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The Secret of Kells (2009)
A good movie for children; not bad for adults either
The Secret of Kells (2009) is an animated film written and co-directed by
Tomm Moore. Nora Twomey is the other co-director.
The history of the book of Kells is so amazing that it is, actually, stranger than fiction. The illuminated manuscript was produced in about 800 A.D. by monks in Iona, a small island off the coast of Scotland.
Because of Viking raids, the book was taken to the relative safety of the monastery at Kells, Ireland. Having survived the Vikings, the book was again in danger from Cromwell's troops. That's when it was moved to Trinity College in Dublin, where it remains today.
Evan McGuire is the voice of Brendan, a young boy who is the nephew of the Abbot of Kells. Christen Mooney plays Aisling, a forest sprite who helps Brendan survive in the forest, where he has gone to find oak galls for ink.
The story is significant,, because it incorporates three important components associated with the Book of Kells: the incredible importance of illuminated manuscripts, the ever-present danger from Viking raids, and the folklore, which was and is an central aspect of Irish culture.
The film worked well on the small screen. It has a very strong IMDb rating of 7.7. I don't consider it a must-see film. However, especially for children, it opens a door to appreciation of the Book of Kells, and of the people who produced it.
Jane Eyre (1970)
The movie doesn't do justice to the novel
Jane Eyre is a novel that can translate well into film. (Check IMDb for the multiple versions available.) This version of Jane Eyre (1970) was directed by
It stars George C. Scott as Edward Rochester, and Susannah York as Jane Eyre.
York does a very good job. It helps that she was British, so she didn't have to work on her accent. The biggest problem is that we have to accept the fact that she's "plain," when she was very beautiful.
George C. Scott was an excellent actor, but he was a U.S. actor through and through. He was great in Patton, but not great in Jane Eyre. I never could accept him in the role.
We saw the movie on the small screen, and it worked well enough. This version of Jane Eyre has an anemic IMDb rating of 6.5, which I think is about right. My suggestion--watch the 1943 Welles-Fontaine version, which is rated 7.6.
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Excellent animated movie
Kubo and the Two Strings was directed by Travis Knight. Although the story takes place in Japan, it's a U.S. film. (I was surprised that no Japanese names were in the credits.)
The movie is hard to describe--it's partly a growing-of-age film, partly about origami, and partly a fairy tale with ghosts and dragons.
I think that the unusual plot makes this is a great film for young people, who are accustomed to astounding animation. For me, the animation was everything. It's dazzling.
The movie would work better on the large screen. We saw it on the small screen, and it was OK. It's not a must-see movie, but it's worth watching if you enjoy state-of-the-art animation.
Ryan's Daughter (1970)
Anna Karenina in revolutionary Ireland
Ryan's Daughter (1970) was directed by David Lean.
In my opinion, the film shouldn't have been made by by Lean. He was the director of the huge, sweeping epics Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia. This story is an intimate one. However, Lean being Lean, he turned it into an epic.
Sara Miles plays Rosy, who is, indeed Ryan's daughter. Ryan, who owns the local pub, is something of a leader in the village. He's reputed to have ties to the IRA. Rosy is intelligent and beautiful. She falls in love with Charles, the local school teacher, played by Robert Mitchum.
Mitchum is cast against type as a gentle, caring school teacher. He's much older than Rosy. In fact, he tells her that he'll steal her youth from her. Mitchell was 53 when he played Charles. Miles was 29. Still, she looked as if she was about 20, and he looked as if he was about 35, so the marriage didn't appear particularly unusual.
However, a third person entered the story--Christopher Jones as Major Doryan. He's a famous WWI hero, now suffering with PTSD. (It would have been called shell shock in 1917, but it's obviously what we would call PTSD.) He's the commander of the English troops, seen as an occupying army by the local people.
All three of the three lead actors were excellent in their roles. Mitchum even convinces us that he really is a quiet, unassuming teacher in a village school.
However, in my opinion, Trevor Howard as the village priest Fr. Collins, and John Mills as Michael, the developmentally delayed person, deserve the acting honors. It would have been easy to make Michael into someone who understood things that other people couldn't understand. However, director Lean was too smart to do that. Michael stays in character throughout, influencing events that he doesn't comprehend. Mills won an Oscar as Best Supporting Player for this role.
