A great movie to watch in the covid era. Friends and strangers are quarantined on a Greek island, told no touching, no gathering in groups, and each person stands up in turn saying “oh but I am the special exception and I simply must leave the island.”
Brutal General Boris Karloff puts himself in charge of law and order. Ellen Drew (halfway between Christmas in July and Baron of Arizona) cares for Katherine Emery (The Maze), while a boring white guy (Marc Cramer of The Canterville Ghost) pines for Ellen. Not pining for Ellen are Karloff and the Lady In Black (Helene Thimig of Cloak & Dagger), who believe Ellen is an evil spirit who brought the plague. This belief is explained by the amazing opening titles: “under conquest and oppression the people of Greece allowed their legends to degenerate into superstition.”
In the midst of SHOCKtober I’m not gonna write anything about this that you couldn’t get from the letterboxd description and first few reviews, but yay journalism. Watched on Criterion with Katy, from the guy who made Up the Yangtze.
After The Story of Three Loves, the second movie I watched for a Rosenbaum lecture. So soon (for me and for him) after Run For Cover I’m feeling shaky about Ray, but at least he made the great Bigger Than Life in between. Turned out pretty well for a big-ego war adventure story.
Looks more like a Bob Hope movie at this point:
Major Curd Jürgens (he played the Emil Jannings role in the Blue Angel remake) is supposed to lead a desert rescue operation, then Captain Richard Burton is put in charge instead. Rivalry ensues – Curd chokes when he’s supposed to knife a guard, and his wife used to date Burton, so they try to get each other killed until Burton finally dies in a sandstorm.
“Wilkies, wonderwall” – whoa, this was a real term… is it a britishization of the German wunderbar? I’m not gonna research this. It’s also the most times I’ve heard the name Benghazi in a movie. Sgt. Christopher Lee doesn’t make a strong impression – this was the same year he played Frankenstein’s monster, the year before his Dracula. Safecracker Wilkins is Nigel Green of Masque of the Red Death, sort of a low-rent Timothy Carey.
JR: “They’re both assholes… they become prisoners of their own macho self-images,” JR pulling no punches. “I see it as an attack on macho.” “The desire to have war sometimes exceeds any justification.” This was Ray’s attempt to go indie and break from Hollywood, though he didn’t have much control – the novelist retained script approval, the producers controlled casting.
Movie opens with “uncle” yelling at unseen hole diggers, then a boy with a (comically? horribly? we don’t know yet) hoarse voice comes out and curses into the camera. For maybe a decade I’ve been half-meaning to watch this movie because it’s supposed to be great, then avoiding it since it’s a horrors-of-war through eyes-of-a-child story. Turns out it’s not the depressing slog I imagined, but has big Emir Kusturica energy, hardly ever stops being amazing even when it starts being completely brutal. Let’s keep avoiding Son of Saul for the time being, though.
Our boy Fliora finds a gun, so is allowed to leave his family and join the Belorussian soldiers in WWII – then he’s ordered to swap his good boots for an older soldier’s, and gets left behind. No fighting yet, already a good amount of crying. He soon teams up with older Glasha and they dodge bombings and forge minefields and swamps, as Fliora and Glasha become ever-more traumatized by their experiences. We get the post-bombing tinnitus sound – I didn’t think they were doing that in the 1980’s. The explosions in this movie look unlike normal war-movie explosions – they look dangerous! It’s an angry movie, also bringing to mind Hard To Be a God, and gets extremely brutal as it goes on.
Bird Content: Fliora stomps on a nest full of eggs (boo), but later a beautiful stork looks in on our heroes (yay).
Mark Le Fanu for Criterion:
The film’s working title, before it turned into the biblical exhortation Come and See, was Kill Hitler. Klimov was always careful to explain in interviews that this was not to be taken in its literal meaning but rather as referring to a sort of universal moral imperative: “Kill the Hitler that lurks potentially in all of us!”
