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The Disciple (2020)
7/10
Amazing casting, some lovely night sequences in a lovely almost unreal, clean India
12 May 2021
Amazing casting. Wonderful to watch a 77 year-old MIT PhD and IIT-Mumbai gold medalist act in the role of the Guruji (a rough equivalent a master in the field). He was not acting most of the time, he was actually singing the ragas! I suspected this while watching the film and wondered if the actors were being helped by playback, which would have been difficult to accomplish Aging process of Aditya Modak another real life singer, is a tribute to the make-up department. The real winners of the film are the slow-motion sequences of the lonely motorbike rider in the night with the sitar music on the soundtrack--one of the finest urban sequences in Indian cinema captured by the young Polish cinematographer Michal Sobocinski. Good editing and screenplay by the director Chjaitnaya Tamhane. Thanks to the Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron ("Roma," "Y ti mama tambien"), who partially bankrolled the film. India looks so clean and wonderful in this film!
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4/10
Some good aspects but not as rewarding war film as Fuller's "The Steel Helmet"
10 May 2021
Good camerawork (cinematographer William Clothier impressed me with his work in John Ford's "Cheyenne Autumn"; here, his work is notable.) . The tale is real. The film will endear soldiers not film critics. For me, one of the weakest films of Sam Fuller. Those who are familiar with northeast India or Myanmar (former Burma) will easily realize the flora and the trees shown in this film are not from the region it is supposed to show. (It is actually shot in the Philippines.) No family here, though kids and an old woman feeding rice to a tired soldier, an act that brings tears to his eyes, is added. Another soldier talks and dreams of settling down and having six kids of his own. Fuller and family...As a war film, Fuller's black and white "The Steel Helmet" is way better.
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5/10
Samuel Fuller did not direct the final film version but the story leaves his footprint
8 May 2021
Samuel Fuller wrote the story and initially directed the film until the studios decided to replace all the initially chosen actors by Fuller (except Richard Harris) and even Fuller as the director. Is there a Fuller footprint here? Yes, his favorite subject-the family (here two families, two children one of the good guy, another of the bad guy).
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6/10
Over-rated Chabrol film
7 May 2021
The film's English title "The Good Time Girls" capture the essence of the film--four different women, working in a shop, moonlighting as they are not rich, and hoping to find a decent spouse. The shop itself presents the lecherous owner (who "keeps his distance") and an elderly cashier who hides her interest in BDSM (her fetish is a cloth dipped in the blood of a BDSM convict who was guillotined, with an insinuated relationship with a customer who asks her for money and gets it!), a beautiful Stephane Audran (moonlighting as a singer), and the attractive Clotilde Joano. And there is a murder, which hangs in the air without the outcome discussed further--one of the weak points of the over-rated film.
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Hana (2006)
6/10
Reviewing the validity of the samurai philosophy of revenge, violence, and associated monetary/financial outcomes
7 May 2021
A film that redefines the falling cherry blossoms' association with the samurai tradition. What Kore-eda does here is examine the validity of the samurai philosophy of revenge, violence and associated monetary/financial outcomes. A pacifist film, where education dominates over swordplay. The lead performers are endearing, so is the Renaissance type music composed by Jun Kawabata. The production design is laudable. A film that parallels William Fraker's oft forgotten "Monte Walsh" (1970) which looked at the Westerns and the lifestyles of its heroes. Kore-eda adds wistful comedy, while Fraker dealt with wistful nostalgia. Both deal with changing values and economies.
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7/10
A heroic act of an anti-hero--a great tale
4 May 2021
An interesting Zinnemann film on the heroic action of an anti-hero--reminds one of Conrad's "Lord Jim." Without a doubt the film is built on the story but a close look at the credits (which appear at the end of the film) puts the screenplay writer's name (Robert L Richards) in bigger size font than the name of the story writer (Collier Young) who was a Hollywood filmmaker, a novelist, a Dartmouth graduate and a former advertising executive. Zinnemann's casting of actors is impeccable here. (Mary Astor was the best among the top four, in her brief role.)
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8/10
Ethel Waters and Julie Harris won my heart
29 April 2021
There are many reasons why I loved the film. It is not easy for a 27-year-old woman to play a 12-year-old tomboy convincingly. Ms Julie Harris showed that it could be done. She ought to have won the Oscar for her performance in this film for which she was nominated. Ms Ethel Waters, in the major role as the black housekeeper and cook was equally magnetic. Ms Waters proved that she is one of the finest and most endearing black actresses of all time. Director Zinnemann's best move was to use Harris and Waters in the roles they had perfected on stage. The next big contribution is the wonderful play by Carson McCullers (adapted from her own novel), on which the film is based and the gifted scriptwriting duo Edna and Edward Anhalt for their contribution to adapting the play for screen. The film, in many ways, is comparable to the film version of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."
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7/10
Important work of Ms Denis for its style and its content
25 April 2021
One of the important works of director Claire Denis. The film is important for two major themes it explores: one, the relationships of the colonial expats and the African natives and the resulting social and economic inequality; and two, the internal politics, corruption, and lack of respect for human life when one has gun power.