This film works as a love triangle, but doesn't work--at least for me--as an epic. In 1970, Ryan's Daughter was savaged by the critics. In fact, it still is. Maltin gives it a dismal 2 1/2 stars out of 4. However, its IMDb rating is a solid 7.5, which I believe is more appropriate.
Of course, the movie cries out for a large screen, although we saw it on DVD. Even on DVD, it's worth seeing for the brilliant acting. Not a can't-miss film, but certainly worth viewing.
One of the great films of 2018
The Lebanese movie Capharnaüm (2018) was shown in the U.S. with the title Capernaum. The film was co-written and directed by Nadine Labaki.
Zain Al Rafeea portrays Zain, a 12-year-old boy who is intelligent, resourceful, and caring. Sadly, he comes from a background of extreme poverty, where his parents must use of of their resources just to keep the children alive. (Except for one of Zain's sisters, we never get a sense of how many children there are. They sleep curled up together like puppies.)
For tragic reasons, Zain leaves home and tries to survive on the streets. He meets a Somali woman named Rahil, played by Yordanos Shiferaw. Zain, Rahil, and Rahil's son form a family of sorts. However, they too are entrapped by poverty and abuse.
This movie is so powerful that it's hard to watch. It gives us a true glimpse into what life is like when you are poor and powerless. The reason it's a great film is not because it makes you feel good, but because it helps you to understand how bad life can be for others.
Note that Capernaum has an IMDb rating of 8.4! I can't remember any recent film carrying a rating that high. The high rating is well deserved.
We saw this film on the large screen at Tucson's wonderful Loft Cinema. It will work on the small screen, but not quite as well. The important point is that it's a truly great movie, and you don't want to miss it.
The Watermelon Woman (1996)
An interesting movie, but difficult to review
The Watermelon Woman (1996) was written and directed by Cheryl Dunye. Dunye also stars. The film introduction included the information that this was the first movie to be directed by an openly lesbian Black director.
We learned that Dunye was a film student who wanted to make a documentary about Black women in 1930's movies. Except for movies made for Black audiences, Black women were invariably cast as servants or slaves. Very often their names didn't appear in the movie credits.
Rather than actually doing the documentary, Dunye made a narrative film about a woman (herself) trying to make the documentary. It sounds strange, but it makes sense when you're watching it.
We saw the movie at Rochester's wonderful Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum. It will work well enough on the small screen. It's not a movie for everyone, but it's an important film, and worth seeing.
A look at life in urban Poland before the Holocaust
Mamele (1938) is a U.S. film that was produced in Poland. The movie was directed by Joseph Green. It's in Yiddish, with English subtitles. The actors were all from the U.S. They traveled to the industrial city of Lodz, Poland to act in the film. Of course, they could not know that one year later, the community depicted in the movie would no longer exist.
Mamele in Yiddish means "little mother." That's what her family calls Khavtshi Samet, who sacrifices everything to be their "mother" when their real mother dies. She is horribly treated by most of the other family members--sort of like a Jewish Cinderella, only worse.
Mamele is portrayed by Molly Picon. Picon was a star in both Yiddish-language and English-language films and theater. Although she was 40 when she played Mamele, she looked half that age. Ingenue roles were her specialty, and she was in her prime when she starred in this movie.
Mamele was shown at Rochester's wonderful Dryden Theatre at The George Eastman museum. However, bad road conditions kept us away. We had to settle for seeing it on DVD, where it worked very well.
This isn't the film for everyone. It was produced 70 years ago, and it shows it's age. The subtitles are often white-on-white. However, I still recommend Mamele. In the first half of the 20th Century, Yiddish theatre and movies had an important place in the U.S. entertainment world. Molly Picon was the best of the best. Here's a perfect opportunity to see her in action.
An iconic film 25 years later
Les demoiselles ont eu 25 ans (1993) is a French film shown in the U.S. with the title The Young Girls 25 Years Later. The movie was written and directed by Agnès Varda.
The Young Girls of Rochefort, directed by Jacques Demy, became an iconic movie after it was released in 1968. Twenty-five years later, the people of Rochefort held an extravagant event to celebrate the film and its positive effect of bringing Rochefort out of its "Sleeping Beauty" slumber.
Director Agnès Varda is Jacques Demy's widow. Although she didn't participate in the movie directly, she was there taking photos and videos.
