Films Worth Viewing Year 2

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"Tabu"-F.W. Murnau-1931

This is one of the last important silent films. Murnau is considered one of the greatest directors. His reputation was made in post World War I Germany. He came to the US to work at Fox. He lost his freedom as a result of a studio re-shuffle. He formed a company with Robert Flaherty the famous documentary filmmaker (Nanook of the North) to make films in remote areas away from the control of studios. The partnership didn't work out. They were supposed to co-direct. Flaherty's method was to shoot tens of thousands of film often of the most common activities. He was a observer with a camera; Murnau was a director of the auteur school before there was a school. They wrote a script together, but Flaherty couldn't film as Murnau wanted. His role quickly became the developer of the film. Floyd Crosby became the cinematographer/cameraman. He brought his own camera which was hand held and electric powered. He didn't have to hand crank the camera. He won the Oscar.

None of the actors were professionals. Mutahi a native of Bora Bora was the male lead. The film opens with him spear fishing. He catches a fish. He and his mates frolic in a waterfall. They become involved with a group of girls/ It is here we meet the female lead, Ruri (Anne Chevalier). She was the daughter of a Franch Doctor and a native woman. She was 16 when filming began. Her film presence created a sensation. She performed all over Europe as a singer/dancer.

The plot has Ruri declared the chosen one;she was to be a living symbol of her people. Men could not look at her, much less touch her. Matahi and Ruri run away to an island awash with Western culture and a monetary economy. Matahi becomes a successful pearl diver, but he gets in debt because he doesn't understand that food and drink for his friends must be paid for. A second problem comes up; the tribal leader who proclaimed Ruri the chosen one has found them. Ruri writes him a letter which closes with: "I will come to you in your dreams when the moon spreads its path on the sea. Farewell."

It more than strains credulity that they would be able to read and write. Mutahi ignores the warning no to follow her, and he dies a sea. The first part of the film is titled Paradise; the second part is Paradise Lost. Murnau raised money from Paramount to finish editing and to distribute the film. Murnau died in a car crash just before the film opened in New York. This is beautifully filmed, but the story lags. Still well worth viewing, but it doesn't compare with "Sunrise" his first film for Fox. Both "Tabu" and "Sunrise" are available for free streaming. Next up "Sunrise."
 
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"Sunrise"-F.W.Murnau-1927

William Fox brought Murnau from Germany to make prestige films. Despite being Fox's 3rd highest grossing film of 1927, it didn't make money because of the very expensive sets built for the movie. It was the first film Fox made with a recorded sound track. The 2012 "Sight and Sound" poll of critics rated this as the 5th greatest film of all time.

The story is almost mythic> The three principal characters don't have names. They are called The Man, The Wife, and The City Woman. Janet Gaynor won the first Oscar for her performance, George O'Brien and Gaynor voyed to do everything Murnau asked without complaint. In the story City Woman seduces The Man. She mesmerizes him. This is indicated in the film by having her ghostly image appear on the screen superimposed
on images most commonly of the man, This was done by covering a group of frames partially, shootinfg removing the covering and re-shooting. The Man takes the wife on a boat trip intending to drown her. She reads his behavior and isfearful, At the last minute he relents telling her "Don't be afraid," They end up in the city where in the course of a day, they re-capture their love. On the return voyage a storm comes up. They are separated as the boat flounders. The Man is picked up, but he believes his wife is lost. He sees the City Woman and begins strangling her, but his wife has been found.

The cityset was the largest and most expensive ever built. The scenes in the city provide some humorous moments and some escapades as the couple falls in love again. The seem to be coming home to a new life. The storm is terrible. The world is once again out of joint. The film concludes with a sunrise signifying that the world is right again.

The combination of poorer than expected box office and William Fox's leaving for New York to stabilizing finances diminished Murnau's control of his pictures. Murnau didn't want to make talking pictures, but that is what audiences wanted to see. Even Chaplin had to give up on silent films; the assumption is that Murnau would have made talkies, It took Chaplin more than a few years to make "The Great Dictator."

This is a great film. It is available to stream for free. Watch this classic.
 
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"Sunrise"-F.W.Murnau-1927

William Fox brought Murnau from Germany to make prestige films. Despite being Fox's 3rd highest grossing film of 1927, it didn't make money because of the very expensive sets built for the movie. It was the first film Fox made with a recorded sound track. The 2012 "Sight and Sound" poll of critics rated this as the 5th greatest film of all time.

The story is almost mythic> The three principal characters don't have names. They are called The Man, The Wife, and The City Woman. Janet Gaynor won the first Oscar for her performance, George O'Brien and Gaynor voyed to do everything Murnau asked without complaint. In the story City Woman seduces The Man. She mesmerizes him. This is indicated in the film by having her ghostly image appear on the screen superimposed
on images most commonly of the man, This was done by covering a group of frames partially, shootinfg removing the covering and re-shooting. The Man takes the wife on a boat trip intending to drown her. She reads his behavior and isfearful, At the last minute he relents telling her "Don't be afraid," They end up in the city where in the course of a day, they re-capture their love. On the return voyage a storm comes up. They are separated as the boat flounders. The Man is picked up, but he believes his wife is lost. He sees the City Woman and begins strangling her, but his wife has been found.

The cityset was the largest and most expensive ever built. The scenes in the city provide some humorous moments and some escapades as the couple falls in love again. The seem to be coming home to a new life. The storm is terrible. The world is once again out of joint. The film concludes with a sunrise signifying that the world is right again.

The combination of poorer than expected box office and William Fox's leaving for New York to stabilizing finances diminished Murnau's control of his pictures. Murnau didn't want to make talking pictures, but that is what audiences wanted to see. Even Chaplin had to give up on silent films; the assumption is that Murnau would have made talkies, It took Chaplin more than a few years to make "The Great Dictator."

This is a great film. It is available to stream for free. Watch this classic.
I've seen "Sunrise" a few times, it is a marvelous film. It is one of the best silent movies that I have seen.
 
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Searching for the guide
.
I'm not sure what provoked my sudden interest in finding "The Guide." I do remember thinking that it might have been a Satayajit Ray film. Of course that was wrong; Ray couldn't find Malgudi. I have gotten ahead of myself. "The Guide" is a novel written by R.K, Narayan set in the fictional town of Malgudi. Narayan wrote in English. He is a particular favorite of mine. I've read "The Guide" along with Bachelor of Arts, The Financial Expert, The Tiger of Malgudi, and many others. He is also known for his short stories, and for his essays. One
of the funniest pieces I've ever read was his misadventures with his radio license. In days of yore you had to pay the government for a license to own a radio,

Narayan was born into a family of Tamil Brahmins in Madras (Chennai). His father was an educator, He traveled around South India, and his son was left with his grandmother. Many of the Malgudi novels are at least semi-autobiographical. In "The Guide" Raju's mother told him stories to help him go to sleep. His grandmother did this for Narayan. Interestingly the stories are never completed. The central character is Raju. He is a great talker and he has tales for tourists Indian and Foreign. He lives with his mother, and she still tells him stories.

