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Revisiting “The Maltese Falcon”

star_icons25 star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25 They really do not make movies like this any more!  I watched it again on Saturday night.

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— You aren’t exactly the sort of a person you pretend to be, are you?

— Why, I’m not sure I know exactly what you mean.

— The schoolgirl manner. You know, blushing, stammering and all that.

— I haven’t lived a good life. I’ve been bad. Worse than you could know.

— Good, because if you actually were as innocent as you pretend to be…we’d never get anywhere.

— I won’t be innocent.

— Good. By the way, I saw Joel Cairo tonight. Do you know him?

— Only slightly.

— You’re good. You’re very good.

Cracker of a script. Great direction. Great acting.

 

First July reviews – mainly comic

star30a Dante’s Cove 2 (2007 DVD)

I watched just 15 minutes of this heap of crap. If one was drunk or drugged and with friends it may work. Fortunately my copy was free, thanks to Surry Hills Library.

star30 star30star30star30a Julian Halls, The Museum, Hobart, Knocklofty Press 2008.museum-cover240

This gets two rather dismissive lines on SameSame.com.

Halls’s strength as a comic author lies in his sharp, crisp and snappy lines. Unfortunately, the novel sounds like a guidebook in places, and a boring one at that. This probably explains why the Tasmanian government gave the project its support.

I agree about the “sharp, crisp and snappy lines” but was certainly not bored. In fact I found the novel hilarious.

It is indeed “old-fashioned”, as the publisher says.

This is a most unfashionable book: it’s funny, it’s well written and constructed — and it has a happy ending.

It’s that rarest of things in an increasingly sad and troubled world: a comic novel, a genre which has almost disappeared under the weight of political correctness, post-modernist claptrap and the self-regarding seriousness of far too many authors.

Julian Halls has created an unlikely assortment of oddball characters — and they’re all people we’ve met or close to it — and placed them in and around a mouldering, half-forgotten regional museum in Tasmania.

The complex main plot concerns the relationships between two same-sex couples, one male, one female, and the whole thing is set in motion by a blowfly; it gets even more bizarre after that, although it’s never incredible—just like real life. Several curious sub-plots emerge and they are skillfully woven into a surprising conclusion…

The museum itself reminded me of the Australian Museum in Sydney in the 1950s, even down to the enormous whale skeleton in the entrance hall. Its sudden descent begins the series of crazy events. You can tell Halls cut his teeth in theatre – the novel is nothing if not a farce, but a pungent one.

The artist Benjamin Duterrau (1767-1851) is an important element in the plot.

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Duterrau, “The Conciliation” 1840. Click on pic for more.

I liked this book.

star30star30star30star30star30a J G Ballard, Millennium People, London, Flamingo 2003

Ballard’s Empire of the Sun is one of my favourite books, and the 1987-8 Spielberg movie of it one of my favourite movies. Millennium People is a dark comedy whose targets include the romanticism of revolution, the mindless violence of events such as 9/11, and the sacred cows of the middle class on England – though there may well be a degree of endorsement of the latter.

One could also add, with this very perceptive profile in a source I don’t often agree with, that another target is the reader who, given Ballard’s profile, is probably in that same middle class. Joane McNeill writes:

In Ballard’s slapstick satire Millennium People (2003), the bourgeois residents of a gated community commit terrorist acts. They riot, clash with police, and bomb upper-middle-class establishments such as the Royal Albert Hall and the Victoria and Albert Museum. What are they protesting? “Double yellow lines, school fees, maintenance charges…cheap holidays, over-priced housing, educations that no longer buy security.” They are rebelling against, in one character’s words, “the barriers set out by the system. Try getting drunk at a school speech day, or making a mildly racist joke at a charity dinner. Try letting your garden grow and not painting your house for a few weeks.”

