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At a time when catholic church is involved in numerous controversies which have distanced followers from this religion, the success of the Russian film 'Ostrov'/'The Island' should be heralded as the breath of fresh air. It brings home the message that it is only a religion which can bring spiritual succor to human beings. The involvement of its leading player Pyotr Mamonov is nothing short of a miracle. Initially, he was reluctant to act in this film. However, at a later date he was convinced by a religious authority that such a role would bring him closer to religion. It is with great poise that he played the role of a holy monk who is afflicted by guilt as something unpleasant happened to him during second world war. In Russia, there is hardly anybody from the old generation who has not heard his rock songs which spoke about freedom. Apart from the rich message about man's need to embrace spirituality, Ostrov succeeds as the locations where it was shot are simply extraordinary. Filmed in the province of Karelia, Ostrov boasts of some of the finest locations ever filmed to portray an orthodox monastery. Past experience has shown that religion and cinema haven't been good mates. Russian film 'Ostrov' is an absolute exception to this rule. It is solely for this reason that it must be watched by all and sundry.
It is not possible for anybody to prevent films from getting negative publicity or becoming famous for 'wrong reasons'. French director Alain Jessua directed one important film in his long career which could easily belong to the above mentioned category. It is called 'Traitement De Choc'/Shock Treatment.For absolute puritans, the appearance of French actors Alain Delon and Annie Girardot in some nude scenes might be a cause of concern but for average viewers they provide a healthy dose of voyeurism which is something that is craved by all people. However, the true essence of a film cannot simply rest on the presence of just few sex scenes. This is precisely why a film like Shock Treatment is revolutionary as it was the first film in the history of cinema which heralded the use of human beings as guinea pigs for sadistic pleasures of a few denizens of a selfish capitalist society. Director Alain Jessua chose to highlight the sad plight of impoverished Portuguese boys who were deceived into selling their own bodies when they came to France in search of a better living. Shock treatment is not a horror film but some scenes are not for viewers with a weak heart. Lastly, if you have been enjoying actor Alain Delon's performances as a leading man then 'Shock Treatment' has an element of surprise in it. Watch it in order to explore it with your own eyes.
Franco-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard continues to be an enigma.It is not only the choice of the topics of his films but also the way he films them makes him a puzzling director.'Hélas,Pour Moi'/'Oh,woe is me' is one such film which brings forth the enigmatic as well as recondite nature of his film making techniques.In terms of conventional customs prevalent in the world of cinema,this film makes very little or no sense at all despite having taken the services of some good actors including French super star Gérard Depardieu.The entire film is imbued with a plethora of words which transport viewers to a world of poetry.However,this verbosity becomes an impediment to the film's narrative flow as there is an evident lack of story.It is not so long ago that this same director favored a beginning,a middle and an end in the same film.However, Oh,woe is me suffers enormously from the lack of these elements. This is a big price for a film to pay as despite beautiful locations including trains and ships,this very film has failed to communicate any message to viewers.This is something which every viewer would take with oneself when this film is watched.
Italian director Gianni Amelio is a true filmmaker who is absolutely committed to his art.It is this serious as well as loyal commitment to the real cause of cinema which has led him to make a unique place for himself as a filmmaker whose stories are rooted in culture and civilizations in which they take place.Whether it is Albania or China,films by director Gianni Amelio always make a lot of sense as they never neglect the local stories for reaching the global audiences.The scale on which Gianni Amelio shoots his films is grand.'Lamerica' is an enduring proof of the grandeur of his vision.In this film,he depicts the mean nature of some human beings for whom the other persons'sufferings are a source of personal aggrandizement.There is also a lot of authenticity as Lamerica is based on the real story about the collapse of Albania after the end of a very long communist rule.How an affluent culture is blindly followed by a less fortunate culture has also been vividly described in Lamerica. This is exactly an element which makes the whole story palatable to audiences' tastes.
Apart from his feature films,Italian director Roberto Rossellini was famous for some of his films which were made for television.It was in these films that he told the stories of some of the greatest philosophers who took birth on earth. Among these films one can mention the names of films about Blaise Pascal,Saint Augustine,René Descartes and Socrates.The film 'Socrates' is not a biography per se.It does not show all the important events which took place in the life of Socrates.It is an important film not only for viewers of cinema and television but also for admirers of philosophy.As a filmmaker,apart from 'Socrates', Rossellini reveals a lot about the times in which the great philosopher flourished.One gets to see the state of Athens when Socrates was condemned.The film 'Socrates' was not shot in Greece but most viewers wouldn't be able to recognize that the locations used in the film are in Spain.Locations are of less importance if the cast is good.This is one reason why actor Jean Sylvère has done a great job.He is perfect in his role as 'Socrates'.He looks so convincing as if the real Greek philosopher is in our midst.This is one of the main points of this film.