Many of the film's stars returned to Rochefort, including Catherine Deneuve, and Jacques Perrin. Composer Michel Legrand was there as well.
Varda is too good a director to only focus on stars. (The camera just wants to follow Deneuve, but Varda won't let that happen.) Varda presents interviews with bit players and extras. In the film, Deneuve and her sister Francois Dorleac were supposed to be twins. (They were sisters, but not twins.) Some twins were used in the films, and they are interviewed. Two of the school children, who were both extras, met again years later, and eventually married.
In 1993, tourists still came to Rochefort to see the places where the filming took place. (By coincidence, 2018 was the 50th anniversary of Young Girls. I wonder how many people still remember it.)
Demy was a brilliant director who made films that were different from those made by other French directors of the time. He often said he was trying to imitate the Hollywood musicals of the era. However, how many Hollywood directors would transform the appearance of a city by painting more than one thousand shutters to match the color scheme of a movie?
This is a movie worth seeing, although it would work better in a theater. You'll enjoy it more if you can see The Young Girls of Rochefort before you see the documentary.
This film apparently can't be purchased separately. However, it's easy to find a Young Girls Criterion Collection DVD, which contains this movie as a supplement. That way you'll be able to see the Young Girls first, and then follow with Agnès Varda's documentary. It's definitely worth making the effort!
Northern Lights (1978)
The best film you probably can't see!
Northern Lights (1978) was written and directed by John Hanson and Rob Nilsson. The setting is rural North Dakota about a century ago.
The film stars Robert Behling as Ray Sorensen, a young farmer who works on his father's farm with his brother John, portrayed by Joe Spano. Susan Lynch plays the woman Ray loves, Inga Olsness. The rest of the cast are non-professionals. They're local people in North Dakota.
This is a powerful film about the hardships of crushing poverty, despite the strong work ethic of the farmers. Big business interests and conservative politicians conspired to bring the farmers into debt, which ultimately lead to the foreclosure of their farms.
As the movie progressives, we follow Ray Sorensen as he recognizes the injustices around him, and becomes an organizer for the liberal Nonpartisan League (NPL). In the early 20th Century, many NPL candidates were elected to government offices. The party enacted its progressive programs, including establishing state-owned banks, mills, and a railroad.
The film was amazingly effective in making us feel--not just see--the cold weather and the terrible predicament in which good people found themselves.
The absolutely brilliant b/w cinematography was the work of Judy Irola. Almost every frame could be enlarged into a great still photo.
If you can't see this film, you obviously can't appreciate it, and that's the problem. We found an unused VHS, which hadn't deteriorated too badly.
Previous reviewers have lamented the lack of this movie in DVD. No copies are available in DVD or VHS on Amazon or eBay. Some colleges own copies, so maybe you could get the film via interlibrary loan.
Northern Lights has an anemic 7.0 IMDb rating. I'm not sure why it's so low. It's much better than that.
This is a great movie. It would surely work better on a large screen, but it worked well enough for us on VHS. If you can find it, see it!
Une chambre en ville (1982)
A workers' strike, verismo opera, and Dominique Sanda
The French film Une chambre en ville (1982) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title A Room in Town. It was written and directed by Jacques Demy.
This is an unusual movie because all the dialog is sung, which is like opera. It's about a labor strike, police violence, and sex--definitely verismo.
Dominique Sanda stars as Edith Leroyer, the newly-married daughter of Margot Langlois, played by Demy stalwart Danielle Darrieux. Edith's husband, Edmond, is portrayed by the great French actor Michel Piccoli. Richard Berry stars as François Guilbaud, a metalworker and staunch union member. He falls in love with Edith, and she with him. (It's actually love at first sight. And what a sight it is.)
Fabienne Guyon plays Violette Pelletier, who is also in love with François. She's young and attractive, but no match for Edith. (Think Michaëla vs. Carmen.)
I enjoyed this film because it was complex and multifaceted. Once you get into the fact that there's no speaking, only singing, you can sit back and enjoy it.
Sanda, Darrieux, and Piccoli are all actors with whom I'm familiar. Berry appeared in over 100 movies, none of which I'd seen. All four are superb actors, and they carry the movie forward.
In my opinion, all of Demy's films would work better on the large screen. However, the DVD version worked well enough. Une chambre en ville has an anemic 7.0 IMDb rating. I think it's better than that. It's not for everyone, but there are definitely people who would enjoy it.
