Tuesday, December 30, 2008

La Dolce Vita (1960)

I'd heard a lot about Federico Fellini and since lately I love old Italian movies, I decided to try La Dolce Vita, which they said was one of his best works, if not the most famous.

This is truly an art movie, which means it's not easy to understand, although the picture looks beautiful. There are too many things in the movie, too many the director wants to tell. I read that it contains 7 episodes, which center around Marcello the journalist, played by Marcello Mastroianni, in the time when moral corruption begins to get worse, after the booming of economy in the late 1950's. The plot I like is the one with the American actress, played by Anita Ekberg. Ekberg's gown, the one she wears in the dancing scene, is so beautiful, makes her like a flower, maybe that was why this movie won the Oscar for Best Costume Design. The most famous scene from this is one in the Trevi fountain, with Ekberg and Mastroianni.

Marcello lives with Emma and their relationship is not so good. He sleeps with another woman (or perhaps more) and refuses to marry Emma. I don't understand why he and Emma keeps living together. After a fight, he asks her to get out of the car and leaves her, and picks her up later. Perhaps he does love her a little.

Airport (1970-1979)

Airport (1970)
The most interesting thing in this movie is when an old lady called Ada Quonsett, played by Helen Hayes, tells the management of Trans Global Airlines how she can board a plane without any ticket. No wonder that she won an Oscar for this. The 2 main plots of this movie are how the manager tries to keep his airport open during a snowstorm and a desperate man who wants to commit suicide in a flight over the Atlantic with a bomb in his suitcase so that his wife can get the insurance money. The moment when the bomb exploded is very exciting and scary, mainly because a beautiful stewardess played by Jacqueline Bisset is hurt.

Airport 1975
Among the four movies in this series, this is the one I like less. The disaster on the movie poster look great, and it is. Can you imagine a plane with passengers without a pilot? Columbia Airlines's Flight is en route from Washington to Los Angeles, but a weather trouble makes them diverted to Salt Lake City. A smaller plane, piloted by a business man who suddenly suffers a heart attack, hit the Boeing's cockpit, killed 2 pilots and leave the captain blind and unconscious. Nancy the stewardess takes over the plane with the help from the tower. She cannot land the plane, though, so a new pilot must come to the rescue by entering through the hole in the cockpit. I find it impossible to believe how Nancy saves the plane. Good thing I like from this movie: Helen Reddy plays a guitar and sings a song for a sick little girl.

Airport 1977
James Steward plays a millionaire who will open a museum. His private luxury Boeing will carry his guests and his precious collections. On its way, the plane unfortunately is hijacked. The plane flies under radar, but it is too low that it hits an offshore drilling platform. The plane falls into the ocean. The SAR team cannot find them as they are 200 miles off course, and the only way out is someone must send a signal from the surface, before the survived passengers are drown. It's nice to see Olivia de Havilland; while Lee Grant's character, Karen Wallace, a wife who is angry to every body, is very irritating. I think none misses her after her death.

The Concorde ... Airport '79
I have written before that I liked this movie. I read this was a disaster, but I've seen worse movies. An arms dealer, played by Robert Wagner, plans to destroy The Concorde on its flight after learning that one of its passengers, his girlfriend, a reporter, knows about his illegal activity. The side plots about its passengers are a bit annoying and not interesting at all (but perhaps such things were popular in the time the movie was made), but I like the stories about the pilots and the manoeuvres when the Concorde is trying to avoid the missiles and fighter aircraft. This supersonic aircraft has ceased to operate since 2003.


What made me interested to read this, was because this was the only whodunit story by Frank Yerby. I like Yerby's works. I must admit that this book's cover made me ashamed, but I have known that Yerby works are not what the cover depicts. I think the publisher thought that if they used a cover like this, they could sell more copies.

Gillian is published in 1960 and the story centres around Gillian MacAllister (of course), a lovely blonde who inherits a steel factory in Birmingham. Her character is like Jekyll - Hyde type: sometimes she is like an angel and sometimes she is like the devil incarnate.

Geoffry Lynne, a writer, narrates the story. After staying in Europe for years, he returns to Birmingham, Alabama in 1908. Soon after, Gillian is found dead, murdered, and his brother Gregory gives himself up to the police. Many believe that Gregory is innocent and cannot do such thing, but why he has confessed? Geoffry thinks his brother is protecting someone, most likely Hero, the woman he loves. Geoffry then interviews those who were close to Gillian, mostly Michael Ames (Gillian's husband) and Hero Farnsworth (a young widow who loves Michael) and the results are this book. So we have here a whodunit story where each chapter/incident is told from a character's point of view. Geoffry must find the real killer before his brother is hung for the crime.

As always, Yerby's story is rich with details, which make this book is very enjoyable to read. I only found the culprit in the last pages. Some readers may guess it right, for there are not many characters in the book (like in any detective novel). The difficulty is to guess how and why.

I have read many detective novels and sometimes can guess the conclusion. Gillian is not that easy. Geoffry Lynne writes this note at the end of chapter 27: "For instance, in the last chapter, Hero gave me a most important clue. I ignored it as female vaporing. A few pages hence, she will give you another. Perhaps you'll prove a better sleuth than I." When I read this, I re-read chapter 27 again, but couldn't find the clue. After I finished the whole book and possessed the knowledge of what happened, I read that chapter again and chapter 29 (in which Geoffry said Hero gave another clue), but still couldn't find any clue.

Du rififi chez les hommes (1955)

Rififi is one of the best heist movies ever made, featuring about half an hour heist scene without dialogue or music. Adapted from Auguste le Breton's novel, although many parts of the book have been butchered, with low budget and no star cast. Director Jules Dassin himself joins the cast as Cesar, the safe-cracker from Milan. Among the cast, I've seen Jean Servais (who plays Tony here) in Les Centurions (Lost Command) and there is young Robert Hossein as Pierre Grutter's brother, a heroin addict.

Tony is just out of prison. His friends Jo and Mario approach him to ask him to join them to cut a jeweler's window and grab the precious stones. At first Tony refuses, but after finding out that his girlfriend is with Pierre Grutter and beating her, he agrees to do the job, with a condition that they take the safe instead. They hire Cesar, a safe cracker. The job is successfully done. The police come to Grutter if he knows about the robbery, but after Cesar gives a diamond ring to his mistress who sings at Grutter's club and Grutter realizes that Tony and his friends are behind the heist, he plans to take over all the jewels for himself by kidnapping Jo's son.

