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Women in Prison Movie Dardenne Brothers style
The women in prison genre is often associated with cat-calling girl-fights and the guilty pleasure to the audience of women talking dirty and acting, actions supposed to be the purview of Tarzan aping men. Trapero's Leonera offers something else, an inquisition into how a life behind bars can change the human psyche and create a bond between a child and a mother. Echoing the early movies of the French New Wave that placed the gyneco-issues front and center and the point of view objectivity of the Dardenne Brothers, it is a worthy addition to what can be called the post-modern woman's picture. What is it like to give birth to your child behind bars? To have your child taken away, the rejoinder and enjoinder are all explored. With a wonderful performance by Martina Gusman, it is another worthy canon to 21st Century Argentine cinema.

Un novio para mi mujer

Romantic?Comedy drama that was biggest hit of 2008 in Argentina
Slow-paced by American Standards romantic comedy has its charms. Plot is basic. Man is married. Man no longer feels happy in marriage. Man wants out. Man finds a man to woo his wife away. Thus the English translation, A boyfriend for my wife. Surprisingly low key since the title professes to offer buffoonery but instead gives you a Tootsie style of comedy. Actors play it low-key and very real and one will be forgiven if they forget that they are watching a comedy considering the lead actress is so good at playing a bitch. In fact, without her performance, the movie would not work. We've seen this movie before. It offers no shockers but a sweet ending that is well-handled and a screenplay that is not forced even though you know the beats a makes it a pleasurable diversion. This continues a good tradition of Argentine cinema and its obsession with honesty and reality over extravagant fiction/unreality in terms of tone, direction and staging of scenes.

Camp de Thiaroye

Sembene takes us to the battlefield
Camp de Thiaroye by Senegalese Director is a war movie without a war. Set on an army post in Senegal towards the final days of WWII, it follows a regiment of the French West African Armed Forces who have returned from a tour of duty in Europe. The story is an allegory for the resistance movement to colonialism that sprung up after the war and led to the end of colonialism. Often bloody, it captures the relationship between American soldiers stationed in Dakar, French commanding officers and the French West Africans while touching on issues of racism, inferiority complex and black on black relationships. Never one to lead the audience, Sembene takes his time staging scenes often with beautiful framing that eats up the edges of the screen. It may leisure and some scenes are didactic but it never wavers in its utmost honesty and its eventual humanism resulting from a cataclysmic ending that is both gripping that echoes the refrain that maybe we are all crazy. It is one of the better movies of this master of cinema and in this reviewer's opinion, a 10/10.

La vie sur terre

Africa at the end of the millennium
An observational treatise on the contrast in existence of a village in Mali versus Paris in a way and a comment on the failure of African governments to care for its citizens. slice of movie La vie sur terre captures the last day of the last century in the rustic community of Sokolo. Documentary style observations with poetic narration and voice overs, it paints a delicate existence that may or not be hopeless. Beautifully shot on high def video but a bit slight in point of view, its slim running time makes a convenient mood piece. A promising work that exposes the talent of the director. Some might criticize it as an NGO movie or CNN Africa but its not really harsh but does express the director's opinion that hope is leaving Africa. I respectfully disagree.


This is partially a response to the above review by Irene Schneider. Mandabi is the second feature length film of Senegalese born director Usmán Sembén. he was also a well respected writer and The Money Order (English translation) is an adaptation of his own book. Capturing the corruption eminent in post colonial Africa by following a proud man who tries to cash a money order sent by a relative working in Paris, France. This newly arrived money turns all those around him, including the lead character into to be kindly a pack of wolves, determined to pick him for all he's got. Except he hasn't even cashed the money order yet. Slow and observant with a charming rhythmic score that engulfs the viewer, it watches a society slowly eating itself because of poverty and selfishness and no one is spared in Usmán Sembén's lament against greed and avarice. A beautifully recapped montage saves what might have been a slightly didactic if not hopeful ending. To note, as opposed to the above comment, there is nothing simple about the movie and it is as prescient today as back then and is no history lesson. To be enjoyed by all those who enjoy the movies of Satyajit Ray because the film making style is very similar to his. ** Use of Usmán Sembén as opposed to Ousmane Sembene is because the director is credited as that in the movie and it seems to be the correct rendition of the name.


