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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Promising Young Woman, Czech Allegorical Horror, and Much More Margery Allingham

March 16th, 2021 | 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.

Recommended

The Chase (Film, US, Arthur Penn, 1966) Sardonic sheriff (Marlon Brando) tries to keep a lid on his powderkeg of an oil-rich Texas town when a prodigal son (Robert Redford) escapes from prison. Penn shows a mastery of the classical Hollywood form he will soon set about blowing up in this type specimen of the overheated 60s Southern melodrama. Based on a novel and play by Horton Foote, with screenplay by Lillian Hellman, and also starring Jane Fonda, Robert Duvall, James Fox, and Miriam Hopkins.—RDL

The Fashion in Shrouds (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1938) When the lovers of actress Georgia Wells keep conveniently dying, Campion investigates. A better-than-average clockwork detection plot and a better-than-average Bright Young Things story converge ably here. Allingham’s increasing ambition to put crime into social (in this case, artistic society) context shows, mostly to the novel’s credit. –KH

Police at the Funeral (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1931) Investigating a disappearing uncle, Campion discovers a family murder plot afoot in a classic Old Dark House in Cambridge. A really fine mystery of its form, in which Campion is prevented from blithering by a magnificently domineering great-aunt. Allingham deploys the Gothic atmosphere even better than John Dickson Carr here, thanks to her superior character sense, although Carr would have given us a slightly tighter plot. –KH

Promising Young Woman (Film, US, Emerald Fennell, 2020) Coffee shop clerk (Carey Mulligan) who dropped out of med school after classmates sexually assaulted a friend pursues vengeance against predatory men. Fennell’s risk-taking script places its 70s exploitation premise on the narrow line between caustic satire and emotional authenticity, anchored by authoritative use of color and composition.—RDL

Tell Me Who I Am (Film, UK, Ed Perkins, 2019) Middle-aged twins grapple with the long-unaddressed fallout of one’s decision, after the other lost his memory at 18 in a motorcycle accident, to feed him a rosy, falsified narrative of their covertly horrific childhood. Perkins provides a searing yet controlled documentary environment for the subjects to finally stage a climactic confrontation.—RDL.

Traitor’s Purse (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1941) With only days to uncover a Nazi plot against Britain, Campion awakens in the hospital with amnesia. A likely influence on my favorite Graham Greene novel, somehow even more drenched with tension than that masterwork. Allingham said “the thriller proper is a work of art as delicate and precise as a sonnet,” and proves it here — only a strangely selfish character choice prevents me from elevating it to Pinnacle-hood. –KH

Good

Made You Look: A True Story of Fake Art (Film, Canada, Barry Avrich, 2020) In 2011, an FBI investigation and a series of lawsuits by angry collectors exposed a serial forger of American Abstract Expressionist paintings, beginning with a Rothko in 1995. This documentary centers on Ann Freedman, who bought the forgeries from the forger’s agent for a relative pittance and sold them for over $80 million through the venerable Knoedler Gallery, and does a fine job explicating the mess she got herself into. But it lets the art experts who overwhelmingly authenticated these works (by a pretty average Chinese copyist) for 16 years off the hook, and refuses to seriously interrogate their role in the wishcasting bubble that is the modern art market. –KH

Nowhere to Hide (Film, South Korea, Lee Myung-se, 1999) Violent cop (Joong-Hoon Park) and his young partner (Jang Dong-Gun) lead a grueling, prolonged manhunt for a wily mob assassin (Sung-Ki Ahn.) Hard-knuckled policier puts exuberant stylization first.—RDL

Wolf’s Hole (Film, Czechoslovakia, Věra Chytilová, 1987) A gaggle of high schoolers discover that the skiing retreat they’ve won exclusive tickets to is some kind of psychological experiment run by weird creeps. Allegorical satire of late Communism guised as a teens-in-peril horror.—RDL

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