vineri, 31 martie 2017

Note on Rosita

First part of the Note on This is Spinal Tap

Second part of the Note on This is Spinal Tap

Note on The Strange Film White Dog

Note on The Comedy Animal House

Note on Being There with Peter Sellers

Note on Entre Les Murs aka The Class, Winner of The Palme D'Or

Entre Les Murs aka The Class by Francois Begaudeau and others, directed by Laurent Cantet

Entre Les Murs aka The Class by Francois Begaudeau and others, directed by Laurent Cantet

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a winner of The Palme D’Or, in my view the most important, prestigious and relevant of all cinema awards.
And it is a worthwhile, thought provoking work of art.

The themes are:

-          Education, religion, race relations, life in the banlieue, poor neighborhoods, values and role models, among others

The film is based on the real experience of Francois Begaudeau, who has contributed to the scenario and used to be a teacher.

Otherwise, the dialogue is spontaneous and it seems that the production was based on improvisation even if there is structure to the narrative.
I was thinking that in some ways, this film resembles another masterpiece –To Sir With Love, with Sydney Poitier in the lead role.

Notwithstanding the fact that the teenagers are impressive and especially given their inexperience, I thought the teacher is the most important protagonist.
He is a role model, even if or because he breaks down and has moments when he comes close to losing control.

To be faced with such a huge challenge looks to me like heroism in the fiercest battle, confronting enemies that you cannot injure….

-          Well, there are always reprimands, lousy grades and more, but in these cases they do not seem to care
-          Indeed, some just take their lousy performance and evaluations as a badge of honor and pride

So the professor has to demonstrate incredible resilience, grit, bravery, calm, sense of justice, compassion.
Psychology has demonstrated the importance of the Pygmalion Effect and the excellent results that can be obtained:

-          If a teacher believes in his students, much like the sculptor of Ancient Greece loved his statue of Galatea, the pupils will perform stupendously
-          Alas, the reverse is also true

And here I am unhappy to mention my own frictions with the French educational system, in which I have enrolled my daughter.
The local Lycee Francais has some advantages, but it is plagued with some teachers who are not just modest in performance, but they apply the reverse Pygmalion effect and the leader of this school is impervious to some rather critical aspects:

I told her for instance that the parking lot has hundreds of cars with engines running while the drivers sit and wait, just because they want 21 degrees in the car and although the temperature is often exactly that, they want to show off and impress that they have the money for the diesel, on top of the amount needed for luxury cars.

The leadership was oblivious to this and a number of other aspects that make me worry and upset that they are so limited.
Their attitude and lack of perspective, in an area which they should have seen and reacted, because after all, intelligent people are aware of the Climate Change- they even signed protocols in Paris recently- and know better than to just send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for…really no reason other than vanity, ignorance, stupidity and criminal negligence…

-          And if they do not see, react, do something about that, what do they know and teach there then??!
-          If they do not have fundamentals right, what do they know about values, virtues, strengths, skills??
-          At times it looks like little or nothing
To end with an anecdote that I remembered seeing this film, a chef d’oeuvre:

“You’ve heard that thing about Faulkner and Clark Gable haven’t you? Howard Hawks was taking Faulkner out on a quail shoot and came by to pick him up a little before dawn to get to where they were going by first light. Clark Gable was in the car and Faulkner in the backseat. As they rode along, Gable and Hawks got to talking. Gable said, ‘You know, you’re a well-read man, Howard. I’ve always been meaning to do some reading. I never have really done it. What do you think I ought to read?’ And Hawks said, ‘Why don’t you ask Bill back there. He’s a writer, and he’ll be able to tell you.’ Gable said, ‘Do you write, Mr. Faulkner?’ Faulkner said, ‘Yes, Mr. Gable. What do you do?’ ‘’

joi, 30 martie 2017

Ieri, Oggi, Domani aka Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow based on stories by Alberto Moravia among others and directed by Vittorio de Sica

Ieri, Oggi, Domani aka Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow based on stories by Alberto Moravia among others and directed by Vittorio de Sica

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a wonderful comedy, that will be followed in the program of the National Television with another gem next Monday, another Italian masterpiece.
It has won the Academy Award for Best Picture in a Foreign Language and other prestigious awards.

Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroiani are superb in this trilogy.

In the first part, Adelina Sbaratti is married to Carmine Sbaratti.
She has to provide for him and their many children.

