Thursday, December 17, 2009

L'oncle de Russie (2006)

This is certainly one of the moving films I have seen. The story seems so real that I wonder if this is based on true story. Francis Girod, director & writer, cast Claude Brasseur to play Gaston.

After 50 years declared missing, 70-year-old Gaston Boissac returns to the small town of Soulières. In the 2nd World War, he was captured by the Germans and sent to Stalag. When the war ended, the Russians liberated him. However, instead of sending him home, he was sent to a labour camp to help building the country of Russia. He was declared missing and refused contact to Western countries. Illiterate he was, Gaston had his Russian wife's friend to help him write letters and send them to France. After 10 years without reply, Gaston gave up.

In 1989, when Gorbachev came to power, President François Mitterrand went to Russia, along with French TV journalists. It was then they heard that case of Gaston Boissac. Gaston returns to his hometown, along with a TV journalist and a Russian interpreter because he cannot speak French anymore. The café owner tells the journalist the rumour about the undelivered letters, that the letters from Gaston did arrive, but his brother and the mayor profited from Gaston's "death", so they pretended never to receive the letters.

I find it so sad that because of greed Gaston must suffer so long. Those suffering years can never be reimbursed. Claude Brasseur plays Gaston to perfection. In the beginning, he looks happy to be home. As time passes, he learns the betrayal that made him lost his inheritance and the woman he loves. He plans to sue his brother. His brother, however, has a shocking news to him. The movie ends with the news of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Les soeurs Brontë (1979)

This was on TV last night. I was surprised at first that a movie about the
Brontë sisters was made by the French people. The most striking thing of this movie is its visual beauty.

It starts when the Brontë family are adolescent. I didn't even know that they had a brother, Branwell, a painter and poet. However, Charlotte's talent in poetry is more wanted than his. The family are poor, so Anne and Branwell work in the family Robinson as a governess and a tutor. Here Branwell has a passionately love affair with Mrs Robinson and when she breaks it off, he runs to opium and sleeps all day. He is the first to die.

Emily is a tomboy, wear pants when she is walking on the heath. She is very much like Catherine Earnshaw. There is a beautiful scene when she explains to her sister that she dislikes wild rose (=love) and prefers holly (=friendship). Anne is the kindest and most sensitive of them all. She reminds me of Beth from Little Women, or - of course - Helen Huntingdon. Charlotte is the eldest and their leader. She persuades their aunt to send her and Emily to Brussels to study. In this foreign land, she has a unique relationship with her professor.

It's not clear what illness Emily and Anne suffer. Emily passes away first, followed by Anne. It's also not clear what makes the 3 sisters write novels. There is a scene where Charlotte finds Emily's poetry by accident and starts an argument when she wants to publish it - because Emily disagrees.

Female writers are not very common at that time, shown in the scene where Charlotte and Anne come to see their publisher (Emily chooses to stay at home) and receive a cold reception, until they tell him that he has invited them and that they are Currer Bell and Acton Bell, the names they use. Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey, and Wuthering Heights have become popular in England and America. The movie ends with Charlotte, married now, gets her place in high society. Her simple dress looks out of place among the high society, but Charlotte doesn't want to be another person than she is.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Un crime (1993)

I heard that this movie was a disaster when it came out, but after watching, I must say that I like it. Most of the movie took place in the same apartment, with 2 actors only. It reminds me of one of the movies I like: Sleuth, with Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier.

Un crime is based on Gilles Perrault's book called Le dérapage, but director Jacques Deray made a very loose interpretation that it was said the author couldn't recognize it anymore. The story is as follows: The trial of young Frédéric Chapelin-Tourvel (Manuel Blanc), which has been going on for months, interests all people in Lyon. He is accused of double murder: killing his mother and father. His brilliant lawyer, Charles Dunand (Alain Delon), finally can convince the jury that the accused is not guilty. What is supposed to be a great victory to Dunand turns into a nightmare when Frédéric tells him that he is indeed the killer. Is Frédéric serious? They make a rendez-vous in the crime scene, where Frédéric tells Dunand what really happened in the night of the murder.

Although the cast is minimum, the movie is very gripping. Another interesting character is the concierge, whom Frédéric treats badly. It makes sense then when he testifies in the court against Frédéric; it can be said that he tries to get revenge. All through the night, Frédéric keeps changing his story to Dunand. First he says he is the killer, and next, her mother's lover is the killer. Dunand shows him holes in both stories and when he feels he has had enough and left the young man, Frédéric bumps himself into a running car to get his attention and to get the lawyer back into the apartment. The next scene shows Frédéric has a bath. I wonder if the nudity is necessary and I think it means he is now ready to bare it all. Dunand then learns that the root of the problem has started years ago, when Frédéric was 12, and for the first time, the young man is ready to open his heart to his lawyer, who after months of trial has become some kind of father to him.

Dunand knows the truth in the end, but of course he is not happy. Justice doesn't exist, he says. "It's enough to rub shoulders with the justice to know it doesn't exist." For men, maybe. Only God is just. What is just for one person is not always just for another. Justice is not exact, it's often like shadow. For Frédéric's father, justice is perhaps done, but what about Mr & Mrs Chapelin-Tourvel? Le monsieur, didn't he take care of Frédéric? Fed him and schooled him?

Manuel Blanc's Frédéric is full of anger and bitterness that I don't have sympathy for him. From the first he tells Dunand that he wishes to save the family's reputation. I myself would prefer he is not that angry and shows innocent on his face (it would be easier for his lawyer and jury to decide, right?) - like young Alain Delon's Tom Ripley. What did his mother's lover mean to him, anyway? He hardly recognized that man.

The movie features beautiful buildings in the city of Lyon, which are well photographed. In short, this movie is not to be missed.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Le toubib (1979)

It's hard to believe that this movie was handled by Pierre Granier-Deferre, who also directed the wonderful La veuve Coudrec and Le train. Alain Delon said that he bought Harmonie Ou Les Horreurs De La Guerre by Jean Freustié because he liked the novel, so I believe that they at least had started well. It must be the transfer to the screen which went wrong. Btw, Bernard Giraudeau who plays François, got the César nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

The story is set in June 1983. Famous surgeon Jean-Marie Desprée (Alain Delon) was left by his wife 1 month ago and now he works in a modern movable hospital, where the 3rd world war is taking place. He is a lonely man who opens his heart only to his sister Marcia and his dog Marius. A new nurse, Harmonie, arrives to join the team and Desprée is struck by her idealism, which gives him back something he thought has lost: hope. He tries to humiliate her at first and makes her leave, but these efforts only bring him to learn to love her. The ending, however, is a sad one.

I read that this is an anti-war movie, made to show the horror of war. If that is the intention, then the most successful scene must be the necropolis (=burial site) where Desprée and Harmonie find decayed bodies of the soldiers, most of them half buried. In contrast with this horror, the hospital is situated in a beautiful place, where there are swans on the lake nearby.

What really doesn't work for me here is the love story between Desprée and Harmonie, which I think needs more screen-time. I just don't believe that this young woman can make him change his mind. Like in the case with La race des seigneurs (also by Pierre Granier-Deferre), it seems a few scenes are missing.

Le battant (1983)

Le battant (=The Fighter) is the 2nd movie officially directed by Alain Delon. I must say that I like Pour la peau d'un flic better. This first work is more energetic and more humourous: the ending especially. Le battant is sombre with slower pace, and the main character's face is pale, perhaps after 8 years in prison.

Based on André Caroff's novel, the plot is actually good with many twists. Delon plays Jacques Darnay, a criminal wanted by the police and his old pals, because they think he has hidden a little bag of diamonds worth 6 millions. In 1974 a robbery took place in a jewelry store and the owner was murdered. Darnay was arrested because his alibi was weak and sent to jail because his lawyer was mediocre. However, was Darnay really involved in the robbery and was it him who killed the owner? After 8 years, Darnay gets out of jail, but it seems he is safer inside. The world has changed and he doesn't know who are his enemies. They kill his best friend Mignot and his mistress to show him that they are serious. Things turn better for Darnay when Gino Ruggieri, one of his old friends, sends his own mistress, Nathalie, to get the truth out of him. We can see how a woman can do when she is not treated right.

