Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Film Rolls, Round 10: The Other Side of Gentleman and Le Doulos

Oops, another case where I ordered something in a Kino Lorber sale because I didn't recognize it but thought it sounded good, though the reason it sounded good was because the description was actually that of a movie I've seen and enjoyed. Well, good for Bruce.
A three gets Mookie into the Ringo Lam section, a thing we have because there were a whole ton of discs showing up on DDDHouse right around the time of his death and, sure, add that one to the cart. I kind of expected to land on one of his better-known action pictures, but instead got this oddity from early in his career, although, not actually complaining.
Bruce, meanwhile, gets another high roll in 14 gets him into the West and Le Doulos, which I think I probably saw as part of part of the virtual Noir City International series the Film Noir Society did along with the AFI Silver in Washington in 2020, which, honestly, seems much too recent for me to not remember. Once I started to get into it I wondered if maybe I should move on to the next thing on the shelf (Lady in a Cage), but, heck, far enough ofit's not like this is some sort of real competition.

Which gets us here:

Jun zi hao qiu (The Other Side of Gentleman)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 17 August 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Hong Kong Blu-ray)

I'd be kind of curious to see an American remake of this, because this is a goofy scenario that plays out in weird but enjoyable-enough fashion, but the type of weird seems to be, if not, specific to Hong Kong, at least far enough off that it could maybe use a bit of localization, because the basic idea feels like it could play anywhere.

That idea has a group of community leaders, worried about out of control youth, hypothesize that the affection of a good, stable woman could get one more under control. They set their eyes on motorcycle goon Alan Ng (Alan Tam Wing-Lun) voluntell Coco (Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia), a college student in their group, to take the part, even though she's engaged to one of her professors, also a member. Naturally, Alan falls hard and tries to change to impress her - it is Brigitte Lin, after all - she is both trying to avoid getting too close and looking for excuses to break it off, although, hey, even if this clod is manipulated, he's sincere, while he fiancé (Chang Kuo-Chu) was apparently okay with this whole thing.

Tam was apparently a big Cantopop star who did movies but I don't know if he ever became a movie star the way, say, Andy Lau would, and I wonder if that's behind the decision to make Alan the character a doofus who maybe can't become the guy this group wants, so that the film doesn't have to ask a lot of him, acting-wise. He gives it what director Ringo Lam and the writers are asking for, a plug who is actually kind of dangerous when he lashes out, though one with some teddy bear potential, a good ones to Chang Kuo-Chu giving Professor Cheung kind of black but mean potential. Lin does pretty well hitting the line where she's kind of awful for Alan but sympathetic for the situation she's put in.

And yet, something about it just doesn't quite click with me. Right from the start, Alan is never as amusing as the weirdos in the committee, even though he's built as a character who is supposed to be inherently funny; right from the start, his constant drip of big dumb lug material is never quite as funny as the scattered, high-test weird stuff. There are times when this could just be a really broad "guy from the wrong side of the tracks falls for a high-class girl" movie, which is fine, but it's hard to shake the feeling that something funnier could be going on.

Le Doulos

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 26 August 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Blu-ray)

Someday, I think I'm going to just mainline all of Jean-Pierre Melville's movies. You could probably do it in a 24-hour period, if so inclined, and enough of them are stone classics that getting past any filler from early in his career won't be much of a big deal.

Le Doulos, which is at the direct center of his timeline, is not filler, but a twisty-enough piece that there's not much shame in rewatching, or even rewinding, to make sure that one has picked up on all the details which lead up to the finale or even just a given moment. Melville's adaptation of Pierre Lesou's novel is dense and matter-of-fact in a way that sometimes can work against it, as his business-like approach can sometimes mean that, even as he's laying things out plainly, he's not necessarily activating the emotions that would give that information a better hook into the viewer's head.

But that's how a lot of Melville's films work; you don't necessarily have to get into an analytical mindset, but an observant one, paying attention to the details because, even if none of it is quite Rififi, this film still has the sort of authentic-feeling crime details that build suspense honestly. It nudges you into that frame of mind, though, and presents things as just disconnected enough that one is actively tying pieces together and eventually working out what is true, what is false, although the option is there to just sort of marinate in noir-inspired New Wave cool.

Either way, it's a very fun performance from Serge Reggiani as recently-released burglar Maurice Faugel, who exudes enough of that cool to click with the audience even as he starts out amoral and detached and never becomes a different guy. Maurice is an often-nasty little guy in a nasty world, and his principles aren't good ones, but he still has them, a compelling crook even when Reggiani is playing him as poker-faced.

I thought this was a new-to-me one, and it's an easy-enough mistake to make given that I may have seen it under some translated title and during a program where a lot of movies can blend together, but just a couple minutes disabused me of that - it's one where, even if you don't remember the whole of it, you remember that it is good stuff from the word go.

That puts ten rounds in the books, leaving me only eight behind, and curious if Mookie will catch up to Bruce by the time I catch up to myself. As of now, the standings are:

Mookie: 35 stars
Bruce: 42 ¼ stars

Still not quite in striking distance - barring double features and twenties, Moodie needs two masterpieces against two disasters to really catch up - but, again there's plenty of board to go before the finish.

Some distance to go, and that great big box set isn't the only thing that could change things in a hurry!

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