P.S. If you'd like to know what Dominique Sanda's body looked like in 1982, this is the movie for you.
Il postino (1994)
True love (and Pablo Neruda's poetry) conquers all
The Italian movie Il postino (1994) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title The Postman. It was directed by Michael Radford, an English director. Massimo Troisi, the star of the movie, is listed as collaborating director.
Massimo Troisi plays Mario Ruoppolo, a quiet fisherman who falls in love with Beatrice Russo (played by Maria Grazia Cucinotta). He is a humble man, and Beatrice is the most beautiful woman on the island, so everyone assumes that this will be unrequited love.
However, the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is living in exile on the island. (Neruda is portrayed by the French actor Philippe Noiret.) Mario enlists Neruda to be his Cyrano de Bergerac. Neruda's task is to give Mario the words by which to woo and win Beatrice.
This film is a comedy, and it's funny. However, it has a sad undertone to it. The fishermen are ignored by their political representative, who only shows up at election time. Everyone is overworked and underpaid. Communism appeals to people, but we know now what they didn't know then--life in a Communist country is not an escape from the scourges of capitalism.
Another sad point is that Massimo Troisi was an extremely sick man when he acted in this film. He was supposed to have a heart transplant, but he decided to appear in the film instead. Maybe he was just counting on good luck, or maybe he wanted to be remembered in death for this excellent movie. Troisi died the day after filming was completed.
We saw this movie on DVD. It would work better in a theater because of the glorious scenery. However, it worked well enough on the small screen.
Il Postino has a very strong IMDb rating of 7.7. I think it's even better than that. Find it and see it.
P.S. I learned about this film from a young woman named Beatrice. Her mother saw this movie, and she was so moved that she told everyone that if she had a daughter, she would name her Beatrice. That's exactly what happened.
Stephen Fry in America (2008)
Stephen Fry tells Brits and Americans about the U.S.
Stephen Fry in America (2008) is a BBC television mini-series. It was directed by John-Paul Davidson (4 episodes) and Michael Waldman (2 episodes).
Fry--who is a great actor-- travels by a London taxi to all 48 continental U.S. states, and then visits Alaska and Hawaii. Most Americans haven't visited all 50 states. And, of course, even fewer British people have accomplished this feat.
The point is not just so that Fry can say he's done it. He attempts to give us a sense of the country and its people. His team had the knack of finding some very interesting events, such as a society fundraiser in Houston. (I've never seen wealth so prominently displayed.) He also visited a Italian-American social club in New York City and a grand mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. (A matron there tells him, "I was at the Bouvier-Kennedy wedding. It was just Jackie Bouvier's wedding--not really that important.")
I truly enjoyed this series, and I learned quite a bit about my own country. Some things were good, and some were terrible, but that's the American reality.
Because these episodes were made for TV, they work well on the small screen. This movie has an extremely strong IMDb rating of 8.0. Absolutely right. It's worth finding it and seeing it.
Stan & Ollie (2018)
Laurel & Hardy in 1953
Stan & Ollie (2018) was directed by Jon S. Baird. It's a story based on the last tour (in England and Ireland) of the great comedians Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy in 1953.
At that time, Laurel & Hardy, who had been world famous, were at the end of their careers. They needed to star in a movie. In order to get the movie produced, they went on the road to build excitement and new interest in their comedy style.
During the tour, things didn't work out as they had hoped. The disappointment opened old wounds and betrayals, which led to new wounds and betrayals. Although other characters are in the film, it all revolves around the interaction between the two men. In a way they're like brothers, but like brothers who aren't really happy with each other.
John C. Reilly plays Oliver Hardy, and Steve Coogan portrays Stan Laurel. Both men are superb actors, and they bear an uncanny resemblance to the real Laurel and Hardy. The movie succeeds because of their talented performances.
We saw this film at Rochester's excellent Little Theatre. It will work well on the small screen. Stan & Ollie has a strong IMDb rating of 7.6. I think it's even better than that.
A beautiful woman with a cat and a boyfriend
The South Korean movie Beoning (2018) was shown in the U.S. with the title
"Burning." It was co-written and directed by Chang-dong Lee. The film is based on a short story by award-winning writer Haruki Murakami.