By the early '60's Narayan was well known internationally. "The Guide" was an interesting project for development. Narayan was interested and he approached Ray. Ray was the most famous Indian director, but he made films in Bengali. Ray really liked Narayan's work, but he felt it would be impossible to re-create the fictional town on the screen. Narayan was then open to approaches from the powers of Bollywood. The Indian film industry was centered in Bombay (Mumbai) and made Hindi films which were distributed all over the country. Dev Anand was one of the biggest stars in the firmament. His family was a force in Bollywood. He approached Narayan with the proposition that "The Guide" be made in two versions. There would be an English version; Dev Anand wanted to break into English language films in America. Then a Hindi version would be made for the domestic market . The Hindi version would have the usual musical numbers.

Both versions would tell the same basic story. Raju the quick talking guide would be hired by Marco an educated English speaking antiquities scholar. He was interested in visiting caves which contained ancient
art specifically carvings on the walls. He brought along his wife, Rose, who came from a despised background. Her mother was a temple dancer; they were often prostitutes as well as dancers. Her mother didn't want that life for Rosie. She searched the bridal advertisements in the papers. She found Marco's advertisement. She negotiated the arrangement and Marco and Rosie were married. This trip comes after several years of an unsatisfactory Marriage. Rosie wants to dance, and one of the conditions of the marriage
was that she would no longer dance.

While her husband is searching the caves; Rosie and Raju find a dancer who dances before a King Cobra. Raju is stunned by her ability. He tells her that artists are beyond cast. Marco finds a cave beneath the caves which had never been seen before. This contains even more important sculptures. The English and Hindi versions diverge, but in both Marco pursues his findings and eventually publishes a book. Rosie becomes a famous dancer with Raju as her manager. In both versions Raju falls into bad habits drinking and poker which is surprisingly popular in India. He ends up forging Rosie's now Nahini's signature, He ends up in prison. The Hindi version begins with his release from prison. The English version follows the chronological version of the novel. In both Raju becomes a guru based in an old disused temple. Over several years his fame and reputation and reputation grow. During a massive drought he gives up eating to
prompt the rains. This is not unusual in India. The most famous is Gandhi's fast to prevent violence during partition. The two versions diverge in their endings. The English version ends like the novel with a much weakened Raju believing that the rains have come. In the Hindi version the rains come but Raju dies.

The English version was directed by Ted Danielewski and scripted by Pearl Buck, yes that Pearl Buck. It opened in NYC to poor reviews and slow boxoffice. Dev Anand received several feelers, but nothing worked out. Meanwhile, work on the Hindi version proceeded. Vijay Anand directed and scripted the Hindi version. Yes, he is Dev Anand's brother. Importantly. S.A.Burman composed the music. The Hindi version is widely considered one of the 10 best Indian films of all time. So, I should be recommending that you find the free streaming version of this Hindi masterpiece, but naturally there is a problem. Yes, there is a version of this spectacularly beautifully filmed work with subtitles, however, about midway through this 3 hour epic the subtitles vanish, never to return. Well, there is the English language version, but the print is poor. It was a failure for a good reason.

Naturally, I wasn't satisfied. My research continued. I found out that Narayan was pushed aside during the production. He wrote an article for Life which is best compared to Twain's "The Literary Offenses of Fenimore Cooper." It is titled "The Misguided Guide." Among the complaints he makes are the moving of the story from a princely state in South India (Mysore) to a princely state in North India (Udaipur). Another important complaint is about the nature of the dancing. Rosie learned Bharatnatyam the classic South India dance form.
This was practiced in Temples. The dance became an issue during the Indian Independence movement. The dance was banned ostensibly because of lewdness, but it was supported as a part of national culture. People went to jail under the English for opposing the ban. Narayan wanted the dancing in the movie to be classical. This was a Bollywood production and the dances were in that popular tradition.

In summation, this is a great or near great film based on a great novel. If you are a Hindi speaker, you will have no problems. My Hindi is virtually non-existent, truth be told, my Tamil isn't that much better. I watched the English version, and the subtitled Hindi version. When the subtitles vanished, I admit skipping over certain sections, but I did watch the last 20 minutes. I'm not sure that I can recommend that you do the same. It sounds like a lot of work. Long live the yard.
 
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Tonight Turner Classic Movies is showing perhaps my favorite fantasy film, "A Matter of Life and Death". I recall first watching this film probably around 40 years ago or so on channel 13, the PBS station in New York City when I was either still in high school or home on break while attending UConn (my family lived in Bethel at the time). It absolutely wowed me the first time I saw it. This film is directed by the great Michael Powell, who also had a hand in one of my other favorite film fantasies, "The Thief of Bagdad", starring Sabu. Powell is probably my second favorite British director after Hitchcock. Powell often worked in association with Emeric Pressberger, a film team known as "The Archers". Other great Powell films include "A Canterbury Tale", "Black Narcissus", and "The Red Shoes", among others.
I posted the above in the Movie Hindsight 2020 thread. I then went out to mow the lawn. While I was mowing the lawn, it suddenly occurred to me the the similarities in the plot devices between this movie and the combo of "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" and "Heaven Can Wait". In all these films, a heavenly conductor who takes souls out of bodies to conduct them to the afterlife messes up in their assignment.

In "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" and "Heaven Can Wait", the heavenly conductor prematurely takes the soul of a rising athlete from his body. When the body is cremated before the soul can be put back in place with the original body, the rest of the film follows.

In "A Matter of Life and Death", which takes place during World War II. RAF pilot David Niven bales out of a burning airplane without a parachute over a beach in England. He wakes up on the beach wondering why he isn't dead. The French heavenly conductor who is supposed to take care of this matter messes up when he can't find the scene of the accident due to the English fog. By the time the heavenly conductor does find the pilot, Niven has met and fell in love with Kim Hunter, an American woman stationed in the area. This becomes the centerpiece of movie, the pilot's fight with the heavenly authorities to remain alive and on Earth with the new love of his life, Kim Hunter, something that would not have happened if the French heavenly conductor had found him at the proper time.
 
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Top notch film. Niven is undervalued as an actor.
And David Niven does an excellent job in this film, and I have no complaints about Kim Hunter either. But for me, in addition to the story and the ideas that are expressed in this film, I get a real kick from three of the supporting performances in this movie, Marius Goring as the French conductor, Raymond Massey as the prosecutor, and especially Roger Livesey as the doctor who takes up the case of David Niven. All in all it is one of my favorite movies of all time.
 
