Goodbye sweet dad

My  sweet dad, you passed away 3 weeks ago. My heart is broken. I’m proud I was your daughter, you were my precious, fragile dad.

Two decades of Parkinson disease had made a strong dad a fragile man in the end.

As I held your hand one last time that night before you left us; as I caressed your face and your hair, I listened to you breathing while sleeping. You looked so serene.

You were my tutor in life. A man of flesh and blood, with your faults too. But with a good strong heart. As you loved that quote at the end of Some like it hot, “nobody’s perfect”.

Your love and passion for the 7th art has been your greatest teaching to me. You taught me who was Max Linder and Meliès: the early days of cinema.  We watched La Belle et la Bête with Jean Moreau as the Beast. We laughed at Louis de Funès, Bourvil and Fernandel. Admired Marlène Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Kathrine Hepburn. You explained La Nouvelle Vague to me. How you enjoyed The Party with Peter Sellers. How I dreaded all the Western movies, but adored Singing in the Rain with you over and over again (cause you taped it on video). How i thought Fred Astaire was way better than Gene Kelly, and you defended Kelly by focussing on his love for emotion through dance rather Astaire’s technical choreography. How you were outraged our current generation has no clue to who is Bob Hope, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart or Bette Davies. You were a fan of Quintin Tarantino, even when others of your generation would be in horror of his work.

I loved how the Halliwell’s Who’s Who in Movies was the bible in our home. How you regretted not being able to go to the cinema anymore. The last movie you saw in a theatre was Amadeus when it came out. You eagerly asked “did you see any good films lately?” when i came over to visit. I think you liked how I regularly go to the cinemateque (the film museum) and rediscovered the golden age and also obscurities of cinema. Even those last days at hospital, with your confused mind, you still asked that question to my boyfriend. You were still in there. You still knew somehow who we were, through our shared passion.

How can I ever forget you now? Every film is a reminder to you. Every new discovery on screen, I cannot share with you no more.

My sweet dad. A lot of tears flow over you, and I bet you think this to be silly, but the tears will stop I know. But missing you won’t.

I’m glad to share a passion with you that keeps your spirit alive.

Be in peace. I love you, always.

Lord of the Flies (1963)

Lord of the Flies is a film adaptation of the book by the same name by William Golding.

I saw the version filmed in 1963,  directed by Peter Brook. There is a remake: Lord of the Flies (1990), directed by Harry Hook – but I cannot comment on it because I just haven’t seen it.

PLOT

The movie tells the story of a plane crash on a deserted island. It is the beginning of a war (not specified) and we see schoolboys put on airplanes to take them to a safe haven. When the plane crashes, the boys are the only survivals.

At first, we only see Ralph and “Piggy”, who go out searching for other survivals. Soon all the boys are gathered and a vote is held to decide who is  in charge to make decisions. Ralph and Jack, a dominant boy and leader of the boys choir, put themselves up for the part, and eventually Ralph is chosen, to Jack’s dismay.

Ralph pitches the idea to set up a signaling fire, to attract attention from passing ships or planes, and Jack suggests that he and his choir should guard the fire (to keep it lit). Jack and his boys will be the hunters for food and offer protection. For a while rules are abided by, and food is found and daily hunted.

But things turn, when the fire seems to be out when a plane flies over the island. Ralph and the others are upset that the choir preferred hunting than keeping the fire lit. This creates tension between Ralph and Jack. Jack defies Ralph as chief more and more as the days go by.

Little by little, the boys report that they have sensed or seen a monster on the island; at night in the trees, coming out of the sea, in the bushes… Again, this is cause for friction between Ralph and Jack, one wanting to take action, and the other contesting the monster’s existence. So they set out in search of this monster to proof it’s there and kill it…

OPINION

The movie is shot in black and white, which I like. I don’t think it’s a  bad movie, but I wouldn’t claim it to be a fantastic one either. I haven’t read the book, so on the accuracy of the story I cannot comment – but the story was exiting enough to keep me interested.

