Time After Time is a fun, harmless mash-up that imagines that HG Wells and Jack the Ripper are friends, and the latter has to chase the killer through time and into 1979. Its story feels, in some ways, like it would be perfect material for modern audiences so interested in these types of historical fiction hybrids.
Nicholas Meyer’s direction is pretty standard stuff. Solid, not flashy, but also not particularly risky. ‘Solid’ describes much of the film. The sets and cinematography aren’t too remarkable, but they’re believable enough. Malcolm McDowell (as Wells), Mary Steenburgen (as Wells soon-to-be wife, Amy) and David Warner (as Jack) are all fine, though the roles don’t offer much by the way of nuance.
There’s one small moment in the film that really caught my attention. Wells and Jack (who’s alter-ego is not yet known), play chess at Wells’ house:
Cut to a wide-shot as Wells’ housekeeper comes in announcing that Scotland Yard is here:
This is what gets interesting to me. What would be logical here? Cut to a reaction of Wells and Jack? Maybe hang on the shot above and show all the men walking out? Stay on the shot and have the police walk in?
Nope. Instead we get a reverse angle that holds for a full 2 seconds. The men are silent and still:
And then a time cut to the hallway as Wells, et al, walk out to meet the investigators:
A small moment indeed, but this decision – cut to the group reaction, keep them silent, and show no movement at all – is a unique one. It’s a button at the end of the scene. A moment for the emotion to visually sink in. This is the constant question that a director asks him/herself on-set: ‘what am I going to cut to from here?’ The purpose of this strategy here seems also to nail in their confusion, and not give any precedence to one specific reaction. The sudden stoppage/stillness is also an unexpected momentum shifter. We were chugging right along and then everything comes to a halt. It’s odd pacing, which is then picked immediately back up by the final shot above.
There’s one other shot that I want to point to because a) I like it and b) it’s visually out of place.
As Amy stares at the doorknob in her apartment it begins to turn. Someone’s coming in:
I like this because it reminds me of Ulmer’s Detour with the giant coffee cup. It’s also an impossible angle. Where’s the camera? Meyer doesn’t really use anything else like this in Time After Time, and I kind of wish he would have. It’s a bit impressionistic.
Lots of Others
The stated purpose of this blog is to write about every film I see. I mistakenly thought I was only about 20 behind. Turns out I’m a full 50 behind! So, without further ado, here’s a bit of a catch-up. 1-2 sentences on a whole mess of films. I might revisit some once year-end lists hit.
Day of the Jackal (Zinnemann, 1973)
Hadn’t seen this one since I was very young. I forgot about some of the homosexual undertones and the really great tension at the end, slightly undercut by an abrupt ending.
Touki Bouki (Mambety, 1973)
Mambety’s feverish, crazed, at times impossible to follow, at times breathtaking film precedes his real masterpiece, Hyenas (1992), by nearly 20 years. Tough to nail down, Touki Bouki is, if nothing else, a commentary on jaded cultures.
Bridesmaids (Fieg, 2011)
I laughed so hard at this film that it hurt. One of the funniest in recent memory. Who gives a damn about camera angles sometimes?
The Odd Couple (Saks, 1968)
How can anyone not like Matthau and Lemmon? Not either of their best films (those would be Charley Varrick and The Apartment) it still holds up and clearly inspired a generation of copycats.
Compliance (Zobel, 2012)
One of the best of the year (my formal review is here: http://www.buckslocalnews.com/articles/2012/09/18/entertainment/doc50368762361b9907446363.txt), Compliance is disturbing and tough to watch at times. Complaints of it as illogical and unbelievable (as a pejorative) are overstated.
Easy Money (Espinosa, 2010)
Solid, small thriller that’s already got a sequel in the works. Biggest takeaway: Joel Kinnaman has puppy-dog eyes, is a good actor, and is on the verge of being typecast.
The Paperboy (Daniels, 2012)
Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron! But seriously, this film got unfairly dogged at Cannes (formal review here: http://www.soundonsight.org/the-paperboy/) and exhibits John Cusack’s best work in years.
I Declare War (Lapeyre, Wilson, 2012)
A victim of over-hype, I Declare War is Lord of the Flies-light. A few good sequences aside, it’s on the nose and suffers from child-acting (formal review here: http://www.soundonsight.org/philadelphia-film-festival-2012-i-declare-war-is-rather-strong-as-a-meditation-on-social-cliques/)
Hitchcock (Gervasi, 2012)
Well-acted, very fun at times, and historically interesting, Hitchcock ultimately disappoints by taking the easy emotional way out and not pursuing the title character more. Formal review here: http://www.montgomerynews.com/articles/2012/12/16/entertainment/doc50be2c8a98fc2685899573.txt?viewmode=3
Safe House (Espinosa, 2012)
So boring. So, so boring.
The Doctor From Gafire (Diop, 1986)
When it’s not on IMDb, you know it’s obscure…right? Solid African entry that compares witchcraft and practical medicine and the societal implications when the two cross.
The Brink’s Job (Friedkin, 1978)
Not up to snuff with Friedkin’s other stuff, The Brink’s Job is still really fun and features great turns by Peter Falk and Peter Boyle. Peter Boyle took some nice roles early in his career (Hardcore, Joe, etc).
Yeralti (Demikurbuz, 2012)
Interesting Turkish adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground. Strong film that climaxes in an insanely long, well-staged and written restaurant scene. My favorite part though: I saw it in a cinema in Istanbul!
Underworld (von Sternberg, 1927)
Not the Kate Beckinsale films, this is some classic, moody von Sternberg with a great performance from George Bancroft. Foggy docks, bar fights, and passion!
Arbitrage (Jarecki, 2012)
Standard stuff in this economically-driven thriller. Released too late to be incredibly relevant, Jarecki’s direction is nothing to write home about. Formal review here: http://www.montgomerynews.com/articles/2012/09/18/entertainment/doc5058a0b5d1c73656241321.txt