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"The Ipcress File"-Sidney J. Furie-1965

The amazing popularity of the Bond films inspired dozens of spy films in the "60's. There were straightforward
espionage films like "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" and "The Manchurian Candidate," and they were comedies like "The President's Analyst" and "Our Man Flint." JFK was a big fan of spy novels, and they topped best seller lists. Henry Salzmann wanted to make an anti-Bond spy film. Len Deighton was a quality writer of spy fiction. He had an intelligence background. Furie was no one's first choice, Salzmann bared him from the editing room. Furie burned the script on the first day of shooting in front of the cast and crew. I really liked this film when it came out more than 50 years ago. It has been almost forgotten over time, partially because it is very difficult to find. I was surprised to find it available for streaming free on YouTube.

This film made Michael Caine a major star. His character Harry Palmer was a bespectacled loner with insubordinate qualities who wasn't afraid to dabble in crime. He was brought into intelligence work by Col. Ross. The alternative was a prison sentence. Ross takes him off boring duty watching foreigners. He becomes part of a new team under Major Dalby which is charged with discovering why government scientists are disappearing. Palmer quickly finds leads using unconventional methods. He is convinced that it is at least partially an inside job. When a secret raid of a site finds it empty, Palmer finds a piece of recording tape labeled Ipcress. Analysis of the tape reveals a myriad of discordant tones. Palmer's work partner , Jock Casswell,Gordon Jackson is murdered. Jackson you may remember as the butler in "Upstairs, Downstairs." He had been reviewing the Ipcress File. Ipcress stands for Induction of Psychoneuroses by Conditioned Reflex under Stress.That is a long way of saying brainwashing; Manchurian Candidate anyone?

Palmer is snatched up and conditioned. The climax is excellent. Palmer is an interesting character. He isn't upper class. He was a Sergeant in the Army. He reads a lot, loves classical music, and gourmet cooking. He has quite the way with ladies. The glasses are a nice touch for an action hero. In the cooking scenes, Deighton's hands are substituted for Caine's. I suspect that Deighton had input on the shooting script. He and Furie got along well. There were several sequels. This is a very good film; it is slow paced and has few special effects. Caine carries the day; the film is pretty much totally dependent on his character.

Very highly recommended,
 
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"The Third Man"-Carol Reed-1949

This film deals with a part of post WWII rarely seen in English language films. It doesn't deal with the refugee crisis, nor with the hunt for escaped Nazis, nor with the beginning of the Cold War. We arrive with Holly Martins
(Joseph Cotton) a relatively unsuccessful pulp novelist specializing in Westerns. Martins came to Vienna because his old friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles), has promised him a job and a place to stay. Vienna is an international city, divided into four zones: American, British, French, and Russian. Depending upon where you look Vienna can appear as a city returning to normal,or a city devastated by the war and now the occupation. Everything is for sale on the Black Market.

Martins arrives, goes through customs, and takes a cab to Lime's residence. The caretaker reports that they have just left. Holly learns that they have taken Lime's body to the graveyard for burial. He hurries to the funeral. He joins a small crowd, and he puts a spoonful of earth on the coffin with other mourners. Martins is already willing to doubt the official account. Lime was hit by a truck which left the scene. He is picked up at the funeral by Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) who heads the Military Police in the British sector. Calloway wants him to leave Vienna on the next morning's plane. According to Calloway, Lime is the worst sort of criminal..

The movie is dominated by the man who isn't there. The script is an original by Graham Greene; he worked with Reed several times, but on all the other occasions he adapted his novels. Reed is a top director; some of his other successes Include:"Odd Man Out", "Our Man in Havana" "Fallen Idol," and "Trapeze." The production was a joint effort between Alexander Korda, and David O. Selznick. Selznick formed his own production company after the laurels for "Gone With the Wind" were stolen by Louie Mayer. Cotton was under contract to Selznick; Alida Valli Fraulein Schmidt, was his choice as well. It is most unusual for a character with only 5 minutes of screen time in a film over 100 minutes long to dominate the film. The film is all about Lime. Martins believes that Lime was murdered; the accident was no accident. He and Anna Schmidt refuse to accept that Lime is evil. His great charm stands in the way.

No commentary about the film can be complete without the mention of the zither. This is a stringed instrument plucked rather than strummed common in Eastern Europe. The Third Man theme played by Anton Karas became an international top seller. Karas later started a club in Vienna, "The Third Man", which he ran until his death. The title is a little trick; Martins thought that a third man carrying the body from the road was a piece of the puzzle which helped to show it was murder rather than hit and run. This has nothing to do with the central story which is uncovering who is Harry Lime. The film was shot in Vienna. The famous sewer scene where Lime is fleeing from various used off duty Vienna Police as extras. Orson Welles didn't wander through the sewers, his closeups were filmed in England. A double was used for long shots in Vienna.

We don't see Welles until one hour and six minutes have passed. Then we see his face just for seconds; Holly chases him through the streets and Lime vanishes. Martins goes to Calloway to report the sighting, but Lime is nowhere to be seen. Calloway focuses on what looks like a telephone booth, but really is an entrance to the sewer system. That leads to Calloway digging up Lime's grave. A missing medical orderly is found in the coffin. He stole the penicillin for Lime. Lime not only raised the price, but he diluted it until it was a poison rather than a cure. Holly and Fraulein Schmidt are forced to confront the reality that Lime's charm masked evil.

There is a famous line that Welles improvised: "In Switzerland they had brotherly love five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce, the cuckoo clock. Goodbye, Holly." Welles played a similarly evil character in "The Stranger" at about the same time. This film has been ranked #1 in polls picking the best British film of all time. It often finds itself in the top 100 American films as well. Korda and Selznick never made another film together despite this film's success. My only problem with the film is that end seems to be in slow motion. Despite that, this is near great at the worst. It is available to stream for free.
The camera work is brilliant particularly in the use of shadows and the changes in perspective. The shot of Lime's face, visible for the first time is etched in the viewers mind. This is a must see.
 
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Reed is a top director; some of his other successes Include:"Odd Man Out", "Our Man in Havana" "Fallen Idol," and "Trapeze."
Another Carol Reed film that my wife and I quite enjoy but doesn't seem to be as well known as some of his other movies is "Night Train to Munich", starring Rex Harrison. It might be a good thing to see for those who enjoy Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes". Along with having a Hitchcock type spy plot flavored with some good humor, it also features Basil Radford and Naughton Wayne who play the double act of Charters and Caldicott, a pair of eccentric Englishmen with a huge cricket obsession. They proved to be so popular in "the Lady Vanishes" that the characters were brought back for an encore in "Night Train to Munich" (Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder cowrote both these films).


Welles played a similarly evil character in "The Stranger" at about the same time.
"The Stranger" was released in 1946. Very good stuff, my wife just loves this movie. Yes, Orson Welles playing a Nazi who has escaped to America is indeed an evil character. Both Welles and Edward G. Robinson, who plays an investigator who is trying to track down the Welles character are excellent in this movie. It is one of those films that we watch whenever it shows up on television.
 
