Saturday, July 23, 2011

Criterion Critiques w/ Alex DeLarge

What follows is the first in what will be a regular series of reviews on the always wonderful, and quite indispensable Criterion Collection, written by our special guest reviewer Alex DeLarge of the Korova Theatre.

KISS ME DEADLY (Robert Aldrich, 1955)
Released on Criterion blu-ray 6/21/2011, spine #568

Mike Hammer is as hard and lean as a railroad spike driven into concrete, seduced by mystery and a dark poem of remembrance. Director Robert Aldrich's debut is a brutish noir transformed by cloak and dagger thrills, an explosive algorithm of cold war ethics. Aldrich turns the genre upside-down like the opening credits (read from bottom to top!), a cinematic excursion where a femme fatale whispers a nuclear polemic.

Mike Hammer lives in the subconscious, the penumbra of the Id, always racing like a jaguar towards the fulfillment of his pleasure principle. He is the prototypical anti-hero, dressed to kill with a temper to match, raping women with only a sideways glance. But Hammer is soon made impotent, victim of a faceless "they" who seek the great "whats’it", his good deeds never seeming to go unpunished. He is forced to pick up a voluptuous hitchhiker and soon embroiled in a thermonuclear winter of discontent, and stalks the nightmarish truth for his own vengeful purposes, an ignoble purpose of National insecurities. A whispered epitaph becomes a steel key, a violent travelogue that leads to an irradiated treasure locked away, ashes and brimstone of the new atomic age.

Aldrich captures the film with skewed angles and a creeping malaise, as men in black consume the night with a biblical fury, summoned by a government bureaucracy to stand guard like demonic sentinels, harbingers of a world without hope: these are men who are much worse than the petty evils of Mike Hammer. Aldrich utilizes film noir gumshoe tropes but advances a scientific element, a Periodic Chart to fuel this explosive admixture. In this monochrome world, no one is pure but an amalgam of intents and desires, prostituting themselves to the highest bidder. The film ends with Hammer and his moll fleeing into the crashing surf while the world burns down.

Final Grade: (A)

*************
About Alex: "To state things plainly is the function of journalism; Alex writes fugitive reviews, allusive, symbolic, full of imagery and allegory, and by leaving things out, he allows the reader the privilege of creating along with him." Alex can be found hidden deep within the dark confines of his home theatre watching films, organizing his blu-ray and dvd collection and updating his blogs. Please visit the Korova Theatre and Hammer & Thongs to see what’s on his mind.

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