Friday, November 29, 2019


Younger Scorsese

You can't go through the 1001 list or any kind of movie list without running into director Martin Scorsese multiple times. A student of film history, I must have come across fifty DVD's with at least a snippet of an opinion from Scorsese about one movie or another. However, there are a still few of Scorsese's own movies that I have just now added to viewing resume.

Who's That Knocking On My Door 

Who's That Knocking On My Door (1967) is Scorsese's first film and really a prototype for a lot of his later films of the mean streets. It features Harvey Keitel as a young street tough who tries to romance a girl with a secret in her past. It's interesting that Keitel's character is a stand-in for Scorsese and loves to talk on and on about movies. What better way to impress a girl than reciting the entire plotline of The Searchers!  Other familiar elements of the director come into play such as religious symbolism and unexpected twists in a romantic relationship. You also have a lot of the tough guy hanging out banter you come to expect from a Scorsese picture.

The Last Waltz

The Last Waltz (1978) is a film that I can't believe I haven't seen before! It shows the Scorsese who is pretty adept at being a music documentarian and features the last concert for The Band after sixteen years on the road. It helps in watching that I'm a fan of their music (The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, The Weight). The Last Waltz also features guest appearances from a Who's Who of musicians I like: Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris and of course frequent Band collaborator Bob Dylan. Of course, never say never as The Last Waltz isn't really the last waltz as The Band is touring with Dylan in 2019!


Kundun (1997) may seem like a departure for Scorsese with the emphasis on the spiritual quest for the Dali Lama. But isn't the director of The Last Temptation of Christ often in search of spiritual meaning? The film shows how the spiritual quest can be effected negatively by the political situation going on around you. It also depicts well the spiritual growth of the Dalai Lama as he gets older and accepting of his important place in the world. Scorsese is clearly on the Dalai Lama's team throughout.

The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story

The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story (2019) is Scorsese's recent music documentary that shows us what happened during Dylan's 1975 tour and is a most interesting trip for fans. Dylan and friends such as Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg and Joni Mitchell and others were on parts of the tour, in which they performed mostly in small venues. The size of these venues made for some great music and is fascinating to watch now, but at the time was said to have been a financial black hole because of the limited seating capacities of the places they played. There are many interesting characters here including Ratso Sloman and Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. There are some fictional characters thrown also thrown in for better or for worse, including Michael Murphy as politician Jack Tanner The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story makes an interesting double feature with The Last Waltz.

The Irishman

So now I'm ready to watch what promises to be Scorsese's ultimate gangster epic, The Irishman. At three and a half hours, it's certainly has an epic time frame. The story of Jimmy Hoffa and his associate Frank Sheehan is a story that certainly warrants the length. It's not a conventional bio, in that we are seeing things from the perspective of Sheehan (Robert De Niro) much more than Hoffa (Al Pacino). The storytelling (with lots of narration) should be familiar to fans of Scorsese films such as Goodfellas and Casino. The Irishman has much to recommend it: the story, the setting, the performances and the chilling sudden bursts of violence. The cast is also interesting including Who's That Knocking on My Door star Harvey Keitel in a supporting role, as well as Anna Paquin, Ray Ramono and many others. But the core of the story is the main three players (De Niro, Pacino and Joe Pesci) who despite being in their late 70's, play their characters over the course of several decades. Their performances are enhanced by some high tech CGI make-up, as well as a director that is constantly reminding them of what age they are supposed to be acting like in what scene.

The Irishman is a welcome edition to the already monumental Scorsese canon. We'll see how this does at Academy Awards time.

Older Scorsese

Thursday, November 28, 2019


The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short

Ah, the refreshing feel of a short haircut accentuated by a vibromassage device makes you feel nice and clean on the outside...even if you are having difficulty with what's going inside your head. At least that's how I interpret The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short. Govert is a teacher who falls in love with a student. He misses his chance with her until years later...though not before witnessing an autopsy beforehand. He finally reunites with her...she loves him too! Or does she? He gets a gun and shoots her...she dies...or does she? He gets locked away and sees her on a newsreel. She isn't really dead. His mind can now focus on the family he neglected and left behind. I'm not really sure what is happening here, but that's okay. What is presented is compelling enough and definitely worthy of a repeated rinsing...I mean viewing. 

