marți, 27 iunie 2017

Note on Saving Private Ryan, written by Robert Rodat

Note on Coal Miner's Daughter, based on the autobiography of Loretta Lynn

Saving Private Ryan, written by Robert Rodat, directed by Steven Spielberg

Saving Private Ryan, written by Robert Rodat, directed by Steven Spielberg

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is one of the best and most popular movies ever made.
It is at number 28 on the IMDB list of most popular films:

it has won five Academy Awards, been nominated for others and won multiple prestigious prizes around the world.
The film is also on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made List:

the story is overwhelming and believable: the many dead, the horrible violence, bravery and cowardice have been real.
It is also an interesting angle, with the Saving of Private Ryan at the forefront, but with the background of the World War II.

The cast is formidable:

-          Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Paul Giamatti- one of my favorites, Ted Danson- an outstanding professional, Dennis Farina- very likeable and good, Bryan Cranston- Breaking Good in a brief role, Vin Diesel- somebody I do not care much for and so many other excellent actors…

And the director is Steven Spielberg, showing here that he can create anything and he really is one of the best…

The introduction is gruesome, but one of the best entries there ever was, with the invasion of Normandy.
June 6th, 1944 as it was, with many soldiers killed, acts of bravery but also the dark side of war that involved murder.

In one scene, some American soldiers advance towards Germans that evidently want to surrender, with hands up.
The “good guys” keep shouting to their enemies and these answer in…German, but it is not good enough and they are killed.

Unjustified and to make matters worse, if that is even possible, the murders mock their victims with…”look, we cleaned ourselves for dinner.
Captain Miller aka Tom hanks is witnessing this and so many other outrageous deaths, violence throughout the film.

He used to be a teacher of English in his civilian life, but he now has to cope with attempts at desertion and mainly… the Nazis.
The mother of Private Ryan has to receive three letters of condolences, for three of her sons killed in battle.

When they notice this, officials in the Army decide to try and Save the only remaining son, given that this mother has had enough sacrifice in the family.
So they send a team, led by Captain Miller, to extract Private Ryan and send him home from the front.

It is not just a difficult task, for on the way soldiers are killed- and spoiler alerts are not needed for that, because it makes sense, doesn’t it? - and at times all hell breaks loose, with acts of heroism and cowardice.
I thought that the take on this war was extraordinary in that it showed real life and what happens, not the fairy tales that are made up
At one point, one member of the team is really scared and as a consequence he cannot even move from the spot where he is.

If he did, he could save the life of one of his mates, engaged in a life or death struggle with the enemy.
But this anti-hero sits there on the steps leading to where his fellow soldier was giving his life for country and freedom.

And the audience can realize that this is a different film, for in other takes, heroes simply destroy the enemy.
Our side is better, always ready to shoot and kill, fly from danger and always shooting down the enemy tank or plane.

In this magnificent film we learn that it does not always work that way and heroes fight alongside ordinary men…

Note on Kills on Wheels, written and directed by Attila Till

The Earrings of Madame de…, based on the novel by Louise de Vilmorin, directed by Max Ophüls

The Earrings of Madame de…, based on the novel by Louise de Vilmorin, directed by Max Ophüls

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a very good romantic comedy.
And you can find it on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies ever Made List:

the director, Max Ophüls was one of the most acclaimed filmmakers…

-          Lola Montes, La Ronde, Le Plaisir and The Earrings of Madame de…are among the most appreciated movies

Charles Boyer is also a glorious actor.
He is sophisticated, majestic, at times flamboyant, aristocratic in manner, charismatic and able to play both sides.

He has been a perfect villain in the recently viewed and noted on Gaslight, but he can act in comedies perfectly:

-          Barefoot in the Park is the perfect testimony

As for his opponent in The Earrings of Madame de…, Viitorio de Sica is one of the Gods of cinema, with an impressive career as actor…
But he is also sure to be included in the history of motion pictures for the masterpieces that he has directed:

-          Bicycle thieves for instance is among the best movies ever made, perhaps among the best five
-          Two Women, The Gold of Naples, Umberto D., Shoeshine, The Garden of Finzi- Continis, Marriage Italian Style and others are also among the best ever made films!

Charles Boyer is Général André de... and he is married to the Comtesse Louise de…
In the first stages of the narrative, the Comtesse is trying to sell her earrings.

