Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Don Camillo Omnibus

I had a great time reading The Don Camillo Omnibus by Giovanni Guareschi. Gusreschi wrote 5 Don Camillo books, but only 3 are included in this omnibus, which was published in 1955 - because the other 2 were written later. The 3 books are: The Little World of Don Camillo, Don Camillo and the Prodigal Son, and Don Camillo's Dilemma. Each book consists of short stories, which I read 1 - 2 every night. They take place in a village in the Po River valley, in North Italy. There are 2 main characters: the village's Catholic priest, Don Camillo, and his adversary, Peppone, the Communist Mayor.

I have seen the film versions with Fernandel and Gino Cervi, the first 2 films; and I liked them very much. What I like about the characters is that although they belong to 2 different groups and become enemies, they are also ready to help when the other is in trouble. One is not an angel and one is not a devil: they are humans with their virtues and faults. They both are equally naughty, and I somehow think Peppone is a bit better than Don Camillo, because Peppone has only his friends and family; while Don Camillo has Christ on the Cross to advise him.

Two particular stories are my most favourite because they are so moving:
1. The Stuff From America continued to A Matter of Consience
Where a villager named Straziami is thrown out of the People's Party because he has taken a relief parcel from America for his hungry child. The Party delegate goes to Straziami's house, takes the food which has been laid on a table - ready for the child - and throws it out of the window.
"You're betraying the cause," said Peppone (to Straziami).
"Isn't the cause freedom? If I give up my freedom, then I'm betraying the cause."

2. Thunder
How Don Camillo gets his great hunting dog, Thunder. He finds a stray dog while hunting. The owner comes to pick it up, but Thunder always returns to Don Camillo. Reminds me of the story of Hachiko.

I posted here 2 pages for you who haven't read the book, but are interested:

"Wrong orders shouldn't be carried out."
"Right. But how can one know ahead of time that they're wrong?"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Violette & François (1977)

It's the 2nd time I saw Jacques Dutronc in a movie. In my opinion, here he doesn't seem out of place like in L'important c'est d'aimer. Here he plays François, a husband with troubled childhood, and the uncertainty of having jobs makes him play petty thief.

The beautiful Isabelle Adjani plays Violette. She is from a rich family, but her relationship with François has forced her to leave them. She lives with her lover and their baby boy in a little flat. Sometimes they have money, sometimes they do not. They work whatever jobs they are offered - although they enjoy life very much that they seem not to do the jobs seriously. In the movie, money problem begins when Violette returns home to find that they have been robbed. The money box is empty. They don't have any food and share among them a plate of the baby's food. Then François gives her some money and they three go shopping in a supermarket, where Violette sees François does his little tricks and steal several tins of canned food.

Violette is upset, but only at first. Later she joins François and the success makes her want to do it again. Canned food is to support the family, but later they also take other things like children's toys, watches, and a digital camera. Finally Violette gets caught - but they let her go. François seems to stop doing it also, but when he has lost a job again, he starts again, and gets caught. As he fights and runs, the department store's security guards turn him to the police. As much as she loves François, Violette knows that a life like that won't work, and the only way is that she must leave him.

It's a simple story of everyday life, like many French movies in the 70's. The chemistry of the 2 main characters are very good. It has a sad ending: two people in love must separate because they don't have a proper job.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Le petit baigneur (1968)

Louis de Funès plays CEO of a boat company. One of his engineers, Castagnier, who has orange hair, with his little boat Le petit baigneur" (=The Little Bather) won the Oscar of an international competition in San Remo. Castagnier goes back to France, but before he has time to tell his boss Fourchaume, Fourchaume sacks him due to the failure of his other work "Increvable" (=Indestructible). The minister's wife makes a hole in Increvable's body during the baptism. In fury, Fourchaume tears the contract for Le petit baigneur.

Then comes an Italian boat company's owner who tells Fourchaume that Le Petit baigneur has been ordered 200 pcs. Fourchaume asks his wife to help him hiring Castagnier again. They comes to Castagnier's home and try to please him so that he would agree to come back. Meanwhile, the Italian hears that Fourchaume has sacked Castagnier, so he also comes to visit Castagnier to offer him a better contract.

