The title character is a teacher of good social standing, a woman with an opinion, moral principles and with guts. But she is sexualy repressed. Following a recommendation she sees a shrink and responds well to the "treatment". Then she is the victim of a brutal rape. Just a she is "opening up", the door is forced. Unfortunately this dramatic event does not tie in well with the earlier story. Rather surprisingly, the title character loses all sense of reason and duty and does not report the incident but lets herself be bullied around and humiliated by the perpetrator. The inevitable consequences ensue and lead to a decent ending.
It ist not a bad melodrama - as a matter of fact the story would have been perfect for a director like Douglas Sirk. I wonder what he would have done with the material and the same actors. (Incidentally, Dolores Malone has a small part - she was always great in every performance)
At the time this movie was made, it became chic again to be orientated toward the left. In China Mao started the Cultural Revolution, being a Red meant (in the West, at least) being unconventional, hip and somehow liberated. This romantic, pubertal New Left lasted more ore less until the genocide in Cambodia, then their supporters integrated themselves into the existing system or indulged in esoteric activities (or both). To me Morgan somehow represents the New Left which then emerged.
And yet I don't regret having watched this documentary. As it also contains valuable insights which I found fascinating. Allen seems to stick to persons he has known for ages (I assume he is basically loyal and expects loyalty in turn). Early in his career he teamed up with people who created Woody Allen as a product. This seems to have been the foundation stone for future developments. Behind the name there is an industry with a hard core of constant trusted collaborators. It is as productive as it is (within clearly set boundaries) innovative. This somewhat unlikely combination seems to be unique. No one except Charlie Chaplin did anything that can be compared with it. I can credit the documentary for highlighting these aspects which serve as a kind of a shield for Woody Allen (the man) against too personal approaches to his persona.
From an artistic point of view, I find Paths of Glory very satisfying, starting with the camera gliding flawlessly along the trenches down to the excellent set design by Ken Adam. The ending is the work of true genius. They way the jeering soldiers turn soft and melancholy is entirely convincing and unforgettable.
The conductor is basically an egomaniac, a man of whom all around him think as a genius (by the way: aren't all orchestra conductors fascists at heart??). Not a very pleasant or entertaining fellow to be with, really. The blond damsel is a cute groupie, overwhelmed by the adulation the genius basks in - and the splendid Rolls he commands through the streets of London and the English countryside. The "love" they experience is without motive, without past and certainly without future – yes, one may argue, that this is the essence of love, but it makes rather boring viewing if you can't identify with the characters. The affair is concealed from the conductor's wife, which I can only see as a strategic move beyond immediately felt surges of emotions. It may be argued, that nobody wants to hurt anybody, but the act of betrayal lingers on and for me spoils the moments of intimacy between the lovers which are played out as an animated fashion magazine.
Not too long ago I also watched the "Interlude" directed by Douglas Sirk and released in 1957. I found it far more convincing and a truly moving melodrama, although the storyline is almost identical. It is a movie that works much better for me on the emotional level. The reason for that is, I believe, that the need for love can be felt more strongly. And there is an element that should always be present in a true love story: Surprise (at the world, the turn of events - and at oneself).
Somehow the movie makes the statement that American corporations are bad because they corrupt honest to god provincial French entrepreneurs. But as a matter of fact this entrepreneur is a stupid BEEP. He lies and cheats to his wive who is not only attractive but supports him actively and loyally in his business dealings. And he tries to ingratiate himself to the workers (who are unruly in any case) in a sickening way, making them feel he is one of them. He is clearly not more likable than the real baddies in their corporate glass tower in Paris. This makes it difficult to feel any fondness for the main character and his predicament, which seems to be required if one ought to take an interest in the story. Therefore the movie fails to carry a message and is only a succession of gags which, I gladly admit, are not all bad.
The cast is much better than the script. Mireille Darc does her usual thing (her part is essentially the same as in The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe). I also watched this because Daniel Ceccaldi is in it (as the PR executive), in my opinion one of the most underrated French character actors of his generation. So watching this was not entirely time wasted.
Again and again I become enraptured by British films which were made during the period of Austerity (The Archers, Ealing Studio, Carol Reed etc.). I always feel that lack of funds was more than compensated by the love all those who participated felt for their art.
The main message of Sirocco is a depressing one: If things turn bad, the efforts of single individuals are of negligible effect. We have a disillusioned French officer (Lee J. Cobb who I have never seen better). He wants to prevent a planned execution of civilians as a retaliatory act after an ambush, not out of idealistic motives or with any hope but just because he is sick of all the killing. Like all the other characters he gets bogged down by the circumstances and in the end departs on a meeting with the "patriots" with the Bogart character's help. Everyone agrees that this action is meant to be a suicide. The officer even gets out of his uniform which heretofore had the function of a corset.
