Monday, June 30, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

This movie about Anne Boleyn is rather different. I haven't read the book the movie is based upon, but this gives us a different look on the Boleyns. I would think that 'the other Boleyn girl' is Mary, for Anne was much more popular (as she became The Queen), but interestingly it is Anne who says the line 'I'm the other Boleyn girl.'

The three Boleyns: Anne, Mary and George love each other and live happily until their father and uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, have an ambition to get rid of Queen Katherine and provide King Henry a male heir. The king is invited to their home so he can see Anne; but he is interested to Mary instead and Anne is sent away to France. Mary successfully gives the king a son, but Anne returns and finally destroys what they have achieved.

Acting, costumes and set are wonderful; but the story can be confusing for those who are not familiar with the Tudor history. There are too many to tell, for example: we don't know what happens to Queen Katherine in the end. In the story, we have a simple, pure Mary, who has grown up in the country. Anne is described as wicked and clever, and she is the brain behind the king's decision to break with the Catholic church and annul his marriage with Katherine. Thomas Crownwell is gone from the plot. Also, when the king begins to want Anne, she has never seen Henry Percy again. In all, the story focuses on the rivalry between the two sisters. We can see how Anne's heart breaks because Mary can give the king a son, while she only gives him a daughter. The king himself is depicted as someone who easily loves a girl, as easy as gets rid of her. In the history, Anne was not punished with George alone, there were several men executed with them, charged with 'high treason' - being the queen's lovers. As for the execution scene, 'Anne of A Thousand Days' is much better, in my opinion.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

I actually had no intention to watch this, but since Lastri did, so we went. With the 'pay 1 for 2' promotion we didn't have to pay too much. The theatre was full and we sat in the 3rd row; never before we sat this close and we were rather dizzy. The movie turned out to be very funny and we laughed a lot.

The hero is a fat panda called Po. He helps his father (perhaps not his real father for Mr Ping is not a panda, but a goose) in their noodle restaurant, but dreams to become a great warrior and work together with the Furious Five. One day Master Oogway from the Jade Palace chooses Po to be the Dragon Warrior whose destiny is to defeat the evil Tai Lung; so Master Shifu (he reminds me of Yoda) has to work hard to train Po, who himself believes that Master Oogway has chosen the wrong person.

Unlike several DreamWorks Animation movies I have seen, far as I can remember there is no curse word in this. I find the story is a bit ridiculous, for how is it possible that a new student can beat the mighty Tai Lung, who has spectacularly escaped from the well guarded prison? The Valley of Peace is also a funny place, for most of its inhabitants are rabbits and pigs. In all, this is a very entertaining movie.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Le Cercle Rouge (1970)

Buddha once drew a circle with a red chalk and said that people who were meant to meet, would come together in the red circle. See the poster. I think the three men inside the circle are: Corey (Alain Delon), Vogel (Gian Maria Volontè), and Jansen (Yves Montand). The one outside perhaps Mattei (André Bourvil). Just out of prison, Corey meets Vogel, a fugitive who happens to hide inside his car trunk, and together they will plan a jewelry heist, with the help of an ex-police sharpshooter Jansen.

I can't decide which one I love the most: Le Samouraï, L'armee des ombres, or Le cercle rouge. Each movie is unique. There is more suspense in Le cercle rouge, though, in my opinion. From the beginning of the movie, we see how Vogel escapes from the custody of Commisaire Mattei, and then how a prison guard sneaks into Corey's cell to tell him about the jewels, the roadblock inspections, the murder in the woods, the heist, and finally the police's trap.

Compared to other Jean-Pierre Melville works I have seen (4 so far), this movie has more colours. The version I watch is the Criterion DVD (region 1). At first it was hard to decide which version to get, for according to DVD Beaver, the Criterion's colour is messed up, too yellow. I don't know if this is the cause which makes me feel the movie is more colourful. In the end, I decided to get the Criterion because the extras were very tempting. And I do enjoy them very much, especially the anecdotes and the interviews with Melville and the cast.

In a time like this, when No Country for Old Men becomes the Best Picture of the year, I hope we have more film-makers like Melville.

Paris brûle-t-il? (1966)

Directed by René Clément, this movie about the liberation of Paris from Nazi in August 1945 is full of famous actors at that time. This cannot be watched only once, that is if you are interested in the story, for its many details. In black and white, it seems like watching a documentary.

General Choltitz, the military governor of Paris, has been ordered by Hilter to destroy Paris. (Why? Choltitz says the Fuhrer is insane.) Based on a book by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, this movie tells about the Resistance activities and how Major Gallois's success to fetch the help from Free French Army of Liberation and the Allies.