Although dedicated to René Clément, le battant pays homage to Jean-Pierre Melville. In the scene where Darnay goes to Mignot (Michel Beaune)'s hiding place, the room reminds us to Jef Costello's in Le samouraï. The refrigerator is placed outside the door. As if afraid we will miss this, there is a close up of the birdcage, completed with the music by Francois De Roubaix. To top this, François Périer is cast as Gino Ruggieri.

Like in Pour la peau d'un flic, the theme song is used again and again. I can understand why one of the guys who are following Darnay swears when he hears Oscar Benton's Bensonhurst blues and changes radio station immediately.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

État de manque (2008)

This was on TV last night and I found it quite entertaining. Safia, Elsa, and Amandine work for an insurance company in La Défense. They think they have a grave problem each: Safia cannot reach orgasm and wants to stop drinking, Elsa stop smoking, and Amandine thinks she is too fat. These three finally conclude that Aurélien Rinauro, their co-worker, is the source of their problems. This guy once had a brief affair with each of them and they cannot get over it. Furthermore, every day they see him courting the attractive Kim. They plan to pay revenge on him.

Safia crashes his car, Elsa insults his manlihood on lifts' wall, and Amandine sabotages his mobile's answering message. They also put drugs in his mineral water than he falls asleep during an important meeting, and then find him an assistant who looks like a tart, so that no woman will go near him anymore. This last idea turns out to be a boomerang. Like in Francis Veber's Le dîner de cons, they each nominate a tart and after inviting the 3 poor souls to a dinner, they will choose the best. Their choice falls into Allison.

At first Allison looks as dumb as can be. Her spelling is horrible and she cannot do right a simple task. However, Allison is a hard worker, and after Amandine's boy tells her the truth "You're my mom's tart", she proves to Rinauro that she is the best assistant he's ever had and pays revenge to Safia, Elsa, and Amandine.

The first half of the movie is very good and I was a bit disappointed when Rinauro won in the end. I wanted Safia, Elsa, and Amandine to win. Perhaps the director chose to let morality win. The three went too far when they sacrifice Allison because of her appearance. I also think it's rather impossible that Allison changes that fast, or perhaps she had no experience as a secretary before? But she had been working for months (8 months?) in the insurance company before being promoted as Rinauro's assistant. She couldn't even type address on the right place. I'm glad Allison has a happy-ending, though.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Borsalino (1970)

After the success of La Piscine, actor Alain Delon worked again with director Jacques Deray. This time Delon, who also co-produced, asked Jean-Paul Belmondo to join the project. In 1969, Delon and Belmondo were at the peak of their career. They worked together in 1957 when they started as actors in Sois belle et tais-toi and in 1966 in René Clément's Is Paris Burning?, but Borsalino was the first where both had lots of screen time.

Marseille 1930. Roch Siffredi (Delon) is out of prison and looking for his girlfriend Lola. She is now with François Capella (Belmondo). The fight between Siffredi and Capella ends with a friendship. These two starts with a little job and later do bigger and more important jobs, until when they defeat Poli and Marello who rule the town. They become the true leaders of Marseille, but Capella realizes that the time will come when he and his friend will kill each other, therefore he decides to leave France. However, like his motto "La chance, ça n'existe pas", Capella never has that chance.

Based on Eugène Saccomano's book, Bandits à Marseille, Jacques Deray did a wonderful job in re-creating the atmosphere of Marseille in 1930. The sets (I'm particularly amused with the train and the death scene of Nono - where there are lots of 1930's cars in the background. They must have blocked the whole area.) and the costumes are superb. We also must not forget the catchy soundtrack by Claude Bolling. The title Borsalino itself is taken from the brand of the fedora worn by actors in the movie. The plot is also not bad. We witness the 2 petty bandits who climb their status, first only hired to steal a race-horse until becoming the most powerful men in Marseille. The scene in the fish market reminds me of Ordralfabétix from Astérix and how a line like "Your fish is not fresh anymore" can cause mass fight. The ending is also perfect, both main characters are gone forever.

Forty years after the movie was made, finally the DVD is available. Interesting when I think about it: Forty years after, a movie was made. Now, for us the new generation, the DVD is available, again after 40 years. The DVD is full of extras: documentaries and interviews about the genesis of Borsalino, the filming, the premiere, and the success. I love watching Claude Bolling plays the theme song. There is also a 19' interview with Alain Delon, which is rare - because I have many of his movies on DVDs and if there is any interview, it is short. I usually search on YouTube -, where he shows us how to wear the hat and my most favourite part: when he mentions the other Roch Siffredi, that actor.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thérèse Raquin

Thérèse Raquin is the first book of Émile Zola I have ever read. Bored with contemporary novels (some of them are very good, but I find that I've wasted money on most) and after concluding that perhaps Alexandre Dumas is my most favourite author, I want to try another Frenchman's works. My choice fell into Thérèse Raquin, because it was translated by Robin Buss, who also worked on The Count of Monte Cristo and The Black Tulip, which I find readable.

Émile Zola's are like Thomas Hardy's works: always gloomy. First published in 1867, Thérèse Raquin has 4 main characters: 1) Madame Raquin, a haberdasher, 2) his son Camille, 3) her orphaned niece Thérèse, whose mother was Algerian, and 4) Laurent, Camille's friend. Thérèse marries Camille, but is unhappy with her life. She has an affair with Laurent and both make a plan to murder Camille so they can marry. The murder is done and none suspects them, but haunted by nightmares and guilty feeling, the new couple is doomed forever.

Émile Zola spent lots of time here to study the temperament, especially after Camille's murder. Laurent and Thérèse's hope to be happy after removing Camille turns out to be impossible. What they plan for the future cannot be realized. The guilty feeling has killed their passion and they begin to blame each other. Husband and wife are killing each other, that reminds me of an amusing movie called La poison by Sacha Guitry. The Thursday evening gathering is perhaps like what René Clément realised in Gervaise.

The ending is not a happy one, but the book is readable. I look forward to read more works of
Émile Zola.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Up (2009)

I think Up is the best movie made this year. Who wouldn't like to watch how a childhood's dream comes true? The story begins with little Carl and Ellie who idolize Charles Muntz, the adventurer who lost his reputation in the society after being accused of faking archaeological discovery. Muntz swears that he will not come back unless he has a living proof. Years gone by, Carl and Ellie live happily, until comes the time when Ellie passes away and their little home is threatened by tall buildings around. By tying thousands of balloons to his house, Carl is off to South America to realize Ellie's dream: placing the house near the top of Paradise Falls. What Carl doesn't know is that a young boy is hiding in his porch when he takes off.

I love the pink colour on Russell's cheeks. It's very cute. And Dug's expression when Carl scolds him, "Bad dog! Bad dog!" He is so ashamed, although at that time he wears no cone of shame. Oh, who doesn't want to own a talking dog? Some of them even can cook and choose a good wine. Too bad Muntz is the bad guy in a Disney production and we know his fate in the end. He probably will be more famous in selling talking dogs than bringing Kevin to America. As for getting back his honour, well, in this era of GPS etc, he can make a video of the bird in her habitat and let an expert examine the movie if they don't believe him.

What I always like about Disney's productions, is that they have better language, and not as vulgar as those made by other companies. A few days ago I watched a couple old episodes of Donald Duck and saw two hens in two different episodes and noticed the funny sound like a hen's sound. Nowadays it is rare and that actors who lend their voices to animals speak like normal human.

Up also contains a moral lesson (at least): to realize a childhood's dream can make one happy, but there is one more important thing and that is to help others in need.

Public Enemies (2009)

What made me want to watch Public Enemies in the first place was its poster. Johnny Depp was dressed like Jef Costello in Le samouraï. I always like how Jean-Pierre Melville dressed his characters, and in Public Enemies, John Dillinger (Depp) has a good taste in clothes. There is a scene in this movie where Dillinger caresses the tip of his fedora, just like Jef's specific gesture.

