Pioneer is a white-knuckle drama about deep-sea divers laying undersea oil pipeline, and the early scenes evoke any number of submarine movies: metal groans under enormous undersea pressure, sweaty people eye bulkheads nervously, hoping they don’t collapse, and tough guys bet everything on making it out alive one more time. The oil company that employs them applies pressure of its own: they aren’t afraid to cut corners in order to make deadlines, and they offer money aplenty to get what they want.
Petter (Aksel Hennie) is part of the American / Norwegian crew working on a new oil project in the North Sea. When one of the men is killed in an industrial accident, Petter is blamed; in trying to clear his name he uncovers a sinister conspiracy and the movie switches gears quickly, becoming a 70s-style paranoid thriller — only appropriate, since the movie is set in that era and is loosely based on actual events.
Pioneer is beautifully photographed, with languid undersea footage contrasting sharply with the harshly-lit interiors. The film unfolds skillfully under the direction of Erik Skoldbjaerg, who is best known for Prozac Nation (2001) and Insomnia (1997). — Michael Popham
Pioneer screens Monday and Tuesday, March 3 and 4 at 7:00 and 9:15 at the Trylon. Advance tickets can be purchased here.
In few films has there been the kind of intense chemistry between two actors as that of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. They had that sizzling heat that turned them into one of the most exciting couples to watch onscreen. It is the same heat that would later turn into a life-long love affair both with their audience and each other.
In Howard Hawks’ 1944 film, To Have and Have Not, Bogart plays Captain Harry Morgan in what would seem to be a supportive role to Bacall’s “Slim”. Bacall would incessantly steal the spotlight, which Bogart encouraged her to do during the film. Harry is a lone fisherman in Martinique only interested in good times and making money with the help of his frequently inebriated side-kick, Eddie (Walter Brennan). When Harry is propositioned by the hotel owner Frenchy (Marcel Dalio) come to his aid in transporting some friends by boat, Harry quickly turns down the offer in fear of getting involved in matters that don’t concern him. As money becomes tight due to an abrupt financial loss, Harry finds himself reluctantly accepting Frenchy’s offer just so he can stay afloat and get his money back. Of course nothing can be a simple as all that.
Bacall’s debut would be legendary as she politely inquires, “Anybody got a match?” In this scene, Bacall would make history as she would help to create the legendary “Look” in which she would always keep her head slightly tilted down, to help stop her quivering from nervousness. Bacall gives “Slim” a kind of conniving tenderness that reveals a soft center with a hard shell. She’s a woman who has a foggy past and has been through some rough waters but she’s a survivor at heart. Matched with Harry’s cautious nature, killer instincts, and some mysteries of his own, we start to see the beginning of a beautiful friendship. — Maria Gomez
Maria Gomez has been a volunteer with Trylon since 2010. She works in animal poison control and is a proud co-parent of four cats.
To Have and Have Not screens Friday and Saturday, February 27 and 28 at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, March 1 at 5:00 and 7:00 at the Trylon. Advance tickets are $8.00, and you can purchase them here.
Joseph Turner (Robert Redford) is a CIA analyst who works in an obscure office in Washington D.C., part of a research group that spitballs unlikely what-if scenarios that are then squirreled away in the agency’s vast archives. It’s a job he find less than fulfilling. But one day, Turner goes out to pick up lunch for his co-workers, and returns to discover that they have all been murdered — and that he himself is the chief suspect. The entire CIA has been tasked with hunting him down, and they’ve put a surprisingly likeable contract assassin (Max Von Sydow) on his trail as well.
In order to evade detection, he kidnaps a woman at random (Faye Dunaway) — who quickly becomes his ally — and hatches a daring plot to blow the lid off the conspiracy he’s stumbled onto. One of the best thrillers of the 1970s, Three Days of the Condor is a smart and well-paced action film that blends Hitchcockian suspense with post-Watergate anti-government paranoia. –Michael Popham
Murder on the Orient Express is the most famous of Agatha Christie’s whodunits featuring the vain and fussy detective Hercule Poirot. As is often the case in the mystery genre, the facts of the case aren’t as important as the method and quirks and foibles of the detective investigating it, and Poirot has method and quirks and foibles to spare. Christie’s critically acclaimed novel was published in 1934 and is quite the page turner, masterfully translated to film in 1974 by director Sidney Lumet.
The film begins with newspaper clippings from 1930 addressing the kidnapping of three-year-old Daisy Armstrong. These quick flashes are an integral part of the plot, which is loosely based on the actual kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s baby in 1932.
Enter the meticulously groomed Belgian detective Poirot (Albert Finney). He has just received a call to travel to London on unexpected business, having just finished some work in the Middle East. He happens to meet his accommodating friend Bianchi (Martin Balsam) who is the director of the train line. Bianchi will also be traveling via the Orient Express and does his best to acquire a sleeper car for Poirot. It is noted that the cars are unusually full for December, one of those small observations which, in mystery stories, tend to loom larger as the story progresses.
The film was made in an era when the “all-star cast” was still a selling point at the box office. Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, Wendy Hiller, Vanessa Redgrave, Jacqueline Bisset, John Gielgud, Richard Widmark, Jean-Pierre Cassell and Michael York were all faces familiar to the movie-going public of the time, and each one of their characters are masterfully rendered. Albert Finney in particular is in great form as Poirot, doggedly trying to find the murderer on the train. One of the most essential mysteries for everyone to experience.