As for the topics dealt with in the film, they are very mature (for kids I mean): defects of human nature (abandonment, betrayal, usurption, death, survival…)…

The children in the movie are good, like James Aubrey as Ralph. What bothered me was the fact that all the lines were so obviously dubbed. I can imagine that filming outdoors, on an island off Puerto Rico, must not have been in the best conditions. Maybe the choice for dubbing was a very valid one. But at times, it was a bit off and really annoying.

I didn’t get the title of the movie (again, sorry, I did not read the novel). I did see the scene with the pig’s head that has been cut off by Jack, put on a stick sharpened at both ends, stuck in the ground, and offered to the “beast.” Simon, one of the boys, is filmed watching the severed head on the stick intently. The shot shows a close up of the pig’s head, filled with flies. I only read on Wikipedia afterwards that the pig’s head on the stick was the representation of the Lord of the Flies, representing the evil that lurks in each of us.

I also found that the name “Lord of the Flies” is the literal English translation of Beelzebub, and that according to the writer of the novel, Golding, the Lord of the Flies seems to be the manifestation of the evil that has crept into the boys on the island.

Double Indemnity (1944)

Another ‘film noir’ to add to the list: Double Indemnity (1944).

This one was directed by Billy Wilder, on which he wrote the screenplay together with Raymond Chandler. This was an adaptation of the novel by James M. Cain (so no, not a Chandler novel).

It stars Fred MacMurray as Walter Neff, Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichsen and Edward G. Robinson (cream of a actor) as Keyes.

PLOT

Insurance salesman Walter Neff, is seen returning to the offices of All-Risk Insurances, seemingly wounded, sits at a desk and starts dictating a confession into a Dictaphone to Keyes.
He confesses how he murdered for a woman (Stanwyck), helping her to plan an accidental death on her husband to claim the insurance. But Keyes, insurance investigation at All-Risk, in charge to pick out the phony claims from the real ones, senses that the accidental death doesn’t seem so accidental after some closer investigating.

OPINION

What an enjoyable movie! A good pace to the storytelling and damn good actors. Edward G. Robinson is, as I said, a cream of an actor. I liked him in Key Largo as well, FYI Faberadatch-link-KeyLargo. The voice over by the lead character, Neff, is not bothering. Especially because it is not just a voice over to the audience, it is Neff confessing into the Dictaphone to Keyes, so it is interesting to hear him explain how he did it and what he thought at the time.

An excerpt:

I chose one where Edward G. Robinson takes the lead. I like this one a lot. It shows how tenacious he is as an insurance investigator, how witty he is and why he would sense there is something not right in the Dietrichson-claim.

The Big Sleep (1946)

Sometimes, you need to get back to the classics. And what is more classic than Humphrey Bogart along Lauren Bacall in a ‘film noir’? The answer is: nothing. (Possibly another film noir.)

I’m very into film noir. It is a genre that intrigues me, and has for purpose to intrigue, so I’m right on track with that.

The Big Sleep is originally a novel by Raymond Chandler. It’s only after seeing the movie I noticed I had it on my bookshelf. I had once bought a second-hand book at university to support a charity cause, with the intent to read it and I never did. (A real shame, cause every book deserves to be read, because that is its purpose of existence.) The book contained 3 novels by Chandler, and the first one is The Big Sleep.

The movie stars Bogart and Bacall in their second movie together, directed by Howard Hawks. Continue reading “The Big Sleep (1946)”

Latests movies seen

THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950)

Film noir by John Huston. The perfect movie in its genre: crime, deceit, loss…

It features Marilyn Monroe who at that time was little known. She isn’t even mentioned on the opening titles, only on the credit. It was a minor role to tell you the truth. It were Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, Louis Calhern, James Whitmore who were the leads in this movie.

In a city of crooks and low lives, a big hit is planned. Doc Reidenschneider got released from prison after a 7 year sentence, with only one thought: to commit the perfect crime. For this he will need a gang of crooks to do this and someone to come up with the starter’s money as well. But it seems the crooks are more trustworthy than the man who everyone believes to be so on the level…

FLAVIA, THE HERETIC (1974)

The kind of movie I would generally not go to see, not even on tv. But hey, you only live once.

A horror movie, seen as nunsploitation and just generally not very kind to nuns.

