Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Max et les ferrailleurs (1970)

In this Claude Sautet movie, Michel Piccoli plays Max, an ex-judge who becomes a police, who wants to catch bad guys red handed. Desperate because he can't catch any bank robbers, Max makes a plan and plants the idea to rob a bank into the heads of a small group of petty thieves, using one of them's girlfriend, a prostitute named Lily (Romy Schneider), whom he befriends. Max tells Lily that he is a banker, makes her comfortable with his wealth, tells her the best day to rob a bank; and on the D-day the police has surrounded the bank, waiting for the robbers to arrive.

The plot is very interesting. François Périer plays the inspector who investigates the robbery. Deep in his heart he knows they are actually harmless for he knows the gang very well. However, there is one thing that wasn't in Max's plan. During his friendship with Lily, he becomes to like the girl and is shocked to find that Lily has also been arrested by the police because she is the brain behind the robbery. Without her, there would be no robbery. Of course Max is the brain behind Lily, but can he be arrested?

Les Félins (1964)

An American mafia group is looking for French playboy Marc (Alain Delon) for having seduced their boss's wife. They catch him in Paris, but as they don't kill him on the spot and want to torture him first, Marc escapes, finds a shelter in a church and is hired by a rich widow Barbara (Lola Albright), who lives in a big mansion in Côte d'Azur with her niece Melinda (Jane Fonda), to be her chauffeur. Soon Marc will find that he escapes the crocodile's mouth only to enter the lion's den.

This movie has easily become one of my favourites. After the first seeing, I felt like having watched a Hitchcock movie, but Hitchcock movies never made me giggle that much. The new region 1 DVD from Koch Lorber, released only this August, contains both English and France dubbing (with optional English subtitles). Delon's voice in the French dub is very heavy and deep, different from usual, but the same like in Diaboliquement vôtre. The French version is also longer about 2:15 minutes. The running time for the French version is 1:37:00 while the English is only 1:34:45. After watching both versions, I found that in the English version, the scene where Barbara interviews Marc for the job is cut off. The scene ends right after she asks him if he likes to travel. In the French version, the scene continues with Barbara mentions America, but of course Marc won't go there for his head is wanted by the mafia. Then Marc shows Barbara some card tricks, and goes on with a discussion on the salary and that he gets one day off per week. There is also a hint that the interview takes place on May 30th. One important point in this scene is that Barbara refuses to return his passport.

The dialogues in both versions are a bit different. Examples: (for the French part I write the English subs)

Barbara [English] I don't expect an English butler, but at least you could get out and open the door.
Barbara [French] I know that you don't have much class, but you could still get out and open the door.

Melinda [English] It's amazing how you drive!
Melinda [French] Your driving method is hilarious!

The DVD also has the French trailer, but in my opinion, if you have Delon, Fonda, René Clément, Pascal Jardin, and Henri Decae in one movie, a trailer is not needed to promote it. The soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin which is dominated by bass riff gives more life to this wonderful thriller.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Rose for Ana Maria

Written in 1974, compared to other works by Frank Yerby I have read, A Rose for Ana Maria is a short novel in span of about 1 week.

The main character is Diego Fernandez, a member of PCE. In one night, he plants bomb in 5 different embassies in Paris, 3 of them belonged to the Spanish government. His superior then sends him to Madrid to do another operation: to remove a minister dangerous to both PCE and ETA. He will be accompanied by Ana Maria, a daughter of an aristocrat. Prior to the operation, Diego's belief has been shaken. A Vice Consul for Spain in Paris has been kidnapped by his party and while guarding him, Diego had a long talk with the hostage and grown fond of him, but he later accidentally killed the man in his attempt to free him. On the way to Madrid, Diego falls in love with Ana Maria, but they know they cannot ran away from the task. Meanwhile, the woman planted in their next victim's office, has talked about the mission. In short: the Madrid job is a suicide for both Diego and Ana Maria. In the end, when trying to minimize number of victims in their Madrid job, Ana Maria blows up her own cover.

This book is not an easy read. The characters talk a lot about the political situation in Spain in 1974. Often sentences in French and Spanish are used, although the characters thankfully repeat them in English.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lost Command (1966)

At first I wasn't sure I would be able to enjoy this war movie, but Lost Command turned to be something worth watching. It is not just a movie about fights.

