Hiroshi Shimizu – Tokyo no eiyu AKA A Hero of Tokyo (1935)

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“This late silent film is little more than an hour long, and achieves a narrative concentration and emotional intensity which place it among the neglected gems of the Japanese cinema of the 1930s. The story focuses on the widower Nemoto, ostensibly a businessman, who has one son, Kanichi, the hero of the title. Nemoto remarries; his new wife is a widow with a son and daughter of her own. However, Nemoto’s business turns out to be out a shady scam, and he disappears, leaving his wife to raise the three children alone. In order to support the family, she is obliged to become a bar hostess. She conceals this shameful employment from the children, but the truth comes out years later, after her daughter is rejected by her husband’s family when they investigate her background. The film contains powerful performances from Mitsugu Fujii, here making the last of his regular appearances for Shimizu, and Mitsuko Yoshikawa, a specialist in the haha-mono (“mother-film”) genre. Continue reading

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Lino Brocka – Insiang (1976)

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Quote:
Lino Brocka’s films combine popular melodrama, political import, and intense realism with a vivid, economical style. Made on impossibly low budgets on the fringes of the Philippine film industry, his movies have an urgency and immediacy that spring both from Brocka’s burning ideological commitments (he was one of the most outspoken critics of the Marcos regime) and his resourceful, imaginative approach to the exigencies of borderline production. Set in the Manila slums, this 1976 effort is centered on a teenage girl struggling to stay afloat in the overwhelming, dehumanizing poverty that surrounds her. Her mother, who operates a tiny fish market, takes in a local hood as a lover, but the thuggish pretty-boy is clearly more interested in Insiang. After he rapes her (in a single-take sequence astonishing in its curtness and brutality), Insiang plans her revenge–a revenge that is also a revolution against the unseen government that endorses the system of exploitation. With Hilda Koronel. Continue reading

Satyajit Ray – Pather Panchali (1955)

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Sometime in the early years of the century, a boy, Apu, is born to a poor Brahmin family in a village in Bengal. The father, a poet and priest, cannot earn enough to keep his family going. Apu’s sister, Durga, is forever stealing guavas from the neighbour’s orchards. All these add to the daily struggles of the mother’s life, notwithstanding her constant bickering with old aunt who lives with the family. (IMDb)
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Stanley Kubrick – Spartacus [+Extras] (1960)

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Review from the Criterion website :
Stanley Kubrick directed a cast of screen legends—including Kirk Douglas as the indomitable gladiator that led a Roman slave revolt—in the sweeping epic that defined a genre and ushered in a new Hollywood era. The assured acting, lush Technicolor cinematography, bold costumes, and visceral fight sequences won Spartacus four Oscars; the blend of politics and sexual suggestion scandalized audiences. Today Kubrick’s controversial classic, the first film to openly defy Hollywood’s blacklist, remains a landmark of cinematic artistry and history. Continue reading

Brian Desmond Hurst – Scrooge AKA A Christmas Carol [+Commentary] (1951)

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Scrooge is a 1951 film adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. It starred Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge and was directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, with a screenplay by Noel Langley. It was released as A Christmas Carol in the United States.

Comparison with the source material:
In the film, Mrs Dilber is the name of the charwoman, whereas in the book the woman was unnamed and the laundress was named Mrs Dilber. The charwoman’s role is greatly expanded in the film, to the point that she receives second billing in the list of characters. Continue reading

Michael Curtiz – We’re No Angels (1955)

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synopsis

Samuel and Bella Spewack’s English adaptation of French playwright Albert Husson’s morbidly humorous stage piece My Three Angels was brought to the screen as the heavily laundered but still wickedly funny We’re No Angels. The scene is French Guiana, a few days before Christmas. Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray play three Devil’s Island “lifers” who escape from the infamous prison and hide out amongst the free colonists. In need of clothing and money, the trio makes plans to rob milliner Leo G. Carroll and his family. “We’ll cut their throats for a Christmas present”, Bogie, a convicted forger, remarks laconically. “That might spoil one’s belief in Santa Claus” replies philosophical wife-murderer Ustinov. The three escapees are deflected from their larcenous intent when they grow fond of Carroll, his wife Joan Bennett and their daughter Gloria Talbott. Discovering that Carroll is on the verge of bankruptcy, the convicts offer their services as household help (the sight of Bogie in an apron is worth the admission price in itself). Continue reading

Vincente Minnelli – Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

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synopsis – AMG:
Sally Benson’s short stories about the turn-of-the-century Smith family of St. Louis were tackled by a battalion of MGM screenwriters, who hoped to find a throughline to connect the anecdotal tales. After several false starts (one of which proposed that the eldest Smith daughter be kidnapped and held for ransom), the result was the charming valentine-card musical Meet Me in St. Louis. The plot hinges on the possibility that Alonzo Smith (Leon Ames), the family’s banker father, might uproot the Smiths to New York, scuttling his daughter Esther (Judy Garland)’s romance with boy-next-door John Truett (Tom Drake) and causing similar emotional trauma for the rest of the household. In a cast that includes Mary Astor as Ames’ wife, Lucille Bremer as another Ames daughter, and Marjorie Main as the housekeeper, the most fascinating character is played by 6-year-old Margaret O’Brien. As kid sister Tootie, O’Brien seems morbidly obsessed with death and murder, burying her dolls, “killing” a neighbor at Halloween (she throws flour in the flustered man’s face on a dare), and maniacally bludgeoning her snowmen when Papa announces his plans to move to New York. Continue reading

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