After a hard childhood, young Dillinger is sent to jail for a petty robbery. There he meets criminals who teach him how to rob banks. He becomes America's Public Enemy #1 and is wanted most by J. Edgar Hoover. The movie is filled with bank robbery scenes and cat-mouse games. The team who is after Dillinger is led by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), who is famous after killing Pretty Boy Floyd. My favourite in the team is experienced Agent Winstead, played by Stephen Lang, who gives Purvis useful advices. The chase only succeeds after Dillinger has been betrayed.

Marion Cotillard plays Billie, Dillinger's girlfriend. She is so beautiful here, very different from when she was playing Edith Piaf. There is a scene where she is being tortured by one of the Feds, which makes me wonder, is or was this the American way to carry out justice or am I watching a WW2 movie in a Nazi HQ scene.

Could it be that a public enemy more loved by the people? When Dillinger is transferred to Indiana, he is greeted like a great celebrity. Reporters and people wait for him and they are dying to know about his childhood, for instance. Dillinger is also arrogant, doesn't hesitate to challenge the police, and in this case: Federal agents. He promises his girl he will fetch her, even though he knows her phone has been tapped and she is under 24-h watch. He even walks into the Chicago Police HQ in a plain day, does a tour and asks for the game's score. His death scene is a mess and his beautiful face is ruined. Of course in today's movies blood is neccessary to satisfy the audience, but I prefer how Jean-Pierre Melville 'killed' his heroes.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Like other Yerby's works, Devilseed is fast paced and rich in details. Set in San Francisco in the 1850, we follow the life of Mireille Duclos, a highborn French Creole. The story starts with her life as a prostitute, and moves on with how she builds a better future, until becomes the richest woman, with a husband whom she loves and loves her. Her past, like always, won't let her go. Although her husband knows about her dark past, she never tell her children and this gap is used by her enemy to ruin her. It ends with a happy ending, though. "As in the fairy tales."

The most interesting part for me is when Stanford MacFarland meets the Chinese girl. Yerby wrote about a reassembled house from her native land: "Like any dutiful Chinese maiden, she had seldom ventured out of the nameless alley in Chinatown, [...] on which she lived with her now departed grandfather Li Huan Chin, in a rather pretty little house that had been brought from China in numbered pieces and reassembled in San Francisco." I've never heard this tradition before. There is a funny part when a Cantonese spelled Stanford's name as "Stone Ford Kwack Far Land", which is "barbarous" according to those who have heard it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Borsalino and Co. (1974)

Set in Marseilles in the mid 1930, Borsalino and Co. is the sequel to the successful Borsalino. I haven't seen the first, but I hope that I will be able to soon, as finally the DVD was released today. The sequel was not as victorious as its original in the box office, perhaps because the absence of Jean-Paul Belmondo.

The movie starts with the funeral of François Capella (Belmondo), ex-partner and friend of Roch Siffredi (Alain Delon). Knowing that one of the Volpone brothers (both played by Riccardo Cucciolla) is responsible for Capella's death, Siffredi has him murdered. It's a wrong step because the other Volpone is a very powerful international merchant and he loves his brother very much. The war between Siffredi and Volpone begins. Siffredi's business is ruined, he himself is humiliated, and sent to an asylum. His loyal sidekick Fernand (Lionel Vitrant) patiently waits until the time comes when he helps his boss to get out from the asylum and from France. Three years in Genoa, Siffredi gathers his strength and prepares himself for revenge. Meanwhile, Volpone has become more powerful than ever, especially after his only rival is gone. Even the honest Inspector Fanti (Daniel Ivernel) has been replaced with Volpone's man: Inspector Cazenave (André Falcon). However, Volpone underestimates Siffredi and hasn't thought that his old rival would dare to launch the attack on him.

One of the movie's plus sides is its memorable soundtrack by Claude Bolling. The set is wonderful and I like the colour which uses much cream and brown. There are lots of violent scenes here. The torture of Sam and Casenave, for example. The same kind of torture was taken out from Jean-Pierre Melville's Le deuxième souffle 8 years before and never been put back. The scene of Siffredi throwing the gun to Sam's face makes me laugh, though. Both Volpone brothers die on the train. I think Siffredi has learnt from the first murder that it's best to get rid of the body so that the police will never find it, so he perfects it in the 2nd.

The relationship between Siffredi and Lola (Catherine Rouvel) doesn't change much in the movie. I don't really know what happened among Siffredi, Lola and Capella in the previous movie, but my guess is Siffredi holds back to respect Capella's memory. However, he takes Lola to America with him. After the movie ends, 'To Be Continued' is written on screen. Did Delon plan to make another sequel, perhaps the story of how Siffredi starts his new life in America?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Red Sun (1971)

Red Sun is an international movie. The four main actors are: Charles Bronson from the US, Toshiro Mifune from Japan, Alain Delon from France, and Ursulla Andress from Switzerland. The director Terence Young, who is perhaps more well known with his work James Bond's Dr No, is British. The movie is shot in Spain. The setting is in America's Wild West.

As can be guessed from the title, it has something to do with Japan. Japan's national flag is Hinomaru, which shows a red circle (=the sun). In 1870, Lord of Bizen, the Japanese Ambassador, is traveling through Wild West by train when Link (Bronson) and Gauche (Delon) rob the gold shipment, despite the fact that the train is guarded by cavalry. Gauche, who also takes a gold sword, a present for the US president from the Japanese government, tries to murder Link, but fails. Lord of Bizen asks Link to lead his Samurai (Mifune) to find Gauche and retrieve the sword in 7 days, or the Samurai should do harakiri. Link wants Gauche to live long enough to show him where the gold has been hidden, while the insulted Samurai must kill Gauche at the first sight. To provoke Gauche, so he comes out from his hiding place, Link kidnaps Cristina (Andress), Gauche's mistress.

This movie has wonderful cinematography and the dialogues are funny at times. I like the soundtrack by Maurice Jarre. I didn't notice it at first, but when I listened to the music only, yes, it was lovely. I also like the rhythmic sound inside the train, which I think is similar to sound in the scene when they are being attacked by the Comanches. The movie is mostly about the friendship which slowly grows between Link and the Samurai.

Alain Delon's gold tooth makes him more annoying. The only kind thing he does in this is when he protects Cristina from the smoke with his jacket. It's a typical Frenchman, I think. Link or the Samurai will never do anything like that. Delon's character's name, Gauche, means 'left' because he's a card player well known with his left hand's skill. There is a wonderful scene where he jumps from the roof.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Legend of 1900 (1998)

From director Giuseppe Tornatore, came this movie about a man who spent his entire life on a ship. Abandoned as a baby on a piano, he is raised by a worker from the ship's boiler room. People call him: Nineteen hundred, taken from the year he was found. Having no papers, he never leaves the ship. Then he shows that he has a great talent in music and becomes the ship's piano player. He is very well-known that Jelly Roll Morton of New Orleans jazz fame (brilliantly played by Clarence Williams III) challenges him to a duel, which is one of the best scenes in this movie. 1900 wins, of course. Only one thing he cannot do: to leave his home, the ship.

Tim Roth plays 1900. I like the scene when he first appears: sea-sick Max (Pruitt Taylor Vincence, whose eyes never seem on focus, I think) comes into the ballroom and 1900 plays the piano to make him forget his sickness. It's a wonderful scene, the piano and the two men happily gliding around the room, with the stormy sea outside. With his talent, 1900 can also guess people's personalities (and compose their soundtracks). He makes rich and poor people happy with his piano playing, as depicted when he plays, not only in the ballroom, but also for the immigrants.

