Saturday, February 24, 2024

L'ARGENT (Robert Bresson, 1983, France)


When greed becomes the currency of the human soul, the final balance ends in the red. Director Robert Bresson adapts Tolstoy’s THE FORGED COUPON, choosing to focus mostly on the first half of the story: Bresson’s concern is with the act and consequences, not epiphany and salvation.

The film begins with a young boy asking for his allowance from his busy father. The boy asks for more to pay off a debt, but the father dismisses the plea. In need of money, the boy trades his watch to a friend for a forged bank note; thus, setting into motion the machinations of murder. Bresson shows callous regard for human nature when values are replaced by dollar signs. Every character who touches the bank note becomes corrupted, as if the desire for profit was a deadly biological virus without a cure. Bresson depicts the boy, store clerk, store owners, and ultimately Yvon as superficially innocuous but ultimately debased. Each character has a chance to redeem themselves and speak the truth but are motivated by selfish desires or the fear of punishment. Yvon is convicted of the misdemeanor because others would not tell the truth: it is ironic that he bears the burden of innocence but falls the hardest. Contrast his fate with the store clerk who perjures at Yvon’s trial then burglarizes the business: he ends up wealthy and comfortable, buying forgiveness. Yvon loses everything, his wife and child, his freedom, and finally his soul. Unable to seek vengeance upon his accuser, he lashes out at society and ends up destroying the one person who offered him kindness. Bresson implies that this evil is inherent within every person and can awaken with the proper stimuli.

The final shot reveals Yvon’s capture after the grisly murders, being led in handcuffs by the police. A crowd gathers for the spectacle and Yvon is marched away but the crowd doesn’t see him; they still search the empty doorway for enlightenment.

Final Grade: (B+)

Saturday, February 10, 2024

THE PASSENGER (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975, USA)


The Girl becomes witness to a middle-aged man’s crisis as he virtually disappears into the stark desert air; she becomes the passenger unable to un-Locke his identity and purpose. Michelangelo Antonioni structures the film with an emotional complexity and stunningly languid visuals; a self-reflexive narrative that exists within David Locke’s intuitive and hastily extemporized perceptions.

The plot is rather mundane as Locke assumes the identity of a dead acquaintance named Robertson and leaves his entire life behind him, his only goal forward momentum on a road to nowhere. He begins to live Robertson’s life through the deceased’s diary, picking up papers from a Munich locker and keeping scheduled meetings. He is soon pursued by gunrunners, foreign assassins, and his own past while racing towards an inevitable nexus of these disparate elements. He is accompanied by a nameless companion, a beautiful girl met serendipitously, who attempts to understand his malaise, to guide him towards salvation, but she is ultimately powerless; Locke steers his Mercury towards his own cruel destination.

Antonioni films in long breathtaking vignettes, each shot embracing the characters and peering into the abyss of Locke’s soul, revealing the stark banality of human nature: sometimes we don’t understand ourselves, we can’t explain our own actions, we just act without premeditation. The fatal climax is a seven-minute tracking shot: it begins with Locke meditatively resting on a bed awaiting his final meeting as Robertson as the camera slowly tracks through the window’s iron bars to the dusty courtyard, then slowly back again as we follow the girl, Locke’s wife and police back into the room where he has been murdered. This is one of the greatest shots in cinematic history and should be studied for its technical achievement and sublime mise-en-scene. Locke’s wife, who has finally discovered the deception, speaks the truth: she never knew this dead man.

Final Grade: (A+)

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

PICCADILLY (E. A. Dupont, 1929)


Shosho becomes a bloody valentine for Valentine, her affair one of betrayal to his wife and to her race as she finds financial and sexual gratification from a wealthy white man. It’s a tale of miscegenation in an era of institutional racism as both protagonists suffer the consequences of desire outside of socially accepted boundaries (though Shosho definitely gets worse than she deserved). Valentine is a wealthy, morally forthright nightclub owner who is married to Mabel, the main attraction of his club Piccadilly. When Mabel’s dancing partner (but not romantic interest) is fired for his indecent behavior towards Mabel, the dancing duo becomes a solo act that cannot financially support the club. Thanks to a grumpy customer and a dirty plate (Charles Laughton who fucking steals this minor scene!), Valentine descends into the bowels of the club searching for blame. He happens upon the scullery where a Chinese woman dances for her coworkers, her lithe body dressed in tattered cloth and torn stockings, yet her beauty undimmed. Thus begins the affair as Valentine becomes entranced by her exotic beauty and gradually, oh so slowly, their time together leads to more intimate contact. I hesitate to say this is a tragic love story as Valentine doesn’t profess love but infatuation, stalking the social boundaries of what is allowed and what lust demands. He isn’t cruel to Shosho or Mabel, even when his spouse suspects his ruse, and the violent third act turns on two confessions, neither entirely truthful. Shosho never seems to be in love either, yet curious as to his affections and also seeking financial stability and furthering her career. She’s not cruel or exploitative but is a bit indifferent to her cohort Jim’s emotional suffering. 