The Man Who Wasn't There

The patterns of a head of hair from the viewpoint of a barber. The patterns just seem to go on and on, don't they? This is the perspective of Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton), the barber who seems like an bit player in his own life. The Man Who Wasn't There is a modern day film noir filmed by The Coen Brothers in glorious black and white. Crane is in a loveless marriage, whose wife is having an affair with her boss. Crane knows about it and anonymously blackmails the boss to get money to invest in a get rich quick dry cleaning scheme. All does not go well. When I was thinking of a movie to team up with The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short, this was the first one that came to mind. Only Crane doesn't just get a nice haircut like Govert, Crane has to give nice haircuts to others every day. It's the monotony of his life that leads to his desire for something more. Like Govert, things fall apart for Crane, who eventually finds himself murdering his boss, having his wife accused of the crime and eventually being charged with a different murder he didn't commit.

I'm glad I watched these two back to back. I wonder if I can get in for a trim at Supercuts tomorrow? 

Random barber images...

 Eddie Murphy as Clarence, the know-it-all barber
in Coming to America

Johnny Depp as Sweeny Todd, The Demon Barber
of Fleet Street

Howard McNear as Floyd the Barber
in The Andy Griffith Show

Alfalfa Switzer sings The Barber of Seville in
The Our Gang Follies of 1938

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


Keeper of Promises

A man and his donkey...

A devout peasant named Ze makes a promise to Saint Barbara that he will drag a wooden cross to the altar of the church in a nearby town if his beloved donkey is saved. His donkey recovers and his trek with the cross to the church is where Keeper of Promises begins.

Along the road to the church (with his cross flung over his shoulder and accompanied by his reluctant wife) he is mocked by onlookers, but finally reaches his destination. However, the church is closed when he gets there and patiently waits for it to open. He can take the cross in and be done, right? Wrong! The priest of the church thinks the man's promise the work of devils and refuses to let him bring it in. Ze is determined and waits it out. It becomes a newsworthy event and the press slant gives Ze's quest a much more political tone than the reality of the situation dictates. Of course, at one point Ze says something to the effect, "I'm not a rebel, but I'm becoming one!" Meanwhile, his wife becomes involved with a local pimp.The Monsignor of the church tries to persuade the priest to reconsider his position as he is worried about the political fallout. The people of the town begin to side with the man and want him to be allowed to bring his cross inside. Everyone has an agenda, it seems.

I really like this little film. You get to see in stark terms how differently people interrupt the same event to coincide to their own viewpoint, yet the presentation never feels heavy handed. The press aspect of the film reminds me a bit of Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole.

I'd like to thank TSorensen for his assistance in getting a copy of this film for me with English subtitles.

The Cow

A man and his cow...

Another simple villager named Hasan (this time from Iran) also has an attachment to an animal...his cow. He treats the cow like one would treat a beloved Cocker Spaniel. When he has to leave the village for a couple of days, the cow turns up dead. The close-knit people of the village are afraid what Hasan's reaction is going to be and decide to bury the cow and tell Hasan that the cow has run away. After he returns, Hasan does not believe for a second his cow would ever leave him this way. He suspects some local thieves may be behind this. As time goes on, Hasan has a breakdown and goes out to his barn and takes on the character traits of the cow. The villagers and Hasan's wife do what they can to try to help him, but he is too far gone and eventually comes to a sad end.

Despite the sad resolution, there are positives to be seen in The Cow. One is the coming together of a village to help one of their own. Was burying the cow and lying to Hasan the best choice? Maybe, maybe not. It doesn't seem like the result would have been much different for Hasan had they just told him the truth to begin with.

I also liked this film very much. Maybe I have a thing for small village morality tales?

