25 February 2012

Gambit ('66)

Things I wrote before I watched Gambit:

My Twitter feed has been fist pumping this movie Gambit, more so in the last couple days, because it's about to expire from Netflix streaming. I'm going to watch it because of the recommendations, it's not the kind of movie I usually go out of my way to watch. This is the Netflix synopsis:
Harry is an elite but clumsy burglar. He meets the partner of his dreams in Nicole, a Eurasian dancer, and they team up for the perfect crime -- to steal a precious sculpture from a billionaire recluse. Unfortunately, nothing goes right.
Words and phrases like 'elite' 'burglar' 'partner' 'team up' 'perfect crime' 'precious sculpture' and 'nothing goes right' don't work for me like they work for other people. Typically they refer to forms of cleverness that I don't enjoy much, that to me feel purely cinematic and cheap, but others see them as richly layered and masterfully crafted or something, I dunno. I'm not being dismissive, I just don't get it - cleverness seems subjective, like beauty.

The movie is directed by British filmmaker Ronald Neame, who was the cinematographer for forty-five movies before directing his first movie. Haven't seen one movie he shot, but I suspect I'd like the following movies based on their titles: To Hell with Hitler, Return to Yesterday, Young Man's Fancy, Let's Be Famous, George Takes the Air (original title: It's in the Air), The Phantom Strikes. He worked with David Lean it appears. It appears he worked on the scripts for Brief Encounter, Great Expectations, and Blithe Spirit, and produced two of those plus Oliver Twist. Blithe Spirit is about to be released by Criterion, I think I'll like it, this is its synopsis from IMDb:
Adapted from a play by Noel Coward, Charles and his second wife Ruth, are haunted by the ghost of his first wife, Elvira. Medium Madame Arcati tries to help things out by contacting the ghost.
Words and phrases like 'Noel Coward' 'haunted' 'ghost of his first wife' 'Elvira' 'medium Madame Arcati' 'help things' and 'contacting the ghost' work for me like they don't work for other people.

Ronald Neame has twenty-six directoral credits, including a short and a movie he was fired from, according to IMDb parentheses. Three of them are on Criterion: Tunes of Glory, The Horse's Mouth, and Hopscotch. I've seen Hopscotch, it's fun and clever grandpa stuff. I think of Walter Matthau as grandpa. In Hopscotch grandpa is always one step ahead of the CIA, he wears disguises and stuff LOL. I'm teasing the movie but the disguises are actually my fav part. Neame also directed the famous Hollywood movie The Poseidon Adventure, which I'd like to watch, but I'm waiting until I go on a cruise.

It's cool that Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine are in Gambit. It's also Alvin Sargent's first movie credit on IMDb.

Things I wrote after I watched Gambit (but no spoilers):

Nicole: Why is it that people who follow people always end up fingering trinkets?

Gambit gave me a palpitating heart and uncontrollable sweats. All while I smiled.

After opening titles and an enjoyable opening song, the story begins with a car-sourced tracking shot, following Nicole (Shirley MacLaine). I suppose you could wonder, "Why is Nicole being followed?" But with her green dress and the way she's walking and the fact that it's Shirley MacLaine, you'd be an idiot.

She enters Cherry Bar.

On stage, Nicole dances. Our perspective has been Harry's (Michael Caine). He and his crime partner observe Nicole for a dance. Her routine finished, Harry walks to Nicole's table and drops some coins in her glass. She follows him to his table. He offers her, for purposes not yet divulged, $5K American. She smokes her cigarette and considers, without saying a word.

Cut to: A TWA plane lands, a curly-mustached man in a turban steps out of a luxury vehicle, and Nicole and Harry exit the plane:


And then it gets better.

Harry: Now will you stop asking questions?
Nicole: It's only human to be curious Harry.
Harry: Yes, well as far as I'm concerned you're far too human.

Loved the soundtrack, colors, art design, photography. And Gambit made me feel clever because its cleverness was transparent, discernible. Shared. Gambit reveals the plan to you and then executes the plan. It performs this writing maneuver intelligently, and gifts the audience with insight into its variations on a scheme. The crime elements are mostly backseat to character elements, although there are great moments of crime cinema. This film helped clarify for me that it's not the 'nothing goes right' scenario I dislike, it's that I don't like it when nothing goes right seemingly because the script was written that way. I prefer the influence of life's chaos and/or character trait interference.

What happens in Gambit I won't tell you.

But. Shirley MacLaine KILLS IT. She's really great. I'll say that plans involving humans shouldn't be made without considering human nature; I think bad movies execute their plans single-mindedly, warping their characters into the shape of their plans, and that Gambit knows this but is smarter. In this way it's like a Hitchcockian crime film, but I can't think of a female protagonist from a Hitchock film as likable and relatable as Nicole in Gambit. There are also some Melvillian/Dassinian elements (I invented words).

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