Ah-in Yoo plays Lee Jong-su, a young man who has graduated from college, but is unemployed. By chance, he meets a former high school classmate, the beautiful Shin Hae-mi, portrayed by Jong-seo Jun. She asks him to do her a favor--feed her cat when she travels to Africa.
When she returns from Africa, she's accompanied by an extremely wealthy young man named Ben. (Despite his name, he's also South Korean.) Ben is portrayed by Steven Yeun.
The story starts there, and quietly proceeds as we learn that something very strange is happening. Burning is really a thriller, but a thriller without guns or car chases.
What matters is the psychology of the three young people, and the actions that their psychology brings about. The unpleasantness of the whole situation is there, but it's just below the surface.
We saw this movie at Rochester's excellent Little Theatre. It will work well on the small screen. This film has a very strong IMDb rating of 7.7. I think it's even better than that.
Hva vil folk si (2017)
Some culture clashes are not funny
The Norwegian film Hva vil folk si (2017) was shown in the United States with the title "What will people say." It was written and directed by the Norwegian-Pakistani director Iram Haq.
Maria Mozhdah plays Nisha. She's a teenager who has grown up in Norway. She lives with her parents and her older brother. Nisha clearly is integrated into her Scandinavian culture, but the rest of her family is not.
They appear to have no interest in Norway or Norwegians. Everything for them revolves around the other members of the Pakistani community. "What will people say" is the most important question for them.
Because Nisha doesn't conform, she is punished severely. It's amazing that this narrative film is actually based on events that happened to director Iram Haq.
In Bend it like Beckham, we have a comedy based on cultural clashes within an Indian family in England. This movie isn't like that. Cultural obedience becomes a literal matter of life and death.
Hva vil folk si is a grim, powerful film. Maria Mozhdah is a superb actor and she makes Nisha come to life. The movie wouldn't work with a less talented actor as the protagonist.
We saw this film at Rochester's outstanding Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum. It will work well enough on the small screen. I highly recommend it.
On the Basis of Sex (2018)
Great movie about a great woman!
On the Basis of Sex (2018) was directed by Mimi Leder. This is a narrative movie based on the early career of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Felicity Jones pays Ginsburg and Armie Hammer plays her loving husband, Martin Ginsburg. Of course, both actors are extremely attractive, as the Ginsburgs were in real life. (Check out Google Images to see how well cast Jones and Hammer are.)
Justin Theroux plays ACLU Director Mel Wulf, Sam Waterston portrays Erwin Griswold, the Harvard Law School Dean who asks why women deserve to have taken a place in law school which could have gone to a man. (He later was Solicitor General, and appears again as Ginsburg's opponent.)
Kathy Bates plays the tough, hardened civil rights attorney Dorothy Kenyon. Cailee Spaeny plays Jane Ginsburg, the Ginsburgs' liberated teenage daughter. Jack Reynor portrays Jim Bozarth, who is the the attorney who argues for the government in the case of Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. (This is the case around which the movie revolves.)
These actors are superb, and the movie really works. It's hard to believe now, 50 years later, that so many gender discrimination laws existed in the 1960's and later. Right now, our country is looking backwards at some of these laws, and deciding that maybe they should exist again. We will certainly need more people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg to move forward on the issue of discrimination by gender.
The movie tells us that it's based on real life. That's true. However, it's not perfectly accurate in every respect. For example, the Moritz case appears to last for a matter of months. It actually took place over four years--1968 to 1972. However, this isn't a movie about technical legal details. It's a movie about fighting gender discrimination, and that's just what Ruth Bader Ginsburg did.
I believe that this is a must-see film for anyone interested in civil rights and legal rights for women. The fact that the acting is great is, of course, a bonus.
The movie has a dismal IMDb rating of 6.5. (However, women ranked it much higher than men did.) Yes, there are a few obvious scenes, "This must be New York City. Everyone is walking quickly." "This must be Boulder, Colorado. You can see mountains." Still, it's really a great movie. Here's a case where I say, "Did those raters see the same film that I saw?"
We saw the movie at Rochester's excellent Little Theatre. It will work almost as well on the small screen. Don't miss it!
If you want to learn about W.B. Yeats, this is the movie for you!
A Fanatic Heart: Geldof On Yeats (2016) was directed by Gerry Hoban.
