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Thread: Oscar's Cinema Journal 2005

  1. #421
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    Cool. I enjoy good stuff like the BBC series Around the World with Orson Welles but Filming "Othello" (made in Germany in '78) is reportedly brilliant but yet unseen by me.

    Originally posted by JustaFied
    I've really enjoyed reading your comments on Welles, Oscar. I've watched a couple of his films recently, and I'm struck at how ahead of his time he was. I also appreciate your comments on Othello in another thread. I've got the DVD now, but I want to read the play first. I'll post my thoughts (surely to be positive) after viewing the film.

    Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed them. I also posted regarding Welles on the "Last Film" thread. I plan to watch other Welles films again this year and post here. I am very much looking forward to your comments regarding Othello. I plan to buy it on dvd from Korea because it includes English subs along with the same extras as the Region 1 disc. Given the abridgment, one wouldn't want to miss a single word.

    Friday June 10th

    The Lost Patrol (USA, 1934) on PAL dvd (France)
    John Ford's tale of a British patrol lost in a Mesopotamian desert in 1917 that comes under attack by an unseen enemy. Well-written dialogue throughout. Anti-Arab sentiments respectably subdued. Ford regular Victor McLaglen wonderful, as usual, as the Sergeant. Boris Karloff should have been embarrased by his over-the-top, hysterical perf as the "born-again" Sanders. This one told me all I need to know about Karloff's acting range.

  2. #422
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    Originally posted by oscar jubis
    Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed them. I also posted regarding Welles on the "Last Film" thread. I plan to watch other Welles films again this year and post here. I am very much looking forward to your comments regarding Othello. I plan to buy it on dvd from Korea because it includes English subs along with the same extras as the Region 1 disc. Given the abridgment, one wouldn't want to miss a single word.
    Yeah, I started watching Othello before reading the play and then realized the Welles' version doesn't have the subtitle option on DVD. I want to be more familiar with the text and subject matter before watching it in that format to be sure not to miss anything. Good idea to buy the DVD from Korea...I will get around to watching the film and reading the play before long, and I'll post my thoughts.

  3. #423
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    Can you remind me what the subtitle situation is with Welles' Othello? I remember seeing it in a theater but I can't remember what language it was in or what this is about.

  4. #424
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    The situation is that on the DVD version available here in the States, there is no subtitle option. Yes, the film is in English (Shakespeare era, of course), but, as in all Shakespeare, the dialogue comes fast and furious, and I'd like a little help. After all, with Shakespeare, it's not just the story itself, but also the poetry of the language which makes it so brilliant.

    Oscar said he found a DVD version from Korea that I'm assuming has English subtitles.

  5. #425
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    I think even English language films like Othello should have Eng. subs as an option on dvd. I particularly appreciate them on Shakespeare and Scottish films, and movies with loud soundtracks (Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan for instance). They are also useful when there are noisy people in the room doing something other than watching the movie.
    I think this is an appropriate time to give a big thumbs-up to Gary Tooze and associates and provide a link to that wonderful resource: dvdbeaver
    www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReview2/othello.htm

    Saturday June 11

    Inch'Allah Dimanche aka Sunday,God Willing (France/Algeria, 2002) at Cosford Cinema
    Yamina Benguigui's film was screened at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in 2002 and subsequently released by the FilmMovement organization. It's the story of Zouina, a woman who emigrates with her kids and "monster-in-law" from Algeria to France, where her husband has been working for many years. It's set in 1974, after the French government's policy of family reunification was enacted. Dimanche excells at depicting the difficult acculturation and the repression experienced by Zouina at the hands of her abusive, tradition-bound husband. Scenes that center on domestic detail and Zouina's ambivalence are well-observed and engaging. Benguigui's film is less successful bestowing the other characters with dimensionality, particularly Zouina's husband and his mother, and developing a narrative arc. The final scene, for instance, is unconvincing. It forces Zouina to experience highly contrasting emotional states within the duration of a bus ride. She miraculously goes from hysterical despair to coquettish flirtation to joyful acquiescence in 2 minutes time. It's only fair to mention that Inch'Allah Dimanche won a FIPRESCI award at Toronto and an audience award at a lesser festival.

