Michael Powell’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Image from BFI

It’s a shame that Michael Powell is known in the US for what seems to be basically only one movie — buy viagra plus http://hyperbaricnurses.org/3465-nicky-clarke-viagra-edinburgh-pages-pregnant/ see viagra Super Fluox force (Generic) 100mg 40mg x 10 tablet character essay examples apa 6th edition research paper template viagra and nitro spray essay about yourself college go site go site kamagra gel price 50 piece box report writing introduction example go to site does propecia affect testosterone levels viagra tablets details in urdu https://chanelmovingforward.com/stories/sample-lab-report-format/51/ lipitor and joint muscle pain http://www.cresthavenacademy.org/chapter/services-proofreading/26/ university entrance essay examples follow https://teleroo.com/pharm/viagra-advertisements/67/ hersteller von cialis how to write an essay abstractВ dapoxetine and cialis together essays on nuclear power https://reprosource.com/hospital/10-mg-cialis-review/72/ viagra sex for hours write an interview essay buy prednisone online no prescription mexico source site essay on cyber crime pdf viagra after exercise The Red Shoes, a mainstay on TCM’s programming. Or that in 1960, Powell released a movie that many have stated “killed” his career, the bloodless psychological horror movie Peeping Tom, which scandalized anyone who saw it but now… seems mostly a case of “WTF were these people scared of?”

What many of us — me included — did not know is that aside from the fact that Peeping Tom did not “kill” Powell’s career (it may have caused quite the stir, but he still made several pictures in both the UK and Australia; they just weren’t the massive hits that Powell had enjoyed in previous years), Powell had a directing partner in Emeric Pressburger for the most of his time in movies. Their production company was known as The Archers, Powell & Pressburger and both produced movies from 1943 to 1957, when the partnership was dissolved. However, both men would reunite for a few more movies that enjoyed limited success outside of the UK.

Let’s just say that Peeping Tom would not be the first time Powell and Pressburger would cause a stir when trying to make a film. When they focused on Colonel Blimp the newspaper comic strip character by David Low, guess who came calling and not with good news: then Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Him. It seems that his ego was bruised; the strip was known to mock those in higher positions of office and that was a matter that Churchill did not take lightly to. Powell and Pressburger deflected by stating that their movie had no relation to the strip but Churchill was undeterred. It seems that Churchill would make it his mission to stop funding, production, and the acquisition of actors of the stature of Sir Lawrence Olivier all in the name of what Churchill deemed an offensive movie.

But there’s more to the story — there always is. The screenplay that became the movie called for a friendship to develop between a German soldier and a British soldier during the Boer War. Such a friendship would last 40 years. England was smack in the middle of a war against Germany and of course, Churchill not only verbally attacked the film but the actor playing the German (Anton Holbrook).

The film prevailed, but not without the long arm of censorship which forced the movie to be trimmed down considerably and not released to the US public until after the war. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, as a matter of fact, did not get restored in its entirety until the 80s, and today, thanks to the efforts of Powell’s third wife, Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese, Criterion Collection now can show the movie in its full glory, as it was intended.

Anyone who loves British movies ought to experience Colonel Blimp. It is a hoot and a holler in its first sequence reminiscent of what Monty Python would later do, but as its story moves forward in time, it starts revealing its true face, and what emerges is an exercise in altruism in both the central friendship of Charles Wynn Candy (Roger Livesey) and the German officer (Holbrook) who becomes his lifelong friend. In the middle we see Deborah Kerr, right before her arrival in Hollywood, playing three parts. She is, at least for two-thirds of the movie, the glue that holds the men together. In the first vignette, she is the woman who falls for Candy, but because his German friend has also fallen for Kerr, he gives her away selflessly… and never forgets her. In the second vignette, Candy will marry Kerr again as another character during the First World War but during the Second World War, Kerr plays Candy’s driver, and a spirited young woman with a passion for defending her country.

Viewers of Luis Bunuel’s cinema might see a wink thrown at his direction at casting the same actor in several roles but this may have been incidental; Powell had wanted Wendy Hiller to play the role that ultimately went to Kerr in the final installment, but Hiller was unavailable, so Kerr remained on set.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is now available in its full running time in both physical DVD and via Criterion Channel and I suggest you take a look into it. This is quite a remarkable film, one of historic value, and if Churchill would be alive now he would probably have to agree.

