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?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

L'affaire Sacha Guitry (2007)

Watched this last night on TV and it was interesting. Sacha Guitry was a playwright and actor. Not many of his works I know, but I have watched La poison and like it very much. L'affair Sacha Guitry tells about the confinement of the playwright in 1944.

August 23, 1944, Sacha Guitry was arrested by several Resistance members in his home. They didn't give him time to change, so he was taken in his pyjamas, dressing gown, and slippers. When he was interrogated about a week later, they asked him if he knew why he was detained. He said he didn't know. He glimpsed at the document which stated that the reason was 'Unknown'.

Sacha Guitry learned that he was detained based on rumors. It was the dark time when one denounced their neighbours to save one's own skin. It was said that he placed the bust of Hilter in his theatre (actually it was the bust of his father) and gave a book to Marshal Pétain (he didn't know the marshal would become a traitor). The examining judge read to him the denouncing letters and Sacha Guitry proved to him each time that the letters were wrong. The judge didn't let him free that easy because the public had read in newspapers that he was a collaborator. It was not easy to convince his innocence to the public, especially if famous newspaper like Le Figaro also wrote about it. Being a successful playwright, people were jealous of him. Unfortunately for Sacha Guitry, one of his enemies was Le Figaro's journalist. The judge then put advertisements on newspapers, asking for more denouncing letters. Again, Sacha Guitry proved that the denouncing letters were wrong (that they didn't witness it firsthand) and that he hated the Germans, befriended the Jews, and loved France very much. He was sorry if he lived well during the occupation, but although he didn't raise arms, as a playwright he did what he could for France. What the judge did next? He didn't dare to make any decision, because although American soldiers had entered Paris, there was a rumor that German soldiers might be back, so what would the public said if they were to release a collaborator? He passed the case to another judge. Only in August 1947 the case was closed. Sacha Guitry determined to clear his name, but it wouldn't be easy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chiens perdus sans collier (1955)

Jean Gabin plays Judge Julien Lamy who deals with juvenile offence. The movie tells the story of 3 boys. First, Alain Robert, who is on the run after setting fire to a farm because the owner has whipped him when he did wrong. Second, Francis Lanoux, a hard-of-hearing pickpocket whose girlfriend is pregnant. Third, Gérard who runs away from the detention center to go back to his mother who is surrounded by admirers, who gamble to win her.

Jean Gabin's role is a bit similar to his educator in Deux hommes dans la ville, although in this, as a judge, he is the one who decides if one goes to be free or not. His judge is attentive and kind hearted. He tries to understand the boys sent to him. Alain Robert finally knows that the judge cares about him and that he can be trusted. In his way to detention center, Alain Robert meets Francis Lanoux - and this one gives him bad influence. In order to join his pregnant girlfriend, Francis takes Alain Robert to escape, even though they later go their own way. The judge doesn't know about the girlfriend until she comes to him for help. However, before the judge could do anything, Francis has escaped, and it ends tragically for the young couple. After the tragedy, the judge visits Gérard in his mother's place and decides that even though the surrounding is bad for the boy, but as he is happiest in there, the judge doesn't take him back to the detention center.

The movie doesn't have anything special, in my opinion, but the social issues are quite interesting. For similar theme, I prefer Les Quatre Cents Coups and Sciuscià. In this movie, I like the music by Paul Misraki, which is simple but very nice.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

La belle et la bête (1946)

Beauty and The Beast is one of famous children's stories that most of us must have read or heard. When I was young, I read this, too - although I cannot remember where, as a short story in a children's magazine or in a treasure of children's story book. I remember Beauty (or Belle or Bella) has 2 wicked sisters and when their father is to go on a trip, while the sisters ask him to bring home expensive things, all Beauty wants is a rose. When the Disney version came up in 1991, the story was changed here and there. Belle is a bookworm, the single daughter of a nerd. I accepted the Disney version and enjoyed the movie. Yesterday I finally watched this 1946 version by Jean Cocteau. I was not sure at first, because the Disney version was so magical with its singing teapot and other magical furnitures, and how this version from 1 year after WW2 could be, at least, equal?

However I was wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed this b/w version. It took me back to the story I read in my childhood - to Belle's two wicked sisters. I had a surprised, though, because Belle also has a brother and this brother has a friend, who loves Belle. This movie was based on the story by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, which I had never read - I guess the version I read years ago had been simplified or taken from a different source. In the movie, there is a foreword which I thought funny: the moral of the story is that plucking a rose from someone else's garden can cause a family conflict.