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"Hard Times"-Walter Hill-1975

"Some men are born to fail, others have failure thrust upon them" so says Po (Strother Martin) an almost doctor
whose life was derailed by a cloud of misfortune in med school. The cloud of misfortune was a need for heroin.
He forms one point of the triangle of characters who carry the narrative. At first glance Speed (James Coburn) might seem to be central, but the seemingly smooth hustler carries failure with him. Chaney( Charles Bronson)
has ridden the rails into New Orleans. He is looking to make a little money. He happens upon a bare knuckle street fight. He seeks out the losing promoter, Speed, and fights a bare knuckle no holds barred fight. His success is surprising considering his age. Bronson was 52 in September of 1974 when the film was made. His age is never revealed in the film.

The film is set in the 1930's. The actual date is hazy. The cars and clothes are are appropriate. Certain things are never explained; I wonder about Chaney's black leather bag. Occasionally we find out a little about Chaney; he had some kind of job loading and unloading at two dollars a day. He rarely speaks;he logs in at barely over 500 words for the entire film. He has a sort of relationship with a woman, Jill Ireland, but he doesn't spend the nights.

This was Hill's first film as director. He worked for scale as both writer and director. He had some solid successes, "48 Hours" and "The Warriors.", but he had a long career making solid professional films in changing times. He got along well with Bronson until he criticized his wife's performance. He never worked with Bronson again. I think his best attribute as a director is his ability to tell stories. Since he wrote many of his films, that is understandable. He was attached to the Alien franchise as producer and writer, and later he even directed some of the second generation sequels. He was good at what he did. He knew how to keep things moving.

Naturally Speed screws up; he gambles away everything he made in partnership with Chaney and more. Chaney has to show up and beat a fighter brought from Chicago. If he does this, Speed won't be killed.
The ending of the film is classic. Cheyney is lying on his bed; he decides to go to this fight. As he is going out the door a cat appears. I don't remember it appearing any other time. He wins the fight and he is preparing to leave, Speed asks where he is going. Chaney replies "North." He gives money first to Po to take care of the cat. Then he gives a big wad to Speed. Is this all or most of his money, we don't know. The last line in the picture is Po's: Let's pick up the cat." They are going to Miami with the cat.

For those who wonder about the quote from Po which begins this piece, it is a paraphrase of "Some men are born great, some men achieve greatness, and some men have greatness thrust upon them;" from !2th Night.
It is available to stream free. Enjoy.
 
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"The Murder of Mary Phagan"-William Hale-1988

This an excellent very high level TV effort. It was originally a TV mini series shown in two parts with a run time of 221 minutes. What is available of Amazon Prime is 116 minutes. My assumption is that this is the second night of the production. It was filmed in and around Richmond Virginia. There were buildings and streets which had the look of Atlanta between 1913 and 1915. The costumes and vehicles were all period faithful. This was one of the most sensational cases of the first half of the twentieth century.

In 1913 a 13 year old girl, Mary Phagan, was found raped (?) and murdered in the basement of the National Pencil Factory. Initially, suspicion fell on two Negroes (using the politic term from the times); the first was the newly hired night watchman who found the body and notified the police. The second was an employee, Jim Coneley, with a criminal record. The Atlanta police looked closely at both, but they ultimately focused on Leo Frank the factory manager. Frank was tried and convicted; after numerous failed appeals including one which reached the US Supreme Court, a date for execution was set.

It fell to the governor, John Slaton, to review the massive amount of evidence and to decide whether or not he should pardon, commute, or let the death sentence stand. Jack Lemon plays the governor; Robert Jordan plays
the chief prosecutor Hugh Dorsey. Robert Plosky plays Tom Watson the Democratic king maker in Georgia politics. (Tom Watson, the historical Character, was far different than he is portrayed in the film.) Peter Gallagher portrayed Leo Frank. Charles Dutton played Jim Conely who became the chief accuser. Kevin Spacey plays a journalist Wes Brent who had followed the case from the beginning. (He is a composite character or perhaps a complete invention.) This film focuses on the public fury surrounding the case, the threats, the intimidation, and the demand that Frank be hung. When Governor Slaton opens a public investigation into the case; he knows he is putting not only his future in politics but his life at risk. The National Guard had to be called out to protect the Governor and his wife when he commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Frank was secretly removed from the jail and taken to the state prison farm at Milledgeville. The Governor and his wife left the state to avoid the mobs after his term was completed. Shortly thereafter a group of vigilantes calling themselves The Knights of Mary Phagan took over the State Prison and removed Frank without a shot being fired and no locks broken. He was taken to Marietta, Georgia; he was publicly hung and his body was displayed hanging to be viewed by thousands. The fact that the vigilantes drove in five cars/trucks to the prison indicates that they were prominent and wealthy citizens; cars were rare in 1915. Three of this group were founding members of the modern Klan at Stone Mountain, Georgia several moths later. This time the Klan was anti-Catholic, and Anti-Jewish as well as Anti-Negro.

The acting is top flight particularly Jack Lemon and Charles Dutton. Even minor roles were well cast Dylan Baker and William H. Macy appear in smaller roles. The script was written by George Stevens and Jeff Lane from a Larry McMurtry story. Stevens the son of George Stevens, the well known director, also co-produced.
The production won multiple Golden Globes and Emmys. My highest recommendation; watch it for free on Prime.

I will return to further discuss the case. I really went down the wormhole on this one, but for those of you who are historically minded, there is much more to the story.
 
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"The People vs. Leo Frank"-PBS-2009

This is a well made docudrama;it is available to stream free. As far as anyone knows, Leo Frank is the only Jew to be lynched in the US.. The lynch party had about 25 members. They drove by car from Marietta to Milledgeville state prison farm. In about 25 minutes they took over the prison and removed Leo Frank. They fired no shots and broke no locks. Their return drive was peaceful. The hanging went peacefully. The body was exhibited the next day still hanging from the tree. Thousands came to see the body. The body was taken down and deposited at an Atlanta funeral home. 15,000 people came to view the body. No one was even charged in the lynching. Frank's body was sent back to Brooklyn for burial. His widow remained in Atlanta.

There are multiple questions remaining. Who committed the murder? Why were tensions so high around the case? Why did all the appeals fail? Why was Frank's defense so poor despite the cost of the defense? What did the Atlanta Jewish population do for Frank's defense? Even if Frank was innocent was he guilty of workplace harassment of young teens? How competent was the police investigation? Why did Governor Slaton become involved?What was the basis for his decision to commute the sentence? Is the portrayal of Tom Watson in "The Murder of Mary Phagan" accurate?

