Sunday, March 24, 2013

Abel Gance | Napoléon  (1927)

Focusing on the early days of a man who (devastated and) changed the face of a whole continent, from military school cadet to conqueror of Italy, Napoléon is a film as bold, extravagant, innovative and legendary as its subject. Abel Gance's deliberate choosing of myth over history and of scopic sensation over explanatory narrative provide for a formidable dream-like experience of ambition, warfare and politics.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Liliana Cavani | The Skin  (1981)

A very personal adaptation of a scandalous book, Liliana Cavani's film may well appear thirty years after its release as a feminist take on the birth of the 'globalization' process. In 1943 Naples, after almost twenty years of fascism and an invasion by the Wehrmacht, Italy is being invaded again, this time by its liberators: the Allied Forces under American command. The clash of cultures, and particularly its effect on women, is the main subject of La Pelle.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Douglas Sirk | Hitler's Madman  (1943)

Considered a minor film in Sirk's filmography, shot in a week as a low-budget independent production before being bought by MGM, Hitler's Madman is often dismissed as a propaganda piece. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable work for two reasons: some of the director's main themes - however surprising it may be, considering the subject, to those who are unfamiliar with them - are illustrated here, and furthermore it contains the most stunning interpretation of Reinhard Heydrich ever filmed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Robert Parrish | The Purple Plain  (1954)

The Purple Plain fits the (ever-changing) borders of the war movie genre, yet it just as well could have been a western. It is a psychological journey, a story not of redemption but of reconciliation of a man with his kind, within a ruthless and deadly environment... of which he has become an integral part. His ascetic direction well tempered by one of Gregory Peck's finest interpretations, Robert Parrish delivers here a superb tale of the survival instinct prevailing over self-destruction.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Miklós Jancsó | The Red and the White  (1967)

The Russian Civil War opposed communist Reds and counter-revolutionary Whites, in a highly confused national and international context following both the October Revolution and the end of the First World War. A considerable number of nationalities including Hungarian, either as volunteers or within expeditionary forces, took part in a conflict that spread  for five long years throughout the margins of the vast Russian empire. Contrary to WWI and in spite of what the opposition in colours suggest, this wasn't a war with steady sets of alliances and clear frontlines.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Masaki Kobayashi | The Human Condition  (1959-61)

Ningen no joken (人間の條件) is an exploration of the moral challenges faced during war by men - that is, individuals of the urban middle classes in a late modern and post-modern world, by which I mean me and most likely you, my reader. The trilogy addresses namely the subjugation of enemies in part 1: No Greater Love; the military organisation in part 2: Road to Eternity; and death and survival in part 3: A Soldier's Prayer. A visible blend of  'christian' and 'asian' spirituality- not unlike that of The Thin Red Line, brilliant cinematography, clarity of expression and disquieting beauty make Kobayashi's film a masterpiece.