Monday, March 15, 2010

Short Film: The Skeleton Dance (USA, 1929)

Time to go far back in time and look at a short that has another nine years to go before reaching the ripe old age of 100. The Skeleton Dance is an early and seldom seen classic from Walt Disney, the first of his numerous Silly Symphony shorts. He reused much of it that very same year in his Mickey Mouse short Haunted House. It was animated by Ub Iwerks who, in turn, remade it eight years later in colour as Skeleton Frolics for Columbia.
There is no real plot to The Skeleton Dance, it just features a bunch of skeletons having fun and making music in a graveyard one dark and scary night. The concept of the short was thought up by Carl Stalling at an idea meeting with Disney, who suggested making a cartoon short based simply around music. Silly Symphonies dominated the Oscars for years to come after Walt introduced colour (and won an Oscar) in 1932 with Flowers & Trees. The name Silly Symphony was, as one can imagine, a direct influence on Warner Bros. decision to use the (now) more familiar title of Looney Tunes.
In 1994, in Jerry Beck’s book The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals,
The Skeleton Dance was voted number 18. It remains a popular film to reference, and has been “quoted” or can be “seen” in films as varied as Forbidden Zone (1982 / trailer), Look Who's Talking (1989 / trailer), Corpse Bride (2005 / trailer) and Ghost Rider (2007 / trailer).
So, now that you know the trivia, sit back and enjoy 5.5 minutes of innocence from the days when animation was still learning to walk.

The Sick House (Great Britain, 2007)

"I see deaf people."

(Nick, in The Sick House)

Yet another haunted house flick that uses the most inane contrivances to gather a group of people together within some cursed structure where they meet their fate one by one. The Sick House is a Boll AG Production, and although the flick does little to add shine to the name Uwe Boll, it does less damage to his reputation than any of the films he has directed himself (with the exception of Postal [2007 / trailer], which is actually a pretty funny film). Some guy named Curtis Radclyffe is the credited director here, but the film looks less as if it was actually directed by a director than tossed together by a cinematographer afraid of colour, a cameraman with the shakes, and a scissor-happy editor. And then there’s that thing that Final Girl aptly calls the "'tardo twist", the out-of-the-blue ending that really causes even the least demanding viewer to spit their beer in laughter. In truth, however, considering the whole set up to get the ghost-fodder into the haunted house—in this case, a hospital built above an orphanage—only a 'tard could possible expect the film might be good, so a "'tardo twist" ending sort of fits to the film.
Gina Philips, a familiar face from films such as Jeepers Creepers (2001 / trailer) and Dead & Breakfast (2004 / trailer) is back again in another questionable film project, this time around playing an American instructor (?) / archaeologist (?) / archaeology student (?) in England named Anna who is doing a dig at a deserted hospital that functioned as a plague house during the Great Plague of London. But her work is interrupted when some of her finds test positive for the plague and the city decides to raze the building. (We won’t talk the science behind this because obviously enough the scriptwriters didn't find it important enough to stay realistic, either.) But Anna is convinced the site holds a hidden secret about a child-killing plague doctor and she wants to find the proof, so like any intelligent person in such a situation she breaks into the building alone at night and continues her digging amongst the "plague spores" all by her lonesome.
In the meantime, four asocial teens—Nick (Alex Hassell), his pregger gal Joolz (Kellie Shirley), Steve (Andrew Knott) and his deaf brother Clive (Jack Bailey)—steal a car for a joyride and then accidentally run over something or someone directly in front of Anna's hospital and promptly hideout in the building. Of course, the shaky cam and quick editing make it clear they ain’t really alone there, but just what is it that slinks through them there corridors? Nothing less than the murderous ghost of the Plague Doctor himself, who Anna has released during her digging down in the basement. The five cross paths and throw a hissy-fit or two and then suddenly Clive has all the symptoms of the plague—but how the hell can they get out with the front door locked?
OK, one of the mainstays of horror is teenagers that wander off alone, but how many films actually have a character say “lets’s split up” two or three times no matter how weird and frightening things seem to get? One by one the bodies fall until only Nick and Anna are left, now finally aware that the events that be are all part of a ceremony to bring the Plague Doctor back to real life—can they stop him and survive? What do you think?

