Alain Cavalier – Un étrange voyage AKA On the Track (1981)

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Synopsis
A father-daughter relationship is melded, strained, and deepened by a shared angst: the grandmother in the family left her home by train and never arrived at her destination. The father Pierre (Jean Rochefort) is distraught that the police could basically dismiss the issue as inexplicable, and he decides to retrace on foot the voyage his mother should have made. His daughter Amelie (Camille de Casablanca) goes with him, and the story evolves as the two walk along the train tracks, searching in the nearby terrain and bushes for any evidence that might point to what happened. Along the way, their once antagonistic and distanced relationship (Amelie is a student, her father is a picture-restorer) begins to work itself out… Continue reading

W.S. Van Dyke – Eskimo (1933)

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Plot Synopsis
The remarkable location-filmed Eskimo was adapted from two books: Die Flucht Ins Wiesse Land and Der Eskimo, both written by naturalist Peter Freuchen. Director Woody Van Dyke, in the tradition of his White Shadows on the South Seas and Trader Horn, took his cast and crew on location to the Arctic, arriving by whaling schooner at the topmost settlement in Alaska with author Freuchen as his guide. Van Dyke, Freuchen, and cinematographer Ray Wise also played prominent on-screen roles in the film. Eskimo Ray Mala (billed only by his last name) essays the title role, speaking in the tongue of his ancestors (even though his English was excellent). Rather than use superimposed titles, Van Dyke resorted to old-fashioned silent-movie subtitles in several dialogue sequences. The story concentrates on the more exotic aspects of Eskimo life, notably the race’s (alleged) casual approach to sex. Though tribal leader Mala has, by his own admission, slept with 20 women without benefit of clergy, woe betide anyone who tries to steal his current sweetheart — as a rapacious trader discovers when he’s harpooned to death by the cuckolded hero. Mala is ultimately undone by the Canadian Mounties, whose efforts to civilize the Eskimo community result in a sudden and tragic shift of the balance of power. Editor Conrad A. Nervig won an Oscar for his Herculean efforts to bring cohesiveness to the story. Performing respectably at the box office, Eskimo inspired another location jaunt in 1935: Last of the Pagans, which also starred Ray Mala. by Hal Erickson Continue reading

Gyula Nemes – Papagáj AKA Parrot (1999)

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Surrealist short feature about common tricks of uncle Pepin and the young Bohumil Hrabal. The harum-scarum young man pays his looney uncle a visit and his life changes at once. We can find out, where the snowmen lives in summer, what Franz Joe’s favorite food was, how to sell one half of a pair of shoes and fly in a cage. Continue reading

W.S. Van Dyke – I Live My Life (1935)

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Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A brisk romantic/comedy Joan Crawford vehicle capably directed by W.S. Van Dyke and gamely written but not one of the better scripts by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It’s from the short story “Claustrophobia” by A. Carter Goodloe. It’s the usual class warfare Joan Crawford film of that era with the good looking actress dressed chic and defending her free-spirited upper-class superficial lifestyle in her argumentative romance with the commoner Brian Aherne, who thinks the high society crowd are idlers and lightweights.

Bored heiress Kay Bentley (Joan Crawford) travelling with her dad (Frank Morgan) on his yacht meets on the Greek island of Naxos handsome Irish archaeologist Terry O’Neill (Brian Aherne), who’s on an archaeological dig for the Pygmalion statue. Learning that he thinks very little of the society jet set Kay tells Terry she’s Ann Morrison, the secretary of Mr. Bentley. They kiss and he falls madly in love, surpisingly following the attractive secretary to New York where he hopes to marry her. Learning the truth, the two have a spat but nevertheless grow fonder of each other. Continue reading