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THE ROSE TATTOO is a potent drama galvanises with a more buoyant flare rather different from Tennessee Williams' customary fashioning, 18 April 2015

This is the screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams' namesake play which opened on Broadway in 1951, originally is tailor-made for Magnani, but she rejected it then due to her inadequate English expertise; four years later, she shoulders on this film version helmed by theatrical old hand Daniel Mann, which substantially lives up to everyone's expectation and is crowned as BEST LEADING ACTRESS in the Oscar competition, the film also earns two other wins for BEST ART DIRECTION and BEST BLACK & WHITE CINEMATOGRAPHY for the legendary Chinese-American cinematographer James Wong Howe out of a total 8 nominations.

Magnani plays Serafina, an immigrant from Sicily to America to marry with Rosario Delle Rose, an Italian man with a baron lineage, but now is merely a truck driver hauling bananas. They have a fifteen-year-old daughter Rosa (Paven), and Magnani is pregnant with a second child, but an accident soon kills Rosario and it turns out he is engaged in transporting some illegal commodities, what's more devastating, rumour says he had an affair with another woman Estelle (Grey). Indulged in the mourning of her husband and refuses to accept the truth, Serafina has a miscarriage, strains arise between Serafina and the rest of the people in their close-knitted Italian neighbourhood, also with Rosa,who meets a sailor Jack (Cooper) in her high school graduation prom, and they hit it off immediately. Later another young truck driver Alvaro (Lancaster) barges into her life, so can Serafina finally be liberated from past memories and brave a new romance? A hint, THE ROSE TATTOO has a comedic vibrancy which rarely prevails in Tennessee Williams' works.

The title refers to the rose tattoo on Rosario's chest, a symbol of carnal temptation which lingers in Serafina's memory after her husband is gone, and not until she meets Alvaro, a young body particularly resembles her dead husband, does she tentatively open up to him and their budding romance is quite a burlesque as they play off a typical forward-man- versus-reserved-woman stunt, until Alvaro bares his chest to show her a rose tattoo, an impending danger seems to be enveloping them even in the film's most farcical set piece, one constantly fears the story would steer to the opposite direction in a jiffy.

Magnani commands such a towering impersonation as she brilliantly alternates between attention-grabbing melodrama and outlandish hysteria with effortless artistry, the story is so Italian, and Magnani represents the exemplary virtue of an Italian mother, hot-blooded, honest to her feelings, sensuously attractive but never demeans herself to be flirtatious, and extremely protective towards her child. Lancaster only emerges in the latter half of the film, but shines in his unusually comedic slapstick; Marisa Pavan who also receives an Oscar nomination, unfortunately pales into insignificance by Magnani as a disobedient daughter with an overfamiliar agency on her plate.

James Wong Howe's low-key camera faithfully serves to introduce all the movements of the characters, hones up the fluency and consistency of the story without being obtrusive or self-aware. By and large, THE ROSE TATTOO is a potent drama galvanises with a more buoyant flare rather different from Tennessee Williams' customarily neurotic fashioning.

a solid movie sending many significant social messages with a towering performance from Streep, 16 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Best remembered by cinephiles as the film won Meryl Streep a Cannes BEST ACTRESS trophy and is among one of her 19 Oscar-nominated performances, A CRY IN THE DARK is a faithful adaptation of a sensational true story in Australia, about Lindy Chamberlain (Streep), a mother of three, and her parson husband Michael (Neill), the former is accused of murdering her newborn baby daughter during a camping trip in Ayers Rock in 1980, while she claims the baby is snatched by a dingo, and the latter is charged as an accessory. Now this case is already cleared as their convictions have been overturned in 1988 when new key evidence emerges.

Before watching the movie, I have no idea how the story will wind up, all I know is that it is a thorny case of whether a mother murders her own child or not, so I conjecture it would straddle the key issue of the mother's innocence, but director Fred Schepisi (SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION 1993, 6/10) gives a firm hand in exerting Lindy's innocence, and vigilantly indicts the media's hullabaloo and hyper coverage, the spuriousness lies in the forensic system and the public's collective impressionability maliciously based on mislead first impression and personal prejudice.

