duminică, 30 aprilie 2017

Note on Dekalog, Episode 2, written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzyszto...

Dekalog, Episode 2, written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, directed by the former

Dekalog, Episode 2, written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, directed by the former

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

Dekalog is a fabulous series.
It has been included on the list of best films, including the one compiled by TIME Magazine, The All-TIME 100 movies:

All the ten episodes of Dekalog are based on the Ten Commandments and the story lines refer to the Bible, at least as pretext for the plot

-          "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain".

This is the second commandment and the place to start in this narrative, which has at the center a woman called Dorota Geller.

She is a musician with the Philharmonic.
Her husband is very ill and she tried to find more about his condition from the elderly doctor who is also their neighbor.

The doctor is rather morose, unfriendly and detached.
We would later find there is a reason for this attitude and it has to do with a tragedy that has affected the life of the poor man.

Dorota Geller calls at the door of the apartment:

-          Do you know me?
-          Yes, you ran over my dog two years ago…

After this inauspicious debut to their (mis)communication, the two neighbors would gradually become friendlier, but in the second half of this episode.

The distressed woman wants to know how serious is the condition of her husband, only the doctor gives this information…

-          On Wednesday, between 3 and 5 in the afternoon, this is when I see the relatives of my patients
-          But it is Monday
-          Yes, the day after tomorrow
-          I wish I ran over you instead of your dog…

Notwithstanding this death wish, Dorota Geller comes to the hospital to see her spouse and then tries again to engage with the doctor.
She is offering him a ride home in her VW Beetle, but he refuses because he says he always walks home.

The musician is clearly haunted and finally gets invited to the apartment of the doctor where she explains her ordeal.
Dorota says that she must know if her husband will die because she loves him but is also involved with a good friend.

-          I am pregnant and the child is not my husband’s
-          I see
-          So I need to know if he will live to determine if I will have an abortion
-          It is impossible for me to say…I really do not know

And then he elaborates on the situation which is probably where we get as close as possible to the second commandment, for the doctor explains that he has seen cases where the patient recovered miraculously and others where someone died without warning so to say…

There is another stage where the doctor may seem to be playing God, for he is more assured now and he thinks he knows.
I will not say what to avoid spoilers.
But whereas earlier on he refused a definite prognosis, saying that although the situation is critical things could change, at a later moment he has made up his mind.

There are powerful and thought provoking scenes.
One patient talks about coming from “the other side „and how

-          The world was disintegrating

He now seems to be taking life as a miracle that does not stop.
It reminds me of the final three minutes in the life of Fyodor Dostoyevsky …The last minutes in the life of the Russian titan were regularly mentioned, for the effect they had had on me and the emphasis which could be placed afterwards on enjoying life, seeing as it is short, what we see before death:
-          Dostoyevsky was condemned to death.
-          As he was facing the firing squad, he thought he will divide the last three minutes into…well, three:
-          The first minute will be used to place the whole life in front of his eyes, from early childhood to death
-          For the second minute, the intention was to pass it saying goodbye to members of his family and friends
-          The last minute – he will admire a ray of sunshine that was looking wonderfully on a steep church tower nearby
That is the amazing epiphany of the last moments before dying- you can see only then, alas, how extremely beautiful life is and how you wish you lived on a bare rock in the middle of the ocean, which would still be a billion times better than ending it and dying.

Somebody Up There Likes Me, screenplay by Ernest Lehman based on the autobiography of Rocky Graziano

Somebody Up There Likes Me, screenplay by Ernest Lehman based on the autobiography of Rocky Graziano

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

Somebody Up There really Liked Rocky Graziano…and Paul Newman for that matter.
At least in the adult part of Graziano’s life, after some critical events and even then, from some points of view only he was lucky.

The childhood of the famous boxing champion was As Bad As It Gets, for his father was abusive and kicked him around.
At a later stage, there are some explanations for the terrible behavior of the father, who could not be a boxer, as supposedly had been his calling.

Rocky Graziano’s mother blames herself for asking her husband to give up boxing, which he did and became a failure.
He keeps drinking and pushes his son around, hurting him because of some wrong, heinous reasons like:

-          I don’t like whining and hits the poor boy

Very soon, Rocky gets involved in fights, which could be seen as a good training for his future career, but he also breaks the law.
He has stolen some money with his associates and the policemen get him and ask him to explain the sum.