Shosho’s companion is Jim, a Chinese man who follows her like a shadow though he is never shown any intimacy by her, only casual demands and friendship. Is Jim her jealous brother or jilted lover? It’s never explained or intimated. His dying declaration is taken for granted by the Inquest but I’m skeptical. When Mabel shows up and confronts Shosho with a pistol, the ensuing murder is left ambiguous: Mabel claims she fainted and doesn’t remember pulling the trigger and Jim says he found the pistol in Shosho’s apartment and shot her after an argument about her affair. So, who’s lying? This RASHOMON-like ending hinges upon intent to deceive and what is gained: Mabel lies to gain her freedom and Jim lies to save face yet sees no need to live after his paramour is dead. Jim lies about Mabel’s presence so when that deception is uncovered, he knows her word will carry favor with the court over a poor immigrant's testimony so, his fate already decided by a racist legal system, he takes ownership of Shosho’s death and kills himself. Why not? His family and friends may think that more noble, his “saving” Shosho from the paws of a white man! So, my interpretation is that Mabel did indeed kill her (we see her draw the gun, Shosho reach for a dagger as Shosho obscures her face with a veil before a cut to dark screen), faints and wakes up running away into the streets. To believe Jim killed her we need to accept this happening and Shosho going back to sleep and being awakened by Jim sometime later...with the pistol laying in plain view on the floor! Wouldn’t Shosho have picked it up? Wouldn’t she also have been traumatized by the encounter instead of pleasantly falling asleep like nothing happened? Jim’s story also involves strangulation, but the inquest fails to mention any other injury to her corpse. Interesting. 

Dupont’s direction is skillful as he doesn’t allow the actors to overact into histrionics, instead focusing upon their subtle facial gestures, posture or body language like the slight tilt of a head. DP Werner Brandes' perfect use of low-key lighting makes this seem like an early film noir! And then there’s Anna May Wong, arguably the most beautiful actress of the era (I think she outshines Marlene Dietrich in SHANGHAI EXPRESS) whose face dominates the screen with her alluring and sultry eyes and a smile that enlightens as well as entices. This is her film even though she doesn’t appear until about halfway through the first act. She bridges stereotype as she becomes a woman (not “just” a mysterious Chinese woman trope) with the same wants and sexual desires as Mabel yet continues to retain her own heritage. It’s to Valentine’s credit he never asks her to forsake her ethnicity, and to hers that she doesn’t offer. 

PICCADILLY is a film that depicts a tragic relationship amid the social mores of its time that isn't brave enough to end any other way but with her death...not his. Hell, the white couple is never even punished by the law. Yet it was courageous enough to reveal these double-standards and allow Anna May Wong to dominate the screen. 

Final Grade: (B+)

Thursday, January 11, 2024

SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959)


Violet Venable is a manipulatively violent and venerable Matriarch, a woman shattered by the grief of her dead son; a faceless man consumed by his own dire obsessions. Catherine Holly is the man’s cousin, witness to some horrid event that has left her emotionally paralyzed, engulfed by repressed memories and locked away in an asylum where she must face her religious tormentors…as well as her own inner demons. Into this predatory environment stumbles Dr. “Sugar”, a scientist on the cutting edge of a new psychiatric treatment called a Lobotomy: if he can cure Catherine, then Ms. Venable will donate a million dollars to his failing Institution. But the sweet Doctor isn’t convinced of Catherine’s mental illness, and he must make a moral decision between possibly destroying one woman to help hundreds of others.