The Chamberlains are Seventh-Day Adventists, the tragedy and its segueing emotional toll also affect their beliefs, not to mention the vicious allegations of their cultish sacrifice, especially for Michael, who implores God for a reason to take away their daughter, cries out that hell can't be worse than this when they are on trial for a egregious but fictitious crime, his unraveling is perceptibly characterised by a blond Sam Neill. Running parallel to Michael's deterioration, Meryl's Lindy is the backbone of the whole myth, she is not a grieving mother who is all teary-eyed and rueful of her ephemeral inattention, she is tougher than her husband, not intend to indulge in grievance as life must go on, so in front of the camera, she seems aloof, withheld, a shade indignant, which generates a negative impression among the spectators, when malign rumours run amok, she tries to right the falsehood with more media involvement which is sardonically a wishful thinking. I'm no expert of accent, but it is swell to watch Meryl articulate a New Zealand accent (Lindy is New Zealand born in real life) without any feigned effort betrayed. Here Meryl shines magnificently all through to be unfathomable and detached, even during the most pulverising point, she is resolutely staunch, and her scenes in the courtroom are paradigm of balancing heart-rending outburst with constrained implosion, it is OK to being wronged, it is not the end, since she doesn't kill her baby, there is no guilty conscience exuded as all the onlookers are eagerly expecting in front of their televisions.

Aesthetically the film is more in line with a solid TV movie sending many significant social messages, but there are way too many gratuitous reaction shots of bystanders thrust every now and then, as they can hardly have any saying versus the final verdict, it serves only as a repeated reminder of how ignorant is the public and how easily they can be influenced by a manufactured national hoopla. It seems that Schepisi pushes fairly too hard this time, otherwise, the film remains comparatively relatable and if you adore Meryl Streep, you should not let it slip through your fingers.

a farewell visual memoir of Jacques Demy, 15 April 2015

My second Varda's entry (after CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 1962, 7/10) is her cinematic eulogy to her late husband, the filmmaker Jacques Demy (1931-1990) after 28 years of marriage, who passed away one year before the film's release, recounts Demy's life from childhood to adolescence in Nantes, re-enacts mostly sketchy episodes of that time from Demy's memoir, particularly during the Occupied France in WWII and Jacquot (Jacques' nickname) 's ever-growing passion towards cinema.

Named after his paternal grandfather, it is unexpectedly poignant when a young Jacques (played by Maron, Joubeau and Monnier in different ages) is bringing to visit his grandpa's grave and see his own name on the tombstone, as if the reincarnation just completes another circle. Demy's father Raymond (Dublet) is a mechanic and his mother Marilou (De Villepoix) is a coiffeuse, they own a garage and he has a younger brother Yvon (Delaroche, Averty in different ages). Most of the narrative is conveyed with unaffected naturalism by its cast under a blanched monochrome, with whimsical coloured-shots materialise irregularly and presumably function as indicators which influence Demy's life afterwards, like Theatre Guignol.

Varda's essayist construal of the biographical texts largely restores Jacquot's early years in a lifelike form, as a documentary made in 1930-40s, details mostly convivial vignettes with references in Demy's own distinguished oeuvre - in my case I only watched DONKEY SKIN (1970, 4/10) and THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964, 7/10) - introduced and bookended by opposite pointing fingers respectively, and underlined with a miscellany of Demy's favourite classical music.

From a carefree child who enjoys marionette show, to a bit older in the Occupation period, becomes repulsive towards the war, then in the latter half, the film's focus shifts to the zealousness of cinema, not only a frequent spectator, the young Jacquot self-studies rudimentary knowledge of cinematography, makes his own live-action and animation shorts with a hand-hold camera bartered from an antique shop, and plays them at home on an ersatz screen set in the closet. Destiny has been kind to him, a chief struggle is his working-class father's initial disagreement of Demy's decision to throw himself into the movie business, but when he realises his son does have the talent, he is sensible enough to let him go to Paris, where the film eventually draws to a close.