After the heist, the plot seems to me getting better and better. The robbers die one by one: Mario by the enemy, Cesar is shot by Tony himself after he betrayed them, then Jo, and then Tony. We can see how close Jo and Tony, for Jo named his son after Tony. The ending scene is so impressing that I am almost sure I have seen it before: Tony dies in his car after delivering little Tonio safely to his mother's door, surrounded by bystanders and police. None of the robbers gets the money. Louise, Jo's widow, is too relieved to have her son back that she doesn't care about the suitcase full of money.

I cannot help comparing this to Le Cercle Rouge, referring to the fact that Jean-Pierre Melville himself almost got the Rififi project. Tony is like Corey: both are fresh out of prison. The heist scene in both movies is without dialogue. The robbers in Rififi enters the jewelry store from the upstairs flat, while in Le Cercle Rouge from the next door building. The ending in both movies is tragic.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Phantom of The Opera (1990)

This version of Phantom of The Opera is made for TV, divided into 2 parts, and based on a musical by Arthur Kopit. Kopit's work is of course based on the famous Gaston Leroux novel, about an opera ghost who falls in love with a singer.

I first saw this on TV in the 90's, around the time when Twin Peaks was shown on TV. We had black and white TV at that time, but I remember that this Phantom movie was beautiful. Yesterday I had a chance to watch it again.

The movie begins with Christine's arrival at the Paris Opera House. As the opening credit rolls, we can see some beautiful front side of the building. Christine has been sent to Paris by Count Philippe de Chagny, the opera house's patron, to take a singing lesson. The count saw her singing in a fair and thought her voice was beautiful. Unfortunately, the opera house has just had a new director, whose wife, Carlotta, doesn't believe Christine can sing. Carlotta places her in the costume department. Christine stays in the opera house and one night the Phantom hears her singing and takes her as his pupil. When the Count de Chagny arrives, he holds a party and in this party Christine sings and they can see that she is much better than Carlotta, the opera house's star. In her jealousy, Carlotta ruins Christine's premier debut, and this makes the Phantom angry and brings down the big chandelier. He takes Christine down to his lair, beneath the opera house. In a picnic, Christine asks the Phantom to open his mask, but the shock makes her faint. The Phantom realizes that granting Christine that wish is a huge mistake, but it is too late. She is gone, back to the count, but she knows that she must make amends.

Directed by Tony Richardson, this is the best version of The Phantom of The Opera I've ever seen. Charles Dance as Erik the Phantom, has a witty sense of humour. At least twice he takes off his mask, but instead of showing the audience his horrible face, it turns out he still has another mask under the first one. His face is never shown to the audience. Teri Polo is very beautiful as Christine. It's too bad the songs are in French. My French is miserable, and the subtitles are in German. Burt Lancaster plays Gerard Carriere, the old director of the opera house, also Erik's father. He always takes care of his son and in the end promises him that he 'will not end on display'. Jean-Pierre Cassel plays Inspector Ledoux, who wants to capture the Phantom. Andréa Ferréol who plays Carlotta is very funny, especially in the scene where the Phantom has done something with her wig. I think the ending is very sweet: Christine kisses Erik on his forehead (and not like Andrew Lloyd Webber's version where she kisses him on the mouth) - showing that she loves him very much, but it's different from her love to Philippe (yes, here the count is named Philippe instead of Raoul. In the novel, Philippe is Raoul's older brother.).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thomas Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
After watching Plein Soleil (René Clément - 1960) several times, I have been familiar with the story of Tom Ripley. It's interesting, though, to read about Tom's life in New York and how Dickie's father thinks Tom is the right person to persuade Dickie to return to America. Marge doesn't like Tom and thinks he is queer. In the beginning of Plein Soleil, there is an amphibian plane takes off. I always wonder who is on the plane. Unless I have missed something, the book doesn't mention anything about it. In the movie, there is also a scene where Tom says how Dickie (in the movie his name is changed to Philippe) saved him from drowning when they were teens, but Dickie tells Marge he had never seen him before Mongibello. After reading the book, it could be both are telling the truth: Tom remembers, but Dickie doesn't. Dickie's body is never found and Tom can get away with Dickie's money, even though several experts believe Dickie's signature has been forged. In Plein Soleil, he gives the money to Marge.

Ripley Under Ground (1970)
I was amazed to find that this 2nd book was as good as the first. Sequel is usually not as good as the first. However, in this case, it is not true. Patricia Highsmith was a very good writer. Six years have passed since Dickie Greenleaf's affair. Tom is now 31 years old and has been married for three years to Heloise Plisson, daughter of millionaire owner of Plisson Pharmaceutiques. The happy couple live in Villeperce-sur-Seine. They name their house Belle Ombre. In this book, Tom is involved in a fraud. He and his gang makes money from a dead painter called Derwatt. When all Derwatt's works have been sold, the gang sells new paintings by someone else. An American, Murchison, notices the difference, so the gang must come up with something to explain it. This book is called Ripley Under Ground because at some point, Tom is buried alive. He can get away, as usual, of course.

Ripley's Game (1974)
Six months have passed since the Derwatt episode. Tom sometimes work for Reeves, a fence. This time Reeves asks Tom to find someone to kill a mafioso or two. Tom suggests a picture framer from Fountainebleau called Jonathan Trevanny because this man has made an unpleasant remark to him. In a party, Tom approaches him and says, "I'm Tom Ripley. I live in Villeperce." Jonathan replies in a sneering way, "Oh yes, I've heard of you." Tom knows he has a bad reputation because of the Dickie Greenleaf affair, and after that there is the Derwatt case; but Jonathan's reply sounds nasty to him, so Tom wants to do a practical joke on him by giving his name to Reeves, to play his game. Interesting to read how an honest person like Jonathan can be corrupted by money. He kills the first mafioso successfully by shooting him at a train station. At this point in the story, all goes around Jonathan, so I'm glad when Tom appears again to help Jonathan in his 2nd murder because Reeves wants the mafioso to be garroted on a train, and Tom knows Jonathan cannot do that. Although Jonathan is very rich after that, he doesn't know how to explain about the money to his Catholic wife, Simone, who will never accept the blood money, even though the victims are mafia members. Tom tries to help Jonathan, without any success. In the first book, it's Tom himself who starts to do murder because he wants Dickie's money. He offers Dickie friendship and companionship, but Dickie replies him with ingratitude and hostility. Marge is drawing Dickie away from him, so Tom kills him and becomes him to possess his money. In the 3rd book, Jonathan is also having this moral corruption. Tom only opens the way to him. Jonathan can say no to Reeves, but finally he gives up to the temptation. Simone has a big prejudice against Tom. I symphatize with Tom (this is Highsmith's intention, I think), but I dislike Simone. She hates Tom so much and blames him for all that has happened, although in the end she accepts the money and is 'a trifle ashamed of herself'. I like the part about the harpsichord: "Tom sat at the harpsichord, playing the base of a Goldberg variation, trying to get the fingering in his head and in his hand. [...] Tom knew how the variation should sound, because he had Landowska's recording. As he was going over it for the third or fourth time and feeling that he had made progress, the telephone jangled."

