Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
An outcry of despair
Mash is not merely a film, it is an institute! Nowadays it is difficult to imagine the dispiriting effect of the Vietnam war. A whole generation of young Americans grew up in fear of being drafted and killed in a senseless battle. After each presidential speech for peace more troops were sent to the front. Many famous films express this depressing experience in repulsive pictures: Apocalypse now, to begin with, but also The deer hunter, and Coming home. And yes, Mash. It describes the Korean war, but everybody knows it is about Vietnam. At least wars teach us geography. This film really solidified in the subsequent popular TV series. It is one of the rare attempts to make fun of the devastation on the Vietnamese battlefield. For this purpose a military hospital is chosen as the film set. Hospitals are good fun. The humour is of a bizarre type, which rejects the existing order and institutions. Patients can be misused for jokes. The condition of dead men is called "stable". A sucking chest wound is nature's way of telling you to slow down. The military hierarchy is also in the focus of the pranks. Superiors are ridiculed, in spite of the military demand for respect, even if he were your father. But the events are just as averse to marriage, fair play in sport, religion, prudery, honesty or private property. The middle-class morals are sacrificed, and no certainty is left. Even the nurses are offensive ("It is just a rash"). Evidently the army will never be a virtuous organization. It is true that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms. But Mash takes this mark to the extreme. Mash shows the wrongs of life. I admit that this can be helpful and beneficial. Moreover, the story contains many sentimental appeals, for instance to protect the weak and truly vulnerable. Nevertheless, the moral degeneration in Mash is painful to watch. Why not lecture by means of exemplary behavior? Still, although it may seem ambiguous, I recommend this illustrious film, since Mash so well embodies the then outcry of despair.
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)
Everything is fantastic with a few more people!
The film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice describes two married couples, who experiment with sexual attitudes, and finally end up together in bed for an orgy. The present-day morals see this narrative as offensive and shocking. Think about all those stains! However, it gets digestible, when the counter culture movement of the late sixties is taken into account. Hippies, the new left, and the humanistic psychology wanted to abolish all those morals, which seemed so oppressive and out of date. Everything is fantastic with a few more people. Collective action (communes!) was preferred over competition. Relations should be based on the free expression of emotions. Thus even parts of the middle class developed a liking for social experiments. Few, if any, conducts were deemed inappropriate. On the contrary, there seemed to be merit in them. And anyway, everybody looks funny naked. Against this background the film story is merely a voyage of discovery. It is even possible to chuckle about funny (or bizarre) scenes. Here are some: Carol pursues the waiter in a restaurant in order to express her gratitude. She praises the meatloaf. It was apple pie (joking). When Bob catches Carol for adultery in their own house, he presents a glass to his rival (Horst, the tennis Lehrer), and offers his extensive collection of whiskey marks. Drinking makes other people more interesting. Of course they smoke hashish. In bed Ted is frustrated when Alice rejects him. His efforts to engage in intercourse, even though she is not "in the mood", are hilarious. He fails, because the preservatives are all gone! She is evidently disturbed by the decay of morals, and visits a therapist. At the time even dogs had their own therapist. She tells that sometimes at home she walks about naked, and her son asked about her "titi" ("He is so sweet"). When in the end the two couples land in the same bed, they have clearly lost control. Here the film makers finally show their disapproval, and the orgy fails. It is simply a violation of human nature. Being a contemporary, I am still somehow mollified by this crazy abolishment of any taboo, but I can not remember why. I also acknowledge the slippery slope towards perversity and morbidity. Will the present youth loathe Bob and company?
I love the ethical dilemmas
During the sixties of the last century the North-American movement for civil rights became increasingly radical, partly as a result of the ongoing Vietnam war. The movement consisted of a variegated coalition, which included hippies, students, blacks, and feminists. In this social climate of shifting moral values tiny groups of students revolted against the board of their universities. Students like to test their social bounds. For them a fire in the kitchen is something to laugh about. Their actions had a strong impact on society, and resulted in several film versions. RPM is one of them. I am fascinated by these cinematic reports, because they show how social resistance can escalate. RPM manages to elucidate the crucial aspects of the occurrences. And although as a rule I am indifferent about the casting, here the personality of Anthony Quinn indeed adds to the credibility of the story. He is a professor in sociology, Perez, whose lectures actually inspire the students to rebel. In his leisure time he engages in drunk driving on his motor bike. He prefers cocktails of carrot juice and whiskey, because he can see for miles (joking). The situation is piquant, because Perez is also the university dean. The rebels have occupied the main university building, and refuse to leave. In several scenes Perez negotiates with them, and offers them significant concessions. However, just like in the other films (and reality) the students do not know when to stop. Their leader wants to tear down the complete university system. He defines aggression as any violence, in which he does not participate. He believes that the board looks down on the students, but stands on the verge of the abyss. Soon Perez is disgusted at the immature and abusive behavior of the rebels. He advocates reforms, but not revolution. Thus in the end he feels compelled to have the rebellious students removed by the riot police. The students shout: "I pay your salary, you know", but the officers are not impressed. It is a loss-loss situation. Although Perez has acted in good faith, his decision has also made him the symbol of institutional violence. I love the ethical dilemmas in this film, as well as in its cinematic companions Strawberry Statement and Getting Straight.
