The problem with yesterday’s screening of German/Polish drama Winter’s Daughter (review below) was not that it was half full of squawking high school students but that their curriculum, which this film is presumably a part of, did not include education about cinema etiquette. To be fair, the crowd was fairly well behaved, particularly given their age and the fact that they were watching (gasp!) a film with subtitles. What really rankled me was not the girls in the row in front occasionally sharing short, giggly remarks but two of their teachers I spotted — thankfully not within hearing distance — doing the same, but worse. Anybody unclear about my attitude towards people talking in movies can consult this Facebook group.

Below are the films I saw yesterday, with a bunch more lined up for today — including Japanese legend Takeshi Kitano’s latest offering, Outrage. Tune back in tomorrow: same Bat time, same Bat channel…

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The quality of the film reel was as dirty as a mud splattered hubcap and the audio possessed by a hissing noise that sounded like heavy rain pouring inside the cinema, but virtually nothing could have ruined my first big screen viewing of Howard Hawks’ 1946 adaption of Raymond Chandler’s seminal novel, The Big Sleep (film #27), shy of the film collapsing under the weight of it’s own brilliance.

Humphrey Bogart was never cooler or more unflappable — Casablanca included, cue debate from film geeks, and…go — than in this complexly plotted noir classic that follows a PI embroiled in a trail of blackmail, murder, deceit and various skins of 40s criminal underbelly.

Rarely has film dialogue been better used to propel a story; rarely has film dialogue been better used, full stop. The Big Sleep’s dialogue is delivered with deadpan pizzazz — salty, sardonic, snappy words lacquered with innuendo, punchy as a Brooklyn boxer on fight night and loaded with more zingers than a KFC store room.

Hawks treats every scene as a mini movie, a microcosm to get right, a series of vignettes to perfect. The result: virtually every scene is a great one.

Cinematographer Sid Hickox’s compositions beautifully contrast light and dark – the key to black and white photography – and form a visual makeup up their with the greats: Psycho, The Third Man, Strangers on a Train, Casablanca, etcetera.

The Big Sleep’s labyrinthine story is one of Chandlers best, although it was significantly chopped, changed and rearranged, with Chandler’s knowledge and blessing because, so the legend goes, even he couldn’t entirely make sense of the plot himself.

Did Howard Hawks create the finest PI noir movie ever made? If not he came damn close. It’s a tough, tough call between The Big Sleep and Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.

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Director Johannes Schmid’s well-intentioned slow moving on the road drama Winter’s Daughter (film 28) follows a young German girl’s quest to meet her biological father.

Eleven-year-old Kattaka (Nina Monka) chucks a tantrum when she learns daddy isn’t technically daddy and demands to find the real deal. She goes on a road trip with an old lady and a young whippersnapper, in search of her father, who works on a cargo ship.

There is surprisingly little emotional weight behind Kattaka’s journey and the film builds no dramatic impetus to trigger it other than the implied natural curiosity. Schmid seems to recognise the lack of emotional gravity at about the half way point, at which the film then spends nearly an entire act shifting focus to Kattaka’s elderly guide then snaps back like a slap wristband to the initial driving motivation – the young gal’s search for her father as she crosses the border into Poland.

Warmly shot despite the cold, snowy surrounds, Winter’s Daughter’s production values are universally sound but not enough to compensate for the lack of story. The screenplay needed more plot: more pit stops on the road, perhaps, more supporting characters or more dramatic encounters.

Nina Monka’s one-note sad-eyed performance, on which the film relies, isn’t quite capable of carrying it dramatically. The ending is a borderline ridiculous attempt to gift wrap the preceding dramas with a bright new everybody-hold-hands-now proverbial bow. As Dazza Hinch might say: shame shame shame.

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Aesthetically a film of beautiful vacuousness, in which a teenage girl and a young boy spend the vast majority of the running time exploring derelict storm-ravaged farmland on the outskirts of Murray, Kentucky, director Clay Jeter’s Jess + Moss (film #29) is a plot-less avant-garde exploration of lost and found memories and semi-sexual relations.

It’s unclear whether Jess (Sarah Hagan) and young’un Moss (Austin Vickers) are siblings or close friends. They wander through decrepit plantations, overgrown gardens, green pastures, dusty paths and crumbling old homes, with Jeter’s lens hungrily soaking up their surrounds. The film has a rich colour scheme and a mise en scene littered with relics from busier and brighter times.

Viewers who can’t swim along with Jess + Moss’s airy vibe will likely find it hoity toity twoddle. But hang in there and the film slowly grows in meaning and merit, gently playing with concepts of memory and recollection. Jess says Moss’ parents were killed in a storm. He listens to instructional cassette tapes teaching how to have a master memory.

The film, modest and unprepossessing, gives the viewer a headspace in which we are encouraged to mentally meander along with the characters.  Jess + Moss relies as much on what it gives to the audience as what the audience gives back, and the rewards — as I hope to demonstrate in a longer piece I’ll try and write this weekend — can be rich.

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Submarine (film #30) is an energetic coming of age comedy from debut writer/director Richard Ayoade, best known as an actor in TV’s The Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd. If you’ve seen the latter, Ayoade plays Moss, the gangly Urkel-esque dweeb with suspenders and thick-rimmed glasses. He also has considerable experience as a writer for the small screen, which helped him bring snappy energy to author Jon Dunthorne’s novel written from the perspective a scheming but empathetic 15-year-old boy.

Bleary-eyed Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) wins audiences over from the get-go with an opening reel in which he imagines how the world would mourn his death: news broadcasts, candlelight vigils, sobbing girls. Determined to pop his cherry before he hits 16, Oliver sizes up potential candidates and fixes his gaze on Jordana (Yasmin Paige), keeping the audience in the loop with whatever pops into his head. Like many kids his age, Oliver is selfish and sneaky, but the audience barely notice due to his sleepy charisma and candid voice over.

This is J.D. Salinger teen anxiety territory through and through, as close to a contemporary re-imagining of The Catcher in the Rye as anything, albeit with a slighter and bubblier intent. Ayoade understands anti-cool, knows what buttons to press on a character-based storytelling level to win audiences over without seeming to try too hard, and reveals a penchant for quirk of the broadly accessible kind unlike, say, Miranda July’s hazy indie fodder in The Future. That said, Submarine seems to have been edited with a fear of losing audience interest at any moment and it tinkers right on the precipice of over-stylisation in the same glorious manner as a bang-snap-pow attention grabber like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

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