Flavia, is forced to enter the convent, she continually challenges men, cause she believes women are equal to men (which I do agree with). But Flavia goes very far in her rebellion and crosses a point when she even turns her back to the convent she resided in and ends in a horror fest.

I’m not one for this kind of movies, but must admit, there were some scenes that were good.

LIKE YOU KNOW IT ALL ( 2009)

A movie by Hong Sang-soo, of which I had seen the movie Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000).

This movie is about an independent movie maker, who is invited to sit on a jury of a small movie festival. He comes across a former friend/associate, who invites him to dinner. After a night of drinking, he gets a note at his hotel from that friend stating he hates him and never wants to see him again. This puzzles him a lot and trying to solve this only makes things worse.

Deciding to leave the festival for what it is, he heads to Jeju Island to give some lectures to students. This scene I found very funny, because after viewing his film, one of the students asks him: seeing your films are incomprehensible, why do you keep on making them. This sets him off into a frenzy, of course! While being on the island, he is invited to share a meal with a famous artist, only to find out….

UNMADE BEDS (2009)

At the Brussels Film Festival it was the opening movie. I went to the second viewing. This movie is by Alexis Dos Santos.

The story mainly is about two persons, Vera and Axl, whose stories are intertwined and meet several times indirectly. Axl, from Spain, is looking for his English father in London and Vera, thinking she used up all her luck in a labyrinth-park one day with her ex-boyfriend, believes that since that day she only makes wrong decisions.

Nice movie, but wouldn’t call it spectacular. It features Débora François as Vera, who is also in the Belgian movie L’enfant (2005) by the brothers Dardenne.

zzz zzz zzerkalo (1975)

Yesterday I did something that’s so terrible. I dozed off during a movie by apparently a very great movie maker, Tarkovsky: Zerkalo or The Mirror

But in my defence: I was tired after a hard day’s work. And secondly, that was the most confusing, surrealistic, instant set changing, why the hell does the actress who plays the mother also playing the daughter-in-law, confusing movie.

I was so ashamed that I couldn’t keep my eyes open! What didn’t help is that the narrator voice of the main character, was in a monotonous Russian. It soothed me right to dreamland. Cause if you don’t understand the words (when dozing off, you don’t read the subtitling, you see), the sounds are very invitingly sleep inducing.

I will have to watch the movie again, because it is not done. Maybe, once I know what is ahead of me, I’ll be more ready for the sudden weird story lines. Cause the shots were beautifully done. Just the story made no sense to me what so ever.

Gladly, I wasn’t the only one afterwards that was left with a “huh?” sensation.

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest (1975)

I greatly enjoyed this movie.

It’s about a man who get’s committed to a mental institution to get evaluated whether he is really crazy, just lazy/obstinate/aggressive or faking insanity.

The department he gets committed to is with different  kinds of people, whether catatonic, mentally ill, depressed or just unsafe when alone.

The Nicholson’s character tries to make his stay the best he is, figuring he’s only there for a certain amount of days to be evaluated. So he tries to make the best of it, pushing the head nurse a bit and generally causing a bit trouble and fun. Until he realizes he could be stuck there if they consider it needed. That the doctors would hold him as long as they see fit, indefinitely. This changes things and plans of escape are all he can think of.

But his farewell ends in drama, with a suicide involved. Losing it, he gets dragged away….

It’s really worth watching. See if you can spot Danny DeVito as mister Martini. I was impressed by Brad Dourif, who is so young in this movie. And the actor who plays the silent Native American called Chief, is impressive.

So I say, go rent this movie if you haven’t seen it yet. I haven’t read the book, but it would be interesting to compare.

Marilyn Monroe galore

Have I got a bargain or what!

Or is this another case of compulsory shopping from my part? Compulsory can’t be cause I didn’t set out to get it and it happened to be by chance that it noticed it.

I just bought the double boxed DVD set with 11 discs of Marilyn Monroe movies, the Diamond Collection, for only 7 €!!! Now come on, is that a bargain or what?! I had held that same box several months ago and it had cost round 50 € then.

There was a huge outdoor sale at our supermarket store at the entrance. A whole stand with DVD’s sold at 1 €, 5 €, 7 € up to 20 €. Usually there is a lot of junk in there, but sometimes, if you take the time to rummage through it, you can find several classics or little jewels.