JACQUOT DE NANTES is Varda's personal but endearing portrayal of her beloved husband, a farewell visual memoir of him, there are brief documentaries of an ailing Demy talking feebly in his last days, and near-end, the macro close-ups of his wrinkles, grey stubble and finally zoom in on his nebulous eyes, like a valedictory gaze during the final stage of a sacred catharsis to let him go, the film itself stands as a testimony of their ever-lasting love, poetically and romantically, it evokes great intimacy towards those we love and cherishes the time when we are together.

Paddington (2014)
A cutesy kid's fare, routine storyline, 13 April 2015

Nostalgia of the original PADDINGTON BEAR series aside, Paul King's PADDINGTON is a trademark Christmas offering from UK, a love letter to London and everything is tailor-made to not cross the borderline of being kids-friendly, but for adult audience who doesn't grow up with the said bear, the film is generically predictable (the only exception belongs to the yardstick that Londoners never even raise their eyebrows to see a talking bear in front of them) and one might feel a bit disappointed that it couldn't be more daring or ingenious considering its all-too-cute art productions which resemble lightweight Wes Anderson artworks and a wonderfully anthropomorphic CGI bear named Paddington (voiced by Whishaw).

Opening with a vintage black and white episode of introducing a mysterious bear species in the Peruvian jungle, then, swiftly brings about a radiant jungle view where Paddington lives with his uncle and auntie, until his home-finding trip to London. "Finding home" is the theme of Paddington's adventure, he meets the Brown Family, the patriarch Henry (Bonneville) is too afraid to venture for the sake of his two children, whilst his wife Mary (Hawkins) is the Good Samaritan, stands by Paddington with firm footing. What happens next is well within our expectation of any member of its kind, the attachment between Paddington and The Browns grows inevitably, then a villainess comes on-board, a bob- haired Nicole Kidman as Millicent, a taxidermist who insists (with a background connection) to capture Paddington to stuff him as a specimen, it is glad to see Nicole back in the villain chair after the ruinous THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007, 4/10), and this time, the ship doesn't sink.

The film never stops to being a winning delicacy if the quaint Anglo-Saxon style and teddy bear is exactly your thing, many whimsical set pieces are between charming (Paddington unwittingly chases a pickpocket) and slightly balmy (Bonneville's transvestite outfit) and au fond Paddington is just a little foreign boy who happens to be in a bear's appearance, being ignorant in human society and making mess with his clumsiness. The heightened face-off is very bland as all the violence has been properly tone-downed. But Ben Whishaw's voice is unambiguously the soul of the movie, sometimes boyishly chirpy, sometimes soothingly touching, consummately nourishes the verve of this brazenly self-indulgent and subtly self- propagating fantasy with winsome veneer.

King Vidor's premium melodrama in 1937, 12 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

STELLA DALLAS is a King Vidor's premium melodrama in 1937, starring Barbara Stanwyck as the titular heroine, a working-class daughter metamorphoses from a shrewd social climber to a self-sacrificing single mother who will endure a complete severance of her beloved daughter Laurel (Shirley), so as to secure the latter a suitable social background with the wealthy family of her ex-husband, Laurel's father Stephen (Boles), as a guarantee to marry a rich kid Laurel loves. This synopsis might have an air of a wilful malapropos against our free love modern viewpoint and is fairly overdone as a propaganda for a mother's unconditional but one-sided love.

But considering its time-of-making, it is ever so a telling tale pinpointing a typical mainstream mindset of a yesteryear, what's more compelling is Stanwyck's powerful performance, completely devoid of hammy theatricality, interprets her emotional vicissitude with crafty indicators such as her expressive eyes and imploring bearings in the latter half of the picture particularly. Anne Shirley, a popular child star on the brink of adulthood, plays off against Stanwyck as the best daughter a mother could ever have, beautiful, jolly, sensible, understanding and kind-hearted, although Laurel is designed in the script to fulfil her mother's sacrifice, Shirley brings judiciousness and vivacity into her character much more than it is required, to a point, viewers may be for fear that she could almost recognise Stella's fakery and the story will end with more rationale. Both actresses rightfully harvest an Oscar nomination in this old-fashioned tearjerker, for Stanwyck, it is her first BEST LEADING ACTRESS nomination out of four in total, while for Shirley, it is her only kudos before she permanently retires from the silver screen in light of her second marriage in 1944.

