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10/10
Holding on to hope and beauty
18 February 2017
The necessity for adaptation and the retention of hope in trying conditions are themes examined in 17-year-old Khaldiya Jibawi's 'Another Kind of Girl'. A product of a three-month workshop with Syrian girls living in the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, this teenager's film is a soaringly poignant and wonderfully engaging look at life in a camp that stretches as far as the eye can see.

She and those overseeing/guiding the wider project have created a visually poetic and beautifully insightful piece on the perspective of a teenager finding her place in the world and exploring and imagining liberation through the medium of film and what it can capture and evoke.

These transcendental qualities belie the rudimentary harshness and the spartan limitations of her surroundings and succeed in making one's heart soar at the potential for hope and goodness that exists in the hearts of young and irrepressible generations. This girl's undertaking is a hymn to life in all its rewarding simplicity and mystifying complexity. It moved me as few films have over recent times.
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10/10
A socially aware comedy-drama and a beautiful film
15 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I recently came upon some thoughts I had contributed to the Classic Film Board's weekly thread regarding this important and externally under-remembered Latvian film. In light of the impending demise of the IMDb message boards on the 20th of February of this year, it strikes me as being appropriate to add these comments to this film's entry so that there might at least be one review to tantalize and intrigue, to some extent, those who might be prospective viewers.

Leonids Leimanis is a director whose work greatly fascinates me. 2015 allowed me to discover two of his most brilliant films in 'Mech i roza' (1959) and this one from ten years later. I subsequently, in 2016, got the chance to view several of his other brilliant and influential films. His are beautifully humane films that portray with considerable deftness and acuity the layers and interconnections of Latvian society. I saw this one without subtitles (something that I don't really mind all that much) but the insight and artistry of Leimanis's film-making still proved utterly captivating and involving.

Thinking about 'Pie bagatas kundzes' makes me smile in happy recollection. A Capra-esque comedy-drama, it has to be one of the most revelatory delights I saw throughout all of 2015. Shining a light, as it did, upon a national cinema that I was hugely unfamiliar with, my initial intrigue turned to fascinated engagement as the creativeness and elegance of the piece drew me in from the very outset. The extraordinarily fluid and observant opening scenes of street flavour among the poorer classes in Riga possess a memorable vitality and pictorial artistry and offer an element of social realism that grounds ensuing flights of fancy firmly in the aspirations and struggles of the hard-working and under-pressure every-man and every-woman. I found the film to be both funny and probing. The deft sarcasm which is brought to bear on the politically tumultuous situation in the Latvia of the 1920s and 30s is another aspect that recommends this Baltic example of biting satire and touching humanism. Imagine a socially-aware Hollywood romantic comedy of the 1930s mixed up in a cocktail with the joie de vivre and sparkling spontaneity of avant-garde cinema of the 1960s and you might get some idea of the film and its remarkable qualities.

The legendary Eduards Pavuls and the lovely Liga Liepina make for charming and interesting leads and, based upon this, I can't wait to explore further the cinema of their beautiful country. Several joyous scenes from the film will live long in my memory; Liepina as the compulsive thief, Emma, skipping through town and asking to see jewellery in a shop. And then in her new dress daintily and adventurously balancing on a board overlooking the pier. Oh, the memories! They live on and dance in my heart! There is an ebullience and a vitality to so much of this film and these scenes in particular possess an exuberance that is charmingly infectious and quite magical. With this film, Leimanis has bequeathed a creation that manages to balance moods to considerable effect and reveals itself to be a touchingly humorous, insightful, and artistically compelling accomplishment worthy of much wider recognition and acclaim.
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Behind the Wall (1971 TV Movie)
9/10
A raw and touching study in loneliness
15 February 2017
'Za sciana', an early-career TV production from the legendary Krzysztof Zanussi, truly proved to be a deeply compelling viewing experience. IMDb lists a running time of 56 minutes but the version I viewed online ran for only around half an hour. Although brief in length, there is a simple and stark humanity on show that gives rise to a film that lingers long in one's mind.

The remarkable Maja Komorowska appeared many times in Zanussi's films and here she created another character that touches deeply one's heart. She plays a lonely, uncertain writer who, seeking guidance and the warmth of human compassion, asks a professor around to her lodgings to look at her work. The equally iconic Zbigniew Zapasiewicz would also appear in many of Zanussi's greatest films and here he plays the part of the career-centred academic who is helpful yet oblivious and utterly unprepared for the extent of the young woman's anguish and extreme loneliness. A riveting and hauntingly real little film, the two great actors create an emotional intensity that draws one right into the sad little story as it unfolds. The focus throughout is largely on the faces of Komorowska and Zapasiewicz and they both do a wonderful job in creating nuance, uncertainty, and uncomfortableness in the small, confined setting.

This is another notable accomplishment from Krzysztof Zanussi and one with interesting and frank things to say on the difficulties in communication and connection across the barriers of misunderstanding and self-absorption that can exist as part of humanity and the pursuit and attainment of success and happiness. The power and the plaintive suffering of Maja Komorowska's Anna is something I won't soon forget.
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Arctic Flight (1952)
7/10
Morris and Albright reunited in the Arctic
15 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is a decent and invigorating offering from Monogram that stars Wayne Morris and Lola Albright, who had appeared together before in the rather wonderful 'Sierra Passage'. This picture sees the sturdy and likable Morris play a charter pilot in the freezing north of the Arctic and Albright take the role of the newly-arrived and very pretty school teacher. The early scenes between the two are the most sparkling as Morris teasingly tells Albright that she ''makes a liar out of the thermometer'' after bursting in on her in a state of undress.

After she reaches the school circuitously by plane and dog-sled (featuring interesting location work!), the Cold War era elements of Soviet infiltration and paranoia take centre stage and result in a more overtly propagandist tone that lessens somewhat the abiding effect of the film. However, it is well worth seeing for the teasingly pleasant and convivial interplay between Albright and Morris.