I can’t help but admit, I do have a soft spot for Marilyn. Not in the obsessive kind of way, but I do think that sometimes she gets underrated for her performances. Because viewers see blond and have an opinion. But she is funny in Seven Year Itch and my all time favorite movie is still Some Like it Hot, but then mainly because Jack Lemmon is fantastic. I love Jack.

Some other beauties in the box are:

  • Bus Stop
  • Monkey Business (with the Marx Brothers and one of her first movies)
  • Don’t Bother To Knock
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (with Jane Russell as the brunette and the bigger dressing trailer van, while Marilyn was the blond from the title…go figure)
  • No Business Like Show Business
  • Let’s Make Love
  • How To Marry A Millionaire (where she is again in a funny role, she was very capable of comedy – stars also Lauren Bacall),
  • Niagara (very dramatic movie)
  • Marilyn Monroe : The Final Days Documentary + edited Something’s Got to Give, her last and unfinished film.

The one I am very curious about is The Misfits, the only one I haven’t seen of her. So that is something to look forward to.

What can I say. I love those movies. Old ones. Billy Wilder-ones. And she’s an all time icon. Her life was tragic and she had a lot to deal with. She’ll always have that something for me.

“No strings”, he says, and falls madly in love

Here is a clip from a very old movie Top Hat (1935) with Fred Astaire and Ginger ‘Feathers’ Rogers. When I was little, my father showed me this movie. It’s one of his favorites and it’s again a symbol of the Golden Age of cinema of that time. The mass dancing in unison, the boy wants girl, who ignores him but secretly likes him… great lines, well written characters and romance.

PLOT (of this scene):
it’s the first singing/dancing scene of the movie. Astaire joyously dances to his bachelor life, no strings he has, he is fancy free and in the mood for anything fancy. He taps so loudly, it wakes up the girl, Ginger, in the hotel room downstairs, who in turn calls the management to complain. She goes up to bang on his door and of course, Astaire opens it and he is smitten by the girl. He throws all sorts of corny lines at her – she’s not impressed of course. Back in her room, he then decides to become her personal sandman and softly dance on sand (from a cigarette bin filled with it from the hallway) and makes her fall back to sleep.

Note: the music is by the famous Irving Berlin (personal comment: hey, schatje, I was right about the composer! Freaky, isn’t it?) and Max Steiner.

Persona (1966)

Last Friday, on the 29th, I saw the last showing of the Ingmar Bergman retrospective: Persona. A movie I was really curious about. Because some people said it was his best movie, others just say it’s one of his best ones and then again there are those who don’t like it one bit. Of course, this made me get invested in it even more.

CAST:
It stars and these two actresses: Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann.

PLOT:

So Andersson plays a 25-year old nurse called Alma who has to take care of Ullmann, who plays an actress called Elisabet Vogler.*

Elisabet is a very known actress who suddenly after a performance of Electra, in which she blocked (forget her lines maybe?), stopped talking. To get her out of this silent state, Elisabet’s doctor sends her and nurse Alma to her summer-house at the beach, for a change of scenery and to help Elisabet to unfold somewhat. But this unfolding is only slightly the case. Although Elisabet does seem more at ease and enjoys her stay, she does not speak a word unlike her talkative nurse. Alma even shares very personal thoughts and experiences with Elisabeth, thinking she is her friend. But Elisabet’s interest in Alma is not very clear. She seems to observe and analyse Alma. She says so in a letter she sends, unclosed, which Alma reads and is very offended by. From then on the relationship between Alma and Elisabet becomes a poisonous one…

OPINION:

I was taken by how strong both female characters were. Two beautiful women, as they usually are in Bergman movies, who are seemingly close to each other suddenly turn 180° on each other. (not 360° but might have been close to it). Bibi Andersson is very powerful and yet vulnerable. though in other movies I’ve seen her in, she is the fun and humoristic character. Here she is hurt and lashes out and you are really intreaged by it. She says such spiteful things as Alma. And Liv Ullmann is also very powerful in her silence. She does not speak a word throughout the movie (or does she…). Yet in that silence she has the power to get Alma to open up to her but on the other hand this leads to Alma’s sudden madness and anger towards her.

