marți, 30 mai 2017

Note on American Gangster, written by Steven Zaillian and Mark Jacobson

American Gangster, written by Steven Zaillian and Mark Jacobson

American Gangster, written by Steven Zaillian and Mark Jacobson

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

-          "There are two sides to the American Dream"

This is the tagline of the movie.

And it is well found.
For being the American Gangster is one of the sides.

The dark one.
There are many nominations for this film:

-          From Oscars to Golden Globes and on to BAFTAs.

The cast speaks for itself in this lineup:

Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Josh Brolin, Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding Jr.

And the director is the famous Ridley Scott.
The director of:

-          Alien, Blade Runner, The Martian and other excellent works.

He was funny when he talked about The Martian and its inclusion in the comedy category at the Golden Globes.
But he talked in a rather martial tone and seems to be a really grave man.

The American Gangster is Frank Lucas.
He is portrayed by Denzel Washington.

Although we have similarities with other gangster movies, this one is different.
In Godfather, Goodfellas and other renowned films, the Mafiosi were...Italian, as the name plainly suggests.

Breaking Bad and others had a connection with Mexico.
Which is alas, the source of many, probably most of the drugs on the North American market.

But this is the nineties.
And Frank Lucas is an intrepid, ingenious man.

And he brings heroin to Manhattan from the...Far East.
And not just that, but he bribes men in the Army to fly it to him.

This kind of film needs a good opposition.
Apart from the corrupt army officials, we have policemen that are just as bad as the drug dealers.

Indeed, some of them are just taking the drugs confiscated by their colleagues and sell it back on the street.
Detective Trupo, played very well by Josh Brolin is one of the leaders of mobsters disguised as policemen.

Russell Crowe, a rather tempestuous actor, has the role of Richie Roberts.
This detective is about the only honest , positive character around.

Indeed, when he finds with his partner about one million dollars of mob money, he takes it to the station.
They all regard him as a fool, a traitor and an enemy.

-          Why?
-          Well, how could he blow the chance to put one million or half that into his pocket!?

That was the mentality.
His dedication to the force did not help in his private life either.

He has to go to trial for the custody of his child.
He is divorced and appears to live for his passion:

Getting the American Gangster and his acolytes into jail...

-          Would he manage that?
-          What do you think?

A very good entertainment.

luni, 29 mai 2017

Note on Farewell My Concubine, based on the novel by Pik Wah Lee

Farewell My Concubine, based on the novel by Pik Wah Lee

Farewell My Concubine, based on the novel by Pik Wah Lee

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

Farewell My Concubine is a mesmerizing movie.
You can find it on the New York Times ‘Best 1,000 Movies ever made list:

It won the most important award in cinema-in my view:

-          The Palme d’Or

And some cherries on top:

-          The Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Foreign Film and other coveted prizes

Farewell My Concubine is a compelling story
And the audience does not feel it is about three hours long.

The heroes are Cheng Dieyi and Duan Xiaolou, with an important part to play for Juxian, after the first quarter of the film.
Dieyi would be “the leading role” and he is the concubine from the title, even if his sexual orientation is not 100% clear.

-          Not for me anyway
-          He could be homosexual- probably- but he might as well be transgender, or something else- bisexual??

It is attested today that people are born with a sexual orientation or another, even if there would be fundamentalists that deny that…

And climate change, that the world is older than the bible says- it was created in more than seven days and so much more.
In the case of Dieyi, the childhood experiences have had a major role and an impact difficult to assess on his personality.

His mother was a prostitute and she decides to give the boy to this school or academy that trained opera singers.
Here I have a qualm and have noticed a certain paradox that could be explained by the importance of the actors…

The teacher, when he receives the child says something like:

-          You know, prostitutes and actors are despised in equal measure
-          Only later we can see that the stars of the opera are actually worshipped, but I guess it is just the celebrities

The boys are beaten and in the case of Dieyi, they assign him the role of the concubine in an important Chinese work.
Therefore he has to learn by heart lines that state at a certain point that he was “born a girl”, but he makes a mistake.

That is punished severely and that school looks more like the training camp in Full Metal Jacket or films in that line.
At another moment, the teacher is pleased because the boy does not know anymore – is he a girl or a boy- which means he is perfect for the part.