Great sets and scenes abound here. Damascus is a place of eternal night - and we never get out of the place into the open. The Roman Catacombs seem to be inspired by Giovanni Piranesi's "carceri" drawings. There is a great scene in which the Bogart character buys a belly dancer's finger cymbals. Another scene begins with the focus on a visibly tender and juicy steak which the Bogart character starts cutting into. "He brings his own food", the waiter explains to other patrons who would like the same. What a better way to depict a war profiteer?
As the lines above suggest, the storyline of Sirocco is pretty sprawling and the film is more of a situation than a story. That makes it only more realistic and instructive. Our time is right for anti-war movies of this kind. In can recommend it.
A father and a son meet for a holiday on a beach. The father is 62 and a researcher of insect life, the son is 15 and at a boarding school. They don't have to say much to each other and both agree to stop the experiment". But then they come across the inert body of a unconscious young woman. They carry her to their beach house. She regains consciousness and it turns out that she speaks a language they do not understand. They treat her as their property, take her to the beach, to the small restaurant nearby and on boat trips. The woman's presence enables father and son to come to terms. One day she disappears and they find her together with her hunky diver boyfriend who speaks her language as well as theirs. Father and son don't like this intrusion into their harmonious triangle and they start fiddling with the hunk's oxygen tanks ...
The control of image, color and sound in this film is truly awesome. The scenery is strictly confined to the beach, the beach house and the small restaurant (corpo d'amore was filmed by one of the greatest cinematographers ever, Vittorio Storaro). It all appears in beautiful, warm colors. The use of music is carefully chosen and inserted (Bach's Goldberg variations among others), occasionally complemented by the sound of the waves. Language plays an important role and is often used as a poetic voice-over, not unlike in some films of Alain Resnais. Father and son are experienced soliloquists and language is for them mainly an instrument for introspection and less communication.
As one might have guessed by now, this movie is not for feminists. The woman is all body in an idealised kind of way, sexuality is kept tightly under the surface. For a long time I was not sure if she was meant to be a figment of father's and son's imagination, the missing link between soliloquists. Mimsy Farmer is perfect in this role. She seems to have fallen out of the skies and her beauty has something surreal. Not bad for a chick who is usually known for biker and horror flicks, eh?
Short synopsis (SPOILERS)
It is about a man who stopped his studies in law to become an itinerant salesman for perfumes, a very bitter character in a Humphrey Bogart raincoat who sees himself as victim (seems to be just a state of mind). A friend from university who got it made" runs into him in a restaurant, and to say that the salesman is displeased with the encounter is a gross understatement. The friend is so drunk that the salesman grudgingly agrees to his pleading to take him home. There he meets the friend's trophy wife which instantly triggers an erotically charged love-hate relationship. The friend has trouble with his mistress and knocks a competitor down a flight of stairs, thinking he killed him. This he tells the salesman asking him to procure an alibi for him. The salesman sees his chance to get rid of the man and get the wife for himself. He convinces the man to fake a suicide in a public place and then exchanges the pistol loaded with blanks with one that has real bullets. The man kills himself, and there are many spectators around to prove it. His widowed wife smells foul-play and enters a relationship with the salesman in order to get to the bottom of it while the police also try to nail the guy". There is a good surprise ending in the hunting lodge of the woman, a master hunter, with all her trophies hanging on the wall.
Being interested in Spanish cinema, I recently also purchased the better known Muerte di un ciclista" of 1955, the storyline of which has some similarity. I frankly thought this one was superior, although maybe not as politically pure" as the former. According to IMDb this movie was filmed in the Cinecittà studios in Rome, there are also quite a few daylight shots of Madrid and el Escurial. In my opinion this is a quality picture.
The Life of David Gale has a very contrived screenplay which is too smart for its own good. It is an indictment against the death penalty, I assume. But those who battle against it in this movie are such unsound and fanatical characters that in the end it might as well be a pro DP movie. But I guess this is a pretty faithful reflection of many political activists of our era: it's much less about the betterment of society than about their own, very personal moral and mental setup. Granted that there is a serious and important issue involved (and in the case of DP, there is), these people can cause great harm to the issue in question. In my opinion that's what happens in this movie. What is outrageous about the DP is that a court of law factually declares itself infallible, but that's not something that anyone in this movie alludes to.