Evening things up requires giving up a piece of you
As seen at the AFI Film Festival, Revanche is a tight thriller that is at a the same time a mood piece and a human moral drama. Austrian's official submission for the foreign language category in the 2009 Academy Awards is likely to this reviewer to get the nomination. Following the lives of two couples, a prostitute and a thug, a cop and his wife; tragic circumstances converge their lives when a bank robbery goes awry. Featuring a stand out performance by Tommy Lee Jones look-alike Johannes Krisch as the thug Alex, the man creates tension when out of frame, in the nick of shadows and in front of the camera. His character of Alex is a tortured soul that the audience is never sure off; his intentions or actions are hidden behind a mask of serenity. Not satisfied with being a replica of Jones, he also gives a very Tommy Lee Jones no-frills turn that keeps the movie afloat. Director Gotz Spielman creates tension using sound and extremely detailed camera set-ups. Not show-offy in anyway but including two long one take shots, he also uses his DP to infuse the screen with pale and desaturated color tones for nights scenes and natural lighting for daylight scenes, all used to provide a flat élan on the screen. It effectively supports the vibe of these revenge melodrama. What could be hammy in another director's hands becomes poetry in his. The sound of the ax smashing a block of wood never seemed more intimate. When a director uses it in such a way that the viewer feels inside the innards of a man's soul, you know the director knows his stuff. Intricate and detailed, it is consummate from top to bottom. If there is any qualms with the movie, it is in the character of Robert the cop played by Andreas Lust. His character arc is supposed to mirror Alex but he never earns the audience's sympathy the way Alex does; yet his story is geared toward such a response. The character is slightly underwritten and the actor never engages the character the way Johannes does. Playing against our expectations to create an ending reminiscent of Greek tragedy, it is a worthy movie experience and the best movie I've seen in 2008 along with Mike Leigh's Happy go lucky.

Lake Tahoe

Dull treatise on death and how we deal with it
Seen at the AFI Film Festival in Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe is the director's second feature and follow-up to the acclaimed Duck season which also played at AFI Film Fest.

Again, the director follows the lives of children left alone by adults and left to their own means. The movie opens with a crash of a car and the journey the lead character takes in trying to mend this quaint auto is our incision into his life.

Wide shots are used to create distance. Intimacy is hard to find and long fade to blacks obscure the action in this roman a clef. Curiously short of real drama by the director's choice, it deprives the audience of any real drama.

It plays like a series of vignettes of which include chasing a dog, babysitting a child, a visit to the movie theater and sex; all to show the characters way of dealing with pain. But is is the audience who is really in pain in this slow, boring and ultimately unsatisfying expose on death in a family.

The comedy that was effective in Duck Season pontificates scenes that it should not. The lack of focus in camera set-ups contributes to the blandness. A life time TV movie that is way too long and ultimately insulting because it deceives the viewer that it is up to way more when it really isn't.

Les rendez-vous de Paris

Rohmer does Paris in three mini vignettes
What is love? and can you explain it. Using three meetings at different locations , Rohmer creates a parable on the intricate and surprising nature of love. The first story about a rendezvous at seven is the best. Insidious in its nature, it plants the seeds of doubt that blossom into the tale of two women and two men, each seeking and expecting divergent results. Filled with coincidences, all three tales are, it presents the surprises we don't see coming.

The second story which is kind of dull or more demanding depending on taste, follows a couple meeting up in many public locations. The female character is afraid to meet in private despite the urgings of her male lover and when she does make the leap, the consequences will forever change the relationship.

The goat of the pack is the final vignette, a story titled after a Picasso painting that features prominently in story. Again the obvious is pushed aside for the unexpected and there is a certain breezy, plush ending to the proceedings that seems to jar with what has become.

A comedy in three parts, there is a chorus group that is interspersed and opens each story. Cherubic in nature, the songs present certain adages on the nature of love and life.

A mixture of his moral tales with his comedies and proverb series, it is the lesser of each but sub-par Rohmer is still superior to most filmmakers. His low frills style of film making which a previous reviewer called cheap tells him how little he knows about the edict of the French New wave, the only die-hard adherent remained Rohmer, his rules, a quantifier closer to the Dogma'95 tradition of cinema. It is cinema of the heart at its finest.

