Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Woman on a Mission

The Gaslamp 15 still bears keeping an eye on. Hopefully this won’t turn into a deathwatch, though I note that the hours of operation have been scaled back on weekdays to a late-afternoon start, a worrisome sign. Under the new management of Reading Cinemas, however, the theater continues to be what it was under Pacific, if not more so: a shelter to prolong the shelf life of the mainstream film (e.g., 21 and 88 Minutes, still lingering as of this week), as well as an outlet for alternative films, oftentimes hand-me-downs from Landmark (The Counterfeiters, Before the Rains, In Bruges, et al.), sometimes even first-run ones, to chip away at the Landmark monopoly. I missed the blink-of-an-eye engagement of the American indie, Meet Bill, a couple of weeks back, but this Friday’s offering of Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Unknown Woman was screened ahead of time. (The concurrent offerings of Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely and Christopher Zalla’s Sangre de Mi Sangre were not.) It bears a closer look.

Tornatore’s name imprinted itself on the filmgoer’s consciousness twenty years ago with Cinema Paradiso, and, riding that tidal wave, each of his half-dozen films in the interim (counting his one-third of an anthology film) has been blessed to see the light of day, or light of projector, at one or another of the Landmark houses, Malena most recently. The Unknown Woman, dated 2006, and now saved from the orphanage by the Gaslamp, keeps us abreast of developments. Which in this case means deviations. His made-in-France crime thriller, A Pure Formality, had once before taken the filmmaker out of the syrup and into the slime, albeit with some cerebral-absurdist-surrealist pretensions. In his latest one, he has ventured again into the thriller realm, without such pretensions. The cognoscenti might even be tempted to dust off the term giallo, Italian synonym for dime novel, penny dreadful, the pulps, série noire (to the French), and, in its particular incarnation on the Italian screen, heyday in the Sixties and Seventies, the erotic thriller, or, in awkward but graphic translation, the “sexy-thrilling.” Dario Argento, one of the pillars of the genre, has a film currently in production titled bluntly Giallo, strict equivalent of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

The Tornatore film begins in a fog of intrigue. Its first shot, a lascivious stunner, is a rear view of three women in thongs and bras, symmetrically lined up in a vague cavernous interior. A disembodied male voice gives them direction: turn around (revealing the women to be wearing masks), strip, and send out the next three. He selects the one in the blond wig on the left: she’ll do fine. Do what? We then drop into the chosen one’s life, sans wig, as a Ukrainian immigrant looking for work as a maid, bedevilled by brief, almost subliminal flashes of flesh and rope, too quick to make out, but redolent of S&M. She sets her cap for a specific apartment building, kicking back thirty percent of her salary to the super for the privilege, turning down other jobs, and setting her cap anew for a specific apartment in the building, befriending the elderly nanny of the accident-prone little girl in residence, and then ruthlessly getting the nanny out of the way, in a pool of blood. (The fog thickens.) What’s she up to? Are we supposed to sympathize?

One senses, one smells, the possibility of a revenge scheme, although the insidious insinuator proves to be not in perfect control of the situation. After a while one gets a whiff of something sweeter, a protectiveness towards this bruised little girl, a benevolent regimen to toughen her up. Any tentative hypotheses you might form are sure to fall short of the full story. And yet the plot twists are not so loopy as to overpower centripetal force and to send credibility hurtling off into space. It requires a tight rein. At times Tornatore could stand comparison with Hitchcock. (In lieu of his usual point of comparison, Fellini.) One of those times, an excruciating exercise in subjectivity, perhaps just a bit rushed, would be the heroine’s lifting of a set of keys from her companion’s purse at the movies, her excusing herself to the ladies’ room, and her frantic dash next door to get copies made, only to find long lines at the counter and to draw ticket number 51 when they’re now serving customer 37. Nor is Tornatore afraid to make a stab at upmanship: the denigration of the scissors as a lethal weapon can be seen as a deliberate snub of the Master’s Dial M for Murder. The Bernard Herrmann-esque score of Ennio Morricone, in the pulsing, revving, driving vein of North by Northwest, Vertigo, Psycho, invites more of this comparison than Tornatore can truly stand.

All the same, the high polish of his technique goes far to counteract the luridness of the material: the couple of strong-arm thugs in Santa suits, the veteran character actor Michele Placido as a hairless ogre called “Mold,” the gradual fleshing-out of those fleshy flashbacks, tawdrier and tawdrier. (The fog clears.) And the Russian-born leading lady, Ksenia Rappoport, with her haunted and hunted look, starved face and bug eyes, smoldering fire and subtle shading, makes a very strong showing. She, all on her own, merits a look. The unforeseen coda spirits her, and us, back to the Tornatore of old, a step into a puddle of syrup.

