movies


At a time when peace or at least co-existence near our neighbors seems as remote as ever and when the level of confidence in the political class seems to be at a historical low, it’s quite comforting for us, Israelis, to remember the times when the Prime Minister was a national hero, a man of vision, a person of unprecedented modesty who chose to quit politics and spend the last decade of his life as a member of a kibbutz, living a simple life, engaging in manual labor, working and living together with his neighbors and comrades. True, he had his political enemies also, and he was not exempt of controversies, but controversy is a way of life for Jews in general and Israelis in particular. The opportunity for these thoughts was provided by the documentary film Ben-Gurion, Epilogue which was co-produced (among other) and broadcast by ARTE TV and the Israeli Channel 8 stations, and screened in Israel and at festivals around the world. The film is based on the editing of about one hour worth out of several hours of a filmed interview given by the former Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion in the spring of 1968, several years after retiring from politics.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5934542

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5934542

 

It is interesting to judge the portrait that is convened by this film from two points of view. One is the persona. While Ben-Gurion was a very visible public figure and a popular one in the decades before and after the making of Israel, there are less and less people alive who knew him. We are now left with written testimonies and with this kind of films. From this interview he appears as an individual of great intelligence and modesty at the same time, a man who was both aware and proud of his role in history and at the same time humbled to have been instrumental in the important events he was part of.  Then it’s the political dimension. The Ben-Gurion who talks to us from the recovered filmed interviews was not only a man of vision but also a pragmatic moderate in policies. He provides his views on controversial issues related to the attitude of the allies to the Holocaust that was happening during WWII and the reconciliation with Germany that had happened after the war, about the victory in the Six Days War and the consequences of Israel having won the war and occupied so many territories. For the Israeli audiences there are no astonishing news, the fact that Ben-Gurion would have preferred to negotiate the majority of territories for peace is known for decades, but this position is very well articulated in the film and so actual in the present we live in today.

 

(video source Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia)

 

There are no very tough questions asked, and there is an attitude of deep respect from the young journalist to the old statesman which is never left during the discussion. We still learn a lot about the man, his life, his passions, his positions on important issues, and much of these still resonate. The discovery of the film (with no sound) and of the tapes of the interview (with no image) and the way they were brought together are an interesting story by itself, and the ‘the making of …’ documentary is worth watching as well. More film material taken from newsreels and other interviews were added in order to put the exact moment the interview was given (less than one year after the 1967 victory of Israel in the Six Days War) and the personality of David Ben-Gurion in its historical context. The title of the film is a little misleading, as Ben-Gurion does not take a ‘testamentary’ approach at any point, seems to be in good physical form and had a lot of plans among which writing his memoirs. He unfortunately did not complete these and I wonder if notes of fragments are available. He lived for another five years and even gave more interviews later. This film is an important testimony of his personality and positions after retiring, but the epilogue may still wait to be written.

 

The action thriller The Call which takes place in the Los Angeles area brings to the center of the action a category of people who seldom appear on screens in most of the movies dealing with police work – the emergency call responders. The opening scenes of the film do a fine job not only in describing the atmosphere and (2013 level) technology at the 911 LAPD response center, but also of defining the job, the responsibilities, the professional and human qualities that are required from the people whose voices one first hears when placing an emergency call. It’s a good start for an interesting action movie, that could have been quite special. Unfortunately, director  and his team did not succeed to make it one.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1911644

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1911644

 

The development of the story is rather interesting. Jordan Turner ( in the lead role) is an experienced emergency operator who had made one fatal mistake returning a call in a situation that allowed for the caller to be kidnapped and murdered. Many months later, she finds herself in a situation that seems similar to the incident that continues to track her day and night. It’s her opportunity to do things right, and to save lives. The dialog between the operator and the kidnapped teenage locked in the truck compartment of the car of the abductor is well built, has tension and catches the attention. The problem is that the script authors did not dare to build all or most of the film on the call itself. At some point in time they may have felt that the accumulated coincidences could not hold the story any longer, and they switched the call off. From that point farther the film became just one of these many action thrillers in which usual people become unexpectedly heroes. The issue is that in order to make these happen the script authors had to invent more coincidental situations, plus to build some reasoning for the motivation of the kidnapper. All these are just usual action stuff, and not very good one.