The Death of Innocence: Elem Klimov’s Devastating Come and See

There probably will never be a war movie quite like Elem Klimov’s traumatizing Come and See. No amount of hero-worship, no amount of action set pieces, pyrotechnics, or simple wartime nostalgia will replicate the horror of innocence lost to time and devastation. I saw Come and See through the suggestion of a friend and while I don’t shy from difficult pictures I almost wish I hadn’t seen this. That is a compliment, not a complaint. This is not a movie for beginners or people with weak stomachs. This is the movie Spielberg saw before filming his own Schindler’s List and even that movie had a few moments where the audience could breathe before the horror would pick up again.

I’m not sure I want to write anything too detailed because at one point I was so disturbed by what I saw that I had to stop the movie — thank goodness for DVD remotes — take a break, get settled, and tackle the rest of it, even when I knew that the worst was yet to come.

In a nutshell, Come and See is about a young Belarussian boy of fifteen, Flyora Gaishun (Aleksei Kravchenko), who wants to join the partisans during the Nazi occupation of Russia in 1943. The event that seals his conscription is the finding of a rifle buried in the sand, but once he joins the partisans he is left behind due to an unfair exchange of footwear. He encounters a young girl named Glasha (Olga Mironova) and becomes smitten with her, not before they undergo a blitz attack from German bombers that leaves them both disoriented. Once they arrive home Glasha realizes Flyora’s family — indeed, the entire village — has been killed. Flyora, convinced they are still alive, states he knows where they are located and attempts to walk through a bog while a terrified Glasha follows. The actions result in Flyora reconnecting with villagers who now see him as the cause of their miseries, a thing that basically makes Flyora lose the last of his mind.

However, survival still remains, and hunger sends Flyora and a small group of partisans in search of food. In a scene that has to be experienced to be believed, there is an exchange of machine guns that basically leaves Flyora again, alone and destitute. If you thought that things are about to get better, think again. Come and See dives into the abyss and right into the face of the Fuhrer himself in an agonizing shot of reverse chronology that pulls the rug off of you and leaves you speechless.

Last year I saw a Romanian movie called I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians, and while that film was mostly comedic, its finale and that of Come and See are inextricably linked through the massacre of a people by the hands of the military. Come and See has a much longer and cringing sequence, and itself was the moment I had to stop viewing the movie due to the sheer level of horror that leaped from the visuals. All the anguish, all the agony gets carried out in a young boy’s face as it morphs from that of a teenager with dreams to a rictus of pain and fear. This is not Empire of the Sun. This almost qualifies as a documentary — it’s that horrifying. Klimov, if he wished to make a commentary on how barbarous this event was in which 628 Belarussian were slaughtered by the Nazis needn’t worry.

THE EXCEPTION

THE EXCEPTION
UK
Director: David Leveaux
Runtime: 108 minutes
Language: English

Mostlyindies Grading:

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Dear God, is Jai Courtney gorgeous. The Exception opens with a scene that wouldn’t be amiss in soft-core gay porn, in which Courtney is shown shirtless, pecs to the wind, lying in the dark as if in wait. And my, does the camera love him! In these days in which men can now flaunt everything while doing a full frontal, Courtney reveals so much jaw-dropping masculine beauty I had to stop the movie for a moment and take a breath to recover. Yes, he’s that distracting. No, don’t look at me like that and then roll your eyes; the man is a gentler version of Tom Hardy. And wouldn’t I want to see the both of them–

Okay, getting ahead of myself, and this is a simple review of The Exception, a movie by a director unknown to me, David Leveaux, who adapted the story from an Adam Ladd novel The Kaiser’s Last Kiss –itself a title that screams ‘historical romance!’. So, we have Courtney, all clothed in military garb being whisked off to protect the Kaiser of Germany (Christopher Plummer, having the time of his life, and has an actor been associated more with films on or around Nazi Germany than he? It’s as if though producers, while throwing out potential actors for their movies, saw this one, a war movie set in Nazi Germany and immediately thought, “Ha! Well, well. there’s that actor, Plummer. He’s been doing this since Sound of Music. He can basically phone it in by now. Send him in. No need for an audition. But give him the good one, and leave the asshole role to Eddie Marsan. He already looks like he could kill your children without as much as batting an eye.”).

