Herman Shumlin – Confidential Agent (1945)

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Synopsis:
In pre-World War II London, Spanish agent Denard struggles to close a high-level business deal that will strike a blow against fascists in his native country. But industrialists not yet alert to the threat of fascism reject him. A teenage ally caught up in his efforts is murdered. And the mission itself seems a failure. Yet neither the story nor Denard will stop there. Charles Boyer plays Denard and Lauren Bacall is a jaded industrial heiress who assists him in this intricate spy drama. For her second screen appearance, Bacall took a critical thumping, yet her presence smolders. The film itself still satisfies, thanks in no small measure to James Wong Howe’s atmospheric cinematography and the story craft of source novelist Graham Greene. Continue reading

Manoel de Oliveira – Aniki Bóbó (1942)

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Quote:
The story takes place in the old streets of Porto and by the banks of the Douro River. A gang of very young kids has just accepted a new member, Carlitos, a shy boy who has “played it tough” by stealing a doll in a shop. Carlitos soon develops a crush on Terezinha,the only girl of the group. The trouble is that Eduardo, the “boss”, is also in love with the pretty little girl. And he will not allow any rival to challenge him… Continue reading

Richard Wallace – The Fallen Sparrow (1943)

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Synopsis:
A former Spanish Civil War prisoner, John McKittrick arrives in New York to find the truth behind the death of his friend Louie Lepetino. He finds himself being chased by Nazi agents who want an item he has brought back from Spain and cannot give up. When another of his friends is murdered, McKittrick realizes that he cannot trust anyone around him – not anyone.

— Jim Beaver (IMDb) Continue reading

Helmut Käutner – Der Apfel ist ab AKA The Original Sin AKA The Apple Fell (1948)

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Lubitsch wrote:
Time again to raise more interest in post war German cinema before the Heimatfilm wave and Käutner’s witty and inventive comedy is just a fine example to do that. Again it’s in the end no masterpiece, but not unlike Geheimnisvolle Tiefe you can feel the experimental impulse and vibrancy of these early post war films.
An apple juice producer can’t decide between his wife and his secretary and tries to commit suicide. Being committed to psychiatry (the doctor being played by director Käutner himself) he falls asleep and dreams of adventures as Adam and Eve in heaven and hell. The realistic frame story is shot like a parody of a rubble film with tilted camera angles throughout, while the main story line, the dream, takes place in a surrealistic heaven and hell decoration which takes input from Dali, Miro and other artists. Continue reading

Mu Fei – Xiao cheng zhi chun AKA Spring in a Small Town (1948)

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Taking place in a ruined family compound after the war, the film tells the story of the once prosperous Dai family. The husband and patriarch, Dai Liyan is an invalid, and spends his days in the courtyard nostalgic for the past. His marriage to Zhou Yuwen has long been rendered loveless, though both still feel concern for the other. Liyan’s young teenage sister Dai Xiu, meanwhile, is too young to remember the past, and stays cheerful and playful in the ruins of her home. Into this dreary but unchanging existence comes Liyan’s childhood friend Zhang Zhichen, a doctor from Shanghai and a former flame of Zhou Yuwen before she ever met her husband. The rest of the film details Zhou Yuwen’s conflicting emotions between her love for Zhang, and her loyalty to her husband and his family. Continue reading

Julien Duvivier – Panique (1947)

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Summary
Recently released from prison, an attractive young woman Alice meets up with her lover Alfred. The latter, a vicious crook, has murdered an old woman at a fairground. The only witness was a reclusive old man named Monsieur Hire, who is secretly in love with Alice. Alfred and Alice contrive to divert suspicion on to Monsieur Hire…

Review
After his largely lacklustre stint in Hollywood during World War II, Julien Duvivier returned to France a changed man, and this is clearly reflected in his first French film after the war, Panique. Disillusioned with the mawkish tendency of American cinema, with its obligatory “Happy End”, Divivier set out to make a film that better reflected the times he lived in. To that end, he adapted a novel by the popular Belgian writer Georges Simenon, a story of unrequited love and cruel betrayal. Continue reading