And as the title suggests, these jewels will be one of the important personages of the story and they will change hands.
The jeweler is offering a good sum, since they are not just diamonds, but have been bought from his own shop.

Nevertheless, he announces the baron, especially given the circumstances under which their loss has been announced.
Because they were a present from the general, the wife makes up a lie about their being lost on the way to the opera.

Given their immense value, a theft is not excluded and this is when the Jeweler thought it better to talk to the general.
The latter buys the earrings- again- and then he makes them a gift, but…not to his own wife, but to a mistress.

This one is departing from Istanbul, where she engages in roulette games where she loses everything and has to sell the jewels.
Enter the stage the Baron Fabrizio Donati, portrayed by Viitorio de Sica, the man who buys the earrings.

He meets the Comtesse Louise de… and is fascinated and a relationship is developing between the two.
She even faints at one hunting party, when she sees with binoculars that the baron has fallen from his horse.

It is also an amusing incident, for the husband is reproaching the duration of the faint, which was inappropriate:

-          Keep your lapses short my dear

Throughout the film, the parties involved act with incredible politeness and extraordinary restraint, up to when duel is in question.

This viewer was often tempted to quote:

Note on Big, with Tom Hanks

Note on Don't Drink the Water, written and directed by Woody Allen

luni, 26 iunie 2017

Note on Raspberry Boat Refugee, directed by Leif Lindblom, with Jonas Ka...

Note on The Jane Austen Book Club, written and directed by Robin Swicord

Note on Bridesmaids, with Kristen Wiig, who also worked on the script

Note on The Bucket List, with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman

Note on Titanic, written and directed by James Cameron

The Jane Austen Book Club, written and directed by Robin Swicord, based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler

The Jane Austen Book Club, written and directed by Robin Swicord, based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler
8 out of 10

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a fine, rather sophisticated romantic comedy- drama.
It is not just about insight into the psychology of suffering women, but we also have analysis, various takes on…Jane Austen

We have a series of interesting characters, most of them women dealing with some sort of deception or failure in their lives.
Maria Bello has the role of Jocelyn, who is a dog breeder and I recognize the type for my wife is a borzoi owner that I try to convince to limit the number to the five we had.

Amy Brenneman is Sylvia, married to Daniel and Allegra’s mother.
One fine day, her husband comes home and says that he cannot lie any longer and he is moving in with another woman.

After many years of what was supposed to be a happy marriage, Sylvia is depressed and her friends try to change that.
Therefore Bernadette and Jocelyn come up with the idea of a book club to distract the abandoned woman.

Jocelyn meets with the younger Grigg, who is a fan of science fiction literature, but is willing to read Jane Austen.
So he becomes he only man in the club with six other women members.

They meet in each others’ homes and when Grigg’s turn is up, he offers a gothic, haunting show for the scared company…

-          What do you do for Halloween, if you did all this now?
-          Oh, Halloween is very different

Jocelyn tries to make the young man interested in Sylvia, or at the very least take her out for lunch and distract her.
Instead of experiencing PTSD- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- Sylvia has to try PTG- Post Traumatic Growth.

Alas, when it seems to work and Grigg and Sylvia talk and appear to have a great time, both Jocelyn and Daniel are not overjoyed.
As a matter of fact, we learn that Daniel had dated Jocelyn, gave her first puppy and then Jocelyn passed him on to Sylvia…

-          She traded your husband for a dog?

Well, more or less.
Allegra has her own misfortunes, but they involve a woman, not a man, for she is a lesbian and experiences a break up.

Emily Blunt- an actress that I like- is Prudie Drummond, yet another woman unsatisfied with her married life.
When her mother dies, at the funeral, her spouse is talking to a hot, sexy woman and Prudie is very upset.

In the following heated exchange, she accuses the man of wanting to hump that bitch there at the funeral…
He protests that he just talked to one of her friends…Friends? That woman only came because it was a funeral and she wanted to see me suffer and down, she has always hated me…

So Prudie is on the point of having an affair with one of her students, realizing very well it is inappropriate…

On the other hand, Madame Macron, even if she had been the mother of three and married, went on to marry the man who is now…the president of France and…more than twenty years her junior(?)
There are interesting quotes from Jane Austen- which has her Pride and Prejudice listed on the list of Best 100 Books Ever Written:

And various analysis, takes on characters from her books, a discussion on why the author did not marry and much more.

Very good film

Barcelona, written and directed by Whit Stillman

Barcelona, written and directed by Whit Stillman
10 out of 10

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is one of the best comedies that I know.
It is definitely one of my favorites.

