Archive for Mickey Rourke

ANGEL HEART, Alan Parker (1987)

Posted in Film Noir, Horror, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

It’s been too long since my last update. What can I say? I’ve been watching movies all the time but wasn’t too inspired, perhaps because my behavior is usually more erratic in Summer. We’ll see what happens this new season.

Few days ago I saw a couple of amazing tattoos related to Alan Parker’s film Angel Heart, and immediately I felt the urge to watch it again, as it had been years since the last viewing.

Memories came to mind. On one hand Robert De Niro and his terrible nails, peeling and eating a poach egg, that sight used to make me feel really uneasy. On the other hand all the scandal related to Lisa Bonet, who used to play the role of Denise Huxtable, one of the daughters of Bill Cosby, in his show. Due to a couple of very intense scenes, to label them in some way, the powerful and and fatherly man, threw stones against her, because she didn’t fit in the projection of the good side of black people he aimed to spread through his series. She wasn’t the good daughter anymore, she was hot, sexy, and played with black magic. Definitely she was the black sheep escaped from the cattle and on the road to sin.

Alan Parker, the English director, had been able to deliver a controversial film such as Midnight Express, and then work on music oriented stories such as Fame or a project of the classic Pink Floyd’s The Wall. His versatility pushed him to adapt the novel Falling Angel, by William Hjortsberg, writing and directing what was to become this mixture of a detective film-noir with a touch of horror: Angel Heart.

The cast of characters was impressive: Robert De Niro, Charlotte Rampling, Lisa Bonet and Mickey Rourke at the peak of his career, as Harry Angel.

The starting point is New York City in the mid 1950’s. Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is one of these not so lucky private detectives, who usually receive non relevant assignments related to infidelity in marriages, insurance cheats and so on. His presence is requested by a new client, in a church in Harlem. Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro),  is an elegant and proud gentleman, yet mysterious, who asks him to find Johnny Favorite, a famous crooner who vanished after being wounded in WWII, suffering brain damage which drifted away from his contractual  obligations with the gentleman, who thinks he’s still in debt and wants to sort this unfinished business with him. First step is to visit the mental hospital where Favorite, or better said Johnny Liebling, was checked-in for a while. While having a look at the records, he notices that the date of transferring appearing was manipulated later, and goes straight to the doctor who handled the case, named Fowler, a current morphine addict. Right after the man confesses he got paid by a wealthy man to alter he records, he shoots himself, putting  Angel at risk of being charged of murder. Scared, the detective tries to quit but Mr. Cyphre offers him a large sum of money to go on with the case, and Angel, a poor rat seduced by the  offer accepts. It is his lover, an attractive journalist who’d provide information about Favorite’s background, highlighting the name of a black woman he used to be in love with, Evangeline Proudfoot, and a fortune teller who used to live in Coney Island, named Madame Zora (Charlotte Rampling). These two women will make him drive to New Orleans searching for the singer, but the truth waiting for him, will be too hard and overwhelming.

I remember long time ago someone asked in a forum about films closely related to cities. You know, Taxi Driver would be Manhattan, 28 Days Later an apocalyptical London, and Bullit would mean Frisco. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but always have related Angel Heart to Nola. It’s been always said that city is bewitched, due to the tradition of voodoo and black magic rituals which took place during the times of slavery. This Creole city, hosting a multilingual and cross-cultural mixture, has always kept a magical mysterious halo around, allowing uncommon debauchery and frivolity.

In the film, New Orleans atmosphere is suffocating, heat followed by torrential rain, thus the unstable weather condition enhances this feeling of tension and uneasiness. Its role reminds me of Apocalypse Now. The more Angel digs into the mystery finding all the clues which will eventually lead him to the truth, the more unbearable the atmospheric conditions are, and the harder is to distinguish what is hallucination from reality.

Symbolism is the key of the story. To start with, think of the name of Louis Cyphre, mispronounced by Angel all the time, and you’ll get a clue. It’s totally ironic.

Chickens’ presence is constant and reminded all the time, and the detective suffers from an unexplainable phobia, justified when you discover what’s going on. Chicken legs, voodoo rituals conducted by Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet), covering herself in chicken blood after cutting one’s neck, the poached eggs I was telling you about Cyphre peels and eats…

There are visual elements which make you wonder what happens: the slow  screeching fans, Angel in an elevator going downwards, the black faceless nun, the marine kissing the nurse in Time Square on New Year’s Eve, the red room with a fan and the agonizing screams of a man… and the piano sounds whenever someone is about to die. I particularly love that moment Angel gets into Madame Krusemark’s wealthy house and finds her dead, and there’s this kind on the street dancing claque very intensely, till the detective discovers all the horrible mess, and the sequence ends when the kid stops making noise. Brilliant!