Director Joseph Mankiewicz is able to transform this verbose screenplay into a visually exciting drama with tight framing, extreme close-ups and deep focus photography, utilizing themes of predation and death such as the Venus Flytrap, a grim statue of the Reaper, and even the name of his Institution…Lion’s View Asylum. Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor eat-up the screen with undeniable tension while Montgomery Clift deftly plays the part of mediator trapped between these two deadly rivals.

The final act comes together in a flashback as Catherine releases the truth in a damning torrent: she and her aunt where only pawns in a game of pederasty, and her aunt could not live with this awful confession. Mankiewicz films the frisson of the chase scored by a clanging metal dirge, as Catherine’s cousin (whose face is never revealed) races towards his doom where neither money nor borrowed sexual favors can save him. A skeletal woman robed in black, and the scythe of death descends upon her memory…while those he victimized eat her cousin alive. Through this catharsis Catherine is saved while Violet descends into unknown depths of despair and anxiety and ascends upon her throne towards her final resting place.

Final Grade: (B)

Thursday, January 4, 2024

M (Fritz Lang, 1931, Germany)


Fritz Lang’s morality tale about impartial democratic justice versus vigilante restitution remains frighteningly prescient in our modern world. A child rapist and murderer is on the loose, terrorizing Berlin, every parent’s worst nightmare incarnate in flesh and bone…and the blood of innocent victims. 

The narrative is structured as a police procedural rather than a criminal psychological dissection, focusing on the investigation and the burgeoning frustration of law enforcement. Lang’s expressionist style suggests the crimes rather than showing the grotesqueries. As a little girl plays with a ball, an innocuous whistling stranger befriends her and buys her a balloon thus gaining her limited trust. We know what happens because Lang shows us the ball rolling slowly through the grass, coming to a dead stop. We then see an image of the balloon floating helplessly into the overhead wires. Lang’s cinematic genius is obvious in another scene as the killer looks through a shop window spying the reflection of a lonely little girl: all sound stops, his eyes widen, his feature contort into madness. And we fear for the little child. He also moves his camera in one continuous shot around a deli, stopping to observe minor details, and up and through a glass partition: surely this influenced a young Hitchcock! 

As the death toll mounts, the police aren’t any closer to solving the crimes and they begin to arrest the usual suspects looking for clues. The criminal underworld begins their own search because the constant raids are bad for business. They enlist the help of the poor and destitute and it’s the blind beggar who recognizes the killer’s signature tune that leads to his capture. The criminals pass their own judgment upon this killer; this is truly a trial by peers! But without the Rule of Law then society will plunge into anarchy: self-rule works well as a philosophy but it’s the powerful that abuse the weak, in reality. Even a child molester has the right to Due Process. And yes, he’s guilty regardless of his own assessment: his premeditation is legal proof of intent, and his writing to the newspaper and covering up his actions shows he understood the concept of right and wrong at the time he committed the crime. Now it’s the government’s duty to pass judgment upon his acts, to punish this murderer with all jurisprudence. 

Final Grade: (A+)

Sunday, December 31, 2023

TOKYO DRIFTER (Seijun Suzuki, 1966, Japan)


Tetsuya is a samurai hit man who values duty above all else, trying to walk the path of enlightenment through the dark night of his soul. Seijun Suzuki’s absurdist neon noir is a pantheon of trite clich├ęs deconstructed and stripped bare, revealing a narrative element that burns like a noble gas. 

Suzuki dismantles genre expectations in the very first reel, beginning the film not in black and white (like a “serious” noir-ish melodrama) but in a blown-out monochrome bled of all color. The anti-hero Tetsuya is introduced as a victim of a rival gang, as he seemingly allows them to pummel him into physical submission. We soon learn that loyalty kept him from fighting back, as his master Kurata attempts to go straight and place the life of crime behind them both. Of course, this becomes impossible so thus we have conflict and a plot involving a property deed worth millions and egos worth their weight in souls. 

Suzuki’s twisting plot threads weave a syncopated narrative tapestry, like a torch song missing random key notes. The use of disorienting jump cuts streamlines the anecdotal economy, disallowing extraneous character development as the viewer is expected to understand by proxy. In one scene, Suzuki instigates a daring rescue as Tetsuya saves his femme fondue from a rival gang with an adrenaline car crash…only to cut in the middle and reveal the two of them at a local arcade, with no reference to the previous action. Suzuki takes us from point A to C with few establishing shots or movement during the films 82-minute run time.

