luni, 30 aprilie 2018

Paterno, screenplay by Debora Cahn

Once upon a time, al Pacino was such an unknown entity that when his name was suggested for The Godfather, he was rejected, and then it took some time to convince executives…

This and other intriguing, fascinating stories are part of a thrilling book, the Kid Stays in the Picture, by a former actor, producer and head of the Paramount Studio, Robert Evans who explains the success of one of the best- in the top five actually- motion pictures of all time.
The contribution of the cast, the selection of an Italian director were crucial- a bet had been made and since Francis Ford Coppola has won it, the producer received a call from Mercedes America, about a limousine which was the object of the bet, to inform those paying for it that this model is so limited, only three people would have it, the pope, the director and some dictator somewhere in the world.

When asking for Al Pacino- after he had received a confirmation- Robert Evans says that at the other end of the call, he was asked-

Al Who?
You will have to spell it for me

Then this same story was repeated, when the actor was requested at another studio where he has started working or was engaged in the meantime and where he was also unknown and the spelling of the name was required…
Al Pacino is now a deity, so well known that any cinefile knows his work, the phenomenal achievements – Scarface, Scent of a Woman, one can even enjoy- this viewer did- Bobby Deerfield, And Justice for All, Heat, Serpico and so many more.

Alas, in recent years there is a feeling that the once outstanding, luminous, excellent artist has reached his zenith and he is now on a descending curve, well past his glory days alas.
In addition, he could be obnoxious in the moments of bliss and maximum achievement, according to another quintessential- better than the Kid Stays in the Picture- work on Hollywood and movies:

Adventures in the Screen Trade by the winner of two Academy Awards, William Goldman

From this ultimate masterpiece on the film industry we learn about Dustin Hoffman and his mean behavior on the set of Marathon Man, when he was cruel with Laurence Olivier and another actor, plus the whole crew, Robert Redford, after the launch of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and in the pre-production for All the President’s Men was also obnoxious, to say the least.
In Paterno, Al Pacino, has the leading role of Joe Paterno, a legendary coach – indeed, the most successful in college history- that has enjoyed acclaim, a zenith, the love of athletes and crowds.

Alas, it is the end of this brilliant – if we discount what we are about to learn- career as a coach and this man and others in his entourage, in leadership positions at Pen State University are involved in a sex scandal.
Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile that instead of being exposed, made to face consequences, punishment and evidently banishment from areas, premises where he could abuse children, he was protected.

Seemingly a “nice man” his colleagues and superiors thought this might be just an innocent game, he may have made a mistake- but all this is unacceptable, because it was not just once, this monster was a repeat offender.
Paterno is not Spotlight, even if the sexual scandals around the Catholic Church and some aspects regarding this type of horrifying offence against children- as young as ten, perhaps younger- are similar in their abhorrence, the lenience that the serial abusers received from their superiors and at times, from the law.

What makes watching Paterno worthwhile- even if this is not exhilarating or one of the best films of recent history- is the fact that the protagonist is a complex character and so many people love and regret him, even after the scandal broke out, tough measures were called for and revelations made clear that, although he was very “busy „with couching, Paterno knew about what happened.
In the age of MeToo and so many scandals involving clergy, film producers, stars, directors and executives, the attitude of forgiveness seems to encourage more abuse and suffering.

One can feel compassion for an old- actually eighty-four years old- coach, who has done so much for his football team- he highlights the fact that 85 % - was it? – of his players went on to pass exams.
However, the question remains: what about the victims, tens of young boys have been repeatedly raped, abused- at one point, the old protagonist is asking his family, while he reads a report of the vile acts perpetrated by the villainous Jerry Sandusky, what is sodomized?

In conclusion- you could do better than watch Paterno, which is not as astounding as recent features like: The Square, Nelyubov, A Fantastic Woman, On Body and Soul or The Insult…or perhaps the glorious Leviafan, one of the best films ever made.

duminică, 29 aprilie 2018

To Catch a Thief, based on the novel by David Dodge

To Catch a Thief, based on the novel by David Dodge

Alfred Hitchcock is the director, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly the stars of this motion picture- with this magic formula, it is only to be expected that To Catch a Thief is a remarkable film.

It was included on the New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list, on this page:

Alfred Hitchcock was celebrated as the ultimate filmmaker, the man who created masterpieces under any circumstances; only a number of professionals, including William Goldman, who has won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay twice, dismissed this view.
In his phenomenal book, Adventures in the Screen Trade, William Goldman writes about the mistaken concept of “auteur theory” which held that outstanding directors- like Alfred Hitchcock- are the authors, creators of their films and they are to be honored.

The inconsideration for the rest of the crew is not just rude, it is also absolutely wrong and Goldman and others insist on the merits of the actors, producers, writers and other members of the team involved in making a film- as examples, we have the extraordinary contribution of Special Effects for Jaws and the music composed by Vangelis for Chariots of Fire.
In to Catch a Thief, Cary Grant plays John Robie, a former thief who lives now in the South of France, on the Riviera and although he claims he is retired and tries to be a model citizen, he is suspected after some precious jewelry are stolen, in the manner of the “Cat”, as his nickname was.

The only way the hero imagines to clean his name is by Catching the Thief in the act, and thus prove his innocence- although everybody seems to be sure he is the culprit, police and former comrades.
John Robie is a complex character, for in spite of the fact that he had been involved in illegal activities, after he has arrived in Europe with his parents, as a child with a travelling circus, seeing his abilities as an acrobat to take from those who had plenty; he is also a good man.