Még kér a nép

Red Blood
How does one go about describing this movie? Odd? Bela Tarr before Bela Tarr. Boring. Without a doubt. Definitely not for the mainstream cinema goer but is it also for the art house lover? Only a hard-core alternative cinema can love this movie. But can you appreciate it? sure. Roving cameras. Complex rhythms and sudden breakouts into song and dance, yet there is nothing musical about it. It is first and foremost a mood piece. To understand it, you really need to know the background of the opus.

This might be considered a spoiler.

"According to film critic, Raymond Durgnat, the movie is based on a series of psalms, thus the title, and prayers written circa 1890. They are of a socialist nature echoing such biblical models as the Lord's Prayer."


Knowing the background, the movie makes sense as a series of short stories, each ending with the same thematic resolution. A socialist parable for chaotic times. It was the seventies after all. Using a kind of folk narrative medium, kind of like performing in the village square for the elders, it possesses an African or European medieval story telling technique. Hard to follow, except as a tale of the lower classes versus the aristocracy and tyranny, it is something short of a dictum for revolution. Refusing to explain itself, it comes across as live theater packed with heavy symbolism. There is blood and lots of it. Gun shots and death. Camaderie, community, resistance, nakedness of the soul and death. Rambling in circles, at times, it is laughable; sprinkled with unusual sound edits, curious performances and image synching. But it is all controlled by the invincible hand of Jancso who orchestrates the mise-en-scene like a virtuoso marionettist. Tricky, intricate camera movements supposedly done in 28 shots make up the movie. It is a ballet of zoom lenses curious camera set-ups and resistance to the basic nature of its medium. Neither here or there on the engrossing meter scale, it does present experimental cinema and a different film vocabulary. Championed by some wayward critics over the years, it did win the best director at the Cannes film festival. So that is what you get. Limited story, confusing actions and narrative arc in a stop and go fashion but camera tricks comparable to the best of Fellini.

PS. I saw the movie on the big screen but the projectionist framed it to look like a big TV screen. It looked odd. I have no idea if this was the original framing.

Hai tan de yi tian

Taiwanese new wave cinema
the late Edward Yang is considered one of Taiwan's best directors. My first and only experience with Mr. Yang before this movie was Yiyi, his last movie which I much enjoyed. When this moved was being shown at the Los Angeles museum I had to check it out. A story about the lives of two women, it is ambitious but ultimately unsatisfying. It is also too long at a whooping 166 minutes. It mistakes narrative for storytelling and No, they are not the same thing. Narrative is dialogue and action which occur in a story; storytelling takes the narrative along to move the story. Stillness versus action. Caught in a trap, it meanders and it becomes to difficult to decipher what the movie is really about. Taiwanese culture on women it seems like but I can't be sure, the failure of the modern marriage, missed dreams, you don't get what you want but what you need; coming of age' all of this or none of this. Following a business man and his wife over several years, it offers no answers and worse no story. That said, he is no hack and dazzles momentarily with little bursts here and there of pure nouveau camera movement and sharp framing with claustrophobic use of music. Wide lensing is impressive to look at but never adds up to much. The best part or unusual part of the movie is the red herring set up that isn't really a red herring but sets the audience up expectations the movie does not deliver to my satisfaction. It feels like a French New wave picture; one of those Godard or Malle pictures that emphasized women as the leads but likes the heart. For all its ambitions, it is stilted, bridled and clouded behind its fog. It's a movie only the director can understand because he seems to close to it, he misses the necessary long hand which is needed to convey the story and reduces it to a shorthand that is misunderstood. Despite all of my negative connotations (more my trying to come to terms with this opus)it is a worthy effort from the director who made the great family drama Yiyi.

