Thursday, June 04, 2009

Blast of Silence, 3 Days of the Condor

Blast of Silence (1961) - Great noir film. The story is simple: a hitman goes to New York to carry out a mob hit. Frankie Bono (played by Allen Baron, who also wrote and directed) is almost entirely detached from the rest of humanity, but when he accidentally meets someone who gives him a reason to exist, he begins doubting his vocation.

The narration in particular has to be unique, either inviting the viewer into the role of hit-man Frankie Bono, or else declaring Bono's thoughts to him (I gather this is 2nd person narration). I've never heard anything like it.

There are many beautiful shots in the movie. From the the train tunnel/womb opening shot, to the carefully framed picture of Frankie walking through New York alone, untouched by his environment save for the sidewalk beneath his feet. This second shot occurs directly after he is cut off from his last hope for human connection, and it's composed so that the frame is filled with "New York," buildings on either side, the street before him, but his tiny silhoutte is outlined only by a slim strip of sky. The shot's meaning is obvious, but it's such a great image.

**edit** Found the image online. Here you go:

The finale also stands out in it's choice of setting and the very real storm that was blowing through the location. Frankie goes to an abandoned fishing town along a marsh (still in NY) with a hurricane-force gale blowing rain and snow and hats and water everywhere. The storm was the sort of thing you find in a Kurosawa picture, but from what I could tell from the documentary, it was a real storm.

As a gun nerd I loved the scene where Frankie cleans and tests his silenced revolver. While I'm told that a silencer on a revolver would be ineffective because the chamber (cylinder) is not enclosed, it's still a cool image and concept and I won't let reality ruin that scene (or The Sting) for me.

Another memorable aspect was Larry Tucker's performance as weapons supplier Big Ralph. His physical presence combined with his unique delivery made for a great break from all the straight-faced sobriety.

There's also the jazzy soundtrack, which adds another distinct flavor the the film.

I could see Scorcese remaking this with a 30-year-old deNiro as Frankie. Or, heck, even a present-day deNiro (to give the story a different poignancy). Young Allen looks a bit like young Bobby.

3 Days of the Condor (1975) - Condor's just like Bourne, except instead of having incredible training that he's forgotten, he learned it all from books. He brings in an innocent girl to help him figure out why a covert governmental agency (that he used to work for) is trying to kill him.

Redford's character is great. The idea of a nerdy bookworm who can actually function as a formidable spy based solely on his knowledge is a neat concept, and it's cool to see all the little ways he uses his knowledge. It never felt gimmicky, either; when it occurs it doesn't draw attention to itself.

I rank 3 Days alongside Taking of Pelham in quality. The pacing, the acting, the suspense all have a similar feel. It's very well done.

The way that Dunaway falls for Redford isn't quite believable, but the actors do their best to sell it and it comes very close. It's a small leap, and doesn't spoil the movie.

Max von Sydow as the assassin Joubert was a cool character. His look reminded me of the disguises in Taking of Pelham, too -- mustache, hat, tan jacket, sub-machine gun. It's a little strange at the end when Redford and he get talking, though. Shouldn't Redford be upset about all his friends being murdered?

The "oil" revelation is kind of lame; when you have this great mystery built up, and it turns out "greed" was the reason, it's a little boring. I was hoping for something more complex and interesting.

I'm nit-picking. It's easier for me to complain than to praise, and the movie is quite good. I should note also that I saw it on Blu-Ray, and the picture quality is very nice.

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