Reviews written by registered user
|10 reviews in total|
It is curious that, of all Rubinstein's prodigious output, both on vinyl & CD formats, The Rubinstein Collection - Volume 62 - The 1964 Moscow Concert - generally regarded as the pinnacle of his recorded music, should be remain absent from the Current Catalogues, at a time when almost all of the Volumes are available. Yahoo purport to have it available for $15.54, by way of download, but I have been unable to do this, in spite of all the preamble necessary to download this CD. Surely Naxos or Pearl could fill the gap? Equally, the Film, "L'Amour de la Vie" has been cruelly overlooked by the various companies. Surely IMDb can use their huge influence to try & correct this anomaly? Or maybe the BBC?
I read some comments about an abbreviated version and was fortunate to get a VHS of the BBC original. Not having seen the shortened copy, I don't think I will want to. When the BBC get it right, one can find gems like this production. A cast of little-known actors and all the better for it. Stephen Rea, so often portraying IRA terrorists, is a revelation playing against character. His Hogg is perfect - a kooky, paranoid nutcase. He plays the employer of Lorimer Black, the central character, with an over the top performance. Hugh Bonneville is the quintessence of the chinless wonder who manages to elicit sympathy whilst he abuses almost everybody with whom he come in touch. The social asides are caught perfectly and the gypsy family that Lorimer conceals from his smart associates is sympathetically portrayed, without resorting to pastiche. I wouldn't attempt to write a synopsis of this clever story. William Boyd is one of the best writers about today and Armadillo is one of his best novels. So often a great story is destroyed by directors who want to put their own stamp on the film - or Hollywood moguls who insist on miscasting. One has only to think of Andy McDowell in "4 Weddings" or Bruce Willis - as an Englishman - in "Bonfire of the Vanities". Or the absurdity of casting Michael Caine to reprise the role of David Niven (Bedtime Story) in the boring remake ("Dirty Rotten Bores") as a gentleman. Not so here. William Boyd wrote the screenplay and keeps exactly to his novel; and the BBC were wise enough to stay on the sidelines. For anyone wanting to see great cinema, look no further. At 3 hours, it might seem long (it went out on air in 3 one hour installments). But I never felt that it could benefit from cutting. It is riveting and reminds me of another great TV production (now on DVD) "A Very British Coup", which also ran for almost three hours. Compared with some of the pap that has been offered as cinema in recent years, this is an oasis in the wilderness. Maybe Boyd would now tackle "Any Human Heart" and, even better, "Restless". I could see Kristin Scott-Thomas up there as Eva. Question is when. One quibble. The music score drowns a lot of key dialogue. I am unsure if Boyd sanctioned this, but it is a common fault in the UK (particularly the comedies of the 1950s, where Stanley Black was used to emphasise a doorbell!) &, more pertinently, in films from the USA - where a deafening soundtrack seems to be mandatory. Or the prats who think that a voice over adds to our enjoyment of the Laurel & Hardy silent films. Watch "When Comedy Was King" - and cringe - as Hollywood wrecks your enjoyment of L+H in "Big Business". One has only to watch films from Europe to notice the effects of footsteps; a gasp or laughter. An orgasm does not need the Mantovani orchestra to tell us it might be exciting. That apart, I have just watched Armadillo again and it is truly a knock-out - and the music is totally unnecessary. The actors and the screenplay say it all. Thank you William Boyd. I am now going to fish out my hardback edition and read you again.
