Thursday, August 09, 2007

Murder in Three Periods

I've just finished filling my head with three fictions (or semi-fictions?) over the course of this week. All centered around murder most foul, and all were satisfying narratives in their own way.

The first was a novel called "The Interpretation of Murder," by Jed Rubenfeld, who also happens to be a law professor at Yale. The story is based around Sigmund Freud's visit to Manhattan in 1909, his first trip to the U.S. and the beginning of the psychiatric watershed in the States. His understudy takes on the case of a girl who was attacked after another young girl was killed. The story is very clever, a real page-turner, basically historically accurate, and full of surprises. Involves turn of the century New York, architecture, conspiracy, Shakespeare's Hamlet, social strata, guilt, sexual psychology, science vs. nature themes, and of course, evil deeds.

While reading this book, I rented two DVDs I had my eye on. One was "Brick," a detective story set in a U.S. high school today. An ode to Dashiell Hammett and film noir, the movie doesn't wink as it lays out a complex plot complete with hard-boiled dialogue, tough but nosy protagonist, sleazy tramps and dealers, the femme fatale, the trusted accomplice, the law and order figure, and the underside of high school life: lockers, drama class, social strata (again), losers and jocks, etc. Fascinating, intriguing, and fresh, but I needed the subtitles to keep up. Looks and feels like a masterful independent work. Made Entertainment Weekly's list of Top 50 High School Movies, though it surpasses most of the dreck in that genre. All due respect to "Back to the Future" and "Dazed and Confused".

Finally, I was able to snag my video store's only copy of "Zodiac," directed by David Fincher. I was very excited about this: I love the director, it has an incredibly talented cast, it is a period piece set mostly in the seventies, and it is based on the case files of a notorious murderer. So it was a very good film, but perhaps my expectations were too high. I wanted to be dazzled by Fincher, like with "Fight Club" and "Se7en", but this was a straightforward cop/journalism story with moments of tension at the crime scene. I think Fincher was going for a more mature film without getting pigeonholed with a genre ("Alien 3") nor playing off today's headlines/fears ("Panic Room"). That being said, the film is very good, requiring the first hour to introduce everything, and the next 1.5 hours to care about the characters and the situations in which they find themselves. Great production design and soundtrack. Robert Downey Jr. is once again remarkably watchable and frenetically funny.

Time to get back to reality. If I hear the neighbor's stereo one more time, I'm going to kill him!

P.S. Why doesn't the alternate U.S. ending of "Pride and Prejudice" (Keira Knightley, 2005) feature giant transforming robots destroying England's stately homes? The filmmakers really missed an opportunity there.

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At 1:07 PM, Blogger tafka PP said...

I have a really good article about "Brick" I'll try and dig out for you... and why would you bother watching the Keira Knightley version of P&P? There's only one Mr. Darcy...


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