The protagonist has fought in the Resistance, when so many French decided to side with the Nazis and their villainous, collaborationist Vichy regime, but even this honorable, commendable chapter in his life is controversial, if we consider that his former colleagues are keen to see him dead.
True, if we watch the exceptional The Sorrow and the Pity, a four-hour long documentary about France during World War II, we learn that there have been animosities within the French Resistance, where some factions would not want the communists to be admitted in their ranks and had to make a common front only when prompted by the British.

The hero gets in touch with H.H. Hughson, who is an insurance agent, working for the agency that has to compensate the rich victims of burglary, once their expensive, but insured jewels are stolen.
This agent provides John Robbie with the list of the most important precious jewelry and at the top of the list we have Jessie Stevens and her daughter Frances, played by Grace Kelly- who would later become the Princess of Monaco- who possess a collection of expensive ornaments.

The inventive protagonist attracts the attention of the women at the roulette, where he pretends to have slipped a 10,000 francs chip into the bra of a woman at the table, who pretends nothing happened for a while and then gives the man some chips from her stack, making Jessie laugh.
John Robbie pretends to be someone else, a magnate of the lumber industry and his image is so perfect that the mother thinks he would be such a splendid, interesting prospect for her gorgeous daughter…but she will have him checked.

There are some interesting scenes, including one in the sea, where the hero is talking to the daughter of one of his former comrades, a woman who wants him to escape with her and travel to South America, when the competitor, Frances Stevens swims to this conference and a harsh exchange ensues between the two rivals, infatuated with the same man.

Another episode has the rich, young and beautiful American woman driving at dangerous speed, trying to get rid of the car chasing them, with policemen inside, making one think of the tragic end of the would be Princess of Monaco, who will have died while driving, years later.

There is enough action, drama, romance and amusement to make this feature noteworthy, although we can again refer to William Goldman and his appreciation that, after reaching a zenith, Alfred Hitchcock has created lesser films, perhaps in large part because of their craze, the insistence of so many critics that he is the genius who is alone to celebrate for the films he –only – directs.
There are twists in the plot, including an initial capture of a criminal that is actually not the Thief, and then revelations and moments that remind one of the incredible ending of North by Northwest, acclaimed in Adventures in the Screen Trade and elsewhere.

Hedi aka Inhebek Hedi, written and directed by Mohamed Ben Attia

Hedi aka Inhebek Hedi, written and directed by Mohamed Ben Attia

It is unfortunate that this excellent drama is not coming to a cinema near you- alas neither soon, nor later- but perhaps you can see it on Netflix or HBO, where we had the chance to watch it, on one of their Art Film channels, Cinemax 2.

This feature is Tunisian and the audience will become more familiar with issues from this wonderful country, the one that has opened the way for the Arab Spring, which unfortunately has had little success, except perhaps for the same Tunisia, where progress has been made.
It is not all Wine and Roses, as we learn from the characters in the film and if we watch the news, where we see that this land has problems, but it is nevertheless better positioned than Egypt- with its ex-military strongman applying tactics that recall Mubarak and dictatorships- and other Arab countries where populations have revolted but with little success.

For all the problems experienced by people in Tunisia, it is clear that this is not Saudi Arabia either- where women have not been allowed to drive, until very recently, men and women could not get to a cinema, up to the opening of the first cinemas a few days ago, and where there are still so many restrictions in effect, from the burqa to the sharia law with its harsh, medieval provisions.
Majd Mastoura portrays Hedi with exceptional talent.

The hero is a young man who faces a conundrum: he has to keep with the traditions and marry the woman that the family chooses for him, or he will be free to make his own choice and live his life?
He is on more pressure when the situation at work- and in the country in general is deteriorating- with superiors telling employees to get on the road and try to bring in more sales.

This is not exactly Blake aka stupendous Alec Baldwin from the archetypal Glengarry Glen Ross telling salesmen that they have to
“ABC. "A", always. "B", be. "C", closing. ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Always be closing.
Blake: ABC. 'A', always. 'B', be. 'C', closing. ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Always be closing.”
Nevertheless, Hedi has to travel, knock on doors, wait at the gates of various enterprises and hear the repeated mantra: “business in not good now and we will buy no more cars in the near future”.

Over and over, the hero is refused, told to leave his business card for the future, but there are grim prospects everywhere, in dialogues the Tourism business is mentioned, which has been dramatically affected and it used to contribute such an important share to the national economy.
The negative perspective, the gloomy outlook is changed when the protagonist sees a woman he likes, although the start is awkward, Hedi lies and says something strange to the woman.

He later approaches her and explains that the real reason why he was running was different and in fact, his mother has not broken her hip, it was just his boss from Peugeot calling him…
Another night, the attractive, friendly and rather liberal for the Arab world- although not for Tunisia and definitely in trouble in places like Saudi Arabia, where she would be killed for her attire, “misbehavior and all”- woman called Rym is going out to the beach and the hero comes along.

In the water, they play games and it is evident that they are infatuated with each other and they get ever closer, in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, in the dark of the night, with the lights of the shore glimmering in the distance.
As the hero gets ever closer to Rym, he confesses that he is about to get married, to the chagrin of the woman who thought her partner is free…not entangled in such a strong bond.