There is some heavy handed symbolism to be found e.g. a cuddly toy lamb, owned by Gale's son but left behind when the family split and faithful companion of the troubled ex philosophy professor (Gale, that is). The professor dead, the journalist played by Winslet inherits the lamb, shakes it, gets electrified by the plastic clicketyclick inside the ovine tummy and without much ado turns to slaughter the poor animal (rip, tear, rip), extruding a crucial videotape from its interior. Bitter and unironic as it appeared on the screen, I was glad for the probably unintended comic relief. And again, there is a rental car that does not work and causes its driver trouble. Was it only a cheap story device to add some extra tension? Or is there something deep and meaningful behind it? I really don't know.
Strange as it is, from there on it gets better and I don't mean it ironically. The robber and the mental case flee through the woods and become friends - sort of - although the latter tries to bite off the nose of the former (friends of gore will not be disappointed). The two actors are really good - the chemistry works. And in this relationship lie the main elements of suspense of the whole story as it is not clear in what way the mental case is a mental case. There are moments in which the story turns into a kind of an ancient fairy story and the whole imagery beautifully enhances this impression. The robber proposes that they go to Haiti together. He would open a bowling alley, the mental case, he suggests, could make a living as a dog trainer. These were the few traces of intentional humor I could detect. Later the robber somehow downsizes his aim to an escape to neighboring Sweden.
Of course there is a cop. And of course he is divorced and has trouble with his ex, fact which the audience is not spared from. And not only that. He is Danish! That is a country far, far away from Norway. So he is a total stranger in the land of Ibsen and out of his depth. To tell the truth, I thought he rather looked like a mental case himself but then: don't we all? It is a small wonder that the case more or less solves itself, despite the help" of a brash woman psychiatrist (with whom he gets to the point of jointly rolling in the hay in the second half of the movie only). There is a kind of a surprise ending (again in terms of logic pretty mind boggling) that is not half bad. Political correctness abounds, of course. The dad ob the chubby boy is away on a peace keeping mission for the UN, ethnical Non-Norwegians are favorably placed in strategic places without much effect.
I judge this a well crafted good bad movie. I am not a Scandinavian, and probably many regional inside jokes simply escaped me. This movie showed me that it is not always clear if I read" a picture the way its makers wanted me to. But that's one of the fascinating qualities of the medium, isn't it? In any case, I had a good time with Den som frykter ulven.
At the time the series was created, 1977, a whiff of New German Cinema seems to have penetrated TV productions of this kind, and I should say the makers had the audacity to subvert a genre. How on earth did they get away with it? I am convinced that today a bold step like is impossible mainly because the public would not be ready to stomach it.
In Germany there was a tradition of pappy" crime mysteries: An old police inspector (often very close to retirement) solves cases by sheer street knowledge and the wisdom of advanced age. The predecessor of Der Alte" was The Comissar", and its star, Erik Ode, portrayed a cute father figure in the mold of Heinz Rühmann. The social changes in the 1970s made this type of cop increasingly ludicrous.
But what did they do when they saw that the old recipe grew stale? They came up with another dusty old guy in a slightly unkempt gray business suit and called him Der Alte". Apparently English versions of the series run under the name The Old Fox", but the anything but respectful German term might as well mean The Has Been". And in fact, Der Alte" of the first installments seems to be an embittered and frustrated crime solver who is somehow isolated in the force and without friends clearly a man on his way out. He does not crave for sympathy and his actions often seem to be outright suicidal: In the pilot he offers himself as a hostage in exchange for some bank clerks in a Dog Day Afternoon" situation. In the following installment he sets himself up as a blackmailer of murderers and goes to a meeting completely exposed and without any protection. When the murderer's bullet misses him a shade of delusion seems to pass over his face. He really does not seem to care anymore.
Der Alte" I write about here is a rather nasty guy, a loner who is unkind, sarcastic, arrogant and leers after young girls. He is plainly unlikeable and there is nothing particularly funny about him. But once he's taken up the scent he makes the right moves and what else do we expect of a crime-solver? Experienced actor Siegfried Lowitz was dead right for this character and I guess he can largely be credited for the success of the series.
But not only the acting and the screen writing is of a very high quality, the whole visual style fits in perfectly. A pretty gloomy atmosphere of stark realism is created but all the set ups seem to be rigidly controlled, nothing seems out of line, every detail fits. An interesting aspect is the use of new Pop music themes to heighten the tension, the above mentioned installment for example uses excerpts of the song Asylum" by Supertramp who were about to become very popular. Another installment used Alan Parsons Project's The Raven". Again they must have purchased the rights at the time when the corresponding album was released. So they must have had a smart musical adviser on this series and an intelligent crew who knew exactly how to fit the tunes in hey, maybe Der Alte" is a predecessor to MTV which I think came a few years later.