My father served in both World Wars and I never heard him swear. If his meal was not on the table on time, he might say "Confound it..." or, if he hit an unexpected set-back, he might say "Blast". Yet, in his book, "A Long Long Way", Sebastian Barry's main characters, in the trenches in Belgium, swear almost continuously, using all three *bleep* words - f,s & c. He also pointed out that the platoons were made up of soldiers from the same regiments. I never heard my father talk about WW1. He won the MC and his citation refers to his "extreme bravery in the face of enemy fire". I would love to have had a chance to talk with him about the war, but it was never mentioned. He was invalided out with shell-shock and had a piece of shrapnel lodged somewhere - again I was never told the precise location. Such was the tight lip attitude of serving officers who survived the trenches. Surprisingly, after a brief spell in the Civil Service, he re-joined the Army and served in India. Because he spoke fluent French & German, having spent a year at school in, of all places, Belgium, he was recalled sometime later & served on General de Gaulle's staff in London, doing liaison work with the French underground. We moved to Ireland, in 1948, where he spent the rest of his days. Quite recently an old friend of his, Cecil Lidell was mentioned in an article about his brother, Guy Lidell, a spy master.I remember Lidell, whom we called Little Cecil, and I also recall John Betjeman calling. He was interested in church architecture & the three of them use to visit a local Anglican church. William Boyd, possibly the best writer in the English language today, when discussing his latest novel "Restless" posed the question of what one might do if one found out that one's father had been a spy. I can only wonder! Particularly as my parents played bridge with both the Polish & Belgium ambassadors, who were neighbours. (Ireland's PM, Mr. de Valera, was regarded with suspicion by the British, particularly when he signed the Book of Condolences, at the German Embassy in Dublin, when Hitler committed suicide). Lots of local material for a spy? Alas, I shall never know, but I could always try and write a fictional story, just as William Boyd did. Some of the material is there. Such is the stuff of dreams.
I am presently reading "BAMBOO" by William Boyd & immediately ran to IMDb to see if there was any information on his disturbing filmed insights to bullying at school. Regrettably, as has been noted by many respondents, "Good and Bad at Games" has been consigned to the mothballs by Channel Four, which is strange, seeing that they have made Film Four free to air & show some good retrospective films. When compared with the crap that is shown recently - "Big Brother" - and similar pap, it would be salutary for a new generation to see some of the really good productions of the 1980s. I think of "Among Barbarians"; "The Happy Valley"; "Another Time, Another Place"; The "Country Matters" series of HE Bates short stories such as "The Little Farm" and think they still have the power to move and thrill. These were all gems, and never date. Boyd is probably the best chronicler of school days (Try "Dutch Girls") & makes "Tom Brown" look tame. In particular, he is spot on when he traces some of his schoolmates' careers after the monastic confinement of 10 years at a public school. He remarks that the only way to survive is to get out before the end. I did & know what he means, especially when I hear so many of my old school friends reminiscing, almost in tears, about the glory days when they scored "50 not out". All of the popular ones are comparative failures, many joining the army or navy and forever talking about the thrashings they got. No wonder so many are incapable of a human relationship with a woman & go to whores to recapture the joys of enemas; floggings & Castor oil!
I read the review, by Bill Slocum, and bought the DVD. What a let-down. Michael Caine has been constantly miscast by Hollywood, and to expect him to reprise the role that David Niven made so memorable, was doomed from the outset. They did the same with Joan Collins. Caine does best playing London, East-End Jewish barrow-boys - Alfie and Mona Lisa are good examples. To cast him as an English gentleman is farcical. But he is on the Hollywood social "A" List, according to himself; he has a good tailor and he plays by their rules. Steve Martin can be funny, but he is no Marlon Brando. For those who want to capture the essence of this story, nail down a copy of "Bedtime Story" - for a believable portrait of an English aristocrat and a stylish confidence trickster and that of an American chancer. Another gem of David Niven's was "The Best of Enemies" with Alberto Sordi as the Italian Commandant of a POW camp in Abyssinia in WWII. A Nice contrast of styles; the gentlemanly good manners and humour of Niven and the exasperation of Sordi. Unfortunately, it is not available on DVD; like Hot Millions; Laughter in Paradise; Toi le Venin; Becket;The Switchboard Operator and so many other gems of the 1950's, consigned to the vaults.