Like most of Ballard’s fiction from the last 20 years, Millennium People uses the framework of a middlebrow English novel as a way to parody the reader. For Ballard, as he explained to Salon in 1997, the novel is “the greatest enemy of truth and honesty that was ever invented. It’s a vast, sentimentalizing structure that reassures the reader and at every point offers the comfort of secure moral frameworks and recognizable characters. This whole notion was advanced by Mary McCarthy and many others years ago, that the main function of the novel was to carry out a kind of moral criticism of life. But the writer has no business making moral judgments or trying to set himself up as a one-man or one-woman magistrate’s court. I think it’s far better, as Burroughs did and I’ve tried to do in my small way, to tell the truth.”

I have his last book, Miracles of Life (2008), in line for reading. Millennium People joins my 2009 top reads.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2009 in Australia and Australian, Best read of 2009, dvd, Fiction, film and dvd, movies, reading, satire, Top read

 

June review catch-up 3 — “Sylvia” (2004)

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star30 star30star30star30star30a  I watched this partly out of HSC-related duty, but also out of interest. I have to say I was very impressed by its accuracy and fairness. The lead review (at the moment) on IMDb pretty much sums up my reaction.

In 1998, "Hilary and Jackie" explored alleged episodes in the short life of cellist Jacqueline Du Pre and her pianist, now also conductor, husband, Daniel Barenboim. Despite very very good acting the film was largely a descent into the basement of scurrilous storytelling by relatives of the dead musician. Whatever the truth of the claim that she bedded her sister’s husband, the movie said nothing about the couple’s meteorically brilliant early careers. It was slanted voyeurism writ large.

Director Christine Wells has taken a very different and insightful tack in exploring the life of poet Sylvia Plath and her marriage to Ted Hughes, a poet with laurels garnered while Ms. Plath was still starting up a not very steady ladder to recognition.

Plath, an American, met Hughes in England. A short courtship was followed by marriage and then two children. The relationship was tumultuous and eventually it foundered because of Sylvia’s underlying emotional instability followed by her husband’s desertion to another woman…

Wells takes a sympathetic view of Ted and Sylvia, not joining in the political debate over feminism and Sylvia’s supposed maltreatment by Ted. Sylvia in this film is brilliant but also terribly brittle and her inner demons are not caused by a brutish or callous husband. As Platrow portrays her, I believe accurately, Sylvia was seriously and chronically depressed with life events worsening but in no regard initiating a downward spiral. Today she would probably thrive and be both prolific as a poet and happy as a person if successfully maintained on an effective anti-depressant.

Ted, played by Daniel Craig, is a bit transparent – loving but somewhat distanced by his own quest for fame. He hectors Sylvia to write more, annoyed that she bakes instead of composing verse while on a seaside vacation. He’s supportive but also blind to the deepening reality that he is dealing with a woman who needs help, not critical comments about non-productivity.

The supporting cast is fine but this is Paltrow and Craig’s film. She has a strong affinity for England and its culture (I believe she has moved there) and she gives the role deep conviction and understanding. It happens that she somewhat resembles Sylvia but the true recognition is internal and intellectual. And emotional, let’s not omit that…

"Sylvia" sets the record straight as Paltrow acts the part of a woman – mother as well as poet – who slowly loses control of her life while her husband reacts first with confusion and later with the self-protective armor of withdrawal.

Hughes went on to publish many fine poems and he became poet laureate of England, a post he definitely wanted and enjoyed (Hughes was one of the very few modern and relatively young intellectuals who was a convinced monarchist).

Not long before succumbing to cancer, Hughes published "Birthday Letters," an attempt to show through years of verse the nature of his relationship with Sylvia. Whether viewed as an apologia or a last record – and chance – to give his side, it’s an impressive work. And "Ariel’s Gift" by Erica Wagner is must reading for those who want more than a film and sometimes potted articles can provide. It analyzes the poets’ relationship through the prism of Hughes’s writings, most unpublished before "Birthday Letters." A recent book, "Her Husband: Hughes and Plath, Portrait of a Marriage," by Diane Middlebrook, is also recommended…

The movie is M15+ in Australia.