Barefoot in the Park (1967)
Conservatism and revolution
The film Barefoot in the park interests me, because it describes a love affair, and because it has been recorded during the flourishing period of the counter culture movement. It is a time of rapid changes in the social position of women and in the (pre-)sexual habits. Lovers start calling Dr. Ruth. Indeed the film gives a sparking display of the new lifestyle, although the couple has just effected a traditional marriage. Apparently the institution still has a nice ring to it. The male character is rather boring, even in his profession (lawyer). He uses his personality for birth control. On the other hand, the female character certainly has the attitude of a hippie. And what else can you expect from Jane Fonda? Corie (Fonda) loves to break through conventions, rules and authority. Her favorite T-shirt is offensive in 19 states. Thus it is evident from the start that this marriage is forged in hell. Already in the second week Corie complains: "There are doers and watchers", and she is the doer of the two. She realizes her mistake, and wants a divorce. This would indeed have been the logical end, were it not that the narrative is supposed to be a comedy. Therefore her mother convinces her that in a good marriage both partners must give up some parts of their personality. They must support each other. Now Corie comes to the conclusion that she actually wants a sterling and caring husband, that is to say, a watcher. The marriage is saved. In its joyous end the film turns back to the spirit of the gay and conservative fifties, in the days before Doris Day was a virgin. The same can be said about the music, which is still classic. Electric guitar players are meant to deliver pizzas. The film is a recast of a theatrical play, and the melodrama is kept intact. The original theater script is also visible in the lack of dynamics in time and space, and the location of most scenes in just a few rooms. In conclusion, Barefoot is an amusing but not deep pastime (at least, I do not see it). It hovers somewhere between conservatism and revolution. If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?
A Christmas Carol (1984)
"A Christmas carol" by Dickens has been molded into a film version many times. As far as I can remember, this version of 1984 seems to stick to the events in the book, which is always commendable. One should appreciate, that Dickens portrays the real spirit of businessmen in olden times. It is the flourishing period of Manchester capitalism, and of Malthusianism. In a sense Scrooge is even engaging, because at least he abstains from a decadent lifestyle. He is simply a skillful investor, who knows the risks. He is indeed a man of rare gifts. He is the type who stuffs a pair of socks in each pocket, when he sends the pajamas to the laundry. Since the financial crisis of 2008 the personality of Scrooge has again become much more recognizable. Three ghosts try to convert him: Christmas past, present and future. Of course Scrooge is mainly interested in the present (joke!). It is a heavy exchange. One would expect that it ends in a tie. Only true believers will be willing to accept the sudden conversion of Scrooge. Indeed the intervention of God is needed in order to change a seasoned investor into a philanthropist, within a single night. It is a bit like your mother- in-law. You did not believe in Hell until you met her. Although the modern psychology tells us that a protracted therapy would be required, the Bible is replete with such events. The main actor George Scott indulges in theatrical play, but this does not irritate, and in fact may well have been the normal human behavior in the times of Dickens. It is noteworthy that in some aspects the shots truly glorify Christmas. For instance, there is the virginity of white snow, even in the crowded streets. And on every street corner a small choir sings Christmas hymns. Moreover, in my imagination a miser such as Scrooge ought to be leaner than Scott is. Misers only eat leftovers. They are disgusted with the original meal. But these are insignificant details, which do not make the film less recommendable.
Oliver's Story (1978)
Time flies like an arrow
Oliver's Story is a film with an entertaining narrative, appealing pictures, and quiet music. Although it is an amusing experience, do not expect action. For it is better to have loafed and lost than not to have loafed at all. However, the story also contains food for thought, and these moments add extra value. For instance, although the story can be enjoyed as a stand-alone film, obviously it is an elaboration on Love Story. It is its sequel. The combination gives more depth to the Oliver character. Oliver's Story analyses the dawning love of a couple, just like Love Story. The Oliver in Love Story marries below his own social class. Jenny transforms into a slovenly housewife, who is married to a couch that burps. She is saved from this fate only by a premature death. On the other hand, the Oliver in the sequel falls in love with a successful career woman, Marcy. Whereas in Love Story his sport engagements with friends are meant to escape from the rut of his marriage, in Oliver's Story they serve to approach his beloved. Sweat is sexy on her. Nevertheless, the latter affair is doomed from the start. Oliver can not accept a partner, who is his equal in status. He wants to come first. When she says: "I need some space", he hears "without you in it". Whereas Oliver in Love Story is traumatized by the relation with his father, in the sequel he is depressed by the untimely death of Jenny. Again his past haunts him. Fruit flies like a banana, but time flies like an arrow. The consequences are similar: occasional emotional outbursts. Even the attempts of his psychiatrist do not improve his mood. Oliver's Story also elaborates on his profession. Whereas in Love Story he is a business lawyer, in the sequel he is dedicated to social lawsuits. He complains that ninety nine percent of the lawyers give him a bad name. Tensions arise because Marcy imports her textiles from Hong Kong, whereas Oliver wants to keep his old and noncompetitive Barrett weaving-mill in the USA. In case that you enjoy symbolism: a Jenny is a spinning machine. Evidently the character of Oliver is somewhat schizophrenic: charming, irritating, conservative, unbalanced, and ill-tempered. His ego is enormous. He may not be an island, but he is a pretty long peninsula. Still, both films are fascinating. They make you ponder, and that is the hallmark of quality.
