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Archive for August 31st, 2008

Czech director Jiri Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains (Ostre sledovane vlaky) was the recipient of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1967.  Based on Bohumil Hrabal’s novel of the same name, it tells the end of innocence for a railroad worker who is not very bright and has not much of a career plan either. In the days of Nazi occupation for a Czech of course all such notions are not worth a straw.
Milos, the young apprentice railroader (Vaclav Neckar) comes from a line of failures. His grandfather, a hypnotist, was crushed to death while trying to hypnotize the German army into retreating, and his father retired at the age of 46 and sleeps on the sofa all day. Milos happily takes the trainman’s job, since all he will have to do is stand on the platform and kill time. Just the same he is keenly conscious of his failure in scoring with girls. In such chaotic times of a city under occupation for the young Milos things aren’t as bad as not losing his virginity.
This is a movie about innocence in such dismal times. Young Milos sees various sort of characters as they go about: for example there is a train dispatcher, who delights in rubber stamping his female conquests; and a sweet young conductress (Jitka Bendova) with whom Milos unsuccessfully tries to make out. Fearing he isn’t adequate as a man, he tries to commit suicide. In that department also he turns out to be a failure. Then a friendly doctor (played by Jiri Menzel, the director) suggests that the unhappy youth distract himself while making love (say, think of a soccer game) or find a more experienced woman. When the stationmaster refuses to volunteer his wife, young trainee Milos bravely seeks other candidates and finally succeeds with a resistance fighter named Victoria.
He at last breaks the jinx of failure through love. Relieved and happy to discover that he is indeed a man, the youth sets out to blow up a Nazi ammunition train and
succeeds. In the end he is a hero.
‘Ordered by the Czech Communist government to return his Oscar, Menzel refused, opting instead to make a “repentance” film which sang the praises of collectivism. This second film has long since been forgotten, while Closely Watched Trains remains on record as one of the biggest financial successes of the Eastern European Cinema’. (Quoted from Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide.)
Cast

* Vaclav Neckar – Milos, a railroad worker
* Jitka Bendova – Conductor Masa
* Vladimir Valenta – Station Master Max
* Libuse Havelkova – Max’s wife
* Josef Somr – Hubicka, a dispatcher

Alois Vachek – Novak; Jitka Zelenohorska – Zdenka; Vlastimil Brodský – Counselor Zednicek; Jirí Menzel – Dr. Brabec; Marie Jezkova; Kveta Fialova – Countess; Ferdinand Kruta – Max’s uncle Noneman; Nada Urbankova – Victoria Freie
Credit
Oldrich Bosak – Art Director; Olga Dimitrov – Costume Designer; Jirí Menzel – Director; Jirí Menzel – Screenwriter; Jaromir Sofr – Cinematographer; Jiri Sust – Composer (Music Score); Ruzena Bulickova – Costume Designer; Jiri Cvrcek – Set Designer; M.A. Gebert – Editor; Bohumil Hrabal – Screenwriter; Bohumil Hrabal – Book Author; Jirina Lukesova – Editor; Zdenek Oves – Producer
Similar Movies
Europa, Europa; A Generation; Skrivánci na niti; Ivanovo Detstvo; Eroica; Black Peter; Tak Nachinalas Legenda; Dark Blue World; Do You Remember Dolly Bell?; Mon Oncle Antoine
* Run Time: 89 minutes

The film won several international awards:

* The 1967 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
* The 1969 BAFTA Awards for Best Film and Best Soundtrack
* The Grand Prize at the 1966 Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival
* A nomination for the 1969 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
* A nomination for the 1968 Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Foreign Film
( ack:wikipedia,answers.com,Allmovie Guide)
benny

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Jeux interdits in French is a film by René Clément and based on François Boyer’s novel of the same name.
Let me sketch out the opening scene:

