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- learning foreign languages (I speak English, German, Czech and a little Italian. I dream to learn French and Spanish),
- travelling (I have visited most European countries and the Middle East),
The celebrities I like are:
- James Caviezel,
- Peter O'Toole,
- Sian Phillips,
- Maggie Smith,
- Judi Dench,
- William Hurt,
- Valentina Cortese,
- Monica Bellucci
- Brendan Gleeson
- Kevin Costner
- Gerard Depardieu
- Helen Mirren
- Russel Crowe
- Bruno Ganz
- Juliane Kohler
- Vanessa Redgrave
- Sean Bean
- Derek Jacobi
The late celebrities I like are:
- Greta Garbo,
- Romy Schneider,
- Giulietta Masina,
- Anna Magnani,
- John Gilbert,
- Richard Harris,
- Richard Basehart,
- Marcello Mastroianni,
- Alec Guinness,
- Annie Rosar,
- Anthony Quinn,
- Clarke Gable,
- Vivien Leigh,
- Claudette Colbert,
- Ingrid Bergman.
My favorite directors are:
- Franco Zeffirelli,
- Federico Fellini,
- Roberto Rossellini,
- Luchino Visconti
- Vittorio De Sica,
- Michelangelo Antonioni (here Italians rule!)
- Ridley Scott,
- Kevin Reynolds,
- Robert Wise,
- Cecil B DeMille,
- Joseph L Mankiewicz,
- Francois Truffaut,
- Claude Sautet,
- Mervyn LeRoy,
- William Wyler,
- Julien Duvivier,
- Mel Gibson.
One of the genres I like most are epic films. The best ones for me are:
- THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
- BEN HUR (both silent and sound)
- QUO VADIS?
- KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
- CLEOPATRA (1934 and 1963)
- THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
- JESUS OF NAZARETH
- THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
- HELEN OF TROY
Therefore, I like Cecil B DeMille whom I consider a genius of biblical films.
I also love old classical dramas, the best one of all I consider QUEEN CHRISTINA by Rouben Mamoulian with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert.
A movie that had an impact on my life was BROTHER SUN SISTER MOON by Franco Zeffirelli.
Besides, I am a fan of some silent films. These are the ones I saw and liked very much:
- FLESH AND THE DEVIL
- THE SUNRISE
- THE LAST LAUGH
- BIG PARADE
- A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS
- THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE
- THE KING OF KINGS
Among psychological movies and specific interpretations of the world, Fellini is no. 1. Although I don't agree with his vision of the world, I love his movies from the 1950s, including LE NOTTI DI CABIRIA and like some of the 1960s and 1970s, like LA DOLCE VITA or GIULIETTA DEGLI SPIRITI. OTTO E MEZZO (8 1/2 is also worth consideration as a great work). But as far as this theme is concernced, I am very much interested in Italian Neorealism, resembled most in GERMANIA ANNO ZERO and ROMA CITTA APERTA.
I don't like science fiction movies and I don't watch many horrors, however some of them are worth consideration.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Rich in Message, Rich in Meaning, Rich in Mel Gibson's Style
Can you do something crazy? Can you endure the pain of being mocked and feel determined to go your way? No matter if you hesitate with the answer or not, here is a film you really should see.
Mel Gibson with his great comeback after 10 years is far from 'attentive exhibitionism' and from the very start, he calls our attention to the hero of his story who managed to put a little bit of the world tearing itself apart back together." Yes, unique story rich in meaning and message where the inner world of the director seems to correspond to the inner world of the protagonist, Desmond Doss, as Robin Collin pointed out a story of an outcast finding redemption through superhuman levels of suffering."
PROTAGONIST. Matt Zoller Seitz in his review on the film memorably observed that HACKSAW RIDGE is the movie which is actually 'at war with itself.' Following this track of argumentation, we can say that Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) embodies that contradiction. His inner convictions, his upbringing place him at war with the world around, arouse incredible dilemmas in him. The fight of the inside that he undertakes from the start is captivating. As a son of a desperate WWI veteran Tom (Hugo Weaving) who himself openly expresses bitterness of war and disappointment that arises from serving his country, Desmond fights with the haunting presence of his father's psyche within himself (though he cannot win completely) and develops his own convictions based on Faith and God's commandments, namely: Thou shalt not kill" The picture of Cain killing Abel that hangs in his house (also mentioned in Frances Doss's book) imprints a powerful trace in his memory. Innocent, genuine, physically weak but spiritually strong, he goes to serve the country. How? Without any weapon but medical stuff to protect life. In short, you remain a great human being even if you are placed, either by coincidence or some destined fate, in the worst hell imaginable. But what a way to the top .Consider mainstay aspect of climbing.
