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Sorok pervyy

War and ( temporary ) Peace
Grigoriy Chukhray was in my opinion one of the great Soviet directors, and is underrated in the West. After Stalin died there was a creative thaw in the Soviet Union, and a few of these films were shown in the UK along with the unbanning of Eisenstein's ' Battleship Potemkin ' after far too many years. Along with ' Ballad of a Soldier ' ( a great, great film ) he made ' The Forty- First ' and it is visually and emotionally superb. War is still raging between Reds and Whites, and Izolda Izvitskaya is a woman sniper with the Reds who is given charge of guarding a handsome young white played by Oleg Strizhenov, and both are excellent in their roles. Slowly her passion develops for him, and finally it is reciprocated on an island which becomes at last a temporary peace, and a haven for their love. These scenes of tenderness and loving are astonishingly frank in their eroticism and beauty. It is quite simply one of the finest depictions of love in the cinema, and despite the rules of the outside world they create an idyllic space for themselves, fraught sometimes with political fights, and reconciled afterwards. This film has to my knowledge never been released on DVD but it can be seen on YouTube with English subtitles. I urge viewers to find it, and see yet again how uniquely powerful Soviet film can be at its best.

The Pumpkin Eater

Don't Have A Breakdown In Harrod's
How we flocked, the rich and the poor in the early to late 1960's to see such films as ' The Pumpkin Eater ', ' The Servant ' and ' Accident ', all scripted by Harold Pinter. Sombre films they showed off the privileged, and their middle to upper class problems. The UK was getting very wealthy for some, and there had to be a veiled criticism of their self-indulgence. In some ways it was like the Nouvelle Vague in France ( Georges Delerue wrote the music for this film ) but there was no fun, no real joy of cinema for its own sake in any of them. ' The Pumpkin Eater ' was tastefully cold, beautifully filmed and directed, but essentially shallow, lurching from emotional cruelty to empty social gatherings. Anne Bancroft has too many children, previous husbands and a further husband played by Peter Finch. He is unfaithful, and Bancroft sinks into melancholy then beautifully dressed has a breakdown in Harrod's. This and a scene underneath a hair dryer where she is both flattered and verbally attacked by an ' ordinary ' woman is worth watching for its sheer improbability. I will give no spoilers as to how this claustrophobic film ends, but it sums up an era when London chic ruled the world. I give it a 5 for its sheer professionalism but its content leaves me cold, as so many films of its kind do. Wonderful for collector's of retro furniture, and for those who want to imitate the era.

Le parfum d'Yvonne

I have no idea...
I have really no idea if I like this film for its good points, or to intensely dislike it for the bad ones. The title should have been, in my opinion, ' Villa Triste ' as it is not only a better title ( based on Patrick Modiano's novel ) but because who cares or knows what perfume Yvonne wears ? I only watched the film as I like Modiano's work, and as I have not read this specific one I hoped for better. I am convinced the book has more merit than Patrice Leconte's film. Bad things first. Sandra Majon was one of the most tepid actors I have ever seen, and in this film the passivity of Hippolyte Girardot's acting in a complex role was in my opinion quite simply lazy. And then there is a sad old homosexual played by Jean-Pierre Marielle that showed off every pathetic gesture that presumably the director thought every ageing homosexual should, or does have. The music is relentlessly soft focussed when it is not maudlin, and so is the camera work in far too many scenes. Now for the good points. It does have a few powerful scenes and to avoid spoilers the Algerian War raging in France in 1958 was sometimes put to the foreground and the regret of wasted and passing years movingly shown. I do not want to give away more except to say the ' erotic ' scenes were dull, and repetitious and totally unconvincing. I give it a 5 for an attempt to put a Modiano book on screen, and for the ambiguity of motives adequately conveyed. As I said my opinion of this film is in the balance, but with more thought probably veering towards the bad.

