FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Alfred Hitchcock |||
Alfred Hitchcock

This is perhaps an obvious choice, however, most people tend to overlook the Master of Suspense’s early work as well as the relevancy of his last film as a key element in the continuing transition and development of the genre he defined.

One of Hitchcock's early triumphs, this predecessor to the mistaken identity man on the run scenario Hitchcock turned to time and again, stars Robert Donat as the innocent wrongly accused of murder and pursued by both the police and enemy spies. This is the first example of Hitchcock’s mastery over the suspense tale, giving us a glimpse of the greatness to come.

Considered to be one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest works, this story of two men who meet by chance on a train and frivolously discuss swapping murders is a prime example of a common Hitchcock theme of the man who suddenly finds himself within a nightmare world over which he has no control. You can easily see how this film lays the ground work for the more popular “North by Northwest”.

Alfred Hitchcock's final film is a light-hearted thriller involving phony psychics, kidnappers and organized religion, all of which cross paths in the search for a missing heir and a fortune in jewels. Here, Hitchcock has brilliantly developed his signature form to include the now common, and often overused, device of plot twist, after plot twist, after plot twist. Widescreen!

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

Advertisement

Ned Kelly

By BrianOrndorf

March 25th, 2004

As an American, the legacy of Ned Kelly - famous Australian outlaw - was not something I was immediately familiar with. The new film, "Ned Kelly," features a strong ensemble cast (including Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Naomi Watts, and Geoffrey Rush), and detailed production values. But lame attempts to inject a little "Titanic" style romance sours the milk, as well as the slowly creeping feeling that what's onscreen doesn't correspond with historical fact.


Irishman Ned Kelly always had his fair share of bad luck growing up in Australia. Returning home after years inside a prison for stealing a horse and assaulting a lawman, Kelly tries to change his destitute family’s ways, taking on jobs and trying to rebuild his life with his brother and friends (including Bloom, Joel Edgerton, Laurence Kinlan, and Phil Barantini). When a wayward officer of the law tries futilely to win the heart of Ned’s sister, the incident turns violent, with the “copper” lying about Ned’s involvement in the situation. Finding themselves no recourse but to run, Ned and his gang retreat into the wilds, and from 1878-1880, they became national legends as they robbed banks, gave to the poor, and outwitted Superintendent Francis Hare (Rush) in their quest to clear their names.

The new cinematic take on the legend, “Ned Kelly,” is a decent primer to the ways of the Aussie outlaw, but I imagine it shouldn’t be considered the definitive lesson on the Kelly Gang. Filmed numerous times over the past 100 years (most famously, a 1970 production with Mick Jagger as Kelly), the true story of Ned Kelly has gone from fact to legend, with director Gregor Jordan’s film falling somewhere more toward the legend perspective on the events. Trying to satisfy both the purists and the newbies to the tale, Jordan (“Buffalo Soldiers”) deftly weaves the notorious factual instances of Kelly’s descent into outlaw status (the iron body armor, the Jerilderie letter, and Kelly’s beloved silk bravery sash) with traditional dramatic structure that a bio-pic like this sometimes requires to get from A to B. The invention of a romantic interest for Kelly, played by the luminous Watts, is truly the film’s most glaringly false note. Blame “Titanic” if you will, but Jordan’s attempt to inject a little romantic fire into a story populated with well-known events and historical figures is a complete failure, wasting precious screen time with an obvious attempt to appeal this rugged story to teenage girls and their disposable incomes.

One of the more interesting textures to “Ned Kelly” is Jordan and cinematographer Oliver Stapleton’s use of the bleak Australian countryside to frame the Kelly saga. Often cutting away to the unbiased gaze of the exotic creatures that populate the land, Jordan is wise to keep the location a tangible subplot to the story. And Stapleton shoots the land lovingly, even when it’s truly the desolate, immigrant-intensive, burgeoning area Australia was at the time.

Normally an actor of limited means, star Ledger finds a perfect role in Ned Kelly. Utilizing Ledger’s gift of a booming voice and tragic looks, Jordan finds his actor fits snugly with what the role requires. Jordan’s modus operandi on Kelly is more of a battered messiah, which is historically incorrect, but Ledger performs the role accordingly and expertly. Unlike the lanky, feminine Jagger’s take on the role, Ledger sells Kelly’s passion and apologetic fury with grace.

In playing narrative hopscotch with the facts, the briskly paced “Ned Kelly” soon begin to hurdle some plot points late in the game I wished were covered more thoroughly The Javert-like struggle between the Kelly brood and Francis Hare isn’t given the attention it requires, as well as Kelly’s seemingly indestructible nature in the film’s closing moments. Taken as fact or fiction, “Ned Kelly” is an interesting portrayal of the Australian legend, but the film would’ve been much better off just choosing a side and starting from there.

My rating: C+