But the protagonist is actually about to get married because his family- his mother in particular- wants this and his heart is not into it, in fact he is in love with Rym and wants to be with her.
She is a dancer and offers performances, with her colleagues, to the dwindling numbers of foreign tourists who come for the lovely beaches, the inexpensive packages offered by Tunisia.

Rym will soon travel to France and Hedi decides he will travel there with her, in spite of the obstacles, of having to sneak in to get his passport and whatever luggage he can get, discussing this with his lover.

She says they would stop on the way to the airport and get his papers and things, but he prefers to get there later at night to avoid confrontation with his mother and the rest of the family.
Without mentioning the details, it needs to be said that this is very emotional and the hearts of the protagonists are broken, it is difficult- next to impossible. – To decide where to inflict the pain- mother or lover?

It is not the terrible option offered in Sophie’s Choice, but Hedi has to inflict pain and he will suffer no matter what the choice is.

sâmbătă, 28 aprilie 2018

Carmen Jones, based on the book by Oscar Hammerstein II

Carmen Jones, based on the book by Oscar Hammerstein II

Given the acclaim, the recognition received by this musical, it is perhaps surprising to reject it, as this viewer did, in spite of the two Academy Award nominations, for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Music, the two wins at the Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and Most Promising New Comer

Maybe even more serious and therefore more important, this motion picture was included on the final list, Nominated for the Palme d’Or, probably the most relevant award- even more revealing than the Oscar-at the Cannes Festival, and a nominee for the Best Film from any Source at the BAFTAs.
Finally, this feature appears on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list available here:

One can look at this two ways:
first, and probably the best perspective would be of appreciating the modern- although sixty four years old- adaptation of Carmen by Georges Bizet, which makes the story popular and available to mainstream audiences, those people who never enter the sophisticated and inaccessible, also expensive Opera Houses.
Maintaining a positive attitude- which is by the way the key to a long, successful professional and private life, as multiple positive psychology studies confirm- we need to appreciate the promotion in leading roles of African American characters, they are also present in the other, supporting and extra roles, but the main issue is their prominence as the most important personages.

The second view would lament the dilution and the “stealing „of the subject, taking a more prestigious art form- the Carmen famous opera – and “diminishing it, making it smaller, less appealing, exhilarating by dragging it down, and for some extreme music lovers, it could even mean destroying their beloved Carmen.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” from Hamlet, Shakespeare

At the same time, because the soundtrack has all the famous- even for nonprofessionals, those who never walk into the Opera – tunes from Carmen, the music is astounding, reminding one of another famous quote:

”De la musique avant toute chose”           Paul Verlaine

In Carmen Jones, everything happens at an army camp, where everyone is African American- most likely because of the despicable segregation laws applied at the time, and long after that.
Carmen Jones aka Carmen from the original Georges Bizet chef d’oeuvre is the star of the show, admired, wanted and difficult, persistent, brave, determined, gritty and looking to get another woman’s man.

Evidently, if the man is actually willing to forget his fiancée and succumb to the seducing powers of the protagonist, Carmen is probably doing all those involved a favor, for the alleged love is just an infatuation, given its frailty.
The famous bullfighting becomes boxing in a new age musical drama that is surely worth watching: panels at the Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, The New York Times and most importantly the Cannes Festival cannot all be wrong!

Although, having said that, aren’t the original lyrics sublime, enchanting, mesmerizing and glorious?

“L'amour est un oiseau rebelle
Que nul ne peut apprivoiser
Et c'est bien en vain qu'on l'appelle
C'est lui qu'on vient de nous refuser
Rien n'y fait, menaces ou prieres
L'un parle bien, l'autre se tait
Et c'est l'autre que je prefere
Il n'a rien dit mais il me plait
L'amour, l'amour, l'amour, l'amour
L'amour est enfant de boheme
Il n'a jamais jamais connu de lois
Si tu ne m'aimes pas je t'aime
Si je t'aime prend garde a toi
Si tu ne m'aimes pas
Si tu ne m'aimes pas je t'aime
Mais si je t'aime, si je t'aime
Prends garde a toi
L'oiseau que tu croyais surprendre
Battit de l'aile et s'envola
L'amour est loin, tu peux l'attendre
Tu ne l'attends plus, il est la
Tout autour de toi, vite, vite
Il vient, s'en va puis il revient
Tu crois le tenir, il t'evite
Tu crois l'eviter, il te tient
L'amour, l'amour, l'amour, l'amour
L'amour est enfant de boheme
Il n'a jamais jamais connu de lois
Si tu ne m'aimes pas je t'aime
Si je t'aime prend garde a toi
Si tu ne m'aimes pas
Si tu ne m'aimes pas je t'aime
Mais si je t'aime, si je t'aime
Prends garde a toi”

The Week of, written by Adam Sandler and Robert Smigel

The Week of, written by Adam Sandler and Robert Smigel

Steve Buscemi stars in this comedy, but the merriment of learning about that is soon annulled by the realization that his presence in this feature is just a waste of talent and for viewers it is most likely a waste of time, although, if one has voted for the Donald, why not enjoy something like this.
Perhaps the way to look at this is by using the lenses of “absurd humor or theater”, in the manner of the pioneering Eugen Ionesco, one should look for roaming Rhinoceros on the streets and find them…hilarious.

Adam Sandler has the role of Kenny- and he is one of those responsible for this calamitous (?) material- a would be father-in-law that tries to make the upcoming wedding a success, even if he does not have the financial acumen, the willingness to spend more in order to ensure all goes well.
The other in-law is Doctor Kirby, a reputable surgeon played without enthusiasm – perhaps understandable given the quality of the script- by Chris Rock, who talks on the phone early on, but while he is operating on a patient, whose beating heart is visible and supposedly…funny.