The Three Sisters

Once upon a time....
Once upon a time there were great actors. They had fire and they had passion. It is over fifty years ago that such actors played on screen and stage. A lot worked almost uniquely on the stage like Uta Hagen in ' Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf ', and she is to be heard in this play on YouTube, and you can also see there some of the greatest actors of all in the legendary ' Three Sisters; ' Geraldine Page, Kim Stanley and for me the finest of all Sandy Dennis. Accused by some now as having ' mannerisms ' they were all brilliant as being themselves as well as being others in many of the finest plays ever written. They were individuals in a community of fine actors, and their presence was not formulaic but their own; directed yes, but they knew exactly how to spark off each other and to achieve definitive performances. In this treasured production of one of the greatest plays ever written Kim Stanley, Geraldine Page and Sandy Dennis can be seen at their finest, each taking centre stage then retreating to give space for the others. Just watch the opening with Geraldine Page and Sandy Dennis and there in the background briefly seen, Kim Stanley listening, and there is no fighting to be the best for they are all the best and respect each other for it. I lay a bet viewers will never see their like again. I have not mentioned the men in the cast. All are perfect but it is the women who shine. Every actor alive should see this. It may not be Russian in feeling and that could be a criticism, but it is itself and I use a word I rarely use, universal.

The Duel at Silver Creek

Sadistic Western
For once the BBFC in the UK gave this standard Western an ' A ' certificate and with cuts ( no one under 16 without an adult ) but that was in 1952. Now as we have moved into a more brutal age it gets a ' U ' certificate so any young child can watch it. The body count is high, with close-up brutal killings within minutes of the film starting, and later on a woman strangles a man while he lies on a sick bed. Don Siegel could be a savage director, and other than the great original ' Invasion of the Body Snatchers ' I have learnt to avoid his films. Violence can be necessary, but as sadistic entertainment I dislike it. Fast paced the film is well made, and Susan Cabot almost steals the film from Faith Domergue. As for Audie Murphy I can tolerate his screen presence but wonder why he ever got to star status. This is a nasty gangster film masquerading as a Western, but its cool approach to killing will satisfy those who like to watch dead bodies piling up on the streets. A 4 for admitting its direction is first rate, its technicolour excellent and it does not overstay its unpleasant welcome.

Out in the Dark

Homophobia meets politics
I do not want to give the spoilers away that other reviewers have done. I have some glimmer of knowledge about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but will pass no comment on it. But what I saw in this film was truly unbearable, as two lovers ( one Palestinian, the other Israeli ) are pursued, persecuted, both by their separate places of habitation, as well as their families. Death and torture roam this scenario like rats waiting to kill, and helplessly as an audience you watch as if this is a cross between a documentary and fiction. A lot of praise has been given to the two lead actors, but everyone in this horrific story deserves equal praise. Homophobia is rampant throughout and clashing with the politics depicted is gruelling, but totally realistic. The love scenes between the two men are discreetly filmed, and my one criticism is that I sensed heterosexual actors going through the motions, and acting more than ' being ' appeared to me obvious. But despite this the film is not only good, but a great film and deserves to be placed in that Pantheon of truly great political and gay themed films. Perhaps absurdly I thought of Charles Dicken's ' A Tale of Two Cities ' and the ultimate sacrifice that ends the book. As in that novel this film will never date, or be irrelevant. I hope those who have it will watch it many times, as humanity itself is on trial here. An example of Essential Cinema.


Worthy of Early Ingmar Bergman
Bordering on being simply an exploitation film, the actual story is worthy of early Swedish Ingmar Bergman, and equally doom laden. Made in Denmark in 1957 this ' exposes ' a male prostitution racket, except that the gay customers never get their money's worth. Homosexuals are depicted in a grey sort of area, and one says ' I hate myself ' which sums up their ' outcast ' state in a dog eat dog society that is both brutal and uncaring towards the dispossessed, especially the poor. One such poverty stricken man says. ' they all get us in the end ' and nobody except the rich win. A sad comment on Denmark of the mid-1950's. The story itself is that of a seventeen year old youth, good looking and vulnerable who cannot get a job, and finds himself prey to a couple of pimps waiting to exploit his looks and his life. I was reminded of certain prostitution films made in France during the same era, usually played by either Francoise Arnoul, or Odile Versois in the English made ' Passport to Shame ', except for the female prostitute there is a handy understanding male to save them. This is not the case for young Anton played by a placid actor ( Ib Mossin )who looked like a lamb waiting for the slaughter house, and of course the character he plays is heterosexual. As a critique of a rotten society it deserves a 5 and is as gloomily fatalistic as early Bergman, which is a compliment to its film making. Full of shadows and mist it shows oppression and self-destruction well, but its depiction of homosexuality is appallingly negative, shown one-dimensionally as the worst of pitiful fates. The well of loneliness never looked deeper! 1957 also produced ' The Third Sex ' in Germany, and both were not given a certificate in the UK.