It seems the Kaiser might be surrounded by spies, and why wouldn’t he? This was war in Europe, and Europe was crawling with spies trolling for intel. But wouldn’t you know, as it happens in a historical romance, Courtney’s SS Captain Brandt crosses paths with an exotic little beauty Mieke (Lily James, fresh off of Downton Abbey) who’s a maid in service of the Kaiser’s household. The flirtation between these two is not something we can call subtle — you’d have to be dead or delusional to not see it happening between your own eyes — but yes, it happens, and why does the plot give so much time to a simple chambermaid if it doesn’t have something up its sleeve? Because it does, and if you see the picture you’ll catch it as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face, but it works perfectly well because, historical romance = potboiler. Meaning, don’t be looking for any historical accuracy here even when there actually was a Kaiser, and his wife (Janet McTeer, who’s good but doesn’t have much to do but act perpetually worried/harried), and Marsan’s Himmler. [However, look closely at Marsan’s chilling portrayal of Himmler during a dinner scene when he talks about experiments made to children. Even in fluff like this, it’s still completely nerve-wracking, that such things were actually done to innocents.]

So with that in mind, I will say that The Exception is a very, very old fashioned war movie. I could easily see actors from the actual time period who could have performed this piece of nonsense without batting an eye. Crawford did it a couple of times at the end of her MGM tenure, Bergman did it as well. Now, Courtney is no Bogart or MacMurray — there is a scene in which he looks so completely vulnerable and naked — did I mention he shows a lot of skin here? — in a way I haven’t seen movies treat their male leads, usually all self-composure and alpha-male tendencies. Courtney’s role is much different: he’s stoic when he needs to, but is incredible sensitive and disarming. No wonder Lily James takes control of what becomes their relationship and basically becomes its pilot, leaving him with the role of protector. So, there you have it, a total crowd-pleaser, the type of movie the characters of Their Finest would have created, and it all ends well. Because in romance, you can’t ever deliver a good story and not have the two romantic leads not end in each other’s arms, can you?






THEIR FINEST

THEIR FINEST
UK
Director: Lone Scherfig
Runtime: 117 minutes
Language: English

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

It’s no secret that women figured prominently in the early days of film making, but as the Twenties gave way into the Thirties, their presence became much less prominent to the point that by the time the Forties came around the only thing they were allowed to do was to construct the ‘slop’ that made up the expository dialogue, the wardrobe, and cosmetics (hair and make up) department. Their Finest touches on the fictional character of Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), a woman who in the Second World War became instrumental in creating propaganda films to boost the British morale (and thus securing herself a position as a feminist at a time when feminism as such was barely an embryo.

When Catrin comes to the Ministry of Information looking for a secretarial job to make amends while her husband (Jack Houston) tries to score as an artist, she gets whisked into a world she couldn’t dream of: the motion picture industry. While working on short propaganda films that sought to make the women of England to join the workforce, she somehow, by a series of machinations, finds herself working in a major project. The project touches on the story of two sisters who stoke a boat to Dunkirk to save their father and in the evacuation, and the Ministry hopes to make it into a wartime movie. There she meets Tom Buckley (a dashing, bespectacled Sam Claflin who bares a strong resemblance to Nicholas Hoult), a screenwriter with whom she does not initially get along but with whom she must work with. Somehow the two of them manage to create a rousing variation of what was initially a bland picture to begin with and in the interim, a camaraderie develops among the cast members (among them Rachel Stirling, Richard E. Grant, Jeremy Irons — making his requisite cameo these days as upper management, which he plays with eyes closed as if the title were his — and best of all, Bill Nighy as a ham of an actor more concerned in his looks than the picture proper.

Their Finest will bring on some twists and turns with Catrin’s character as she slowly rises among the crowd to assert herself as a key player in the making of this film, and it’s often slightly predictable — a romance is almost certainly assured between her and Tom — but never dull or cardboard. The best part of Their Finest is how we as an audience get into the creative mind of a female who shapes a movie while living out her own drama as World War II rages on around them, and it balances comedy with drama rather deftly — often in the same sequence. This is a total crowd pleaser and a quintessential woman’s picture that would not have been out of place during its time, and it’s also a picture that speaks of the resilience of a people unwilling to surrender to chaos and death, but continue to soldier on while using escapism as a jumping off point.






THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE

 

THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE
Czech Republic / UK / USA
Director: Niki Caro
Runtime: 122 minutes
Language: English

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

The Holocaust is the reluctant gift that keeps on giving, and I mean that with no disrespect. Seventy years after stories of bravery under extreme duress continue to make appearances in unique narratives that only fortify the notion that despite the atrocities committed against a targeted group of people solely for the reason of being Jewish, there were people who stood up and deftly managed to turn the tables against xenophobia. In the Trump age, where the threat of our nation reverting to barbaric methods of separation and discrimination, these serve as a reminder of what could happen if we become sheep and follow a mad leader blindly into oblivion . . . but that’s for another piece.