In the background and also at center stage, we have the various important moments of Chinese history of the twentieth century- with the republic, then the occupation by the Japanese and the escape of the nationalists to Taiwan- I personally prefer that country and recognize it to the communist dragon- and finally the arrival of the communists and their “cultural revolution” and abuses…

Throughout, Dieyi is not just committed to his friend- that he loves, probably has desires for- but he also risks his integrity and commits acts that he does not want in order to get Xiaolou out of trouble when the Japanese take him in, for instance.

Juxian, who was initially a prostitute, complicates the dynamic and the love triangle makes for an interesting development.
Dieyi hates his rival and the two compete up to the moment(s) where they have to cooperate to save the man they both love.

This is indeed a miraculous work.

Note- the shortest so far - on Beautiful People

Note on Analyze That, Robert de Niro and Billy Crystal

duminică, 28 mai 2017

Note on A Foreign Affair, directed by Billy Wilder, with Marlene Dietrich

A Foreign Affair, directed by Billy Wilder, with Marlene Dietrich

A Foreign Affair, directed by Billy Wilder, with Marlene Dietrich
7 out of 10

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

This film has been included by The New York Times on its list of Beat 1,000 Movies Ever Made:

The premise is excellent:
For the director is one of the most accomplished:

-          Billy Wilder,  winner of six Academy Awards and of other formidable prizes for masterpieces like:
-          The Apartment, Fortune Cookie, Some Like It Hot, Witness for the Prosecution, Sunset Blvd. and many other

There is also Marlene Dietrich.
She is one of the most acclaimed and loved stars.

I am not a fan.
But I admit there is a special halo around this actress, albeit for me it a rather chilling effect and I am rather frozen than attracted by this star.

She plays a singer in this film:

-          Erika von Schluetow

In the love triangle that is at the heart of the story, Erika von Schluetow has an affair with Captain John Pringle.
The other leading role has a politician, which is rather strange, given that she is a woman, in an era when that was rare.

Congresswoman Phoebe Frost flies to Berlin with a team of congressmen, to see firsthand what happens in the city.
World War II is over and the allies have occupied the city which we can see during the tour that the officials get has been nearly destroyed.

The congresswoman has a package to deliver to Captain John Pringle, from a girl that seems to love him very much.
He would later dismiss that claim, saying that she was in the habit of forming repeated relationships with other men.

The cake has his name on it and love, happy birthday – details which will make it recognizable in the black market.
This is where people buy and sell everything, from mattresses to milk, food and now a birthday chocolate cake.

John Pringle wants to trade the cake for a mattress that he intends to give as a gift to the singer, Erika von Schluetow.
Alas, the congresswoman happens on the cake in the black market and is very unhappy that the package she had brought all the way across the ocean ended there.

The cunning captain pretends to be outraged as well, claiming with a loud voice that someone has stolen his desert.
It is going to be pretense – and some humor, but not belly laughs for me- all the way from here, during the investigation.

Phoebe Frost is a good name for a woman that appears to be, well, frosty.
She finds out that the singer had been a kind of collaborator who had had close relationships with the Nazi grandees.

In a film that she shows the captain, Erika von Schluetow is in conversation with Hitler and they joke with each other.

The congresswoman wants to get the American officer that protects this Nazi sympathizer and that happens to be…

-          The man she talks to

The comedy is kept going by the paradox of the captain looking for…himself and trying to spy on the woman that he actually sleeps with.
It all becomes a somewhat amusing “ménage a trois” when the effort to keep the investigating congresswoman brings her into this love game.

In conclusion, it is not a bad comedy but I was expecting more. 

Note on The Informant, directed by Steven Soderbergh

Note on Mission Impossible, directed by Brian de Palma

Note on Cold Mountain, screenplay and directed by Anthony Minghella

sâmbătă, 27 mai 2017

Note on L’amour L’apres midi aka Chloe In The Afternoon, written and di...

Note on Legend, written based on the book by John Pearson and directed...

Note on Freak Out, written by Lior Lederman, directed by Boaz Armoni

Note on Cu Mainile Curate aka With the Hands Clean

Note on Risky Business, written and directed by Paul Brickman

L’amour L’apres- midi aka Chloe In The Afternoon, written and directed by Éric Rohmer - 9 out of 10

L’amour L’apres- midi aka Chloe In The Afternoon, written and directed by Éric Rohmer
9 out of 10

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

Chloe in the Afternoon is on the New York Times Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list:

It is part of a bigger project.
Claire’s Knee has been noted on here and it is in the same series:

-          Six Moral Tales
-          Which ends with Chloe in the Afternoon

Frederic is the protagonist of the tale.
Even if the title refers to Chloe- in the English version.

