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The Invisible Circus (2001)
Beautiful portrayals of fascinating characters
The plot of this film is not complicated. A very attractive young girl goes to Europe in search of the reasons for her older sister's suicide ten years earlier. There she meets up with her sister's former boyfriend and together they travel to all the places her sister went, and gradually the reasons become clear.
But what makes this film so special, and soar above the limited plot, are the beautiful portrayals of the characters. Although the older sister's boyfriend is a drop-out hippie, he has noble ideals, moral standards and incredible strengths. And although the older sister, who we see in flashbacks, shares these ideals, she doesn't have a sense of limitation or balance, of how much is too much. And although the younger girl is fiercely loyal to her sister's memory, she gradually finds the strength to face the fact that her sister was only a normal girl, after all.
The most special moment in the film is when the young girl and the sister's boyfriend finally stop fighting their attraction to each other. I can't recall ever seeing more beautiful, touching, romantic tenderness in lovemaking in a film!
In all these ways this is a truly beautiful film, a film to be treasured, and to be seen again and again. 9 out of 10.
The High Cost of Loving (1958)
A remarkable piece of fluff
Although this film is a little light-hearted comedy, it is well worth seeing, for many remarkable features. One is the sheer talent of everyone involved!
Mel Ferrer, who directed and acted as its main star, has far more legendary talent in both areas than this film shows. Gena Rowlands is a fabulous actress and although this is her first film, you can already see the fine acting talent she was about to become.
Rather fascinating to see is Richard Deacon, who has played in so many films and sitcoms I've lost count, in the role of the obstetrician, and Nancy Kulp, who was deeply loved as the gawky bank secretary in "The Beverley Hillbillies", and Ed Platt, who was legendary as "the Chief" in "Get Smart".
The story itself revolves around a misunderstanding. Jim Fry, played by Ferrer, believes that he is about to get the sack, when in fact he is actually about to be promoted. A series of events worsens his fears with each passing day, and he very nearly causes a catastrophe. Although this film is obviously limited in its scope and storyline, seeing all these wonderful and deeply loved actors all together in this one film transforms this little piece of fluff into a genuinely remarkable experience, which no lover of films and TV sitcoms should miss!
The best parts of the film, in my opinion, occur in the parts of the film when Ferrer and Rowlands are together. They play a very sweet couple who, after nine years of marriage, have their morning routine worked out so well it's a symphony of timing and choreography. Several other subsequent films have tried to mirror this routine but no-one has yet achieved the perfection of this original one.
This film gets a thoroughly deserved 9 out of 10 from me. It doesn't get a higher score only because of the limitations in its scope.
High Art (1998)
A film about high art that is high art itself!
Syd, the female Assistant Editor of an Art Photography magazine called "Frame", meets Lucy Berliner, a great photographer who dropped out of the public eye ten years ago, and is now living in a drug-addicted world of low-life "friends" who walk around half-conscious in a zombie-like drug-induced stupor, and occasionally stop breathing altogether.
The atmosphere of this depressive world is conveyed so perfectly it's almost palpable. The acting and directing are perfection. Syd begins to lead Lucy into a world of drug-free sobriety, and Lucy leads Syd into her world of beautiful, tender lesbian love, a world of mutual respect and sensitivity, and again, this world is so perfectly conveyed you can feel it surrounding you as you are drawn into this hauntingly realistic film.
You can tell they're just right for each other. They both outgrow their previous rather dysfunctional relationships and find themselves falling in love. But will Lucy slide back into her no-hope world of wheedling, pathetic friends? Or will she overcome the pull of their need for her, and find the courage and strength to walk away?
Either way, you're going to want to buy a copy of this video, and treasure it among your collection of great works of art. I can't think of a single reason why this film should be given less than ten out of ten. By anybody.
Essential viewing, because it stars the world's most beautiful female.
I have to give this film a ten out of ten, even though it does have some weaknesses, because it is the main early film of the world's most beautiful young lady, Eva Ionesco. Even though it was made in 1977, it is still the most sought-after film on the internet.
There is a heavily-censored version available, with eleven minutes of the most beautiful parts chopped out. I advise against watching this version, as it spoils the film badly.
Censoring this film is like wiping the smile off the Mona Lisa! Find the uncensored version. If there are laws in your area which prevent you from watching the full film, get those ridiculous laws changed! It will be worth your while.
As well as Eva, it has some very beautiful music, beautiful cinematography, and Lara Wendel is also beautiful. On the negative side, the story-line, of adolescents' cruelty to one another, may not be to everyone's liking, and, at the time of writing, no-one has yet sub-titled the film in English.
Nevertheless it is such a rare and beautiful film, it thoroughly deserves to be at the very top of your "Must-See" list. The full version is a real treasure. You're going to want to buy this one and watch it over and over again.