A man of rare gifts
"A Christmas carol" by Dickens has been molded into a film version many times. However this version from 1951 stands out for several reasons. At the time most people were still religious, so that they were sensitive to the sincere and supernatural connotation in Dickens' story. The film producer realizes this. In 1951 Scrooge is an evil man, he is evidently a sinner, but he is not yet a caricature. He is not a guy who reverse charges his obscene telephone calls. The black-and-white images fit in with the atmosphere of the nineteenth century, and this is reinforced by the sometimes gloomy music. This is Scrooge as Dickens meant him to be. Later versions suffer from the fact, that people have become agnostic (because atheists do not have holidays). Christmas has been transformed into a rather sentimental feast, with delusions about world peace. It must also be remembered, that Dickens portrays the real spirit of businessmen in olden times. It is the flourishing period of Manchester capitalism, and of Malthusianism. In a sense Scrooge is even engaging, because at least he abstains from a decadent lifestyle. He is simply a skillful investor, who knows the risks. He is indeed a man of rare gifts. He is the type who stuffs a pair of socks in each pocket, when he sends the pajamas to the laundry. Since the financial crisis of 2008 the personality of Scrooge has again become recognizable. Finally, it must be remarked that only true believers will be able to accept the sudden conversion of Scrooge. Indeed the intervention of God is needed in order to change a seasoned investor into a philanthropist, within a single night. It is a bit like your mother-in-law. You did not believe in Hell until you met her. The Bible is replete with such events. But modern psychology tells us that a protracted therapy would be required. Nevertheless, the film is worth watching, on Christmas day and beyond.
The President's Analyst (1967)
Another Nouvelle Vague film
It is my conviction that films must in some way convey one or more messages to their public. In most cases they do, but the narrative of The president's analyst is a difficult nut to crack. The story is amusing but superficial, and avoids to play on emotions. I suspect that director Flicker is inspired by the Nouvelle Vague, which at the time was quite popular. Of course the leading director of this movement is Jean-Luc Godard. In fact the Godard style emerged as a rebellion against the authoritarian rule of the (French) presidential regime. If presidents do not do it to their wives, they do it to their country. Flicker addresses many of the social events, that shocked the people in the late sixties. The main theme is political spying, which still dominated the news in those days of the Cold War. The film portrays a truly paranoid society. Show me where Stalin is buried, and I will show you a communist plot. The title shots display a political execution, which according to the main character psychiatrist Schaefer is a rational and respectable deed. Note that at the time the people were confronted with the Vietnam war on a daily basis. However, it soon becomes apparent that the FBI has transformed killing into merely a bureaucratic act. Thus Schaefer himself is eventually targeted by them. For some reason the telephone company is also involved in the conspiracy plot. Fortunately, at the time an alternative emerges, the counter culture of the New Age movement. And indeed a group of hippies helps Schaefer to escape from his assailants. He immediately blends in with his new companions. They make love and say: "That was wonderful for you. How was it for me?" (just kidding). Remember that actually the humanist psychology was an important part of the New Age, certainly for the middle classes. For such an absurd script it is not a spoiler to reveal the final scene: during Christmas Schaefer fraternizes with an American and Soviet spy, which provides for a happy ending. Once again the fat guy with the red suit and white beard gets all the credit. The film is recommendable, but be warned: you must know the atmosphere of those days in order to truly appreciate it.
I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968)
A ridicule of the New Age
The film I love you Alice B. Toklas gives an excellent portrayal of the counter culture movement in the last years of the 60s, notably in the west coast of the USA. This is a fine place to live, if you happen to be an orange. The movement tried to take a holistic view on mankind, in order to enter a New Age. The ideology incorporates science and humanist psychology, but also for instance eastern mysticism. The aim is total harmony. You invite your analyst for Christmas dinner. The people must be self-conscious but abandon egocentrism. Although the hippie movement was a figurehead of the New Age, the mainstream consisted of bored middle-class individuals, who sought a meaning in life. In the film this latter group is represented in a striking way by the 35-year old lawyer Harold. He is successful in his profession, and is socially embedded in his Jewish community. Good lawyers can let a case drag on for years. Harold has a protracted relationship with his secretary, but clearly her passion is one-sided. Finally he agrees to marry on labor day! But then Harold meets the 20-year old hippie Nancy. She bakes brownies for him, with hashish and carrots, and he loves it. He is high and can see for miles. It makes him run away on his wedding day, because he wants to discover who he really is. On the beach he takes lessons in mysticism from an Indian guru. The film music changes into Indian Zither pieces. Harold lives with Nancy in his car and in his repainted luxury apartment. His T-shirt is offensive in 19 states. He even tries to convert two passing police officers. But naturally Nancy gets bored, and brings other hippies into the house. it is fun with a few more people. The place is transformed into a commune, and this is not the relation that Harold had imagined. Nancy calls him unhip, and Harold insists that he is groovy. This terminates his short hippie career. The last minutes of the film are somewhat confusing. Again the secretary arranges a marriage, and again Harold runs off. She exclaims: "I knew it!", and he shouts: "There must be something beautiful out there!" Obviously the narrative ridicules the New Age ideas, but still the scenes give a stirring picture of its atmosphere. The viewer can engage in shamefaced nostalgia. And whereas the New Age movement is long gone, which indeed makes the setting outdated, the search for the personal identity remains a theme of eternal value.
Butterflies Are Free (1972)
A belated adolescence?
The film Butterflies are free appeals to me notably because of the scenery, which is flower power life in the roaring (last) years of the sixties. You know you are in California, when your pet has its own psychiatrist. This does not imply that the story is outdated or not timeless. However, certain elements do personate the typical spirit of the time, such as the general acceptance of sexual licentiousness ("This would be fun with a few more people"). They are embodied mainly by the female character Jill. Even though she is nineteen years old, she has already been married, albeit for only six days. It were the two most glorious days of her life. She loves to experiment, and has been both a hippie and a young republican (she concludes: "There are no young republicans"). She dresses in the flower power fashion, and lives within the counter culture movement. The male character Don is plain and common, and is exceptional merely due to his blindness. He goes skydiving in order to scare the hell out of his dog (just kidding; he does not have a dog). Jill and Don meet in the apartment, that they share. The apartment is as colorful as Jill, thanks to its former inhabitants who were hippies. Don lives on his own, with the financial support of his mother. This impresses Jill. She falls for Don, and within half an hour she seduces him. However, already the next day she is vexed by second thoughts ("Do you know that the ceiling needs painting?"), and decides to move house again. This plunges Don into an emotional crisis. Let me reflect on that. In general I like to ponder about film scripts, in order to extract a hidden message or meaning. Unfortunately it is difficult to make sense of the Butterfly narrative. Although Jill dominates the relationship, she is evidently as immature as Don. The events are unbalanced, and volatile. Even the peeping toms are booing them. Is this a portrayal of a belated adolescence? Indeed, the naivete saves Butterflies from being perverse. Note that the film is an adaptation of a screen play, and little attempt has been made to enhance the dynamics in space and time and to include captivating cinematic effects. At least the reviews are worthwhile.