Frederic is mediating on women, relationships.
He has desires and dreams that involves strangers in the street.

One dialogue is rather humorous.
As the hero meets a couple, in one of his dreams, he is attracted to the woman and that annoys her partner.

Especially since Frederic-in-the dream makes open advances and addresses the woman he does not know…

-          Don’t you see she is with me
-          You can’t change the inevitable
-          Listen…
-          Or you’ll be bitten…

And this Frederic starts imitating the bark of a wolf.
In another instance, he meets-still dreaming- a worker in the sex industry and they talk in a businesslike manner;

-          How much?
-          10,000- which must have been Francs, perhaps the old denominations

One day, when he returns to his office, the dreamer meets a real woman:

-          Chloe- in the Afternoon

She used to be the girlfriend of an old buddy and the protagonist is really so surprised that the look betrays him:

-          You thought I was dead!
-          No, but honestly, after all this time I have forgotten about you

She then starts to talk about what she does- she is a waitress in a place nearby- and her troubles that are serious.
Chloe has contemplated suicide.

And she is pressing ahead, meeting with her “ami” and inviting him to help her, buying presents for wife and kid.
They even meet with the spouse once, while shopping and there is a feeling of both embarrassment and rapprochement.

Chloe increases her pressure.
She declares her feelings.

And she wants a child.
Frederic appears confused.

What he does is for you to find out by watching the film.

It is a worthwhile endeavor. 

Legend, written- based on the book by John Pearson- and directed by Brian Helgeland

Legend, written- based on the book by John Pearson- and directed by Brian Helgeland

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

Legend is a film to remember.
The actor in the leading role should have been nominated for an Academy Award –and he was, but not for this part.

Tom Hardy deserves an Academy Award, for his performances have proved he is a wonderful actor in different types of character.
He is:

-          John Fitzgerald in The Revenant
-          Max Rockatansky in Mad Max
-          Ivan Locke in Locke- a very interesting proposal that is carried all along by Tom Hardy

In Legend, he has a serious challenge in coping with two different roles, even if these are twin brothers:

-          Reggie and Ron Kray

They are both mobsters, leaders of an “organized crime group”
But they could not be any different.

It is not just in sexual orientation, where Ronnie is homosexual- active, “giving it” as he likes to emphasize- and Reggie is heterosexual.
Their views of the business, partners and pretty much else are often clashing.

Reggie is attracted to Frances Shea, whose brother is also a criminal, but she is as nice, honest and against crime as anyone can be.
The brothers have a fight over her.

As mentioned, not because Ronnie would have any inclination towards her- as was the case in say, East of Eden.
On the contrary, this very outré and outrageous gangster is insulting the woman that his brother loves…

-          Well, that loving part is more complicated
-          Thomas Mann has this character that casts a shadow over the issue
-          And there is also Charlie, played by Jack Nicholson in Prizzi’s Honor who says:
-          “In love is temporary”

As is familiar, gangster groups clash over territory, money, rivalry and so much more.
One particular fight is very violent and both Krays take part. Fighting shoulder to shoulder with about ten enemies.

Ronnie is the wild card and he interferes in the life of the club that they manage- a façade in some ways.
Much more cerebral and wise- when compared with his twin brother, for he is otherwise a mobster- Reggie is the preferred partner.

When the American Goodfellas come to London to see how they can cooperate with the Krays, there is a funny scene.
Well, perhaps humorous, but also embarrassing, retrograde and paradoxical.

The Mafiosi have been- I guess they still are- not just conservative, but fundamentalists and racist, sexist in their attitude.
They thought that killing people is just about acceptable, together with stealing, philandering, lying and all the other sins from the Bible.

-          But when it came to homosexuality, oh, no!
-          That was a capital sin, outrageous and unacceptable- at least in the portraits we have of these wise guys

So when the Italian American gangsters are told by the outlandish Ronnie that he prefers boys over girls they are shocked.