    Schwarzfahrer aka Black Rider (Germany, 1993) at Cosford Cinema
    This short directed by Pepe Danquart won the Oscar for Best Short in 1994. An African emigrant sits next to an old woman on a streetcar and is subjected to relentless verbal abuse of a racial nature. The manner in which she gets her comeuppance is inventive, fitting and extremely funny.

  6. #426
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    Subtitles for the hearing impaired are a desirable option on DVDs, always bearing in mind that they are not word by word exact repetitions of the spoken dialogue. As I"ve mentioned I've found those on Italian DVDs without English subs, in Italian for the "non udenti," the hearing impaired. Those are great for me to learn the language, and for sure sometimes I can't understand English dialogue say in Scottish films, though if I'm in a theater and I can't understand dialogue in standard English I consider that a real failing of the filmmakers, in some cases; of course it can be a bad sound system too. Isn't it true that in completing Welles's Othello there was a lot of trouble with the sound? I seem to recall that.

    Inch'Allah Dimanche

    Sounds worth watching. I guess you're saying all the changes of expression on the bus are ridiculous? But that could be cool, and is a traditional device. The German short sounds good too, if a bit obvious.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-13-2005 at 01:19 AM.

  7. #427
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    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    Isn't it true that in completing Welles's Othello there was a lot of trouble with the sound?

    The restored Othello looks great and the voices are clear too. Where the restoration failed is in terms of its fidelity to Welles' overall sound conception. I quote from Rosenbaum's essay "Othello Goes Hollywood":
    "The underlying assumption appears to be that contemporary sound technology can only improve Welles's original work because he had inferior equipment. Welles's aesthetic decisions are impossible to isolate from what he had to work with_and that includes a single microphone when the score was first recorded. Certainly the dynamic relationship between dialogue, music and sound effects is profoundly altered; the percussive assault of the music in the opening sequence, for instance, is substantially reduced by virtue of being spread out like butter rather than brought to a sharp monoaural point that pierces one's consciousness. The film is no longer as spooky and creepy as it was."
    Rosenbaum goes on to discuss how conductor Michael Pendowski's score on the restoration is a crude approximation of the highly lauded score by the late Francesco Lavignino. No effort was made to obtain the manuscript of the original score, preserved by Lavignino's family in Italy.

    Inch'Allah Dimanche
    Sounds worth watching. I guess you're saying all the changes of expression on the bus are ridiculous? But that could be cool, and is a traditional device.


    Not cool, overwrought I'd say. This is Ms. Benguigui's first fictional feature. Either her interest rests solely on the protagonist (the only fully realized character) or her dramaturgy skills are not "there" yet. Worth watching film that could have been better if made by a more experienced writer/director.

    Sunday June 12th

    The Emigrant (Egypt/France, 1994) on dvd.
    Youssef Chahine, winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 50th Cannes, directed this historical epic based on the Old Testament story of Joseph, son of Jacob. The Emigrant is set during the age of the Pharaohs, when Egypt was the center of civilization. Ram, the Joseph character, is the youngest son from a poor family living in arid lands. He is a dreamer with a thirst for knowledge who is routinely bullied by his brothers. On the verge of leaving his family's nomadic existence, he is beaten and sold into slavery by his brothers. He ends up in Alexandria, where the virtuous lad overcomes tough odds and realizes his dreams. Chahine's film transports the viewer to the natural sets provided by Egyptian ruins and reenacts the past with great care and attention to detail, made possible in large part by French financing. Michel Piccoli is featured in the small role of Ram's father.

    Cinema Verite: Defining the Moment (Canada, 2000) on Sundance Channel
    Feature doc directed by Peter Witonick traces the history of the documentary form beginning with Flaherty's Nanook of the North and Man With a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov, who coined the term "Kino-Pravda", later translated by Jean Rouch into "cinema verite". The film ties changes in the documentary to technological advances that made it possible for the filmmaker to be as unobtrusive as possible and to become more mobile. Cinema Verite combines interviews with the genre's most important practitioners from the US, Canada, England and France with well-chosen scenes from key works. I personally wished Witonick had included Welles's groundbreaking insertion of documentary sequences in his fiction features, Jean Rouch's experiments in ethnographic filmmaking in Africa, and at least a sample of Frederick Wiseman's ouvre, rather than the emphasis on news docs and the "Blair Witch" phenomenon. Overall though, a must for fans of documentary films.