 
 

June review catch-up 2

Some quickies.

star30 star30star30  1. Ed Gaffney, Enemy Combatant (2008)

A good courtroom drama with a strong post 9/11 twist. It may be improbable, but not so improbable as to not make you wonder “What if?” See also Thoughts On "Enemy Combatant" by Ed Gaffney.

star30star30star30star30  2. Susanna Gregory, To Kill or Cure (2007)

I haven’t read many in the Medieval Whodunnit genre. This one is sufficiently entertaining and informative. See also Euro Crime.

star30star30star30star30star30 3. 1945: The Year That Changed the World (DVD 2008)

This series (2 DVDs) is excellent. There are contributions from first-rate historians, one of whom, Ian Nish, taught me Japanese and Chinese history in 1962! Yes he is rather older now. If you check YouTube you will find it well represented.

star30star30star30star30 4. Frontier: Worse than Slavery Itself (DVD 1997)

Famous so-called “Black Armband” presentation of Indigenous Australia and European settlement 1830 – 1860, based on the work of Henry Reynolds. I was particularly struck, of course, by the NSW material which focussed on the Dangar family of the Hunter/New England areas, and on some of the better documented massacres of those years. The series still stands up well despite the reaction to aspects of it from the likes of Keith Windschuttle. It really is good on the role of evangelical thought as a conscience of the times.

It is interesting to compare the more recent SBS series First Australians (2008). Its episode dealing with NSW in the early to mid 19th century drew attention to another settler family, the Suttors of Brucedale, whose relations with the Aboriginal people were comparatively enlightened.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2009 in best viewing 2009, book reviews, Crime and/or crime fiction, dvd, Fiction, film and dvd, History, Indigenous Australians, reading, Thriller

 

Bits

1. Pumping up a scandal

So much depends, it seems, on the clapped-out second-hand ute that Kevin Rudd has used as a mobile office in his own electorate. A supporter, a local car dealer, lent it to him for the purpose. Now the Opposition seem to think they have found Watergate. See what the car dealer says.

Much more serious, perhaps, are (on the surface) examples of bureaucratic idiocy in the form of infrastructure stimulus money manifesting itself on the ground in school buildings the schools neither need nor want. It does seem there hasn’t been enough needs analysis in the hurry to roll out the stimulation.

2. “End of an era”

Freestyle (Surry Hills Shopping Village) and Freestyle 2 (Elizabeth Street Surry Hills) are having closing down sales. They sell remainder books, DVDs and CDs. I snaffled Tony Judt, Appraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (2008) and Tariq Ali, The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power (2008).

Books are still good trade, the store owner said, but anything on disk has gone down the tube – YouTube, file sharing, iPods and downloading, that is. So, he said, it’s the end of an era.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, dvd, film and dvd, Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, politics, reading, Surry Hills

 

Parzania (2007) – definitely worth seeing

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I borrowed this DVD on spec from Surry Hills Library, not having heard of the movie before.

Cynical, intelligent and lost, an American by the name of Allan Webbings arrives in Ahmedabad city. For the longest time, Allan has been searching for answers, praying to find internal peace and understand the world and his troubled life. Allan has chosen India as his school, and Gandhi as his subject. It’s here that he meets Cyrus, the local projectionist, and his loving family.

Cyrus and his family are Parsi, followers of a rarely practiced religion that is both small in number and neutral to religious politics. They are a middle-class family and live happily in a housing development, which is mostly Muslim. Cyrus has a beautiful wife named Shernaz. Strong and practical at times, it is only her inner strength that keeps the family going. Parzan is their imaginative 10-year old boy and Dilshad is his younger sister.

Parzania is the imaginary perfect world created by Parzan, where the buildings are made of chocolate, the mountains of ice cream and all you do is play cricket throughout the day. It is a world that only he and his eight year old little sister Dilshad can truly understand.

