That Man from Rio

That Man from Rio

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“Sir, could you please arrest me?” the French airman hero of the 1964 adventure picture “That Man from Rio” asks a Brazilian cop, midway through his odyssey to rescue his kidnapped fiancée. “I’m a deserter, I lost my uniform. I flew without a ticket, conned an invalid, I fought with men of all nations and colors, and I drive around in a stolen pink car with little green stars. I’m also guilty of public indecency.” Then he sticks his wrists out. “The handcuffs, please.”

Said fiancée, Agnès Catalan (Françoise Dorléac, who died in a car wreck just three years after this film came out) is, at that moment, sitting directly behind the hero, in the aforementioned little pink car with green stars. The hero, Adrien Dufourquet (Jean-Paul Belmondo), rescued  Agnès earlier. and now they’re chasing three statuettes that are believed to have magical powers, battling and evading henchpersons along the way. Don’t worry, I’m not giving away anything important; this is the kind of film in which people get kidnapped and re-kidnapped and ancient statuettes are stolen and re-acquired and stolen again. Wha matters isn’t what happens but how things happen: the way people look slyly or lustily or contemptuously at each other, or duck behind pillars and partitions, or shimmy along cables, or drive fast along winding Brazilian mountain roads, shouting romantic banter so that it can be heard over the roaring car engine and the whistling wind. The point is, at a juncture in the narrative where an arrest might do the hero and his fiancé some good, the cop won’t oblige, because “That Man from Rio” is a one-damned-thing-after-another film in which nothing goes as planned and the heroes have to improvise. As Indiana Jones might say, they’re just making it up as they go. 

That Dr. Jones reference doesn’t come from nowhere. Steven Spielberg has often praised this movie from Phillippe De Broca, who entered features after working as an assistant director to French New Wave giants and served as an Army cameraman in the French-Algierian war before that. You can feel the Jonesiness in every minute of “That Man from Rio”—and not just when a thief is sneaking into an art gallery and swiping a statuette and incapacitating a guard with a dart pistol, or when Adrien is walking across a thin plank stretched between two high scaffoldings on a construction site while listening for the sounds of two killers climbing after him. 

You also sense the influences of James Bond and Tintin (whose exploits Spielberg chronicled in a 2010 feature). All three sources share not just a preoccupation with action for action’s sake, but also a tourist sensibility, and an accompanying, often rather blithe sense of the third world as a personal playground for good looking white folks—an enchanted land of sensuality and music. Uberacy de Olivieira, the child actor who plays Adrien’s shoeshine boy sidekick Sir Winston, is undeniably charming, but he’s such a smiling cipher that he makes Short Round from “The Temple of Doom” seem like a psychologically complex person.  Somehow the paternalistic attitude doesn’t rankle (not as much as it might have, anyway); maybe it’s because the movie’s tone is feather-light. The characters are not so much plausible individuals as a fusion of attitudes and actions, with magnificent hair and clothes. 

This is a cinematic confection, like “The Adventures of Robin Hood” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or either version of “The Thomas Crown Affair”—or like a nearly plotless cousin of “North by Northwest,” with three MacGuffins instead of one, and Belmondo as a working class-hero version of Hitchcock’s standard good-man-in-over-his-head, performing extraordinary feats with a nonchalance that makes them seem all the more impressive. De Broca’s filmmaking always had a dancer-like exactness—every camera move and cut timed for maximum effect—but his choreography achieves peak awesomeness here. The whole movie just seems to glide.  Like all great action filmmakers, he teaches you how to watch his work. Once you’ve seen a few suspenseful sequences, you know that everything in a frame is there for a reason. If puts a window in a shot, something important is about to happen within its borders. If the camera slowly twists from one axis to another, revealing a side of the room you haven’t seen before, watch out. 

Belmondo did a number of his own stunts for “That Man from Rio,” and de Broca frames the moments so that you know it’s him. They obviously have a rapport; it’s no surprise that they worked together twice more. Wdon’t think of Belmondo as an action star per se, but that’s what he is here, smirking like Steve McQueen and managing to keep a cigarette clamped between his lips even when he’s navigating hairpin turns on a motorbike. There’s an understatedly lovely sequence of shots about 90 minutes in where Adrien chases a car on foot and keeps chasing it. De Broca cuts to a series of wide shots of the hero running, running, running, through depopulated panoramas, past elegant futurist structures (overpasses, apartment towers, archways). It’s visual poetry of of the most basic sort, and it may evoke a line by Agnes from earlier in the film: “How can you be blasé amid all these wonders?”