Le juge et l'assassin

Histoire de la Francais dans affaire Dreyfus par despotisme
The judge and the assassin is a strange and ironic title for this film. It does not represent what your mind immediately leads you to believe. It is about the arrest and trial of a psychopath, alas French auteur style. It bears in odd-about way a resemblance to Lacombe Lucien which was released two years earlier. Featuring a bravura performance by Michel Galabru ( he worn the Cesar, the French Oscar) as the serial killer, his trial becomes a study into the mind and evil of nation at the turn of the last century. Dealing with anti-semitism, civil unrest, disobedience and the tyranny of the France and the Church can make anyone crazy and an assassin. With strong performances by Tavernier favorite actor Philippe Noiret and a young Isabelle Huppert, it is a fine film in the tradition of French cinema prior to the advent of the New Wave.

Bal na vodi

Effective coming of age story reminiscent of Truffaut from the Czech Eastern bloc
A sharp political comment posturing as a coming of age story is what this movie is. The annoying thing is that it works effectively on both levels. It isn't supposed to but it does. This tale of four boys and a girl growing up in 1953 Communist Belgrade is a heart warmer. It is what gentlemen refer to as classic cinema. Obviously, 1953 Belgrade is not as harsh a dictatorial and fascist environment as the Communist society is often portrayed. One can listen to rock and roll music, one of the songs played is the song "Hey Babu Riba" ala the title of the movie. But jeans cannot be bought nor certain drugs which are illegal to possess. Unlike a heavy-handed criticism of a communist society this movie does it by showing how it affects the lives of the five protagonists who refer to themselves as we four. The girl who has a father in exile in Italy and is awaiting a passport for her mother and she to travel out to join him, the piano that is taken away from communion use from one of the boys, the sudden giving of your home and quarters to your new comrades because they need it. The boys spend a lot of time listening to music and it is made clear they despise the fascism that communism has created as they engage in tiffs with a fascist charlatan who has Stalin tattooed on his hands. These all leads to the actions they take later on and the remembrance of a time fading away, as this movie was released in 1986 in the twilight of the Soviet Empire. A great movie worth seeing again and again. "Repentance is not your enemy but yet it is also nobody's friend."

Miss Grant Takes Richmond

Charming comedy that falters at the end
Before Lucille Ball would become forever famous as the star of the beloved TV series "I love Lucy" and William Holden would become one of the biggest stars, if not the biggest star of the fifties, they were both dependable leading man and lady respectively in fluffy comedies for the studio system. Movies that were not very deep, did not charm the critics but did well at the box office as this one did. This is more Lucille's show than Holden who was already growing into his craggy, weary, doggerel expression that would serve him well in later years. Plot must be a twist on a popular fifties phenomenon of hard to find affordable housing in Washington DC and the scam artists who bilk the people desperate for affordable prices. Lucille is a dumb red-head who wants to do good things while being inept and dyslexic. Holden needs a not too bright secretary who won't ask questions and will not catch on to the underground shenanigans of his front real estate business. Lucille proves to be more headache than bargain, and gets Holden into a tight spot. He tries to fire her in a funny and unsuccessful attempt. She learns the truth, hates him, loves him and an ending comes. There is also another girl involved. You know it already it's a romantic comedy, Hollywood style. That said, the first two-thirds of the movie is very funny and sharp as the two of them grate each other's nerves, well it's Holden doing all the gritting. But the last third is very weak and not very intelligent, especially the final scene. So it's good but not quite there. Passable entertainment for the house-wife or loved one.

La kermesse héroïque

Beware of the women!
This just might e the smartest black comedy (that is a matter of opinion ever made) right up there with Reoir's The Rules of the Game. A female empowerment movie, in a way it reminds one of the movie adaptation of "The Women" with bigger ideas on its mind. Made in 1935, and hailed by all critics as one of the greatest movies ever made, a position it would hold through the fifties, it is a deceptive little tale about the cowardice of men and the bravery of women. The last time the French came through, the little town of Flanders was rampaged ad plundered. News comes again that they are coming through, and the men panic, quiver and run for cover. It is the women who think up the plan to save the city As, I said smile, but very funny with the undercurrent of male an female dynamics underlining every line, phrase and action in this treat. To sum it up, it can be said that the old adage, "Behind every great man is a great woman" a perceptive and illuminating proper edifice.