Easter Parade (1948)
A classic example of those old 40's musicals
Don't you just love those old 40's musicals? Easter Parade is certainly one of the best, with Fred Astaire doing his amazing flashy but precise dancing, Judy Garland using her legendary voice to sing right from her heart into yours, and Ann Miller doing her own unique style of dancing and tapping while belting out great songs. And of course, everybody in the film uses any excuse to sing yet another song, usually dancing to it as well.
One of the special sequences has Fred Astaire dancing in slow motion while the rest of the cast dance at normal speed behind him! Sure, we can do that these days with computers, but remember this film was made in 1948!!
Of course there's the usual plot - Boy meets girl, they fall in love, have a misunderstanding, but get together again just in time for the big finishing number. That used to really get the audiences in, in those days, and they repeated that theme in every musical that ever was.
Any weak spots? Several of the film's routines seem a little amateurish by today's standards. For example, the waiter tossing his invisible salad just to do a bit of clowning seems a little contrived. Also, the film is supposedly set in 1912, so all the 1948 fashions and hairstyles are completely anachronistic - but what does that matter, after all, it's just an enjoyable romp.
I've given this film eight out of ten, but if I could just vote on Judy Garland's singing and Fred Astaire's dancing, I'd certainly give them ten out of ten. This is definitely a "must-see" film, just for those two incredible talents!
Billy Liar (1963)
A great film to become completely absorbed in.
What makes this little black and white film so absorbing? As I was watching it on late-night TV, I found myself on the edge of my seat, gripping the arms of my chair, trying not to yell at the main character, Billy Fisher, near the end of the film. How absorbed can you be?
The dialogue, the acting, and the storyline was so realistic and natural that I had completely forgotten that I was watching a film. Years later on the next viewing I had thought it wouldn't suck me in again, especially since I knew the ending, but I was wrong. In fact I was able to appreciate it all the more on the second viewing.
Tom Courtenay plays Billy Fisher, who is an immature, irresponsible young man living in a Walter Mitty-ish fantasy world, and invents implausible stories to attempt to hide his escapades, but his lies keep backfiring on him.
His life is rapidly falling apart. He is supposed to mail out calendars from his employers to their clients, but he doesn't mail them, and keeps the postage money. He even manages to con two girls into becoming engaged to him, and that explodes into a catfight over him when they find out. His grandmother is dying, his father is continually angry at him, and everything he does just makes matters worse.
Fortunately, he meets Liz, (played by Julie Christie, who is the best thing in this great movie). She is sweet, beautiful, and understands him completely because of her own need to escape, which she does by travelling around the country.
He has the opportunity to get away from all the trouble he's in and go to London, and make a fresh start with Liz who is so perfect for him. But can he change? Can he summon the courage to break free of the messy but secure life he knows and face the unknown? Will he recognise that Liz is the best thing that could ever happen to him?
I'm not going to tell you, because that would spoil the film, but, whichever way he decides, any film that has you on the edge of your seat, yelling "Go with her! Don't miss this opportunity! Go! Go!" you know it's a truly wonderful and realistic film!
A thrilling spy story, interwoven with a beautiful love story.
Enigma is a computer part which scrambles Russian messages, so that America can't understand them. They can only be read by the intended recipient. The Americans know that the Russians are going to transmit a message revealing the plans of five political assassinations they want to carry out.
So they send in former defector Holbeck (Martin Sheen) to grab the scrambler and substitute a false part, so they'll be able to decode the message, and block the assassination attempts.
However, as we listen in on the Americans heads of the spy organisation, we find that they already have the scrambler, and they want Holbeck to try to steal Enigma, only to convince the Russians that they don't already have it. They don't expect Holbeck to succeed. That way the Russians, who had stopped transmitting with Enigma, just in case, will begin transmitting again.
Enigma is in the computer in the office of Dimitri Vasilikov. Somehow Holbeck must gain access, and in order to do that, he must find out when Vasilikov will be out. He sends in his former girlfriend Karen (Brigitte Fossey) to seduce Vasilikov, so that she can look through his papers and find out his scheduled movements. Karen is glad to do it, as they tortured her father, a university professor, to death.
Because we know that it's better for the Americans if Holbeck fails, the movie becomes even more intense as a spy thriller. We find ourselves hoping he can survive against the odds, especially as he uses ingenious methods to beat the Russians at every turn.
But what's this? Are Karen and Vasilikov falling in love? Will Holbeck win Karen back, or will she actually end up with Vasilikov? The romantic twist lifts this spy thriller, already worthy of a ten, even higher, for its originality. The writing, the direction, and the acting all combine to make this new and fascinating twist a compellingly realistic one.
