It has often been said that Jean Cocteau was the first major poet and writer to treat the cinema with total seriousness. But actually it was the cinema that made him into a major artist. “The movie screen,” he said, “is the true mirror refecting the flesh and blood of my dreams.” And one of his most poetic, dreamlike films was La Belle et La Bête.
Watching it now, you can’t feel its audacity as you might have done at the time. Faithfully, but not totally innocently, based on the fairy tale by Madame LePrince de Beaumont, it is almost purely visual, even if a Freudian analysis is possible. And it is certainly completely different in atmosphere and style from anything that had gone before, at least in the commercial cinema.
The team who made it in 1946 – and it was a team – broke a good many rules at the urging of Cocteau. Georges Auric’s memorable music didn’t so much underline the visuals as frequently cut across them, reaching a synthesis at vital moments. Henri Alekan’s equally extraordinary cinematography, which the studio described unsympathetically as “white cheese”, is the opposite of conventionally fantastic. Continue reading
Little Shop of Horrors, Russian Style
By Oleg Liakhovich The Moscow News
On the heels of the XXVI Moscow International Film Festival came an event even more pompous and widely publicized – the premiere of a movie meant to spark a revival of Russia’s popular cinema while giving Hollywood a battle royale on its own terms
Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor in original Russian) depicts the on-going struggle between the magical forces of good and evil in present-day Moscow. The movie was eagerly awaited by fans and became an object of an intense advertising campaign in all media. Its US $3mln budget – an incredible sum for a local movie – and plentiful special effects, also a novelty for Russian cinema with its established traditions of inexpensive quality dramas and solid adaptations of literary classics, were to make Night Watch Russia’s equivalent of an American summer blockbuster. The producers actually went as far as officially calling it “the first Russian blockbuster” long before it had the chance to appear on screen. Even Russia’s own Oscar winner and self-styled national sage director Nikita Mikhalkov, while admitting that the film “wasn’t his thing”, said that it was “cool” and called it Russia’s “answer to Quentin Tarantino”. Serious praise indeed – after all, only a dirty mind would suspect Mikhalkov of still being sore at old Quentin for “stealing” his Palme d’Or in Cannes back in 1994.
Lightsaber, Anyone? Continue reading
A more horrific and gloomy version of The Beauty and the Beast. Julie is a bankrupt merchant`s daughter who as the only one of the three daughters chooses to save her father`s life by going to the Haunted Wood`s Castle where she meets Netvor. He wants to kill her, but her beauty prevents him from that. Although she is forbidden to see him she starts to love him and the love rescues him from his curse… Continue reading
Having been caught stealing money from his employer to pay for a holiday with his girlfriend Juliette, Michel finds himself in a prison cell. He falls into a deep sleep and awakes to find the door of his cell open. Stepping through the doorway, he finds himself in the most beautiful sun-drenched countryside. A peaceful country road leads him to a remote village whose inhabitants have lost their memory. Husbands and wives no longer recognise one another but everyone seems to know Juliette when Michel enquires about her…
The third and definitive film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s fantasy, this musical adventure is a genuine family classic that made Judy Garland a star for her heartfelt performance as Dorothy Gale, an orphaned young girl unhappy with her drab black-and-white existence on her aunt and uncle’s dusty Kansas farm.
Dorothy yearns to travel “over the rainbow” to a different world, and she gets her wish when a tornado whisks her and her little dog, Toto, to the Technicolorful land of Oz. Having offended the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), Dorothy is protected from the old crone’s wrath by the ruby slippers that she wears.
At the suggestion of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke), Dorothy heads down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, where dwells the all-powerful Wizard of Oz, who might be able to help the girl return to Kansas.
En route, she befriends a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a Tin Man (Jack Haley), and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr). The Scarecrow would like to have some brains, the Tin Man craves a heart, and the Lion wants to attain courage; hoping that the Wizard will help them too, they join Dorothy on her odyssey to the Emerald City. Continue reading
“Haunters of the Deep” takes us to Cornwall with a tale of a haunted mine. The American CEO of Aminco Mining Corp. wants to re-open the tin-rich Strangles Head Mine, despite the dire warnings of old local miner Captain Tregellis (Andrew Keir, who himself started his working life in a mine at the age of 14) whose childhood friend had lost his life there many years before. Warnings are ignored (there’s local employment to think of too) and its is up to Josh, whose older brother has taken a job in the mine, and Becky, the CEO’s daughter, to set aside their initial animosity and bring about a rescue when the mine walls begin to let in the sea. With its Cornish coastal setting and elements of the supernatural – Spriggans and Jack o’Lanterns and the ghost of young miner lost decades before – “Haunters of the Deep” makes effective use of its distinct local setting. Continue reading
Veteran French New Wave director Eric Rohmer’s Perceval is a unique film faithfully based on the 12th-century Arthurian poem by Chrétien de Troyes. It combines medieval music, bright colors, mime, stylized acting and theatrical sets that reflect a wonderful feel for the period. This elegant adventure film is shot entirely in the studio. Rohmer highlights Perceval (Fabrice Luchini) as a young innocent who uses this to his advantage to gain the confidence of his enemies. The naïve Perceval’s odyssey is depicted as a moral investigation, but is shot with a deft touch exhibiting great humor, wit and style… It’s more involving than either Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac or Syberberg’s Parifal. Continue reading