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There's cultural appropriation it is
23 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This had the making s of being a very powerful and moving film. It is seriously weakened by the fact that no attempt has been made to give it a Welsh atmosphere other than by using weird dialogue.

The melodrama would have been very effective when teh film came out, but 80 years later it comes over as artificial. Shame: it's a great underlying story. Try the Stanley Baker version.
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The Hostage (1956)
Dreadul film, poor direction, poor dialogue
14 May 2019
Another appalling British film from the 1950s. Laughable dialogue, behaviour inappropriate to the circumstances, the whole thing is embarrassing bad. The basic plot is ok and the photography is adequate, but it's a terrible film.
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Hard work to watch
12 May 2019
I found this heavy going. There were a lot of incidents casually inserted that I felt I ought to understand, but didn't. Maybe if I had gone to school in France I would? Example, the black horse without a saddle or harness in the street fighting that came up to Waht's-er-name. What was that meant to portray? If you knew nothing of the French revolution you would find this a very difficult film, but (knowing a bit but not enough) I found it frustrating. The photography and the sense of reality is excellent however. The English-language subtitles often overwrite the original film's captions, which is difficult. And the French dialogue is far too rapid and far too colloquial for me to follow.
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Serena (1962)
Decent plot, terrible dialogue
11 May 2019
The film's plot is not bad, and as someone else has said the twist at the end is quite clever. The dialogue is terrible though, with everyone talking and behaving like no real person would. The policeman arrives to "ask the main character a few questions" and he offers the policeman a drink, and a cigarette (which he refuses) and then our hero pours himself a whisky, and turns his back on the policeman while talking to him. The whole of the screenplay follows in this unbelievable vein, which spoilt an otherwise decent film.
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Dreadful rubbish
5 March 2019
Not really any proper plot, this film was just a vehicle for a music hall "turn" with a lot of silly business. The only excuse is "Don;t you know there's a war on?"
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Good action adventure spoilt by over-emphasis on homophobia
4 October 2003
The action follows the rescue of a group of gay and transsexual people who were stranded following a plane crash in the forest in rebel-held territory on the border of Thailand. The film could have traced a familiar theme in a new (to Western audiences) format, with no Rambo style hero and no high-tech rescue equipment; just walking through the jungle, in some cases in high heels.

The tension is well developed, with the jungle itself, booby traps, the cliche of treacherous politicians refusing helicopter help, and the armed rebels. The rescued group antagonise their rescuers by failing to co-operate, and the tension arising from the homophobia of some of the soldiers is played on.

However, the homophobic angle is a little jagged for the Western viewer, with just too many "fag" references, and too much camp, peevish behaviour from the people who are being rescued. In fact this last dimension destroys the tension that ought to be carefully built up; it's just not believable. (Nor is it comedy, as suggested by another reviewer.)

If you can overlook this shortcoming, then the film is an interesting new take on a familiar story, and it's good entertainment.
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English musical comedy period piece
2 October 2003
Proudly billed as a British film, Sailors Three was a brave attempt to emulate successful American light comedy of the 1930's, but the screenplay retains a Britishness that is very powerful, and therefore the film falls between two stools.

Released in 1940 it could hardly avoid a wartime theme, and the three main male characters are Royal Navy Sailors. Tommy Trinder has a couple of songs and there are some references to his music hall persona. While the film was being made, we were still in the phoney war period, and the Germans could still be portrayed as comical buffoons. So when thirty or so German sailors re-board their ship, that the three British sailors have taken over (with the help of an Austrian, played by James Hayter, best known for doing voice-overs for Mr Kipling cakes), no-one produces a firearm, and the brave Brits manage to overpower them one at a time, mostly by knocking them on the head with something; we get a hollow coconut "clop" sound, and that's another enemy sailor hors de combat.

The romantic interest is also played in a rather unreal, stilted way; maybe the need for a U certificate (allowing children to see the film) forced this. Being upper class, Carla (Jane Davies) only toys amusedly with the common sailors' amorous advances on shore. And when she is on the captured German ship, and a British plane is sighted, she exclaims "Oh, how absolutely delightful!"

So on a number of counts, the result is "nice try, but really not quite on the button". Interesting nowadays only as a historical document.
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Weak story line lets Rühmann down
22 June 2003
Heinz Rühmann brought the portrayal of his character to a fine art: always the little man, battling against the uncertainties of life and romance, but winning through with his honesty and tenacity.

Unfortunately, the establishing of the formula led the film companies to get lazy, and not pay much attention to a strong story line. This one starts off promisingly enough, but it runs out of steam about twenty minutes in, and then it resorts to putting Rühmann's character into embarrassing situations with no concern for creative worl.

Stronger acting support and some real dramatic situations might have saved the film, but they aren't there.
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Amusing light musical comedy from West Germany
9 November 2002
An amusing musical set in Berlin in the 1950's, when jazz and other international influences had gained strength. The plot is plausible enough, involving several comic mistaken identity scenarios, but the film is really a vehicle for the song and dance numbers that dominate it.