Sophisticated, modern, fresh, sparkling, witty and unusual.
It is funny throughout and at the beginning we meet the protagonists, Ted, who is a regular man involved in sales and his visiting, outré cousin who talks to some women, at a disco where he describes his relative:

“Fred: He's not at all the way he seems. He might seem like a typical American, like a big unsophisticated child, but he's far more complex than that. Have you ever heard of the Marquis de Sade? Ted's a great admirer of de Sade. And a follower of Dr. Johnson. He's a complex - and in some ways dangerous - man. He has a serious romantic illusion problem. Women find him fascinating. His nickname is "Punta de Diamante" - point of a diamond. You see that odd expression on his face? Under the apparently very normal clothes he's wearing are these narrow leather straps drawn taut so that when he dances...”

And the dialogue keeps the same tone, with interesting propositions, challenging stories and metaphors on almost everything, from love to NATO, from the anti-Americanism of the moment to…pretended sadism.
The aforementioned lie about Ted will become somehow part of the folklore, making him more interesting.

-          “Fred: You think wedding vows are going to change everything? God, your naiveté is astounding! Didn't you see "The Graduate"?
-          Ted: You can remember "The Graduate"?
-          Fred: Yeah, I can remember a few things. Apparently you don't. The end? Katharine Ross has just married this really cool guy - tall, blond, incredibly popular, the make-out king of his fraternity in Berkeley - when this obnoxious Dustin Hoffman character shows up at the back of the church, acting like a total asshole. "Elaine! Elaine!" Does Katharine Ross tell Dustin Hoffman, "Get lost, creep. I'm a married woman"? No. She runs off with him - on a bus. That is the reality.”

As proved by the above quotes, Fred has a different view, outrageous and hilarious most often on various subjects.
Including The Graduate and jazz, on the latter he says: “My jazz rule is: If you can't dance to it, you don't want to know about it.”

In can appear as a bit thick and indeed, when they have another exchange, it is: Marta: “You seem very intelligent for an American…Fred: Well, I'm not.”
And if not all the lines contain the same level, which is impossible and counterproductive, most of the lines are sparkling

When they talk about positive thinking, Ted remarks that it makes him depressed and he does suffer a sort of Awakening.
He is a stuffy, “Bible dancing, goody- goody” in the words of the same, inventive cousin who has other interesting ideas.

Fred claims that the anti-Americanism has roots in sexual impotence, which is preposterous I guess, but so is the exaggerated, violent, murderous attitude of so many opponents of America at the time, many of whom were in Spain.
At a party, there is another moment that I thought hilarious, when Ted is trying to make an analogy with…ants.

-          “Well, take... take these ants. In the U.S. view, a small group, or cadre, of fierce red ants have taken power and are oppressing the black ant majority. Now the stated U.S. policy is to aid those black ants opposing the red ants in hopes of restoring democracy, and to impede the red ants from assisting their red ant comrades in neighboring ant colonies.”

To which Ramon, a man that seemed pretentious, arrogant and stupid in his outrageous stand against anything America, protests vehemently.
But Fred, with his complex personality that proved he can be astonishingly creative, humorous and likeable and then soon after silly, naïve and provocative, has a final, excellent point:

-          Fred: Where are the red ants?
-          Ted: [pointing to an ant hill] There….[Fred crushes the ants]

And there are so many more gems, including the moment when Fred is told about Americans, who are more violent and he denies it, with the woman continuing and emphasizing the number of victims killed in shootings…”Oh, shootings, yes. But that doesn't mean Americans are more violent than other people. We're just better shots…”
And there is more on Communicating Across Cultures: “You see, that's one of the great things about getting involved with someone from another country. You can't take it personally. What's really terrific is that when we act in ways which might objectively be considered asshole-ish or incredibly annoying... they don't get upset at all. They don't take it personally. They just assume it's some national characteristic.

Fred: Cosa de gringos.

duminică, 25 iunie 2017

Note on Flirting with Disaster, written and directed by David O. Russell

Note on Califórnia, written and directed by Marina Person

Note on Forrest Gump, based on the novel by Winston Groom, directed by R...

