liner 24H.

After a five-year hiatus, Jo Malone is back with Jo Loves. Gift-buying dilemma now over.

After a five-year hiatus, fragrance guru and former florist’s apprentice Jo Malone is back with Jo Loves. Gift-buying dilemma now over.

Dior first introduced Dior #9 in 1953. This classic red was recently relaunched as #999.

Christian Dior first introduced Dior #9 lipstick in 1953. This classic red was recently relaunched as #999.

Dior's New Look photographed for Vogue.

Dior’s New Look photographed by Serge Balkin for Vogue.

Chanel's gorgeous Cast a Spell collection is new this fall.

Chanel’s gorgeous Cast a Spell collection is new this fall.

When Marilyn Monroe was asked what she wore to bed, her answer was Chanel No. 5.

When reporters asked Marilyn Monroe what she wore to bed, her answer was Chanel No. 5.

Looking forward to a spritz of Estée Lauder's Modern Muse and, I hope, a surge of creativity. ;)

Looking forward to a spritz of Estée Lauder’s Modern Muse.

Since the '90s, Lorraine Massey has been helping those with hard-to-tame tresses embrace their inner curl. But her products are new to Space NK in Brentwood. Cheers, Lorraine!

Since the ’90s, Lorraine Massey has been helping those with hard-to-tame tresses embrace their inner curl. But her products are new to Space NK in Brentwood. Cheers, Lorraine!

The nice girls at Space NK in Brentwood recommended Life Daily Fix Foot Cream to heal my dry cracked heels. Perfect for a post-yoga slather. Take that, Warrior 3 and Reverse Half Moon!

The nice girls at Space NK in Brentwood recommended Life Daily Fix Foot Cream to heal my dry and cracked heels. Perfect for a post-yoga slather. Take that, Warrior 3 and Reverse Half Moon!

Lipstick Queen founder Poppy King says she had vintage Hollywood in mind when she created her Velvet Rope lipstick collection. Shown here is Star System, a nude with A-list oomph.

Lipstick Queen founder Poppy King says she had vintage Hollywood in mind when she created her Velvet Rope lipstick collection. Shown here is Star System, a nude with A-list oomph.

Laura Mercier's Dark Spell Collection looks truly divine.

Laura Mercier’s Dark Spell Collection looks truly divine.

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Hitchcockian thriller ‘Prisoners’ calls for multiple viewings

Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman star in "Prisoners."

Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman star in “Prisoners.”

Prisoners/2013/Warner Bros./153 min.

Tense and absorbing, “Prisoners” ranks as a solid three-star flick. When two 6-year-old girls go missing, one of the fathers – a carpenter and hunter named Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) – quickly reveals himself to be a brutal vigilante, intent on beating information out of a mentally disabled man brought in for questioning and then released (Paul Dano).

Jake Gyllenhaal, as the obsessive cop assigned to the case, pursues another suspect and eventually Jackman chases yet another – all of the suspects, we learn, share a shattering connection. Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Melissa Leo round out the cast. Aaron Guzikowski wrote the screenplay.

Québec-born director Denis Villeneuve thoughtfully tells a complex, Hitchcockian tale and elicits memorable performances from the cast, especially from Gyllenhaal (perhaps his best work since “Zodiac.”)

On the downside, there are some rather drafty plot holes, the pacing is slightly off and, while Jackman is very watchable, the script’s characterization of Keller Dover proves more facile than fascinating. Still, it’s engrossing enough that you might feel like watching it twice to catch all the clues. And the ending is superb.

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On the big screen: Style doc ‘Mademoiselle C’ and three neo-noir titles: ‘A Single Shot,’ ‘Prisoners, ‘The Family’

Mademoiselle CMademoiselle C/90 min.

In defense of full-on glamour, Joan Crawford once said, “If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.”

Fashion insider Carine Roitfeld, the subject of a new documentary called “Mademoiselle C,” echoes that view and takes it up a notch. Running French Vogue for 10 years, Roitfeld became known for her edgy “porno-chic” aesthetic.

After her Vogue gig ended, Roitfeld decided to launch her own mag in New York, CR Fashion Book, and the film chronicles this experience. Interestingly, unlike Crawford, Roitfeld has a tranquil home life, complete with adoring husband and two gorgeous, grown-up children.

Fashionistas will likely enjoy watching Roitfeld at work and seeing her rub elbows with celebs such as Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld and Diane Von Furstenberg. And Roitfeld exemplifies Parisian chic style, stateside. Director Fabien Constant’s touch is light and lively, though overall it feels quite superficial – a bit like browsing through Vogue, glancing at all the glossy pictures and skipping the stories.

“Mademoiselle C” opened Sept. 11 in New York and opens Sept. 20 in LA at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills.

A Single Shot posterA Single Shot/116 min.

John (Sam Rockwell) is backwoods/country guy trying to make ends meet and looking to patch things up with his estranged wife and son. It’s when he resorts to poaching that his troubles begin and he’s quickly caught in a noirish trap – there’s a big pile of cash, sleazy lowlifes aplenty and a dead body, natch.