Klimov was married to Larisa Shepitko, whose films I’d very much like to see. Cinematographer Aleksey Rodionov would later work with Sally Potter. Lead kid Aleksey Kravchenko kept acting, was recently in The Painted Bird. Filmed in Belarus, which was in the news for arresting dissidents the morning after I watched this.
Haven’t seen this in a long time – it’s the snowy one about the guys left behind when the larger army moves out, ordered to act as if they’re the entire army to fool the enemy into staying put as long as possible. Our dudes get picked off until paranoid Richard Basehart is the highest rank. The whole drama of whether Basehart will be able to lead effectively if he’s in charge is overblown, because he’s only in charge for the last ten minutes and he leads just fine. For me the real drama was the nighttime conversation between him and Gene Evans. Evans is a gruff, down-to-earth character actor and Basehart a tormented over-enunciating drama-school type, and it’s a relief that they manage to inhabit the same scene without it seeming ridiculous.
“There were atrocities on both sides.” Let’s see if I have this straight… American gold intended to pay Vietnamese allies fighting vietcong was found by Chadwick Boseman’s squad… CB wants to distribute it to Black countrymen, but is killed by accident by Delroy Lindo, who then hides the gold along with surviving buddies Isiah Whitlock, Clarke Peters and Norm Lewis.
The four return to Vietnam in present-day with Delroy’s son Jonathan Majors (Monty in The Last Black Man) and tour guide Vinh, locating the gold and the remains of their commander. This is where I thought they’d turn on each other out of paranoid greed, per the Sierra Madre comparisons I’d read, but it’s the already unstable MAGA-hat Delroy who holds the others hostage, and their smuggler middleman Jean Reno leading the fight against them. Only Peters and Majors make it out alive, and about a sixth of the gold is donated to Black Lives Matter, which ain’t bad. Whoever said this movie has more aspect-ratio clowning than The Grand Budapest Hotel was right, and I hadn’t heard about all the injections of historical photos. The only part I didn’t buy is an anti-landmine organization happening to walk by moments after someone steps on a mine.
The award-candidate docs returned to the Landmark, and we caught up with this and Honeyland, and watched American Factory at home – and all three got oscar nominations a week later. I was in a terrible mood after watching the reporter/activist filmmaker and her doctor husband try to raise a baby and run a hospital in an Aleppo warzone while losing all their friends and neighbors to bombings, and so didn’t properly appreciate the playful carnage of John Wick 3 when watching it some hours later.
War becoming commodity… following the money (but not very specifically)… skims from a few Adam Curtis movie topics. Rough camerawork making it look like interviews were stolen, when they seem to be interviewing for this very movie. A Michael Hardt sighting. A way to pass the time on a Thanksgiving weekend afternoon, my sleepy viewing companion wanting more new information about the global arms trade, while I’m wanting more Double Take-ry.
I’d like to say I sought out an Israeli movie in New York during Hanukkah, but really I watched this because of the dance scene in David Ehrich’s top 25 video.
Neatly divided into three sections. In the first, an Israeli father (Lior Ashkenazi of Late Marriage and Footnote) and mother (Sarah Adler of Notre Musique and Jellyfish) are visited by military flunkies and told their only son has died during his military duty. This turns out to be a mistake, and the enraged dad insists the military immediately bring his son home to visit. In the second part, their son Jonathan is on assignment with a handful of others at a remote roadblock. We observe their bored routine, stopping and humiliating drivers before letting them through the little gate, then the morning after a horrible accident that kills four innocents, Jon is taken away to visit his family. In the final part some months later we learn the son died in a crash that morning, the parents have been separated, and they’re together for a few minutes hashing some things out.
Shot with such flair, artfully designed without being quirky or showoffy. The tension and despair on display is absolutely wrecking, but the film compensates with an abundance of humor (light and dark). Maoz’s second film after the acclaimed Lebanon, which I guess I need to check out. Played Venice this year with Human Flow, Ex Libris, Three Billboards and champion The Shape of Water.