SDLFF and The Red Riding Trilogy
Local Filmgoers Have a Pair of Film Events to Choose From
Thursday, March 11, 2010
If "Alice" in 3D isn’t enough of a film event to get you out of your home theater then there are a pair of film events you might want to check out. First there’s the San Diego Latino Film Festival (kicking off tonight and running through March 21 at the Ultrastar Mission Valley Theaters at Hazard Center) and then there’s "The Red Riding Trilogy” (opening for one week only at Landmark's Ken Cinema).
The opera “Don Giovanni” is just one of many surprises to be found at this year’s San Diego Latino Film Festival -- truly one of the city’s premier film events. Now in it’s 17th year, the festival is the best for providing an unexpected mix of cultures, genres, sensibilities, and styles. The film “I, Don Giovanni” is the perfect example of this. Directed by Carlos Saura, the film is an Italian-Spanish co-production about the collaboration of Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Italian librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. The film’s a visually lush portrait of artists and the creative process. “I, Don Giovanni” is just one of more than 180 films screening in the next ten days at the San Diego Latino Film Festival.
A film event of a smaller scale can be found at the Ken Cinema -- “The Red Riding Trilogy.” The three films were made for British television and were based on a set of novels by writer David Pearce. Each film is named after the year in which it takes place—1974, 1980, and 1983. The first film opens with the body of a murdered girl who’s had angel wings stitched to her back. Reporter Edward Dunford suspects the killing is linked to earlier ones.
EDWARD: So sir if I can have your attention, we have three missing girls all aged between eight and ten, 1969, 1972, and the day before yesterday and they all go missing within miles of one another, sir this could be the 834 murders all over again.
EDITOR: Well do let’s hope so Mr. Dunford.
EDWARD: Fingers crossed eh?
We’re offended by the reporter’s bloodlust for a good story but that quickly seems like a minor offense in light of all that he eventually uncovers.
EDWARD: This is high level corruption business, local government, West Yorkshire police…
COP: Who in particular?
EDWARD: Have a look. Is this too hot for you?
It proves not only too hot for anyone to handle but too deeply entrenched for anyone to easily expose or challenge. So the corruption continues in the 1980 film in which a second serial killer is introduced.
NEWS MONTAGE: What kind of man do you think is committing these murders?... He’s a cool, intelligent cunning individual… a deep hatred of prostitute… the killer they are calling the Yorkshire Ripper…
Tony Grisoni’s screenplay grafts bleak film noir onto the even murkier moral morass of contemporary political thrillers. Although each film boasts a different director, Grisoni’s screenplay keeps the focus on the depravity and avarice of those in power. In fact, the murders and assorted other crimes seem like mere symptoms of a much darker and more serious disease that’s been going unchecked for years. Here, a good cop challenges a dirty one.
PETER: What happened Maurice? When did we start to be on opposite sides of the fence?
MAURICE: We aren’t.
PETER: It feels like it though, doesn’t it.
The “Red Riding Trilogy” is true horror because the stories are not about aliens or boogiemen but rather rooted in the real world. What’s so grim and terrifying in these films is how firmly in place that evil and corruption are and how difficult and maybe even impossible they will be to remove.
The police, businessmen, and politicians involved share a rallying cry.
GROUP: To the North where we do what we want.
They reign over their little kingdom brandishing this slogan as both a proclamation of their dominance and as a warning to any intruders. The casting of Warren Clarke -- one of Alex's droogs in "A Clockwork Orange" -- as a veteran corrupt cop is a sly reinforcement of the film's theme. At the end of "A Clockwork Orange" Clark's droog had become an abusive cop and seeing Clarke in "Red Riding"makes me think that droog rose to the top of the force and never reconnected with any moral values.
Drawing on both fact and fiction, “The Red Riding Trilogy” serves up an unnerving and well-executed portrait of corruption. It also reveals that sometimes those who are supposed to protect us are the very ones committing the most harm with the victims being those with the least ability to defend themselves. The first two films are strong enough to stand on their own. The third film only works if you’ve seen the first two but its resolution proves disappointing. Together, however the “Red Riding” films offer a chilling exploration of evil that feels all too accurate.
Companion viewing: "Zodiac," "Se7en," "Dirty Harry"
You can also listen to our Film Club of the Air discussion of "The Red Riding Trilogy."
These Days host Maureen Cavanaugh speaks with Beth Accomando and Scott Marks about the "Red Riding Trilogy" on the KPBS Film Club of the Air.