As a matter of fact, Vidor and the screenwriters do not try to beautify Stella, so audience can vicariously get more invested in her sacrifice and devotion. She is at first introduced as a young maiden who is pining for marry a rich man and skillful enough to manipulate her way into marrying the upper-class Stephen Dallas, but neither are married for love, Stella's inbred tawdriness soon clashes with the social conventions required for her of motherhood when Laurel is born, and she is not wise enough to keep Stephen on her side. When they separated, it is the upbringing of Laurel alters her, slowly she shifts her life-pursuit to Laurel's, and all she wants is to let Laurel have the life she is dreaming of. But there is also a discernible dilemma here, Stella can make fabulous dresses for her daughter, which proves she definitely has a sense of fashion and taste, why she cannot apply it to her own wardrobe? Then it occurs to me maybe her Christmas-tree-decoration parading is all a well- planned procedure to carry out her motivation much before her visit to Mrs. Morrison (O'Neil), who is the specimen of a perfect stepmother, it is surprising to find out this is O'Neil's film debut and she is only in her twenties then.

As the very first King Vidor's film I have watched, STELLA DALLAS is too schmaltzy for my taste, nevertheless, for the sake of Barbara Stanwyck alone, the movie is still worthing visiting and get your handkerchief ready, it is a fair warning.

The plot is untenable in retrospect, 9 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Generally speaking, X-MEN series is my favorite among the superhero universe, yet the distant memory of Gavin Hood's X-MEN ORIGINS:WOLVERINE (2009, 7/10) has faded into blurry fragments, this time, Hugh Jackson's Logan (who is in top form in his Wolverine physique) embarks on an exotic journey in Japan, all by himself (with Jean haunting him all along to allure him into discard his immortality), to say a farewell to an old friend Yashida (Yahmamouchi) in his dying bed, whom in the opening sequences, Logan saves during the Nagasaki bombing, only to discover there is a sinister scheme awaits.

First of all, apart from the opening 20 minutes, the story exclusively takes place in the present Japan, which instantly sheds the fatigues of the usual westernized landscape and gives the film a perky start with all the intrigues of an impending internecine strife inside an affluential clan, then, gradually removes Wolverine off his instantaneously resuscitative superpower, makes him vulnerable while hatching a romance with Mariko (Okamoto), the granddaughter of Yashida and the forthcoming heiress of his entire enterprise, and saving her from the assault of yakuza sent by her power-seeking father Shingen (Sanada) and the voluptuous fiancé Noburo (Tee), which turns out to be a lame red-herring, frustratedly betrays the well-expected final twist, a subterfuge never altogether feasible in retrospect.

The action sequences are slick at its most, aka. the fight on top of a fleeting bullet train, and at its lowest is the showdown near the end, the villainess Viper (Khodchtenkova) doesn't live up to our expectation as an anomaly in this male-dominant profession of a brainy ringleader, neither does her combat skill. Otherwise, the routine stunts (samurai, yakuza and an over-sized robot in a shining armor etc.) can barely raise viewers's eyebrows.

The movie ostensibly offers a moderately engrossing experience for a first-viewing, nothing extraordinary, but also on a par with its blockbuster standard. Nevertheless, during the post mortem, the story itself contains a glaring plot-hole which cannot go without noticing. I hope I am not nitpicking, and spoilers alert, if all Yashida wants is to take over Wolverine's power of immortality, what's fuss to make all the tête-a-tête talk, cause family frictions, poison Logan with the risk of him being killed (I suppose a dead Wolverine is no good use for him), and fake his own death with his funeral being broadcast nationally, thus even he would acquire the immortality, how would he justify his outré rise from his grave? He could simply send Yukio (Fukushima) to convince Logan to fly to Japan, and clandestinely capture him using Viper's poison and take his power by force as they actually do in the climax, no more casualties needed in any rate. I blame this on the screenwriters' sloth to not even try to fabricate more sense for such a gigantic production. Or maybe this is purposefully conceived as a perspicacious mockery to the double-crossing psyche acutely concealed beneath the humble surface of the quintessential Japanese good manners? I hope it is merely my needless reckoning, otherwise James Mangold did have some guts to imprint his political spin into such a widely accessible Hollywood merchandise! Well, I doubt this is the case anyway.

