Tag Archives: Crime drama

Ruined Heart: Another Love Story between a Criminal and a Whore

Ruined Heart
Ruined Heart

Seen at LFF 2015

Format: Blu-ray + DVD

Release date: 7 December 2015

Distributor: Third Window Films

Director: Khavn de la Cruz

Writer: Khavn de la Cruz

Original title: Pusong wazak: isa na naming kwento ng pag-ibig sa pagitan ng puta at criminal

Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Elena Kazan, Nathalia Acevedo

Philippines, Germany 2014

73 mins

Khavn de la Cruz’s Filipino musical noir compensates for its lack of plot with oodles of style.

At its worst, Ruined Heart feels like what happens when an ‘edgy’ fashion shoot gets out of hand, gets bitten by a radioactive DJ set and mutates into… something less than a movie. It doesn’t have a story as such. After some rockin’ black and white tattoos-on-a-dead-guy titles we are introduced to some archetypes: the Whore, the Criminal, the Friend, the Pianist, the Godfather. Everything after that is a series of rambling tableaux, set mostly in the crowded streets and covered markets of a nameless town (or towns) in the Philippines. Loosely, the Criminal falls for the Whore, the Whore gets killed by the Godfather, the Criminal takes up the gun, it doesn’t end well. But even this simple narrative is chopped and screwed. There’s no real dialogue, though occasionally characters utter poetic and lyrical profundities; instead we have an ultra-cool soundtrack playing over street celebrations and fights and fireworks and car rides and killings and parties and orgies and a lot of scenes of the Criminal and the Whore running and walking and dancing and fucking and falling in love. The imagery is occasionally upsetting and obscene, often repetitive and mystifying.

That said, the cinematography is by Chris Doyle, so it looks amazing and feels energised and rackety and fluid. Asano Tadanobu (Criminal) and Nathalia Acevedo (Whore) are both photogenic as hell and fun to watch, and the eclectic hip jukebox score is a blast. So while the film often tries the viewers’ patience it also delivers up sublime moments where it all clicks into place and you’re grinning from ear to ear as the characters dance, in a decidedly unchoreographed fashion, to ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ by John Holt, or ‘She Said’ by Hasil Adkins. It tests Godard’s maxim that ‘all you need for a movie is a gun and a girl’ to breaking point, delivering both less and more than most would expect from a night at the picturehouse. We get dazzling imagery and fine musical moments by the skipload, and moments of that elusive beast ‘pure cinema’, but a decided deficit of anything else to chew on. It’s an exercise in style over, well, pretty much everything, but it’s a buzzy, seductive style nonetheless.

Much credit should go to Brezel Goring of Stereo Total, who created the bulk of the soundtrack, with mentions for contributions from Grauzone and the Flippin’ Soul Stompers, who play live on screen. Khavn De La Cruz wrote, directed and produced, I’d cast a wary eye out for the rest of his work, but I’d definitely accept an invite to any party he’s hosting.

Mark Stafford

This review is part of our LFF 2015 coverage.

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In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood
In Cold Blood

Format: Cinema

Release date:
11 September 2015

Distributor: Park Circus

Director: Richard Brooks

Writer: Richard Brooks

Based on the novel by: Truman Capote

Cast: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsyth

USA 1967

134 mins

Released eight years after the event, Robert Brooks’s In Cold Blood is an adaptation of the infamous book by Truman Capote, about an unfathomable crime that took place in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. Acting on a tip-off, newly released convicts Perry Smith (Robert Blake) and Dick Hickock (Scott Wilson) decided to rob the home of the Cutter family, convinced they had a safe full of cash. Armed with rope, a knife and a shotgun, and full of confidence that their plan was foolproof, they drove across state lines to the remote farm, with little intention of leaving any witnesses behind. The result was four dead bodies, and Smith and Hickock on the run.

Brooks methodically divided the film into parts: the first cuts together scenes of the perpetrators and their victims. The Cutters, the teen children especially, are all wholesome, mid-west innocence, the slightly saccharine scenes overlaid with a sentimental score – as opposed to the cool 60s jazz that drives the scenes with Smith and Hickock, both ex-convicts looking for their next big score. Smith is a greaser in a leather jacket, his oily hair slicked back. Addicted to painkillers after his leg was torn up in an accident, he’s an almost-crippled figure, haunted by searing memories of his childhood (whether or not his past in any way justifies his actions is up to the audience to decide). Hickock, in a terrific performance from then-newcomer Wilson, is the charismatic one, the guy with the plan, who – though he talks the talk – is unable to kill people himself, and needs someone with muscle.

The atmosphere is claustrophobic as Smith and Hickock drive the hundreds of miles to the Cutters’ home, their journey across the barren plains brilliantly evoked by cinematographer Conrad Hall, who won an Oscar for the film. The camera is ever present in the car with the men throughout much of the film, dialogue, rather than action, propelling the story. Their conversations shine a light on their past and present lives, a means of exploring their motivation, and establishing them as deluded and strangely naive, rather than just cold-hearted killers.

After their arrival at the farm, the film skips ahead, leaving the audience initially in the dark (the murders themselves are later relived in cruel detail when Smith and Hickock are finally caught and forced to confess). As the focus shifts to the following day, and the discovery of the bodies, In Cold Blood becomes less of a film noir and more of a police procedural, with the manhunt led by Alvin Dewey (John Forsythe). The murders are shocking, senseless, and the police, the community, and of course, the film itself, struggle – in the words of a journalist, who follows the tragic story through to its conclusion – to understand how a ‘violent, unknown force destroys a decent, ordinary family’.

This attempt at understanding, unfortunately, becomes one of the film’s weaknesses. There are moments of brilliance, but the narrative, with the exception of some terrific flashbacks, feels relentlessly unswerving, from the introduction of the characters, to their arrest, imprisonment, and finally, their execution. Capote was famously opposed to the death penalty, and Brooks carries across that sentiment. Their deaths are presented in a documentary-like style, which, although chilling, again robs the film of cinematic tension. In Cold Blood is at its best, stylistically, when it indulges in its noir leanings, rather than when it works as a docudrama. But with Quincy Jones’s excellent soundtrack, the captivating black and white cinematography, and the dynamism between Smith and Hickok, it’s still a compelling watch.

Sarah Cronin

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