Movies aren¹t just stories on film; they¹re journeys we take. ³I¹ll
When I¹m Dead,² the latest entry in the too-sparse career of director Mike
Hodges, ends where it begins, though when we arrive there we are nonetheless
There is a moment in midfilm when a man whose brother¹s life has been
abruptly and cruelly terminated takes out some photographs and looks at
them. The conventional movie thing would be to cut to the photographs as the
man sorts over them. Hodges doesn¹t. The photographs wouldn¹t tell us
anything. ³I¹ll Sleep When I¹m Dead² looks only at what it needs to look at
it. The looking is mesmerizing: bleakly gorgeous, a kind of voluptuous
minimalism. If a character steps into an apartment bathroom, the few
details, camera movements and adjustments of perspective allow us to know
the place as completely as if we¹d lived there for two dreary years. In grad
school, maybe, or as a willed, hermit-like retreat.
Like Budd Boetticher¹s great journey Westerns, this movie has a plot
could summarize in two sentences, but such a summary wouldn¹t tell you a
thing about how the movie played, what feelings it engendered, what values
it defined or discretion it honored or dread it tapped into. The movie is an
English gangster picture, you could say, like Hodges¹ first film, ³Get
Carter² (the Michael Caine version), back in 1971. But it¹s gangster picture
raised to a metaphysical principle the closest British emulation of the
genre and worldview of Jean-Pierre Melville, whose 1970 ³Le Cercle Rouge,²
lovingly restored, was the greatest film to bow in Seattle last year.
We see something terrible happen in the first reel; two somethings,
actually, though one has nothing to do with the rest of the movie except to
reveal a man¹s character and lead us to appreciate how mysterious that
character is. This is the sort of man Clive Owen was born to play, and so
far apparently only Mike Hodges knows how to find such characters for him.
(They made ³Croupier² together; Hodges did not make ³King Arthur.²) Where he
goes, and how, is fascinating to witness. Why he chooses the how is private.
© 2004 Will & Co./LAGOON ENTERTAINMENT LTD
"A British Classic. Richly Atmospheric"
- Ray Bennett, Hollywood Reporter