Some of the shots in 'Arctic Flight' of the snow-bound accommodation reminded me of aspects of 'The Thing from Another World!', which had appeared the year before. The opening aerial scenes to this film are actually very similar to the ones that so intriguingly open John Carpenter's 1982 remake of the science-fiction classic. I wonder whether Carpenter saw 'Arctic Flight' and liked the film's opening gambit. Lew Landers oversaw a film that is uneven but also memorable and enjoyable and very nicely played by two leads who had a charming chemistry. All in all, it proves to be quite a fun and interesting diversion! 6.5/10
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10/10
Darrieux shines in a transcendental and compelling gem
14 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Set in the mid-1960s, Paul Vecchiali's searching, compassionate story of a woman returning to the city of Toulon in which her Pétainist husband had been gunned down nineteen years before is told with an extraordinary acuity for the pain and internal conflicts that such experiences and their reawakening after so many years causes to an individual. Vecchiali oscillates deftly and imaginatively between the past and the present and makes astonishing use of landmarks and surroundings that prompt associated memories of the past happenings in these streets to confront the returned widow as well as highlighting the solitary nature of her sad relationship with a city that has largely moved on.

This is a deeply personal, probing film and one that features perhaps one of the very finest late-career performances from the remarkable Danielle Darrieux. Vecchiali was, I've read, a long-time fan and he draws a deeply touching, spellbinding characterisation from this most wonderful of stars. She is elegant and yet adrift and displaced. So utterly moving yet disarmingly funny. Wistful and lonely and yet still imparting little moments of charm and happiness and song. It is an extraordinary leading turn that cannot but touch one's heart as she steps back into the complexities of the past in a Toulon that throws up difficult and interwoven memories at every turn. This is an intensely moving film and one with a sublimely evocative and understated sense of artistry and period detail that complements wonderfully the quietly affecting intimacy of Darrieux's central performance.

'En haut des marches' is a film to cherish. I do believe it was my first exposure to the films of Paul Vecchiali. Safe to say it won't be my last!
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8/10
If thine eye offends thee... pluck it out!
12 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This truly is a cracking little sci-fi/horror thriller from American International and Roger Corman. In one of his finest late career performances, Ray Milland stars as the experimenting Dr. Xavier who comes up with an eye-drop fluid that allows him to see beyond the normal spectrum. Following the accidental death of a colleague, things get out of hand and Xavier is forced to go on the run. At this juncture, the picture perhaps gets even more interesting as the nature of what the doctor can increasingly perceive through his afflicted eyes is incorporated into a swirling and intriguingly developed background locale. He hides out at a carnival, where he becomes an attraction of sorts. Don Rickles, as his shady boss, turns in a sleazily memorable supporting performance and the depiction of the bustling on-site activity that goes on at carnival sites is well-realised.

Later, on the run from a casino, Xavier loses the dark glasses that protect his eyes somewhat. As he struggles desperately to evade the police, the unbearable glare of the desert sunlight serves to heighten his strange and distorted visions. Milland's contorted movements and sense of straining despair and helplessness is really quite something to observe. The film's finale in the Evangelicals' tent proves supremely chilling yet also quite plaintive and deeply moving as the pioneering and now plagued Dr. Xavier reveals the extent of his troubling and harrowing visions.

Shot in three weeks on a paper-thin budget of $300,000, this truly is a cheapie gem and undoubtedly one of Corman's finest achievements as a director. The haunting visuals and art direction are certainly dated yet retain a remarkable ability to convey what Xavier sees in front of him. There is fine support from a number of veteran character actors and Diana Van der Vlis is a particularly pleasant presence as a female colleague who tries to help Xavier. Milland is centre stage though and he is terrific and deeply compelling in creating an unforgettably anguished and understandably flawed anti-hero. He appeared in some pretty ordinary fare later in life but this is a film and performance that he could justly have been proud of. It is a searing and deeply pained but very human performance of admirable restraint and eloquence. Indeed, it takes the film to another level.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that this film was released as a double feature with Francis Ford Coppola's Irish-shot 'Dementia 13'. I haven't yet seen that one but it too sounds wonderfully intriguing!
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Clay (1965)
9/10
The mysteries of man and nature
8 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I am honoured and frankly somewhat surprised to be able to add the very first IMDb user review for this extraordinary and hopefully soon-to-be rediscovered example of 1960s independent Australian cinema.

Giorgio Mangiamele's film has been remastered by the Australian National Film and Sound Archive and issued in a special edition DVD set from Ronin Films along with four other projects from the Italian immigrant director. I decided to watch the film on Vimeo On Demand as I was taking part in one of OldAle1's wonderful year-by-year polls on the Classic Film Board and couldn't contain my desire to discover the film. The physical media release does look intriguing though and pretty essential stuff for any fan of Australian cinema or, indeed, art-house world cinema. I hope to buy the set at some stage. At present, his short films don't even appear to be listed on this site.

So, yes, a few brief thoughts on the film itself. 'Clay' is really a fascinating dream-like poem of the screen with a haunting and hypnotic visual quality that has a semblance of Resnais and Cocteau to it. Indeed, the film's startling imagery is what most sticks in my mind. The landscape, with gnarled trees conveying an air of mysticism and the slow, inexorable passing of time, is lensed with a deftness that draws upon both the timelessness of the surroundings and the vital immediacy of the human interaction/connection between the sheltered yet outward-pondering girl and the enigmatic fugitive who seeks sanctuary in this isolated community. Water and the land and the closeness of nature are all filmed in vivid and cinematically captivating ways that help to create a film with a very unique touch and ambiance to it.

It is truly unfortunate that Mangiamele didn't really find an audience in Australia (it did though play at Cannes) for this imaginative and intriguing effort. Who knows what films he might have been able to realise had this been more of a success. If I recall correctly, the film had a mere one week run in a Melbourne cinema with the costs of exhibiting it being met by Mangiamele and others involved in the project.

As an aside, it is important to be aware that the dialogue was added to the film after it had been finished due to budgetary and filming constraints. There are unfortunately some very noticeable problems with synchronisation in the last reel or so. I read a very interesting piece online from the people who undertook the restoration and matching up the various elements does seem to have posed a very real challenge. Despite these imperfections, 'Clay' is indeed a film well worth owning and an indispensable milestone of an Australian national cinema in gradual emergence during the 1950s and 1960s.
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Sicily! (1999)
9/10
Dost thou remember Sicily?
7 February 2017
On the 3rd of February 2017 it was announced that the IMDb message boards would be shutting down. This news prompted me to look through my posting history to see what posts I should like to save. I originally offered the following thoughts (here slightly modified) on Straub and Huillet's 'Sicilia!' in response to a request from ali-112 and I would like to dedicate what merit there is in them to her and to zetes. The passion for cinema from corners far and wide that they have shared with others through the Classic Film Board has been quite wonderful to be some small part of over recent years.

'Sicilia!' is a film and immersive cinematic experience that has really stayed with me in the days and months since I viewed it. I was aware that it was one that ali-112 valued particularly highly and that played into my particularly wanting to see it in conjunction with a yearly poll being run at that time.