The last question is the easiest to answer. Tom Watson was a Georgia populist who ran as William Jennings Bryan's vice presidential nominee. He believed in a Jeffersonian agricultural based democracy. He was an early advocate of Blacks and White working classes working together. He changed his views over the years. First he became anti-Black, then anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic. His monthly publication "The Jeffersonian" fully expressed his prejudices. His voice was only one of the those sensationalizing the case. About the time of the case William Randolph Hearst started a tabloid in Atlanta. The existing papers the Journal and the Constitution were quite conservative. They were forced to compete. The Journal published an editorial by the previous governor calling for the lynching of Leo Frank.

The Jews in Atlanta were very well assimilated. The early arrivals were German Jews; one notable exception was Morris Rich, the founder of Rich's department store, he was of Hungarian descent. For those of you who are Connecticut natives or long time residents, think G.Fox and Company. Rich's had Christmas traditions like Fox's. The main temple was seen almost as a church by Atlanta's Christians.

The price of cotton dropped dramatically beginning around 1910. That sent thousands into Atlanta to find jobs. Northern investors looked favorably on Atlanta. It was a railroad hub, and it offered a plentiful supply of cheap labor. The wages were low and the hours long; the workplace conditions were terrible. In the North the oppressed working class were often immigrant Jews; think the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. In Atlanta they were white Christians, The 1911 fire took the lives of 123 girls and women largely Italian and Jewish immigrants. The dead ranged from 14 to 53. Mary Phagan was 13. There was a resentment of Northern business interests for their part in destroying the Southern way of life. That Frank was a college educated Jew made it even worse. Anti-Jewish resentment wasn't restricted to the South. There was a growing resentment of the involvement in Big Business particularly in banks and Wall Street. There is some evidence connecting the development of the Anti-Defamation League to the Frank's case. The rabbi of the leading Atlanta temple, Dr. Marx. approached Adolph Ochs, ublisher of the New York Times. The Times sent reporters to Atlanta and gave the case a national profile. Southerners don't like "outsiders" interfering with their way of life. Most Atlanta Jews tried to maintain a low profile during the case.

I suspect I've told you more about this case than you want to know. The "Murder of Mary Phagan" took some liberties with the case including substituting an umbrella for feces. The consensus is that Leo Frank was not the murderer, The issue of his relationships with his young female workers has never been seriously investigated. Governor Slaton had questions about the trial; he investigated on his own to satisfy himself. He became convinced that the principal government witness, Jim Conley repeatedly on the stand. One thing the documentary does is to introduce the character of Charles Smith, a government lawyer, who prepared Conley for his testimony. He thought it was quite likely that he could be the scapegoat, so he helped him. He later became convinced that Conley was the likely killer. He developed new evidence which he gave to Governor Slaton. Surprisingly, there is still controversy about the case. You won't have to search hard to find right wing web sites pushing out all kinds of conspiracy theories. This is more than enough...
 
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"Our Man in Havana"-Carol Reed-1959

This film was made in the short time between Castro's revolution in Cuba and his alliance with the Soviet Union.
I'm not sure why he allowed the filming, but it probably had something to do with making him and the revolution look good. He was disappointed that the film wasn't harder on the Battista regime.

Carol Reed and Graham Greene once again teamed; this time Greene adapted his own novel for the screen. The story begins with the visit of a senior British Secret Service Agent ,Hawthorne (Noel Coward), to Havana. The service lacks an agent in Havana. With revolution in the mountains, it was crucial to find an agent who would then develop sub agents and forward reports back to London. Hawthorne happens upon Jim Wormhold who runs a vacuum cleaner shop. Jim's business is not doing well, and he is in need of money particularly to support his daughter Millie (Jo Morrow). Hawthorne reads him in and provides him with a book to use for a book code, "Lamb's Tales of Shakespeare." Why Lamb, that was the only English language book he could two copies of.

Wormhold (Alec Guiness) must now recruit sub agents who will provide raw intelligence. He consults with his best friend, Dr Hasselbacker (Burl Ives) a German and longtime resident in Havana. He advises Jim to create agents. So Wormhold creates a fictional group of agents under his supervision, He writes their reports. The beauty of the scheme is that he can keep their salaries.

The intelligence Wormhold submits to London attracts the notice of the head of the service, C (Ralph Richardson). What particularly attracts attention are the drawings of a secret instillation in the mountains which looks suspiciously like vacuum cleaner parts, Additional agents are sent out to Havana to help with the increased traffic, One of the agents, Beatrice (Maureen O'Hara) becomes a love interest for Wormhold,

Meanwhile his daughter Millie has come to the attention of Captain Segura (Ernie Kovacs) a high ranking officer in the secret police. He ultimately asks for hand in marriage. There is a classic scene where Wormhold and Segura play a game of checkers using whiskey miniatures as pieces. Naturally, multiple disasters and deaths follow. Wormhold is forced to leave Havana with his daughter. The agency is under fire; Wornhold admits that he has made everything up. It was decided that a trial would be disastrous for the agency. So Wormhold is given a minor order, and everything is covered up. As C puts it :"In our service it is necessary to bury the past very securely and very quickly."

This is one of those films which lives up to my memories. The principals have a deft comic touch. This was one of Kovac's few films; he was a major TV star. He smoked 20 cigars a day on set. The film has the deft charm. It gives the audience a wink and a nod; this couldn't really happen, but several people do die. Greene served in intelligence, and here he focuses on the absurdities of the business. It is available to stream free. For two hours, you can relax and enjoy a break. My highest recommendation.
 

ClifSpliffy

surf's up
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general observation: man, you are awesome. your ability to describe the human condition is unparalleled. forget the movie stuff, this thread should be titled "Words Worth Reading.'
 
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"The Adventures of Mark Twain"-Irving Rapper-1944

This is available for free streaming. Don't expect anything like an accurate biography. This is an enjoyable film, with solid performances by the principal cast. There are more than a few laughs. Fredrich March is exceptional as Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). The basic life facts are correct. He became a river boat pilot on the Mississippi, he went west to California, his first published story was about a jumping frog, and his wife's name was Olivia. There are many points of interest along the way. Twain was a gifted speaker. Hal
Hallbrock made a career imitating his style. He was a losing investor in a type setting machine. he did publish and promote Grant's memoirs without making money. He had to work off a huge debt in his later years. He was born when Hailey's Comet came, and he died when it came again.

This is a very pleasant film. I recommend it.
 