The movie is a bit chaotic. The opening alone is a montage of so many different and seemingly incoherent fragments. It makes you wonder whether this reflects Elisabet’s madness or Alma’s. You see images, pictures of portraits of both female characters. Head shots one after the other, almost melting into one. Who is Alma and who is Elisabet? … it get’s hard to figure out…

I found it a very fascinating movie. You don’t often see a movie that leaves you a bit breathless and semi-confused like that when leaving the theatre. I was a bit in shock of the harshness of the two women towards each other, but was taken by how close they started out. A nurse trying to help a patient, become friends and then get messed up. And you wonder how it came and who manipulated who.

NOTE & PERSONAL OBSERVATION:

*The non-speaking character is called Vogler – a name that has also been used in Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen) but as Veronica Vogler. Strangely enough, the narrative character in Hour of the Wolf, also played by Liv Ullmann, is called Alma. Alma means ‘soul’ in Spanish. In both movies, Persona and Vargtimmen, the Vogler-characters seem like enchantresses. They both have a hold on people. The Alma-characters on the other hand are the ones who start pure, but get slightly altered somehow by the end of the movies. This is my personal observation. I can be completely wrong about this of course. I just find it striking.

Persona might (again) not be for everyone to see, but I definitely believe it is worth seeing.

Höstsonaten (1978) (Autumn sonata)

Who among you has seen Casablanca? “I have I have” – hm, I do not like to speak for my generation, neither like to generalize nor take a stand just lightly, but I bet not that many actually really have. Who played Rick’s (Bogart’s) love interest? Who’s “here’s looking at you, kid”? Indeed, Ingrid Bergman.

Last night I saw her in an a movie by Ingmar Bergman of 1978 called Autumn sonata with Liv Ullman playing her daughter. I was intreaged to see Ingrid play in her native tongue (though she did speak English a little bit in some scenes). I was a bit disappointed by this movie. Though I knew before I went that it would be a drama with the focus on a mother and daughter who had been estranged for 7 years and end up confessing how they really felt about each other… I didn’t expect this: I didn’t really like this movie. Shocking, I know – me, who has a nice thing to say about anything!

For one: all you really saw in the movie were heads. In the sense that close-ups were plentiful. I get that the focus was on the expressions, the pain, the pretend, the lying and outbursts of truths. It could have been less. Really.

One I did like was the opening shot: where the husband tells the camera what he loves doing most; watching his wife when she doesn’t see it – why he fell for her and who she is in his eyes. That he wants to be the one that makes her able to love, a love she has yet to find and feels will never experience… he talked straight to the camera. I just liked that shot because it was a man laying bare his feelings for a woman he loves so much, but she does not seem able to return it or knows how to… Sadly enough, the movie did not lift off to somewhere or get me more interested.

I had seen Vargtimmen (The Hour of the Wolf) not so long ago and was so enthralled by what I saw in that movie by Ingmar… that this was a bit of a letdown. But I’m not going to let me hold back on other Ingmar experiences. Next on the agenda: Persona!

So coming back to Casablanca – which has in no way anything to do with the Autumn sonata other that Ingrid played beautifully as Rick’s love – I know, I am making no sense what so ever on this – I just think that it’s a far better movie than the one I saw. But then, it’s up for debate.

My quest for fine movies goes on – and naturally, some will be less fine along the way. It happens.

Ingmar Bergman

I am recently being introduced into the cinematographical world of Ingmar Bergman. When hearing the name of that famous Swedish director, I immediately think of the Indian of the series Northern Exposure, Ed Chigliak (played by Darren E. Burrows), who in one episode dreamed as if in a Bergman movie – in black and white and artistically filmed. (Because he had watched too many Bergman’s!)

Now here at the film museum, there is a retrospective going on. I’m not saying I’m going to watch them all – I’ve only seen 2 so far. But I must say, it really appealed to me. I had

 

figured, and this is mainly through hearsay and subjective outlets by others, that Bergman movies are heavy and gloomy. Centres around death and are depressing. Hm. To a certain extent maybe. What really surprised me was the humour that sneeks in.