Labyrinth (1986)
Bizarre but utterly arresting!, 8 April 2015

LABYRINTH is Jim Benson's follow-up of the grotesquely eye-opening puppet enterprise THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982, 7/10), and also his final painstaking work, where he pairs a cherubic Jennifer Connelly and a trend-setting David Bowie (look at his 80s coiffure!) as human actors with all his accomplished puppets, to present a spellbinding fairytale in a labyrinth at the heart of a Goblin kingdom. It was a disastrous commercial failure upon its release, but time has been pretty generous to it and now it has achieved the cult status and even a possible sequel has been hatched for many years.

As bedazzling as Bowie plays the almighty Jareth the Goblin king, this is no prince and princess romance considering Connelly's Sarah is only a 15-year-old, after her embittered wish accidental becomes true, Sarah faces a daunting task and must solve the labyrinth within 13 hours, otherwise her little stepbrother Toby (Froud) who has been snatched by Jareth and his underlings, will become a goblin forever.

Not as otherworldly as THE DARK CRYSTAL, but again Benson and his prop teams let their imagination soar with no boundaries, there are biting fairies, countless helping hands, the paradoxical door riddle, a juggernaut cleaner, talking walls, head-detached creatures called Fierys, the bog of eternal stench, junk-yard hags, behemoth metallic guards just to name a few. Plus, the picture distinguishes itself as a prototype of computer-generated CGI technology,

For Sarah, it is also a journey of learning not to take things for granted, don't be as spoiled and selfish as she is in the beginning, and making friends alongside, soon she will be accompanied by the cowardly dwarf Hoggle, the giant beast-looking Ludo, who is actually very timid and can summon rocks, and a chivalrous fox named Sir Didymus. All is granted with vivid impersonations thanks to the excellent puppeteers behind them. One innate shortcoming of puppets-operation is the lack of fluidity in motion, especially during the large-scale actions, that's why the film slackens a bit in its second half when Sarah's squad grows, and during the castle-raiding scenes, it becomes rather distractive. But as luck would have it, a final highlight arrives in a gravity-defying stairwell resembles M.C. Escher's RELATIVITY, where Sarah faces off Jareth alone and rebuffs his conquest, her mission finally has been accomplished and Jareth is defeated and morphs into the form of an owl.

Bowie contributed five songs to the soundtrack, the most striking one is AS THE WORLD FALLS DOWN, played in a critical scenery where Sarah's memory is fading and she appears as a princess in a masquerade, captivated by Jareth's gaze and supposedly should forget about her mission and capitulate to Jareth's glamour. Connelly is peachy and sufficiently engaging as a little heroine acquires wisdom and compassion in this phantasm fable, as the film cunningly suggests with all the paraphernalia in her bedroom of a girl obsessed with a fanciful wonderland. I could imagine if I had watched it when I was a kid, this movie could have been stuck in my memory as an all-time classic, and I doubt the current cinematic puppetry can ever reach the same altitude of ingeniousness and virtuosity.

Kes (1969)
Ken Loach's best!, 7 April 2015

Billy Casper (Bradley) is a schoolboy, around 14 or so, his visage looks awfully older than his real age and his scrawny skeleton makes him smaller among his schoolmates, he lived in a coal mine town of England, his father is absent, his mother (Perrie) is negligent and his worst nightmare is his bigger brother, Jud (Fletcher) who cannot leave him in peace even in sleep because they have to squeeze in the same bed. Billy has to moonlight as a paperboy every morning to supplement household expenses before going to the Protestant school, where he constantly succumbs to the receiving end of the browbeating from his peers, or a tyrannic football coach (Glover), or a diatribe from the pontifical headmaster (Bowes) and his cane, even so, school is better than working in the dangerous pit where Jud currently works. Subconsciously Billy is rebellious to the adulthood whereas there is no hope in his bleak future (hard-hitting political philosophy is Ken Loach's unwavering trademark which can already be pungently detected in his second feature-length).

