"M"

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Ralph
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"M"

Post by Ralph » Mon Sep 15, 2008 10:15 pm

The Jacob Burns Film Center is doing a Fritz Lang retrospective and tonight's film was one of his finest, "M," from 1930. The first major German sound picture, it set the standard for decades for use of shadows, close-ups and a story that is as relevant today as it was then.

During the Weimar period, Germany experienced a number of notorious serial killers. The police were not successful in apprehending the truly mad killers before a number of victims fell. One murderer attacked people in the street, trying to rip their throats open with his teeth. This same sicko meandered into zoos where he killed and ate animals.

Not surprisingly, these crimes fostered distrust of police efficiency and mobs occasionally descended on suspects.

Lang, well established as the greatest German film director (his "Metropolis" remains a unique filmic icon, took the serial murderer theme and cast Peter Lorre in his first major role. Lorre is a sadistic, compulsive killer of little girls ("M" stands for murderer in German and English). Obviously, although only alluded to once, there was a sexual element in his depravity.

As near panic ensues, both Berlin's organized criminals and the police seek clues. The criminals are truly aghast at the depredations of the monster much as Chicago's worst gangsters were appalled by Leopold and Loeb. The police are under enormous media and political pressure to find the killer.

Lang brilliantly alternates the efforts of the police with the schemes of the criminals - two antagonistic entities committed to the same purpose.

Hunted down by the criminals, the killer is caught and taken to a deserted warehouse for something simulating a trial, replete with one of the gang acting as defense counsel. Lorre's terror-stricken cries that he can not help himself launch a sea of venom from all but his "attorney" who urges the rule of law and bringing in the police. Meanwhile, police, aided by a captured criminal who talked, race to the warehouse.

The film ends with a question as to what is just - no child can be brought back to life. Is it worth the risk to treat the killer as mentally ill when that status may result in his being released as "harmless" at some future date? Sound familiar?

One of the most gripping scenes in all film history is Eisenstadt's baby, caught and crushed on the Odessa steps in "Battleship Potemkin." The early scene in "M" when the murder of a child is simply represented by a ball rolling across the grass and a balloon rising to be caught on wires equals the earlier Eisenstadt movie in quiet, unforgettable horror.

Following the screening a "Reel Talk" hosted by one of the Burns center's cinema experts allowed for a free and interesting audience discussion.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein

IcedNote
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Re: "M"

Post by IcedNote » Tue Sep 16, 2008 5:26 pm

Creepy movie. Definitely a classic. I really have nothing more to add.

However, if you want to see a somewhat modern take on it, watch the Korean film Sympathy for Lady Vengeance by Chan-wook Park. It's not a remake but has many of the same themes (and a similar, but more twisted, plot). It's one of my favorite movies, along with the other two in Chan-wook Park's Vengeance Trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. The films aren't a trilogy in the sense that they follow the same story, but rather, they all have vengeance as the central theme.

Warning: these movies are not for the weak of heart/stomach/mind/etc.

-G
Harakiried composer reincarnated as a nonprofit development guy.

Ralph
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Re: "M"

Post by Ralph » Tue Sep 16, 2008 6:28 pm

IcedNote wrote:Creepy movie. Definitely a classic. I really have nothing more to add.

However, if you want to see a somewhat modern take on it, watch the Korean film Sympathy for Lady Vengeance by Chan-wook Park. It's not a remake but has many of the same themes (and a similar, but more twisted, plot). It's one of my favorite movies, along with the other two in Chan-wook Park's Vengeance Trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. The films aren't a trilogy in the sense that they follow the same story, but rather, they all have vengeance as the central theme.

Warning: these movies are not for the weak of heart/stomach/mind/etc.

-G
*****

Thanks much for the suggestion.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein

karlhenning
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Re: "M"

Post by karlhenning » Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:00 am

Honestly, before this year, I knew of this one only through an allusion in The Firesign Theatre's The Further Adventures of Nick Danger:

Rocky Rococo wrote:This hasn't happened to me since M!

Just saying . . . .

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
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http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
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