Cinematheque celebrates the pulp origins of classic films

Angie Dickinson and Lee Marvin in John Boorman’s 1967 revenge thriller Point Blank.

A close cousin to its annual summer film noir festival, the Cinematheque (1131 Howe St.) is presenting a new film series.

High and Low: From Pulp to Poetry is a collection of art films made from pop art sources.  Vancouver-based culture critic Donald Bracket, the author of several books including Long Slow Train, about the late soul singer Sharon Jones, curated the series.

Six titles will screen May 30 – Jul 1, with four more to screen as part of the arthouse cinema’s Jul + Aug programming cycle. Opening night features High and Low and The Killing, along with refreshments and an intro by Brackett (for High and Low).

For more on the films, see below.

High and Low (1963, Japan)—Akira Kurosawa’s adapts American crime writer Ed McBain’s novel King’s Ransom. Gondo (Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune), a self-made tycoon in financial straits, receives word that his young son has been kidnapped. Paying the ransom demand will sink him; when it transpires that the kidnapper actually grabbed the chauffeur’s son by mistake, yet still wants all the money, Gondo faces a terrible dilemma. The first half unfolds mostly within the confines of a single room; the second half explodes into a police procedural.


Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low.

The Killing (1956, USA)—In this classic hard-boiled caper film from Stanley Kubrick, Sterling Hayden plays an ex-con who assembles a team of small-time criminals to pull off the “perfect” robbery of a racetrack. Noted noir author Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me) adapted the script from the novel Clean Break by American pulp-fiction writer Lionel White. His third film, The Killing brought Kubrick critical attention for its performances, claustrophobic compositions, and complex use of time.

The Killing (1956) by Stanley Kubrick

Purple Noon (1960, France/Italy)—This adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 classic The Talented Mr. Ripley features a young Alain Delon in the title role. When Tom Ripley sets out to rescue Philippe Greenleaf, son of a wealthy industrialist, from a life of decadence, things don’t go as planned. Or maybe they do? From “Clément’s deliciously decadent film has glorious colour cinematography by Henri Decaë, known for his work with Chabrol, Melville, and Malle, and a score by frequent Fellini collaborator Nino Rota. The film’s gay subtext was daring for its day.” Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, a 1999 adaptation, starred Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Alain Delon in Purple Noon.

The American Friend (1977, West Germany/France)—More Highsmith, this time from Wim Wender. The German director adapts another in the author’s Ripley series, Ripley’s Game, this time with Dennis Hopper in the title role. According to, “Wenders’s film, a sadly beautiful incantation of movie magic, is superbly filmed by Robby Müller in a style inspired by American painter Edward Hopper.”

Dennis Hopper in The American Friend.

Shoot the Piano Player (1960, France)—Francois Truffaut’s second feature adapts American pulp writer David Goodis’s novel Down There. Singer Charles Aznavour plays Charlie, a once-famous concert pianist now playing honky-tonk in a seedy Parisian bar. “The movie busts out all over — and that’s what’s wonderful about it … Truffaut is freely inventive here — a young director willing to try almost anything” (Pauline Kael).


Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player.

Point Blank (1967, USA)—From the crime novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake (aka Richard Stark), Point Blank stars Lee Marvin as a hard-nosed hoodlum double-crossed after a heist. Left for dead, he survives the assault and sets out to exact revenge. Angie Dickinson co-stars. According to, “Soderbergh’s The Limey, Nolan’s Memento, and Fincher’s Zodiac are all in its debt.”

More Marvin in Point Blank.

For screening times and more info, visit

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