-          I got it from my father

Only when asked, this hard man, who would be charged with more than harassment and child abuse in the world of today denies having given anything to the boy.
Throughout his life, rocky will have a series of problems with the authorities and rules and regulations.

Somebody Up There Liked him early on, when he got mad while doing forced labor and was on the point of killing a guard.
Once out, he is taken by what looked like force to enroll in the army, where he gets into more trouble.

He uses his powerful hands to send into the dust a superior who dared wake him up and then he faces a captain.
So there is another powerful knock and a K.O., only not under the proper circumstances in an organized game.

He is dishonorably discharged and this humiliation would follow him and there would be Goodfellas who would try to blackmail him on the subject.
While a fugitive from the army, Rocky has to find a way to make some money, thinking he could pay his way out of trouble.

As he happens- another Like from the Man Upstairs- to be in a boxing club, a trainer is in need of a sparring partner.
Rocky is quick to volunteer and he not only does honorably for a novice, but he sends the opponent to the floor.

For the next games, he keeps refusing to train, even if he seems to use almost exclusively one hand and asks for other guys to “flatten out”.
His physical form is evidently astonishing but I was almost equally flabbergasted by how uneducated, rough, simple to the point of repeating over and over just a few phrases his vocabulary was…

-          Don’t worry about a thing!

This is what he keeps saying to everyone, mother, wife, manager and those he meets by chance or friends.
He gets into trouble yet again, when a former friend and convicted and permanent criminal wants him to cheat on a game.

Rocky would have none of that, proud of his prowess and success, but he does not want to inform the authorities.
Instead of doing what the crook asked and facing the wrath of the blackmailer who would print the stories about his criminal past, he pretends he has an injury.

The story based on the real life of what of the most appreciated champions of the last century is a wonderful lesson.
Courage, grit, determination, resilience, redemption are just some of the elements of a success tale, even if boxing is not the recommended way to get to the top.

It is well known now that not just boxing, but other rough sports like American Football have a very severe, traumatic effect on the brain.

Note on Somebody Up There Likes Me, screenplay by Ernest Lehman based on...

Note on The Reader, based on the book by Bernhard Schlink, with Kate Win...

Note on King Kong

sâmbătă, 29 aprilie 2017

Note on What Just Happened with Robert de Niro, Sean Penn

Note on It’s a Wonderful Life, written by Frank Capra & others, based on...

It’s a Wonderful Life, written by Frank Capra and others, based on a story by Philip Van Doren Stern

It’s a Wonderful Life,  written by Frank Capra and others, based on a story by Philip Van Doren Stern

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

This is not just one of the most magnificent films, but also a recipe for happiness, a meaningful and successful life.
It is the story of a Superhero, the ultimate Übermensch, a man like no other and yet so familiar and “common”.

-          It is about George Bailey and his second class angel, Clarence

You can find this extraordinary, fantastic film on the list of best films as compiled by critics, scholars and experts;

But it is also a popular film with audiences, for very good reason and even after all those years- the masterpiece dates from 1947:

We learn from the start that the protagonist, George Bailey is in trouble and the Almighty is sending an angel to help him.
In order for this second class angel to be able to offer support he finds all there is to know about George.

He is portrayed with magnificence by one of the best actors of all times, James Stewart, who brings finesse, charm and extraordinary meaning to his performance.
George Bailey saved his younger brother from drowning when the latter was just a child and he was playing on thin ice.

Ever since, George Bailey has had trouble and cannot hear with the ear that was affected by the cold water.

As a child, he worked in a pharmacy where he saved a man’s life again, this time it was the pharmacist.
As he received the terrible news of the death of his son in World War I, the man prepared some pills, only he added poison in his distress instead of the needed substance.

Since George was there and he could see what happened, he did not give the deadly pills to the patient.
He thus saved both the sick man and the pharmacist from going to jail for a long sentence, without getting recognition, at least in the first place when the foolish boss kicked him around, until he realized what just happened.

George’s dream was to travel around the world and finish his education, but generous, altruistic as he is he remained in Bedford Falls, his small home town.
Instead of using his opportunities, he allowed his brother to continue his education and later become a hero.