The film is one of the better performances of the lead actress Isabelle Huppert, who apparently approached the director for an opportunity to work with her. Denis works with regular actors and crew. Among the cast, Michel Subor (the owner of the coffee plantation) and Isaach de Bankole (the injured 'Boxer', a name referenced on the matchboxes he uses in Jarmusch's film 'The Limits of Control') come to mind. The crew includes music composer Stuart Staples and his band Tindersticks (and Ms Denis has a great ear for music that elevates her works). What constitutes the White Material? The white colonial expatriates born and living in Africa is one way to look at it. Another would be their possessions--cigarette lighters, clothes, masks (opening sequences), immovable property, mixed-race progeny they create, indoor table decorations that young native, blonde hair, blue eyes (all of which are stated in the script).
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7/10
"When you come to a strange land, you should bring your wives, and not your laws."
21 April 2021
The Arctic and Greenland where the film was shot are breathtaking. This Nicholas Ray film with a fictional script has the touches of Robert Flaherty's classic films "Nanook of the North' and "Man of Aran." The following facts make this film important.

The actors: It is Peter O'Toole's debut performance and he was so angry that his lines were dubbed that he did not want his name to be associated with it. Yet, his presence is wonderful. Anthony Quinn, who is the lead character, is able to look somewhat like an Eskimo though he is tall and his facial features contrast with the real inhabitants. Bob Dylan's song "The Mighty Quinn/Quinn the Eskimo" is a tribute to Quinn in this film.

The fictional tale: Franco Solinas is one of the three co-scriptwriters of this film. Solinas is famous for his contributions to the great film classics of directors Gilo Pontecorvo ("Quiemada/Burn!;" Battle of Algiers;" "Kapo"), Joseph Losey ("Mr Klein";"The Assissination of Trotsky") and Costa Gavras ("State Of Siege;" "Hanna K"). The Solinas touch is evident in the final confrontation between the white man (O'Toole) who has been saved from death by the savage innocent Eskimo (Quinn) of how each abide by their different social laws and traditions.

The documentary: The film has a very educative narration on the lives of the Eskimos. Apparently, the meaning of Eskimo is "the real people." There hangs another tale. The film has rare footage of walruses in large numbers, seals, and arctic bears. The film also shows that those who fall into the frozen sea water in the Arctic are not likely to survive even after rescue in the absence of modern scientific help. A reviewer of the film has pointed out social inaccuracies in the script, which are probably true. Beyond the social details, the film takes you to a part of the world rarely viewed or discussed.
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Crossfire (1947)
7/10
Based on a novel written by an accomplished Hollywood director--Richard Brooks
11 April 2021
The most impressive fact is that the film is based on a novel written by film director Richard Brooks, a novel I never got to read. Brooks' films and screenplays are impressive (Lord Jim, a notable adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel, A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Key Largo, etc.) Brooks loved to deal with the inner motives and contradictions in life. The performances of Robert Mitchum and Robert Young stand out.
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7/10
Another Chabrol film on the dark interlopers upsetting good, admirable households/families
7 April 2021
The evil in Isabelle Huppert's character was too transparent from the beginning of the film. Ms Huppert's more convincing roles, performance-wise, were in Goretta's "The Lacemaker" and Losey's "The Trout.'' Chabrol's visual suggestion for her to curl-up in the fetal pose on the sofa while the husband (Jacques Dutronc, a real life musician apart from being an actor) plays the piano was commendable. Another Chabrol film of the wicked and the less admirable among us interloping into lives of the good and admirable (Le Ceremonie, The Third Lover, etc.)
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9/10
The best work of Majid Majidi and one of the best examples of Iranian films
2 April 2021
The tale of a blind boy who feels he is loved neither by his family nor by God. Superb work of cinema. Full marks for the sequence of a horse's accidental falling off a wooden bridge and its attempts to survive. Very realistic performances. A marriage that is put off by the bride's family. The best work of Majid Majidi on a family that is trying to survive despite all the negative cosmic forces that seems to thwart their attempts a every stage of their lives. Birds are constant metaphors of hope. Does God answer? Ingmar Bergman would answer in the negative; for Majidi, it is a "yes".
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Senso (1954)
9/10
Unforgettable performance of Alida Valli with dream team of illustrious filmmakers
1 April 2021
Unforgettable performance of Alida Valli, wonderful direction, screenplay and art direction. Definitely one of Visconti's best films. Visconti's assistants on this film is a dream team: Francesco Rosi, Franco Zefferelli, and Jean-Pierre Mocky. The camera team was made-up of G R Aldo (Orson Welles' Othello, Visconti's La Terra Trama, De Sica's Umberto D), Robert Krasker (The Third Man, El Cid, Fall of the Roman Empire) and Giuseppe Rotunno (Zinnemann's Five Days, One Summer, Fellini's Armacord) another dream combination. Finally there was Tennessee Williams working on the dialogues. A believable war sequence that can compete with Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. If there was a flaw, it was the casting of Farley Granger whose scenes towards the end of the film were awful compared to the early sequences. Visconti is a master of depicting the once rich and powerful eventually becoming poor and pathetic.
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La truite (1982)
8/10
A subtle film that deals with economic and social inequality and a woman's ingenuity to transform her life
30 March 2021
It is surprising that the swansongs or the penultimate works of eminent directors, often their favorites, are dismissed by many critics. Examples: Zinnemann's "Five Days, One Summer," Lean's "Ryan's Daughter." One can add Losey's "The Trout" to that list. All of Losey's works looked at social and economic disparities--"The Trout" underscores that. Audiences who rave about the Korean film "Parasites" might not notice the similarities in this French work because the messages are subtler. Additionally it is a women's film made by a male, where all the male characters are found wanting except for an elderly Japanese man. It is also a fascinating study of a woman's love for her husband who is gay.

