The Drop (2014)

US / 107 minutes / color / Chernin, Big Screen, Ingenious, TSG, Fox Searchlight Dir: Michaël R. Roskam Pr: Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping Scr: Dennis Lehane Story: “Animal Rescue” (2009 in Boston Noir, edited by Dennis Lehane) by Dennis Lehane Cine: Nicolas Karakatsanis Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Ann Dowd, Michael Aronov, James Frecheville, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Tobias Segal, Michael Esper, Morgan Spector.

Scripted by Dennis Lehane on the basis of a story by Dennis Lehane first published in an anthology edited by Dennis Lehane (one of the celebrated Placename Noir series published by Akashic), this highly impressive slice of neonoir has, well, Dennis Lehane all over it.

Noomi Rapace as Nadia and Tom Hardy as Bob.

Brooklyn bar tender Bob Saginowski (Hardy) works in a drop bar, so-called because the local mobsters choose a different bar at random every night for receipt of their nefarious takings from all over, figuring that this way the cops are less likely to figure out where the money’s being collected. The bar where Bob works is managed by his much older cousin Marv Sliper (Gandolfini), who lives with Continue reading

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book: Vintage 1954 (2018; trans 2019 Jane Aitken & Emily Boyce) by Antoine Laurain

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I very much enjoyed Laurain’s The Red Notebook when I read it last year. I have a few reservations about Vintage 1954, his latest, but, overall, the good things outbalance the not so good ones.

Three people save Parisian realtor Hubert after he’s been locked in the cellar of his apartment building by burglars: Goth restorer Magalie/Abby, barman Julien, both of whom live in Hubert’s building, and Harley Davidson fan Bob, who’s a newly arrived Airbnb tenant there from Milwaukee. Impulsively Hubert invites the three to share with him the bottle of 1954 Chateau Saint-Antoine he found in the cellar, and the next morning the quartet discover they’ve been transported back in time to 1954 Paris.

It must have been the bottle of wine to blame, they concur. 1954 was a particularly good year for the Chateau Saint-Antoine grapes. Could this have been because Continue reading

book: Beyond Suspicion (2006; trans 2009 Linda Coverdale) by Tanguy Viel

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One of the review quotes on the cover of this short book says it reads like a Raymond Chandler novel, a comment of maximal piffledom; I guess the unnamed reviewer has the excuse that s/he was writing for a French literary magazine, rather than an Anglophone one, but even making that allowance may be overcharitable. There isn’t a private eye in sight; there’s no mystery to be solved; there isn’t a nest of plot strands that prove eventually to be interrelated; and so on and so on and so on. No one even gets beaten up, by the cops or otherwise.

Perhaps the reviewer was thinking of Jim Thompson and merely, in a moment of absentmindedness, wrote down the name of the wrong American hardboiled writer? Because that‘s a comparison that could be justified — certainly in terms of the plot and, at a bit of a stretch, in terms of the writing style.

Lovers Sam and Lise are a pair of grifters. Lise is a “hostess” at a dubious niterie — the most popular of the girls there not just because she’s the prettiest but because Continue reading

book: Fire in the Blood (trans 2007 Sandra Smith) by Irène Némirovsky

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In 1942, Ukrainian immigrée Irène Némirovsky was shipped off from her home in France to Auschwitz, where she died of typhus, aged 39; a few months later her husband met a similar fate, being transported to Auschwitz to be murdered by the spiritual ancestors of the MAGA crew.

By the time of her death Irène was a successful novelist in her adopted country, although in the prior few years things had been getting more difficult for her writing career, because of her Jewishness. The novel she was working on at the time of her arrest by the Vichy police — really not so much a novel as a shortish novella — was Chaleur du Sang. For many years it was regarded as having been left as just a fragment; in the early 21st century, with interest in Némirovsky’s work at a peak, a complete manuscript was discovered, and in 2007 veteran Némirovsky translator Sandra Smith rendered it into English as Fire in the Blood.

And three cheers to her for having done so. This is a really quite exquisite little fiction that both paints a picture of a community and an age and undercuts our complacency that we’re fully understanding what we’ve been told.