The Sick House is pretty much as bad as almost everyone seems to say it is, but that isn't to say it doesn't have a few gleams of decency within it. With the exception of the hot-headed Nick (Alex Hassell), the acting is surprisingly good for a group (excluding Gina Philips) of no names. Likewise, despite the absolutely crappy camerawork and editing, midway through the film actually achieves a certain level of tension and unease, a level that is regrettably not effectively maintained to the film's end—again due mostly to the crappy camerawork and editing. As raspberry-inducing as the "'tardo twist" is, it sort of makes a limited amount of sense if you actually notice the fat, frozen fox and clock outside the hospital, but the crappy camerawork and editing makes it a bit hard to catch this slight clue. The low-key, grey-blue colour scheme is actually rather fitting to the film, but it is hardly saves the film from being ruined by the underdeveloped script and crappy camerawork and editing. But despite the crappy camerawork and editing, The Sick House does include a particularly long and unsettling—almost nauseating—segment involving Joolz that is truly horrifying. But as effective as leeches and blood and nude, defenceless mothers-to-be and slit tummies and missing babies might be, the single segment is not enough to save the film.
And did I mention the crappy camerawork and editing?

Bride of Chucky (USA, 1998)

White trash time! It only took four films for them to do it, but finally there made a really excellent killer doll flick. Okay, Child's Play I (1989 / trailer) and Child's Play II (1990 / trailer) weren't really all that bad, especially in comparison to a lot of the other crap that was around at the time. The killings were bloody enough, and Chucky the killer doll always had more snappy lines than Freddy ever did—and generally they were much more apt to the killing of the moment than those of the man with the glove—but by the third film in 1991 the series had definitely got tired and dull, no matter how the victims died. Hard to believe that the series could ever be successfully rejuvenated after sitting moribund for seven years, but with the fourth time around a mixture of old and new hands made the blood flow all the more merrier than ever before.
The Bride of Chucky is a blood-drenched black comedy featuring a psychotic plastic pair of trailer trash scum on a hilariously tasteless killer drive across New Jersey (!). The film is not light on the imitation blood or special effects—those dolls are amazing!—but what makes The Bride of Chucky so enjoyable is its hip, hilarious and tasteless sense of humour. Self-referential to the horror genre in the same way as many of the better post-modern horror hits of the late-90s like Scream I (1996 / trailer), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997 / trailer), The Faculty (1998 / trailer) or Cherry Falls (2000 / trailer), The Bride of Chucky surpasses them all. Featuring better direction, better acting (from the dolls at least), a tighter script and better jokes, this is a film that keeps you laughing even the second time around.
Ronny Yu, best known to fans of Hong Kong films due to The Bride With White Hair I (1993 / trailer) and II (1994 / trailer), made his American directorial debut with The Bride of Chucky, and of all the Hong Kong masters that have yet crossed the ocean, his Hollywood debut is undoubtedly the most consistent, if not the best. Yu has an excellent eye, both for moods and for framing, which he tempers well with expert editing, a fluid camera movement and a lot of visual energy. Scriptwriter Don Mancini, who also wrote all other films in the series, has either gotten better with age or he must have had some pretty fucking good weed when he wrote the script. He pulls no punches and as a result gets a lot of laughs as well as an occasional scare. True, the first half hour after the exceptionally perfect opening sequence is a bit slow, but it is also needed to introduce both the movie's nominal heroes and the background to the events that follow. Even the music isn't too bad, one of Graeme Revell's better jobs, even if parts of it aren't fit to be played during a quiet night at home. (Revell, ex-member of the legendary SPK (Surgical Penis Klinic) before they started doing crappy disco music, is a genre stalwart nowadays, having created the aural background for films ranging from Dead Calm (1989 / trailer) to No Escape (1994 / trailer) and onwards up to Sin City (2005 / trailer) and beyond. Unlike such mega-popular film music composers like the ever employed Danny Elfman, Revell usually belongs to the school of film music composers that believes the music should accompany a film rather than overwhelm it.)
All that trivia aside, The Bride of Chucky starts off on the right foot with a moodily shot scene of a cop breaking into an evidence room that contains, amongst other things, Freddy's glove, Jason's and Michael's masks, and Leatherface's chainsaw. He steals a bag and soon after, just as his curiosity finally gets too much of him and he peaks a look, he gets offed by a nail file-wielding Tiffany ("You know me, I'd kill anybody, but I'd only sleep with the man I love."). In no time flat, Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) is back in her trailer reviving her ex-boyfriend with the help of a copy of Voodoo for Idiots. Once done, it doesn't take long for the two psychopaths to get on each others nerves, and before Tiffany can even finish watching The Bride of Frankenstein (1935 / trailer) Chucky (voice of Brad Dourif, as always) goes and pushes the television into the bathtub on her. Exit Tiffany the Hot Bod and enter Tiffany, killer doll number two. (The most disappointing aspect of The Bride of Chucky is that Jennifer Tilly, in all her trailer trash glory and still exuding that come-hither-and-fuck-me desirability that made her so memorable in Bound (1996 / trailer), never lets us see any skin. Damn, white trash or not, she rates high on the bonkability scale—at least until she opens her mouth.)
Now there are two dolls eager to get the graveyard in Hackensack, New Jersey, where the magic amulet is buried that can transfer their souls into human bodies. Two less than intelligent eloping young teens from opposite sides of the track are the boobs they manage to trick into "delivering" the dolls, and the trail of blood and violence that follows them soon has each of the young lovebirds convinced that the other is a murdering psychopath. By the time the dolls reveal the truth and kidnap them at gunpoint, the kids are wanted by the police and have little hope of escaping. Along the way, there is the infamous doll sex scene and the immortal exchange in which Tiffany moans "Ohh Chucky, do you got a rubber?" and Chucky answers "Tiff... I'm ALL rubber!"
The Bride of Chucky doesn't win any brownie points as a horror film, but it gets top notches as a camp black comedy with tasteless laughs and great dialogue coming in a steady stream. The big showdown is almost a bit out of tone to the rest of the film, but up to the point at which the cop lets the two teens leave it holds water and fits well enough, considering that the film is about two murdering dolls. As for the ending, well, Chucky obviously speaks much too soon when he says "If this were a movie, it would take three or four sequels to explain". The Bride of Chucky is definitely worth grabbing next time you're at the local DVD store. Buy some good smoke and beer to go along with it, and you'll laugh the night away.