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"Anastasia"-Anton Litvak-1956

Anton Litvak was one of the Hollywood directors of the classic studio era who made solid films for decades. His credits include: "Snake Pit," "Sorry Wrong Number," "Why We Fight," up to "The Night of the Generals." Arthur Laurents wrote the screenplay. His credits include: "Rope," "West Side Story," and "The Way We Were." The story is a mixture of fact and fantasy. In 1917 a Russian emigre arrived from Finland. Lenin led the Revolution of 1917. This took Russia out of WWI, ended the Romanov dynasty, started a Civil War, and made Russia a Communist country. The Czar's family was captured and moved to Ekaterina. There was a mass execution of the family and their servants. They were buried in a mass grave. Stories began to circulate that the youngest of the Czar's daughters has escaped the execution and was living in Europe. Thousands of aristocrats and members of the middle class fled the Communists and ended up all over Europe and even in China. Anastasia was prime tabloid fodder. In real life there was a very famous fraud,Anna Anderson. She married an American and lived out of the spotlight for years. The filmmakers discovered her existence when they were deeply involved in the film. Production had already started.

This was a highly anticipated film. Yul Brenner had just finished "The King and I," Ingrid Bergman was returning to Hollywood films after years out of sight because of her affair with Roberto Rossellini. With such a great background story; the hope was for a classic film. Unfortunately, while this is a good film, and it was abox office success; it is largely forgotten today. Bergman won the Oscar; she wasn't present at the awards ceremony.

The script was a mixture of Anna Anderson's story and invention. A young woman was discovered in a mental asylum. She suffered from amnesia, but she may have made claims that she was the missing princess.
A group of emigres had planned a scam. They had taken gifts form emigres to find Anastasia. There was a substantial amount in a bank in England. This money would go to her if it could be proved that she was the missing Princess. The shady group headed by General Bonine (Yul Brenner) and Baron Chernoff(Akim Tamiroff) found a suitable candidate, Anna Koreff. The shadowy group was an invention. In the film they train her for a public appearance before the refugee community. The key to authentication is the endorsement of the Dowager Empress, (Helen Hayes). The endorsement is secured, but General Bornine and Anna run off together. In real life Anna never met the dowager Empress.

This is a solid,enjoyable film. It is available to stream for free. It's well worth a look, and there is a mine of additional information about the Anastasia story available.
 
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Once upon a time in the 20th Century there were three individuals who came together to make memorable films. They adapted novels and made some of the most beautiful , yet introspective films in the English language. The first of the three was a young German Jewish girl who escaped with her parents to England before WWII. She was educated in England where she met and married an Indian architect. He was a Parsi; if the name is unfamiliar, don't be surprised. The Parsis are an unusual religion with few devotees. Perhaps, what one finds most remarkable is their burial practices. The dead are placed upon pillars. Her name was Ruth Prawer Jhabavala. She lived in India from 1951 to 1975. In India she became a prolific writer in English. She met Ismail Merchant and James Ivory.

Ismail Merchant was an Indian Muslim. He became interested in films as an undergraduate in Bombay. He made a short film which was shown in Cannes. He went to NYU for graduate school. He met James Ivory at at a film showing. They formed a 40 year partnership in life as well as professionally. The two went to Bombay where they became acquainted with Ruth Jhabvala. Their first feature film was "The Householder." Ruth wrote the novel and the script. Their second feature was "Shakespeare Wallah." This again was a Jhabvala script from her novel. There are several reasons why I have chosen to begin with this movie One of the stars was Shashi Kapoor who went on to appear in a dozen more Merchant Ivory films. Second this film is the story of a group of English Shakespeare actors who toured India giving performances of the Bard's works. The novel is based of the real life experiences of such a troop. The family played the roles in the film.

"Shakespeare Wallah:-James Ivory-1965

Merchant was able to make a distribution with Colombia to distribute their films. This was the first time a major American studio signed a distribution deal for Indian films. The sound track was composed and performed by Ravi Shankur. He was just becoming an important international music figure. The film is available to stream for free. Unfortunately, the Daily Motion print has problems. The film is important to understand their work.

Merchant Ivory films often deal with individuals caught between two cultures. India gained her independence in 1947. Yet, many English stayed on. This is a story beyond the death of an Empire. There were stories to be told about those who stayed on, but who was listening? The market for Shakespeare was declining, and film was replacing the theater. The Buckingham's were worried about their teenage daughter, Lizzie. She had been born in India. She had never been 'Home." Her parents were worried that their 17 year old daughter would make an unsuitable relationship. In real life the family were the Kendals. Their elder daughter married
Sashi Kapoor. Of course Ruth Jhabvala had made an unsuitable relationship herself. The younger daughter, Felicity, had been born in England. She returned a built an outstanding career in TV and onstage. In 1975 Merchant Ivory made "Heat and Dust" a story with two unsuitable relationships generations apart.

The film shows the Buckingham's at work on stage. It begins with a private performance for an English educated Maharajah. He mentions that he attended Queen Elizabeth's coronation, but that his seat was behind a pillar. As the film progresses we find that the audience is disappearing for the troupe. Kapoor (Sanju) appears. He has many relationships, but the most important is with Manjula (Madhur Jaffrey) a self centered Bollywood star. She does her best to ruin the developing relationship between Sanju and Lizzie.
There is one particularly nasty scene at a performance. Lizzie ends up going "Home." One particularly interesting point is that she travels from India to England by ship. In the olden days one used to travel by P. and O. ships through the Suez Canal. Gandhi traveled that way.

Lizzie had waited in vain for Sanju to ask the question. She stated: "For you, I'd give up everything." He never asked the question, but in real life he did ask the question of Felicity's sister. There are many types of unsuitable relationships which we will explore in two other Merchant Ivory films, "The White Countess." and
"The Remains of the Day" my favorite Merchant Ivory film.
 

storrsroars

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I'll be looking forward to your "Remains of the Day" review. That was a master class on acting by Hopkins and Thompson.
 
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"The White Countess"-James Ivory-2005

This is the final film of the Merchant Ivory partnership. Ismail Merchant died just prior to its release from cancer. Merchant was a delightful human being, He was open to the press and public. He wrote several cookbooks. Try Ismail Merchant's Passionate Meals: The New Indian Cuisine for Fearless Cooks and Adventurous Eaters. In addition to the recipes Merchant tells stories about his diners. Well worth a look for those interested in food and cooking.

The script was written by Kazuo Ishiguro the author of"Remains of the Day." The setting is crucial, so some knowledge of Shanghai in the 1930's is a help in understanding the film. As a result of the Protocol ending the Boxer Rebellion, the city of Shanghai became an International City legally. There were 3 sections: the Chinese section administered by the Chinese government, the French Concession, and the International Settlement. Shanghai was the center of trade, industry, and crime particularly drug trafficking. The crime was in partnership with the Chinese government. The British and Americans were heavily involved in shipping, manufacturing, the stock market, and in the case of the British,the great race track. It was also the center for Chinese theater, popular music, the movie industry, and night life.