Saturday Night Out

Someone saw a French film
Think of Godard, Rivette and Varda, all taking the camera into the streets and making masterpieces, and then look at how the English did the same and made a formless mess like this. Without style it shows the vulgarity of London in the early 1960's and its clubs, drunk people and violence. Heather Sears after being in ' Room at the Top ' is watchable, and so was Colin Campbell. Both of them could act, but the rest are stereotypes with hopeless dialogue, badly constructed scenes and confusion of motivation. Basically a hotchpotch of ' stories ' it does not convince, and I give it a two for those actors coping with terrible direction. Oh, I forgot the premise of the film; sailors on leave and this is no ' On the Town. '

La meilleure façon de marcher

Pay attention to what is on the screen
I firmly believe this is a well made film, and the succession of humiliations in a Summer camp for boys is shown at times in gruelling detail. Male nudity is explicit, and both Dewaere and Bouchitey give excellent performances. It says a lot for the homophobia of the times in France that the latter actor was not given as good as, or arguably better, roles afterwards. I do not want to go too much into the tragic death of Dewaere, except to ask why was he driven to the act? A man can be driven to suicide, and the reasons are not clear. I want to pay attention to what I see on the screen. Everyone has their own vision of what is there, and what I see in 'La meilleure facon de marcher' is a murky display of ambiguity. My conclusion after watching this film twice in one go (I had not seen it for decades) is that the ambiguity of sexuality and sado-masochism is Claude Miller's avoidance of facing (to me) the obvious. Both persecutor and persecuted are playing cat and mouse with their homosexuality and the battlefield of their relationship is a mutual fear of 'coming out'. This was a mainstream film. Gay/Queer cinema was thin on the ground in the 1970's, and because of that, the 'suspense' on the screen is manufactured to put the audience more at ease with the subject matter. The ending is implausible and neatly wraps the whole thing up with a totally false albeit ambiguous sense of an odd sort of 'normality'. That is what I see on the screen, and frankly it let in a little fresh air on so called deviation from the norm, but not enough to make the audiences in the Champs-Elysees cinemas feel threatened or insecure. The scenario of the film is like Salome's dance of the seven veils, and shedding two of them is quite enough, thank you. The great Bruno Nuytten and his camera does well, but for me was too soft focused. A 5 for the film's intensity, despite the gaping hole of truth at the centre.

The Roots of Heaven

To call it a masterpiece is to trivialize it
I am not a fan of John Huston, and I am not surprised he did not like it. Many have given away the plot, but it is, as some have observed, way before its time. I cannot simplify it by saying it is just about the legal slaughter of elephants, hunting and extinction. It is that, but it also shows how we human animals are the worst of all, and humanity itself is put on trial in this film. Find it if you can and treasure it and ask if humanity has made a great leap forward or are we in terminal decline? As for the cast, Trevor Howard is excellent in arguably his finest role. Juliette Greco only has to say a few words and she shines far greater than many other supposedly great French actors. Errol Flynn is equal to both of them, raw in his truth about those around him, and in his humanity. I for one forget his swashbuckling image. Quite simply a film that depicts we are as human animals made up of both good and evil, and I asked while watching it if evil would in the end triumph, and the roots of heaven, which is the earth itself would ultimately be destroyed. A truly necessary film shamefully hard to find.

As Boys Grow...

Honest ( up to a point )
Even in 2021 I cannot imagine many schools showing this film. Masturbation is considered normal, and the ' boys ' who probably knew all about it anyway ask reasonably intelligent questions. It is in the public domain on YouTube, and is a revelation in that in 1957 such a short film could be made, even with education in mind. The British Censors would have surely banned it, and even films on childbirth had X certificates ( no one under 16 allowed to see it ) when precisely teenagers below that age arguably needed it most. So I give this a 7 for attempting to tell American youth a few facts of life. Needless to say male/male attraction was not mentioned, and would it have been too controversial for female teenagers to be present ? These questions are still relevant today given that society still shields itself around the world on the still subversive subject of sexuality.

