Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pouic-Pouic (1963)

Starring Louis de Funès, this comedy is quite entertaining. Louis de Funès played Léo, a richman who makes his fortune in stock exchange. For his birthday, his wife buys him a land in South America. The land is said to contain oil. However, the man who sells it is a swindler; so Léo concludes that he has been cheated. To get his money back, Léo plans to sell the land to Antoine, another richman who is after his beautiful daughter Patricia (played by Mireille Darc, who is very beautiful here.)

In the beginning of the movie, we see how much Antoine wants Patricia. He sends her everything, from small size (flowers) to big size (a car) - all tied with ribbons (including a dog). Patricia is so annoyed that she hires the courier (who delivers the car) to pose as her husband. She assumes Antoine will step back when he learns she has already married. When her father mentions to her that she must help to make Antoine buys the land, Simon the courier/her husband now must pose as her elder brother. Things get more confusing when Patricia's real brother, Paul, returns from South America with a girl.

Antoine is not stupid and he wants to make sure that the land really contains oil before signing the cheque. Léo's butler now must also help his master. Daniel Ceccaldi, who plays the Butler, is very funny. He played the butler who has no emotion. The butler is obviously well paid.
Léo : "I'll double your salary."
The butler : "Master has already had."
Léo : "I'll re-double it."
The butler : " Now I can loan money to people." (something like that)

The ending is not what Léo expected. He succeeds in making Antoine buys the land, but Antoine is the one who gains. The land does contain oil and Antoine also gets the girl - although not Patricia.

The title is the name of a pet chicken kept by Léo's wife. Every day she takes it out for a walk.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

I've seen several movies which they said were based on video games, but nothing is like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I haven't read the comics so I have no idea what they are like, but this movie is, I think, especially made for young people who love video games and rock music.

Like Edgar Wright's previous works, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of The Dead, this movie is very fast paced - he must be thinking that we love to use the pause button when we are watching the DVD. The director also likes to play trick with cameras and in editing, like characters who suddenly show up from behind the camera.

Since the beginning we are reminded that nintendo has a big part. The Universal logo at the beginning is a great idea. With today's technology it's not hard to realize the idea, but the idea itself is what counts. I like how Scott gets coins - and extra stuff sometimes (like the sword) - after defeating his enemies.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Doctor Who Complete Specials

Doctor Who is not popular here because it is not shown on TV. I was lucky to be able to watch the first season of the new series, with Christopher Eccleston plays The Doctor. The main character is an alien, a species called 'Time Lord' and he travels around through time and space in his Tardis, a spaceship which looks like the British Phone Box in blue colour. His weapon is a sonic screwdriver. When I first saw it, it was rather hilarious and Chris Eccleston looked wild and mad; but I loved the show. I think the phone booth and screwdriver was used in the first place because the show was produced by BBC Wales. I imagined the writer asked the producer for a spaceship and was told that, "No, we don't have a budget for that, but you can use that used phone booth over there."

I bought this Complete Specials because I wanted to see Timothy Dalton playing the Lord President. There are 5 stories in this box-set.

The Next Doctor was great. It reminded me of great time I had had when I watched the episodes with Eccleston. I think David Tennant is a great Doctor and I like him and I'm considering to buy another box-set with him as The Doctor. I enjoyed watching the Confidential in all 5 discs. This subject of an alien who travels into space and time can make the writers very creative. I mean, how else can you make a giant robot pop out in Charles Dickens' time and make the audience love it?

Planet of The Dead is also very good, and they manage to include another famous thing from England, which is a red double-decker. I think all episodes in this box-set are very good, but The End of Time is dark and depressing. I had fun watching the other 3.

The Waters of Mars is my least favourite. In 3/4 of the show The Doctor keeps saying "I have to go." and I went '-oh, so in this episode you cannot do anything for them? What the use of writing an episode like this, then?' In the end he did do something for them, but it turned out to be a mistake.

The End of Time goes in 2 parts. The end of part 1 is so thrilling, with people all over the Earth turned into The Master (The Doctor's enemy). Couldn't wait to watch part 2 because I had no idea how The Doctor could help the humans.

I think the series has progressed so much since 2005 and it seems that they had more budget. Specials effects, costumes, make-ups, lights; all are much better. I don't know if it's because it's the Specials. I will see when I get another box-set.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck

I was buying a magazine from Komik Terbaik Disney Karya Carl Barks (=Best of Disney Comics by Carl Barks) series last June when I saw that they had published another series called Kisah Hidup Paman Gober (=The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck). Unfortunately the latter series was published last year. I didn't even understand why that magazine was being sold, but I bought it, too. It was the last of the series (the 7th). Then I had no idea how could I get the rest of the series, having read the 7th and liked it very much; because the month before (May) I called the publisher (Kompas Gramedia) if I could get the 1st and 2nd of Komik Terbaik Disney Karya Carl Barks which were published inMarch but they didn't have them anymore.

I was glad to find the English version of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, although it was much more expensive. That time I only could find Volume 2 and Companion volume 1. Only this December Volume 1 is available again. Now I am waiting for the release of Companion volume 2.

This series by Don Rosa is very amusing. It begins with young Scrooge with his first job as a shoeshine-boy, where he gets the famous first dime - until becomes the richest duck in the world. The series ends when he meets Donald Duck and the 3 nephews. In between are stories about his struggles to get away from poverty. In volume 1, he more fails than succeeds, but he learns. Don Rosa built the stories from the clues left by the creator of Scrooge: Carl Barks; like facts where and when Uncle Scrooge bought his spectacles or his red jacket or his hat or his cane.

From all the stories in this series, I like very much "The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark". In this story, Scrooge visited Batavia in 1883. There he met Sultan Yogya Mangkunegara V and Sultan Solo Pakubuwono IX. He tried to sell 2 bulls to them because each of the sultans wanted to be the winner of Karapan Sapi race in Madura. Everyone whom I told about it thought it was very very amusing :-) ... and didn't make sense :-)

I like very much Carl Barks's works. Now and then I still like buying Donald Duck or Uncle Scrooge comics, but the stories are not as good as the ones I read when I was young. Comparing Carl Barks and Don Rosa, in Don Rosa's drawing Uncle Scrooge is meaner, not as kind as Carl Barks's. I think all characters is meaner in Don Rosa's drawing.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mumu (2010)

Mumu is one of the movies which has left deep impression in my mind. Its central character is a 11 year-old boy named Roger Lantier, who has been expelled from several schools. The story is set in 1947. Roger is sent to a new boarding school, and this is his last chance. If he gets expelled again, he will be sent to a reform school.

Roger may behave badly because he is not happy at home. He lives with his step-father, who always compares him to his brother; and to his step-father's eye, Roger is not as good as his brother. His mother cannot do anything. Roger tries to behave, but boys will be boys, and one day it just happens: he accidentally throws a hairbrush into the face of his teacher, Mademoiselle Mumu. Mumu and the headmaster both like Roger; but they must set an example and Roger is expelled again. This time, he cannot avoid to go to a reform school. Roger suffers so much that he runs away in the rain and seeks Mumu.

The story seems so real. I read that it is some sort of autobiography by writer/director Joël Séria. It also reminds me of someone. [How many French boys were expelled from several schools in 1947?] Balthazar Dejean de la Bâtie who plays Roger is a beautiful boy, makes it easy to sympathize for him. I feel it's his parents's fault. When he tells the headmaster and Mumu how his parents often don't pick him up for week-ends, I really feel that they don't care for him. The most moving scene is when he tries to commit suicide. It will be a great lost: a boy that smart, that good looking.

