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Brick (2005)


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I didn't see a thread on this, but I saw it and liked it a lot. It's like seeing a classic film noir transplanted into a contemporay high school where the kids communicate in a slang all their own. The dialogue style is hard to get used to at first, but it makes more sense as the film moves along. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very good as the outsider who must infiltrate a criminal underworld to solve a mystery, who killed his girlfriend. The classic characters from the genre are represented in kids in the school: the femme fatale who one can't sure can be trusted, the kingpin, the kingpin's toughie, and the underground informant. There's the twists and double crosses you can expect in a noir film, and visually this suburban California setting is rendered in dark almost surrealistic tones. I also really enjoyed the score, it was very spare and effective. Has anyone else seen this?

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Not yet, but I've been looking forward to it ever since I first read about it on GreenCine Daily. Alas, I doubt it will come to any of the theatres in town, so I'll have to wait for the DVD.

The film's website is here, complete with trailer and the usual goodies.

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FWIW, I loved the score too, Crow, but thought the mixture of high-school melodrama and film-noir tics was only so-so effective.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Saw it yesterday. I really liked it, and the score, and the acting. I liked the concept and thought it deserved the Sundance "originality of vision" award that it won. Favorite scene was in the principal's office, where the homage to classic noir all came together just right. The movie wasn't a complete success for me, though, in terms of storytelling. IMO, it's worth watching just because it's so different, and not nearly as confusing as Primer.

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I've been intrigued and waiting for the DVD since reading this Christian Science Monitor review last month. The critic also has some concerns about execution, but the premise sounds really cool.

"The most important thing is that people love in the same way. Whether they are monarchists, republicans, or communists, they feel pain in the same way, as well as hatred, jealousy, fear, and fear of death. Whether you are a deeply religious man or an atheist, if you have a toothache, it hurts just the same." - Krzysztof Kieslowski

"...it seems to me that most people I encounter aren't all that interested in the arts. Most of the people who are my age ... appear to be interested in golf, fertilizer, and early retirement schemes.... I will stop caring passionately about music, books, and films on the day that I die, and I'm hoping for Top 100 album polls in the afterlife." - Andy Whitman

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A friend of mine just tried to interest me in the TV show Veronica Mars, and the description he sent me described it as Raymond Chandler goes to high school. I immediately thought of Brick. Is this an apt comparison? Is there a trend in the works?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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A friend of mine just tried to interest me in the TV show Veronica Mars, and the description he sent me described it as Raymond Chandler goes to high school. I immediately thought of Brick. Is this an apt comparison? Is there a trend in the works?

I've only seen a couple of VM's, too. But it never occurred to me to call it "noir-ish," except that the lead character solve mysteries. Veronica is more like the spiritual sister to Buffy, which I also wouldn't call "noir-ish," except by a really broad definition of the term.

"The most important thing is that people love in the same way. Whether they are monarchists, republicans, or communists, they feel pain in the same way, as well as hatred, jealousy, fear, and fear of death. Whether you are a deeply religious man or an atheist, if you have a toothache, it hurts just the same." - Krzysztof Kieslowski

"...it seems to me that most people I encounter aren't all that interested in the arts. Most of the people who are my age ... appear to be interested in golf, fertilizer, and early retirement schemes.... I will stop caring passionately about music, books, and films on the day that I die, and I'm hoping for Top 100 album polls in the afterlife." - Andy Whitman

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  • 3 months later...

Really cool different film. I had already read that the writer/ director Rian Johnson was influenced by Miller's Crossing in film school. Brick is it's own thing but there are a few scenes and shots that reminded me of MC. The hallway filled with tough guys, when Tug marches up to Brendan and punches him, etc.

I'm curious what everyone thinks of the final shot. :spoilers: After the feme fatale walks off we're looking at a closeup of Brendan's head in the foreground and the football field in the background. In the shot, The Brain walks out from behind Brendan's head to our right and into the background. Brendan turns to his left to talk to The Brain but does not turn all the way around. Brendan tells the Brain that he solved the case, etc. and they tell each other "Get some sleep.". The Brain then walks back behind (into?) Brendan's head and we never see him again even after Brendan turns to walk away. It occured to me that we never see The Brain talking to anyone else. Is The Brain actually Brendan's brain? :spoilers:

I listened to the commentary on the DVD and Johnson never addresses this. Any thoughts?

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I listened to the commentary on the DVD and Johnson never addresses this. Any thoughts?

I've heard this theory, and I think it's a fun one. There's lots to suggest it in the film; just follow the dialogue.

