Archive for September, 2015


by Sam Juliano

John Boorman’s Hope and Glory stands apart from nearly-all other World War II-themed films in that it presents an idyllic view of terrible events, seen through the eyes of a ten-year old boy.  By displaying the humor and the resilience of the boy’s family and the British people in general, the film at first broaches denial, and then segues into domestic life wrought under danger and hardship, where luck plays a large part in the survival game.  Hope and Glory is for it’s writer-director a semi-autobiographical work centering around his own experiences of a child growing up during the war, and of the psychology of a nation not yet ready for such a calamity.  When a school teacher quips “a few bombs may wake up this country” and the boy’s mother complains that they’re “starting  a war on such a beautiful day”you know that many aren’t prepared for, nor aware of the deadly battle of wills that is to soon ensue.

Young Bill Rohan, played by a spunky young actor named Sebastian Rice Edwards, lives with his parents and two sisters in a London suburb.  His father, who is too old to serve in combat, is assigned to a military desk job early in the film, so the young boy is surrounded by females and a close friend of his mother.  His daily routine is in large measure to attend school, engage in mischief with friends, and scour through the wreckage caused by bombs that penetrate the blimp defense employed around the country.  You don’t have to be British to be stirred by an emphatic school master’s patriotic speech invoking Churchill and and the brave young warriors enlisted to defend the country, with the strains of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” underscoring the noble defiance.  When Billy holds up the cover of a war periodical at the end of the sermon, we’re reminded that the kids think it’s a big adventure, no different that when Billy plays with his collection of soldiers before going to bed.  And few mothers won’t be able to relate to a wrenching scene when Bill’s mum breaks down a the train station, at the planned prospect of sending Billy and his youngest sister away to safer pastures until the end of the war, only to change her mind and be rejected by the officials. (more…)


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screen cap

 © 2015 by James Clark

      Auteur Roman Polanski, a film exponent being one of the most incendiary figures of a regularly dizzy business, is, I think, at his most perverse in carrying out a long-standing sniper vendetta concerning the only first-rate film he ever laid hands upon, namely, Repulsion (1965). Claims like helming a piece of junk (under the auspices of a porn-flick profit centre) to finance weightier fare and committing a spree of jejune technical sins are truly creepy; but they are also a gift in revealing an artist struggling with deep and difficult matters he passionately cares about while being overtaken by the bad news that such aspirations do not rise to cherished hopes of long-term fame and fortune. (In this downdraft Polanski demonstrates the heart of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Second Wind [1966], with its protagonist leaving full-scale rigorous endeavor for losers while he, the aptly named Gu, embarks on maintaining a version of Public Enemy #1, an unwitting instance by the later movie mover while overdosing on the shaky avant-gardism of remarkable but unduly ascetic [thereby unduly popular] Samuel Beckett. [His yappy recanting the subtle glories of Repulsion thereby becomes a close relative to the abject cowardice of Will in Michael Mann’s Manhunter [1986].)

The first chapter of Repulsion gifts the viewer with a rendition of years of intense and solitary disclosure, from out of which to unwind as much a universal as an individual disaster. In a “beauty parlor” we behold not only a paragon of beauty, young actress Catherine Deneuve—still on the crest of her coup in Jacques Demy’s film, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)—playing the part of Carol Ledoux (that surname denoting restorative gentleness and possible fragility), but a middle-aged woman laid out on a recliner and with a face loaded down with crusted mud as to bring about the optics of a morgue. Soon we realize she is one of Carol’s regular clients, who makes no bones about complaining that the service could be much better. “Have you fallen asleep? I think you must be in love or something…” True enough, Carol has drifted into some kind of reverie. But shop-talk quips are not about to bring transparency to the goddess’ peculiar situation. The opening credits do their best to get us up to speed about her, especially about her unlikely métier of student of primordial dynamics where what nearly everyone sees is a carefully turned out shop girl (sort of like Genevieve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), with a future almost certainly immersed in more or less domestic bliss. We first see her, in those hard-working credits, as a single eye accompanied by a subdued and relentless marching drum beat. At first her iris is at rest; but as her sighting, graphically flicking off names pertaining to her presence in what is to come, undergoes prolonged lack of resolution, the eye wanders in its orb, blinking impatiently, seeking relief from an impasse the sonic urgency of which touching us all as viewers. Then the camera draws back and we see that she is linked to the living dead thing who eventually goes on to express a means of dealing with her own sense of life being unforthcoming. Proceeding to polish the customer’s nails as usual, Carol is stopped cold by the command to do something different. “I feel like a change… Give me Revlon’s “Fire and Ice.” Our protagonist, not able to find in stock such a rare virtuoso equilibrium—Have we thus been given the objective troubling her during the credits?—comes to the owner of this little land of rejuvenation and explains (especially ringing bells for those of us with a sense of dark irony), “I don’t think there’s any left!” The worldly boss lady soon clears up the crisis in advising, “Put this on [a color less extreme]. She’ll never know the difference…” (more…)