It is not just Kenny calling this doctor while performing his duty and the calls are so long as to become annoying- it is doubtful is there was anything jocular in there- and the attempts of provoking hilarity are silly- the touch screen is insensitive to the efforts of the surgeon and he uses the limbs of the man who is unconscious, on the operating table.
Too many people are supposed to attain the happy ceremony, given that most of them are supposed to pass through the home of Kenny, willy-nilly, and this is again an element that is supposed to make you roll over in laughter…but is it going to work? Allegedly.

One of the first guests is a man with no legs, whose condition nevertheless was unknown to the organizer who has to cope with this adversity- and oh so many others! - with a the first inconvenience at the airport where he finds that the wheel chair belongs to the airport and the man pushing it is not the nurse he was hoping for, but a temporary help.
The chair that does arrive would not fold and therefore the car has to be left with the opened hood- they need to stop anyway, because the disabled man needs to use the restroom and no, he has no diaper and this is a number two emergency anyway, for which he cannot wait, in spite of the laments of the desperate Kenny.

Evidently, when they stop, the wheel chair, which would not fold to make more space in the car, does not open now and this is ridiculous…the protagonist has to take the legless man in his arms in a restaurant on the way, then in the house, where he is the first unpleasant surprise for his wife.
There will be a series, for they have a cousin who has another condition, in which people cannot smoke, drink, listen to music – at a wedding, comes the obvious rhetorical question!- and almost anything else, because they would all be triggers and the young man will collapse again.

One very slightly funny moment- and there only very few…three maybe? - is connected with this absurd situation, for they are at a sort of a dance club where the people have to well, dance, but without music, because that is a trigger.
From the side of the groom, many people come and Kenny has reserved rooms at a very bad hotel, operated by a pleasant man from India- maybe- who has a Buddhist trance meditation attitude to most of the disasters taking place in his property…and there are so many.

The would be father in law wants a presidential suit for his rich surgeon in-law, only there is nothing like that, except a room that is slightly bigger and which has a color TV- that would be pointed out when the honored guest would arrive, with the only result that this is impressed by the…terrible state of this accommodation.
The organizer sees the lamentable state of the hotel he is recommending and tries to suggest some improvements, such as…a chandelier from his own house- that would fall on the head of the surgeon- some supposedly additional touches of class (?!), including a photo of his grandmother…you were forewarned, the humor- if there is any- borders on the absurd.

The touch that this viewer liked- Alhamdulillah for that, otherwise this would be the ultimate desert of the comedy genre! - was the contribution of the Indian hotel owner- in retrospect this man was a pleasure to watch and it is in large part because he had little to say and he has a charisma that was not spoiled by the preposterous dialogue- and his inclusion on the room of a…
Toaster! With four slots!

Otherwise, the exorbitantly wealthy surgeon- who has such a rich clientele that people at the party ask him and he mentions the sad- was it?- Rosie O’Donnell- it was probably somebody else, but of the same obscure importance for this cinefile-has to be happy that he has…color television in his luxurious J room.

A very much played theme – to a nauseating point actually – regarded the man without legs, who, given his advanced age is taken for a war veteran in various locations, from the baseball field to the dance room, where people come and thank him for his service and Kenny and others encourage the false belief that he lost his legs in the war, fighting for his and their country, when the truth is he lost them to diabetes- if you do not see it, this another outré attempt at humor.
There is even a puffed up attempt of using the mayor, public money and a city hall to host the ceremony- disguised as a thank you ceremony for the “war hero”- seeing as the hotel of the most charming character in the motion picture is now leaking everywhere.

In conclusion, try one of the Best Comedies of All Time, from the AFI or another prestigious list and avoid this failure…seeing as Steve Buscemi has had other great performances in some of the best films of all time, may you could consider either Reservoir Dogs or Fargo…

vineri, 27 aprilie 2018

L’embarras du choix aka The Embarrassment of Choice, written and directed by Eric Lavaine

L’embarras du choix aka The Embarrassment of Choice, written and directed by Eric Lavaine

Wow, what a tragicomedy can erupt out of Tinder!
French films can be mesmerizing, outstanding, fabulous chef d’oeuvres, like The Artist, Amour, Happy End, 400 Blows, Des Hommes et Des Dieux, L’Auberge Espagnole, Manon des Sources and so many more.

The Embarrassment of Choice proves that they can also be exactly like Hollywood fare, which actually is inspired by French originals at times: La Cage aux Folles, Le Diner de Cons and others.
Alexandra Lamy has been the star in a film reviewed here - - Vincent, which was really a waste of time, annoying and unpleasant for the most part.

In this story of Choice, she portrays Juliette, a forty years old woman, handsome, attractive, talented, friendly, perseverant, kind, amusing, although at times exceeding the limits.
The heroine is incapable to make up her mind and she is out of a relationship because she cannot decide and choices are made for her by her father, who is a remarkable chef, and her friends.

Since she is single now, Joelle and Sonia, the protagonist’s friends, decide that Juliette has to use Tinder to get out, cope with her adversity, and get over the trauma of a break up.
Paul is the man that the heroine meets in a bar, she finds him more attractive than in the pictures and they like each other, spend a great time together and decide at the end of the first date to date again the following day, when it all seems paradisiacal, again.