The setting of Fire in the Blood is essentially Continue reading

The Stolen (2017)

New Zealand, UK / 98 minutes / color / Cork, MiriquidiFilm, Red Rock, Head Gear, Metrol, Kreo, The Exchange, Ascendant Dir: Niall Johnson Pr & Story: Emily Corcoran Scr: Emily Corcoran, Niall Johnson Cine: Alun Bollinger Cast: Alice Eve, Jack Davenport, Graham McTavish, Stan Walker, Cohen Holloway, Stig Eldred, Emily Corcoran, Gillian MacGregor, Mikaela Ruegg, Richard O’Brien, Lukas Hinch, William Petty, Ella Hope-Higginson, Stephen Lefebvre, Mark Chan, Janice Gray.

It’s 1882. Englishwoman Charlotte Lockton (Eve) and her husband David (Hinch) have come to New Zealand’s South Island to make a new life for themselves. But then burglars break into the Locktons’ bedroom and, encountering resistance from David, shoot him dead and escape with the Locktons’ newborn son Arthur (played by various babies).

Alice Eve as Charlotte and Lukas Hinch as David.

Months pass and the cops lose interest. But then Charlotte gets a clue that Continue reading

book: Where Roses Never Die (2012; trans Don Bartlett 2016) by Gunnar Staalesen

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Nearly twenty-five years ago toddler Mette Misvaer disappeared from the sandpit in which she’d been happily playing. Although the police have never officially closed the case, it’s safe to say it’s no longer active; besides, almost all of the cops who were involved in the case have since retired, so there’s no one left with a personal interest in it. Accordingly, with the crime’s statute of limitations about to expire, Mette’s mother comes to PI Varg Veum and asks him to investigate the disappearance in the desperate hope that she might at last find out what happened to her daughter.

Varg digs out out some pretty embarrassing stuff about the adults — including Mette’s parents — who shared Continue reading

book: All She Was Worth (1992; trans 1996 Alfred Birnbaum) by Miyuki Miyabe

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Tokyo cop Shunsuke Honma is in the midst of a few months’ sick leave to recover from being shot in the knee in the line of duty. A distant cousin begs him, as a favor, to track down the cousin’s fiancée Shoko Sekine, who has suddenly vanished from sight on it being discovered she has a bankruptcy in her past. Reluctantly, because of his gammy leg and because, as a widower, he’d rather use his sick leave to spend time with young son Makoto, Honma agrees to take on a case that soon proves to be one of identity theft: the woman who disappeared was not the real Shoko Sekine but someone else who stole her name and her past, and much else . . .

I have rather mixed feelings about this novel, which Continue reading

A String of Beads (1954 TVM)

US / 25 minutes / bw / Everest, CBS Dir: William Cameron Menzies Pr: William Frye, Ronald Colman Scr: Don Ettlinger Story: “Pearls” (1927 in Hearst’s International Combined with Cosmopolitan; vt “A String of Beads”) by W. Somerset Maugham Cine: George E. Diskant Cast: Angela Lansbury, Ronald Colman, Brenda Forbes, Ron Randell, Nigel Bruce, George Macready, Sean McClory, Sarah Selby, Ben Wright, Dorothy Green.

Angela Lansbury as Joan.

An unnamed diner (Colman) sees Joan Robinson (Lansbury) arriving at a table on the far side of the restaurant where he’s seated with his lovely companion Laura Green), and takes the opportunity to tell Laura about Joan’s backstory.

Joan was governess to the family of pretentious socialite Edythe Livingstone (Forbes). Invited to one of Edythe’s parties to make up the numbers, Joan wore her string of cultured pearls—worth at most fifteen shillings. Star party guest and renowned gems expert Count Borselli (Macready) for fun told the assembled snobs that the pearls were, in his educated opinion, worth at least £60,000. At once Society, including her employer, assumed Joan was in reality not the working-class orphan she claimed to be but an aristocrat fallen on hard times.

Ronald Colman as the narrator.

When the truth emerges Continue reading

book: Touch Not the Cat (1976) by Mary Stewart

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Bryony Ashley, aged 22 and currently the last in her branch of an uppercrust English family, has experienced telepathic episodes since childhood; it’s a family trait, apparently. In particular, she frequently exchanges thoughts with an unidentified “lover” whom she assumes to be one of her second cousins. It’s this “lover” who sends her a warning that her father, recuperating from illness in a Swiss sanitarium, is in dire straits; when Bryony gets there she finds that her dad’s dead, victim of a hit-and-run. As he died, he left an enigmatic warning for her, one that doesn’t make a lot of sense to her but involves a “cat in the pavement.”

The rest of the book sees her dealing with Continue reading