You find yourself at the edge of your seat, gripping your armchair, not only for the excitement of the spy story but for the intensely beautiful romantic love story as well. The two themes are interwoven perfectly, right up to the end. You really want both sides to win. So who does win, in the end? You'll have to see the movie and find out, won't you!
Toy Story 2 (1999)
An adventure cartoon that's deeply moving, with stunning graphics!
Having kids is a great excuse to see this film. You'd probably be a bit self-conscious if you went to see it on your own, wouldn't you! Yet, my advice is if you can't borrow some kids, and don't have your own, go see it anyway, on the big screen. Never mind your age!
It's a truly brilliant, deeply moving film, with jaw-dropping graphics. It's even better than Toy Story 1, and that's saying something! Take the whole family!
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
A brilliant masterwork of gothic fantasy
The cinematography in this film is the best I've seen in a movie. Every scene is a gothic work of art, and it's worth seeing just for that alone. It also features the brilliant and charismatic actors Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, and a fantastic gothic score by master musician Danny Elfman. Put it on your "Must See" list!
I have to give this film a ten out of ten because it thoroughly deserves it. Personally, I would have preferred Depp to have played his role seriously, rather than as a parody, but because I know others will enjoy it all the more for that, and because the film is so perfect in other ways, it would not be fair for me to reduce it from its ten points just for that one personal preference.
For those who don't already know, the story involves a headless horseman who has risen from the dead, and rides through the countryside wielding a sword and cutting off other people's heads, in revenge for losing his own. In this version of the story, there are more details than the other film versions, giving the story a more interesting plot.
The original story was a poem by Washington Irving (1783-1859) called "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Some scholars believe that the poem was based on a story by Karl Musäus (1735-1787), a German academic writer, who was among the first to collect and write down German folktales. If Irving didn't get the idea from the German folktale, the similarity is remarkable.
Although heads are cut off, in gory detail, please don't be put off from seeing the film because of that. It's done more like a nightmare fantasy, rather than realistically, so every teenager and adult would be able to watch it without difficulty, though it's certainly not for children. I would strongly urge everyone to see this wonderful film.
A disturbing film yet compulsive to watch.
Eight Millimetre is a very disturbing film, yet a very well made film as well. It's the sort of film that everyone really should see, but no-one would blame you if you didn't! The film makes you wonder "How on earth did the censor let them get away with that!", yet, in its own way, its a very strong argument against censorship, because the disturbing turns the story takes are what make the film such a unique and realistic portrayal of a very bad part of life.
Nicholas Cage plays a private investigator who is called upon to investigate a snuff film, which was found in a safe after a wealthy man's death. The question his widow wants to know is - is the man she adored and to whom she was married for forty-five years really the distinguished gentleman she has always believed him to be, or was he a mentally-disturbed pervert who gets kicks out of watching innocent young girls being killed? And, worse still, did he pay for the girl to be killed on film, for his pleasure, when there were no other snuff films available?
In order to find out, the investigator has to get down into the gutter of life, and search through the worst and most perverted porno manufacturing networks he can find. The girl went missing six years ago, and the police haven't got a clue, but there are clues on the film, such as a tattoo on the hand of the masked killer, and a fleeting image of a man in the background watching.
So what exactly is so disturbing about this film? In order to explain properly, I'm going to have to write a SPOILER. So please only read on ONLY (a) if you have already seen the film, or (b) if you are completely sure you're not going to see it, or (c) if you want to know exactly why it's disturbing and don't mind knowing what happens in order to find out. OK? Here we go:
*******WARNING: ******* SPOILER ******* SPOILER *******
The Disturbing Features:
The film is disturbing largely because the investigator is so shocked by what he discovers that he brutally murders the girl's killers, and gets away with it as well. He literally gets down into the same moral gutter that they are in.
Another disturbing feature is that, in order to make himself angry enough to start killing, he cruelly calls the dead girl's mother on the phone, tells her how her daughter was killed, six years ago. When she naturally breaks down into hysterical sobs, crying out "No, no, no! I love my little girl!" it helps him to start the killing, just as he'd hoped.
Another disturbing feature is that he insensitively calls the widow who started the investigation, and blurts out that her husband did indeed commission the film, and paid for the killing, so the elderly widow, unable to cope with the sudden dreadful news, commits suicide.
And yet another disturbing event is that right at the end, he receives a letter from the girl's mother, emphasising that he did the right thing, in murdering her child's killers. So basically, this film is saying "Forget about the police. They'll do nothing for six years or more. If someone has killed a child, the best thing to do is to take the law into your own hands."
Some people on the internet who are concerned with pro-life issues, have been arguing that the message of the film also carries strong implications that those who shoot abortionists may be doing the right thing, the best thing, after all.
An enchanting early Disney classic which appeals to everyone.