  8. #428
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    Chahine is the most famous Egyptian director, a central figure in modern Egyptian culture who has made many fascinating and excellent films. His career spans over a half century and many genres and styles. Bab al Hadid (Cairo Station, 1958) adopts a neorealist style for a du Maupassant-like series of vignettes and stars Chahine himself. It was considered revolutionary at the time and not well received by the Egyptian public, more familiar with the adept comedies and musicals made in Egypt in preceding decades. Made in the Sixties, Fagr yom gedid (The Dawn of a New Day, 1964) finds Chahine in mid-career evoking the longeurs of Antonioni to suggest the disenchantment of the wealthy middle class of the time. Like other Egyptian directors, Chahine made historical pictures to evoke Egypt's ancient cultural identity. Also notable is Saladin (1963), written by future Nobel winner Naguib Mahfouz, which relates to the same material as Kingdom of Heaven, again displaying Saladin's willingness to maintain peaceful relations with Christians. Other notable Chahine films: The Earth (al-ard, 1969 ), The Choice (al-Ikhtiyar, 1970) and The Sparrow (al-'asfour, 1972). More of these films undoubtedly need to be made available to the English-speaking audience besides his "Alexandria Triology," which is available.

    See Arab Cinema: Youssef Chahine http://www.al-bab.com/media/cinema/film2.htm or IMDb's Chahine site for more details.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-13-2005 at 11:31 AM.

  9. #429
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    Thanks for your comments and link. My experience with Youssef Chahine is limited to The Emigrant and Egypt, his entry into the omnibus film about the Sep. 11th WTC attacks. Chahine obviously deserves better so I've recently purchased the dvds of his Alexandria trilogy.

    Monday June 13th

    The Man of the Year (Brazil, 2003) on dvd
    Of course, those involved with the release of this film want you to associate it with Ciudade de Deus but all they have in common is the genre and country of origin. The Man of the Year is a run-of-the-mill crime movie with good production values. We are supposed to identify/sympathize with Maiquel, but the film opens with his shooting a guy he doesn't know for making fun of his artificially blond hair. Turns out the victim was a community pariah and Maiquel is treated as a hero and turned into a killer-for-hire by a group of burgeoise vigilantes. All the social expose and character development the film has to offer is exhausted by halftime. The Man of the Year becomes one of those violent movies in which you stop caring who gets offed and why. It's one predictable descent into hell. I found echoes of my reaction on several reviews but the film has its defenders. Most notably, the jury from Miami's Brazilian Film Festival, who named it Best Film in 2003. Man of the Year was released by FilmMovement in theatres and dvd in June of 2004.

    Confection (USA, 2003)
    Short written and directed by Eva Saks about a rich girl who receives a lesson in generosity from a homeless man. Shot in the vicinity of Central Park NYC, Confection includes a gorgeous, color-coordinated daydream sequence with a classical music score.

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    Tuesday June 14th

    The Killers (USA, 1946) on dvd
    Terrific film-noir based on Ernest Hemingway's novel, directed by Robert Siodmark (Criss Cross)), one of many German directors who made a splash in Hollywood. This 60 year-old picture hasn't dated one bit.

    Pieces of April (USA, 2003)
    A Jubis family favorite. Thought I had watched it enough times but Chelsea wanted her bfriend Joe to see it and I couldn't resist. Michael Hedges wrote and directed this very funny family-reconciliation-on-Thanksgiving tale. Patricia Clarkson's multi-awarded performance is legendary, but Clarkson lost the Oscar to Zellweger in Cold Mountain.

  11. #431
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    Re: The Man of the Year

    This brought back some memories, can't remember if I saw it in 2003 or early 04 but it's the film that turned my eldest son vegetarian.

    Why? because the only character you could sympathise with ended up on a platter with an apple in his mouth, yes poor old Bill the pig, named after Bill Clinton and the only performance worth noting in an otherwise dull film.

