Friday, February 19, 2021


This review was written in 2014 for

Sometimes you really do come across a movie and think, "Where have you been all my life?" Watching Ossie Davis' 1970 blaxploitation picture Cotton Comes to Harlem last night, I couldn't believe I had waited all this time to see it. I missed the memo that it was such a fun blend of energy, politics, and genre subversion.

Based on a book by Chester Himes, this spin on pulpy police stories features two New York City detectives on the hunt for money stolen from a dubious charity. Smooth-talking Reverend Deek O'Malley (Calvin Lockhart, Coming to America [review]) collected $87K from Harlem residents promising them passage on a boat to take them back to Africa and away from the oppressive conditions of the American state. No sooner has the cash been gathered than armed robbers make off with it. Deek and his henchman chase the getaway van in their gold-plated armored car, and they in turn are pursued by Grave Digger Jones (Godfrey Chambers, Watermelon Man) and Coffin Ed Johnson (Raymond St. Jacques, The Green Berets), the police officers assigned to the Harlem beat.

Just about everything you need to know about Cotton Comes to Harlem is in these opening scenes. It's a mingling of life on the streets and black politics, with Black Panther stand-ins the Black Berets squaring off against police and taking exception to O'Malley's hokum even while everyday citizens cheer him on. There are bullish white officials hanging around, asserting their own agenda, and there are also lots of colorful characters, including a junk collector (Red Foxx), a pickpocket (Van Kirksey), and a street painter (Cleavon Little). Once the chase is underway, Davis, who is perhaps best known now as the actor who played Da Mayor in Do the Right Thing, throws all pretense out the window. He and cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld (Young Frankenstein) take in everything along the escape route, letting the cars go on their merry way while they stop to look at what's happening on the sidewalk. The digressions are generally humorous--an undertaker puts on his good hat and jacket to await the oncoming business, a catcaller nearly has his head blown off while admiring three lovely ladies--and meant to give a flavor of the neighborhood. Davis is both playing with and celebrating African American stereotypes, taking a certain ownership of them while poking the white gaze in its eye. This is, after all, a pursuit where the cops spin out after crashing into a watermelon cart. Their frustration here and throughout Cotton Comes to Harlem is both with the perception of their community and how often members of it fall into the trap of conforming to negative stereotypes. These are guys just trying to do a job, but everyone and everything manages to get in their way.

From there, Cotton Comes to Harlem has one major plotline--finding the money, which has been hidden inside a bale of cotton that went missing in the shootout--but Davis isn't afraid to go careening off in whatever direction strikes his fancy. Some of the action is predictable--a gunfight at the junkyard, for instance, follows certain expected standards--and others not so much. Davis' regular go-to for disrupting everything is O'Malley's spurned girlfriend, Iris (Judy Pace, Brian's Song). Neither a femme fatale nor a patsy, Iris is a self-determined agent of chaos. In one hilarious (and sexy) scene, she seduces a white cop in order to trick him into lettering her go; in another, she brains O'Malley's new mistress, and then nearly gets the Reverend locked up for it.

The Reverend himself is your typical snake-oil salesmen, but it's interesting that most of the resentment that comes his way is for missing an opportunity to be a true leader. Gravedigger and Coffin think he's scum not just because he preys on his own people, but he colludes with white crooks to do it. Though, this is also status quo: not only do the cops acknowledge that their hands are sometimes tied by their white bosses, so too does Harlem's leading crook (Maxwell Glanville) answer to an uptown mafia boss. Every choice that Davis and his co-writer Arnold Perl (Malcolm X) make is a political one.

Yet, Cotton Comes to Harlem is far from a message picture. Rather, it follows the grand B-movie tradition of nestling its more enlightened points within genre tropes, disguising the larger message with sex and violence. One could easily watch Cotton Comes to Harlem at face value and it's still a cracking good time. Weirdly enough, the anything-goes tone reminds me of anime, the way the storytelling flits from action to drama to comedy to scandal without ever really stopping to worry if the viewer is ready for the mood swing. It's the sort of film where you just have to strap yourself in and prepare yourself to accept whatever comes next. Because, geez, it's a blast getting where you're going, and so worth it once you realize where that is.

Sunday, February 14, 2021


This review written in 2013 for

Let's get this out of the way. Ain't Them Bodies Saints looks like a Terrence Malick film, and there is certainly an influence there. I only bring this up because everyone else does, even though it's like saying some contemporary author writes in a sparse style a la Raymond Carver who also himself writes like Ernest Hemingway. Of course, he does!