Now if you'll excuse me, my pet yak needs feeding.

Sunday, November 24, 2019


The family just keeps moving from one hardship
to another in Barren Lives

First hour and twenty minutes of Barren Lives: The story of this poor Brazilian family travelling around meeting hardship after hardship is one of the most depressing movies I've ever seen. Dad can't get any kind of work, gets ripped off and beaten by gamblers and law enforcement, Mom has to toil over and over again and is so despondent that she often wishes her life would just end to hope for a better one in the next one. The kids are always hungry, uncomfortable and unhappy. At least the beloved family dog, Balelia survives, right?

Last twenty minutes of Barren Lives: Hold my beer.

Balelia, poor poor Balelia
in Barren Lives

Enrique and Rosa try to get a leg up in America
in El Norte

Another travelling movie (Roger Ebert compared it to Grapes of Wrath) has a brother (Enrique) and sister (Rosa) escaping their war torn village in Guatemala to go north (The United States). They manage to get away and struggle to get to Mexico before finally winding up in Los Angeles. The journey isn't easy and it doesn't seem to get much better once they get there either. Problems with immigration, employment, prejudice, language and sickness plague them. A fine film, but you know this one isn't going to wind up happily ever after either.

The movie is broken down into three sections: The village, the journey through Mexico and coming to America.
The poetic final scene of El Norte

Friday, November 22, 2019


“There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other.” 
― William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

Sharon (Mimi Rogers) explores the hedonistic side of life
with her buddy Vic in The Rapture

A hedonistic young woman named Sharon (Mimi Rogers) explores the decadent nightlife of swinging with her friend Vic (Patrick Bauchau). However, something important is brewing in the world! People are having dreams about the pearl! The rapture and the whole four horseman of the apocalypse are coming! Repent, sinner!

Sharon eventually finds Jesus, marries David Duchovny and has a daughter. A few years later, her husband is murdered. After that, she gets visions from God to go into the desert with her daughter. When God doesn't come, she kills her daughter so her offspring will ascend to heaven. She is grief stricken with what she has done, but guess what? The rapture really is coming! The horsemen are here and God only wants you to accept him and your ticket to heaven is stamped. But guess what? Sharon won't forgive God for what he pushed her to do to her daughter and the film finishes with her stuck in limbo "forever."

I can understand why The Rapture may have limited appeal. Christian viewers may be prone to reject it because Sharon ultimately rejects God. Secular viewers may find a literal Four Horseman of the Apocalypse coming as trite. I think the movie has balls in that it doesn't try to conform to anyone's expectations.

This is the third time I've seen this movie and it seems to come on my radar every ten years. I'll probably keep watching it about every ten years until I get raptured myself.

Sharon searches for God in the desert
in The Rapture

I have no basis whatever for my belief in God other than a passionate longing that God exist and that I and others will not cease to exist. Because I believe with my heart that God upholds all things, it follows that I believe that my leap of faith, in a way beyond my comprehension, is God outside of me asking and wanting me to believe, and God within me responding.
-Martin Gardner, Whys of A Philosophical Scrivener

 Johannes, the mad brother
in Ordet

Quote from the novel “Invisible” by Paul Auster.
If not for the end, Ordet would not have effected you any more than any other good film you’ve seen over the years. It is the end that counts, for in the end does something to you that is totally unexpected. And it crashes into you with all the force of an ax felling an oak.

The farmwoman who has died in childbirth is stretched out in an open coffin as her weeping husband sits beside her. The mad brother, who thinks he is the second coming of Christ, walks into the room holding the hand of the couple’s young daughter. As the small group of mourning relatives and friends looks on, wondering what blasphemy or sacrilege is being committed at this solemn moment, the would be incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth addresses the dead woman in a calm and quiet voice. “Rise up.” He commands her. “Lift yourself out of your coffin and return to the world of the living. Seconds later, the woman’s hands begin to move. You think it must be a hallucination that the point of view has shifted from objective reality to the mind of the addled brother. But no, the woman opens her eyes and just seconds after that she sits up, fully restored to life.