The last conversation in the film: Q to Frederique (Ms Huppert): It is better than in France?

Frederique: It is the same. But Galuchat (Frederique's husband) is in charge.

Those closing lines are spoken with the liquor-addicted Galuchat walking alone with a glass of alcohol outside the restaurant, while his wife has transformed from a village girl of limited means into an incredibly successful international trout farmer. The "trout eggs" have hatched! A small detail that might escape many--towards the end as rich trout farmers from around the world, including Frederique, arrive at the Japanese hotel in a long convoy of limousines, the only sound one hears are the closing of the limousine doors (recalling the final scene of Losey's "Accident" when you don't see the accident but hear it on the soundtrack!)
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7/10
Admirable film but not Zinnemann's best
29 March 2021
Director Zinnemann adapted the story from a novel written by Kathryn Hulme, once a disciple of Gurudjieff, eventually turning Roman Catholic. The novel is based on a real life character, a close friend of Hulme, whose life was close to the film's tale. That lady eventually nursed back Audrey Hepburn to health after a serious accident much later. The film is admirable in some respects but I feel it is not Zinnemann's best. Celebrated Italian director Sergio Leone was an uncredited assistant director to Zinnemann in this film.
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7/10
A rare Bunuel that does not poke fun at religion
28 March 2021
A rare Bunuel that does not poke fun at religion. Remarkable film where Simone Signoret, Charles Vanel, and Michel Piccoli are memorable. A fine story, based on a novel by Jose-Andre Lacour (He wrote the original screenplay of Chabrol's Hell/Torment, made in 1994).
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The Stranger (1946)
8/10
Patches of brilliance of Welles, the director
28 March 2021
Apart from being a good thriller, it has patches of brilliance of Welles, the director. Welles disliked the final version of the film, because much of what he developed and shot as the initial sequences were chopped off by the editor/studios/producer (Sam Spiegel, credited as S P Eagle). The interest of the character played by Welles in clocks and the character's courtship with his future wife along the path where there is a cemetery are chopped off, but later conversation in the released version suddenly brings in the interest of clocks and "our route" to the clocktower by the wife. The residual brilliance of Welles is apparent in the camera angles, shadows and lighting and the sets (all trademarks of Citizen Kane.)
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Padrenostro (2020)
7/10
A very well made auto-biographical film of the director, with good performances to boot
21 March 2021
Very likable tale of a young boy's friendship with another--thankfully without sexual undercurrents. It also happens to be the director's own life story in a period when his father was under constant threat of being killed by terrorists in the line of duty. The two awards for the Best Actor (the father Alfonso's role by Favino) and the technical award for camera and lighting at the Venice Festival were well deserved. Two factors that raise questions: One, how is that Alfonso's body in the boat sequences does not show injury (real or part imagination) marks of the recent bloody shooting incident recollected by his son and, two, did Christian (the older boy) target Valerio (the younger boy) for friendship by design, if he knew the connection with his parents to Alfonso. A superior film when compared to two other awardee films at the Venice competition: "The New Order" and "Wife of a Spy." The cinematography was notable, too.
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Wife of a Spy (2020)
6/10
A good film with a positive message for a Covid-infested world, but the Best Director Award?
19 March 2021
It's an average, feel-good film at best with a very good universal message. How the Jury of Venice 2020 film festival headed by Cate Blanchett bestowed this film with the Best Director Award beats logic. Was it because the lead character was a film director? That must have pleased jury member Joanna Hogg. This incredible jury thought that Konchalovsky did not deserve the Best Director award for "Dear Comrades!" a vastly superior work but instead bestowed it the Jury's Special Prize as a consolation. This same jury gave another below par film from Mexico's Michel Franco called "The New Order" the Grand Jury Prize. The Bosnian film "Quo vadi, Aida?" was overlooked but thankfully it is in the Oscar race. Look closely at the awards and the jury seemed to give some award or other to all the nominees, often having questionable merit. Luckily, for us the Gold Lion went to a deserving work "Nomadland."

