I’d never seen the original Get Carter somehow until very recently. As expected, it’s a great entry into the 70s British tough-guy, Michael Caine and Mike Hodges canons. Is it me, or does Hodges take a pretty large cue from Jean-Pierre Melville with his silent sequences and tough guy theatrics? A warning…SPOILERS below.
Get Carter is a revenge film, but Caine’s titular character is slightly different than one might have come to expect. Carter is an interesting guy. He’s not taken seriously for most of the film, in fact. He might be reading a Raymond Chandler novel at the beginning, but he’s closer to a Chandler villain than a protagonist – sure he drinks, sleeps around and drops a good one-liner, but he’s also cold, sinister and largely unfeeling.
One of the great things about Hodges’ film is the locations. There’s something ignominious about places of death and Hodges goes to great lengths to showcase that. Here’s part of a crosscut as detectives investigate a death on an estate while Carter pursues his man:
I love how he keeps the mansion in the background in shot 2 there – death can’t happen so close to a place so fancy. Then when we cut to that beautiful next shot (#3 with Caine) he really hits home the comparison between the two; Caine’s chase is all blue-collar and personal, the first shots are lush, calm, and distant.
Here’s a great example of that humiliating death in what is a fantastic set-piece. This is the denouement of the film. The muddy beach, the broken shell of a car, the coal zip lines – these are fantastically worn bits of society and a perfect location for the end of a tireless, near-maniacal chase.
Compare this with what’s to come only a minute or two later: Carter’s death by a faceless killer. The very ending death is appropriate – Carter is no assassin. His death is cold and fast and unseen because he’s not a pro. He kills the way he does here – personally and in an ugly way.
Several Other Films:
As usual, I’m way behind on my mission statement of writing about all the films I watch. Here are a few brief sentences on some that I’ve seen over the last several months:
Argo (Affleck, 2012)
Not my favorite best picture candidate, but more worthy than some of the other nominees. I admired Affleck’s third feature for the tension at the end and some fine performances. Not so much for an unnecessary home-sideplot and some unflattering portraits of Iranians – common complaints at this point.
Life of Pi (Lee, 2012)
I was pleasantly surprised by this film. My friend Ali said it well – this is an arthouse film that’s been accepted by the mainstream because of the VFX and post-work (and now, the Oscar hype). Some of the visuals are truly fantastic, and, never having read the novel, I completely bought into the narrative and therefore was thrown by and loved the ending.
The Pajama Game (Donen, Abbott, 1957)
A weak Doris Day musical that still features some great moments – awesome 3-person performance during a rally scene and a great one to open using a fun (Dancer in the Dark referenced) bit of diegetic sound.
C.R.A.Z.Y. (Vallee, 2005)
I’ve had this DVD for years and just got around to watching it after a trip to Montreal. It feels like a blown up Louis Malle film, but also has a bit of that Jeunet whimsy. I really enjoyed it, despite its length. The performances are great, and it manages to be flashy but down-to-earth at the same time (similarly to Life of Pi, perhaps).
Godspeed You Black Emperor (Yanagimachi, 1976)
I’ve been wanting to see this – which inspired the band of the same name – for a long time, and an “Unknown Japan” screening in Philly allowed that to happen. It reminded me a good deal of Burst City or other Ishii films, perhaps with a dose of Throw Away Your Books Let’s Go Into the Streets. I can see this motorcycle documentary as a Japanese segue from 60s/70s new wave to the cyberpunk to come.