Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tales from The Arabian Nights

I believe these tales are also known as Tales of 1000 Nights. In ancient dinasty of Sassanidae, lived a great sultan named Schahriar. His kingdom lied from Persia to the borders of China. He was betrayed by his beloved wife and therefore concluded that every women was as wicked as her. So every evening he married a new wife and the next morning had her strangled. The grand vizir, whose task was to provide the sultan a new wife, had 2 beautiful daughters. Scheherazade was the eldest, very beautiful, intelligent, and wise. She thought she had a way to stop the terror, so she asked her father to present her before the sultan. On the wedding night, she asked her sister Dinarzade to accompany her in the chamber. One hour before dawn, Dinarzade was to wake her up and ask her to tell a story. The story, was to be continued in the next day, and this went on and on, and finally the sultan let Scheherazade lived.
by H.J. Ford

This Reader's Digest edition, only contains selected stories from Andrew Lang's The Arabian Nights Entertainments. There are 18 colour illustrations and 13 black and white illustrations by Edmund Dulac, René Bull, H.J. Ford, W.H. Lister, and Monro S. Orr. The binding is strong and good.

In the first chapters, it's very obvious that the tales are continuous. They are tales within tales. It begins with 'The Merchant and The Genie', about a merchant who accidentally kills a genie's son. The genie wants to kill the merchant as a revenge, but then comes 3 old men who each tell the genie a tale, in order to make him change his mind. After that, it continues to the story of The Fisherman. "But, sire," added Scheherazade, "however beautiful are the stories I have just told you, they cannot compare with the story of the fisherman."

by Edmund Dulac

The Fisherman is about a fisherman who finds a jar, which contains a genie who has sworn to kill whoever set him free. The fisherman succeeds to trap him back into the jar, and he says this to the genie who asks for mercy: "If I trust myself to you I am afraid you will treat me as a certain Greek king treated the physician, Douban. Listen, and I will tell you." And the tale continues to The Greek King and The Physician, which ends with this sentence: "This vizir [] told King Sinbad that one ought not to believe everything that a mother-in-law says and told him this story." and continues to a tale entitled The Husband and The Parrot, which continues to The Vizir who was Punished, and ends with The Young Kind of The Black Isles.

Next, there are longer tales, some are well-known: Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves, Prince Ahmed and The Fairy, Sinbad The Sailor, The Little Hunchback, The Prince and The Princess, Aladdin and The Wonderful Lamp, The Caliph of Baghdad - The Blind Baba-Abdalla, The Merchant of Baghdad, The Enchanted Horse, and The Jealous Sisters.

All are very enjoyable reading. Scheherazade is a great story teller. My personal favourite maybe (because it's hard to choose) The Little Hunchback, in which a hunchback is accidentally killed and the person who thinks he is responsible for the death tries to put the blame to another person, but when they (for in the end there are several who think they are the killer) see that an innocent man is to be put to death for the crime, each of them confesses that they are the real killer. The story ends with a happy ending, for it turns out none of them is the killer.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Estate violenta (1959)

Violent Summer, one of Zurlini's earliest works, for me is more preferable than 'Girl With A Suitcase'. Set in 1943, it's about 2 lovers who fall in love at the wrong time- with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Eleonora Rossi Drago. All 3 Zurlini films I've seen all star exceptionally beautiful women: Eleonora Rossi Drago in Violent Summer, Claudia Cardinale in Girl With A Suitcase, and Sonia Petrovna in La Prima Notte di Quiete. What I like about Zurlini's works, is that they are not difficult to understand, the theme is interesting - with not-to-slow pace. Also, as I made screen-captures for this blog, I could see how beautiful the photography was.

Carlo is younger than Rosanna [Jean-Louis Trintignant is 5 years younger than Eleonora Rossi Drago], a 30 year-old widow of a soldier with a daughter; and he is a son of a fascist, whom Rosanna's mother dislikes. To make the matter more complicated, Carlo has a girlfriend, who of course wants to keep Rosanna away from him. All this is situated when the country is in chaos because of the political situation, yet they manage to live like it's all never happening. Carlo has been avoided his military duty, with the help of his father's influence. With the change of situation, his father flees, Carlo cannot hide anymore and must report himself. However, Rosanna persuades him to ignore his duty and go with her to her villa, when on their way the train is bombed. Then their eyes are opened with the horror of war - how they cannot escape anymore. I think when Rosanna sees the dead girl, she must be thinking of her own daughter, whom she has left -without any message- in order to be with Carlo.

The last scenes, the bombing of the train is very haunting and well made. Very impressing because it's made in 1959 and Zurlini was not a big name at that time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Glorious 39 (2009)

This is the story of Anne Keyes (played by Romola Garai), the adopted daughter of Sir Alexander MP (Bill Nighy). The movie begins with a boy, in present time, who asks two old men, who knew Anne Keyes, what had happened to her in the eve of WW2.

Anne Keyes, an actress, lives happily with her family: Sir Alexander, his wife, and his two children: Ralph and Celia. She also has a fiancé, Lawrence, whom she loves. Things are well until that dinner in their country house, when Hector, a young MP, meets Balcome. Hector expresses his opinion, in which he disagrees with some people who wants to make a deal with Hitler. For some, the horror of WW1 is still fresh in their memory and they try to avoid war. It's obvious that Balcome, who works for the secret service, doesn't agree with Hector. A couple of days later, Hector is found dead, probably suicide.

Anne finds a recording in her father's store-room which contains a telephone conversation, where Hector was being threatened. Could it be possible that he has been murdered?

