Couldn’t enjoy this as much as I should because I was in a weird state of mind, but it’s supremely entertaining, recalling Bound in its story of fortune-seeking men double-crossed by crafty female lovers.
The first half is told from the perspective of Sookee (Tae-ri Kim), a pickpocket working for handsome Jung-woo Ha (Ki-duk’s Time), who has his eyes on bigger marks, posing as a Count and getting Sookee hired as handmaiden to Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim of Right Now, Wrong Then). The plan is to convince the Lady to marry the Count, then commit her to an institution and share her wealth, but Sookee is double-crossed and committed instead. The second part follows the Lady, who lives with her book collector uncle (Jin-woong Jo, only 40 but given gray hair and mustache) at his increasingly sinister estate, revealing her own moments and motives, some of which I’ve now forgotten because it’s been a very long month, but it’s an audacious and elegant movie and when it comes out on video I’ll happily get lost in it again.
Well-presented to English speaking audiences with Japanese and Korean dialogue in different colored subtitles. This is the year of Hokusai – first the animated biopic, then his wave appearing in Kubo and his porno octopus in this movie. I double-featured this at the Alamo with a 35mm screening of Possession, which was completely incredible and now cemented as one of my favorite movies, and which also features a porno octopus.
First movie watched after election day, which knocked every thought out of my head, so trying to recollect them for this writeup.
Con artist in Spain Frédéric Bourdin claims to be missing person Nicholas Barclay, taking us through how he convinced authorities and even the Barclay family to believe and embrace him, despite being the wrong age and having a French accent. His identity is unambiguous to the movie audience – he’s not Nicholas – so the mystery and tension are in figuring out why everyone is going along with his story and when he’ll be found out. A private investigator finally unmasks him, and raises the suspicion that the family was quick to go along with his story because one of them might have murdered Nicholas.
Each new twist and turn in this story of lies and untold truths will leave you aghast at both the audaciousness of the tall tales and the stupidity and willingness of the people that believed them. Documentaries tend to deal in truths but The Imposter deals in lies which means you are never truly trusting of anything that is said. It provides the film with a strange quality as you question each and every new piece of juicy information Layton slowly teases.
First and foremost, it’s a creative essay about confirmation bias, an “affliction” that, as we see here, spares nobody. Whether through pre-interview instructions or judicious editing (and I honestly don’t care which), Layton cannily tells the entire story in the present tense, never allowing Nicholas’ family to attest to knowledge or emotions they didn’t have at the time, and (more crucially) never permitting them to retroactively explain themselves … My only lingering reservation involves the decision — justifiable, given the film’s modus operandi, but troubling nonetheless — to let Bourdin control his own image right up to the last few minutes, so that the extent to which he’s a pure sociopath winds up feeling like a plot twist.
Based on the true story of James Reavis – however his wikipedia article sounds like the true story would make for a far less interesting movie than Fuller’s script. It’s got the pen-and-ink technicality (his forgery is discovered because he uses the wrong kind of ink), the marrying a trumped-up land heir, and the prison time, but it lacks the monastery, the gypsy camp and Reavis-Price’s completely solitary audacity of it all (the real Reavis had financial backers, co-conspirators and hired thugs). Also the guy who exposed the fraud was named Royal Johnson, not John Griff.
Vincent Price hadn’t found horror fame yet, but he acts up a storm in this – convincing as a showman, a lover, a silent conspirator and an enraged victim of mob violence (see below). His plan involves the U.S. government honoring Spanish land grants – he trumps up his young ward (later his wife, ew) as the sole living heiress of a previously unclaimed grant for the whole territory of Arizona, planting her fictional parents’ gravestones, engraving a proclamation into a giant stone, posing as a monk for three years to inscribe the false grant into the ancient records and getting some gypsies to help him break in where the copy of the records is kept.
For all that work he is very nearly killed by the angry villagers, but the government saves him in order to imprison him. His wife (Ellen Drew of Christmas In July, who again fails to make much of an impression) apparently forgives him for giving her a false identity and roping her into his land-grab scheme, picks him up from prison at the end.
Fictional-historical adventure-romance-dramas aren’t exactly what Sam Fuller is known for, but he pulls it off. I guess he was one of the few writer/directors out there at this time, and The Steel Helmet wasn’t far behind. The only bit that doesn’t work for me is the silly framing device of old men smoking cigars and reminiscing about the Baron’s crazy scheme. At least Sam worked cigars into the story somehow.
That’s Reed Hadley as Griff, the government’s expert fraud analyst who manages to debunk Price and help him escape the angry crowd. Within a couple years of this, Hadley played both Jesse James (for Fuller) and Jesse’s brother Frank, and appeared in two MST3K-bait films.