Sylvie Testud plays the title role and she is very good as Mumu: a strict teacher who doesn't hesitate to punish those who are not paying attention and don't behave, but in the end, we see that she loves Roger. "I'll keep you," she says to him.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Big Heat (1953)

German director Fritz Lang is one of the best I have known. I was so impressed with 'M' and wanted to see more works of him. Well, some are available on DVD, but they are so expensive. He also did several American film noirs, which were at more affordable price. I am not too fond on such films, but according to the reviews, The Big Heat probably the best of them all, so I picked this one.

I am not disappointed. I recently watched  several American movies made in the 50's - from different genres- and The Big Heat is the best. I like its complex plot.

Glenn Ford plays Sergeant Dave Bannion, an honest cop among corrupted wolves. The town is ruled by gangster Mike Lagana. The movie begins with a police committed suicide, leaving a note which will uncover the whole scandal. His widow takes the note  with the intention to blackmail Lagana. She tells the police that her husband's health was failing, and that was the reason for the suicide. This reason is unfortunately printed on the newspaper, which is read by the late cop's mistress, who takes the trouble to ring Bannion that there was nothing wrong with his health. The next morning, the mistress is found death. Bannion's suspicion on the widow stirs both worlds: the gangster and the police. It gets worse when a car bomb for Bannion kills his wife instead.

Compared to Tony Arzenta (1973) who also gets his wife killed in the same way, Arzenta knows who are responsible for the murder and kills them all; while Bannion searches for the very person(s) responsible. It is not easy for him, because the whole town is scared of Lagana and none dares to talk. Lagana's thug, Vince Stone (Lee Marvin) is even more dangerous than his boss. Bannion finally gets a little hint about the person who had the car bomb planted; and he gets luckier when Stone makes his girlfriend Debby (Gloria Grahame) angry. Debby will tell Bannion all and helps him to finish what he didn't dare to do. I guess in 1953 the level of violence in this movie must be very high, although by today's standard it is nothing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

La Strada (1954)

La Strada (in English it means 'The Road') is one of the movies which is hard to forget once you have seen it. The story is about a traveling artist, Zampano (Anthony Quinn), a big man with lungs of steel. He entertains the crowds by breaking 6 mm iron chains by expanding his chest. He buys Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) from her mother, teaches her to play a drum and a trumpet; in short: to be his assistant. He treats her harshly. They later join a circus, where Zampano is provoked by The Fool (Richard Basehart), who likes to tease him. They both are dismissed from the circus. When Zampano meets The Fool again, he accidentally kills him, and this shocks Gelsomina - because The Fool had persuaded her to stay with Zampano when she wanted to leave him. She was so shaken that she cannot work again, so Zampano abandons her. Yet years later he breaks down when he learns about her death.

I have several Fellini's works and except for 'Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio' I don't like them. For me, although they are very well made, the stories have nothing special. They are about every day life, mostly about moral degradation. The plot in La strada is much more interesting.

Giulietta Masina, who played Gelsomina, was amazing. Gelsomina is a strange character. She is like a child: she doesn't hide anything, she tells the truth, and her feelings are like an open book. She has a big smile, which makes me think that she is not right in the head. Actually I thought she might have been one of the unprofessional actresses, an unknown face, who were often used in Italian cinema after WW2. Her acting was unique. I was surprised to know that she was the director's wife. She really deserved her many awards for Best Actress.

Anthony Quinn played well, too. His face showed a hard expression: a serious brute who likes to beat women. Yet there was something in him that made Gelsomina love him. I was thinking that 'At least he is honest. He doesn't steal.' and the next second, he tried to make Gelsomina steal silver hearts for him. Zampano's love for Gelsomina is hard to read, he has troubles to communicate (and she does, too. She is like a child.). It's an unusual love story.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Edge of Darkness (1985)

Inspector Ronald Craven (played by Bob Peck) lives with his only daughter Emma (played by Joanne Whalley, who is very beautiful here. I don't like her as Scarlett O'Hara, though. Vivien Leigh's Scarlett is so famous that casting big eyed Joanne Whalley was not wise, in my opinion.). One day, it just happens. Emma is murdered, shot, in front of his eyes, in front of their house. In investigating the death of his activist daughter, Ronald Craven finds that she and her friends had broken into a hot cell which illegally producing plutonium. Together with a CIA agent (Joe Don Baker), Craven tries to understand the mystery behind Emma's death.

Bob Peck played the tormented father very well. It shocked him how Emma had never told him what she had been through. They were very close. She took care of him after her mother's death and he took care of her.

The  movie consists of 6 episodes, each about 50 minutes. The first, as always, is rather slow. The 5th, however, when Craven and CIA agent Jedburg breaks into the Northmoor plant is breathtaking. It ends sadly, but makes sense, as little pawns always lose against giant corporations and the government.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tiré à part (1996)

Terence Stamp plays Edward Lamb, a successful publisher based in London. His relationship with his secretary is like James Bond - Miss Moneypenny and they could have been married, but Edward Lamb once had a lover in Tunisia, back in 1960, and he cannot forget her. Lamb's sweetheart, Farida, committed suicide in 1960 and her death made him stop writing.

One day, a writer called Nicolas Fabry brings his manuscript to Edward Lamb. Strangely, this manuscript is about Farida's death - which no one knew, except Farida herself and the man who raped her. Obviously, it was Nicolas Fabry who caused her death 30 years ago. Edward Lamb then makes a plan to avenge her.

Nicolas Fabry usually writes action novels, but his new work is very different. It is very good. Later it wins The Goncourt Prize. Things are well for Nicolas Fabry, until when a critic writes an article that his book is a plagiarism from a dead writer. The critic can prove that the former book was published in the eve of WW2.

Terence Stamp makes Edward Lamb has a heart of stone. His revenge is too cruel and I feel pity on Nicolas Fabry, who for the first time finally could prove to the public that he could write something good. It's bad luck that he puts his trust on Edward Lamb. How could he copy other writer's book if he wrote the story from his own experience? 

The movie has good pace and it's a thrilling drama. I kept hoping that Lamb could forgive Fabry and forget the past.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010)

I like very much the 1981 version, but it's been so long since I watched it. I think in the end Perseus marries Andromeda.

The movie begins with how Spyros the fisherman saves baby Perseus who is floating with his dead mother in a coffin in the ocean. Spyros and family are later killed by Hades and Perseus swears that he will avenge them. In Argos, Queen Cassiopeia insults the gods by comparing Aphrodite's beauty to her daughter Andromeda; but instead of Aphrodite, it's Hades who comes to curse Argos. In 10 days, monster Kraken will destroy Argos unless Princess Andromeda is sacrificed.

Perseus learns about his birth from Io (played by Gemma Arterton, who is very beautiful. It makes sense why Perseus ends up with her and not Andromeda), that he is Zeus's son. Only Perseus can save Argos. He must first ask the 3 Stygian witches how Kraken can be defeated. The witches tells him to go to the underworld and get Medusa's head to stone Kraken. There is also Calibos, an ex-king who hates Zeus so much that he wants to kill his son Perseus.

The 1981 version is still my favourite. I like better the actors who play Perseus - Andromeda there - and I prefer white Pegasus. In this 2010 version, the moral lesson of 'a man can do this', 'one day a man must take a stand and say to gods 'That's enough', are quite annoying. This is a Greek myth! Liam Neeson who plays Zeus, is hired to play gods lately; for he is also in Narnia Chronicles, gives his voice to Aslan. Hades is played by Ralph Fiennes, who sounds like he is strangled while delivering his lines. I wonder why not he used his usual voice. He has melancholic eyes, and in my opinion, they should be portrayed anger in many scenes - but I didn't see it.

