Curtis Hanson dead: Remembering the best scene in LA Confidential

In memory of the filmmaker who has passed away aged 71

Jacob Stolworthy
Wednesday 21 September 2016 17:10 BST

It's an almost universally-accepted fact that the crowning achievement of director Curtis Hanson's career is L.A. Confidential.

Handed a Halloween release date in 1997 (the same day as An American Werewolf in Paris, fact fans), nobody could have anticipated the legacy this unassuming neo-noir, thinly based on James Ellroy's novel of the same name, would take on. One look at films to have followed in the past 19 years - Memento, Brick, The Nice Guys - and it's clear to see Hanson's influence looms large.

Sure, the acting sizzles and the cinematography dazzles, but L.A. Confidential's success can only be attributed to one person: Hanson, a writer-director whose credits at that time included thrillers The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) and The River Wild (1994).

As well as making a stellar crime film - one of the 90s' several aces - Hanson, who boldly insisted he cast Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce (then relative unknowns) in lead roles, crafted a jigsaw puzzle comprised of meticulously-edited scenes - so much so, in fact, that L.A. Confidential remains on the syllabus of many a Film Studies class across the world to this very day; if that doesn't cement its modern classic status, what will?

Several of the film's scenes could be held up as an example of its mastery: the introduction of Kim Basinger's Veronica Lane-esque femme fatale, or Captain Dudley Smith's (James Cromwell) callous - and genuinely devastating - murder of Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) followed by Ed Exley's (Pearce) 'penny-drop' moment ("Rollo Tomasi").

How about the below?

The tracking camera, the claustrophobic medium close-ups, Hanson's refusal to show the viewer anything Bud White (Crowe) doesn't see - and that's before the unflinching violence hits. In retrospect, this could well be the scene that heralded the dawn of the Australian actor's arrival on the Hollywood scene.

Following L.A. Confidential's premiere at Cannes Film Festival, Ellroy - originally sceptical of the adaptation - stated: "I understood in 40 minutes or so that it is a work of art on its own level." If Hanson's untimely death at 71 inspires you to do anything aside from lamenting the loss of yet another fervent talent, make it revisiting this breathless, spirited and still-enthralling masterpiece.

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