6 June 2018

101 FILMS' NEW BLACK LABEL PRESENTS: THE GRIFTERS. (1990) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




THE GRIFTERS. (1990) PRODUCED BY MARTIN SCORSESE. DIRECTED BY STEPHEN FREARS. MUSIC BY ELMER BERNSTEIN. BASED ON THE BOOK BY JIM THOMPSON.
STARRING ANGELICA HUSTON, ANNETTE BENING, JOHN CUSACK, HENRY JONES AND PAT HINGLE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

101 Films launch their new Black Label with The Grifters and eXistenZ both on dual format on 21 May 2018!

Pre-order both for £25 direct from 101 Films: http://bit.ly/101BlackLabel

'I've wined and dined on mulligan stew
And never wished for turkey,
As I hitched and hiked and grifted too,
From Maine to Albuquerque.'
From THE LADY IS A TRAMP.
Words and music by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers. (1937)

'Who's a boy gonna talk to, if not his mother?'

'He was so crooked, he could eat soup with a corkscrew.'

'I've kissed a lotta fucking frogs, and you're my Prince.'

'I gave you your life twice. All I'm asking is that you give me mine once.'

I loved this one, mainly because the titular 'grifting' was kept to a minimum and the focus was all on the relationships and interactions between the three main characters. It's super-slick, sexy and stylish, very much rooted in its time of the late 'Eighties, very early 'Nineties, and the fabulous outfits, jewellery, sunglasses and hairstyles all reflect that marvellously.

John Cusack, an actor I never really rated terribly highly, is actually great in this and sexy too, in a f**ked-up, I've-had-a-troubled-childhood vulnerable kind of way. He plays Roy Dillon, a strictly small-time con or grifter who specialises in what's known as the 'short con.'

That is, he'll con you at cards or at one of those games relying on légère-de-main or sleight-of-hand that you can play in a bar or on a train or on a street corner. Hiding an object under three cups and you've got to choose which cup the object is hiding under, that type of thing. He'll take your money and light on out of there fast, before you cotton on to the fact that you've been duped. Like the big gullible rube you are, lol.

Roy has had a troubled childhood, in point of fact. His mother is Lillie, played by Angelica Huston as a blonde bombshell. Lillie's only fourteen years older than Roy. For much of his childhood, he was led to believe that she was his older sister and not his mother. Ladykiller Ted Bundy had that exact same start in life, and he turned out fine, right? Right...?

The hurt Roy feels over the whole thing goes deep, all the way down to the bone, I'd say. He hasn't seen his mother in years and, when she does turn up again in the film, he sarcastically and deliberately calls her 'Lillie' in a manner designed to hurt and he keeps her at arms' length. Don't be fooled by his tough- well, tough-ish- exterior. This boy's hurting bad on the inside.

Lillie is a fantastic character. Tall, thin, immaculately dressed in tight skirt-suits with high heels and loads of clunky gold jewellery, she's a quiet woman of few words who's genuinely tough as opposed to Roy's pretend-tough. She's obviously had to be.

A mother at fourteen, she's worked for the Mafia for years and years now. She's the person who goes to the horse-racing track and brings home tons of money from the races for her
boss, the foul Bobo Justus. I'm not exactly sure of the details of what she does, never having been much of a gambler myself. I'm guessing it's super-crooked in some way and involving a certain degree of risk.

When Lillie turns up in Roy's life unexpectedly, he's sick and bleeding internally from a punch to the stomach given to him by a 'mark' or con-victim who found out that he'd been grifted. Lillie is the one who calls the ambulance and thereby saves Roy's life.

Roy is outwardly pissed-off that his absentee mother seems to be back in his life. Can they patch up their ruined relationship? Is there anything left to patch up? According to Roy, there's not. But isn't some kind of relationship with the elusive, emotionally closed-off Lillie the one thing that Roy's craved his whole life?

Now we come to Myra, or Mrs. Langtry as she's known. Lillie Langtry, anyone? Myra, played by Annette Bening, is Roy's girlfriend of the moment, though she's closer to Lillie's age than Roy's. Though gorgeous and feminine to look at, this is another tough-as-nails broad who's had to learn to grow a thick outer layer of armour to protect her from the sharks and crocodiles she habitually swims with.

Poor Myra. She's had to resort to prostitution many times to make ends meet. Early on in the film, she's seen having sex with her much older, fatter landlord because she doesn't have the rent and he's good enough to accept payment in kind. She seems to enjoy it and smiles a lot, but is she really enjoying lying there while a sweaty walrus heaves and grunts on top of her?

Myra comes across like a sad, desperate and lonely woman. Her dazzling smile hides her terror of the future, which is no place for an ageing single woman. Pushing forty, with no kids that we know of and no husband, she's spent her life as a grifter.

She specialises in the 'long con,' where you con, say, a businessman out of his money for weeks and months and even years by getting him to 'invest' in a phoney scheme or product or non-existent company or whatever.