This is a film of re-immersion, rediscovery, re-exposure. It is certainly a quietly amazing sensory experience. The definition and striking contrasts between blacks and whites in the cinematography carries a vividness, a clarity, and a tonal subtlety that assigns importance and individuality to everything that passes before the lens. I have read reviews that have described the unhurried observational qualities of Straub and Huillet as seeming austere and even boring. While I do have question-marks and perhaps some reservations as a newcomer about their approach to film-making, I think that the sparse, sharply defined compositions exhibit a beguiling and captivating artistic sense that leads to the film being utterly memorable.

This was my first foray into the films of Straub and Huillet and perhaps I don't appreciate fully yet the subtlety of their melding of a humane Marxism and cinematic form. Their cinematic language can seem challenging but it can also come across as being tranquil and meditative. The aesthetic inclusivity that lingers upon empty spaces as sounds fade naturally displays an inventiveness and an openness that allows one to look at one's own ways of perceiving and presents opportunities to watch and listen in newly attentive and attuned ways that might confound inculcated expectations of rigid regimentation as well as allowing one to question the finely honed strictures and edited orderliness of filmic presentation that we as viewers have become so accustomed to digesting. This willingness to ascribe just as much importance to silence and blank space leads to a continually captivating and, in some ways, unsettling work. And key to all of it is of course the nature of the dialogue, as this returned son of Sicily observes and interacts. I should perhaps mention that the copy I watched didn't carry any subtitles. In a way, in retrospect, I am glad that this was the case. The words spoken, while obviously central, were only one aspect of the communication in the film. The vital, irrepressible cadence of the dialogue and the emphasised delivery proved transfixing and succeeded in going beyond the immediacy of the spoken word to probe deeper qualities of individuality and the inherent complexity of human expression. Despite not picking up all that was said, I feel that the way I experienced the film allowed me to appreciate it in a more enriching and involving fashion than if I had been reaching down for subtitles and continually averting my gaze from the multi-layered on-screen discussions.

I undoubtedly found it a challenging film to watch but I suspect that it is a work that I will come to value even more as I gain a greater understanding and appreciation of Straub and Huillet and their carefully attentive, literary-minded explorations of film language. 'Sicilia!' makes for a humanistic, contemplative, and startlingly inventive entry (at least to this uninitiated viewer!) and I certainly look forward to exploring more of their output over the coming months and years.
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In Our Name (2010)
8/10
The harshness of war
7 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Joanne Froggatt turns in an exceptional performance in this bleakly realistic and tightly observed look at life for a woman soldier and the stark challenges of familial reintegration she faces in the wake of returning home from war. That difficult process isn't aided by the fact that her soldier husband (an intense, unforgettable Mel Raido) is a fully-fledged psychopath who speaks viciously of the enjoyment he derives from killing Muslims.

The spartan, unsympathetic monotony of existence on a drab and humdrum Middlesbrough council estate is used very effectively by talented young director Brian Welsh to convey and ferment the sense of dislocation and uncertainty that grows in the mind of this young returned servicewoman.

The film and its central performance is all the more powerful for not coming down and offering a take on the rights and wrongs of engaging in distant conflicts. The war-zone she has nightmares of is a hazy and fuzzily indistinct recollection and this aids the film's general sense of uncertainty. Froggatt's Suzy is a simple woman who did a job for those more powerful than her and afterwards came home. It is a haunting performance that marks the film indelibly into one's mind. Although the film wanders into perhaps somewhat misjudged thriller territory late on, the performance remains and is the abiding element that makes this an important and compelling study of trauma and post-conflict existence.
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Le général du roi (2014 TV Movie)
9/10
French du Maurier
6 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Though unmistakably a television production, this fine-looking adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's 1946 English Civil War centred novel transports us instead to revolutionary France and the all-consuming and bloodily divisive conflict in the Vendée region that raged from 1793 to 1796. The film proves from the outset to be a wonderfully involving variation on the celebrated author's source material.

The production benefits from a fine mood and attention to period detail that sets the scene in engaging fashion. The film as it unfurls proves too to be sweepingly evocative and sensually romantic, despite being modestly budgeted. At the same time, the film-makers subtly convey the ever-more encroaching and palpable air of inevitability that afflicts and derails existences as the bleakness and creeping brutality of a nation swirling in the throes of bloody conflict hoves into the consciousness and awareness of those increasingly caught up in this path of discontent, conflict and suffering.

There is an elegant yet adventurous and passionate eroticism to the scenes between Samuel Le Bihan and Louise Monot that is well contained and allowed to subtly permeate and colour proceedings as the starkness of the situation becomes ever more apparent to the wealthy. I found the film to be a gripping, fascinating, and hugely praiseworthy directorial outing from the sadly now deceased Nina Companeez. The restrained yet sweeping scope and the subtlety of observation from actors and director alike has brought forth a richly rewarding and very moving film that can thankfully stand as rather a fitting adaptation of du Maurier's meticulously researched novel.
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Marie Ann (1978)
8/10
A woman in the wilderness
6 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
'Marie-Anne' is a small-scale yet resonant and captivating biographical film about cultural and racial intermingling in Canada during the opening decade of the 19th Century. The film focuses on the early years of the marriage between fur-trader Jean-Baptiste Lagemodiere and Marie-Anne Gaboury. Eschewing custom, Marie-Anne followed her husband deep into the territory of the Hudson's Bay Company and became the first white woman to settle in the Canadian west.

The opening moments depicting her, an unclaimed woman doing the bidding of a patriarchal society as servant to the local minister, and the visiting fur-trader and the ensuing match-making that leads to their betrothal are lensed in lovely soft hues that evoke the gentle surroundings. Subsequent scenes of their intrepid journey back to his remote post very much reminded me of 'Jeremiah Johnson' which is another wonderful picture about exploration and survival. A sense of the vastness of the interior before them is conveyed as the static camera on the river-bank records the wide, winding river and the relative speck of the little craft carrying them.

'Marie-Anne' is a respectful and observant film. One gets a real sense of the film-makers' wish to examine through an anthropological lens the practices and customs of the different races. As in Michael Radford's unforgettable romance 'Another Time, Another Place', music plays an important role. The musically-infused gatherings allow the fur- traders to be merry, just as it allowed hardened Scots to loosen up in the later British film.

