Roberto Rossellini – Francesco, giullare di Dio AKA The Flowers of St. Francis [+Extras] (1950)

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Quote:
The Flowers of St. Francis—or, Francesco, giullare di Dio (Francis, God’s Jester), to give it its full title in Italian—is a delicate, fascinating hybrid, a film that is self-consciously, almost militantly, naive, and, as such, something of an anomaly in Rossellini’s body of work. Never again would his films attain the directness, simplicity, even purity that is so gloriously on display here, a work poised between the theological and the historical, between the Rossellini who emerged from neorealism into the full-blown spiritual crisis manifested in The Miracle, Stromboli, and Europa ’51, all set in postwar Italy, and the latter-day director whose abiding interest was in the depiction of history. Those later works often took religious subjects, but unlike in Acts of the Apostles, Augustine of Hippo, and The Messiah, Rossellini in The Flowers of St. Francis is less concerned with creating a portrait of a particular historical figure than he is with exploring the nature of spirituality, specifically, of “Franciscanism” itself and its impact on the medieval world. Continue reading

Dudley Nichols – Government Girl (1943)

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Plot:
Washington DC in the war. The machinery of government is a hive of endless if not seamless activity. Arnament production is the name of the game, by fair means or foul. Ed Browne, more used to making cars in Detroit, is having to try and get planes made in this maelstrom. Luckily or unluckily, he finds he has a secretary who knows the political ropes – and her own mind. Continue reading

Jean-Pierre Melville – Les Enfants Terribles aka The Strange Ones [+Extras] (1950)

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Quote:
The fair-haired Paul (Edouard Dermithe) engages in a snowball fight with several other boys outside his school, and is knocked out by a snowball tossed by the bully Dargelos (Renée Cosima). Far from being upset, Paul obsesses over Dargelos.

Bedridden, Paul is cared for by his domineering sister Elisabeth (Nicole Stéphane). Elisabeth acts angry and put-upon as nursemaid to the petulant, whiny Paul, but her attitude changes with the arrival of Agathe (Cosima), a boarder who comes to live with Paul and Elisabeth and threatens to break the siblings apart because of her attraction to Paul. The jealous Elisabeth begins manipulating both Paul and Agathe, along with Paul’s chum Gérard (Jacques Bernard), to make sure the status quo is maintained. But even the supremely confident Elisabeth can’t predict what her machinations will drive the others to do. Continue reading

Billy Wilder – The Lost Weekend (1945)

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Don Birnam, long-time alcoholic, has been “on the wagon” for ten days and seems to be over the worst; but his craving has just become more insidious. Evading a country weekend planned by his brother Wick and girlfriend Helen, he begins a four-day bender. In flashbacks we see past events, all gone wrong because of the bottle. But this bout looks like being his last…one way or the other.

Fifty-six years have seen many advances in the level of realism portrayed on film, but it is safe to say that The Lost Weekend remains the benchmark against which all other films on alcoholism are measured. Its view is uncompromising yet it manages to present that view in a manner that does not require resorting to tasteless violence or nihilism to make its point (unlike, for example, a more recent film such as Leaving Las Vegas [1995], well-acted as it may be). The film’s realism is enhanced by extensive location shooting in New York, somewhat of a rarity for the time. Continue reading

Orson Welles – The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

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Synopsis:
The young, handsome, but somewhat wild Eugene Morgan wants to marry Isabel Amberson, daughter of a rich upper-class family, but she instead marries dull and steady Wilbur Minafer. Their only child, George, grows up a spoiled brat. Years later, Eugene comes back, now a mature widower and a successful automobile maker. After Wilbur dies, Eugene again asks Isabel to marry him, and she is receptive. But George resents the attentions paid to his mother, and he and his whacko aunt Fanny manage to sabotage the romance. A series of disasters befall the Ambersons and George, and he gets his come-uppance in the end. Continue reading