Still, I lean toward them being two seperate characters.

Regardless of what Johnson intended, though, I really enjoyed this movie. The dialogue is riddled with constant nods to detective novels and film noir. And being the noir/detective novel junkie that I am, this movie was a treat.

If you liked this movie and want to get bummed out, though, read some of the user comments on Metacritic. I've never seen so many people "not get it." Of COURSE people don't talk like that! (And while you're at it, ignore my typo-laden review :) )

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  • 3 weeks later...

I just watched the film last night. After seeing The Black Dahlia this weekend and then this, I have to conclude that De Palma's noir worked for me (though I'd give it a weak 3-stars), where this film didn't. Of course, everyone I watched the film with really liked it.

In my opinion, the film just doesn't work as a full length feature. The story just didn't grab me the way it did others. It's a high concept (noir-in-highschool setting), and excecuted fairly well, but I couldn't shake the feeling that the film wasn't just "about highschool", but seemed to be made by highschoolers as well. The biggest problem with the film is that the juxtaposition of "humour" (i.e.

The Pin's mother pouring juice for the two sides in the showdown

) mixed badly with the melodrama.

If you liked this movie and want to get bummed out, though, read some of the user comments on Metacritic. I've never seen so many people "not get it." Of COURSE people don't talk like that! (And while you're at it, ignore my typo-laden review :) )

Of course that's a bad reason to reject the film. But is it possible that the concept just doesn't work? (Could it work? My brother and a friend wrote a similar noir screenplay set in a university that I thought was half decent) I'm pretty tolerant of anachronism and conceits (count me as a big fan of Baz Luhrmann's R+J), but by the time our lead was meeting with the vice-principal (though props for getting Richard Roundtree in there) I had lost interest in the noir-dialogue and just found it faltering and losing my interest. That scene (I assume unintentionally) made me laugh at loud.

Of course, perhaps one compliment I can give the film is that the overly-earnest dialogue captures the seriousness which high schoolers take their self-enclosed world, but at the same time reinforced (in this viewer) the relative shallowness of high school in general. (Granted, a murder and such changes the seriousness, but nonetheless...)

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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We just saw this and liked it. I was surprised to see it at our local video rental place, but glad. I had forgotten about it after seeing the trailer some months ago.

Very interesting points made so far, but none addressed my biggest problem with the film

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  • 2 months later...

Just saw this last night. It took me quite a long time to get into it, but once I was in, boy was I in. I'm quite a fan of FIlm Noir, and so it was nice to see a new twist on it. I particularly liked the way the school was almost always deserted, and that most of the other scenes were as well (barring a few notable exceptions).

As for Brain in his brain. I too pondered about that scene, but I don't think the theory holds (even though we don't see Brain drive up and rescue him at the end). Firstly because too much of the dialogue wouldn't work, and secondly because Brain has to ask what she whispered, whereas if he really was in the brain he would know.

Anyway this was the kind of film I felt compelled to write a brief review for. So I did.

Matt

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  • 1 month later...
I'm curious what everyone thinks of the final shot. :spoilers: After the feme fatale walks off we're looking at a closeup of Brendan's head in the foreground and the football field in the background. In the shot, The Brain walks out from behind Brendan's head to our right and into the background. Brendan turns to his left to talk to The Brain but does not turn all the way around. Brendan tells the Brain that he solved the case, etc. and they tell each other "Get some sleep.". The Brain then walks back behind (into?) Brendan's head and we never see him again even after Brendan turns to walk away. It occured to me that we never see The Brain talking to anyone else. Is The Brain actually Brendan's brain? :spoilers:

I would like the film even more if that were the case, but I don't think we can tell either way. Brick would have benefitted from an deeper scrutiny of its own psychology. But as this is where Donnie Darko succeeds so well, perhaps this director was keen to distance himself from it. I guess now that I say that, though, I do like the way Brick seems to be skipping across the surface of something really deep and transcendent, but never actually pretending to be deep or transcendent. It is kind of like a "Deep Thought" by Jack Handey.

I just watched the film last night. After seeing The Black Dahlia this weekend and then this, I have to conclude that De Palma's noir worked for me (though I'd give it a weak 3-stars), where this film didn't.

Wow. I did the same double-screening this last weekend.

Of course, perhaps one compliment I can give the film is that the overly-earnest dialogue captures the seriousness which high schoolers take their self-enclosed world, but at the same time reinforced (in this viewer) the relative shallowness of high school in general. (Granted, a murder and such changes the seriousness, but nonetheless...)

