Inaugural?

We’ll skip the debut introductions and painful self-summary. I’m going to assume that if you are here, reading this, that you have some idea who I am. This will be the place where we catch up and I catch my breath, starting now, not at my birth. It probably won’t take anyone who reads this blog too long to figure me out, but let’s you and me enjoy the awkward early stage nonetheless.

Sara and I have started getting movies sent directly to the apartment. This doesn’t just mean more movies, I hope, it also means a greater variety.

Conspiracy
Kenneth Branagh got most of the attention during Conspiracy‘s promotion, with Stanley Tucci close behind, even on the video box. To be sure, they’re both excellent in this picture, but I invite everyone to pay special attention to Colin Firth, a praiseworthy actor in a wonderful role.

For an hour and a half, a bunch of Nazis and related evildoers enjoy a sit-down meeting in a gorgeous German mansion deep within black-and-white winter woods. The subject of their meeting is the murder of millions of Jews across Europe. Whenever gray areas appear, they are rendered into black-and-white parts favoring the master race by Reinhard Heydrich (Branagh). He displays the whole catalog of personal manipulation. He intimidates, rubs elbows, flatters, sympathizes, commands, grooms and pacifies. Branagh is charming and fierce and, so, creepy as hell. The real-life Heydrich survived an assassination attempt by paratroopers specially trained to kill him. Kenneth Branagh makes me believe it.

The whole cast is remarkably natural and business-like. This is the second time I’ve seen the film, and it’s clear to me now that there are no small parts around the evil round table. What a delightful script for an actor: every role a villain, every scene a dialogue. It’s a sort of sinister Gosford Park, a stage play performed in a real mansion and featuring a working airplane.

All of this makes the film a terrifying experience. The quality of speech, the natural behavior, the manner in which a roomful of squabbling patriots agrees to atrocity. This is the scariest movie where nothing happens that I’ve ever seen, and I did see The Sixth Sense. This is part of what makes Colin Firth so wonderful. Branagh’s character is active whenever he’s on screen. Tucci’s pencil-pusher is a discomforting example of the Nuremburg defense. They’re both uniformed Nazi bastards, the sort that really believe in their Reich. Firth’s Dr. Stuckart is logical, intelligent, passionate and persuasive in a story where the audience is desperate to really like someone. He is given an energetic exchange which becomes a stunning monologue. We are drawn in, uncertain of where we are going or what will happen next, and when we finally arrive we are terrified. It’s a great trick, skillfully written by Loring Mandel and sharply staged by Frank Pierson. Colin Firth is simply underrated. Great film.

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