The music by Maurice Jarre is patriotic and sounds happy. I don't understand though why in the scene where the German soldiers put the bombs in historical places the background music is also happy. The movie is funny at times, too. 1) When Major Gallois tries to reach the American soldiers across a field, a German soldier is heard pulling a trigger behind him. Gallois stops, but the German has decided not to shoot him; afraid it means telling the Americans the position of the Germans. I think it means the Germans know they have already lost the war. 2) An old lady watching soldiers firing arms while having her tea. For her, it's the same as watching a TV. There are harrowing moments as well, like the execution of 35 young FFI resistants, betrayed by Captain Serge.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

L'armée des ombres (1969)

L'armée des ombres (Army of Shadows) begins on 20 October 1942 when Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura), a high ranking specialist, is being transported to a Vichy camp. Later he is brought to the headquarters of Gestapo in Paris, but is able to run away. Gerbier belongs to the Resistance and in this movie we see a small group of them.

The director, Jean-Pierre Melville, made this movie based on Joseph Kessel book. Blue green colour dominates the film and like the title, the movie is gloomy with shadows. There are not many actions and the director avoided melodrama as much as possible. In the poster we see a man tied to a chair and we perhaps will think about tortures, but there is not physical torture like that and only see distorted faces as the result. One of the most powerful scenes must be the execution of traitor Paul Dounat. This young man waiting in agony while his would-be executors discussing what method should be used. He died with tears in his eyes and his executors have troubled expression.

The cast is solid, including Simone Signoret as Mathilde, the only female in the small group, but is very reliable. We can see how brave she is when she arranges to save Felix (Paul Crauchet) who has been caught by the Germans. However, when she becomes their weak link, the group must take a bitter step and eliminate her.

Jean-Pierre Cassel plays Jean François, who sacrifices himself by letting the Gestapo catches him so he can help in saving Felix. His sacrifice turns out to be useless. Worse, as he is caught under a false name, his friends - including his brother (Paul Meurisse) who is also in the Resistance but don't know he joins the group and vice versa - don't know what is happening to him.

The movie ends on 23 February 1943, when Mathilde is killed. Then we learn the tragic end of her 'killers'. The end credit song is very beautiful. Although slow, like most of Melville's works, the movie is rich with details, like the involvement of French police in the black market, how show business was in the war, and how far the Brits could help. The DVD contains very helpful commentary by historian Professor Ginette Vincendeau.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

La Poison (1951)

The movie begins with the director introducing the cast & crew. Interesting. Usually we only can read their names, especially those who work behind the camera; but in this movie we can see their faces.

Paul Braconnier (Michel Simon) can't live with his spouse any longer. He says she is not the same woman he married 30 years ago. The wife most likely feels the same because she buys rat poison from the local apothecary. Every night the couple have their dinner without conversation, only listen to the radio. One night, the radio broadcasts successful lawyer Aubanel's interview, to celebrate his 100th acquittal. Braconnier is inspired by the interview and goes to see the lawyer, telling him that he has killed his wife. In the meeting, the lawyer indirectly tells Braconnier what is best to do. Braconnier goes home, kills his wife with details discussed with Aubanel, and gives himself up to the police. The lawyer, like it or not, has to accept the case and tries to acquits Braconnier. The townspeople are happy with the incident because it attracts tourists.

In all, this is a very enjoyable movie. The trial scenes are hilarious, but not stupid. Braconnier, who defends himself, is funny but reasonable.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Old sketches 2

These sketches were parts of a story I did a long time ago. I sent it to 2 people and the feedback I got was not encouraging. Finding this old drawings rekindles nice memory, though.

Old sketches

While looking for my old journal, I found these old sketches in the chest. This drawing of a little boy climbing up a tree is one of my favourite. That time I was a fan of Yu Ashagiri. I used Aquarell on Concorde paper.

I love the flowers in this drawing below. The young woman's gown and hair are from the early 19th century in the UK. Acrylic paint on Concorde.

This must have been copied from somewhere. A card, I think. Aquarell on Concorde.

I was a fan of Tuxedo Kamen (from Sailor Moon). Thought he was gorgeous. Fictional character is always perfect. With ballpoint and pencil, on the front page of one of the journals.

This picture below can be used for Christmas card. From Joni Mitchell's River. Aquarell on Concorde.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kes (1969)

Like Song for a Raggy Boy, Angela's Ashes, War of The Buttons; Kes is a moving story, yet funny at times. Set in Yorkshire, it tells the story of Billy Casper (played wonderfully by David Bradley - not, not that David Bradley), who lives with his mother and an older brother, Jud. In the morning, Billy delivers newspapers and after that, goes to school. He is often bullied by other children. Billy's life is changed when he finds a young kestrel, whom he names Kes, steals a book from a second bookstore to learn more about falconry, and trains the hawk. This is a story about hope.