Despite a world wide depression in the 1930's; this was Shanghai's most prosperous period. Skyscrapers dominated the skyline. There were more in Shanghai than anywhere outside the US. It was also a major refugee center. The first major European group were the White Russians. After the Communist Revolution of 1917 and the defeat of the Whites in the Civil War; tens of thousands of Russian refugees reached Shanghai.
They were a trickle compared with the Chinese fleeing the Civil War between the Communists and Nationalists. The third great wave were European Jews fleeing Hitler. On the horizon were the Japanese who were steadily expanding in China. In 1937 they defeated the Nationalists, and the golden age of Shanghai ended.

The film was shot entirely on location in Shanghai. The story has two central characters, Todd Jackson (Ralph Finnes) and Countess Sophia (Natasha Richardson). Jackson is a former celebrated American diplomat. He has been isolated by personal tragedies. His wife and son died in a fire. His daughter died in a terrorist train bombing;he was blinded in the attack. His life is on hold; he is employed by an American business company for his contacts. Countess Sophia is the sole support of her aristocratic Russian family. She works as a dance hall girl in a fairly upscale bar. Sometimes this involves taking a lover for the night. She has a daughter Katya on the verge of puberty. Her family treats her with disdain for her immoral lifestyle.

The two principals meet at her place of work. She prevents him being robbed. They establish a tenative rapport. Jackson has an ideal club in his mind. It will feature upscale acts, a jazz band, and Countess Sophia as the centerpiece as its hostess. Jackson says: "She is the Countess Sophia Alexeyneva Belinskaya she has everything that I wanted for this place. She has the allure, the tragedy, the weariness, she knows that today has no place for her kind anymore. She is perfect. My centerpiece."

This encapsulates both the world of Shanghai and Countess Sophia. Shanghai cannot continue to exist in this form. The struggles in the outside world won't permit it. Countess Sophia's family want to flee Shanghai. The nearest apparent safe harbor is Hong Kong. They have friends there. They make a connection through a French diplomat who remembers the family from their salad days. Sophia will have to be left behind because her work stains her. The family cannot have that stain in Hong Kong society. Still they need her to provide the money to pay for papers and passage. They will take her daughter Katya, she will have a bright future without the embarrassment of her mother.

Jackson befriends a well connected Japanese Mr. Matsuda (Hiroyuki Samda). He is intrigued with Jackson's conception of a perfect club. He offers his help to make it a meeting place for Communists, Nationalists,and Japanese. The club becomes a little Switzerland. Matsuda is a Japanese intelligence officer; his job is to pave the way for the take-over of Shanghai.

In the final section of the film the Japanese enter Shanghai. There is a mad rush to flee to anywhere. Sophie's family is leaving for Hong Kong without her but with her daughter Katya. Katya had played with the children of a Jewish refugee tailor Mr. Feinstein. He and his children are leaving for Macau. He offers places in the boat to Sophie and Katya. He also forms a link between Jackson and Sophia.

Jackson and Sophia have tried keep their relationship inside the club. Katya with her enthusiasm forces the development of a relationship outside the club. Neither is able to make any commitments. Remember Felicity waiting for the words from Sanju? In this case neither principal is able to make a forward move. The feelings are there, but they are never acknowledged. There is a half promise of a boat trip forced by Katya.
Some how Katya is re-united with Sophie on the boat to Macau. As a Chinese jazz trumpeter plays Jackson and Sophia are reunited. It isn't a happy ending, but it is a hopeful ending. They admit to needing each other.

I liked this film more than most critics. I realize that it is slow moving, The acting is excellent. The cast includes both Vanessa and Lynne Redgrave. It is Richardson and Finnes who are the center of the story.
Both characters are emotionally closed off. Richardson's closure is still developing. He family is united it their belief that she must be shed. They have begun to convince her that Katya would be better off without her.
She is drawn to Jackson; he treats her like a lady. Early on she offers to let him touch her face. He refuses. Late in the film he asks to touch her face. That scene reveals the change n their relationship. Jackson realizes that he wants a life with her and Katya. I didn't find the ending forced. Both characters have taken a risk. Jackson remarks that this is not the boat trip they planned. Highly recommended, available on Prime.
 

Dove

Son of Wayne. Friend of Tony.
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Billy Jack (1971) - I was 6 when my babysitter and girlfriend stuffed me in the back seat for a trip to the North Haven Drive-in. Great flick.
 
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"The Remains of the Day"-James Ivory-1993

This comment will conclude our travels in the world of Merchant Ivory. Kazuo Ishiguro wrote this novel. Ruth Jahbvala wrote the script. The team has switched from Henry James to E,M, Forester. I've often wondered why they didn't beat David Lean to "A Passage to India?"

When most of us visualize Anthony Hopkins in our mind's eye, we see Hannibal Lecter. However, in some ways
Stevens the impeccable butler is a greater creation. The world of service is foreign to the American psyche. Stevens grew up in service, and he has reached the pinnacle. He is a butler on a great estate. His master, Lord Darlington (James Fox) is a good master, and he holds a position of significance in the world. His influence reaches throughout Europe and even to America. It is worth trying to understand what the World was like "between the wars." World War I was an enormous shock. The European system after the peace ending the wars of Napoleon had worked to prevent another general war. The War that came in 1914 totally destroyed that system. The victors imposed a punitive peace on Germany. They broke up the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and witnessed the end of Czarist Russia. Millions died; the League of Nations was ineffective.

The thought of another Great War was appalling. There was the famous Oxford Pledge which was signed by millions of young men stating they would not serve their country in the case of another Great War. When Hitler andthe National Socialist Party achieved power in Germany, there was a substantial group of influential men who believed that The Versailles Treaty was fatally flawed, and that Germany had the right to become a Great Power again. Lord Darlington hosted meetings bringing together influential men from many countries who were committed to fairness towards Germany, and the prevention of another great conflict.

It was Stevens' job to manage the large staff so that everything went smoothly. He was conscious that these meetings were important. It gave him satisfaction that his staff was providing a perfect setting to facilitate
great movements in international politics. Stevens believed he knew his master's character; Lord Darlington was a genuine force for good. What the policies were were not his concern. As he put it: "I was too busy serving to listen to the speeches."

The crises Stevens had to manage were caused by the staff. The under-butler and and the housekeeper leave together. They must be replaced. Stevens hires his father as the under-butler. He is lucky to find a woman with impeccable credentials for the key job of housekeeper. Miss Kentin is brash and young, too young. Stevens hires her. They clash often, but they respect each other. Mis Kentin (Emma Thompson) notices everything, even things Stevens would prefer not to address. One of these issues is the health of his father.
He trips bringing tea to conference participants. This creates a major problem. The tradition of English service demands that servants be neither seen nor heard, but be invisible and omnipresent. His father can no longer be trusted to interact with the guests. The situation continues to deteriorate; his father dies while Stevens continues to fulfill his duties. Miss Kentin is by his side at the end.

