Sunday, April 09, 2006

Another classic: Miller's Crossing

As I decided to watch only classics, it was just appropriate that last night I watched the Coens' Miller's Crossing that I'd taped the night before. It's been one of my favourites ever since I saw it back in 1990 with my friend Arttu (who didn't like it as much as I did) and it still stands head above the rest of the crime films of its period. It hasn't dated a bit, even though most of the late eighties' and early nineties' films look just that: films of the late eighties and early nineties. I'd have hard time to pin down when Miller's Crossing was actually made, should I see it without prior knowledge of it.

The film would make a great fifties' paperback, even though stylistically it harks back to Hammett and the gangster films of the thirties and the original hardboiled pulp fiction. The story has grimness that would fit nicely in with the Gold Medal or Lion crime (and western!) paperbacks, and there are so many twists that Hammett wouldn't've known how to make so many. And the final moment of truth is breaking: "What heart?" I could fathom from Elina's eyes that she was wondering why I was watching something so grim. She came in in the scene in which Jon Polito shoots his flunkey in the head.

The dialogue is great, snappy, funny and always deep, giving away important information about the characters. There are many pulp fiction idioms ("what's the rumpus?", "just me and my roscoe" (it was translated as "Roscoe"!)), but it never looks or sounds a mere pastiche. This is an achievement in itself.

One thing more: if you get a chance to see it, pay attention to Jon Polito's Italian gangster boss. I bet that the team behing Sopranos was watching Miller's Crossing very closely and modelled parts of Tony Soprano after Polito's performance.

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