The movie begins with Max, who is selling his trumpet in a second-hand store. He plays it for the last time and the store-owner is struck by the song. He has the record, found inside a used piano. It was broken in pieces, but has been mended. Max then tells him the story of 1900 and the meaning of the beautiful song, which is the only one recorded by 1900, the first and only time he falls in love.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

La sconosciuta (2006)

Last night I watched La sconosciuta (a.k.a. The Unknown Woman), a wonderful drama thriller by director Giuseppe Tornatore. This movie is a brilliant piece of writing and directing. After 45 minutes watching it, there was still a big question mark in my head: what was going on? What was she after? The hints were given, little by little, from the start until it completed in the end, that the central character, Irena (Xenia Rappoport), suffered trauma from her dark past. the movie starts with Irena looking for a job and she becomes a house-keeper in a family who has a little daughter named Thea. Irena makes a perfect house-keeper and Thea loves her, but something from Irena's past won't let her go.

I like how the family Adacher is portrayed in the movie. The relationship among the 3 members seem real, unlike the ideal family usually depicted in American family movies. The porter makes an interesting character, because if we desperately look for a job, a question of commission must not be forgotten. The most interesting is of course the relationship between Irena and little Thea, from the bad first impression, until how Thea comes to love her.

I kept thinking of 'The Hand that Rocks The Cradle' when I began watching this and thought that perhaps Irena went into the Adacher family to harm Thea, but this is a different movie. Irena's way is wrong (I'm especially referring to what she did to Gina), but we sympathize with her and we pity her. I have never seen Xenia Rappoport before, so she makes the perfect 'Unknown Woman' to me.

The most surprising moment, I think, is when Gina says, "Why do you always make me sign?" My favourite scene is when Irena is almost caught out by the porter, because I always like when the screen is divided in 2 (see picture).

My opinion below contains spoilers and can be read by highlighted it.
Although Irena finds out that Thea is not her daughter, the end of the movie shows that she finds her lost children in her and Thea loves Irena like she loves a mother, and this pays back all Irena's sufferings.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Big Guns Collection

This DVD from Pop Flix contains 5 Italian action movies at a very good price.

1. Big Guns (1973)
I have actually had the French DVD from Fox Pathé already, but after considering that I could get 4 more movies, and the price was great as well, why not? Comparing the 2, the one from Fox Pathé has better picture quality, but it's more expensive, so I will not complain. My French is actually very bad, but the sound from Fox Pathé DVD is much clearer than the English dialogues from this one. One scene is missing from the English version: when Sandra is being beaten at Tony's hotel room. Perhaps it's cut off because they think it's too violent (I think so, too. Poor Sandra.). On the other hand, one scene is missing from the French version: a police follows Tony when he's out from the hotel in Milan, buys flowers, and go to the cemetery. We only see Tony sees the bed, walk out the room, and the next scene shows he has arrived at the cemetery. Notes of places and dates are missing from the English version. Another difference is when Domenico (Marc Porel) is about to die. I like the French version better where he says, "You can kill me now." (after they forced him to tell the name of the hotel & room number in Milan where Tony stays) - and no scream. He dies like a real man. In the English version he says, "What else do you need from me?" and then he screams when they are killing him.

2. Violent Professionals (1973)
The sound is very bad that I could not understand most of the dialogues. If only there were English subtitles! I can excuse the bad quality of picture, but bad sound is unforgivable. Luc Merenda plays a police-officer whose superior is murdered by a organized crime ring and he infiltrates it to find who behind his boss's death. I have never seen Richard Conte in a fight scene before.

3. Long Arm of the Godfather (1972)
They should have made the title of the movie shaped like a long arm instead of three white balls. I was relieved that only Violent Professional has bad sound. Young Vincenzo bravely (and stupidly!) steals Don Carmelo's truck full of arms. I used to think that all 'Godfathers' cared more about loyalty than money, but in this movie, Don Carmelo more concerns about the money. He should have killed Vincenzo at the first opportunity. Amazingly, Vincenzo wins, although it doesn't mean that in the end he doesn't lose anything.

4. Magnum Cop (1977)
Maurizio Merli plays a private detective who is looking for a missing girl. He follows the trail to Austria where he meets a mother whose daughter is dead. The 2 things are connected and will lead him to a children prostitution ring. Some dialogues are funny. Also starring is Joan Collins.

5. Emergency Squad (1974)
Only this and Big Guns has good picture quality in the DVD. Tomas Milian plays the hero, a cop who doesn't hesitate to kill the culprit. It begins with a robbery in the street. The robbers pretend to be actors that people on the street think they are watching a film making, so no one raise an alarm until it is too late. Tomas (Milian) finds that the bullet which has killed the guard is from the same gun that killed his wife 5 years ago. Meanwhile, on the run, the robbers have themselves killed one by one, leaving only Tomas's wife's murderer and his beautiful girlfriend. Apart from Big Guns, this is the best among the 4 (could be of the good picture quality...)

All have nice music soundtrack which made me remember how I used to enjoy my father's old soundtrack tapes from the 70's.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Assassination of Trotsky (1972)

Joseph Losey is not my favourite director. I have seen 2 of his works: this and M. Klein, and both are all gloomy and distressing. The movie is quite slow, with eerie soundtrack. The first attack on Trotsky in this movie, that raid, by men dressed as police, reminded me of a propaganda movie I had to watch when I was in elementary school, and it gave me a sick feeling.

The movie is set in Mexico City, 1940. Trotsky (Richard Burton), the founder of the Red Army and Lenin's first hand, is in exile. Demonstrators fill the street. Gita (Romy Schneider) has suspicion about her lover Frank Jackson (Alain Delon). It's May Day, and yet he says he is going to the bank. Jackson's answers are inconsistent. Who is he? What does he do? Is he Belgian or Canadian? Gita will shudder if she finds out he has secret meetings. She works for Trotsky and Jackson will use her to enter the well-guarded house. He tells Trotsky that he writes an article about France, which he wants Trotsky to look at. While Trotsky peruses the article, Jackson attacks him with an ice axe.

The highlight of this movie is, of course, the assassination scene. [From the title alone, we, from the start, wait for that scene.] The bullfight scene is horrifying, but the assassination is the climax. Different from his usual roles, Delon's Jackson is almost mad. With those John Lennon's glasses, I cannot help thinking of Mark Chapman. Usually Delon plays cool characters, with their code of honour. He kills without blinking. His Jackson is afraid to kill. While Burton's Trotsky is busy reading, he takes the opportunity to take the ice axe out from his coat, gathers all his strength, trembles like mad, closes his eyes, and hit down. Maybe because he closes his eyes, that Trotsky doesn't die instantly. Jackson has missed the target a bit. When he opens his eyes, he almost cannot see the blood, but it will soon flow like river. He cannot even gather his strength to make suicide. He only stands there, leans his back against the railing, with his hand on his gun. When Trotsky's guards attack him, he cries. I wonder if Delon himself made those horrible cries. Gita is sent to prison, too, perhaps because Jackson grasses on her. According to this movie, she is innocent. Obviously she falls in love with the wrong person. We can see how Gita is getting more and more miserable throughout the movie. This is the 2nd collaboration of Alain Delon - Romy Schneider, 4 years after La Piscine.

Quand la femme s'en mêle (1957)

After convincing Alain Delon to stay in France (instead of going to America to start his career), director Yves Allégret convinced him and the producers that he was the right person to play the young hitman in his new project Quand la femme s'en mêle. The director said to Delon to be his own self to play the character.

There are lots of big names in this: Jean Servais, Edwige Feuillère, Bernard Blier, Jean Lefebvre, Pierre Mondy. I was surprised that for his first movie role, Alain Delon had quite a big part. He was promising for sure. I like the scene in the pâtisserie where he, after ordering ice cream, leaves Sophie Daumier "I'll be back in a moment," he says - and goes out. Seconds later, while she is eating, there are 3 gun-shots heard. She jumps. He comes back with a hole on his sleeve, smiles to her, and starts to eat his ice cream as if nothing has happened. He looks very innocent. I also like how he jumps into Jean Servais's car. The death scene is wonderful: Jo gets shot in the back twice, almost falls, holds on to the balustrade, rolls down and finally drops dead. His face facing the sky, with hands stretching out.