All the 3 books are very good. Perhaps I will read the next 2 Ripley books: The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980) and Ripley Under Water (1991).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Les Enfants du Paradis (1945)

Marcel Carné's Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of the Gods) is voted the best French film ever made. Either one agrees or not, in this movie there is definitely one of the greatest love stories on screen.

The story centres around Garance, a beautiful courtesan, and four men who love her: Baptiste (a mime), Frédérick Lemaître (an actor),
Pierre-François Lacenaire (a criminal) and Édouard, Count de Montray (an aristocrat). In the beginning of the story, Garance perhaps likes Lacenaire, who cares more about his activity. On her way to visit Lacenaire that day, she meets the actor, who tries to flirt with her. However, it is the kind-hearted Baptiste, whose own father is ashamed of, who will be her true love. The mime helps clear her name when she is accused of stealing a watch, and later gets her a job and a room in a boarding house, next to the actor's. Baptiste is tormented seeing Garance and the actor together, and later he will lose her forever when she chooses the aristocrat after seeing no other way to escape a new accusation of burglary and murder attempt.

The movie is divided into two parts. In the 2nd part, the mime and the actor have become very successful. Baptiste has married Nathalie, the daughter of the director of Theatre Funambules, where Baptiste works. They have a son. Garance has returned to Paris and every night she goes incognito to see Baptiste's performance. Nathalie sends their son to tell Garance that Baptiste is very happy with his family now.

It's been so long since I saw a pantomime, so I am very impressed with Jean-Louis Barrault who plays Baptiste. When he sits on the barrel as Pierrot, staring without blinking, looks so hopeless that I believe his father is right: he is useless. The next minute, he displays his great talent as a mime artist, and falls in love with Garance because she says his eyes are beautiful.

It must be not easy to make this movie and at that time (during WW2). The crowd inside the both theatres, Funambules and Grand Theatre, and outside, must be real crowd. 'Paradis' means the gallery in a theatre, so the title 'Children of Paradis' refers to the audience in the cheapest seats. In British theatre, this 'Paradis' is known as 'the gods' because the cheapest areas is also the highest. These people usually react to a play honestly.

The ending is not so clear. Baptiste runs after Garance's carriage which moves off into the carnival crowd which is full of pierrots and masked people. I guess she will never returns to him, but where she will go? The aristocrat is dead.

Garance : You talk like a child. People love that way in a books, in dreams; not in real life.
Baptiste: Dreams, life... It's the same or life is not worth living. But it's not life I love. It's you.

Fanfan la Tulipe (1952)

Fanfan la Tulipe is a swashbuckling movie with an absurd plot, yet very entertaining. The narrator is so hilarious that when I still giggle, he has already said his next funny narration. I also have never seen a swashbuckling movie where the fight scenes are accelerated. The director, Christian-Jaque, seemed in a hurry.

Gérard Philipe who plays Fanfan is a very popular actor at that time. He has become a sort of legend because he died at the peak of his career in 1959.

King Louis XV is at war. On his way to a force marriage, Fanfan meets a beautiful gypsy, played by Gina Lollobrigida, who tells him that he will marry the king's daughter. How can Fanfan meets the princess? So he enlists as a soldier for the regiment of Aquitaine. "When the dead outnumbered the living, reinforcement was advisable," says the narrator. He gets the nickname La Tulipe because after rescuing the princess and her chaperone la marquise de Pompadour from robbers, the marquise gives him a tulip.

The dialogue by Henri Jeanson reminds me of Astérix comics: funny. I love the dialogue when the new recruitment arrive in the camp.
-Your name?
-Fanfan la Tulipe.
-La Tulipe?
-It's a fine nickname. We have a Larkspur, a Meadowsweet, a Buttercup. This isn't a regiment. It's a flower-bed.

and "You'll be my brother and I, your father."

Jean-Marc Tennberg who plays Lebel, the king's chamberlain, looks a lot like Alan Cumming.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)

In the past, Batman movies can be enjoyed by the whole family. This new Batman, The Dark Knight, is not suitable for children, in my opinion. Two-Face, although the make-up is great, looks very scary. In the beginning of the movie, when I saw how handsome Aaron Eckhart was, I almost couldn't imagine what he would look like when he became Two-Face. It's sad he dies in the end, because it means no more Two-Face in the next Batman movie.

Perhaps it's because Christopher Nolan directed this, that the movie becomes so dark. It does connect to the title, though. The handsome Harvey Dent is the White Knight of Gotham, while Batman is the Dark Knight.

The Joker is a sick character. True, he is a freak, but how freak the script has made him is also a scary process. In the beginning of the movie, we see that Joker doesn't trust anybody. None can guess what he thinks, what his goal is, except that he works without rules and that he enjoys making people panic. The code of honour among criminals/thieves is not applied to Joker. In the first robbery scene, we see how Joker's thugs kill each other because of greed.

The voice of Batman is a bit disturbing. I understand it's to show the audience how the people who know Bruce Wayne's voice don't recognize his when he becomes Batman. The suit must have something to distort the voice.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Airport '79 (1979)

I heard that this movie was so bad, so at first I had no plan to watch it. Last night I did and actually it was not as bad as I thought. The Concorde is gorgeous... and it flies at twice the speed of sound.