Mapp & Lucia

Absolutely Awful
E. F. Benson was a closeted homosexual, and despite writing two semi-gay books, ' David Blaize ' and ' David of King's ' wrote a series of books ( six in all ) devoted to two women, who are now fondly remembered by some as the ' Mapp and Lucia ' books. I tried to read them but I guess I am not sufficiently class conscious or ' Gay ' enough to enjoy their satirical Camp. His two ' David ' books are much better, but of course they are not popular enough to make a series of or a film, which reflects badly on our implicit homophobia. This series of three episodes, lasting three hours in total, is to put it mildly a parade of grotesques living in a thinly veiled Rye re-named as Tilling. The various plots involving Miss Mapp and Lucia who are arch-enemies of snobbery are tedious. And to put a man in all this nonsense Lucia has a best friend/companion called Georgie. Georgie is of course a stereotypical middle aged homosexual ( never named as such ) but convincingly clear by Steve Pemberton's mincing and to me offensive performance. There is also a Lesbian artist ( perhaps based on Radclyffe Hall who lived in Rye and wrote ' The Well of Loneliness ', ) who challenges the town with paintings such as depictions of naked women wrestlers. Along with these one-dimensional characters are the various other snobs of the town, privileged to the hilt except for the servants who attend on them. Miranda Richardson plays Miss Mapp and sadly it is not convincing with enough facial distortions to outdo Jekyll and Hyde. Anna Chancellor is marginally better but the margin in my opinion is very thin. The whole thing is formulaic to the hilt, and I give it a 2 for seeing Rye in most of its beauty, and to avoid the dreadful, absolutely awful stereotypes of British pretensions and snobbery, I tried to concentrate on the scenery. Watch it if you are totally drunk and do not care.

The Kiss on the Cliff

Where were you when I needed you ?
This 21 minute short film does not ask this question, but despite its brief length it explores many issues, and I for one wished it could have explored them further. The first half is set in the mid -1980's and AIDS is at the forefront of gay men's lives. A gay teenager falls in love with another teenager who is afraid of his own homosexuality. The safety of a marriage and ' normality ' separate them, just when the teenager, secure in his orientation, thrown out of his family, needs him. Ten years on and they meet again, and no spoilers. It is a sad, true and heartfelt film, and seeing it in 2021 it is still relevant. It is on YouTube and I urge both those who ran for the hills when AIDS hit hard, and also for those who faced up to their homosexuality and kept faith with their orientation to see this. Dialogues between both sides should take place, not in anger but a need to understand how a virus could destroy lives, and not only by death. I give it an 8 because I liked its focus, and only the acting let it down a little. Some will feel otherwise, but it is a near perfect film. I must add here that it is the subsidiary cast who let it down, and not the main two protagonists who are perfect.

Le notti bianche

Better than some
This is marginally better than most at ' translating ' Dostoyevsky to film. I have not seen Russian interpretations, but mention some of those from America and Western Europe, and even Japan. I will name a few ; Richard Brook's with his dreadful ' The Brothers Karamazov ', ' Akira Kurosawa's ' The Idiot ', and a bad French version of that novel made in France with Gerard Philippe. Staying with France a truly awful ' Crime and Punishment ' with Robert Hossein as Raskolnikov. Bresson did well with ' Une Femme Douce ' and failed with ' Four Nights of a Dreamer , ' his version of ' White Nights '. This leads in to Visconti and his version. It is beautifully filmed. It is in Italian, and there is nothing of Russia in it. Maria Schell plays the woman who is waiting for her lover to return, and Marcello Mastroianni plays the man who accompanies her in her wait. We see the lover she is expecting mainly in flashback and Jean Marais plays his role. His acting is morose, sullen and acts woefully badly as if in a constant reverie about the loss of his looks. Painful to watch. As for Schell and Mastroianni it is acting on a passable, ' romantic ' level and Nino Rota's score is equally soft centred. There is even a dreadful sequence where a Rock and Roll song of the mid-1950's takes centre stage and the film falls apart as it is long, long, long and we are forced to watch a young male beauty show off his dancing skills. I have no idea why it was there, and it all seemed like a film test to see if this beautiful young man could become yet another contender for fame. No more spoilers, but despite its visual artistry it is a hollow interpretation of Dostoyevsky. Visconti knew how to make mainstream ' art ' films and this is perhaps less indulgent than a lot he made. He had a passion for well known actors, and he made ' stars ' of some who did not deserve such attention. Self indulgence overcomes content, and depth in the content, and there I will exempt ' Sandra ' with Claudia Cardinale and Jean Sorel, and ' Senso ' with the great Alida Valli. For those who like a good cry, and know little about, arguably, the best of Russian authors. Many cinematic crimes have been made in his name.

