Friday, September 3, 2010

Black & White Friday: Candyman

I had never seen Bernard Rose's film, an adaptation of Clive Barker's take but relocated to America, for reasons that I will mention after the first screencap below us. I had put the film on my Quickflix DVD queue when I went through a horror fixation whilst battling the flu and forgot all about it until, I suppose, it got high enough to be sent out to me. As I watched it I noticed some really well done compositions. Once the film the becomes a typically bloody gore fest in the final act it was less so, naturally.

I do remember bugging my brother enough to allow him to let me watch Candyman with him when I was a kid. Alas I probably ran out of the room screening at this shot that immediately follows the opening credits (credits that feature such comically over-the-top haunted house music by Philip Glass). I have a phobia of bees (I blame Michael Caine), and seeing a screen filled entirely by them would surely not have helped me at all.

The best scene in the film is this one where Virginia Madsen and Vanessa Williams (the first one, not the good one) visit a delapidated, ghettoised housing project in search of the of "Candyman" myth. Some really excellent use of light and shadow throughout it.

Definitely the most striking image from the entire film is this one as Madsen's "Helen Lyle" makes her way through the labyrinthine belly of the apartment complex and emerges out of a hole in a wall that, as the camera pans, turns out to be a massive graffiti image of the Candyman. She's being swallowed whole by the Candyman before she even realises a thing.

I actually think the way Rose, his cinematographer Anthony B Richmond (Legally Blonde, Ravenous) and his make-up artists (Michelle B├╝hler and Erma Kent) deliberately tried to make Madsen looks a bit like one of Hitchcock's women. Especially in one or two shots to come. I particularly love her eyes in this shot, peering over her camera. In fact, if it weren't for the camera I'd believe this was taken from a film in the 1940s or '50s.

Basically anything with shadowplay is bound to be featured within these blog walls, and it was this moment that made me think Candyman would be a good candidate for this series. I think I was right.

This feels very classical and elegant. So, completely out of place for Candyman. I still think it's quite beautiful though.

Here is, I think, the really obvious Hitchcock illusion. You could easily mistake this shot for being that of a blonde-haired vixen who just pulled a fast one on her husband and is stealing his money while walking around in a delicious overcoat and big sunglasses. Of course, being Hitchcockian isn't the first thing on Candyman's mind and it's only a few shots here or there that gave me the impression (it was mostly Madsen's hair, actually).

Even more so than the graffiti shot from before, I think this was the favourite shot of the film. As Madsen looks through a collection of slides from a murder scene she stops on this one of herself taking a photo of a grubby mirror. The way the light bounces around off of it in between all the smudges and the grime and the way Madsen herself looks like a classic movie heroine. Of course, this is the film's biggest fright (if not the biggest jump, that's saved for the doctor's office, yes?) with its subtle scares something the last 30 minutes or so of Candyman wouldn't know anything about.

Now you can't say this doesn't scream old fashioned thriller to you, can you?

I saved the last shot for a moment to focus on what I think is the film's best quality. Candyman has such a powerful sense of place. All the urban decay and modern emptiness. There are several scenes such as those inside the housing estate, the ambulance drive through the tunnel and these establishing shots that provide so much atmosphere. The sense of oppressive dread that builds up throughout them, feeling like all this stuff is happening on the ourskirts of town where nobody is paying any attention. It actually reminded me of Se7en in that way.

No comments: