Directors: 

G.W. Pabst, Alan J. Pakula, Jafar Panahi, Sergei Parajanov, Park Chan-wook, Nick Park, Alan Parker, Pier Paolo Pasolini,  Pawel Pawlikowski, Alexander Payne, Raoul Peck, Sam Peckinpah, Arthur Penn, Christian Petzold,  Maurice Pialat,

Roman Polanski, Michael Powell, Otto Preminger,  Cristi Puiu

                                                                                                                

 

Pabst, G.W.  (Georg Wilhelm)

 

G.W. Pabst | Biography (1885-1967)  biography from Lenin Imports

By vague consent, Pabst is one of those directors we have a duty to remember, even if there is only a single film still compulsory viewing. With eighty years Pandora's Box has grown into one of the most compelling studies of sensual self-destruction, whereas the once respected humanitarianism of Kameradschaft seems facile; and Waterfront 1918 is no more or less profound an antiwar film than Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front.

b. Raudnitz, Czechoslovakia

There is no doubt that around 1930 Pabst was enormously accomplished, as a realist and in his psychological exploration—what was called his "X-ray eye camera." But it is the skill that impresses more than personal conviction. In retrospect, we may notice that Pandora's Box and Kameradschaft endorse diametrically opposite attitudes to people. Was Pabst an opportunist then, a drifting director waiting for a breeze? Kameradschaft, for instance, is a compromise between locations in a real mining town and clever studio reconstruction of the mine tunnels.

It has even been discovered that Pabst shot two endings to that film—one hopeful, one despairing.

It seems appropriate to the conflicting method that he could not settle for one attitude or the other. Die Freudlose Gasse, despite its attack on inflation and urban misery, revels in its melodramatic consequences, especially the threat of the brothel awaiting Greta Garbo. And as for Pabst's undeniable coup with Louise Brooks, the originality of Pandora comes from Brooks's fearless sense of an intelligent woman unable to resist her own sensuality. Pabst's contribution is that of entrepreneur, selecting Brooks to enact the erotic spiral of Wedekind's original.

The filming is proficient and expressive, but Pabst is content to create a heavy, fog-bound Victorian atmosphere, such as he used in Die Dreigroschenoper, to smother the dramatic starkness that Brecht had intended. Such background detail is common to much of Pabst's work and it is secondhand compared with the worlds invented by Lang for Metropolis, Frau im Mond, M, or the Mabuse films. Pabst excelled in the selection of detail—objects, expressions, and quick effects of light. Certainly, with Brooks this alertness was fully stimulated; her darting spontaneity as Lulu adds to the meaning because it runs counter to the massive premeditation of the German actors. Lulu still thrills us because of Louise Brooks's effect of vulnerable emotional vitality. Pandora's Box seems the one occasion when Pabst trusted a player to carry a film, rather than the theory that the camera could penetrate psychological reality.

With Geheimnisse einer Seele this approach added to a schematic and tendentious dramatization of Freudian theories, but with Pandora's Box and Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen the discovery is startling and moving. Is Pabst or Brooks the true creative personality in those films? The tentativeness in all Pabst's work, and the dullness of most of his later films, support Lotte Eisner's feeling that Brooks had:

"succeeded in stimulating an otherwise unequal directors talent to the extreme."

Like many other German filmmakers, in 1933 Pabst moved to France. While there he made a picturesque version of Don Quixote starring Chaliapin as the Don (and with George Robey as Sancho in the English version). His one Hollywood venture, A Modern Hero, at Warners, starring Richard Barthelmess, was a flop and Pabst returned to France, and then to Austria. Lotte Eisner reported that he had tried to justify the return with a string of family circumstances, so plausible that they seemed more suspicious. Whatever the real motives, the decision weighed on him. Feuertaufe was a documentary on the conquest of Poland, and by 1943 he was forced back on the life of Paracelsus as a way of keeping in work.

His post-war films included two made in Italy, as well as Der Letzte Akt, based on Erich Maria Remarque's account of the last days of Hitler, and a film about the July 1944 plot. But Pabst was never rehabilitated, chiefly because that surface brilliance had gone from his films, revealing only a plodding sentimental pursuit of psychological orthodoxy.

G.W. Pabst - Director - Films as Director:, Other Films:, Publications  Liam O’Leary from Film Reference

Bryher, writing in Close Up in 1927, noted that "it is the thought and feeling that line gesture that interest Mr. Pabst. And he has what few have, a consciousness of Europe. He sees psychologically and because of this, because in a flash he knows the sub-conscious impulse or hunger that prompted an apparently trivial action, his intense realism becomes, through its truth, poetry."

G.W. Pabst was enmeshed in the happenings of his time, which ultimately engulfed him. He is the chronicler of the churning maelstrom of social dreams and living neuroses, and it is this perception of his time which raises him above many of his contemporary filmmakers.

Like other German directors, Pabst drifted to the cinema through acting and scripting. His first film, Der Schatz , dealt with a search for hidden treasure and the passions it aroused. Expressionist in feeling and design, it echoed the current trend in German films, but in Die freudlose Gasse he brought clinical observation to the tragedy of his hungry postwar Europe. For Pabst the cinema and life grew closer together. In directing the young Greta Garbo and the more experienced Asta Nielsen, Pabst was beginning his gallery of portraits of women, to whom he would add Brigitte Helm, Louise Brooks, and Henny Porten.

Geheimnisse einer Seele carried Pabst's interest in the subconscious further, dealing with a Freudian subject of the dream and using all the potential virtues of the camera to illuminate the problems of his central character, played by Werner Krauss. Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney , based on a melodramatic story by Ilya Ehrenburg, reflected the upheavals and revolutionary ideas of the day. It also incorporated a love story that ranged from the Crimea to Paris. Through his sensitive awareness of character and environment Pabst raised the film to great heights of cinema. His individual style of linking image to create a smoothly flowing pattern induced a rhythm which carried the spectator into the very heart of the matter.

Two Pabst films have a special significance. Die Büchse der Pandora and Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen featured the American actress Louise Brooks, in whom Pabst found an ideal interpreter for his analysis of feminine sensuality.

Between the high spots of Pabst's career there were such films as Grafin Donelli , which brought more credit to its star, Henny Porten, than to Pabst. Man spielt nicht mit der Liebe featured Krauss and Lily Damita in a youth and age romance. Abwege , a more congenial picture that took as its subject a sexually frustrated woman, gave Pabst the opportunity to direct the beautiful and intelligent Brigitte Helm. His collaboration with Dr. Arnold Fanck on Die weisse Hölle vom Pitz-Palu resulted in the best of the mountain films, aided by Leni Riefenstahl and a team of virtuoso cameramen, Angst, Schneeberger, and Allgeier.

The coming of sound was a challenge met by Pabst. Not only did he enlarge the scope of filmmaking techniques, but he extended the range of his social commitments in his choice of subject matter. Hans Casparius, his distinguished stills cameraman and friend, has stressed the wonderful teamwork involved in a Pabst film. There were no divisions of labor; all were totally involved. Westfront 1918, Die Dreigroschenoper , and Kameradschaft were made in this manner when Pabst began to make sound films. Vajda the writer, cameraman Fritz Arno Wagner (who had filmed Jeanne Ney ) and Ernö Metzner, another old colleague, worked out the mise-en-scène with Pabst, assuring the smooth, fluid process of cinema. With Pabst the cinema was still a wonder of movement and penetrating observation. The technical devices used to ensure this have been described by the designer Metzner.

Westfront 1918 was an uncompromising anti-war film which made All Quiet on the Western Front look contrived and artificial. Brecht's Die Dreigroschenoper , modified by Pabst, is still a stinging satire on the pretensions of capitalist society. Kameradschaft , a moving plea for international cooperation, shatters the boundaries that tend to isolate people. All these films were studio-made and technically stupendous, but the heart and human warmth of these features were given by G.W. Pabst.

When Germany was in the grip of growing Nazi domination, Pabst looked elsewhere to escape from that country, of which he had once been so much a part.

L'Atlantide was based on the Pierre Benoit novel of adventure in the Sahara. The former success of Jacques Feyder, Pabst's work featured Brigitte Helm as the mysterious Antinea. Don Quixote with Chaliapin did not fulfil its promise. A Modern Hero , made in Hollywood for Warner Brothers, had little of Pabst in it. On his return to France he handled with some competence Mademoiselle Docteur, Le Drame de Shanghai , and Jeunes Filles en détresse. In 1941 circumstances compelled him to return to his estate in Austria. He was trapped, and if he was to make films, it had to be for the Nazi regime. Komödianten was a story of a troupe of players who succeed in establishing the first National Theatre at Weimar. Its leading player was Pabst's old friend Henny Porten, who gave an excellent performance. The film won an award at the then Fascist-controlled Venice Biennale. Paracelsus , again an historical film, showed Pabst had lost none of his power. For his somewhat reluctant collaboration with the Nazis, Pabst has been savagely attacked, but it is hard to believe that any sympathy could have ever existed from the man who made Kameradschaft for the narrow chauvinists who ruled his country.

After the war Pabst made Der Prozess , dealing with Jewish pogroms in nineteenth-century Hungary. It was a fine film. After some work in Italy he made Der letze Akt , about the last days of Hitler, and Es geschah am 20 Juli , about the generals' plot against Hitler. Both were films of distinction.

Pabst died in Vienna in 1967, having been a chronic invalid for the last ten years of his life. As Jean Renoir said of him in 1963: "He knows how to create a strange world, whose elements are borrowed from daily life. Beyond this precious gift, he knows how, better than anyone else, to direct actors. His characters emerge like his own children, created from fragments of his own heart and mind."

G. W. Pabst  profile from Turner Classic Movies

 

German 43 Profile  biography

 

G.W. Pabst > Overview - AllMovie  bio from Hal Erickson

 

G. W. Pabst  biography from Kino

 

G W Pabst from Tiefland - at Film.com  biography from Film.com

 

Georg Wilhelm Pabst - The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia  bio

 

Georg Wilhelm Pabst  The Auteurs

 

The Films By G.W.Pabst  filmography from The Other Eye

 

Louise Brooks Filmography

 

Series Details  Introduction and brief reviews from UCLA Film Restrospective, January 7 – February 22, 2004

 

THE silent and sound German films of GW PABST  brief synopsis of available films from NY Film Annex

 

German Film Classics Page  available videos

 

News | The Masters of Cinema Series  Eureka video

 

nthposition online magazine: Two Pabst operas reviews of PANDORA’S BOX and THE THREE PENNY OPERA BY Douglas Masserli from nth Position (undated)

 

B helm  Fire & Ice, The Life and Films of Brigitte Helm, by Scott D. Ryersson from Filmfax (pdf)

 

Schatz-project1   The Treasure – A Film Symphony in Five Acts by Max Deutsch, by Nina Goslar and Frank Strobel (undated)

 

GarboForever - Garbo in Berlin  Garbo Forever

 

The Times (19/Dec/1930) - Sound and dialogue films: recent ...  Alfred Hitchcock Wiki posts an article from The Times, December 19, 1930

 

Louise Brooks, Actors and the Pabst spirit  Actors and the Pabst Spirit, by Louise Brooks from Focus on Film, February 1972

 

WITH PABST  Lotte Eisner from Sight and Sound, August 1987

 

Frank Wedekind's Lulu Plays (Erdgeist and Büchse der Pandora)   Lulu: Sexuality and Cynicism on the Stage and Screen, by Nancy Thuleen, 1995

 

Page 1 of 2 MoMA | press | Releases | 1998 | Comprehensive ...  MOMA Exhibition Press Notes, October 5 – 31, 1998 (pdf)

 

Wheels of History  J. Hoberman from The Village Voice, October 6, 1998 (Page 2)

 

Dangerous liaisons  Michael Billington from The Guardian, March 17, 2001

 

Tom Dewe Mathews: why was everyone keen to forget GW Pabst? | Film ...   Tom Dewe Mathews from The Guardian, January 16, 2002

 

Siffblog: Girl, Interrupted - Individual  David Jeffers from Siffblog, January 11, 2007

 

media release  Louise Brooks and the “New Woman” In Weimar Cinema, exhibit from the International Center of Photography, January 19 – April 29, 2007  (pdf format)

 

Inglourious Basterds; Jackboot Mutiny « Louis Proyect: The ...  Finding Pabst in Tarantino, Louis Proyect:  The Unrepentant Marxist, October 25, 2009

 

TSPDT - G.W. Pabst  They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They

 

Find-A-Grave profile for Georg Wilhelm Pabst

 

501 Movie Directors: A Comprehensive Guide to the Greatest Filmmakers

 

Georg Wilhelm Pabst - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Lotte Eisner > Overview - AllMovie

 

DER SCHATZ (The Treasure)

Germany  (79 mi)  1923

User comments  from imdb Author: plaidpotato from United States

Like a 17th century Germanic 'Kiss Me Deadly'

This is very different from Pabst's later and more famous films, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. It's more in line with the other German Expressionist stuff of the period: gothic, shadowy, sort of ponderous, and with a simple moral message. But there's also some humor, so it's not as totally downbeat as some of the other German silents. The acting's stylized, mildly hysterical, but in a good sort of way--plenty of maniacal laughter and such. I saw it without English intertitles (and with very limited, maybe 20-30%, comprehension of German), and it was still quite understandable and quite watchable.

8/10.

JOYLESS STREET (Die freudlose Gasse)

Germany  (125 mi)  1925           Germany 1998 restored version (175 mi)  Germany 2009 DVD version (151 mi) 

 

Chicago Reader (Dave Kehr) capsule review

G.W. Pabst's 1925 film made a star of Greta Garbo, who was second billed but easily stole the show from the ostensible lead, Asta Neilsen. The picture belongs to the realist phase of expressionism, adapting the striking visual techniques of the movement to a more or less accurate portrait of the despair, poverty, and general social disruption of the postwar years in central Europe. Despite Garbo, it's heavy going—an official classic that hasn't quite earned the title. Approximately 95 min.

Time Out review

Pabst's record of the process of destitution in the middle classes of Vienna in the '20s (from the novel by Hugo Bettauer) was banned in Britain when first released. As such, it later came as a major revelation, both when compared with Pabst's later work and in the context of the development of a film narrative able to accommodate a large number of characters. Its squalid realism is given conviction by a sureness of technique and a sensuousness of imagery, continually creating contrasts between the misery of the have-nots and the uncaring gaiety of the champagne- swilling affluent, the threadbare and the luxurious. (Original length: 12,264 ft.)

Variety review

The picture's only commercial value is the presence at the head of the cast of Greta Garbo. The role is a poor one of a rather furtive and bedraggled heroine which does not gain much sympathy.

The picture has minor virtues and major defects. The principal drawback is that it's fearfully long and dull, besides being hard to follow in its complications. The central idea is good. It deals with the middle class enmity in Europe toward the post-war social upstarts, rich war profiteers and dealers in the necessities of life who oppress the poor and become wealthy on hard-wrung profits. Probably the novel [by Hugo Bettauer] dealt more adequately with these materials.

The screen story gets them tangled up with shoddy melodrama in what one takes to be the red-light district of Vienna. The pure girl who is lured into the house of ill-fame doesn't deliver much of a sensation here. Neither does the murder mystery. One solves the mystery immediately and there isn't any suspense.

Some of the character types - the pompous butcher and the two fat, sleek profiteers among others - are excellent in portraiture, and the settings are generally interesting.

Photography is far from high grade. Often the quality is thin and sometimes blurred, the best effects being in the handling of heavy light and shade masses.

[Version reviewed was a toned-down 95-min. version released in the US in 1927.]

User comments  from imdb Author: Diosprometheus from United States

The Sorrows of "The Joyless Street"

Director Georg Wilhelm Pabst's "The Joyless Street" is one of the most censored and mutilated films in history. The film premier on May 18, 1925 in Berlin. The film was a sensation and launched the new reality movement in German film-making.

The film was based on Hugo Bettauer's 1924 serialized novel. The film version would propel Greta Garbo to international fame.

Bettauer would never see the premier of the film based on his novel. On March 26, 1925, Beattauer was dead. Otto Rothstock, a national socialist thug, had shot him to death. Bettauer had ironically written a highly controversial dystopian satirical novel, called "A City Without Jews, A Novel About The Day After Tomorrow." The novel was about the expulsion of the Jews from Austria. Had he lived, Bettauer would have seen his fictitious world become a prophetic reality in 1938.

The original version of "The Joyless Street" was a dark study of life in hyper-inflation Vienna in the wake of the Great War. It was about poverty and despair in a defeated country. In the original film, as in the book, Pabst set out to tell the story how inflation destroyed the sundry spectra of society and led to people to live lives of impoverishment, desperation and despair. Pabst would tell his story through the lives of two main characters, Marie and Greta. Nielson would play Marie, a poverty stricken character with a brutal and cruel father who would prostitute herself for the man she loves but who despises her. Garbo would play Greta, the daughter of a foolish and sickly middle class bureaucrat, would would resist the temptation of easy money and prostitution.

The film shocked European governments. England banned the film from public viewing. Italy, France, Austria and elsewhere would show the film only after it had been considerably mutilated.

Americans thought that the only value of the film was the presence of Greta Garbo. Curiously, Garbo was paid in American dollars rather than worthless German ones.