Director David M. Rosenthal’s haunting visuals help create a moody atmosphere but the film is undercut by its draggy pace and characters who feel less than authentic, particularly John and his blasé reaction to his own pivotal act of violence. Matthew F. Jones wrote the novel and screenplay. William H. Macy, master of the unctuous interloper, wears a scary toupee and preposterous plaid to great effect. Opens Sept. 20 in New York and in LA at Laemmle’s NoHo 7 in North Hollywood.

Prisoners movie posterPrisoners/153 min.

“Prisoners” looks set to be one of the fall’s best offerings, especially with such a stellar cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello and Paul Dano. Québec-born Denis Villeneuve directs. Am seeing it this weekend and will come back soon to update. Opens Sept. 20.

The Family/111 min.

In case it’s not clear from the cloying ads and previews, “The Family,” should do everyone a favor and stay at home. Despite a strong cast (Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones) who manage to eke out good performances, the film is weighed down by a weak script and a story that is both illogical and predictable.

This is a crime comedy? Really? Sadly, it’s just not funny. Snazzy camerawork eventually became distracting as did the trying-too-hard-to-be-cool score. I expected more from director Luc Besson. Opened Sept. 13.

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Highlights from the next Sunday with Hitch on TCM

Sundays with Hitch smaller sizeTCM’s monthlong celebration of the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, and his stellar filmmaking continues on Sunday, Sept. 15.

Here’s what we at FNB are especially looking forward to. Must pop copious quantities of corn. Yum!

“The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956)

Vertigo

“Rear Window”

“To Catch a Thief”

You can see the full schedule here.

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‘Partly Fiction’ is fully compelling, beautifully shot

Partly Fiction/2013/Adopt Films/77 min.

Partly Fiction posterAt 87 years old, Harry Dean Stanton is just as interesting to watch as he was 50 years ago, when he first started appearing on movie screens.

Perhaps that’s because the actor and veteran of neo noir has a look — like Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones — that ages for sure but never really gets old, no matter how many decades pass. Classically handsome, not so much but Stanton’s rugged, weathered face is singularly expressive. Or as Sam Shepard puts it in a wonderful new documentary on Stanton: “His face is the story.”

Directed by Sophie Huber, “Partly Fiction,” is an of-the-moment glimpse into an iconic actor’s oeuvre and a mysterious man’s heart. Through interview footage, clips from some of his 250 films and his own renditions of American folk songs, we see a loner, an artist and a Hollywood survivor. Stanton is someone who has been steadily successful on his own terms in a cut-throat industry famous for using, abusing and discarding talent. Maybe his secret is he doesn’t seem to take Tinseltown or himself too seriously.

At least that was my impression as Stanton discussed his early days, working with his friends, acting greats Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson. We see him at home and at a longtime hangout, Dan Tana’s in West Hollywood as he talks a bit about his roots in West Irvine, Ky., the craft of acting and a relationship that left him “broken-hearted.”

Offering their takes are on what makes Stanton tick along with Shepard are David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Kris Kristofferson and Debbie Harry. Seamus McGarvey provides luminous camerawork (black and white at Stanton’s home, color when he ventures out).

“Partly Fiction”’s  story is rich, resonant and real.

“Partly Fiction” opened Wednesday in New York. It opens today in LA with select cities to follow. Director Sophie Huber and Harry Dean Stanton will be doing a Q&A tonight (Friday, Sept. 13) following the 7:30 p.m. show at Landmark’s The Nuart in West LA.

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Flaws in ‘You Will Be My Son,’ are easy to forgive

You Will Be My Son/2011/Cohen Media Group/102 min.

I have a soft spot for French family dramas – they are usually very well made, the stories often conceal a sharp edge within an elegant setting and, more often than not, the acting is excellent. So it’s pretty easy to overlook flaws – even glaring ones.

That’s the case with “You Will Be My Son,” a contemporary father-son saga, set in a Saint Emilion vineyard. The blustery, boisterous father, Paul, (Niels Arestrup) has dedicated his life to making wine and wants to groom his successor. One candidate is his weak-willed son Martin (Lorànt Deutsch), who wants the job but lacks true passion and talent.

On the other hand, family friend Philippe (Nicolas Bridet) is just the ticket. Philippe’s his ailing father François (Patrick Chesnais) is Paul’s right-hand man and charming Philippe also has the glitzy credential of being a star at the Coppola vineyard in California.

Directed and co-written by Gilles Legrand, “You Will Be My Son” is an engrossing melodrama (that sometimes veers into silliness) with elements of a good old-fashioned thriller – male rivalry, bromance, suspense, high stakes, deadly consequences.

Now the flaws: While the script probes the characters fairly deeply, the father-son relationship is extremely heavy-handed. It seems that when Baby Martin came bouncing into the world, it was hate at first sight for the not-so-proud papa. Everything the son does (even jogging) irritates Dad. Both actors are well cast and Arestrup gives a particularly great performance but the script could have used more subtlety in shading this fraught bond between the principal characters. Couldn’t we see at least one scene where they connect on some level?

Also, the final twist hits a false note, stemming more from expediency than from inevitability.

Still, this engaging flick is easy on the eyes with good dialogue and strong acting.

“You Will Be My Son” opens today in Los Angeles.

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