The treatment of blood is worth mentioning. In general terms, thefilm is quite dark and contrast of colours quite poor and neuter, however, when there are scenes involving blood, this balance is saturated and red color is extremely intense. Not only that, but the blood is widely splattered, and it’s thick and heavy. There’s a moment when Angel stands with the razor, after fighting with the local musician Toots Sweet, covered in lots of blood. He’s just been cut in the hand, when defending himself, however he’s soaked in blood, super exaggerated.

I had never paid the attention deserved to Rourke’s interpretative style till yesterday, and I must admit I was surprised in a very positive way. He has to play a detective who is a complete loser, but has to look tough, like in film noir main titles. He’s far away from master Bogey, who represented the iconic detective, tough, elegant, attractive, and silent type. Angel is a loser, messy and dirty, he sweats and probably smells, and he’s injured, punched, bitten, and he’s afraid. The deeper he’s into the mud of the case, the darker he becomes. His desperation in the last scenes is unforgettable, the way he cries and yells, how he looks at his own reflection trying to put himself together and failing, he’s awesome.

Of course DeNiro is something different, all the details about him, the nails resembling claws, the stick, the way he eats, his hairdo, the majestic way of sitting on a chair and Cyphre positioned at some kind of raised dais at an upper level than Angel as to show some kind of superiority, everything is there to fit a purpose.

Angel Heart is definitely a film which is perfect to review from time to time, because it’s so full of subtle references and details created to add meaning to the story, with every viewing you discover something new.

Harry Angel was doomed to a spiral of murder and insanity for succumbing to the temptation of money. Greed is one of the most profitable sins in terms of film stories. When the main character accepts a deal or a sum of money, is also opening the doors to the Devil, and even though Catholic religion has been always trying to convince us that the goodness and faith defeated the evil, the presence of the devil is always around, threatening, and waiting for the right moment to recover its power regardless, thus in case of business, the evil powers always take what is of their own, with interests.

THE WRESTLER, Darren Aronofsky (2008)

Posted in Drama with tags , , , on September 19, 2010 by Toi Brownstone

Again, long time no hear, I’m starting to feel bad for so much apologizing, still having  hope somebody keeps on reading my posts. It hasn’t been a very good summer for me and really didn’t feel much like writing, no matter how many movies I’ve seen, which I can tell you, have been a lot. Anyway, sorry once more, hope I get more focused now that Fall is just here.

I’ve just finished reviewing The Wrestler and definitely, there are some movies worth giving a second chance, this is a clear example.

I had seen this movie back in the day and wasn’t very convinced it was so good as to receive so many awards, specially the Oscars, although to be honest, who takes them seriously when Penelope Cruz or Angelina Jolie have been rewarded with one? Well, I really thought the main target was just to deliver  a dramatic story, attractive enough to become a blockbuster and cause easy tears on people.

I’ve changed my mind few minutes ago. The Wrestler goes beyond that. It’s  a portrait of loneliness and decadence, the lowest point in Randy “The Ram” Robins’ life, an old wrestling legend, still fighting for making his living.

Behind the ring nothing is a cool and spectacular. Randy fights for few bucks at humble venues, he even cuts himself to draw more attention from the audience. Fights are arranged and planned and wrestlers are warm and familiar to each other. However, after a tough competition, our hero suffers a severe heart attack which almost causes him death and is strongly advised  to retire.

At this point Randy tries to put things together with his daughter  Stephanie (Evan Rachel Woods), get an average job at a supermarket, and find affection and warm in the stripper Pam (Marisa Tomei).

Away from the glamour boxing involves, wrestling offers more decadence. No matter that it moves lots of money as well, wrestling has always been under rated because of all the exaggeration, tricks and performance, is a theatrical show and everything is arranged and planned. Here we are standing in front of local competitions held at schools and modest places and money and resources are not big deal. The Ram was a hero 20 years before, but at this stage he lives in a trailer park, with not enough money to pay the rent, drinks, and his health is delicate. No a very promising future and seems that he didn’t any good in his past life, abandoning his daughter, totally resentful and traumatized for his absence.

Loneliness is bad companion, especially when you’re getting older, and Ram tries to change that, but changing is difficult. Sooner or later your past can mark your future no matter what you do.

The story told in a documentary tone with unsteady cameras,  make it more vivid and realistic. Light is more present in those optimistic moments, but in general it’s very dark.

Hard rock music is also interesting. 80’s hits of a style now criticized and also decadent. The Ram stopped the clock in his highest moment, not adapting to modern times, still dying his hair in blonde and getting artificial suntanned and listening to Cinderella or Ratt.

Aronofsky has a taste for decadent stories, for broken characters with sad stories, and here once again, is able to squeeze the misfortunes of the wrestler, who just can find recognition in the ring, even though what he does is a farse.

I’ve always considered Mickey Rourke a good actor, with huge charisma, and this time he plays his role brilliant. It’s curious he plays the wrestler when he tried so hard boxing, and the action scenes are pretty impressive. He’s the Madman in the film industry I reckon.

Really, you should watch it, it’s nothing to do with crappy Million Dollar Baby, The Wrestler is a definite good movie and the story is great. I’m glad I’ve seen it again.