Indeed. I kept thinking of the film as the daydream of a junior in high school while in 6th period Geometry. The girl in the lead is actually the girl sitting in the desk to his right. (Or was I the only one who did that?)

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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  • 3 weeks later...
...by the time our lead was meeting with the vice-principal (though props for getting Richard Roundtree in there) I had lost interest in the noir-dialogue and just found it faltering and losing my interest. That scene (I assume unintentionally) made me laugh at loud.

Completely intentional, I'd say. Chandler walks the same line between playing for keeps and a playful hyperbole, even self-parody. I agree with Sara - the VP scene was the truest to Chandler.

The film wasn't a complete success for me, but I liked a lot of the things it was going after. The images of the dead girl were very effective. That, and the whole sense of the dangerously insular teen / drug world, reminded me of RIVER'S EDGE (though BRICK only had moments, scenes that were in that neighbourhood). Some of the over-the-topness, combined with the sense of teenagers getting involved in some capital-D Darkness (and some of the weirdness of the Pin) had a whiff of TWIN PEAKS.

The last film I watched was KISS KISS, BANG BANG, which also pastiched Chandler. Got me back to reading The Master again: my, that man could write.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Ah, not so much Chandler as Hammett, it seems.

And here's a quote from the filmmaker that sounds right to me: "even though BRICK has very little to do with what high school is actually like -- I hope! -- it's maybe a little closer to what it felt like, in terms of the stakes than a more realistic portrayal."

He also mentions RUMBLE FISH, which also occurred to me.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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He also mentions RUMBLE FISH, which also occurred to me.

Can you link to those director's comments? Even though it is a longstanding favorite, I didn't even think about Rumble Fish while watching Brick, but it certainly helps to frame the melodrama. I liked Brick for the same reason I read Chandler and Hammett (and Robert B. Parker, who is every bit as good when hitting on all cylinders). They pose a roundabout, encoded, almost clinical way of revealing the "stakes" in life, what is at stake in the act of being human. Something like that. Brick does this as well.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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  • 3 years later...

Loved it. Seriously. Which makes up for my disappointment with Chinatown recently. For me, Brick was everything a noir wants that Chinatown didn't have. I don't know if it will transcend the times the way Chinatown (somehow) has, but it sure does work for now, and for now, it was excellent.

For me, it was as much fun as the first time I saw Memento, which at the time rocked my world.

I listened to the commentary on the DVD and Johnson never addresses this. Any thoughts?

It's not possible. In one of the opening scenes Brendan takes a phone call from Emily after she left a note in his locker. In the call, she tells him she didn't even know where his locker was, that she had to ask Brain where it was so she could leave the note.

Some of the shots in that final scene on the football field are a lot more "high art" than were originally intended. In an extra on the DVD they show their first take. It was one long shot, and I'm really glad they went back and redid things. However, when they went back to the same location, they field was prep'd for play, and a nice new green grass was laid down that didn't match anything from the first shoot. There were things they wanted to keep from the first shoot. Their way to solve this was to shoot everything from underneath, ye old power shot anyway, so that you never see the new grass but only Brendan and Emily's dicussion. This may be part of the reason for the way Brain appears in the background at the end.

The biggest problem with the film is that the juxtaposition of "humour" (i.e.

The Pin's mother pouring juice for the two sides in the showdown

) mixed badly with the melodrama.

I guess I didn't see this as humor. Not at all. More like Twin Peaks, and how the adults aren't really a part of the kids world and it's not always because the kids don't want them to be, but sometimes adults would rather hide their eyes to certain parts of their kids' issues. But they still want the feeling that they are in active participation, that they're nurturing or raising their children right. It should've been obvious to Pin's mom that a lot of things weren't right, but she's let the sitaution run too far away already. All she can do is offer juice and stay out of the way. It's been years since she should have taken action.

I watched this twice, both times with the subtitles on. The language is overwhelmingly fun. I went back several times to piece it together. I watched about half of the director's commentary, and his patience in all the years of getting the script to film is to be admired. He had something he believed in, it turns out it was something worth believing in, and something like six years later he got the chance to prove it. And he did, quite successfully.

I don't know how I missed this a few years ago but I'm so glad I finally got around to it. I've got The Brothers Bloom coming up sometime early next week.

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I don't know how I missed this a few years ago but I'm so glad I finally got around to it. I've got The Brothers Bloom coming up sometime early next week.

Bloom is really good, too. It's hard to compare them, since they're such different movies, but the ways Johnson plays with the con-game genre (think The Sting) is reminiscent of how he plays with noir in Brick.

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