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Oct 19 07 7:44 PM
I just feel like my heart is going to burst because it's full of rainbows.
Wade's voice sounds like far-off thunder wrapped in velvet. ~ James Sanford, KALAMAZOO GAZETTE
What kind of benevolent deity would allow our money to be equal to that of Canada's? ~ John Hodgman, The Daily Show, October 4, 2007
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Apr 1 09 12:44 AM
Alias MsMACBud's TypistInconsequentialBut Always True
On the QT, the best studio film of the '90s
1997, 18, Out: March 9, RRP 15.99
Of the many crimes perpetrated by Titanic's all-consuming success in 1997-'98, surely its most heinous was denying L.A.
Confidential the Best Picture Oscar it so deserved. Oh, we know how beloved the big boat picture became, how much money it made, the
records it broke, but ask yourself: which of the two now holds its head up as a genuine Hollywood classic? Based on the third in
venerated crime novelist James Ellroy's L.A. Quartet, Curtis Hanson's adaptation was a neo-noir that transcended its own boundaries, a period-piece
buoyed on contemporary energy, a thriller with unguessable moves. Watch it repeatedly, and it never shakes
that vitality - a film thriving on its own conviction.
It was a tough gig. Ellroy's fiction multiplies Raymond Chandler's beanpole aesthetic into a delirium of a
thousandfold subplots, back stories and conspiracies all buzzing with the author's self-concocted, turbo-jazz street-slang; something Hanson sensibly
dowses down for his clear-headed movie. Along with co-writer Brian Helgeland, the director chose to strip eight years of novel down to
the moral trajectories of its three antiheroic cops - the brutish Bud White (Russell Crowe), swish and superficial Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) and coldly
ambitious Ed Exley (Guy Pearce). All are on a twisted bloody journey towards some kind of truth, even redemption.
Ellroy, a writer as bleak as suicide, at least encourages us to believe that beneath the illicit veneer, some cops are in it for
the justice - the big bang in their universe a mass killing at a local all-night dive, itself masking even greater sins.
Chandler was content to leave a thread or two untied. Ellroy and Hanson, on the other hand, are control-freak
specialists, but despite this it still takes careful study to follow the maze. Getting there was a fraught business: a case of heroin -
a key link in the chain - proved nearly impossible to pin down. Every time they did a rewrite (and there were many of those), it would
turn up somewhere else. It's worth noting that following Mickey Cohen's (Paul Guilfoyle)
'H' is a trick for getting to the bottom of this oily well.
It may be complex, but the film is simply unstoppable, that sense of a plot unfolding before you, ever-deepening levels of conspiracy
being peeled open, propelling it forward. Here we find movie detectives, shady, dissolute assholes mostly,
but cops who are actually using their God-given to figure things out, not simply shooting people until the bad guy finally falls over (standard MO these days,
even for those policiers that like to style themselves sophisticated.
Ellroy's gambit was to imagine how real crime might operate in a town of make-believe morality. How can you be
a real cop in a city of stories? Fact/fiction, right/wrong, good/bad: the boundaries are blurred by the swell of money, booze and beauty
in the heated desert air. Spacey's silky Vincennes, whose dapper jackets enter the room before him, is technical director on
thin-witted TV cop show Badge Of Honor, and readily takes backenders from gossip rag Hush-Hush.
Even the Mob is being suckered by all that glamour.
In one unpleasant twist, a smell emanates from a suburban floorboard - there is something, or someone, rotting below.
It proves an apt motif for the movie's cynical heart - beneath all Los Angeles' polished and neon-lit surfaces, something rancid is
lurking. It's the scent picked up by these three diverse detectives, and facades, mirrors, falsehoods and what lies beneath are also
Hanson's obsession: hookers fashioned as movie stars; film premieres haunted by drug busts; upstanding DAs ready for a twist; and bad cops hiding good
hearts. But all that, as Sid Hudgens, Danny DeVito's hyperactive goblin of a paparazzo hack, informs
us, is, "Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush."
Good, but not quite as swell as you'd hope, given the access and the fact this is a Special Edition. The
commentary may be 13-strong (although significantly minus Hanson), but is more like an over-populated stream of consciousness. The
various contributions are so disjointed and off-the-point they sound suspiciously like off-cuts from previous interviews. Only elderly
critic Andrew Sarris seems to be watching the film, rather airily declaring it "the Citizen Kane of thrillers" and noting how Exley marks the
midpoint on a social scale between Bud White and Jack Vincennes. Nevertheless, Ellroy's imperturbable
bile is always worthwhile - setting up the differences to his own fictive world while lauding the fact he can no longer see the cop trio as anyone but Spacey,
Crowe and Pearce....
The new documentaries - and they do rather redundantly include Off The Record, a feature made for the original DVD release - are much more
straightforwardly rewarding. Although ostensibly one massive documentary, it comes subdivided into themes: casting, visuals, production
and script. Everyone, it transpires, is proud of the movie. And justly so. It's
terrific to hear Russell Crowe be so upbeat, almost braggy (interestingly both he and Pearce were just about nobodies at the time; one of the reasons nobody
gave the film a chance), Spacey so languidly appreciative and Hanson defining the whole thing as a personal mission: a film about the LA he grew up in and the
films he watched. Although both he and cinematographer Dante Spinotti were determined, above all, that their film was never to look
'noir'. "It was in the time," iterates Hanson, "not about the time..."
The rest is curios: a drab pilot for a TV version with Kiefer Sutherland giving a dissolute depiction of snappy Vincennes;
Hanson's photo mood-book he used to pitch the movie; plus an interactive map of L.A.
Film 5 stars Extras 3 stars
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