Franklyn (Great Britain, 2008)

If you believe in something strongly enough, who's to say if it's real or not?

Franklyn is the debut feature-length film of its writer/director Gerald McMorrow, and what a debut it is indeed. A seemingly complication intertwining of two timelines and four protagonists, the film straddles a fascinating line between a futuristic dissonant society and modern London. In the former, society is ruled by a fascist-like government that dictates everyone must be a religious believer, though the religion can be fairly obtuse (as is pointed out early in the film, "These days, you can form a congregation simply based on washing-machine instructions"); in the latter, life is pretty much as might be expected amongst those lost souls searching for love, grounding or lost family members in contemporary London.
Meanwhile City is the city of the future in which a vigilante by the name of Jonathon Preest (an as-always handsome but miscast Ryan Phillippe, best remembered to life-wasters for his roles in I Know What You Did Last Summer [1997 / trailer] and The Way of the Gun [2000 / trailer]) is out to revenge the death of an 11-year-old girl killed by the hands of "The Individual," the leader of some religion. But before he can do so, he is betrayed, captured and tossed in jail. Back in modern-day London, Peter Esser (Bernard Hill of Drowning by Numbers [1988 / main theme] and both The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [2002 / trailer] and The Return of the King [2003 / trailer]) is wandering London searching for his lost son while a less-than-totally-balanced art student named Emilia Bryant (a beautiful and talented Eva Green of the less-than-successful 2004 version of Arsène Lupin [trailer] and, of course, Casino Royale [2006 / trailer]) regularly conducts suicide for art and the recently broken-hearted Milo (Sam Riley of Control [2007 / trailer]) suddenly runs into his childhood "friend" Sally (also played by Eva Green). A Dr. Earlle / Pastor Bone (James Faulkner) occasionally crosses the paths of the three at any given time to watch, offer advice or simply gab, but he more or less literally disappears not by but at the end of the film.
The adjectives that come to mind to describe the two halves of the whole are intriguing, beautiful, funny, depressing, whimsical, stylish, original, surprising, etc etc. Franklyn is one of those films that manages to keep you at an arm’s length even as it draws you in, forever revealing one titbit after the other even as it seems to mix two disassociated stories into an initially confusing whole that suddenly makes total sense in the final scene. Indeed, with the final scene, many small asides throughout the movie that leave the viewer going "Huh?" suddenly deserve an "Uh-huh!" (Indeed, the only "Huh?" that remains throughout the entire English production and is not in any way solved by the final scene is Ryan Phillippe's US accent.)
Disguised at the start (and presented) as a genre film, Franklyn is anything but. At the same time, it is so hard to pigeonhole that it is easy to see why it never made it to the States (or to a major international release) despite its overall high-quality. If you’re interested in a non-trashy, ambitious flick that definitely agitates outside of the norm and expectations, then you can’t go wrong with Franklyn.

