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Category Archives: Thriller

The Night of the Generals (1967): Murder is the occupation of Generals

Inspector Morand: But, murder is the occupation of Generals. 

Major Grau: Then let us say what is admirable on the large scale is monstrous on the small. Since we must give medals to mass murderers, why not give justice to the small… entrepreneur.

A prostitute is found gruesomely murdered in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. The lone clue to the identity of the murderer is the red stripe on his trouser. Here begins a chase that will last a quarter of a century and cause many a tragedies in the lives of those involved.

The Night of the Generals (1967) is a thriller directed by Anatole Litvak. The movie had been adapted from Hans Hellmut Kirst’s Edgar Award nominated book, Die Nacht der Generale (1962).

I got the inspiration of watching The Night of the Generals from an unlikely person – my dad. He generally doesn’t talk about books or movies with anyone. But when I mentioned The Night of the Generals a few days ago, he remembered watching it while in college. As dad liking and ‘actually’ recommending movies is such an unlikely thing, I had to see what this movie was all about.

The Night of the Generals has a ‘Hitchcockian’ flavour to it. The slow disintegration of the characters – Major Grau’s increasing obsession with finding the killer, General Kahlenberg’s implied alcoholism, the collapse of General Seydlitz-Gabler’s family life – using murder as a backdrop reminded me of Hitchcock’s movies, particularly Rope (1948) and Frenzy (1972).

I liked watching Omar Sharif as the justice obsessed German officer Major Grau. His portrayal is believable enough for me to actually feel sad for him as he chases after a shadow.

Peter O’Toole at times goes overboard while playing General Tanz. In the movie he is supposed to be a cruel man who hides his cruelty well. To me it seemed like he wasn’t trying to hide it at all. His unblinking stare, clenched jaw and incredibly passive demeanour feel unnatural. I never noticed how scary his face could look when immobile!

       

Tom Courtenay as the ill-fated Corporal Hartmann rouses sympathy. Joanna Pettet looks really beautiful. But their romance doesn’t really work. It feels hollow somehow.

To my utter joy one of my favourites, Philippe Noiret, plays a prominent part in the movie. He is the reason I can watch Cinema Paradiso (1988) again and again. Watching two of my favourites, Omar Sharif and Philippe Noiret interact with each other was a treat.

The twist that comes near the end of the movie was shocking. I definitely didn’t see that coming.

The movie is set during the 60’s with flashbacks of 1942 and 1944. The transition between the time periods is not smooth. The movie abruptly jumps from decade to decade and from country to country.

I wouldn’t call The Night of the Generals a feel good movie. Not everyone gets a happy ending. Nevertheless it is an engrossing movie. I enjoyed it. So, ‘Thanks dad’!

(This review is offered as a part of  Tuesday’s Overlooked (or Forgotten) Films hosted by Todd Mason at his blog Sweet Freedom)

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The Prestige (2006): You want to be fooled

You’re familiar with the phrase “man’s reach exceeds his grasp”? It’s a lie: man’s grasp exceeds his nerve. 

In the Victorian era London Robert Angier and Alfred Borden start out working for a famous magician. One unfortunate accident starts off a chain of events that spiral out of control. In this game of one-upmanship the increasingly reckless magicians will stop at nothing to defeat each other and anyone getting too close to this rivalry will be annihilated.

The Prestige is a 2006 thriller directed by Christopher Nolan. It was adapted from Christopher Priest’s epistolary novel, The Prestige (1995).

Undoubtedly one of my favourite films ever, The Prestige is the movie that made me a Christopher Nolan fan.

The two main actors Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, playing Angier and Borden respectively, make the story come alive. I have to say that after repeated viewings Jackman’s performance seems to be the better one. The way Jackman portrays Angier’s growing obsession was amazing to watch.

I loved Michael Caine as John Cutter. His anguish as he helplessly watches the two men destroy each other rang true.

Scarlett Johansson looks beautiful and holds her own in a story that is essentially revolves around the two leading men. David Bowie’s cameo as Nikola Tesla was enjoyable. Piper Perabo shines in her cameo.

It is fascinating how much can be hidden within a single movie. With each watch, and I do mean it when I say it, I discover something new.

One of my favourite Nolan trademarks, the narrative {within narrative (within narrative)} trick is in full play here. Here Borden reads Angier’s diary which tells of Angier reading Borden’s notebook about the time when the two had first met!

The title of this post comes from one of Cutter’s dialogues,

Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled.

I guess that is Nolan’s intention with each of his movies. To give the audience a piece of puzzle that would confound them, would make them sit up and take notice. For me that is the fun of a Christopher Nolan movie. The secret that each of his movies hide. I want to know but at the same time I don’t.

             

I want to be fooled.

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