Acting-wise, Andree Pelletier brings a compassion and delicacy to the lead role that infuses proceedings with a warmth and humanity. John Juliani is good as well as Jean-Baptiste. The depiction of the fur-traders is nuanced and they are far from the typical mumbling wildmen of the north one sees so often on-screen. As a Cree woman whose place is taken by the arriving white woman, Tantoo Cardinal imparts a nobility and determination that sits perfectly with the tone of honour and respect that courses through the film.

This picture is but a snapshot of Marie-Anne Gaboury's extraordinary life and my imagination runs wild with the possibilities a future better-funded production might present. I hope a more extensive biopic makes it to cinema screens one day. Until such time, 'Marie-Anne' serves as a fitting tribute to her and the peoples and places she encountered through her will, bravery and marriage some 200 hundred years ago.
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Wadjda (2012)
9/10
A thoughtful and delicately subversive delight
2 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
'Wadjda' is an important and sensitively observed film from Saudi Arabia that gently reveals the individual humanity that exists under the blanket of draconian oppression. The denunciations of the conservative and repressive Islamic revival movement resulted in the closure of cinemas throughout the country during the 1970s and 80s. When last I heard, there was but one cinema in Saudi Arabia and its programming was limited to the screening of documentaries. Against the constraining backdrop of such institutionalised theocratic illiberality was produced this insightful portrait of relationships in a society segregated based upon gender.

Made with Western support, 'Wadjda' is a pioneering film in many ways and the first feature length Saudi production to be filmed in the country. Written and directed by a woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour, it successfully balances the youthful rebelliousness of its charming and joyful young protagonist with an involving and thought-provoking examination of the issues faced by women in such a deeply patriarchal society. Al-Mansour has, in interviews, drawn attention to some small and gradual changes in Saudi culture that reflect a societal awareness of a world beyond the strict confines of their kingdom. ''Saudi is a different place than it was for girls of my generation, and the new generation has access to information and different cultures and ideas that we couldn't even imagine growing up'', she said. She has also touched upon censorship laws and how she met those guidelines in order to create a movie that would meet with official approval. This is not a radical or militant picture but rather a subtle exploration of societal dynamics and the gradual change that might be achieved by working within the system.

At the centre of the film is the titular heroine, a spirited 10 year-old girl who wishes to own her own bicycle. Waad Mohammed, in a delightfully touching, exuberant and idiosyncratic performance, portrays this young girl who refuses to have her spirit quashed by repression. She wears Western style shoes and ribbons in her hair and is resourceful, quick-witted and clever. She forms a friendship with a local boy and sells her ribbons to raise money. She enters a Koran recitation contest with youthful irreverence and the sole motive of putting the prize money towards realising her dream of owning her own bicycle and taking her friend on in a race. These scenes offer terrific examples of the director working within official guidelines yet managing at the same time to imbue a dash of nuanced impudence to her characters and observations.

The delicacy and gentle subversion of long-time strictures makes 'Wadjda' an immensely heartwarming, uplifting and beautiful viewing experience. The interactions between mother (Reem Abdullah) and daughter contain great compassion and gentleness and the quiet understanding that is evident in the scenes between the two actresses radiates an enchanting, if sometimes melancholic, warmth. The soaring yet simple imagery of the concluding scenes that show the extent of the love between mother and daughter is inspired and powerful yet full of a gentle, mellow appreciation of the tenderness and closeness of their bond and their shared awareness and understanding of the female experience in Saudi society. 'Wadjda' is a stirring and wonderfully acted tribute to the inherent beauty of humanity and the irrepressible nature of the human spirit. It is a cinematic milestone and it is also a gem of a film.
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Un autre monde (2011 TV Movie)
8/10
A heady island tale of passion, race and power
13 December 2014
A handsomely filmed colonial saga set on Reunion Island in 1915, this movie is thematically somewhat similar to such movies as 'Island in the Sun' and 'Indochine'. Indeed, the wonderful actress Dominique Blanc graces both this and the 1992 picture.

'Un autre monde' blends the familial, racial, political and societal aspects of life on the island into a heady and involving mix. Having left France, a boy arrives on the island to meet his remarried father. He quickly develops a close bond with his coloured half-sister and comes to witness and understand the deprivations endured by the Indian and African labourers and the political, religious and sexual machinations of the rich white ruling class.

The cinematography, the costumes and the lilting, melodic score are all quite wonderful and collectively serve to heighten the effect of this sensual and engrossing movie. Dominique Blanc and Claude Brasseur are both marvellous but I want to particularly applaud Niels Schneider and Mati Diop for their performances. As the new boy and his marginalised half sister, they convey with a touching empathy and understanding the heartfelt connection that develops between their characters. This is an elegant, insightful and stylish movie and one that I thoroughly enjoyed watching. 8.5/10
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The Goat Horn (1972)
10/10
A harsh and unforgettable tale of retribution
11 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
'Kozijat rog' is a brutal and gripping revenge drama from Bulgaria. Based upon Nikolay Haitov's short story 'The Goat Horn', the film is set in the 17th or 18th Century when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire. The opening credits warn that the movie starts with an eruption of violence and so it does. A shepherd's wife is raped and murdered by a gang of four intruders in front of their little daughter, Maria. Raising her as a boy and training her to kill in cold blood, the shepherd plots to avenge his wife's horrific death.

As his daughter blossoms into womanhood, thoughts of violence gradually leave her being as she yearns that her scarred heart may experience the gentleness and compassion of love. Maria's awakening and romance with a young shepherd displays a gentleness that is at odds with her father's destructive quest for revenge.

Director Metodi Andonov sets the scene in a disrupted landscape of spartan pastoral simplicity that at first seems somewhat off-putting in its sheer rawness. The fact that he and his team managed to weave a narrative from this simplicity that builds and builds to such an involving level of lyrical potency says wonders for them as film-makers.

The second half of 'Kozijat rog' contains some of the most riveting tragedic cinema I have ever seen. The performances of Katya Paskaleva and Anton Gorchev are mesmerising in their slow-burning level of intensity. This one is a haunting masterpiece that drew me in more and more with every passing minute and, ultimately, left me astounded as to its simple yet heart-breaking power. It is a movie that, I think, compares very favourably with Bergman's memorable 'Jungfrukallen' from 1960, and that is high praise indeed. This is a draining and moving gem to watch and a film whose primeval imagery sticks in one's mind.
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Triage (2009)
9/10
Coming home...
9 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Deeply harrowing and involving, this up-close yet suitably detached and observant examination of Kurdish guerrilla warfare against Saddam's forces details the horrors that two photo-journalists witness, document and are embroiled in during the conflict of the late 1980s. When one (Colin Farrell) returns home, the horrifying details of his friend's fate are gradually eased out from the scarred and traumatised photographer by an elderly Spanish doctor (Christopher Lee).

