PUBLIC ENEMY (Mathieu Frances & Gary Seghers, directors) Nordic Noir & Beyond  How often does a new crime series from abroad sample elements fairly shamelessly from several of its predecessors? In the Belgian Public Enemy, we are given the sociopathic heroine who finds it difficult to interact with her colleagues (shades of both and The Bridge and The Killing), a highly intelligent, hyper-manipulative serial killer who is able to get inside the minds of his those he encounters (Hannibal Lecter, anyone?) and a variety of situations which will be familiar to any aficionado of Scandi and Eurocrime. In fact, we are able to forgive Public Enemy. these cheeky borrowings, as the results here are comprehensively gripping – and the central performance as the damaged copper by Stéphanie Blanchoud completely holds the attention. After 20 years in prison Guy Béranger (an ice-cold Angelo Bison), a dangerous child murderer, is released on parole to the custody of the monks at Vielsart Abbey. This leads to an outcry from the small village nearby and to the rest of the country. When a young girl disappears on the outskirts of the abbey, the entire village is in uproar. Chloé Muller (Blanchoud), a young inspector based in Brussels, is assigned to the investigation to protect the despised Béranger. Her investigation brings her face-to-face with the fears and secrets of the seemingly peaceful local community. The Nordic Noir & Beyond’s DVD Box Set release of the Belgian thriller has crisp, well-defined picture quality.

STORMY MONDAY, Mike Figgis, director/Arrow  As I wrote in British Crime Film, Newcastle was to prove a useful locale for the British crime narrative. After Get Carter, Mike Figgis’ ambitious first feature, Stormy Monday (1988), is a deftly constructed crime thriller on the perils of associating with criminals (familiar territory, yes, but given a certain shaking up). Adroitly mixing gangsters, seductive women and jazz, and relocated piquantly to Figgis’ native Northeast (perhaps the film’s most successful strategy), Stormy Monday cannily balances innovation and social commentary with a loving homage to film noir. The singer Sting (coaxed, for once, into something that actually resembles a performance) stars as Finney, a laconic Newcastle jazz-club owner who crosses the path of crass American entrepreneur Cosmo (the ever-reliable Tommy Lee Jones). Cosmo wants to involve Finney in a land development deal – if only he’ll give up his club. Entering into this increasingly dangerous game of brinkmanship is Kate (Melanie Griffith), a part-time upscale prostitute trying to put her past behind her. Could a relationship with the club’s innocent young apprentice (Sean Bean) offer a shot at redemption? With striking cinematography by Roger Deakins, Stormy Monday makes one willingly forgive its frequent missteps.

THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, Dario Argento, director/Arrow Blu-ray  Readers will, I hope, forgive me quoting once again from my own Italian Cinema. Usually to the throbbing, high-decibel accompaniment of the music of Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin (his long-time collaborator), the early and mid-period films of the energetic Italian Dario Argento were once breath-stopping rollercoaster rides of painterly visuals and graphic horror. Argento’s feature film debut, the poetically titled The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L’Uccello dalle Piume di Cristallo, 1970), augured well for his career – a commercial success in 1970, it looks a fascinating dry run for many ideas to be more fully developed in later films. Tony Musante plays an American writer in Italy who witnesses a murderous assault through glass (prefiguring David Hemmings in the later Deep Red (Profondo Rosso, 1976); he is trapped between sliding glass doors while attempting to aid the bleeding victim (Eva Renzi) – and this sequence seems to be the one people remember over the years – probably because Musante’s subsequent tracking down of the black leather-clad murderer is handled with rather less panache than Argento was to develop in subsequent films. There are of course visual delights galore – a marvellously Hitchcockian chase of a yellow-jacketed hired killer (one of several loose ends not really tied up) that ends with a joke worthy of North by Northwest: a murder by razor that utilises sound as chillingly as Polanski did in Repulsion (a word would be in order here about Ennio Morricone’s mesmeric score, cleverly used throughout) and the suspenseful siege of Musante’s girlfriend (Suzy Kendall) in her flat – the murderer’s knife cutting through the door invites another comparison: the demolition job done on a similar door in Hitchcock’s The Birds – but this doesn’t prevent the sequence from being claustrophobically pulse-racing. Quibbles apart, the film is essential viewing for admirers of the director – but I would suggest only after seeing his later, more assured features. Deep Red is stunning evidence that Dario Argento’s delirious visual talents have been consistently in evidence from his earliest films to Inferno (1980). A tortuous Hitchcockian thriller (with a relatively unguessable denouement), it is better constructed than Suspiria (1977) – the film it has most in common with – and the plot-spinning between the big, operatic set-pieces is better throughout. However, it is obvious that the director’s real interests lie in the heady exploration of baroque architecture in front of which his characters are gorily dispatched. David Hemmings, in a nod to his Blow Up persona, is almost witness to a murder, and, with the ambiguous aid of a young newswoman, threads his way through several menacing expressionist settings before, inevitably, confronting the deranged killer. The murders along the way are highly imaginatively staged – the death-by-boiling-water makes the similar sequence in Halloween II look thin stuff indeed. Several frissons are provided by Carlo Rambaldi’s effects – the most shocking being decapitation by necklace and lift (not exactly a hackneyed demise.) Argento’s debut is released here in a striking, brand new 4K restoration from the camera negative in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio,

DOBERMAN COP, Kinji Fukasaku, director/Arrow Blu-ray  Those who have seen and enjoyed the operatically violent ‘Streetfighter’ series of films starring Sonny Chiba may be tempted by this one, but be warned: it is a very different kettle of fish, and much more comic (in a fashion that will not be to more sophisticated Western tastes). In fact, the film has a lot in common with early Bruce Lee movies, inasmuch as the martial arts-dispensing hero is initially presented as a naive country bumpkin, and Chiba is even saddled with a ludicrous pet pig — a crass decision by the filmmakers that the film barely recovers from. But Chiba fans will still be interested, and aficionados of bizarre Japanese cinema will find the release of Kinji Fukasaku’s film intriguing. Never before released on video outside Japan, this oddity is based on a popular manga and was released just as the popularity of the yakuza movie was waning.

 

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