 

(video source Movieclips Coming Soon)

 

delivers good acting as she always does, but she seems to be in danger of accumulating roles that look too much one with the other. The rest is just another action film, especially in the last third of the screening time. It’s a pity for the film that promised so much at the start. The good thriller about the emergency responders is still to be made.

Îmi amintesc o discuţie la care am asistat, purtată acum vreo două decenii, poate puţin mai mult, în birourile companiei de hi-tech în care lucram. Compania trecea printr-una din acele schimbări de identitate rezultate din procesele de ‘Merge and Acquisitions’ (M&A) foarte uzuale în branşă, în care companii mai mari cumpără companii mai mici pentru tehnologiile acestora, sau pentru clientelă şi acces la noi pieţe de desfacere, sau companii cu profiluri şi expertize care se completează unele pe celalalalte se unesc pentru a forma o companie nouă. Invitasem un expert în ‘identitate corporatistă’ (există o asemenea expertiză!) şi acesta ne explica rolul esenţial al semnelor grafice care ajung să reprezinte companiile şi produsele lor în ochii consumatorilor. Simbolistica corporatistă nu este de altfel o disciplină complet nouă, litera ‘M’ rotunjită a simbolizat pentru consumatori burgerii lui MacDonalds mult înainte ca ‘f’-ul lui Facebook să însemne ‘reţele sociale’. La modă în acea perioadă erau săgeţile (neapărat spre dreapta, de preferinţă în sus, dar niciodată spre stânga sau în jos!) şi Cercul. Chiar am lucrat şi eu o vreme la o companie al cărei simbol era un cerc roşu.

 

  sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4287320/


sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4287320/

 

Cercul este şi simbolul şi numele companiei care apare în filmul “The Circle” (“Cercul”) regizat de James Ponsoldt, inspirat de cartea cu acelaşi nume a lui Dave Eggers, cu Emma Watson în rolul principal şi Tom Hanks într-un rol cheie secundar. Câteva cuvinte despre principalii realizatori ai filmului. Născut în 1978 în Georgia, James Ponsoldt nu este foarte cunoscut. Acesta este al cincilea său film, dar primul pentru marile studiouri şi cu actori foarte cunoscuţi în rolurile principale. Filmele sale precedente aparţineau categoriei ‘indie’ (independente, realizate de studiouri mici), trei dintre ele au fost prezentate la festivalul major al genului care are loc în fiecare an la Sundance în luna ianuarie, şi se ocupau de teme romantice sau de problemele adolescenţilor. Dave Eggers în schimb este un nume destul de cunoscut în literatura şi publicistica americană, articolele şi cărţile sale abordând teme sociale, legate de actualitatea imediată. Cartea “The Circle” din care s-a inspirat filmul (al cărui co-scenarist a fost Eggers) este primul său succes de public. Emma Watson a devenit celebră întruchipând-o pe Hermione în seria ‘Harry Potter’ şi şi-a consolidat recent statutul de vedetă jucând rolul Belle din ultima versiune cinematografică a clasicului “Frumoasa şi Bestia”. Tom Hanks nu are nevoie de nici o prezentare.

 

(sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4287320/mediaviewer/rm2659976448)

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4287320/mediaviewer/rm2659976448

 

“Cercul” din romanul lui Eggers şi filmul lui Ponsoldt este numele unei companii din Silicon Valley, o poveste de succes imaginară dar în care recunoaştem cu uşurinţă profilul, structura şi modul de a opera al unor giganţi ai industriei hi-tech cum ar fi Google, Apple sau Facebook. “Cercul” este însă mai mult decât un nume, este şi un concept pe care se bazează întreg ecosistemul format din produsele companiei. Întreaga lume este conectată la “Cerc”. Utilizatorii au acces nelimitat la informaţie, dar şi informaţia despre utilizatori este fără limită şi accesibilă tuturor. Compania are un succes enorm, peste 80% din întreaga populaţie a Americii şi procente însemnate din populaţia lumii fac parte din “Cerc”. Atât de omniprezentă este compania, încât o propunere de a transformă sistemul de vot american în sistem obligatoriu, bazat pe înrolarea (tot obligatorie) a tuturor cetăţenilor în rândul clienţilor companiei nu pare de loc deplasată. În definitiv “Knowing is Good. Knowing Everything is Better.” – “A cunoaşte este bine. A cunoaşte totul este şi mai bine”. Aşa sună unul dintre sloganurile companiei. Oare?