While writer/director David Lowery is certainly more akin to that contemporary talent thrice removed, this directorial effort transcends simple homage and becomes its own thing, fitting snuggly in a school of crime-flavored films told with a Southern drawl and a molasses pace. It's a school that star Casey Affleck seems to like a lot, as Ain't Them Bodies Saints could almost be a kind of link between two of his other movies, Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [review] and Michael Winterbottom's The Killer Inside Me [review]. Like that latter film, unfortunately, Ain't Them Bodies Saints never entirely finds its sweet spot, but that doesn't stop it from being worthwhile viewing.

The younger Affleck stars as Bob Muldoon. In the artful prologue to the movie, we see that Bob is kind of an old fashioned outlaw, perhaps a descendent of the aforementioned Jesse James, if not a more direct follower of Clyde Barrow. After a crime spree and a shootout with Texas troopers, Bob ends up in jail, covering for his sweetheart, Ruth (Rooney Mara, Side Effects [review]), who is the one who really shot the cop (Ben Foster, The Messenger [review]) and should have gone to prison. She's pregnant, however, and chivalry is not dead, so Bob falls on that sword, vowing to one day escape and get back to her and their child.

That day comes several years later and serves as the main section of Ain't Them Bodies Saints. Bob has escaped from prison and is trying to make his way back to his family. Meanwhile, the wolves are circling around Ruth. Some of them, like their former benefactor/father figure (Keith Carradine, Thieves Like Us [review]), merely wants to see Bob back behind bars with a minimum of fuss; others, like the wounded cop, have other outcomes in mind. He has fallen for Ruth, apparently as oblivious as everyone else to who really pulled the trigger those years ago.

The distance between prison and home is great, and the consequences even greater. As all of these characters circle one another, their dance absorbs others, particularly as Bob seeks help from friends and enemies come looking for revenge. The main engine of Ain't Them Bodies Saints, however, is the central quartet, all of whom have their own motivations. For the men, it all has something to do with Ruth; for Ruth, it's about protecting her daughter.

Performance-wise, everyone is very much at ease here. Ain't Them Bodies Saints breathes a rare, chilled air, and the tone is consistently quiet. There are very few instances where anyone raises their voice above a conversational volume. Ben Foster benefits the most from being restrained. I can't remember the last time he appeared on screen when he wasn't working some exaggerated tic or overdoing it in some manner. (It probably was The Messenger, actually.) Here he appears lonely and heartbroken--which is also Ain't Them Bodies Saints' standard mood. Everyone is suffering some disappointment, no one has what they originally envisioned and desired for themselves. They live, as the saying goes, lives of quiet desperation.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints is a well-made movie. Its tone is inviting and the clear, understated storytelling makes it easy to watch. The script provides plenty of space for the actors to draw out and work with their characters' inner lives. Lowery doesn't seem concerned about the showier aspects of writing. He doesn't go in for stylized or explanatory dialogue, there is no speechifying in Ain't Them Bodies Saints. The closest he gets to that is in the music, when Daniel Hart's score indulges in a stylistic divergence, such as the handclaps in one of the shootout scenes. Then again, if there is any place it might be acceptable to go a little off model, wouldn't that be when there's serious gunplay? The heightened rhythm mimics an accelerated heartbeat, fitting the mood and paying nicely against cinematographer Bradford Young's naturalistic approach to lighting.

Except given that Ain't Them Bodies Saints otherwise fails to fully engage, it makes such shifts all the more noticeable. There's an element here of too much control and a concern with perfection, and Lowery never really breaks from that. This makes for a movie that often feels like it's going through the motions, hitting its marks, and making sure everything is attuned just so. It lacks the emotional rawness that would give it the kind of depth that would make it truly special.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021


 This review originally written for in 2011.

Two people meet out on the job. Simple enough. She's an EMT, he's an ambulance chaser who works for a private social services agency that helps car crash victims fight insurance companies. She is naturally suspicious of him--his job is not one a good lawyer chooses for himself--and yet he is attracted to her, wants to prove to her that he's an okay guy. The dude convinces the girl to have coffee, the conversation goes well, and things start to take their natural course. Except they both have their secrets, and when those come to light, each will have to choose how acceptable they find the previously unknown character traits.