At the end of the second day, the heroine wants to come to the hotel room of the Scottish man she so likes- when he said he is from Scotland, she reduced it to England, prompting him to explain that Scotsmen are not pleased by this relocation or diminution.
When they are in the room, the wild woman is ready and starts to undress the man who hesitates, tries to protest, but they soon get naked and have sex, after which, he decides to announce that he is getting married in a short time- was it a couple of weeks?

Juliette storms out of the room, after shouting at her partner that he should have mentioned this upcoming event before they went to bed, not now, when there is not much she can do about it, except get mad and frustrated- without considering for a moment that she had been the one taking the initiative…
The friends have to help the protagonist again, but the most charming, likeable character of all is the husband of one of them- Cedric was the name? - Who is playing the reversed role of househusband, for it is the spouse who works and the man who takes a sabbatical...

When the question of sabbatical as being only one year long at the most is brought up, as opposed to the three years he has been taking time out, Cedric explains with humor that he did not want to keep the house at home, as men did in the repellent past, when women had been exploited.
This man spends a lot of hit time with the cat that he tries to…train, he also uses the pet as a means to address his wife indirectly- mother will go out with her friends- and there is a reaction: do not talk to me through the cat, only she does the same on occasion, for fun.

The women go to a festive celebration and Juliette says that she will jump on the first man who takes the salmon fume from the table and that is Etienne Chevallier, a man that is bewildered by this strange apparition, a woman so drunk that she wants to show him a unique feat she can muster- taking the snail out its shell with her extraordinary tongue.
And it is a sight, continued with an express desire of taking the man to his room- yes, again, but with someone else- on the way she loses one shoe and as Etienne climbs down to find it, the inebriated heroine comes to edge of the river, looks at it and then starts to…swim.

The next day, we have an episode from Cinderella, with the romantic hero coming to the restaurant where Juliette and her father work- the latter is also the owner- and says that he looked through the town for the woman who owns the shoe, wants to have a meal and makes the father angry with his statements that claim items on the menu are not what is on the list.
The father, Richard, is annoyed and upset up to the point where he finds that this younger man has graduated the same prestigious culinary school and is actually an expert on food and wine, but alas, the two men would get along better with each other than Etienne would with Juliette.

A coup de theatre occurs when Paul enters the restaurant, just as the relationship between Etienne and Juliette is taking off, and makes an astounding statement, saying that he has broken off with his would be bride, for he never stopped thinking about the heroine, ever since they made love together.
The Embarrassment of Choice has reached a climax, for the woman has no clue who to choose and a series of supposedly humorous events take place, from the moment when she is talking on the phone with one man, while the other is proposing and in the confusion, both want to marry and she says yes to both- with modern technology, she is on the mobile phone with one- handsets and all- while she accepts the other and hence is a – classic? - French ménage a trois.

What will she do? Well, she ultimately makes a choice, but alas, the scenario does not make the public wait eagerly to see what she does.

joi, 26 aprilie 2018

Lovers and other Strangers, based on the play by Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor

Lovers and other Strangers, based on the play by Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor

In the age of Me-too, it seems that this film is really dated, at least at times- for instance in the scenes where the male chauvinist Johnny is asking his wife to admit he is the boss, he will be a gentle one, but he needs her to admit his position of superiority, which is so preposterous and passé.

Admittedly, this is a comedy, made in 1970- which seems centuries ago- and many of the behaviors and attitudes- including the aforementioned one- are satirized and the feature has no intention of promoting the image of the man as macho and towering over the house, it is just that some of the jokes seem like they would have no echo today, except perhaps in lands where they still apply the sharia- Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states.
In the first few moments, Mike Vecchio is expressing doubts about the upcoming marriage to his lover, Susan Henderson, reminding her that when they discussed marital plans, the arrangement was that he can pull back whenever and if he feels like it, which is what he thinks now.

Hal Henderson is the father of the bride to be, but he is the last man on earth to preach about the benefits of marriage, given that he has a long standing affair with a woman, an old friend actually, who often has fits of crying and depression and his wife, Bernice Henderson keeps pushing her husband to comfort this woman, for he is so good at it- what a tragicomic suggestion!
Mike has a brother, Ritchie Vecchio, married to Joan Vecchio- played by a young Diane Keaton, who alas seems to have smoked some pot before entering the set and not with beneficial effects for her acting.

This marriage is not working, they should have read the classic by John Gottman- The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work and learn about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: contempt, stonewalling, Defensiveness and criticism.
John Gottman is the ultimate, quintessential expert, able to prognosticate with an accuracy of about ninety per cent and more, which couples will stay together and which will not, after only a few minutes of listening to them.

Ritchie has a clash with his and Mike’s parents- Bea and Frank Vecchio, the latter is the famous actor in The Godfather, who made cannoli in the house, before they all went to „the mattresses.

Alas, Bea and Frank are not role models, the perfect image of a happy marriage, as we will learn, although they make efforts to stay together, it looks like they should have considered alternatives, given that sex is terrible for the woman, who thinks this is the way it must be and the husband has fantasies with another partner.
Indeed, it is again tragicomic when Bea confesses to her daughter-in-law and tries to convince her that she should stay with her man, even if he cheats, because they all do, Frank did and she left the house for a few days, but since she equaled sexual intercourse with an unpleasant act, she thought in her simplicity that it was the other woman who is suffering, now that her husband is sleeping with her.