The Rough and the Smooth

This underrated film is more than it seems.
This film is based on a Robin Maugham novel called 'The Rough and the Smooth' which is a gay book in disguise (Robin Maugham was homosexual) and watching the film in this light gives it a whole new perspective. In the book, Nadja Tiller's character was English but the great director Robert Siodmak, known best for his contribution to Film Noir, wisely realised that no English actress could succeed so well in the role, and Tiller delivered one of the best performances on film. It is not a shoddy sex film, but an analysis of sadomasochist needs and how easily it is to be dominated by them. The one spoiler I will give is that Nadja Tiller as the young woman was sexually assaulted at the age of 16, and the man's rough approach appealed to her, and he became the dominating passion of her life. This has consequences for those she meets, and Tony Britton, as a wealthy man, becomes obsessed with her to the point of near total self destruction. If this film lacks a plot for some reviewers it is because they were not looking closely. It is in my opinion much more daring than 'Room at the Top' (brought out close to it), and has been sadly neglected as a truly adult film. William Bendix is borderline camp in his role of Tiller's 'sugar daddy', and there are quite a few gay hints, even using Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony in Tiller's scene where she discusses being abused and liking it. This symphony was a favourite among homosexuals of that era, and no doubt many in the audience of the time will have picked up on it, and Tiller in her 'boyish' brash and direct delivery of dialogue reveals a lot of the sexual ambiguity beneath the surface. The supporting cast are first rate, including Natasha Parry, Donald Wolfit and Joyce Carey. This is my opinion of the film, and I will risk the conjecture; Maugham could not for reasons of censorship, even in books of the time, change the gender of the young woman, nor make Tony Britton's part as her obsessed lover bisexual. Neither could he write Bendix, the cruelly abused 'sugar daddy' as an elderly homosexual. In an age of repression many books and films were not as they seemed, but given all this Siodmak made an excellent film, and Nadja Tiller, great actor that she is, signposted all the sexual ambiguities of her role to perfection. Perhaps it needs a queer eye to see this, but according to my viewing it is all there. A truly original film, veiling and unveiling subjects that were certainly not usual to British or American audiences at the end of the 1950's. It is also a very passionate film and the young woman is not 'bad' but a victim of her own needs and desires. It was brought out on DVD in the UK, under its original title, 'The Rough and the Smooth' not with the more simplistic title 'Portrait of a Sinner'.

The Far Country

I do not buy the myth
I see ' Westerns ' ( especially those clean films of the 1950's ) as being nearly total myth. I used to buy the myth much more when I was younger, and more gullible to believe in packaged fictions. But like a fantasy land I sometimes return to them, and ' The Far Country ' is an especially beautiful visual film. Its Canadian mountains and valleys are finely depicted, and an avalanche of snow exciting for children of all ages. But when it comes to the cast of characters I found them two one dimensional, with only hints of ambiguity. James Stewart plays a loner out for himself, and perhaps has a true Damascus moment that others matter. His inward, rather self absorbed acting is right for the part. The gold rush plot of bad versus good in Alaska was again too simplistic, and of course we know which side has to win as this is in the main a Western trope of the time that could not be challenged. Ruth Roman, who I like as an actor is woefully given a part that did not do her justice, and the less said about the third lead Corinne Calvet the better. For some perverse reason she is given more screen time than Ruth Roman, and Anthony Mann should have been watching the cast more closely than the scenic tour of Canada ( and no, it was not filmed in Alaska. ) There is a high body count of violent deaths to satisfy the audiences, and on this base level the film gives value for money. To sum up it is well made, but in my opinion Mann is overrated by film critics. He did his job well, and that is the most I can praise him for and he feeds into the never, never land of an America that most would like to believe in.


A Great Hamlet
I have no idea why this film has been so disgracefully ignored. It was one of the most important films in the London Film Festival at the NFT in 1976, along with Pasolini's ' Salo ', Oshima's ' Empire of the Senses ', and Wim Wenders ' Kings of the Road ' to name a few. It was brought out on video by the film distributor's ' Dangerous To Know ' label ( they basically initiated the concept of distributing Gay/ Queer film in the UK, and lasted many years. ) The cast includes not only Helen Mirren and Quentin Crisp, but two incredible young brothers Anthony and David Meyer playing Hamlet, Hamlet's father and Laertes, and their dual performances in my opinion have not been surpassed on film. So why is this film lost, and virtually unfindable ? I would urge strongly for the British Film Institute to reclaim it, and its running time of only just over an hour should not make them afraid. Celestino Coronado was/is a visionary director, and the hour consists of an hallucinatory night where Hamlet in his dreams plays out ( as if in rehearsal for waking action ) essential parts of the drama. Quentin Crisp plays Polonius to perfection, and in the scene where Hamlet confronts his mother Helen Mirren was equally excellent. I will give no other spoilers, only to say that the images are startling, brutal and utterly beautiful; an eye seen through a magnifying glass, a hand pounding down on nails and a love/hate fight between Hamlet and Laertes, erotic and finely choreographed. Is it Laertes that Hamlet loves instead of Ophelia ? Make up your own minds if by luck you find an old video of this great film, or if by some miracle it is rightly released again. My copy is almost worn out, and I hope to see this truly original ' Hamlet ' restored in my lifetime.


