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Archive for September 30th, 2015

hope-and-glory

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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 © 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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