Otto Preminger – Porgy and Bess (1959)

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A stellar line-up of African-American actors and musical stars helped to bring DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin’s classic operetta to this screen in this lavishly-produced adaptation. Porgy (Sidney Poitier) is a crippled man living in the shantytown of Catfish Row who has fallen in love with Bess (Dorothy Dandridge), a beautiful but troubled woman addicted to drugs. Bess is already being courted by several men, including Crown (Brock Peters), a muscular laborer, and Sportin’ Life (Sammy Davis, Jr.), a sharp-suited hipster who deals narcotics. Crown gets in a fist fight with Robbins (Joel Fluellen) and ends up killing him; Crown goes on the lam, and Bess, needing companionship, takes up with Porgy. However, Crown soon returns, and Porgy kills him in a subsequent altercation, forcing him to hide from the police. Meanwhile, the fickle Bess follows Sportin’ Life in search of the bright lights of New York City. Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll, Ivan Dixon, and Clarence Muse also highlight the cast; Robert McFerrin provided the singing voice of Porgy, and Adele Addison dubbed in Bess’ musical numbers. — Mark Deming Continue reading

Alan Parker – Bugsy Malone (1976)

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At first the notion seems alarming: a gangster movie cast entirely with kids. Especially when we learn that “Bugsy Malone” isn’t intended as a kid’s movie so much as a cheerful comment on the childlike values and behavior in classic Hollywood crime films. What are kids doing in something like this?

But then we see the movie and we relax. “Bugsy Malone” is like nothing else. It’s an original, a charming one, and it has yet another special performance by Jodie Foster, who at thirteen was already getting the roles that grown-up actresses complained weren’t being written for women anymore. She plays a hard-bitten nightclub singer and vamps her way through a torch song by Paul Williams with approximately as much style as Rita Hayworth brought to “Gilda.” She starts on stage, drifts down into the audience, arches her eyebrows at the fat cats (all about junior high school age), and, in general, is astonishingly assured. And her performance seems just right in the film; “Bugsy Malone” depends almost totally on tone, and if you put kids in these situations and directed them just a little wrongly the movie would be offensive. But it’s not, and it’s especially right with Foster. Continue reading

Elisabeta Bostan – Ma-ma AKA Rock’n Roll Wolf (1976)

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IMDB:
An enchanting film combining beautiful costumes, fun music and excellent ballet performance
5 March 2005 | by (natalivogue@yahoo.com) (United Kingdom)

I saw this film as a child in a small town cinema in Soviet Union, was completely mesmerised by it and since then was looking for it everywhere. Finally, we managed to get a video from Romania. I was so happy. It’s an enchanting, original, musical fairy-tale with a bit of rock’n’roll. The costumes and the music are Romanian indeed, but there are also wonderful Russian actors in main roles. I especially love Mihail Boyarski as the bad guy – the Wolf. There’s also a ballet performance from Bolshoi, and beautiful ballet on ice from Moscow. The film just has so much beauty and energy in it. I recommend it to all children and their parents. Unforgettable experience! Continue reading

Herbert Wilcox – Irene (1940)

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Sent by her employers on an errand to the home of the wealthy Mrs. Vincent, Irene O’Dare
meets Don, a friend of Bob, Mrs. Vincent’s son. Attracted to Irene, Don decides to invest
some money in Bob’s latest venture, the “Madame Lucy” dress shop, in order to give Irene a
job there as a model. She is very successful and Bob also becomes attracted to her. Smith,
the manager assigns Irene and other models to display gowns at Mrs. Vincent’s charity ball,
but Irene ruins the gown she was to wear, and appears instead in a quaint blue dress that
had belonged to her mother… and it is a big hit. A guest, Princess Minetti, places her as the
niece of Ireland’s Lady O’Dare, and Irene does not deny the relationship. Smith decides to
set her up in a Park Avenue suite as the niece of Lady O’Dare, so that she can attend
socially important gatherings wearing and displaying… Continue reading

Garin Nugroho – Opera Jawa aka Requiem from Java [+Extras] (2006)

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Quote:

Inspired by ‘The Abduction of Sita’ from the ancient Indian and South East-Asian literary classic The Ramayana, OPERA JAWA is a unique musical tale of love, lust and tragedy. Setio and his wife Siti, own a pottery business in a small village ran by Ludiro, a powerful and ruthless businessman. Ludiro, who is in love with Siti, seizes his chance when the couple’s business collapses. He abducts and tries to seduce Siti. The two men fight and inevitably jealousy spills over into violence and tragedy. Continue reading

Ken Russell – Mahler (1974)

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Director Ken Russell made a number of biographical films of composers’ lives including The Music Lovers, (about Tchaikovsky) and Lisztomania. Russell embellished the other films with certain characteristic flourishes, which include a focus on the composers’ sexual obsessions, poetically telling anachronisms, and scenes which show Richard Wagner in a bad light. The story of Mahler is recounted in a much less complex and flamboyant manner and is a relatively reverent study of the life and work of Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, here played by Robert Powell. The film tackles the touchy dilemma of Mahler’s Jewishness in the anti-Semitic atmosphere of 19th-century Vienna. He converts to Christianity, which has no effect on his brilliant musical output but which eats away at his physical and mental well-being. Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was a conductor and composer of the late Romantic era and specialized in huge symphonic works. Though his works were performed widely during his lifetime, they were less and less-often played until Leonard Bernstein’s active campaign on their behalf brought him renewed recognition as a composer of the first rank, every bit the peer of Brahms or Stravinsky. Continue reading

Júlio Bressane – O Mandarim aka The Mandarin (1995)

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Quote:
The history of Brazilian popular music in the 20th Century, focusing specially on the life and works of intriguing singer Mário Reis, a loner who, with his special way of singing – whispering and softly saying the words – in a time when singers with potent voices ruled, was in a way a forerunner of Bossa Nova style. Continue reading