The main character is Lt. Colonel Raspeguy (Anthony Quinn). The movie starts with the final battle in Dien Bien Phu where the French are defeated and taken to a camp. After the armistice, they are released and returned to their country. The regiment is disbanded, for Raspeguy doesn't go well with his superior officer, although his men has much respect on him. Captain Esclavier (Alain Delon) persuades Raspeguy to talk to the widow of de Clairefons who died in Dien Bien Phu because she knows important men in military. Raspeguy then is given the command of 10th Parachute Regiment in Algeria, but his men will be of rejects from other units and volunteers. He asks his friends from Dien Bien Phu camp to join and they agrees. Their assignment is to fight the terrorist in Gafez, as asked by the local major.

That time Algeria is fighting for their freedom. They can get shot even by writing the word 'Independence' on the wall. Their leader is Mahidi (George Segal), one of Raspeguy's men back in Indochina. Living together in the camp has made them close to each other. Do they have the heart to kill Mahidi? If they do, do it make them some kind of animal? At one point, one of Mahidi's people murders 3 of the 10th regiment, and as a revenge, Boisfeuras (Maurice Ronet) and his men slaughter the men in Rahlem village. These people should be punished, but civilian (represented by Esclavier) and military have different views and the event will be hushed if Raspeguy can finish one more task: preventing arms distributed to the rebels, which culminates in a violent battle.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

After The Storm

My aunt bought this book for me, said that there had been a big discount in Kinokuniya. The story was simple and I only needed 2 days to finish this.

Set in Dover Mountain, North Georgia. Jared, an entrepreneur who just lost his girlfriend and his job, arrives in the middle of a storm helps Alisha to deliver her baby. He becomes their protector since. There is a mystery surrounds Alisha, but the people in the mountain protect her and her secret, except one, who wants to gain benefit from her dark past. As a new stranger, Jared quickly becomes the suspect, especially when the constable is one of the men who want Alisha and sees Jared as a worthy rival.

The book was a light reading and for me, Alisha worried too much, for she wasn't as guilty as she thought. Her sin wasn't her fault and the law had acquitted her, so why couldn't she forgive herself? Published by Steeple Hill, this is a Christian book, so the characters are religious.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Treasury of Aesop's Fables

I have had a book of Aesop's Fables already, but the illustrations are few (and not in colour), and the bad quality of the paper makes me reluctant to read it. The cheap price was the reason why I bought the book.

A few weeks ago, I saw this nice copy in a bookshop. It was sealed, so I couldn't look inside. I loved the cover, though, so I bought this Treasury of Aesop's Fables. When I opened the seal at home, I was a bit disappointed because the illustrations by Val Biro were not as wonderful as I had expected. It was the style of the drawing which I wasn't fond of.

Last week I brought this when I went to visit my 5 1/2 year-old niece. The stories were in English, but every page was illustrated in colour, made it easy for me to tell the stories to her without reading them - only by following the illustrations. Then I was glad I bought the book. There are 16 stories in this.

The picture above are from 'The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs'. There are total 8 illustrations in this story only.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Saracen Blade

This book by Frank Yerby was published in 1952. The hero in the story is Pietro di Donati, a Sicilian, son of a blacksmith. Born in 1194 in Iesi, on the same day with Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, they later become good friends. Raised by a wealthy Jew in Palermo, clever Pietro learns many things: Latin, Greek, Arabic, algebra, logic, and rhetoric. Later, the Jew and Pietro's father are executed by the devilish Count Alessandro of Siniscola and Pietro himself must serve Baron Rogliano's family where he meets and falls in love with Iolanthe, the daughter of his master. Iolanthe has to marry someone else, who is rich and noble of course, and not Pietro the serf. Pietro then meets a knight from France, Gautier of Montrose, and with him Pietro starts his journey to Italy, France, Germany, the Holy Land, and Egypt.

The story is very rich and Frederick II appears now and then. Yerby includes interesting notes to explain the history background. If you are interested about the life of European knights in the 13th century, this book is for you. About Pietro's love story, after separated from Iolanthe, he married Gauthier's sister, Antoinette, to save her honour, but she fails to learn to love him, and set him free. He later marries again to Lady Elaine, Count Siniscola's niece, whom he has admired for a long time. This marriage also doesn't goes well, because proud Elaine hardly accepts Pietro, who is by now rich and has been knighted twice, as her equal and only agrees to take his hand because Emperor Frederick demands it. They never have any child. In this turmoil, Pietro leaves to the Holy Land to take part in the Crusades, is captured, becomes a slave, and only after eight years can see his wife again, and it's too late to save the marriage by then. All that time, Iolanthe and her husband only live 20 miles away and all the time she has been waiting for Pietro.