Case 39 (2009)

I don't like watching horror movie and only agree to watch this after being convinced that this was not scary, no devil in it, only enough to make me startled.

Renée Zellweger plays Emily, a single woman who works as a social worker. She has already worked on 38 cases when her boss gives her one more file. This is why this movie is called case 39.  A 10 year-old girl, Lily, in the last 3 months has been got bad marks at school, sleeping in the class-room, and has no friends. Emily suspects that she is abused by her parents at home. When she visit them, the parents do show strange behaviour. She keeps an eye on Lily, until one night when she finally saves her when her parents are about to kill her by putting her in the oven. The parents go to mental institution and Lily stays with Emily. However it turns out that Lily's parents are not crazy and that they wanted to kill the little girl because she is very dangerous.

Like Omen - but not as scary - the child is the devil incarnation. In Emily's world, where most of the people don't believe in God, the only way to get rid of the child is to kill her. It's not easy for me to grasp: if one doesn't believe in God, how can one believe the existence of devil? -even though if one sees it with one's own eyes. Emily suffers because she sees her friends die one by one, even more suffers because she knows she is the indirect cause of their deaths because she has taken Lily under her wings.

Robin Hood (2010)

Unlike other Robin Hood movies I had seen (Disney's version and the version with Kevin Costner), this one tells the story before Robin Hood becomes an outlaw under King John's reign. Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) fights with King Richard the Lionheart in the Crusade. He is detained after telling the king that the Crusade was useless and left the army with a couple of friends after the king was killed. [Yes, the king is dead. I wonder how he could return to England with that wound in the neck.]

In his way to the shore, Robin and his friends save king Richard's crown, which is on its way to England to his successor, from an ambush. The crown bearer, Sir Robert Loxley is dead, but he had made Robin Longstride promises to return his sword to his old father in Nottingham. The old Loxley makes Robin Longstride poses as his son so that his daughter-in-law Marion can keep the land. Meanwhile, the people suffer because of the taxation. The bishop is as greed as King John, who replaces the late King Richard. Sir Godfrey also provokes the lords in the north to rebel against King John, while Godfrey himself has a pack with King Philip of France, so that France can smoothly attack England in the civil war.

Our hero Robin Longstride will save King John's crown and save England - so he is actually a national hero; and yet he is rewarded by being declared as an outlaw. In the stories, he is usually saved by King Richard, but in this version, as King Richard is written to have been dead, can he save himself?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

I and my friend watched this today. We had never seen a movie in 3D before so we were very curious. Well, it was not as spectacular as I had thought - because I hoped every thing would come out from the screen. I think the glasses were quite heavy (can they make it lighter?) and every couples of minutes it slipped down on my nose. Perhaps next time I need to wedge it with a scrap of tissue paper. Now I feel so dizzy.

The movie was very good. We are fans of Narnia stories anyway. In this 3rd story (after 'the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' and 'Prince Caspian'), Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, with their cousin Eustace Scrubb; join King Caspian in a voyage across the sea aboard the ship The Dawn Treader. They look for seven swords belonged to seven lost Lords from Narnia. The seven swords must be placed on Aslan's table so that the evil can be defeated. 

I usually don't like movies which the scenes take place mostly at sea. However, I really enjoyed this one. I and my friend were amused with the casting of Eustace, because that boy looked very annoying in the first half of the movie. The fighting scene with the sea serpent was very cool.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

En cas de malheur (2010)

One day, Maître Viviane Guérand (Line Renaud), a successful lawyer, is visited by 20 year-old Lucie (Mélanie Bernier) in her office. Lucie needs a lawyer because she thinks she has killed someone. "In case of trouble," Lucie tells her. The night before, Lucie and her friend Noémie tried to steal from a jeweler, but they were scared and went off without taking anything after the jeweler bumped her head on a bar and collapsed with blood on her head. Lucie finds out soon that the jeweler does not die, so she tells Viviane that she doesn't need her anymore. However, Viviane has determined to take Lucie's case and to take care of her. Viviane's late daughter was of the same age as Lucie when she died 20 years ago. Viviane decides to give Lucie what she didn't give her late daughter: her presence. 

Mélanie Bernier is very pretty and she made it easier to understand why Viviane loves her so. Lucie is a DJ - and her boss, the café owner, in fact uses her in drug trafficking. Lucie is basically a good girl and Viviane tries to make a new life for her. First she installs Lucie in her own studio and then she keeps her away from Noémie and the café owner . Viviane's attempt is not without barrier. Her husband doesn't agree because Lucie is different from the people they are used to mingle with. And from Lucie's side: it's definitely not easy for her to detach herself from her old surrounding. A tragic thing happens when she and Viviane are about to start for Italy, to begin a new life.

Friday, November 26, 2010

J'aurais voulu être un danseur (2007)

François Maréchal lost his wife and son and he blames whom? Gene Kelly!

It begins when François watches the famous scene in Singin' in the Rain, where Gene Kelly dancing in the rain; and suddenly he wants to be a tap dancer. He tells his wife he is looking for a job, but actually he takes a dancing lesson. What he didn't know is that his father Guy left his mother and him in 1973 for the same reason: He was crazy about dancing after watching Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain, and chose to leave his family. His grandfather Maurice, who had also been inspired by Gene Kelly, committed suicide after his grandmother refused to believe that he could dance. François starts to believe that there is a curse on the family and he warns his son Antoine.

François dances together with his father Guy

There is an interesting scene where François visits the making of Singin' in The Rain. They have finished the famous scene: Gene Kelly stops singing and dancing after the policeman approaches him. The crews appear on the scene. François tries to come nearer to Gene Kelly, but the policeman stops him. The policeman tells him that he cannot blame Gene Kelly for what has happened. It is his own fault because he tells lies to his wife.

The ending scene is very enjoyable. It shows the four generations of Maréchal men dancing together. Jean-Pierre Cassel plays the old Guy.

The Girl who Kicked The Hornets' Nest

This is the last of the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. The first part, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, can be read separately. I think the 2nd, The Girl who Played With Fire, can be read separately, too; but it's recommended to read the first book first. However, we cannot read The Girl who kicked the Hornets' Nest without at least reading the 2nd book.

In the first, the heroine Lisbeth Salander helps journalist Mikael Blomvkist to solve a 40 year-old case of a missing girl. In the 2nd, Salander's past is explored. It explains why she is declared incompetent and has to be under guardianship, even though a few people who know her say that she is a genius. The 2nd book ends with Salander confronts her father, the mysterious Zala. They almost kill each other.

In this book, Salander is under arrest for attempting to kill her father and several other charges. Her friends, including Blomvkist, who believe her story about a conspiracy to lock her in mental hospital forever; work to save her and uncover the conspiracy. The enemy, known as 'The Section' seems to hide behind the government, but as Blomvkist will reveal the truth in his next book and magazine issue about how the government has violated Salander's rights for years, the government must act and work together with Blomvkist to remove the corrupted officers.

Too bad the writer was dead after finishing the 3rd book. If there was the 4th book, what would have it been about? Salander's lost sister?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Le passager de la pluie (1970)

At last I could see this movie. I like the works of director René Clément. So far, all that I have seen are very good: Gervais, Jeux interdits, Plein soleil, Che gioia vivere, Les félins, Paris brûle-t-il? and now this. I hope to be able to watch La bataille du rail in the future. Now it's indeed available on DVD, but the price is so high.