There was a spirited debate in these pages on the merits of Almodovar including a scene showing Penelope Cruz urinating. Zvot felt it was gratuitous titillation, and can one only wonder how he would have reacted if it had been a man, instead glamorous Penelope Cruz. Whatever, I would disagree. Almodovar is a director who seems to have a complete understanding of women, and how they react in stress situations. In the relative scene, he shows perfect understanding of the dilemma of Cruz. When she knocks at the door of her sister's apartment, she cannot understand why her sister is reluctant to let her in. She dismisses her, saying that she has to use the lavatory (her actual words are more earthy), and brushes past her. Her sister is trying to conceal the fact that her "dead" mother is in residence. Meanwhile the scene moves forward & we see Cruz sitting on the lavatory, obviously relieved. She then sniffs the air, in one of the film's best comic scenes, discovering, in the process, that her mother has been in the bathroom, farting, a habit both daughters recall vividly. The scene is hilarious. The sequence is perfect; believable and moves the story into a critical phase, Cruz's discovery that her mother is alive and well. Italian films, in particular those of Vittoria de Sica, regularly depict women stressed by their bladders. The resolution is almost always comic and perfectly in context. I can understand the negative reactions in the USA, where puritanism is still all too prevalent. Yet, even there, they managed,in "Fun with Dick & Jane" to show screen icon, Jane Fonda, sitting on the pot, chatting to George Segal. In this instance, it failed to add to anything to the story line.
Peter Sellers was always at his best in this type of local comedy. His randy Welsh librarian, frustrated with his dead-end job, has a part-time job as a reporter on the local newspaper, doing reviews of the local repertory theatre. We see his dreary home life; his long-suffering wife - a lovely performance from Virginia Maskell; his interchanges with his hypochondriac neighbour - Kenneth Griffiths. Enter the glamorous Mai Zetterling, wife of the local big-wig (Raymond Huntley)and Seller's life is catapulted into confusions. A chance of promotion - in exchange for sexual favours with Mai - catapults him into a sequence of very funny situations. One, a confrontation with an avant-garde poet/playwright - a beautiful cameo role by Richard Attenborough - is hilarious and the whole film progresses at a very satisfying pace, never descending in to farce. It would be nice to have it available in DVD format. It is a much better example of some of Seller's work, such as the farcical Pink Panther froth.
I saw "Secrets and Lies" recently and, watching Phyllis Logan, was reminded of this little war-time story, a real gem of a kind that the English do so well. Set in the north of England, it concerns a liaison between a local girl and an Italian prisoner-of-war. The gentle romance; the knowledge that she will be subjected to the disapprobation of her family and the locals, adds to the build-up to the inevitable, sad, conclusion. It is a lovely story, shot in black and white, in bleak conditions, capturing the impossibility of a tender relationship, doomed by the circumstance of war. There must be a case for re-issuing these well acted TV dramas on DVD.
I saw this when I was 7 years old and immediately fell in love with
Lana Turner. 60 years later the film is slightly dated, and my
infatuation faded as I saw some of her later "turkeys". But I disagree
with the commentator who found Van Heflin's performance unconvincing. I
felt him compelling, his obvious intellectual superiority to Robert
Taylor giving nice counterpoint.Taylor, whom I often find wooden, acted
well and the film is satisfying.
Maybe it is not in the same class as some of Humphrey Bogart's of that era, but there are moments, and Edward Arnold is impressive, particularly his repeated address to Taylor as "Thief". The story is convincing and well paced. The ending reflects the mood in the USA of that period:- that "Crime Does Not Pay"
I saw this film on TV5 last night. As it is a Swiss TV station, there are French sub-titles, which I find useful as I am trying to improve my spoken French. This is a genre that the French do particularly well. A young boy Jules (Benoit Magimel), living with his grandparents (Charles Aznavour & Francoise Arnoul - a blast from the past),in the Loire Valley, is seduced by a local child of nature - Evylene (Sophie Carle - a lovely understated performance). They go fishing together, she shows him where to look; they walk; talk; her overt sexuality confuses him. He withdraws to safer ground - family. And here again, the French have that wonderful facility for showing the gentle interaction of different age groups; simple family meals; gentle teasing. The local dance; the bullying of a simple boy; the jealous reaction of the rejected Evylene - are all portrayed without resorting to Hollywood artifice - the intrusive music that distracts & irritates. The scenes, when his parents, living in distant Milan, come to visit are very poignant as is the scene with his father in the hospital. The final parting, as Jules sits in the bus, followed by Eveylene on her bicycle are very moving. I found this film most satisfying & would love to see it again. Maybe in DVD format.