 

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4287320/mediaviewer/rm1570374912

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4287320/mediaviewer/rm1570374912

 

Cercul este o formă geometrică perfectă şi perfecţiunea sa îi atrage pe creatorii de simboluri identitare. Dar cercul este şi o formă geometrică închisă, oricât de mare ar fi raza sa. Cercul este o formă geometrică simetrică şi aparent democratică, dar are un centru, şi dacă centrul nu joacă după aceleaşi reguli ca punctele echidistante de pe circumferinţă, atunci democraţia este doar aparentă. Cititorii rubricii CHANGE.WORLD vor recunoaşte în problematica filmului teme familiare. Una dintre ele, cea principala, este echilibrul între avantajele comunicării permanente şi riscurile acesteia pentru siguranţa informaţiei şi protejarea vieţilor private ale utilizatorilor reţelei Internet. Lui Mae Holland, eroina filmului i se întâmplă lucruri aparent minunate după ce reuşeşte să se angajeze la una dintre firmele cele mai prestigioase din Valea Siliconului. Muncă este interesantă, i se oferă asigurare medicală permanentă (adică 24 de ore din 24 şi complet monitorizată) nu numai ei ci şi tatălui său suferind de o boală degenerativă în evoluţie pe care nu îşi putea permite material să o trateze, devine parte nu numai dintr-o companie dar şi dintr-un sistem de relaţii complex care la un moment dat îi salvează viaţă, poate contribui şi simte că poate schimba lumea în bine. Care este însă preţul acestor avantaje şi realizări? Abandonarea completă a oricărei intimităţi, expunerea vieţii personale, a familiei, a prietenilor unei supravegheri permanente. O întâlnire cu amplificare exponenţială între o reţea socială (din nou Facebook pare modelul cel mai apropiat) şi ‘Truman Show’, filmul în care Jim Carey îşi trăieşte viaţa ca un ‘reality show’ vizionat de întreaga planetă.

 

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4287320/mediaviewer/rm338572800

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4287320/mediaviewer/rm338572800

 

Tema secundară dar nu mai puţin acută şi actuală a filmului este cea a vieţii sub presiune permanentă în mediul corporatist. Poziţii precum cea în care reuşeşte să se angajeze eroina filmului după un interviu neconvenţional şi nemilos care mi s-a părut a fi una dintre cele mai bune scene ale filmului, sunt dintre acele locuri visate de aproape orice locuitor al acestei zone de mare densitate a tehnologiilor avansate din California, şi de aproape orice inginer, programator, expert în domeniile calculatoarelor şi comunicaţiilor din lume. Se cer celui care a ajuns în această poziţie nu numai calităţi profesionale remarcabile, dar şi un tip special de relaţii cu colegii de lucru, cu care se află în echipă dar şi în permenta competiţie. Viaţa celui care lucrează în acest mediu se contopeşte cu viaţa companiei, frontierele între viaţa particulară şi cea profesională sunt şterse, şi ca ore de lucru, şi ca priorităţi. Înţelegerea scopurilor economice şi sociale ale companiei, adeziunea personală şi sprijinirea acestora prin faptă par cu atât mai paradoxale cu cât cei mai mulţi dintre experţii din domeniu nu rămân cu aceeaşi companie mai mult decât câţiva ani. Chiar dacă reuşesc, chiar dacă şi-au creat o carieră plină de realizări profesionale şi avansări, ei vor schimba locul de muncă peste câţiva ani, uneori traversând stradă la unul dintre competitori, sau căutând noi căi de a-şi diversifica palmaresul personal şi a evita să fie consideraţi ‘plafonaţi’. Apropos, această abordare este foarte diferită la companiile americane în comparaţie cu cele japoneze de pildă, unde este cerută o adeziune similară cu scopurile companiei, dar în care este apreciată loialitatea şi stabilitatea, şi în care de multe ori compania în care începe cariera unui expert este şi cea de la care el (mai rar ea, în Japonia) iese la pensie.