Anyway, everybody who would like to get a feel of the mid 1970s in Europe will find the early seasons of this intelligent, artistically interesting series a treasure trove.
Once arrived, Borat holds up a mirror in front of the US of A's face. For some reason he has to daub that mirror with fresh feces every morning. I did not really understand why this was necessary but wait, of course: this movie wants to SHOCK! For that reason it takes recourse of some of the oldest, stalest and unfunnyest juvenile practical jokes there are. And this sinks the movie to the depths of low grade crap and makes it a commercial success.
The main message of this movie is: if you're surprised, you're dumb. While there is some validity to that statement, it does not add value to a work of art. It is just not entertaining to listen to a guy say I was in construction, now I am retired", and Borat react, aha, you are a retard" and going on and on about it for minutes, like this is something really, really funny. He gets so lost in all those rather disorganized and ill paced pranks that there isn't a true conclusion to this movie, except that it's individual contacts that count (important, but treated as a side effect here).
It's interesting that most of the Americans who come into contact with Borat acquit themselves quite well. Americans, so it seems, are not easily dazed especially when they want to sell something (a car, a gun, lessons in courtesy) they are quite willing to swallow a healthy dose of pranks and verbal abuse with amazing patience.
I am a Kazakh myself and I am aware that the message of this movie is mainly directed at people who are firmly embedded in the Insular Culture. But out here we watch it all the same, because we so much admire (and ape) pretty much everything that reaches us from the West. The style I so much criticized before has the effect that the satirical bullets ricochet and leave neither wound nor impact.
What remains for me are the many bonmots" this movie contains. It did not become clear to me if Vergès ever was a good lawyer. I suspect he always saw the court of law principally as a stage for making political statements or for furthering a certain self image. But he certainly is a great story teller. My only war wound", he tells the interviewer, was self inflicted I cut a finger when I closed my pocket knife after eating a dish of oysters". Mao listened to me attentively or maybe he just wanted to be polite." It is fun to listen to him telling these anecdotes and being disrespectful, even to himself. Many, maybe too many other people make their entrance as interviewees. Even for someone who has a notion of the last few decades of world history it is not always easy to follow.
Saying all this, I have to credit the movie for forming a pattern of statements, places and time periods that recount events which brought a lot of pain and sorrow to this planet. The central question - is Maître Vergès a man with a cause? - remains unanswered. Somehow he shifted from one liberation movement" to the next, maybe connected to secret services, maybe not - his aims apparently as fuzzy as those of the said movements - never drowning like others but always ending up seemingly comfortably on the surface. It is never clear how much Vergès was a prime mover on the terrorist scene or a teleguided pawn. After seeing this movie I would liken him to a joker in a pack of cards.
Someone not very deep into history might be surprised at how L'avocat shows that there were always connections and sympathies between old, active Nazis and young, seemingly leftist revolutionaries. Others know the old French saying: Les extrèmes se touchent.
For fans of Vincent Price Dragonwyck is an absolute must see. His performance is simply unforgettable. Never has arrogance been displayed in a more elegant, suave and sinister manner. Just listen to him casually remark: I don't like cripples." Makes your hair stand on end. It is quite evident that he was an actor of the first order (did he ever get an award or something?). I like to imagine him in all the roles Orson Welles played around the time Dragonwyck was made It would have been wonderful if he got more parts like that.
Unfortunately the script is bad. I suppose the reason for that is a botched attempt to condense a long, sprawling novel into a dense 103 minutes. There are simply too many characters. Some fine actors like Ann Revere, Walter Huston or Jessica Tandy are simply wasted. And it is definitely not Gene Tierny's finest hour either. She is no Joan Fontaine and struggles with a character which is patently unlikeable and confused (the tremendous difference in hight between her and Price doesn't help, either). The women's dresses (heavily patterned cloth that highlights the strange itinerary of seams) are very weird and distracting.
There is a strange mix of genres. Romance, period piece, film-noir, Gothic horror and the murder mystery are entwined in an awkward manner. It is just too much, and the conclusion is very unsatisfactory: Dragonwyck is abandoned by the heroine" without the viewers knowing what will happen to the place. Manderly was at least burned down. Joseph L. Mankiewicz went on to do better stuff, thank God.