Pinocchio is a puppet in a delightful children's story written by "Carlo Collodi". (Collodi's real name was Carlo Lorenzini, and he was born in Florence, Italy, in 1826. He used the pen-name "Collodi" as that is the name of the little village in Tuscany where his mother was born.)
In 1881, Collodi sent to a friend, who edited the "Giornale per i Bambini" in Rome, ("Children's Journal"), a short episode in the life of a wooden puppet, wondering whether the editor would be interested in publishing this "bit of foolishness". The editor did, and the children loved it.
In Collodi's original story, Pinocchio gets himself into all sorts of trouble through his spiritual immaturity, but he gradually learns from each lesson, and eventually, after showing noble human traits, is granted the special privilege of being a human.
Collodi wanted youngsters to learn that when we are spiritually immature, we are like a puppet, controlled by the immature needs of our ego, which make us do thoughtless, selfish and irresponsible things. But if we keep listening to our conscience, our inner awareness of right and wrong, and keep being guided by that, one day we will become "a real live boy", a self-reliant, mature, responsible citizen, no longer controlled by immature needs.
Walt Disney, inspired by this wonderful story, and motivated by the same desire as Collodi to teach moral lessons to children through entertaining stories, smoothed the rough edges of several chapters to make a severely abridged version, and turned Pinocchio into one of his legendary cartoons, or as he preferred to call them, "full-length animated features".
Disney, like Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll before him, had an unusually gifted understanding of the mind of children, knowing exactly what appealed to them, and Pinocchio is a classic example of his powerful insight.
In this "animated feature" Pinocchio is given the gift of life, but must prove that he is "brave, truthful, and unselfish" in order to become a real boy. He is told by his "father", the man who carved him out of wood, to go to school and learn to read and write, but instead is tempted by a couple of rogues to join a puppet show. Later when he realises the puppets are slaves to the puppet-master, he manages to escape, only to be tempted once again, to go to "Pleasure Island", where everybody makes jackasses of themselves.
Narrowly escaping this fate by jumping into the sea, he eventually manages to return home, only to find that his father, on hearing that Pinocchio jumped into the sea, went to sea in a boat to look for him, and was swallowed by the most feared killer whale in the sea, "Monstro". Can our well-meaning but wooden-headed hero rescue his father from the belly of the worst monster in existence? Will he ever be able to prove himself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and become a real live boy?
Although the film was released in 1940, its appeal is timeless. It is an uplifting, inspiring story for children of all ages from four to one hundred and four. Its magic and enchantment have the power to soften even the most wooden hearts.
The Faculty (1998)
A great horror fantasy with humour and a fascinating monster!
"The Faculty" is a great example of the way horror films are made these days. It's well-written and well-directed, but it aims at giving you laughs and entertainment rather than scariness. The ending may be predictable, but it's such fun getting there!
Aliens are infesting humans, beginning with the faculty of a high school. The film opens at a "normal" high school. Kids are bashing each other, teachers are bellowing at the students, students are threatening the teachers, students are throwing things, and the smaller, weaker students are cowering in the toilets, terrified. Everything "normal", right?
But a small group of students, who are all named in the opening of the film, begin to notice some really odd behaviour of several of the teachers. The teachers are being polite, agreeable, even peaceful! The first student to think that they're being taken over by aliens is scoffed at by the others, but it isn't long before the others get a clear demonstration, as the aliens don't stay completely within their respective human bodies.
They reach out with tentacles, replicate, and crawl into human's ears, in order to take over control of their brains and bodies, in much the same way as they did in "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers". The students soon work out that the aliens will die and things will return to "normal" if only they can work out which one the queen is, and kill her. But which one is she? And how do they kill her?
The queen doesn't need to infest a body, she can disguise herself as a human body. She's only got one disguise, but it's a good one!
When she does reveal herself, and switches back to her alien body, she's one of the most awesome, amazing monsters you've ever seen in a movie. She's really horrible looking, but in a fascinating way! She'd be worth seeing the whole movie for, just on her own, but the rest of the movie is such great fun as well!
Two very fine actors are worth mentioning. Salma Hayek plays the nurse. She normally plays in movies of great depth, so it's interesting to see her in a light-hearted romp like this one. And Robert Patrick, who was so brilliant as the new improved terminator in Terminator II (1991) does a splendid job in this one as well.
Will our group of heroes be able to find the queen, kill her, and save the planet from alien infestation? Will they be able to get the school back to its "normal" chaos, fighting, and trembling in terror? Who will win, a mere handful of students, or the rapidly multiplying thousands of alien body snatchers? I'm not going to tell you, but it's not because it would be a spoiler. It's because you already know, don't you!
Silencing Mary (1998)
A staid, plodding production with a predictable ending.