One has to just think of a great film featuring a war and a train would automatically come to mind. While Czech cinema gave its immortal classic, 'Closely watched trains' directed by the legendary director Jiri Menzel to the admirers of cinema, Polish cinema also had its fair share of films depicting war where trains have played a major role. 'Ludzie Z Pociagu'/'People on a train' is one brilliant example of a war film featuring innocent people whose lives depended a lot on the running of a train. In this film, director Kazimierz Kutz depicts how an act of heroism involving the seizure of a gun is responsible in allowing the viewers to get a better idea of the microcosm of Polish society. A motley group of ordinary polish citizens is depicted which include smugglers, a widow, a pair of young lovers, a young boy who has lost two brothers in war etc. The film begins with a senior rail employee explaining the importance of trains which stop even in a remote station in Poland to his female assistant. Although it has a lot of suspense, 'People on a train' doesn't ignore to highlight its humanist concern as it shows how people of different beliefs and values can team up to defeat their common enemy. Actor Jerzy Blok who plays the role of station master Kalinski emerges as a clear winner as it is solely through his sheer genius and patience, innocent lives are saved. 'People on a train' has been shot entirely on location in Kuriany, a remote village in Bialystok province.
Most people associate war with suffering as no war is devoid of untold misery.It is for this reason most works of art are created with a serious approach in order to understand human suffering which has taken place during the times of war. However, there are some exceptions too. These works have approached war in a lighter vein as the idea in these works has been to reveal the strange mechanisms of human mind. Polish director Andrzej Munk's classic film 'Eroica' is one such work of art wherein war is treated from a comical point of view. His film does its best to provide good laughter through its two sketches which depict Polish people who were caught in war when Nazi Germany attacked Poland. In the first sketch, 'Scherzo Alla Polacca', heroism is completely avoided by an innocent army man who decides that he would like to live at all costs. This episode is funny as it shows how a common man is ready to pay any price in order to stay alive including pardoning his wife who was involved in an affair with an army general. The second sketch, "Ostinato Lugubre" doesn't have any trace of slapstick humor but is able to garner some laughter by depicting amusing antics of a group of captured Polish army officers who hanker continually after cigarettes and food. This episode is more serious in nature due to its depiction of two deaths. However, some viewers might have a good laugh at the vain efforts made by these officers to get hold of glory when there is nothing to be had. Eroica seems to suggest that heroism might be a virtue for many but there are many who don't want to make a mess of their lives by pursuing it in vain. However, the danger is that the voices of this silent majority is not heard. It is hoped that after watching 'Eroica', viewers would change their perceptions about this silent minority.
Russian literature continues to be celebrated as well as read in large numbers as it has always provided a fertile ground as well as ample opportunities to different filmmakers in order to make serious films which reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the human mind. There is hardly any educated person who has not books by great Russian writers such as Chekov, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Tolstoy and Turgenev. Most talented directors working in the field of cinema have also adapted Russian novels for their films. The continual filming of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's classic novel 'Crime and Punishment' by directors from major film making nations is a proof of this trend. According to a rough estimate more than 40 film adaptations of 'Crime and Punishment' have been made since 1909. However, this particular film is considered the best rendition of Dostoyevsky's existential ideas due to its professional filmmaking techniques coupled with humane as well as sensible assimilation of all of this novel's major ideas in an ingenious screenplay for which director Lev Kulidzhanov collaborated with Nikolai Figurosky. Both as a film as well as a novel 'Crime and punishment' is extremely relevant to the humanity in the troubled times in which we are living especially if one were to consider 'money' as the root cause of all human suffering. Human suffering has not changed at all as even in the times depicted in the film innocent souls like Raskolnikov and Sonia had to suffer immensely as they lead lives of poverty. The eccentricities of human nature have also been vividly portrayed in this film as each character exhibits a peculiar form of behavior which might not be compatible with that of another character. Apart from being a virulent critique of money, 'crime and punishment' strongly presents the idea that for every crime there is bound to be a punishment. There is hardly any crime for which no punishment is given. All crimes carry punishments with them. This is the message which viewers of this film have to take regardless of their liking for it or not.
Polish film 'Zaklete Rewiry' was produced in 1975 by the famous film studio TOR. This Janusz Majewski film is also known as 'Hotel Excelsior'. It chronicles the professional as well as emotional life of a young boy Roman Boryczko who is able to make a formidable standing in hotel business through hard work. However, adverse circumstances at work force him to realize that hard work is simply not enough to reach on the top in the 'dog eat dog' world of a service oriented hotel industry. The unique thing about 'Zaklete Rewiry' is the filming of a large chunk of its major portions in the restaurant of a grand hotel where some eccentric characters come to eat food and make merry. Many of these figures help viewers to understand the mysteries of human nature at a close distance as their eccentricities throw light about the vagaries of human nature. One needs to watch how a baron comes in search of sexual adventures by targeting the young Boryszko. With actor Marek Kondrat giving one of his best performances as a young hotel industry professional, this Czech-Polish co production has been brilliantly shot by DOP Miroslav Ondricek.
'The man with three coffins' is considered to be an important film in the history of South Korean cinema. It is for the first time that a film shows its maturity by nicely depicting serious themes of alienation, death and isolation. Its director Lee Jang Ho is a veteran of South Korean cinema who received formal training in film making by working with another maverick director Shin Shan OK. The film has also its covert political aspect which was not highlighted to a large extent. However, it would be easy for viewers familiar with DMZ to recognize its presence. The portrayal of sexual encounters has always been a main ingredient of many a South Korean films and this film doesn't attempt to be an exception to that rule. However, it makes a separate identity for itself by allowing its hero to refuse sexual overtures. Lastly, filmed as a meditative road movie which takes its protagonist to different regions of South Korea, 'The man with three coffins' is filmed in red which provides a timeless quality to the film.
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