WRONG JUDGMENTS: A young man who initially evolves mockery rather than respect and rejection rather than acceptation personifies wrong judgments that people rush to indoctrinate and later find themselves in rather shameful finale. Mel Gibson, when taking about his film in one of the interviews, memorably stated that he himself wonders if he could have that much faith that would enable him to crawl into a battle, to enemy fire without the weapon just to save other people's lives." What could drive this young man to handle that? Perhaps, one scene may sheds light on this aspect of courage that, as the film follows, absorbs us. After Smitty, his friend dies on Hacksaw Ridge and all meaning seems to have lost all meaning, Desmond asks God What is it you want of me?" That scene most powerfully speaks to mind and soul: the profound and humble question of his existence is directed to God. Andrew Garfield does a splendid job as Desmond portraying his courage combined with seemingly retreating position, his openness to help combined with delusively reclusive solitude. Another powerful moments that Garfield handles with exceptional skill are the scenes when he justifies his convictions. The reactions around him are mesmerizing.We clearly see this clash between what the world could truly be and what the world actually is like depending on whether more and more people look deep down to their conscience. Seitz nicely mentions this saying that they can feel the truth of what Doss is saying. But they can't imagine the world being anything other than what it is, a place ruled by brute force and cruelty."
OTHER CAST: Mel Gibson's film can really boast wonderful cast that make the story vivid and place it within a nicely framed whole. The one that first comes to mind is Vince Vaughn, excellent in the role of Captain Howell. Mel Gibson states clearly in one interview that he inhabits the character" and Robbie Collin labels his performance as his most roundly appealing" in at least a decade. He is brute to those boys but not without reason; he trains them and prepares them to the worst horror they will experience. Yet, as others, he is too absorbed by wrong judgments. Luke Bracey is very memorable as Smitty, a character who develops a profound relationship with the protagonist though, at first, he feels the superiority of his own looks and skills.
TERESA PALMER: As much as the second half of the movie emphasizes the Okinawa events and is, undeniably, a war movie, the majority of its first part is a love story. The beautiful Dorothy that Desmond meets by chance in hospital having saved a man's life after the automobile accident, is one of the most powerful and pure depictions of a woman in film. Gibson refer to her warmth. Their scenes (Dorothy and Desmond's) though naive at certain moments, are the most pleasant, innocent scenes between a man and a woman. She does a wonderful job in the film not resorting to sweetness yet simultaneously, not losing pure appeal. The scenes echo Gibson's style as well, particularly the moment they climb the rock and kiss Kudos to cinematographer Simon Duggan. The psychological aspect is striking here...Desmond does his best, at the same time struggling not to be like his father.
'Mel Gibson managed to make a film about family, faith, love and forgiveness all put the test in an arena of violent conflict' (Peter Travers). HACKSAW RIDGE is another great gift for cinema of today. In times when war is raging in many places of the world and talks of peace seem to be mere words in vain, such a hero speaks to our Times. Don't give up to do something crazy for the world if you are with God and SAVE human life NOT KILL.
Dark Victory (1939)
Their Victory Over the Dark...
This adaptation of George Emerson Brewer's play stands out not only as a typical tearjerker of Hollywood's golden age but also as a terrific depiction of truly brilliant performances from the cast. Edmund Goulding's direction proves exceptional vitality and dynamism in his rapport with great stars of the type, namely Bette Davis in the lead.
Her portrayal of the character leaves no one disappointed. Even the most pretentious viewers find something for themselves in her magnetic depiction of contrasts throughout. The first contrast appears in the title where something negative goes with something positive. We discover that contradiction in her character where sorrow blends with rejoicing, gay youthfulness with reflective decline. We get to know her as a young, lively lady who seems to experience life in its fullness. Mind you her scenes in which she occurs to involve all the people around her within the frame of her attention, within her world. It is surely not the moment when she is to hear about tenderness and peace that can be found within oneself. She is the embodiment of passions. And when the sorrow and fear caused by the illness appear in her life, immediately a man appears in her life, a man who treats her, a man she comes to love... Paradoxically, they gain that victory over the dark thanks to love that illumines even the darkest aspects of human life. This love also wins over other substitutes, represented namely here by Michael (played by Humphrey Bogart).
Bette Davis and George Brent are simply excellent in their scenes. You notice memorable chemistry between them and the overall feeling of pity combined with never ending hope for the better. While she is a sort of person that does not seem to submit easily and appears to keep on fighting till the very end, he is a calm companion of her troubled soul. Turmoil is ever present but it is slowly overcome by peace of mind leading, finally, to one of the most touching death scenes on screen. The scene manages to grasp the glimpse of mystery not resorting to sheer sentimentality and shallowness. Hyacynthe, the flower, represents hope.
Among the supporting cast, a mention must be made of Geraldine Fitzgerald who beautifully portrays a true friend. There is also Ronald Reagan who plays one Alec (a role not necessarily ambitious, yet influencing the 'rejoicing' moments of the movie). The artistic splendor of the movie is also beautifully manifested in haunting cinematography and some elaborate interiors.
DARK VICTORY is one of the movies I come back to with ever greater pleasure and sentiment. Not for its sentimentalism, though, but for its profoundly illumining truths about human life. I think that even nowadays, when viewers of digital generation used to incredible inventions of modern technology come across this movie, it may appear thought provoking to them if there is truly something that really has the power of victory over our unconquered fears...
The Strauss Family (1972)
The STRAUSS SAGA with Limited Sets but Absorbing Characters
Having been more acquainted with the newer TV series THE STRAUSS DYNASTY directed by Marvin J Chomsky, I was pretty astonished to see this BBC serial made almost 20 years earlier. Comparisons were unavoidable, naturally; yet, as much as Chomsky depicts the musical dynasty of Vienna from a more 'modern' standpoint, David Giles, David Butler and Peter Potter portray the family in a more 'claustrophobic' as well as 'from the inside out' manner. If you enjoyed THE STRAUSS DYNASTY for its dynamism and splendid, attractive use of Strauss' music, you may or may not so much enjoy THE STRAUSS FAMILY due to its 'limitations' of sets so typical of the BBC serials of the time. However, in spite of certain 'shortcomings' that we could notice nowadays, technical shortcomings, THE STRAUSS FAMILY is a wonderful display of excellent performances.