Susan Henderson has a sister, Wilma, married to Johnny and in this relationship, there are other – and some of the same- troubles, visible as the night progresses, the man watches Ingrid Bergman in a classic film and would not budge when his spouse tries to become intimate.
Furthermore, she tries to caress, incite, arouse, cajole the careless, insensitive man who says he wants to go to bed, he is tired and then she protests that he said this a while ago and their plan of having sex three times a week would be ruined if this keeps happening and he has this attitude.

In the first few moments of this dispute, the husband has a condemnable, but at least calm attitude, which is changing as they face the mentioned Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of Marital Relations, and after postponing and saying that he owes her one, and then changing to two, when he is reminded of the recent failure, they get into outright accusations and open conflict.
He is Criticizing her and she responds in kind, then they move to Contempt, for he is aggrandizing his past performances- before she came his functioning was outstanding- and she refers to what happens- or more exactly fails to happen- recently and he is using Defensiveness, saying it all started when he met her and she is making him angry.

There is the last Horseman, Stonewalling, as he keeps placing his head on the pillow to sleep, whenever he is confronted with something he does not like, even if the wife keeps trying, she is sensitive, warm, embracing him…until they have a sort of peace, if not enough to convince audiences that marriage is the key to the gates of Earthly Heaven, it looks like the contrary is true.
Mike has a friend, Jerry, who is a bachelor and therefore we have a chance to see what this category has as entertainment, happiness, but the situations are mostly ridiculous and sometimes funny-as Jerry is trying to have sex with the maid of honor at the upcoming wedding- if it takes place.

This woman is called Susan and in the first place Jerry is reluctant to meet- in his exaggerated view, there are ten thousand women waiting for him to date and bed them- but once they meet, a weird game of cat and mouse ensues, with the educated woman quoting Classics, The Prophet and others and showing interest in meaningful, spiritual, deep relationship and not in something superficial, passing, as a one night stand: “you are me and I am you and we are one”
This quote becomes a leit motif, a mantra, but also a repeated joke, especially when the rapprochement is progressing, they are about to have sex, but Susan keeps changing the location: “let us go to my room, let us better return to yours, and then back and forth…”

“Highly amusing, a handful of the cast are truly exceptional” said TIME

“Funny, real and touching” was the opinion of Playboy

miercuri, 25 aprilie 2018

The Insult aka L’insulte, written and directed by Ziad Doueiri

The Insult aka L’insulte, written and directed by Ziad Doueiri

The Insult is a very commendable, thought provoking, intense, complex film, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Motion Picture, in a year when, astonishingly, the winner of the Golden Globe in this category was not even included in the top five best foreign films: In the Fade.

On the other hand, it could be argued that The Insult was probably just as good as In the Fade- the similarities do not end there, both films, although in different contexts, deal with the issue of refugees, the hatred that some extremists fell for immigrants and foreigners in general.
Nevertheless, both these features pale to a certain extent pale in comparison with Nelyubov, The Square and Una Mujer Fantastica- the latter won a deserved Oscar in the category- with Frist They Killed My Father- directed by Angelina Jolie, as a Cambodian entry- and On Body and Soul coming on the same excellent level with the rest of the remarkable nominees.

The starts of the dispute is rather simple- it is The Insult that sparks a conflict of almost epic proportions, that after it sets two men against each other, escalates to the point where parts of the country are insulting, abusing and fighting with each other, although, Alhamdulillah, this is not part of the fierce, gruesome, terrible Lebanese civil war, which is mentioned in the motion picture.
Tony Hanna is a Christian that listens to fiery speeches by politicians that attack the Palestinian- and one could say any other refugee, immigrant or foreigner that is ascribed the role of escape goat, the culprit responsible for all that is wrong in the country, lack of jobs, garbage uncollected, electricity shortcuts.

One day, he is watering his flower pots on his balcony- this is one early version, altered later on to admit that he actually knew what he was doing- when a group of men was talking in the vicinity and the water fell on their head, causing the foreman Yasser Abdallah Salameh to get angry at the dirt pouring on him.
He is the leader of a big team of construction workers and he sends a few to climb and attach a tube to the drainage of the balcony, which is destroyed by the violent proprietor with a hammer, resulting in the cause celebre: The Insult, the supervisor calling the watering man an ass hole.

Tony Hanna takes this to the boss of the guilty party and he wants to hear an apology, which is not forthcoming, not in the way expected, even if the boss comes to the apartment with flowers and chocolates and tries to explain that it is more difficult for some men to ask forgiveness, while at the same time nudging his subordinate to go and ask for understanding and consider his delicate potion in the firm, from where he can be fired easily.

Indeed, many aspects are political and social in this excellent film, the owner of the construction firm is a deputy in Parliament, interested in getting votes- apart from the benefits from business- and he does not want the Palestinian to work for him, especially given his penchant for more expensive, but better solutions – he sees German machinery as reliable and Chinese makes as shit.
After much effort of persuasion from the boss and his wife, the Palestinian refugee Yasser is walking to the garage where Tony is a mechanic, with the apparent intention of apologizing, but the insulted man starts his own abusive speech with you are no good and Shamir (Israeli Prime Minister in the past) may have killed you all- by you, meaning the Palestinian he so loathes.

