Archive for November 7th, 2008


by Sam Juliano

A Uruguayan rugby team and several fans embarked on a plane trip from the capital city of Montevideo on 13 October, 1972 to take on the players of the Chilean team on their own turf.  The only obstacle was the imposing snow-capped Andes Mountain chain that divided their countries, but in some cheerful documentary footage of the departure, no one could have imagined what tragedy was lurking in the air for the 45 passengers on board.     

This compelling human interest story was first given cognizance in a 1973 novel titled Alive! The Story of the Andes Survivors, a best-selling novel translated into English and a rather sensationalistic film that starred Ethan Hawke that followed, named simply, Alive, released 20 years later.  The main hook of the earlier film revolved around the issue of how the 16 people who survived the crash and were finally rescued over two months later on 23 December, managed to secure sustenance in a snow-covered terrain with no vegetation nor animal meat.  This “less than subtle” treatment violated the very premise of community and teamwork that made the story one of inspiration and resilience rather than one of human depravity, but making “nourishment” the central focus.      

This long injustice has been reversed with a fascinating film, Stranded: I’ve Come From A Plane That Crashed on Mountains, that deals with issues of friendship, spirituality and philosophical contemplation, that brings together the survivors to engage in talking head interviews that strive to recreate the entire crash and the harrowing period where the survivors must initially find shelter against a raging and hostile wintry environment.  The major advantage that this Spanish-language film, directed by Gonzalo Arijon has over the previous drama is the real-life survivors, all in middle-age, have the advantage of passing time and perspective to examine in their own minds what really happened and to recapitulate the comportment that enabled them to outlast nature’s imposing force, by sheer defiance and astonishing endurance.  Arijon is a lifelong friend of this throng and he deftly wove their testimony with dreamy re-enactments that attempt to place memories in a visual context.  He brings the survivors to the “Valley of Tears,” the glacial mountain trek, where the plane crashed.  And he allows the survivors to engage in intimate testimony, letting this already-shocking story tell itself, without the need to sensationalize.       (more…)

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continuing the series of masterworks from World War I…probably the most famous of them all, which came agonisingly close to making my top 25 1930s films…

by Allan Fish

(USA 1930 130m) DVD1/2

We try not to be killed

p  Carl Laemmle Jnr  d  Lewis Milestone  w  Lewis Milestone, Maxwell Anderson, Del Andrews, George Abbott  novel  Erich Maria Remarque  ph  Arthur Edeson, Karl Freund (uncredited)  ed  Edgar Adams, Milton Carruth  m  David Broekman  art  Charles D.Hall, William R.Schmidt  spc  Frank H.Booth

Lew Ayres (Paul Baumer), Louis Wolheim (Katczinsky), John Wray (Himmelstoss), Slim Summerville (Tjaden), Raymond Griffith (Gerard Duval), Russell Gleason (Muller), Ben Alexander (Kemmerick), Beryl Mercer (Mrs Baumer), William Bakewell (Albert), Scott Kolk (Leer), Walter Rogers (Behm), Owen Davis Jnr (Peter), Yola d’Avril,

Lewis Milestone’s anti-war drama is arguably the first true masterpiece of talking cinema and an even braver film in that it shows the war from the enemy viewpoint.  Even now, in audiences accustomed to the almost virtual reality war of Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse Now, it’s a startling achievement, not only a great war film, but perhaps the only American film to truly get over the real malaise and futility (if not the absolute horror) of life in World War I.  It’s also, at least in the UK, the only one of this director’s thirties output to be freely available, with the likes of The Front Page and Of Mice and Men only available in the US for import.  (more…)

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next up in the 1930s countdown…

by Allan Fish

(Germany 1931 108m) DVD1/2

We must all keep an eye on our children

p  Seymour Nebenzal  d  Fritz Lang  w  Fritz Lang, Thea Von Harbou, Paul Falkenberg, Adolf Jansen, Karl Vash  article  Egon Jacobson  ph  Fritz Arno Wagner, Gustav Rathje  ed  Paul Falkenberg  md  Adolf Jansen  art  Emil Hasler, Karl Vollbrecht

Peter Lorre (Franz Becker), Otto Wernicke (Insp.Carl Lohmann), Gustav Grundgens (Schraenker), Theo Lingen (Bauetnfaenger), Theodor Loos (Police Commissioner Groeber), Georg John (blind balloon seller), Inge Landgut (Elsie), Ellen Widmann (Frau Becker),

M is a remarkable film for any number of reasons, not the least of which was that it was made at all.  It was a return for Lang to the crime world that he depicted so memorably in his Doctor Mabuse films nearly a decade earlier and deserted in favour of the epic Die Nibelungen, the future world of Metropolis and the spy rings of Spione, but with a twist; the criminals weren’t the bad guys.  (more…)

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