Comparing to Disney's magical set with the help of modern technique, this 1946 version is also surprisingly magical. It's like a stage set, I think, with real people's head on top of pedestals or real hands carrying candlestick holders; but they did what they could with what they had and I raised 2 thumbs for them. Jean Marais, who I read was Cocteau's lover, was great as The Beast. His agony in being ugly is portrayed as well as his gentleness towards The Beauty. Sometimes he acts like a common beast, but sometimes Belle can see that part of him is noble. The Beast is a gentleman, who always keeps his words, and it's obvious how he loves Belle. On the other hand, we see Belle's 2 beautiful sisters and her brother and his friend who are handsome, but inside their hearts, there is the real ugliness. When Belle's 2 sisters look into the magic mirror, they can only see an old woman and a monkey.

I was rather disappointed when The Beast turned into a human. He looks like her brother's friend, both being played by Jean Marais. I like Jean Marais as a swashbuckler, but as a dream prince: no. This is only my personal opinion, of course. I guess for Jean Cocteau he was perfect for everything. The last scene where The Prince and The Beauty fly to the sky is wonderful - it reminds me to the last scene in Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Matrimonio all'italiana (1964)

This is a funny movie from director Vittorio De Sica, with 2 great Italian actors, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. Is this really a marriage, Italian style? Italy is a Catholic country and I imagine (never gone there) most of the people surely don't live this way. I bear in mind that 3 years previously, Mastroianni was in a movie called 'Divorce - Italian style'. The story spans in 20 years and in the background we can see changes in Italy.

Domenico (Mastroianni) is about to marry, sell his restaurant, and move to Rome (the story is set in Naples); when he receives the news that his mistress Filumena (Loren) is about to die. Domenico is a bit forced to marry her on her death bed, but soon after the priest left, Filumena gets up and it seems she still has many years to live. Domenico met Filumena in a brothel when she was only 17, during WW2. He came and go every 6 - 12 months and later moved her to an apartment. He also introduced her to his mother, but as a servant's niece. Filumena was angry when he was about to marry his new cashier and set a trap for him to marry her instead. Domenico sues her for trapping him into the marriage, and he wins. Then Filumena tells him that she has 3 sons, and one of them is his. But which one?

Illiterate Filumena signs her name

Filumena loves Domenico from the first sight and she dreams that one day he will free her from the brothel and marry her. He does free her, but does not marry her. He looks down on her as in his eyes she is always Filumena the prostitute, but he always comes back to her. She is so happy when he says he will present her to his mother, but the happiness turns sour because he is ashamed to tell the truth to his mother. Filumena takes care of his business - because he travels a lot - and looks after his sick mother; yet Domenico shares his heart and body with many women. However she still loves him, so at last she tells him about his son - whom if she told him many years before he must have told her to kill. She gives him a clue to help him find which son is his, but he cannot remember. She says: "It was the evening when you said 'Let's pretend to love each other.' You pretended, but I didn't. When you left you gave me the usual 100 lire. I wrote the date on it. When you were back 9 moths later I was pregnant, so you were told I was sick and I had gone up in the country. I return the money to you now. (but she tears the part when she wrote the date) One does not pay for children." He asks her: "What suit did I wear? What shoes?" and she answers: "What sort of person are you? You remember year and day of a pair of shoes."

There are 2 flashbacks, one by Domenico and one by Filumena. The fights between Domenico and Filumena are more a comedy, but when the sons appear the plot is turned into a drama. She has never told the boys that she is her mother. They know her face for she have visited them a lot. They have heard her name and stories about her. Will they accept her? This ends with a happy ending in a moving scene, and we all also happy because throughout the movie we sympathize with Filumena. She deserves the happy ending.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The White Ribbon (2009)

Director Michael Haneke says that in The White Ribbon he tried to depict the roots of evil. The movie is very beautiful to look at, shot in black and white - but the contents of it is not; it's about evil. The story is set in the village of Eichwald in 1913-1914, starts with a terrible accident when the village doctor falls from his horse, caused by a wire set up between two trees. When the police come to investigate, the wire is gone. Next, a female worker falls from the sawmill due to rotten floorboards; a baby almost die because an open window in cold winter; the baron's son is tortured; a barn burns; and last: a handicapped boy is attacked and almost blind. Who has done all this?