Note on the Bank Dick, written by and starring W.C. Fields

Note on Cockpit, written by Erik Ahrnbom, directed by Marten Klingberg

Schneider vs. Bax, written, directed by and starring Alex van Warmerdam

Schneider vs. Bax, written, directed by and starring Alex van Warmerdam

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a very interesting Dutch film.
We are lucky to have such fare on the five HBO channels that we have available- ever since Netflix moved in town.

Competition can produce miracles.
Schneider vs. Bax is a thriller with a twist.

We have the familiar story of a killer, assigned a target.
But this could be about all that comes “naturally”.

Because Schneider does not want to do the job.
And I think it is unusual to call the killer on his birthday.

Surrounded by family, the hit man says no, but he is convinced by Mertens, the employer.
He has a Skoda that he drives to his “office”.

This is where he keeps a Volkswagen van and the tools of the trade.
Ramon Bax is a writer and lives in a secluded place.

He is therefore an accessible target.
Schneider takes the van, after he uses some disguise.
As he is assessing the location, he is approached by a guard.

On the phone with Mertens, the killer is very upset:

-          You did not tell me about this being a reservation
-          I was stopped by a guard and now I have to go back
-          But why?
-          I have to use another disguise…you didn’t know I am using disguises?

Ramon Bax is not the most likeable victim, one that we would feel sorry for…
He is in the company of a woman, Lucy, towards whom he is very offensive, telling her to leave quickly.

His daughter is coming and when the lover protests that she is also important, she is told to be out in 10 seconds.
The viewer almost wishes to see Schneider walk through the door and teach the old chauvinist pig a lesson…

When the daughter comes, she does not get an answer at the door and when she looks around the house, the father is on the toilet.
All sorts of personages make an appearance, from Bax’s father and his really young girlfriend to Gina, who is taken prisoner by Schneider.

Lucy comes back with a friend, to take her things and she meets with her much older lover, Bax, who is upset:

-          Is this the friend who can take care of me with a finger?!
-          Yes

So Bax, who is in turn a sort of killer himself, shoots a finger off the hand of the outraged and freaked out young man.
The grandfather turns out to be a weirdo, outré if not totally outlandish and despicable man that suffers a tragic fate.

All sorts of unexpected incidents take place and this is a comedy drama, with victims when we expect nothing and laughter when we see a death in the script.
Gina, the kidnapped middle aged woman is sent as a messenger to the Bax house, where the daughter answers the door.

The prisoner is on the run and says something like- “look, I gave you the message and I have to go know…

-          Look at my ankle, if I do not return now, he will blow me off…

A good entertainment, 8 out of 10.

Flirting with Disaster, written and directed by David O. Russell

Flirting with Disaster, written and directed by David O. Russell

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

Flirting with Disaster is a fabulous comedy.
The creator of this film is David O. Russell

And he is behind other great achievements like:

-          Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and the little less significant for the under signed- Joy

There is a pattern that we can discover in the films of the writer- director.
And that is motion films that are creative, unpredictable, somewhat chaotic and at times crowded with characters.

But when there is a cast like in this movie, it is all an exquisite pleasure:

-          Ben Stiller as Mel Coplin, Patria Arquette as his wife, Nancy; Tea Leoni as Tina Kalb, George Segal as Ed Coplin, Mel’s adoptive father; Alan Alda as the real father of Mel, Richard Schlichting with Lily Tomlin as his wife, Richard Jenkins as Paul Harmon, the gay partner of Agent Tony Kent, played by Josh Brolin…

Mel Coplin wants to find his biological parents and for that he pays for the services of an agency that tracks them down.
The agent is portrayed by the gorgeous Tea Leoni and at a certain stage, Mel is on the point of having an affair with her…

I guess no spoiler alerts are needed, given that the construction of this narrative implies so many surprises that they cannot all be mentioned here…

Even if I tried.
Nancy is the outré wife of Mel, but then everybody is unusual, to say the least, on this Ship of Fools that navigates through America.

Tina, the agent wants to film the reunion between Mel and his mother and for the “rights” to this action she will pay the bill.
Only things get complicated.

-          “Agent Tony: Do you mind if I look at your armpit?
-          Nancy Coplin: My armpit?
-          Agent Tony: It's my favorite part of a woman's body.”

This is just one example on this joy ride that first stops at the address of the presumed mother that turns to be a case of mistaken identity.
Along the way, they meet with two federal agents, Paul Harmon and Tony Kent, who live together as gay partners.