Myra wants Roy to go in with her on a 'fail-safe' scheme to scam a mark she's got her eye on. She's lost her old partner-in-crime and apparently she can't exist unless she's part of a Bonnie-and-Clyde-style male-female crime partnership. That's the only way she feels alive.

My God, what kind of a sad pathetic way is that to live? If she got a proper job or went to college or even went on welfare (at least it's honest!), she could eventually make her own way in the world without stealing from other people. It's such a tawdry, unreal way to live.

Roy doesn't want to go into business with Myra, but not out of any moral scruples he might have. He's strictly a short-con kinda guy. Who has the patience to scam someone over a period of months or even years? Myra blames Lillie for poisoning Roy's mind against her.

The two women positively loathe and mistrust each other. It takes one to know one, and they each obviously know the other for what she is, a grifter, a con-artist, someone who's out for all she can get. Money is quite obviously king for all of the three points of our little triangle. You will not believe how far at least one of them is prepared to go for the green stuff with the little Presidents on it...

The scene with Lillie and her Mob boss Bobo Justus is hard to watch. As tough as Lillie may be, she's still a woman and Bobo is an emotional and physical abuser. Maybe a sexual abuser too, for all we know.

Lillie is right to be afraid of him, very, very afraid. She's right too to want to get out of the game and be free of Bobo, but the Mob have exceedingly strong views on people who try to get out of the 'family.' How far will Lillie get, if she gets anywhere at all...?

I love that Stephen Tobolowsky is in here as a jeweller to whom Myra brings her stolen loot. He plays a sleazy businessman in SINGLE WHITE FEMALE too. He's the sleazebag who comes on to the engaged Ally Jones and then tries to get out of paying her for her services as a computer programmer. If anyone was born to play a sleazebag, this guy sure was, lol.

THE GRIFTERS is a terrific film. I was initially put off by the title but this is not just a film about grifting, it's also about human relationships amongst people who exist on the fringes of society and make their way in the world by cheating and using other people. Don't be fooled by the Cadillacs and designer sunglasses. Lift up those rocks and you'll surely find a whole hell of a lotta worms...
Special Features with THE GRIFTERS:
Brand New Extras
Seduction. Betrayal. Murder: The Making of The Grifters: A brand new feature length documentary on the film’s production, including new interviews with director Stephen Frears, cinematographer Oliver Stapleton, editor Mick Audsley, executive producer Barbara De Fina and co-producer Peggy Rajski.
Limited edition booklet includes: ‘Jim Thompson, Noir, and the Popular Front’, an essay by David Cochran, and ‘Elmer Bernstein: Grit not Grift’, a review of the legendary composer’s career by Charlie Brigden


101 Films launch their new Black Label with The Grifters and eXistenZ both on dual format on 21 May 2018

Pre-order both for £25 direct from 101 Films: http://bit.ly/101BlackLabel  

Some information on EXISTENZ (David Cronenberg, 1999)  UK Blu-ray debut
Visionary director David Cronenberg (Videodrome) challenges the boundaries of reality in sci-fi thriller eXistenZ. During a closed-door demonstration of her new virtual reality video game, brilliant game designer Allegra Geller survives an attempt on her life by a crazed assassin. On the run with Ted Pikul, a young marketing trainee who falls into the role of bodyguard, Allegra convinces Ted to join her in her game, eXistenZ. As the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur, the real-life dangers they sought to escape start to merge with their virtual world.

eXistenZ stars Jennifer Jason Leigh (Annihilation), Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley), and a stellar supporting cast including Ian Holm (Alien), Willem Dafoe (Platoon), Christopher Eccleston (28 Days Later) and Sarah Polley (Splice).

Special Features
Brand New Extras
The Leader: An interview with Christopher Eccleston
Commentary with Kim Newman and Ryan Lambie
Commentary with Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson
Limited edition booklet includes: ‘Enemy of Reality: David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ’ by Alex Morris, and ‘Of Fabrics and Flesh: An interview with Denise Cronenberg’ by Phillip Escott.

Additional Extras
Audio commentary by David Cronenberg
Making-of documentary
Promo Featurette
Special Effects Featurette
Backstage interviews with Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Willem Dafoe, Jim Isaac (visual effects) and David Cronenberg
Trailer

SOME INFORMATION ON BLACK LABEL:
101 Films is committed to seeking out cult and catalogue films and giving them the best releases possible. With their new Black Label, 101 Films is curating a numbered series of dual format limited editions, complete with original artwork and newly-commissioned extras. The Black Label is dedicated to fully doing justice to the very best cult and classic films from some of cinema’s most renowned directors, and unearthing hidden gems in luxury packages for the first time. The first 3,000 copies of each title will come complete with a slipcase, and include a booklet featuring newly written material. 


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com








No comments:

Post a comment