Monday, April 8, 2013

My Brother the Devil, M

My Brother the Devil

I bailed quickly on Sally El Hosaini's Egyptian-brothers-in-London petty-crime saga "My Brother the Devil," mostly because the dialogue was virtually unintelligible. I've seen subtitles provided in films with much clearer English. What I could make out seemed very familiar, an ethnic twist on stock characters and situations we've seen a million times.

Leaving early afforded me the opportunity to scoot across the street - from the Nuart to the refurbished Royal - to catch the expert new restoration of Fritz Lang's 1931 classic "M," a very early talkie about a child murderer terrorizing the citizenry of Berlin, played by Peter Lorre in his star-making debut. The restorers have remained faithful to Lang's original vision, including minutes of silent action pierced by spliced-in recordings of single sounds.

The police repeatedly raid every speakeasy in town, bringing anyone without papers to the precinct for further questioning, but get nowhere. The local crime organizers take matters into their own hands, organizing a sort of neighborhood watch of beggars to look for Lorre. When a blind balloon salesman recognizes him by his sinister whistle - Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" - they trap him and take him to a hastily assembled kangaroo court in an abandoned building, where Lorre laments that he can't control his homicidal urges. "Not want to - MUST!" What amazed me most about "M" is how un-dated it feels, how modern the idioms and vernacular of the language and how advanced the technique. The film even ends with a pioneering breaking of the fourth wall.

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