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The Lovers & the Despot

Fascinating Film: Much Left Unresolved
This is a very good film. A book about the incredible true story provides more details: "A Kim Jung-Il Production." And it is details that are missing from the film version such as: 1] Did Choi & Shin bring their children from South Korea to the US? 2] What became of Choi's two children with his mistress? Also, some other details which would only have taken a few minutes to add might have been: --when Choi & Shin met, Choi was in an abusive marriage from which he rescued her, in essence.

--when Shin's mistress died, her rival, Choi was the only person in attendance at her funeral.

These equally fascinating details which I learned from the book might have been of interest and added to the fullness of the narrative.

Otherwise, this film does a marvelous job of placing one in the terror, the abject state of a captured trophy performer. The true details of Shin's incarceration are far more brutal than was portrayed, however.

The absurdity of North Korea's megalomania-cal rulers and Kim Jung-Il's fondness for film are comical save for the devastating effects on the kidnapped, caged humans in his menagerie. Kim also had US servicemen who defected & had not finished high school become professors of the English department at North Korean universities. And, he had them star in films as evil Americans, of course.

This may be the most bizarre true story about world class film-making to date.


Huston Did a Beautiful Work of This
Huston conveyed emotion, remorse, rage, resignation and relief with depth and the effortlessness of truth: each won by long years of pain or the grace of an instant. A sort of well, dare I say 'goodness' seems to emanate from the man. He is blithely naive, callow, filled with talent and care for his fellow man and beasts. A mantle of grace rests upon can feel it.

I would give his performance 10 stars. In fact, I do.

The film, however...

I do not like the inclusion of contemporary music in historical settings. It grates at the suspension of disbelief required to be lost in the time and place being brought to life. It holds the entire narrative up against a shadow puppet screen and says 'remember, this isn't real.' That's not what I want. Contemporary music plays at the close of the film, I recall.

Also, the costuming.... they didn't get away with the use of polyester fabrics ~ particularly with metallic elements. They could be seen and were glaring anachronisms, particularly in the women's clothing and in the beginning scenes. Again, jarring to one wishing to believe he is indeed looking upon the time roughly corresponding with the beginning of our calendar system.

The costuming recovers, however. Huston's tunics and attire are flawless. But what about Freeman's Tuareg clothing? Was he a Moor? A Tuareg? An Amazight? They might have made it more clear which sort of African he represented.

The film is worth seeing. It is stirring. It touches the depths of suffering and sorrow and leaves an impression if not a few tears.

Amish Haunting

A Campfire Around Which Scary Tales Are Told...Your TV?
What Hans Christian Andersen was to the Danish, these tales are to the Amish, perhaps. What do you think of when you hear about these old fairy tales...Danny Kaye? A glimmering, sentimental film set? Well, these are actually rather gruesome and unforgiving tales: the Little Match Girl, the Red Shoes...all cautionary tales against excess, or being cut off from family and one's community.

Are they Amish Hauntings true? Some of them may be, some may be exaggerated or made up. It isn't hard to see, though, that they fulfill a 'cautionary tale' role in Amish folklore. Some of these tales are as difficult to believe as your standard 'urban legend' but what makes this series interesting, perhaps, is that these are 'RURAL Legends.'

Take a step back to the campfire of yore and hear a ghost story set in a place sans modern conveniences and distractions. Yes, there are moments when the modern world comes into play, even in these tales, but mostly, I think you will find some good old fashioned, scary fun like your great-grandparents (or better yet, earlier than that) might have enjoyed.

I like the reviews above, one about the headstones and use of electricity. I also researched the electricity issue. The Amish do use batteries and the episode touched on this so I don't think the series meant to slight or lead anyone astray. The tombstone issue of their being varied in the episode but not in Amish tradition which the reviewer brought up is a valid point. Still, I don't think anyone is trying to mock their plain neighbors. I'm in Ohio and we have great respect for the Amish---especially their cooking, and furniture making--in fact I think we idolize their 'plain' ways a bit--so I don't think we need to be so politically correct that we must pretend not to notice that people in our communities have different traditions, stories or folkways. I think it's fascinating and certainly I do not see any disrespect intended in the series.

I have seen every episode. I did take exception to portraying the actors as actual Amish people (hence my score of 8/10) who allegedly experienced these events but that is understandable. The actual Amish participants who do not want to have their photo taken are not likely to appear in a TV show.

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life has no clothes
This is the most disjointed film I have ever seen. Or perhaps I lack the ability to understand it. To give you an idea of my perspective, 2001 Space Odessy makes no sense to me, either. To some it does and is very profound, undoubtedly.

While the film boasts stunning imagery of space, nature and the sea, the logical plot line is entirely missing.

I would liken it to the vast majority of modern French films which seem to end when the camera ran out of film and are designed to be discussed at length over many a Gitane cigarette and glasses of cognac.

I'd rather have a plot that I can understand.

That being said, I felt that Malik's other work, the New World, which I would describe as a visual poem, was at the same time able to be understood with stunning imagery complimenting a profound plot centered around the inner human landscape.

This film seems to have sacrificed plot in favor of ....a certain je ne sais quoi.

Dalkomhan insaeng

The introduction provides a short anecdote which serves as the key to the symbolism which follows throughout the film: The disciple asks his master if it is the wind or the trees which move. The master replies, "it is your heart and mind which are moved".

The heart and mind of the lead character will indeed be moved throughout the film. The reflection of the leaves swaying in the wind alluded to in the introduction can be seen on his car windscreen after he has parked at the home of the gangster boss' girlfriend for the first time-- the person who will change his heart and mind forever. As he exits the car and approaches the house, a wind rises.

In the hotel bar where he has worked, a plaque behind the bar reads "La Dolce Vita", Italian for "the Sweet Life". The bitter contrast will be felt by the lead in this room as well when he has his epiphany about "what can never be" at the end.

Dungeon Girl

From the Director Who Can Master Neither Porn Nor Narrative
From Ulli Lommel, the director who has mastered neither porn nor narrative, comes this fusion of the worst of both genres. The mindlessness of porn and the jarring, non-resolution of clumsy narrative are combined in this "to be missed at all costs" disaster of a film. Ever wonder what Hollywood means when they say "Based upon actual events"? That's just their way of saying "Once upon a time". In other words, the tale spun so maladroitly in this film has little in common with the real story. The director seems to have a prurient fascination with the fact that the actual young woman became a "media darling" after her ordeal. My impression of Lommel....hmmm...DaFoe's portrayal of a director in the comedic 2007 Rowan Atkinson film comes pretty close.

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