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CALVARY: McDonagh & Gleeson’s Fine Follow-Up To THE GUARD

CALVARY: McDonagh & Gleeson’s Fine Follow-Up To THE GUARD

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Now playing at a indie art house near you…

CALVARY (Dir. John Michael McDonagh, 2013)


In Writer/Director John Michael McDonagh’s 2011 comic Irish thriller THE GUARD, Brendan Gleeson’s partying police sergeant lead came off as a ballsy blend of Dirty Harry and Benny Hill. In McDonagh’s fine follow-up CALVARY, now playing in the Triangle area, the bearded bearish Gleeson plays a less outlandish, much more grounded protagonist, a small town parish priest whose downbeat demeanor belies his gentle and kind soul.

The film, named after the hill near Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified, begins with a close-up of Gleeson in the darkness of a confession booth listening to the unidentified voice of a man who speaks of being sexually abused by a priest when he was a child. As the offender is long dead, the man plans to take revenge on the Catholic Church by killing a good priest, which he figures will make more of a statement than killing a bad one. He gives Gleeson until the next Sunday to get his house in order: “Killing a priest on a Sunday; that’ll be a good one!”

As his quaint coastal village – the film was shot in Easkey in County Sligo, Ireland – is sparsely populated, there are few suspects, so right off Gleeson has a good idea of who the threat is coming from (so may many in the audience who are familiar with the cast), but he doesn’t go to the police. Gleeson goes about his daily duties of tending to the townfolk, including Chris O’Dowd as the local butcher whose wife (Orla O’Rourke) has been cheating with the local mechanic (Isaach De Bankolé). O’Dowd claims that De Bankolé is where his unfaithful wife got the shiner she’s been sporting (or more accurately hiding under Jackie O-style sunglasses).

Gleeson also deals with Dylan Moran (SHAWN OF THE DEAD) as a drunk millionaire who wants to donate money to the church to help absolve his guilt over how he obtained his riches, a former student behind bars for murder and cannibalism (played by Gleeson’s real-life son Domhnall) the always welcome (and always grizzled as Hell) M. Emmett Walsh only credited as “The Writer” who asks the priest to get him a gun (a Walther PPK – James Bond’s weapon of choice, in fact), and Aidan Gillen (The Wire, Game of Thrones) as the town’s physician who says of himself: “the atheistic doctor, it’s a cliché part to part.”

There’s also Gleeson’s adult daughter (Kelly Reilly) in town to recover after a suicide attempt. Reilly and Gleeson’s scenes together have a quiet power; at one crucial point they share a shadowy confession booth pondering questions of salvation and damnation. One can really feel through their exchange how troubling laws of spirituality can be, especially when considering that they may not really exist.

Things get out of Gleeson’s hands, in the film’s unsettling second half. Somebody burns down Gleeson’s church, his dog is found dead, and the long sober priest goes on a bender at the local pub.

There are many amusing lines and moments in CALVARY, but few laugh out loud instances as it’s a drama speckled with black comedy rather than a black comedy decorated with dramatic bits. It pokes fun at the notion of Gleeson living by a moral code, yet still respects him for trying to do so; it pities rather than ridicules religion.


On the surface, Gleeson puts in a performance that can be seen as a huge shrugging off of a lifetime of tiring existential ponderings, but look deeper and you’ll see a masterful portrayal of a sincere as sin holy man at the end of his rope.

More later…

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Crimson Tide (1995)

Crimson Tide (1995)

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Genre: Action/Adventure

Starring: Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Matt Craven, George Dzundza, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Rocky Carroll
The United States and Russia have had a historical standoff and Hollywood movies have always made the Russians as their evil counterparts who are trying to destroy the world. Post the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union, a Russian revolutionist has taken control of Russian nuclear missiles and threatens to fire them if either the Russian or American government tries to confront him. A US submarine, USS Alabama has been ordered to remain on standby in the Pacific and in case of escalation, to fire a nuclear warhead at Russia. Captain Frank Ramsey (Hackman) is a Navy veteran and a staunch nationalist. His ideologies being that anyone who stands in front of America and denies the people their freedom, must be crushed. Lt. Commander Ron Hunter (Washington) is the designated Executive Officer of the submarine and has a different way of putting things. He believes that war itself is wrong and a peaceful compromise is always possible and the military is only in force in dire consequences. The consequences do get dire which results in a standoff between the Frank and Ron and what would be the best action to take given the circumstances. The movie is a fairly entertaining action movie that can help you easily kill some time. Yes it gets gripping at some moments and can get involving but in a complete nutshell it’s not something that will be outright fabulous. Directed by Tony Scott, the usual American military movie that is good Sunday afternoon killer.
Thumbs up: Engaging and thrilling
Thumbs down: It has a good blend of a lot of things but doesn’t excel in anything
Rating: 7.2/10

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