The plot, although is not very good, also not bad. Robert Wagner plays an arms dealer who wants to murder one of the passengers of the Concorde. There are also side plots on several other passengers and crews. Best moments, in my opinion, are when the Concorde is under attack.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Umberto D (1952)

Umberto Domenico Ferrari, the main character in this movie, is an old man who lives alone in an apartemen with his dog Flike. The movie begins with a march where elderly men demand better pension. We soon will learn that not all of them who join the march are in need like Umberto. Umberto has 2 things in his life: his dignity and his loyal dog Flike. Perhaps he will do better if he becomes a beggar. He will not have to sell his watch if he begs, for when he sells the watch, who else who buys it but a beggar. Perhaps his pension is enough if he stays in cheaper apartment. I do not know about the price, but is 15,000 lira per month the best price he can get for an apartement? His landlady is also eager to get rid of him, for she refuses when Umberto only can pay her half of the price. The landlady's maid, Maria, helps him whenever she can, although if the landlady finds out, she will be angry to both of them.

Throughout the whole movie we see how Umberto tries to survive. His dignity forbids him to beg, and once he tries to make Flike begs for him. (This particular scene is very cute.) When all hope is gone, he has an idea to kill himself to end the suffering, but before that, he must find a place for Flike. He first tries to leave him with a couple who keeps many dogs, but after knowing Flike will not be well taken care of there, he takes Flike with him again. After that he tries to give Flike to a little girl whom he knows likes Flike, but the girl isn't allowed to keep a dog at home. He tries to abandon Flike in a park, but the loyal dog keeps following him. When at last he takes Flike along to commit suicide, the dog senses the danger and becomes hostile to him. However, Flike and Umberto cannot be separated, and this movie ends happily.

Miracle in Milan (1951)

After watching The Bicycle Thieves, it's hard to believe that Miracle in Milan was made by the same director. When I saw the trailer, where Totò and Edvige rode the broom, I wondered what kind of movie it would be.

Watching Miracle in Milan is like reading a storybook, where everything can happen. The main character, Toto, is a person who thinks all the people in the world are good and kind. The story begins with an old woman who lives alone finds baby Totò in a cabbage patch. In the next scene we begin to see that this is no ordinary story, for when she comes back home, the boiled milk (or whatever it is) overflows and makes a little river on the floor. She doesn't get angry, but put little houses and trees around the 'river'. 'What a great big place the world is!' she says to little Totò. She dies and Totò is sent to an orphanage. At 18 years old, Totò leaves the orphanage. We learn here that it's better to say 'Good day.' only to the people we know. We also learn that Totò is a kind hearted person after he gives his bag to a man who wants it; although in return he can stay at his place - if we can call that a place. I'm very impressed with 'The Sun' scene, where standing [or running?] in 'a drop of golden sun' means like being nearby a fire place for poor people in the winter time.

Among the poor in Milan, Totò soon becomes sort of their leader. When oil is found on the land, a rich man called Mobbi buys the land and tries to evacuate them. Totò's adoptive mother comes and gives him a magic dove which can make wishes come true. With the dove, Totò helps the poor people to defend their homes and also grants their wishes. The most amazing scene is when Totò gives the sun to Edvige, but my favourite is 'Fano chocolate is the best.'

"All we need is a shack to live and sleep in.
All we need is a bit of ground to live and die on.
All we ask is a pair of shoes, some socks and a bit of bread.
That's all we need to believe in tomorrow."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Malèna (2000)

Malèna is a beautiful movie, sad and tragic. It's directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, who made Cinema Paradiso. I think Malèna is beautiful because it's played the beautiful Monica Belluci. Both two main actors are very good.

In a town in Sicily in World War 2, beautiful Malèna is left by her husband who goes to war. She is brought by her husband to this town with his deaf father, a professor who teaches in a local school. I think the director exaggerates the jealousy of the townspeople. I cannot believe that none of them can be nice to her. The men are too afraid of their wives to come near her, and the women are filled with jealousy. None hires her, and with a malicious letter they makes her father leaves his job at the school. Malèna becomes a prostitute and serves the German soldiers. Only Amoroso Renato, a 12 year old boy who likes Malèna knows the truth: Malèna is always faithful to her husband, even when he is reported to be death.

It is better for Malèna if she leaves the town immediately after her husband starts for war. They are cruel to her. Her life will be better if she goes back to her hometown because without her husband, a beautiful stranger there is treated very unfairly. After Malèna cut his hair and dyed it red, she looks more beautiful. She is not happy, though. There is a tear in her eye when men around her offer a light for her cigarette. The men in the town are too afraid of their wives, even to help her when she is being beaten on the street. None comes forward to cover her nakedness.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Les diaboliques (1955)

This thriller movie is one of the best I have seen. Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, who beats Alfred Hitchcock only in a matter of hours to buy the book's copyright, this is about a wife and a mistress of a cruel headmaster who unite to kill him. They dump his body in the institution's swimming pool, but when the pool is drained, the body disappears.

I would have thought Véra Clouzot is younger than Simone Signoret, which made me wonder why Signoret is cast as the mistress and not vice versa; but after checking IMDb, I found I was wrong. It must be Clouzot's little fragile body which made her look younger than her actual age. Near the end, the suspense is almost unbearable, the tense is too high, that I feel my heart is as weak as the sick wife. The inspector is rather annoying, for he seems to appear anywhere, including in Christina's (the wife) room; and we see the concierge complains how people can get in and out without his knowledge.

The scariest thing for me is when Nicole (the mistress) shows Christina a mysterious face who appears in the window on the photograph. At this point, I hoped I was watching not a horror movie, but only a thriller. The ending is also eerie: the boy says Christina gives him back the slingshot... and he looks serious.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lagardère (2003)

This movie is very entertaining. Divided into 2 parts, this is an enjoyable swashbuckling story about loyalty, friendship, revenge, and hope. Philippe de Gonzague wants to marry the beautiful Inès, daughter of Caylus. Unfortunately, Inès has secretly been married to the Duke de Nevers, Gonzague's cousin, and they have a baby. Gonzague murders Nevers after trapping him in an ambush. Henri de Lagardère, although arrives in time to help him, fails to prevent the cowardly murder which is done by attacking the Duke from the back. Lagardère saves the baby and raises her like his own in exile. In the span of 17 years Lagardère travels all around the country to revenge Nevers and kills the men who trapped him one by one, but the real murderer, whose left hand is marked by Lagardère's dagger, is still mysterious. Meanwhile Gonzague tells everyone that it is old Caylus who sent Lagardère to murder Nevers.