"The time will come when men will know that goodness of heart and greatness of soul are the only true tests of nobility - not the wild accident of birth." - Pietro di Donati to Lady Elaine.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


There are 5 movies in the Angélique saga:
1. Angélique, marquise des anges (1964)
2. Merveilleuse Angélique (1965)
3. Angélique et le roy (1966)
4. Indomptable Angélique (1967)
5. Angélique et le sultan (1968)

which all were directed by Bernard Borderie. I haven't read the books, but I enjoyed watching the 5 movies. I like the first movie the most, in which we are introduced to the heroine. Angélique Sancé de Monteloup is told that her future husband, Joffrey de Peyrac, is old and hideous (but very rich, of course). On the wedding day, she finds that Joffrey is actually not that old, but his face is scarred and he has a limp. Gradually she learns to love him because he does not only can produce pure gold, but is also very kind. People who work for him will not hesitate to die for him, if needed. Their happiness is shattered when a monk accuses Joffrey of practising witchcraft, and King Louis XIV himself is jealous of Joffrey's wealth.

The saga starts with Angélique as a teenager with her playmate Nicholas, who later will help her after Joffrey's death at the stake, and goes on with her success as a business woman and a diplomat. Although she marries again to her cousin Le marquis de Plessis-Bellières, Angélique's great love is still Joffrey. Being the most beautiful woman in France does not always bring happiness, for she suffers several rapes, almost becomes a victim due to female jealousy, and at last she is sold and kidnapped for Sultan Moulay-El-Raschid. The last ending is not very satisfying to me; I hoped she was rescued by The Rescator and not the sultan's guards. In all, this series is a enjoyable adventure.

The theme song is beautifully nice and Robert Hossein, who plays Joffrey, has a melancholic look. The cast is perfect. One memorable scene: Angélique, Joffrey, and the statue.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monsieur Joseph

This was on TV last night. The first part was not very interesting, but I waited until 1 hour before changing the channel, and after one hour, I wanted to know what had happened to Tina, so I kept watching until the end. Daniel Prévost plays Youssef Hamoudi a.k.a. Monsieur Joseph, a private librarian. Joseph came from Algiers years ago and only after a long time the people there can receive him as one of them. He marries a young woman half his age, Tina, whose mother and brother live nearby. One day, Tina is missing and Joseph tells everyone that Tina has gone to Valenciennes to stay with her friend. However, when checked, Tina is not there and her mother reports Joseph to the police, accusing him of murdering her daughter.

This is a moving story about racist and lies. Suddenly, Joseph feels he has become a stranger to his friends and neighbours. He can't drink coffee in the morning with them and one of them refuses to serve him in restaurant. A girl who uses to borrow his books has been told by her parents to return the one he just gave her, without reading it. His brother-in-law threatens him and his mother-in-law spreads the lies about him. They are bitter because they won't get any of Joseph's money when he dies. To make it worse, a few years ago a body of a young girl was found near the canal, and now they say the killer was Joseph and that he is also the murderer of Tina. Only the inspector who does the investigation has a sympathy for him. Finally, a woman who works in an inn tells Joseph that she has seen Tina leaving the town with a young manager. Although married, Joseph allows Tina to do as she pleases and she often spends nights with another (young) man. The police tells Joseph he is not guilty and free to go, but is he really free? He has lost his friends. I think one question is not answered clearly, two of Joseph's expensive books have been stolen, and who is the thief? Since only Tina and Joseph knows the combination, it must be Tina.

Monday, August 11, 2008

La race des seigneurs (1974)

Alain Delon as a politician is not bad; with his elegance, he convincingly looks the part. Julien Dandieu (Delon), an ambitious politician from PRU, wants to be the Minister of Social Affairs. In the past, Dandieu was in the opposition, so many see him like a traitor because he is about the join the government. Between his busy schedule, he falls in love with a young model, Creezy (Sydne Rome). Although he doesn't goes well with her friends, he keeps seeing her. Meanwhile, his friends warn him that if he wins the position, he has to give Creezy up.