As the two men share their respective experiences in Spain and Kurdistan, a tentative trust and rapport is built up between them and the soul-destroying facts of what actually happened in Kurdistan can gradually be acknowledged.

'Triage' is an intelligent and compelling movie in terms of both detail and acting. Seamus Deasy's evocative lensing of the Spanish locations suitably conveys the barren desolation and ruggedly beautiful yet deeply troubled nature of the Kurdish region. Amidst the war-torn landscape and the subsequent uncertain disorientation upon return, the acting of both Farrell and Lee held me transfixed and utterly riveted. They both create characters of real depth and humanity. Never before have I seen the charismatic Farrell turn in a performance of such note.

Director Danis Tanovic confirms the huge promise that he exhibited with 'No Man's Land' and has with this movie created a searing masterpiece that, like the aforementioned 2001 movie, is undoubtedly significantly informed by his time spent filming in Sarajevo for the Bosnian Army. The chilling and mind-numbing impact of conflict is conveyed vividly and unflinchingly through his directorial vision and execution.

The heart-wrenching reveal that the movie inexorably builds towards is graphic and stands as a draining and deeply moving denouement to this unforgettable picture. The shattering silence that accompanies the unspeakable horror of the climactic scene forms a powerful and sublime encapsulation of one man's release and acceptance of the fate that befell his colleague who failed to return. Through his acknowledgment of reality, comes the chance for renewal and vital reawakening. 'Triage' is indeed a worthy addition to the pantheon of great anti- war movies and it deserves to be sought out and seen by as many cinema lovers as possible.
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10/10
A deeply moving and superbly acted gem from Krzysztof Zanussi
10 August 2014
Also known by its English-language title 'A Year of the Quiet Sun', this is a poignant and powerful depiction of the tentative and soulful romance that develops between a Polish widow named Emilia and Norman, an American soldier, who is involved in investigating apparent Nazi war-crimes in her small town in the immediate aftermath of World War Two.

Krzysztof Zanussi, though not as well-known internationally as his contemporaries, has crafted a heartbreaking and transcendental romance to rival the very best from Kieslowski and Holland. Directed with restraint and an observational eye, the movie establishes a tangible sense of place and time.

Set in contrast against the squalid grey landscapes, the interior scenes are bathed in gentle elegiac hues that mirror the melancholic warmth of the acting. Slawomir Idziak's cinematography certainly adds a mellow and heartwarming tone to proceedings. The soothing and gently romantic score of Wojciech Kilar lingers softly around the edges and complements perfectly the deftness of Zanussi's direction.

In many ways, the wistful compassion of 'Rok spokojnego slonca' reminded me of Clint Eastwood's 'The Bridges of Madison County'. Both romances are grounded very much in the unavoidable realities of life yet succeed in tenderly conveying the powerful dreams and hopes that deep love can engender.

As much as the technical aspects make this a film of considerable beauty, it was the subtle, heartfelt acting of Maja Komorowska and Scott Wilson that most touched me. The quiet dignity that Komorowska conveys as Emilia cares for her mother and ekes out an existence amidst the rubble proved deeply affecting. One wishes with all one's being that such a selfless and beautiful person as Emilia could find lasting happiness in life. The astonishing performance of the luminous Komorowska brought tears to my eyes. Her playing exhibits quite wonderful sensitivity and a sublime understanding and it is a portrayal I shall treasure being able to witness for as long as I live. 'Rok spokojnego slonca' is a movie of rare emotional depth and beauty and one that deserves to be seen for generations to come by cinema lovers the world over.
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En apparence (2010 TV Movie)
8/10
A gripping and well-constructed suspense drama
30 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
'En apparence' was made for television and I was recently fortunate enough to be able to watch it on TV5 Monde, with the presence of English subtitles being a welcome bonus. I had never heard of the movie but was faintly familiar with Barbara Schulz as an actress and, based upon her involvement, decided that it was worth giving this one a twirl. Happily, this turned out to be an instance where my expectations were greatly exceeded. 'En apparence' rises above the limitations of television production and proved to be a suspenseful and stylish effort.

Barbara Schulz stars as Alice, a young married woman. She is elegant and successful, yet just vulnerable enough to create a sympathetic and interesting character. She runs an antiques shop with her friend Melanie, and her existence appears tranquil and satisfying. Her ordered life is, however, thrown into emotional chaos when a lover from her past arrives back in the area after a long absence. Bruno, played by Gregory Fitoussi, is handsome and in possession of a blossoming writing career.

Having cheated on her husband once before, Alice is aware of what she is doing when she heeds her impulses and spends time with Bruno. Before the movie shifts tack somewhat and focuses on the suspense elements, this first part of the movie depicts a delicate and heartwarming reawakening of the romantic feelings that still lie in the hearts of former lovers. An effective and credible back-story is created thanks to the admirable chemistry between Schulz and Fitoussi.

When Alice's husband Francois learns of her infidelity, the mood of romance is seamlessly replaced with an over-riding air of uncertainty that is fraught with the possibilities of revenge. As Francois, Samuel Le Bihan uses his charisma to create an unsettling and psychotically vengeful husband. It is a great credit to Le Bihan that he doesn't go overboard when portraying such a disturbing character. He abducts Bruno and manipulates his wife and her surroundings to punish her and undermine her sanity. The extent of his actions is made all the more chilling by his facade of a loving husband. As I watched this facade gradually slip and the realisation of what he really is hit his wife, the performances of Le Bihan and Schulz utterly gripped me.

On reflection, 'En apparence' is perhaps a little formulaic. It succeeds, however, in overcoming such limitations by dint of the commendable acting. As well as the three leads, I should also pay credit to Nadia Fossier who does a fine job portraying Alice's helpful and supportive friend Melanie. Her piercing blue eyes and pale beauty added considerably to the movie.

There is an attractive and stylish touch to the production that makes it one of the finest in the genre that I have seen. For aficionados of the suspense genre and relatively recent movies such as 'Sleeping With the Enemy' and 'Single White Female', 'En apparence' comes highly recommended. I think it is a considerably more accomplished and rewarding movie than the titles I have mentioned above.
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10/10
Maria Schell is astounding in this heart-wrenching Kautner classic.
12 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
'Die letzte Brucke' is the second movie that I have been fortunate enough to view from the canon of German maestro Helmut Kautner. 'Des Teufels General' is a hugely admirable and evocative piece of work featuring a commanding central performance from Curd Jurgens but, in my opinion, 'Die letzte Brucke' stands above even that. It displays a special mark of inspired brilliance that confirms to me Kautner's position as one of the pre-eminent directors in the history of German cinema.