The movie, although not bad, is not as good as the director's previous projects. Jean Servais plays a cabaret owner named Henri Godot. His mistress Maine (Edwige Feuillère) is annoyed by his rival, so he hires a young hitman, Jo (Alain Delon), to make sure she is safe. Maine's ex-husband, Felix (Bernard Blier), comes to Paris with their daughter Colette (Sophie Daumier). Felix's 2nd wife died in a fire in Grenoble, which he believes was started on purpose by the owner of the building to gain insurance. Felix asks Godot's help to avenge his wife by killing him, but Godot tries to blackmail him instead. Meanwhile, Colette falls in love with Jo.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Door in the Wall

"Thou hast only to follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it."

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli is an inspiring story about a disabled boy who saves a whole town. The ending is moving that I wonder why Disney hasn't made this into a movie. Robin is left by his parents for they have to go to war. Unfortunately, he falls ill that he cannot walk. A friar comes to look after him and takes him to a priory, where Robin learns to be independent. He learns how to read and write, to carve, and the most important: how to walk with the help of crutches. After he is well and strong, Robin goes to the castle of Lindsay, where he should serve Sir Peter. When Lindsay is surrounded by the enemies, Robin bravely goes to search for help.

There is a good lesson here that we must never lose hope.

My copy is from Dell Laurel-Leaf (Random House New York). The black and white illustrations in the book are badly reproduced. It's difficult to see details. I think it's to keep the price of the book low, but what a pity.

El Cid (1961)

El Cid was Spain's great hero in the 11th century. From the hand of director Anthony Mann, came this big epic. The movie itself has a very good story to start to, and I must say that the fight/battle scenes are very well handled. I particularly love the duel between El Cid and the knight from Aragon, and the last battle, when a man who carries the banner gets hit. He falls, but can still find time to give the banner to his friend, before being stroked by another enemy.

Spain in the year of 1080. Rodrigo Díaz (well played by Charlton Heston), on his way to his bride, the beautiful Jimena (Sophia Loren), defeats the Moors who had attacked some village. Thinking of Jimena, he lets the Moor leaders go. They swear to be his alliance and call him 'El Cid' (The Lord). However, as he let the Moors go, he is brought to King Ferdinand's court as a traitor, and this event leads him to kill Jimena's father, who before dies forces his daughter to avenge him. Being a noble subject, El Cid continues to do anything for his country: fight the champion of Aragon for the city of Calahorra, goes to a journey in Africa, and last, conquer Valencia. His incorruptible character has won Jimena back, when he makes king Alfonso swear that he didn't kill his brother to get the crown.

When I watched the last war in Valencia, I wondered what the war was was about. I like the El Cid character, who embraces all mankind, no matter what their religions are. In a scene where Christian and Moslem troops sit and eat together, he wonders how a thing a like this can be wrong.

The movie is quite long, almost 3 hours, but didn't feel that long. The music by Miklós Rózsa has a strong feeling, and it seems that in a colossal movie, the music must be dominated by trumpets.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

La valise (1973)

La valise is a funny movie by director Georges Lautner, who I think is very good in making comedy-drama movies. His serious works I have seen are the 2 with Alain Delon: Les seins de glace and Mort d'un pourri, but the rests all have more comedy. Like in Il était une fois un flic, la valise also has Mireille Darc and Michel Constantin.

Jean-Pierre Marielle plays Bloch, an Israeli spy, who takes refuge in the French Embassy in Tripoli. I like the scene where Bloch ruins many TV antennas on those roofs. The people below must be living in tiny rooms. Captain Augier (Michel Constantin) is given task to smuggle Bloch who hides in a diplomatic suitcase out of the country. It seems easy. However, there is a strike at the airport and when they return to the embassy, there has been a bomb. Augier takes the suitcase to a hotel, the very place where Bloch met his lover Françoise (Mireille Darc). Bloch asks Augier to keep an eye on her, but Augier ends up falling in love with her. The problem doesn't stop there, and it seems the suitcase bring bad luck. When the strike is over and Augier, Françoise, and the suitcase are on their way to Paris, the plane is hijacked by Arabs, who will surely kill Bloch if they find him.

The funniest scene is when Jean Lefebvre (the hotel bagagiste) struggles with the suitcase. Also funny is the end of the movie, when we realize that Françoise has enough charm to defeat all those secret agents. I like the lovely music in the movie by Philippe Sarde.

Perhaps the contents of this movie are rather sensitive that the film-maker thought it necessary to put a disclaimer in the beginning of the movie: "This movie is only intended as a distraction. [] Our crew is consists of Christians, Jews, and Moslems. We are friends. We intend to remain so." Oyoyoyoyo....

Pane e tulipani (2000)

I'd never heard of this movie before and was interested because of its many good reviews. I saw it won awards, too. However, having watching it, I think that I put too much hope on this. The movie is nice, but not as good as I had expected.

It's about a clumsy housewife, Rosalba (Licia Maglietta) -at first I did sympathize with her-, who is left by her family during a group tour because she was too long in the bathroom. She doesn't wait as her husband has instructed, but hitchhikes a car to go home, and ends up in a town she has never visited before: Venice. She befriends a gloomy restaurateur (who doesn't hesitate to praise his rival's cooking) and stays at his apartment, makes friends with his neighbour, a masseuse, and his daughter-in-law and grandson. She also finds a job in a flower shop, whose owner has witty remarks. Meanwhile, her husband, feels humiliated left by his wife (although she sends him letters and postcards from time to time) hires a plumber as a detective to find her.

I never understand the reason Fernando wants to kill himself. I think the grandson makes him happy. Also mysterious is how can he find her at the parking lot of the supermarket. Sure, Rosalba is happier in Venice, where she is more appreciated than in her own family's home. There dinner together seems cold and nobody cares what she thinks. Not only Rosalba and Fernando find happiness, but also the detective, who can be free from his mother, and the masseuse, who finds her true love.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gervaise (1956)

Having seen several works of René Clément and liked them all, I knew that I had to watch this movie, which based on the novel L'Assomoir by Émile Zola. I have never read any work by Zola yet, but now I have Thérèse Raquin, which I will read soon.

The DVD from Criterion has excellent quality, although there is no extra, except a little booklet. The black & white colour of the movie is beautifully remastered. Here, we follow the tragic life of beautiful Gervaise (well played by Maria Schell - won the best actress in Venice Film Festival). Her lover Lantier left her with 2 children, but slowly she builds her life again. She marries Coupeau (François Périer, won the best actor in BAFTA) who gives her a daughter, Nana. Coupeau has an accident at work, but instead of sending him to hospital, which is free, Gervaise decides to take care of him herself. The expenses for doctor empty their pockets, but by the help of Coupeau's best friend, Goujet, Gervaise can have her own laundry shop, something she has always dreamed. However, Virginie, her old nemesis, re-appears in her life and will lead Gervaise to her downfall.

It's rather hard to believe that Coupeau will ask Lantier to live with them. I think his mind has been poisoned by alcohol that he cannot think straight.

From the fight in the laundry house, the party (who will Coupeau pick for the 14th guest?), and the DTs scene, all are done well. The DTs, especially, is haunting. No wonder François Périer got that award. It's a devastating scene. Here we can see how Gervaise lost everything, including her customer trust. Also interesting is the little girl Nana (the little actress was very good), in the end of the movie, who will become the center character in Zola's famous novel Nana. Virginie asks her why she is so dirty, why her mother doesn't clean her. Nana answers, "Mother is more dirty than I am." She asks for a ribbon, wears it on her neck, and plays with a group of boys in the street. Perhaps this little girl's future would be bright if her mother could keep that laundry shop.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

1900 (1976)

I had seen The Last Emperor and Stealing Beauty, works by great director Bernardo Bertolucci. Both movies didn't impress me much. I almost fell asleep watching The Last Emperor in theatre years ago, after it won Academy Awards' The Best Picture, and was still bored when I watched it again 2 - 3 months ago. Last night I tried another work of him, 1900, an epic about 2 Italian men. It's 5 hours long, but I finished it in one sitting.

1900 is a great movie and it's one of the best Italian movies I've ever seen. There are so many beautiful scenes here and I praise the director and the cinematographer. The picture above is the scene which I think the most beautiful, where Olmo catches Ada with his net. The location and the colour is wonderful. The DVD is great. Often great movies are ruined by bad quality of the DVD.

