Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #10: Pitch Black Heist (2011)

UK / 14 minutes / bw / DMC, UK Film Council, Film4 Dir & Scr: John Maclean Pr: Gerardine O’Flynn Cine: Robbie Ryan Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Alex Macqueen

Shot in glorious black-and-white—and for a chunk of its running time in just glorious black—this enigmatic UK short won a 2012 BAFTA as Best Short Film and was nominated as Best Narrative Short at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

The opening credits play the 1955 Roger Williams version of the classic French song Les Feuilles Mortes (1945) over a scene of stacked boxes in a vault. The song, with music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by Jacques Prévert, was first used onscreen in Marcel Carné’s Les PORTES DE LA NUIT (1946; vt Gates of the Night). With English-language lyrics by Johnny Mercer, the song reappeared in the Joan Crawford vehicle AUTUMN LEAVES (1956) dir Robert Aldrich. The Roger Williams version is apparently the only piano instrumental to reach #1 in the US Billboard charts, which it did in 1955, remaining there for four weeks.

Ahem. Apologies for the digression.

 

Alex Mcqueen as Isaac briefs Michael (Fassbender, left) and Liam (Cunningham)

The use of the piece here has, thanks to the tune’s countless cinematic and other incarnations, the effect of gearing us emotionally to anticipate a UK noir of the 1940s/1950s, which is more or less—despite the numerous uses of the f-word (you’d not catch upright, pipe-smoking Ronald Howard saying that in public!)—what’s being homaged in Pitch Black Heist.

Two thieves, Liam (Cunningham) and the far more taciturn Michael (Fassbender), are brought together to pull off a bank job in the City of London. The significant problem they face is Continue reading

Counselor, The (2013)

vt The Counsellor
US, UK, Spain / 117 minutes / color / Fox 2000, Scott Free, Nick Wechsler, Chockstone, TCF Dir: Ridley Scott Pr: Ridley Scott, Nick Wechsler, Steve Schwartz, Paula Mae Schwartz Scr: Cormac McCarthy Cine: Dariusz Wolski Cast: Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Bruno Ganz, Rosie Perez, Sam Spruell, Toby Kebbell, Rubén Blades, Edgar Ramírez, Natalie Dormer, Goran Visnjic, Richard Cabral, John Leguizamo, Fernando Cayo, Dean Norris.

Counselor - 4 Malkina goes through charade of making confession

Malkina (Cameron Diaz) goes through the charade of making confession.

A lawyer (Fassbender) who has represented various figures in the drugs trade—and who’s referred to throughout only as Counselor—is tempted into taking part in the trade himself, investing in a cocaine shipment being brought from Mexico in a sewage truck. His friend Reiner (Bardem) facilitates the deal, as does another friend, Westray (Pitt), although the latter does his best to warn him off, using an account of a vicious snuff movie to illustrate (a) that, just as if you watch a snuff movie you’re guilty of complicity in the murder, so, if you invest in drugs trafficking, your involvement is far more than merely financial, and (b) that, whenever you think there’s something so sadistic and depraved that even the Mexican drug cartels wouldn’t do it, you’re wrong.

Counselor is much in love with Laura (Cruz); he goes to Amsterdam to purchase from a jeweler there (Ganz) a diamond of extraordinary loveliness for their engagement ring. Reiner has an imposing girlfriend of Mexican extraction, Malkina (Diaz), a one-time stripper who has come north to use her brains and looks to make good—in which effort she has been remarkably successful, more successful than anyone knows. Her hobbies including watching her twin cheetahs chase down and kill wildlife. Reiner is, rightly, afraid of her at the same time as he is completely infatuated with her.

Counselor - 1 The proposal to LauraCounselor (Michael Fassbender) proposes to Laura (Penélope Cruz).

Visiting an imprisoned client, Ruth (Perez), Counselor learns that her son (Cabral), nicknamed Green Hornet, has been arrested for Continue reading