Drenched in big neon glitter, the anti-hero traverses Tokyo’s brothels and Western style clubs with stylized transitions, set designs flooded in Day-Glo colors that seem to merge with actual location shots. This duality creates a surreal and dreamlike world for Tetsuya to wander, and the quicksilver action sequences are like James Bond on acid. Maddeningly brilliant and beautiful. Suzuki ends the film with a betrayal leading to a white-hot oblivion though Tetsuya always remains true to the one that matters most. Himself. 

Final Grade: (B+) 

Monday, December 25, 2023

8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963, Italy)


Guido is held prisoner within his own mind, a vessel stalled on the creative highway who can only dream of escape, victim of paranoid and prying eyes, surrounded by an anxious tension that tethers him to unfaithful reality. Director Federico Fellini writes himself into this elliptical narrative as Guido Anselmi, the cipher that decodes the heart of the story: asa nisi masa, a childish spell that reveals a wealth of imagination.

Fellini begins the film in a traffic jam, as Guido is trapped in desperate silence and isolation within his car, while crude and vulgar faces leer eagerly like carnivores hunting prey. Soon the car fills with smoke and he kicks the side window out: Fellini shows Guido’s feet then cuts to him sitting upon the car’s roof, creating a jump cut of dreamlike quality. Soon he is flying away through the clouds, free from doubt and fear until he notices a rope around his leg…and his nervous Producer grounds him once again. Fellini examines himself through the distance of a camera’s focal point, writing himself out of a creative stupor by writing about his uninspired morass: 8 ½ is a seemingly plotless film that is elegant in its honesty and lack of credulity, for we are never totally honest with ourselves, and this is a crucial factor in Guido’s self-reflexive fantasy. The science fiction conceit is Guido’s metaphor: a giant spaceship to escape the gravity of his situation. But most of all this is a comedy, as Guido learns to laugh and live and love, to become like a child once again and yet fill the bathetic dialogue with self-deprecating humor.

The stunning black and white cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo creates a virile emotional atmosphere, careening between Guido’s figments and his fragmented actuality: this is arguably one of the most beautiful films ever captured on celluloid! Each close-up brings the characters into sharp emotional focus while lines and hard edges disappear into fantastical vantage points, like a highway through purgatory. Nina Rota’s jaunty score imbues the story with tonal synergy, an aural delight that is savored like a bath in vintage wine.

Fellini dissects his director’s personal life and troubled relationships, searching for the root of his woes by regressing into the past: when that fails, Guido revels in a glorious whiplash phantasmagoria. With a healthy dose of Catholic guilt and infidelity, badgered by the press and his Producers with millions of dollars on the line, Guido is pressured into becoming an inert corpse: he even crawls under the table during a press conference and kills himself…a visual spectacle of wish fulfillment. But Guido discovers that truth is only subjective, that the act of creating veracity destroys it, and he gathers his cast together and the movie folds in upon itself and he sees himself as the little boy marching off-screen…exit stage right. 

Final Grade: (A+)

Thursday, December 14, 2023



For centuries, humanity’s hubris perpetuated the unquestioning belief that life on Earth was the center of the vast cosmos. When Copernicus abolished that particular mythology, many still gasped in awe at the miracle of life and its observable deficiency elsewhere: maybe Earth was special, after all. Robert Wise directs an intelligent science fiction drama that welcomes homo sapiens to the cosmic community with a final and absolute caveat: don’t spread our self-destructive attitudes to the stars. The risk is complete and total annihilation by a super advanced police force in the form of indestructible robots, particularly Gort. Klaatu comes to our planet with a peace offering in one hand (the metal device even looks like an olive branch) and a big stick (Gort) metaphorically in the other. 

Klaatu lands in our nation’s capital but demands a world audience; his message is not for one nation, or people. His friendly gesture is misunderstood, and he is shot by a nervous soldier…and bleeds like a human being. Klaatu’s frustration with the dimwitted politicos inspires his escape and, for a few short days, he lives among the egocentric and comparatively uncivilized population of Washington, DC. (Nothing much has changed since 1951!) The stranger is saddened by our penchant for violence and anarchy but observes humanity’s hope in a small boy and his widowed mother. 