This perfect hero is in charge of the Building and Loan Company that changes the life of multitudes, people who no longer have to live in slums.
Mr. Potter, his competitor and the richest man in the county- but only in financial terms- is set to destroy the company and George.

An opportunity is available when Uncle Billy loses $ 8,000 and the sum ends in the hands of Mr. Potter.
Although the rich man knows exactly what happened, he is bent on sending George to jail, since the latter has taken upon him all the blame.

Furthermore, George Bailey is determined to commit suicide and allow the family to get the insurance money.
This is where second class angel- because he has no wings yet- Clarence enters the stage, by jumping into a river, in…winter.
This is comedy at its best, for especially the part where we have the angel is comical and entertaining, as well as thought provoking and philosophical, with the angel claiming that he jumped in to save George, while the latter is flabbergasted by this claim, since it is he who jumped in the ice cold river to save the old man…

When George continues to doubt that he had any impact on the community around him, he is presented with the “alternative reality” or “alternative facts” as they call them at the White House and life without him is there to experience…
His brother is dead, since he was not saved in this version, the homes and the district for needy people has not been built and the whole community has been severely affected by the absence of this Übermensch.

Furthermore, many people have died, because Harry Bailey, dead at the age of ten, was not there to save them during World War II.
In one scene, the war hero Harry Bailey comes home to Bedford Falls and advances one of the many magical truths of this chef d’oeuvre

-          My brother, George-The richest man in this county

And he is right, because money is so much less important, without significance when compared to the wealth of this Superman.

Note on Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, written and directed by Emily Ting

Note on We're No Angels, written by David Mamet and others, with Robert ...

vineri, 28 aprilie 2017

Note on The Shawshank Redemption, with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman

The Shawshank Redemption written by Frank Darabont based on a story by Stephen King, with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman

The Shawshank Redemption written by Frank Darabont based on a story by Stephen King, with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman

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

On the most important site about films, IMDB, this film is rated as the most popular, and it has been in that position for years:

Having said that, I must add that I generally disagree with many, if not most of the popular choices on that list or the productions that smash records at the box office.
I do not see The Dark Night at four or The Lord of the rings at 15, Interstellar or Inception on the high spots they hold.

Ironman, Spider Man 3 or 24 do not make me travel to the cinema hall…
But it certainly looks like The Shawshank Redemption has the ability to move and impress upon so many people.

Tim Robbins is excellent as Andy Dufresne and Morgan Freeman is just as good as Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding.
We first meet the latter, who is the narrator of the story, with his well known, deep and fabulous voice.

Red has been in prison for decades and he is the one who can get anything, from posters with Rita Hayworth to carving tools.
When Andy arrives at Shawshank, the inmates bet on his fate.

Red thinks and puts money on his conviction that Andy would not last in prison, he would even collapse after the first night.

But Andy Dufresne is tough, resilient, brave, extremely intelligent and endowed with an excellent EQ, emotional intelligence

He has to suffer at the hands of a group of rapists, who corner him and he gets beaten and injured so much he ends up in hospital.
But he gets his revenge.

Over all those that humiliated, attacked, tortured or sent him to the “hole”.
Once, he is on the roof with Red and other prisoners, working with tar to improve the isolation of the building.

He hears Captain Hadley talk about an inheritance of $ 30,000 and how the state will get almost all of it.
Andy interferes in a perilous way:

-          Captain, do you trust your wife?
-          What is that?!
-          Do you trust your wife?
-          I will kill you, you son of a bitch

It is evidently a gamble and a dangerous game, for the captain takes Andy Dufresne on the edge of the roof.
He looks like he will throw the prisoner to his death.

-          I mean to say that you can make a gift of $ 30,000 to your wife and pay not tax…

This is how the incarcerated banker starts helping first the captain and then other guards, finally including the warden with their taxes.
He gets to be so busy when employees of other jails come to him, during baseball games season, that he has assistants.

He sends letters to the authorities in order to receive books for the prison’s library and he finally gets the funds.

While he works on the accounts for the warden, he gets all the details of the money transfers and the bribes received by the evil man.
Andy is severely punished when he plays a joke on the officials of Shawshank and puts a Mozart record on the sound system.

He traps one guardian in the toilet and the rest are kept outside, while the divine music of Amadeus Mozart is heard in all the prison.
For that, Andy is sent to isolation for a long time.