I don't even know how many they were...perhaps the two of them have lost count.
Since Adelina Sbaratti is involved in an illegal trade with cigarettes, having children is an odd way to stay out of...prison.

At least for some time.
From the start of the film, we have an authority who is facing down Carmine Sbaratti:

-          You had to pay a fine
-          Because the wife did not, the sum owed is bigger now...
-          Do you want to pay it?
-          How can I? If I could not pay less, how could I get the money for more??
-          Then we have to take the furniture and everything else!

Only when he enters the shabby rooms, there is nothing left...
-          You took everything!!

Indeed, after the authorities leave, from a side street people come back with the Sbaratti belongings.

A lawyer scares them hard when he says that what they did was very serious according to the Penal Code and he cites some articles and laws.

In the known, agitated, humorous, effervescent and passionate Italian style, Adelina and her spouse come to the lawyer and shout something like:

-          Mamma Mia!
-          Come e possibile!
-          Santa Maria e mio Padrone!

She is very worried that she will go to jail.
But when the lawyer sees she is pregnant he mentions other provisions of the law:

They cannot arrest you in this state!

And it now becomes a race to have children continuously.
For this is a pass out of prison and she wants to use the stratagem to the end.

When the tax officials raid the streets, all the women run away with their folding tables and their trafficked merchandise.
It is only the women who do this for some reason.

But Adelina stays put because she is other obviously advanced in her pregnancy or she has a certificate from the doctor saying she is that many months pregnant.

There is trouble and jocularity when poor Carmine becomes exhausted with this task of fathering so many children:

When the children are in bed she always turns to me and says...
Come on Carmine it's time to perform...or words to that effect

The tired, malnourished man is resting at his mother's.
And his wife mocks this and even turns against him when a  new, perhaps tenth child fails to materialize and there is no impregnation.

They get to a doctor, not an analyst as they would today or even back then in a richer country.
The doctor examines Carmine and he says:

-          The husband needs rest
-          He does not eat well and he is fatigued.
-          Let him be for a few months and then he will be alright.

Adelina protests with vehemence.
And indeed, given that she has no medical pass, she ends up in jail, with the infant baby that covered for her last time.

In a remarkable show of solidarity, the community participates in collecting the sum needed to pay Adelina's fine.
In barber shops and everywhere they have boxes for money to be offered for her liberation.

And yet that is delayed on account of bureaucracy.
Adelina shouts at her husband when he is visiting...

-          You run at your mother!
-          Feeble man!
-          Why don't you get me out of here?!

But she she is faithful.
When the occasion arises, she rejects the man who wanted to give her another child and a pass for Prison Break...

Excellent chef d'oeuvre!

Note on Ieri, Oggi, Domani aka Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow directed by...

miercuri, 29 martie 2017

Note on the Swiss Film What's Between Us

What's Between Us by Claudia Lorenz

What's Between Us by Claudia Lorenz

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

Films about sexual orientation, finding one's preference seem to be increasing in number and prominence.

Moonlight has won the Academy Award for Best Picture and in other categories.
Granted, it took a second announcement to make it the winner, but a story of gay men can now win the biggest and once more conservative prizes.

Brokeback Mountain was favorite to win years ago, but the Award for Best Picture finally recompensed a narrative about homosexual people.

In What's Between Us, we seem to have a film about an average, "normal" family.

Alice has been married to Frank for eighteen years.
They have children and have a comfortable life.

They are happy, apparently.
This is about to change.

In a computer, gay sites are visible and Alice is worried.
She asks her teenage boy if he was searching for videos with homosexual sex online.

The mother thinks that the son may try to discover his sexuality.
He could be gay.
But he denies it in a manner that appears frank, open and amused

So Alice has to look elsewhere…

She engages her husband in a conversation and when asked, the man says that he did search the web for porn…

-          Gay porn?
-          Yes
-          ??
-          I was curious…

Only it is not just that.
Psychologists say that having an affair is not the cause of the breakup of marriages, relationships and partnerships.

-          The affair is the symptom, not the cause
-          Things Were Falling Apart (Chinua Achebe) before and the affair is one manifestation

When they talk more on the subject, it turns out that Frank is attracted to men.
He does not want or have a transformation like we see in Transparent.

But when the spouse is trying to seduce, get him excited, she fails.

In one scene, she is kissing and holding him only to be pushed on the floor.
The man is not a bisexual, but a homosexual now…I think.

