Reviews written by registered user
Balthazar-5

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119 reviews in total 
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3 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Pathetic PC nonsense, 11 February 2005
2/10

Just seen this pap on the TV. OK, so the film doesn't seek to address a sophisticated sensibility. But nor does Wizard of Oz. And, contrary to some comment-writers, the illogic of different racial types being misrepresented doesn't phase me.

What totally appals me is the blatant politically correct way in which it is used (which is, of course, not correct at all) is an affront to both the intelligent independently-minded viewer and, more importantly, Rogers & Hammerstein's creation. Great films TEACH us about life - they do not PREACH about life as the filmmakers would wish it.

More importantly for the average viewer (whoever he may be), through its obsessive desire to offend no group, it leaves emotion behind in the headlong bolt for moral rectitude. With some films, it is once seen, never forgotten. With this one I had to dash to the terminal or my protective memory screen would have erased this pathetic nonsense within the hour!

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The finest adaptation of a Greene novel, 9 February 2005
9/10

OK, so I'm a huge admirer of Neil Jordan, but I don't like all of his work. But this, this is truly wonderful. To answer the question 'what is cinema?' that might be too difficult. But 'What does the cinema do best?', the answer to that is that is makes real the greatest human dilemmas.

And this wonderful film makes a special and precious contribution to that end. Aided by flawless performances by Ralph Feinnes, Julieanne Moore and Stephen Rea, Neil has given us as much of Graham Greene's novel as we could reasonably expect, and he has made it oh so real.

Great novels (and films) are not about just one thing (there's more to The Wizard of Oz than 'There's no place like home'), they are about several complex things that interact with one another. Here it is love and religion and betrayal, to name a few. All of Greene's characters are wonderfully, indeed unforgettably represented and they work together to illuminate the interaction of those themes.

Controlled anger is one of the rarest emotions in the cinema, and one of the most powerful, and in the final moments of this film we are presented with its most perfect expression.

29 out of 31 people found the following review useful:
Avoids every pitfall..., 9 February 2005
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This was the first 'grown-up' (guess these days you can't use the word 'adult' as you should be able to) film I remember seeing. I put the profoundly moving effect it had on me down to my tender (15) years. So after around 42 years, I saw it again this week - I had reason to screen it for my Film Studies class... and it's still quite wonderful.

At the centre is an earthy and moving story of the central character, Jane's, single pregnancy. But Jane is not a scatter-brained bimbo who stumbled into pregnancy, she is a sophisticated 27-year-old French woman, whose virginity was becoming burdensome. But this is the late-50s and social attitudes to single pregnancy are wholly different from those of today.

The film details Jane's 'go it alone' strategy, as she moves into a grotty boarding house occupied by a bunch of unremarkable misfits. Though this 'kitchen sink' drama seems, for much of its length like an 'issue' film, it is, ultimately, triumphantly not. There is a black trumpeter (Brock Peters) who doesn't experience racism, and nearly destroys Jane's budding relationship through his judgemental moral attitudes. There is an ageing lesbian music hall artist (Cicely Courtneige) who isn't ostracised. There is a prostitute (Patricia Phoenix) who doesn't have a heart of gold, or an exploitative pimp.

In other words, this is a moral tale that refuses to preach. And at the centre of this is the curious and heart-warming theme of all of the well-meaning people (well, some of them are well-meaning) who Jane meets who want to help her abort her baby.

Our interest is, for much of the film centred on the relationship between Toby (penniless writer) and Jane, a relationship that we will to succeed. But in the end, it (probably, as the ending is to some extent inconclusive) is not this relationship that we treasure from this film, but the sense, made, oh so movingly, in the final scene, that Jane has, through her hardship and the friendship of people whom she would previously have dismissed, become a much fuller person living in this hovel than she could ever have become in the cosy bourgeois bosom of her parents.

For this reason, and others, this is a truly subversive work. No wonder it left so great an impression on me, at the tender age of fifteen, living in my council flat with my very respectable parents in leafy Sevenoaks...