Its English title "Rider on The Rain" is not easy to comprehend, at least for me. However after the movie starts, I think I can understand its meaning. The movie starts with a passenger get off a bus, in a small town in Southern France. It is raining. The heroine, Mellie (played by Marlène Jobert), sees him from behind a window. If I'm not mistaken, she is in her mother's house. The stranger follows her when she is buying a new dress and to her home, where he rapes her. She wants to call the police, but changes her mind as she remembers her jealous pilot husband. She finds the man is still in the house, shoots him down, and dumps the body to the sea. The next morning, in the newspaper there is a news that a body has been found in the shore. Then arrives Colonel Harry Dobbs (Charles Bronson) from US Army who tells Mellie that he knows what she has done. He tells her that the stranger was bringing a bag full of money and had her husband photo with him.

In most part of the movie, there are only Mellie and Dobbs alone. He tries to make her acknowledge that she has killed that man, but she insists she knows nothing - until Dobbs tells her that the man's mistress has been caught by the police as the murderess. Mellie thinks she must tell someone that the mistress is innocent. The ending can be categorized as a happy ending, I think. Both main actors are wonderful. Jill Ireland, Bronson's wife, has a little role here, but she is not very convincing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

La grande vadrouille (1966)

I heard that this movie was very famous - at least in France. Its two main stars, Bourvil and Louis de Funès were great names. It was directed by Gérard Oury, whose work The Adventures of Rabbi Jacob with Louis de Funès I liked very much. After watching this, I still prefer The Adventures of Rabbi Jacob. I guess La grande vadrouille is preferred by many because this movie is about patriotism.

In La grande vadrouille (what does it mean? The Great Wandering?), Bourvil played a painter and Louis de Funès a chief conductor who is going to hold a concert in the Paris Opera House. Set in WW2, they help three RAF crews, whose plane has been shot down by the Germans. The British pilots came to Paris for Operation "Tea For Two" - which turns out a failure. The painter and the conductor help them escape to the south, to the unoccupied France. All the way, the conductor look down on the painter, who is a manual labourer.

My favourite scene is when Bourvil and Louis de Funès play with the Germans some sort of game, like toad jumping but using chairs. (pic attached) It's one of the funniest scene I have ever seen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Ghost Writer (2010)

What is a ghost writer? From Wikipedia: "A ghostwriter is a professional writer who is paid to write books, articles, stories, reports, or other texts that are officially credited to another person." In the movie it's often shortened as "a ghost". Ewan McGregor plays the ghost. He is hired to reduct Adam Lang's memoirs. Adam Lang (played by Pierce Brosnan) is the former UK Prime Minister. The former ghost, Mike, has been dead by drowning.

The Ghost is to stay for a month with Adam Lang, who now lives in an isolated island in the USA. After a couple of days, Adam Lang gets involved in a big scandal and will be in investigation concerning war crimes. Then The Ghost finds some clues about Mike's death, which is probably not by accident.

The movie is well made, and that is not surprising, as the director, Roman Polanski is one of the best. I think the story itself is not too interesting. War crimes, CIA, politics... those are not interesting for me. I'm still not sure why the 2 ghostwriters should be killed. Is finding out the identity of a CIA agent a great threat to national security? On the other hand, The Ghost finds that Paul Emmett worked for the CIA (the year was also mentioned) by Googling the information. I also don't understand the reason why Adam Lang encrypted the secret into his memoirs - did he want to harm his wife and national security?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Where is Harriet Vanger? She has disappeared 40 years ago. Her great uncle, the rich Henrik Vanger hires journalist Mikael Blomkvist - who is about to serve his jail time - to solve the mystery. Henrik has dedicated 40 years to find her and would like to make one last attempt before he died.

I have read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo book and was surprised because I could still enjoy the movie. Perhaps this is the first Swedish movie I have seen and the language sounded so strange, even though I also don't understand Mandarin, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, German, ... After reading the book, I felt that the story had ended; I mean one can read book one only without reading the sequel (=The Girl Who Played With Fire). However, in the movie there is some hints that we must see the sequel: Little Lisbeth who threw petrol and burned someone in a car, Lisbeth's mother in a hospital.

The Wennerström Affair is mentioned a lot in the book, but in the movie it's only minutes. They focus on the investigation about Harriet and how it leads to series of murders. Several characters are missing, like Blomkvist's daughter and Anita Vanger; the cause of Salander's laptop to break is different (the movie is better), and Blomkvist's partner Erika Berger only appears for a couple of minutes ~ but basically it's faithful to the book. 

It is nice to see Sweden and particularly Hedeby. The bridge is much longer than I imagined and it is easier to see now why the contact was totally off when there was an accident on it. Martin's basement has more light and more cheerful than I had in mind. I thought of a real torture chamber, like the one in the Tower of London, for example. Or like the one in The Mermaids Singing from Wire in The Blood.

I think the Wennerström Affair is not as interesting as the investigation about Harriet (perhaps that was why they shortened it in the movie), but perhaps it's an important link to connect the trilogy, which is about the magazine - that is why it's called the Millennium Trilogy.

I imagine Sweden as a nice little country. We here hardly hear anything from there. So between 1949 - 1965 the killer had killed at least 5 women (in the book there were more) and the police didn't see the connection? Or they closed their eyes because they were from a minority group? The women had been mutilated, a way which I think was not often done in the 50's. My mother told me when she was a kid, there was a murder (without mutilation) in a city 100 kms from where she lived and it was a big news on the radio and all people talked about it. It is not like today, when murder is every day's news. Perhaps that is why murders in Agatha Christie's books are often made like accidents. However we are talking about fiction here. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson is the 2nd book in the Millennium Trilogy. In the first book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, we were introduced to Lisbeth Salander, one of the world's best hackers, who has troubled personality. She helps journalist Mikael Blomkvist to solve a serial murder mystery.

In this book, we learn more about Lisbeth Salander: why she distrusts the authorities so much and why she is declared incompetent and has to be under guardianship, while few people who know her personally think that she is a genius.

Conspiracy theories are always amusing to read, especially if they are well written like this one. Halfway through the book, I finally saw why the book had been titled so - and I liked it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Engrenages (2005)

Engrenages (in the UK it is called 'Spiral' - but literally it means 'gear') is a TV series about how the French police & juridical system work. The main characters are: Captain Laure Berthaud, Judge Roban, Prosecutor Clément, Maître Karlsson, and police officers Gilou and Tintin.

I bought a box-set which consists of season 1 & 2, which I finished watching last night. I think it was very good, although when I first started watching it, I thought the colour was rather pale. Not sure if it's the quality of the DVD (from BBC) or the movie had been made that way. In each season, there is one main case, with new cases in each episode. In the first season, they investigate the murder of a Romanian woman - which leads them to a high politician, a bit like 'State of Play'. In the second season, it's about a drug ring. 

The main characters have their own problems, except Judge Roban - who is very clever - and Tintin

Monday, October 25, 2010

Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window

I had wanted to read this for years. Last night I finished the book and I think it was cute and very moving. [I started to read Totto-Chan's Children: A Goodwill Journey to the Children of the World, and in the prologue there was a story about a bomb hidden in a child's doll, which made me cry.]