In another instance, it is felatio that she tries and then penetration, but it is another disaster.

So it is going downhill for Frank and Alice.
He finds a lover.

His spouse is curious, mad or both and tries to see the man.
Her rival.

Alice enters the shop where her enemy works and orders a sandwich and an ice tea, after sniffing the cheese.
Invited by the rather pleasant opponent.

And we are familiar with the conflict that escalates in such circumstances, with recriminations and the separation.
I thought I identified the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as explained by The Ultimate Expert in Relationships:

-          John Gottman in his masterpiece The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work:
-          Contempt
-          Defensiveness
-          Stonewalling
-          Criticism

luni, 27 martie 2017

Note on The Fabulous Aguirre, The Wrath of God aka Der Zorn Gottes direc...

Aguirre, The Wrath of God aka Der Zorn Gottes directed by Werner Herzog, with Klaus Kinski in the lead role

Aguirre, The Wrath of God aka Der Zorn Gottes directed by Werner Herzog, with Klaus Kinski in the lead role

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is one of the best films ever made and it is included on the TIME Magazine List of Best 100 Movies

It was filmed in extreme circumstances and the director Werner Herzog gives some details in a documentary about His Dear Friend.
Klaus Kinski, who plays the lead role in Aguirre was a fascinating and disturbed man.

I will return to the subject later.
But Don Lope de Aguirre is also an adventurous man, with many psychological issues.

Klaus Kinski could have gone wild and perorate with emphatic gusto.
But he keeps everything under control, even when he does get worked up.

From the start we have a text that explains what we will se and what it is based on.
It is more or less this:

After the conquest of the Inca by the Spaniards, the Indians have invented the legend of

-          El Dorado

It was supposed to be a land of gold.
An expedition set off from the Sierras of Peru.

The leader was Pizarro and they departed in late 1560.
Only one document was recovered and it is the diary of the monk Gaspar de Carvajal.

One important theme is religion, which was the main drive for many of the participants in the expedition, apart from gold.
The number of people is impressive and they took along about 200 slaves.

One of them complains and talks about another important subject of this masterpiece:

The ordeal that Natives suffered, the cruelty of the Spanish and the priests, the humiliating disaster suffered by a noble people.
Pizarro understands that they cannot find their way to El Dorado through the jungle.

He orders a smaller group to depart on rafts that will navigate the river and return in ten days to lead the rest to the Land of Gold.
Don Pedro de Ursua is the leader and Don Lope de Aguirre his second in command.
And de Ursua has his wife, Dona Inez and his daughter Flores on this dangerous expedition.

Things fall apart pretty soon, with one raft caught in a whirlwind and some Rapids.
Aguirre could not care less, but Don Pedro orders a halt and help to be sent to the ten men that are trapped.

By the next morning though, they are all dead, with the exception of the three that are missing.
Now the leader wants a burial with a service.

To prevent that, Aguirre shoots the canon and blows the raft and the corpses away.
A mutiny is in progress.

It has reminded me of Mutiny on the Bounty, with Don Pedro captured and kept in a cage.
There are attacks of the Indians and the Spanish kill and destroy their share of villages that they encounter.

There are some funny moments in what is otherwise a tragic account.
The proclamation through which they declare that the treasures they find will be theirs is one such preposterous scene.

Then the anointing of...An Emperor, no less.
He has twenty men that do not even respect him and yet he is an emperor.

Klaus Kinski acted as a mad man.
He even injured the extras that participated in the filming of Aguirre.

In the documentary about Kinski, one showed the scar he was left with, for all his life.

But then Aguirre declares at one point:

-          I am The Wrath of God
-          When I wish it, birds fall from the trees.

Klaus Kinski was the man to act, especially since he believed pretty much the same thing.

Baby Face with Barbara Stanwyck

Baby Face with Barbara Stanwyck

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

TIME Magazine has included Baby Face of its list of best 100 movies.

It was made in 1933 and given the period, it is in Black and White.
And the star is the excellent Barbara Stanwyck.

A couple of weeks ago I have posted a note on Double Indemnity.
By the time she acted in that, she was the highest paid actor in America.

And if I am not mistaken, she had the highest paid job in any domain.
She was reluctant to act in Double Indemnity though, given that her image had been so different.

In Baby Face, she plays the role of Lily Powers, the daughter of the owner of a dubious cafe, called a speakeasy.
The clients are not just rough, but outright offensive, brutal and lascivious.