Bruno Wolkowitch is great as Lagardère and I also like Florence Pernel as Inès, who looks more beautiful in close-up. Based on Paul Féval novel entitled 'Le Bossu' (The Hunchback) because Lagardère disguises himself as one to enter Gonzague's residence. He gets the idea after meeting again an ex-farmer who once received his help. When Lagardère still services the Duke of Nevers, a farmer asks the Duke for more time to pay his tax. Lagardère persuades the Duke to return the farmer's cattle. After the death of Nevers, Gonzague takes the Duke's land and his people beats the poor farmer when he cannot pay his tax. They breaks so many bones in his body that he becomes a hunchback. I hear there are lots of changes, from the book to this version. I haven't read the book, but find this movie very enjoyable.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Around mid 1940's - 1950, neorealistic style is popular in Italian cinema. The stories are set among the working class, usually with non-professional actors, and filmed on location. After watching Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers, I am interested to watch more neorealistic film, and I read that Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di Biciclette) is one of the best, so I am glad to be able to watch this. This movie has won many awards, incl. BAFTA's Best Film, Academy Awards's Best Foreign Film, and Golden Globe's Best Foreign Language Film.

Set in Rome after the WW2, where jobs are hard to get. Ricci feels so lucky when he gets a job as a bill poster. However, as a condition of employment, he must have a bike. Unfortunately, he has pawned his only bike. His wife finds a solution: pawn the sheets so they can get the bike back. On his first day working, the bike is stolen. Reporting the theft to the police doesn't much help and Ricci and his son Bruno must try to find the bike themselves all around the city.

In his despair, for the loss of the bike means the loss of the good job, Ricci even visits a fortune teller. In earlier scene we see he reproves his wife for doing so. The fortune teller doesn't give him a solution anyway, for she cannot tell him where to find the stolen bike, as he expected. Later, Ricci almost thinks that he has lost Bruno when he hears someone is drowning. Knowing that his son is okay, he celebrates by taking Bruno to a restaurant. Ricci buys for them expensive meals, because he realizes Bruno is more precious to him than money. The ending is very moving. Again, driven by despair, Ricci only know that he must have a bicycle at any cost. On the other hand, Bruno's eyes are opened, and he sees that the father he adores is only human as well.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Cinema Paradiso tells about the magic of cinema. Set in a small village in Sicily in late 40's, 5-year-old Toto is interested by the work of the projectionist of the local cinema, called Cinema Paradiso. At that time, cinema is the only entertainment the villagers have. They even have to fight to get into the cinema and bring their own chairs. The reaction of the movie-goers when they are watching movies are wonderfully portrayed.

This movie begins with adult Toto, played by Jacques Perrin, now a successful film director, receives a phone call from his mother telling him that Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), the old projectionist, has died, and that the funeral will be held the next day. It's been 30 years since Toto left Sicily. We then see the flashbacks,: friendship between little Toto and Alfredo, and Toto's affair in 1955 with the beautiful Elena. The characters in this movie seem so real and convincing. Here and there we can see daily life of the Sicilians. After watching the documentary 'Giuseppe Tornatore: A Dream of Sicily', it's no wonder; the director is an observant man, and for years he has been watching and filming what Sicilians do. It's true what he says: Cinema is a time machine and a spaceship that can take you travel through time and space.

I love watching the old movie clips and try to identify them, as many as possible: The Gold Rush, La Terra Trema, Ulysses, Les bas-fonds, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, ... and beautiful actress Silvana Mangano singing and dancing. Also very moving is the last scene, where Toto watches a movie given by late Alfredo: a montage of kissing scenes censored on the demand of the local priest who always watches the movies before they are presented to the villagers. I like the continuous scene where Alfredo replaces the 50 lire 'lost' by little Toto, Toto and his mother leave, and suddenly appears this homeless man from the corner of the screen and yells that the square is his. Ennio Morricone did the soundtrack, what more can you ask? I'm also impressed by little actor Salvatore Cascio who plays little Toto.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Madame de... (1953)

Many people that I know assume that old movies -black and white movies - are slow and boring. That is not what I think. True, old movies, if they used special effects, can be out-of-date; but there are movies with strong script and dialogues, and these kinds are not much affected by time. Techniques used by directors and the crews are also not much different from today. Now I especially like European movies, French & Italian to be exact, made between 1950 - 1965.

Max Ophüls's Madame de... starts with Louise, wife of a general, who sells her earrings, which her husband gave her after their wedding, because she needs money. She tells the general that she has lost them at the opera. The next day the news about the theft appears on newspaper. The jeweler who bought them reads it and tells the general the truth. The general buys the earrings back, but gives them to his mistress, who soon will have to sell them for money. Time goes on, and Louise meets Baron Donati who gives her the very earrings as a token of love. In the beginning, we see Louise chooses among her belongings, and the earrings are the ones she loves the less. However, after Donati gives them to her, we see that they have become her most precious possession, that she persuades the jeweler to hold them for her until she gets the money to buy them back by selling some of her furs.

The development of the relationship among the general, Donati and Louise is well depicted. Both Donati and Louise only flirt at first, but as they meet regularly in parties and always dance together, something starts to grow and Louise decides to go away. The general still means a lot to her. The music, sets, and costumes are wonderful.

The DVD contains an interview with director Alain Jessua, who at that time worked as one of the director's assistants in Madame de... He keeps the placard bearing the sign "Don de Madame de" which appears in the end of the movie.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Navigator

The story looked promising, but my enjoyment was a bit ruined by some mistakes in the translation. [The book I read has been translated to Indonesian.] They are not 100% mistakes, only that the choice of words and phrases sometimes are not right. The synopsis on the back sleeve is a sort of spoiler as well, as it gives away the name of the bad guy. So from the start, I had already known who the main villain was.

This book by Clive Cussler & Paul Kemprecos is an adventure story, about the search of Queen Seba's tomb and the treasure of King Solomon. The ending is not what you think, but the searching process is a real challenge, complete with conspiracy and a dangerous hitman.

Thief of Bagdad (1940)

I wondered how good special effect in a movie made in 1940 was. I read many reviews about this, though, so I wanted to take a look.

The restoration of the DVD (region 2) was well done. John Justin who played King Ahmad was also good looking. Started from these 2 points, I could enjoy the movie until the end. In the 40's this must be one of the biggest adventure movies ever made.

Different from Disney's Aladdin which stars Aladdin and his monkey Abu; the story of Thief of Bagdad begins with King Ahmad who is usurped by his grand vizier Jaffar. Ahmad meets the little thief Abu, who will help him to meet the beautiful princess. Jaffar wants the princess as well and kills her father. With the help of the Djinn, Abu will fulfil the prophecy: deliver the kingdom from the evil king.