Getting Straight (1970)
A must-see for my contemporaries
Getting straight is a film, which creates a monument for the counter culture era in the late sixties. It does so in a very authentic and credible way. I grew up in those days, and although I could never understand the motives and logic of my rebellious contemporaries, Getting straight presents a recognizable picture of all the elements. The atmosphere of freedom, profligacy, enjoyment and naivety is factual. The story is replete with fighting against the police, but it remains good-natured. It truly was like that (most of the time). Even the film music is typical. Back then I realized naturally that the counter culture was an illusion. But it did remove some of the unwarranted authority, and thus increased our freedom. In the film script this struggle is enacted on a university - the students were indeed an avant garde. Other movies about the subject (Strawberry statement, Fritz the Cat, The revolutionary, perhaps Hair) all paint a gloomy picture of the student movement. A society needs a certain responsibility in order to survive. Getting straight employs a more subtle approach, and focuses on the personality of the main character, Harry. Harry exemplifies the counter culture. He is a likable leader: bright, witty, and authoritative. However, a closer examination reveals that he is also unstable and abusive. In fact he possesses many of the evils, that were the target of the counter culture. He tries to exploit his landlady, he deceives during exams, he can not control his rages, and worst of all, he humiliates his loyal girl-friend Jenny. The script sympathizes with Harry, but also makes fun of him. For instance, after a one-night stand in the bedroom of a woman, he says: "It is time to go. Shall I call a cab for you?" In rare moments Harry indeed realizes that his attitude is self-destructive. The climax is his oral masters exam before a committee. One of the professors rejects the scientific standpoint of Harry. In a visible internal battle Harry tries to give in, but he fails to bring in this generosity. Once again he throws a fit, in this crucial moment of his life, and thus loses his masters. At the same time, outside the students rise up, and plunder the university buildings. Still Harry tries to justify his behavior: "It is not important what you do, but who you are" and "I do not belong here". It may appear strange, but I love this film, for its humanity and understanding of human deficiency. It is definitely recommendable, and a must-see for my contemporaries.
John and Mary (1969)
A film with complexities
This film really moves me, because it addresses themes that pervaded my youth. Dustin Hoffman had already impressed me in this sensual film The Graduate (with sound track by the talented Simon and Garfunkel). Mia Farrow did the same thing in the illustrious TV series Peyton Place. Perhaps the relation of John and Mary is less sensual, but it is certainly equally daring. The attraction between them is almost tangible. Their relationship is a continuous oscillation between detachment and passion. There is a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can not get away. Both of them are willing to explore the limits, and to risk losing the other. Just imagine, she does not want to kiss on her first date. He asks: "How about on your last date?" Often (but not always!) they have conflicting perceptions, and both have hidden frustrations in the closet. She has been on so many blind dates, that she should get a free dog. Although they are common people, they are extremely self-confident. Moreover, the film avoids a cheap straining after effect, and the narrative seems credible. This makes their thoughts and behavior truly fascinating, at least for me. They even create some suspense and fun. He tells her that he has bought two tickets for the theater - she has two room mates (just kidding). Still, the film has some complexities, for the plot presents controversial morals, even nowadays. It evokes the illusion, that instant sex builds relations. On the other hand, John and Mary are in danger of exploiting each other. For instance, they exchange names only after 24 hours (this is not a joke!). Depending on your own views, this could make the film challenging or perhaps sleazy. It creates ambiguous feelings, which certainly makes you ponder. I must definitely watch this film again.
Love Story (1970)
Wake up call
The film Love story has become legendary as a romance. And it is, in a way. It describes those early moments when two young people stimulate each other, and enjoy each others company. Experts call this phase the attraction, or more romantic: the love tent. However, on a closer examination the harmony is really quite superficial. In fact there are even many unpleasant clashes. So Love story could qualify as a satire, and a criticism of the traditional family. Any way, that is the perspective that I prefer. At the start of the narrative Oliver and Jennifer are both promising students. They fall in love. It is the most glorious three days of their lives. However, the nagging starts already after two dates: "I want to know your name" (joking). But although Jenny is a veritable teaser, she soon subjugates to Oliver. When she plans to complete her study in Paris, Oliver proposes to marry her, and she quickly abandons her plan. Marriage is a wonderful invention, but then again, so is a bicycle puncture repair kit. Moreover, since Oliver can not get a scholarship, she agrees to take a job below her level in order to pay his study! Soon Oliver is more interested in his text-books than in her. The relation fades. There is a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so she can not get away. There are many scenes with ill-tempered conversations. Let me cite just one: when Oliver gets his degree after concluding his law study, with excellent marks, a sum of money is attached to it. He says to Jenny: "Your maternity reward". On the way home he discusses the names of their future children. But some time later, when he goes in for sports with a colleague, he states that Jenny herself refuses to continue her study, and prefers to get children instead. Oliver takes Jenny everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back (joking). Unfortunately Jenny is fatally ill (spoiler!). On her dying bed she complains that she has forgotten much of her college education. She finally seems to realize the tragedy that her professional career has been stifled. Surrender comes at a price. The painful reality is that back then this fate was fairly common among female students. They were predestined to become housewives, and readily conformed to these (often) dull lives. This is how I see Love story: like a melodrama, full of sarcasm. And a wake-up call. "I do" can be the longest sentence. Do not forget to like this review.