Bertolucci himself prefers to call the movie 'Novecento' (the 20th century). The synopsis is as follows: In the year of 1900, Olmo and Alfredo, are born on the same day. Olmo is a bastard son of a farmer, while Alfredo is the son of the rich landowner. They become friends, but as time goes by, Olmo becomes a socialist, while Alfredo a fascist. To underline the life of farmers, the director depicts the movie in 4 parts: the summer of happy childhood, the autumn of adolescence, the fascist winter, and the spring of liberation. The change of times, from the beginning of 20th century when landowners are very rich and powerful, until the liberation day in April 1945, when the farmers can hold a trial against their landowner, is well told; plus an epilogue where both Olmo and Alfredo, now 80 years old, play like little children again.

The cast are excellent, led by Robert De Niro and Gérard Depardieu. I never thought Donald Sutherland could be so evil. Meanwhile, Laura Betti's laughter is very like a witch's. I also like the lovely soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. I am familiar with that tune and now I know which movie it came from.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Una pura formalità (1994)

After watching Cinema Paradiso and Malèna, I look forward to see more works from director Giuseppe Tornatore. I saw a clip from Una pura formalità, a short scene where Roman Polanski and Gérard Depardieu went through a pile of old photos on the desk (can't really remember where, perhaps one of the extras from Cinema Paradiso DVD.). That time I thought that the movie must be boring. I was completely wrong. This movie, on the surface, was like a play where most of the scenes happened in one same place, but a play, imo, is when the actors shout to each other (so the audience can hear them better); and in this one, I didn't feel like watching a play.

I was surprised to find that Una pura formalità was not boring at all and almost 2 hours ran so fast. Gérard Depardieu runs in the middle of a storm and is caught by a group of police. He cannot give them any ID and is taken to the police station, a rotten place which leaks every where. The Inspector won't let him call anyone. He tells the inspector that he is Onoff, the famous writer, whom the inspector happens to adore. However, he seems to forget what he has been doing the day before and his story to the inspector keeps changing. Finally, the inspector tells him that there has been a murder nearby and that he is their prime suspect. "Is it possible to kill and not remember?" Onoff asks himself. He feels like a trapped rat in the device he sees in the police's wardrobe.

As the interrogation goes, the audience is taken to the murder scene and shown the victim. The ending is a shock and we will see that this is really a pure formality of the cinema.

The Moonstone (1996)

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins is one of the books I really enjoyed. His writing style is not difficult to read and I also happen to like detective stories. I was glad to be able to watch this movie version. It is said that The Moonstone is the first long detective story ever written, 20 years before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the famous Sherlock Holmes.

This 1996 movie version is great, with Greg Wise, Keeley Hawes, and Peter Vaughan (every time I see him, he plays a butler!); although the DVD's quality is very poor. (It's region 1). The beautiful Rachel inherits The Moonstone from her late uncle, who took the big beautiful diamond from a sacred Hindu temple in India during a war. Franklin Blake brings her the diamond and the two young people fall in love with each other. Rachel wears the Moonstone in a dinner party at her house. On the same night 3 Indian jugglers come, but they are turned away. The next morning, the diamond is gone. Who stole it and how? Rachel herself refuses to speak to the police. What turns out to be a practical joke has ruined the life of a young girl and almost ruins others, could it be the curse of the sacred stone? However, it all ends well.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Le dîner de cons (1998)

This perhaps can be a lot funnier if I didn't expected it to be so funny. Sometimes reading too many reviews are wrong, but unfortunately I need a guide before buying a DVD. Watching le dîner de cons is like watching a play. Most of the events take place in Pierre Brochant's apartment. Every Wednesday, Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) and his friends hold a dinner and the one who bring the most idiot guest is the winner. Brochant's friend recommends him to bring François Pignon (Jacques Villeret), an accountant in a ministry office, whose hobby is to make construction of models made from matchsticks. On the very day, Brochant suffers backache and cannot attend the dinner, but stuck instead with 'the idiot' for hours in his own apartment.

That night is the worst in Brochant's life. This is a movie where things are going worse and worse. The director doesn't forget to tell us the moral of the story, and for some time the movie has it's touching moment. However, what I like most in this movie is the cute soundtrack by Vladimir Cosma.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mademoiselle (2001)

This little nice movie is surprisingly wonderful and not boring at all. The title didn't interest me at all, but I decided to watch it at least for 30 minutes. First, Sandrine Bonnaire, the lead actress, has one of the freshest faces I've ever seen on screen. In this movie, her character, Claire, is very charming and she seems doesn't have any problem in her life. She is happy with her husband and 2 children. Then, the movie itself starts well. In a party, we meet the lead actor, Jacques Gamblin (I often mistake him for Patrick Catalifo), in this occasion is working as a waiter named Cassini, who serves little sandwiches, but tells the guests not to choose the one with salmon because according to his cousin's research it's transgenic. Cassini and his 2 friends are actors, who travel around and work as improvisators. 

A mini lighthouse is used as a device, that Claire, after the party, meets Cassini again and again, and keeps missing her train.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Frank Riva (2003)

Starring by Alain Delon and Jacques Perrin, the beginning of Frank Riva took my mind back to their collaboration 18 years before: Parole de flic.  It is almost the same: Alain Delon in exile returns to France after someone in his family died violently, to do the detective work.

Frank Riva is a very enjoyable series. It consists of 2 seasons. I have only the first season and have watched the 2nd season on TV, but missed the first episode. The plot is as follows: In the beginning, there were 3 inseparable friends from the Coast: Frank Riva, Xavier Unger, and Marc-Antoine Rezzoni. All dreamed for an ideal world, and all became policemen. Frank Riva went undercover and infiltrated the Loggia family. His work harvested in May 1974 when the police tampered a big drug delivery, but as there was a price on his head, Riva had to leave France. Twenty-five years later, he received a phone call from Unger, now the Chief Commissioner, telling him that Rezzoni was in comma, and that Frank Riva had to return to France to replace Rezzoni for the time being.

Commissaire Lydie Herzog gets the order to pick Riva from the airport. She has this 40 year old photo of him (from Melodie en sous-sol. In other scenes, a photoshoped picture from L'eclisse appears.), which made me giggle, because if I were Lydie, perhaps I would never find him - unless there was only 1 man left in the airport. At first it is not easy for Riva to control the situation, as Rezzoni's men don't like their boss being replaced by a total stranger. However, as the investigation leads them to the Loggia family and Frank Riva knows better than anyone about the family, their respect for him begins to grow.

With Cédric Chevalme and Eric Defosse (although only a little part - at least in season 1), Frank Riva seems similar to Fabio Montale. Mireille Darc also appears, and I like the dialogues: "Have have you been waiting long?" "Oh, about a quarter of century." "I meant..." "I know what you meant." which are also used in the ending song. Nice touch.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Angels and Demons (2009)

I haven't read the book which this movie is based on. My cousin lent me The Da Vinci Code and although the theory about Jesus & Mary Magdalene was shocking that time, I found the rest of the book was boring. So I will read Angels and Demons book if I can borrow it from someone.

As I was completely blind about the story, I must say that I enjoyed Angels and Demons the movie. Tom Hanks was hired to play Robert Langdon again, but this time he was accompanied by Ayelet Zurer, an Israeli actress. The plot is as follows: The Pope dies, so cardinals from all over the world are gathered in Vatican for the conclave. Four cardinals are kidnapped and the kidnapper threatens to kill one of them every hour - it's not clear what he demands. He claims he is from the Illuminati group, people of science. In the past, the church tortured and killed them and now he takes revenge. Robert Langdon is called to the Vatican because he has written a book about The Illuminati. Langdon himself wants to go because it means now he can access the Vatican Library. The killer also has a bomb, an antimatter (what does it mean? Basically, it's a huge powered bomb), which can sweep away the whole Vatican.