They try to grab, pinch and get her to sleep with them.
The degenerate father is encouraging instead of throwing them out.

He actually wants to use his child as a bait, an attraction that gets customers in his speakeasy.
No wonder the poor girl gets very tough, to the point of insensitivity.

She appears to want a Payback and may have a revulsion for most men, who have been so heinous to her.
After the father dies in a fire, Lily Powers takes her African American friend with her and they depart for New York.

Since they have no money, they need to get there by cargo train.
Only they are discovered in a carriage and threatened with jail.

Lily knows what to do to make men give up their aggressive manner.

-          Why don't sit and talk it over?

Once in New York, she tries the same tricks.
She is guided by some quotes from Nietzsche.

A professor from home told her about the philosopher.
He mentioned exploitation and the need to win.

-          Use men! He advised his young friend

And she did.

First she gets a job by using her good looks.
I must say that I wondered how on earth could she be not just clean, but with decent clothes and makeup, after a journey on a cattle train?

But this is Baby Face.

One of her superiors has sex with her in the women's rest room.
She has invited him there.

But when they get caught, she plays the naive girl forced by the intruder into submission.
With this, she keeps her job and moves up the ladder, becoming the mistress of a yet more important boss.

This one has a fiancé, and when Lily finds that she is on her way to the office, she makes sure to be found in the arms of her lover.
There is a scene, the man is asked to fire her.

Lily's attitude recalls the lectures of Harvard Professor Tal Ben Shahar.

He says that we should see stepping stones and not stumbling blocks.

Every incident is an opportunity for Baby Face

John Wayne has a small role in this classic film.

Note on Baby Face with Barbara Stanwyck

duminică, 26 martie 2017

Note on Breaking Away by Steve Tesich and directed by Peter Yates

Breaking Away by Steve Tesich and directed by Peter Yates

Breaking Away by Steve Tesich and directed by Peter Yates
La Divina Comedia!!

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is astounding, a feast and a great joy to watch.
It won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, the Golden Globe for best comedy and many other awards.

One of my favorite comedies and I say like Dave, the hero, in his crazy Italian phase, when all things Italian were divino…

-          Grazie Padre!!
-          Santa Maria and Mama Mia
-          What a Meravigliosa Comedy

From the start, there is a funny conflict between young Dave and his father or Dad, who is played to perfection by Paul Dooley.
Dave is cycling a lot and he fell in love with Italian food, language and music, which is actually “noise” for his father

-          Dad: What is this?
-          Mom: It's sauteed zucchini.
-          Dad: It's I-ty food. I don't want no I-ty food.
-          Mom: It's not. I got it at the A&P. It's like... squash.
-          Dad: I know I-ty food when I hear it! It's all them "eenie" foods... zucchini... and linguine... and fettuccine. I want some American food, dammit! I want French Fries!
-          Mom: [to the cat] Oh, get off the table, Fellini!
-          Dad: Hey, that's *my* cat! His name's Jake, not Fellini! I won't have any "eenie" in this house!
-          [to the cat]
-          Dad: Your name's Jake, you understand?

Dad is evidently annoyed, even if mother points out that his body is all right now…yeah, but his mind is gone, comes the reply
There is a fine balance though, because the acting and direction are perfect, avoiding the area wherein tension could have escalated and the parents could have been just abusive, instead of funny or the boy annoying and not likable as he is and keeps calling his father Numero Uno Papa, the last being contradicted- I am your goddamn father and not papa.

There are other moments where Papa, who is a used car salesman, shows his son the “real horror show” of life, wherein one has to lie (really?) to get cars off the property and then to deny promises and reject refunds:

-          I dreamed all last night, that everyone I ever sold a car to come back for a refund. And there you were, handing out the checks! One for you, and one for you...

Looking back on this film I say that every other scene, if not all of it, is a gem and the humor is excellent.
The boy is shaving…his legs, calls a girl called Katherine Catarina, is full of Arrivedercis, Amore, Ciaos and La Grande Belezza

But after disillusionment with the Italians that come to town and play against this type casting by cheating and being the opposite of what poor Dave thought they must be, there is a new, French phase:

-          Dad: [Last lines] Hi ya, big shot!
-          Dave: Bon jour, Papa!