There’s a large crowd in the theater and half the audience bursts out laughing when they see this miraculous resurrection. You don’t begrudge them their skepticism. But for you, it is a transcendent moment. You sit there clutching your sister’s arm as tears role down your cheeks. What cannot happen has happened. You are stunned by what you have witnessed. Something changes in you after that. You don’t know what it is, but the tears you shed when you saw the woman come back to life seemed to have washed some of the poison that has been building up inside you.

My thoughts: The preceding passage was the reason I chose to see Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Ordet.

Will my reaction to viewing this film be like Adam Walker (Auster’s character) or like those in the audience who laugh at the unlikely resurrection?

Well, I didn’t laugh and even though I had already read about it in the book, I couldn’t believe Inger (the character in the film) was really going to come back to life. I can’t say my reaction was akin to Adam Walker’s, but the film (based on a play by Danish pastor Kaj Munk) was stirring. I actually felt different than Walker in that it was more than the end, it was the building towards the end. Brother number one’s loss of faith, brother number two’s overdose on Kierkegaard leading him to think he is Jesus of Nazareth and brother number three’s wish to marry a girl whose family's religion is not compatible with his are all important parts that must be understood to even appreciate the ending.

I've been doing this blog so long now, this is actually the second time I've seen Ordet, the first time being ten years ago now! I still can't figure out exactly why I like Ordet as much as I do. I can certainly understand how someone could find it quite sappy...yet somehow I don't find it that way. And I really love the mad brother (Johannes). His monotone will stay with me in dreams for some time to come. 

I thought Ordet would go well with The Rapture. God is alive in both films. In The Rapture, Sharon rejects God anyway because he led her to take away the life of her daughter. In Ordet, the husband embraces God because of the restoring of life to his wife...The varieties of religious experience indeed...Amen.

Death and resurrection
in Ordet

We must judge the tree by its fruit. The best fruits of the religious experience are the best things history has to offer. The highest flights of charity, devotion, trust, patience, and bravery to which the wings of human nature have spread themselves, have all been flown for religious ideals.” 
― William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

Thursday, November 21, 2019


The draughtsman must not have read the fine print
of The Draughtsman's Contract 

It's kind of funny sometimes the order in which you watch films going through the 1001 list. I watched Peter Greenaway's The Draughtman's Contract pretty soon after I watched The Cool World (1963). The latter is an indy Urban drama set in Harlem and the former is about as haughty a period piece as you could get. Sometimes you just have to reset your mind to time in place...give me a it.

Set in 1694 England, the draughtsman of the title is named Mr. Neville and is hired to draw a series of draughts of a fancy country house and surroundings by a rich landowner named Mrs. Herbert. But what is going on on the estate? What mystery is ultimately revealed in the draughts?  Is Mr. Neville just a seducer of hearts and bodies or is something more going on? And who killed the man of the house? Is Mr. Neville going to ultimately be a victim? I can like films like this, with a harpsichord seemingly always playing in the background, elaborate costumes and gigantic wigs on both sexes, though I've really got to be in the mood for it. I admire the cleverness of The Draughtman's Contract, though I can't say I have a great desire to see it again.
The coroner's number is about to be up
in Drowning By Numbers 

Greenaway also directed Drowning By Numbers, a smart, dark comedy featuring three generations of women whose men come to an untimely underwater end. The ladies are all named Cissie and their crimes are covered up by a coroner infatuated by all of them. Make sure you look for the numbers 1-100 popping up throughout the movie. You may find this device tiresome after awhile, though I rather liked it. I also liked the film overall, as well as the three leading ladies (Joan Plowright, Juliet Stevenson and Joely Richardson). I also liked (and sort of identified) with the coroner played by Bernard Hill.