Only the latter gets interested in Nancy, with whom he has the aforementioned scene that is witnessed by her husband:

-          “Mel: [to Agent Tony] You got a lot of nerve. You come in here, you lick my wife's armpit. You know... I'm going to have that image in my head for the rest of my life with your tongue in there.
-          Nancy Coplin: You deserve it.”

After quite a long, humorous journey, they finally reach the home of the biological parents that are called:

-          “ Mrs. Coplin: [hearing the name Schlichting on the phone] The Shit Kings?”
And these parents, portrayed by Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin are such figures as revealed by this dialogue:

-          “Mel: You made LSD? Is that what you're saying?
-          Richard Schlichting: We made LSD…
-          Mary Schlichting: It's really the only hope for the species.
-          Mel: Did you take acid while you were pregnant with me?
-          Mary Schlichting: You're not gonna bring that thing up, are you?
-          Richard Schlichting: You know the stuff they tell you about, you know, chromosome damage and all that stuff?
-          Mel: Yeah, I do!
-          Richard Schlichting: That's government propaganda.
-          Mary Schlichting: Total propaganda.
-          Richard Schlichting: They just want to get a hold of your head, that's all.
-          Mary Schlichting: I was relieved, though, when you came out in the hospital and you only had one head.”

A splendid comedy- 8 out of 10

sâmbătă, 24 iunie 2017

Note on Pu 239, written and directed by Scott Burns, based on story by ...

The Ballad of Cable Hogue, written by John Crawford and Edmund Penney

The Ballad of Cable Hogue, written by John Crawford and Edmund Penney

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a very good comedy- drama
It is included on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made List:

The director is Sam Peckinpah.
And he has been involved with a classic- The Wild Bunch- and a number of other motion pictures that are remarkable

-          Straw Dogs- twice, with two different versions- Junior Bonner- also included on The New York Times’ Best Movies list

Jason Robards has the leading role of Cable Hogue.
And he is one of the best actors I have seen…

-          All the President’s Men, Julia, Once Upon a Time in the West are just a few examples…

At the start of the film, we have the dirty, bad looking hero in the middle of the desert, looking at a reptile.
He talks to it, saying something about the fact that it is its bad luck that it is made up of half meat and half water.

And then the poor creature is blown to bits by a shot gun that was used from a short distance by a cowboy.

Two men are nearby and the hero addresses them as Taggart and Bowen and Cable Hogue has a moment of superiority.
But instead of using it to disarm or even blow away people that he knew and stated that are villains, he loses the upper hand.

When the two scoundrels have their guns in their hand, they disarm Hogue and force him to remain in the desert.
This looks not only like murder, but torture on top of it, because with no water and the horse taken from him, the poor man will suffer and die.

Only he finds a hole with water, that means he is saved and then he is next to the path of the diligence.
When it comes by, the men driving it offer a bottle with what I presume is whiskey and a ride to town, which is twenty miles away.

Cable Hogue understands that he is half way between two small cities, twenty miles each way and there is no water in between.
So instead of taking up the offer, he quickly understands the value of what he has found and returns to dig the water out.

His first customer is quickly dead, because he not only refused to pay the 10 cents asked for the water, but also pulls a gun at Hogue.
Preacher Joshua is the next to come and they will remain close throughout the narrative and suggests that the land should be registered with the authorities so that other claimants could not take it away.

When Cable Hogue goes to town and in other moments, there are humorous exchanges, one of which reveals that the hero does not know how to read or write and furthermore, he does not even know how to spell his name…with le or el is the question to which the man has no answer…
In this town he meets the woman that he will eventually become infatuated with, Hildy, who is selling her body.

The start of their relationship is not under the best auspices, seeing as Cable takes a bath, a massage and when they are supposed to consummate their initial client –sex worker arrangement, the man gets out the door.
On top of that, he does not pay and makes Hildy mad, with a series of objects being thrown towards the insolent, bad customer.

Cable Hogue becomes rather rich, after he invests $ 100 – which could be the equivalent of half a million dollars in today’s money- into his two acres of land, on which he builds a sort of eatery, at each he says when asked that he serves snake combined with prairie rat and other unusual meats that disgust customers.

The Ballad of Cable Hogue is a pleasant entertainment.