    Cheers Trev.
    The more I learn the less I know.

  12. #432
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    Yes, Bill the piglet is certainly endearing. For the film to work we'd also have to sympathize, at least initially, with Maiquel. He's supposed to be a good guy who gets corrupted by the pervasively violent environment. Then, five minutes into the film, he runs into the guy who made fun of his bleached hair, pulls out a big gun and puts a hole in his chest. The first of an interminable number of murders. What surprises me is how much people seem to like this film, which doesn't even have the stylistic flourishes of crowd-fave City of God. 78% of IMdb voters rate The Man of the Year a "7" or higher.

    I'm glad to report that both films I watched at the 9th Brazilian Film Festival were better than The Man. The festival is for the third year traveling to Tribeca Cinemas so New Yorkers can check out the new crop of movies from Brazil. The Jackie Gleason Theatre seemed more like a Samba Club tonight. Loud music, beautiful people speaking Portuguese, Brahma beer and capirihnas everywhere. The feature didn't start until well after 11 p.m.

    Wednesday June 15th

    Asfixia (Brazil, 2005)
    This short directed by Roberval Duarte is a chiller about a couple experiencing a late-night break-in. The noir cinematography and expressive sound effects are expertly deployed to create suspense and sustained apprehension.

    Almost Brothers (Brazil, 2004)
    1970. The Big Island prison near Rio houses both criminals and activists imprisoned by the Military dictatorship due to their politics. Miguel is an idealistic young leftist who manages to organize the prisoners and persuade them to adhere to a code of conduct. As a child, he befriended Jorge, when their musician fathers were friends. Jorge, a black, slum-dweller, is imprisoned for criminal charges. They renew their friendship, but their different backgrounds and beliefs are obvious strains on their relationship.
    Director and co-writer Lucia Murat is no stranger to the film's milieu. She and her husband were arrested and tortured for their political activity during the 70s. Almost Brothers flashes back and forth between 1957, 1970 and the present, when Maiquel is a socialist congressman and Jorge runs a lucrative criminal enterprise from prison. The cinematography and art direction very skillfully separate these temporal shifts so that the viewer is never disoriented. The changes in the bond between Miguel and Jorge are quite interesting to contemplate. The characters, who are representative of different but inter-dependent social classes, are well realized by the script written by Murat and Paulo Lins (City of God). Both central characters are provided with enough nuance to stand as individuals, not simply class reps. The major drawback is the inclusion of a subplot involving Miguel's teenage daughter and the leader of a favela gang. A lot of time is wasted in this predictable, recycled tale that dilutes the film's impact. We never get any sense as to how these two really feel about each other, and it provides no useful counterpoint to the main narrative thread. The score is by Nana Vasconcelos so you know it's special.

  13. #433
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    Thursday June 16th

    Brothers (Denmark, 2004) at SoBe Regal
    http://www.filmwurld.com/forums/show...1313#post11313

    The May Lady (Iran, 1998) on dvd
    Writer/director Rakhshan Bani-Etemat is the most prominent Middle-Eastern female director. She worked as a TV documentarian for a decade prior to turning to fiction, under her philosophy of "cinema as social commitment". The May Lady is clearly her most personal work, practically a character study of a TV documentarian who is Bani-Etemad's contemporary. I suspect that there are other parallels between director and character, named Forough in an homage to the great Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad. Forough, the character, is a 41 year-old living with a 19 y.o. son whose father abandoned them at the start of the Islamic revolution in Iran. Forough is seen shooting and editing a documentary on exemplary mothers while attempting to sustain a romantic relationship with a doctor via post and phone. She knows her son would sever ties if she was to remarry. Farough is aware that having to sacrifice her affective needs because of societal repression and her son's whims is unfair but seems unwilling to bear the pain of separating from her son.
    Bani-Etemad is a skillful director and The May Lady satisfies as both social expose and character study. But here we have a topic hampered by Iran's strict censorship of the arts, which bans romantic scenes betweens unmarrieds . Although his voice is heard as Forough reads his heart-felt letters and poems, the doctor is never seen. His absence is the major cause The May Lady is tepid and underdeveloped as drama.