Through Cyrus’s family, and the teachings of an old Indian scholar, Allan starts to find peace of mind, right before the rest of the country loses its sanity. One morning, the beauty and peace in India is stirred beyond measure, as a fire erupts in a train killing 58 Hindus.

Within 24 hours, 100,000 citizens storm into Ahmedabad and slaughter thousands of Muslims, making that day one of the largest acts of communal violence the country has ever seen. And in the midst of the terror and violence, Parzan disappears.

While Cyrus fights for his own sanity and searches for his child, Alan battles to uncover the truth behind the riots and any possible meaning to the insanity he has witnessed. People start to question the explanations they are given and a Human Rights Commission is formed. But will the truth finally be out? Does any of it matter to a distraught family that just wants to find their little boy?

That’s the DVD box summary, also found on Bollywood Hungama, where there is much more information about the movie. See also Wikipedia.

Made on a low budget (US$700,000) Parzania has one or two rough patches, but the second half is absolutely gripping, a terrible reminder of those years earlier in this decade when Indofascists were to the fore. Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika in the lead roles are quite brilliant.

A blog taking a critical view: My Take On Parzania. Even so, the blogger, Amrit Hallan, admits the movie has power:

If you have been at the receiving end of a state sponsored riot you can relate to the views expressed in Parzania. In the movie the policemen laugh while the Hindu mobs butcher defenseless civilians and set on fire pregnant women. If it sounds inconceivable, it isn’t…

Despite a one-sided portrayal of the situation, it’s a good movie to see. A world ahead of those overrated and silly Ram Gopal Verma and Karan Johar flicks and in fact they should learn something from the makers of Parzania.

Sarika has acted exceptionally well in the movie and she deserved the award she got for this movie. The script is very tight and the story moves fast. Sometimes it makes you cry. It makes you cry because beautiful, blissful lives are ruined due to some distant follies of others. It makes you ashamed of your country…

star30 star30star30star30 A film of great humanity.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2009 in best viewing 2009, dvd, human rights, movies, South Asian

 

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Overdue DVD reviews

The reviews, that is, not the DVDs, though I do plan to return them to Surry Hills Library today. It’s been a while since I watched them, so the reviews will be briefer than I first planned.

1. For Whom the Bell Tolls 1943 star30 star30star30star30

2. December Boys 2007 star30star30star30star30a

3. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown 1988 star30star30star30star30star30 Best viewing 2009

4. The Piano 1993 star30star30star30star30star30a Best viewing 2009

Quite a good batch this time, all of them well worth the time spent. I did find the classic For Whom the Bell Tolls showing its age, and despite many excellences it is just a touch confusing at times. December Boys is rather cloying, but very well acted. Young “Harry Potter” is good as an Australian! Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is just as funny and inventive as it seemed when I saw it in Paddington in 1988. The Piano is a beautiful movie still. Hard to believe it is now 16 years since it was made!

I did say brief!

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2009 in best viewing 2009, dvd, movies

 

The Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq (2005) ****

This amazing documentary begins a new category series “Best viewing 2009,” keeping in mind I rarely go to the movies and mostly watch DVDs borrowed free from Surry Hills Library. The category will also mark notable TV. The Blood of my Brother is one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever seen. To quote the Internet Movie Database, linked at the head of this paragraph:

THE BLOOD OF MY BROTHER goes behind the scenes of one Iraqi family’s struggle to survive amidst the carnage of the growing Shia insurgency. Nineteen-year-old Ibrahim dreams of revenge when his brother is shot and killed by an American patrol. With scenes of fighting and death on the streets of Baghdad, this is the closest most viewers will ever come to being in Iraq; kneeling in prayer amidst a thousand Muslim worshipers, feeling the roar of low-flying Apaches, riding atop a sixty-ton tank, driving with masked resistance fighters to attack American positions, fleeing the threat of an overwhelming response, the blood in the street, a tank on fire, or the cold, distant stare of a dead Iraqi fighter. Written by Andrew Berends

That’s the director, and the movie’s own website is here. 

bloodofmybrother 30bloo.600

For anyone who was there, whether as a US or other soldier or as an Iraqi on the ground, the film may well be quite traumatic, as even this trailer indicates.

