Thursday, July 10, 2008

How to Paint a Picture

The Crimson Kimono (1959)
directed by Sam Fuller
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
seen on the screen at the Guild

When Kubrick sent the Eyes Wide Shut screenplay back for revisions, he requested "flatter" dialogue. As much as we made fun of Tom Cruise's parroting as the go-to acting style of America's most serious celebrity, most of his repetition was apparently an effort to make Bill Harford seem more "real." Well, there's the real of a fantasy in Christmastime Manhattan, and then there's a weekly judo tournament at the Korean gymnasium in mid-century Los Angeles.

One of the things I like about Sam Fuller is the degree to which his characters engage the worlds they inhabit; in The Crimson Kimono, it isn't just two cops who work the Chinatown beat and spend a few scenes talking beneath paper lanterns. No, these all-Americans attend a cultural exchange pavilion, wrestle each Saturday in the local judo league, and take time out from visiting LA's Korean war memorial (who knew?) to drink with a wise-as-the-world alcoholic ("I knew women like that!") on Skid Row. If there's a more beautiful shot of the city than a man in a suit pacing outside the Buddhist shrine (and again, this is LA, not Kurosawa Kyoto), smoking a cigarette while a front blows in from the coast, then it was probably shot by Sam Fuller somewhere I never would have guessed.

One more reason why I love the movies.