Even though Dandieu doesn't even have time for his wife, who is hospitalized after a mental breakdown, his son, and his mother (or he simply doesn't want to see them. If I don't want to meet someone I also can invent a thousand reasons); he tries to be with Creezy every time he can. She wants to see him more often and when he cancels their dates again and again, she runs out of patience and says it's over. Throughout the movie we see how he tries to contact her desperately. Dandieu finally realizes that he really loves her and doesn't want to lose her. Creezy agrees to give him one last chance, but suddenly he has to face a very difficult choice: to keep his promise to Creezy or to meet the Prime Minister who will give him his new post. Cannot she give him 30 minutes more?

The movie is not bad, but I like better Pierre Granier-Deferre's other work La Veuve Couderc. It's the editing, the flashbacks, which make me rather confused. The jazzy soundtrack is done by Philippe Sarde whose works in La Veuve Couderc and Deux hommes dans la ville I love so much.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

I haven't read the books this movie is based on, but the movie was something I enjoyed very much. Malory, Jared, and Simon has just moved with their mother to a big old house. The previous owner of that house is their great-aunt Lucinda, who is sent to mental hospital for believing her father, Arthur Spiderwick, was abducted by fairies 80 years ago. Jared found Spiderwick's field guide: a book contains the secrets of fairies, which is desperately wanted by Mulgarath, an ogre. Jared and his siblings must prevent the ogre in possessing the book, for if Mulgarath succeeds, with the power he will possess, he can kill anyone he likes, including humans.

After reading the end credits, I realized both Simon and Jared were played by the same actor, Freddie Highmore. That boy is one of the most talented young actors I've ever seen on screen. The whole cast is superb, with wonderful production design. The special effects are also great. I only don't like the parts when the family drama is on, like: why Jared's father doesn't keep his promise to come? Why he doesn't dare to tell him the truth? 'The last thing I said to my mum was I hate you',...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Le chemin des écoliers (1959)

Directed by Michel Boisrond, this movie stars new talented French actors at that time: Lino Ventura, Alain Delon, and Jean-Claude Brialy. Set in Paris 1943, André Bourvil plays Charles Michaud, father of Antoine (Delon), a 17 year-old-student who involves in black market to maintain his mistress Yvette (Françoise Arnoul). He and his friend Paul Tiercelin (Brialy) prepare for the big operation to smuggle champagne which will profit them 200,000 francs each. Antoine must keep his activity from his honest father (Michaud doesn't agree with black market, depicted in the scene where he grunts over chocolate and butter which his son has brought home), while Paul's father (Ventura), a restaurant owner, is one of their clients. All goes well until Michaud receives his son's rapport card and the bad marks make him suspect his son having a mistress. He goes to Tiercelin's restaurant to inquiry, but Tiercelin sends a prostitute to Michaud to occupy his mind.

Prior to the champagne operation, Antoine wants to spend the Easter holiday with Yvette, so he tells his parents that he will go with Paul in his family house in Burgogne. Michaud gives his son 1,000 francs pocket money without knowing that Antoine is much richer than himself, but his son accepts it to avoid suspicion. However, Antoine's little sister Pierrette sees him riding his bike in Paris, so she cries when they receive a letter from Antoine from the country, knowing that he lies to them. The letter is a bit funny, telling how he saves his spot for others, the big, nice country dog etc. As if the letter alibi is not enough, Antoine and his friends send their friend Lulu, dressed as a German officer to the Michauds', to tell them stories that their son is busy involving in something dangerous, and now he is wanted by the Gestapo. Fortunately it also explains Antoine's bad rapport, that he has no time to study. However, Michaud can't let his son in danger without warning him and he goes back to Tiercelin's restaurant, trying to reach Paul via his father, and finds his son and the group are about to celebrate the success of the champagne deal. I wonder what happened to the 400,000 francs. Michaud has it wrapped in the table cloth and brings it with him when he goes into the shelter, but when he goes out with his son answering the soldier's cry for help, he doesn't hold it anymore.

The theme song by Paul Misraki is lovely. Love the scene where Antoine rides his bike, whistling the tune. Hope this movie will be available on DVD, so that I can watch it again whenever I want.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon Empreror (2008)

We both wanted to watch the Dark Night at first, but while queuing for tickets, we realized we were late and to watch the next show was out of the question. The Mummy looked interesting, so we chose it. We both were a bit disappointed that Rachel Weisz had been replaced, but after a while we got used to Maria Bello. The story was about a cruel emperor (Jet Li) who wanted to live forever. [He reminds me of Ming The Merciless from Flash Gordon.] The Emperor asked General Ming (Russell Wong) to find the oracle, Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh); but knowing the emperor couldn't be trusted, Zi Juan cursed him and his army instead. 2000 years later, Alex O'Connell found the terracotta army buried in the sand, and as usual, Rick and his family must prevent the evil emperor to live again and save the world.