Note on The Rat Pack, with Ray Liotta and Don Cheadle

Note on Enemy at the Gates, written and directed by Jean Jacques Annaud

Note on Léon The Professional, written and directed by Luc Besson

vineri, 23 iunie 2017

Note on The Truman Show, written by Andrew Nicol, directed by Peter Weir

Note on the Squid and the Whale, written and directed by Noah Baumbach

Ship of Fools, based on the novel by Katherine Anne Porter, 9 out of 10

Ship of Fools, based on the novel by Katherine Anne Porter
9 out of 10

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

It is not possible to make such a motion picture today.
The cast numbers so many stars that it would be prohibitively expensive.

The film has all the elements needed for a masterpiece:

-          The script is based on the novel of a magnificent writer- Katherine Anne Porter…her stories, on which I have written about five or seven notes, have won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and are simply marvelous
-          Stanley Kramer is the director who gave us – On the Beach ( I have noted on it a couple of weeks ago), guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Judgment at Nuremberg

As for the cast, just look at the list:

-          Vivien Leigh as Mary Treadwell, Simone Signoret as La Condessa, José Ferrer as Siegfried Rieber, Lee Marvin as Bill Tenny, Oskar Werner as Dr. Wilhelm Schumann, George Segal as David, Michael Dunn as Karl Glocken and many more very good actors

The storyline is very complex, with characters that have plenty of issues and they are together characterized from the start as
A Ship of Fools, by Karl Glocken, who is a personage that describes himself as a dwarf and he makes some self-deprecating jokes.

At one point, two running children are not careful and they send the short man down, but he says that he likes the idea that they are shorter than he is, in fact he says with good humor that these are the only ones shorter on the ship.
Because of his height, Karl Glocken is not invited to stay at the captain’s table, but he shares one with Julius Lowenthal.

The latter is Jewish and therefore “not good enough” to stay with the others, even if he is more patriotic and German than anyone.
He talks to the man assigned to his table, who becomes his friend and recalls the German music he has heard away from home.

His nostalgia and affection for Germany, the country where his parents and grandparents have been born are impressive.
Julius Lowenthal has a few memorable lines, a very pleasant and kind manner and he says something like:

-          There are a million Jews in Germany, so they can’t just get rid of us, kill us all…

The racist and Nazi sympathizer is the obnoxious Siegfried Rieber, who has to share a cabin with Julius Lowenthal.
In the first place, he just throws the cosmetics of the latter in the sink, and then he is very aggressive and repugnant.

But when he falls sick, it is the generous and affable Lowenthal who helps and offers pills, in spite of the awful treatment he has received.
Mary Treadwell is a forty six years old woman, alone on the ship and facing aging with bad humor and depression.

She first has a few conversations and something of a rapprochement with an officer on the ship, but this ends up in conflict, after the latter tries to get closer and then anticipates that the woman will end up lonely, taking along in bars a paid escort as a pale, unfit companion and entertainment.
She has a few exchanges with Bill Tenny, a rough, apparently uneducated man, with a penchant for seeking favors from younger women and that Mary Treadwell dismisses in conversation with others as a gorilla.

There is a joke made on the cowboy and he is given the room number of the middle aged woman, barges in, starts kissing her and she may have started to like it, when he realizes it is all a mistake and apologizes, only to be beaten badly with a pointed shoe.

There are other important characters and their stories are as interesting if not more, but there is only enough space to just mention the doctor, whose medical condition is serious- let us just stick to that- and falls in love with La Condessa.
The woman will be sent ashore at the next port, because she has been involved in a situation that made the authorities in Cuba mad.

Then there is the young couple, David and Jenny, who are in love with each other, maybe, but they keep arguing and disputing over the rather left wing opinions of the man and his style of painting posters…
Or maybe it is rather the importance that he attaches to his nonpaying art that is paramount to him and he might place above his lover.

Complex, wondrous film, included by The New York times on its list of Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made:

The Squid and the Whale, written and directed by Noah Baumbach

The Squid and the Whale, written and directed by Noah Baumbach

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a smart, sophisticated and funny…drama.
Even if the story is familiar, the approach is unusual.

The film is intellectual, thought provoking and superior.
The audience gets to hear comments, some wise others humorous on:

-          Dickens, Kafka, F. Scott Fitzgerald and other writers and…tennis players.

Our very own Nastase is mentioned and referred to as an obnoxious player and we recently had occasion to see again how true this is.

-          [first lines]
-          Frank Berkman: Mom and me versus you and Dad.

The very first lines draw very well the battle lines, at least for most of the film, even if changes do occur.
During a tennis match, Bernard Berkman and his elder son, Walt attack their opponents with rather aggressive shots.

