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A Breton movie, 27 September 2014

Recently restored ,the quality of the pictures is excellent for a 1934 movie. This is a simple story ,not an intellectual bore and it's accessible to anyone;in a word :popular.

A short (about 40 min) ,entirely in Breton ,with subtitles :A French who would not know the Breton language could not understand the lines,which is minor,for the strength of the pictures tell almost everything.

A famous director from the silent era,now long over,Epstein found it hard to adjust to the talkies :that's why the first sequences ,depicting life in a religious school ,are certainly the weakest.We're not told the exact reason for which the student is expelled ,but, as further acquaintance shows,this young man was born to be an outcast all of his life:disowned by his father,fired by the fishermen because his little finger is claw-like and brings bad luck.Even if they put their faith in Virgin Mary (the propitiatory procession ),they remain suspicious superstitious men.And even love is denied because he has fallen for the châtelaine who is to marry a rich count.

The love story is told in a legendary way (the ending) and the white veil on the cliff might have inspired Jean Grémillon for a "Pattes Blanches " shot.

There are few lines ;the tale is told (or should I say sung) by a Chanteur who appears on the screen and depicts the fishermen's dangerous work and the peasants'hard labor.

Most of all ,it shows Epstein's (who was born a Pole though)love for the sea by and large ,and for Brittany in particular:it began in 1928,with "Finis Terrae" ,and would continue with such works as "L'Or Des Mers" (1932,another tragic love story which looks like this one) and "La Femme Du Bout Du Monde" (1937)

Haïr A Perdre La Raison., 26 September 2014

Few artists can do what Mister Arestrup does.A character actor in the noblest sense of the word,he never gives you the impression he overplays ;yet,he can be frightening ,makes you blood run cold ,while remaining extremely restraint.In the five last years ,his two portrayals (the wine-grower in "Tu Seras Mon Fils " ,and the stepfather in "A Perdre La Raison" are among the most impressive in the contemporary French cinema.

A Young couple (she is a French Teacher,he is a Morrocan immigrant)sees their life ,slowly but inexorably ,elude them.The Young man's stepfather he calls his Godfather provides them with everything a Young couple may wish :no problem to make ends meet .But the lack of intimacy becomes hard to bear for the Young woman who would like to share a true home with her husband.But the wealthy man does not want his protégés to run away and he 's using financial blackmail as well as emotional blackmail.They are under "tutelage" :the Young man ,who seems immature sees his protector as a merciful God but his wife is not prepared to accept it.This house is not big enough for the three of us.

It's putting off the inevitable;the last scene ,showing the house of "happiness" ,filmed in fixed camera shot ,could not have been more harrowing.

Chameleon (1996)
Go figure!, 26 September 2014

I was expecting a thriller.What a disappointment!The screenplay is so muddled it's hard to follow the plot.Almost all the lines deal with sex ,dirty words abound,which is boring in the long run.No actor stands out:Chiara Mastroianni is as cold as ice and her monotonous portrayal does not help;to enliven things a bit ,she flashes her tits.Jackie Berroyer as the libidinous superintendent gives a Johnny-one-note performance.American Seymour Cassel as a painter hams it up all along the way and,had I to watch that again (God preserve me) ,I would skip all his scenes.Benoit Cohen is not John Cassavetes .

The third of the dialog is in English with subtitles .

Aspirin needed afterward.

Why the lights went out in NYC., 24 September 2014

Superseven's second movie-and substantially better than the first . The screenplay remains naive and of comic strip quality but it includes several interesting developments and even unexpected twists .

It must be Yoko Tani,French actor Roland Lesaffre's wife ,who is different from the bimbos who fall for Martin in both episodes .The character is a bit more complex than the others .Unlike Pussy Galore in "Goldfinger",her volt-face is not only explained by the hero's charm:"in my country,we are taught no to behave like you (westerners)"

In the first (and poorer) episode ,there was a good scene : to hide a dead body ,Superseven makes it out to be a waxwork;in this one,Lenzi does a good job,transforming a florist shop into an antique dealer place ;Egypt's landscapes were poorly used in the first effort;here the director takes advantage of Greek landscapes (particularly the Parthénon)even if he introduces the Sirtaki ,a dance which was very trendy in those days in the Wake of "Zorba The Greek"

And now we know why there was the Northeast blackout in 1965 . believe it or not.

The last scene is -relatively-smart.

My name is Stevens .Martin Stevens ., 24 September 2014

A first installment in the "Superseven " (sic) adventures .And not the best of the two.The action takes place in London ,Superseven (stronger than 007!)is irresistible and all the girls fall for him even if they are evil.

Roger Browne was essentially known for his sword and sandals flicks but he also starred in spy thrillers and -you have to live!- photo novels for the Italian "Edital" group .He was on the rare actors working in Italy who had an American name AND was actually American .

The screenplay is a nonentity: a radioactive new metal which all the spies covet ,and ,as the title reads ,action takes place in Egypt,but the director does not take advantage of the landscapes:even the pyramids are badly filmed .One of the villains worked in a Nazi concentration camp and it shows.

Lenzi would do a little better next time.

Hoa Binh (1970)
Someday never comes, 23 September 2014

This movie does not take sides .Fighting for democracy or communism,it's all the same:children are poor unfortunate victims of man's Madness.

First line:"dad ,what's peace? -Someday,you will find out I've been living in war for 30 years . Last line:What's peace?

Boy:mom,is there a storm brewing? Mom:no more storm over Vietnam;only the sound of planes .