Three Smart Girls Grow Up

Deanna! Deanna! Deanna! Deanna! Deanna! Oh Deanna!!!
What more is there to say about the child wonder that was Deanna Durbin. Famous as legend goes for saving the studio known as Universal, the girl is the epitome of naturalistic acting, fervent commitment and exceptional and beautiful singing. Three smart girls grow up is the follow up to the movie, you guessed it, Three smart girls. A movie I have not seen but I will definitely be picking up. The story is about unhappiness that three sisters go through as love enters asunder between the older two sisters. But one politely keeps quiet not wanting to offend the other. Little Deanna finds this out and goes ahead to fix things. Throw in a dithering, forgetful and slightly senile and the makings of a family movie is all in place. It should be noted that Hollywood does not know how to make movies like this any more. Witness the failed adventures of Hillary Duff in The Perfect man. But then again, Hillary is no Deanna. It seems as if there is no sin without Deanna in it, and the movie is all the better for it; the sass, the impudence, the lack of restraint, the forward thinking, the ambition, so charming. When Joe Pasternak moved to MGM, he tried to recreate the magic of the movies he made with Deanna there with the young starlet, Jane Powell. The movies, unofficial remakes of the Universal hits were big hits too but they lacked the spark of Deanna pictures. There is something to be said for star power. Back to the movie, everything is resolved in a charming and Hollywod formula that might seem half-baked if the movie had not earned it. And this movie earned it. It earned every moment of it.


Old school story with universal appeal
Those French and those Germans sure have a long history of not liking each other. It is interesting to note that Kamerdaschaft or Comradeship in translation takes place in 1931. Only a few years later, Hitler would siege Germany and begin his plans to take over the world, France being a casualty of his ambitions. But these are times of sereneness compared to the future. A group of miners at the border try to cross over to France to get work. They are spurned back and later at a nightclub by their French neighbors. Then a disaster happens in the mines of the French and a well-crafted and written scene, a troupe of German miners decide to come to the rescue. A simple story is it not? Pabst was a poet of silent cinema and I am not sure if this is his first sound movie or not, but his poetry is there to be discovered. He isn't fussy but brings a rugged realism to the ordeal. Ther is even a flashback to a WWII event that beckons the point of this story. Supposedly based on a real event, the movie does the events proudly with directness and terseness. Smetimes, that's what a movie needs to be.


Feels like a filmed stage play
I have just finished watching Proof, a film released in the year of our Lord, 2005, which is adapted from a stage play in which the director has gone to great pains to hide the fact that his work is based on the play. flash back 70 years and we have a movie made that looks like a filmed stage play with real locations replacing the stage sets. All early sound movies feel set-locked as people talk and deliver within the range of the camera. Therefore, to hold the interest to the modern viewer, the dialogue and acting must be believable and engaging. The film fails to achieve it for the most part because the performance of the actress playing Fanny is a total success even though she was reprising her role from the stage. First time director, Pagnol adapting his own stage works suffers from a non-visual eye. The delight, is French star Raimu who delivers a performance still worthy to the eye even today. There is a reason Orson Welles called him a genius. The melodramatic plot of a scorned, (maybe that is too strong a word: even abandoned is too strong because she never lets on to her man that she does not want him to leave) woman who is pregnant is passé though common in the literature of the period. I remember a tracking shot that impressed me as the camera follows Fanny through the streets as she suspects she is pregnant. In the way it is handled and executed, it is cinematic authorship at its finest. It is a film in the middle of the trilogy, therefore there are loose ends left to be resolved. All movies are time capsules, it is said, therefore approach this with the right attitude and you might be rewarded.


Sharp conclusion to a movie series
The above mentioned movie is the final part of a 3 part series of which Maurius and Fanny were the predecessors. Out of the 3, I like this one the best. One, the very good actor, Raimu gets to step out of the background and take the lead. Two, it wraps up all the pieces that have been set up in the previous movies, as the major theme of life goes on, and destiny must not be avoided, despite of silly human follies of pride, societal scorn and by-law morals. A charming family movie, all at once, an unsentimental love story sporadically. Raimu delivers monologues here that define the character and the nature of the others. Also, I must the add, the son of Fanny and Maurius is very well played. Pagnol must be applauded for bringing his hit play to the screen. A musical movie was made in the sixties starring Leslie Caron which put all three plays into one movie titled Fanny. I remember as being sporadically entertaining with its deep sets and lush technicolor. But this is the one to watch. Pagnol use of outdoor sets is invigorating for early sound cinema and his camera is an unobtrusive detailer and watcher. A fine movie forgotten but worth remembering.

