Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I Heart Max Cady...

By Sophie

Favorite crime movie of the past thirty years?

Oh, how I love Cape Fear – the remake, not the 1962 original. (Yeah, everyone tells me the original is better. Know what? I’m not going to find out. I love the 1991 version and I don’t want to dilute my experience of it.)

As you might guess if you’ve been reading my posts, I like to experience things in an undiluted fashion. It’s not that I can’t appreciate subtlety – oh wait, maybe it is, actually.

Cape Fear is undiluted from go. Whatever the mood of the scene - smoldering, giddy, furious, resentful, ripe (and that's just in the first few minutes) - that mood is so big that it takes up every corner of the room.

This movie contains the single creepiest scene I’ve ever seen – when the terrifying psycho played by Robert DeNiro confronts an unsuspecting fourteen-year-old Danielle (played by Juliette Lewis) into the empty high school band room and engages her in a twisted seduction. The contrast of all that concentrated evil and Danielle’s pre-erotic innocence is absolutely chilling – and get this: that scene was totally ad-libbed by De Niro and Lewis, and done on the first take.

But even without that scene, this movie’s off-the-charts terrifying:

1. There’s that score. Evidently it borrows heavily from the original. Hell, if I had that to work with, I'd borrow heavily too. Those few aggressive french-horn-note (I think it's horns anyway) bars lay it out plain - trouble ahead.

2. Robert DeNiro…enough said, almost, except even I had forgotten how he prepared his body for that role...the hard-guy muscles that have nothing in common with pretty-boy posturing. He also did his own research...did he get into the role? Well, he's the one who suggested the biting scene, so I guess he did.

 3. Jessica Lange doing her soft angsty southern chick thing…she perfectly captures a mature woman's rage sublimated under layers of frustrated ennui.

4. Really creative harassment techniques. The things DeNiro does to his targets are truly remarkable.

5. Dialog: raw. Unapologetic, even when it's heavy-handed.

Best part of the movie: DeNiro laughing and then speaking in tongues and then drowning - how can you argue that this isn't his finest role?

Worst part: Nolte. Can't stand that guy. Actor? Uh, if you say so.


Jen Forbus said...

I remember going to the theater to see this movie, Sophie (as a matter of fact, I was employed in the theater at that time). I swear I probably jumped three feet out of my seat! And no question, DeNiro is fantastic!

But I'll share with the world here that the movie that really spooked me while I was working in the theater...SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. After the last show of the night, we'd always have to do one last walk of the auditoriums and check that the exit doors were secure and no one was left in the building. Problem was that the auditorium lights were usually turned off by then...so the only light was that from the exit signs. I never wanted to do that last check in the SILENCE OF THE LAMBS auditorium - too spooky! :)

Bill Cameron said...

Alas, Sophie, I fear I can't join you on this one. Do you still love me?


Sophie Littlefield said...

Jen, Silence of the Lambs is #3 on my list - I'm with you there. Bill - of course I still love you! Eternally! It's so boring when people agree on things, don't you think?

Bill Cameron said...

Well, it depends on what they're agreeing on, but certainly variety is the spice of life, as someone I can't remember said. Or wrote.

Unknown said...

Sophie -- This is definitely one of the most ... shoot, all the adjectives I can think of are bad words (that mean good things!). It's lurid and unapologetic and I do think DeNiro cranked himself into overdrive on this one. It made me feel ill, which was the goal. It wasn't a celebration of violence at all, even though it uses all the porn-of-violence tricks.

Before you give up on Nolte, consider renting Afterglow or Paris, je t'aime. If he's still a block to you, I'll never pester you again on this subject. I adore him, but it might be just because he's big and gruff like the men in my family :)