Nowadays the special effects, which in 1941 won an Oscar, looks very simple and old; but apart from that, the movie is enjoyable to watch. I like very much how the dog can tell a false coin from others. Also interesting is the scene where the Sultan riding the magic horse, for I've seen the similar picture of Sinbad riding the same horse in one of the Doraemon books. The movie came out first, it must be Doraemon's writer/illustrator who drew the inspiration from this film.

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

Set in Nuremberg, 1948, this movie is about an American court, led by Judge Haywood (Spencer Tracy), tries four Nazi judges. The American prosecutor (Richard Widmark) tries very hard to get the defendants maximum punishment, but their lawyer, Rolfe, is also very good. Through the trial, Rolfe, who admires Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster), one of the defendants, will try to explain to the court that the 4 judges only did their duty for their beloved country.

The movie is about 3 hours long, but from start to finish it's very emotional. Judge Haywood tries his best to understand why the 4 judges, especially Janning, did what they did. I like Haywood. In Deux hommes dans la ville, Cazeneuve says something like, "Justice must understand the man it judges." The standard of justice can be different to every man, so one must really understand the reason first. Haywood spends his time to read Janning's books and later he befriends a widow of a late high ranked officer in military, Mrs Bertholt (Marlene Dietrich), who tells him that Hitler hated her husband and Janning.

Among the solid cast, I'm really impressed with Maximilian Schell (Rolfe) and Montgomery Clift, who plays one of the witnesses, a mental retarded man. This movie is very good and I hope in the future writers can create dialogues as excellent as in this movie. Sometimes I think movies based on real facts have better plots than fictional stories.

Quantum of Solace (2008)

I think to be able to fully enjoy this movie, one has to have watched Casino Royale first. Quantum of Solace is the sequel of the prior Bond movie. Until this time, each movie stands on its own. True, villains like Blofeld and Jaws appear in several Bond movies, but usually one can watch any of the movie without having to watch the previous. This time, if one hasn't watched Casino Royale, it will be rather hard to fully understand why Bond is so angry, who Vesper is, what the personal revenge M is talking about, and why the movie has been given this title. The gun barrel sequence only appears in the end (unless I have missed it when it appears in the beginning!).

The movie is so fast, especially on action scenes, that it was hard to see what was going on. Daniel Craig's Bond is a cold blooded killer, or it is the pace of the movie which makes him that way. I feel the movie is so full of actions that there is not much space left for the drama (Made me enjoy every time Judi Dench appeared on screen). The scene in the burning hotel is unbelievable, how can they survive? The fire is everywhere - not to mention the smoke. Also unbelievable is how Greene can hide a river from the people. So the villagers never go that way? There must have at least been a rumor. Plus, the geologists can't work there alone, there are usually a few locals to guide them. It's ironic, though. Greene makes the land dry and he dies of thirst. I wonder who has killed him. I don't remember if he carries a gun when he is left in the desert.
I was disappointed on how they murdered Fields. It was perhaps a nod to Goldfinger, but I was hoping for something more original.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Les fragments d'Antonin (2006)

"How long does it take to make a man? How long does it take to destroy him?"

This is a haunting movie about the victims of war. The main character is Antonin, a pigeon post trainer. In 1919, he becomes one of the interesting cases in the psychiatrist ward in a hospital for Professor Labrousse, a pioneer in the treatment of war trauma. Antonin doesn't suffer amnesia, but he can only mutters five names, each with different obsessive movements. He also never looks anyone in the eye.

The opening credit shows the victims of WW1 - those who was still living, but their conditions were no better than the deads. In the movie there is a moving scene where the doctor examines the injured soldiers and chooses which ones he will try to save and which ones will be left to die. "He has a letter from his wife. She has just born a baby." The doctor answers, "I need four hours to save his life. Leave him. I need 1 hour to operate this one, 1 hour for that one, and 2 hours for that one. I can save three instead of one."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

À bout de souffle (1960)

I heard so much about this Jean-Luc Godard movie and wondered what it would be like. Apart from the jump cuts style, which looks like watching an old copy of a movie (because of several frames are missing - and in this case deliberately by the director), I see nothing else significant. Perhaps I was tired when I watched this. I think the long scene between Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and Patricia (Jean Seberg) in the bedroom is interesting in a way; the dialogues are poetic. Director Jean-Pierre Melville appears in front of the camera as writer Parvulesco.

Michel Poiccard steals a car and shoots a police who follows him. Hunted, he stays with his American girlfriend, Patricia, while looking for his friend who owes him money so that they can escape to Italy.

So far, from all movies with Belmondo I have seen, I like Léon Morin, prêtre the best.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)

In early 1990 I read about this movie and how beautiful it was in a magazine, but I never caught it in theatre. I didn't know if it even came on nearby theatres. In late 90's - or perhaps early 2000 (I really can't remember) I and my sister finally watched this on CCF cinema and we both liked it very much and thought it was very beautiful. Yesterday I saw this again and it was still very beautiful.

Normally I don't like movies where the characters speak their dialogues in poetry, like Shakespeare's, for example. However, Cyrano is different. First, the cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful. Second, the main character is a truly a poet and in this case, he has to win Roxane's heart with beautiful words. That makes sense, then, and that poetry is a must in this movie. It's also fun to watch Gérard Depardieu. My sister always laughs when she sees him on screen; she always identifies him as Obélix.

Cyrano is admired by many, but he despises himself because of his enormous nose. He loves his beautiful cousin Roxane, but when he is about to tell her about his feeling, Roxane tells him that she falls in love with the handsome Christian, a new cadet in his regiment. Roxane asks him to take care of Christian and say to Christian to write to her. The problem is, Christian is too stupid to write. Cyrano then writes on behalf of Christian and in that way, what Roxane reads is actually Cyrano's feeling for her. Roxane and Christian are later married, but on the wedding night the regiment must go to a war against the Spain (Battle of Arras). During the war, Cyrano never fails to cross the dangerous border twice a day to mail his letters to Roxane. Christian dies in the war, broken hearted, because he realizes that Roxane falls in love to whoever writes the love letters, and it is obviously not him. Fourteen years later, Roxane still mourns for Christian and lives in a convent. Every Saturday faithful Cyrano visits her and brings her news and gossips. On a fatal Saturday, a beam falls onto Cyrano's head and he is badly injured, but he still can keep his promise to visit Roxane as usual, and it is then when Roxane finally learns the truth that Cyrano is the one she really loves.