Bob Geldof is quite a character. He's a musician, humanitarian, and political activist. He's also, obviously, a lover of W.B. Yeats' poetry. Geldof is the glue that holds this film together. He's basically our guide through the movie. However, he's in good company.
John Boorman, Stephen Fry, Van Morrison, and Liam Neeson all read Yeats' poems. (All but Morrison are very good at it, as is Geldof himself.)
I've just started to learn about W.B. Yeats, which I say with some embarrassment. He is one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century. He's considered the greatest Irish poet, which is saying something, because Ireland is a land where poetry is an important art form.
After you've seen this movie, you'll know more about the life of W.B. Yeats, and you will have heard many of his poems.
A Fanatic Heart was made for the small screen, so it works very well on DVD. This isn't a movie for everyone, but it's much better than the IMDb rating it has of 6.6. (Actually, only 16 people rated it, so the number of raters is too small to be meaningful.)
If you're interested in Ireland, Irish culture, and the poetry of W.B. Yeats, you should seek out this movie and see it. If Irish culture and poetry leave you cold, this isn't the film for you.
The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946)
Paulette Godard is the real reason to watch this movie
The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) was directed by the great Jean Renoir. This is an U.S. film, although the action was set in France, and directed by a French director.
The movie is set in rural France in 1885. As the title suggests, a new chambermaid has arrived at a mansion of an eccentric couple. (Actually, almost everyone in the movie is eccentric to a greater or lesser degree.)
The person who's not eccentric, but totally evil, is the valet, Joseph. Francis Lederer portrayed Joseph, who is evil to the core. He looks like the villain that he is. (Actually, in one film. he played Count Dracula).
The reason to see is film is to watch Paulette Goddard at work. She was the classic Hollywood beauty of her time. And, 70 years later, she is still a classic Hollywood beauty. Better than that, she could act! Goddard plays Célestine, the chambermaid, whose only path out of lower-class drudgery is to marry a rich man. How this plays out is the plot of the film.
Renoir was possibly the greatest film director of the 20th Century. However, this movie is one of his minor films. Renoir does crowd scenes well, but he can't take his eyes off Goddard, and neither can we.
This movie has an anemic IMDB rating of 6.7. It's not a great film, but I think it's better than that. We saw it on DVD, and it worked well enough. Be sure to see it if you're a Renoir fan or a Goddard fan. Otherwise, I'd suggest Buñuel's 1964 version, with Jeanne Moreau.
L'univers de Jacques Demy (1995)
An outstanding documentary from an outstanding director about an outstanding director
L'univers de Jacques Demy (1995) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title The World of Jacques Demy. It was written and directed by Demy's widow, Agnès Varda.
Varda is, herself, a fine director. Demy was a also a fine director, and was famous, at least in France. He's know best in the U.S. for his film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
Demy was noted for his use of dialog sung to music, and his incredible utilization of primary colors.
He also chose the most beautiful women in France as his stars--Anouk Aimée, Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, and Jeanne Moreau. All of these actors appear in the movie giving their views about Demy as a director and as a person. Of course, Varda does this as well.
I think that this is a brilliant documentary, I believe that it will be of real interest to people who know Demy's work. If you don't know Demy's work, it will be a useful introduction, because Vara has added many film clips to the interviews.
We saw this movie on DVD, where it worked well enough. I think all of Demy's films are better seen in a theater, but that's rarely an option.
If you care about movies this is the film for you. It's wonderful to see a great director give us a loving portrait of another great director.
Grant and Hepburn, but not in a screwball comedy
Holiday (1938) was directed by George Cukor.
Cary Grant plays Johnny Case, who worked his way through Harvard and is now in finance. (The film is a little vague about just what he does, although he has brought "The Seaboard Deal" to fruition.)
Grant meets the beautiful Julia Seton (Doris Nolan) and falls in love with her. When he visits her mansion, he realizes that she is a member of "the" Seton family. Very wealthy. Mega rich. Loaded with money.
At the mansion, Johnny meets Linda Seton, portrayed by Katharine Hepburn . She's different. She has a mind of her own. That's the plot.
Doris Nolan, in the context of the plot, is supposed to be the beautiful one. Now, over 80 years later, she doesn't stand out. Of course, Hepburn--slender and lithe--would be called beautiful in any era.