But he gets his Redemption and Payback  


Note on Steve Jobs, by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Walter Isaacson

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

Steve Jobs was one of the most fascinating people in recent memory.
And his story has almost all the ingredients needed for a compelling narrative.

Yet, I was not all that thrilled.
Compared with Jobs and other films, this is much better.

Danny Boyle is a good director and some films stand proof of that:

-          Trainspotting and 127 Hours
-          Slumdog Millionaire and The Beach have not done the trick for me though

Michael Fassbender is also an excellent actor and he has been nominated for two Academy Awards, one for his role in Steve Jobs and the other for a supporting role in 12 Years a Slave.
Hate Winslet has been nominated for…Seven Oscars.

She won for The Reader, was nominated for her supporting role in Steve jobs and performed marvelously in so many of her other roles
Then there is Aaron Sorkin.

He won an academy Awards for the brilliant screenplay for The Network.
And the Golden Globe and other great prizes for Steve Jobs.

                                                                      All the ingredients, the protagonists, the circumstances were in place for a fabulous masterpiece.

-          “Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus”?
-          Not exactly, but we are not looking at the Godfather either

Steve Jobs was a genius, with a brilliant mind, creative, determined, with a filed distorting personality.
His other side was dark, mean, controlling, vengeful and petty.

I do not understand his position on the treatment for his illness, where he chose alternative solutions that did little good.
My understanding is that he could have lived longer, had he chosen a more traditional approach and consecrated treatment.

Yes, having a positive outlook and being optimistic has been proved to increase life expectancy and help with cronical diseases.
In fact, the hero of the film is said to have regretted his choice:

-          “Steve Jobs died regretting that he had spent so long attempting to treat his cancer with alternative medicine before agreeing to undergo surgery”

It is astonishing to witness the extent of the fall from grace, the abyss to which Steve Jobs had to descent.
Only to have the chance of extreme Redemption and the ascent to the ultimate positions of power in the biggest company in the world today.

At the stock market Apple has reached at various moments – I am not sure what happened yesterday- the position of the most valuable company in the world.
And yet Steve Jobs was fired from the company he has created.

Which brings to mind Professor Tal Ben Shahar from Harvard, who has the most popular lectures on Positive Psychology.
When asked about what he wishes for his students he offers what seems to be an outrageous proposal:

-          I wish you fail more…because this is the truth:
-          Learn to fail, or you fail to learn

It has worked in the case of Steve Jobs.
He came back from misery, the shame of being demoted to become not just a billionaire but the creator of the iPhone.

The genius of the man who has invented the smart phone- with a team of people and inventors obviously is explained in the classic of psychology Outliers, by the magnificent Malcolm Gladwell and this is a quote:

“Here is the most telling slip-up in Outliers, in a passage about Steve Jobs. "Wait. Bill Hewlett gave him spare parts? That’s on par with Bill Gates getting unlimited access to a time-share terminal at age thirteen." No. The incredible thing isn’t that young Steve was given spare parts. It’s that he asked for them. It was "lucky" that Bill Hewlett said yes to his request, but how many young people demonstrate that kind of initiative, that fearless impulse to make their own luck?”

Note on the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie adapted from the novel by Muriel S...

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest based on the novel by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest based on the novel by Ken Kesey

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

This is one of the best films ever made.
It deservedly won the Academy Awards for:

-          Best Picture- Michael Douglas and Saul Zaents, Best Actor in a Leading Role- Jack Nicholson, Best Actress in a Leading role- Louise Fletcher, Best Director- Milos Forman, Best Writing- Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman – which means All the important Oscars
-          All the major Golden Globes for all the categories above and for the new comer Brad Dourif in a supporting role
-          All the most important BAFTAs, which means again all of the above, but without the screenplay prize and with editing awarded instead…

To all that, we need to add so many other prestigious prizes.
The movie is an absolute masterpiece.

The Cuckoo’s Nest from the title refers to the mental institution where most of the important scenes take place.
Jack Nicholson has probably the best performance of his career in the role of Randle McMurphy, who tries to avoid spending time in jail.

He has received a jail sentence, but smart as he is, he figured a way out, by sustaining that he is crazy and arriving at the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Notwithstanding the apparent shrewdness of his move, there are surprises and many frustrations that await the new “patient”.

