' Cinema Romantico: The Merry Gentleman: Opening Credits

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Merry Gentleman: Opening Credits

The first seven or so minutes of "The Merry Gentleman" is a textbook on how to perfectly establish not only your film's tone but its setting and its situtation. There is not a wasted moment, not a wasted shot, not a wasted breath, because every single thing signifies something.


It opens with simple but flawless shot of the film's director and co-star Michael Keaton as hit man Frank Logan, a tolling bell over black, fading in and then the camera moving left to right to find him sitting alone on the very end of a Chicago park bench. He looks straight head, not so much lost in thought as without thought. All alone.

The shot switches and we are behind Frank to find him sitting before the expanse of a park. Eventually he leaves the bench behind and elegiac music whispers on the soundtrack, signaling the film's primary tenor. The next shot finds him strolling past what it appears to be a church which merely underscores the religious theme the film will address.

Next up is a shot of Kate Frazier (Kelly Macdonald) in a bathroom with a bag of ice pressed up against a black eye. Then we see her husband (Bobby Cannavale) down the hall from the bathroom, sitting, two men standing above him, talking to him, though we don't hear anything they say. Then a shot of Kate as she begins to cry which is followed by her husband escorting the two men to the front door. One of the men pats her husband on the back. But why? Why does it appear they are letting him off the hook when it is clear he is the one who caused his wife's black eye?


Now we see Kate in the traditional pretending-to-asleep-in-bed pose with her husband in the background in the bathroom. Jump ahead to her husband out of the bathroom, alongside the bed where she is still "asleep" and he tucks a gun into his pants. Uh oh. But then he hangs his police badge around his neck. A ha! So that's why he got let off the hook!

Now the film has moved outside where Kate is about to get into a friend's car. But before she does she stops to observe the garage door behind her shutting. She's leaving this home behind. The next shot is kind of a mirror image of Keaton alone on the park bench as even though Kate's friend is driving the car we don't see the friend and just see Kate, slumped in the passenger's seat and gazing out the window, not so much lost in thought as without thought. All alone.

The film moves back to Keaton's Frank, the camera pushing up a small alley and finding him, back to the camera, just outside a black gate. He is watching a trio of men across the deserted street as they exit a bar. Frank coughs and chugs what appears to be cough syrup. So the guy's sick. He watches one of the men leave the other two and go his own way. Frank follows. The man climbs into a car. Frank reveals a gun, marches right up to the car and taps on the window, and as he does the camera whirls around the rear of the car and to the other side just in time to see blood splatter the inside of the passenger's side window. Frank walks away, quickly but coolly. "Jingle Jangle Christmas" shows up on the soundtrack to, you know, juxtapose a murder with the Holiday spirit.


The shots now shift back and forth between Frank walking the streets of Chicago and Kate taking a plane to arrive in Chicago but, of course, the one constant in all these shots is that they are both presented alone in the frame. And then it all concludes with the written credit as Frank, back in the same park where we originally saw him on the bench, passes an outdoor Nativity scene where one of the wise men has fallen over. He stops, considers, bends down, lifts up the wise man, re-positions it, and continues on his way. It is a shot that suggests in a way no long-running monologue ever could what kind of heart this hitman really has and then.....Fade To Black.

Now go back over everything I have just written and do you realize what never happened? What neither character ever did? What the movie never used to establish anything?

A single spoken word.

2 comments:

blahblahblah Toby said...

I haven't gone back to my review since you mentioned it but i did rewatch Le Samourai today. The lack of dialogue is comparable also.

Great work with this breakdown. I hope your Merry Gentleman week is a success and many more people watch this underappreciated marvel of modern American cinema.

Nick Prigge said...

Yeah, the silence. Oh, how I love the silence in this movie. I'll be addressing that too. Not tomorrow but the next day. Thanks for reading these posts.