FALSE TRAIL (from Arrow’s Nordic Noir strand) is a belated (but welcome) sequel to the earlier Scandinavian hit by the same director (Kjell Sundvall), The Hunters, and the new film was originally called The Hunters 2. It is distinguished for some striking cinematography of its beautiful locales, but its principal virtues lie in the players: the reliable Rolf Lassgård, a mesmerising Peter Stormare and Annika Nordin. Despite the beauty of the settings, this is an uncompromising and unpredictable Scandinavian thriller. Fifteen years before, Erik (Lassgård) was obliged to leave the Norrland Police Department. He has subsequently become the National Murder Commission’s most respected interrogator. Ordered by his boss to return to his home town to solve a savage killing, he reluctantly returns fighting shy of destabilising memories waiting for him. Erik’s nemesis is Torsten (Peter Stormare), and a grim duel of wits ensues.
There was time when the films of René Clément were considered passé. The once-celebrated director was dismissed as part of the old guard by the French New Wave – ‘yesterday’s man,’ it was said, rather as the work of Terence Rattigan was banished in this country by newer playwrights such as Harold Pinter, and John Osborne. But just as Rattigan’s work has been reassessed and has regained its former glory posthumously, similar excavation work is being done for the films of Clément. And the process of restoring the director’s reputation will be considerably enhanced by the welcome reissues (courtesy of StudioCanal) of several of the director’s key films. The releases include FORBIDDEN GAMES on DVD and Blu-Ray and (on DVD only) GERVAISE, THE DEADLY TRAP and the lesser-known AND HOPE TO DIE. In these handsome-looking reissues in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the birth of René Clément, they make a collectible group. Clément, one of his country’s most significant post-World War II era directors, originally studied as an architect but at the Ecole-des-Beaux-Arts considered becoming a filmmaker. His career had many prestigious successes, and he twice won Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, notably for Forbidden Games, a moving evocation of childhood innocence under threat. Very differ is The Deadly Trap, a tense Hitchcockian mystery thriller starring Faye Dunaway and Frank Langhella. And Hope To Die has the contrintuitive casting of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Robert Ryan. All desserve a second (or first?) look.
As with False Trail, Arrow Films’ Nordic Noir label is continuing to make available the very best in the Scandicrime field, and now adds to their lustre with the UK DVD box set debut of one of Denmark’s grittiest crime series, UNIT ONE. The fast-moving drama utilises real-life crimes for its scenarios, and focuses on the eponymous elite mobile police force, helping out of variety of local police forces. The actor Mads Mikkelson is becoming one of the best-known Nordic actors for such films as The Hunt and the Daniel Craig Casino Royale, but the whole cast is a fascinating sampler of some of Denmark’s most talented performers, familiar from such series as in The Killing, Borgen and Wallander. In fact the series is reminiscent of the dark and fast moving French crime series Braquo; not as pitch-back but fairly uncompromising. The earlier neglect of this trenchantly made series (principally written by Peter Thorsboe) is particularly unfortunate, given that far less authoritative crime dramas have found a ready audience in Britain and the United States. What is most celebrated here is the clear sense of purpose with which the filmmakers have shaped the sometimes intractable material, and there is nary a wasted word or scene, though the protagonists are (admittedly) cut from a familiar cloth.