-          Well, Angelo Bruno that is, portrayed by Chazz Palminteri

The mob from across the nation is unhappy with what it learns about the unpredictable and strange Ronnie.
And they ask his brother to act upon this.

-          Love, fight, live, rule like a legend

This is the appropriate tagline for this good film, with a fabulous actor in the lead role and an equally excellent supporting cast.

vineri, 26 mai 2017

Note on 12 Angry Men, directed by Sydney Lumet, with Henry Fonda

Note on O Pagador de Promessas aka The Given Word

12 Angry Men, screenplay and story by Reginald Rose

12 Angry Men, screenplay and story by Reginald Rose
10 out of 10

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

This is one of best films that you can see.
The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made includes it:

It is directed by the Sydney Lumet, author of the excellent book:

-          Making Movies

And also director of masterpieces like:

-          Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and other gems about which he talks in his great book

The cast is also magnificent:

-          Henry Fonda, as juror 8 towers over everyone, but Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb and the others shine in their roles

Remakes of this chef d’oeuvre have been attempted, from America to Russia, but the results have been unremarkable, to say the least.

This is a remarkable and unique film.
Unlike the usual courtroom dramas, the action takes place in an intriguing location, where the jury is gathered.

The 12 Angry Men have to pass a verdict.
For all of them it is a clear and cut case, with the defendant evidently guilty of murder and soon to be convicted.

-          For all, except one!
-          Juror 8
And in this “real horror show” the audience has a chance to learn about the jurors, prejudices and psychological issues:

“Juror #8: [baiting him] I feel sorry for you. What it must feel like to want to pull the switch! Ever since you walked into this room, you've been acting like a self-appointed public avenger. You want to see this boy die because you *personally* want it, not because of the facts! You're a sadist!
[#3 lunges wildly at #8, who holds his ground. Several jurors hold #3 back]
Juror #3: I'll kill him! I'll - *kill him!*
Juror #8: [calmly] You don't *really* mean you'll kill me, do you?”

To make justice is very hard and especially when those involved are troubled, haunted, challenged or plain sick.

“Juror #3: [to Juror #8 about the El-Train drowning out the supposed death threat] You're talkin' about a matter of *seconds!* Nobody can be *that* accurate!
Juror #8: Well, I think testimony that can put a boy into the electric chair *should* be that accurate…
Juror #2: It's hard to put into words. I just think he's guilty. I thought it was obvious from the word, 'Go'. Nobody proved otherwise.
Juror #8: Nobody has to prove otherwise. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. The defendant doesn't even have to open his mouth. That's in the Constitution.

Juror #8: It's always difficult to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And wherever you run into it, prejudice always obscures the truth. I don't really know what the truth is. I don't suppose anybody will ever really know. Nine of us now seem to feel that the defendant is innocent, but we're just gambling on probabilities - we may be wrong. We may be trying to let a guilty man go free, I don't know. Nobody really can. But we have a reasonable doubt, and that's something that's very valuable in our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it's sure.”

As these lines from the movie prove, this is a fabulous drama that gives food for thought and makes the audience wonder.
The themes are important and we can see how justice can be administered or just avoided, the importance of prejudice, what a determined man like Juror 8 can do and the opposite, different side of the coin:

-          Without juror 8 in that room, the boy would have been condemned and the question is how many times something similar has happened?
-          And then- was the boy guilty?

-          What about O.J. Simpson?

O Pagador de Promessas aka The Given Word, written- with Dias Gomes, based on his play- and directed by Anselmo Duarte

O Pagador de Promessas aka The Given Word, written- with Dias Gomes, based on his play- and directed by Anselmo Duarte
10 out of 10

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

This is a masterpiece and one of the best films I know.
You can find it on The New York Times ‘Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made:

The Given Word has won the most important cinema award:

-          The Palme d’Or

Zé do Burro is the hero of this fantastic narrative.
He is acclaimed by some as “The New Jesus” and condemned by others as an agitator, a Satan disguised as a saint.

When his best friend Nicolau is hit by a branch from a tree, Zé do Burro is very worried and calls the doctor.
The hemorrhage does not stop and the farmer is told to get some cow dung and put it on to the wound.

Since all this does not help and Nicolau has the fever, our hero travels two leagues to a place which has a sort of shrine for Saint Barbara.
There he makes a pledge, The Given Word from the title is a promise to walk with a cross, like Jesus to the church of Saint Barbara.