Chat gim / The Seven Swords (Hong Kong, 2005)

At the beginning of the 17th century, the beginning of the Qing Dynasty when the Manchu took over the country, the ruling governments decree the practice of martial arts as illegal. Those who break the law are killed, a reward paid for their death. The evil Wind Fire (an excellent Sun Hung-Lei, who steals the screen every time he is on it), a military leader from the previous dynasty, now roams the countryside with his army enforcing the new law and collecting loads of rewards by basically killing everyone that crosses his path. Amoral and cruel, he even has his army of super-killers kill women and children. But a retired executioner from the previous dynasty keeps crossing his path and stealing the names of the dead, thus preventing him from collecting his rewards. Injured from a fight, the man takes refuge at the next town that Wind Fire plans to "harvest." Recognized as a former executioner, he flees with the townspersons Wu Yuanyin (Charlie Yeung) and Han Zhiban (Yi LU) for Mount Heaven to gather some sword-wielding disciples of Master Shadow Glow (Jingwu Ma). Now seven, they return to protect the people from Wind Fire’s army… After a fight at Wind Fire’s camp—which they illogically end early after virtually wiping the troops out—they retreat for safety with the townspeople in tow. But there is an unknown traitor in their midst that both marks the path for Wind Fire to follow and also poisons the drinking water. When Chu Zhao Nan (a grumpy Donnie Yen) does some solo action and gets caught by the enemies, the remaining six return to save him…
Tsui Hark, a one-man Hong Kong factory of films, has directed an untold number of films since his debut in 1979 with the overstuffed oddity The Butterfly Murders (trailer), a list of films that is easily doubled when including those that he supposedly only produced. In a career that has spanned over 30 years now, the quality of his prodigious product of the films in which he is credited as director has ranged from holistically masterful — Peking Opera Blues (1986 / trailer) — to stylistically fabulous but empty — Time and Tide (2000 / trailer) — to highly disappointing — A Chinese Ghost Story III (1991 / trailer) — but it is debatable whether he has ever really made unwatchable film (though he has produced more than one, including Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters [2002 / trailer]).
This film, his 2005 contribution to the classic Japanese genre of Wuxia as well as the opening film to the Venice Film Festival of that year, is hardly a total dud, but it also a far cry from what the man can produce when he is top form. Based on Yusheng Liang's novel Seven Swordsmen from Mountain Tian, the movie is best described as Tsui Hark Lite — occasional glimpses of what the man can do shines through now and again, but not enough to keep the viewer enthralled for the entire 153 minutes the DVD version requires. Oddly enough, however, as much as the film comes across as being too long, it also almost comes across as being too short: the film itself seems padded, but it also seems superficial in regard to character development. The plot development often seems arbitrary, and there are way too many interesting and possibly interesting characters that are left ciphers, including some of those that yield the seven swords of the title. Thus, a film that is obviously meant to be monumental comes across oddly small, as if it were actually made for the small screen and not the large one.
Perhaps the problem lies in part with that over the recent years, as the production levels of Wuxia films have increased alongside the international attention they are given, so many top notch films — such Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000 / trailer), House of Flying Daggers (2004 / trailer) and Hero (2002 / trailer), to name the most obvious — have been released that viewer expectations have grown quicker than both Hark’s budgets and his narrative skills. The Seven Swords simply seems incredible retro: had it released 10-15 years ago, the film could have easily made a fan of this type of film cream their jeans, but now, in naughts of the New Century, it is decidedly mediocre. Whereas Hark’s best films tend, during group viewings, to induce little more than sounds of awe or enjoyment, The Seven Swords easily induces people to start conversations and ignore the screen, or even go for a new beer without putting the film on pause—not good.
Not to say that the film is a total loss. The first mass extermination is fun, as are the visual appearance and weapons of the (sorely under-used) lead bad minions, and the film does have two excellent fight scenes: the first attack on Wind Fire’s stronghold shows Hark’s old fire, as does the really excellent sword fight between Wind Fire and Chu Zhao Nan within a narrow stone hallway at the end of the film. It just that not only does much of what comes in-between fail to engage the viewer, but the plot development often seems questionable or illogical (like the seven retreating after the raid of Wind Fire's stronghold when they basically have the full upper-hand and are easily obliterating his men—including most of his super-killers).
Tsui Hark may have produced or directed many a must-see during his career, but The Seven Swords is not one of them. And though the film ends in such a way that leaves an opening for a sequel—Tsui Hark is fond of sequels—in the case of this movie, one is truly not needed.