I viewed this film because I admire Melissa Joan Hart as an actress, and she's certainly good in this one. The problem is not her, but the film itself. It plods its way through unimaginative storyline to a predictable conclusion. Just when you think the movie is going to have an interesting twist, it doesn't. It never shifts out of its "nail the bad guy" rut.
Melissa, who is great in the TV series "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" plays a student named Mary who is a reporter for the college newspaper. Her room-mate Holly gets thoroughly drunk at a party, and the college football hero takes advantage of her.
Holly cries rape, but no-one takes it too seriously. The college tries to sweep it under the carpet because they don't want to look as if they have an unsafe campus, and because the football hero is the key player in the team who will win them the premiership and get the college an extra million dollars of funding.
Even Holly doesn't want to go to the police because she is too upset, and she is just trying to cope, trying to hang on, trying to forget it ever happened, and besides, she feels it was probably her own fault for getting drunk, and for acting sexy and leading him on.
Three other actors give the film a lift whenever they're on-screen. Teryl Rothery, as Detective Brubaker, has a small part. Rothery is very famous for her voice work in Japanese anime, as well as being famous for her brilliant acting in just about every second or third TV series you could name. So why was she given such a small role in this one?
The second is Melissa's brilliant little sister Emily, who played in several episodes of "Sabrina", as the spoilt brat whom Sabrina had to babysit. She's only on for a few lines, so it's another case of wasting a great actress. I predict she'll be an even bigger star than Melissa, so keep an eye on her.
There's also Peter MacNicol, famous for his role as "The Biscuit" (John Cage) in the Ally McBeal TV series. His role is no bigger than Rothery's.
I'm not saying you shouldn't see the film. It's not a total loss. Any film with the Hart sisters in it is worth seeing, just for them. And Rothery makes it essential viewing too. I'm just saying that they could have made a much, much better film if they had used more of the great acting talent they had available, and had re-written the script with entertainment in mind, rather than aiming at heavily labouring the point that there's no excuse for rape, and that it must be fought against, not swept under the carpet.
The Swimmer (1968)
The most mind-boggling twist at the end of a movie I've ever seen
Ever since I first saw The Swimmer back in the late sixties, on the big screen, it has haunted me. The peculiar thing is that, even now that I know the ending, it still has the power to deeply move me at each viewing, in just the same way as it did the first time I saw it. Seeing this movie changed me forever, and it is a great tribute to what can be achieved on a small-budget film.
Its director, Frank Perry, made many wonderful films, including "Diary of a Mad Housewife" (1970) and "Mommie Dearest" (1981). He seems to have a flair for films that reveal the psychological underbelly of the members of society. And Burt Lancaster gave this film the sort of performance that had previously made him one of the greatest screen legends of all time.
That is not to say that he gives it the powerhouse performance of an "Elmer Gantry" (1960) which won him four international awards for best actor of the year. In this film he is far more subtle, and handles the character delicately, appearing perfectly normal at the beginning, but revealing just a little more that all is not quite as it should be, step by step as he goes along, until the final mind-bending twist at the end.
The storyline is simple enough. Lancaster's character, Neddy Merril, notices that everyone's house in the street he lives in has a backyard pool. So instead of walking home, he's going to swim home, by hopping fences and swimming in each of his neighbours' pools along the way. It's a project he's been thinking about for some time.
With each new neighbour he meets, a little more of his own personal story unfolds, and you get more and more insight into his character. Personally, I think his performance in this film is even better than Elmer Gantry, partly because it requires such subtlety and steady unfoldment of the character. And the teamwork of Lancaster and Perry gave it just the right touch. I think it may haunt you forever, too.
A disappointment for Sabrina fans
I grew up devoted to the Archie comics, including Sabrina, so I was a little worried when I heard they were going to make a TV show of Sabrina. Would they get it right? Would they capture the spirit and intent of the original version. I was highly skeptical to say the least, but after viewing the first TV show, I was ecstatic! They had done it even better than the comic!
Sabrina quickly became my favourite show, and I was even happier when it continued to improve throughout the seasons. The witty lines, the cute magic, the great personalities and the wonderful lessons Sabrina learned in human values all combined to make it into the best show on television.
That's why I'm more than a little disappointed with this movie. It drags! The witty lines are few and far between, the humour misses more often than it hits, the storyline is farcical, the acting is stagey. Even Salem, who makes the TV show so good, is not at his best. The whole cast seems uncomfortable.
I love films, and I usually focus on the good points of even the bad ones, as there is usually something to love in almost all films. But with this film, it's very difficult. I can't recommend it, and I think most Sabrina fans would be disappointed. I've given it only 2 out of 10.
The King and I (1956)
A wonderful musical that will be loved and remembered forever!