As a result, most of the available versions of this film were cut to make the international sensation Great Garbo the star the film over the top billed Asta Nielson, who played a woman driven to murder.

Over the years, Nielson's leading part in the film will almost entirely vanish like the Jews in Bettauer's novel.

Garbo was the second lead to the once legendary Asta Nielson.

Most of the story line involving Asta Nielson's character Maria Lechner was cut out of the film.

Most of the story line involving Warner Krauss' abhorrent butcher of Melchoir Street was cut out of the film.

Other story lines, involving other characters, were cut out or toned down.

International censorship removed these segments long ago. They were deemed too controversial and too dangerously political.

When the film was released in America in 1927, Asta Nielson's character was edited out except for a brief part at the beginning.

In 1937, this version was re-released with synchronized music and sound effects. It is this terrible version people have most likely seen.

The result of this censorious butchery a sappy happy Hollywood like ending where an American saves Greta from a life of hunger, misery and prostitution replaced the human tragedy that Pabst was intent on showing in "The Joyless Street".

Rumors persist that Marlene Dietrich had a part in this film. There is no evidence that she ever had a role in this film.

The German actress Herta Von Walther played the part of the woman in Butcher's line who comforts Greta when she collapsed. In the original version, Herta had a bigger part that involved prostituting herself to the Butcher.

Herta Von Walther is forgotten today, but she made four films with director Georg Wilhelm Pabst between the years 1925 and 1928. The four are "The Joyless Street", "Secrets of a Soul", "The Love of Jeanne Ney", "Abwege".

There is no record of director Georg Wilhelm Pabst having ever made any films with Marlene Dietrich. Still the rumors persist.

In 1999, the Munich Filmmuseum partially restored this this film. A 16 mm reduction positive exists in the museum.

Today, the film is mostly remembered as the last European role the timorous, timid Greta Garbo played before coming to America with her mentor Maurice Stiller. In the January 1932 edition of Photoplay magazine, Ruth Biery wrote, "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer paid her $250 a week to secure him for the movies. It is hard to say, "The Joyless Street" is a good or poor picture in its mutilated form but it did not harm Greta Garbo.

The Joyless Street  Michael Koller from Senses of Cinema, June 2004

 

  "Film history and film preservation: reconstructing the text of The joyless street (1925)," by Jan-Christopher Horak from Screening the Past, November 16, 1998, also seen here:  Film history and film preservation

 

The Joyless Street-1925 « Bennythomas's Weblog  October 14, 2008

 

The Joyless Street (Die freudlose Gasse) : DVD Talk Review of the ...  Chris Neilson from DVD Talk

 

PROGRAM NOTI  Ed Lowry from Cinema Texas (pdf)

 

"The Cinema and the Classics" by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)  book excerpt (pages 106 – 108), July 1927

 

Garbo/Helen: The self-projection of beauty by H.D.  Charlotte Mandel discusses Hilda Doolittle’s comments on Beauty (1980), revised April 6, 2003

 

"Jack Knife Man"  John DeBartolo

 

The Joyless Street, The Joyless Street Movie, Die freudlose Gasse ...  Jason Day from Wildsound Filmmaking

 

mediadiary -- the annex - Joyless Street

 

Greta Garbo - The Ultimate Star - The Joyless Street

 

GarboForever.com Gallery

 

Progressive Silent Film List: Joyless Street  Production credits, also here:  Silent Era : Home Video : The Joyless Street (1925) Review

 

Joyless Street - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Image results for Joyless Street

 

GEHEIMNISSE EINER SEELE (Secrets of a Soul)

Germany  (97 mi)  1926 DVD version (75 mi) 

 

Time Out review  Tony Rayns

Fascinating as the first 'serious' attempt to deal with Freudian psychoanalysis on the screen, Pabst's film is also notable for bringing a solid intellectual perspective to the 'expressionist' idiom of contemporary German movies. It's essentially a bourgeois melodrama, about a chemistry professor whose frustrated desire to father a child meshes with his jealousy of his wife's childhood sweetheart. The professor's fantasies are, of course, generously illustrated in the remarkable dream sequences, awash with sexual symbols. The deciphering of these dreams as he consults a psychoanalyst is necessarily too pat, but Pabst's aims still look as bold and daring as they must have done in 1926.

Geheimnisse einer Seele (1926)  James Travers from Cinema Forever

There is clearly a natural relationship between German expressionist art of the 1920s and the revolutionary theories in psychology which were being expounded by Sigmund Freud and his contemporaries in the preceding years.  Expressionism is inherently a dreamlike re-interpretation of the real world and Freud saw dreams as the key to unlocking the secrets to the human subconscious, so the two have a manifest connection.  The first film which attempted to bring the two together was G.W. Pabst’s Secrets of a Soul, a curious work that manages to be both compelling and unsatisfying.

Viewed today, it is much easier to appreciate this film for its artistic merits – its striking visual design and atmospheric expressionistic photography – than its intellectual content.  As a serious attempt to represent Freud’s ideas it leaves a great deal to be desired and almost comes across as a mockery of psychoanalytic theory.  The crux of the film is its famous dream sequence (which is imaginative and well shot, but is hardly the most spectacular that cinema has given us) and its subsequent interpretation by a psychoanalyst.  These two things combined seem to constitute an Idiot’s Guide to Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, so apparent is the lack of subtlety and intellectual rigour.  The images that make up the the dream sequence are so obvious that it is not beyond the wit of any spectator to make a more convincing job at explaining them than the eminent psychoanalyst does in the film’s drawn-out leather couch denouement.  Interesting, but definitely not Pabst’s best work.

Turner Classic Movies dvd review  Michael Atkinson

It made perfect sense that the German Expressionists, like the Surrealists at roughly the same time, the 1920s, would’ve been fascinated by the concepts and extra-reality inquiries of a certain Dr. Sigmund Freud, whose theories had been seeing print since the beginning of the century, but in the roaring ‘20s which were just beginning to sink in to the public brainpan and shake the world in its boots. After all, the Expressionists virtually pioneered the notion that art like film or theater or music or painting could voice an entire culture’s private angers and fears and doubts – indeed, could express the inexpressible, and manifest the silent howl of man’s inner struggles. Madness seemed to linger at the fringes of life then, and Expressionism gave it form. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) was the template, portraying modern Germany as an irrational, sunless, distorted dream-world – and it even came with an added-on framing device positioning the whole narrative as the imaginings of a hospitalized psychotic. Freud’s newfangled ideas seemed to be a kind of key to what had happened in the Great War – what other rationale could there be for so much unprecedented mayhem and destruction and bloodshed, than the secret pathologies lurking under our everyday selves like a poisoned water table, bursting to the surface?

No German film from the period – a time when no one was making films as distinctive and ambitious as the Germans – was as thoroughly mixed up with Freud and Freudianism as G.W. Pabst’s Secrets of a Soul (1926). The new Kino DVD has a protracted text supplement articulating in scholarly detail the efforts that the film’s producers took to get Freud to officially approve of the film – making it a kind of nascent-psychology house movie – and the resistance Freud offered, over much correspondence, until a coterie of Freudian acolytes lent their names to it, causing a rift in the powerful Vienna psychotherapy community. Freud’s complaints seemed to be mostly directed at not the proposed film in particular (on which Freudian psychologists Karl Abraham and Hanns Sachs got "technical consultant" credit), but with the very idea that unconscious conflicts could be represented meaningfully on film.

He had a point – thoughtful critics have long noticed that dream sequences and even outright cinematic Surrealisms have an essentially silly thrust to them, perhaps largely because cinema itself is already overwhelmingly dream-like, and our experience of it (sitting in the dark, semi-consciously "entering into" the narrative, taking as "real" an associative series of shots that are actually unrelated, etc.) is already very much like dreaming. But by the same token, most uses of dream imagery from cinema’s first three decades or so have impact now as beguiling experiments (what does and doesn’t work as visual narrative was still being worked out), and as anarchist time capsules (several early Surrealist films date badly, but Dali and Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou, from 1929, still has the electric jolt of an airborne Molotov cocktail). Pabst’s film is a little of both – for one thing, it was expressly conceived as a drama structured around the concept of neurotic pathology and its psychoanalytic cure, and it’s this aspect of the film, after many decades of Freudian hot air wafting its way through popular movies (just look at how badly Spellbound dates compared to Hitchcock’s other mid-century films), that feels hokey. At the same time, Secrets of a Soul, based on an "actual case history," isn’t so clear about what’s unconscious and what isn’t – it’s still a German Expressionist film, which demands that the "real world" outside of the protagonist’s feverish skull is to some degree warped and darkened by stylistic pessimism.

You could be forgiven for mistaking the entire opening sequence as a bad dream, and a creepy forecast of the Dali/Bunuel film to come: a middle-class chemist (Werner Krauss, six years after Caligari and four years from playing the evil rabbi in the famed Nazi propaganda film Jud Suss) tries to shave in the morning, when a mismatched countershot of his wife hollering from another room summons him, at which time she asks him to cut hair at the nape of her neck with his straight razor... Then a woman outside screams – who? – and the man accidentally cuts his wife’s neck, and a crowd forms on the street (in front of the couple’s house?); cut to the dressed couple coming downstairs, where a brood of puppies frolic... They exchange meaningful but mysterious glances... She pushes a buzzer-button on the wall, dissolve to an empty kitchen... He wanders out to the street, like one of Un Chien Andalou’s passers-by, eyeing a slow ambulance and hearing vaguely from the crowd about a murder...

It continues in this disjointed, enigmatic mode, piling up banal incidents nevertheless pregnant with menace, until the couple go to bed, and "The Dream" begins – and suddenly we’re in a Dali painting, where women’s heads swing inside church bells and a matchstick city rises from the dark hills in the distance. From there, one shouldn’t get caught up with the procedural structure of the movie (the opening incidents and their corresponding dream associations are reviewed in therapy with Pavel Pavlov’s psychologist, to uproot Krauss’s phobia of blades). Rather, watch how the film suggests visually that the characters’ world is disarmingly dreamlike and irrational even when they are awake. Freud or no Freud, the subjective issues at hand are bigger than one man’s neurotic kink. With only his fourth film, Pabst was already establishing the anxious, shadowy, predatory vocabulary that would make him a world-class auteur just a few years later, with The Loves of Jeanne Ney (1927), Pandora’s Box (1929), Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) and Die Dreigroschenoper (1931). But quickly, he and German cinema gave up on Freudianism, leaning more toward tales of moral conflict and retribution that spoke more acutely to the German people’s downtrodden postwar frame of mind, and to the ambitions of the rising Nazi party. Secrets of a Soul remains a crazy artifact, then, conflicted by style, forgotten by history, and buried by a new kind of mass pathology not unlike the private diseases it sought to elucidate.

CineScene.com (Chris Dashiell) review

 

digitallyOBSESSED.com (Jeff Wilson) dvd review

 

Cinepassion.org [Fernando F. Croce]

 

SECRETS OF A SOUL (G. W. Pabst, 1926) « Dennis Grunes

 

User comments  from imdb Author: FerdinandVonGalitzien (FerdinandVonGalitzien@gmail.com) from Galiza

 

User comments  from imdb Author: Reichswasserleiche from United States

 

My Silent Films: G W Pabst - Geheimnisse einer Seele 1926  Psique66 from My Silent Films

 

Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings (Dave Sindelar) capsule review

 

Ozus' World Movie Reviews (Dennis Schwartz) review

 

PopMatters [Michael Barrett]  Kino German Expressionism Collection

 

Channel 4 Film capsule review

 

Secrets of a Soul DVD - Kino on Video

 

Secrets of a Soul - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Psychoanalysis and Film  Sigmeund Freud Museum

 

SECRETS OF A SOUL - BL!NDMAN  Dream sequence on YouTube (8:02)

 

THE LOVE OF JEANNE NEY (Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney)

Germany  (100 mi)  1927

 

Time Out review  Tony Rayns

Pabst's adaptation of a novel by Ilya Ehrenburg is in many ways a trial run for his masterpiece Pandora's Box, made the following year. Its German heroine flees from the Crimea after her Bolshevik lover has assassinated her diplomat father; the main part of the film finds her in Paris, struggling to maintain her integrity amid sundry corruptions and betrayals. The characters are not drawn with the depth of the later film, and the sheer density of plot tends to dominate everything else. The extraordinary richness of Pabst's visual articulation, however, turns this into an advantage: the narrative courses along vigorously, taking both Pabst's social insights and his aesthetic effects in its stride without wavering.

CineScene.com (Chris Dashiell) review

Jeanne Ney (Edith Jehanne) is the daughter of a French diplomat in the Crimea during the Russian Civil War. She falls in love with a soldier named Andreas (Uno Henning), but her life is shattered when her father, who was assisting the White Army in espionage, is killed by her lover, who turns out to be a Bolshevik. Still in love with Andreas, she flees to Paris to work as a secretary to her uncle, the dissolute head of a detective agency. But she is followed there by the lascivious spy and villain Khalibiev (Fritz Rasp), who seduces Jeanne's blind cousin in order to be near her.

As is evident from this summary, the film's plot is rather complicated, and Pabst uses as few intertitles as possible, which requires the viewer to pay close attention in order to follow the story. Yet, despite a certain shapelessness in the material, and a bad performance from Rasp (who chews up the scenery as the bad guy), the film is a stunning exhibition of cinematic style, and represents something of a breakthrough in technique for Pabst. Brilliant camera placement and dynamism (including some daring camera angles), inspired use of objects and setting, and an editing style that cuts on the actors' movements to create a feeling of flow between scenes - all combine to engulf the viewer in a visual experience that was rarely equalled in films of that time.

Jehanne has an alluring presence, although her title role is more of a passive field of conflict for the male characters than an active person in her own right. The picture is sexually frank, while expressing a certain repugnance at the decadence prevalent in Europe after the Great War. It's remarkable that the hero - if the film has a hero - is a Bolshevik who organizes a sailor's rebellion in Toulon. Pabst was working with Karl Freund and Heinrich Mann to make German film more progressive, but he was still operating within the relatively conservative framework of the German production combine UFA. As it turned out, The Love of Jeanne Ney was a smash hit, doubtless because of its combination of romanticism, intrigue, and bold visual style. Overshadowed by Pabst's later work featuring Louise Brooks, this movie deserves to be better known.

The Film Sufi

G. W. Pabst’s The Love of Jeanne Ney (Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney, 1927) is not an Expressionist film, but like the Expressionists, Pabst never managed to reject a shot which was both forceful and picturesque. The theme was similar to The Joyless Street (Die Freudlose Gasse, 1925), except instead of depicting Vienna in turmoil, Pabst took on the whole of European postwar society.

Pabst was forced to work under some distressing pressures. First, the American films were already having a deleterious box-office effect on the German film industry, and Pabst was instructed to stage his picture “in the American style.” Second, he was also under pressure to match the recent successes of the Russians Eisenstein and Pudovkin. And finally, Ufa studios insisted on an outrageously bowdlerized version of Ilya Ehrenberg’s original story, altering the social, sexual, and political implications. The result was a masterpiece. Rotha, regarding the film even better than The Joyless Street, observed that

Jeanne Ney developed from sequence to sequence with breathtaking power. Mood succeeded mood, each perfect in its tension and its understanding.

Fritz Arno Wagner, now at the height of his cinematographic powers, achieved in his smooth travelling and panning shots and in his natural lighting a technical tour de force.

The cutting of the film has become a textbook example of unobtrusive effectiveness. Every cut was made on actual movement, so that at the end of a shot somebody was moving and at the beginning of the next shot the action was continued. The eye, following the movement, scarcely notices the actual transposition. This style was in sharp contrast to Eisenstein’s montage, which was deliberately used to shock the spectator. There is one scene in The Love of Jeanne Ney that, though lasting only three minutes, has over forty cuts – though the eye scarcely notices them. This short sequence has been used for pedagogical purposed in filmmaking courses.

Iris Varry, writing for the Museum of Modern Art Film Library, says,

Pabst’s work here is in no sense picturesque, it is photographic. His settings and his individual scenes are quite as carefully composed as those of the more obviously artistic German films, but the craftsmanship is less apparent, the spectator is led to feel “how true”, rather than “how beautiful”.

digitallyOBSESSED.com (Dale Dobson) dvd review

 

User comments  from Author: blue-7 from Salt Lake City, Utah

 

User comments  from Author: Arne Andersen (aandersen@landmarkcollege.org) from Putney, VT

 

User comments  from imdb Author: Reichswasserleiche from United States

 

Silent Era : Home Video : The Love of Jeanne Ney (1927) Review 

 

ABWEGE (Crisis)

Germany  (107 mi)  1928    1998 restored version (98 mi) 

User comments  from imdb Author: Robert Keser (rfkeser@ix.netcom.com)

Just before his two masterworks with Louise Brooks, Pabst directed this provocative study of an upper-class woman's sexual frustration. Neglected by her work-obsessed husband, Brigitte Helm falls in with a fast crowd of Berlin nightclub denizens (the "wrong turn" of the title), toying with an artist and a boxer as potential lovers. Pabst sketches this milieu in terms of consumption of cigarettes, liquor, and drugs, but it looks considerably more realistic than the garish cartoon decadence of CABARET and its imitators. A highlight of a lengthy nightclub sequence is some amusing play around the erotic impact of a backless evening gown. If Helm writhes with coiled intensity in almost every scene, she still creates a credible psychological portrait. While the plot devolves into a can-this-marriage-be-saved? formula, Pabst sustains interest through expert framing and shrewdly chosen gestures: thus, the act of dividing a pastry comes to represent the possibility of divorce. An intelligently adult resolution, offering no easy answers, adds to the film's stature.