37 out of 47 people found the following review useful:
Why so little shown?, 4 February 2005
8/10

Billy Wilder's Irma la Douce is an absolute gem. Coming after 'Some Like it Hot' and 'One, Two, Three' and before the similarly undervalued 'Kiss Me, Stupid' it is part of Wilder's most creative period. Shirley Maclaine is perfect as the hooker with the heart of gold and Lemmon is hilarious as the protective lover.

Largely shot in studio, Wilder makes hay with the control that this gives him, with a fabulous market where Lemmon works to keep Irma off the streets.

It is such a joy to see Lou Jacobi in the pivotal role of Moustache. His line delivery cannot be faulted and he is given many of the film's funniest moments.

It is also a joy to watch a great wit like Wilder show us that prostitution is a way of earning a living, not a social problem. May you smile in Heaven, Billy!

The Trial (1962)
5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A cohesive work of genius, 4 February 2005
10/10

Few great novels are made into great films. This is the only one I can think of. Kafka was as important for opening up literature to the great agonies in the depth of the human psyche as for the actual literature itself. That's why even people who have never read a word of Kafka use the word 'Kafka-esque'.

We might have expected that the director who would make 'The Trial' would be Hitchcock, but, even loving Hitch's work as I do, I am so glad it fell to Welles to make this great masterpiece. Perkins is flawlessly perfect as Josef K. Every twitch and glare adds to our sense of a character who is lost in a world of shadowy authority, exactly as Kafka wrote it.

The emotionless accusers are also perfect - we can't get any sense of what K is accused of, and the film is brilliantly lit to emphasise shadows that suggest something frightening lurking within them.

Everywhere there is perfection and a sense that this is one film where the original work is not just being visualised, but transcended.

Above all, this is a film best seen in a cinema, as it needs great darkness to suggest its morally inky heart. If you have to see it at home, make sure you are really, really in the dark.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Magnificent, 4 February 2005
9/10

This is one of Chaplin's First National films from the period between his glorious Mutual shorts and the more mature United Artists features. More opulent than the Mutual films, it continues Chaplin's quest for perfecting his comic expression. Most people forget that the film is actually a dream that Charlie has while awaiting being sent off to the front.

There is plenty of slapstick via the Limburger cheese being used to gas the enemy, and Chaplin's foray into enemy territory dressed as a tree.

By this stage in this career, the great man had become so immersed in filmic expression that his films give the impression of making themselves. Doubtless this was not the case, but still, it gives as convincingly realistic view of life at the front as I can remember, albeit from an ironically humorous perspective.

As far as I am concerned, familiarity with the entirety of Chaplin's work should be a prerequisite for all cinephiles - do not delay!

Badlands (1973)
125 out of 151 people found the following review useful:
The voice of innocence whispers in our ears..., 4 February 2005
10/10

Is it really possible that this luminous masterpiece is a first feature film? It is as though Mozart had started his career in composition with one of his mature symphonies. What is totally special about 'Badlands' is the visual control that Terrence Malick applies to the story, and his use of fabulous music to embed his amazing images in our mind. The 'Bonnie & Clyde'-ish story could have been turgid, but Malick turns it into a mythic journey.

At the heart of Malick's method is the fabulous interior monologue by Holly explaining and ironically commenting on the story. "Kit made me take my schoolbooks so I wouldn't fall behind with my studies...". This has been characteristic of each of Malick's films - Linda in 'Days of Heaven' and Witt in 'The Thin Red Line' have somewhat similar monologues - and 'New World' is monumentalised by the haunting monologue/montage with which it ends. Here it totally sucks the viewer into the story and makes the montages that it accompanies into, just about, the high-point of seventies cinema.

Alongside this, Malick uses some of the most haunting music in existence. Whether it is Carl Orff or Nat King Cole, Malick transports us with fabulous romantic imagery that perfectly balances it.

I started on this comment determined not to use the word 'poetry', but I just can't avoid it. With nearly all filmmakers, including very great ones, the style that they present is very much prose - great prose, perhaps, but firmly rooted on the ground. With Malick, we are taken, emotionally, to the stars by the lyric magnificence of the totality of his vision.