In the 1860's Mrs Anna Owens was appointed by the King of Siam as the teacher of his children. He wanted to give them (and himself) a "modern" education, to impress visiting dignitaries with how up-to-date he was, so that they would accept him as a world leader, like them. He thought it would be a simple communication of knowledge and understanding, like someone learning a new set of jargon.
This naive and misguided motive, seeking to impress without really wanting modernity, produced a clash of cultures. Fortunately for all of us (and especially for the film industry) Anna kept a scrupulous and detailed diary of the whole affair. It was made into a film starring Rex Harrison, which was rather more historically accurate than this musical version, and was a very appealing film in many ways.
This film, however, has become legendary. Although it is based on the principle "Never let historical facts get in the way of a great musical", that doesn't matter at all, because it is a truly great and deeply moving romantic musical film. For example, has there ever been a more loving love-song than "Something Wonderful", which the king's number one wife sings in explanation of her devotion to him? I seriously doubt it! It's one of the best-written songs of all time, and could only have been written by someone who truly understood love!
The simple charm and joyful exuberance of "Getting to Know You", the unforgettable "Hello Young Lovers" which is a message of hope and encouragement to all those who love under difficult circumstances, "Whistle a Happy Tune" which helps when we are frightened and alone, and all the other songs have become famous.
Yul Brynner, who had been a relatively unknown bit-part actor with hair, shaved his head and gave a towering performance for the part, then spent the rest of his life basking in the glory of that one role! Deborah Kerr, who had given so many exquisite performances in so many films, also rose to the occasion in this one. Rita Moreno, who was a pin-up girl as well as one of the world's greatest actresses, is beautiful as the runaway slave.
It's a film that everyone must see at least once, especially now that they've put out a restored version. I've given it 10 out of ten.
A whirling dance which reveals the flower of the soul.
Claudia is an beautiful unknown opera singer, (played by Vasiliki Roussi) who is training for an upcoming audition. She has been living for two years with Stephan, a stable, reliable person who represents a secure future for her, but who is so full of what he wants that he can't quite hear what she wants, or even help her decide what it is.
She meets Paul, a wild, reckless, irresponsible boyish man who represents freedom and passion to her. He takes her to a party, and gives her a whirligig, which, when it spins, reveals a beautiful flower in its centre. His recklessness gets them caught "in flagrante" and she gets thrown out of her home.
She moves in with Paul, but quickly discovers that he isn't quite right for her either, so when Stephan misses her terribly and tries to win her back, she is torn between the two. By the time of her greatest triumph, the audition, she loses both of them, and has no-one to share her great moment with.
At one stage, she is training her voice by singing in a graveyard, as she has nowhere else to go, and the gravedigger points to the gravestones and tells her, very significantly, "Only these people here know where they really belong!"
The guy who lives in the flat next to Paul's is a musician, and one day plays loud music. She can't sleep with that racket, and pounding on the wall isn't loud enough to make him hear, so she sings to fight back with loudness of her own.
He plays back, and within a few moments, in one of the most moving moments in film history, the two strangers find themselves in perfect harmony, making beautiful music together. She sings her favourite song, which happens to be one that he wrote, and there is mutual sensitivity and respect, even though they can't see each other's face. Later they refer to it as "their song".
And just when you're still reeling from that profound moment, so perfectly portrayed by the director, Gitta Gsell, along comes another! Claudia dances around Paul's now-empty flat, and it's actually the most beautiful dancing I have ever seen in a film! The combination of the incredible direction, the surrounding sights and sounds, and her body movements, give the impression of angelic artistry and expression of the language of the soul. It's a good thing it was captured on film, so that future generations can experience it.
Although the film has a thoroughly satisfying ending, (no, I haven't even hinted at it, and if you tried to guess, you'd be wrong!) it's that dance which is the most important thing in the film, and the rest of the film, as great as it is, is nevertheless the vehicle for that wonderful dance of the soul.
A little stereotypical and dated, but worth a closer look
There were a lot of movies in the sixties which were built around the catchphrase "He's not bad, daddy, he's just misunderstood!" They mostly stereotyped the young as well-meaning and virtuous, trying to find their place in the world, and the oldies who came down heavy on them as ignorant, insensitive, authority figures who judged them harshly, and who wouldn't listen.
Although this movie is certainly strongly representative of that group of films, and is completely predictable, you'd be doing yourself a grave disservice if you let that fact stop you from viewing it, because this film has so much to recommend it.
The movie opens at a beach-blanket party (where else!) where hoons on motorbikes terrorise the innocent young virgins around the campfire, and our fearless young hero (played by Christopher Jones) springs to the defence of the girls! Unfortunately, the police arrive, he accidentally thumps one of them in the scuffle, and the stage is set for the misunderstanding of the oldies versus the innocent but oppressed teenagers! Just when you thought a quick word of explanation would clear the whole matter up, too!
