Sergei M. Eisenstein – Aleksandr Nevskiy [+Extras] (1938)

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From Criterion Collection:

Eisenstein drew on history, Russian folk narratives, and the techniques of Walt Disney to create this broadly painted epic of Russian resilience. This story of Teutonic knights vanquished by Prince Alexander Nevsky’s tactical brilliance resonated deeply with a Soviet Union concerned with the rise of Nazi Germany. Widely imitated—most notably by Laurence Olivier’s Battle of Agincourt re-creation for Henry V —the Battle on the Ice scene remains one of the most famous audio-visual experiments in film history, perfectly blending action with the rousing score of Sergei Prokofiev. Continue reading

Ermanno Olmi – Torneranno i prati AKA Greenery Will Bloom Again (2014)

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The winter of 1917, the North-East front, the final clashes of the Great War. An Italian stronghold situated at 1800 metres above sea level, on the Asiago plateau, described in the novels of Mario Rigoni Stern. It’s snowing everywhere; the Austrian trenches are so close that you can hear the enemy soldiers breathing.

A hundred years since the outbreak of World War I, maestro Ermanno Olmi describes with Torneranno i prati his vision of a conflict that cost the lives of 16 million human beings, just as it was brought back to him by the memory of his father, called to arms at 19 years of age, to find himself within the bloodbath of Carso and Piave. A drama that scarred his youth and the rest of his life, just like millions of others. Continue reading

Liliana Cavani – Interno Berlinese AKA The Berlin Affair (1985)

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Review I

In 1938 Berlin, Gudrun Landgrebe, wife of Nazi functionary Kevin McNally, begins taking art lessons. She makes the acquaintance of another student, Japanese ambassador’s daughter Mio Takaki. Soon afterwards, the two women begin a passionate lesbian affair. This leads to a chain reaction of disaster and tragedy, culminating with the inevitable intervention of the Gestapo. Despite the film’s galloping sexual passions, The Berlin Affair is an exercise in aloofness, keeping the characters at arm’s length-surprising, considering that the director was Liliana Cavani, auteur of the erotic classic The Night Porter (1974). The film was based on The Buddhist Cross, a novel by Junichiro Tanizaki. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide Continue reading

France Stiglic – Volca nok aka Night of the Wolves (1955)

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This is Macedonia’s contribution to what was once the cottage industry of ex-Yugoslav Partisan war movies.

I will simplify this one for the outsider that is not well verse in Macedonian history, particularly WWII – Macedonian partisans take up the struggle against Bulgarian fascists that occupy Macedonia. This was not by any means an easy battle since Bulgaria was the only German ally that did not send troops to the Russian front. Thus, the entire Bulgarian military machine could, without distraction, dedicate its efforts to crushing the Macedonian resistance. Continue reading

Richard Attenborough – Oh! What a Lovely War [+Extras] (1969)

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The film, a thoroughly enjoyable ‘odd duck’, with a typical quasi-political artistic stance on the follies of war. Highly entertaining and, at times, touching.

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WHEN Joan Littlewood’s London improvisation, “Oh! What a Lovely War,” opened on Broadway five years ago, it had a cast of 18 men and women dressed as Pierrots and Columbines. In the pit was an orchestra that managed to recreate the nostalgic musical sounds of World War I and to comment on them—sometimes simultaneously.

The show itself, described as “a musical entertainment,” was a jolly satire on the madness of the First World War, done mostly in period songs and sketches in which the Pierrots and Columbines slipped in and out of almost invisible disguises as emperors, generals, nurses, music hall stars, Tommies, wives, nurses and spectators, some appalled, some bored. Continue reading

Wolfgang Petersen – Das Boot [The Director’s Cut] (1981)

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Plot synopsis by Don Kaye from allmovieguide:

Das Boot is one of the most gripping and authentic war movies ever made. Based on an autobiographical novel by German World War II photographer Lothar-Guenther Buchheim, the film follows the lives of a fearless U-Boat captain (Jurgen Prochnow) and his inexperienced crew as they patrol the Atlantic and Mediterranean in search of Allied vessels, taking turns as hunter and prey. There’s very little plot, so the movie’s power comes from both its riveting, epic battle scenes and its details of the boring hours spent waiting for orders or signs of the enemy. With the exception of one staunch Hitler Youth lieutenant, none of the crew is particularly loyal to the Nazis, and some are openly hostile toward their Fuhrer; this allows viewer sympathy with the men as they perform their laborious, monotonous duties in cramped, filthy quarters, or await death as depth charges explode all around the sub. Prochnow is excellent as the nerves-of-steel commander, and many of the supporting actors — all German — are solid as well, although the characterizations border on war movie clichés (the young crewman who has left behind his pregnant girlfriend, the Chief Engineer whose wife is seriously ill). Continue reading

Danis Tanovic – No Man’s Land (2001)

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Three soldiers one Serb and two Bosnians are caught up in a countryside trench in no man’s land between Serbian and Croatian lines, while the UN unwillingly gets involved in the situation because of media pressure.

This film is a critical satire of the meaningless of war and on how no one wants to get involved- but actually sit back (the UN) and watch or actually film the carnage (the media). It depicts the bleakness of the war, the UN’s involvement and the intruding media presentation of it in black humour and sharp sarcasm, while still the suspense and the humanity of the situation doesn’t get discarded- but makes it more fascinating and quite constructive. Continue reading