Liliana Cavani – La pelle aka The Skin [+Extras] (1981)


Based on the short stories of Curzio Malaparte, The Skin is Liliana Cavani s controversial look at the aftermath of the German occupation of Italy during WWII and the equally difficult results of life during the Allied liberation. Marcello Mastroianni stars as writer Malaparte, who chronicled the desperate measures taken by his countrymen in order to survive. Burt Lancaster co-stars as the liberating American General unable to understand the devastation around him. Continue reading

Nicholas Ray – 55 Days at Peking (1963)


from rottentomatoes:
Samuel Bronston produced this extravagant blockbuster, shot in Super Technirama 70. Nominally directed by Nicholas Ray (who makes a brief appearance as the U.S. ambassador), Ray was taken off the film and replaced by the more pliable directorial touches of Andrew Marton. Charlton Heston stars as Maj. Matt Lewis, the leader of an army of multinational soldiers who head to Peking during the infamous Boxer Rebellion of 1900. As the film unfolds, the foreign embassies in Peking are being held in a grip of terror as the Boxers set about massacring Christians in an anti-Christian nationalistic fever. Inside the besieged compound, the finicky British ambassador (David Niven) gathers the beleaguered ambassadors into a defensive formation. Included in the group of high-level dignitaries is a sultry Russian Baroness (Ava Gardner) who takes a shine to Lewis upon his arrival at the embassy compound with his group of soldiers. As Lewis and the group conserve food and water and try to save some hungry children, they await the arrival of expected reinforcements, but the tricky Chinese Empress Tzu Hsi (Flora Robson) is, in the meantime, plotting with the Boxers to break the siege at the compound with the aid of Chinese recruits. Continue reading

Pierre Granier-Deferre – Le train AKA The Last Train (1973)



May 1940. Germany invades Europe, people panic and try to flee by any means possible. In France, Julien, a radio repairman, boards a train with his wife and child. As the men are placed in cattle cars with only the women and elderly allowed in the passenger cars, events begin their fateful turning as the insignificant repairman encounters an attractive fugitive and love begins – a doomed love. Continue reading

Yuri Ilyenko – Bilyy ptakh z chornoyu vidznakoyu AKA The White Bird Marked with Black (1971)


Colourful ‘optimistic tragedy’ of a poor family in Ukraine, living in the Carpathian mountains near the Romanian border, during the Second World War. Five sons of the family make up the village band, but as the battles between the Nazi-supported Ukranian nationalists and the Soviets go on, their band loses one player after another.

Winner of the Grand prize at the 1971 Moscow Film Festival, White Bird with a Black Mark is set in western Ukraine, in an area that has passed through the control of several nations over the centuries. despairing at the poverty of is family, a boy decides the stork is the cause of all their problems, and sets out to kill it. But soon everyone’s situation will be challenged, as World War II breaks out and the region is carved into warring battle zones, with brother being forced to fight against brother. Yuri Illienko once again brings his dazzling poetic vision to this tale of loyalty to family, to nation, to state—and to oneself. The film is widely considered one of the most important works of the Ukrainian film heritage. Continue reading

John Boorman – Hell in the Pacific (1968)


A shot-down American pilot finds his way to a small, unpopulated island where he hopes to find provisions. He soon discovers that he is not alone; there is a Japanese officer marooned on the island also. Will they continue to fight each other to the death, or will they reach a modus vivendi?

Lone Japanese soldier Toshiro Mifune diligently scans the ocean from his island lookout as he must have thousands of times before, but this time he spies an abandoned life raft resting on a rocky bluff. Within minutes he’s face to face with American sea-wreck survivor Lee Marvin and the two begin an elaborate game of cat and mouse. Director John Boorman presents this two-man war as a deadly game between a pair of overgrown children, who finally tire of it (as kids will) and settle into tolerated co-existence and then even something resembling a friendship. With impressionistic strokes, Boorman paints a lush tropical paradise in colors you can drink from the screen, capturing the texture of their experience as refracted through the cinema: the look of the island as seen through the haze of smoke, the sound of a sudden rainstorm as it hushes the island in a calming roar, the timelessness of life outside of civilization. Continue reading