Apart from the fantastic special effect, the story can be predicted. The Yetis were interesting, although quite scary. (We compared them to the Yeti in 'Tintin in Tibet'.) The jokes were not funny and I only laughed 3 - 4 times, I think. Also think it was ridiculous that the emperor could change shapes into 3-headed dragon (but of course, since the beginning he was able to throw balls of fire) or other wild giant animals, for as powerful as he was, he only swam into the Sangri-la spring, like Zi Juan and her daughter.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pilgrim's Progress

When I was little, a movie was played in our church. Usually the movies were about the life of Jesus, but this movie was different. Not much I can remember now except in it there was a man with a burden on his back which he carried anywhere until he met a cross and laid down his sack at its foot. I also remember a scary person, supposed to be the devil, I think, who wore colourful clothes and had long nails. That devil gave me nightmares then. I saw this movie 2 or 3 times for I also went when another nearby church (the priest's daughters were my playmates) showed this. Later when I was in high school, I saw the story available in comic version. I didn't buy it then. Apart from the comic book, it was difficult to find the book in Indonesia, which I found rather unbelievable, for I read somewhere that the story was famous and the book was the most best selling book for Christians after The Bible.

I wanted a version for children which I thought would be easier to read, and with illustrations here and there the book should be more interesting. After comparing several versions, I decided to take this Gary Schmidt version. I am pleased with the presentation and lovely water colour illustration by Barry Moser. In fact, it is better (and bigger) than I expected.

The story itself tells the journey of Christian from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Many problems occur during the dangerous journey for he has to go through the Delectable Mountains, the Valley of The Shadow of Death, the Doubting Castle, Vanity Fair, the Valley of Humiliation... ; and meet those who will try to make him leave his path: Obstinate, Pliable, Giant Despair, Pagan, Atheist, Envy, Hate-Good, Deceiver, Hypocrisy, Apollyon, ... but he is not alone in his pilgrimage, has Faithful and Hopeful at his side, and gets help from Goodwill, Discretion, Prudence, Watchful, Sincere, Knowledge,... . This work of John Bunyan should be read by all Christians, whatever version it is.


The Sissi trilogy is one (or three) of the sweetest movies I have ever seen. Romy Schneider played the title role, and didn't she look really like a princess?

1. Sissi (1955). From all 3, this is the one I love best. Princess Elizabeth (nicknamed Sissi) from Bavaria comes with her mother and sister Helene to Vienna. Emperor Franz Josef is supposed to marry Helene, but he meets Sissi first and they both fall in love. I found some parts were very touching, that Sissi would not marry the man she loved for the sake of her sister's happiness. The scene with the telegraph operator and Major Böckl is very funny.

2. Sissi - The Young Empress (1956). In this part, Sissi has married Franz Josef and becomes the Empress of Austria. Her relationship with her mother-in-law is not smooth and she flees from the palace in her chagrin when her mother-in-law decides Sissi cannot bring up her own daughter herself.

3. Sissi - The Fateful Years of An Empress (1957). I like this 3rd part better than the 2nd. I like how Sissi wins the heart of Hungarians and Italians. It was very funny what happened to the Milanese aristocrats.

The sceneries are really beautiful, remind me of The Sound of Music. I wonder if all those trees are still there, if the lakes and mountains are still that lovely. Costumes and set are also wonderful.

The DVD set includes Forever My Love, an edited Sissi Trilogy dubbed in English, which sadly has not been properly restored. The colour is pale and the picture is not as sharp as the German version. I assume this disc is a bonus, so I should not complain about it. Furthermore, I do not need this English version when I can watch the original. However, what a pity that the 5th disc is also not restored. It's Victoria in Dover (Mädchenjahre einer Königin - 1954), another work of director Marischka prior to Sissi. Romy Schneider plays Victoria, who becomes the Queen of England in such a young age after the death of King William IV. Madga Schneider was more appropriate to be cast as her mother for the resemblance between them was obvious, but perhaps the director wanted a bigger part for her. It's deplorable that movies like these are not made these days. Don't we believe anymore that falling in love is possible in innocent ways?