Nevertheless, Billy has developed a keen eye on falconry, he has no qualm to snitch a book about it in a secondhand bookstore, and finally steals a fledgling kestrel from its nest, which he names Kes and it becomes one glimmer light in Billy's otherwise dismal life, he trains Kes every day in a green field, from baby steps with jesses until it can soar unbridledly, composer John Cameron renders the melodious oboe to personify Kes' presence, and a sublime coexistence occurs, later, as Billy's benevolent teacher Mr. Farthing (Welland) sagely points out, there is a serene power of silence created by Kes, whenever it flaps, hovers, glides and swoops. To Billy, Kes is never a pet, it cannot be tamed, instead, he is a caretaker, to feed and train it regularly, to appreciate the time when he can observe this sacred creature within close-range. A mutual equilibrium which lays bare the ultimate harmony between human and nature, unfortunately it is doomed to be broken, Loach never condescends to emotionally manipulative his audiences to elicit pathos, instead he brandishes his camera like a stern bystander, shows us the brutal reality as it happens.

David Bradley is wondrous to behold, for all his falconry competence, the utterly effortless line-delivery out of his apparent low-class grubbiness and his emotional crunch near the end is drastically affecting, a BAFTA win for BEST NEW COMER is fairly-honored. Colin Welland, who also won a BAFTA for BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, is the saving grace of all the human characters around Billy's life, he and Bradley fabricate the most touching moments in this rather bleak tale, and he would later win an Oscar as a screenwriter for CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981). Lynne Perrie as Billy mother, doesn't have too much screen time, but she defiantly defies the usual cliché of a single mother who doesn't love her offspring, in this case, she is just incompetent to assume the job as a mother, she doesn't understand Billy and has too much grouch to the dire situation and a good-for-nothing Jud, even among all the domestic disturbance near the end, we can accuse her not love Billy, such a sheer insight of the dreadful reality of parenthood.

The film is adapted from Barry Hines' novel A KESTREL FOR A KNAVE, which is intrinsically in agreement with Ken Loach's working-class inclination, KES is indisputably among the best crops of UK productions dedicated to the ordinary hoi polloi, a timeless classic about a boy and his kestrel, the entrancing oneness between man and nature, and a soulful cautionary tale of a time should not been forgotten, or maybe it is still present elsewhere in this imperfect world .

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R.I.P. for Paul Walker, 5 April 2015

An Easter weekend cinema-going of this topical car-chasing no brainer, a franchise has already exceedingly overstayed its shelf-life, reaches an unforeseen acme catalysed by the tragic loss of its co-leading man Paul Walker last year (ironically in a car crash, again a bloody testimony of "movies are deceitful", considering in this latest offering, no lack of crashes, but not even a minor concussion incurred or whatsoever.). After the series best FAST FIVE (2011, 7/10) and a degenerative FAST AND FURIOUS 6 (2013, 6/10), this time, the director chair has been delegated to James Wan, the master-hand behind SAW & INSIDIOUS horror trademarks, it is a sure-thing its box office will explode and achieve another series-high, but reckoning a story and cast overhaul is inevitable for its next move, let us take it as a sincere eulogy not only to Paul but the franchise itself.

The cast continues ballooning with Jason Statham as the indomitable villain, and Tony Jaa makes his Hollywood debut in a thankless role as a heavy, with a has-been action star Kurt Russell back in the game with the hope to hog the position as a regular for the upcoming adventures. Universal surely is hatching a bigger plan for their top-ranking monkey-maker mammoth.

The movie never veers from binging on its WTF spectacles, this time, the highlights include a car-parachuting stunt, an action-packed hostage-rescuing set piece ending with a science-defying cliff-hanger, and a car-swooping among three adjacent high-rises in Abu Dhabi. No doubt they are all thrilling to watch, and the admiration for the teamwork behind swells up spontaneously, which inadvertently overkills in the final showdown with a bombarding drone running amok in the city, personally it descends to a headache-inducing and eardrum-hurting nuisance because it drags too long and the hand-to-hand combat between Statham and Diesel fails to match its promise.