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi is a famous talk show host in Japan. In this book, she wrote about her days in Tomoe school, Tokyo, in early 1940's. After expelled from a public school because of her naughtiness, Tetsuko - nicknamed Totto-chan, was brought by her mother to Tomoe, where Totto-chan was received by the kind headmaster. With his unconventional way to teach, the headmaster taught Totto-chan that she was a good girl. The headmaster loved children, so he was able to understand them. He loved the pupils and they loved him. Sadly the school was bombed in 1945.

I think this book should be read by children and those who care about children and their education. If school is not merely a place where children are fed with lessons, but a place where they can learn about life, perhaps this world would be a better place.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

This is one of the books which really worth the money. I read this in 3 days, which is very fast for me.

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist teams up with a hacker named Lisbeth Salander to solve a 40 year old mystery of a missing girl. Harriet Vanger was missing in 1966 when she was 16 and since then her grandfather, ex-CEO of Vanger Enterprises, has been searching for her. In his last attempt, he persuades Blomkvist to solve the mystery for him.  

The book was hard to put down - but I had to because I had to sleep if I wanted to be able to wake up in the morning and able to work. I really wanted to finish it asap so I could know Harriet's fate. My thanks also to whoever wrote on the back sleeve (my copy is from Quercus), because the information given was enough to tell what the story was about without giving too much. The plot is well-written and the conclusion is satisfactory. This is the first book of Millennium Trilogy and I am looking forward to reading the next two. They are on the way.

Unfortunately, the writer Stieg Larsson died in 2004 and he never saw the success of his work.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Les héritières (2008)

Les héritières is shown on TV as a 2-part miniseries and I must say I enjoyed the intrigues very much. Set in 1945, Ottavio Della Rocca (Jacques Weber) is a powerful landlord and mayor in Corsica. He is a widower with 3 beautiful daughters: Vanina, Antonia, and Flavia. Antonia has married a local playboy and has 3 daughters, while Flavia is married and childless. Ottavio loves Vanina much better than the other 2, which will trigger jealousy and anger in the heart of Antonia and Flavia.

Ottavio has promised Vanina to Barthélémy, the son of Caponi, a Communist and his former tenant; but Vanina, helped by Barthélémy himself, runs to Marseille to marry her lover, a jazz musician. Ottavio is angry and disinherits Vanina. He divides the land between Antonia and Flavia, who will sell the land to revenge against their father and persuade the townspeople to elect Caponi as the new mayor; because all this time their father has treated them like dirt. Antonia's husband also kills Vanina's lover. Plus, there is a stranger, named Masimo, who returns from Indochina to revenge against Della Rocca family and Caponi.

Ottavio wants a grandson, who someday will inherit the whole land. When the grandson is finally born, there is no more land. "As you sow, so shall you reap." We must be careful of what we do, because in the future no one can escape karma. I think if Ottavio loved his 3 daughters equally, none of this would have had happened. [But of course we would have missed an enjoyable soap-opera.]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Trumpet of The Swan

In mid-eighties, I read Charlotte's Web by E.B. White and liked it very much. The illustrations by Garth Williams, which showed a spider web with the writing "Some Pig" (and later "Terrific") amazed me. The book was from my school library and when I wanted to have one for my own, I could not find it anywhere.

In late 90's it was not difficult anymore to buy things from other countries. I got my copy of Charlotte's Web several years ago. Only yesterday I read this other work by E.B. White, The Trumpet of The Swan. Like Charlotte's Web (and Little Stuart), this is also a wonderful story.

Louis, a trumpeter swan, is born dumb. He goes to see his friend Sam Beaver and asks him to take him to school so he can learn to write. However, it is not useful to communicate with other swans, because they never learn to read. It's moving and funny at once when Louis tries to tell Serena, a female trumpeter swan, that he is in love with her; because Serena cannot read the words "I love you." Louis's father steals a trumpet for his son, so with this trumpet Louis can communicate with other swans. Louis then masters the trumpet and works as a musician to pay for the trumpet and restore his father's honour.

The illustrations by Fred Marcellino is beautiful and helps a lot to imagine Louis's adventures. I only regret because I have mistaken and bought the b/w version while there is a colour version.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Corsican Brothers

The Corsican Brothers seems like a true story as the writer, Alexandre Dumas, unusually placed himself as the first person. Set in 1841, 36 1/2 years old Dumas traveled through Corsica - which is famous as the land of vendetta. In the town of Sullacaro, he stayed in the house of de Franchi, which belongs to a widow with her two twin sons: Lucien and Louis, both 21 years old. Born attached at the chest, the bond between them is so strong that each can suffer if the other suffers, even though they are miles away. 

Lucien is the hunter, the one who is very competent in using weapons, and he lives in peace with his mother in Sullacaro. Louis is the book-worm and is studying in Paris to become a lawyer. It's the weaker brother who never touches a weapon who is in troubles because of his love for a woman, which will lead him to a fatal duel. 

The supranatural ability in the family of de Franchi interested the writer immensely, and one thing we can learn: even though the living can lie, the dead cannot. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Complete Father Brown Stories

I always enjoy reading detective stories and only a few months ago I heard about Father Brown, an English detective created by G.K. Chesterton in 1911. This book happens to contain the complete collection: The Innocence of Father Brown, The Wisdom of Father Brown, The Incredulity of Father Brown, The Secret of Father Brown, The Scandal of Father Brown, and last: The Donnington Affair, which appeared in Premier magazine in two parts.

Unlike the arrogant Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown is mild-mannered and doesn't attract attention. He is short and often carries a large, shabby umbrella. A Roman Catholic priest, he knows a lot about psychology and people's mind. Perhaps criminals come to him for absolution and tell him how they work. Even police inspectors comes to ask his advice to solve cases. Not much about Father Brown's daily life, like how he takes care of his flocks, but when they are in trouble, he will come and help them. One of the characters that often pops out is Flambeau, ex-French criminal who is caught by Father Brown in the first story (The Blue Cross), and later becomes a private detective and his good friend.

If I have to choose between Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown, I still prefer Sherlock Holmes because his adventures are more dangerous - and I like very much The Adventure of The Dancing Men. Father Brown is more like Miss Marple with her rural surrounding - and they both are amiable and have no enemies.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Impasse des Deux Anges (1948)

Simone Signoret plays Marianne, a stage-girl who is about to quit her job because she is marrying Antoine de Fontaines (Marcel Herrand), an aristocrat. Antoine gives her a beautiful necklace, which once belonged to one of Louis XIV's ladies. A group of criminals hears about this very expensive gift and makes a plan to steal the necklace. Jean (Paul Meurisse) is given the task to pretend that he is one of the guests - Marianne is holding a party at her house the night before the wedding - and steal the necklace. The plan is going well, but Jean meets Marianne and realizes that she once was called Anne-Marie.

7 years ago, Jean and Anne-Marie were sweethearts, but Jean was arrested for stealing and jailed for 5 years. Marianne thinks that Jean is coming to see her, so she sneaks out and goes with him for a walk, remembering their happy times together. They arrive at Impasse des Deux Anges, where they were most happy, but now the place is a ruin (and a dead end) - perhaps like their relationship now. 7 years is a long time and all this time Marianne doesn't know that her Jean is a thief. Now he is even a better thief. The abyss between them is now too wide, and when Marianne has to choose between Jean and Antoine, it's not a difficult matter.

Jean himself becomes a different man after meeting Marianne. He is supposed to hand the necklace to his friends who are waiting at the gate, but he doesn't give it to them and all night crooks are following them both. After spending the night with Marianne, Jean realizes how he has been wrong. Anne-Marie loved good things, but if Jean had to steal to get them, she preferred not to have them, as to be with Jean was more precious.

