Sunday, August 27, 2006

Supposedly, a new DVD edition of Double Indemnity came out about a week ago, but you wouldn't know it if you, like me, checked Best Buy, Target, Fry's, Suncoast, and even Wal Mart. Last night I finally asked a guy at Tower Records.

"Double Indemnity? With Barbara Stanwyck?" he asked. Checking his computer, he found that four copies had been on order for over a week but still hadn't arrived. So instead, I picked up a ten dollar copy of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which I hadn't seen before, but which reliable sources had recommended.

It's John Ford, John Wayne, and James Stewart, so already you've got plenty of quality to make it more than worth seeing. And for the first 90% of its running time, it's well written and held my attention with interesting characters and a surprising, fascinating plot. The black and white photography is great--under Ford's sure hand, he made it beautiful and equal to any colour movie of 1962. It's elegant and has an antiquated quality, like moving daguerreotypes.

Unfortunately, the movie has a preposterous ending that felt extremely forced, as though the filmmakers suddenly looked at the clock and decided to wrap things up, pronto. Still, the above reasons made it a very worthwhile viewing.

I can see what the idea was--Stewart, as "pilgrim" attorney from the east, is meant to symbolise the approaching order and peace of civilisation, while Wayne's professional hero character, enforcing justice with a pistol and authoritative charisma, is part of the romanticised, raucous Old West. The movie's meant to be the rise of the former at the cost of the latter's inevitable demise. And it all works quite well until a political convention late in the film and a scene where Wayne's character confronts Stewart's about the shooting of Liberty Valance.

Those who've seen the movie know what I'm talking about. I ask you; considering Tom's social status in town, his somewhat erratic behaviour, and the changes he'd undergone since the event--would Ransom really have believed his story so whole-heartedly? Especially considering there was no reason at all for Tom to keep the secret?

Although, maybe the idea was that Tom had just made the whole thing up, and Ransom went along with it because it made a poetic sense. I didn't get the slightest impression the movie meant this, but I rather wish it had. I mean, I was absolutely loving the scene where Tom's house burned down . . .

Last week, I went with family to see an Andy Warhol exhibit at the art museum. I think there is something to be gained in seeing the soup cans and Mao Tse-Tung pictures in their natural, huge size. There were also a couple of Warhol's films playing, and I stood transfixed by Lupe, quite contented to watch Edie Sedgwick eating breakfast and floundering about a pretty room for about a half hour before dying with her head in a toilet. I only wish the tourists around me hadn't been so noisy. When they weren't all but heckling the movie from their ignorant and quaintly cynical perspective, they were staring at me, or walking between me and the screen. The place was loaded with people more interested in being able to say they'd been there than they were in actually being there.

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