Through 8 episodes, each titled according to the character it seems to highlight most, we can get into the world of the Strauss saga with all their dramas, all their passions, all their inspirations and contradictions. Unlike Schani's line "They throw you flowers and they forget you're human," here we have 'human characters' that are perfectly appealing to audiences who are not necessarily fond of their music. Before 1972 when this series was made, we had had merely fictitious saccharine 'fairy tales' about the great composers. Perhaps, Duvivier's THE GREAT WALTZ would be an exception.
Eric Woofe as Johann Strauss father and Stuart Wilson as Schani are the choices for the roles that may, undeniably, compete with Anthony Higgins and Stephen McGann. They beautifully manifest the neurotic aspects of their musical characters. Easy going Johann Strauss who thinks that 'an fool can work' is a 'walking inspiration' from the very start. His scenes are particularly memorable with Josef Lanner played y excellent Derek Jacobi in the two first episodes. Their friendship is based upon conditions and their conflicts upon competitions. Yet, the drama is resembled in the tactful handling of the musicians' psyche by the two. Stuart Wilson, no doubt to say, steals our attention from the second episodes onward to the final scene thanks to a true development and study of the character. His passion is music and women. The former one was within his total self, the latter one was constantly to be gained and maintained. As a young boy, disobedient to his father who does not see a musician in his young talented son, he is 'tormented' and pushed forward at the same time.
No wonder that most of the episodes' titles are names of women that existed in the lives of the Strausses both father and Schani. Emilie Trampusch played by Barbara Ferris (here, the character is far more developed than in the later version). Schani, we can say is a bit less lucky with women, even his own sisters who do not occur to understand him but wives particularly: Hetti (Margaret Whiting) much older wife of Schani, yet, having a crush on him to a great extent, Lili, his girl wife spoiled and capricious. Finally, Adele who found him gentle and kind and as lonely as she used to be. Quite a drama but quite a source for musical inspiration as well. Yet, there is one woman that is, perhaps, one of the most powerful and influential female characters ever, that is Anna (Anne Stallybrass), Schani's mother.
Nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Anna Strauss, we can say that watching her is any viewer's pleasure. In STRAUSS DYNASTY Lisa Harrow resembles much of the similar emotions, some scenes or even lines bear resemblance. Yet, as much as I liked Lisa Harrow in the role intensely, Anne Stallybrass is truly marvelous. She wonderfully highlights her character's determination, indefatigable strive for better future of her son(s), disappointment with years. One of her most unforgettable lines is "when there is no work, one must create work!" Incredible woman.
The supporting characters are no less memorable and unique played by wonderful British actors. Young, beautiful Jane Seymour as Josef's wife Karoline, David de Keyser as Hirsch, a foxy impresario of Johann Strauss the Elder, Sonia Dresdel as Signora Lucari who, among the Claques, notices a new rising star in young Schani; delicious Cheryl Kennedy as ambitious Marie Geistinger (the 'Eva' character of the newer version); Christopher Benjamin as Dommayer and Carleton Hobbs as Drechsler. Finally, we have the most important figure of the time for Austria, emperor Franz Josef whose legacy does not seem to outlast Johann Strauss's, the elderly emperor played by Michael Bryant.
After seeing the first episode, you soon forget that most of the story actually takes place within the walls, in inner sets and perfectly get used to that. All thanks to performances that bring those historical characters back to life. A great series highly worth seeing. If you like the Shakespearian acting, this is truly for you!
The Forsyte Saga: Swan Song (1967)
Swan Song Reflective, Rewarding
It's more rewarding to play the old man" (Eric Porter abort playing Soames).
It was 4th July 1967 when, after 14 months of shooting, the cast and crew finally finished their work on the adaptation successfully. The viewers, with even greater emotions and curiosity, got absorbed by the emotional crescendo in "Swan Song." 'Aren't we emotional still?" one could ask. But before reviewing this episode, let me outline certain motives that drove me to comment on THE FORSYTE SAGA in such a detailed manner.
Its popularity in my country, Poland, was something of a phenomenon. Since the early 1970s can be considered as the heyday of the communist times, anything that was not Soviet nor 'Polish' in that very condensed sense of the word was highly censored by the authorities but met with even greater enthusiasm within the society. Any work subjected to cautious control by the regime naturally works the opposite way being its recommendation among people. In this way, such 'rarities' for Polish audiences as the American RICH MAN POOR MAN, and the English THE FORSYTE SAGA enjoyed wide acclaim. To a great surprise, THE FORSYTE SAGA was the first ever British series bought by the Soviet Union. As a result, Poland followed its footsteps and broadcast the entire series in the early 1970s with unique dubbing version (dubbing was something of a rarity since we are used to the voice-over). As the series was a 'national obsession' (Cliff Michelmore) in Britain, so it was in many other countries, including Poland. My early childhood memories mark the re-broadcasts of the serial in the mid 1980s when, I remember, it was still extremely popular.
