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Lola (1989)
10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
A Fine Movie, Unjustly Neglected., 17 November 2007

It is too bad this fine Mexican movie has not gotten more attention in the U.S. It is a finely made study of parental conflict.

Set in Mexico City after the disastrous 1985 earthquake, "Lola" follows a young single mother's conflicted life with her five- year old daughter. Although Lola adores her child, she is trapped in a dire economic situation. She survives by participating in an illegal street vending business. And she seeks a life of pleasure, while at the same time she tries to fulfill her obligations to her child.

The actress who plays Lola is superb. She is the center of the movie and carries it brilliantly.

The DVD has an excellent Special Feature with the Director and actors that greatly helps in understanding the movie.

I got this movie at our library, but it is well worth purchasing as well.

11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Fine Soviet Era Historical Drama., 4 July 2007

First, note that this 1975 drama is now available on DVD in Region 1. I was fortunate to find it at our public library.

The plot summary here does an excellent job of describing the story. Briefly, the story centers on the mutiny by a number of Russian army officers who tried-unsuccessfully- to overthrown the tyrannical and absolutist Tsarist regime in Russia in 1825. Called the Decembrists, these men were highly influenced by the 18th century European Enlightenment and specially by the rise of ideas of constitutional government in other American and European states.

They failed miserably to change the Russian government. All were captured. Indeed, the threat they posed confirmed the new Tsar, Nicholas I, in his reactionary attitude. He and his regime spent the next 30 years eradicating any semblance of reform in his regime.

Interestingly, this film was made under the auspices of the Soviet government in the mid-1970s.{ That same regime also allowed the making of the best version of Tolstoy's "War and Peace" a few years earlier.} The Soviet government seem to have identified the Decembrists as precursors to their own successful revolution nearly a century later in 1917-1918, even those those precursors were aristocrats.

The movie is really divided into two parts. First, it recounts the unsuccessful uprising and its immediate after-effects, and then tells of the exile to the far reaches of Siberia for those mutineers who were not hanged. At this point the story shifts to emphasize the wives of these officers who followed their husbands into distant exile.

This is an excellent film for those interested in Russian history. And it combines the historical significance of the revolt with the effects on the private lives of these officers and their families.

Mr. Christmas (2005) (V)
A wonderful film, 30 March 2007

I found this DVD by happenstance at our library's children room and liked it so much I bought the DVD through Amazon. {Note that this film is more a television special than a feature film. It is only 56 minutes long.}The DVD has an excellent background commentary by Beth Brickell, the film-maker and some wonderful out-takes, of which more below.

The film is set in the last three months of 1941 leading up to Christmas day. The setting is Eureka Springs, a real small town in northernmost Arkansas, near the Pea Ridge National Park- a battlefield in the Civil War. Eureka Springs has maintained itself as a Victorian town with some wonderful period architecture.

The movie concerns itself with a young family, a husband and wife in their 20s and their two adorable young daughters about ages 5 and 6.

The film's first merit is its glorious photography that beautifully captures the town and home interiors. {I know nothing about filming movies, but I know what I like. The photographer has some interesting commentary on the DVD for those interested in the technical aspects.}

Second, for those interested in Americana, this film rates a 10 of 10 for its attention to period detail. From Sears, Roebucks catalogues to beautiful period automobiles, the movie puts you back to an earlier and simpler America. Real newspapers and radio recordings provide even more authenticity. I have seen few big-production movies that have done as good a job of putting me in another time and place.

{Personal note: Joel, the father, goes to a Firetown store to try to get Carol Lee a bike. My mother, then just out of high school, worked as a secretary at a Firestone store in Ohio at the very same time. I was born nine months later in Setember 1942!}

The growing friction in the Pacific and the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor provide an historic backdrop to the young family's struggle to make it in an Arkansas that was still in the Depression. The young father is lucky to have a job at all, though it pays only $16 a week. One-in- three Arkansas men were still unemployed at the beginning of World War II. The film is excellent too in juxtaposing the small domestic story of the family's struggles with the global background of America's entering the world stage-however unwillingly.

The next bonus is the two local girls who play the young daughters. There are adorable. I have seen few Hollywood child actors who are as appealing as these two.

Abigail Kinslow plays the younger, "Babby", a proper young Southern lady already.

The older girl, "Carol Lee", is also played by a local girl, Ireland Rose Maddox, whose in my view steals the movie. She wants a bike for Christmas, thinking her tricycle is for "babies". Her little sister will accept whatever she gets. But Carol Lee is heart set on a bike from Santa and will settle for nothing little. This wish and her father's efforts to satisfy it provide the plot.

As played by Ireland Rose Maddox Carol Lee is a treasure. The out-takes showing Ireland Rose acting like Ireland Rose rather than her character Carol Lee are priceless. This is a little girl who knows her own mind ! I have a grand-daughter who is similar. She drives her parents nuts, but she is great for a grandparent.

As Ms. Brickell makes clear in her commentary, Ireland Rose almost made her regret decision not to employ a trained child actor. Ireland Rose largely "acted" when and how she chose. Fortunately however, the result is that the two girls' naturalness is one of the film's prime assets, especially for those jaded by Hollywood's well-trained little robots.

This is not a film for those addicted to Hollywood "production values". Rather, it is in the best sense a work of craftsmanship. Filmed largely with local help and local talent, it shows how modern technology now allows film-making to expand beyond Hollywood's formulas. The film is clearly a labor of love and has a personal intimacy that transcends any defiencies in costly "production values" that a big-budget movie would have had.

I heartily recommend buying the DVD. A good investment that will double your pleasure in watching the film.

9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
An excellent example of WWII Propaganda films, 17 March 2007

For we amateur historians this early WWII American propaganda film is a treasure for its insights into attitudes about the German conquest of Europe.

Among the first of a long line of American propaganda films, it was actually filmed on Vancouver Island in Canada, because of its similarity to the Norwegian landscape. Real British and Canadian commandos were used to play the soldiers, both British and German. {The British and Canadians who had been at war for over two years were eager to assist the newly arrived Americans becoming involved}. The cast and crew stayed at the famous Empress Hotel in Victoria, about 10 miles from the filming site.

The script was adopted from a story by C.S. Forester, the famous British novelist of naval and maritime stories. The script was done by Irwin Shaw who would become a noted American novelist.

The film is probably too idealistic in its portrayal of good-hearted Europeans rising up against their Nazi conquerors. Only after the war did Europeans concoct an heroic resistance. The vast majority at the time however passively accepted German occupation. And for good reason. The Germans took brutal reprisals against any sign of resistance. Unlike in the movie, most conquered peoples kept their heads down and waited for the Allied armies to save them. Nonetheless, the film probably reassured American audiences that Europeans were eagerly awaiting to help liberate the continent from Nazi oppressors.

Btw, I had the opportunity to discuss the making of the movie with Ann Carter, who at age 6 played "Solveig", the daughter of Paul Muni's character. I have added some of her recollections in the comments section.

Blaine in Seattle, U.S.A.