The story is told from a school teacher's point of view. Near the end of the movie the handicapped boy's mother tells him, "I know who did all this. I'm going to the police." and she goes and never returns, the teacher is also unable to tell the audience who is the culprit. He himself believe that the pastor's 2 children did it. But did they? As the teacher says in the beginning of the movie: "There are some questions unanswered." The doctor and his daughter has left the village. Where to and why? Are all those crimes done by the same person? Is the handicapped boy made blind because he has seen something he has not supposed to see? If the victims are punished, what crimes they have done? The movie offers no obvious conclusion and perhaps the director wanted us to do repeated viewings in order to see the hidden meaning and find more clues.

It makes sense if the teacher thinks the 2 children of the pastor did it. Klara and Martin are brought up in a harsh way by their father, who is a Protestant pastor. The root of evil meant by Michael Haneke can be grown inside the abused and suppressed children. The way Klara and her mother dress, they look like wicked characters in films and books - although this must be how respectable family member of a pastor dress normally at that time. Violence does not only happen in the pastor family, but also in the steward's like when he whipped his son for taking the baron's son's whistle. This must be also a common practice at that time. I remember reading in Laura Ingalls Wilder's book that in her father's era, punishment by whipping was common for children.

White ribbon is a symbol of innocence and by wearing it, the children are expected to behave well. Yet they cannot be what their parents ask and the heavy task can make them express themselves by hurting others. In WW2 the children in this movie have become adults and it could be that they are growing to be the seeds of Nazi.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

After reading that Rosemary's Baby was voted as one of the scariest movies all the time, I waited until I was really in a good mood to watch this. The movie is from a box set, along with The Tenant and Chinatown. I am not a fan of horror, but from the few I have seen, so far, the scariest are The Omen & The Ring. Le Tentazioni del Dottor Antonio also scared me, although this is not a horror movie and my sister even thinks it's a funny film. Compared to them, plus since I was in a good mood, in the end I think Rosemary's Baby is not scary at all. Even The Tenant is more thrilling.

From director Roman Polanski, this is a story of a wife who has just moved to a new apartment with her actor husband. They want to have children, like every normal couple. One night, the wife dreams that she is raped by something inhuman and later she finds she is pregnant. After several deaths and misfortunes to those who are close to the couple, she begins to think that there is a conspiracy to kidnap her future baby and sacrifice it. But who will believe her? Who can she trust?

The script is well written from the wife's point of view, so together with her the audience at one point begin to have doubts. Is there really a conspiracy or she is the one who's mad? If the movie stopped after the wife gave birth, we would all doubt her sanity, but there is an obvious conclusion. The cast is great, with Mia Farrow as our heroine.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Camille Claudel (1988)

'A man with no faith will never be a great artist.' Paul Claudel to his sister Camille.

I'd never heard of Camille Claudel before and watched this movie because I wanted to see one with Isabelle Adjani, who I think has one of the most beautiful faces on screen. The movie was more than 2 1/2 hours long, but never boring. This is the story of Camille Claudel (1864 - 1943), female sculptor, from 1885 until 1913. Although there are people who say that the story has been too dramatized, at least we who didn't know about this wonderful sculptress, can learn to know the outline of her life and work.

Supported by her father and despised by her mother, Camille Claudel's talent is recognized by her professor, Boucher, who recommended her to Rodin, who is flooded by jobs that he needs skillful apprentices to help. Camille becomes Rodin's mistress, but he cannot leave his other mistress Rose. Camille's little brother Paul later becomes a diplomat and poet. Paul's leaving, Rodin's refusal to marry her, and a brutal attack from Rose, probably contribute in Camille's mental sickness - that she sees herself as Rodin's victim - accusing him of stealing her ideas. She shuts herself in her little workshop until her brother and mother, after the death of her father, send her to an asylum until her death.

Gérard Depardieu as Auguste Rodin, here examining Claudel's first marble

Claudel & Rodin are really genius people and it is interesting to watch them to work (even though this is only a movie). The most gripping moment in the movie, imo, is the fight between Claudel & Rodin, after he expresses his dislike after seeing Camille's work which portrays 3 figures which, according to Rodin, show Rodin torn between Camille & Rose. [The work is known as The Mature Age]. Camille thinks Rodin spends too much time socializing and neglects to work, and that his workers work hard while he only adds the finishing touches.

Isabelle Adjani as Camille Claudel - beautiful, genius, but tragic life

Shadowed by Camille's fame, it's actually Paul Claudel who give honour to the family. Paul believes that his success is due to his return to God's way. 'Paul has found God," Father tells Camille. 'He's come to terms with that. Good terms. And you, what will you have, when I'm gone?'