The Da Vinci Code for intellectuals
I have not read the book this film is based on, but if it is as shallow as this I do not think I will bother. Pretentions run high as two literary sleuths hunt down in tedious detail the 'forbidden' love of two Victorian poets. The late 20th century melts into the 19th, and the film seamlessly glides between the two, depicting both in golden colours. I have not seen the director LaBute's other films. I only hope they do not all wallow in such prettiness in the land of the beautiful people and the rich. So did I enjoy watching Gwyneth Paltrow as one of the sleuths, or her companion in detection Aaron Eckhart? I actually did. Like bingeing on luxury chocolates, I enjoyed seeing them walk poetically around ruined monasteries, Yorkshire tourist spots and sometimes hopping on and off London buses searching for evidence that two mediocre (to me) poets had a blistering hot love affair. And it was nasty fun to watch the lesbian relationship of one of them sink into the water, as of course rather plain, spectacle-wearing and rather dour lesbians should. Hitchcock knew how much a plain woman in glasses can get so thrillingly killed off and pitied at best by the audience. Apparently the writers of this upholstered film just had to kill her off, as quite 'naturally' she is an inferior threat to heterosexuality. A whiff of well-mannered homophobia is a tonic for the supposed intellectuals who have a need for this kind of mainstream nonsense. Some of the acting is fairly good, and Tom Hollander, in a small part, shines as being a cut above the others. For discreet lust seekers, Aaron Eckhart does get most of his clothes off and dives into a waterfall. His calculated 'brush and flush' hygiene approach to being so handsome clearly needed a waterfall to wash in. I laughed my way through it, and despite the demise of the one gay character who hit the water in a more unpleasant way then Eckhart, it was soothing to watch, and I was overwhelmed by so many prestigious actors walking through their roles. A 4 for the pleasant ease of swallowing this 'intellectual' equivalent of Valium.

The Nanny

From the sublime to the ridiculous
After watching the great Jeanne Moreau in the sublime 'Mademoiselle' I watched the great Bette Davis in one of the worst films she ever made, 'The Nanny'. Reams have been written on it here and Seth Holt in certain books has been praised for his films. I have seen several, and they left me cold, but this one left me furious. It is sensationalist in the worst possible way, and without spoilers I will concentrate on the death of a woman played by the fine actor Jill Bennett. The camera glorifies her agonizing and long death, catching each moment of her horror and despair and it is unbearable to watch. And all the time someone (no spoilers) watches her alongside the camera, gloating over her suffering, and taunting her with the medication that could save her. There are other horrors as well, because this is just a sadistic Hammer film made for the baying crowds who want to see sadism. As for Bette Davis I will say she did her best, which was not enough, and the same goes for the other actors, but I will pass on the rest of the cast as none were convincing, and Pamela Franklin, who I like, was in my opinion too old for her role, and the same thing could be said for the insufferable boy (not his fault as an actor, blame it on the script and director). Only Jill Bennett shines, but she could neither save her life in the film, or save the film from being arguably well-made tosh. A 1 is generous.


