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Oct 9, 2015 4:27 PM
Tomorrow afternoon at BFI Southbank you can feast your eyes on a 4K digital restoration of the bafflingly overlooked 1959 western Warlock. Here’s Patrick Russell to bring you up to speed with this under-the-radar gem.
What’s it about?
Desperate times call for desperate measures…. Terrorised by local cowboys, the good folk of Utah mining town Warlock turn to a famed and mercenary gunman. His arrival sets in chain a tense, complex narrative of tortured rivalries and violent events building to a memorable climax.
Who made it?
Warlock is one of the best films by underrated director Edward Dmytryk and stars an amazing ensemble cast of Hollywood’s finest. Henry Fonda delivers a dark variation on his better-known role as Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine. Anthony Quinn, Dorothy Malone and Richard Widmark all give sterling supporting performances as complex characters.
What’s special about it?
Why Warlock isn’t better known is something of a mystery. It takes a classic western plot premise and rings the changes on it, big time. The characters’ ever-shifting relationships are delineated with unusual psychological complexity, contributing to a coiled-spring tension that’s impressively sustained throughout the film. Fonda and Quinn’s close but tortured friendship, with subtle homoerotic undertones, is particularly intriguing. Both actors, incidentally, are kitted out in superbly fancy duds, for which the costume buyer should surely have received a special sartorial prize!
Structurally, the film alternates literate dialogue with stylish visual sequences, hinting at the operatic stylisation of the spaghetti westerns of a few years later. It’s a big film in every sense, and is screening in a terrific 4k restoration from the Twentieth Century Fox team that was behind the restoration of My Darling Clementine - a highlight of last year’s festival.
Oct 9, 2015 2:00 PM
Tonight at BFI Southbank, there’s another chance to see the latest film by Italian maestro Marco Bellocchio. Christina Newland would urge you to check it out.
Veteran director Marco Bellochio, who first made his mark with blistering left-wing satire Fists in the Pocket, has returned with a different critique of the Italian power structure in Blood of my Blood. Set in both the 17th century and the present day, the film embarks on the ambitious task of encapsulating four centuries of Italian corruption.
In a rural medieval convent, a young nun called Benedetta is locked away and her hair is shorn off; a punishment for her affair with a priest who’s since killed himself. The Catholic Church then subjects her to numerous trials by water and fire to gain a confession, while her lover’s twin brother Federico stands by. The director’s son Pier Giorgio Bellochio inhabits the role of Federico in both historical and modern segments, each time as a malaise-ridden man lacking moral conviction.
Pier Giorgio was on hand to talk about the film and succinctly called it “a compendium of subjects from my father’s career”. The film expounds on everything from the church’s exploitation of its followers to the perplexing hierarchy of financial power in modern Italy. In these ways and others, Blood of my Blood paints an astute, if elusive, picture of a patriarchal class reluctant to relinquish its control.