-          Randle McMurphy is one of the most likeable, full of energy, positive, brave, cunning, intrepid, creative, naughty and complex characters in cinema history

Jack Nicholson has been discovered by Robert Evans, who tells this and so many other exciting Hollywood stories in his terribly fascinating book about his years as an actor, producer and then head of Paramount:

-          The Kid Stays in the Picture
-          If you want to have a good idea about films, Hollywood and the industry you would do well to read this and:
-          Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman and Making Movies by Sydney Lumet

McMurphy clashes with Nurse Ratched, the latter being is in control of the ward to which the former is assigned and all the people within it.
She is abusive, domineering, cruel or perhaps just psychopathic.

 A psychopath is someone who has no emotions, as Harvard Positive Psychology Professor Tal Ben Shahar puts it.
The psychopath is very well able to exploit the feelings of the others and climb up the social ladder, in most groups.

Nurse Ratched, even if theoretically should listen to what doctors say, in practice calls all the shots and tortures the patients.
Not literally or physically, but mentally, with a determination that drives one of them to suicide and many of the rest to breakdowns.

McMurphy tries to stand up to her and has some victories, after he loses the unfair vote on the viewing of the baseball series.
He even manages a short escape, taking all his colleagues out on the bus that he has high jacked and then on to the ocean

Alas, he has to pay dearly for his courage in an époque when mental patients were “treated „with electric shocks.
When electricity was not “enough”, “doctors” would just recommend and perform lobotomies that rendered the patients vegetative.

Here are some quotes from a magnificent film:

“McMurphy: Jesus, I mean, you guys do nothing but complain about how you can't stand it in this place here and you don't have the guts just to walk out? What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin'? Well you're not! You're not! You're no crazier than the average asshole out walkin' around on the streets and that's it.
 Harding: I'm not just talking about my wife, I'm talking about my LIFE, I can't seem to get that through to you. I'm not just talking about one person, I'm talking about everybody. I'm talking about form. I'm talking about content. I'm talking about interrelationships. I'm talking about God, the devil, Hell, Heaven. Do you understand... FINALLY?”

Note on A Bridge Too Far, written by William Goldman, based on the book ...

White Heat with James Cagney

White Heat with James Cagney

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

This is considered one of the best films ever made.
It is listed by TIME Magazine on its list of the greatest movies made since 1923; the All-TIME Movies list is available here:

James Cagney is also noted separately, on the same All-Time list, for his exceptional performance, along with:

-          Bill Murray for his extraordinary performance in Groundhog Day, Marlon Brando for On The Waterfront and a few others

Indeed, James Cagney is wonderful in the role of a leader of an organized crime group, called Cody Jarrett.
The role is complex and challenging.

Cody Jarrett is a psychopath.
And all leaders of the mob are in that position, more or less.

A psychopath is someone who has no emotions, as Harvard Positive Psychology Professor Tal Ben Shahar puts it.
The psychopath is very well able to exploit the feelings of the others and climb up the social ladder, in most groups.

Business leaders have shown this tendency in some cases.
Politicians, perhaps needless to say have the same inclination-

-          Do you think that extreme narcissism contradicts psychopathic tendencies in The Donald’s case??
-          Maybe

Cody Jarrett is obsessed and in love with his mother, Verna Jarrett and the detective assigned to his case explains his past.
In order to get his parent’s attention, little Cody used fake headaches to get her attention and sympathy.

It worked.
But the situation got worse when the pretended headaches became real and so serious that he was in excruciating pain.

Furthermore, it did not help his image as a tough guy within the group when the lieutenants saw him on the floor.
They rob a train and Cody Jarrett kills two mechanics, one of whom falls on a lever that releases extremely hot vapor.

One member of the gang is severely injured, but abandoned by the psychopath- remember the explanation.
He has an attractive wife that is not so enthusiastic about her mobster spouse and neither is Cody too much in love with her.

The sentence for the train robbery that involved a double homicide is death and Cody Jarrett wants to avoid it.
He concocts a plan that would have him confess to another crime for which the penalty is two years in jail.

The detective investigating the train robbery saw through the plan and they had a policeman, Hank Fallon share the cell with the mobster, in order to try to get close to him and find the place where he had hidden the money and any other useful, incriminating detail.