Monday, November 18, 2019


Vanessa Redgrave as the physically challenged 
and emotionally complex nun
in The Devils

"The Devils is a see-through movie composed of a lot of clanking, silly, melodramatic effects that, like rib-tickling, exhaust you without providing particular pleasure, to say nothing of enlightenment."-Vincent Canby, The New York Times, July 17, 1971

"The Devils is an incredibly ambitious film, conceived not merely as a historical document by as a visionary work, a prophetic warning of the tenacity of ignorance and superstition."-Stpehn Farber, The New York Times, August 15, 1971

"Ken Russell's The Devils arrived in Venice tonight and encountered semi-censorship. It was show for the press and for an invited audience, but its public showing was canceled to avoid possible police intervention."-Thomas Quinn Curtiss, The New York Times, August 29, 1971

The three 1971 reviews of The Devils from the New York Times well illustrates three ways you can look at The Devils, Ken Russell's drama about a priest who runs a city in 17th century but continues to be thwarted by the governmental, religious and sexual politics of others. You can look at it as an over-the-top mess, which it is at times, depicting religious orgies and elaborated scenes of torture. You can look at is as a canny indictment of politics and religion and how an honest man is likely to become a victim of the treachery of others. You can also see why others might have objected to the content of the film, for the way it depicts sexuality and religion. I hadn't seen this film in thirty years and seeing it again, I can understand all points of view. It was at times way over the top to the point of wretched excess...yet, it had a valid story to tell that stays with me. Judge for yourself.

The film is based of Aldous Huxley's book, The Devils of Loudon.

Oliver Reed as the good priest
in The Devils

Carvaggio (Nigel Terry) and street tough (Sean Bean)
discuss their complex relationship

"Art becomes life becomes art as (Derek) Jarman breathes biological life into Caravaggio's greatest paintings while the artist reflects without any mercy on his own life split between the braying snobbery of the art world, and the exciting danger of a universe where violence and sex intersect."-Colin MacCabe, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Caravggio is a pleasure to look at and its disjointedness is a way of seizing what Mr. Jarman apparently concieves to be the wild leaps of faith of Caravaggio's imagination."-Walter Goodman, The New York Times, August 29, 1986

The impressive set designer of The Devils was Derek Jarman, who soon began to make controversial movies of his own from the director's chair. Caravaggio is Jarman's film about aspects of the life of the famed painter (played by Nigel Terry) and it is a much less elaborate affair than The Devils. The story begins with Caravaggio on his death bed looking back on his life as a young street hustler through his time as a favored artist of the Catholic Church. He also has intrigues with a local ruffian named Ranuccio (Sean Bean) and his girlfriend Lena (Tilda Swinton).

You can take the facts presented in Jarman's film with a grain of salt. I'd recommend comparing them with the episode on Caravaggio of Simon Schama's BBC series The Power of Art. 

Silmon Schama's 
The Power of Art

Saturday, November 16, 2019


 Rudy May Moore is...Dolemite

I was listening to a podcast recently featuring screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. They were talking about their newest film, Dolemite is My Name starring Eddie Murphy. It made me want to see it, but also realized I had never seen the original Dolemite movie before! How had I missed this classic?
So I knew I had to quickly get acquainted with the original.

Dolemite is both a masterpiece of camp and enjoyable in its on right. Dolemite (played by the one and only Rudy May Moore) gets released from jail and sort of goes undercover searching for bad guys and bad cops. He wears flashy clothes, makes out with a lot of sexy girls who can do Kung Fu and says Motherfucker! a lot! He also shares a lot of his slam/bam poetry with us and provides my favorite moments from the movie.
It's a fun ride and your 70's blaxploitation viewing resume isn't complete without it.

Eddie Murphy is ...Rudy May
Dolemite is My Name!

This set me up to watch Dolemite is My Name! with Eddie Murphy playing Rudy May Moore. Rudy is an enthusiastic self promoter. He sings and does comedy in local clubs but never manages to make it big. He's into his forties at this point and that big break in show business is unlikely at this point...or is it? Murphy has a field day in this role as the never say die Rudy May. The screenplay gives us everything we could possibly want to know about the unlikely rise of  Mr. Dolemite. Some of the highlights of the film include Rudy's absorption of old stories from street people to create his Dolemite character and the making of the Dolemite film, which is produced on the cheap to say the least.