During the Nazi invasion of France in 1940 the road out of Paris is clogged with those escaping the city. They are strafed by Nazi fighter planes. Among the panic stricken crowds we meet a 5-year-old girl named Paulette, with her parents. Paulette’s little dog runs onto a bridge. She chases it, and her parents desperately run after her. Bullets kill both parents and fatally wound the dog. Paulette, lying on the ground next to her mother, reaches out a hand to touch the dead cheek, and then touches her own cheek.
Is this a simple war movie? Of course not. In that very unconscious act of a child we note the slow contagion of man’s violence has visited on her, and she speaks for all who have been thus tainted; surely as night follows day every act, good or bad is carried on by our next generation. She may not rationalize death of her mother but connect that mother’s cold cheek to her own to give it a place as it were. This is a powerful movie and it is also  an indictment of the world of elders who lay down the rules and add their litte riders to justify their breaking them. They shall speak of ‘Peace with honour or peace that passeth all understanding’ and at the same time wage war to bring their own brand of democracy to some country that holds no borders with them or has nothing by way of culture or religion in common.
A child cannot reason so must invent other means to cope as a hungry child will bawl till it is fed. Forbidden Games is that twilight zone, a  territory the child must create for the sins of its parents whose ways are far beyond its ken. A child who takes his father’s pistol from home to school plays a game and it is a forbidden game. Is it forbidden? No, not if we look at the way NRA defends the right to bear arms. Coming back to the film, the traumatized orphan child is taken in by a peasant family and thus Paulette meets ten-year-old Michel Dollé (Georges Poujouly) She quickly becomes attached to Michel as her big brother and the two attempt to cope with the death and destruction that surrounds them by secretly building a small cemetery where they bury her dog and then start to bury other animals, stealing crosses from the local graveyard. “Paulette has never really dealt with the deaths of her parents. She acknowledges that they are gone, but they are gone in theory, not practice; that they are truly dead forever seems to elude her. Yet she becomes fascinated with death, and Michel joins her in burying a mole that was captured by an owl. Soon they are burying every dead thing they can find, even worms, even broken plates. At one point, while they are lying side by side on the floor doing his homework, he stabs a cockroach with his pen. “Don’t kill him! Don’t kill him!” she cries, and he says, “I didn’t. It was a bomb that killed him.”(quoted from Roger Ebert,- Dec18,2005)
Film critic Leonard Maltin has said: “Jeux interdits is almost unquestionably the most compelling and intensely poignant drama featuring young children ever filmed.”
‘Catch them young’ so says the old saw. Naturally the cemetery of Paulette and Michel grows larger as we in adult world enlarge the extent of war memorials all across the globe. Didn’t we learn that from the shadow of two world wars? The two also learn the importance of symbols in a curious way. A grave is no good  without a cross they know from their very limited experience. So they begin to steal crucifixes to put above the graves. This entails a subplot involving a feud between the Dolles and their neighbors, the Gouards, who accuse each other of stealing crucifixes. There is also a scuffle between two in the cemetery and falling into a grave. All the while the secret cemetery in the old mill grows more elaborate.
The film was initially turned down by Cannes, then accepted after a scandal. It was turned down by Venice because it had played at Cannes, but accepted after another uproar, and won the Golden Lion as best film, with a best actress award for Fossey.
The film has a scintillating musical score, composed and performed by legendary Spanish classical guitarist Narciso Yepes.
“Forbidden Games” was attacked and praised by adults showing  children inventing happiness where none should exist. Film critic Roger Ebert cites the Japanese animated film “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988) as another rare film that dared to tackle this theme.
Cast

* Georges Poujouly – Michel Dollé
* Brigitte Fossey – Paulette
* Amédée – Francis Gouard
* Laurence Badie – Berthe Dollé
* Suzanne Courtal – Madame Dollé
* Lucien Hubert – Dollé
* Jacques Marin – Georges Dollé
* Pierre Merovée – Raymond Dollé
* Louis Saintève – Le prêtre

