Sunday, June 5, 2016

Man in the Box

Needle drop of Pie IX by Suuns took me out of the story I was working on 'cause it's nearly impossible for me to hear that song without thinking of it's effective utilization in the trailer for David Mackenzie's prison flick Starred Up.

Man. What a fucking amazing film that was. What revelation Jack O'Connell was, what a confirmation of all my faith in Ben Mendelsohn, what a tightrope act to keep from dropping into either nihilism or sentimentality. What a motherfucker of a ride. O'Connell has yet to appear in anything looking like it could touch the quality of Starred Up (Money Monster? oof), but I'm hoping director Mackenzie's next one, Hell or High Water, delivers. The trailer didn't do a lot for me,  but the talent on screen (Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges), and off (Mackenzie and Sicario scribe Taylor Sheridan) plus the subject matter -heartland bank robbers- have enough pull to get me out to see it.

Anyhow I got to thinking of my favorite prison films and something struck me as strange - the next three that occurred to me, Jacques Becker's Le Trou, Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped and Jacques Audiard's A Prophet, were all French films. Plus the fourth, Franklin J. Schaffner's Papillon, is based on the memoir of frenchman Henri Charriere and a fifth, Jules Dassin's Brute Force, was made just a few years before the director had to leave the USA in order to find work due to all that blacklist bullshit in the states. He lived in Europe after that and though he didn't speak French, made one of the best French crime films of the 1950s, the seminal heist flick Rififi (come to think of it, Papillon's screenplay was written by blacklisted scribe Dalton Trumbo too... huh.) Weird.

But... is it just coincidence that the first associations I have with great prison flicks have French connections? 
I mentioned this on FB and immediately Andrew Nette refuted the notion of French dominance of incarceration dramatics citing it as Australia's national specialty. As evidence he dropped titles like Alkinos Tsilimidos's Everynight... Everynight, Stephen Wallace's Stir (starring Nette's favorite avatar Bryan Brown) and Ghosts... of the Civil Dead (from director John Hillcoat and writer Nick Cave no less). Fuck me, I haven't seen any of those. When I think of Oz prison films the first thing that pops in to my head is Andrew Dominik's Chopper and... I might even accept Ted Kotcheff's Wake in Fright as a psychological prison film. So.. yeah, getting on it.

I dunno... that's all.


mtm said...

A couple books come to mind-- GREEN RIVER RISING and ON THE YARD. As for films, it's hard to beat MIDNIGHT EXPRESS and BAD BOYS. I also like James Woods in FAST WALKING.

jedidiah ayres said...

I actually like the movie ON THE YARD - haven't gotten around to Braly's book

David said...

Ghosts of the Civil Dead is just plain nasty. You will love it.

JJStick said...

Stark House just did a release of Malcom Braly prisons memoir - False Starts. I love the prison scenes in White Heat.