“The Circle” s-a bucurat până acum de o primire destul de rece din partea criticii. Am şi eu destul de multe observaţii în legătură cu viziunea regizorală care mi s-a părut prea plată, ratând ocazia de a crea o imagine vizuală expresivă pe măsura ambianţei pe care o descrie, şi despre unele scene şi personaje secundare care caricaturizează prea gros aspecte reale din viaţa corporatistă. În liniile sale principale însă “The Circle” mi-a plăcut. Emma Watson a fost excelentă – ambiţioasă dar vulnerabilă, gata să-şi asume riscuri personale dar nu şi să-şi trădeze idealurile. Tom Hanks schiţează în câteva tuşe imaginea creatorului de industrie după modelul marilor nume din hi-tech, inclusiv complexitatea rolului de leader, de factor de schimbare, dar şi aspectele întunecate legate de scopurile mediilor de afaceri care în cele din urmă trebuie să genereze profit. Filmul evita să ia poziţii clare, spectatorii sunt lăsaţi să îşi formeze propriile lor opinii şi cred că asta este bine, deoarece problemele aduse în discuţie sunt probleme complexe, care nu au toate un singur răspuns ne-echivoc, sau cărora li se caută încă răspunsurile.

 

(articolul a aparut in revista culturala Literatura de Azi – http://www.literaturadeazi.ro/ )

‘s career spreads now over half a century of writing and directing horror movies. He is considered the master of the Italian cinema of the genre, which also bears the name of ‘giallo’ (yellow – the color of cheap paper on which pulp fiction used to be printed) combining the elements of horror with supernatural (magic, witchcraft) stories. His almost complete lack of limits into bringing violence to screen has earned him critics and led to being avoided by some, but his style and coherence make his films always worth being watched if you accept horror as a genre of entertainment. He is long enough in the industry to have been a contemporary of Fellini who appreciated his work and with whom he shared cinematographers, sets, and even themes. Viewers will find in ‘Profondo Rosso’ (or Deep Red as the title is known in the English version) many topics, techniques, or symbols used by recent films of the genre, but we should not forget that this film was made 42 years ago. We can consider  as an intermediary between Hitchcock and the creators of modern slasher films.

 

sursa http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073582/

sursa http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073582/

 

What makes a film like this one different from the rest of the crowd composed of ketch-up consuming horror films? First it’s a very well written crime story which succeeds to keep its logic despite the high rate increasing amount of corpses, and despite the apparent involvement of the super-natural elements. It creates thrill from the very first opening scene, and keeps the interest alive most of the time until an ending which makes sense and does not fall beyond the ending of some of its famous predecessors. Next it’s the setting – the city of Rome that we know from the films of Fellini which seems to be really quoted here, sophisticated apartments, abandoned mansions. Most and above all it’s the cinematography. and his director of cinematography Luigi Kuveiller make alternate views of the set and close-ups, fixed and mobile camera work, and create a palette of colors where the red in the title takes a dominant role.

 

(video source Arrow Video)

 

The last element behind the success of the film was in my opinion the choice of in the lead role. The British actor had become famous with his role in   ‘s Blow-Up . His role here is a continuation in a different setting (very Italian vs. very British) on that role, with the same obsessive search for truth. Two of the supporting actors – (preferred actress and collaborator of until today) and succeed also to build very credible performances. All the above contribute to making of Deep Red a significant milestone in the history of thrillers.

Giacomo Casanova, the great lover of the 18th century and maybe of all centuries does not stop to inspire creators. The first of them was of course himself, with the life he led and with the memoirs that he had wrote. Many other followed, starting with Mozart until the film makers of the 20th and 21th century. The latest is the 2014 Casanova Variations – an ambitious piece of art film co-written and directed by which looks at his last days. Was he tired of the endless search and conquests of women? Did he have any remorse concerning the broken hearts and broken lives that he left behind? Who was him after all? A genius turning love affairs into art, or one of the manifestations of evil?

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2614400

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2614400

 

You need not be concerned about Casanova Variations being too serious or too dry in dealing with these issues. It is actually conceived as a performance in a film, the staging of an imaginary opera called ‘The Giacomo Variations’ which is filmed and photographed live, describing the final days of the life of the great heart-breaker (), retired as a librarian in the Dux Castle in Bohemia to write his memoirs, and receiving the visit of a mysterious woman ( – maybe a forgotten lover, maybe a publisher trying to steal the manuscript which tells about his adventures. The story on stage triggers the rendition on screen of the story in the past, and the whole film alternates past and present, life and theater, music and acting, the real life heroes, the actors, singers, and the audience in the opera house. Actors and heroes become one big ensemble and the whole show an elegant dance of the imagination based on the music of Mozart (mostly). It’s entertaining, but this is not everybody’s kind of entertainment and part of the viewers of the film risk to be surprised and confused.