The script will make you recall "The Shawshank Redemption" though the tales are in different settings.

"Wife of a spy" is a good vehicle for the Kill Bill 1 and 2 actor Issey Takahashi. Little else.
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8/10
"We kill the living, and save the dead": The best work of Nicholas Ray
18 March 2021
The best film of Nicholas Ray. One of the best performances of Richard Burton and he was handsome here. Ruth Roman made an impact when she was in front of the camera. Though the film never won any award, I tend to lean on Jean Luc Godard's statement when he said " Le cinema, c'est Nicholas Ray (Cinema is Nicholas Ray)" after viewing it at the Venice film festival. Godard was also a great fan Sergei Paradjanov's films. There were some amazing lines from Leith (played by Burton): "We kill the living, and save the dead."; "We are all murderers, welcome to the club.": "You don't have the courage to kill me, don't try to save me." Reminds one of the Joseph Conrad novel, "Lord Jim." Incidentally, the book "Amere Victoire" on which the film was adapted was written by a suspected traitor of the French Resistance, Rene Hardy.
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The Lusty Men (1952)
7/10
Very good performances and above average direction by Nicholas Ray
7 March 2021
Impressive performances from the top four actors--Susan Hayward, Robert Mitchum (one of his best roles), Arthur Kennedy and Arthur Hannicut. The film is very well made except for one too many rodeo sequences. Nicholas Ray does indicate where his heart lies--for the poor who aspire to be financially secure and lead a good family life despite temptations.
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8/10
Stunning visuals, Incredible art direction/production design.
3 March 2021
A film on a painting and its painter, placed in the perspective of the socio-politics that the painter witnessed in his lifetime. Stunning visuals. Incredible art direction/production design. Polish director Majewski's creative contributions in this film reminds one of the Italian director Olmi's contributions in his "The Tree of Wooden Clogs." Majewski in his film, like Olmi, is the director, co-scriptwriter, producer, editor (under the nom de plume Eliot Ems) and music composer. Gorecki's "Miserere" is also used.. Feast for eyes and ears.
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7/10
Engrossing because of the magnetic performances of Tilda Swinton and John Hurt.
28 February 2021
I am not a lover of the horror genre--yet the film was engrossing because of the magnetic performances of Tilda Swinton and John Hurt. The Morocco sequences were superb. Jim Jarmusch was paying tributes to playwrights Christopher Marlowe and Samuel Beckett, and to director Claire Denis (wow!) through a photograph painting. This is stated in the credits.. Wonderful sets and placement of the camera during filming....though the moon in the final sequence was totally unrealistic. The choice of books packed for travel, the Latin name for the striped skunk, mention of Dr Caligari (from the Classic silent film), the photograph of Susan Sontag on the wall among other luminaries all reveal a lot about director Jarmusch.
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8/10
Very good performances and a thought-provoking tale
28 February 2021
Wonderful performances: Julie Christie, Redford, Sarandon, in particular. Really good, thought-provoking subject, about idealism, family responsibility, the losers of good investigative journalism, and politics. Though based on a novel, congrats to Redford for putting it all together. Deserved the Venice festival honors.
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8/10
Distinct directorial style and interesting original writing
22 February 2021
Second viewing in 40 years. Deville is very distinct in his directorial style--visuals, music and philosophy are used to talk about death (Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" vs Bartok), blue vs red, of children being born into the world crying and Proust's death in peace after hallucinating with fear about a fat woman near his bed. It is indeed a love story--what is life without love? Very interesting original writing by the director. For those who are students of cinema, the phone ringing sequence of the Michel Piccoli character of Pierre's attempted dream suicide is gnawingly similar to the phone ringing in the imagination of the Robert De Niro character in Sergio Leone's "Once upon a time in America" in the opium den. a film made 11 years after Deville's film was made. Was Leone influenced by Deville?
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