Maria Schell, in one of her breakthrough leading roles, is quite unforgettable as Helga. Adding an effective touch, her shifting emotions throughout the movie are conveyed by close-ups of Schell's face. Helga is a doctor but volunteers as a nurse in war-torn 1943 Yugoslavia because of shortages. She is carefree and being romantically pursued by a young German soldier named Martin. She certainly appears a little naive about the nature of the Nazi war machine. Her untroubled existence is suddenly shattered apart when she is kidnapped by Partisans and forced to provide the rag-tag bunch with medical care.

'Die letzte Brucke' is, in essence, a fish out of water tale and a movie about one woman's journey of self-discovery amidst the horrors and inevitable tangled loyalties of wartime. Helga, indeed, gradually finds herself softening in her opinion of her captors who fight as guerrillas to defend their ancestral homeland. Helga gains an ever-deeper understanding of the people, the land and their history and in this cultural aspect the movie is evocative and admirably observational. The influence of Italian neo-realism is evident throughout. The movie was filmed in and around Mostar with a Yugoslav supporting cast and there is a sparing but hauntingly effective use of traditional folk songs that certainly add to the local flavour. As the Partisan leader, Boro, extends his palm out over the landscape, we appreciate in some way the deep affinity these people have with their land and why the will to resist Fascism burns so brightly in their hearts.

Kautner makes full use of the landscape and succeeds in creating a palpable undercurrent of lurking, hidden danger. The challenging terrain, the mountains, the river, and the last bridge of the title are utilised simply but compellingly to create an atmosphere fraught with fear, uncertainty and menace.

'Die letzte Brucke' stands as a stirring and moving triumph and a fitting tribute to the irrepressible beauty of humanity. It is a timeless ode to a woman's selflessness and inherent integrity in the face of great personal and exterior conflict. 'Die letzte Brucke' was in a way Kautner's comeback movie after a string of financial flops ('Der Apfel ist ab', 'Konigskinder', 'Weisse Schatten', 'Kapt'n Bay-Bay') and it is a fitting movie with which to return to success. Maria Schell received special mention at Cannes for her extraordinary performance and Helmut Kautner was recognised with the German Film Award for best direction. 'Die letzte Brucke' is a movie I shall treasure in my collection. It is one of the great war movies and is in that august company thanks to skillful directorial utilisation of the surroundings and the haunting compassion of Maria Schell's Helga.

* As a footnote it is interesting to consider that Bernhard Wicki, who does a good job portraying the gruff Partisan leader Boro, would go on to direct the acclaimed 1959 anti-war movie 'Die Brucke'.
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9/10
A compelling movie from the Adenauer era boasting a great central performance.
8 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
'Des Teufels General' is set in the months leading up to Hitler's declaration of war on America in December 1941. Curd Jurgens essays the titular general who observes the violent tossing of German society by the torrid and overwhelming waves of the Nazi's mortal storm.

Jurgens portrays General Harry Harras, a respected senior official at the Air Ministry. His position is one of authority and he senses the way the wind is blowing. He resists attempts to coerce him into becoming a party member and, as a result, becomes a subject worthy of scrutiny. The movie conveys with searing immediacy the spiralling path of distrust, imprisonment, humiliation and ostracisation that confronts Harras.

This movie is a gripping character study of a cognac-nursing general but it is more than just that. It emanates from the American-sponsored era of denazification and offers an intriguing take on German society under the National Socialists. Harras is shown to be chivalrous and a member of a military that has an appreciation of the past and a sense of tradition and camaraderie. There are echoes of 'Anna Karenina' as veteran soldiers dine and drink socially in pleasant surroundings. There is a subtle and effective contrast drawn between the boisterous but essentially civilised bonhomie of Harras and his colleagues and the dispassionate and uncivilised brutishness of the Nazi-established militias.

Harras espouses the spirit of Goethe in several electrifying scenes as the degeneration of decency occurs and the thuggery of Nazism takes an iron grip on Germany, working its way into long-venerated edifices of society. While, with hindsight, it seems possible that the movie downplays the extent of committed Nazism amongst the populace, it must be remembered that Germany was undergoing seismic changes in terms of reintegration and structural and economic rebuilding under the Nazi-persecuted statesman Konrad Adenauer. America had initially wanted to identify and prosecute criminally all those who had colluded significantly with the Nazis. This soon proved to be utterly unfeasible and would, undoubtedly, have severely hampered Germany's economic reemergence. Cinematic output of the Adenauer era desperately sought to impart the virtues of dignity and heroism. In alluding to the rampant rise of Nazism, those remaining in society who were swept along are not exonerated. Rather, the terrible, all-consuming enormity of the force that ravaged Germany is acknowledged. In its depiction of Harras and his surroundings, this movie is undoubtedly the product of a deeply scarred society simply doing its level best to move on and locate a measure of hope and honour upon which it can tentatively go forth.

As for the acting, special mention must go to Curd Jurgens, who turns in the performance of a lifetime here. He literally becomes General Harras. Indeed, it is hard to imagine anyone else being so effective in the role. For his masterfully nuanced interpretation, Jurgens was the joint winner (with Kenneth More) of the Volpi Cup at the 1955 Venice Film Festival. He is ably supported by the lovely Marianne Koch and the imposing Viktor de Kowa, whose character really is a repulsive individual.

This is the first of Helmut Kautner's movies that I have seen and I was suitably impressed by it. His deft narrative style certainly appeals to me. His direction is concise and to-the-point and this contributes to several taut and tense scenes. The atmospheric and chilling evocation of social upheaval is realised with a sure directorial touch. From a brief skimming of his filmography 'Romanze in Moll', 'Der Apfel ist ab', 'Die letzte Brucke' and 'Der Hauptmann von Kopenick' strike me as being some of his most interesting movies. I greatly look forward to viewing more of Kautner's movies in the months and years ahead and I can but thoroughly recommend 'Des Teufels General' to those who read this.
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Hitch-Hike (1962)
9/10
Agathe on the highways and byways...
30 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Viewing this free-wheeling road movie from 1962 was a sheer delight. It was a revelation and many times more captivating than I had anticipated. Director Jacqueline Audry creates an episodic and lightweight yet, on the whole, charming concoction replete with a dazzling selection of some of France's greatest stars of the silver screen.

