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One of the greatest British films of its period. Carol Reed directed
this version of A J Cronin's novel in a free-wheeling, naturalistic
style that belies its literary source. It's consistently cinematic in a
way British cinema wasn't until the late fifties or early sixties. It's
about coal-mining, (and the coal-mining sequences are superb), but it's
also about politics and education and class and its various themes run
seamlessly through the picture.
Michael Redgrave, in an early performance, is remarkably good as the idealistic young miner who educates himself and becomes a teacher but sells out and marries a heartless guttersnipe brilliantly played by a young Margaret Lockwood. Emlyn Williams is the spiv she really loves and Edward Rigby and Nancy Price are both superb as Redgrave's parents. In terms of style it's a much more primitive picture than some of Reed's later work such as "The Third Man" and "The Fallen Idol" but that works in its favour. This is a raw, highly energized picture and it's very moving.
"The Ones Below" is a decent enough little chamber piece on the perils of parenting, particularly if you suspect the neighbors downstairs covet your new-born baby. It marks the directorial debut of writer David Farr, (he wrote "The Night Manager" for television), and it's nicely done but in the end it's just too unpleasant to be entertaining. Basically a four-hander and well played by Clemence Poesy as the new mother convinced her neighbors are up to no good and by David Morrissey and Laura Birn as the neighbors, (personally I would have moved out five minutes after they moved in). It's let down only by Stephen Campbell Moore as Poesy's partner. Considering his outing in a similar role in the nasty little horror picture "The Children" some years back I would suggest Mr Campbell Moore get the snip sooner rather than later.
Why this Jerry Lewis comedy isn't better known or more widely available is a mystery since it's a classic and as consistently funny as anything he did. Here the slapstick verges on the surreal while its 'thriller' plot is virtually irrelevant. As well as starring, Jerry wrote, produced and directed and if it never amounts to anything more than a series of sketches they are, at least, very funny. It's certainly a movie ripe for rediscovery that, for now at least, will have to settle for ultimate cult status.
Jerry Thorpe may have been something of a lightweight director but even lightweights can hit pay-dirt once in awhile and "Day of the Evil Gun", which he made in 1968, is a fine and somewhat unusual western. The story is not dissimilar to such earlier westerns as "The Searchers" and "Two Rode Together", (two men searching for a woman abducted by the Apaches), but it takes a few diversions along the way. The men in question are played by veterans Glenn Ford and Arthur Kennedy and the slightly grizzled cast also includes Dean Jagger, Paul Fix and John Anderson as well as a young Dean Stanton sans the Harry. It's no classic, I'll grant you but it's sufficiently different to be of interest and fans of the western won't be disappointed.
At the beginning of "Teorema", in a wordless, sepia-tinged montage, we
are introduced to almost all the main characters in Pasolini's film.
It's a clever device, almost Hitchcockian, and it could be the
beginning of a thriller, though being a Pasolini film we know this
won't be a thriller. The character who doesn't appear in this montage
is played by Terence Stamp but suddenly there he is right in the middle
of things and his affect on everyone is profound. Who is he and why is
he here? It's never made clear, of course. Although a very physical
presence his role is allegorical. Is he an angel, (there is a strong
religious element in the picture), or a devil or simply a seducer since
he does seem to have sex with everyone in the family, male and female,
including the maid who ends up levitating and performing miracles. He
certainly affords everyone a form of release, turning their lives
upside down and with it their bourgeoisie pretensions. If we are going
to tear down the bourgeoisie we may as well do it with sex; it's a lot
more fun than beating them to death.
Stamp, of course, remains the most beautiful thing on screen though Silvana Mangano as the mother gives him a run for his money. No-one really has to act; all they simply have to do is respond to Pasolini's camera and, with no real narrative structure, that's fairly easy. Sex may be Pasolin's weapon of choice but the film is quite clearly a Marxist 'fantasy' and is also very obviously the work of a gay director. I'm not so sure anymore if it's the masterpiece I thought it was all those years ago bu it stands up remarkably well and remains one of the great Italian films of its decade.