Evil Aliens (UK, 2005)

If you are one of the few, the select to have seen and liked Lawes's & Trotman's super-low-budget farce Demagogue (1998), then you are sure to find this flick the bee’s knees. But assuming that you, like the rest of the world, have never even heard of the tasteless UK gore comedy just mentioned, then other classic low budget films of quality (and broader distribution) that indicate a similar level of affinity to this flick that also immediately come to mind are Re-Animator (19865 / trailer) and Bride of Re-Animator (1990 / trailer), Brain Dead (1992 / trailer) and—perhaps most closely, seeing that the flick is also about nasty aliens—Bad Taste (1987 / trailer). Like all the low budget films just named, Evil Aliens is a unique blend of tastelessness, gross humor and gore that defies simple description, much less moral justification. Marketed with the tagline "A bloody close encounter", Evil Aliens truly lives up to what it promises, in spades and as heavy on the laughs as the blood.
Shot in Wales and England (No, Victoria, they are not the same thing), Evil Aliens is the second feature length film produced, written and directed by Jake West, a prolific director of DVD extras for Anchor Bay. A huge jump up in quality from his seldom seen first film Razor Blade Smile (1998 / trailer), Evil Aliens is also immeasurably better than his next flick Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes (2006 / trailer), which lacks everything that makes this gore farce so much fun. (But luckily, going by the trailer to Doghouse, his newest production, Pumpkinhead was probably a simple rent-paying faux pas.)
Evil Aliens quickly indicates how low (and deep) it will within the first five minutes with a painful scene that leaves every man squirming in their seat incorporating a pimped-out version of the razor-blade dildo flashed by Anthony Perkins in Kurt Russell's Crimes of Passion (1984 / trailer). From then on out Evil Aliens never lets up in its vulgar, gore-laden pandering to the lowest of comic sensibilities—to the viewer’s great enjoyment. Sperm-splattered walls, impalement through the butt (of a gay character, no less), flying eyeballs, alien impregnation, talking decapitated heads, multiple amputations and popped zits are but a few of the highlights wrought by Evil Aliens, liberally peppered by some of the finest one-liners to fly in a long time and a selection of hot looking babes with accents so adorable that they don’t even have to talk dirty to make a man feel something move. (OK, the flick's low on nekkid ta-tas, but what film isn't nowadays? Still, even if the gals stay mostly dressed, there is at least one fun scene featuring a flexible E-cupped alien with hooked nipples—it might not exactly be hot, but it is funny and sure takes the cake for plain audaciousness.)
After the above mentioned anal probe scene, the flick turns to London where the ratings of the sensationalist TV show Weird World aren’t doing so hot. Lead reporter and cleavage Michelle Fox (Emily Booth, hot babe extraordinaire of Pervirella (1997 / trailer—so why leave it at just cleavage?) heads off to the remote (in real life non-existent) Welsh island of Scalled with her film team to shoot a report on the claims of a local woman named Cat (Jennifer Evans) that she’s been impregnated by aliens. In tow are her fuck-bud and cameraman Ricky (Sam Butler), his soundman, a gay actor, the actress Candy Vixen (Jodie Shaw) and a nerdy ufologist named Gavin (Jamie Honeybourne). What starts out as a cynical chase for higher ratings turns into bitter earnest when the group gets trapped on the island with Cat and her three in-bred brothers and a hoard of evil aliens out to maim, kill and have a good time.
Evil Aliens may be a low budget film, but it sure doesn't show it. Well acted and heavy on the bloodshed, once the team is trapped and aliens show up it barrels along at full speed spurting body parts and fluids left and right, sometimes not even pausing long enough for some the tossed jokes to actually even sink in. The special effects easily outdo many a film of higher pedigree and budget, as do the laughs and gore. (Spoiler.) But be forewarned: don’t bother rooting for any of the characters—by the time any of the assholes become likeable, their clock is set to stop.