This is the basic set-up of Carancho, a film from Argentinean filmmaker Pablo Trapero. Though it may sound like a conventional romantic drama, Carancho slowly morphs into a bleak crime picture, one that grows darker with each successive frame. Some may find it unrelenting, and folks with aversions to car crash footage may want to look away (I lost count of how many collisons there were); though I didn't think it was perfect, I thought Carancho was pretty good.

A large reason why the movie works is its excellent cast. Luján the EMT is played by Martina Gusman, who was amazing in Trapero's previous (and better) motion picture, the prison drama Lion's Den [review]. Luján is biding her time riding around in ambulances until she can get shifts as a doctor. She's also got a bit of a morphine habit; nothing that interferes with her day to day, but enough that her bosses probably wouldn't approve. In essence, she has a good heart, and so her suspicions that the group that the lawyer works for is not really helping the victims come from a good place. Sosa is played by Ricardo Darín, the lead from The Secret in Their Eyes [review]. Meeting Luján has come at the right time for Sosa. He has almost gotten back on his feet, and her distrust reminds him of the man he always intended to be.

The main problem here is that Luján is correct in her assumptions. Sosa works for bad men who not only bilk their clients out of most of their settlements, but they also create fake accidents to get even more payoffs. One of these accidents goes wrong, providing the narrative fulcrum for Carancho. Faced with his own deceit and with the woman he loves knowing what a heel he's been, Sosa has to face the music, and he tries to put things right--something that gets both him and Luján in hot water with some dangerous people.

Those expecting a big love story out of Carancho are likely to be disappointed. Though there are tender moments between Luján and Sosa, they come in between arguments, mistakes, and even unsettling eruptions of violence. Each step they take to try to get out of the moral quicksand only sucks them down deeper, culminating in a final desperate act. It's a variation on both "love on the run" and "one last job" film conventions--though Trapero and his writers keep their intentions pretty well guarded. For a lot of the movie, I couldn't guess where the characters were going or when the last double-cross was going to occur. I'd call Carancho a potboiler, but the general temperature is chilled by anxiety and fear. These guys aren't criminals, they are well-meaning people who have made some bad choices. Trying to correct them is harder than going along, that's the difficult of taking up residency in morally gray areas, and it's what makes their predicament interesting.

Trapero and cinematographer Julián Apezteguia shot Carancho with the RED digital camera, and much of the film has the immediacy of the verité style that the technology allows for. They shoot in close quarters, following their characters through their professional hazards and getting into the thick of it as things get rough; likewise, intimate moments between the two leads are shot in close-up, bringing us into their affair, as well as their pain. The stark photography makes Luján's struggles with her addiction grimy and unattractive--there is no romanticizing any of this. I loved Martina Gusman in Lion's Den, and she is equally fierce here, though the Luján role allows for more range and a different kind of vulnerability. Gusman is definitely an actress to watch.

Carancho starts stronger than it finishes. Once the mysteries of the story unfold and the characters reveal what they are hiding, there is a kind of perfunctory structure to how the rest of it plays out, even if the viewer can't see around every corner. It doesn't help that Trapero drags his feet getting there, making it harder to take when the movie continues to spiral downward into the darkness. The final shots push the irony a little too hard, and truth be told, it's the one move you're likely going to be able to call ahead of time. Even so, Carancho is a meaty cinematic effort, giving the audience much to chew on, and it's admirable that it avoids pulling its punches or delivering the ending most of us would expect, regardless of how much we may want it.


This review was originally written for my Confessions of a Pop Fan blog in February 2009 as part of my coverage of the Portland International Film Festival.

It's been a long time since I've seen as good an opening to a thriller as the first ten minutes of Lion's Den. Following a disconcerting animated credits sequence featuring a sing-a-long with South American children--I wondered it they had switched screenings on me--we get a series of quick-cut scenes where the film's heroine, Julia (Martina Gusman), slowly comes out of a state of shock to realize that there have been two bloody murders in her home. The way director Pablo Trapero (alongside three other writers) pulls you into the plot is deftly executed, moving rapidly to knock the audience off balance and put us in Julia's shoes.