Several strong performers are in the cast, and Walter Giller himself in the title role, although still in the early stages of his career, was to go on to perform a long series of major parts.
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Sentimental romance in which tradition meets rock'n'roll
14 October 2002
Austria was a conservative country in 1957 but there was a need for film makers to appeal to the rock'n'roll oriented youth market and the admiration for America without alienating the traditionalists.

The Lindenwirtin combines all the necessary elements of beautiful homeland, the old way of doing things, a mild but comical bad character who becomes reformed, some rock'n'roll jive, and above all some chaste romantic interest for young and older characters in the screenplay.

Nowadays it is very much of its time ... sentimental, backward looking, with unsubtle characterisations ... so it couldn't be made today ... unless of course it was a soap series.

Well worth watching for a sentimental view of a vanishing way of life.
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Lavish version of the Andersen fairy tale
13 October 2002
A Czech production with German assistance, this is a world away from the weak versions of fairy tale stories so beloved of the Eastern European bloc before 1990.

With lavish costumes and a well implemented script, the film appeals to young people with a developed version of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy story.

Tobias is believable as the young lead, and the Emperor and the Duchess are selfish and vain without being evil, so that the happily-ever-after ending is believable.
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Obsessive documentary about New York feet
23 July 2002
A jerky documentary with plenty of shots of the feet of New Yorkers, and embarrassed comments by many. It's pretty difficult to be articulate when some camera crew stops you on the way to work and asks you how important your feet are.

The Director got deflected from his theme a couple of times; the first was when a woman said she was on the way to a photo-shoot, which turned out to be for a men's fetish magazine, and secondly when an office worker stood in the window and stripped during a baseball victory parade.

Whether this film adds very much to human understanding I rather doubt; watch it if feet are your special interest in life.
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Sambolico (1996)
Mysterious fantasy film set in exotic location
22 July 2002
Finland is a fine country but if you want to make an exotic short film then Brazil is an even better location.

Kaurismäki won acclaim at film festivals for this mysterious fantasy set on the Copacabana beach at Rio de Janeiro. A chance encounter in a hotel lift results in an extended sexual fantasy in the night streets and night clubs of Rio.

Andrea Bloom, in her only film to date, and billed just as Girl is pure sex and the film follows the interplay between her, the very unprepossessing hero Eric, and the Girl's boyfriend and, we presume, pimp.

There was too much allegory for me; the drag bar performer who suddenly turned hairier, mirrored later by the Girl herself suddenly turning rather masculine, didn't enlighten me.

Maybe the thing to do is just to enjoy the atmosphere and the spectacle. The credit list of extras at the end of the film is the longest I've ever seen, no doubt all willing to join in to generate the Carnival spirit for the film.
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Childrens circus fantasy
14 April 2002
A children's film in which performing bears provide the biggest part of the excitement. Like so many Eastern European films of this era, there isn't much of a real plot.

Basic slapstick stuff really.
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Limp Russian fairytale
25 February 2002
A film based on a variant of the fable of the beauty and the beast, it never really grips the imagination, with weak use of special effects and lame characterisations.

The colour is poor and the sense of being in the depths of the forest, prey to spirits and magic spells, is never really captured.
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Maske in Blau (1943)
Interesting performances by two contrasting artistes
21 January 2002
The performances to watch are Clara Tabody's and Hans Moser's.

She is an excellent and athletic dancer, not lacking in acting talent and beauty; but she only made five or six films, and nothing after 1948; why did her career finish then?

Austrian Hans Moser plays the hotel receptionist in his inimitable style; he was 62 when the film was made, with 70 films already behind him. He went on for another twenty-odd years, always playing amiable but eccentric parts.
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Moody East German political film doesn't grab attention
1 October 2001
Even in the political environment of Marx and Engels, it happened that bosses took short cuts to complete safety critical work ahead of schedule. When an experienced and honest engineer, Heinz Solter, gets caught up in this he blows the whistle and suffers accordingly as the system tries to get him.

A very sparse film in every way; monochrome, with minimal set decoration, a very basic pop music score (performed by "The Sputniks") and pretty basic acting and direction too, this film doesn't grab your attention. It got the attention of the authorities, though: they banned it shortly after it was released, because of its challenging assumption, that the state could be wrong.
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German escapist romantic musical set in Venice
9 September 2001
All the elements of escapism seem to be present; a good-looking eligible male lead, a romantically-inclined, but at first reluctant heroine, an exotic location (Venice), lavish surroundings in a luxury hotel, and plenty of music. And there's a happy ending. Pretty undemanding stuff, but good enough entertainment for the austere fifties.

Christine Görner shows her class as a singer, and the singing duo Nina and Frederik are there for the ride, with a little singing, but pretty terrible acting.
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Danish slapstick comedy about incompetent thieves
7 September 2001
Egon Olsen (Ove Sprogøe) and his two accomplices are out to get rich quick.

Their early attempt at distracting the parking-meter cash collector, and using a vacuum cleaner to suck the coins from his box works well enough. They go to a shop to make a purchase, but they haven't got enough money on them, so they produce the vacuum cleaner and pull some coins out from it.