Interesting what the screenwriter/director (I can't remember which one, but it was in the DVD's Special Features) said, that Roxane finds the perfect man: intelligent, handsome, strong... but the problem is: he is of 2 men.

Tess (1979)

Based on Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, this movie is a Franco-English production. I already have the version with Justine Waddell, but wanted to see this one because of 1) Roman Polanski 2) Philippe Sarde 3)Thomas Hardy. I think Tess is Hardy's most tragic character and he was too cruel on her.

17-year-old Nastassja Kinski as Tess is perfect. To underline the fact that Tess is pure, simple, and ignorant, she is dressed mostly in white. Although a farmer's daughter, she has an elegance about her. Her pride and vanity are rather out-of place; but she is a d'Urberville and her ancestor had fought with William the conqueror.

The life of Tess Durbeyfield changes when her father is told by the local vicar that their family is the direct descendant of a noble family called d'Urbervilles. Tess's mother suggests that Tess is to be sent to one rich d'Urbervilles family. This rich family turns out to be not the real d'Urbervilles, because they, a blind old woman and her son Alec, have bought the title and their real name is Stoke. Tess is hired to work for them and seduced by Alec. She returns home, bears a baby who soon will die, and works again in a dairy where she meets her true love: Angel Clare. They are married, but on the wedding night, Angel can't accept the fact that Tess has been with another man - an unjust fact for he just confessed to her that he had been with an older woman in the same periode when Tess was with Alec. Tess returns to her parents, but Angel says if she is in any trouble she can write to him. The troubles do come, but Tess's letters are not answered. In despair, the only way out is to go back to Alec. Despite his flaws, I actually believe that Alec does love her. And being a priest's son, I am not surprised that Angel can say to Tess: "How can we live together while that man exists? He is your natural husband, not I." - which explains Tess's action when Angel comes back to her from Brazil.

This Roman Polanski movie is very beautiful (especially the locations and cinematography) that I prefer this one than the 1998 version. In this 1979 version the importance of a horse to the Durbeyfields is not much shown, but only mentioned in several dialogues. One scene in the 1979 version which doesn't appear in the 1998 version (and I think it's one of the saddest things in the book) is when Tess visits the Clares and her boots are taken away. She has to return home with her new shoes, which are not suitable for long distance, and if I am not mistaken, it is said in the book that the new shoes are ruined after the fruitless trip. In the movie there is also a lovely scene where Tess can see the tombs of her ancestors.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales

I wanted this book after watching Chris Noonan's Miss Potter. The book itself is very beautiful, that when it arrived my boss also wanted a copy, which I ordered for her right away. The pages are of excellent quality's paper, and there is a cartoon box to protect the book. I love the beautiful illustrations by Beatrix Potter, and the best of all in my opinion is in The Rabbits' Christmas Party. From all the stories, my most favourite is The Tale of The Pie and The Patty-Pan. The idea to accept someone's invitation to eat a pie, although you don't like her pie and then have a plan to swap it with your own, is very amusing to me. I also like the illustrations of the mayor's waistcoat in The Tailor of Gloucester.

From her works, we can see how much Beatrix Potter loved animals and nature. This book contains all of her 23 tales and 4 additional works. Each work is accompanied by a note to explain the background of the story. The language is not very easy to read, but I can understand the meaning by looking at the illustrations.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Empress Orchid

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min tells about the fight a poor young girl, from the day she and her family can't even afford to eat, until she becomes one of the powerful woman in history. This Manchu girl, called Orchid, is chosen by the Emperor as one of his seven wives and begins to live in the Forbidden City. She gives him a son and becomes his favourite wife. The life is not easy, but she is not a woman who gives up easily. The book is very enjoyable, with lots of details about the life in the 19th century, especially in the Forbidden City. The British and French people are described as savages, who sells opium to the Chinese and with their treaties demand lots of money from the Emperor. They also rob and burn palaces in the Forbidden City. Emperor Hsien Feng, who is not a very strong man to begin with, dies broken hearted. Little Tung Chih, Orchid's son, succeeds him. This book ends with the burial of Emperor Hsien Feng. There is a sequel, entitled The Last Empress.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Boulevard (1960)

This was on TV last night. I read that Julien Duvivier was one of the most underrated French director. The movie was enjoyable, although sometimes the look in the lead actor seemed scary (and wrong, in my opinion). Perhaps he was tired of doing the same scene again and again.

Georges (Jean-Pierre Léaud) lives in an attic room in Pigalle. He leaves his father, who owns a bar, because he doesn't like his new step-mother. His happiest time is perhaps when he is on the roof, for he can see all over Pigalle, and for a while he can pretend to be the king of the world. In the same building, lives a striptease dancer, Jenny Dorr (Magali Noël), whom he is trying to attract; and an Italian family who has a nice daughter (Monique Brienne) who likes him. Another important character is Dicky the boxer (Pierre Mondy), who later will win the heart of Jenny. The movie centers in the struggle of Georges to survive. He is too proud to ask his own father some food, but when he drops by, he eats all the croissants. There is a strong scene when her step mother asks her father to choose between her and his son. Georges works anything available: selling newspapers for the young, posing as Narcissus, ...so he can have money to take his girlfriend to a movie and buy ice cream. The clock is ticking, it's time to take her to cinema, and he hasn't got the money. Maybe he would have, if he were a little kinder to Dicky. He has to swallow his pride and goes to his father for the money, but his girlfriend betrays him. In his attempt to commit suicide, Georges begins to see that actually the world is not as cruel as he thought it to be.

My favourite scene is the boxing match. Very funny. It's obvious he must beat Dicky at any cost. And the old woman whose courage is as strong as the young, shouts "Commencez!"

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ben Hur - A Tale of the Christ

Before reading this book, if I heard the name Ben-Hur, the first thing came to my mind was a chariot race. I think I have seen the movie version a long time ago. Years ago I had a comic version of this story and 2 scenes which moved me the most were: 1. Little Jesus gave Ben-Hur water in his darkest time (and he repaid it later when He was on the Cross) 2. Ben-Hur's mother and sister were healed.