For those of us who, like me, have merely seen much about the war in the news or on other documentaries, it is a salutary experience. It is as near as you could possibly get to being there. What I admire most is that no-one is demonised. There are sympathetic sequences of the US soldier’s viewpoint, but of course the principal viewpoint, as the summary indicates, is a Shia Iraqi family’s. And this is in the thick of the worst part of the worst part of the war.

One witnesses, without the film maker intruding his commentary, the full range of emotions. One is a fly on the wall in al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. One is left very conscious of the culture behind that, and of how alien it must have been to the US soldiers confronting it, but one gets deeper into what it is like to inhabit that world and that world-view than one could possibly get from the seconds of footage one normally sees, and yes it is very strange (to me) and very frightening, but such is the genius of this documentary that it really remains human. As I said, no-one is demonised – not by the film maker anyway.

This reviewer raises some interesting questions about the film; I would give it a higher rating.

One over-riding question that arises while watching Andrew Berends‘ 2005 Iraq-set documentary The Blood of My Brother is, how did an American filmmaker get access to all of this, short of joining Sayid Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army himself? Several reviewers have already commented that much of the footage here puts Western media coverage to shame, and it certainly does. We see inside a mosque during prayer time with hundreds of men lined up shoulder to shoulder; we watch Shia insurgents get charged up and then battle an American tank and an Apache helicopter (feeling oddly mundane compared to scenes from Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down); and we view badly wounded civilians inside an Iraqi hospital, including young children and elderly men. It seems clear that Berends has a viewpoint he wants to get across, although his goal appears to be more humanitarian than political…

That last point is I think the great strength of this film.

One can’t help thinking, however, about how superficial the success of the whole affair, so far as it is even remotely successful, will prove to be. Possibly much the same will prove true of Afghanistan.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2008 in America, best viewing 2009, dvd, film and dvd, Iraq, Islam, terrorism, USA

 

DVDs coming out my ears…

… thanks to a pile Sirdan lent me at the weekend, and Surry Hills Library.

Here is an ongoing summary.

1. After the Deluge (Australian 2003) — directed by Brendan Maher, written by Deborah (Seachange) Cox.

This was originally broadcast on Channel Ten, and I am glad I missed the commercial-punctuated version! I had doubts about this one at first, but on reflection think it rather good. David Lamb summarises for IMDB:

Follows the stories of the four men of the Kirby family. As Alex’s marriage breaks apart, Toby tries desperately to start a family, and Marty tries to kick-start his faded music career as well as find a meaningful relationship with someone his own age, all three must come to terms with their father’s mental state. Cliff, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, is reliving his disturbing memories of the war and his first love, as a part of his experiences of the present. Through all four stories, we uncover a family’s troubled past, and their struggle towards a reconciled future.

The extras on the DVD affected my opinion, as I realised the aim was in part to try to render how the world looks to an Alzheimer’s sufferer — so what appear at first to be flashback sequences are not conventional flashbacks but an attempt to depict the subjective experience of Alzheimer’s where past and present may overlap.

Well worth a look.

2. Underbelly Uncut [Australian 2008] — bracket/semi-colon is a trial isn’t it? See: 😉 when you want ;]…

I have only managed so far to see Disk 1, so I have a long way to go. Aussies would have to have been in a cave or a coma not to have heard of this one! I didn’t actually see much of it when it was on Channel Nine, I must say, but I am enjoying it now. I really don’t care how far it resembles the actual events in Melbourne from 1995 to around 2004, though it was close enough to have been embargoed in Victoria because of ongoing legal proceedings. Just as drama it is excellent, and I am looking forward to many more hours…

3. Borat (2006)

Do you need to be told? If you like The Chaser you will love Borat I suspect. I was amused, even if cringing at times… I suspect the USA really emerges quite unscathed in the end…

Love the IMDB’s frequently asked questions, especially How many lawsuits have been filed relating to this movie?