 

(video source Filmladen Filmverleih)

 

Any movie in which John Malkovich is on screen has the potential to become not only a movie with John Malkovich but also a movie about John Malkovich. Casanova Variations is no exception and the role of Casanova merges with the role of the actor who acts as Casanova on stage enabling the permanent games of transition between the two threads of action, between imagination and reality, between the heroes and the actors. In one memorable sequence the actor – singer seems to collapse on stage and a real physician in the audience jumps to help, just to discover that she herself became now part of the show. It’s just one of the many jewels that combine art and life in this film. I also need to mention Veronica Ferres who gives Malkovich a superb replica in a role that seems to gather the power and dangers in the many women Casanova knew in his life.Those who love film, theater, opera, history and the combination of these will find many reasons of joy in this film, which may not solve the mystery of Casanova but makes good refined entertainment out of it.

 

 

I am not a great fan of ‘true crime’ stories, books, or films. And then, there are exceptions. The Iceman directed by is one of them, and I will try to shortly explain why it succeeds in my opinion to do better than many of other similar films (the genre is very popular in American cinema).

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1491044

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1491044

 

Richard Kuklinski was a real person. He was a paid hitman in the service of the mob, who by the time he was caught in 1986 had allegedly more than 100 people murdered on his record. The amazing thing was that he succeeded to keep his real ‘profession’ and source of income hidden from his ‘normative’ family for more than 20 years, living a comfortable life in the suburbs. His beautiful wife and two daughters never guessed the real person that he was. Split personality? Possibly – an extreme case anyway.

 

(video source Movieclips Trailers)

 

The film works well on many plans. First of all this is due to , an actor with many supporting roles in his record, who gets here the opportunity to bring to screen a character who seems to care only about his family with no apparent feelings about other people, not even respect for their lives. Yet, his first mistake and hesitation that triggers his downfall is the hesitation to kill the teenager young girl who witnessed one of his crime, maybe because she reminded him about his daughters. The rest of the supporting cast is excellent as well, with as his unsuspecting wife and as the mob chief who hires him to part ways later. There is little explanation about the background and motives of his deranged and criminal behavior. The references to his brother and one flashback of his childhood may be considered insufficient, but actually I believe that it’s better so. Too much explanation would have spoiled the chilling effect of being exposed as viewers to his dark personality and deeds. As it stays, it’s a study in crime with enough details to make it hard too forget, and enough non-clarity to leave it open to interpretation from viewers.

 

So we bought our tickets and our medium sized popcorn box (usually lasts about 15 minutes in the movie), grabbed the 3D spectacles and sat in the theater to watch Wonder Woman. That’s the way to do it. Each genre has its rules and one needs to know a minimum of them before entering the cinema theater or starting to see a movie on TV or on his/her preferred viewing device. When I chose to see a super-heroes comics inspired movie I do not expect a lot of realism or credibility from the story, and these are not the films where I am looking for lessons about life. On the other hand I am ready for fun entertainment, for action and special effects, I hope to see a coherent story with actors performances that make me care about the characters. I do not care about the laws of physics, but I hope there will be some humor and that the good guys will eventually prevail.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0451279/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0451279/

 

Many of the super-heroes movies nowadays do actually carry some cultural background, it’s just a different type of culture, and it helps, although it is not mandatory, to know it. ‘Wonder Woman’ is a character that combines the mythology of comics stories with the other mythology, the ancient Greek one, the one we read about and maybe learned about in school. Invented during WWII, at a time when women were playing an increasing role in supporting the war effort, mostly by undertaking the roles played in economy by the men sent to fight, but not on the first line of the front, the character of princess Diana (yes, this is the name of the character) carries a strong feminist message. The authors of the script and director moved the origins of the story to the end of WWI, the war that was supposed to end all wars. By the way, hard to believe that this talented director is at her only second film, and that 14 years passed since her remarkable debut with Monster. They brought the princess from her isolated island somehow hidden in the mist of mythology, in a tentative to really end all wars. We all know that the tentative failed. In the process the hero will learn a few things about men and evils of mankind, will avoid and block a whole arsenal of bullets and bombs and will kick many bad guys to dust.

