Review of the new new DVD volume of Beck is over on Flickering Myth now…
The contrast between the calm and studious internal world of celebrated Swedish detective Martin Beck and the drama of murderous crime is brought to the screen in fine style in these five feature-length episodes.
Comprising the last episode from season four (Buried Alive – a horror tinged tale that received a Swedish theatrical release in 2009) and four from the most recent series, this collection can either serve as a good introduction to the show or a reminder as to just why it has been so popular.
The reason why it has done so well is possibly down to its classic approach to the cop show format. It avoids gimmickry, instead concentrating on the twists of the stories and the conflicting personalities of the main players. The soberly calculating Beck (Peter Haber) and his rough-house colleague Gunvald Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt) perfectly sum up the good cop/bad cop routine, and it is their interplay and occasionally problematic relationship that is the centrepiece of the stories.
The haunted sadness behind Beck’s eyes tell of a character who has a tired understanding that the world is a dark and unforgiving place. Peter Haber brings a level of introspective hurt to the quietly sensitive Beck. On the basis of these stories, he is a fundamentally honest man. Larsson, a tough guy with an old-fashioned approach to everything from cultural politics to investigation techniques, takes care of the action sequences that break up the tension.
The episodes that bookend this release are the most effective and disturbing. Buried Alive and The Hospital Murders both take a horror influence that works well against the sombre backdrop of the pale hued Stockholm. Aside from the well constructed story-lines – which aren’t really whodunnits, more about how Beck will get to the truth – the show is really concerned about growing older on your own.
Beck does have friends and a politely flirtatious relationship with the hospital’s lead medic, but the most striking scenes are often the ones involving him and his daughter (Rebecka Hemse). Despite familial affection and love, the pair find it difficult to understand each other or develop much of a common bond. Scenes between Beck and his retired luxury drink loving neighbour (Ingvar Hirdwall) also highlight the sense of dislocation that the lead character seems to have for the outside world.
A classic detective show and a solid example of how the crime genre can explore a range of topics (organised crime, international terrorism, euthanasia), not least what it’s like to age in a world you feel you no longer understand.
Beck The Series – Volume 1 is out now on Arrow Films
Review of 1992 – The Complete Season is over at Flickering Myth…
Focusing its glossy and well-developed contextual gaze on the Italy of the early 90’s, 1992 is an intriguing mix of ideas and content. With a modern dramatic arc based around the intertwined dealings and developments of six characters, the series concentrates on both the personal and the political with a steely eyed vigour.
The show covers the tumultuous events taking place in Italy of 1992, with a combination of real life happenings blending in with the fictional. Nation-wide scandals, arrests and investigations into all sorts of criminal activity – with the mafia led murders of officials and judges that year taking centre stage – is the backdrop for the personal stories of the cast.
Much of the show’s success is in the detail. Sounds and visuals from the 90’s have been carefully inserted, allowing for a genuine look back at the time (in all its gore!). The notoriously lurid TV shows from the Berlusconi era of programming collude with pop and rock of the time to provide plenty of pointers.
The narrative itself occasionally gets slightly preoccupied with the trappings of trying to do too much at any given time, and at points the viewer is left wishing it could take its foot off the pedal a bit . That being said, the series is a valuable and exhilarating view of a crucial period in Italian history.
First aired in the UK on Sky Arts, this release from Arrow Films continues the label’s scope in delivering the best in European crime, mystery and noir shows. It joins other Italian series on the sub-label ‘Criminale Italia’ such as Gomorrah, Romanzo Criminale and Fog and Crimes.
1992 – The Complete Season is out now on DVD from Arrow Films
Review of the third and final series of Italian crime show Fog and Crimes is over at Flickering Myth and below…
Continuing the feature-length television adaptations of Valerio Varesi’s detective novels, this third and final season of Fog and Crimes takes Soneri (Barbareschi) out of his natural climate of Ferrara and moves him to the big city of Turin.
Bringing a dark complexity to the demanding nature of police work, and highlighting the difficulties of any kind of relaxed personal life, this quality drama creates a gripping structure that brings successful closure to the series.
Other than the change in city, the main difference this time round is in the supporting cast. New assistant Todisco brings a comedic side to the plot as Juvara did in the first two. But it is the additions of Anna Valle as medical doctor Chiara and Celeste Cuppone as runaway child Immacolata where the cast mostly differs. Both of these new characters bring an added warmth and humanity to the tough cop.
The tightly formulated plots of the four gripping tales provide depth and many surprising twists. The ongoing story of Soneri’s relationship break-up with the first two series’ Angela (Natasha Stefanenko) is alluded to at the start and end nicely bringing the series round to a conclusion.
The disc itself is pretty much bereft of extra features, although the Arrow Films trailers and booklet give a good idea of where the label is trying to go with its priorities for Euro-Crime drama.
This release joins other Italian series on the Arrow Films sub-label ‘Criminale Italia’ such as Gomorrahand Romanzo Criminale. Well worth checking out for all crime and mystery lovers, Fog and Crimesended on Italian TV screens back in 2009 and is fully deserving of a new audience.
Review of Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe is over at Flickering Myth and below…
The elegiac chaos of La Grande Bouffe – literally the big eat – created something of a storm at the 1973 Cannes festival, with self-confessed lover of jests Ferreri being forced to defend his work amidst an onslaught from local and international press. Reports that president of the jury Ingrid Bergman was sick while watching the film only went on to further immortalise its controversial nature.
While the sheer affront that many took to the film in 1973 looks rather old-fashioned now, the underlying principles at work still resonate today. In essence, the film is a pitch black comedy, examining in great detail precisely how four friends can go about eating themselves to death. Taking in the prime physiological impulses of mankind; food, drink and sex, Ferreri leaves us in no doubt that we are all part of the animal kingdom, no matter how prestigious our pay-packet or how luxurious the banqueting hall.
Taken on one level, La Grande Bouffe is simply a film about friendship; a European gross-out ‘bro movie’ complete with call-girls, loud farts, burps and truckloads of food and booze. While this show of filmic bravura is at the heart and belly of the piece, those looking for more can easily find it within the three rooms of the grand old villa.
As is ever the case, critics and scholars have looked into the workings of the film’s plot for a philosophical and political subtext. The fact that the four friends are all members of the professional bourgeoisie; an airplane pilot, a TV producer, a judge and a restaurant owner, suggests the true target of the piece. By the time a local schoolmistress joins them, the decadent fall of society is portrayed in glaring and provocative detail.
It is the prostitutes that the men hire to come over to the villa who seem to represent any hope for society. They have the sense to be repelled by the macabre feast, and get out of there while they still can. Again, an academic seeking symbolism would offer the suggestion that they represent the working classes or possibly outsiders and artists.
So taken on another level, it is the consumerist nature of modern city life, with its devaluing of emotion and lack of awareness of reality that prevents any genuine connection to one’s own life. The equating of food and consumerism with death and the overriding bleakness of tone contrasts wildly with the childlike exuberance of the festivities on show, and points to the two sides of a jester’s work; to entertain and to point out the obvious. We are left to draw our own conclusions. But one that resounds is that middle class ennui and the desire to consume to death are by-products of modern lives and attitudes. And strangely enough, that’s a lot funnier than it sounds.
Arrow Films have put together a selection of features and extras for the restored Blu-ray release of La Grande Bouffe. These include a detailed booklet with original artwork and writing inspired by the film, interviews, visual essays and lively press coverage from Cannes 1973.
My review of the Swedish TV series 30 Degrees in February is over at Flickering Myth now…