Bacall is frightfully and beautifully over-the-top as Mrs. Hubbard. Perkins is perfectly simple and stuttering as McQueen, while Widmark is believably wretched as Mr. Rachett. Bergman however was the one that took home an Oscar for her performance as the Swedish religious fanatic Greta Ohlsson. It is said that she actually had to take some voice coaching lessons for this part because of how long she had been acting with an American accent.
Shots of the train sweeping through the snow are fantastic. The Orient Express itself is a sight to behold, almost a character as well as a background. Most of the film takes place in cramped quarters, even by the standards of drawing-room mysteries; this claustrophobic tone ratchets up the tension during the 20 minute summation, given by Poirot towards the end, with a twinkle in his eye. — Caty Rent
Caty Rent is a confirmed ghost story and horror film addict.
Murder On the Orient Express screens Friday and Saturday, February 20 and 21 at 7:00 and 9:30, and Sunday, February 22 at 5:00 and 7:30 at the Trylon. Advance tickets can be purchased here.
Review by Trylon Political Conspiracies Director Aaron Vehling
The most paranoid man in America in the 1970s — well, at least the most powerful paranoid man at the time — was President Richard Nixon, whose own unbridled fear and anxiety led to him to tape most conversations in the White House with a voice-activated system that would eventually bring him his presidency to a shocking, embarrassing halt.
However, none of that is touched on in the 1976 political thriller All The President’s Men, which only focuses on the earlier chapters of the story told in the book from which it’s sourced. We get “Watergate: The Early Years,” a triumph of obsession.
But Nixon’s obviously still a major force, for his paranoia was the Big Bang that created the system in which his operatives felt compelled to break into the Democratic national headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in our nation’s capital. However, it’s the paranoia of reporting on the aftermath that breathes life into a film starring Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards and others.
The film, the final installment of director Alan J. Pakula’s “paranoia trilogy” that also included Klute and The Parallax View, follows Washington Post rookies Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they piece together, with the help of Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook) and others, as they navigate the dark and seedy labyrinth of power and corruption in Nixonian Washington, D.C. ahead of the 1972 election — which, if you don’t recall, saw Nixon winning by one of the biggest landslides in history, winning everything but D.C. and Massachusetts.
As they follow their leads, Woodward and Bernstein stumble onto a series of small tips that slowly connect the burglary further and further up the food chain, all the way up to Tricky Dick’s top associates.
Woodward’s meetings with Deep Throat (later revealed to be W. Mark Felt, a top-ranking FBI man) are steeped in fear and suspicion. Deep Throat requires Woodward to meet him in a darkened parking garage, and in order to get there Woodward has to switch cabs along the way. Deep Throat speaks to Woodward in riddles and carrots such as “follow the money,” which the real Deep Throat never said, but which does lead to a Minnesota man with a rather Minnesotan name: Kenneth H. Dahlberg, the Committee to Re-elect the President’s Midwest Finance Chairman and a man whose company later helped finance Buffalo Wild Wings. So although Dahlberg was never implicated in the CRP’s money-laundering scheme to fund efforts to sabotage Democratic presidential candidates ahead of the 1972 election, his hands would eventually be covered in the felonious atrocity that is BBW’s take on buffalo sauce.
All of the events in the film are bound together by a check for thousands of dollars that Dahlberg wrote because he didn’t want to carry around a bunch of cash — and which eventually made it into the coffers of the CRP for a scheme orchestrated from the White House itself. I’m simplifying the story significantly, perhaps out of paranoia.
As the reporting progresses, some of Woodward and Bernstein’s key sources recant, out of fear. There’s a point where Woodward and Bernstein learn their lives might be in danger, and that their electronic communications might be monitored. They even are concerned that, like the White House, their own homes might be bugged.
Editor Ben Bradlee (Robards) and some of the other top editors at the paper are concerned about being the only ones still reporting on Watergate, worried that their careers will be toast if it turns out Woodward and Bernstein’s pet obsession turns out to be less than meets the eye.
Like the previously mentioned Deep Throat scenes, the whole film portrays those moments with a tightly composed shot, bordering on suffocation. Only in the expansive news room does it seem as if there’s a breath of fresh air, that all of this conspiracy-laden insanity is in the minds of some bored and crazy souls, meanwhile the other reporters and assistants maintain occupancy in the world of sausage-making politics and crime in the actually desperate, dangerous world of 1970s Washington, D.C.
Redford helped shepherd the film into existence and that drive helps him to shine in his role as the understated, earnest Woodward. Hoffman’s fast-talking, chain-smoking Bernstein is a nice foil.
They make a great team, and even if they didn’t really singlehandedly take down the Nixon administration, as the film suggests (and the book doesn’t), they might have played a huge role in ushering a bunch of promising young and curious writers into the stressful, paranoiac world of journalism.
Looking back, there are a lot of aspects of the film that are dated — the cars, the technology, the fact that people smoke in their offices — but what isn’t is the surveillance and tomfoolery perpetrated by the government. Only now, the surveillance is championed and ubiquitous and the tomfoolery as pedestrian as eating breakfast. I’d better calm down, though. Someone’s likely monitoring this transmission. – Aaron Vehling
Aaron Vehling operates the music blog Vehlinggo.com, in which he genuflects several times a week toward disco, synthwave, house, and all that other stuff that makes you dance, cry, and fall in love. He digs the music of Johnny Jewel and the films of Lars von Trier. Though he’s from Minneapolis, he now lives in Harlem, New York, on the same block as the mansion from The Royal Tenenbaums.
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN screens at the Trylon Monday and Tuesday, February 16 and 17, at 7:00 and 9:30. Advance tickets can be purchased here.