Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Decision to Leave, Bullet Train, and a Water Nymph Urban Geographer

November 15th, 2022 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

Decision to Leave (Film, South Korea, Park Chan-wook, 2022) Insomniac homicide detective Jang Hae-jun (Park Hae-li) becomes romantically entangled with his chief suspect Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei), the wife of the dead man. Audacious, melancholy, and gut-clenching in turns, this surveillance noir perfectly blends the policier and the romance. Controlled allegro editing by Kim Sang-bum plays beautifully off the classical woodwind score by Jo Yeong-wook. –KH


The Blessing (Fiction, Nancy Mitford, 1951) The marriage of a young Englishwoman to an aristocratic French war hero hits a snag when infidelity is discovered and their precocious young son, enjoying the spoiling that results, contrives to thwart their reconciliation. Mitford expands her brilliantly funny social observation across the Channel.—RDL

Bullet Train (Film, US, David Leitch, 2022) Self-improving smash and grabber for hire (Brad Pitt) takes an assignment to steal a briefcase, little suspecting that the train it’s on is populated by assassins pursuing contradictory missions. Post-Tarantino action comedy with a gloriously zowie color palette pulls off the daring formal feat of not just homaging From Russia With Love’s iconic train fight, but then successfully repeating it another seven or eight times.—RDL

Undine (Film, Germany, Christian Petzold, 2020) After being dumped by a wayward boyfriend, an intense lecturer on Berlin’s urban geography (Paula Beer) finds delirious love with an industrial diver—the kind that the fates conspire against. Coolly and elegantly refashions myth into a naturalistic, enigmatic fable of the hubris of passion.—RDL


The Great Lie (Film, US, Edmund Goulding, 1941) When her universally beloved pilot husband (George Brent) is presumed dead in a crash, a rich newlywed (Bette Davis) strikes a deal with his pregnant ex, a self-centered concert pianist (Mary Astor), to raise the child as hers. Melodrama with elaborate premise and an undercurrent of expressionist hysteria.—RDL

The Rose in Darkness (Fiction, Christianna Brand, 1979) After changing cars with a stranger in a thunderstorm, washed-up actress Sari Morne finds a dead body in the back seat. Brand’s last mystery pits her first detective, Inspector Charlesworth, against a set of annoying 70s-style Bright Young Things. It takes a while for her innate gift of character to penetrate the weird slang and nicknames in their bohemian set, and while Brand retains her firework ability to misdirect and lay down false trails to the end, she can’t quite get me to buy the bit. –KH


Death in High Heels (Fiction, Christianna Brand, 1941) When an assistant in a high-end dress shop suddenly dies of poison, Inspector Charlesworth sets out to uncover whodunit. Brand based her first novel on her own experience in a high-end dress shop, but what it gains in realism it loses in her desire to jam as much detail as possible between the covers, from as many perspectives as possible, much of which turns out to be not even red herrings but dropped threads. I did enjoy the sergeants’ irritation with Brand’s detective, but I suspect that’s not a great sign either. –KH [CW: A rare insistent anti-gay tone from an author who later and usually represented her gay characters far more sympathetically than her times’ norm.]

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