Nowadays, however, in a restored DVD version, we can all admire the 26 episodes beautifully directed by David Giles and James Cellan Jones and produced by Donald Wilson. In spite of its black and white and quite rigid confinement within the limitations of interiors mostly (there are only a few moments outside, namely those that stand for the youthful love and freedom), this adaptation is in no way dated. All thanks to truly brilliant performances of "such a distinguished team of actors" (David Giles), terrific costumes by Joan Ellacott and atmospheric designs by Spencer Chapman. Still, after almost half a century, it still moves us, involves us and lets us drown in the world of nostalgia therein depicted. Therefore, I have a soft spot for this series and I think that each episode really has something unique to offer, something was has been worth writing about. And now something about the final episode...
Like once, it was Robin Hill, the rest-house and a place of relief for some Forsytes, it is now Dorking where memorable Mrs Gadsden (Hilda Barry) answers the phone. A couple who have common memories but different natures: one loves the scent of drought, the other the smell of rain. The feverish Fleur (Susan Hampshire) and transparent, decent Jon (Martin Jarvis) return to their sentimental places of youthful songs. Things come about, things resulting in satisfaction in one and regret in the other. The scenes in nature, anyway, echo or complement their scenes in episode 13. Meanwhile, Soames (Eric Porter) visits an old parish, digs the archive books and reflects at the gravestones of his ancestors, unable to glimpse the vision of the youth. In all this, we feel the emotional climax. How much meaning the Forsytes convey to us, how similar we all are. A song sung in life about life, its mistakes, its disappointments, its dreams, rewards, punishments, regrets, sufferings and joys. This is the song whispered within the final comedy where we all get, not the 'modern comedy' but a universal one, this is the swan song with its reflective and unique sound
reflecting readiness to reach out one's hand in reconciliation;
ability to grant and accept forgiveness;
awakening conscience amidst the chirping birds and tolling of bells;
some little 'irresponsibility' for the sake of greater goodness in the long run; readiness to speak one's mind;
father's care and reassurance of his daughter's activity;
promise to the dying man;
hopeful certainty that 'future has already been arranged;'
As it was more rewarding for Eric Porter to play the old Soames, it is most rewarding for us to watch the final episode which is incredibly focused and grasps the most important aspects that we have analyzed in the characters for such a long time. Thanks to great, absolutely terrific performances, the characters instilled an illusion that they really come alive from the book on the screen.
Meanwhile, the continuity and certain parallels work here most powerfully. Just to mention Irene and Fleur's conversation that wonderfully echoes Francis and Helene's conversation in episode 2. Soon, we get the last encounter of Soames and Irene. Mind you where that is...in June's studio, the place of art....as art once inspired their first meeting, so it does their last meeting; yet, the results are very different pointing at the fact that EXPERIENCE has the strongest impact in male personality. It is nicely contrasted to the scene of forgiveness between Jon and Anne and the scene of healthy distance to life itself between Holly and Michael. Everything changes but...
"in case of forgiving, you never know" (old, faithful Gradman)
"Love is the most cruel thing in the world" (Jon Forsyte); yet, it is the only thing worth living for.
That variety in the circle of life and a rewarding song about saving the one that you love most seems to be the true legacy of any man, even the 'man of property' who tried to save it by all means and yet, cannot take it with him to the opposite bank.
Passions of Fleur, Scheme of Fleur
"A woman is always after a soul of a man or a child." (Harold Blade - Bryan Marshall) A painting occurs to dominate and influence the entire content of this episode. Painting with its artistic magnetism and illusion. What a multiplied delight when the painting is that of a woman with her highly complex soul...
While law and legal perceptions seemed to take over in the first episodes and the painting as itself was not taken much into account by the Forsytes who saw no money in it (note young Jolyon), now it grows in value and respect. The opening scene with Michael's narration about his father-in-law Soames who buys pictures does not necessarily lead to 'leisure for repentance' (as noted wittingly by Marquess) but to long-term plans of an elderly gentleman already tired of life and the times he is bound to live in. Two gentlemen, as different as they may seem, have one thing in common: the spirit of the age is against them.
The opening scene of Soames and Marquess' encounter is nothing short of perfection. Soames buys the picture Mooreland from Marquess. But, as the Forsytes aim at buying confidence, Soames finds Marquess' bargain flawed. Yet, for the very lines they utter and brilliant performances, the scene alone makes the episode worth seeing. Soon, we move to the center of attention, Fleur (Susan Hampshire).
She sits for the portrait at Harold Blade's, the painter who has already painted the portrait of Anne, Jon's wife. As an artist, he has a certain flair to see into various people's characters and it is a pity that the episode does not develop his character more deeply but resorts to a few scenes. But anyway, there are many other things highly worth considering and aspects beautifully dramatized.
Fleur sits in gold and silver (here, kudos to Joan Ellacott's costumes) but does not behave much like the ancestors for whom there were two options in life generally (as Sir Lawrence Mont points out): voluntary service or nothing. Her scheme and her passions will soon be revealed, partly thanks to the portrait. Susan Hampshire delivers some best part of her performance here having deeply studied Fleur and having developed in the role. In a January 1991 interview at the Alexandra Theater in Birmingham, Richard Amphlett observed that "there is superficiality about her pragmatic and astute demeanor, and an intuitive intelligence in her mode of thinking." That appears most transparent in this episode. But now, let me highlight another point of the episode that seems to me truly unforgettable.