* * *

The Indiana Jones preview screening this past month was held at the brand-spanking-new AMC Plaza Bonita 14 in the South Bay, roughly at the junction, as I peer at my Thomas Bros., of National City, Chula Vista, Paradise Hills, and of course Bonita. That’s a ways off my beat, and since the lineup of movies is pretty much the same lineup as at any other multiplex, it looks unlikely that I’ll be returning there often or ever. Nonetheless it seems incumbent upon me as a gracious guest to say that all those who live within a reasonable radius have themselves a nice new place to see the big new movies.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Dead Cross cover Black Flag’s “Rise Above” in solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Jonny Tarr, Dead Cross, Electric Mud, Howard Blank’s Outsiders, Trees
Next Article

Mark Dresser’s musicianship cuts through it all

Long-time UCSD professor’s telematics trials

The Gaslamp 15 still bears keeping an eye on. Hopefully this won’t turn into a deathwatch, though I note that the hours of operation have been scaled back on weekdays to a late-afternoon start, a worrisome sign. Under the new management of Reading Cinemas, however, the theater continues to be what it was under Pacific, if not more so: a shelter to prolong the shelf life of the mainstream film (e.g., 21 and 88 Minutes, still lingering as of this week), as well as an outlet for alternative films, oftentimes hand-me-downs from Landmark (The Counterfeiters, Before the Rains, In Bruges, et al.), sometimes even first-run ones, to chip away at the Landmark monopoly. I missed the blink-of-an-eye engagement of the American indie, Meet Bill, a couple of weeks back, but this Friday’s offering of Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Unknown Woman was screened ahead of time. (The concurrent offerings of Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely and Christopher Zalla’s Sangre de Mi Sangre were not.) It bears a closer look.

Tornatore’s name imprinted itself on the filmgoer’s consciousness twenty years ago with Cinema Paradiso, and, riding that tidal wave, each of his half-dozen films in the interim (counting his one-third of an anthology film) has been blessed to see the light of day, or light of projector, at one or another of the Landmark houses, Malena most recently. The Unknown Woman, dated 2006, and now saved from the orphanage by the Gaslamp, keeps us abreast of developments. Which in this case means deviations. His made-in-France crime thriller, A Pure Formality, had once before taken the filmmaker out of the syrup and into the slime, albeit with some cerebral-absurdist-surrealist pretensions. In his latest one, he has ventured again into the thriller realm, without such pretensions. The cognoscenti might even be tempted to dust off the term giallo, Italian synonym for dime novel, penny dreadful, the pulps, série noire (to the French), and, in its particular incarnation on the Italian screen, heyday in the Sixties and Seventies, the erotic thriller, or, in awkward but graphic translation, the “sexy-thrilling.” Dario Argento, one of the pillars of the genre, has a film currently in production titled bluntly Giallo, strict equivalent of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

The Tornatore film begins in a fog of intrigue. Its first shot, a lascivious stunner, is a rear view of three women in thongs and bras, symmetrically lined up in a vague cavernous interior. A disembodied male voice gives them direction: turn around (revealing the women to be wearing masks), strip, and send out the next three. He selects the one in the blond wig on the left: she’ll do fine. Do what? We then drop into the chosen one’s life, sans wig, as a Ukrainian immigrant looking for work as a maid, bedevilled by brief, almost subliminal flashes of flesh and rope, too quick to make out, but redolent of S&M. She sets her cap for a specific apartment building, kicking back thirty percent of her salary to the super for the privilege, turning down other jobs, and setting her cap anew for a specific apartment in the building, befriending the elderly nanny of the accident-prone little girl in residence, and then ruthlessly getting the nanny out of the way, in a pool of blood. (The fog thickens.) What’s she up to? Are we supposed to sympathize?

One senses, one smells, the possibility of a revenge scheme, although the insidious insinuator proves to be not in perfect control of the situation. After a while one gets a whiff of something sweeter, a protectiveness towards this bruised little girl, a benevolent regimen to toughen her up. Any tentative hypotheses you might form are sure to fall short of the full story. And yet the plot twists are not so loopy as to overpower centripetal force and to send credibility hurtling off into space. It requires a tight rein. At times Tornatore could stand comparison with Hitchcock. (In lieu of his usual point of comparison, Fellini.) One of those times, an excruciating exercise in subjectivity, perhaps just a bit rushed, would be the heroine’s lifting of a set of keys from her companion’s purse at the movies, her excusing herself to the ladies’ room, and her frantic dash next door to get copies made, only to find long lines at the counter and to draw ticket number 51 when they’re now serving customer 37. Nor is Tornatore afraid to make a stab at upmanship: the denigration of the scissors as a lethal weapon can be seen as a deliberate snub of the Master’s Dial M for Murder. The Bernard Herrmann-esque score of Ennio Morricone, in the pulsing, revving, driving vein of North by Northwest, Vertigo, Psycho, invites more of this comparison than Tornatore can truly stand.

All the same, the high polish of his technique goes far to counteract the luridness of the material: the couple of strong-arm thugs in Santa suits, the veteran character actor Michele Placido as a hairless ogre called “Mold,” the gradual fleshing-out of those fleshy flashbacks, tawdrier and tawdrier. (The fog clears.) And the Russian-born leading lady, Ksenia Rappoport, with her haunted and hunted look, starved face and bug eyes, smoldering fire and subtle shading, makes a very strong showing. She, all on her own, merits a look. The unforeseen coda spirits her, and us, back to the Tornatore of old, a step into a puddle of syrup.

* * *

The Indiana Jones preview screening this past month was held at the brand-spanking-new AMC Plaza Bonita 14 in the South Bay, roughly at the junction, as I peer at my Thomas Bros., of National City, Chula Vista, Paradise Hills, and of course Bonita. That’s a ways off my beat, and since the lineup of movies is pretty much the same lineup as at any other multiplex, it looks unlikely that I’ll be returning there often or ever. Nonetheless it seems incumbent upon me as a gracious guest to say that all those who live within a reasonable radius have themselves a nice new place to see the big new movies.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

"We had to get canning quickly"

In response to covid, these small brewers now offer beer in cans for the first time
Next Article

Football: a career low for Lucille Ball

A darker shade of twilight
Comments
1

Once again proving Duncan Shepard is the Robert Hilburn of movie reviewers.

June 12, 2008

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close