Geraldine Page finally picked up a long overdue Oscar as the cantankerous widow longing to see her hometown of Bountiful one more time before she dies in Peter Masterson's fine and understated adaptation of Horton Foote's play "The Trip to Bountiful". Foote himself did the screenplay and there's really very little to it but Foote was a master of making the small, inconsequential things of life seem important. Unfortunately there is nothing small about Page's performance; this is acting with a capital A. Never the most subtle of performers, Page deploys every mannerism in the Method Actor's Handbook pulling out all the stops in a shameless bid to finally get that Oscar. The best performance comes from John Heard as the son torn between a nagging wife, (an excellent Carlin Glynn), and an overpowering mother. It's just a pity we don't see more of him
I normally don't watch sequels when I haven't seen the original but in the case of "Yossi" I thought I would make an exception. It's a sequel to "Yossi and Jagger" and it takes up the story of Yossi, an Israeli doctor, after the death of his lover, Jagger, who was killed when they were soldiers in the Lebanon. Other than providing some kind of happy ending for Yossi this time round this seems to me a somewhat pointless film despite being very well written, directed and acted. As gay 'romances' go it's certainly up-front and honest and hardly sentimental but the 10 year gap between the two films gives this the feeling of an afterthought. Nevertheless, it's still a welcome addition to LGBT cinema if only for treating both its characters and its audience with some degree of intelligence.
The movie may be a camp classic, ("Christina, bring me the axe"; "No wire hangers...EVER!"), and it is terrible but who can deny Faye Dunaway's tour-de-force. She may not always look that much like Crawford, (Dunaway never looked like anyone other than Dunaway), but her performance goes way beyond mimicry. I have no idea how true any of it is; we have to take Christina's word for it but we don't have to rely on this to know just how tough a cookie, (and how big a bitch?), Joan actually was and Joan certainly gets into her skin. Unfortunately the movie never aims high enough and we are very much in "Valley of the Dolls" territory here. Four writers may have been two or three too many and the director Frank Perry was probably not the right man for this kind of material. Still, he managed to get a couple of remarkable performances from his two Christinas, (Diana Scarwid and 10 year old Mara Hobel), though the men, especially Steve Forrest, are mostly terrible. It certainly enjoyable both as a piece of over-the-top trash and as an example of a very fine actress going a long way to making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. It's also a classic cult movie.
In Kazakhstan life is hard and childhood, as we know it, is virtually
non-existent. Children and adults alike do what they can to get by.
Emir Baigazin's remarkable. virtually plot less film is divided into a
number of chapters, each one examining boys struggling with the pain of
the everyday and a life, if a life it is, far removed from what we in
the West are used to.
I don't know if any of the 'actors' are professionals but the performances Baigazin draws from his mostly young cast are extraordinary. There is no music score and little dialogue, (which is just as well as the subtitles on the print I saw were poor). It is, of course, deeply depressing, as grim a picture of childhood as the cinema has given us yet filmed with a startling purity. This is only Baigazin's second film but, if given the distribution it cries out for, it should establish him as a major player in world cinema.
Freddie Francis won a much deserved Oscar for his superb black and white, widescreen cinematography on this 1960 screen version of "Sons and Lovers" which was directed by another great cameraman, Jack Cardiff. It was a huge success in its day, tying with "The Apartment" for the New York Film Critics' Best Picture prize but apart from Francis' cinematography it has very little to recommend it. This is a sanitized, unbearably literate treatment of Lawrence's novel with a hugely miscast Dean Stockwell in the crucial role of Paul Morel, Lawrence's alter-ego. The American Stockwell just about manages the accent but makes Morel a soulless, spoiled brat. As his coal-miner father Trevor Howard also struggles but, as always, Wendy Hiller is superb as the clinging, overly possessive mother and an Oscar-nominated Mary Ure isn't bad as Clara Dawes. It may have felt reasonably daring in 1960 but Lawrence deserves better than this kid-gloves approach.
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