For Anne, the whole thing is a nightmare. First, she lost baby Oliver. She is falling asleep and someone has taken him, and returns him. Next, she asks a fellow actor to listen to the recording and soon he is found dead. The worst for her is when Lawrence is also dead and she finds that her family know about the conspiracy from the start.

What is scary here, is the knowledge how powerful the secret service is.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Black Swan (2010)

I watched this last night and enjoyed it very much. Natalie Portman as Nina is very good.

Nina has been chosen to play the Swan Queen in Swan Lake, but Leroy, the director, wants her to improve her Black Swan. For those who don't know, Swan Lake is about a beautiful princess, Odile, who is turned to a white swan by a sorcerer. A prince comes and falls in love with her. He is supposed to help her change into human again. However, the sorcerer sends Odette (the black swan) to seduce the prince so that he forgets Odile. In her desperation, Odile throws herself from a cliff and dies.

Leroy says that Nina is a perfect Odile because she is beautiful, virginal and pure; but as the white and black swans are played by the same person, Nina must learn about seduction so she can be a perfect black swan.

Throughout the movie, Nina's distress is obvious. She is afraid Leroy will give the role to her rival Lily if Nina cannot play the black swan well. She has hallucinations, which are getting worse and worse. As Leroy says: "The only obstacle between you and the role is yourself." Her transformation as the black swan is wonderfully depicted in the movie. In the end, Nina plays the perfect Swan Queen, but she also finds her demise.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

La banquière (1980)

This movie about a female banker in France in the 20's, which at that time was rare, is quite engaging and as Romy Schneider played the lead role, this is a must see.

The movie begins in black and white, in silent movie style, which I like. Emma Eckhert in early 20's has already had problems with the authority due to her homosexuality. She then marries Moïse and they are divorced, but still work together - she as his superior. She has a girlfriend, who lends her a lot of money. Emma Eckhert builds the Eckhert Bank and she first attracts attention when, with the help of a friend, she makes a lot of money by buying oil shares. People come to her, entrusts her with their money. Banks usually give 1 - 1,5% interest, but Emma gives 8%. Her biggest rival, Vannister, works together with the President to sabotage her. Emma is accused of fraud and they put her in a jail. Emma only wants one thing: to reimburse all her clients, in this way she also can proof that the accusation is absurd. After a political change, incl. a change of President, Emma is free; but she is shot to death in the middle of a speech, among her clients, in her efforts to reimburse them.

A strong scene which I cannot forget is when after her arrest, Emma is taken to her office, where the judge and the police search for proofs. There is none. Meanwhile, the bank is open and the clients are queuing for drawing her money. And what the judge does when he doesn't find any proof? He orders to close the cashiers. In this way, Emma cannot pay back her clients. She protests, but they take her out to the jail - where the guard, a nun, refuses to give her a table. Emma wants to be able to write to defend herself.

There are lots of well-known faces: Jean-Louis Trintignant who plays Vannister, young Daniel Auteuil plays this financier who works for Vannister, Marie-France Pisier as Emma's lover's wife, Claude Brasseur as the judge who ruthlessly investigates Emma's fraud case, and Jean-Claude Brialy as Emma's lawyer.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cette sacrée gamine Mam'zelle Pigalle (1956)

I've seen several movies by Michel Boisrond and they are all entertaining. This one is with Brigitte Bardot, who is very pretty here. She plays the only daughter of a nightclub owner, who decides to disappear for a while because the police suspects his involving in money forgery. He asks his friend, cabaret singer Jean Clery to take care of his daughter - because the police will go after her to find her father, and soon Clery finds that Brigitte is a trouble. At one point, she even burns down his house, starts when she tries to iron his shirt. Furthermore, she is so sexy that her being endangers his relationship with his fiancée. Clery's butler is also an interesting character.

I see two camera tricks. First, when Clery seems to be rowing, but as the camera walks away, we see that he is in his room, only practicing. Second, in the end, when Clery's fiancée holds a baby, with Clery beside her. We thought Clery doesn't get Brigitte, but as the camera shows the whole room, we see that he does get her.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

La ragazza con la valigia (1961)

Girl with a Suitcase is my 2nd Zurlini film. Like The Professor, it tells about a love story with an unhappy ending. The theme reminds me of Giuseppe Tornatore's Malèna, where an adolescent falls in love with an older woman.

16 year old Lorenzo (played by a very young Jacques Perrin) finds the beautiful Aida (Claudia Cardinale) in front of his front door, carrying a suitcase, looking for a man named Marchiori, who has abandoned her. Knowing that the man she wants is his own brother, who has given her a false name, Lorenzo decides to help her, to right what his brother has done wrong. He puts her in a hotel and gives her money, and during all the time falls in love with her. Lorenzo's teacher warns Aida that what they both have been doing is not right, because Lorenzo has given her money which is not his. Aida leaves and looks for Piero (most likely her ex lover), who has promised to give her a job, but Piero turns her out. Piero's cousin seems keen to help her, but Aida soon finds that he has something else in mind. Lorenzo comes, picks up a fight with Piero's cousin, and Lorenzo and Aida flee to a beach.

There are some captivating moments, like when Aida meets Piero in a station, with Lorenzo following them, trying to hear what they are talking about. To prevent her to go with him, Lorenzo tells her that he knows where Marchiori is. Later we see Aida breaks down and tells Lorenzo about her past, that she has a son.

The story flows very well and we learns about Aida from Lorenzo's point of view. The scene on the beach is very beautiful, and it's when we see that Aida does love Lorenzo, even though only a little.