Instead of excuses, the racist man receives a punch in the stomach and he has two broken ribs, for which he takes his opponent to court, where the judge is not happy with the case pushed by the accuser and so he decides in favor of the defendant, given the circumstances, the position of the arrogant Yasser, who will not stop here, with this “corrupt judge”.
The case and more importantly, the film, are interesting, fascinating even from one point on, as it offers complex characters, none of them is right or wrong, they both make mistakes, have inner hatreds and scores to settle, past grievances and unsolved issues, traumas that resurface with violence, resulting in accusations, insults and fights- at another point, the situation is reversed and the victim punches the former attacker.

A nadir is reached when Tony collapses at work – it is later admitted that he was actually making a huge effort carrying a heavy battery, a forbidden act in his condition- and after this new trauma, his wife gives premature birth to a baby girl that is kept alive by technology, her life hanging by a thread and this all becomes a media circus and a reason for different factions to confront each other.
In court, the accusation has a very good lawyer- who is more than biased against the Palestinians and this is the main reason why he takes the case- while the defense has another expert, who happens to be the daughter of the former lawyer and brings forward some facts, one of them is the medical history of the wife, who has had a couple of abortions which expose her to accidents like the one she has just had.
But the main fight is political and historical, for it is demonstrated in court that Tony Hanna comes from a village only twenty kilometers away from Beirut- and he has never visited since childhood- where atrocities took place in the past, perpetrated by Palestinians, who have never paid for this barbarity, which have left the Christian with an intense disgust for Palestinians.

It is not a complete blind spot, the hatred is not total and the disability can be cured, for we see the accuser in one interesting scene, as they come out of the office of the president of Lebanon, who has tried to make peace, emphasizing for both parties the need for reconciliation, without which a civil war may erupt again, the car of the Palestinian would not start.
The Lebanese Christian has an older BMW that he drives away, looking in the mirror at the old Volvo that would not start, returns and has the opponent back in the car- he was looking helpless under the hood- makes a few cable connections and the vehicle is ready to move- this action might be interpreted as just the urge of the mechanic to fix an engine when there is trouble, but it is probably indicative of the fact that there is a chance for peace there and elsewhere.

The Insult invites audiences to think- which in the age of Transformers and The fast and The Furious 9, is that the latest installment?- is a big achievement, the themes are as important as possible- racism, discrimination, refugees and their plight, the horrors of war, civil or otherwise, making peace…
The Four Sublime States: Loving kindness, compassion, joy and Equanimity

The Sorrow and the Pity aka Le Chagrin et la Pitie, written, directed by Marcel Ophuls

The Sorrow and the Pity aka Le Chagrin et la Pitie, written, directed by Marcel Ophuls

The Sorrow and the Pity is one of the best documentaries ever made and it is one of the few to be included on the authoritative New York Times ‘Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list:

furthermore, the film maker who wrote the material with Andre Harris, Marcel Ophuls, the calm interviewer asking pertinent questions in so many frames has produced, directed and wrote the script for another chef d’oeuvre- Hotel Terminus- which elaborates in about four hours- the approximate duration of Le Chagrin et la Pitie- on the escape, the life in South America and the capture of Klaus Barbie, a loathsome war criminal.
The Sorrow and the Pity takes viewers, through the intermediary offered by many witnesses, to the dark period of the World War II, in occupied France, when the Nazis were in control, but unlike any other European country, the government of Marechal Petain collaborated with the fascists in a despicable, unique manner, at times issuing laws that went even further than Hitler and his acolytes.

The documentary is more than balanced in that, during its long four hours and eleven minutes of material, the director is talking with people from all sides: former Resistance fighters, leaders and communists within this organization, former German officers, soldiers and prisoners of war, members of the pro-Nazi French groups, the son-in law of the former president Laval, ex-prime minister, Jewish luminaries and survivors, a woman who has been captured by the liberation forces and then jailed, although she says she was innocent, in spite of her declared sympathy for the Vichy regime, there seems to be no side left that is not asked to express a point of view.
And opinions are evidently as different as possible, even within a certain faction, unit, like the French Resistance, whose head, Colonel Du Jonchay, was against the presence of the communists in his movement and when asked, he explains that these [people had a different interest, they fought for Russia in fact, a number of them had been condemned and overall, he obviously had a bad opinion, even when sked by the British to unify the forces fighting the Germans.
Those present on camera are asked if they made a difference between ordinary Germans and the Nazis and some Resistance fighters did not, saying that all were the enemy- the psychology Milgram experiments seem to demonstrate, apart from the principle of Obedience to Authority, that the Germans might have followed their leaders not from devotion to their ideals, but only out of respect for authority.

British people are invited to share their experience and opinions, one of them is the aristocratic, graceful Lord Avon aka Anthony Eden, who spoke exquisite French and was very amiable, even when the issue of the French attitude is brought up: the British and their allies had had a pact that they would stop fighting their common enemy on their own, they must consult with their comrades, but alas, the French did not do that, and that was very vile.
On the other hand, supporters of the Petain regime, considered that the attack of the British fleet on the French navy was horrible and ignoble, forgetting to mention that the French commander received a variety of options- surrender, move to a British port, join the Allies in the fight, and he refused all of them, leaving the other side with no option but to destroy ships that would be used by their detestable opponents in the near future.

Arthur Eden is very graceful when he is asked about the collaboration of the regime and he says that no person from another country could judge, unless they have been through the ordeal experienced by the /French who had to suffer occupation, the humiliation, shortages, destitution, embarrassment, psychological and physical distress brought by the occupying armies and the henchmen of the Gestapo, the SS and the Wehrmacht.
British agents are interviewed and they both relate to the help offered by the common French people, although one makes a difference between the simple, the workers and the bourgeoisie- the former offered the support that the latter did not provide- and there is even a story inserted here- one of the secret agents, Denis Rake, was a homosexual in a relationship with a German, who did not know the truth and Rake never told him about his allegiance.