The Great Locomotive Chase

A western, Disney style
Westerns are generally concerned with shootouts btw desperadoes and law-abiding officers. It is no secret the westerns gave us the terms "the man in white" and the "man in black" to correspond to its basic colloquialism. But this is Disney making this movie, and so in such, we get a History lesson in the form of the Western. It's about the first men to win the congressional medal of honor. It is also about an army offensive that failed. Those Northern boys failed to get the better of the Johnny Rebs in this civil war tale. Fess Parker, he of the brimstone and iron voice, you know, that Gregory Peck way of manly speaking speaking that has totally disappeared from movies today and society in general - except maybe in the Midwest leads the Dirty dozenish crew who are to destroy the railway lines and communication system of the South so that the North can perform their beta version of D-Day. Pesky Jeffrey in a fine stone-walled performance picks up chase as they steal his train for this mission. In this movie, failure isn't really failure but success. The chase is the thing but not the thing and heroics are measured in a leader that his crew consider cowardly. Sharp writing and character is the star of this Disney opus. All in all, a fine western, a fine movie.

Vessel of Wrath

Fine British drama and comedy
It is hard to watch this movie without noticing its similarities, intentional or not to the so-called American classic "The African Queen". I will have to say I enjoyed this movie more. The director whose credits state this as his only movie directs this 1930s movie as it were made in the sixties and seventies when the motif of camera movement became essential. Hand-held cameras are used to good effect. Charles Laughton who is the best film actor of the 20th Century shines again as he totally immerses himself in the part of the scalawag drunk. Elsa Lanchester, a woman with perfect demeanor and grace and wearing absolutely no make up shines as the woman whose aim is to tame the natives and tame the irascible Laughton. Good support from the cast round up this romantic drama. Bogart won an Oscar for doing a role very similar to this one, but Laughton is better. Catch it if you can. It's nice, smartly written, subtle and an English treat.

The True Glory

Cliff notes version of D-DAY
This fantastic documentary released by the United States Government and co-directed by the great and smart writer-director Garson Kanin and Michael Powell opens with DDE telling us that we are going to see the events as occurred as told by the men and women who were involved and there. This is no talking heads documentary. It essentially covers the journey from the moment the allies land on Normandy till they take Berlin. All the while, a series of voice-overs obviously scripted details the action as they talk. Be it English, American, Canadian, Czech, Russian, female paramedics, black soldiers we are given the whole she-bang. The voices change as randomly as the scene changes. There is a problem though. The dialog is scripted and can sound corny and a bit rah-rah and flag-waving. Everything is optimistic in this cinematic dairy so to speak. Scenes of allies being killed end with voice-over lines "We lost 3,000 but we moved on" and the editors will jump away to scenes of the army defeating or bombing Berlin. They do not linger or failure or tragedy except when it matters at the concentration when we see the dead bodies and survivors. That said, all sides of the human behavior are covered. We see soldiers who would rather shoot the Germans than capture them. You can feel the anger behind the voices of the soldiers as he chants racist mantras at the POWS. Anger, happiness, futility, fear, and foremost of all optimism is covered and the ending tells us that we can together and be one. The sea of flags ending might seem corny but it was made after the Great War. It has a right to be.

