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To Inspire Love: Death on the Nile (John Guillermin, 1978)

This is the second  in a (long-delayed, alas!) series of posts chronicling the fortunes of Agatha Christie on film from 1974-1988. Spoilers are not only expected, but required, and I offer them with no apology.

With the success of Murder on the Orient Express, it was only a matter of time before the cinema tried its hand at another Christie adaptation along the same lines. The formula was, after all, a solid one: a star-studded cast in an exotic location. Add a pinch of romance and you’ve got an almost-guaranteed success. In Orient Express, the Romance had been supplied almost entirely by the setting itself: that train, which had carried spies and lovers across the world, which still today—forty-one years later—carries the air of intrigue. Having the larger-than-life cast simply sit and talk in that setting was enough to evoke mystery and beauty. But where to go from there? The answer is fairly obvious; Christie, for all her ingenuity as a plotter, only produced a handful of novels with the necessary ingredients, and I suppose after the Balkan snows of the first movie it was only sensible to move the setting to somewhere warmer—to Egypt.

And so Death on the Nile becomes the next movie in the series. The novel itself is a good one—indeed, it is one of my personal favorites—but it poses the formal difficulty of the detective story in a way that Orient Express did not. Remember, the twist in the older movie... Read More

Filmwell Recommends – Streaming in May

Much to consider this month. Fandor is yet again is stacked with treasured, timeless items. Mubi has Lav Diaz’s lengthy From What is Before. We live in exciting times. — Movies Blackhat (iTunes) Blaise Pascal (Fandor) Bluebird (Netflix) Blue Velvet (Netflix) Chappie (iTunes) From What Is Before (Mubi) Fruitvale Station (Netflix) Grizzly Man (Amazon Prime) Harold and Maude (Netflix) Inglourious Basterds (Netflix) Internal Affairs (Netflix) Leviathan... Read More

The Fantasy of American Innocence: Little Boy (Alejandro Monteverde, 2015)

Before I begin, an obvious warning: I will discuss spoilers here. Another obvious warning: this is a long piece and it goes into the brush at various points. My hope is that, in the end, it comes together into something reasonably cohesive—but that is, of course, up to the reader to decide. A third warning: this is not a review in the traditional sense. Rather, it is an extended attempt to get at what, exactly is going on in Little Boy and why I,... Read More

Gett: The The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Roni and Shlomi Elkabetz, 2014)

Gett is the end of a series of films about the failed marriage of the Amsalems. In To Take A Wife (2004) and 7 Days (2008), Viviane is already desperate to leave their marriage, which has grown cold over differences in observance of Jewish law, tradition, and Elisha’s efforts to conserve his Moroccan heritage. These films are all dense with conversation and cultural detail, often moving so quickly between Elisha’s Arabic, French, and... Read More