It is said that Welles learned cinema by watching John Ford's 'Stagecoach' before embarking on 'Citizen Kane'. Every young filmmaker should watch this amazing masterpiece again and again and again and inform their work with Malick's matchless sense of true cinema.

27 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
The beginning of a generation, 2 February 2005
9/10

This was the first 'mainland European' film I saw as a teenager in the early 60s. I saw it on late-night television and it knocked me out. Later on I saw Wajda's 'Generation' trilogy and could barely believe that this was the same director. I have subsequently seen it on the big screen a couple of times and it remains a favourite from its era. The reason was simply that the creative force behind 'Innocent Sorcerers' is not Wajda but Jerzy Skolimowski.

You only need to take a look at 'Walkover' to see the same callous and alienated attitude of the central character. However, for me, 'Innocent Sorcerers' is a superior film to Skolimowski's earliest directorial works as, through the character of Pelagia, a much greater warmth and meaning is expressed.

Krystyna Stypulkowska makes a perfect Pelagia - coquettish and flirtatious, but still innocent. The exquisite scene of 'tossing the matchbox' is more erotic than all but a handful of 'explicit' sex scenes from modern cinema.

There are few films from Eastern Europe in the Soviet era that ever make you really care about the characters - this is definitely one.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Little gem, 2 February 2005
8/10

Life in the tough end of Glasgow in the late 1960s is delightfully and sometimes painfully presented here. This is clearly a work of well-observed autobiography by the Mackinnon family - Billy the writer/producer and Gillies the director.

At the centre of the film is the Maclean family - widowed mother with sons Bobby (none too bright), Alan (budding artist in spite of being brought up in the tough end of Govan) and narrator Lex, only 13 and still not sure what life is all about. Iain Robertson's performance as Lex is so good that it is barely credible that he has not reappeared in anything more worthy of his acting talent.

The film sets up a series of oppositions - gangs (Glens versus Tongs); romantic family life vs tough and unromantic street life; loyalty vs betrayal. Far from resulting in simplification, this actually makes the life of young Lex even more complex as he is, sequentially, drawn to each aspect of these opposing ideas.

Director Gillies shows he knows how to film his environment and gives us telling and memorable images - such as a huge close-up of blood running down a plug-hole that looks like some work of abstract art.

Nowhere near as clichéd as most coming-of-age movies, this is a joy for teenagers and adults alike.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
As deep as the ocean..., 2 February 2005
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Though many claim that 'Unforgiven' is a masterpiece, Clint Eastwood has never quite managed to get there for me. But this is finally it. Using a story bordering on the clichéd he has plumbed the depth of the human soul in a totally unforgettable film.

Many great works of narrative art have structuring absences. Here we have the absent daughter whose loss has defined the life of Frankie Dunn. In a moment of unforced but powerful emotion, we see a shoebox full of returned letters. This defines the yawning emotional chasm at the centre of Frankie's life.

The joy this wonderful film gives us for its central section is precisely the joy of filling that chasm with the love and closeness to his, initially, unwanted protégé, Maggie Fitzgerald. The three lives at the centre of the film, Frankie, Scrap and Maggie live, essentially, solitary existences, and Eastwood uses a leisurely approach to character development that only very gradually reveals the pain and pride of Frankie, the regret and loyalty of Scrap and the feisty determination of Maggie. But it is this slowly-paced, methodical and austere approach that makes the film so powerful. It goes in slow - but very, very deep.

We have seen the rise of great boxing champions many, many times in the cinema... but this is, for me, the greatest of them all (and I am not forgetting 'Raging Bull', because it is not, ultimately about boxing. Frankie says it at the beginning of the film. 'Boxing is about respect - keeping it for yourself and taking it away from your opponent'. And so, when Frankie's agonising moral dilemma is forced upon him, he has only one possible course of action.

So that is what the film is about: self-respect, and by the end both central characters, Frankie and Maggie, have it in the most tragic and ironic manner imaginable - her by her death, him by losing the one thing that made his life worth living.

Anyone looking for the best film of the year doesn't need to even think about anything beyond this luminous masterpiece.


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