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    Friday June 17th

    Clean (France/Canada/UK, 2004) on import dvd
    The third new film I watch so far this year in which the main character quits using heroin. Olivier Assayas's return-to-form (after the arid, affectless, though not without merit demonlover) will open in the US in September. Interviews given by his "ex" Maggie Cheung and Nick Nolte confirm what's been discussed by actors from previous films: Assayas trusts the actors to know what to do; it can be said he doesn't provide any direction to them. Some performers find this frustrating (at least two actresses from demonlover) while others find it liberating_Nolte and Cheung's experience and the latter's familiarity with Assayas's aims and methods are cited by Cheung as factors contributing to the high quality of the performances here. I wasn't able to access Chris Knipp's review of Clean through a link to his website he provided on a previous post, but I like arsaib4's review on the "Rendez-Vous with French Cinema" thread: http://www.filmwurld.com/forums/show...0234#post10234
    Just ignore the silly reference to Sansho the Bailiff attributed to the normally level-headed Kent Jones.

    The Chess of Colors (Brazil, 2005) at Jackie Gleason Theatre
    Short written and directed by Marco Schiavon about an old racist widow whose nephew hires a black maid to take care of her. The maid decides to put up with the abuse and attempt to change the old lady's outlook with the aid of a chess set. Uneven and trite but also funny and sincere.

    A Dona da Historia aka The Owner of the Story (Brazil, 2005) at Jackie Gleason
    The screening was preceded by a ceremony in honor of the 53 year career of actor/writer/producer/director Daniel Filho, which included clips of his performances and the presentation of a Life Achievement award by Filho's second ex-wife, the actress Betty Faria (The Story of Fausta, Bye Bye Brazil). A very festive atmosphere at this Brazilian Film Festival event in front of a sellout crowd of ardent admirers of Filho and Faria. There were a lot of Brazilian celebs in attendance and a lot of press. I sat up front, next to two gorgeous, sweet-smelling belazas; I later found out they act in telenovelas. Maybe I should start checking them out :))

    Daniel Filho produced, directed and co-wrote the film adaptation of A Dona da Historia, based on a hit play by Joao Falcao. Carolina has been married for 30 years to her first love Luis Claudio, their four kids have moved out and they have put up their spacious apartment for sale. At 50, she is questioning the choice she made as a young woman to marry the leftist architecture student and close the door on other paths. She even entertains the possibility of divorcing the affable and still loving Luis Claudio. Then, through the magic of cinema, Carolina comes face-to-face with her 18 year old self, at the stage when she meets and falls in love with Luis Claudio. In turn, the young Carolina encounters three would-be older Carolinas in succession, each representing entirely different life choices.

    To a large extent, Filho's metaphysical romantic-comedy works so well because of the delicious chemistry between Rodrigo Santoro and Deborah Falabella as the youn'uns and Marieta Severo and Antonio Fagundes as the middle-aged marrieds. Severo is excellent in a role she played on stage for two consecutive years. Another major aspect to hail is the cinematography by Jose Roberto Eliezer, most specifically the graceful, artful transitions between scenes involving Carolina at two temporal states and four existential modes. There's an element of predictability to A Dona da Historia, as you would expect, and the film fails to be consistently insightful, but the film is always engaging and entertaining. A few scenes are actually breathtaking: one is set during a student protest in '68, when the chaos surrounding Carolina and Luis suddenly slows down and hushes up to privilege the romantic moment. In another, Carolina attends an experimental theatre performance in which actors sit in the audience unbeknown to the spectators until their time to speak. In a self-reflexive fashion, an inspired young Carol stands up and loudly proclaims:"I'm gonna change my character!". Nice movie although, unlike the New Times critic, I'm not ready to call it "a masterpiece" that "belongs with the best of Jacques Demy".
    I don't think A Dona da Historia has a US distribution deal, but the film will play for free at SummerStage in NYC's Central Park next month. I hope a major distributor picks it up.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 06-18-2005 at 12:03 PM.

  15. #435
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    My site's forums are down right now. I'm trying to get help in restoring them. I thought my review of Clean was here too, but I can't find it.

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