Mother has a solution when Dad or Papa talks about the crisis, the clients who wanted refunds and the boy was more than willing:

-          We could strangle him in his sleep- but it is obviously another- very good I think- joke

They touch on other subjects, including religion and confessions, about the latter one character says that he went to confession twice…

-          Dave: Moocher, you're Catholic, right?
-          Moocher: Yeah.
-          Dave: Did you ever go to confession?
-          Moocher: Twice.
-          Dave: Did it make you feel better?
-          Moocher: Once.

And then on the same subject, more or less:

-          Cyril: When you're 16 they call it Sweet 16 and when you're 18 you get to drink and vote and see dirty movies. What the hell do you get to do when you're 19?
-          Mike: You leave home.
-          Cyril: My Dad said that Jesus never went further than 50 miles from his home.
-          Mike: Well, look what happened to him.

Resplendent movie!!

Charade written and then adapted for the big screen by Peter Stone

Charade written and then adapted for the big screen by Peter Stone
With Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau and Cary Grant

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This film is included by scholars as one of the best films ever made:

The cast is fabulous, with Walter Matthau, one of my favorite actors in an unusual role, the only one that I know of its kind.

On second thought, the lines are interesting, the humor is dry, simple and outré, but without the proper acting it could hit a wall.
Audrey Hepburn reminds me of her role in Breakfast of Tiffany’s and perhaps Roman Holliday, with her royal presence.

-          Reggie Lampert: You're blocking my view.
-          Peter Joshua: Ohh... which view would you prefer?
-          Reggie Lampert: The one you're blocking.

Reggie Lampert is Audrey Hepburn or the other way around and this is one of the first dialogues she has with the personage played by Cary Grant.
She is both sophisticated and naïve, aristocratic but also rather credulous, or is it just in love with a man who keeps changing names.

Three people are chasing after a quarter of a million dollars, if we do not include Bartholomew and Peter Joshua.
They have been in the same team with Charles Dyle, who has recently died, or so we think and taken a loot from the Nazis.

Dyle has run away with the treasure and the former team mates are now focusing on the widow- Reggie Lampert.

But she does not know anything, the few belongings that she received contain nothing of value and she tells the villains.
Only they would not take her answers to be real and try to press her and even blackmail the young woman.

Reggie relies on Peter Joshua, then on alexander Dyle and eventually Adam Canfield to protect her from dangerous adversaries only…

-          Reggie Lampert: So it's goodbye Alexander Dyle and welcome home Peter Joshua.
-          Adam Canfield: [shakes his head] Sorry the name is Adam Canfield.
-          Reggie Lampert: Adam Canfield? Wonderful! Do you realize you've had three names in the past two days? I don't even know who I'm talking to anymore!

And to complicate matters even more, Reggie has established contact with a diplomat at the American Embassy.
Mr. Bartholomew is played excellently by Walter Matthau, who is not in a comedy here, even if jocularity is frequently used.

And the American official is warning Reggie on the identity of Peter/Alexander/Adam who is a known criminal.
Actually, this is what he claims, whenever he changes name and explains that he cannot be interested more in Reggie than the quarter million…

-          Or can he?

Throughout the film, I was somewhat annoyed by the naiveté of the heroine, who loves a man that keeps changing names, lies, justifications.
But then…

-           ‘The course of true love never did run smooth’

There are complications, murders, Reggie Lampert is chased and does not know who to trust anymore.
Indeed, the audience must feel compassion for a woman who is surrounded by enemies and she has no idea about the whereabouts of the money.

Furthermore, the man she loves is not interested in her- for a good while I thought he might be gay- and even seems to be after the same thing.
It must be terrifying to fear for one’s life, especially when there are harden criminals who want your money or your life…

In most cases both, because they want no witnesses.

Note on Je Suis Un Soldat aka I Am A Soldier

Note on La Loi Du Marche aka The Measure Of A Man

sâmbătă, 25 martie 2017

Note on The Exceptional Documentary Demain aka Tomorrow

Closely Watched Trains adapted and directed by Jiri Menzel

Closely Watched Trains adapted and directed by Jiri Menzel

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is one of the best films, included on the TIME list that you can find here:

It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Picture and it is a compelling tragicomedy about a young man, Milos Hrma.

He is both naïve and heroic, somewhat slow and brave, if not all at the same time, at least at different stages of development.
Milos is a virgin.