4. The Curiosity of Chance (2006) — a US/Belgian coproduction

IMDB summary:

High school coming-of-age tale. It is the 1980’s — and new wave angst and gender-bending fashion are all the rage. The new kid at school, Chance Marquis is a somewhat awkward teenager who is the target of the school bully. To deal with this dilemma, Chance turns to the opposite ends of the high school spectrum for help. On one end is the flamboyant drag queen and at the other end, the varsity jock. Includes conventions of the high school genre — the idiot faculty, the good-hearted but misguided parents, the fairy tale reversal of popularity.

I enjoyed it, even if movies like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert are better. See the web site.

I’ll post a few videos on the VodPod — see bottom of the side bar. I have added more to Ninglun’s DVDs.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2008 in America, Australia and Australian, dvd, movies, Sirdan, TV, USA

 

Channel 4 – Faith and belief – Opus Dei and the Da Vinci Code

I watched this documentary on DVD last night, courtesy of Surry Hills Library and our dead TV antenna: Opus Dei and the Da Vinci Code. There is little evidence of this doco on YouTube; the item I have posted in the VodPod today is from a “friendly source.”

I borrowed the doco with World Youth Week in mind; it is most enlightening. Perhaps the best aspect of the DVD is the two hours of uncut interviews packaged with it, which cover a range of viewpoints for and against this controversial organisation. Undoubtedly backward-looking in theology, Opus Dei is on the other hand travestied in The Da Vinci Code, most of which is nonsense on the subject. For example, there are no monks, albino or otherwise, in Opus Dei. However, I do suspect there are some Australian journalists in its orbit, if not in its ranks. It is at one level a holiness movement, and a lay movement, not totally unlike some of the holiness or revival movements in Protestant churches in the past, Methodism in its early days being an example.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2008 in Christianity, dvd, faith, faith and philosophy, fundamentalism and extremism, religion, TV

 

ninglun’s dvds – Videos about Doctor Who, Bloody Sunday, Swimming Upstream…

That VodPod, which also lives on  Floating Life Apr 06-Nov 07, gives some clues about the DVDs I currently have out from Surry Hills Library.

BriefEncounterPoster 1. Brief Encounter

What can you say? Of course it is brilliant, but also such a study of how mores and class attitudes have changed since it was made. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it again.

2. Five Graves to Cairo

This Billy Wilder movie was made the year I was born, so that is kind of appropriate.

A British tank commander (Franchot Tone) survives a battle with Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps in the North African desert. He finds sanctuary in a small desert hotel owned by Farid (Akim Tamiroff). The staff consists of just Mouche (Anne Baxter), but is augmented by “Davos”, the identity that Corporal John Bramble assumes. At first hostile and cynical, Mouche gradually falls in love with the newcomer.

Complications arise when the Germans take over the hotel to use as headquarters for Field Marshal Rommel (Erich von Stroheim). Davos is mistaken by the Germans for one of their local spies and he makes use of this fortuitous mistake to steal some vital military information, the locations of the “Five Graves to Cairo”, hidden buried fuel dumps prepared before the war for the conquest of Egypt. He takes that knowledge to the British, who use it to thwart Rommel’s plans.

When Bramble returns in triumph to the hotel, he is devastated to learn that the Germans had executed Mouche in his absence because she wouldn’t stop saying that the British would be back. He takes the parasol he had bought for her, something she had always wanted, and uses it to provide shade for her grave.

A contemporary review from The New York Times (May 27, 1943) is rather amusing.