Robert Wise wisely chooses to portray Klaatu as more human than human: He is the protagonist and empathetic character, he is acted upon by selfish madmen and soldiers, and he is the victim of our ignorance. In order to convince the world his apocryphal threat isn’t hollow, Klaatu must resort to a childish display of power: he makes the world stand still for one hour. Ultimately, it’s the single mother who saves the world as she courageously confronts the metal giant with Klaatu’s final command: Klaatu Barrada Nikto. The story is remarkably prescient because it doesn’t resort to 1950's era Cold War politics: the omniscient alien condemns all mankind as brutes, vicious animals that devour their kindred. But Klaatu admits his own species lacked perfection but was able to ascend this mountainous folly…and he hopes the human race can, too. 

Robert Wise and his talented DP Leo Tover's cinematic instincts are beautifully displayed: low angle shots and deep shadows reveal a mysterious Klaatu, a stranger far from home, and speak a film language that transcends the genre. The Bernard Herrmann’s score adds an eerie undercurrent that is more important to the narrative than any special effect. This classic still stands as one of the greatest science fiction films ever produced. 

Final Grade: (A+)

Saturday, December 2, 2023

KISS ME DEADLY (Robert Aldrich, 1955, USA)

Mike Hammer is as hard and thin as a railroad spike driven into concrete, seduced by mystery and a dark poem of remembrance. Director Robert Aldrich's debut is a brutish noir transformed by cloak and dagger thrills, an explosive algorithm of cold war ethics. Aldrich turns the genre upside-down like the opening credits (read from bottom to top!), a cinematic excursion where a femme fatale whispers a nuclear polemic.

Mike Hammer lives in the subconscious, the penumbra of the Id, always racing like a jaguar towards the fulfillment of his pleasure principle. He is the prototypical anti-hero, dressed to kill with a temper to match, seducing women with only a sideways glance. But Hammer is soon made impotent, victim of a faceless "they" who seek the great "what's it", his good deeds never seeming to go unpunished. He is forced to pick up a voluptuous hitchhiker and is soon embroiled in a thermonuclear winter of discontent and stalks the nightmarish truth for his own vengeful reasons, an ignoble purpose of National insecurities. A whispered epitaph becomes a steel key, a violent travelogue that leads to an irradiated treasure locked away, ashes and brimstone of the new atomic age.

Aldrich captures the film with skewed angles and a creeping malaise, as men in black consume the night with a biblical fury, summoned by a government bureaucracy to stand guard like demonic sentinels, harbingers of a world without hope: these are men who are much worse than the petty evils of Mike Hammer. Aldrich utilizes film noir gumshoe tropes but advances a scientific element, a Periodic Chart to fuel this explosive admixture. In this monochrome world, no one is pure but an amalgam of intents and desires, prostituting themselves to the highest bidder. The film ends as Hammer and his moll flee into the crashing surf while the world burns down.

Final Grade: (A)

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

THE BIG HEAT (Fritz Lang, 1953, USA)

Detective Dave Bannion must face the heat as his world explodes around him, his life crumbling like a house of toy blocks, as he insulates himself from corruption and dishonesty. After investigating a policeman’s suicide, Dave Bannion stumbles into the furnace of greed and political intrigue, where his true self is forged upon the alter of self-sacrifice and integrity, words that echo hollowly through the Halls of Injustice: our protagonist demands restitution but is not willing to poison himself and become the very thing he despises. 

Director Fritz Lang’s prescient social commentary is analogous to the world today, where honesty and hard work are anathema to the syndicates who hold dominion over the minds of weak wo/men. Lang’s cinematography utilizes few cuts, and he films the action in medium shot, the objective focal point moving with the characters which creates a narrative frisson, allowing us to become accomplice to the drama. The story is classic film noir with the tough talking detective and slimy underworld kingpin and his henchman, the slinky femme fatale, the smoky beer joints and fistfights: but Lang takes the story to a new level of brutality and human suffering. 

Glen Ford imbues Bannion with a realistic duality, a conscious struggle between the horrors of work and being a loving husband, and Lang takes us inside his personal life to witness a Homicide Detective at home where he becomes just another citizen. This insight heightens the tragedy, and we expect Bannion to abandon his morality and seek revenge, cutting down everyone who stands in the way. He begins to see everyone as an enemy and goes on a “hate binge” against the world, until the sultry Debbie Marsh teaches him that survival and cruelty need not go hand in hand…because she is also a victim. 

