Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

Jadeskorpionin kirous / Jadeskorpionens förbannelse. US/DE © 2001 Gravier Productions / VDL Communications GmbH. PC: Gravier Productions / Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions / Perido Productions / VDL Communications GmbH. EX: Stephen Tenenbaum. Co-EX: Charles H. Joffe, Jack Rollins, Datty Ruth. P: Letty Aronson. D+SC: Woody Allen. DP: Zhao Fei. PD: Santo Loquasto. AD: Tom Warren. Set dec: Jessica Lanier. Cost: Suzanne McCabe. Makeup: Eva Polywka, Rosemary Zurlo. Songs: "Sophisticated Lady" (Ellington, Parish, Mills) perf. Duke Ellington; "Two Sleepy People" (Loesser, Carmichael) perf. Earl "Fatha" Hines; "Tuxedo Junction" (Feyne, Johnson, Dash, Hawkins), "How High The Moon" (Hamilton, Lewis) perf. Dick Hyman & The Rainbow Room All Stars; "In A Persian Market" (Ketelbey) perf. Wilbur de Paris; "Flatbush Flanagan" (James) perf. Harry James; "Sunrise Serenade" (Carle, Lawrence) perf. Glenn Miller. ED: Alisa Lepselter. S: Robert Hein. C: Woody Allen (C.W. Briggs), Helen Hunt (Betty Ann Fitzgerald), Charlize Theron (Laura Kensington), Dan Aykroyd (Chris Magruder), Brian Markinson (Al), Wallace Shawn (George Bond), David Ogden Stiers (Voltan Polgar), Elizabeth Berkley (Jill), Peter Gerety (Ned), John Schuck (Mize), John Tormey (Sam), Kaili Vernoff (Rosie). Helsinki premiere: 16.8. 2002 Forum 1, distributed by: Finnkino – dvd: 2003 Scanbox – telecast: 20.1.2006 YLE TV1 – VET 103747 – S – 2795 m / 103 min. A KAVA print deposited by Finnkino with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Jaana Wiik / Nina Ekholm viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Woody Allen), 21 May 2013

A good Woody Allen film in which he presents a new version of his comic persona. C.W. Briggs (Allen) is an insurance investigator who finds himself being investigated by the police for two grand jewel robberies. The footprints are his, the fingerprints are his, the jewels are found in his apartment, and he has actually taken them... yet he never loses his self-assurance about being innocent, and he finally gets to prove it.

Helen Hunt (Betty Ann Fitzgerald) is the efficiency expert whose position in the story is that he is about to sweep out C.W. from the company, and the grand robberies would be the last straw, yet she never really believes that C.W. did it.

In his interview with Stig Björkman (I can access it only in Swedish and Finnish) Allen confesses that although he has never liked screwball comedies he loves their dialogue in which each line between the man and the woman is an insult - yet the film is always a love story. In this movie the turning-point takes place during the very last minute and is based on the enormous chutzpah of C.W. who stops Betty Ann who is just about to start her honeymoon with her boss Chris Magruder (Dan Aykroyd).

In the same interview Allen claims that he does not find most films noirs very good, either, but that Double Indemnity is a masterpiece. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is in my opinion not a pastiche nor a melange (of screwball and film noir) but an original comedy which reflects on those traditions.

Woody Allen is one of the best directors of actors of all times, and also in this movie the members of the great cast are evidently enjoying themselves, and so are we. An interesting concept is the great esprit de corps that reigns in the insurance company. Everybody is genuinely baffled by the situation in which C.W. seems to have succumbed to crime. And everybody is really happy when truth is out.

The visual quality of the print: it is clean and without blemishes but with a soft warm look which may be intentional, and if it is not (the print perhaps being one generation too far removed from the original) it is not detrimental. The film has been shot in full frame but boom mikes appear if the print is not screened in 1,85:1 widescreen.

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