Interesting to watch how Robert Langdon tries to solve the puzzles and find the 4 missing cardinals, dead or alive. It's an enjoyable fiction. I believe that the Vatican police should have been able to solve the problem without having to import Robert Langdon from the US, but it's Dan Brown's story. Ewan McGregor plays the Camerlengo. He is the reason I watch this movie, by the way. I wonder from where he finds the money to pay the killer. Why in this kind of genre, the Catholic Church is often depicted to have many inside conflicts? I also find it's confusing to see a killer who seems in pain to do what he must do than a killer with a blank face. The cardinals are old men who seem harmless and weak, so it must have taken a man with a nerves of steel to torture them to death. The killer cries sometimes, but he does the killings anyway. I prefer the God's Spy by Juan Gómez-Jurado, because at least the killer there has mental problem. I think this one in Angels and Demons does it for the money because he doesn't belong in either Illuminati or papal group.

State of Play (2009)

I saw the TV version of State of Play a couple of years ago so I must have forgetten details. I also have missed the first episode. The main character in State of Play is a reporter, Cal McAffrey from Washington Globe (This is one of the changes. In the movie version, the setting is moved from the UK to the USA) - played brilliantly by Russell Crowe, who I think is one of the best actors in our time.

The movie opens with a young man running for his life, but he is caught and shot by a hired killer. A couple of seconds later, a pizza delivery guy is also shot to death by the same killer. McAffrey is assigned to write article on this double murder. Next, a congressman's lead researcher, also his mistress, is pushed in front of an approaching train. The investigation will lead to a connection among the 3 deaths, and that a big company is behind it.

I think it's great to cast Helen Mirren as the leader of the journalists. She is of the same caliber as Bill Nighy, who plays the same role in the TV series. The relationship of McAffrey and Stephen Collins's wife is not as complex in the TV series, but it must be caused by the time factor. In the movie version, a twist to the ending is added (unless I missed this part in the TV series). I can have sympathy to David Morrissey's Collins, but not to Ben Affleck's, thus I like the ending in the movie, which shows that all politicians are rotten (except Monsieur Madeleine, the major of Montreuil-Sur-Mer, and he's a fictional character). Perhaps the writer of the script is a sceptic.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

La règle du jeu (1939)

In the beginning of the movie, Jean Renoir claims that this movie is not a study of morality and this, in my opinion, only triggers our sense because the characters are interesting enough for us to study their morality. What is so remarkable about La règle du jeu is its continuing scenes with many characters glide from one spot to another, especially in the mansion hall. This movie reminds me of Gosford Park.

The story centers on Christine, daughter of an Austrian musician who is married to Robert de la Cheyniest. She is loved by André Jurieux, the French hero who flied solo over Atlantic; and Octave, her late father's friend. On the other hand, Robert has a mistress. However, Christine is a happy woman and can even discuss with her rival Robert's bad habit: smoking in bed. Robert invites his friends to La Colinière where they will do the hunting.

Lisette, Christine's maid, prefers to leave her husband Schumacher the game-keeper, than her employer. In La Colinière, Robert hires Marceau, an ex-poacher. Marceau soon tries to seduce Lisette. This makes Schumacher angry and after a series of fights, both the game-keeper and ex-poacher lose their jobs. When Octave goes into the green-house with Christine, who wears Lisette's cape, Schumacher thinks that Lisette plays fire with Octave and he wants to get rid of that man. However, who will die but our national hero Jurieux?

My favourite character is the cook. When he is told that one of the guests wants salt from the sea, he says that the guest will get the usual salt like everybody else. He adds that he can accept diet but not craziness.

The Collected Tales Nurse Matilda

After watching Nanny McPhee, I was curious about Nurse Matilda, whom the title character in Nanny McPhee based on. Months ago, I saw the Bloomsbury edition of Nurse Matilda The Collected Tales by Christianna Brand in a bookstore and liked the appearance. Apart from the hardcover and the kind of paper used ("natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in well-managed forests"), I thought the black and white illustrations by Edward Ardizzone, Brand's cousin, were cute. The book was consist of 3 stories: Nurse Matilda, Nurse Matilda Goes To Town, and Nurse Matilda Goes To Hospital.

I wished I read it sooner because I think now I am too old for it. The synopsis is as follows: Mr and Mrs Brown have so many children that in the book only several of them are named. They are all naughty that nurses, nannies and governesses all cannot work there long. Then come Nurse Matilda with her magic stick who will punish the children in magical ways, and in the end they learn how to behave. The naughtiness in the book is repeated again and again, so is the way Nurse Matilda handles them, that it becomes rather boring for me. Evangeline, who in Nanny McPhee is played by lovely actress Kelly MacDonald, is depicted as an annoying fat girl whom the Brown children dislike, and of course she doesn't end up marrying Mr Brown like in the movie.

The Mike Hammer Collection Volume 1

I and an American friend were discussing about detective/crime stories and she mentioned that Mickey Spillane was one of the most popular writers of the genre. I then saw that he was popular because of a detective he had invented: Mike Hammer. I'd never heard of that name before. After reading a few reviews, it seemed that Mike Hammer had many fans, so I added this book, which contained 3 stories, to my list.

Now I have finished the book. I must say that I enjoyed it very much. It's one of the books that is hard to put down, written  in first person's point of view. Mike Hammer is a private investigator in New York. In his office, there are only him and his secretary Velda. He has a good friend in the police department named Pat, and they help each other to solve murder cases. In all 3 books, the cases taken by Mike Hammer are all personal. In I, the Jury, his best friend is murdered in cold blood; in My Gun is Quick, a girl whom he just gave charity to is hit by a car to death and although the police believe it was an accident, he believes it was murder; and in Vengeance is Mine! a soldier friend whom he just met after years was found dead in a hotel room they share together.

There is lot of violence in the book with a touch of humour here and there, and the sexy dames all soon fall in love with him, including Velda, although he is not handsome. "I looked in the mirror again and grimaced. It was a hell of a shame that I wasn't handsome." I imagine he is like some hero in American film noir, wearing trench-coat and fedora. Anyway, those dames, except Velda, become victims, too. The death rate in Mike Hammer's world is high.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Une enfance volée: L'affaire Finaly (2008)

Last night I watched this on TV. It was based on a true story, yet very gripping, and I found my eyes stuck to the screen until the end. In 1944, the Finalys couple, Austrian Jews, afraid that they would be caught by Nazis, asked their neighbour to take care of their little sons: Robert and Gérald, with the message that they should not be separated and that if something happened to the parents, the aunt would take care of the children. Not long after, the Finalys couple were arrested. This kind neighbour would send the children to a convent, in the hand of Mother Blandine, and from Mother Blandine to Antoinette Brun. After the war, the children's aunt  who lived in Israel wrote to Brun to return the children, but Brun never replied. The aunt then asked the help of Moise Keller. The movie shows how Keller tried to obtain the children from Brun's hands.

The movie portrays Brun as a selfish woman and Catholic fanatic. She looks at Keller as if he is her enemy. After taking care of the Finaly children for years, she has grown so fond of them that she wants to keep them for herself. The French public support Brun because of her courage during the war as she has saved many children by hiding them from the Nazis. However, according to the law, the children must be returned to their family, and in this case, their aunt. The children themselves seem to have loved Mother Brun, although they only see her twice a year. [They are sent to a boarding school.] They do whatever she asks, love her as their own mother, and do not hesitate when she take them to be baptised. The baptism, however, at least in the movie, seem only to prevent Keller from taking the children.

After the baptism, the Catholic church help Mother Brun to hide the children. I am confused about their insistence, saying that 'baptism is permanent'. In my opinion, the children are too young to decide. At this point, the court has decided that the children should be returned to their aunt. The church even goes as far as giving the children false names and papers and taking them out of France by foot into Spain, to a convent where Robert is separated from Gérald and each cannot leave their room. It feels like a prison. I believe at this point, Robert, the eldest, must be thinking, if living with their aunt in Israel is much better. The boys think of Israel as a desert with many Jews. In the boarding school, their friends mock them for being Jews, so they believe it's better to keep staying in France and be Catholics. The involvement of the church almost make this affair into a religious war, but finally the cardinal has realized that the matter has gone into such a mess and he helps Keller to find the boys. After 7 years, finally the aunt can take the children to Israel.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ho! (1968)

Like Les Aventuriers which was out the previous year, Ho! was also based on José Giovanni novel. This movie by Robert Enrico looks nice (the colour and costumes, especially), and there is a scene by a lake which I like very much. Below is a still which I think very appropriate because we can see the main character and his nickname, also the title of the movie.