Now, to the mushy part, as a half-finished swan-song of Walker, Wan and the screenwriter Chris Morgan choose the safest route for his exit strategy, with the aide of body doubles, CGI effects and montages of previous scenes, to say the least, fanboys will feel satisfactory and the due respect has been properly paid to the gone-too-soon. After all, the over- sensational phenomenon is not because the picture per se is the best of the series, purely, it is another victory of the ever-correct marketing tactic exploits on people's sentimentality on tragedies, which in some way, actually could give this enervated franchise a glance of hope to regain its vigour and keeps its life span. But for now, I can only wish R.I.P. for Paul, never a versatile actor, but a down-to-earth presence our generation hopefully will not forget in no time.

Judy Holliday's career-defining performance!, 4 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

1950 appears to be a remarkable year for leading actress as far as its Oscar race is concerned, among the nominees are - the most rip-roaring comeback from the silent star Gloria Swanson in SUNSET BLVD. (1950, 9/10), the juggernaut presence of Bette Davis and the supreme Anne Baxter in the iconic ALL ABOUT EVE (1950, 9/10), while I have yet to see Eleanor Parker in CAGED (1950), but the eventual winner is Judy Holliday from George Cukor's chamber piece, who reprises her classic role on the silver screen from Garson Kanin's play. After watching it, notwithstanding that the story doesn't stand the test of time for its conspicuous poetic license to romanticize the tale, by comparison Lewis Gilbert's EDUCATING RITA (1983, 7/10) has been more tellingly realistic, Holliday's performance is deservingly a sensation to behold (the golden-age charisma is certainly unparalleled and ravishing for my taste), I rank her the runner-up (just below Swanson) of the year so far.

Holiday plays Billie Dawn, a loud-mouth, ditsy, ex-showgirl bimbo who has been the fiancée of the equally (if not more) loud-mouth and ditsy tycoon Harry Brock (Crawford) for seven years (people do find their own kinds). Harry is an obnoxious, self-centered upstart whose business germinates from selling junks. They come to Washington D.C. and Harry intends to buy himself a congressman with the aid of the materialistic lawyer Jim Devery (St. John). After Billie's uncouth manners sabotage a formal visit of a congressman, out of the blue, Harry successfully makes the worst decision ever from his cretinous brain, in order to make Billie presentable, he hires a political reporter Paul Verrall (Holden) whom he has just met, to educate her. While being a man with senses of justice, Paul (unbelievably) falls for Billie almost at the first glance, and it turns out the feelings are mutual, as stale as that. Paul recommends books for her, brings her out sightseeing, visiting museums and historical edifices to learn history and art, as two carefree lovebirds.

Thus, as everyone expected, the more cultivated Billie becomes, the more disparity emerges between her and Harry, no more playing cards in their harmoniously co-existed scenes (which is accomplished by a marked long take to manifest their low-class wont), Billie gets suspicious of the contacts she is coerced to sign, turns disobedient against Harry's will and pours scorn on his rough behaviors. And in the end, she chooses the more dignified Paul, after a heroic gargantuan-money-refusal act. The story might sound a bit unimpressive on paper, but it goes pretty smoothly on the screen thanks to Cukor's fluid direction in a basically restricted setting and a potent cast, especially, our heroine Judy Holliday.

From being a round peg in a square hole, to a good-hearted soul with a morally conscientious spin, Holliday unfolds a captivating turn with her resolved confidence on the screen, allures audience with an imperative urgency to rally behind her metamorphosis; Holden and Crawford unfortunately succumb to more one-dimensional sidekicks around her, a whole stage for an actress when actors retreat to a secondary position, a scene rarely cannot be seen nowadays anymore, so in spite that to some bigots, the film can be misinterpreted as an exemplar of anti-education towards pretty women, yet, for most of the world, it is still relishing to re-value its gender politics under today's climate.

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