Nicolau is cured and his friend thinks this is a miracle that he has to pay for and respect his promise and travel to the church.

Zé do Burro is accompanied by his wife Rosa, who is unhappy with all this kerfuffle and the other part of the promise.
The farmer is not only ruining his shoulder with the heavy cross, but has also shared his land with the peasants.

Later in the film, when the press is involved, this sharing of property is given a headline and articles are written:

-          New Jesus preaches Revolution

But before that, Zé do Burro tells his story to the catholic priest of the Saint Barbara Church and he is attacked.
First of all, Nicolau turns out to be his …donkey, hence the nickname of Ze the Donkey. The place of the Promise is evil for the father.

He immediately calls the man trying to enter the church a blasphemer and a Satan in disguise that would never enter his church.
But it is not your church it belongs to the Saint, protests the hero who recognizes that he went to a witch and promised to Inasa- but it is the same thing.

The film is heavy with symbols and is thought provoking, including themes like religion, the Catholic faith and the paramount role of the priest and the religious hierarchy, the press and its search for sensational subjects.
There is a prostitute- called by locals the woman who is married to everyone- and disabled people who come to be cured, like in the original story of Jesus Christ, with the authorities getting involved, like in the Roman days.

One passage has reminded me of John Milton and the quote:
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven...”
For the farmer is confused when so many try to help him, but others, mainly the priest consider him the devil

-          They take heaven into hell and place God in lieu of the devil…says the bewildered hero

He is reported to the police by Handsome, a pimp who has tried to lure Rosa and eventually make her work for him.
The titles in the newspaper do not help, since the journalists wonder if he is an agitator, trying to promote the Agrarian Reform.

The protagonist has no idea what that is.
Zé do Burro is a fascinating superhero, not unlike Jesus, even if he is definitely not trying to copy the savior and he does not want a following- indeed, when blind men and others in need come to this “New Jesus” to save them, he says plainly that he has no power.

Extraordinary film.

Note on Eadweard

Note on Death to Smoochy with Edward Norton, Robin Williams

joi, 25 mai 2017

Mercury Rising, based on a book by Ryne Douglas Pearson

Mercury Rising, based on a book by Ryne Douglas Pearson
6 out of 10

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

Mercury Rising is not an outstanding film.
But it has some fine moment.

The issue of autism is brought to the fore.
I must note here that I have read in a psychology book that all men are to some degree autistic.

Simon Lynch is a boy that has similarities with the hero of Rainman.
Some of the shortcomings, but a brilliant mind.

While looking in a magazine with games, he is attracted and seems to solve a very complicated enigma.
Which reminds one of The Imitation Game.

In The Imitation Game they selected those who would work to break the Enigma code based on their ability with crosswords and speed with which they solved them.
The NSA published a note thinking that they will check the human response to their powerful cyphering tools.

Some whistleblowers have exposed some of the nefarious activities of the NSA.
But their doings are exaggerated in Mercury Rising.

It makes of course for a more interesting scenario.
The unit in charge with these top secret codes is lead by Nick Kudrow.

He is played by Alec Baldwin...
Who is one of my favorite actors.

In Mercury Rising he is as a mean as in Glengarry Glen Ross.
In Glengarry, Alec Baldwin portrays a heartless executive who teaches the ABC to a group of salesmen:

Always Be Closing

-          You see this watch?
-          It costs more than your car!
-          Fuck you is who I am
-          First price is a Cadillac
-          Second prize is a set of knives...
-          Third prize is...your fired

The part of the nasty official in Mercury Rising is not at the level of the one in Glengarry Glen Ross.
I always thought that there are few good roles for Alec Baldwin...

-          Alas

Bruce Willis is not bad in the role of Art Jeffries.
In the first scenes, we see him infiltrated in a group of bank robbers.

His boss makes the wrong, deadly decision and people are killed.
Hence the familiar confrontation between the smarter, better, less humble, more gifted hero and his lousy superior officer.

When Simon calls the NSA number, they have him traced.
The agency - Nick Kudrow that is- is very unhappy with anyone able to read the inaccessible code.

So they send a hit man.
He kills the parents of the genius boy.

Simon hides and therefore escapes.
Art Jeffries is assigned.