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12. Jeux Interdits


by Allan Fish

(France 1952 86m) DVD1/2 (France only)

Aka. Forbidden Games/The Secret Games

Keep it for a hundred years

p Robert Dorfmann d René Clément w René Clément, Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost novel “Les Jeux Inconnus” by François Boyer ph Robert Juillard ed Roger Dwyre m Narciso Yepes art Paul Bertrand

Georges Poujouly (Michel Dolle), Brigitte Fossey (Paulette), Lucien Hubert (Dolle), Suzanne Courtal (Mme Dolle), Jacques Marin (Georges), Laurence Badie (Berthe), Andrew Wasley (Gouard), Amadée (Francis), Denise Pereonne (Jeanne), Louis Santeve (Priest),

Of all the films that have detailed the agonies of childhood, there have been few with as much impact as René Clément’s Venice Film Festival winning allegory. Instantly proclaimed as a masterpiece of French cinema, its reputation has dwindled a bit in the last half a century, but its originality still rings true and the fact that it is, in some ways, an anti-war film, is a fact that too many have allowed to be brushed over.

French refugees are seen fleeing across a country road as German planes drop their bombs overhead. When her dog runs away, young Paulette runs off over a bridge after it and her parents chase after them both. But in drawing attention to themselves, the machine guns of the planes above strike and kill both her dog and her parents. When a woman throws Paulette’s dead dog into the river, Paulette rushes off and retrieves it, but is persuaded to leave it behind by a young boy, Michel, who convinces her to come home with him. She is taken in by his family, though originally only to stop their hated neighbours claiming another medal for doing so. However, when young Paulette tries to bury her own dog, her young friend tries to cheer her up by offering the idea up of a pet cemetery so the dog isn’t alone. But for a cemetery, you need crosses, and to keep his beloved Paulette happy, Michel steals them from the local churchyard. (more…)

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13. Kes (1969)


by Jon Warner

Billy Casper lives with his elder brother Jud and his mother. They live in a small flat in a factory/mining town in Northern England. Both brothers share the same bed. Billy goes about each day to school wearing the same outfit, always looking rather worn and dirty. He cares not. When he’s not at school, Billy can be seen wandering around town on his paper route, stealing milk or meandering around the countryside with a stick, whacking away at brush and weeds or doing a bit of birdwatching, or getting into a fight with his brother. Though Billy seems to have a great deal of freedom to spend his time as he pleases, his existence has a predestined endpoint based upon where he lives and the family he has born into. In his world in Northern England, there is little hope for a future full of possibilities. He’s expected to learn little in school and indeed, nearly all of the adult figures in the film seem to have it in for Billy. Without fighting against the grain, Billy is likely to take a low paying job in the mines, just like his elder brother does or his father may have done. We would know more about his father if he hadn’t left the family. Billy lives in a world where nearly everyone expects the worst in him, or even goes so far as to antagonize him to keep him down, especially the school superintendent who seems determined to crush everyone’s spirits.

In the same way that some parents may try to steer their children to more practical choices when they hear that they want to pursue a career as a painter or English major instead of a lawyer or doctor. Billy also finds a most ‘impractical’ object of interest instead of prepping to pursue a more appropriate career in a factory or mine: Training a kestrel. After seeing some kestrels flying in a field, Billy pilfers a book on the subject of Falconry from a local bookshop. Determined to pursue this quest, he rather quickly becomes a master on the subject. Not only does Billy catch a kestrel, but he houses, feeds, and trains it with such a respect for craft and expertise that he begins to take on a sort of maturity of spirit through his relationship with the bird he calls Kes. As time marches on, Billy splits his time between school and his bird, with Kes being his clear favorite thing in the world. Billy finds a certain peace and power shifted to him through his passion, ingenuity, and initiative to train his bird, which in its own way is his act of social defiance as he refuses to conform to the expectations of mediocrity and humiliation set before him by parents, school principles (“Your’s is the generation that never listens!” ), coaches and employment agencies. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