This movie has many funny scenes and I laughed a lot during the scene in the church when the pulpit was crumbling apart. I think perhaps Castagnier was also the engineer of "Our Lady of The Drafts". I see the church as a result of wrong construction than in need of money. I also like the little boat which is operated by 2 handles. Fourchaume cannot swim, he thinks he doesn't need to because he has so many boats at his disposal; yet in the movie he is managed to be drown 3 times.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)

In my opinion, basically the story is very good. Merlin has 3 apprentices: Balthazar, Horvath and Veronica. His enemy Morgana wants to raise dead sorcerers and rule the world. Morgana makes Horvath betrays Merlin and kills him, but with his last dying breath, Merlin gives his dragon ring to Balthazar and tells him that the ring will lead him to someone who will become a sorcerer as powerful as Merlin, someone who will destroy Morgana forever. Meanwhile, Morgana and Veronica are trapped in The Grimhold (a matryoshka doll/Russian nesting doll). Later, Horvath are trapped inside as well.

Centuries pass by and Balthazar is still looking for the person who is chosen by the dragon ring. He travels around the world and finally arrives in New York, where he meets young Dave. The dragon ring chooses Dave, who accidentally sets Horvath free from the Grimhold. Horvath now wants the Grimhold to set Morgana free, while Balthazar must guard it and teach his new apprentice so that he is prepared to fight Morgana.

Such a promising story is ruined by its main character: Dave. He talks too much (as often pointed by Balthazar and Horvath) and whines too much. Whoever wrote the dialogues must be thinking that they were funny; well, they are not. I hope Dave doesn't represent normal American boys. He is so irritating. The movie will be better if he is given less dialogues. Older generation played by Nicolas Cage, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci are sensible, intelligent, civil; but the young ones like Dave and Drake Stone are disappointing. Becky is okay.

There is a scene where Dave makes brooms clean the dirty floor for him, like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. I haven't seen Fantasia for years, but I think the music used is the same. The end is the same: the whole room is flooded because Dave doesn't know how to stop the brooms, but thankfully the master arrives at the right moment.

Balthazar tries hard to teach Dave, but besides complaining and whining, Dave also cannot concentrate because his mind is full of Becky. It's typical of American movies, where love and family is more important than saving the world. When Morgana appears, suddenly Dave becomes powerful (he usually only makes small ball fires) and can defeat her, with a little help from modern science.

Cartouche, le brigand magnifique (2009)

The story is set in the 18th century, when France was under The Regent. The people live in poverty. They are hungry because of the food is always taken from them. Cartouche is some kind of Robin Hood who robs the rich to help the poor. He and his gang are terror to the Regent.

Captain La Reynie is an ambitious man. He works for Minister D'Argenson, who is given the task to catch Cartouche. La Reynie arranges so that his sister Juliette marry D'Argenson. In her way from the convent to D'Argenson, Cartouche kidnaps Juliette for ransom. In Cartouche's lair, Juliette sees that The Regent is not what she thought to be, that people is hungry and poor, and that Cartouche is loved by the people. After D'Argenson pays the ransom, Juliette is set free, but she and Cartouche fall in love with each other.

D'Argenson finally succeeds in capturing Cartouche, but his enemy, Prime Minister L'abbé Dubois, sets Cartouche free in secret. The Regent is angry that he delays the marriage between D'Argenson and Juliette and that D'Argenson can forget his ambition to be Prime Minister.

The new law makes the people exchange their silver/gold coins for paper money. Gold pours to The Regent, who then move the treasure to one of his castles. On the way, the soldiers who is transporting the gold, led by La Reynie, is attacked by Cartouche and his gang. The gold is taken, half is for the poor, half for Cartouche and his gang, who have decided that the attack is their last job and they will all start a new life. Humiliated, La Reynie (played by Grégory Fitoussi, who is so sympathetic in Engrenages. Here he plays the enemy, but when he is hanged under the bridge and people throw anything to him, I feel sorry for him.) commits suicide, while The Regent takes everything from D'Argenson (money, land, title, etc).

Juliette returns to the convent, where Cartouche visits her and takes her to start a new life with him in Canada.

One of Cartouche's gang betrays him, but another member of the gang claims that he is Cartouche. A few people has seen him and not many who know what he looks like. Father Dubois visits him in jail and states that the man is Cartouche and this is the man who gets the death punishment on the wheel in Place de la Grève.