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The Falcons (1970)
Strangely compelling film
6 November 2006
I just had the opportunity to see Istvan Gaal's THE FALCONS on a screen. It's a good example of the seventies' films that trust the spectator and give away only little information on the characters' backgrounds and their destination in life. The film comes close to Brechtian alienation effect and there's simply no one to get deeply interested in. Hence the film shifts the spectator to watch closely for the political undertones and subtle messages. There's also the rhythm of the falcon training and the dull imagery of the Hungarian pusta which add to the overall experience.

The film seemed to be to many quite compelling. I chatted for a while with a friend of mine and she said: "What was the meaning of that?" I think it's best - as the previous (and only!) commentator said - to interpret THE FALCONS as a satire on the Communist system. The film has pretty weird, almost surrealist symbolism for which there's no explanations or easy give-aways, but then again Gaál has said himself that he's not interested in substance, only in structure. Maybe this was the only way he got his films made in the Socialist Hungary. I hope this film would be released as a good quality DVD. The old 35mm copy I saw yesterday was full of scratches and the colours were faded. There were two subtitles: in English and in Finnish. The English ones were at the bottom of the screen and the Finnish ones were in the middle!
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Got a favorable review from a Finnish critic
31 March 2006
I just spotted while browsing through some old newspapers that a Finnish reviewer spotted some talent in this. He wrote that this was a critical and uncompromising take at war and its heroics, even though the film was poorly made. The later half was worse, he wrote, but he gave praise to the first half, comparing it with Burt Topper's War Hero from 1958. The Finnish reviewer in question (won't give out his name, since I don't have his permission) was always on the lookout for unhidden gems in the American B-movie productions, hailing praise for films like Carnival of Souls. I don't know what he would think of this now, but may have to ask him. It seems funny that besides this Shepard directed only the Monkees TV show. Go figure. I haven't seen Heroes Die Young myself.
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Interesting but flawed
19 February 2006
I thought that this was a very interesting, but deeply flawed film. Have to admit that I don't remember much of it, but there was unnecessary playing with film technique, but all in all the film was very critical of the conquistadors and I suppose we should be thinking about parallels between the conquest of the Central America in the 16th century and the Vietnam war in the 1960s. There's one deeply intriguing scene in which the white soldiers massacre a whole Indian tribe and director Irving Lerner (for whom this was the last theatrical film) plays flamenco in the soundtrack! It's as if he were saying: look how we got this cultural heritage, without the conquistadors slaying all the Indians we wouldn't have the American culture. (Which is basically true.)
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The Theme (1979)
One of the truly great late Soviet films
3 February 2006
Banned for several years after being completed in 1979, this is one of the truly great Soviet films that was released during the perestroika policy. A Chekhovian tale of playwright's incompetence and lack of inspiration is mixed very skilfully with critical social comments. The movie resembles the ones of Ingmar Bergman, even though it's not as painstakingly open as the Swedish director's. Panfilov uses very long shots which don't actually resemble Tarkovsky's shots, because the mystical symbolism is completely missing. Panfilov also uses the stereotypical expression of Russian hospitality to a good comical effect. Vodka is being consumed all through the film.
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