David Brandon (James Gordon) is a surveyor in the Old West who dreams that one day the entire North American continent will be linked by railroads. However, to make this dream a reality, a clear trail must be found through the Rocky Mountains. With his boy Davy (Winston Miller), David sets out to find such a path, but he’s ambushed by a tribe of Indians led by a white savage, Peter Jesson (Cyril Chadwick); while the boy manages to escape, David is killed. Years later, the adult Davy Brandon (George O’Brien) still believes in his father’s dream of a transcontinental railroad, and legislation signed by President Abraham Lincoln has made it an official mandate. Davy is hired on as a railroad surveyor by Thomas Marsh (Will R. Walling), the father of his childhood sweetheart Miriam (Madge Bellamy). While Davy hopes to win Miriam’s heart as he helps to find the trail that led to his father’s death years ago, he’s disappointed to discover that Miriam is already married — and shocked to discover her husband is Peter Jesson, now working with the railroad as a civil engineer. As the Union Pacific crew presses on to their historic meeting at Promitory Point, Davy must find a way to earn Miriam’s love and uncover Peter’s murderous past. Continue reading
Here is an excellent overview of the film that provides a ton of background information that greatly helps in understanding this outstanding film.
from Jump Cut, no. 10-11, 1976, pp. 5-6
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1976, 2004
“In THIASSOS even though we refer to the past, we are talking about the present. The approach is not mythical but dialectical. This comes through in the structure of the film where often two historical times are dialectically juxtaposed in the same shot creating associations leading directly to historical conclusions… Those links do not level the events but bypass the notions of past/present and instead provide a linear developmental interpretation which exists only in the present.”
— Theodoros Angelopoulos Continue reading
Presented as a tableaux of seven sections in black and white, with a final montage of Rublev’s painted icons in color, the film takes an unflinching gaze at medieval Russia during the first quarter of the 15th century, a period of Mongol-Tartar invasion and growing Christian influence.
Commissioned to paint the interior of the Vladimir cathedral, Andrei Rublev (Anatoli Solonitsyn) leaves the Andronnikov monastery with an entourage of monks and assistants, witnessing in his travels the degradations befalling his fellow Russians, including pillage, oppression from tyrants and Mongols, torture, rape, and plague. Faced with the brutalities of the world outside the religious enclave, Rublev’s faith is shaken, prompting him to question the uses or even possibility of art in a degraded world. After Mongols sack the city of Vladimir, burning the very cathedral that he has been commissioned to paint, Rublev takes a vow of silence and withdraws completely, removing himself to the hermetic confines of the monastery. Continue reading
When Edgar Reitz made the Heimat film series in 1984 he created an incredible chronicle of German rural life in the 20th century. He went on to release another couple of mini-series, bringing events up to the modern era. At over 53 hours they were beautifully made and together are an epic saga of the Simon family and the village of Schabbach. He returns to familiar ground for this prequel, charting the fortunes of the same clan between 1840-1844, in Home From Home: Chronicle of a Vision.
Jacob (Jan Dieter Schneider) dreams of escaping the hard, oppressive and poor life in Schabbach by emigrating to the tropics. His father (Rüdiger Kriese), the local blacksmith, despairs that his son is stuck with his nose in a book whilst there so much work to do. His mother (Marita Breuer) on the other hand, is happy to indulge his daydreaming. He falls for Jettchen (Antonia Bill), the daughter of a mill owner, but they are fated not to be together. When his brother Gustav (Maximilian Scheidt) returns from war, a drunken night with Jettchen leads to her getting pregnant, whilst Jacob is arrested after his first brush with rebellion. Continue reading
Dovzhenko was commissioned to make what was intended to be a minor propaganda film to encourage the establishment of farming collectives. Under Dovzhenko’s lyrical montage and photography what emerged far exceeded propaganda; Earth has repeatedly made every international top ten film list. Continue reading
Along a rocky, barren coastline, Jesus begins teaching, primarily using parables. He attracts disciples; he’s stern, brusque, and demanding. He comes to bring a sword, not peace, he says. He’s in a hurry, moving from place to place near the Sea of Galilee, sometimes attracting a multitude, sometimes being driven away. His parables often take on the powers that be, so he and his teachings come to the attention of the Pharisees, the chief priests, and elders. They conspire to have him arrested, beaten, tried, and crucified, just as he prophesied to his followers. After he dies, he appears to his disciples and gives them final instructions. Continue reading
Like Tolstoy’s novel, this epic-length War and Peace is rough going, but worth the effort. Winner of the 1969 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and widely considered the most faithful adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic, Sergei Bondarchuk’s massive Soviet-Italian coproduction was seven years in the making, at a record-setting cost of $100 million.
Bondarchuk himself plays the central role of Pierre Bezukhov, buffeted by fate during Russia’s tumultuous Napoleonic Wars, serving as pawn and philosopher through some of the most astonishing set pieces ever filmed.
Bondarchuk is a problematic director: interior monologues provide awkward counterpoint to intimate dramas, weaving together the many classes and characters whose lives are permanently affected by war.
Infusions of ’60s-styled imagery clash with the film’s period detail; it’s an anomalous experiment that doesn’t really work. Undeniably, however, the epic battle scenes remain breathtakingly unique; to experience the sheer scale of this film is to realize that such cinematic extravagance will never be seen again. Continue reading