Michael (Nicholas Pennell) displays certain enthusiasm in the committee interested in dealing with those who own slum properties and aiming at investment in general slum conversion fund by dispossessing landlords, not the people. As much as the meeting may at first appear as a humorous relief and prompting certain irony when the squire takes the chair there is, in fact, a lovely 'portrait' of various characters. Marquess (George Benson), of course has his terrific lines about electrifying kitchens, Wilfred Bentworth (George Merritt) so much promoted by Michael's father with character over cleverness, Timothy Fanfield (Clive Morton) with his persuasive tongue. The top of wit appears when they need a solicitor...Soames, a respectable expert at legal matters, joins them. He has been a 'steady brain' for Marquess since they met at the paintings. All comes to a rather unpredictable conclusion and Coaker...what a piece of advice given to her...
Meanwhile, the 'Stainford-Oxford' case contributes to the study of characters and situations. How different reactions are the whole thing being 'damn funny' for Val (Jonathan Burn) and 'monstrous' for Soames.
A mention should also be made of the faithful chap, the oldest friend the Forsytes have - Gradman (Clifford Parrish) when, in a scene with a sentimental touch, he visits Winifred and Soames. All are, indeed, no age to speak of when compared to him and his lifelong loyalty. Afterwards, Soames and Winifred become reflective while looking at the picture of their grandfather, the 'Superior Dosset' ... and asking questions: What have they gained? What have they lost? In fact, it is here when viewers truly sympathize with Soames. He becomes quite a likable chap, in spite of everything.
And Fleur? The canteen during the strike gave her a taste for power and with this 'social butterfly' it results in schemes... As much as in the portrait as in real life, she conceals everything from everyone. Terrific final scene with Michael! The moon and the two that seem to be so close to each other and, yet, are so apart. Common sense does not suffice at her passions that possess her, far from being directioned: passion to know, passion to have but, unfortunately, no passion to give. One of the very best episodes! 9/10
Noon at Robin Hill, Afternoon at Ascot
As one of the final episodes of the serial, "Afternoon at Ascot" may be found truly interesting and arousing tensions due to its more focused content. Although the title may suggest a great public event at Ascot Racecourse, there are no holistic scenes and the particular wins over the general.
Having fed Jon well at the canteen, the episode's opening scene of Fleur (Susan Hampshire) and Jon (Martin Jarvis) nicely hits the note for the fore-coming, and perhaps quite predictable, feelings that will emerge within and between the relationships. Two couples touched by the influence of their past...Michael is the best man Fleur knows and Anne is the best woman Jon knows. Yet, their past experiences exist within 'memories recollected in tranquility' for poetical Jon and possessive instinct for dominating Fleur described by Anne (Karin Fernals) as "lovely, clever, quick, polished." Consequently, none seems to be unable to remember how to forget...
Fleur becomes Anne's sort of rival as Jon becomes a suspicion for Michael who cannot find out the truth from his wife who conceals everything but directs his steps to June.
Two places mark the centerpiece of the episode brilliantly directed by David Giles and dramatized by the producer Donald Wilson. First, it is Robin Hill, the 'relic' so to say of some Forsytes with that famous view that the 'four-in-hand' Forsyte uncle Swithin used to admire. Winifred, Fleur, Jon, Anne, Holly visit the place filled with memories. 'What is it about Robin Hill?' Anne asks Irene later in a highly subtle scene of peace and quiet accompanied by doves and preceded by daydreaming. Note the significant symmetry to many scenes of Old Jolyon at Robin Hill with Irene in the episode "Indian Summer of a Forsyte." Irene tells her the story of its extravagant architect and its admirer Old Jolyon who found his peace there as well as her memories of living there with Jo. The second place is Ascot marking the Forsytes' national identity where even aging Soames turns up at the racecourse in a gray topper. How memorable he is in this topper and with those binoculars which lets his emotions go a bit uncontrolled. Yet, not merely the race is the reason for some disappointment and even shock.
And Michael? The single hearted Michael (Nicholas Penell) stays away from the two places and the schemes being absorbed by something that, perhaps, most reveals his philanthropic nature and lively ideas for the future of the country and its society. This time, his commitment does not revolve around foggatism or birth control that he happens to hear about in the Ministry of Health (mind you the context of the very times of the 1920s and the dramatic changes in social situations), but...slum conversion fund. While the Forsytes admire the luxury and avant garde of Robin Hill, he visits the slum district being dis-tasted by the living conditions and meeting two perfectly memorable people: uncle Hilary Charwell (Peter Copley) and one Mrs Brewer (Rose Power). While the former one gives him an undeniably promising proposition, the latter one is a true representative of the lower class and draws a parallel to the Bickets earlier in the episodes.
A committee to be created, a committee of creative men who will deal with the slum conversion and, perhaps, dispossess the landlords of slum districts. What a challenge for Michael to look for professional, honest men! The funny thing is the idea who will actually be employed to the committee. Propositions vary from Marquess (George Benson), one of the funniest and most lovable supporting characters who believes in electricity and detests smoke (his motto will be 'electrify kitchens') to some domestic characters like his next-door neighbor. Taking his father's advice, Michael cannot afford cleverness but characters. One candidate is Wilfred Bentworth (George Merritt) who knows everything about the fattening stock, a 'solid fella behind the times' for Marquess. But that will be developed more memorably in the next episode. For now, we can delight in a terrific scene of the three: Marquess, Sir Lawrence Mont 'young Mont' and Michael. Like once the son of the Superior Dosset, Old Jolyon, Marquess gives them a glass of Madeira and delivers some lines of specific humour and cleverness.
