Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Red Riding Trilogy (2009)

Part One hits you with a two by four.  Part two kicks you in the privates, and part three wallops you to the ground.  That's what the Red Ridding" trilogy does.  It is a film that creeps up on you and swallows you whole, and you just hope that you make it to the end.

The "Red Riding" trilogy is based on four crime novels written by the British author David Peace.    The trilogy was adapted by Tony Grisoni, who has worked on several films by Terry Gilliam.  Each movie is directed by a different director giving each one a distinct different feeling.    The entire trilogy runs 305 minutes, and if you sit through it one after the other your a better person then I am.  The plots are intricate, and sometimes difficult to keep straight, yet it does keep one on his or her toes.  Characters come in and out of each episode, and we are thrust back in time and then forward in time at lightning speed.  To boil it all down to a theme I would have to say that the "Red Ridding" trilogy is about the evil that men do in the world, and how all are culpable in these deeds including the innocent.

Part one is entitled "1974".  there we are introduced to a young reporter who is covering a news about the latest disappearance of a young girl.  As he digs he uncovers a pattern, and more and more police corruption.   In Part two labeled "1980" we are introduced to a inspector who is given the job to investigate a rash of murders of women.  As he and his team dig deeper he uncovers the truth and how the police are implicated in the murders.  More and more corruption is found, and our inspector finds out what is really going on.  The last in the trilogy is called "1983" and it is the final installment of the "Red Ridding" saga.  Here another inspector in the police department is given the task to investigate the disappearance of another little girl, which is a repeat of what happened in part one.    This inspector is from the inner circle of the police department and is complicit in the cover ups and corruption of what is known as "the North".

The film is a very brooding and telling tale of evil, and how good men do evil things to cover up more evil deeds.  The location of this story is in West Yorkshire, the city of Leeds to be specific.  Leeds is presented as a featureless location where towns look almost to the point of ruin, and the moors of England are decaying and decrepit.  the cinematography is excellent along with the pacing of the film.  The feeling of disgust and hopelessness creeps up on you, and makes the film something that the viewer can't turn away from, yet there is a strong compulsion to do so. 

The movie is distributed by IFC, and should be seen on video just for the sake of the viewer taking his or her time to view it all, and absorb what is happening.  The film was released theatrically in New York, and was accompanied with intermissions, but I salute all who sat through all the viewings at once.  I can only imagine after seeing it for 5 hours that one would feel almost numb.   This is a compliment to the filmmakers.  The story and the characters are all reviting to watch.

The film reminded me of those film noirs of the past, only this film hit harder and below the belt.  Somethings you never see coming.  Now that's not to say that this film is bloody and gross.  The murders happen off screen, and we do see bodies, but they are only glimpses, and what we see stays with us.  A film dealing with murdered little girls and women is something hard to watch.  We are exposed to all kind of depravities in the film, and yet we become more and more numb as the film goes on.  We the audience want closure and we are compelled to see it, but this is the real world, and justice is severed differently here.  Corruption is rampant, and society seems to be decaying.

In the end the viewer is brought out the other side and there is some sort of closure.   Only there is a cost to our characters.  Maybe that's what makes this film so worth seeing.  Despite the decay and depravity of it all there is some good.

I'm a big fan of the author Jim Thompson, and this filled certainly reeks of his influence.  But also the influence of James Ellroy. 

The cast should be mentioned, but they are all good and all should be mentioned when talking about this film.  I'll just suffice to say that if you really want to know who is in it see the list on IMDB.  The interesting technical aspect of these movies were that they were shot with different formats.

Part one was shot in Super 16mm, and it has a lot of handheld work, and feels very gritty.  The second part was shot in 35mm, and feels like your standard police drama, but with a big kick.  The third part was shot digitally on the RED camera, and is used very effectively.

All I can say is that these films are well done, and should be seen if your seriously into making films.  If you love crime dramas then get ready to be walloped and stunned.

Films like these get me excited and show how good stories can be made by having good material to work with.  So if you dare watch these films, and prepare to be amazed, but take it slow.  I think it works better that way.  One can digest the plot lines and the actions slowly and really get a better scope of the film as a whole if you sit through each one and take your time in seeing the next one.  But if you do see it all at once be prepared to be shell shocked.  This film pulls no punches and is one riveting story.  I highly recommend it.

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