However, there are some genuinely touching moments in the film, like when the old grandma holds our young hero in her arms and begins to softly sing a lullaby. That was such a beautiful moment, I'm sure I'll see the film again whenever I can. And there are so many other equally good moments throughout this film, that you really shouldn't miss an opportunity to see it, either.
Christopher Jones does his best to look, sound, and act like James Dean in this movie, and a very good job he does of it, too! Richard Egan is perfect as the misunderstanding father who is strong and protective of his "little girl", but who shows his vulnerable side as well.
Susan Strasberg is a fine actress who never got a role that was suitable for showcasing her acting skills, and in this movie she's mostly off-screen as one of the women whose idea of fulfilment is waiting for their men to come home from the sea! (Well, I told you it was dated!) Audrey Totter, who plays the grandma, even delivers the line "If I had no men to wait for, I would not live to see the sun come up!"
In this movie, Strasberg plays the hero's girlfriend. She's supposed to be a teenager, yet she looks like she's in her late thirties! (She was actually thirty at the time). When she calls Richard Egan "daddy", it jars, because she's easily old enough to be his wife!
Ann Sothern, who was so pretty and who gave us so many great films when she was young, plays the blowsy, aging, overweight Angela, a good-hearted barmaid who befriends the young couple and looks after them. What a fine actress she is!
Although the directing is merely competent, the film stands out as a milestone among films of its type, because of the great acting performances, the strong character development, the film's appealing humanity and compassion, and those wonderful moving moments which make the film soar above its stereotypical foundations!
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Very good film in most respects, Brosnan is competent.
The James Bond films have become well-known for their exciting but unbelievable stunts, their attractive women, their serious flaws in the plot, and those amazing gadgets that get Bond out of tight situations, always in a hair-raising way.
To be fair to each new Bond film, you have to completely push out of your mind the fact that Sean Connery, the only real James Bond, is not in it.
It is a welcome surprise that they have a very well-thought out plot this time. They also have some excellent actors, including the elegantly beautiful Sophie Marceau, who plays Electra King, and Denise Richards, who plays Christmas Jones. These two, and Judi Dench who plays M, really carry the movie, and more than make up for Brosnan's merely competent 'by-the-numbers' acting.
This film is well worthwhile watching, and will probably make you want to see Richards and Marceau in some of their other films as well. And while you're at the video store getting them, you'll also need to pick up Sean Connery's Bond movies as well, to restore your faith in James Bond!
Fascinating idea, even with obvious mistakes
Cube has a great idea for a movie. What if you were to awaken one day in a cube, a prison of cube like rooms in a huge cube, not knowing how you got there, or why you're there, or who made it, or what it's for? Each of the rooms is connected to another by a small door in each of its six sides. And it's a deadly maze, with some of the rooms booby-trapped! It's such an original idea, it deserves a viewing just for that fact alone!
Is the only way out through death? If there is an exit, how do you find it? Needless to say, each of the prisoners combine their skills for survival, and each of them can't survive the booby-traps without the others. For example, the mathematician works out a formula which proves accurate and helps them for a time, but eventually the numbers get so large, no human being could measure them, so they must find another way.
Soon, you begin to recognise, from the discussions and from the type of stresses they're undergoing, that the film is an analogy for life on Earth, for they are asking the fundamental questions that all humans ask about life on Earth.
Is there a way to escape the dangers? How will we recognise the way out when we find it? Who built this prison and why? Is it more dangerous to search for the answers, or should we just stay where we are? How did we get here and where are we going? Is there a higher meaning to it all?
Every room is like another day on this planet, complete with its danger rooms and its safe rooms. And all of us are combining our strengths to survive, and learning valuable lessons along the way.
The film is so perfect in this way, that we can afford to ignore the glaringly obvious mistakes, and just enjoy the ride. For instance, the doors *always* make a noise when they open or close. They can't be opened without it. So why is there no noise of an opening door when the killer is sneaking into the room behind someone?
Another glaring mistake is in the scripting, where the killer speaks as if he's been there a long time, and has become determined to get out, even though he's only just awoken and is supposed to be confused as to where he is!
Such mistakes are completely forgivable, owing to the magnificent effectiveness and originality of the rest of the film. This film thoroughly deserves to be put on your "must-see" list!
Now, there are two more important things that need to be said, but *don't* read on until *after* you've seen the film, because they *will* spoil your enjoyment of this film, OK?
*Here comes the spoiler!*
Another way in which the film resembles life on earth is in it's ending. Only the innocent escape from the cycle of suffering, just like all the wise men of history have told us.
And one fact makes this film soar above its deficiencies! That whole massive cube full of different cube-shaped rooms? It is an illusion - they used only *ONE* cube-shaped room, throughout the filming! That achievement alone deserves dumbstruck jaw-dropping admiration! And another trip to the cinema!