A story cannot be appealing or true if it is only one-sided. One dimentional stories don’t work. And in the two I have seen so far, it is obvious there is more then meets the eye. As I read on the wiki link I gave you, and you might have looked at it if you are an uninitiated one like me, he deals with the human condition in most of his work. As I mentioned in my Terry Pratchett reviews, that is something I find very interesting. Existentialism and mortalitly are heavy subjects. And it’s quite something to touch these topics and still get the viewers intrest. Or laughs.

The movies I saw were Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället)(1958) with Victor Sjostrom, Bibi

 Andersson, Ingrid Thulin. This one is actually a bit off beat to Bergman’s other movies, I’m told.

And The Magician (or The Face – Ansiktet) (1958) with Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Naima Wifstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Bibi Andersson .

I have to say, that the actress Bibi Andersson has a charm and playfullness that wins you over in both movies.

Now I could give you plotlines and such – but I think it is just better to (as I always suggest, I know) take a leap of faith and watch it. If you like it, hurray, if you don’t, too bad. What I can do is say what I particulary liked in both.

In Wild Strawberries the old man, Isaac, has some dreams – the very first dream is a jewel in the way it is shot. Playing with light and shadow, making the charactor doubt, the coach with the horses running down the streets. To me that was a very good scene.

In Ansiktet, I loved the attic scene, where the magician teaches the doctor a lesson. Shows him his powers and almost has a vampiric attitude towards the poor man, sucking the fright right out of him. Very nicely shot. Gave me goosebumbs.

Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo is a movie I have seen many times with my father. I think it is one of his favorite Bogart movies. Yesterday it was on our Flemish channel called Canvas at an impossible hour!

Directed by John Huston (Maltese Falcon, African Queen– also with Bogart!).

The cast includes: Humphry Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson (very good here) and Lionel Barrymore (yeah makes you think about Drew, no?)
PLOT:
Bogart stops by a hotel in Key Largo to visit his friend Barrymore (crippled and in a wheelchair) who runs it with his daughter Bacall. But Bogey finds they are being held hostage by a gangster, Robinson, and his henchmen. The storm that was brewing outside had turned into a hurricane and they all find themselves trapped inside the hotel with this madman of a gangster, who gradually is becoming more and more paranoid and dangerous. After several killings, of which police officers, Bogey decides to take action when the opportunity presents itself…
 
Picture to the right: sitting: Lionel Barrymore, Lauren Bacall, Humphry Bogart
 
OPINION:
I’ve always loved this movie for its suspence and how it was shot. Needless to say I am fond of black and white movies, mainly for how the camera’s play with light and shadow. Here, with the hurricane and the slowly ‘losing it’ of Robinson, they were creative with the interplay of light.
 
Edward G. Robinson (on foreground in pic to this left) was the gangster actor by preference. Always in control, no mercy, fierce. In Key Largo he is also all those things, but he loses control. He can’t seem to control his reaction, his wife, the hurricane, his henchmen and his hostages. It was different to see him in that kind of situation. He is brilliant to the end – and the end is very exiting (on the boat with Bogart – the final battle of wits).

Bogart’s character is very indifferent in the beginning. He wants nothing to do with the situation. He is stuck but willing to sit it out. Only when things are progressing badly and he sees how Robinson treats his woman and kills innocent people, he takes action. So you see Bogey’s character struggle and progress during the movie.

Bogart and Bacall were already married while shooting this movie. It is said that this was their last movie in which they played together. I’m not sure, it can be, but I have to check that. I just love knowing certain things. Like in an interview I saw with Bogart’s and Bacall’s son Stephen: he said that his father helped his mother understand how to approach scenes. Like a silly simple scene where she had to walk from one room to the next with some towels. Because scene’s aren’t shot successively, she didn’t reflect on what the character went through before and just walk in her usual way in the scene. Apparently, according to Stephen, Bogey remarked that her character just had been threatened by the gangster and was feeling scared and concerned. Even that little walk, that little scene should say that. I found that interesting, the way they learned from each other.
 
Categorizing a movie I don’t always find easy: is it crime, thriller, drama, …? It is classified as a film noir. (a genre I have a weakness for)