 

(video source Warner Bros. Pictures)

 

I enjoyed ‘Wonder Woman’ because of a few good reasons. The feminism of the message is never dogmatic and almost always impregnated with a dose of self-irony. who plays the lead role may not be a great actress, but she has the looks, is very well fit physically and typologically for the role. The film is very much the story of her coming to age while learning to understand mankind and fighting on the side of the good guys. She does it with the smile of a teenager on her face and radiates optimism and belief in truth which somehow becomes credible and succeeds to overcome the horrors of the carnage fields of the world war we see on screen. While playing well on the mythology grounds, the story has enough humor to avoid being dry or pathetic and lets us understand we are still in fantasy land. I also liked the special effects, especially in the opening scenes when the Amazons fight the uneven battle with the war machines created by men since they were lost in history. The color palette of the cinematography was well adapted to the different phases of the story, although the 3D spectacles made it (again) too dark – there is something that needs improvement in the technology here. I also liked two of the supporting actors – who succeeded to be the nice guy without being over-sweet (also because of the dose of humor invested in his role), and especially which I have seen previously in Fargo and who develops to be a formidable actor. I liked less the other characters, especially the bad guys, who were, well … cartoonish. The end of the story was a little disappointing. It looked like one of these epic superheroes endings, but the careful preparation and building that preceded prepared me for something better. It leaves however clearly the path open for the sequels and I will be making reservations when pre-sales tickets become available.

 

It’s only now that I had the occasion to see ‘La vingt-cinquième heure’ (The 25th Hour, or ‘Ora 25′ in Romanian) a film made exactly 50 years ago. In 1967, was at the peak of his acting career and popularity. Three years before he had brought to screen Alexis Zorba, the most memorable of his characters in Zorba the Greek. A year later he was going to be Leon Alastray in Guns for San Sebastian and another year after mayor Bombolini in The Secret of Santa Vittoria. The director was , also close to the peak of his career. The book that inspired the movie however had been published almost two decades earlier, in 1949, the same year that Orwell published his ’1984′. The reference is not simply coincidental. While there is a gap of fame and maybe also of literary quality between the two books, ‘Ora 25′ written by a Romanian exiled named Constatin Virgil Gheorghiu, who was running away from the Communist regime that had taken over his country, and Orwell’s masterpiece deal with the same theme – the absurdity of the fate of the single individuals crushed by the wheels of history.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062445

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062445

 

While Orwell’s ’1984′ was looking into the future, making the novel to belong to the genre of the political futuristic dystopia, Gheorghiu’s novel was set in the recent past (of his time) and derived directly from his personal experience in the second world war. There are some problems here, which folks familiar with the biography of the writer and the history of Romania prior and during WWII will recognize, but which will get lost to many other of the other viewers of the film. The film starts in 1939, in a quasi-idyllic Romania, where peasants prosper, but racial laws against the Jews start to be implemented. This may be almost right, only the details in the film are wrong. Deportation of Jews to work camps did not begin until 1941, when Romania entered the war as an ally of Germany. Germany did not occupy Romania in October 1940 as claimed in the movie. There were German troops in the country but that’s different, they were allied to Romania. It was not king Carol the 2nd who started the deportations, and actually by October 1940 he was gone, having abdicated one month earlier, after Romania had lost parts of his territory to the USSR, Hungary and Bulgaria. The real responsible of most of the Jewish persecutions and deportations was the regime of fascist dictator Ion Antonescu, the one under which the writer, Virgil Gheorghiu served as a minor rank diplomat. There is a subtle but hard to accept deformation of history here, and a dose of self-absolution in his own identification with the main character and with another supporting character, the anti-Fascist writer (role played by ) who in the film writes a book with the same name.