First published in 1880, this novel by Lew Wallace begins with the 3 wise men: Gaspar the Greek, Melchior the Hindu, and Balthasar the Egyptian; following the star to Bethlehem and witness the birth of a King. Interesting to read about their origins and why they come to follow the star. Then the story moves forward 21 years, when Ben-Hur (the name means 'Son of Hur'. His family calls him 'Judah'.) is having an argument with his childhood friend Messala, and ends with conclusion that Romans and Jews are very different. They cannot be what they were anymore. Next is the accident, when a roofing tile falls from Ben-Hur's house and almost kills the new procurator of Judea, Valerius Gratus, who is having a parade below. Massala himself points out Ben-Hur. Ben-Hur is seized and sent to hard labour, they think in a year he will die. His mother & sister are sent to jail. After 3 years as a galley slave, he meets Quintus Arrius the duumvir, saves him and is adopted as his son. 5 years later, Ben-Hur returns to Judea as a rich man and meets his father's loyal servant Simonides and his beautiful daughter Esther, whom later he will marry. He beats Messala in a chariot race and cripples him. He searches for his mother and sister. Meanwhile, after meeting one of the 3 wise men, Balthasar, Ben-Hur's view about the Messiah begins to change. He and Simonides believe that the Messiah will free them from the Romans and both use their immense wealth to train people as soldiers so that when the Nazarene arrives in Jerusalem, His way to become the King of The Jews will be easy. However, when Ben-Hur sees the Nazarene arrested, he asks Him to say the word and he will help him; but He doesn't say anything. Ben-Hur realizes that Balthasar is right, and that His Kingdom is not in this world.

The language is not difficult and Wallace gave rich descriptions on the culture, the buildings, the clothes, etc. One of my favourite parts is when the Nazarene heals Ben-Hur's mother and sister. Being lepers is the same as dead, you cannot get near to people and if someone comes near you have to shout "Unclean! Unclean!". The Nazarene, however, is not afraid to be near them and look into their eyes with pity. The situation itself is like drinking from a fresh spring in the middle of hot desert. In my high-school days I had a book with stories from the Bible, and one of my favourite parts was also the scene with Jesus and a leper. This leper heard that He would be in a city and he took all risks to meet him. A city was not a place for a leper, and people shouted at him, spat at him, stoned him; but this Man greeted him as if he was His friend. The scene was very moving. Like in this illustration by Alexander Bida (titled The Leper), not only He didn't tell the man to go away, but He also was not afraid to touch the poor man, and makes him well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Les seins de glace (1974)

In a beach in Nice, TV screenwriter François Rollin (Claude Brasseur) meets the mysterious Peggy (Mireille Darc) and despite her resistance, falls in love with her. Her lawyer Marc Rilson (Alain Delon) tells Rollin that Peggy is sick and she has killed her late husband. Rollin assumes Rilson is lying because Madame Rilson and his brother Denis tell him Marc is in love with Peggy himself and plans to marry her. Meanwhile, Peggy is always in fear and it seems her gardener watches every of her step. Every where she goes she is followed by Marc's chauffeur.

I don't know what the novel, which the movie was based on, is like. It's called 'Someone is Bleeding' by Richard Matheson. Who is bleeding? Bleeding inside?

Georges Lautner made this movie a good thriller and Mireille Darc played the hysterical Peggy very well. Delon's Rilson has a melancholic look (but hostile towards Rollin). The two rivals are very opposite: Rilson is serious and seems sad while Rollin is always happy and takes everything lightly. Rilson tries everything to keep Peggy away from the mental hospital. He befriends the police inspector (they call each other by first names). After 2 more killings, Rilson cannot cover for Peggy anymore and the police need to put someone in jail. At this point, François still can't see that Peggy is very dangerous. Does he really believe Rilson is the culpable that he agrees to leave together with her? Rilson only gives himself to the police to save Peggy for he has promised her never to put her back to the hospital. The inspector puts Rilson back to his sense when he says his sacrifice is useless and that she is beyond help. Peggy must be stopped before she kills again. Like in 'Rocco and His Brothers', Delon's character sacrifices himself for nothing.

As a writer, François doesn't seem to have much imagination. He is naive, perhaps blinded by love. It's almost impossible (for me at least) he doesn't believe Peggy could kill and can do it again. Who else would have killed Denis? I wonder what he thinks when he sees Rilson takes her to the top of the hill. Does he realize that he has lost her forever? -that there is a strong bond between Rilson and Peggy, a sort of wonderful understanding which he cannot break. The ending scene is beautiful. Peggy looks very peacefully happy. Rilson shows her Australia (although I'm sure she can't see it) like God showed Moses the promised land. It's obvious how much Rilson loves her and I must say that the chemistry between Delon and Darc was very good. I wonder what he will do next, after executing such a big decision i.e. the conclusion of this movie. How can he live after that? The theme song by Philippe Sarde is very beautiful. The last song sadly ends abruptly by the shot.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Léon Morin, prêtre (1961)

Somehow I had an impression that Léon Morin, prêtre (prêtre = priest) was a movie of religious discussion between a priest and one of his flocks. Yes, it's the main part of the movie, but there are much more than that. There are details about what happened in 1942-1945: the fate of the Jews, the difficulty to get shoes, collaborators, and some few good Germans. Set in occupation days, started when Italian soldiers were still in France, followed by the entrance of Germans, and ended until the French liberation. The story takes place in a small village where Barny (Emmanuelle Riva), a widow who works in a school's administration, goes to a church to have his half-Jewish daughter baptized. Barny herself doesn't believe in God. In the church, she meets Léon Morin (Jean-Paul Belmondo) in the confession box and after a brief discussion, he tells her to come to his place to borrow books. Since then, once a week, Barny always comes to the priest's place to borrow and return books and have discussions with him. Later, she is converted and falls in love with the young priest.

The movie is wonderful and I found myself attached to the screen the first time I watched it. Also enjoyed the religious discussions. Compared to other Jean-Pierre Melville works I have seen, where usually women are rare, in this one men are rare - if the soldiers and townspeople aren't included; and there are much more dialogues. In a time when a war is on, I suppose all young men must be going to the battles or hiding in the woods (as Resistance) , and that makes Léon Morin the most handsome man in the village and all women are attracted to him. Since the story is told from Barny's point of view, it would be interesting to know what he thinks, what goes on in his mind. Is he really a saint or he almost falls to temptation? He notices the women, too: he advices Barny to paint her toenails, sees that Marion is missing one earring and since he covers her knees, it means he notices them in the first place. I'm convinced that Morin enjoys his meetings with Barny and among all women in the movie, she is his equal. Is Barny converted because she sees the truth or because she loves the priest?