Alexander and Karaszewski also wrote the screenplay for Ed Wood, a story of another unlikely movie icon. Ed and Rudy May both had their loyal entourages, who we get to know well in Ed Wood and Dolemite is My Name! 

Friday, November 15, 2019


Distant Voices, Still Lives

Distant Voices, Still Lives is the story of a working class family in 40's and 50's Liverpool. It's a struggle to get by for the Davies family and their problems are exacerbated by an often abusive family patriarch (Pete Postlehwaite). The family uses music throughout to bond and get through hard times. Despite the creative and abundant use of song throughout, you are unlikely to leave this one taping your toes or whistling a tune.

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart. Proverbs 11:29


Life also isn't easy for the two young girls growing up in the Pacific Northwest during roughly the same time frame as Distant Voices, Still Lives. The girl's single mother commits suicide early in the story and they end up living with their eccentric Aunt (Christine Lahti). The characters are well drawn and the chemistry between the principles and the vibrant rustic setting add much to the film.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heavenEcclesiastes 3:1-8

Sunday, November 10, 2019

DINER (1982), BUFFALO '66 (1998)

Bacon, Rourke, Daly and Stern enjoy lunch
...or is it breakfast? in Diner

Diner is Barry Levinson's autobiographical film about being a young adult in Baltimore in late 1959. The film features the guys in the film hanging out in the local diner (hence the title) and how they are dealing with various degrees of success facing adulthood, responsibility and even (gasp!) marriage. The film has always been a favorite of mine and is smartly written by Levinson and boasts distinctive and interesting characterizations. Reminiscent of American Graffiti a decade before it, Diner had a cast of unknowns that were to come to prominence in upcoming years: Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern, Tim Daly, Kevin Bacon, Steve Guttenberg, Paul Reiser and Ellen Barkin.

Johnny Unitas leads the 1959 Baltimore Colts
to another title

Are you ready for some football? Diner's Eddie (Guttenberg) is so obsessed with the Baltimore Colts, that he makes his fiancee pass a football quiz before he agrees to marry her. We see mostly his buddies as she is taking the test waiting to see if she makes the grade as if they are waiting for her to deliver a baby in one of the film's funniest scenes. The Colts were on their way to a second straight NFL championship in 1959, defeating the Giants in the title game 31-16.

Up for anything Layla (Ricci) poses
with the morose Billy (Gallo) in Buffalo '66

Writer/Director/Star Vincent Gallo's indy film Buffalo '66 rates most highly on my personal "quirky film meter." Gallo plays Billy, who right after serving a lengthy prison sentence recruits a girl named Layla (Christina Ricci) he picks up to pose as his wife to mollify his parents (Ben Gazzara and Angelica Huston). Recruits might not be the right word as kidnaps may be a more appropriate term. Of course, she seems oddly willing to go along with the not particularly likable Billy's scheme. We then get to see Billy's strange family dynamic, learn why the innocent Billy went to jail, witness gambling addiction and its subsequent consequences, observe a most off-beat romance between the two leads and of course, get a heavy dose of football obsession. The off-beat supporting cast also includes: Jan-Michael Vincent, Rosanna Arquette and Mickey Rourke (of Diner).

Quarterback Jack Kemp leads the '66 Buffalo Bills

Are you ready for some football? The title of this film is based on Billy being born during the Buffalo Bills championship AFL season of 1966, causing his fanatical football fan mother to miss the championship game, which she reminds him of at every opportunity. In reality, the Bills actually won the title games in 1964 and 1965 and lost the '66 title game 31-7 to the Kansas City Chiefs, depriving them of an opportunity to play in the first Super Bowl. So it goes.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019


Yvonne Williams going grocery shopping 
in The Exiles

I knew next to nothing about The Exiles, a seventy-two minute film about Indians/Native Americans in late 1950's Los Angeles when I popped the Criterion disc into the DVD player. In fact, going into my viewing I thought it was a documentary!