The movie is beautiful and poetic although I felt it was slow at some parts (perhaps because I wanted to do something else): i.e. the scene with a poor young girl, also called Anne-Marie, where Marianne tries to tell her that once she was poor also; and the scene with a man who takes Jean's gun and threatens them.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Le chat (1971)

This work of director Pierre Granier-Deferre is interesting to watch, since two great actors, Jean Gabin and Simone Signoret, are in it.

Having married for 25 years, Julien Bouin has lost his passion for his wife Clémence. He sneers at her, but they are not divorced as he cannot leave his home. It's amazing to see how two people can live side by side that way. One day, Julien brings home a cat. Seeing how he loves the cat so much, but ignores the wife, Clémence first slanders the cat, next leaves it in a supermarket (but it comes home), and finally shoots the poor creature. Julien puts the dead cat in a trash-bin and moves to a hotel owned by his ex-mistress. He finally returns home, worrying about his wife's heart disease; but he never speaks a word to her anymore and his wife to him. The story is told in flashbacks, so in the beginning of the movie we see Julien and Clémence both do his&her own shopping and cooking. First she enters into a shop and he only comes in after she has gone out. She buys the last bottle of his favourite rum and doesn't share it with him. He cooks his dinner and doesn't share it with her.

I've seen old couples who are not in love anymore, but this couple in this movie is a very bad example. Each day must be like hell. Imagine Julien, after working all day, when he returns home, he must be wanting to rest - mind and body; yet he must face a wife whom he doesn't want anymore. It's better if they had been divorced, in my opinion, because often, when two people haven't seen each other for a while, perhaps they will forget each other's faults and keep the happier memories. "There should be a law which prohibits two people who don't love each other to live in the same house."

Returning to the house is like a habit for Julien Bouin, even if inside it lives his biggest enemy. The cat triggers the cold war between the couple, and the news that they are to be evicted from the house also adds fuel to the aversion.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Monk

First published in 1796, The Monk by Matthew Lewis is set in Madrid. Like the title suggests, a monk called Ambrosio is one of the central characters. When the story begins, Ambrosio is the idol of Madrid, and as the story progresses, we see how his falls. Ambrosio's demise begins from his nearest friend, a monk who adores him very much. This monk turns out to be a disguised woman and she will do anything to please Ambrosio. Unfortunately she is not a faithful friend, because she doesn't give him good advice. She encourages Ambrosio to go on with his desire, whatever it is, even though they know that the Church forbids it.

Other characters are Don Lorenzo and Don Raymond, two noblemen who each has their own sweetheart: Don Lorenzo loves Antonia, a far relative of Don Raymond; and Don Raymond loves Agnes, Don Lorenzo's sister. Both love stories seem to end tragically, although in the end Don Raymond gets his Agnes after a tribulation; while Don Lorenzo loses his Antonia but gets a worthy replacement.

The novel is well written and fast paced, often using story within a story. There are robbery attempt, ghosts, murders, rape, incest, tortures and black magic. Ambrosio is not the only bad priest in here, because the Prioress of St Clare is also ruthless. These are church leaders and people listen to them, but they have no pity and give no mercy. A mistake like what Agnes has done, which Ambrosio happens to find out, makes the Prioress punishes her with maximum because the Prioress feels she has lost a face in front of Ambrosio, the idol of Madrid. Ambrosio can tell the Prioress to be softer, but he is afraid he will open his own mask, so he stays silent and let Agnes face her doom.

People come to the church to listen to Ambrosio, yet this monk doesn't really know about the Grace of God. After he fell to temptation and is facing a court, they break his body and spirit in a torture, and he surrenders to the darkness. Doesn't he know that misery in this world is only for the time being and that in other world it is eternal? He escapes the 2nd torture from the Inquisition by selling his soul to the devil, believing the Father of the Liars's words that after what he has done to Antonia and her mother, he will never be saved.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Blow-Up (1966)

Having seen one work of Michelangelo Antonioni before, I prepared myself to enjoy this without trying to understand.

David Hemmings plays Thomas, a photographer in London who likes to bark to his models, thinking he is above them. One afternoon he photographs 2 lovers in Maryon Park, but the woman (Vanessa Redgrave) chases him and tells him that she wants the negative. This makes Thomas curious so he gives her another roll. After he blowups the pictures, he thinks he has photographed a murder. The enlarged, distorted pictures show a gunman and the body. Thomas goes to the park that night to find that the body is still there, but when he returns to his apartment, the pictures are gone.

I guess in the end it's better for Thomas to forget the whole thing because now he has no proof. The body has gone when he returns to the park again in the morning. Another new day comes and let's forget the past. It's symbolized in a scene when Thomas sees a group of mime artists watching their friends playing tennis with an imagining ball. No ball, but the players and the audience all enjoy the game.

There is an interesting scene when Thomas spots the mysterious woman (Redgrave) on his way to find his friend that night. He tries to find her by entering into a concert of The Yardbirds. The guitarist goes mad because the sound system goes wrong, and he breaks his guitar and throws the neck to the audience who goes wild. Thomas wins and runs out, chased by a mob. Outside the building, when he is no longer chased, he throws away the guitar's neck. This time the relic is seen as a trash - none wants it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Harold Lloyd - The Definitive Collection

I only heard the name of Harold Lloyd a couple of months ago. By now I have learned that in his time he was a great name in cinema, along with Charlie Chaplin. I watched Safety Last! then and liked it very much, so I bought this box-set.

When it arrived, I surprisingly found that inside there were 4 postcard-size pictures of Marylin Monroe (taken by Harold Lloyd). One of my uncles is a big fan of her, but as I showed him the pictures, my boss saw them, too; and she wanted them for her own. So I scanned them. So I have to be satisfied with the digital version in my computer, my uncle gets the copies and my boss gets the original.

I prefer Harold Lloyd silent pictures than the talking ones. I find the dialogues are not so funny, or perhaps it's because I cannot understand what they meant. Without subtitles, it's hard to listen to word per word. On the other hand, I think that we here have different taste of humour from Americans. Silent comedy is easier to accept and that is why Mr Bean and Shaun The Sheep are very successful.

Harold Lloyd was a wonderful film-maker. I enjoy how he did dangerous stunts, and admire him more after I learned that he had lost 3 fingers on his right hand and had to wear a prosthetic glove. It is difficult to hang on balustrade of tall building, or hang from a hand of a clock; and he did it all with imperfect hand. I love to see how he hid under a hanging raincoat. He played with camera angle and timed the scene well, and if it's done well, it's great, no matter if the film was made 90 years ago. My 7 year-old niece love watching Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin. [I'm planning to get the Buster Keaton box-set.]

Screencap from The Kid Brother

Apart from Safety Last! - first impression is never forgotten - my most favourite in this box-set is The Kid Brother. When the film starts, there is this wonderful song by Carl Davis, which reminds me a lot to Loch Lomond song. The film is hilarious and I am amazed by those old version of washing machine and dishwasher. We all laughed throughout the movie and screamed when the hero was in peril. Who would have thought that a movie made in 1927 could be so exciting.

Police Python 357 (1976)

This movie starts slow at first and reminds me how French movies in the 70's like to study human relationship. Yves Montand looked so elegant and I think he looked better here than in Le cercle rouge.

