Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ballad of Narayama

1958, Japan, 93m

A folk heritage, this story is set in a time and place where food is scarce, and past a certain age, the elderly, to the accompaniment of formality and ritual, voluntary allow themselves to be abandoned atop a mountain top to encounter their death. Orin is such a lady, and over her final months, persuades her loving son to carry her on his back to meet an honorable end. Much of the power of the film derives from the austere string instrument and vocal balladeer accompaniment. It is a film of dignity in the face of elemental sufferings of aging and dying. In a powerful scene, Orin knocks out her teeth which she finds an embarrassment at her age. The movie is stylized, artificial, anthropological, yet universal in its concerns. As a saying goes, rice is life. Awesome.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


82m, 2009
It comes as something of a surprise, late in the day, that Enid Blyton was a mere mortal, with possibly some foibles thrown in--affairs, Alzheimer (or at least dementia). For those who at some time experienced the spell, the film cannot but be of interest. The mercilessly negative portrayal of her character may be shocking to them. But as a consolation, the movie is thought to be very biased.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Anna Karenina

2012, 122m

A gaudy, slow, hard to finish, stylized version which neither adds to one's insight into the book, nor stands on its own. Even the tragic end is presented in a mechanical, gimmicky way.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Anna Karenina

1935, Greta Garbo, 92m

This excellent trans-creation compresses the sprawling stream of consciousness novel into an intense emotional drama. It is an achievement to preserve so much in the short run time. Greta Garbo is able to capture the poignancy as the world disintegrates around Anna. The concluding scene after the suicide as the train recedes with a melancholy whistle has a tragic grandeur. This is a great piece of black and white cinema. It's like and unlike the original but as true to life, human nature and art.
"Miss Garbo, always superbly the apex of the drama, suggests the inevitability of her doom from the beginning, streaking her first happiness with undertones of anguish, later trying futilely to mend the broken pieces, and at last standing regally alone as she approaches the end."..Andre Sennwald

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Great Expectations

David Lean, 1946, 113m

This excellent film serves as good a recreation of Dickens as you will find. In irredescent black and white camera work, Lean recaptures the teeming variety of characters and the writers tuning to the strings of the heart. The fragrant recreation of early nineteenth century England takes your breath away. I'm specially taken by a shot of the dusky  London roof lines with wisps of morning smoke curling skyward.

"For, despite necessary elisions and compressions of favorite scenes, the picture is so truly Dickens—so truly human and noble in its scope—that the quality of the author is revealed in every shot, in every line. Mid-nineteenth century England—and a thrilling story—are crowded on the screen." ...Bosley Crowther

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kind Hearts and Coronets

1949, 106m

Roger Ebert lists Kind Hearts and Coronets among his "Great Movies", stating "Price is impeccable as the murderer: Elegant, well-spoken, a student of demeanor", and notes that "murder, Louis demonstrates, ... can be most agreeably entertaining"...Wiki. 

Alec Guiness plays eight different characters.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Farewell, My Concubine

1993, China, 155m

A riveting drama about a Peking Opera troupe. The story of their personal stories spans the turbulent half century till the end of the Cultural Revolution. It is a brilliant and heady concoction of culture and history, inlaid with top notch direction and acting. Certainly the most rewarding feature of the movie is the opportunity to participate in the grand, unfamiliar, exquisite experience of Peking Opera. The title of the film derives from an ancient opera of the same name, about a concubine whose master, a General, faces defeat. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Ruling Class

1972, 154m
"A comedy with tragic relief"...Peter O'Toole

"....  "snail-slow, shrill and gesticulating" ..."sledgehammer satire"..."snarling, overwrought, parochial satire "....most of his praise for O'Toole..."All actors can play insanity; few play it well. ...unfocused gaze, abrupt bursts of frenzied high spirits, sudden depressions. Funny, disturbing, O'Toole finds his way into the workings of madness, revealing the anger and anguish at the source.""....Wikipedia

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Founding of a Republic

2009, 135m

This is a state sponsored film which tells the events from the end of WW2 till the proclamation of the PRC in 1949. This is a visual feast with legendary figures like the chain smoking Mao Zedong, Zhou En Lai and Chiang Kai Shek (not to mention many others who would be instantly familiar to the Chinese target audience), floating statuesquely across the screen. This is riveting cinema which vividly populates the mind with the events of the period. The personas of the figures are understandably idealized  but the portrayals live and breathe and touch the heart. The acting is top notch, rich in mannerism and feeling. This is indeed a moving and memorable film which moreover helps one to empathize with the Chinese self identity and pride as a nation.

Friday, March 1, 2013


In a cathartic climax, Lore smashes her beloved clay animal images, as if to demolish the cobwebs of the ideology she has nurtured on since infancy.