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.