Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Richard III 1955 Olivier

In this drama, the scriptwriter-bard is clearly playing to the gallery, and the relative lack of complexity of plot and character notwithstanding, the flow and exuberance of language is dazzling. Olivier handles his task with ease and gusto, and it is easy to lap up the piling villainy as it unfolds.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lincoln 2012 Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis

My second view of this fine film. Lincoln is not an idealist, but a pragmatic man of action, who, though clear about his inner moral compass, is committed to victory and the vow of securing justice, rather than any abstract principle. What drives him is no obsession with dying for some cause (though he did), but a humane commitment to victory against suffering, springing not only from slavery, but also war.The film is about how he resorts to subterfuge and manouver to pass the legislation to abolish slavery forever.  However he does state his ideology as based on the "axiom" of "equality". A spellbinder.
Old Review
A O Scott:"......this is, in other words, less a biopic than a political thriller, a civics lesson that is energetically staged and alive with moral energy.......“Lincoln” is a rough and noble democratic masterpiece — an omen, perhaps, that movies for the people shall not perish from the earth.......Go see this movie. Take your children, even though they may occasionally be confused or fidgety. Boredom and confusion are also part of democracy, after all. “Lincoln” is a rough and noble democratic masterpiece — an omen, perhaps, that movies for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Museum Hours 2012 (Jem Cohen)

A guard at an Austrian museum befriends a visiting Canadian. The film is a reverie shifting between the exhibits, particularly the Breughal paintings, and the mundane sights of a modern city, drawing a connection between the two. The boisterous, merry, indifferent, cruel crowds of Breughal are the same in modern bottles, as are the dark birds hovering in the sky, searching for meat. The trams and metros circulate endlessly. Those thick lipped country bumpkins are the same as the Viennese urban bumpkins. Yet there is a difference: Breugal has a vision, and these brutish dancing  rustics are close to the elemental heart of things, the grimness of life and death, unlike our own cushioned, drained, bored, denatured times. In the Calvary painting, for example, Christ is a dimunitive, hardly distinguishable among the work a day festive surroundings. Rather than demeaning Christ, there is a feeling of exaltation and adoration for all that exists, even the broken egg shells that litter other pictures. The shell shown in the film is interesting: a careful star like opening on the crown, as though someone sucked a raw egg in a hurry. The quiet uplifting film concludes as the waves on the ECG display connected to the visitor's cousin, who has been in coma and is the reason for her visit, die down. The sublime is in the beholder's eye, or a camera lens. Will need to be seen again with better subtitles.

Musee des Beaux Arts
W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

The Mill and the Cross

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Young Mr Lincoln 1939

In this excellent fictionalized biopic, Lincoln is shown in action as a lawyer fighting a murder case. This is an engrossing film laced with humor and repartee, and the courtroom part is particularly good. The unspoiled countryside with brook and barn has been captured in glistening black and shade.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Fall of the Roman Empire 1964

A film in the traditional mold: battles fought with sword and lance, elocution senatorial style, armies of extras battling it out in snow strewn woods. Sophia Loren lends her decorative presence. Christopher Plummer in a role with a villainous streak gives an excellent performance. The drama sustains well for nearly three hours, giving history a human face. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Grapes of Wrath 1940

A family of share croppers is evicted from the land on which they have lived for several generations.This is a story about ordinary people when they fall victim to socio-economic changes they don't understand, in this case the economic recession of the thirties. Beyond time and place, this has been knitted into a elemental human tale of men pitted against calamity.