When he tries to have sex, he is unable to perform and a doctor tells him about premature ejaculation.
It is normal, he is told and the advice is to get an older woman to help him…and an extreme is reached when he tries to convince a woman who might be seventy years old and does that while she is force feeding a goose…

The boy descends from a family with an outré passé.
One ancestor got stoned on a bridge in Prague, later argued with some miners who had lost their jobs and got killed.

His grandfather was a hypnotizer who came out as the only one trying to stop the Nazis from occupying his country.
The man stopped in front of the tanks, perhaps like the famous Chinese who stood in front of a column in Tianmen Square during the students’ protests, and tried to hypnotize the troops, only to be crushed by a tank.
Milos is taken with Masa and there is an early memorable scene wherein he tries to kiss her and the train departs.

World War II takes place in the background, as Milos and his colleagues work at a railway station and remind one of Chekhov

-          Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano -for instance…

The behavior of Milos Hrma recalls another character, that of Forrest Gump, with its tendency to say and do wrong things.
The jokes are sometimes simple and at others they are mixed with a dramatic sense and it is difficult to know…is this a crying or a laughing moment?

An inspector keeps coming to the station and he is grotesque and perhaps funny when he keeps claiming that the glorious troupes are in a splendid position:

-          They are retreating…
-          Why? Keeps asking Milos Gump
-          It is a strategic retreat
-          Why?
-          Well, it is a trap and they will surround and defeat the enemy…

Another time they joke about the man stealing sausages and then cutting one in the tram and saying he has another three…with one version suggesting he has cut his own thing by mistake.
And speaking of cutting, Milos himself thinks he can’t take it anymore, for life is too difficult and needs to end it.

Fortunately he fails and moves on, trying like a character from Monty Python to find a woman to teach him about intimacy, about which he talks to a priest that has another great and truthful line about the church;

-          The church has been doing psychoanalysis for 600 years

And he is right, for the confession is not much different from the act of the patient who talks about his repressed desires to the analyst.

Sex is very present in this film, albeit there is no nudity except for the buttocks of the girl that works in the telegraph office of the railway station, who gets to play an undressing game and gets stamps all over her body.

It is the only instance that I know of wherein a public official’s stamp is used for erotic purposes that become very funny as well.
Another case of humor and official stamping was the hilarious comedy Top Secret, wherein the authorities in communist East Germany made it easier to deal with the many executions that were necessary and had a stamp:

-          Find him and kill him!

Note on Closely Watched Trains adapted and directed by Jiri Menzel

vineri, 24 martie 2017

Note on The Resplendent American Beauty written by Alan Ball, directed b...

American Beauty written by Alan Ball and directed by Sam Mendes

American Beauty written by Alan Ball and directed by Sam Mendes

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a fabulous film.

-          “Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.”

And there is beauty in this work of art, which has a stellar cast, wonderful script, beautiful cinematography, memorable lines, a resplendent music that I loved so much that I used it for my ringtone.

The characters are complex, with Kevin Spacey magnificent in the lead role of Lester Burnham, the hero and narrator.
He tells us from the first lines what will happen to him, so there is no need for a spoiler alert, with the story remaining fascinating in spite of the revealed grand finale.

Lester is married with Carolyn, even if this is just a “front” and they have a daughter, Jane, who has a friend Angela.
Lester is kind, likable, funny, smart, and sociable and the man who blackmails, throws tantrums, smokes marijuana, encourages a young man to sell him illegal substance and has perverse thoughts concerning his daughter’s friend.

The lust for a teenager and the effort to go to bed with her could be an illegal activity and it certainly is immoral and abject, depending on the age of his “paramour”.
It is also true that the complexity of the hero is emphasized when he finds more about the real status of a girl that likes to boast about many lovers, sucking d...k and other shenanigans and has a change of heart...or maybe better said of mind?

-          “Ricky Fitts: It's like God's looking right at you, just for a second, and if you're careful... you can look right back.
-          Jane Burnham: And what do you see?
-          Ricky Fitts: Beauty.”

The storyline is so challenging, it includes so many angles and it is so sophisticated that I think this is one of the best films around.
The humor is mixed with drama, like when Carolyn accidently comes to the burger place where she meets her spouse and is caught in the act of kissing someone else…the King of Real Estate, who had just been honored with – f..k me your Majesty…who is the king? You are the king…who is the king!? Do it your majesty!

The satire refers to the fact that so often suburbia, middle class families, ordinary people hide such terrible stories.
Carolyn Burnham wants to project an image of success, by that meaning money, power, sales, status and good social position.