Dad's gone to fight against imperialism and mom stays at home with her two children;soon,she dies of cancer and asks her boy to care care of his little sister.

This is the beginning of an odyssey which recalls sometimes that of the two tragic heroes of the Japanese masterpiece " grave of the fireflies". The brat becomes a paper boy,a shoe-shiner and tries to stay a child in a world gone mad.Some adults are selfish and ruthless ,some others -an European nurse notably-lends a helpful hand .

It seems ,at the end of the movie,that the father has finally understood that a child's smile is worth all the ideological struggles in the world.

Raoul Coutard was a famous N.V. cameraman ;he directed only a handful of movies:this one is certainly the most interesting.

The director's cut, 23 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When the movie was theatrically released,it featured a different editing and ending ,and the title "Patrouille De Choc" (=super-efficient patrol )replaced the director's one which was much less glorious (and thus less commercial) "Patrouille Sans Espoir" (= hopeless patrol).

Now they screen the director's cut with its true title and its downright desperate conclusion: smoke,hiding destruction and death.

"Patrouille Sans Espoir" has no big names (in fact all the actors are unknown,which adds to the credibility of the story ),a small budget ,and it makes the best of it.

A voice -over(the lieutenant) tells us the tale:soldiers in a post in Indochina,harassed by the Vietminh fighters who send propaganda messages on the radio and plant their flag just outside the small fort.

Except for the last scenes ,it is a banal life we are told ,but the lieutenant's words bite: "men make business,women make love and children,and children make war ;my soldiers are kids ".When a mate is killed ,he comments during the funeral:" he will sleep next to us,we 've simply moved his bed .He taunts the schoolteacher ,still teaching " our ancestors ,the Gallics ".The French soldiers try to maintain a friendly Relationship with the villagers,but the officer is clever enough to guess that they are weathercocks ,who will change their tack when the wind changes .

In the fifties ,it was not a simple war movie,but a somber meditation on a war lost in advance .

Claude Bernard-Aubert began his career with strong war movies;but from 1966 onwards with one exception ("L'Affaire Dominici" ,thanks to Gabin) it's downhill :"Le Facteur S'en Va -T-En Guerre" (which sometimes looks like a very bad spoof on "Patrouille Sans Espoir"),poor thrillers such as "L'Ardoise" or hopelessly stupid flicks ("Les Filles Du Régiment").

Judgment at Warsaw, 23 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A title borrowed from Bible (book of Jeremy).This is an unique movie among the propaganda movies which were made in those dark years :history-fi best describes its screenplay ,for it depicts events that are still to come,predating Nürnberg (and the movie which dealt with the trials).The ending is astounding ,as the judge leaves the verdict to all of us.

The screenplay is very intelligent since it follows a man's destiny since the end of WW1 and the doomed Traité De Versailles and explains WHY an embittered crippled man can turn into a Nazi.When the first world war is over ,Wilhem's (a sensational portrayal by Alexander Knox) fight has just begun:his fiancée Marja (a sensitive Marsha Hunt)feels it " so she walks out on me and makes me the town's laughingstock".

Admirable sequences : -The two women in the tall grass:Marja trying to learn what really happened to Anna.

-Karl at the ceremony :Wilhem,following Cain's and Joseph's brothers ' footsteps ,sends his own brother to a concentration camp,because he may endanger his career.

-Some may regret the romantic affair between Marja's daughter and Wilhem's nephew ,call it corny :but it gives the movie its apex: Willie ,walking down the Church aisles while throwing his Nazis emblems on the ground ,a scene you will always remember.

Vetting of vet, 22 September 2014

This Franco-Italian is generally looked upon as one of the poorest flicks in Fernandel's career.

Let's be fair:it begins quite well as a simple but funny comedy.A vet cures the animals but when he goes to the farm to care for a calving cow,he is asked to examine the whole family ,from the patriarch ("he's always coughing") to the youngest brat ;the butcher's wife brings him a leg of lamb just for a piece of (medical) advice.Although he insists he is not a physician ,all people around treats him as a true doctor .And when he (accidentally) heals a famous star,every one wants his consultation.To put the Medical Association off the track,all the patients are asked to bring their pet with them,and the "vet" is supposed to talk to the so called sick animal.Unfortunately a true (female)(physician has just arrived in town and she is not prepared to accept it.Add a hypochondriac rich countess and her unscrupulous nephew and the movie seems to be going in a good direction.

But when three socialites show up ,the movie degenerates ;these three women overplay ,so does Fernandel, and it is almost unbearable for a long while.

The screenplay becomes interesting again when the nephew learns that his dear auntie has just passed away;the return of the three actors :Sylva Koscina as the doctor,Ugo Tognazzi as the evil heir and Denise Grey as the "dead" dowager make up for the lead's tendency to ham it up.

It is not a masterpiece ,by a long shot.But it has its moments.

Nightmare (1964)
Vicariously killing., 21 September 2014

Released the same year as Aldrich's "hush hush sweet Charlotte" which it sometimes recalls, "nightmare" is a good effort in the enjoyable Hammer productions .

This is roughly a two-part screenplay;IMHO,the second one surpasses the first.It look be performed on stage and the final unexpected twist is worthy of Agatha Christie's celebrated "The mousetrap" .The Gothic atmosphere ,in Janet's desirable mansion ,gives the jitters."It will be alright" says the servant to the tormented young girl as an ominous wind begins to howl.

Superbly filmed in black and white,and without today's special effects which mar so many stories.

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