 

(video source CG Entertainment)

 

All these historic details are important certainly for the historical record, for Romanian and Jews who lived the period and their successors. Not that much maybe for the film itself. The story of the Romanian peasant denounced and deported as a Jew by the chief of police in the village who had put an eye on his beautiful and virtuous wife () develops as a Kafka-esque story of injustice and fight to survive in the absurd universe of the Europe devastated by war. , the eternal optimist and and unbreakable human being from Zorba builds on screen another character of the same caliber. We need however to appreciate the courageous approach of the authors of the script and especially of director Henri Verneuil who dared balance horror and humor in describing the saga of the wanderings of Johann/Yankele Moritz – successively confused as Jew, Romanian spy, Nazi – always on the losing side, always beaten but never losing hope. At a time when the WWII conflict was still described on screens on heroic style and manichaeistic terms, the authors of this film created an emotional and human story, and a character that anticipates by almost three decades the ones in the films of and about the Holocaust. After an initial quite conventional start the viewer nowadays will discover a film with a catching story, deep significance and wonderful acting.

The opening sequences of director ‘s The Descendants include a short (maybe less than one second) image of a powerful and beautiful woman surfing on the waves around Hawaii. For most of the rest of the film the woman will lie in a comma on a hospital bed and she will eventually die. What happens when a dear and close family member is suddenly taken by fate (a surfing accident in this case) from among us? How does the husband, how do the kids cope? Do we ever end discovering who the closer human being to us is? The answer this film gives is no, even after accident and death do us apart, we may not end discovering who we live or lived with.

 

spurce http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1033575/

spurce http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1033575/

 

I am no big fan of this genre of movies. I can cope with death on screen in horror flicks, action movies or westerns because I know that they are fiction. It’s more difficult to deal with such subjects in a realistic contemporary story, and none of the ‘romantic’ comedy or melodrama genres films succeed to my taste unless they are really very good. Actually one of ‘s previous films, the 2002 About Schmidt was one of these due to the extraordinary performances of and . Here we have in the role of the real-estate owner and super-busy professional whose wife accident brings back to the earthly dealings of coping with his two daughters – one just our of the teen years, the other just before her teen years – and a complicated property heritage selling in which family interests conflict with the keeping of the Hawaiian tradition and attachment to the land. Clooney is better in my view in emanating authority than emotions, his sense of humor helps him overcome the limitations of his acting skills, but in this film I had the feeling his playing on the emotional cords did not completely succeed.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3R7OzS54hbo

(video source Fox Star India)

 

Yet, there are a few real good moments. I mentioned the opening scene which kind of opens the path to what follows. The performance of (as the younger daughter) when learning about her mother’s fate is simply amazing. is also acting well as the elder daughter. Moments of real truth surge here and there, when some of the supporting actors (like ) are left to express their emotions in the patterns dictated by the story. Hawaii gets its opportunity as the background of a real American story and I can just hope that more movie makers will come here for other reasons than filming beaches and waves. The good moments mix however with a too high dose of melodrama, expected turns of the story, sit-com like approach to dramatic situations. The Descendants promise much, deliver less, and its initial success seems to fade, like one of these beautiful color photos whose contrast fades in time blurring the persons and the landscape.

 

What a delight! I remember having seen Le Samouraï as a teenager 50 years ago, during the short few years of ideological and artistic de-icing of the Romanian communist regime between 1964 and 1968, when some of the world cinema crossed the Iron Curtain and hopes to re-connect Romania and Eastern Europe with the rest of the world were growing high. These hopes were cut short by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the melting of the Iron Curtain postponed by more than 20 years. Yet, in that period, a few fine movies were allowed to be seen in the East (some of them ‘shortened’ the scissors of censorship) and this lot included this fine gangster movie, a capitalist product with no moral message, not one that could be explained to the revolutionary masses in any case.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062229

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062229

 

Half a century later I had the feeling to live again some of the sensations at the first screening. I remembered the dark room, the smoke of the cigarette, the tweets of the bird, the raincoat and the hat. ‘s look. ‘s sex appeal. ‘s mystery. The Citroen car and the garage where number plates were switched. The streets of Paris which for me at that time looked like a city from another planet, a place I will never be able to put the feet in.

 

(video source astraydogfilm)

 

Of course, I have learned a few things about cinema in this period of time. I can now trace the predecessors of Le Samouraï in the American gangster movies of the 30s and I know that the raincoat was inherited from Humphrey Bogart. I can also identify countless successors that were inspired by this film. ‘s work aged beautifully and this is due to the minimalist approach that reduces details to the exact amount necessary to create the suspense and describe the situations, to a story which is smart, complex and makes sense from all angles you analyze it, to the magnetic power of the principal actors and to the cool chemistry constructed between them. A film noir for eternity.

 

Next Page »