Grant and Hepburn could act, and the chemistry was there. However, this isn't a great movie. Johnny's desire to take a "holiday" from work in order to find himself sounds forlorn, not creative.
Linda doesn't care about money. However, the manifestation of her rebellion is that she has decorated a room in the mansion to reflect her own tastes, not the tastes of her father and sister. Neither Johnny nor Linda considers any real action that would benefit other people who aren't rich. They are rebels without much rebellion. If you see this movie, see it for the acting.
We were fortunate to watch Holiday in 35mm at Rochester's wonderful Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum. However, it will work well enough on a small screen. The film has a solid 7.8 IMDb rating. Other IMDb members clearly liked it. You might like it as well.
Shake Hands with the Devil (1959)
One of Cagney's last films. He's great.
Shake Hands with the Devil (1959) was directed by Michael Anderson.
Don Murray plays Kerry O'Shea, a young American student who has come to Ireland as a medical student. Dr. Sean Lenihan is a professor of surgery at the medical school, and also a commandant in the IRA. (The film is set in 1921, just before the Anglo-Irish Treaty.)
It's hard to say much more about the plot without giving it away. I'll just mention that Cagney--coming to the end of his career--was still able to dominate a film.
Two women are in love with O'Shea. Dana Wynter portrays Jennifer Curtis, who is a hostage of the IRA. Glynis Johns is Kitty Brady, a barmaid.
There are two cameo roles: Sir Michael Redgrave portrays Lenihan's commanding officer, The General. Dame Sybil Thorndike plays Lady Fitzhugh, an IRA member who is above suspicion because of her social status.
I can't envision this movie without Cagney. He's at the center, and everything else spins around him. It's worth seeing this film for many reasons. However, for me, the best reason is to see a veteran actor in a role he was meant to play.
This movie will work better in a theater--some of the views of the Irish countryside and the sea are less impressive on the small screen. However, we saw it on DVD, and it worked well enough. It's a powerful movie, and I recommend it.
Nicky's Family (2011)
Amazing story--and it's true!
Nicky's Family (2011) is a Slovak/Czech documentary. It was co-written and directed by Matej Minac.
The film describes the incredible feats of Sir Nicholas George Winston, dubbed "The English Schindler." Sir Nicholas quietly--and effectively--was able to bring 669 children out of Czechoslovakia and into England after the Germans had occupied their country.
That's a remarkable story, well presented with some simulated scenes, some photos, and interviews with some of the people who were rescued.
The other remarkable part of the story is that no one knew what Sir Nicholas had accomplished until 1988--almost 50 years after the event took place. People only found out about his heroic work when his wife happened upon a scrapbook he had kept.
It's fascinating that, once war started and no children could be rescued, Sir Nicholas put the whole enterprise behind him. He didn't identify himself to the children he had saved. He didn't even tell his wife. This may not be totally accurate. He had mentioned what he had done when he ran for local office. (From Wikipedia.) However, the scrapbook and the BBC are what gave him international recognition.
Director Minac made a decision about the last part of the film with which I don't completely agree. He shows us that many people have been inspired to do charity work because of Winston's example. My thought is that this feel-good part of the documentary doesn't answer the questions I have about the man himself. Why didn't he follow up his work and stay connected with the children he had saved? What happened in his life between the end of the rescue operation and public fame in 1988? And, most importantly, why did he do what he did in 1938-39? Sir Winston died in 2015. We almost certainly will never know the answer to the last question.
We saw this film on the small screen, where it worked very well. It's a fascinating story, and the movie is definitely worth seeking out and watching.
Three Godfathers (1936)
Not just another 1930's Western
Three Godfathers (1936) was directed by Richard Boleslawski.
This could have been just another 1930's Western film, but that's not how things turned out. Naturally, the movie is outdated, but the basic plot isn't.
Three outlaws rob a bank and escape. They are confronted with an impossible situation--a young infant who will die unless they get him back to the town from which they've just escaped.
The outlaws are portrayed by Chester Morris, Lewis Stone, and Walter Brennan. The two women who love one of the outlaws are played by Irene Hervey and Dorothy Tree.
Some readers may remember Walter Brennan. He was a superb character actor, who won three Oscars. For me, none of the other actors were people whose names I recognized.
Nonetheless, the actors were all solid professionals. They had long and relatively successful careers. (Tree's career was cut short because she was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee.) The fact is, although none of them were marquee stars, they all could act. The professionalism shows through each frame.