His task is to find Simon.
And Bruce Willis Dies Hard and wins over any enemy.

After all he Died Hard four times?
Or was it five?

The good part about a film like this is that it proposes another take on autism.
And other conditions for that matter.

The shenanigans of various agencies and governmental bodies have been exposed before.
My view though is that they generally try to stay on the right side and use the correct methods...

Within limits.

The film is not overwhelming, but it would offer some good entertainment for a forgiving audience.

Note on Mercury Rising, with Alec Baldwin and Bruce Willis

miercuri, 24 mai 2017

Note on A Face in the Crowd, screenplay written by Budd Schulberg based ...

A Face in the Crowd, screenplay written by Budd Schulberg based on his story

A Face in the Crowd, screenplay written by Budd Schulberg based on his story

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

A Face in the Crowd is on the New York Times' Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list.
And it is an excellent work.

It has a powerful, complex character at the center:

-          Larry 'Lonesome' Rhodes

He reminds me of Elmer Gantry, The Apostle and a good number of films with a charismatic, powerful, influential man towering over all the rest...
Although different in many ways, Malcolm X also comes to mind.

It could also be seen as the emblematic American Dream.
The destitute man becomes rich and powerful.

Only he has something from yet another narrative:

-          Being There, with Peter Sellers

In that one, Chaunce was a simple gardener, who knew nothing of the world, except what he saw on television.
Literally nothing.

Lonesome Rhodes knows some more, but he is still an uneducated redneck, who cannot utter a sentence without making a couple of mistakes.
Marcia Jeffries is a radio host and she is doing a program in...prison when she finds the man who had been arrested for disorderly conduct.

He was drunk and he is still recovering.
Marcia has a talent to discover potential in people.

And this man, who is baptized, discovered and launched by this great woman, becomes an overnight success.
Given his skills and folksy charm, the audience responds and advertising follows.

Only in his early days as a celebrity, Lonesome is idealistic.
He actually makes fun at the mattresses he is supposed to promote.

A Television station in Memphis is interested in the services of this rising star.
He is offered an exceptional salary that he raises to $4,000 a week, which could be $100,000 in today's money.

Still not sensational, given that superstars get multimillion dollar contracts for late night shows and the like.
As he becomes more famous, Lonesome Rhodes changes.

Or maybe these had been his true colors all along.
He might just show his flaws.

Or this is a combination of factors.
They say that...

-          Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

After reaching a climax, a zenith, there is no stopping this zealous, incredibly determined man.
He wants to influence politics.

Starts teaching a senator who wants to be president how to manipulate crowds.
Lonesome pretends, maybe he believes he is in love with Marcia.
He says he wants to marry her.

Only we discover he is already married.
And he likes philandering and consorting with various women.

Walter Matthau has one of his early roles in this film.
He is one of my favorite actors.

A Face in the Crowd is yet another great work from the director Elia Kazan.

marți, 23 mai 2017

Note on Andrei Rublev, written -with Andrey Konchalovsky- and directed ...

Andrei Rublev, written- with Andrey Konchalovsky- and directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

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

This is one of the most rewarding films that one can ever see.
It is not easy entertainment.

Andrei Tarkovsky does not deal with that.
The movie is heavy with dialogue about religion, art, creation, Jesus, vanity, simplicity.

I have seen and posted a note on

-          Solaris

For the Stalker I am still waiting.
The first time that I have clashed with a Tarkovsky provocation it was seeing Stalker.

Some of it that is, because I fell asleep in the cinema.
Which goes to proof how keen on challenging works I was.

In fact, I am still unable to get much, if anything from that film.
And Nostalgia, which is another creation of Andrei

Andrei Rublev is more accessible.
It is depressing for long periods, but an exceptional work.

Filmed in black and white, with the exception of a few minutes.
The color in that passage is used to highlight the exquisite beauty and serenity of the icons painted by Andrei Rublev.

He was a fifteenth century painter of masterpieces.
And even if I am not religious I am overwhelmed by them.

Indeed, the orthodox paintings have a modesty, serenity, eerie aspect that will touch even the profane.
As opposed to the Renaissance, they do not show all the beauty of the human body.