It would be hard for me to imagine a richer or more active week than the one my family and I enjoyed this past week.  We only saw a single film in theaters, but movies were only a blip on the itinerary of this most memorable of seven day periods.  Lucille and I got the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Pope Francis, who made a whirlwind visit through Central Park late Friday afternoon during his hectic Big Apple sojourn.  We paid our penance to realize this opportunity, made possible by a friend of many years, and stayed the course with a line of people that snaked up and around the 59th Street entrance of the park.  It took a little over five (5) hours on the line before we finally made our way through the checkpoint to join the massive crowd of over 80,000 waiting to catch a fleeting glimpse of His Holiness as his Popemobile rolled down the road  that split the crowd in half.  We parked near the corner of 18th Street and Seventh Avenue, and took a subway up to Columbus Circle, arriving at our destination at around 11:00 A.M.  Our legs took a serious hit with all that standing, but the exhilaration and goosebumps we absorbed during this Pope’s electrifying arrival will be something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.  This rock superstar of a Pope has not only moved mountains within the church, but has climbed Mount Everest for people of all faiths around the world.

Lucille, Sammy, Jeremy and I also attended the annual Warwick, New York Children’s Book Festival in the rustic town in Orange Countyon Saturday afternoon.  Renowned author illustrators like Wendell and Florence Minor, Frane Lessac, Mark Greenwood, James and Lesa Ransome, Ame Dyckman and numerous others exhibited their work on tables, where book fans visited and made purchases.  A real celebratory event!

Our entire family of seven attended the Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo Park, New York on Sunday afternoon on the final day of the two month festival that ran for the 38th consecutive years.  Jousting matches, Shakespearean shows, castles, and medieval themes games, activities and traditions were highlighted in this most sublime of rural locations, and some remarkable talented people brought a measure of authenticity to the proceedings.  We were particularly thrilled that our son Danny was called on from the audience to play Horatio in a comedic rendition of HAMLET. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Steven Spielberg always seemed such a lovely bloke when seen on TV, made a KBE by the Queen, a fellow of the British academy by his old friend Dickie Attenborough, a devotee of David Lean and Stanley Kubrick. What was not to like? Schindler’s List was released when I turned 20 and was proclaimed as a masterpiece and, at the time, I saw little to discourage that fact. I was an avid reader of Empire magazine for whom he was, along with George Lucas, the ultimate God for what passed for movie geeks in the 1990s. The man could do no wrong.

I’ve written a piece before about the poisonous nature of Spielberg and Lucas’ movie doctrine on American cinema. Readers of Empire magazine would want me lynched. Many of the young students I went to Uni with not so long ago would feel the same. I can’t blame them, they’re only the age I was when I felt the same. Maturity and experience will bring the gravitas required to critique. I was but a child once. Without wishing to come across all religious, in the words of St Paul in Corinthians 13, “I have put away childish things.” (more…)

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mou 2

by Allan Fish

(France 1967 81m) DVD1/2

Going out like Mouchette

p Robert Bresson d/w Robert Bresson ph Ghislain Cloquet ed Raymond Lamy, Robert Bresson   m Monteverdi, Jean Wiener art Pierre Charbonnier

Nadine Nortier (Mouchette), Jean-Claude Guilbert (Arsène), Marie Cardinal (mother), Paul Hébert (father),

It was only a few years ago that Robert Bresson’s masterwork was referenced by another eclectic European director, Bernardo Bertolucci. In his film The Dreamers the principals discuss the final scene of Bresson’s film and “going out like Mouchette.” The film did quite well, both critically and financially, but how many people got the reference? I think most of the audience would have been under forty and thus would not have recognised the reference, going to Bertolucci’s film purely for the talked of sex and nudity. The intellectual central trio in Bertolucci’s film loved cinema, every aspect of it, and could reference everything as far back as Queen Christina and Blonde Venus. Today, the so-called movie intellectuals couldn’t go back any further than Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese and Coppola. We live in a sad world. All of which goes doubly for the protagonist of Bresson’s film. It has often been called one of the great studies about adolescence, and yet really it isn’t. It’s great, yes, but has nothing really to do with adolescence, rather about loneliness, alienation and premature adulthood. As a film about teenage alienation it has no peers, with its heroine not so much not belonging as not being wanted at all. (more…)

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Bobby Henrey as Phillipe

by Lee Price

Sometimes as adults, we forget how lonely and confusing childhood can be. Produced in England in 1948, The Fallen Idol (1948) resonates long after its final scene for its moving central depiction of vulnerability and helplessness.

Fade in on Bobby Henrey as Phillipe, an inquisitive-looking boy peering through a second-floor railing, watching the clockwork precision of the embassy staff below. Everyone has a job to do but him. In his privileged position as the diplomat’s son, Phillipe is simply an observer, like a child in a movie theater (or, more pessimistically, like a prisoner behind bars). Being so young, nine-years-old at the most, he watches intently but probably understands only a fraction of what he sees.