Among the interesting devices displayed in the episode, a mention must be made of Fleur's 'music player' and Winifred's telephone which mark the very times the story is set in.
Finally, however, it is the artistic personalities that seem to take over and June offers Fleur to sit for the portrait. The upcoming portrait of Fleur is not merely a painting but an insight into the very soul of hers, either for a man or a child revealing her schemes and passions. Fleur...awaken, still there wanting her first love, tired of the best man she knows...
The Forsyte Saga: Strike (1967)
The Fleur We'll Like So Unlike 'Forsytes'
Don't get through life too fast. You'll be bored by 50 and there is no greater bore than a bored woman..." (Marguess' advice to Marjorie who asks her grandfather to clear the debts).
Marjorie Ferrar (Caroline Blakiston) gives her grandfather Marquess (George Benson) a word of a lady. She will not cheapen their aristocratic name any further and try her skills on the stage. Yes, the Ferrar case is over and one of the central themes of the episode deals with 'saving face.' Not only is 'saving face' applied to politics or aristocracy but Fleur. The dramatization of Donald Wilson with a few liberties taken with the literary source supplies her character with a few redeeming moments. Here is the Fleur we will like and the Fleur so unlike the Forsytes, so unlike the man of property's daughter. She is a dear.
The titled STRIKE at the railway, which symbolizes the very situation of England at the time along with the generation gap that makes the spirit of the age against the elderly, is a background to a far more profound depiction of the reality. Some policies and opinions equal with the viewpoints that 'liberty was more destroyed by those who abused it than by those who opposed it,' others take steps in a more practical manner. Steps in social commitment. Here, again, the most active of them all is Michael Mont (Nicholas Penell). He gives his wife a great opportunity to do something more valuable than just sit at the 4711 perfume or require to travel the world giving no option for less. A chance for her head and a change for her character...She will run a canteen for railway volunteers not realizing yet that this will be the moment when past will have its reminiscence again. She will feed the first love of her life. But the past does not only have its voice here...
The episode, in spite of the title "Strike" supplied with certain archive footage of the general strike in the 1920s incorporated into the storyline, is, perhaps, most famous for the Hotel Potomac sequence at Washington D.C. Soames agrees to travel the world with Fleur who does not resort merely to a stay at St Moritz, Switzerland and there, he encounters Irene. Another unwanted encounter and to what extent... Unlike Fleur who, in the final moment of the episode, encounters Jon (Martin Jarvis) with full enthusiasm, he is distanced, remains unnoticed by the beautiful woman who plays the piano (mind you that Irene playing the piano has become a mainstay depiction of the character pointing at her sort of unreachable beauty and mystique). We do not know whether he is hesitating and planning to approach and have a word with her or not. One thing is certain, this is one of the scenes that displays a true variety of emotions. Everything is measured in an excellent way with the unforgettable atmosphere enhanced by the terrific design by Spencer Chapman. The variety of hesitating emotions and feelings unexpressed verbally unfortunately concludes to the slam of the door. Yet another chance to put 'let bygones be bygones' into practice?
Donald Wilson's dramatization of the episode along with David Giles' direction also marks the point that has already been addressed at the plot of the Bickets. That is the contrast between the problems of the rich and the poor. In an atmospheric memorable scene, one Stainford (David Cargill) who claims to be or have been a friend of Val's at Oxford visits Winifred (Margaret Tyzack). While she talks to her brother Soames over the phone (the conversation hardly gets to its desirable point), he steals a snuff box, a sentimental object that she cherishes as a memory of her father. Naturally, the whole fuss around this theft bursts out being a point contrasted to the real problems that Michael encounters within the society.
The final moments, when the canteen is already closed and the strike is called off, foreshadow the last themes of the serial. Jon appears in Fleur's life again and Michael's suspicions and assumptions are proved at June's. Not merely the portrait of Fleur is about to be painted by Harold Blade (Bryan Marshall) but the past of her youth might lead her husband to jealousy and her father to the deepest concern...but none of us to any bore...
"In society, it is not easy to know who is a friend and who isn't" (Marjorie on her stand in the court).
The opening scene of the episode with Michael's narration foreshadows the drama to come. It is not the drama of the Forsytes who "take the same attitude towards the House of Parliament as they do towards the Church of England" but the drama of the moral gloom symbolized by 'current morality' and embodied by Marjorie Ferrar (Caroline Blakiston). As no money can be made out of either politics nor religion, the only motive that drives the Forsytes to the courtroom is honor combined with pride -the evident insults along with the paragraph about the 'Bucaneering politics' can ever be let unnoticed.
Action for libel results in the bitter reaction directed towards legal proceedings. It is not the first time for the Forsytes (consider the fact that the legal background is crucial for Galsworthy's novel) but Fleur, the creature devoted to herself quite incapable of any other kind of devotion and not merely content with this for today... However, Soames' pampered daughter plays second fiddle here. Far more important person who draws our attention as a woman and as a character beautifully incorporated to the plot is the modern representative of aristocracy, Marjorie Ferrar.