The teachers in Billy's school aren't always kind. There is a scene when Billy and his friends are caned on the hand for smoking, and there is this little boy who comes to bring a message for Mr. Gryce (who is beating them) from another teacher, but Mr. Gryce never gives him a chance to speak and also canes him. And there is the football scene, where the teacher who becomes one of the players, arrogantly wants his own team to win by any possible means, incl. dismissing the other team's captain for saying bad things about him.

The movie doesn't end happily. Jud sends Billy to put money on some horse, but Billy uses it to buy fish and chips. The horse wins. Jud has his revenge.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Silver Swan

The Silver Swan is a sequel to Christine Falls, both written by Booker Prize winner Benjamin Black. It's better to read the first part first. Set in 1950s Ireland, two years after the events in Christine Falls, our hero pathologist Garret Quirke receives a message from his old college friend, Billy Hunt, who asks him not to do a post mortem on the body of his late wife, Deirdre (a.k.a. Laura Swan), who has been found in Dublin Bay, presumably a suicide.

The author loves details: about Laura Swan's past, Quirke's relation with his estranged daughter Phoebe, and the people around them. It seems to me the novel is more a study on the issue of moral corruption than a whodunit. We only learn about the true killer in the last chapter. It's a story of blackmail which leads to double murder. I think the characters in The Silver Swan are not as many as in Christine Falls, but in both novels, sentences are wonderfully written. If you are looking for a fast paced novel, this is not for you; but if you are a language lover, you will love this book.

Timothy Dalton who reads the book has a crunchy voice. I couldn't finish one disc in one go for I usually fell asleep after 7-8 chapters (each disc is appr. of 20 chapters) and had to continue on the next day.

Prince Caspian (2008)

I was glad that this movie was still showing today. It's the 4th week and the theatre was full. I read the book several years ago and had forgotten the details. All I could remember was the Pevensies helped Prince Caspian, the exiled true heir, to get his throne back.

The beginning was scary. When I saw the baby birth scene, I thought they played the wrong movie, something about Crusades; but of course there was no movie about Crusades made recently. A son has been born for the evil King Miraz, so he orders that the true heir, Prince Caspian, his nephew, to be murdered. The prince flees to the woods and meets Narnians, who will help him to get his throne back, led by the Pevensies. It is only a year since the Pevensies left Narnia, but in Narnia hundreds of years have passed and now the country is occupied by the Telmarines and the Narnians are forced to live in the woods.

In the first of the series, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, it is Edmund who becomes the black sheep; in this sequel, it's Peter who has to learn. In London, Peter fights with some young boys because they force him to apologize for something he didn't do. Having been the high king, it isn't easy for Peter to be humble. When they go to Narnia, Peter's decision to attack the enemies in their den proves to be fatal; and it was a sad moment in the movie, when Peter sees his troop is being massacred, and he can't help them at all, even has to flee the scene.

The enemies' armours remind me of Spanish soldiers, of Don Quixote. I think in the new Indiana Jones movie, the Francisco de Orellana corpse, has a similar helmet. Must see both movies again when the DVDs are available. Lastri loved Reepicheep the best and she laughed every time this character appeared on screen. It was funny how they tie the cat up.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mary Queen of Scotland and The Isles

The life is Queen Mary of Scots (1542-1587) is interesting to read. She was perhaps the unluckiest queen ever. In this novel by Margaret George, Mary Stuart is described as a good natured person. After months finally I finished this book. What was so difficult was the numerous characters involved in this story, the writer mentioned in the afterword that there were at least 200 of them. So many the characters that I couldn't remember one lord from another.

Mary's father, King James V, died soon after Mary was born. When she was 6 days old, she became Queen of Scots. Her mother, Marie de Guise, seeing that it was not safe for her to stay, sent her to France where she grew up together with her betrothed, the Dauphin François. Mary was very happy in France and at 16 she became the Queen of France. Her happiness was cut short by the death of François and at 18 she became a widow. She returned to her homeland, Scotland, who had been turned into a Protestant country where she met John Knox, the priest who disliked her because she was a Catholic. Mary, however, let the Protestants to pray in their own way, as long as she could pray in hers as well. Mary married Henry, Lord Darnley, who later become a drunkard and because of his bad habit, suffered syphilis. From this marriage, born James, who later would reign over both Scotland and England, because Elizabeth Tudor died without having any child. Darnley was found murdered and people was suspicious Mary was involved in it. Soon after, Mary married the Earl of Bothwell. They only lived together for a month, for the lords, led by her step brother James, rebelled against her. Mary and Bothwell never saw each other again, for Bothwell ran away to Denmark and died horribly in a dungeon, chained like an animal for 5 years. Mary fled to England, where she thought her cousin Elizabeth would help her, but instead prisoned her for 19 years and finally had her beheaded. In the book, Mary didn't want the throne of England, but she wanted her freedom. She wanted either to go back to Scotland or to go to France, to her mother's homeland where she had a happy childhood. If she was involved in any plot to kill Elizabeth, it was because she was forced to, by her situation.