Archive for September 16th, 2009

by Sam Juliano

     ‘There was a real Miss Daisy.  She was a friend of my grandmother’s in Atlanta, back in the forties when I was a child.  She was a “maiden lady” as we called it then, the last of a big family, and she lived in what I remember as a spooky old Victorian house.  There was a Hoke, too.  he was the sometime bartender at our German-Jewish country club, and I believe, he supplemented his income by bartending at private parties around town.  And Boolie…well, I really didn’t know him, but he was the brother of my dear Aunt Marjorie’s friend Rosalie,  They were real people all right, but I have used only their names in creating the three characters in ‘Driving Miss Daisy….’  –Alfred Uhry, playright.

     Driving Miss Daisy was the first play that Alfred Uhry composed, and he based it on people he had known growing up in the South, particularly his grandmother and her driver.  The play’s original schedule called for it to run for five weeks at Playrights Horizon, a New York nonprofit theatre that seated an audience of seventy-four.  When the run was up, the play was extended another five weeks, and when that was up, it moved to a bigger theatre.  A year and a half later, the show was still playing in New York, and around the country, and it soon won the Pultizer Prize.

     Warner Brothers hired gifted Australian director Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant, Black Robe) to helm the film version, which would feature Uhry’s own adapted screenplay.  While on stage the story was negotiated with minimal sets, (chairs representing car seats were basically the components) the film version allows for some lovely rural indulgence, in and around Atlanta, Georgia where the film takes place, beginning in 1948.  “Miss  Daisy” Werthan is a crotchety, parsimonious and exceedingly stubborn widow of seventy-two years, who, while insisting she can still drive, must nonetheless bow to the wishes of her son Boolie and insurance companies who are threatening to drop her after she backs the car into a sharp decline on the grounds near her home.  The alternative forced upon her is a black chauffeur named Hoke, who is known to Boolie to be a reliable and honest man.  Hoke states that he’s thrilled that the Werthans are Jewish, as from past experiences he’s found them much easier to work for than the predominant Baptists of the Deep South.  But in Miss Daisy he meets someone unlike anyone he’s ever encountered.  She’s ornery and taciturn, and wearing her down turns out to be a formidable task that requires more servitude than he would ordinarily impart.  A proud and respectful man who is about sixty years old when the film begins, Hoke is an unemployed, uneducated African American, who previously worked as a deliveryman.  His patience and loyalty eventually brings out the latent humanity in Miss Daisy, and over a period of twenty-five years in these two lives (with Boolie providing an occasional, often exasperated intrusion) the relationship morphs from discord to deep harmony and friendship.  Cynical moviegoers may scoff at the final scene, when a touching realization is vocalized, but it’s the final coda in a film that is about the intimacy and true meaning of friendship. (more…)

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cin par 1

(Italy 1988/1994 174m) DVD1/2

The lost kisses of youth

p  Franco Cristaldi  d/w  Giuseppe Tornatore  ph  Blasco Giurato  ed  Mario Morra  m  Ennio Morricone (and Andrea Morricone)  art  Andrea Crisanti

Jacques Pérrin (Salvatore “Toto” di Vita), Salvatore Cascio (Boy Toto), Philippe Noiret (Alfredo), Mario Leonardi (Young Toto), Brigitte Fossey (Older Elena), Antonella Attili (Maria – young), Enzo Cannavale (Spaccafico), Leopoldo Trieste (Father Adelfio), Isa Danieli (Anna), Agnese Nano (Elena), Pupella Maggio (Maria), Nicola di Pinto (Square madman), Leo Gullota (Bill sticker), Roberta Lena (Lia),

Cinema Paradiso is surely one of the most beloved foreign language films in the English speaking world.  It holds a special entry in that select list of subtitled classics that have made the transition to popular cinema, also bidding fair to the title of most nostalgic film of all time.  In its native Italy, though well enough liked, it’s generally perceived by local critics to be no better than another virtually concurrent piece of cine-nostalgia, Ettore Scola’s Splendor.  So do we have the wrong film selected here?  Well, if it were the original cut, there would be a case for such an argument.  I always found the original slightly too sugary, slightly too sentimental, with the final scene that has become one of the greatest in all cinema seeming a little too saccharine for my tastes.  The longer version, however, is a far richer experience, a mournful study not just of childhood rekindled, but also lost, of innocence stolen away and of love extinguished by time.  It may be a lucky fluke for its director, who has certainly not made anything half as rich again, but that should not deny it a place here.  Anyone who sees it will not forget the journey made by young Toto, from his childhood as an altar boy (played by the unforgettable Salvatore Cascio) to his first love, military service and eventually leaving for the mainland to become a filmmaker. (more…)

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