Bernard is played by the wonderful Jeff Daniels, Joan is portrayed by Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg has the role of Walt and Owen Kline is great as the younger Frank.
There are some disputes, after the tennis game during which Bernard seemed to hit the ball hard and deliberately, targeting his wife.
Then one day, the father tells the boys to come straight home after school, because they have something to discuss…

And the couple announces they are separating and will share the custody of the children, only they have forgotten about…the cat.
I liked Bernard, even if he could be preposterous, arrogant, self-sufficient and superficial, with ridiculous views on some subjects, and he seems to have transferred some of that attitude to his son, Walt:

“Walt Berkman: It's Welles' masterpiece, really. Many people think it's Citizen Kane, but Magnificent Ambersons, if it hadn't been ruined by the studio, would've been his crowning achievement. As it is, it's still brilliant. It's the old story, genius not being recognized by the industry.
Lance: It sounds great. Who's in it?
Walt Berkman: Orson Welles? I don't know, I haven't seen it yet. I've seen stills.”

Walt performs in a completion and he introduces a song that he was supposed to have been original, his own composition, only it is Pink Floyd’s creation and he is exposed and then asked to return the prize money.
Frank has issues of his own, that may be generated or at least aggravated by the separation of his parents.

He masturbates in the library and he is also discovered and then the Berkmans are called to school for discussion.
Bernard appears again as obnoxious, but also funny, being a complicated and intriguing character- he asks – how do you know that the two semen stains you found were both his…?

Bernard Berkman had been a successful writer that is not published any more, but his wife is now acclaimed.
The difference in status is part of the problem, maybe more in the mind of the husband, who also teaches in a class.

Lily, played by the excellent Anna Paquin, one of the youngest ever to receive an Oscar for her role in the Piano, is interested in Bernard.
When she has no place to live for a while- unless “she blows the supervisor”- she is invited to use the spare room that her professor has.

And they become sexually intimate, even if this is more than inappropriate and Walt may have feelings for the same girl.
The situation is further complicated when Joan is involved with the tennis teacher who gives lesson to Frank…

“Bernard Berkman: Ivan is fine but he's not a serious guy, he's a philistine.
Frank Berkman: What's a philistine?
Bernard Berkman: It's a guy who doesn't care about books and interesting films and things.”

And the dialogue is sparkling, entertaining, challenging, elevated, with fireworks and cultural references at almost every other step:

“Bernard Berkman: [Waiting to be taken away in an ambulance after having a heart attack] Degolas.
Joan Berkman: What?
Bernard Berkman: It means "bitch." Don't you remember?
Joan Berkman: You're calling me a bitch?
Bernard Berkman: No, don't you remember the last line of Godard's "A Bout De Souffle"? Belmondo calls Seberg a bitch. "Degolas." We saw it at the Thalia with the Dicksteins. I got you in for the children's price. You were pregnant with Walt.”

"dégueulasse" means disgusting, awful not bitch…

Note on Signs, written and directed by Night Shyamalan

Note on Avatar, written and directed by James Cameron

Note on The Aquatic Effect, written and directed by Sólveig Anspach, Je...

joi, 22 iunie 2017

Note on Satisfaction 1720, written by Erlend Loe

Note on Moonlighting, written and directed by Jerzy Skolimowski, with Je...

Note on You Don't Know Jack, directed by Barry Levinson, with Al Pacino

Note on Payback, with Mel Gibson in top form

Note on Life of Pi, based on the novel by Yann Martel

Satisfaction 1720, written by Erlend Loe and directed by Henrik Ruben Genz

Satisfaction 1720, written by Erlend Loe and directed by Henrik Ruben Genz

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

The other name of this film is:

-          Tordenskjold & Kold

And it is an interesting offering.
It seems to be a production with participation from all Nordic countries, even I am not sure.

And then there are some negative references to Norwegians in the dialogue, but it could only be a view held in 1720.
This is the year when a piece is signed.

Tordenskjold is a 29 year old vice admiral.
His exploits during the campaign are impressive, even if they are disputed, by adversaries obviously and detractors.

The young hero seems to have experienced Flow, as described in his psychology classic by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi.
War and the consequent victory have presented the character with peak experience, placed him “in the zone”.

But keeping it within the realm of psychology, there is a challenge now that in our world is very commonly described by the rat race.
People get through school and say- I will be happy when I pass the exam, then when I get good grades…

This needs to be continued by accession to University, then again good grades, followed by a good job.
Promotions are then sought after, a car, another better one and more promotions until we realize that this was all futile, mostly.