Abwege (1928)  James Travers from Cinema Forever

This film, in which Brigitte Helm gives a daringly realistic portrayal of a sexually frustrated bourgeois wife, evoked great controversy when it was released in 1928.  It is unusual in at least two respects.  Firstly, it explores the feelings of its central characters with unprecedented psychological depth, effectively contrasting their intense inner moods with the superficial world in which they live, reflecting a struggle between desire and security, freedom and stability.  Secondly, it uses a voyeuristic style of camera work which, although used by many directors since, was virtually unknown in the silent era.  This cinematographic approach emphasises the conflict in Irene’s mind between the inner and outer world, between thoughts of primal lust and reasoned awareness of social conventions.

Although the film doesn’t quite have the impact and dramatic cohesion of some of Pabst’s later films, it has a great deal to commend it.  There’s Helm’s commanding performance of a woman visibly tortured by her ferocious sexual urge, a set piece scene in a night club which conveys the decadence and moral decay of German society in the late 1920s, and some exquisitely beautiful photography which is subtly influenced by the expressionistic style.  That the film is far less well known than Pabst’s other work is down to the fact that one reel of the original film was lost.  Recently, the film has been meticulously restored, using a surviving French print of poor quality.

PANDORA’S BOX  (Die Büchse der Pandora)           A                     97

Germany  (133 mi)  1928

You'll have to kill me to get rid of me.             —Lulu (Louise Brooks)

A timeless Silent film that represents the hedonistic decadence of amorality and debauchery in the Weimar Republic (1918 – 1933) of 1920’s Berlin, so prevalent in films like Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS (1927), von Sternberg’s THE BLUE ANGEL (1930), or even Pabst’s own THE THREEPENNY OPERA (1931), an extraordinary period of artistic freedom and sexual experimentation that gave rise not only to the birth of German Expressionism, the Bauhaus modern art movement, and a new international style of architecture, but also a notoriously vibrant nightlife of underground theaters, cinema, café’s and bars that stretched the boundaries of sexuality.  Born out of Germany’s humiliating defeat in World War I, it was a period of war reparations and an imposed economic devaluation that led to chaos, hyperinflation, economic collapse, and political upheaval.  Out of this moral decline, however, came a burgeoning sex industry and internationally renowned cabaret performances, featuring a financially independent “new woman” in Weimar German society.  Discarded American actress Louise Brooks set the world on fire in this German film with her shortly cropped, bobbed hairstyle, also a decidedly relaxed wardrobe of form fitting *barely there* clothing that struck a note of individuality and emancipation, representative of *new age* women that were both celebrated and cursed by an older generation who feared their individualism and selfishness, coming from a more oppressive tradition.  As this film suggests, it was the mere audacity to dare to be different and everything associated with the idea of a *new woman* that was eventually blamed for the frenzied immorality that led to the downfall of Weimar culture and society, giving rise to the Third Reich where the Nazi’s quickly shut down the clubs and banned what was considered culturally decadent, also anything reflecting an outside potentially Jewish influence, labeling it degenerate art.

 

A composite of two well-known German plays by Frank Wedekind, known as the “Lulu” plays, Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Pandora’s Box (1904), his work criticizes bourgeois sexual attitudes through the exploration of a sexually liberated character, Lulu (Brooks), a victim of the time in which she lived, seen as a sexual temptress whose carefree innocence and naiveté is part of her allure, as her frank eroticism inspires lust and violence in others, where she ends up ruining the lives of everyone around her.  Lulu has been dancing in the bars and nightclubs of Berlin since she was a child, leading a sexually active life, often supported by the patronage of influential or wealthy men, and while Brooks is indeed sexually enticing throughout, there is no explicit sex or nudity, as instead everything is suggested largely from the close ups on her naturally expressive face, as she latches onto the arm of every available man she sees, seemingly oblivious to the effect this would have on anyone else, but simply loves being adored, where men become obsessed with a kind of fatal attraction towards her and lavish her with expensive gifts, where she is constantly the center of attention.  For better or for worse, this is simply the life she’s used to, where her beauty, natural openness and expressed vulnerability inspires a group of hangers-on, which includes a widowed newspaper publisher Dr. Ludwig Schön (Fritz Kortner), his son Alwa (Francis Lederer), an old friend, perhaps her father, old enough to be her grandfather, but more likely her pimp, a mysterious controlling force that continually takes advantage of her, Schigolch (Carl Goetz), and even an interested lesbian (Alice Roberts), the Countess Anna Geschwitz, a group that seems to follow her around wherever she goes, an odd sort of collective of societal misfits that is strange in itself.  Pabst was criticized in the press at the time for casting a foreigner in a role that was considered so definitively German, so it’s ironic the film is largely remembered for Brooks’s legendary performance, where she provides such a powerful sexual presence.  American critics had problems as well, claiming her unwholesome lifestyle was not suitable for the screen, cutting out large portions of the American release. Of interest, the plays are also inspiration for a modernist opera called Lulu, Lulu (opera), written by Alban Berg in 1937, which was seen here in Chicago during the 2008-09 season, Opera Today : Berg's Lulu at Lyric Opera of Chicago, one of the definitively bleak works in the opera repertoire.  The work was, appropriately, banned by the Nazi’s, as were the original plays, where Lulu’s sexual freedom, femininity, and daring experimentation were deemed problematic.   

 

Suggesting we all have a dark side, the film is presented as the rise and fall of a free spirit, mired in an aura of extreme pessimism, where people get what they want sexually out of Lulu, but she never asks for anything.  Using distinctly expressionistic theatrical settings, the film opens in Lulu’s nicely furnished bourgeois apartment paid for by Dr. Schön, as she’s been his longtime mistress, but she doesn’t take it well when Schön announces his plans to marry a wealthy socialite, the daughter of the Minister of the Interior.  Not going away easily, Lulu tells him “You'll have to kill me to get rid of me.”  Alwa, who also has designs on her, decides to star Lulu in one of his theatrical productions, but Lulu refuses to perform in front of Schön’s new fiancée, pulling a giant sized tantrum of epic proportions in front of all the players in full costume where she ends up seducing him just as the fiancée walks in on them, forcing the poor bastard to marry her instead, even after telling his son that “one does not marry” a woman like her.  Despite cavorting with everyone at the wedding except the groom, causing a minor scandal dancing with the Countess, Schön has had enough and in a jealous rage, attempts to convince Lulu to kill herself right then and there, as there’s no other solution.  In the ensuing struggle, he’s killed when the gun goes off.  Despite Alwa testifying on her behalf at the trial that it was an accident, she is found guilty, where the prosecutor links her to the fatalistic evil of Pandora.  In the chaotic mayhem after the verdict, she escapes with Alwa and Schigolch first to Cairo, where she is bought, sold, and nearly deceived into sexual slavery, eventually taking refuge in London, having lost all their money.  On Christmas Eve, penniless and starving, Lulu decides to streetwalk the foggy streets of London, discovering none other than Jack the Ripper (Gustav Diessl), who initially puts his knife away due to her inherent kindness, but finding another nearby is just too much temptation and fate, quickly putting an end to it all, though it’s more a mercy killing, as for all practical purposes she’s already dead, while the hangers-on fade into oblivion as a Salvation Army parade marches by.  Pandora figures prominently into Greek mythology, where Zeus, unhappy with Prometheus for stealing fire from the heavens and giving it to humans on earth, significantly improving the quality of life for humans, presents Pandora, along with a beautiful container, to Prometheus’s brother, instructing her not to open the box under any circumstances.  Of course, impelled by curiosity, she opens the box and evil is spread all over the world before she could close the container.  Everything escapes from the box except one thing lying at the bottom which remains, the spirit of hope.  The film is noted for its interesting blend of German Expressionism and Victorian atmosphere, where Pabst has a meticulous eye for background detail, objects, facial expressions, and brief glimpses of light, but with such a modernistic understanding of blending image and attitude, it’s the spontaneous and seemingly effortless performance of Louise Brooks that continues to captivate audiences.  

 

Kim Newman from 1001 MOVIES YOU MUST SEE BEFORE YOU DIE:

 

A lasting masterpiece from G.W. Pabst, adapted from Frank Wedekind’s “Lulu plays,” Pandora’s Box is remembered for the creation of an archetypal character in Lulu (Louise Brooks), an innocent temptress whose forthright sexuality somehow winds up ruining the lives of everyone around her. Though Pabst was criticized at the time for casting a foreigner in a role that was considered emblematically German, the main reason the film is remembered is the performance of American star Brooks. So powerful and sexual a presence that she never managed to make a transition from silent flapper parts to the talkie roles she deserved in a Hollywood dominated by Shirley Temple, Brooks is the definitive gamine vamp, modeling a sharp-banged bobbed haircut known as a “Louise Brooks” or “Lulu” to this day.

 

Presented in distinct theatrical “acts,” the story picks up Lulu in a bourgeois Berlin drawing room, where she is the adored mistress of widowed newspaper publisher Peter Schön (Fritz Gortner), friendly with her lover’s grown-up son Alwa (Franz Lederer) and even with the gnomish pimp Schigolch (Carl Goetz), who is either her father or her first lover. When Schön announces that he is remarrying, Lulu seems to be passed on to a nightclub strongman (Kraft-Raschig) but, provoked when Schön tells his son that “one does not marry” a woman like her, sets up an incident backstage at the music hall where she is dancing that breaks off the editor’s engagement and prompts her lover to marry her, though he knows it will be the death of him.

 

Though her husband in effect commits suicide, Lulu winds up convicted of his murder. On the run with Alwa, Schigolch, and her lesbian admirer Countess Geschwitz (Alice Roberts), she makes it to an opium-hazed gambling boat on the Seine—where she is almost sold to an Egyptian brothel and Alwa is humiliatingly caught cheating—then finally to a Christmassy London where she is stalked by Jack the Ripper (Gustav Diessl). Pabst surrounds Brooks with startling secondary characters and dizzying settings (the spectacle in the thronged wings of the cabaret eclipses anything taking place on stage), but it is the actress’s vibrant, erotic, scary, and heartbreaking personality that resonates with modern audiences. Brooks’s mix of image and attitude is so strong and fresh that she makes Madonna look like Phyllis Diller, and her acting style is strikingly unmannered for the silent era, unmediated by the trickery or mime or expressionist makeup. Her performance is also remarkably honest; never playing for easy sentiment, the audience is forced to recognize how destructive Lulu is even as we fall under her spell.

 

Though the original plays are set in 1888, the year of the Ripper murders, Pabst imagines a fantastical but contemporary setting, which seems to begin with the 1920s modernity of Berlin and then travels back in time to a foggy London for a death scene that is the cinema’s first great insight into the mindset of a serial killer. Lulu, turned streetwalker so that Schigolch can afford a last Christmas pudding, charms the reticent Jack, who throws aside his knife and genuinely tries not to kill again but is overwhelmed by the urge to stab. 

 

Pabst: Die Büchse Der Pandora (Pandora's Box) (1929)  Billy Stevenson from A Film Canon

This is the first silent film that I have seen in which a woman is unashamedly cast as a sexual object, or, alternatively, in which the gaze of the camera is entirely sexualised. The iconic Lulu (Louise Brooks) stands in an ambiguous relation to the host of admiring men who surround her, encompassing the role of wife, lover, prostitute and, occasionally, daughter. Unfortunately, this romantic ambiguity - the most original feature of the film - is somewhat undermined by the highly episodic narrative structure, which locates each of the eight acts in a radically different location, as if this were the way to distinguish it from its theatrical forbear. Not only does this dissipate the charged sexual atmosphere, but it further decontextualises all the male characters, decreasing the significance of their interactions with Lulu in such a way as to reduce her own appeal to her physical beauty, rather than her consummate powers of flirtation. That said, the final act is a spectacular - if incongruous - anticipation of film noir, in which Lulu, having fled to London, falls victim to Jack the Ripper. Apart from his manipulation of light, shadow and fog, Pabst's innovation lies in the manner in which he draws out the sexual exchange between Lulu and the killer, emphasising its continuity with the other roles that she has played for the men in her life.

Slant Magazine [Ed Gonzalez]

Louise Brooks's famous bobbed hairstyle precipitated her eternal inimitability, its razor-sharp aesthetic a marker of her essence. G.W. Pabst understood this, which is why when Brooks's doomed flapper from Pandora's Box flees a courtroom after a murder conviction, she cuts her hair to become almost unidentifiable—to be like other women, except perhaps for the curly-blond gal pal who longs for her affections. (One sign of the film's coolness is its refusal to waltz Alice Roberts into the celluloid closet.) It's an act of desperate self-preservation in a film wickedly chockablock with exciting displays of amorous exaltation and domination. This is a stirring vision of the world gripped by a sinister moral vice—a nosedive into a carnal abyss of despair lined with visionary chiaroscuro sights and thorny mythological reference. With a voracious Lulu at the gilded controls, a vibrantly in-the-moment Pandora's Box evokes a thoroughly-modern world trying to completely exorcise the vestiges of its serial sexual and historical perversities like a sweaty dry heave. The film's triumph is Lulu's seduction of Dr. Peter Schön (Fritz Lederer) prior to a musical revue, a sick spectacle that begins with a diva tantrum and spirals into a chilling show of mind control, with Lulu laughing at Schön's wife as she pecks the man on the lips—never has the face of evil looked so beautiful. The rest, from the man's attractive son, Alwa Schön (Fritz Kortner), to the sniveling Rodrigo Quast (Krafft Raschig) will fall like dominos, but who is doing the toppling here? Lulu, like Else Heller's Mutter from Joe May's Asphalt the same year, is not totally rotten (her devastating dying gasp—a stirring act of contrition—suggests as much), though she does metaphorically embody the evils of the world. Pabst twist, though, is that Pandora's box is already open and certainly not of her own accord. How to close it becomes a modern world's ultimate ethical, self-reflective challenge.

Raging Bull Movie Reviews (Mike Lorefice) review [3.5/4]  also seen here:  Raging Bull [Mike Lorefice]

What's unique about Pabst's style is although he delves into the expressionism that was the in thing at the time, he mixes it with realism, naturalism, and fantasy. This is a far more subtle work than you'd expect from a silent, utilizing the power of the glance if not pure suggestion to greatly increase the tension. Though Pabst is among the most fatalistic, this is one of the most diverse mood pieces of the silent era. The expert photography and lighting convey the brutal and realistic, the sensual and seductive, and so on. Pandora's Box was a scandalous film when it was released because of it's sexual daring and the "unacceptable" characters that filled it's world. It took a while to attain it's reputation as a classic, but much of the reason it still plays so well is the modernness of it's lead, who asserts herself for better or in her case usually worse. Louise Brooks gives arguably the most erotic performance of the silent era as the flirtatious hedonistic seductress Lulu who accidentally hurts everyone around her. The ribless browless bore Dietrich wanted the role, but her calculation would have destroyed the film, she could never have pulled off playing an unknowing victim and victimizer with any credibility. The far more natural Brooks brings a certain spirit of freeness and innocence, an unconscious exuberant limberness to her movements, which the camera captures with equal energy. This is an extremely confident performance, but the brilliance is it's not particularly self conscious like you always get from those actresses who appear to put all their effort into manipulating their appearance. Despite the cabaret stars obvious sexual powers Lulu doesn't seem to know them herself, instead trying to succeed through sheer willpower. Sometimes she asserts her self and is wickedly manipulative, other times she is pathetically naïve; her poor financial state has taught her to look out for herself as best she can. Brooks utilizes her whole body, and Pabst refuses to constantly shove the camera in her face to explain everything to us, which helps maintain some of the aforementioned enigma. As Pabst is a bleak one, the film never degenerates into sentimentality and the conclusion, though in a sense the only one possible, is not imaginable until the last few minutes (unless you've already heard what it is which unfortunately seems quite common).

Movie review: 'Pandora's Box'   Michael Wilmington from the Chicago Tribune

Few movie goddesses can break your heart like saucy, black-banged Louise Brooks, whose centennial comes this year and whose best film and performance, as Lulu in G.W. Pabst's "Pandora's Box," plays this weekend at the Music Box Theatre, in a new print.

If you've never seen Brooks--or "Pandora's Box"--you've missed one of the most extraordinary personalities and films of the silent movie era. Brooks' life story is remarkable in itself. She was an actress and dancer from Kansas who had starred for directors Howard Hawks and William Wellman by the time she was 22, then became famous and scandalous in Germany for her two films with Pabst ("Pandora's Box" and "Diary of a Lost Girl"), only to see her Hollywood star career collapse at the dawn of the sound era. A few decades later, when her career was over and the films were revived, she achieved and then held her present legendary status. She died in 1985.

How did Brooks survive the buffets of fate and fame? She was a stunner--one of those personalities who can explode off the screen, with a piquant energy and dazzling smile that, in the end, broke down all defenses.

