Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) (Movie Review)

     A Fish Called Wanda (1988) [D: Charles Crichton. John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin] Third or fourth time |I’ve seen this film, and it wears extremely well. The multiple multi-crosses keep us focussed, but that’s not enough to make a good movie. It’s the acting and editing that raise this movie up a notch or two.
      Every character acts several parts, mostly to deceive others, so when we see his or her true thoughts and feelings, it not only makes a plot point, it encourages us to root for the good guys. They are Archie Leach (Cleese, a lawyer, a stuffed shirt imprisoned by his respectable profession, respectable wife, respectable life style; Wanda Gershwitz (Curtis), con-woman, who falls in love with the lawyer despite herself; Otto (Kline), con-man, who is deathly afraid of being thought stupid, which he is, but not in the way he fears; and Ken Pile (Palin), animal-loving small-time crook and hit-man assisting Kline and Curtis in their scam. The mcguffin is a pile of diamonds, proceeds from a robbery, stashed in  locked storage area, and the key to gain access to it.
     All’s well that ends well. Archie and Wanda fly off to S. America for a life of blissful hedonism, which with careful management of the money may well last for several decades.
     The editing has to be just fast enough to prevent us from thinking about the wobbly plot, and slow enough to let us relish the jokes, the deceptions, the relationships (past, present, and developing), the satire, the references to other movies, and so. Editing starts with the director’s vision, but it’s the editor that must cut the movie to realise that vision. Well done here.
     Ken Pile has a crush on Wanda, and has named a fish for her. It lives in Palin’s aquarium. Otto swallows it. I told you he was stupid. ****

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