Jean-Paul Belmondo plays François Holin, whom his friends call 'Ho'. An ex-racer who is out of job after an accident, François joins a gang of robbers led by Canter (Sydney Chaplin) who soon dies by his own weapon. This is not the only blunder, because François later is caught when stealing a car and sent to jail (after being attacked by the mob). There is a good little detail when the witnesses cannot confirm François as the driver in the previous robbery because of the way he tosses the cigarette. He escapes from jail by disguising as a cell-mate who should be out that day. This time, it's the guards who make the blunder since they let him go. His girfriend Bénédicte (Joanna Shimkus - much more beautiful here than in Les aventuriers), a famous model, finds out François's real job and breaks up with him.

The press exaggerates François's escape from jail. In the robberies, his role is only to drive and steal cars. He becomes a celebrity after the papers published his extraordinary escape as "The greatest escape of this century", calling him: Arsène Lupin + Al Capone = François Holin, public enemy no.1, man with nerves of steel, and that he has invented a new form of gangsterism. At this point, the narcissism can be clearly seen. François is so proud of himself that he fills up his room's wall with articles about himself. He contacts a journalist (Paul Crauchet) to write more articles about him and forms his own gang for a bank robbery. The police finally can trap François using his weakness: he is an avid tie-collector.

Alain Delon made a cameo here, as someone who is almost run down by Bénédicte's car after she picked up François from airport. It's not very clear, but I'm sure it's him.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Le diable et les dix commandements (1962)

The Devil and the Ten Commandments has a very original idea, using the 10 Commandments given to Moses by God on the Mount Sinai. Directed by Julien Duvivier, this was a big project which assembled many great actors. The movie is divided into 6 sketches, with the first is divided again to open and conclude it. The Devil appears in the shape of a snake and gives commentary between segments.

1. "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain"
Jérôme (Michel Simon), a pensioner, swears like a soldier. This won't be a great deal if he doesn't live in a convent. The abbess wants to get rid of him, but when the bishop (Lucien Baroux) visits the convent, he recognizes Jérôme as his childhood friend and agrees to give him absolution if he repents and learns the 10 commandments.

2. "Thou shalt not commit adultery" "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife" "Thou shall not covet anything that belongs to thy neighbour"
This segment is the most simple and easiest to understand. Françoise (Françoise Arnoul) is given an expensive necklace by her friend's husband Philip (Mel Ferrer). Although claims that she is happily married to Georges (Claude Dauphin), being a close friend of the rich couple Micheline (Micheline Presle) - Philip, Françoise more or less is a bit jealous of Micheline and wants to keep that necklace given by her lover. But how to explain to Georges? Françoise buys a bag, fills it with a dozen of imitation necklace, put the expensive necklace among them, leaves it at the station and tells her husband that she finds the deposit ticket in a taxi. Georges claims the bag at the station. Françoise hopes Georges gives the bag and its contents to her. He does, but she doesn't find the necklace because Georges has given it to Michelin.

3. "Thou shalt not kill"
This segment is the most bitter. Denis (Charles Aznavour) renounces his vow to become a priest to revenge the death of his sister, who committed suicide after being forced to become a prostitute by Garigny (Lino Ventura). It's a bit strange as a priest is supposed to be a man of peace. Father Superior tells Denis to leave the matter in police's hand, but Denis believes that if police catches Garigny, Garigny will only spend several years in prison, and after that he will be out and commit crimes again. Denis arranges that Garigny kills him and is caught by the police red handed.

4. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me"
A big man (Fernandel) comes into a farm which inhabited by little Marie, her parents, and her grand parents. He tells her that he is God. The grand-mother wants him to perform a miracle, but not on herself. 'God' makes the (pretended) paralyzed grand-father walks again. After he is done, the family has their faith again. 'God' leaves the farm, carrying with him the African totem which previously stood in front of the house and throw it down the canyon. Next, he is picked up by 2 men from the psychiatric ward.

5. "Honour thy father and thy mother" "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour"
Pierre (Alain Delon) comes home and finds his mother (Madeleine Robinson) in a sulky mood. Irritated, Pierre goes to his father and lightly says that perhaps she is not his mother. His father then tells him that his real mother is Clarisse Ardant (Danielle Darrieux), the actress. Pierre goes to see his real mother who at first thinks that Pierre is another die-hard fan. In a short moment, he learns that she is too much in love with herself. She cannot even find time to dinner with his son and refuses to know his address. Pierre returns to his adoptive parents and this time, his adoptive mother's scold sound lovely to his ear, as it only shows how much she loves him.

6. "Thou shalt not steal"
Didier (Jean-Claude Brialy), a bank cashier, is fired by his boss. On his last day, a robber (Louis de Funès) comes to his window and Didier gives the money voluntarily and let the robber go. Didier then manages to obtain the suitcase with the money, but before he can escape, the Inspector (Noël Roquevert) asks him to identify the robber from a line-up. Didier lets the robber go again, but knowing the ex-cashier has the suitcase, the robber runs after him. They end up agreeing to share the suitcase's contents, except that the contents are now: wine, bread, and sausages. Without his knowing, Didier has taken the wrong suitcase when he stops in a café.

7. "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy"
To conclude the film, Jérôme appears again. It's Sunday and Jérôme is invited by his friend the bishop to dine together. The bishop drinks too much wine and cannot recite the 10 Commandments. In this last segment, the characters can see the serpent. Jérôme catches it and throw it into a well. However, it doesn't mean that the devil has its end as he appears again.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Il était une fois un flic... (1971)

This comedy thriller by Georges Lautner is very entertaining, with solid cast and nice soundtrack by Eddie Vartan. After the death of Maurice Lopez, a drug dealer, Commissaire Campana (Michel Constantin) takes the identity of Lopez's brother to go to Nice and infiltrate the organization led by Pascal Manoni. Campana is single, so the undercover is not easy for him as the real Louis Lopez has a wife and a son, and the local police tail him all the time, suspecting him for murders which happen around him. Campana will soon know that there is a war between 2 gangs: Italian and American, fighting over the control of drug. When he finally can meet Manoni, the Italian is assassinated by 2 American killers.

Perhaps it's not difficult to find 2 Americans in Nice. At first the French police get a wrong couple and realize that not all "two American men seen in Nice" are the murderers they are looking for. Again, it's not difficult because 2 men who ask for English newspapers are rare in Nice, as can be seen on a hotel's breakfast table. The dangerous Americans can escape with the help of fire-brigade, right under the nose of the French police. However, when Campana hears that his 'wife' and 'son' have been kidnapped, he doesn't hesitate to confront them alone, like a bull, complete with the ¡Ole! I must say that this 'matador' scene is my most favourite in the film.

Mireille Darc plays the false wife and she is wonderful here. Perhaps she is Georges Lautner's favourite actress as they have many projects together. I think I've never seen Michel Constantin in a comedy before. Every time I hear his name, I think of one of the prisoners in 'Le trou'. He is great here as a single man who slowly feels comfortable with his new family. A child's cry when having a nightmare, the noise of police car toy when he needs to sleep or is having a phone call, extra expenses for cheese they don't need because the boy collects the pictures, the obligation to tell bedtime stories, having to wait before using the toilet... he goes through all these well.

Alain Delon made a cameo, as someone who rings the bell of Campana's apartement by error, because he is looking for Rodriguez who lives on the 3rd floor. Mireille Darc opens the door and Delon seems quite surprised to see how beautiful the woman who is standing in front of him. After knowing that he has made a mistake, Delon says 'Thanks' and leaves. Constantin asks Darc, 'Who was it?' 'None,' she answers.