Dec., 1999 Autumn Tale directed by Eric Rohmer 1999 France color
• June 29, 1999: Central Station - Brazil - Walter Salles, director. Color. 1998
A mean, misanthropic old spinster helps a little boy - whose mother's recently been run over by a bus - to find his long lost father. Reluctant to help at first, she sells the lad to some very shady people. After being lectured by her friend, she suffers remorse and steals the boy back. Unable to go to her home because the baddies are looking for both of them, she accedes to the boy's wishes and they set out on the long journey to find dad. Of course, she's changed by the whole thing, becoming nicer.
Story-wise, this is quite familiar fare; and, as one might guess, a real tearjerker. Enough twists are thrown in to keep it interesting, though; and the acting is quite good all around. (The boy, of course, is a little too cute, and relies mostly on a couple of standard facial expressions to keep the tears flowing.) Fernanda Montenegro is good. Her face, old and very expressive, is rather mesmerising here, and stays with you. (She actually looks very much like one of our standard images of a witch; so one way to see this movie, pour moi, is the evil witch story where, instead of eating the kid the witch is turned into a good person by the good kid.)
What makes this an exceptional film for me, however, isn't the narrative; but the real stuff that fills the screen the whole time. What's truly engaging in this film? The faces of poor Brazilians: Real. The pictures of shack towns, or new settlements with hundreds of look-alike little houses in the middle of nowhere: Real. The brutal slums of Rio: Real. The endless streaming crowd in and around Rio's Central Station; The emotions of religious fervor on the faces of evangelical zealots - a huge and rapidly burgeoning movement in Brazil; the breathtaking mountain and desert landscapes; the diverse and colorful styles, of dress, and of people; the houses; the color; the wrinkles; the skin; the flesh; All real, all finely and beautifully photographed
Hungarian Film Series @
U Film Society
• June 13, 1999: Somewhere In Europe - Hungary - Geza Radvani, director. B &W 1947
A group of war orphans scavanging around war ruined Hungary find a wrecked castle wherein resides an old man who's known better fortunes as a famous composer/conductor. Together they battle local authorities, who're after the children for sundrie small crimes.
Starts out De sica; gradually becomes bathetic, ending more like a Mickey Rooney flic.
However, this is a very good movie due to the somewhat unique complexity of plot, and of styles. Strikingly shot in black and white. Very good.
• June 11, 1999: Red Psalm - Hungary - Miklos Jancso, director. Color.
"A radically different version of cinematic musical emerges in the colorfully symbolic ballet about striking workers up against an army brought in to quell the revolt..."
-Dilys Powell, Punch
Extremely beautiful; using lots of long, panoramic shots,much singing and dancing. Based on a real uprising in 1898, this film is visually similar to Jancso's 1967 film The Red and The White. Unapologetically socialist.
• June 11,1999: Daniel Takes a Train - Hungary - Pal Sandor, director.
It's 1956; The Uprising has just been quelled. Dani, a naive young (18ish) Budapest Jew, and Gyuri, slightly older but far more experienced (he's a freedom fighter in hiding), get on a train to the west with hundreds of others; as thousands attempt to flee to the west. Dani's on an adventure (his girlfriend, with her family, is on the train); Gyuri's on more serious business, trying to avoid being caught and looking for his long lost father.
Altho' many of the situations are not unfamiliar, espescially to viewers of east European films of (not just) the cold war era (secret border crossings, diverse refugees waiting in a small town hotel, rejection by the girlfriend's family, disillusionment when Gyuri finally finds his father, etc.); this is still a well made and powerful film, full of emotional and political potency.
• June10, 1999: The Red and The White - Hungary - Miklos Jancso,
director. B &W 1967
Quite reminiscent of Sholakov's "...And Quiet Flows the Don" trilogy. This very powerful film follows the fortunes of the White army, then the Red, then the White... and so on.
Definitely more sympathetic to the Red side, the film gradually settles into the story of a group of Red soldiers of mixed nationality (including several Hungarians, of course), who've escaped their White captors and are being hidden by nurses at a rural hospital/nursing school, while the Whites try to hunt them down.
Similar visually to Jancso's Red Psalm; i.e. long, deep shots ala Eisenstein; lots of shots of groups of people in the distance (in this case marching soldiers, not dancing, bare breasted hippies).
Overtly political, this film highlights the arbitrariness, absurdity and pomposity of the officers running the war, especially the Whites, as well as the pawn-like expendability of the common soldiers. As in Sholakov, soldiers bounce back and forth between armies; many are executed by their own side for seemingly minor infractions; etc. The Reds, of course, are ultimately portrayed as heroes.
• June 9, 1999: Merry-Go Round - Hungary - Zoltan Fabri, director.
B &W. 1955.
• July 8, 1999: Limbo - USA - John Sayles, director. Color. 1999
• School of Flesh
• Dec., 1999 Sleepy Hollow
• Stormriders Hong Kong 1999 New computer edited action. Great film
• Taste of Cherry- Kiorastami. Kiorastami remains at the cutting edge - A true master.
• Sun. June 21,1999: The Third Man - England
- Carol Reed, director. B&W 1953(?)
This great classic, in a new print and with eleven minutes added, literally gets better with age. Extremely beautiful black and white composition beautifully and moodily lit; the whole look and feel reflects the main point of the story: that Harry lime, as bad, no, downright despicable a character as he is, still, (and this is key) as played by Orson Welles, elicits our sympathy, just as he is still loved by Anna(?) and by his old friend, Holly Martins.
• June 19, 1999: Three Seasons - Viet Nam
- Tony Bui, director. Color. 1998.
Set in Ho Chi Minh City in the present, this film follows four separate strands involving four or five main characters: A cyclo driver's quietly persistent attempts to win the attentions of the call girl he's fallen in love with; A ragged little boy's search for a missing box of goods (lighters, flashlights, trinkets); which he sells on the street to make his living; A young woman's involvement with a reclusive, aging poet with leprosy; A returning American ex - marine looking for the Vietnamese daughter he's never met.