The film is very good and the dialogue is also excellent:

“ Cody Jarrett: Made it, Ma! Top of the world!
Verna Jarrett: I'd look good in a mink coat, honey.
Cody Jarrett: You'd look good in a shower curtain.
Roy Parker: You wouldn't kill me in cold blood, would ya?
Cody Jarrett: No, I'll let ya warm up a little.
Cody Jarrett: A copper, a copper, how do you like that boys? A copper and his name is Fallon. And we went for it, I went for it. Treated him like a kid brother. And I was gonna split fifty-fifty with a copper!”

Note on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, based on the novel by Ken Kesey

Note on Tobacco Road, based on the novel by Erskine Caldwell

Note on White Heat with James Cagney

miercuri, 26 aprilie 2017

Note on the sublime Toni Erdmann

Note on Reversal of Fortune with Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close

Reversal of Fortune, based on the book by Alan Dershowitz

Reversal of Fortune, based on the book by Alan Dershowitz

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

This is a very good movie.
It could have been fantastic, if everybody played at the level of Jeremy Irons.

Glenn Close was good too.
 But it was Jeremy Irons who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture- Drama and so many other important prizes around the globe.

The film was also nominated for other Academy Awards, best director and best writing, Golden globes for best drama and won was nominated for other awards.

It is based on the real story of Sunny and Claus von Bülow, as told by the lawyer of the latter in a book about the trial and its preparation.

Early on, the public learns that Sunny von Bülow has been in a vegetative state for a long time and she will probably never recover.
She will remain brain dead and her husband has been accused of attempted murder, found guilty and sentenced.

The title of the film refers to an attempt at a

-          Reversal of Fortune

For that a fabulous lawyer is hired.
Professor Alan Dershowitz is not the kind of lawyer that we hear about in the multitude of infamous lawyer jokes
Speaking of which, there’s one

Scientists have decided to stop testing medicine on lab rats and instead work on lawyers and this for three reasons:

1.            People get attached to rats
2.            There are not enough lab rats
3.            There are some things even rats won’t do

Having said this lousy, mean thing, the reality is tragic, for this line of work has the highest suicide rate, divorce and depression rates.
We should not laugh at lawyers but offer compassion, at least in America, over in other lands, here included; I think we are talking a different ball game.

I did not like Ron Silver and Annabella Sciorra, the actors playing the lawyer and his ex- girlfriend and now colleague in the defense team.
In fact, pretty much all that took place in the defense quarters, with the basketball and much of the rest had an air of artifice for this viewer.

Yes, Claus was pretentious, arrogant and infatuated quite often, but the manner in which Jeremy Irons rendered these traits was not forced, over the top, which was the way Silver did it or I wrongly saw that he did.

Claus had jokes for insulin that he orders in pharmacies and has the assistants terrified since they know what he is accuse of and how he supposedly did it.

Claus von Bülow talks with gusto and jocularity about:

-          Claus – trophobia…you get it, right?

The fact that the personage is so complex, one can hate him and still doubt whether he tried to kill his spouse makes the film more interesting.
Details are uncovered that point to the framing of a relative that step children considered a priori responsible for Sunny’s death.
Sunny was quite a character too.

She was formidable, domineering, depressed, alcoholic, addicted to drugs, smoking three packs of cigarettes a day and suffering from various conditions.
So it looks like a jury cannot really say that Claus is beyond any reasonable doubt guilty and the only aspect left is: The moral responsibility

As the lawyer says:
-          “One thing, Claus. Legally, this was an important victory. Morally - you're on your own…”

Alan Dershowitz: You are a very strange man.
Claus von Bülow: You have no idea.

Note on Swimming Pool, with Charlotte Rampling, directed by Francois Ozon

Note on Meet Joe Black with Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt

Note on Everybody's Fine, original screenplay Giuseppe Tornatore, with R...

marți, 25 aprilie 2017

Note on A Place in the Sun based on the masterpiece American Tragedy by ...

A Place in the Sun based on the masterpiece American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

A Place in the Sun based on the masterpiece American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

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

The film is based on a classic – American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser.
The chef d’oeuvre has been included on the list of best novels of the twentieth century, compiled by The Modern Library:

Clyde Griffiths becomes George Eastman in the film and he is played exceptionally by Montgomery Clift.