It’s a good thing the German armies and Field Marshal Rommel in particular had been chased all the way out of Africa before “Five Graves to Cairo” opened at the Paramount yesterday, else the performance by Erich von Stroheim of the much-touted field marshal in it might have been just a bit too aggressive for the comfort of most of us… 

Completely out of key with the performance of Mr. von Stroheim is the rest of “Five Graves to Cairo.” For otherwise it is simply an incredible comedy-melodrama—yes, comedy is what we said—about a British tank-corps corporal who gets left behind in Sidi Halfaya (when the British retreated last June), poses as a loyal German agent in the flea-bag hotel which Rommel’s staff occupies, learns the amazing secret of German supply depots set lip before the war across the desert—and then escapes with that secret back to the British lines. This remarkable information (it says here) permitted the rout of the Axis forces at El Alamein.

As though this fanciful story weren’t sufficiently hard to take, Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, a couple of old-hand Paramount wags, have dressed it up with shenanigans which have the flavor of fun in a haunted house. Akim Tamiroff plays an Egyptian innkeeper broadly and strictly for laughs, and Fortunio Bonanova is rung in as an Italian general of the opéra-bouffe type. With those two clowns in the picture, fetching laughs with smoke-house burlesque; with Franchot Tone playing the British corporal in a taut and muted style and with Mr. von Stroheim playing Rommel with a realism that chills the bones—not to mention a little side issue between Peter Van Eyck as a Nazi officer and Anne Baxter as an expatriate French maid — “Five Graves to Cairo” is probably the most conglomerate war film to date. It has a little something for all tastes, provided you don’t give a darn.

Today we might note the postcolonial aspects of the characterisation of “others”, especially the Egyptian, which while actually quite well done in its way (in my opinion) does bear some resemblance to the comic black people who populated movies in those days…

Nonetheless, it is a movie worth seeing.

3. The Crossing

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This 1990 Australian movie is not half bad, actually. It features a much younger Russell Crowe (aged 25) and Danielle Spencer,  whom he went on to marry in 2003. That’s them in a still from the movie. The other male lead was Robert Mammone, last seen on TV in Underbelly.

I found the fact it was filmed in Condobolin and Junee most interesting, as it was a reminder of how those towns looked just before the years of drought, especially the countryside around Condobolin.

The movie is set in the Vietnam War era (late 1960s) on Anzac Day. It certainly took me back to the way people looked, dressed, and thought at the time I began my teaching career.

The Sydney Morning Herald critic Linden Barber reviewed it in 1990:

JUST lately, teen films seem to have been raised as the standard bearers of the mainstream end of the Australian film industry. It would be easy to construct a theory about this, arguing that it subconsciously reflects the nation’s own adolescence, its alliance of painful self-consciousness and freshness-cum-naivety.

On the other hand, perhaps a few producers have simply decided that teen movies are surefire earners.

The romantic drama The Crossing is certainly a noble effort, coming in several furlongs ahead of the artless The Delinquents, but its falls some way behind The Year My Voice Broke, the film with which it invites the most obvious comparison. Set over a period of 24 hours in a country town on Anzac Day, it’s based around a young lovers’ triangle, and nearly comes off. What prevents it from doing so is its erratic casting and a certain stylistic over-ambition.

Danielle Spencer and Russell Crowe display a touching tenderness as the lovers (along with the sophisticated pop soundtrack, they’re the best thing about the film), but Robert Mammone is shaky as Spencer’s ex-boyfriend, who has just returned to town, and some of the supporting roles are unconvincing. And while Jeff Darling’s AFI award-winning cinematography has some impressive moments (the opening scenes, filmed at a dawn Anzac service, are stunning), it soon becomes irritatingly over-stylised, too often flooding the action in the golden glow of a sugar cane commercial.

The Crossing, then, is a little too eager to impress. Take the way it works in elements from Rebel Without a Cause and High Noon – a chicken-run car chase (done better in John Waters’s Cry Baby), an over-abundance of lengthening shadows and shots of clocks. It keeps drawing attention to its own cleverness.