Lang preempts the noir conventions with characters that act independently and change, people who aren’t stuck in the stereotype of ignominy. The look of Bannion as he tearfully ponders a life that once was, his face a vacuum of despair and loneliness, is exhilarating and impassioned. But he never yields to the stigma of opprobrium and sticks to his guns (so to speak) to see that the Rule of Law is upheld…even if it stinks of contempt. His last words bring peace to a poor dying girl, a reflective moment that also delivers Bannion towards absolution. 

Final Grade: (A) 

Friday, November 24, 2023

GUN CRAZY (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950, USA)


A gunpowder romance as Annie Starr is the bullet that loads Bart Tare’s pistol, an explosive orgasm of deadly lead that finally breaches his fugitive morality. An exceptional screenplay by Dalton Trumbo blasts the screen with thinly veiled sexual innuendo: Annie’s grip upon the steel erection and Bart’s boyish masturbatory fetish (“shooting my gun just makes me feel good inside”), leads to their descent into self-destructive fantasy. 

As a young boy, Bart is arrested for Burglary while attempting to steal a handgun. As he and his friends plead to the Judge about Bart’s moral character, they keenly express that he never intends to injure living things…he just has an obsession with guns. In a flashback, Bart tells of killing a baby chicken with a pellet gun and this begins a path towards enlightenment where he respects all living creatures: this is the beginning of spiritual Ahimsa. He grows into a kind and gentle man, likable and friendly with a boyish smile and charm that is not a ruse. But his mania still exists and becomes fueled by desire for a sharp shooting queen he meets at a circus: a femme fatale who knows how to handle his gun. Soon they are married and on a cross-country crime spree, but he refuses to harm anyone, and in one tender scene he overflows with guilt about shooting out the tires of a police car because an officer could have been injured. 

Director Joseph Lewis creates palpable friction as he films a bank robbery entirely from the back of their car: Bart disappears into the building while a cop wanders by and Annie leaps out to distract him. The violent shootout and chase that follows is filmed on crowded streets (not a backlot or set), and the vertiginous perspective is not for those prone to motion sickness, making the audience accomplice to the crime. The cinematography is beautifully rendered in black and white and often tracks and moves with the action as it speeds towards the last fatal shot. 

Annie murders during their crime spree and relishes in the godlike powers of taking life while Bart diminishes into emotional obscurity. Finally, trapped in the woods of his hometown, Annie is ready to shoot her way out and escape…but Bart breaks one vow while upholding another: till death do us part. 

Final Grade: (A) 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

HANGOVER SQUARE (John Brahm, 1945, USA)


Musician George Harvey Bone lingers amid the 19th century London streets like a bad hangover, suffering a ghost of violent memories that haunt his conscience. The film opens with an excellent shot as the camera races from street level to a second story building and, in Hitchcock-like fashion, through the window glass to the scene of a grisly murder. The protagonist is clearly revealed as he escapes the conflagration in a fugue, seemingly in a drunken state as he stumbles through the midnight streets. We quickly learn that George Bones is the murderer, but he suffers from blackouts, an undiagnosed schizophrenic disorder. He even turns himself in to the police with what he believes to be the murder weapon, but he is soon released for lack of evidence. 

Director John Brahm breaks with traditional formula and doesn't create a whodunit’…he paints a lonely portrait of an artist who has unknowingly committed these heinous acts, a pianist whose tenuous connection to the world is through music: even his beautiful concerto cannot calm the savage beast within his own broken mind. Laird Cregar as George Bone is politely genuine in his performance and domination by Netta, a raven-haired femme fatale, whose love he shall feel nevermore. He spurns the love of his life for the momentary tempest of this affair and sacrifices his talent and reputation for inane “pop songs” to assuage Netta’s ravenous hunger for fortune. His fugues are provoked by harsh discordant sounds, like the clatter of metal pipes crashing into the street, and he acts upon some primal impulse that becomes a dull ache in the base of his skull. 

The marvelous Bernard Herrmann music flits from pop standard to dark brooding piano score; the diegetic music creates visual frisson with the events as they unfold on-screen. George finally kills Netta and disposes of her body atop a bonfire, and its destructive touch eventually becomes a Pyrrhic victory as his final concerto is swallowed by a Hellish inferno. 

Final Grade: (B)