Because from there, Lion's Den isn't really a thriller, but a prison drama about a young mother in a situation that has gotten out of her control. Unable to give a feasible account of the evening--which involved her lover and his boyfriend in a knife fight, leaving the boyfriend dead and the lover, Ramiro (Rodrigo Santoro), badly wounded--Julia is locked up pending trial. Since she is a couple of months along in a pregnancy, she is assigned to a maternity ward where convicted mothers can raise their own children until they are four. Depressed and nauseous with morning sickness, Julia takes a while to adjust to life inside, but eventually she becomes part of the community, even taking a lover, Marta (Laura Garcia), and using her outside connections to get goods for the inmates. Several years pass, and all the while Julia keeps fighting for her freedom. When her mother (Elli Medeiros) tricks her into taking her young son away, however, everything unravels.

Lion's Den is a harsh story filmed in a gritty style and lacking in any overt sensationalism. The script taps into a universal fear--of being caught in a legal system you can't get out of and incarcerated--and adds a specific and unique wrinkle I don't think we've seen in cinema before. The maternity prison is like a daycare center in Hell, a lethal combination of violence, boredom, and dirty diapers. A unique setting is nothing without a great character, however, and Julia is a fully realized human being with a real journey to undergo. The selfish, bleach-blonde girl at the start of the picture is vastly different from the confident, fierce mother that exits the final frame. Outside of one previous acting credit (Trapero's 2006 film Born and Bred), Martina Gusman has almost exclusively been a producer up until now and even has an executive producer credit on Lion's Den. Whatever prompted the switch deserves some kind of tribute or monument, because she's utterly convincing as Julia. So much so, I have cause to wonder if she really was pregnant during shooting. If not, Gusman sported the most impressive prosthetic belly I've ever seen. The performance shows an amazing range that is likely only just scratching the surface of her ability.

The film ends somewhere in the same territory where it began, with final scenes closer to a thriller than the hard-edged drama that passed between. Yet, neither the beginning nor the end feel disjointed from the middle, the transitions are as natural as Julia's changes. Behavioral action drives life, and it can drive a very good movie, as well. Lion's Den is one to look out for.

Thursday, December 31, 2020


This review originally written for in 2014.

Equal parts modern western and prototypical sports picture, Nicholas Ray's 1952 drama The Lusty Men is an interesting sideshow story about a particularly hard-living group of fellows and the consequences their choices have on the women in their lives.

Robert Mitchum stars in The Lusty Men as Jeff, a champion of the rodeo circuit who returns to his Texas hometown after an injury takes him out of competition. Looking to make a little money and maybe even save up to buy the house he grew up in, Jeff signs on at a nearby ranch. There, he befriends Wes (Arthur Kennedy), a newlywed who has designs on the old property himself. Wes and his wife Louise (Susan Hayward) have been content with the slow and steady path to homeownership, but meeting Jeff gives Wes an idea: he can start riding broncos and busting bulls and make the cash he needs quicker. Louise isn't so keen on the idea, she's scared her husband will end up with a debilitating injury the same way his new trainer did. She doesn't get much say in the matter.

The majority of The Lusty Men's running time takes place on the road, as the threesome hooks up with the regular rodeo caravan and go from town to town chasing prize money. Wes takes to it naturally and starts winning; he also takes to the nomadic lifestyle, partying after the big show, attracting the attention of groupies. Meanwhile, Louise attracts the attention of Jeff, who silently pines for the sort of life she's hoping to achieve. She takes comfort in his steady gait, even as she begs him to get her husband out of the game alive. It's an interesting love triangle, lacking in any real infidelity. Jeff only states his true intentions outright when Wes has taken things too far. The resultant showdown takes place in the arena, with each man looking to measure his masculinity by how long he can stay on a bucking horse.

The Lusty Men is refreshingly restrained when it comes to the melodrama, with Ray preferring the rough-and-tumble world of professional cowboys to any bedroom antics. The movie's heroes are adrenaline junkies who view settling down as a kind of selling out. That is, until they don't anymore. Mitchum plays it tough, but the actor also shows great empathy and vulnerability. He doesn't stop Wes because he knows he can't, the rider has to make his own choices; yet, he also recognizes the damage done to the wife. (If he didn't, the script provides the audience with multiple parallels so we can see places Wes might end up.) For her part, Hayward shows a nice balance, allowing the allure of the party life to distract her, but never losing her resolve.