Throughout The Fallen Idol, Phillipe is shown standing apart, often on a threshold, trying to discern what’s going on and how he should respond. He’s struggling to learn the art of social interaction—including the lies and evasions of everyday life—through his clumsy imitations of the adults around him. He misinterprets dialogue and misses important nonverbal cues. He lacks the knowledge and communication skills needed to navigate the confusing adult environment of the London-based embassy where he lives. Virtually parentless and friendless, with only a pet snake and the kind attention of the embassy butler Baines providing company, he appears desperate to make connections. But his attempts at communication increasingly fail as the movie progresses.

At one point, Phillipe overhears Baines on the phone, talking to his lover. “It makes no difference about the boy,” Baines says. “Of course, he doesn’t understand.” The adult viewer naturally anticipates that Phillipe will be hurt by the comment. But Baines is right! His unflattering remark whizzes right past Phillipe. He really doesn’t understand.

With some movies, I tend to forget the actual closing scene. For me, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) ends on a highway, in terrifying communication breakdown with the desperate Miles (Kevin McCarthy) screaming, “You’re next!” at passing cars with oblivious drivers. After that brutal scene, the coda where the authorities suddenly realize the truth—“Operator, get me the Federal Bureau of Investigation!”—swiftly fades from memory. It’s the scene on the highway that cuts to the core of things. I remember that no one is listening. (more…)

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By Marilyn Ferdinand

Ana, a small, darkly serious girl of about 10, stands at the top of the stairs of her darkly ominous home and hears sounds that we guess are all too familiar to her. A man and a woman are in a room below obviously in the throes of a sexual embrace. The passionate declarations of love cease abruptly as something apparently has gone wrong—someone can’t breathe. Ana descends the stairs and watches as an attractive woman, dressed save for an unbuttoned blouse, runs toward the front door, spilling the contents of her purse in the process. Ana watches her unemotionally as she gathers her things; when the woman finally notices her, they stare at each other wordlessly, and then the woman exits the house. Ana enters the room, finds her father laying dead on his bed, picks up an emptied glass from his dresser, takes it into the kitchen, and washes and hides it among the glasses sitting next to the sink. Clearly, Ana believes she has poisoned her own father, an act for which she shows no emotion.

Cria Cuervos, a masterpiece of Spanish cinema, is the work of director Carlos Saura, perhaps best known for his dance films, especially his flamenco trilogy comprising Blood Wedding (1981), Carmen (1983), and El amor brujo (1986). As with those films, Saura’s passionate, brooding sensibility informs what in other hands might be a simple story of grief. Ana, you see, is a Spanish girl living in a spacious home in Madrid because her father (Hector Alterio) is an officer in Franco’s fascist army. The times and her father’s compulsive womanizing that cruelly tortured Ana’s beloved mother (Geraldine Chaplin) until her untimely and painful death have marked Ana. She seeks a vengeance her mother was too weak to exact, thus marking her as every bit her father’s daughter. (more…)

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by Brandie Ashe

I was two years old when the Steven Spielberg-directed E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial debuted in theaters. I was six years old when I saw the film for the first time, which my parents had taped from television along with two other movies (the titles of which I can no longer remember) during a free preview weekend of whichever premium channel we could not afford to indulge in full-time. And I was perhaps ten years old when that videotape became no longer watchable due to the sheer number of times I rewound it to play E.T. over and over and over again.

Mom and Dad eventually bought the film on tape, and the obsession continued. And even today, the Blu-ray is on regular rotation ’round these parts, because it’s one of those movies that remains just as magical and fresh and revelatory today as it was more than thirty years ago.

To say that E.T. had a profound affect on young me would be an understatement. Next to the animated films and classic cartoon shorts that I adored (and still do) above all else, E.T. was something truly special–a film where the focus was on the kids, kids who were smart and brave but also flawed, who strove to do the right thing and yet weren’t perfect paragons of cinematic characterization. They were, in essence, real kids, and I identified with them as much as I longed to actually be them, and to have an adventure with a cuddly alien all my own.

That focus on the children is not a mere by-product of the film’s central science-fiction storyline; it is the entire purpose of the film. Indeed, Spielberg, himself a child of divorce, had long sought to make a film about the myriad ways in which divorce affects kids. Told from the perspective of a family of three kids–two boys and a girl–E.T. is ultimately less about the titular alien than it is about the dynamics of a broken family, and how that damaged unit dusts itself off and learns to function as a smaller whole. (more…)

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