16 February 2010

Red Riding, Part 1

It's been over a month since I have written anything on here, something that I hope doesn't turn into a habit this year. Perhaps I have unconsciously translated my New Year's resolution of taking myself less seriously into "don't even try." Well, whatever the case, I am compelled to return to this dusty blog in order to sing praises for the last movie I saw in theaters, which was the first installment of the Red Riding trilogy.

The trilogy -- originally made for British television, premiered at the NYFF, recently distributed in the US, and currently playing at IFC -- is composed of three separate films (titled by years 1974, 1980, and 1983), each with different directors and characters, but all revolving around the same set of mysteriously connected murders somewhat relating to the Yorkshire Ripper. IFC was offering a roadshow edition of the trilogy -- all three in one sitting -- but time and patience disallowed me from giving that a go. Instead, I decided to sample the first part to see how it went from there.

Directed by Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane, Brideshead Revisited), the first Red Riding film stars Andrew Garfield (Boy A) as Eddie Dunford -- a baby-faced, hotshot rookie journalist with a strut in his walk and enough naivety to seek answers when others stop caring. He seeks out connections between various murders of young girls that happened within years of each other, thinking one man is behind everything -- at first in order to prove himself as a journalist, but eventually out of genuine curiosity and then sheer obsession. Encouraged by his friend and colleague, Barry, whose conspiracy theories Dunford laughs off, Dunford digs deeper until he meets his femme fatale, Paula (the excellent Rebecca Hall), the grieving widowed mother of one of the murdered girls. As can be imagined, the corruption and plain evil that Dunford becomes aware of grows to gruesomely overwhelming heights until it reaches a fantastically exciting and fatal climax -- of which we are immediately hinted at within the first few minutes of the film in Double Indemnity fashion.

 In noir fashion, the projected canvas is filled with shadows, with menace. Jarrold (I guess) made a very interesting decision to shoot in Super 16mm, giving the film a grit to the image that complements the seedy subject matter. But what left the biggest impression on me in this film is the fabulous camerawork by Rob Hardy -- smooth camera movements and meticulous framing that borders on the self-conscious and pretentious but that gives the film an overall affective style. The acting is top-notch from all the characters, each stomaching their own share of despair. One could say that Mr. Garfield is a bit too young-looking for the lead role, and I would be inclined to agree, but I think he does a fine job despite that (or maybe I am just identifying with looking much younger than your age and getting shit for it). He is able to convincingly go through the protagonist evolution of cocky rookie to obsessed professional to scared shitless loneman to vengeful badass convincingly, and the important part is that he is likable, allowing us to make each transition with him. Ah, the joys of a familiar genre done with style!

I am not sure if I will see parts 2 and 3 (movie tickets are expensive!) although I'd like to, but we'll see. If anything, I know I'll have a nice DVD box set to put on my Amazon wishlist eventually.

1 comment:

James said...

This sounds intriguing. I do like these type of investigative murder/mystery films. The young man you mention, who stars in this first film, was in LIONS FOR LAMBS directed by Robert Redford. I really liked that film, though it was critically smashed ... lots of talking heads ... but fine acting. Garfield's acting was especially good. He played a college student questioning his future and decisions in life. I thought he was an American actor. His accent was perfect. There was no sense, on my part, that he was English.