November 1 - Diabolique - Henri-Georges Clouzot - A petty tyrant's murder is plotted and carried out by the women whose lives he makes most miserable, his wife and his mistress, but when his corpse disappears the co-conspirators find their plan shot, their resolve tested and their sanity strained. Adapted by Clouzot (who also adapted Georges Arnaud's book Wages of Fear for the screen) from the novel by Pierre Boileau, it's a classic noir setup and classy atmospheric treat where suspense and spookiness intercept. The film stars Véra Clouzot, wife and frequent collaborator of director Clouzot, and Simone Signoret whose physical resemblance to Sharon Stone I could believe was enough to have been the kick off for the Stone-starring 1996 remake (alongside Isabelle Adjani and Chazz Palminteri) as the femmes fatale and Paul Meurisse as the suitable object of violence.
November 2 - Brick - Rian Johnson - In 2005 writer/director Johnson turned heads with this ultra-stylized hardboiled detective story set in a high school and concerned only with teenaged characters. Perhaps pitched as John Hughes meets John Huston, it's an exercise in style that transcends mere homage or pastiche and is infinitely more adult than say Bugsy Malone. At the time star Joseph Gordon-Levitt was also making a break from his the-next-Chachi image (just to keep making Scott Baio references) with prominent roles in darker material like Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin than his most recognizable calling card of the time as adorable Tommy Solomon on Third Rock From the Sun. In the next few years he'd go on to appear in more crime fare like Scott Frank's directorial debut, The Lookout (as a character named Chris Pratt no less), John Madden's Elmore Leonard adaptation Killshot and the titular role in Spencer Susser's Hesher as heavy-metal Mary Poppins before re-teaming with Johnson for 2012's even better Looper as the improbably convincing young Bruce Willis.
November 3 - Suburbicon - George Clooney - Rewritten to some degree by director Clooney and Grant Heslov from an original script by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen it plays a little like Noah Hawley's Fargo TV show - like the entire body of Coen work thrown in a blender and then repurposed for an homage - only far less successful. Roughly two-thirds of the movie concern Matt Damon as a man in debt to organized crime figures who conspires with his sister in law (Julian Moore) to murder his wife (also Moore) for the insurance money while the remaining screen time concerns Damon's new neighbors (Kamirah Westbrook and Leith M. Burke), the only black family to live in the 1959 idyll of Suburbicon who face relentless and increasingly hostile pressure from their white neighbors to leave. The two parts never quite combine into a cohesive whole and the murder plotline is the one that interests me for this blog and the one I most enjoyed. It's nastier than I thought I was in for, and it's perversely funny too - especially the supporting players. Alex Hassell and Glen Fleshler as the thugs, Gary Basaraba as the Catholic brother in law, Oscar Isaac as the insurance investigator and Ellen Crawford as Damon's secretary are all worth their paychecks. Unfortunately the film isn't strong enough to recommend right out, in fact it's a head-scratcher of a failure in several ways, but if you're a Coen completist you'll probably enjoy spotting bits of Fargo, Blood Simple, Barton Fink, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man and No Country For Old Men in there. Probably worth seeing for Fleshler's final scene alone.