What we do have in this drama is the Native American/Indian people in this very small neighborhood doing various normal things in a snapshot of one night. We have a lady (Yvonne) who does the mundane grocery shopping or going to see a movie and dreams of a better life. We see several characters going out for drinks, including the jerky guy (Tommy), the guy who just sort of observes (Homer) and doesn't really react to much other than to go with the flow, and a large group that goes to a secluded place for a "49 Party", a type of traditional Native-American dance, which they do on a hill overlooking Los Angeles. Interesting for the historical value and time, movie commentator Sean Alexie (Smoke Signals, Who jokingly called it Native American Graffiti) points out that it was the first time in any film where you get to see a group of Native Americans doing something as mundane as buying gas! The film uses voice over narration and may have the feel of a Cassavetes film of the period to some, which Alexie points out.

The cinematography of the movie is very nice for something so low budget (maybe because of it?) and the final shot of the movie (below) is memorable.

Side note: They caught up to Yvonne Williams years later and she said she had never seen The Exiles, her only screen appearance.

A fun night's end in the final shot of The Exiles

Arthur Agee in Hoop Dreams

Hoop Dreams I have seen before and was a well deserved Oscar winner for Best Documentary of 1994. We follow two black youths in Chicago city schools over their four high school years whose dreams revolve around getting a chance to play basketball and perhaps getting to a point where they can reach the pinnacle and turn pro like their hero, Isaiah Thomas. It's most interesting that director is able to follow these kids around during their entire high school career and see how they develop. We see William the strong star player, whose career has ups and downs mostly due to untimely injuries. We have the smaller Arthur Agee, who actually gets kicked out of one school due to grades, but eventually makes a mark in basketball at his next school. We see the highs and lows of their family life, friends, neighborhood, coaches and teammates. We also see quite a number of scenes with Academic Counselors! A long film, but well worth your time.

Side note: In Danny Peary's Alternate Oscar book, he rates Hoop Dreams as the Best Picture Winner for 1994. This year featured Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption and several other notable films, but Hoop Dreams was Peary's choice.

William Gates in Hoop Dreams

Friday, November 1, 2019


Clara Chevalier (Lea Massari) teaches 
her son  Laurent (Benoit Ferroux)
some questionable lessons in Murmur of the Heart

I have a set of volumes of reviews from the New York Times Film Reviews (Movie Nerd alert!) from 1913-1988. Louis Malle's Murmur of the Heart (Le Souffle au Coueur) is the only film I've found indexed within the volumes as having three separate reviews in one year! The reviews range from enthusiastic (Vincent Canby) to not-so-great (Roger Greenspun). The main issue brought up is the scene where this coming of age story of a 15-year-old boy in early 50's France has an incestuous encounter with his mother late in the film.

The protagonist in this film likes Jazz, politics and the idea of his older brothers taking him to a brothel. The movie is well done and I like the fact that our hero is an intellectual, but found it to be lacking in charm or have much in the way of likable characters. It left me a little deflated to tell you the truth. The incest scene certainly didn't help, though it was about as tastefully done as such a scene can be.

Bonnet (Ralphael Fejto) and Julien (Gaspard Manesse)
eye an uncertain futhre in Au Revoir Les Enfants

Just when I was thinking Malle's French films were overrated, I watched Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye, Children) as a follow-up to Murmur of the Heart. This is also a coming of age story set in a French boarding school during World War II. Many of the problems of youth are explored here, but done so within the context of Nazi occupation. Julien, a rather pampered boy and Bonnet, who hides the fact that he is Jewish as long as he can are the two main characters here. I think this film is very moving and gives us what I think is an authentic view of adolescence, even one exacerbated by the cold realities of war.

New York Times critic Vincent Canby also liked this one, saying it "remains utterly specific, which is why it's so moving without being sentimental. Though the action covers only a few weeks, it seems to cover a lifetime."