The plot, such as it is, follows eighteen-year-old Agathe (Agathe Aems) as she ventures south, harbouring the wish to eventually reach the glistening idyll of the Cote d'Azur. Young Agathe Aems really turns in a sparkling performance as the journeying ingenue who links the movie's threads. She proffers forth to the viewer a character who is single-minded, mischievous and manipulative yet, at the same time, full of the adventurous joy and vigour of youth. Though I am unfamiliar with her life off-screen, I find it frankly astonishing that Aems has not appeared in a movie since.

'Les Petits Matins' is, as I indicated, presented as a series of sketches. Agathe hops from car to lorry to motorcycle and carriage as she edges circuitously towards her dream destination in the sunny south. She encounters, along the way, a diverse array of quirky characters who span the breadth of human nature. An all-star supporting cast which includes Arletty, Pierre Brasseur, Noel-Noel and Robert Hossein appear as these often quirky characters who flesh out the somewhat thin premise. There is a gently satirical slant to a number of the segments as some of the stars send-up their typical on-screen personas to great effect.

I delighted in the witty dialogue of Pierre Laroche (Audry's husband) and Pierre Pelegri. The translation by Epilogue for the high-quality subtitles on TV5 Monde also added greatly to my enjoyment of the movie. However, this is not a movie of great importance. Rather, it is one that is immensely pleasing to watch and simply savour for its entertainment value. Along the route to her dreams, Agathe is naive and delicate, tender and insouciant. It is a performance of zest and freshness that lifted 'Les Petits Matins' into my heart.
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Adorable (1933)
9/10
A delightfully dainty confection.
24 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This charming and light-hearted Ruritanian-set romantic comedy is a remake of the 1931 movies 'Ihre Hoheit befiehlt' and 'Princesse, a vos ordres!'. This version from Fox Film Corporation stars Janet Gaynor and Henri Garat, who reprises his role from the French original. It is helmed by the German director William Dieterle, who exhibits considerable artistic understanding with his stylish and refined direction. With polished gems such as 'Jewel Robbery' and 'Six Hours to Live' already decorating his resume and timeless classics such as 'All That Money Can Buy' and 'Portrait of Jennie' still to be realised, it is truly fascinating to view this movie and observe a developing master at play.

Plot-wise, Gaynor and Garat star as Princess Marie Christine and Lieutenant Conradi, respectively. Attending a commoner ball incognito, they meet and become enchanted by one another over the course of a merry evening. The Princess says that she works in a hair salon and the Lieutenant describes himself as a green-grocer. When the Princess flits away into the enveloping night leaving only a note with her place of work for the smitten Conradi, the wheels of romantic misunderstanding are most definitely set in motion.

On the acting side of things, both principals work well in their roles. They are ably supported by one of cinema's greatest character actors, C. Aubrey Smith, who contributes yet another anchoring performance as the Prime Minister, Von Heynitz. Gaynor is cute and characteristically enchanting. Her Princess is engaging and not without a rebellious streak! Garat, making his first appearance in a Hollywood production, is amusing and likable in a somewhat aloof kind of a way. His Lieutenant appears suitably bewildered at stages and Garat's facial expressions had me chuckling. He occasionally resembled a toy soldier or puppet being played with by those at the Palace. To see more of Garat, I would recommend the somewhat similarly-themed comedy 'Un Mauvais Garcon' from 1936.

Eighty years after its premiere at Radio City Music Hall in New York, 'Adorable' still stands up as a delectable cinematic offering. The sets and the cinematic playfulness that allows the Princess's shoes to dance daintily and her bed sway gently with the music are the elements that really endeared this movie to me. View it if you possibly can and allow its gentle magic touch your heart and bring forth many smiles of enjoyment.
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Carnival (1946)
7/10
Tale of a beautiful girl torn between love and responsibility.
18 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
'Carnival' is a 1946 melodrama from Rank/Two Cities which is compelling and memorable in parts but, overall, does not quite manage to attain the status of a great movie. A solidly old-fashioned filming of Compton Mackenzie's 1912 best-seller of the same name, the movie details the life of the beautiful dancer Jenny Pearl (Sally Gray).

Born into a relatively humble family, she strains against her less than opulent surroundings but also is aware of her responsibilities towards her sister and parents. The movie is quite successful in conveying the harsh and unforgiving nature of mundane existence in the poorer areas of London that frays lives and so tears at and conflicts Jenny's heart. Upon the death of her mother, she is ultimately trapped into a loveless marriage with a hardy, unsympathetic Cornish farmer named Trewhella (Bernard Miles). She relinquishes her burgeoning dancing success and the attentions of her male admirers in order to safeguard her sister's future well-being. Jenny and her sister, played by Hazel Court, then move to the Trewhella's coastal farm in Cornwall.

This transplantation heralds the most inspired and evocative scenes in the movie. There are several breathtakingly striking scenes on the towering cliff faces overlooking the sea. A dark, menacingly unwelcome atmosphere is also effectively created at the remote farmhouse into which Jenny and her sister come. The visit of a friend of Jenny's and subsequent arrival of her erstwhile lover Maurice (Michael Wilding) sparks a culture clash as the unloved, hard-working and God-fearing Trewhella is spurred into dreadful and impassioned action against his unloving wife who is not at one with the country way of life.

'Carnival' is a movie that will stick in my mind due to the starkly impressive coastal cinematography by Guy Green and the brooding performance of Bernard Miles as Trewhella. Watching him on screen evoked memories of the malevolent contribution turned in by Duncan Macrae in 1947's 'The Brothers'. 'Carnival' is certainly a well-detailed and occasionally gripping movie with many interesting facets to it.
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Love Affair (1939)
10/10
Exquisite and soul-stirringly poignant.
17 August 2013
'Love Affair' is an astonishingly beautiful and tender movie that, thanks to consummate technical contributions, makes a fair play at being the definitive Hollywood romance. Perusing the credits, one absorbs all those names of legend. From Leo McCarey all the way down, they certainly succeeded in enveloping a relatively straight-forward scenario in the most delicate and all-consuming of atmospheres. McCarey said that he liked his characters 'to walk in clouds' and that he wished to portray a 'little bit of the fairy-tale' in his movies. A dreamy, entrancing mood is created early on and sustained throughout. The soft-focus cinematography of the wonderful Rudolph Mate is instrumental in expressing the fleet-footed and gaily ethereal air of the ship-bound scenes. Such technical excellence, allied to a first-class screenplay by Delmer Daves and Donald Ogden Stewart, gives an added wallop to the emotional impact delivered by several unforgettable acting performances.