Inspecteur Marc Ferrot (Yves Montand) is a good cop, a good shooter. One night, when snaring 2 thieves, he meet Sylvia - who is taking photos for her window dressing job. They start an affair. However, Sylvia has another lover and this other man is Ferrot's boss (François Périer), Commissaire Ganay. Knowing that Sylvia deceives him, Ganay kills her. Ganay wants to confess, but his paralyzed wife (Simone Signoret) tells him not to. Meanwhile, all clues point to Ferrot as Sylvia's murderer. 

The plots are getting better as the movie goes. Sylvia has 2 lovers, but one is not aware of the other. Ferrot tries not to confront directly the eye-witnesses. When Ganay finally realizes that Ferrot is the other man, he commands his staff to gather all the witnesses and will parade Ferrot in front of them. But that night, Ferrot also realizes that Ganay is his rival and it's a matter of who's killing whom first. To avoid one good witness who remembers him, Ferrot does a very shocking thing: he destroys his good looks. The next day, after the witness describes the killer, Ferrot's staff sees the resembles between the drawing and his boss. He tails Ferrot and witnesses Ganay's widow implores Ferrot to end her life. This police plans to report what he has seen when there is a hold-up at Carrefour. Ferrot may have made a mistake, but he did not kill Sylvia, if Ganay is dead it's self protecting, and as for the widow, it's her last wish. Over all, Ferror is a good cop and the force still need him.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Le tatoué (1968)

Hobby is a strange thing - we can spend most part of our fortune to get what we want. Collecting a work of art can be very expensive, but what if that work of art is tattooed on someone's back? Will he sell his skin if the offered price meets his demand?

Louis de Funès plays Mézeray, an art dealer who sees Modigliani's work, tattooed on the back of an old legionnaire, Legrain (played by Jean Gabin). Mézeray sells the tattoo to two Americans, but before getting the item from Legrain, he must repair Legrain's country house first. Mézeray thinks he has cheated Legrain: Modigliani's work is swapped with the 'little house' renovation's cost. The house turns out to be a ruined 16th century castle. Meanwhile, the two Americans think Mézeray has deceived them. 

The music in this movie is very entertaining and this is my favourite Jean Gabin's performance. Never seen him in a comedy before, I think he and Louis de Funès made a wonderful pair. Disgusted with Mézeray's greed at first, in the end of the movie, Mézeray and Legrain become good friends.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seven Beauties (1975)

The original Italian title is Pasqualino Settebellezze or Pasqualino Seven Beauties. The central character, Pasqualino Frafuso, is called Pasqualino Seven Beauties, because, as he tells his friend Francesco, "I'm ugly, but in spite of my looks I appealed to women. People would say: it's unbelievable; he's repulsive, he must have the Seven Beauties."

Giancarlo Giannini is very good as Pasqualino, although I wasn't happy with this movie's editing. I just read at IMDb that the ratio of film shot to film used in the final cut was 50 to 1, so now I understand and that I hoped the movie was longer. From one scene to the next is not really clear, like in the mental asylum, we see him raping a patient bound on a bed, then jump to the next scene when he is sprayed with water, then put in to a straitjacket. Only after a while, I grasped the meaning that he has been caught.

Pasqualino is the only son in the family, but he doesn't work like his sisters. The family's bread winner is the eldest sister, who is unfortunately a prostitute. Pasqualino kills her pimp, who is also her lover. There is a funny scene when he is advised on how to get rid of the body. He is caught, sent to jail, and after pretending to be mad, he is moved to a mental asylum, where he commits sexual assault. The doctor agrees to let him free if he joins the army. He does join, but later abandon his post (i.e. desertion), and caught by Nazi Germans and sent to a camp. To survive, he seduces the female commandant.

It's hard to believe this story, especially the part in the German camp. The prisoners live in terror because for the Nazi soldiers, the prisoners's life is unworthy - and that killing them is like killing pests. Yet in this horror, we see Pasqualino whistles to woo the big, fat, cold commandant. "A woman is a woman, even one who is an evil person. A bit of sugar is always there," he says.

However, Seven Beauties is more a comedy than a drama, therefore it's okay if the plot is rather absurd - although there are also dramatic scenes as this is a story of survival. In the hell of the camp, where people want to die (like Pasqualino's 2 close friends), Pasqualino will do anything to live. The cinematography is wonderful and I like very much photography of the forest, where Pasqualino and Francesco hide after deserting.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Le notti bianche (1957)

Two years ago I saw clips from Le notti bianche in a RAI documentary about Luchino Visconti and at that time thought that the movie seemed boring. However as I had collected several Visconti works on DVD and it happened that last month this movie was on 50% discount, I thought I would try to watch it because in it there was Maria Schell, whom I thought was great in Gervais.

I just finished watching the movie and I must say that I like it very much. It's a beautiful story in a beautiful setting. It's about dream and hope.

On his way home, Mario sees a girl crying on a bridge. He offers if he can takes her home, thus begins a friendship between them. They promise to meet again the next night, then she tells him that she has been waiting for her lover, who has promised to meet her on that bridge. Her name is Natalia and her lover was a tenant in her house. One night the tenant took her, her grandmother, and her servant to an opera; and the next day he told her he was going away and that he would be back in a year. Mario thinks Natalia is crazy, for during the one year there is not any news from the tenant. "We agreed not no write to each other," she says. Mario tells her to stop waiting and ask her to learn to love him instead.

But who is dreaming? Who is having a false hope? Mario or Natalia? Among all the movie I have seen, this is certainly one of the most romantic. In the end, as the white snow falls, it seems that a new hope is born - as it turns out, but only for one of them.

Marcello Mastroianni usually plays annoying characters, but in this one, I really sympathize with his character. I wanted Mario to live happily ever after with Natalia and that the tenant never came.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Place in the Sun (1951)

In mid-eighties my aunt gave some pictures of actors from the 50's, I guessed they had been cut from a book. I remember one picture of actor Montgomery Clift, which I thought was very handsome, and I hoped that someday I could see one of his films. The pictures were lost when my family moved house 15 years ago.

The first film of Montgomery Clift I have seen is Judgment at Nuremberg, but I was rather disappointed with his looks, as he looked ill in the movie; but later I read that he was really ill when the scene was made. I thought he was a very good actor. Lately I saw Suddenly, Last Summer (compared to A Place in the Sun, Suddenly Last Summer is more like a play); but in this one, I think he is too thin - and looks ill a bit. Tonight I saw A Place in the Sun, and I remembered the picture I had years ago and I almost believed that the picture was taken when A Place in the Sun was made. 

The story of A Place in the Sun is sad: one mistake you made in the past has prevented you to obtain happiness. George Eastman is the poor nephew of the rich owner of Eastman swimsuit factory. He comes to work for his uncle and to begin with, they put him in the packaging department, where he meets Alice, a worker. The first time George comes to his uncle house, he sees Angela, who is beautiful and rich, who seems like a goddess to him (the trailer says so). Believing that Angela is out of his reach, he builds a romance with Alice. However, the second time his uncle invites him, Angela notices him and is attracted by him. Although George is poor and uneducated, Angela and her parents don't mind and it seems that George will have a better future - he will join the high society in their place in the Sun; but then Alice tells him that she is pregnant. 

