Viktor Kosakovsky – Sreda AKA Wednesday (1997)

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Quote:
Wednesday, July 19, 1961: it’s summertime and the newspapers are full of the usual articles. The world is comfortably embedded in the Cold War. An average day in Leningrad. 51 girls and 50 boys are born in Leningrad on this day.
One of them is Victor Kossakovsky. Why here and not somewhere else? Why then and not another time? These questions are the starting point for his film. Could it be that this child was mistaken for another in hospital? Who are all the people who began their lives on that same day? Do they somehow share the same fate or are they merely contemporaries? Read More »

Chia-Liang Liu – Wu guan aka Martial Club (1981)

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Quote:
Martial Club can be loosely seen as a sequel to Challenge of the Masters as Gordon Liu revives the legendary character Wong Fei Hung. Once again we are given the ‘rival kung fu school’ storyline and the evil school bringing in an outside fighter to aid their treachery. He is also aided by his lady-friend, the consistently excellent, Kara Hui Ying-hung. The film is a blend of the schools feuding and trying to save face with Gordon Liu doing the slapstick routine with playing chum Robert Mak before the final showdown. Read More »

Mario Soldati – Tragica notte aka Tragic night (1942)

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Released from jail, Nanni (Checchi) punches prison guard Stefano (Ninchi) who has
denounced him. In order to take revenge, Stefano suggests the suspicion that, during his
absence, his wife has had business with the Count Paolo (Rimoldi). A few days later, at
night, a deadly ambush will be prepared. Read More »

Alan Zweig – A Hard Name (2009)

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“I had a hard name in that place” says Michael, one of the eight ex-cons in Alan Zweig’s new film. His turn of phrase refers to more than just a bad reputation. He’s talking about a hardness of spirit. It may have served him well as a criminal or a prisoner. In the outside world however, that hardness can get in the way. But slipping off the bonds of that hardness is easier said than done.

In A HARD NAME, we meet eight middle-aged ex-convicts, chosen at random, who are trying to stay out of prison, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Most have spent 30 to 40 years in and out of jail. Prison is what they know; they’ve learned how to survive there. Out here, it’s a different story. As each of the characters in the film tries to adapt to life on the outside, they share their stories, reflect on their past, and explore the path that led them to prison in the first place. Read More »

Fernando Di Leo – Avere Vent’anni aka To Be Twenty (1978)

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Avere vent’anni (To Be Twenty) – (the title refers to the famous phrase at the beginning of Paul Nizan’s book, Aden Arabia: I was twenty years old. I will never allow anyone to say that these are the best years of my life.), was shot by Fernando di Leo in 1978. He also wrote the script which dates back to some years earlier and came from the desire to portray new female characters who had established a revolutionary psychology, and attitudes in society after 1968.

The intermediaries for this story are two young travelers, Tina and Lia – played by Lilli Carati and Gloria Guida, both very popular actresses at that time, who leave the Italian provinces and go to Rome to join a “community” and are under the illusion of being able to live in complete freedom, especially sexual freedom, without restraints or limits.
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Alfred Hitchcock – Young and Innocent [+Extras] (1937)

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Synopsis: As early as 1937’s Young and Innocent, Alfred Hitchcock was beginning to repeat himself, but audiences didn’t mind so long as they were thoroughly entertaining-which they were, without fail. Derrick De Marney finds himself in a 39 Steps situation when he is wrongly accused of murder. While a fugitive from the law, De Marney is helped by heroine Nova Pilbeam, who three years earlier had played the adolescent kidnap victim in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. The obligatory “fish out of water” scene, in which the principals are briefly slowed down by a banal everyday event, occurs during a child’s birthday party. The actual villain, whose identity is never in doubt (Hitchcock made thrillers, not mysteries) is played by George Curzon, who suffers from a twitching eye. Curzon’s revelation during an elaborate nightclub sequence is a Hitchcockian tour de force, the sort of virtuoso sequence taken for granted in these days of flexible cameras and computer enhancement, but which in 1937 took a great deal of time, patience and talent to pull off. — Hal Erickson Read More »

Jacques Becker – Le Trou AKA The Hole (1960)

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Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Le Trou (literally, The Hole) is a harrowing experience in claustrophobia, pressure and hope among inmates in a French prison. The hopes and aspirations of the overcrowded members of one prison cell are put to the test as they commit their trust to luck and each other, to effect a difficult escape. Jacques Becker’s final film is the most realistic prison break movie Savant’s seen – as we all know how these stories usually turn out, the tension and suspense grow, every desperate step of the way.

Synopsis:
The La Santé is overcrowded because of construction, and five men are put into each cell instead of four. But in one cell, the inmates are secretly delighted. Claude Gaspard (Marc Michel), faces a long sentence and therefore can be trusted. He’ll be the extra man needed for a daring, complicated escape the men have planned, that requires nerve, deception, and a lot of digging. The scheme is such a beautifully executed communal effort, that when the first diggers break through to the outside world, they dutifully go back so that their comrades can escape too. Read More »