It is out of the question that she is one of the truly most memorable supporting characters of the serial. Why is it so depends on a particular viewer. I think that what makes her so unforgettable is Ms Blakiston's magnetizing performance and the features of Marjorie's character that modern audiences often identify with. On the one hand, she represents aristocracy that, as her grandfather Marguess (George Benson) in another brilliant scene of his points out, a group of society who "have no power, no divinity these days but still stand for something;" on the other hand, she is most modern of them all. In this society, however, it is hard to tell who is a friend and who is not.
The scenes at court are brilliantly executed echoing some aspects depicted in masterpieces, namely PARADINE CASE by Hitchcock. Aubrey Greene (John Bailey), the painter is called as a witness, Marjorie is a plaintiff. Sir James with his pushing attitude towards the woman who allegedly 'has no morals about her' highlights the very spirit of a court scene that is nothing short of dynamic emotions and eloquent language. Marjorie does not supply her testimony with any 'linquistic ornaments' but appeals to us with straightforward lines. With the book CANTHAR mentioned in the previous episode, it becomes the judgment of a woman and her morality. From "Have you had a liaison?" all the drama is on her side, as Michael rightly observes. Then, with her decision not to tell and not to tell the truth either, it becomes a matter of men's jealousy, namely Sir Alexander MacGown's (John Phillips) whose pride and dominance suffers a serious gravity and Francis Wilmot (Hal Hamilton) whose chivalric nature is disillusioned with harsh reality and subjected to mockery. All is revealed within the walls of Marjorie's room. Poor guys...poor Marjorie...
The most 'realistic' and at the same time identifiable character among the men is, perhaps, Michael (Nicholas Penell) who is clearly able to pity a woman and her drama and, at the same time, find the exact usefulness of belonging to the parliamentary circle thanks to his ideas for the future of the country. He does not like 'cold water at home as well as abroad.' I liked his scene with Soames when, actually, for the first time they have a slight contradiction. While for a true Forsyte, there is no danger as long as the pound is going up, for Michael, the anticipation of problems is far more objective and insightful. With his distance towards all the fuss, it is no 'moral victory' for him at all. Moral attitudes, herein lies the drama. Pity he does see the problems at the political level but does not see it at the domestic level yet...
The culmination of the whole emotional fuss comes with the public event. As it began so it ends. Yet, music and the charm of the evening does not ease it totally. Some will stay, some will have to retire...
What remains, as in MODERN COMEDY, is a healthy distance to the new reality expressed in the character who hopes for electrification, who sells no blessings, who wants no scandal. Terrific Marguess of Shropshire played with humour by George Benson. Magnetizing moments!
And Fleur? Incredible enigma - happy or merely content with victory? 'Tomorrow' for her is quite different than for her husband. 9/10, one of the very best episodes!
Reaction to Rival
After the dramatic, unfortunate evening when symptoms of the age became too strong to handle, the dramatization in this episode draws wonderful parallels between characters. In spite of being sued for libel, they all share some specific reluctance. The episode begins with an unwanted gift and ends with an unwanted encounter...
Soames, now 69, follows the advice of Jack Cardigan (Andrew Armour), his niece's husband, the embodiment of 'being fit' trend and takes up golf. He accepts this unwanted gift from Jack, clearly reluctantly but with a truly Forsyte-like priority: never give up. In spite of failures, he goes on... And all would, perhaps, develop in the most desirable way if it were not for the unfortunate, sudden, unexpected telegram that his sister Winifred (Margaret Tyzack) brings.
Much will have to be centered on controversy or rather discrepancy between 'what everybody knows' and 'what everybody tells.' The fuss around Marjorie Ferrar (Caroline Blaskiston) and the means for the unwanted but, for honor's sake, inevitable action are the aspects we truly need to pay attention to. An allegedly scandalous book titled CANTHAR already published in Belgium but still censored in Great Britain seems to draw parallel to the character of a woman who 'has morals about her.' The tricky business is how to distribute the copies of the book...Here comes the young and ambitious but seriously harmed by fate, Butterfield (Donald Gee) - remember Elderson's case within the PPRS - a man with a persuasive tongue who will distribute the copies of the highly immoral book which may make you burst with curiosity as for its content but which reveals the innate caution that Marjorie displays. Caution while everybody else seems to be absorbed by emotions...
Marjorie Ferrar becomes the center of attention not only due to a truly new 'type of woman' not at all old fashioned but really a modern one (even to our today's perspectives) within the story and characters haunted by the Victorian period but due to the way she is perceived by men. Two men namely who love Marjorie: the 'American Prince Charming' Francis Wilmot (Hal Hamilton) and a strong gentleman of old manners and a cutting tongue, Sir Alexander MacGown (John Phillips). There is a growing dramatic tension within the young farmer from South Carolina who will have much to suffer until he decides to quit and be finished with that 'fool business.' Sir Alexander MacGown is a totally different personality. On the one hand, he cannot understand why he loves this 'hardest woman he has ever met' and, on the other hand, he grows intensely jealous of her. Yet, above all, she is not dependent of any of them. Like Nora Curfew mentioned, she is a new type of woman admired by men and hated by some women. To make things worse, she is rumored to have had an affair with Aubrey Greene (John Bailey) - remember the painter who did paint the delicious naked girl Victorine Bicket...