Chief among these is that of Irene Dunne. This is the finest that I have ever seen her, and that really is saying quite something! 'Love Affair' would have been half the movie it is, with any other actress in the role of Terry. She inhabits the role so perfectly and brings an uncomplicated timelessness to proceedings. The chemistry between Terry and Charles Boyer's Michel is palpable, from their very first inspired meeting through a port-hole window, and this feeds into the ambiance of adventurous light-heartedness. There is a charming, whimsical vitality and freshness to the subliminal glances and little, knowing giggles of the first half.

Dunne said that 'comedy demands more timing, pace, shading and subtlety of emphasis. It is difficult to learn but once it is acquired it can be easily slowed down and becomes an excellent foundation for dramatic acting'. The gay abandon of the repartee and ensuing romance is an enduring example of this quote being realised in the most captivating fashion. Dunne is funny and vivacious and reveals what fantastic dramatic capabilities she possessed. Watching 'Love Affair' in a double-bill with 'My Favorite Wife' allows one to realise the incredible range and depth of personality that she managed to impart.

The tranquil sojourn on Madeira with Michel's grandmother (Maria Ouspenskaya) adds immeasurable profundity to the movie. The place is so quiet and peaceful that it makes for a tremendous framing device. The audience sees Terry and Michel in a more revealing and personal light away from the prying, inquisitive eyes aboard the ship. It would seem that Boyer suggested the grandmother scenes as a way of fleshing-out his playboy character. It certainly was a swell idea by him, if so!

The ensuing tragedy and eventual reconciliation of lovers is beautifully and poignantly presented. 'An Affair to Remember' has rather usurped this movie in the collective consciousness, but the later version has nothing on the texture and feeling that permeates right through this picture. This is the version that should nestle in the hearts of movie-lovers the world over. Otis Ferguson put it well when he said that 'clichés of situation and attitude are lifted almost beyond recognition by a morning freshness of eye for each small thing around'. 'Love Affair' is nigh on the quintessential Hollywood romance and a movie to eternally cherish for its all-round beauty and refined, romantic charm.
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9/10
Energetic and humorous Hitchcockian chase-thriller.
10 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
'State Secret' opens with a scene that shows Douglas Fairbanks Jr. being held captive in a cabin and closes, in the last reel, with the conclusion of this scene. The story that unwinds in the intervening ninety minutes, between these intriguing book-ends, is a thrilling and fast-moving diversion in the best tradition of classic comedy thrillers.

Based upon the absorbing novel 'Appointment With Fear' by Roy Huggins, Fairbanks Jr. plays the famed American surgeon Dr. John Marlowe. Our debonair hero finds himself embroiled up to his neck in the cut-throat workings of Vosnian politics when he accepts an invitation to demonstrate his techniques in the country. He is duped into treating the state's ailing dictator. When his charge suddenly conks out after delicate surgery, escape becomes necessary as the dashing doctor is confronted with the very real prospect of elimination. Striving to elude the tentacles of the oppressive regime, Marlowe has the good fortune to engage the help of a half-English dancer played by the zestful Glynis Johns. Having bribed shady Herbert Lom to help them, they travel towards the border with the police hot on their tails.

The touches of Launder and Gilliat are delightfully evident. An effective sense of place is created, thanks to exemplary studio and location work by Robert Krasker, featuring exciting scenes of car chases on hilly, winding roads and treks across imposing mountains. The cloak-and-dagger mood is in some ways reminiscent of 'The Lady Vanishes'. The real sense of intrigue is wonderfully balanced by their twinkling sense of tongue-in-cheek humour. Jack Hawkins and, especially, Herbert Lom go to town with their roles. Lom steals the movie as the shifty and incredibly jittery crook-with-connections Karl Theodor. The scene where Fairbanks Jr. and Johns hide and surprise him in his luxury apartment is a real highlight of the movie. The palpable sense of relief that Theodor feels when he realises that he is only dealing with blackmail, and not the police, is hilarious. Hawkins' Colonel Galcon is a veritable Machiavellian. He is scheming and ruthless but also urbane and quite dispassionate in the discharging of his considerable duties. He is aptly summed-up by Hawkins' departing words to Fairbanks Jr.: 'If you should happen to hear of a vacant chair for political science anywhere, try to get in touch with me'.

'State Secret' is a rattling good tale delivered with all-round competence and skill. It is a classic of its genre and it definitely merits an official DVD release.
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Take My Life (1947)
9/10
Ronald Neame's eye-catching directorial debut.
2 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
As I scrolled down a list of Ronald Neame's movie credits prior to compiling this little review, I was struck again by the unbridled excellence of his filmography. Ebullient successes such as 'Major Barbara' and 'Blithe Spirit' were photographed by him, and he would go on to direct such involving and memorable movies as 'The Man Who Never Was' and 'Gambit'. Having honed his skills behind the camera while working with the cream of British movie-making talent, Neame made the transition to the director's chair in 1947 with 'Take My Life'.

And what a brilliant first-up effort it proves to be! This fast-paced and deftly-directed thriller sees Greta Gynt travelling to Scotland in an attempt to clear her husband, Hugh Williams, of the murder of an old flame of his. With Neame directing and Guy Green photographing the movie, it is a real triumph pictorially. As a prestige production of GFD/Cineguild, one would expect the polished feel that is evident. The movie is further elevated, however, by a stylish and imaginative script and uniformly excellent performances. Gynt and Williams offer refreshing sparkle on-screen and imbue their characters with admirable depth. Marius Goring, as the killer, is brooding and calculated and he fills the screen with a sense of foreboding menace. Some of the later suspense-filled scenes in the school call to mind Neame's background in cinematography. Several wonderfully expressionistic scenes are realised as Gynt searches for evidence of the dead girl, and engages in a game of cat-and-mouse with Goring amongst the deserted corridors and rooms of the empty school and then on the train back to England. The sense of moody desperation evoked in the last reel deserves special praise.

This confident and consistently exciting thriller shows what a fantastic film-maker Ronald Neame was. He demonstrates a smooth narrative style and expertly ramps up a thrilling level of suspense, despite the fact that the murderer is known to the audience from an early stage. 'Take My Life' is a movie that I wholeheartedly recommend.
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