Introspective pornographic moments
The film "I am curious - blue" is the twin of "I am curious - yellow". In the film the producers even use this similarity between the two as an argument to recommend their acquisition ("Now also available in blue"). Since I already have reviewed the latter, the present comments can be succinct. Both films are made in the style of the nouvelle vague. This type of films appeared mainly in the roaring sixties and early seventies, launched by innovative producers. Both the blue and yellow version are political films, notably about Swedish life, and presented in the style of a documentary. Remember the wise words of the French writer Paulhan: "All I ask is that politicians change the world, and not also the truth". In fact the script is replete with bizarre arguments. One wonders what is meant to be satire and what not. Whereas the yellow version still contains a love story, of the leading woman Lena, the blue version is just a sequence of interviews. It addresses the then topics of interest: the inequality of income, nonviolent resistance, imprisonment, religion, and of course sexuality (including homosexual relations and sexual diseases). If men got pregnant, they would not think twins were so cute (joke, to keep this review entertaining). While in principle the reconsideration of the social norms was indeed befitting, "I am curious" follows the nasty New Left habit of abolishing all norms without replacement by new ones. The viewer is simply encouraged to experiment and discover his or her own boundaries (see the title). Evidently this is a poor recipe for success. Thus the "I am curious" couple tends to endorse stupidity, albeit presented in a tone of moral superiority. You do not have a dirty mind, but introspective pornographic moments. You are not sleeping around, but monogamically challenged. This qualifies the films as accurate images of the time, but also makes them out of date and somewhat unpleasant to watch. Moreover I find the blue version less funny than the yellow one. The reader may decide for him- or herself whether "I am curious" deserves a closer examination. Don't hesitate to leave a comment. I love it.
Der blaue Engel (1930)
Der blaue Engel has funny and comic elements
Der blaue Engel is the story about a totally dysfunctional marriage. When I saw the film for the first time, many years ago, I found it a depressing and nasty sight. For professor Rath, the spindle in the plot, is attached to love in the same way as an addict to hard drugs. He may not be the brightest person in the room, but at first he is a well respected member of his small community, and reasonably happy. But at the end, a few years later, he is just a wreck, and probably dead. My love for you, it came and went, so your feet are now in wet cement. I found it hard to believe that passion could completely destroy a sound character. It looked like a melodrama - which I detest. Nevertheless, Der blaue Engel deserves a second chance. For recently I saw the film again, and this time the narrative impressed me. The events are quite symbolic. In the first scene Rath whistles for his parakeet, but it has died. Rath is socially less clever than his pupils, with the exception of one, who is therefore nagged by his comrades. It is a tough school, they have their own coroner (joking). Rath is myopic and can not control his pupils. Later Rath meets the singer Lola, when he tries to withdraw his pupils from her bad influence. Lola makes cluck-cluck sounds, and Rat crows, indicating that there is an immediate and intuitive understanding. Naturally they marry. But Rath can not find his place in this troupe of performers. He ends as an unsound clown, who is only funny when eggs are smashed on his scull. It is understandable that Rat is soon a broken man. With a last effort he stumbles back to his school, and collapses into his old chair. His hand seize the writing desk, with such a strength, that the passing janitor is unable to remove Rath. Is he dead? Has he joined his parakeet? So, on second thoughts, Der blaue Engel has funny and comic elements. Rath is a born loser, with a resemblance with Laurel and Hardy, or Chaplin. If you are able to abstract from the melodrama, then Der blaue Engel is definitely recommendable. Don't forget to leave comments. I love it.
Land Van Lubbers (2016)
Both feet planted firmly in the air
Ruud Lubbers was the Dutch prime minister between 1982 and 1994. Without doubt he was one of the most gifted prime ministers since WWII. He always had both feet planted firmly in the air (pun intended). Therefore the TV series "Land van Lubbers" deserves a warm welcome. The producers have decided to focus their narrative on four events, which are more or less typical for the career of Lubbers. They are the oil crisis in 1973, the placing of nuclear cruise missiles (1985), the foundation of the European Union (1992), and the failed election campaign in 1994. Of course this selection is somewhat arbitrary. But this is not a problem, since the producers choose to focus on the relations, not on themes. Politics consists of conflicts, where everyone shoots from the lip (pun intended). The plot concerns a series of lectures to students, given by Lubbers himself as an elderly statesman. The contents of his lecture is presented in the form of flashbacks. This is a witty find, because it means that Lubbers comments in retrospect on his own behavior. The quick-witted politician has changed into a thoughtful old man. And I mean really old, his blood type is discontinued. But OK, old age is not so bad, when you consider the alternative. The series is reasonably convincing in portraying the characters of Lubbers and his political entourage. Trust me, I know Dutch politics. However, a significant part of the story concerns his domestic life, and that is unfamiliar to me. These scenes may well be fictional. For instance, he is chasing women and does not remember why. Since the time period covers my road to adulthood, the pictures made me feel somewhat nostalgic. On the other hand, none of the scenes are truly impressive or emotionally stirring. There are no surprises, either pleasant or not. Still, the series probably deserves a recommendation, since it is entertaining from the beginning until the end. The subtitles are in Dutch, which is close to German. Don't forget to leave comments. I love it.