This was one of the best actors and we can see that in this and other films and we have testimony from other involved in the movies.
Burt Lancaster has said that he was afraid of Montgomery Clift, since the actor had such a power and such magnetism.

William Goldman writes in the fantastic Adventures in the Screen Trade that the fact that Montgomery Clift did not take the parts in Somebody Up There Likes Me, East of Eden and On The Waterfront lead to the stardom of:

-          Paul Newman, James Dean and Marlon Brando respectively…

George Eastman wants a…Place In The Sun.
Only he comes from a very poor family, he has very little education and not much to recommend him for a better position.

Except for his relation to his very rich uncle.
George visits his wealthy family and he is offered a job, although it is an entry level, that could open the way for later opportunities.
He meets his destiny, if we choose to see it that way or believe in fate, in the person of a coworker named Alice Tripp.
They engage in a relationship that becomes not just intimate, but I venture to say a foolishly inconsiderate sexual affair.

George wants to climb up the ladder and he may be so scared, maybe even stigmatized by his destitution as a child.
It is wrong to put emphasis on money, fame, status and extrinsic goals, as positive psychology research has demonstrated.

Notwithstanding this research, people still tend to engage on the hedonic treadmill and expect wealth to bring happiness.
It doesn’t, even if extreme poverty, homelessness are not exactly the happiness formula and a comfortable financial situation is optimal.

George meets Angela Vickers, portrayed by the gorgeous, young Elizabeth Taylor in her good period, acting with charm and grace.
The young man is now trapped in an impossible love triangle, even if I think that he was only infatuated, very likely sexually attracted to Alice, and while in the case of Angela, her charm might be well increased by her position, in the eyes of the “hungry” George.

Things Fall Apart- when Angela learns she is pregnant and is reluctant to take up the solution of an abortion.
She then starts to pressure her lover.

George is now torn between Angela and her increasingly annoying requests and the glamorous, sparkling medium of Angela.
The haunted Montgomery Clift is exceptional in this situation, where the hero does not know what to do.

Or perhaps he does, but it is so difficult to get away from Alice and her possessiveness and run to and with Angela.
There is also the issue of Angela’s family, who is not thrilled at the prospect t of the daughter making such a poor choice.

The book is excellent, but this is an adaptation that, although it is not able to render all that we find in the novel, it is a marvelous work of art.
The actors, screenplay, director all contribute and their work has been recognized and awarded six Academy Awards and other prizes

“George Eastman: I love you. I've loved you since the first moment I saw you. I guess maybe I've even loved you before I saw you.”

This quote may reveal a lot about the main character and his Quest for A Place in the Sun that did not end as he wanted.

A Private Function by Alan Bennett

A Private Function by Alan Bennett

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

A Private Function is a hilarious comedy.
Alan Bennett is a wonderful writer and I have already enjoyed quite a few of his works, including the excellent:

-          History Boys, The Clothes they Stood Up In, Kafka’s Dick, The Madness of King George, Forty Years On and An Englishman Abroad

The cast is also fabulous:
-          Michael Palin, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott and all the rest of the actors

It is 1947 and even if World War II is over, there are shortages and little food available.
Some local notabilities have a plan for the special occasion of the marriage of Princess Elizabeth, when a party will be organized.

They have raised a pig, in illegal circumstances.
Michael Palin plays the role of Gilbert Chilvers and Maggie Smith is Joyce Chilvers, his wife who is not very happy with her condition.

They are middle class, but that means that they have no access to the higher spheres of society, where the pig raisers belong.
Joyce vents her frustrations to her mother, who is old and does not seem aware of what is going on around her.

Gilbert Chilvers is cutting people’s toe nails.
Doing his rounds in the locality and environs, he becomes acquainted with most of the wives of the important people in the area.

On a farm, he comes across the…pig.
And given that people are waiting in line for a small piece of meat that quite often does not arrive or is finished before everyone has a chance to buy, the discovery of the animal is extraordinary and hilarious.

Mistreated as he is and criticized most of the time by his patronizing wife who is quite a handful, Gilbert decides to act.
So he steals the pig.

It is evidently no cake walk.
I was just reading that during the filming they used three pigs, selected to be docile and it was still difficult to work with them.

Maggie Smith barely escaped an attack.
On the other hand, I have also learned that they are quite intelligent, as smart as dogs and it is a pity we are eating them.

