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The Warriors (#110 of 3)

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom

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Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom
Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom

Christian Petzold and Nina Hoss collaborate on yet another fine quasi-thriller with Phoenix, about a concentration camp survivor, Nelly (Hoss), who undergoes facial reconstruction surgery for a wound and emerges unrecognized by Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), the husband who gave her up to the Gestapo. Well, not entirely unrecognized: He thinks she looks just enough like his presumably dead wife that she could pose as Nelly in order to receive her hefty inheritance. The performative scenes that result from Johnny’s coaching elicit yet another spellbinding performance from Hoss, who always makes Nelly look as if she wants desperately for Johnny to see that it’s her while also dreading what will happen if he figures the truth out. Further, the film uses this setup to make a keen, occasionally funny comment on the male gaze, as Johnny knows every small detail of his wife’s body and movements, yet cannot put together the whole image of Nelly now that it no longer exactly matches up to his idealized memories.

Summer of ‘88: Crocodile Dundee II

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Summer of ‘88: <em>Crocodile Dundee II</em>
Summer of ‘88: <em>Crocodile Dundee II</em>

The sequel to the runaway Aussie hit of 1986 (which managed to net both $360 million and a surprise Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay), opens with Mick “Crocodile” Dundee doing some fishing. Blasting dynamite is his method of choice, and he’s at peace in what seems like a wilderness, until a cut reveals the location to be New York City harbor. Boated policemen arrive mere seconds after the blast, only to give Dundee a pass and a smile unlikely to greet any foreigner handling explosives near downtown Manhattan nowadays. Following this clean and efficient start, scored to Peter Best’s guitar-heavy signature theme, the film starts making its steady way to cinematic hell.

After having peddled the beauty of his native continent to American TV viewers (and before becoming a spokesman for Subaru), Paul Hogan rehashed a number of old movie plots in the first Crocodile Dundee film, which he co-wrote and starred in. Tarzan merged with Mr. Deeds and went to town as a single character. Even though there was some spontaneity to the first movie, by 1988 Hogan’s rugged assembly had calcified into a deliberate look, his leather jacket looking fresh off the rack and the crocodile teeth in his cowboy hat all freshly brushed.

Film Comment Selects 2010: Over the Edge

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Film Comment Selects 2010: <em>Over the Edge</em>
Film Comment Selects 2010: <em>Over the Edge</em>

Over the Edge suffered from timing. Jonathan Kaplan’s 1979 film finished production around the time teenage gangs were fighting in theaters over The Warriors; the studio, worried that this new teen movie would cause more violence, shelved it. But like White Dog, another studio film deemed too dangerous to be seen, its reputation grew. A 1981 HBO screening led to bookings at New York’s Public Theater, which in turn led to showings in small art houses across the city. Edge recently came out on DVD and last night it opened Film Comment Selects. Film Comment editor Gavin Smith talked before the screening about how delighted he was “to give this film the premiere it never got but deserved,” and the eager sold-out Walter Reade crowd clapped throughout. I couldn’t help but think of John Frankenheimer talking about his 1966 flop Seconds: “It went from failure to classic without ever being a hit.”