OK, but no crumbs in bed
The film I am curious - yellow is made in the style of the nouvelle vague. Apparently this style was invented by the French director Jean-Luc Godard (Tout va bien, La Chinoise, Weekend). In my view the hallmark of such films is an incoherent story, with surreal incidents, and a lack of emotions. People are ruined but do not seem to notice it. This type of films was made mainly in the roaring sixties and early seventies, by innovative producers. So it is no surprise that I am curious - yellow starts as a political film. This part is almost a documentary. It describes the then Swedish society, which was very egalitarian. The socialist prime minister Olaf Palme appears in a minor role. The main character is Lena, a rather simple young woman. She wants to know if Sweden is a class society, and asks everybody. She adores Martin Luther King. The Swedish television shows how the army decides to employ non-violent resistance against the Red Army! The right to bear arms is slightly less ludicrous than the right to arm bears. Halfway the film the story becomes more personal. Lena engages in sexual experiments, hoping to develop her sexual identity. Time and again she has disappointing experiences. "To err is human", said the hedgehog, and jumped from the cactus. Or, he: "Would you like to join me for a pancake?" She: "OK, but no crumbs in bed". Finally she gets so enraged, that she abjures the ideal of King. In fact she abandons her social engagement, and destroys her archives with press cuttings. Apparently most personalities can not bear the self- sacrifice in collective action, which probably is the message of producer Sjöman. In a world without men there would be no war, just intense negotiations every 28 days. All in all the shocking naivety of the Swedish people got stuck in my mind. In addition some of the surreal moments and scenes are quite funny and surprising. This makes the film worth watching. Don't hesitate to leave a comment. I love it.
The Special Relationship (2010)
The English point of view
The film The special relationship is a sequel of the film The deal, which I also reviewed on IMDb. The Deal describes how Tony Blair attains the leadership of the English Labour Party. His competitor was Gordon Brown ("When Brown leaves the room, the lights go on"). In the sequel the first years of Blair in power as prime minister of England are depicted. The ideology of the old Labour Party had become totally obsolete, and thus Blair tried to modernize her. He was impressed by the ideas of the New Democrats, after their political break-through under Bill Clinton. The Special relationship tells how Clinton and Blair desire to introduce the doctrine of the New Democrats on a global scale. In England she is called the Third Way (compromise between old liberalism and conservatism). Note however the complaint of the English opposition: "Blair has done more U-turns than a dodgy plumber". Of course Clinton is even more ludicrous, due to his affair with Lewinsky. For instance, why does Clinton wear boxer shirts? To keep his ankles warm. Or, a majority of the American women replies to the question "Would you sleep with Clinton?" with "Never again". Nevertheless the producers manage to sketch a vivid and captivating picture of the association between the two leaders and their wives. Indeed the affair and the possible impeachment form a part of the story. Of course the conversations are fictitious, so that realism is not guaranteed. Undoubtedly the importance of Blair is exaggerated, for instance when one of his ministers says: "In the public approval you (Blair) are the number one leader of the world". This mild form of nationalism may be repugnant for American viewers. But the producers are realistic enough to admit that Clinton possesses more power. Blair remains the junior partner. For me as a European is was strange to see the contempt of Blair with respect to the French president Chirac. Still this may be true. Certainly the support of Blair for the American invasion in Irak made him very unpopular on the Continent. In conclusion, The special relationship may stick to the English point of view, but it is made with skill and therefore recommendable. Don't forget to leave comments. I love it.
Actually Woodstock was a sad event
Documentaries about musical events do not really lend themselves to a review. However Woodstock was just as much a social event as a concert. For several days the fields changed into a temporary city. It is interesting to see how Michael Wadleigh displays and interprets the attitude of the crowd. He interviews the visitors, and asks them about their motives to be there. Most of them are barely grown people. Many simply follow the flow, but for others the festival is an opportunity to increase their wisdom of life. They arrive as groups and communes, and try to learn from each others experiences. There are spiritual meetings. There is recreation and fun, like the mud slides in the rain. But there are also social experiments, like nude swimming and even public drug (ab)use. They blow to make other people interesting. They may have read about the evils of drugs, and gave up reading. The cast of singers and song groups looks impressive. But to be fair, I did not like their music then, and in the film it looks truly poor and miserable. In many cases the appearance consists of screaming and physical convulsions. Today such a performance would not attract such an enormous crowd. It takes the drummers a minute to notice that their band has stopped playing. Joke: what is the difference between an electric guitar and a chainsaw? The grip. Probably it makes more sense to interpret the festival as a demonstration against war and violence. America was in the grip of the civil rights movement. Several charismatic leaders had been murdered. And most of all, there was the appalling war in Vietnam, which threatened the future of the male youth. On stage Joan Baez tells about the objection to military service of her boyfriend. If your life expectancy is just a few years, there is some cause for screaming and wild social experiments. The right to bear arms is slightly less ludicrous than the right to arm bears. By the way, why do soldier look so tired on 1 April? Because they just had a 31-day March. Actually Woodstock was a sad event. And Wadleigh must get the credit for managing to convey this message - which is a recommendation. Don't hesitate to leave a comment. I love it.