 

Niki Caro’s new movie focuses on a part of Poland we may not have been previously aware of: its zoo, and how it became a rather unique player in the fight against the Nazis. Antonina and Jan Zaminski (Jessica Chastain and Johan Heidelbergh) run the Warsaw Zoo rather successfully — life couldn’t be better. The film’s opening sequence have the look and feel of something straight out of Disney: we see Antonina riding her bicycle as a baby camel follows her around the grounds while Jan works away quietly but clearly content. It’s an establishing scene — cemented by another in which Antonina interrupts her own dinner party attended by the rich and powerful — among them Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl, repeating his Nazi role from Alone in Berlin) — to deliver a sick elephant baby back to life that tells us the kind of person she is: kind, caring, selfless.

 

However, war breaks out, the Nazi’s invade Poland, the zoo becomes a base of sorts for Nazi soldiers headed by Heck, and most of the animals perish — some rather cruelly at the hands of the Germans. Having little choice, the Zaminskis now have to walk an incredibly fine line in order not just to keep their place (and relative security) but to use the zoo to help Jews to escape certain death. It’s a bold move, and the movie never lets you get too comfortable. This is a risky gamble that could implode at any given second, especially since Heck, who has developed an attraction to Antonina (who has to play along if she is to carry out her part of the plan), drops in unannounced for visits.

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife suffers from its own isolation in that it never gives you the full scope of the horrors of war — we do hear bombings, yes. However, some of the more impacting images feature the innocent and vulnerable: a rape victim (Shira Haas) whom Antonina nurses back to life, and the unforgettable image of little children’s hands reaching up to Jan who has to help them board a train that we know is headed to a concentration camp. Chastain, dolled up in a perpetual Norma Shearer wig and a thick Polish accent, doesn’t achieve the emotional greatness that Meryl Streep did when she tackled her own horror story in Sophie’s Choice, and her character is probably a bit too perfect to be credible, but perhaps I’m being somewhat cynical. Even so, this is a crowd pleaser, solid, and entertaining.






FRANCOFONIA

Francofonia:

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

Marianne, and Napoleon Bonaparte as ghosts wandering the Louvre in Sokurov's new film Francofonia.
Marianne, and Napoleon Bonaparte as ghosts wandering the Louvre in Sokurov’s new film Francofonia.

Walking into the Film Forum to see Aleksandr Sokurov’s newest docudrama, Francofonia, I was hoping to see something in the style or at least similar to his 2002 classic Russian Ark, a movie that in one incredible shot narrated the evolution of Russian culture through the ages while inside the Hermitage, itself a spaceship trapped in its own time out of time. Perhaps I needed to be aware that art directors tend to produce oeuvres of wildly different nature. Had that been the case I perhaps would have been more persuaded to enjoy Francofonia more.

With its introduction of Tolstoy and Chekov, Sokurov narrates Francofonia as a guide and an omniscient character. He is the cameraman slowly zooming in and out of Parisian streets, over the Louvre, inside the Louvre, showing us the Great Masterpieces of art, describing some of their history and how they and the Louvre are inexorably tied together into a massive artistic heritage. Flittering in and out of the frames are two figures, the symbolic Marianne from the liberation of France, her only line being “Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite!” while on the other hand, someone a little less selfless wanders the museum and points out only the works that feature him. That figure is none other than Napoleon, a ghost of his former self, still believing his greatness as something present, proclaiming, “C’est moi!” as a mantra.

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Two other narratives also come into play and tie into the greater picture that Francofonia attempts to present here — that of the preservation of art as a document of a culture (and there will be a subtle tie to the recent events in Syria, where its own works of art were destroyed by ISIS militants. The first narrative presents two men from two sides of World War II — Jean Jaujard and Fritz Mettenreich — who attempted to secure France’s artistic heritage before they could be forever pilfered by the Nazi’s as they threatened to advance into France. Lastly, there is Sokurov again, chatting with someone on Skype who seems to be with some cargo at sea in the middle of a storm. I’m going to make an educated guess that this is Sokurov’s symbolic way of narrating what would be the act of artistic theft and its consequences, but the sequence somehow feels as though it belongs in another picture and not this one. And of course, I would kill to see one made of both Jaujard and Mettenreich as they went through hoops to protect these timeless works of art.

In short, Francofonia is a strange documentary of sorts — not quite drama, not quite a recreation, not quite a history lesson, but rich with imagery if it still tends to feel somewhat flat around the edges. As a lesson on preserving culture from forces that would very much destroy it to finance their means, this is an important film to watch.