There is a telling sequence where German Jewish refugees are hired as undermaids. Lord Darlington meets them on their first day. He is pleasant and welcoming. He is influenced by a British Fascist and some recommended reading to have the maids fired. They are good hardworking girls. Miss Kentin threatens to leave; she doesn't leave. She admits to being a coward. The consequences for the girls are dire. They have to return to Germany. Lord Darlington comes to regret the dismissal. He asks that the girls be traced.

Miss Kentin leaves service to marry another butler. There are feelings which are never expressed. Stevens loses a potential love without ever really being in the game. Miss Kentin has given him plenty of signs, but Stevens can't ever put himself before service to his master. Stevens remains with Lord Darlington through the war and beyond. Darlington is disgraced, and he dies alone. His influence has long since gone.

There are two other key characters in the saga. Cardinal is Darlington's godson. He (Hugh Grant) becomes a private secretary to Lord Darlington. He loves and honors Darlington, but he realizes early on that this good man is being manipulated and out of his depth. Cardinal becomes a journalist, and he works to expose collusion of the part of government leaders and the king with the Nazi's. Stevens recognizes the situation; he refuses to admit it publically, but it gnaws at him.

Finally, there is the American Congressman, Lewis (Christopher Reeve) who as a guest at a conference exposes the delusions of amateurs. 20 years after Miss Kentin left to marry, Lewis returns to save the hall from destruction. Stevens needs to find a new housekeeper. A letter leads him to believe that she might be available. With his employer's blessing and the loan of a Daimler, Stevens is off to seek his woman. The film is structured that scenes from the present are interspersed with the past with Lord Darlington at the height of his powers and influence with Stevens' quest to change the "Remains of the Day."

The two leads are flawed characters, not flawed actors. How do you construct a performance so that the internal conflicts are there, but they don't dominate the screen. Both characters are prisoners of their character. Their role in life seems to be serving the needs of others. I reflect on the words of Kipling. No not the famous: "A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke." I refer to "the saddest words of song or pen are these: it might have been." The ability of actors to make us empathize with these characters, and yes, even like them. We root for them. They have earned our loyalty. Many critics felt that the hopeful ending of "The White Countess" was tacked on. I think they ignore the nature of the situation, Shanghai is destroyed. In this film both central characters have a reality to return to. Thompson is needed by her husband; Stevens is needed by Lewis. He promised to return. A life together would take a leap of faith in each other.

This is available for free streaming. This a must see for the impeccable style, and the sense of loss. We are carried along by the story. Like the characters we become aware of the consequences of our actions, So we are able to accept the ending. It is not the resolution we hoped for, but it is real. Surprisingly, in real life, Merchant Ivory as a partnership tells a different story. Together, they built an enduring partnership against all the odds. They made the films they wanted to make without real compromises. That is not to say that their films were always successful at the box office or with critics, but they were always their films.
 
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July 4th Films

Several years ago I provided a short list of viewing selections for this holiday. I offer this list as a suggestion for holiday viewing. In no particular order: "Moscow on the Hudson" This is both a comedy and a picture about immigrants, "Sandlot" this is a classic about growing up and belonging. It happens on the day. "Lincoln" Spielberg's bio picture about the Civil War Amendments. John Ford's fantasy bio "Young Mr. Lincoln" Try any of Ford's classic westerns; for instance "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence," The Searchers," or "Fort Apache."
Would you prefer a political film, try one of these: "Mr.Smith Goes to Washington," "All the President's Men," or "Four Little Girls" Spike Lee's documentary about the Birmingham church bombings. Try Elia Kazan's "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." It's perfect for family viewing. Kazan's "On the Waterfront" is a great classic which looks at the underside of society.

If you need a sports film try "Miracle" the US hockey team in the Olympics; or "Eight Men Out" the 1919 Black Sox scandal. A more upbeat film is "Field of Dreams" great for fathers and sons. There are dozens of war films; you could start with "The Longest Day" the D Day recounting, or perhaps "Glory" the story of a Negro regiment in the Civil War, "Blackhawk Down" celebrates courage, and "Good Morning Vietnam" offers humor with insight into a failed mission.

Last year i mentioned that "Jaws" was my happy accident in 4th of July viewing. I haven't mentioned musicals, but "The Music Man" is appropriate as are "1776" and "Hamilton." We've covered "Yankee Doodle Dandy" where Cagney dances and sings his way into history. No doubt you have your own favorites; so this year as part of your festivities include a film worth watching. Best wishes for a joyful 4th.
 
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"Raiders of the Lost Arc"-Steven Spielberg-1981

This film reminds me of the Jack Black comment at the Toronto Film Festival. He was appearing in a panel on "The School of Rock." The line "You're never too old to be young" is a perfect introduction to this film. Spielberg and Lucas were re-capturing their youth. This is Saturday matinee serial fodder. The idea was Lucas',
but the execution was Spielberg's. The script is by Lawrence Kasdan. Harrison Ford plays the lead. He has an iconic costume: distressed leather jacket, classic hat, and don't forget the bullwhip. There are iconic scenes: Indy holding the golden idol; Indy escaping a huge stone ball; Indy starring down a King Cobra, and who can forget the scene when instead of fighting a swordsman with his whip; he just shoots him.

If we analyze Jones' behavior; his career is based on stealing antiquities, but we don't really care. The series has
fathered many children. The Cage National Treasure series is just one example. None has ever combined the appeal of the central character, the quality of the action sequences, and the humor. The script is excellent, and the pace is almost exhausting, and the central antiquity can't be topped. The visuals are memorable; for example when Belloq is ready to open the Arc his costume is authentic. Of course they miss the mark saying that the broken shards ofthe Ten Commandments are in the arc. The Bible has it that the ark houses copies. Believe me, I didn't know that off the top of my head.

At the end of the film, we witness the boxed Ark being stored in a giant warehouse; "Warehouse 13"anyone? The point is that this film has passed into popular culture to such an extent that we unconsciously accept the references. This film has created a mythological universe for the modern world.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a free streaming option, not that I expected to. Indiana Jones is as real as Paul Bunyan. Please, Spielberg no additions to the sacred text. Resist the temptation to meddle with a glorious myth.
 
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"People Get Ready"

I woke up this morning with this song on my mind. "People get ready; there's a train a coming..." I needed some hope. I'm not an overtly religious person, but somewhere inside me there is a hope of a better tomorrow.
So for those of you who need a little lift, let me suggest the VH1 documentary on YouTube. It's only around 45 minutes. It gives you an overall view of his background and music. One of the best reasons for watching is the segments of a 1996 interview. I think this gives you some idea of what a great person Mayfield was. Even after the terrible concert accident; he remained remarkably humble and optimistic.

After viewing this documentary, feel free to view any of the other videos. Curtis Mayfield v. Donald Trump I know what vision speaks to me.
 

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