Bread and Roses (2000)
Maya has a knack for making strangers
Director Ken Loach describes in the film "Bread and roses" the struggle of an American trade union in order to improve the working conditions of the janitors. And they are actually victorious, since finally the firm gives in to their demands. So on the surface Bread and roses is another homage to the search for freedom and justice. Joke, to make this review more attractive: a lawyer, who assists a client in a law suit, calls him: "Justice has prevailed!" The client replies: "So we have lost the case?" Loach is like that. Although his films always concern the socially deprived, the personal shortcomings of the main characters dominate the social injustice. This makes his films rather gloomy, since the viewer finds it hard to identify with the characters. Bread and roses fits particularly well in this scheme of Loach. Although probably the "Justice for janitors" campaign was not as glorious as its reputation, Bread and roses really sketches an unfavorable image. The main character Maya is selfcentred and almost devoid of morals. She has a knack for making strangers immediately. When she enters the USA from Mexico as an illegal immigrant, she and her sister Rosa even cheat on the human traffickers. Maya accepts a job offer in a public house, but she soon gets into a fight with customers. Then she wants to work as a cleaning woman, just like her sister Rosa. The husband of Rosa is unemployed, he suffers from diabetes, and has never paid for health care insurance. Rosa is a former prostitute, who is still in the habit. She does not even know who is the father of her children, so apparently she economizes on contraceptives. If here Loach mocks at her, I find it a bit morbid. In her cleaning work Maya retains her lax attitude. Just one detail: she uses the stationery of the clients of her cleaning firm to write her personal letters. Hard work never killed anybody, but why take the chance? Her colleagues are industrious. Maya complains that they do anything for the money. However, it must be admitted that her employer is harsh. For instance, he does not pay for health care. So the firm has low costs, and ousts the unionized competitors from the market. Obviously the union dislikes this. Therefore one of her organizers instigates the workers of the cleaners firm, including Maya, and harasses its clients. He does not shun aggressive methods, like disturbance of the domestic peace. Maya, who always loves to complain, agitates for the union. At the same time, she robs an employee of a gas station, who tries to help her. She is indeed a prime candidate for natural de-selection. In the end she is arrested. The state offers her a lawyer free of charge, but she asks for a witness for the defence (joke). Maya is expelled to Mexico, without imprisonment. Incidentally, it strikes me, that Loach imputes a hatred of the American society to the illegal immigrants in his film. So how should Bread and roses be rated? The quality of Loach films lies in their excellence in showing the room for social improvements. But personally, I prefer films that show at least a glimpse of human kindness and decency.
Ciske de Rat (1984)
Dutch rednecks in the depression years
Each country or nation has its own books for and about boys. The Americans have Tom Sawyer, the Dutch have Merijntje Gijsen, Ciske de Rat, Kees de Jongen, and a lot more. The Flamish have De Witte. In previous reviews on IMDb I already described film releases of these stories. They are nice portrayals of the daily lives of our (grand)parents, and a part of the cultural heritage. Actually the Netherlands is a fine place to live if you happen to be a grass- mower. So you will not be surprised that I also watched the last (1984) version Ciske de Rat. The narrative is based on a trilogy by Piet Bakker, where the third volume is in fact a sequel Ciske de Man. Although this is actually a TV series, it contains a cast of Dutch star performers. So it tickles my sense of national pride that the foreign reviews on this page are essentially positive. It makes me bold enough to suggest that you might like the other youth films just mentioned. We change misery into TV shows. The 1984 Rat version is very much like the 1955 version - and probably like the trilogy, which I did not read. In the TV series Ciske is part of what Americans call a redneck family, and his youth is unhappy. His father is at sea, and his mother has an evil nature. She works in a public house, and lives a promiscuous life. You know the type: bikers back down from her. She goes to church to pick up men. This was a joke, but Ciske gets a knife from his father as a present, yes really, and here I am not joking. There is a gun rack on his bicycle (I exaggerate, Ciske does not own a bike). The kid stabs a school-fellow in the hand. However, the story is part of the literature of social enlightenment, and tries to offer some hope. Indeed the school teacher of Ciske becomes his legal guardian. Unfortunately, he is like the cross-eyed teacher, who can not control his pupils. So perhaps not surprisingly, he fails to prevent that Ciske kills his mother with a kitchen knife. Much later Ciske more or less rehabilitates himself by rescuing a drowning school- fellow, risking his own life. In summary, the series is rather an oppressing tale of human deficiency, more than Bakker intended. The backdrop of the thirties, the depression years and its social rebellion, adds to the atmosphere of misery. Nonetheless, if you are intrigued by the social impact on human nature, this is a film for you. Don't hesitate to leave a comment. I love it.
A review should stick to the facts, and bar emotions
I inherited the DVD Casablanca from my father. My parents belonged to the war generation and were liberated from the German occupation by the American army. Consequently in the fifties and sixties they received every American novelty with awe. American films had a cult status, and certainly Humphrey Bogart, and definitely the war film Casablanca. Bogard has a good name. He said rightly: "You are not a star until they can spell your name in Karachi". Dave Chasen said of him:"Bogey is a hell of a nice guy until 11.30 p.m. After that he thinks he is Bogart". In Cacablanca an American hero turns out to be a veritable chevalier as well. So these are my tender emotions, when I watch the film. However, all generalizations are false. A review should stick to the facts, and bar emotions. And in the light of day the script of Casablanca looks a little shaky. The town is portrayed as the center of human trafficking, which is evidently a dirty business. Therefore it seems slightly unlikely that the local bar owner would have a heart of gold, like Bogart. Joke to make this review even better: a penguin walks into a bar, and asks the bartender: "Have you seen my brother?" The bartender replies: "I don't know. What does he look like?" In addition the film characters of Bogart and Bergman are somewhat unpleasant. Bogart keeps reproaching Bergman how she has hurt his feelings. A normal person would be glad to have gotten rid of her. Never buy a car you can't push. And Bergman is unable to chose between her two lovers. In the end she leaves the decision to Bogart, which is either preposterous or cunningly clever. Sometimes the best helping hand you can give is a good, firm push. A normal person would assume, that apparently her two lovers are both inadequate. Fortunately, even when a film has an unconvincing narrative, it can still be saved by the quality of the separate scenes. In this respect Casablanca has definitely some excellent moments to offer. A face can say so many things. Especially the mouth part. Therefore it still deserves a positive recommendation. Play it again. Don't forget to leave comments. I love it.