A later attempt to rob a bank comes to grief as well.

The film follows their bumbling attempts at thieving, but the comedy never quite reaches side-splitting levels.
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Light romantic comedy; ingenious, but not great comedy
5 September 2001
Set in Salzburg and made as a joint Austrian/Yugoslavian production, the Austrian element is mostly in evidence.

A good-looking young man rescues a girl in a street accident, and takes her to the apartment of the man he thinks is her husband; but it's all a ghastly mistake: he's her boss, and his too: he's just started work there. The boss's wife comes home and discovers the girl in her bed, and it all gets worse from there.

The comic situations are skilfully developed, in Hans Nüchtern's original book, but the direction, the acting and the screenplay never get the audience roaring with laughter.
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Strange film of Lords and Ladies and gypsies and horse-racing
31 August 2001
The first British Technicolor film, it has a script that is somehow from another world; a sentimental world where gypsies travel in wooden horse-drawn caravans and dance round camp fires; and where gentlemen train horses and live only for victory at the racecourse.

Maria, played by Annabelle, is dressed as a boy to escape the hostilities of the Spanish civil war, and becomes involved with Kerry (played by a young Henry Fonda). Kerry doesn't realise it's a girl, of course, until later when she reveals herself, when it's love at first sight.

The climax of the film is at the Derby, the year's main race for the whole of Britain, and we get a glimpse there of the real world through the mist of the obscure direction (Harold D Schuster's first film).

The Irish tenor John McCormack sings at a ball, and champion jockey Steve Donaghue appears as himself.
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Light romantic musical set in Dresden, East Germany
30 August 2001
Fritz Bachmann (Rolf Herricht) is a traffic control policeman at a busy intersection in Dresden, in the German Democratic Republic. He takes his work very seriously, and is in the running for a police competition for the best traffic officer.

Every day a girl, Helene Braeuer, (Karin Schröder, fifteen years his junior) drives past on her motor scooter, going to her job at a cafe. A Romantic interest develops, and things develop nicely towards a happy ending.

Interspersed with musical numbers, a fantasy sequence involving flying on an umbrella over Dresden (with the still-unrepaired war damage carefully out of shot) and some spoken verse, the plot never develops very much. This was East Germany's way of joining in the West's swinging sixties, but very much constrained by ideology to avoid any politically sensitive themes.
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Classic humour for enthusiasts only
24 August 2001
Developing the identity mix-ups of the original Charley's Aunt stage play, this film provides a vehicle for several British pre-war comedy performances.

Arthur Askey is in the key role, supported by Richard (Stinker) Murdoch, and Graham Moffat and Moore Marriott (both better known as support for Will Hay, and in this film respectively 21 and 55 years old, can you believe that?) and Felix Aylmer. The rate of change of humour was pretty slow in those days and every one of them seems to us now to be playing parodies of themselves, but it was cutting edge stuff during the second year of WW2.

Askey (40 when the film was released) plays a fun-loving Oxford University undergraduate. Having played Charley's Aunt in drag on stage in a play within the film, he has to play a female drag role more seriously to avoid expulsion for him and his friends for a disciplinary offence.

Seriously intricate situations arise, including his being taken into the women's changing rooms at an athletic club; in 1940 there was little bare flesh on view but the scene was still daring. Shortly afterwards, the lady whom he is impersonating turns up, and things rapidly degenerate.

Foolish nonsense that hasn't stood the test of time too well, but good archive material for the enthusiast.
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Under-rated film that doesn't take itself seriously
14 July 2001
Paul Mazursky's film is under-rated in my opinion; maybe because the film never takes itself seriously.

The Dictator of a South American state dies suddenly. An American actor, Jack Noah, played by Richard Dreyfuss, happens to be there and is forced to pretend to be the Dictator until the henchmen can arrange a political transition. This all emerges early on and I thought the rest of the film was going to be pretty obvious and repetitive. But in fact some quite clever issues are brought out, as Noah begins to enjoy his role and tries to bring in social reforms.

Aides working closely with the Dictator notice the substitution, of course, but decide to keep quiet for the sake of self-preservation. The director of the film himself appears as the Dictator's dragon-like mother

The film never attempts to draw out the serious issues in any depth, but I think it manages to be an intelligent thriller and a fun comedy at the same time.
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Moving story of emotional turmoil in an oriental culture
12 July 2001
A moving story of a young woman, Chun Zhi, who inherits a firework factory in the China of former times. Family expectations are that she will dedicate her life to the business and remain celibate, and she dresses in traditional male costume and is called "Master".

But an itinerant painter, Nu Bao, starts employment there, and before long a romantic interest develops. Notions of tradition and duty interplay with human needs, and there is no simple resolution of the conflict.

The pace of the film is slow and the action is largely a matter of allusion, which makes it a difficult film for Western audiences; but the fiery nature of the two main characters ... the opposing colours red and green ... result in clashes and regrets in quick succession.

As useful for a glimpse of life in an alien culture as for anything else.
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