Ray and cinematographer Lee Garmes (Duel in the SunNightmare Alley) capture all the thrills and danger of the rodeo events, working nicely with editor Ralph Dawson (Harvey) to meld the long shots of the actual horseplay with the close-ups of the actors both in and out of the stadium. It works nicely. The Lusty Men is reminiscent of many race-car pictures that would follow, not to mention a little bit like a western version of the traveling circus drama. The even emotional tone might disappoint some, but it fits the idea that these tough customers leave everything out there on the field. My only complaint is a rather abrupt ending that not only sews things up a little too neatly, but also left me confused and reaching for the rewind to try to discern whether what they suggest just happened really did.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


This review was originally written for in 2013.

One assumes biopics about noted intellectuals and philosophers aren't exactly the easiest thing to sell to studio execs, much less an audience. Even Albert Einstein tends to only get movies when it's either a romantic comedy or an imagined fantasy pairing him with Marilyn Monroe.


So, hats off to German director Margarethe von Trotta (RosenstrasseThe Lost Honor of Katharina Blum [review]) for not only getting folks to back her movie about 20th-Century philosopher Hannah Arendt, but for also making it entertaining and provocative.

Co-written by von Trotta and Pam Katz (Remembrance), Hannah Arendt stars Barbara Sukowa (EuropaBerlin Alexanderplatz [review]) as the central character, a Jewish woman who fled from Germany during World War II. Arendt landed on her feet in America, where she began writing her many books exploring the relationship between individuals and the society in which they live, and how each is defined by the other (to be fairly simplistic about it, as my understanding of Arendt's actual writing is limited). She became a professor at the New School, and eventually became a naturalized citizen.


von Trotta's portrait picks up in the early 1960s, just after the arrest of Nazi fugitive Adolf Eichmann, who was abducted and taken to Israel by Mossad in order to stand trial. Arendt decided she wanted to see what this notorious individual looked like up close, having herself been separate from much of the atrocities of Hitler's rule by getting away during the war. So, she proposed to The New Yorker that they send her to Jerusalem to cover the proceedings.


Once there, the movie tells us, Arendt was surprised to find that Eichmann was not some larger-than-life personality, but a mere bureaucrat whose very averageness suggested a more insidious cruelty than she even imagined. He embodied what she called the "banality of evil." His terrible activities organizing the transport of Nazi prisoners to their deaths at concentration camps were not undertaken for selfish gain, personal hate, or any other strong conviction. His adopting the standard Nazi defense of "I was just following orders" was indicative of the truth: he had surrendered all personality to "the law." He was all the more disgusting for having just done his job instead of exercising some kind of moral imperative.



This became a central thesis of her articles and her eventual book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, though, as Hannah Arendt points out, the main controversy and criticism of the material was that, in looking at all the evidence presented, Arendt noted what she considered an error in judgment on the part of the Jewish leaders who cooperated with the Nazis. Their hope of lessening the damage by trying to go along, to her mind, only led to more deaths. In much the same way pundits tend to do today (and so it seems history repeats), seizing on and singling out such incendiary elements without acknowledging the totality of the work only proved to cause an uproar and derail any serious engagement with the topic by the populace at large.


Hannah Arendt deals with the full story, from the visit to Israel through to the criticism and defense of the articles. It features lots of heated debate, flashbacks to Arendt's college affair with Heidegger (Klaus Pohl), a little bit of political intrigue, and lots of wrestling with notions of what's noble and correct--or as Arendt puts it, "right and wrong, beautiful and ugly." The film engages with the ideas in a meaningful way, avoiding creating any "Ah-ha!" moments like we tend to see in biography movies about singers or artists, while also remembering to treat Arendt as a human being. Essential to her intellectual pursuits is her stable home life. Arendt had a very loving marriage with her husband, Heinrich Blücher (Axel Milberg), the man she fled Germany with and her most ardent supporter. The turmoil over her choices cost Arendt many friends, but Blücher held strong.


von Trotta presents the material clearly and directly. Outside of the flashbacks, she doesn't get fancy with structure or try to liven things up by making the movie slick or flashy. Rather, she lets her steadfast actress carry the narrative. Sukowa is phenomenal in the role, embodying Arendt's courage and conviction, but also understanding that such a stance comes with nuance. A true thinker allows for doubt and anxiety, and despite the many accusations to the contrary by others in the film, Sukowa shows Arendt to also be a woman who genuinely felt things. It's this compassion that maybe allowed her to strive for a greater understanding, divorced from her own feelings. (Despite thinking Eichmann was an unremarkable individual, she felt his crimes deserved the punishment of death.)