Positive psychology studies demonstrate that money is important only in as much as they offer stability.
Past the level of comfort- about $ 3- 4,000 income per month- additional wealth does not bring about significant increases in life satisfaction.

Carolyn has a very bad opinion about her husband, even if for most of the movie the audience is inclined to hate her and sympathize with the poor man, seeing as she appears cold, robotic and cuts the trees of her neighbors.
Looking beneath the surface however, we see a woman that is close to breakdown, tries hard to be “successful” and live the “American Dream”, which is itself in question here, seeing as most envisage it as having more “stuff”, buying more and more useless items just because we can and they are advertised as necessary or boosting status.

The Dalai Lama comes to mind and his visit to the supermarket where he said: “Wow, so many things I don’t need!!”
Then there is the family next door, with the repressed colonel Fitts, who is violent and abusive with his son, a homophobic parent, but hiding sexual desires that he cannot admit to anyone including himself.

The mother appears to be a wreck, not able to remember that her son does not eat bacon and acts like a ghost.

Ricky Fitts gets involved with Jane Burnham, but he is a strange young man, selling dope and recovering- perhaps- from earlier traumas, having been hospitalized and traumatized by his father and his experiences.
Angela offers some of the very beautiful moments of the film, within a bathroom covered by rose petals, dancing and the same multitude of rose petals flying from her opening cleavage and then firing up the imagination of Lester Burnham with the cheerleaders ‘dance.

“There is so much beauty in this chef d’oeuvre”, in which the actors are almost perfect, the images splendid and the message intense:

-          “I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I'm talking about I'm sure, but don't worry, you will someday.”

Note on The Party with the Magnificent Peter Sellers

luni, 20 martie 2017

Note on The Conformist by Alberto Moravia, adapted by Bernardo Bertolucci

The Conformist adapted and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, based on the novel by Alberto Moravia

The Conformist adapted and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, based on the novel by Alberto Moravia

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

A few weeks ago, I have been mesmerized by The Contempt written by the writer of The Conformist, Alberto Moravia.
Then I saw Le Mepris, the adaptation for the big screen with the superb Bardot and I have included The Contempt among my favorite works.

Alas, I did not have the chance to read the original this time, I just saw the film.
And it is a very good one, albeit I was tempted to say at times:

-          "What's your angle here?"

I thought that the approach is post modern or surreal, perhaps both at times.

Many, if not most of the characters are monstrous, vile.
With Marcello Clerici, played by one of my favorite actors, Jean Louis Trintignant as one of the worst of all.

He was a promising student, the best in his generation as the professor Luca Quadri says, but he became The Conformist, a Nazi.

He is not even one of those complex personages who have a dark side, but at least there is some aspect that you could like about them.

The Conformist appears to be Pure Evil.

Yes, he is sensitive to the beauty of Anna Quadri, but he is married to Giulia and Anna is the wife of his former professor.

When he shows some concern for his mother, it is again with extreme violence that he deals with what he sees as a problem.
The woman has a lover who is Japanese and is called Ki.

-          That means...hemlock.

The poor Ki, who looked like he did a lot of good to the older woman, who needed comforting and someone to show affection, is killed.

In order to prepare for his marriage with Giulia, Clerici is supposed to go to confession.
It is stated that even those who attend church do not believe...90% of them!
That sounds like way too much for me.

Nevertheless, the confession of The Conformist is an exercise in arrogance and it is completed...

-          In Cold Blood

And it is not just Clerici that is outrageous.
He speaks the truth when he says:

You are more outraged by an eventual sodomy than by the murder...

He confessed to killing someone at thirteen, but the prelate is more interested in the homosexual act that might have been involved in the story.

Indeed, during the scenes that rendered the incident I thought that the closeness between the older man and the boy was inappropriate.
And that recalls the filming of A Tango in Paris.

Bertolucci was accused by the actress of being more than abusive on the set, especially during the sex scenes.

There are many shots that are beautiful, with impressive, minimalist architecture.

Clerici is given the mission to assassinate his former professor, Luca Quadri,  who is an anti-fascist and lives in Paris with his wondrous spouse Anna.

The Conformist is taken, attracted by this outstanding beauty and the outcome is in question.
He even says that he would run away with her to Brazil.

About his wife Clerici only has this to tell:

-          "Mediocre, she's all bed and kitchen"

-          So what will he do?
-          Will he abandon his "cause"?

-          Or will he remain The Conformist?