Carl Theodor Dreyer – Ordet AKA The Word [+extra] (1955)

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Plot:
A farmer’s family is torn apart by faith, sanctity, and love—one child believes he’s Jesus Christ, a second proclaims himself agnostic, and the third falls in love with a fundamentalist’s daughter. Putting the lie to the term “organized religion,” Ordet (The Word) is a challenge to simple facts and dogmatic orthodoxy. Layering multiple stories of faith and rebellion, Dreyer’s adaptation of Kaj Munk’s play quietly builds towards a shattering, miraculous climax.

Review:
‘Powerful’ doesn’t do justice to this 1955 exploration of life, death and faith from Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer. Based on Kaj Munk’s 1932 play, ‘Ordet’ is an austere, realist work on one level as it joins a farming family in their Jutland home over a short but devastating period of time. Continue reading

Vilgot Sjöman – Syskonbädd 1782 AKA My Sister My Love (1966)

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Set in Sweden in 1782. Jacob, a young nobleman (Per Oscarsson) returns from France to his home and cherished sister Charlotte (Bibi Andersson) who is engaged to Baron Alsmeden (Jarl Kulle). The siblings close relationship becomes incestuous and with fear that the disclosure of Charlotte’s pregnancy will make society view them as libertines, the lovers ultimately choose to part. Jacob decides to leave the country and Charlotte is left to marry the Baron, but it is too late to prevent the final tragedy. Continue reading

Orson Welles – The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952)

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Quote:
Want to be daring? Try watching Othello without the sound. The assembly of magnificent compositions that Welles has put together for his Othello is nothing short of astounding. Welles finds angles where they never existed before and extracts from the text, so elegant in word, a visual power unmatched by other Shakespearean movies. The heritage from Citizen Kane to Touch of Evil is evident in this stylistic tour-de-force.

Welles is an imposing Othello. Painted with shadows and light, Welles moves regally through the castle sets and strides powerfully along the beach or atop the ramparts. As Iago, Michael Mac Liammoir, the Irish stage actor, is quite creepy. His vast stage experience perhaps affects his performance in front of the camera too much, but the result is highly effective under Welles’ guiding camera and brilliant editing. 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

Frank Perry – Mommie Dearest (1981)

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Based on the book about Joan Crawford, one of the great Hollywood actresses of our time, written by her adopted daughter Christina Crawford. Joan decides to adopt children of her own to fill a void in her life. Yet, her problems with alcohol, men, and the pressures of show business get in the way of her personal life, turning her into a mentally abusive wreck seen through the eyes of Christina and her brother Christopher, who unwillingly bare the burden of life that was unseen behind the closed doors of “The Most Beautiful House in Brentwood.”

t is 1939, Joan Crawford is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But she tells boyfriend lawyer Greg Savitt that she isn’t content living in her Brentwood mansion with just her devoted secretary Carol Ann and housekeeper Helga. Greg arranges for Joan to adopt a baby girl. Joan names her Christina and promises “to give her all the things I never had.” But Joan is obsessed with perfection, and Christina finds it impossible to live up to her mother’s standards. Continue reading

Akira Kurosawa – Dodesukaden [+Extras] (1970)

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Quote:
By turns tragic and transcendent, Akira Kurosawa’s film follows the daily lives of a group of people barely scraping by in a slum on the outskirts of Tokyo. Yet as desperate as their circumstances are, each of them—the homeless father and son envisioning their dream house; the young woman abused by her uncle; the boy who imagines himself a trolley conductor—finds reasons to carry on. The unforgettable Dodes’ka-den was made at a tumultuous moment in Kurosawa’s life. And all of his hopes, fears, and artistic passion are on fervent display in this, his gloriously shot first color film. Continue reading

Josef von Sternberg – Blonde Venus (1932)

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Quote:
American chemist Ned Faraday marries a German entertainer and starts a family. However, he becomes poisoned with Radium and needs an expensive treatment in Germany to have any chance at being cured. Wife Helen returns to night club work to attempt to raise the money and becomes popular as the Blonde Venus. In an effort to get enough money sooner, she prostitutes herself to millionaire Nick Townsend. While Ned is away in Europe, she continues with Nick but when Ned returns cured, he discovers her infidelity. Now Ned despises Helen but she grabs son Johnny and lives on the run, just one step ahead of the Missing Persons Bureau. When they do finally catch her, she loses her son to Ned. Once again she returns to entertaining, this time in Paris, and her fame once again brings her and Townsend together. Helen and Nick return to America engaged, but she is irresistibly drawn back to her son and Ned. In which life does she truly belong? Continue reading