The anti-Semitism of many French was terrifying, especially when they tried to justify in some stupid way or another, many innocents have been sent to death camps from France, women and children, together with men, with the participation – active of passive of ordinary citizens- even if some claim they have not been aware of what was going on.
One of those who chose to become a Nazi pretended that, although he knew that Jewish men and women were taken away, he thought that they would have the same fate as French prisoners of war still held in Germany, where Maurice Chevalier sang- this is one of the small public statements that are so embarrassing- the artist explains he never toured Germany, even if it was said he was killed by various groups, including the liberators, he is alive and well.

He did not tour Germany- maybe, but this is so preposterous, it sounds like saying I did not walk with that killer, but endorsed him all the way, admired his bravery in killing so many, applauded him, cheered him on, but never, ever walked with him in my life!
An incredible number of seven thousand French men fought wearing German uniforms on the eastern front and some explained their potion though their hatred of the Bolsheviks and although one could share the loathing, especially someone who lived under communism- like the undersigned- it is not sensible to see the danger posed by a lion and at the same time walk over to be trampled by an elephant.

marți, 24 aprilie 2018

Promise at Dawn, written and directed by Eric Barbier

Promise at Dawn, written and directed by Eric Barbier

This film is a memorable achievement, in large part because of the contribution of Charlotte Gainsbourg, the rest of the cast and the poignant story.

The Anglo – French actress is the daughter of another actress, Jane Birkin and the songwriter and singer Serge Gainsbourg- an excellent film about his agitated, exuberant life was made recently and it was a great achievement.
Charlotte Gainsbourg has taken part- a leading part for that matter- in controversial, provocative features like Antichrist, Nymphomaniac I and II.

Promise at Dawn is different, one could say a classic narrative of chagrin, suffering, destitution, pain, discrimination and hardship suffered during World War II, starting in Poland, continuing in France and eventually taking the only French writer to have won the prestigious Goncourt Prize twice to England.
Romain Gary was born Roman Kacew in Poland, where his mother has always believed in his future glory, even when they lived in near destitution and when she shouted in front of discriminating, racist neighbors that her son would become a glorious writer, a celebrity, a personality, the stupid laughed.

Being Jewish meant that the Kacew family, mother Nina would be the target of insults, targeted by raids and, as we all know, in danger of being exterminated with the other millions of Jewish people who have died in the Nazi death camps.
For some time, Nina Kacew has been trying to work at her business, a tailor shop where she has had women working for her, making clothes that were very appreciated, but alas, not paid for.

There is an especially loathsome woman who comes a t the shop, makes a serious order and the manager points out that this is very important and perhaps the lady would want to pay, only to attract the wrath of the pretentious, dishonest customer who just wanted work and clothes gratis.
Later on, when the poor Ms. Kacew is facing bankruptcy, she is knocking at the door of this fancy, ruthless “client” who starts shouting at her and insults the Jewish woman with disgusting appellatives, asking her butler to throw the tailor out.
Nina Kacew and her son, Roman, arrive in France, with some luggage in which they have all the possessions left for them in the world, which the clever, astute, perseverant, dedicated, strong, gritty, admirable, Wonder Woman is trying to sell in antique shop with great skill.

She claims to be a Russian princess and the samovar that she displays is both precious because of the make, material, but also on account of its historical importance, convincing the owner of the antique store to form a partnership with this foreign lady.
He does not buy the objects, but he says that he will provide other fare, more interesting for clientele at the hotels, where Nina Kacew would pose as the aristocrat from Russia and use the abilities already displayed in front of her new business partner, who is willing to advance some cash.

It is not all wine and roses, for there are racists here as well as elsewhere in the world, but the venture is successful, furthermore, Ms. Kacew enters another business venture with the only taxi driver that had accepted to take the family when they arrived at the station and other drivers refused the fare.
Granted, even this one did not like the prospect of taking so much luggage in his old car, but the determined Nina Kacew emphasized that his car is not exactly the best vehicle in the world:

-          Have you looked at your car? Let us move on!

The confidence and trust she has in her son are outstanding- indeed every woman loves and encourages her children- or as we have it around here – every crow will defend its chicks- but the heroine of this film is exceptional and nudges, urges her son with every step he takes.
Roman Kacew experiences trauma and adversity, sometimes in hilarious circumstances, like the time when some Polish combatants challenge him to a duel, in the middle of enemy attacks.

Roman –soon to become Romain- is fighting as a pilot in the British Air Force, facing the German enemy, in fierce battles, with anti-aircraft firing all around, considerable casualties and some miraculous escapes.
One such moment makes a hero of the pilot- who had been initially the only one to be refused an assignment and a rank at the end of training because…he is Jewish- that helps a comrade escape.

During one vicious round of German fire, one of the other pilots is hit, not only is his plane in serious condition, but the man is blinded by the bullets or shrapnel that had entered the cockpit.
Roman Kacew aka Romain Gary helps his comrade in arms to land his plane in impossible circumstances, as practically a blind man, relying on instructions from his savior, to the left, now approach, more to the right…

Roman keeps receiving letters from his incredible mother, comforting, encouraging, supporting, and praising him…long after she has died…