I am trying to be a vegetarian.
Once the pig is brought home, serious problems are accumulating.

Mother is shocked by the presence of a very awful smelling creature in the apartment and gives this presence away to the food inspector.
Then the provocation of showing that he is a man by slaughtering the pig proves too much for the sensitive Gilbert.

He actually becomes attached to the animal, whose location has been identified by the men who owned it.
There is a clash between the “rightful owners” and the man who stole their property that is funny, albeit tense.

Gilbert and another man are now opposed to the idea of killing the poor animal, never mind have him served at table.
The food inspector is also prowling around.

I will end with some quotes:

 Joyce Chilvers: I think sexual intercourse is in order, Gilbert.
Dr. Charles Swaby: Now, under this National Health Service, any poorly little pillock can come into my surgery and say "I'm ill! Treat me!" Honestly, sometimes I wonder what the last war was FOR…
Morris Wormold the Meat Inspector: My experience has been, Mrs. Forbes, that when people say they are only human, it's because they have been making beasts of themselves…
 [the pig has been abducted]
Grand Hotel Manager: I can put my hands on two turkeys in Bradford.

Frank Lockwood the Solicitor: Two? TWO? We've got a hundred and fifty people coming! And Jesus isn't one of them!...

Note on Carandiru written (with others) and directed by Hector Babenco

Note on A Private Function with Michael Palin and Maggie Smith

Note on A League of Their Own with Tom Hanks and Geena Davis

luni, 24 aprilie 2017

Note on Mon Oncle with and by Jacques Tati

Note on The Student, written and directed by Kirill Serebrennikov

The Student, written by Kirill Serebrennikov, Marius von Mayenburg, the former is also directing the film

The Student, written by Kirill Serebrennikov, Marius von Mayenburg, the former is also directing the film

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

The Student is an interesting, provoking film.
But it is not in the same category with:

-          Leviathan aka Leviafan, Burnt by the Sun, Andrei Rublev, Unfinished Piece for Player Piano, Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears and so many more

There are some important themes:

-          Religion and fanaticism, racism, education, sexuality and many more

The hero is Veniamin Yuzhin.
He is a very troubled young man.

At the very beginning, there is a scene at the swimming pool, where there are so many young people, many attractive girls.
But he is not interested in getting close to them…on the contrary, he is reading his bible and perorating against what is going on.

He jumps in the pool, only he is dressed with his clothes and that provokes an audience with the school authorities.
The possessed young man is rambling about what he has read in the bible and –in my view- has misinterpreted.

I will refer to an authority in religious matters, Karen Armstrong who says that religious texts should not be read literally.
There are hidden significances and we should not believe that the world was created in seven days, literally…

Alas, this is what the second most powerful man in the world believes.
Mike Pence is also a denier of the Theory of Evolution, Climate change- together with his crazy boss- and a man who refuses to have a meal alone with another woman other than his wife…

-          Peter, Joseph and Mary!

The lunatic student is therefore one of these fundamentalists.
He attacks so many groups:

-          Women, Jews and homosexuals among others

His positions and manifestations are extreme.
When his biology teacher brings some carrots and condoms to the school and teaches in class about protection, Venya takes the center stage.

He undresses himself and creates a commotion, attacking education, civilization and all that I stand for.
With that he makes me mad.

I must say that I already hated the lunatic.
Which probably means that the film maker achieved his purpose that may very well be provoking an outrage and audiences thinking on the subject.

Religion is so important in a world where so many kill in the name of faith and so many fundamentalists try to impose their view.
After all, evangelicals have contributed in the election of the most powerful in the world, even if this is a very “sinful man”.
The student, who sees himself as a sort of prophet attacks women and their way of dressing and “disobeying men”.
He is also against homosexuals and Jews.

The outrageous thing is that the school master is condoning this lunatic.
Instead of taking action against his outrageous behavior, the school leaders start discussing the fact that the biology teacher might be Jewish!!!

In a few ways, this is a great film.
It discusses education and so many of the prejudice3s of modern day Russia, where Putin enjoys an astonishing 80% popularity rating.

Variety said about this film:

-          “Kirill Serebrennikov's study of a problem teenager's religious awakening is as aesthetically kinetic as it is intellectually rigorous.”