Camille has lost everything in the end of the movie: love, money, fame, even freedom. It's sad to see her. She is surrounded by her beautiful works in her little workshop, yet she is poor, cannot pay the rent, pay the model, or buy coal. If she knew how much her works worth today...

I almost cried when she destroyed the Hercules statue. The movie is beautiful, but at times I feel several frames are missing. It seems they still thought the movie was too long and cut brutally here and there. Like in the scene where Rose attacked Camille, suddenly Camille was bent over the stove, but when Rose started to attack? 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Servant (1963)

I have seen two Joseph Losey works 'The Assassination of Trotsky' and 'Monsieur Klein', so compared to them 'The Servant' looks like a small production. In the beginning of the movie, it even has an atmosphere of a stage production. I guess it's because of the sound system, which I think is poor.

Dirk Bogarde plays Barrett, who in the beginning of the movie arrives at Tony's big, empty house in London, to become his servant. Tony is a rich aristocrat who does nothing in life and Barrett becomes a perfect servant for him. Barrett decorates the house, cooks, cleans, ... everything. However, Tony's fiancée, Susan, doesn't like Barrett. When Barrett brings his sister Vera to the house, she seduces Tony and they have an affair. One night, Tony and Susan drops by the house without warning and they find Barrett & Vera on Tony's bed. Then Barrett tells Tony that Vera is his fiancée. Tony sacks Barrett & Vera, but Susan also leaves him. Tony leads a troubled life until he meets Barrett again in a bar when Barrett asks him for a second chance. Tony hires him again, but this time, realizing that Tony cannot live without the servant, the servant takes over the control. Tony may own the house, but Barrett takes care of it. In the end, they live not as master-servant, but like two equals who can fight sometimes. It's even like that weak Tony succumbs to his servant.

Both main male actors, Dirk Bogarde and James Fox (who plays Tony), are very good. Barrett is polite and competent, a perfect English butler; but he becomes a threat when possible - and it's very possible with a master like useless Tony. The evil inside Barrett is depicted well. Wendy Craig who plays Susan is okay, but Sarah Miles's Vera is often annoying. At times Vera does look very beautiful, but in wild scenes with Barrett, her laugh and attitude are very annoying. I believe she is not that uneducated if she is clever enough to seduce her master and make him believe that Barrett doesn't know about it. In scenes with Tony, it seems she calculates well her moves; but with Barrett, she doesn't have manners.

It isn't clear to me why Barrett asks Vera to seduce Tony. At first I think they are going to blackmail him, but it only succeeds to break Tony's engagement with Susan and, of course,  corrupts him more.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chinatown (1974)

Chinatown is a detective movie by director Roman Polanski and writer Robert Towne. Set in Los Angeles in 1937, the mystery is built around a real drought problem back then. The characters wear elegant costumes which are pleasing to the eyes. Jack Nicholson never looks so cool!

The story is told from the point of view of detective Jake Gittes, our hero (played by Jack Nicholson). Usually handle marital problem's cases, Gittes is hired by Mrs Mulwray to spy on her husband, Hollis Mulwray, the chief enginner for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Gittes follows Mr Mulwray but it seems in the man's head there is only water and water, until at last Gittes gets pictures of Mulwray and a girl. One of the pictures makes it way to a newspaper, but who sends it and why? The real Mrs Mulwray comes to Gittes's office and says she will sue him, and only at this time Gittes realizes that the woman who has hired him is not Mrs Mulwray. Gittes looks for Hollis Mulwray to warn him that he has been set up, but the engineer has been drown and the girl, his mistress, is missing.

This is a story about greed and corruption. I read that this was supposed to be the first of a trilogy. Jack Nicholson directed and starred in the 2nd, The Two Jakes; but as this was not successful as the first, the project for the 3rd was given up.

The answers to the mystery is unfold little by little and we find the answers with Jake Gittes. This movie has several unforgettable moments, like when Gittes's nose is cut (by Roman Polanski who plays a thug) and when Gittes slaps Faye Dunaway's character, Mrs Mulwray, to make her talk. "She's my sister... She's my daughter... She's my sister..." Mrs Mulwray tries to say to Gittes. It's rather funny, I must say, or perhaps I remember a parody of this scene - though cannot remember where.

Although this is given the title 'Chinatown', only in the last scene Chinatown is used as a location (but Gittes was a police officer in Chinatown), and that was after Roman Polanski insisted to. The dark ending shows that it's hard to fight corruption and it's common to turn a blind eye, like this movie last line: 'Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.'