It is not difficult to choose between Angela and Alice, but growing up in a family who dedicate their life to missionary, George's conscience speaks loud. He knows he should not abandon Alice. It's not only for fear that she will blow up their secret that he keeps returning to calm her, but because deep down inside he knows that it is the right thing to do. When the opportunity comes, when he really could get rid of Alice, although it has not been planned - well, at first he did plan it, but he changes his mind in the end - if in a split second he decides not to save Alice (and can he save her? It is dark and Alice is heavy), do they really have to punish him with maximum? The movie shows how prejudice is built to gain public opinion and it's the prosecutor's duty to finish it. The case has made the front page news for days, maybe weeks, that they feel it's not right if George is to let go free. 

Montgomery Clift is very convincing as a poor guy among the rich people. His complexion is dark, gives an impression that he is used to work under the sun. After the accident in the lake, his inner battle is so great, that he looks so tired. He is not Tom Ripley, who goes hungry after killing someone. His soul is in torment that he sweats. He wonders if he is really guilty, but his conscience keeps accusing him. Perhaps he could not save Alice, but at least he must try, and he did not. Another thing I like from this movie is the 3 dresses worn by Elizabeth Taylor: 1. in the pool room 2. when for the first time she and George say that they love each other 3. when George tells his family history to her father. They are very gorgeous.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Le quai des brumes (1938)

With every sunrise we think something new is going to happen, something fresh. Then the sun goes to bed, and so do we. ~ Nelly 

From director Marcel Carné, it's a story of a deserter who almost finds a haven, then all goes wrong.

The film starts slow, until the conflicts begin. Jean (Jean Gabin), a deserter, gets a lift from a truck-driver to Le Havre. He meets a sort of tramp (and a dog who follows Jean everywhere since), who leads him to a place belongs to a guy called Panama, who kindly gives Jean a place to rest and food to eat. In this place, Jean meets a beautiful girl, Nelly (Michèle Morgan), and falls in love with her. Nelly is an orphan who lives with her godfather Zabel (Michel Simon), a souvenir shop owner. A local thug, Lucien (Pierre Brasseur), courts her, but Nelly is looking for her missing lover, Maurice. In this mess, Jean arrives. He has been lucky so far: finding a new identity and gets a ship ticket to Venezuela; but his love for Nelly takes him back to the shop to say goodbye to her for the last time - in time to save her from Zabel, who has killed Maurice - and as he leaves her for the ship, Lucien, whom he has been humiliated twice, shoots him from behind.

I watched this on TV and the sound was bad. Michel Simon's voice was croaked and I agreed when Jean Gabin said to him after Zabel asked Jean to kill Lucien: 'Your voice is nasty. It sounds like walking in muck with old sandals.'

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I heard that Germinal was the most famous among Émile Zola's works, so I wanted to read this. I have just finished it. It tells about the coal miners in the town of Montsou. Our hero, Étienne, is the son of Gervais - from L'Assommoir novel. The book starts with the arrival of Étienne in Montsou (and ends with his leaving). Penniless and hungry, he finds a work in a pit called le Voreux and stays in the house of his colleague, Maheu, and falls in love with Maheu's daughter Catherine. The miners work very hard, yet they are underpaid. Their wives have to make debts to buy bread - sometimes they have to sell their flesh or their daughter's to the grocer. Étienne gathers the workers to hold a strike, trying to force the Company to raise the wage. However, the Company will not surrender and the strike prolongs until 2 months - and all that time, the workers, whose wages are usually only enough to keep them living, don't work at all and earn nothing. They are forced to sell everything and in hunger there are nothing to do but waiting for death.

The story becomes very gripping when the miners, determine to keep not working until the Company meets their demand, have heard that they have been betrayed: that some of them will be working. They go together to ruin the pits so that nobody can work. In this chaos, after trying to attack the manager's house, the women have a cruel revenge to the grocer. I was shocked as the violent scene came from a 19th century literature.

Next, comes the news that the Company hire workers from Belgium. The village workers march again, and this time they have to face armed soldiers. Maheu dies this time by a bullet. However, the Company return the Belgians. Does it mean the village workers win? No, for after 2 1/2 months not working, they have to give up to hunger. It seems a waste of time, after all the tears, they have to give up. They return to work, but as Étienne has sabotaged the pit, it is soon flooded with around 20 men trapped underground. Masters and workers work together to save whoever can be saved.

The love story between Étienne and Catherine also doesn't end well. She chooses Chaval over Étienne and stands for Chaval when the villagers are angry upon him, as he has betrayed them. Chaval knows that Catherine likes his rival more and after Étienne defeated him in a fight, he gives her to Étienne. But Étienne has no work and money and cannot feed her and the whole town are against him after the useless strike, so she returns to Chaval, only to be kicked out again. It's one of gloomiest moment in the book, knowing that Étienne has won the girl but has to give her up as he has nothing for her. Later, trapped in the flooded pit, both rivals face each other again, with the poor girl between them. Help comes too late, and after the death of Chaval, Étienne embraces Catherine until she dies.

The Return of Don Camillo (1953)

This is the sequel to Don Camillo. The bishop has moved Don Camillo to a remote village after hearing that the priest quarrels too often with the mayor. Both Don Camillo and Peppone, the Communist mayor, are not happy with the arrangement; because their days are empty without their adversary. The townspeople are also not happy with the new priest, plus there is a new problem: the mayor wants to built a dam, but the landowner refuses to give up his land. Peppone then asks Don Camillo to return to persuade the landowner, but he makes sure that when the priest returns, no one greets him at the station. Not only he has given wrong train schedule to the people, Peppone also holds a boxing match - so there is really no one at the station.

Don Camillo playing slide with the mayor's son

What I really like in this movie, is how the clock at the Citizen's Center and the church clock are always different. The mayor and the priest are rarely in agreement, that their clocks also strike not on the same time - the victims here are, of course, the townspeople, that some of them are always late or early. The movie closed with a flood, which ends the fight between the mayor and the landowner; and with the priest, they must stand together for a better future.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

I bought the DVD of this movie because I was intrigued by the reason why Violet wanted her niece to have lobotomy. Her niece, Catherine, is confined to a lunatic asylum because something she saw last summer. When the DVD arrived, I read the short synopsis on the back of the sleeve. It was a wrong step because whoever wrote the description, he/she had ruined the movie for me.

Montgomery Clift plays Dr. Cukrowicz, the best doctor available concerning lobotomy. He is summoned by Violet (played very well by Katharine Hepburn), the richest widow in the area, to perform lobotomy on her crazy niece; and as a thank gift, she will contribute lots of money to the hospital. The young doctor goes to see Catherine, the niece (played by Elizabeth Taylor), and after talking with her, he thinks that she is not a hopeless case - and that she only forgets what happened last summer, when she was found in hysterical state. The doctor tries to make Catherine remembers what happened to Sebastian, Violet's only son, who died last summer when Catherine was with him.

The writing on the DVD back sleeve really ruined everything for me. I watched the movie with the answer on my head, so the conclusion was banal. The movie was based on Tennessee Williams play, so throughout the movie, words are flowing rapidly. Catherine's mother is very annoying, but perhaps her character is written that way.

Looks like Violet herself doesn't know what really happened to Sebastian. She thinks Catherine killed him last summer. I wonder why the doctors and nurses don't see that Catherine is not insane at all. The first scene when she appears, I can see that she is all right, especially when compared to other patients. Lobotomy is a scary word. I have seen a movie where such operation can be clearly seen; I think it's El hombre que supo amar - or is it From Hell - I can't remember. However, the most terrifying result I have seen is in Un amour à taire. Why Violet wants to do such a horrible thing to her beautiful niece? Is she really that jealous because Sebastian chose to spend his summer, which turned to be his last, with Catherine, than with her - like always?