Awards

* Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 1952
* Venice Film Festival Golden Lion award for best picture, 1952
* New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Foregin Language Film, 1952
* BAFTA Award for Best Film, 1953
Directed by     René Clément
Produced by     Robert Dorfmann
Written by     Jean Aurenche
Pierre Bost
François Boyer
Music by     Narciso Yepes
Cinematography     Robert Juillard
Running time     102 min.
Language     French
(ack: Wikipedia)
Similar Movies
The Spirit of the Beehive  (1973, Victor Erice)
Au Revoir Les Enfants  (1987, Louis Malle)
La Fracture du Myocarde  (1990, Jacques Fansten)
Europa, Europa  (1991, Agnieszka Holland)
Hope and Glory  (1987, John Boorman)
Strayed  (2003, André Téchiné)
Father of a Soldier  (1965, Revaz Chkheidze)
Ezra  (2007, Newton I. Aduaka)
Cria Cuervos  (1975, Carlos Saura)
Empire of the Sun  (1987, Steven Spielberg)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Is Paris Burning?  (1966, René Clément)
Les Maudits  (1947, René Clément)
Gervaise  (1956, René Clément)
The Day and the Hour  (1963, René Clément)
La Bataille Du Rail  (1945, René Clément)
Monsieur Ripois  (1954, René Clément)
Barrage Contre le Pacifique  (1957, René Clément)
Au-Dela Des Grilles  (1948, René Clément)
Other Related Movies
is related to:      Fanny & Alexander  (1982, Ingmar Bergman)
(allmovie)
Trivia:
#  In a television interview (“Vivement Dimanche Prochain”, France 2, 17 April 2005) Brigitte Fossey, who played the little Paulette, revealed that the film had originally been shot as a short, and then it was later decided to extend it into a feature film. Unfortunately she had lost her milk teeth and Georges Poujouly (who plays the boy Michel) had had his hair cut to play in Nous sommes tous des assassins (1952). So, in many scenes of the movie Paulette has false teeth and Michel is wearing a wig.

# Brigitte Fossey’s first film.
(ack:allmovie,wikipedia,imdb)

for films check out the author at cinebuff.wordpress.com
compiler:benny

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1.
Once at the Algonquin round table, Dorothy Parker reported sadly,”My old cat, that I’ve loved so dearly has grown so feeble and helpless that I’m going to have him put away.”She added she was wondering the most humane way to do it. It elicited  this comment from Playwright George S. Kaufman: “Have you thought of curiosity?”
2.
“I understand your grandfather was a Negro, monsieur” a nobleman once asked Alexandre Dumas,”May I enquire what your great grandfather was?”
“An ape, sir,”replied Dumas,”My pedigree commences where your terminates.”
3.
WH Russel of the Times once approached Bismarck and reminded him,”Your Excellency, you’ll have to admit that I am one newspaperman who has respected yor confidence. You have conversed with me on all sorts of subjects and never once I repeated a word you said.”
Bismarck cried angrily: “The more fool you are! Do you suppose I’d ever say a word to a man in your profession that I didn’t want to see in print?”

4.
Noel Coward was once approached by a reporter for the London Star, who asked,” Mr. Coward, would you like to say something to the Star?”
“Certainly,”replied the playwright,”Twinkle.”

5.
The first US Presidential Press Conference was granted by John Quincy Adams, but unwillingly. The President was swimming in the Potomac river when a newspaper woman Anne Royall surprised him. She sat on his clothes and vowed that she wouldn’t budge until he gave her an interview.
The Potomac was chilly and Adams finally granted her request.

6.
As a rookie reporter for the New York World, young Heywood Brown was told to interview Utah senator Reed Smart.
“I have nothing to say,”Smart told him.
“I know,”replied Brown,”Now let’s get down to the interview.”

•    Heywood Brown, one of the kindliest newspaperman ever, wasn’t much of an executive. While running a publication called The Connecticut Nutmeg, its managing board gave him discretionary powers to hire hands at $35 a week. He could go up to $50 maximum.
On the appointed day the job- seekers were called in and Brown queried,”Which would you prefer- $35 a week or $50?”
compiler:benny

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