In that very context evokes the obstinate and selfish character of Fleur who, like her father, will never give up. In spite of the various feelings and emotions that arise within the political situation of Great Britain (Tony Gains wins the election) and Michael's serious contribution and commitment to the new phenomenon/policy called foggatism where he has a vision full of prospects (consider the excellent scene of his speech described as "lively and well delivered"), the rivalry does not resort to women who called themselves names but spreads to men. There is a brilliant scene of humour and drama when MacGown attacks Michael in the male 'room.' His jealousy displays at the political level and rivalry therein. Poor nose...John Phillips is very good in the role.
Within all that new reality that Galsworthy develops within the context of Great War's effect on people, young people, there is also room for sentimentality in the episode. Old servant of the family, Smither (Maggie Jones) turns up unexpectedly at the Forsytes' and Winifred accepts her request for employment. Minor as the scene may seem, it is a very important touch of the past that seemingly, only seemingly did not matter at the time. Here, it hows the bright side of Winifred's character and the scene is beautifully played, highly worth consideration.
Unfortunately, we do not get Marjorie's father, Marguess (George Benson) in the episode. He is always a great delight for a viewer awaiting magnificent performance and brilliant humour. But the drama seems to reach its climax in the final scene and the truly unwanted encounter of Fleur and Marjorie at Langham Hotel. There, actually, for the first time we see the true face of Fleur. Desperate, ill Francis, unlike many Americans, quits and is finished with that fool business having realized that there is someone else in Marjorie's life and the women? Any continuity or sense of service? Reaction to the rival will find its realization in the courtroom...
The Forsyte Saga: A Silent Wooing (1967)
Old World Meets New World
Here we are with the return of director David Giles in one of the most memorable episodes of the serial dramatized with accurately respectful approach (respectful towards the literary author and the audience) by Anthony Steven. The quintessential parts of the storyline are delivered by perfectly admirable, lovable, humorous but, at the same time, controversial characters. But, predominantly, the centerpiece of the story revolves around the old world meeting the new world, Britain meeting America... Everything in a flawlessly framed plot.
The episode opens in a remote place, some 3,000 miles away from London, in South Carolina where Jon Forsyte (Martin Jarvis) after a considerably longer absence from the serial, stays with his mother Irene. America suits his character that delights in freedom and openness where, above all, past does not count as much as future. He is free to fill his days with silent wooing with a wonderful girl that he deserves, Anne Wilmot (Karin Fernald), the sister of Francis Wilmot (Hal Hamilton), elegant, sophisticated, acknowledged of pianos. Those are the first two new character among many in the episode worth consideration. Irene is no possessive mother, as she claims to be in the conversation with Francis; yet, the past for her, unlike for Americans, leaves much of its haunt. Soon, the new world meets the old world and the Parliament dissolved within the old walls of the House introduces us to a new reality where some of the characters will be bound to suffer "a worse present for the sake of a better future." However, before Jon, Irene, Francis and Anne move to England and face the most unpredictable turn of events, let me highlight a scene of incredible subtlety.
Jon and Anne share a terrific moment in the woods that, in a way, echoes Jon's scenes with Fleur in nature in episode 13 titled "Encounter." The moment with their absorbing talk, the cigarette and the mysterious noise of a bird that seems to remember the native tribes of the land appears to grasp the chemistry between the two and combines mystery with sentiment. Horses, the moon and a kiss...The atmosphere of the scene derives its charm from some aspects of the early cinema and works perfectly in this context.
London looks quite different, not only when compared to South Carolina, of course, where Jon's farmer's soul finds its peace and quiet, but different than it used to be and the heights of the Forsytes' power. At the dawn of 'foggatism' which captivates Michael's sensitive heart to a considerable extent, new symptoms of the age emerge. After the Americans are introduced to the distanced family, all seems to be centered at the public event, one public event that, perhaps, may be considered as a truly dramatic evening, the most unfortunate party where volcano erupts again and the...'war to the knife' might appear more real than ever. Many are called names and 'no continuity, no sense amongst the modern women' will evoke. Women...what is left after innocent Victorine is a picture of 'delicious naked girl who left for Australia.'
Among the many characters that the episode introduces, here comes the most intriguing, the 'exception of the Forsyte chronicle' (as Donald Wilson the producer referred to her), Marjorie Ferrar (Caroline Blakiston). She is, on the one hand, the representative of the old world, the aristocracy, and, on the other hand, the embodiment of an emancipated woman, an insult to Soames' sense of duty, a delight to Aubrey's sense of abstract; yet, she stands on her own as a very strong character, a very strong woman perfectly memorable from the very start and the way she says: 'Evening Coaker!" Meanwhile, we get the heights of humour with her grandfather, lovable Marguess of Shropshire (George Benson) whose scenes are real pleasure. Marquess is introduced to us in a wonderful scene when 'young Mont' visits him and asks for something controversial... An elderly gentleman so much opened to novelties, not the ones in fashion or language but...electricity.
Soames' instinct for trouble arises and Fleur, an entertaining little lady, as Marjorie calls her, prepares for vengeance for insults. Is she a 'snob' or a 'lion hunter"' The final scene at Settlewhite's (Alan Rowe) is beautifully ornamented with extravagant performance with the foreshadow of action for libel. The character of Marjorie does not only absorb Americans...