Stealing the Scene - A Crime Wave on Curzon12
The big heat is about to get hotter for Curzon members with Curzon12’s Criminal Minds selection.
Crime has always paid when it comes to cinema, as this curated selection reveals. From the chilly streets of Helsinki and the empty roads of Argentina, to the heart of Paris and sun-baked avenues of the Los Angeles suburbs, the crime thriller explores the darker side of human desires, troubled psyches and illegal actions. These six films present a global journey into underworlds both familiar and strange.
Strange is the perfect description of Wild Tales (2014) Damián Szifron’s Oscar-nominated portmanteau film. Opening with an audacious tale of six degrees, which finds the occupants of a plane discovering they all have something in common, and followed by another five tales that are no less bizarre, Szifron’s thriller is a grisly, yet frequently funny, film that contemplates more than a few of the seven deadly sins. There’s a cautionary tale about falsely accepting responsibility for financial gain, a stark reminder that tailgating can turn even the most mild-mannered driver insane, proof that revenge is a dish that can be served at any temperature, and an example of just how dire a wedding can get when secrets are made public.
Even the most perfectly planned crime can go wrong. That’s what Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet’s lovers discover in Louis Malle’s stunning Paris-set 1958 feature debut Lift to the Scaffold. Moreau’s Florence is married to a wealthy businessman, the boss of Ronet’s Julien. An after-hours assassination at the man’s office seems like a perfect way to do away with him. But when Julien is trapped in the lift, his best laid plans unravel. Paris looks stunning at night, the black and white photography is breathtaking, Moreau and Ronet excel, and jazz legend Miles Davis’ score – recorded over a couple of hours and across a few brief takes – adds mood to this already atmospheric world.
Another seemingly simple plan crumbles in Amat Escalante’s powerful Los Bastardos (2008). Less violent than his shocking Heli (2013) and certainly less strange than his wild sci-fi The Untamed (2016), Escalante’s sophomore feature finds two desperate undocumented Mexican workers in LA turning to crime in order to survive. But a domestic robbery soon escalates and the men’s desperation leads to tragedy.
Stanislas Prévine (the excellent André Dussollier) is interested in the workings of the female criminal mind. In former French New Wave director François Truffaut’s unsettling A Gorgeous Girl Like Me (1972), he decides to base his thesis on the testimony of prison inmate Camille Bliss (Bernadette Lafont). But whether he can trust what she tells him becomes the central tenet of this classic of French cinema.
Further north, Seppo Ilmari Koistinen (Janne Hyytiäinen), a solitary nightwatchman in Helsinki, is befriended by the beautiful Mirja (Maria Järvenhelmi, channelling the great femme fatales of 1940s and 1950s film noir). He can’t believe his luck. He might have been wiser to play his hand a little more cautiously, as he soon realises he is a dupe in a scheme run by Mirja’s gangster lover. Written and directed by the great Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, Lights in the Dusk (2006) is both an homage to the great French and American crime thrillers of old, and another in the filmmaker’s series of poisoned love letters to Helsinki.
Finally, Jacques Audiard, whose father was a crime screenwriter and who has himself become the master of the genre (The Prophet, Rust and Bone), also looked to America for his excellent The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005). It’s a remake of James Toback’s Fingers, a 1978 crime thriller that the New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael described at the time of its release as having so many ideas it was almost bursting at its seams. Audiard pares back that film’s more outré elements to present a taut, full-throttle tale of a young man, the son of a gangster and a concert pianist, who desperately wants to develop his more artful side, but keeps being drawn back into the Parisian underworld. The film is dominated by Romain Duris’ stunning central performance, which remains the best of his varied career. But it is Audiard’s love of the genre, which is a part of his DNA, that makes the film such a terrific, thrilling ride.
Criminal Minds, the new collection from Curzon12 is available to watch now on Curzon Home Cinema. Curzon members can watch all the films in the collection for free as part of their membership.