All of Me (1984)
A comedic showcase for Martin
Having seen all of Steve Martin's movies, I think this is his cleverest performance. This film is a showcase for his considerable talents as a comedian. Lily Tomlin also does a very fine job, providing dialogue as Martin's "better half"!
Although the premise, of two people occupying the left and right halves of one body, is ridiculous, Martin's performance is so good that it's easy to ignore reality and go along with the movie, just as we do when we temporarily agree that no-one can recognise Superman with his glasses on. Even when Martin is carrying around Lily Tomlin's soul in a bucket of water, unbelievable ridiculousness becomes temporarily plausible, in a way that's reminiscent of his performance in "The Man With Two Brains".
If you're a Martin fan, there's no need to read this, because you've already seen the film a dozen times, haven't you! And if you're not, this film will either make you become one, or at least it will give you a new respect for the man.
A scary, realistic, exciting murder mystery
Chris Sarandon plays a famous murder-mystery writer who has become tired of life, and who has not been able to write in over 18 months. He's tired of the harrassment he's been getting from religious extremists who think that the grisly realism with which he writes means that he's in league with devil, and from his publisher who says he's three months overdue with his next book, and especially from his wife, who appears to find fault with everything he does.
So he goes up the coast to get away from it all, to see if he can get through his writers' block. By not taking his medication, and avoiding sobriety, he hopes to get back in touch with "the savage instincts within every man" which was responsible for the scary realism of his books.
The trouble is that murders start happening nearby, each one an exact copy of the murders in his famous book "Reaper". Not only that, but there's a page from his book on each of the victims' bodies, the exact page that describes the murder! So he's number one suspect, and is hauled in for questioning.
All good murder mysteries keep you guessing who the real murderer is, and this film is one of the best! Just when you think you've worked out who the real murderer is, other evidence keeps coming up, first pointing one way, then the other.
If you love a good murder mystery, this is the film for you. And if you don't love them, then this is the film which will change your mind!
The Dam Busters (1955)
Exciting war drama based on real life
The excitement of this film lies in its gradual buildup of tension, and in overcoming one obstacle after another, to achieve a magnificent outcome. And it all really happened.
The dam busters of Squadron 617 were a highly skilled, hand-picked bunch, who robbed the enemy of their water-supplies during World War 2, by finding a unique way to bomb their dams, when all other methods were impossible. The film is a classic, and even if you don't normally like war films, you should see it at least once in your life.
There's only one disappointing feature, and that is that the special effects of the bombing of the dams are the most phony and unrealistic special effects you will ever see in any movie. Although this film was made in 1954, the special effects in "King Kong", made in 1933, are vastly superior!
Apart from that, the movie is well-acted and directed, and although highly predictable, is nevertheless gripping in its story.
Dated but appealing psychological mystery
Those who love the psychological twisters of the sixties will find this one of the best, with its masterful twists and turns of the plot. The question in this film is: Is our hero (played with aplomb by Robert Webber) really going mad, or is someone trying to convince him he's mad? Is he seeing things and hearing voices or is someone playing ghastly tricks on him? If so, for what purpose?
The ending leaves no strings untied, which in this case is a feat Hitchcock would be proud of, and in fact, you can see the influence of the Hitchcock films throughout this one. It especially reminds me of "Dial M for Murder". The film does seem very dated by today's standards, but is well worth a screening.
Her Married Lover (1999)
A gripping, edge-of-the-seat murder mystery
From the moment this film opens, it grabs hold of you and never lets go till the final frame. A woman who we later find out is Katie Griffin, drives to a police station and tells the police that there has been a car crash, and that a woman has been killed. She thinks that her lover, the man she had an affair with for the last eight months, has killed his wife so he could inherit his wife's money, and marry her. She thinks he must have tampered with her car, to make it go off the road.
The wife is not actually dead, but in a coma. Her husband is a writer, and teaches a ten-week writing course. The police confront him and escort him to the hospital. His story is that they never had an affair, that she was just an obsessive student of his, in love with him and making a terrible nuisance of herself. If the car was tampered with to kill the wife, then she would have done it out of jealousy.
Both their stories fit all the known facts. Their descriptions of events differ, but they both talk about the same events. The audience is kept guessing all the way through. Which one of their stories is true? Although many murder mysteries use artificial devices to keep the audience guessing, this brilliantly-written, brilliantly-directed film does it only with utterly believable, appropriate plot and character development.
Near the end, when Katie hands over photos to the detective, the truth is revealed. But although the detective now knows the truth, the audience doesn't actually see what's in those photos until the very satisfying, yet very surprising, end. If you love murder mysteries, and you love good films, this would certainly be one of the best you'll ever see.