In the case of the vice admiral, the excitement of war has to be replaced with something that will bring some pleasure.
He does talk in various circles about the campaign, his initiative, that some call disobeying orders and resulting success.

It could be a surrogate and reminiscence, a re-living of grandiose moments that provides a feeling of happiness.
He is admired as a hero and, as happens today with rock stars and other celebrities, women want to be close to him.

In one particular case, a young lady sleeps with the hero and he is trying to make her admit to liking him.
But he is somehow reprimanded, for the woman says that she only slept with him because he was the famous hero.

-          But what about me? Don’t you find me attractive?
-          If you weren’t Tordenskjold, I would have never slept with you

Another time, a partner of sexual games has a few conditions for the vice admiral to fulfill before and if they are to have sex.
He is not happy with the request that he first washes himself and then face more rules and protests that he wants to go ahead and f**k…

-          Have you slept with a woman?
-          What question is that?! I have been with many women
-          No! You have only made love with yourself!!

An interesting point, feminist and real, if men used to be so selfish-perhaps many still are, especially in places where they do not even let the women drive or wear clothes that they want, never mind about listening or doing what they want- even if I wonder how veracious the dialogue could be given the date- 1720.

Kold is the valet of the vice admiral and for a time they behave as friends, until Tordenskjold makes a scene and asks his servant to act like one and stop being so familiar and obnoxious…get out and sit in your place.
They start travelling through Denmark and then on to Germany, where the vice admiral is challenged to a duel.

This is surrounded by mystery and the film proposes a version wherein the hero wants pistols, but the opponent knows that the vice admiral is deadly with them and confesses to a conspiracy and wants to be saved.

Very interesting film.

Moonlighting, written and directed by Jerzy Skolimowski

Moonlighting, written and directed by Jerzy Skolimowski

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is a very good drama, with relevance in today’s world.
There is so much talk about a “beautiful, beautiful wall” that the orange Donald wants erected and other leaders contemplate in various parts of the world, where nationalists are on the rise, that the theme of Moonlighting sounds familiar.

It is the story of a group of workers that try to make some more money in a different, more developed county.
And it is an acclaimed film, included on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made prestigious list:

It also won in the most important cinema competition that I know of- The Academy Awards promote lesser films in my view-Cannes:

The author won the Best Screenplay Prize.
Jeremy Irons is outstanding in the leading role.

He is Nowak, the English speaking leader of a construction team.
At the customs, as they enter Great Britain, he declares that they are coming to buy a second hand car.

-          Do you have money?
-          Yes…twelve hundred pounds
He shows the money but the truth is different.

They are in Britain because they will be paid to work there.
This will be done illegally and it will cost about five times less than a team that would be hired legally, with taxes paid.

The workers are Polish and some of their dialogue is incomprehensible, even if we can deduce that they are unhappy.
When there are exchanges they are mostly protestations against the policies and rules imposed by Nowak.

They work all the time and they just have a short pause for Christmas when they go to the church and a few times to the shop.
The scene when they enter the well-stocked shop, as opposed to what they have at home, is funny if not hilarious.

And I can vouch for its veracity, for the same thing happened to my mother when she went to America and was overwhelmed by the supermarkets there.
The problem is that they have very little money and the leader is soon unable to make ends meet and pay for various necessities.

More important, while the working men are in London, Poland is faced with a military coup and all communications are cut.
Nowak is hiding this news from his team and it is difficult, at one moment, a neighbor comes with the newspaper and the headlines and is shouting about the calamity facing that wretched country and Nowak hurries to shut the windows.

He is not fair with his colleagues, at least this could be one take on events, especially when he lies to them about the drama that could be engulfing their families back home and that they wait uselessly near a phone booth to call.
At another moment, in order to make the men believe that they slept for more hours, he changes the time on their only watch

-          My watch is the only one showing the correct time now…

Nowak has to steal from shops, because he has no more money left.
In the first place, his bicycle was stolen, just as he was buying things for the house that they work on and then he steals a bike.

-          “Nowak: I can speak their language; this is why the boss chose for me for the job. But I don't know what they really mean.”

This is a wonderful film, if depressing, about alienation, the ordeal of people who have to go away from their homes, live in hostile, unfamiliar surroundings, and cope with shortages and sometimes destitution.