Citizen Kane (1941)
The climax happens at the beginning
Citizen Kane can be called a film with an outstanding reputation, and in addition fifteen years older than me. So I feel somewhat embarrassed that I did not watch the film before last month. This is even more so, since the political genre is my favorite. Now, after having done my duty, there is the mission to write an original critique. Hopefully at least my loyal followers will pardon this stale addition to the plethora of reviews. Actually the climax of Citizen Kane happens right at the beginning. A boy lives with his simple parents. Although the couple is not really degenerate, there is a hint that the father is a somewhat violent educator. Anyway, the mother is glad when a benevolent Maecenas offers to adopt the boy. Thus Kane is separated from his elderly home, which causes a mild shock. Nevertheless, he succeeds in making an excellent career for himself as a newspaper tycoon. His stories are dynamite (take a flea out to dinner; do you still enjoy my review?). The pen is mightier than the sword, and considerably easier to write with. But the love that he receives from other people can not fill the emptiness due to his lost childhood. He lives in a conspicuous wealth, but this fails to bring meaning to his life. He becomes adamant (the very first insect). But why continue to dilate (= live long)? In the end the bitterness has grown upon him, and he dies in total isolation. Thus the film is quite melodramatic. Maybe in those days the film producers still had a knack for theatrical techniques. Or perhaps some years after the great Depression, that is so thrillingly portrayed in The grapes of wrath, there really was a class society with appalling differences. True capitalism is survival of the fattest. And of course Orson Welles is a giant, the man who said: "There is one thing worse than celibacy: marriage". Don't forget to leave comments. I love it.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Based on the book??
In fact, my interest in the film "There will be blood" was aroused because they announce (fellow-foreigners, this is one-sixteenth of a pound), that it is based on the book Oil by Upton Sinclair. And I should add in the same breath, that this claim is misleading. In this review I want to compare the film and its professed source of inspiration, the book. The film tells the story of an oilman, who is smart enough to succeed in business, but who also suffers from a uncontrollable rage. He is adamant (the very first insect). He murders a subordinate, and disposes of the body. At the end of the film, he also murders a priest. Requital is near, for hell is torrid. Unfortunately, I don't see the point. The story does not contain any mental challenges. To be fair, the film deserves credit with inciting me to read Oil, in a Dutch translation from 1937. Joke to make this text more palatable: a man visits his psychiatrist. He complains: "Each night I dream about English films. But what really irritates me are those Dutch subtitles". The book of Sinclair does better than the film. In the book the oilman is a straightforward business man, who loves his work. The main purpose of the narrative is to show the adverse influence of capitalism on society. For it separates the people into two camps, the haves and the have-nots. The mutual relations polarize (=what penguins see with). The oilman and other rich people bribe the state, so that it will serve their interests. And the workers receive a miserable wage. This creates hostility, and brings the oilman into conflict with the emerging trade unions. Sinclair tries to show that everybody suffers from this system. The poor live in destitute conditions, and above all lack leisure time. The rich lead meaningless lives, while trying to impress each other with their luxury. Joke: a millionaire summons his servant: "James, drive the fish under the bridge. It starts to rain". Sinclair also describes how the social-democrats and the Leninists try to oppose the system. I don't know if Sinclair supported the socialist ideology, but I find his narrative fairly objective. In fact Sinclair portrays the oilman in such a way, that I like him. His character is not bad by nature. It is the system, that forces him to use harsh and even illegal methods. I believe that this message is worth reflecting upon, for it contains an element of truth. American never liked socialism, and they were right. But still capitalism needs to be reformed. Riddle: do you know a book with a sad ending? My deposit book. Perhaps now you understand why I dislike the film makers, who fooled me into buying their DVD. If there are merits in the film that justify its recommendation, I don't see them. Don't hesitate to leave a comment. I love it.
Les misérables (1958)
Recently I bought the film Les miserables on DVD, because in my youth it had made a deep impression. The French release is rather expensive, but fortunately there is also a cheap Chinese version, with subtitles that can be switched off. This requires that you understand French. Joke to enliven this review: acupuncture fees in China are so cheap it is called pin money. Perhaps the outstanding quality of the film is illustrated best by the fact, that even today I recognized many of the scenes. And believe me, I am old, I can remember when everything was fields. I start doing jigsaw puzzles again. The film excels in its plot, in the gifted actor Jean Gabin, in the scenery and in the music. The narrative is so characteristic of the nineteenth century, with a clear division between good and bad. It is true that Jean Valjean (Jean Gabin) has a criminal past, but actually this derailment is caused by a crooked society. And when Valjean is converted by a priest, he remains an angel for the rest of his life. What kind of fun does a priest have? Nun. In addition all love is pure. When the adopted daughter of Valjean meets a young man, it is love at first sight. In addition the political situation is fascinating. We see how street battles put aside the remnants of the royal rule. So there is plenty of romance, and this is of coarse what made Les miserables so appealing to the adolescent that I was. And I suppose that the film may still be attractive to people in developing countries like China. For, as Confusius said: war does not determine who is right, war determines who is left. On the other hand, the contemporary postmodern Westerner may take offense at the lack of nuance and psychological depth. Not withstanding this flaw, the film remains highly recommendable. Don't forget to leave comments. I love it.