I liked this movie because it started hard and ended that way. The three outlaws didn't have hearts of gold. They robbed the bank just before Christmas, when the bank held money people were saving for buying presents. They shot people who got in their way. The younger man was basically a sociopath, with no scruples about anything. Not a charming gang. That's what made the film interesting.
This is seen as a Christmas movie, and that part isn't subtle. The town they rob is called New Jerusalem. The film is set right before Christmas. Three men find a young child in the desert.
Nevertheless, the movie is realistic and moving. We saw it on a small screen. Probably it would work better in a theater, but I've never seen it screened. So, small screen is how you'll see it.
It's not a great film, but it's an excellent film. It has aged well, and is worth watching. I recommend it.
The Country Girls (1983)
Coming of age in 1950's Ireland
The Country Girls (1983 TV Movie) was directed by Desmond Davis. The screenplay was by Edna O'Brien, who wrote the novel on which the film is based.
This coming-of-age movie stars Maeve Germaine as Kate, and Jill Doyle is her best friend Baba. They both live in rural western Ireland. Kate's mother is loving, but depressed and abused by her drunkard husband. Baba's father is a physician, and is kind to both girls.
What makes the story interesting is that the young women are very different in temperament and abilities. Kate is intelligent and sensitive; Baba is less intelligent and less sensitive. She's more rebellious and defiant.
It would have been easy to film this as a good girl/bad girl drama, but that's not how O'Brien wrote it. The good girl, Kate, is in love with a married man. (He's called Mr. Gentleman, and is portrayed by Sam Neill.) That's the situation in which we'd assume Baba would be. However, it's Kate. It's a very creative touch.
The remainder of the plot follows the young women from home, to convent school, to Dublin. We learn about Irish society--as seen by O'Brien--at each step along the way.
For example, the convent school is run like a strict convent, designed to produce unhappiness. (The students aren't training to be nuns. They're just in high school, but they're treated like novice nuns.) No one questions this--that's just the way it was. Baba compares it to a prison camp, and I could see her point. Examples like that allow you to receive the bonus of an insight into a culture in a specific place at a specific time.
We saw this movie on the small screen. It was made for TV, so the small screen isn't a disadvantage. It's not a great movie, but it's a very good movie, and definitely worth seeing.
Les demoiselles de Rochefort (1967)
All singing, all dancing
The French film Les demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title The Young Girls of Rochefort. The movie was written and directed by Jacques Demy.
The film stars Catherine Deneuve as Delphine Garnier, and her biological sister, Françoise Dorléac, as her twin sister Solange Garnier. Danielle Darrieux portrays their mother. The all-star cast also includes Michel Piccoli, and Gene Kelly.
The plot is all about lost love or unfound love. Everyone is in the small city of Rochefort, and yet they never happen to meet each other. Pretty silly, and not worth worrying about. You don't see this movie for the plot.
You see this movie for the music, the colors, and especially the dancing. The music, by Michel LeGrand, is pleasant enough, if not memorable.
The colors are incredible. Director Demy loves bold, primary colors, especially blue. The colors are loud and bright. They burn into your retina and stay there.
The dancing is continuous. The screen is filled with women with 1960's style tight sweaters and miniskirts, and they break into dance every minute or two. (One of the lead actors may be walking down the street, and around him or her people are dancing.)
Of course, Deneuve, Dorléac, and Darrieux were all famous beauties. It's hard not to fill this review with tributes to their attractiveness, but I'll resist the temptation. (Darrieux is the only actor in any of Demy's movies whose singing wasn't dubbed. Not only was she a great beauty, but she could sing.)
We saw this film on DVD. It had been restored using Digital 2K. (Apparently, that's still technically advanced technology, although now there's a Digital 4K process.)
Before the movie starts, we learn that "Agnes Varda supervised the color grading." Agnes Varda is, herself, a great director. I don't know exactly what a color grader does, but the end result of her work was spectacular.
Major concern: The movie includes an ax murder. Everyone is fairly casual about it. If we believe the movie, crimes of passion aren't all that worrisome in France.
This film cries out to be seen on the large screen. However, unless you're lucky enough to have the opportunity to view it in a theater, you'll have to be content with the DVD or Blu-Ray version. It's still worth watching. I recommend it.