The images in these orthodox churches are elongated, very thin and Saint like.
Actually, most of the portraits represent saints.
At one point, Feofan says:

-          "In much wisdom there is much grief. And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow"

This reminds me of a quote from Dostoyevsky.
I do not have the exact words, but I think the idea was something like this:

-          I wish I were a fat woman who makes sausages and goes to church every day to light a candle and pray.
-          She is happy and knows she is going to heaven.

Dostoyevsky had been condemned to death and in the last minute he was pardoned.
But he saw then how sublime life is.

Note on Murder by Death, by Neil Simon

Murder by Death, by Neil Simon

Murder by Death, by Neil Simon

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

What a bizarre proposition!
This is not a bad comedy.

But given the circumstances, it is not what we could expect.
Just look at the cast

-          Alec Guiness as Bensonmum, the blind butler
-          David Niven as one of the five famous detectives
-          Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, Maggie Smith and...Truman Capote take part in this strange film.

Guests are invited to this strange mansion to solve a mystery.
But as soon as they arrive, the weird becomes more outrageous.

And murder attempts are made.
As soon as they arrive, they are targeted by  falling weights.

Their flair and experience save their lives.
There are humorous moments to be sure.

It is perhaps just a question of expecting such a stellar cast to offer an infinite flow of jokes and laughs.
The sound of the door bell is intriguing and amusing, if in a dark way.

It is the cry of a woman that we think had just been stabbed to death

Alec Guiness has an amusing name.
It sounds as if he says

-          Benson, Madame, for he is called Bensonmum.

Indeed, a few are taken in by this outer character.
When he comes with the soup that he needs to serve, he pours on the plate...

-          Nothing!

The man cannot see.

Some lines are good

I trusted a dame and...two hours later, the Germans marched into France.

Other parts of the dialogue could be enjoyed, depending on each individual's taste...

-          I smell gas
-          I can't help it, I'm old

-          Did you see that?
-          No
-          Neither did I.

A critic could say that the portrait of Sydney Wang is racist.
It reminds me of other roles in which Asians are depicted with arrogance and silliness.

A stupid stereotype had actors with exaggerated eye brows, simple to idiot conversation.
And bingo...

There's your monkey type of character.

Granted, Sydney Wang is played by Peter Sellers.
And he was a magnificent actor.

And Sydney Wang is not a helpless dumb.

And for all intents and purposes, this is a comedy and personages have to engage in absurd acts.

luni, 22 mai 2017

Note on East of Eden, based on the novel by John Steinbeck

East of Eden, based on the novel by John Steinbeck

East of Eden, based on the novel by John Steinbeck

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

Both this film and the original material are considered important achievements.
The film is included on the list of

-          New York Times' Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made

From the start I must say that I am not thrilled.
But it was the same for the book.

And having read again the Grapes of Wrath and after being less than overwhelmed, it is clear now that I am biased.
John Steinbeck's sympathy for the communist ideas make me dislike the author.

Nevertheless, East of Eden has a lot in common with the famous Bible story of Abel and Cain and nothing to do with the Kapital.
James Dean was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

He has the role of Cal Trask.
And he got the part because Montgomery Clift turned it down.

I have learned this from a fabulous book on Hollywood:

-          Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman

From this fantastic work I have learned that

-          Dustin Hoffman was obnoxious on the set on Marathon Man...
-          Humphrey Bogart used to whine about the parts that the others had and he did not
-          Robert Redford behaved abominably on two occasions, once after the launching of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the second when preparing for All The President's Men.

The careers of two other great actors have been launched by the absence of Montgomery Clift:

-          Paul Newman in Somebody Up There Likes Me and
-          Marlon Brando with On The Waterfront.

Elia Kazan is an excellent director, if a controversial figure.
He is the director of masterpieces like:

-          A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront and East of Eden

But when he was celebrated, with the occasion of an Academy Award Ceremony, many in the audience stood up to honor him, while others sat down in protest.
During the years of the infamous Black List, Elia Kazan has opted to collaborate with the witch hunters.

Another issue that I have with this film regards James Dean.
Although acclaimed and celebrated, he is not a favorite of mine.

His style is rather awkward.
Granted, the few characters he had the chance to portray before his violent and tragic end are outre and haunted.

It is very likely a case where I am wrong and the actor renders exactly what is expected of him.
There are some memorable lines in a story that is originally written by a winner of the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes.

-          "Man has a choice and it's a choice that makes him a man"