Jean-Luc Godard – Prières pour Refusniks (2004)

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Summary:
Jean-Luc Godard address two cinematographic letters to young Israeli soldiers who were convicted after refusing to intervene in the occupied territories

Background context:

Quote:
Refusal to serve in the IDF is a social phenomenon in Israel in which citizens refuse to serve in the Israel Defense Forces or disobey orders on the grounds of pacifism, antimilitarism, religious philosophy or political disagreement with Israeli policy such as the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Conscientious objectors in Israel are known as sarvanim which is sometimes translated as “refuseniks”, or mishtamtim (evaders, dodgers) – wikipedia Continue reading

Fernando de Fuentes – Vámonos con Pancho Villa! AKA Let’s Go With Pancho Villa [+extra] (1936)

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Synopsis:
Six hearty fellows in the tiny hamlet of San Pablo decide to join the revolutionary army of Pancho Villa. The Federales have already put a price on the head of young Miguel Ángel del Toro (Ramón Vallarino), and the others rush to join up under the unofficial leadership of Don Tiburcio Maya (Antonio R. Frausto), a farmer who leaves behind a wife and two small children. They boast that they are known as ‘The Lions’ when they meet Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa (Domingo Soler); he makes them lieutenants and encourages them to live up to their claim. The six fight fiercely, lead assaults and pull off major coups like riding right up to an enemy machine gun and dragging it off with a lasso. This crazy do-or-die spirit results in a slow attrition of their numbers. The surviving three are promoted to Major but Don Tiburcio begins to feel that they’ve contributed enough to the slaughter, even if the devil-may-care jokester Melitón Botello (Manuel Tamés) feels compelled to tampt fate through stupid tests of manhood. The Revolution uses up good men, with little reward but empty glory.
— Glenn Erickson. Continue reading

Janus Metz Pedersen – Armadillo (2010)

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Storyline:
In February 2009 a group of Danish soldiers accompanied by documentary filmmaker Janus Metz arrived at Armadillo, an army base in the southern Afghan province of Helmand. Metz and cameraman Lars Skree spent six months following the lives of young soldiers situated less than a kilometer away from Taliban positions. The outcome of their work is a gripping and highly authentic war drama that was justly awarded the Grand Prix de la Semaine de la Critique at this year’s Cannes film festival. But it also provoked furious debate in Denmark concerning the controversial behavior of certain Danish soldiers during a shootout with Taliban fighters. The filmmakers repeatedly risked their lives shooting this tense, brilliantly edited, and visually sophisticated probe into the psychology of young men in the midst of a senseless war whose victims are primarily local villagers. Yet more disturbing than scenes in which Taliban bullets whiz past their cameras is the footage of the young soldiers as each tries, in his own way, to come to terms with putting his life constantly on the line Continue reading

Ján Kadár & Elmar Klos – Obchod na korze AKA The Shop on Main Street (1965)

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Synopsis:
In 1942, in a small town in Czechoslovakia, the poor carpenter Tony Brtko is assigned “Aryanizator” of a small shop on the main street by his fascist brother-in-law Mark Kolkotsky. His greedy wife Evelyn is seduced with the promise of fortune, but Tony finds that the store owned by the deaf and senile seventy year-old widow Rozalie Lautmann is bankrupted and the old lady is financially supported by the Jewish community that promises a salary to him to help her. Tony befriends Ms, Lautmann and helps her in the store and repairs her furniture, and lures his wife with his salary. When the Jews are expelled from the town by the fascist, Tony decides to help the old lady. Continue reading

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

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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)

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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)

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Synopsis:

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