Swing High, Swing Low

A bit too heavy on the nose
I am quite the Mitchell Leisen fan so it was a great anticipation that I rented this movie but the print I got was extremely bad, so worn down from use and scorched seemingly beyond repair, the movie was so dark. So dark that in certain scenes that are cinematographed in the dark, you can't see a single thing. That said, I believe I share the same opinion as the first review of this movie. It starts out unusually and does not tote the lines and rhythms of your typical Hollywood 30's movie. Heck, not even your typical Hollywod movie of any era. It seems the director has been influenced by the Europeans because there is a certain caustic realism to the proceedings from the opening shot which is so crafted in camera movement and placement as Maggie (Carole Lombard) and Skid (Fred Macmurray) meet. You half expect them to start singing "Make believe" from Show boat.It starts with a few laughs and poor Anthony in a one scene role where he speaks not a word of English gets slapped around by Freddie. Skids is a bum who doesn't care that he's a bum. That's why he signs up in the army where he can hide from the world. He's just been released though and in a set of screenplay shenanigans, she misses her boat for New York. This is when the movie kicks into high gear and we begin to get those French movie of the sixties vibes to the whole proceedings. The scenes are so well acted by Lombard and Cecil Cunningham, the movie gains a pulse. MacMurray is good too as he and Lombard fall for each other as she nurtures his talent for the trumpet. Then the temptress arrives in the form of Dorothy Lamour. Enough with plot. The movie has fantastic montage sequences that dazzled me. They are very good. And Lombard scores a home run in this movie but in the second half, a bit more is called of Freddie and he fails to deliver the goods. With a heavily melodramatic ending and an actor you don't believe, the movie falls short but since it is not your typical movie in structure, set design, and direction. It is worth a look. For what is what it was one of the 37 hits of the 1936-37 season. I don't know its exact rank though.

A Yank in the R.A.F.

As flimsy as it gets
This PearL Harbor like story that was released before the actual bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred does not have much going for it. Tyrone is roguishly handsome and gives all his scenes the necessary spark of a golden boy daredevil but it all comes across as very hollow as he jets off to London to join the war for monetary purposes to deliver bombs or is it flyers? over Germany. John Sutton, his boss and arch-rival with a very charming voice and demeanor provides good support to no avail. Betty Grableas the girl in one of her few dramatic parts (if this could be called a dramatic part)is fine but the probably with this movie is that it intends to only entertain and is afraid to dig any deeper than a few inches. Hammy speeches are delivered, strong scenes killed with ill-advised laughter and everybody talks and acts like children while playing grown adults. The battle of Dunkirk filmed in a swerving and swelling wide shot is gorgeous to look at. It is like a real life video game as filmed using models of the real thing by the technical crew. Such,it was nominated for a special effects Oscar. This is a typical DFZ production with not much to offer to the body or the soul.


Nowhere as bad as the user ratings imply
SPYS is an aggressive laugh out comedy in the tradition of the old "Road" pictures that never really works. It has no real plot so to speak and relies on the chemistry of the lead actors of which there is plenty for its appeal. Wise cracks fly aplenty and barbs of witticism fill the air. This hit movie which was released in 1974 feels like a movie from the 80s. There is a certain fluidity of camera and mis-en-scene that MTV brought to the eighties movies that permeates the aurae of this movie. It feels like a 1985 movie SPYS and the likes that ruled the beat-box era. Laughs ring true after a very strong start but even a plot less seems or needs to deceive the audience into thinking it has a direction. The plot is silly if not confusing and just happens and the french actress Zuzou who was also a popular singer isn't very good. She just complicates matters. In all, not great but the ending is bitter-sweet and sharp on the money. You wish the movie itself had that kind of vive de joie.


Loulou is loo-loo.
This is quite a dull movie. Well-shot with realistic performances especially a very good one from Depardieu as a cad and bad boy with realistic locations mood and art-house connotations all over, it fails because the director takes no position, stand or critical commentary on the topic he stipulates. One of France's revered and regular working partner on films with Depardieu - I believe they made 7 together - Pialat fails to engage. It seems to be a treatise on why women fall for the bad boy who will hurt when they have a ready caring boyfriend and good-hearted husband around. Isabelle Hupert who plays the philanderer with nonchalant distinction offers opprobrium answers like "I don't know"; "I like his arms"; "I like the way he makes love" to her inquiring husband who tries to kick her out of the house but palliates and reconsiders because... I assume he loves her. So he accepts and hope for what? That she will one day wake up and come to her senses. Things like this are not answered in Pialat's condescending docu-drama style with long speeches and even longer scenes that don't add up. I know the answers do not add up but please take a stand. Jules et Jim, this is not. The final shot as cold as the movie we have just watched is a heartache and headache only to the most forgiving.

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