Everything in the film is orchestrated to build to a grand climax, but director George Ogilvie doesn’t quite get the film’s rhythms right. A pity, because there’s a good-natured centre to The Crossing that makes you want to like it, despite the flaws.

“…But the true revelation is Crowe, in his first major film role. In most movies like this one, the boyfriend/fiancé/husband is usually either an overbearing jerk who causes the heroine much unhappiness, or an annoying sap whose constant declarations of love sound laughingly hollow. But when Johnny professes his love for Meg, it’s clear that he means it. And when he is threatened with losing her, he reacts not with physical violence or menace, but instead seems to unravel at his own emotional seams. Crowe takes a character that could have been one-note and creates one who is masculine and practical, yet sensitive enough to know that his way of life is in danger and there’s really nothing he can do about it.”

That’s a pretty fair review, especially the paragraph I highlighted. Nonetheless, I am glad I borrowed it.

4. Tears of the Black Tiger

To quote Wikipedia, linked at the title above: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2008 in Asian, Australia, dvd, movies

 

Great movie, great ironies: “Cry Freedom” 21 years on

If David Smith is still following this blog, he will recall that Cry Freedom (1987) was one of the items in our Year 10 course way back in 1996. If I remember correctly it supplemented our study of that beautiful novel Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, bringing aspects of that story up to date. I distinctly recall David modestly and truly saying that he had, as a matter of fact, met Desmond Tutu, and becoming from that point on a ready reference on South African politics for the class. I had of course a few years earlier worked with many South African Jews at Masada College; there is a scene in Cry Freedom where the police arrive in the early hours of the morning to search for “subversive literature”, and one of my colleagues at Masada told me once that she appreciated most about Australia that the police did not do such things here. Some may fear we have moved on a little since 1988 when I was told that…


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Posted by on June 10, 2008 in Africa, dvd, human rights, humanity, inspiration, movies, Postcolonial, racism

 

Too many DVDs

One of the eccentric pleasures I derive from relying on Surry Hills Library for free DVDs — the best kind — is that I see some things I never would if I had to pay.

For example, I watched a bit of war-time hokum called Secret Mission (1942). As one site notes:

Four British officers are sent into occupied France to reconnoitre the German defences. Okay-ish drama, more interesting for being filmed during the war rather than in the 50s during the war film boom, but not terribly memorable.

Script: Anatole de Grunwald, Captain Sir Basil Bartlett Director: Harold French Players: Hugh Williams, Michael Wilding, Roland Culver, James Mason, Carla Lehmann, Nancy Price, Percy Walsh, Anita Gombault, David Page, Betty Warren, Nicholas Stuart, Brefni O’Rourke, Karel Stepanek, Herbert Lom, John Salew, Beatrice Varley, F.R. Wendhausen, Yvonne André, Stewart Granger, Oscar Ebelsbacher.

A few names there, so it had its moments. Childish though; Casablanca it ain’t…

Otherwise:
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Posted by on June 9, 2008 in dvd, film and dvd, movies

 

For every history there are alternative histories…

That is one theme to emerge from two of the DVDs from Surry Hills Library I viewed in the past few days.

First was Carthage: The Roman Holocaust from Channel Four. There were thinly veiled references throughout to our current mythologising as we saw how an empire that lasted for eight centuries finally went down to a ruthless superpower who then blithely rewrote its history, traducing and expunging as they went, so that the patriotic soap opera, utterly spurious as history, so elegantly phrased in Virgil’s Aeneid became the remembered version, and the fanatical terrorist Cato became an ongoing folk hero for conservatives. Good as a dose of salts, a bit patchy in production, but well worth watching.

Second was Ridley Scott’s 1992 1492: Conquest of Paradise. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2008 in dvd, film and dvd, historiography, History