Mulberry Street (USA, 2006)

For all the yays and nays that Jim Mickle's first feature-length film has gotten since its release, Mulberry Street may indeed be more good than bad but in the end it is simply another low budget film that largely overcomes its budget to effectively present an ever-so-slightly semi-different take on an old idea. Whether or not you like it will probably depend on how you like your infected cannibal mutants cum zombie film, how far you’re willing to overlook (or, perhaps, how much you respect) budgetary restraints, and/or whether you like your films filled with characters or just fodder. But like so many genre films, Mulberry Street is less startlingly original than simply another interesting version of a tale told many times before in films such as The Night of the Living Dead (1968 / trailer)—and the countless zombie films that have since followed—and the deadly infectious virus films such as Rabid (1977), both versions of The Crazies (1973 / trailer and 2010 / trailer), any given film version of the book I am Legend, the flick 28 Days Later (2002 / trailer), etc., etc., and etc. As such, it is hardly surprising that the film was released in England as Zombie Virus on Mulberry Street.
Featuring a truly excellent score and some fine acting, Mulberry Street takes its leisurely time to introduce the various characters and plot lines, all the while the slow spread of the sickness throughout New York happening in passing over the ever-increasing reports on the radio and televisions in the background; by the time anyone really pays any attention to them, it is too late. The focus of the film is a tenement on Mulberry Street, which is the "main" street of what remains of Little Italy, a neighborhood slowly losing its footing to its ever-expanding neighbor, Chinatown. (Oddly enough, considering the overpowering presence of Chinatown in the neighborhood, there isn’t a single Asian character in the movie.) We meet Clutch (Nick Damici, who can also be seen for a second or two in the background of In the Cut [2003 / trailer]), a former boxer, as he packs up from fishing down on the Hudson and jogs on home, a scene that functions well to both introduce NYC and Clutch's physical prowess as well as to indicate the economic social level of the characters involved: no yuppies or middle-class suburbanites here, just the simple, honest city folk struggling to survive any way they can. In the microcosm of the tenement and neighborhood, we meet the others: Coco (Ron Brice), the token gay black guy and family friend; Kay (Bo Corre), the attractive single mom and waitress who feels a tingle for Clutch; her teenage son Otto (Javier Picayo); Charlie the Super (Larry Fleischman); Frank (Larry Medich), an invalid WWII vet chained to an oxygen tank and a variety of other typical New Yorkers. At the same time, across town somewhere, Clutch's emotionally and physically scarred daughter Casey (Kim Blair, wearing a much-too-effective sports bra under her wife-beater) is on her way home from a VA hospital. As the rat-virus breaks out and the infrastructure collapses, she makes her way home by found bike and stolen pickup even as she has to fend off the attacking rat-zombies while Clutch first tries to get Kay safely back to the house from her bar job and then, once his family has been reunited, to survive the night in their beleaguered tenement.
A nicely unpretentious horror film, Mulberry Street benefits greatly from its actors, who are uniformly great in their parts, and from the time spent on the believable characters themselves before the rat shit hits the fan. The almost cinema vérité camerawork of the street scenes is effectively urban and reflects the situation well, marred occasionally only by an overuse of the murky shaky cam and overly quick editing. It says something about the quality of the film that its numerous narrative and logical flaws—the most obvious of many being: How can it be, for example, that in the city of Bernie Goetz, no one in the tenement has a gun? Why do some people turn into rat zombies in minutes and others require hours? And why do the rat zombies only seriously lunch on the victims that aren’t main characters and leave the tenants of the house to simply convert? Why only NYC?—only become apparent after the film is over and the shock of the decidedly existentialist ending wears off. Mulberry Street may not have anything to say, but at least what it does say it says well.
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