The Right Version ?
I have no idea how this film sounds in its English version, and have made my choice not to watch it. Arguably the only version that is correct for the soundscape of this superb film is French and Italian, being appropriate to the sound of the characters voices in Jean Genet's scenario. Booed off the screen, reviled by critics of its time ( and even now in some quarters ) it should, and is almost getting a reasoned second look. And it is well worth seeing for its transgressive nature of betrayed desire and revenge, so appropriate to Genet's work in general. It is not a film that begs to be liked, as it deals with a tortured woman desiring an Italian worker in a French village that hates immigrant workers. Believing he does not respond to her she sets a trap for him, literally with the destructive elements of fire and water. I will let other reviewers supply the rest of the plot. It is a film full of what the French call ' le mal ' ( translated into the too Manichean ' evil ' in English. ) Genet postulates that both collectively and individually we are all capable of it, and even the innocent teenager in the film is capable of destroying an animal he loves. All of the actors give excellent performances, and Jeanne Moreau is perfect as the avenging sadistic/masochistic woman who wreaks havoc in her surroundings. This performance is equal to any of the large hand full of truly great ones which have made her a legend in the cinema. I love this film for its framed images of outstanding visual beauty, for its cold eroticism and above all for Tony Richardson's decision to make it in black and white, and above all for its determined insistence on not using overlaid music. Instead he uses the sound of fire, of water. Of storm and the passionate sexual scenes in the wood scape surroundings is degradingly highlighted by natural sound. A unique film and detested or loved it will I hope reclaim its position in the forefront of that overused term, a great masterpiece.

A torinói ló

Extreme Art
This is a dark, pessimistic film which falls into what I call the category of 'extreme art'. It pushes as far as it can into desolation, in the same way that Samuel Beckett's texts and plays do, and as Kurtag does in his opera based on Beckett's 'Endgame'. Also in this category I would put Jean Genet's 'Funeral Rites' and Giacometti's sculptures, where mankind is reduced to its essence of presence. And so it is with this very fine film 'The Turin Horse'. Set on what I think are the Hungarian plains a man and his daughter eke out a living, and to do this they need their horse. The horse is dying, and slowly their lives shrivel into darkness. I am not sure if Bela Tarr signifies the dying of the light of cinema, and especially the kind of film which pleases the art house crowds. Paradoxically if that was his intention, the art house lovers have clearly loved this film as a work of art, which it undeniably is. The score which musically entwines itself around the sparse, but beautifully haunting images is one of the best I have ever heard, and the beginning of the film is enough in itself to make the film a visual masterpiece. An elderly man is driving his horse to its limit, and the grey trees and the fog and mystery will remain in my mind for a very long while. The slow but seemingly 'natural' torture of the man and his daughter's reduced-to-the-minimum lives is repeated over and over again, mesmerising and terrible to watch. They eat boiling hot food with their hands, a daily horror of the suffering of eating which I found hard to bear and had to turn my head away. This is a film at the end of human and animal endurance and after two and a half hours I felt faint. Extreme art it is, but to deny that it is pure art stripped to the bone would be wrong. Fine though it is, it is not for those who could or would not understand it, and to be brutal, extreme art in the examples I have given above are for a certain elite who will be patient with it, and endure it willingly. The more Tarr retreats from art the more art follows him, and my only criticism is that its very self consciousness as being great cinema somehow detracts from its terminal content. It is Tarr's final masterpiece, but others will come with other images that burn the mind, the heart and the senses. Excruciating images that have 'art' written all over them.

Les amants

Truly One of the Greatest Films
That this film was considered ' obscene ' in some quarters says a lot about mankind's perennial attitude towards sexuality and any true depiction of it. It was not obscene then, and it is not obscene now. The situation of Jeanne Moreau's character Jeanne ( I like to think she was delighted in using her name in the film ) is the real problem area for some. She rejects convention, and even the facade of convention she had adopted for herself; snobbery, and seeking a false sexual freedom, while still returning to her caged life in provincial Dijon. She rejects it for a man she meets when her car breaks down, and she is in a hurry to go to a weekend party in her boorish husband's house. During the night when this man stays over her life changes by a single look in which she recognises a true relationship, and what followed worried the censors everywhere. I will not give away more of the fragile plot ( it really does not have one other than throwing cold water over societies conventions ) out of respect for those who have not seen it or ignored it. It is amazing to see here that it has only had 38 reviews, a damning indictment of how many reviews there are for cinematic trivia. The acting is flawless. The photography is flawless, and yet it is still a film that a lot avoid. I will single out Judith Magre, a great actress who is playing Jeanne's best society friend, and Jean-Marc Bory as the man who changes her life. I have seen it so many times in my life that I cannot count the number, and it as fine as cinema can get. Quite simply it tells us to grow up, which most films do not, and that is a challenge only a few can take on, and also that sex can be the greatest experience of intensity in its opposition to death.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Excellent Acting
Thanks to computer faults I lost my review and now have to try to rewrite it. Mike Gwilym gives a great performance in the role of 'Pericles'. Young, sexy, and full of the risk of dangerous adventure, he almost leaps through the role. I will not spoil the plot which is not as confusing as some people think it is, and really I do not particularly care which parts Shakespeare wrote or not. It begins with incest, and the subject probably was not as shocking in Jacobean times as it is now, and because of that, and some quite beautiful erotic moments like the marriage of Pericles and Thaisa, which ends with the command of her father 'get you to bed' and adult scenes, British certification has given it an absurd 12 certificate. Juliet Stevenson is equally superb in the role of Thaisa, and her 'return' to life is in the same magic mould as 'The Winter's Tale', and what with the great shipwreck scene, it is in the same territory as 'The Tempest', and I cannot fault this filmed production from 1984. I lost my first draft of this review due to an internet failure and cannot recall everything I wrote, suffice to say, this is, in my opinion, one of the best of the BBC's productions of Shakespeare's plays. I loved every moment of its adventures, losses, and those lost re-found. It is late Shakespeare to the core.