This mixture makes for an engaging example of how good biopics can be with a smart guiding force and a focused narrative. Hannah Arendt bites off exactly what its writer/director can chew, digesting the material in a way that is both illuminating and a pleasure to watch.

Saturday, December 19, 2020


 This review originally written for in 2011.

Marc Singer's documentary about homeless people living in the subway tunnels under New York City, Dark Days, was released at the turn of the new century.

 There is no hard sell or high-concept pitch for this one. Singer opens the lid on an entire community living below the streets of the Big Apple. Some of the folks went underground in the 1970s and had yet to move their lives back up top when the film crew went down into the blackness. Living in a state of perpetual night, these tunnel dwellers learn to cope with their surroundings, building homes out of scrap and finding ways to get along. Some of them are on drugs, some are clean, and none of them could have predicted they would end up here. Dark Days follows a select handful, getting a sense of their day-to-day, digging a little into their past, and in general acting as a passive observer, giving the participants a clean platform to express themselves.


We see a variety of activity. One of the subjects takes care of several dogs, another hustles on the streets to find trash he can sell. Another man talks about how he eventually conquered his crack addiction, while Singer shows us another lighting up. There is also Dee, the only woman the film follows for any length of time. Her shack gets burned down due to some disagreement with another addict. We never really learn why, and Singer never asks. There seems to be no whys or wherefores in Dark Days, just as after a while there is really no above or below. There are only the tunnels and the pervasive darkness. Forget ceilings or sky or even time. Living in the subway is an all-encompassing isolation. As one of the men explains it, he thought his life down there would be temporary...and that was five years ago. Basic human concerns keep them going: feed yourself, clean yourself, keep warm. And though most claim to be on their own, they all end up finding some companionship. This is a neighborhood like any other, no matter how unconventional.


Singer's choice to shoot in black-and-white only emphasizes this otherness. The world contained in the frame is contained even further by the limited light that Singer brings into the picture. Color would only remind us that this is an incomplete existence, which would fail to effectively communicate the exile. Color would point toward a ceiling, whereas black-and-white ensures that the "regular" world is forgotten. There is only the drudgery of this purgatory. One day looks like any other.


Change comes unexpectedly, giving Dark Days a third act where prior there might have been none. Amtrak succumbs to pressure to clean up the tunnels, and this opens the way for advocacy groups to negotiate a safe return to regular life for the homeless being displaced. Hope emerges in the darkness thanks to a government voucher program that sets up the subway's inhabitants in new apartments. The anger at this forced eviction quickly turns to elation, and Singer captures the cathartic demolition of the underground shantytown. For some of these folks, wielding the sledgehammer to knock down their make-shift walls is the first time we see them fully happy. The prisoners are destroying their own prison.


Even so, I can't tell if the coda of Dark Days is intentionally precarious or if it's my own cynicism coming to bear. It's hard not to wonder how well any of the individuals we've met will function in their new lives. Singer shows them in their assigned apartments--cooking, decorating, dreaming of decorating more in the future--and it struck me that in some weird way, they have only traded one enclosed space for another. It's like how addicts pick up other addictions to replace the ones they are getting over--alcoholics turning to coffee, or smokers turning to junk food. Have they emerged into the sunlight only to close themselves off? Ironically, the community has disappeared, now they are even more on their own than they were prior.


Luckily these concerns are answered by some of the bonus features presented on video editions of Dark Days over the years. Bac at the 10th anniversary [when this review was first written], Mark Singer went back to visit the tunnels for a new twenty-minute documentary featurette called "The Tunnel Today." It's amazing how different it all looks years later. For one, we are seeing many of the locations in color; for two, the tunnels are now open and the sun can come in. Singer finds strange remnants of the lives that were once here: fading graffiti, indications of now missing huts and train tracks, spliced wires, scorch marks from when Dee's shack burned down.


Singer clearly has a melancholic nostalgia for his time spent in the tunnels, living with his subjects, immersed in their experience. This is more evident in the "Life After the Tunnel" featurette, a collection of stills from the movie with Singer narrating. The documentarian has kept in touch with most of the people in the movie and tracked their journeys. For the most part, the main people featured in Dark Days have gotten on well with their lives above ground. They got clean, got jobs, and rebuilt their existences, flying in the face of conventional cynicism and the misconception that people living on the streets don't want change or help. Granted, the move wasn't 100% successful, but nothing ever is. Even so, humanity is perhaps the most resilient natural resource we have.