The Heart of Me

The Director should be congratulated
Thaddeus O'Sullivan should be congratulated in making a very fine film out of Rosamond Lehmann's 20th century classic novel ' The Echoing Grove ' and mu one and only gripe is that the title changed to the banal ' The Heart of Me '. That said the story of two sisters and their relationship with a weak man ( who is also the erotic focus of the film ) is a complete triumph. The trio or should I saw the quartet of the main actors, Olivia Williams, as Marianne, the wife of the man Rickie played by Paul Bettany, Helena Bonham Carter as Dinah, Marianne's sister and Eleanor Bron as Rickie's mother are superb. And to bury the myth that this is in any way a sort of Merchant/Ivory film is necessary. Heresy though it may be, but the direction is nearer to a Bergman film in its intensity and concentration than anything Merchant/Ivory made, good though they were. O'Sullivan has a clear voice and it saddens me that this film was not the success it should have been. The mental cruelty within this quartet is overwhelming, especially when the mother lies to her son about where the one of the two sisters he really loves is. The scene during a Blitz on London, as the film takes place between a ten year period from the 1930's to WW2 is perfection in itself. It is also in no way a costume drama, and shows a total almost Bressonian reticence in ' showing off ' superfluous imagery. It is very, very difficult to find and fortunately I have it. So why is it lost ? A timeless film despite its period it should be seen for what it is, a great film.

Quatre nuits d'un rêveur

Sadly not the best
I watched this film the following day after watching ' Une Femme Douce ', and although I had seen both long ago it is good revisiting any Bresson film, especially as both of them have not been seen as much as a lot of his other films. Both are from Dostoyevsky, and despite not wanting to I found that ' Une Femme Douce ' to be first rate while ' Quatre nuits d'un reveur ' is not. I would like to blame it on the poor copy I have of it and perhaps its condition spoiled the unarguable ' beautiful ' imagery. The river Seine and ' les bateaux- mouches ' that glide down on it are a tourist's dream, plus the singers on it. The film is also concentrated on Pont Neuf, also a tourist's dream, and what with the obvious beauty of the two main actor's it is a seductive film. There is also female semi-nudity in it, and this too is part of the ' dream ' of Paris. All of these images have been used before, and I am astonished that Bresson filmed ( for most of the film ) these cliched images of a complex and often very ugly real city. The story is simple. Man saves a woman attempting suicide because the lover she has waited a year for has not turned up. Once more the suicidal theme recurs in Bresson's work, but I will give no spoilers as to how this rather banal story ends. I love Dostoyevsky as much as I revere Bresson but his ' White Nights ' is not as good in my opinion as the rest of his work. I also disliked the choice of making the two leads such aimless, and clearly well off people. At the very least in ' Une Femme Douce ' the two main characters are in work, or seeking work and both Dominigue Sanda and the excellent Guy Frangin ( why did he not do more cinema ? ) are miles ahead in the acting field than Isabelle Weingarten and Guillaume des Forets in this film. The plus side is that the shallow nature of the early 1970's is well conveyed but like a boomerang this returns hitting at the film and making it shallow in itself. I allow any great director a few failures, and a failure this is, at least from my perspective. I give it a 5 because despite the ( to me ) triviality of love lost for one, and found for the other, the signature moments of Bresson are there. The shots of hands, the lack of music, except from within the scenes, and not imposed, and his no doubt clear eye for detail that other directors fail to see are there. A saddening experience from a director I admire so much.

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