One look at Brooks' curving helmet-like bangs, soft dark eyes and hyperactive dancer's body in "Pandora's Box," and you know why the well-respected editor Peter Schoen (Fritz Kortner) sacrifices himself to pursue her, and why his son, Alwa (Franz Lederer, who became "Francis Lederer" when he emigrated to Hollywood), throws away his life to flee with Lulu when she's convicted of manslaughter in his father's death. You know also why she enslaves women like the chic lesbian Countess Anna Geschwitz (Alice Roberts), and why even London's Jack the Ripper (Gustav Diessl) falls for her.

"Pandora's Box," showing Friday and Sunday, was regarded in its day as shocking and immoral. But it's actually one of the most socially acute, sophisticated films of its era, a prime example of the urbane, knowing German-Austrian film tradition that also produced Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder. With his brilliant staging and visual mastery of the rich, shadowy blacks and whites that would later mark American film noir, Pabst re-creates the rigid, mercenary society around Lulu. Then he shows how her impish beauty throws open its doors.

In life, beauty is ephemeral. But in the movies, it can become seemingly immortal. Brooks lost a career--due, it's said to sound, to American dismissal of her foreign stardom and to her refusal of some key Hollywood mogul advances. But she won a legend afterward comparable to that of '30s superstars Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich (Pabst's second choice for Lulu)--and Henri Langlois, master film collector of the French Cinematheque, ranked her above the latter two, insisting: "There is no Garbo! There is no Dietrich! There is only Louise Brooks!" Watching "Pandora's Box" now, one can see why bad-girl Lulu remains in our eyes and hearts, why Louise Brooks still lives.

Opening Pandora’s Box  Criterion essay by J. Hoberman

 

Pandora’s Box (1929) - The Criterion Collection

 

Every Little Breeze - The Louise Brooks Page

 

Die Büchse der Pandora  Barbara Salvage from Film Reference            

 

Senses of Cinema (Dan Harper) review  June 2004

 

Pandora's Box: Pabst and Lulu  Louise Brooks essay, originally published in Sight and Sound, Summer 1965

 

The Girl in the Black Helmet  Kenneth Tynan essay, originally published from The New Yorker, June 1979

 

seduction and ruin  Innocence, Seduction, Ruin in PANDORA'S BOX and PRETTY POISON, by Julia Lesage, from The Film Center of the Art Institute, 1979

 

Frank Wedekind's Lulu Plays (Erdgeist and Büchse der Pandora)  Lulu:  Sexuality and Cynicism on the Stage and Screen, essay by Nancy Thuleen, 1995

 

Past Issues - 1997 | Classic Images  Francis Lederer, A Man of Many Worlds, by Charles P. Mitchell, based on interviews with Paul Parla and Dorothy Barrett, from Classic Images, June 1997

 

Classic Movie Reviews: Jake and Boomer's Silver Screen Homepage  Pandora's Box: Lulu, the Beautiful Evil, essay by Tim Samuel, Twenties Reconstruction Society, 1998

 

GW Pabst: Pandora's Box | Film | guardian.co.uk  Derek Malcom from The Guardian, July 22, 1999

 

Pandora's Box  Alfred Hickling on a theatrical production from The Guardian, March 27, 2002  

 

Pandora's Box  Dan Harper from Senses of Cinema, June 2004

 

The Village Voice [J. Hoberman]  Female Trouble, J. Hoberman from The Village Voice, June 6, 2006

 

Forum: The University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture ...   Screaming through the century: The female voice as cathartic/transformative force, from Berg's Lulu to Tykwer's Run Lola Run, by Maree MacMillan from RMIT University/The University of Melbourne (2007)

 

media release  Louise Brooks and the “New Woman” In Weimar Cinema, exhibit from the International Center of Photography, January 19 – April 29, 2007  (pdf format)

 

Bright Lights Film Journal | Of Sexual Hate and Lonely Death  Of Sexual Hate and Lonely Death: The Mysteries of Pandora's Box, by Thomas Gordon from Bright Lights Film Journal, May 2007

 

LAVENDER UTOPIA: G.W. Pabst's, Pandora's Box (1929)  Dagmar Duvall at Lavander Utopia, February 14, 2008, accompanied by photos:  Louise Brooks

 

Nikolaj Efimov on G. W. Pabst & Louise Brooks (1936)  Louise Brooks Society

 

The Shag Room: "Pandora's Box" (G.W. Pabst, 1929)   Ian C. from Cinematic Jazz, February 3, 2009

 

Green Integer Blog: Bread or Knife (on G. W. Pabst's Pandora's Box)  Green Integer Blog, May 2, 2009

 

Pandora's Box » the fifi organization  July 19, 2009

 

nthposition online magazine: Two Pabst operas reviews of PANDORA’S BOX and THE THREE PENNY OPERA BY Douglas Masserli from nth Position (undated) 

 

The DVD Journal | Reviews : Pandora's Box: The Criterion Collection  Mark Bourne

 

Pandora's Box (1929) | Classic Movie Review  Paul Page from Lenin Imports

Female Trouble  J. Hoberman from The Village Voice, June 6, 2006

Pandora’s Box (1929)  James Travers from Cinema Forever

 

DVD Times  Kevin Gilvear

 

Screen Scene (Keith Dumble) review

 

stylusmagazine.com (Patrick McKay) review

 

The New York Sun (Nicolas Rapold) review  also seen here:  New York Sun [Nicolas Rapold]

 

Movie Reviews UK review [5/5]  Damian Cannon

 

Epinions [metalluk]

 

Film Notes - Pandora's Box  Kevin Hagopian from New York State Writer’s Institute

 

Pandora's Box / Louise Brooks / Georg Wilhelm Pabst / Die Büchse ...  James Travers from Cinema Forever

 

Being There - Criterion DVD Review [Matt Conroy]  also seen here:  Being There 

 

Ozus' World Movie Reviews [Dennis Schwartz]

 

Edward Copeland on Film

 

Bina007 Movie Reviews

 

DVD Savant (Glenn Erickson) dvd review  Criterion Collection

 

DVD Talk (John Sinnott) dvd review [4/5] [Criterion Collection]

 

Q Network Film Desk (James Kendrick) dvd review [4/4]  Criterion Collection

 

digitallyOBSESSED.com (Mark Zimmer) dvd review  Criterion Collection

 

DVD Town (Christopher Long) dvd review  Criterion Collection

 

DVD Verdict (Brett Cullum) dvd review [Criterion Collection]

 

About.com [Jurgen Fauth]

 

homevideo.about.com (Ivana Redwine) dvd recommendation

 

FilmFanatic.org (Sylvia Stralberg)

 

User comments  from imdb Author: Vlad B. from United States

 

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User comments  from imdb (Page 5) Author: Igenlode Wordsmith from England

 

Pandora's Box (1929, 2006) - Audiophile Audition  John Sunier

 

Movie Magazine International review  Monica Sullivan 

 

The Stop Button (Andrew Wickliffe) review [3/4]

 

Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review

 

Pandora's Box  Dr. Macro

 

Edinburgh U Film Society (Sarah Artt) review

 

Pandora's Box (1929)  The Auteurs

 

All Movie Guide [Lucia Bozzola]  also seen here:  Buchse der Pandora [2 Discs] [Criterion Collection] - DVD ...

Louise Brooks's Swan Song to Stardom  Michael Atkinson from The Village Voice, March 28, 2006

Louise Brooks Plays with the Shadows « shadowplay  November 14, 2009

 

Silent Era : Home Video : Pandora's Box (1929) Review

 

G.W. PABST'S PANDORA'S BOX previously at Film Forum in New York City  Film Forum

 

Entertainment Weekly capsule dvd review [A-]  Tim Purtell

 

Variety review

 

TV Guide

 

BBCi - Films  Tom Dawson

 

Guardian/Observer

 

San Francisco Examiner (Barry Walters) review

`Pandora's Box' Is Steeped in Critical Hysteria  Mick LaSalle from The San Francisco Chronicle

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) recommendation [Great Movies]

 

The New York Times (Mordaunt Hall) review

 

DVDBeaver dvd review  Gary W. Tooze

 

DVDBeaver.com - Full Review [Markus of ChiaroScuro]

 

Die Büchse der Pandora  Celtoslavica

 

Pandora's Box (film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

BBC - h2g2 - Louise Brooks: Actress and Writer  biography and filmography

 

1924 — The Duchess of Sidebottom  photos of Louise Brooks in early films from Silent Star

 

UNDER THE ROOT: Women and Weimar Germany 1920's

 

Frank Wedekind - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

DIARY OF A LOST GIRL (Tagebuch einer Verlorenen)

Germany  (104 mi)  1929           German restored version (100 mi)        U.S. version (79 mi) 

 

Time Out review

An elegant narrative of moral musical chairs, Pabst's last silent film not only plays on who holds what kind of legitimate place in society, but is also a starkly direct view of inter-war Germany. Feasting the camera on Brooks' radiant beauty, Pabst follows the adventures of innocence led astray in the shape of Thymian, a pharmacist's daughter. Her progress from apple of her father's eye, through sexual lapse and approved school, to darling of an expensive brothel and finally to dowager countess, gives Pabst the opportunity to measure the Germany of the Weimar republic against Brooks' embodiment of a vitality so exuberant that it equals innocence. However damning, though, Pabst's indictment of the bourgeoisie as torn between powerless compassion, greed and scandal-lust, his alternatives - the brothel as the one place of true friendship, or the aristocratic father-figure who puts everything right in the end - smack very much of a cop-out, allowing him to both revel in decadence and enjoy the moral superiority of denouncing it.

Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review

Kino Home Video has released an amazing transfer of Diary of a Lost Girl, the second of two films American actress Louise Brooks made for German director G.W. Pabst. Relegated to bit and supporting parts in America, Pabst spotted Brooks in a 1928 Howard Hawks film and offered to cast her in the lead role in Pandora's Box. She agreed, broke her Hollywood contract, and left for Germany. Through Pabst, she became one of the screen's most luminous, mysterious, potent and flat-out beautiful stars ever.

Pandora's Box, with the Jack the Ripper as its villain, is perhaps better known and more highly celebrated, but Diary of a Lost Girl is easily its equal. Brooks stars as the naive pharmacist's daughter, a poor girl who is raped and gets pregnant, is shipped off to an evil reform school, then escapes and joins a brothel before inheriting her father's money. Pabst presents this material delicately but without shying away from it, and Brooks drives the whole thing from the center seat.

The Kino disc was mastered from a beautiful German print containing footage not seen in the U.S. and includes a lovely new score by Joseph Turrin. It also contains a rare comedy short with an even rarer speaking role by Ms. Brooks.

Cinepassion.org  Fernando F. Croce

After the ecstatic enshrinement of female sexuality (mated with the pull of death) that capped Pandora's Box, director G.W. Pabst and leading lady Louise Brooks could only go back to square one. Accordingly, their follow-up is a far more conventional piece of Weimar debauchery ("With a little more love, no one on this earth would ever be lost" is the fadeout homily). Again navigating his Kansas-born muse through a green sea of Teutonic perversity, Pabst pits Brooks as the daughter of moneyed pharmacist Josef Rovenský, first spotted sacking the latest entry in a string of impregnated maids. It isn't long before Brooks' introductory sheer whites turn sullied -- more sinned against than sinning, she hops from raped ingénue to reformatory cellmate to slinky goodtime gal to tragic heiress to nobleman's protégé. Despite generous doses of stylized depravity (a brothel owner's grandmotherly features splayed by the lens, the wacky teaming of Andrews Engelmann and Valeska Gert as zesty schoolhouse pervs), the film rarely escalates to the fevered peaks of Pandora: in his last silent, Pabst already seems to be ditching oneiric luridness for the oatmealy humanism of Westfront 1918 and Kameradschaft. Brooks' luster, however, shimmers on -- whether reacting to her baby's death, getting her first taste of champagne or bumping into dad while being raffled off at a racuous bacchanalia, she instinctively understands how her character's reveries exult her as a woman even as they degrade her as a lady. From a novel by Margarete Böhme. With André Roanne, Fritz Rasp, Vera Pawlowa, and Franziska Kinz. In black and white.

User comments  from imdb Author: melvelvit-1 from NYC suburbs

Louise Brooks is luminous in this rather trite tale of a young girl's ruination and regeneration. The plot line founders toward the end but, as a whole, "Diary Of A Lost Girl" is notable for its arresting visuals and set-piece sequences.

Unfortunately, we'll never see G.W. Pabst's original intent:

"The Diary Of A Lost Girl was based on the moralistic novel by Margarete Bohme... But the censors did not miss the point. They butchered Diary more brutally than Pandora. In the ending Pabst intended, Thymiane was to become the proprietress of her own high-class brothel, rejecting respectability in favor of the wealth and power that a rotten bourgeoisie could respect. But the censors insisted that Thymiane embrace precisely the kind of sentimental reformism that Pabst disdained, twisting the film into conformity with German middle-class values. Pabst capitulated because he had to coexist with them and because he would live to fight another day for such subsequent (and better) films as ...The Threepenny Opera... DOALG was a kind of sacrificial lamb, as its scenarist, Rudolf Leonhardt, affirms: 'Pabst's accommodating nature had already made him prepared to make two different endings -for vice, even involuntary vice, must not go rewarded. Where the censors had not forbidden passages beforehand, entire filmed sequences were cut without mercy later on...'"

I love what there is of it (especially the brothel & reformatory scenes), but I was never in the majority:

"But it was death, rather than immortality, that awaited DOALG at the box office upon its release... The influential critic Hans G. Lustig gave it a single withering paragraph in Der Tempel... No serious criticism of DOALG could take place until three decades later...Lost on most critics was the fact that Pabst's technique in DOALG was different from that of Pandora. Lotte Eisner, virtually alone, recognized a new, semi-documentary restraint: 'Pabst now seeks neither Expressionistic chiaroscuro nor Impressionistic glitter; and he seems less intoxicated than he was by the beauty of his actress."

Highly recommended!

Das Tagebuch Einer Verlorenen - Film (Movie) Plot and Review ...  John McCarty from Film Reference

American actress Louise Brooks achieved stardom after abandoning Hollywood, where she was most frequently cast as a flapper in an unvaried array of cinematic concoctions. Brooks opted for the artistically richer pastures of Europe—where she teamed with the great German director G. W. Pabst for a pair of scandalous films, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl , that packed movie houses and outraged the censors on several continents in the waning days of the silent cinema.

Based on Frank Wedekind's play of the same name, Pandora's Box , the movie highlights Brooks as the alluring Lulu, who uses her considerable beauty and sexual charms to get ahead, destroying the lives of several men in the process. Lulu gets her comeuppance at the hands of Jack the Ripper when her wanton ways reduce her to a life of prostitution on the streets of London.

The film caused a sensation for its remarkable frankness and potent images of an amoral society swamped in sin and perversity. But it was but a harbinger of things to come from the Brooks-Pabst team. Their follow-up collaboration, Diary of a Lost Girl , caused even more a furor. Pabst cast Brooks not as a sexual predator this time around but as a waif whose repeated victimization by men leads her into a life of prostitution. She triumphs in the end—at least in the sense that she suffers no retribution for the sinful life she, however involuntarily, has been forced to pursue.

Diary of a Lost Girl pushed the envelope of sexual frankness on the screen even further than Pandora's Box with its earthy look inside the daily, not just nightly, workings of a brothel and the candor of its seduction scenes.

These scenes were presented symbolically rather than graphically, but their content was no less clear. For example, when Brooks's character, Thymiane, is carried to bed by her first seducer (Fritz Rasp), her swaying legs knock a glass of red wine off a nightstand, splashing the dark liquid across the sheets—an unmistakable visual metaphor for the subsequent taking of her virginity. Such a hue and cry arose among contemporary watchdog groups on both sides of the Atlantic that this scene was cut. Other equally potent scenes were altered so that the film could be released. The film's original sins-gounpunished ending was also changed. By simply chopping the ending off and letting the film conclude, albeit somewhat abruptly, at a low point in Thymiane's travails, it suggests if not outright penance, at least a pattern of continued woe in the character's life. Fortunately, the print of Diary of a Lost Girl that is in circulation and available for appraisal today is, for the most part, Pabst's original cut and not the butchered version.

Had Louise Brooks and G. W. Pabst continued working together, they might have enjoyed the ongoing success of that later actress-director duo, Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg, whose pairing on a number of steamy extravaganzas the Brooks-Pabst team-up somewhat anticipated. But after making one more film in France for another director, Brooks returned to her native country to resume the stalled Hollywood career which had spurred her to seek fame, fortune—and better roles in better films—in Europe. By then the talkies had arrived to finish off the careers of many a silent screen superstar. Brooks was not one of them. It was not the advent of sound that drove her from the screen, but her unwillingness to pick up her career where it left off. She demanded the kinds of roles in the kinds of arty films that made her a name in Europe. What she was offered instead was froth, and she retired from the screen permanently in 1933.

G. W. Pabst fared little better. Although he continued directing movies until 1956, his work never again achieved the acclaim or the notoriety Pandora's Box and, especially, Diary of a Lost Girl had brought him.

Essay - Catalogue | The Masters of Cinema Series  R. Dixon Smith essay

 

Diary of a Lost Girl  Martyn Bamber from Senses of Cinema, June 2004

 

not coming to a theater near you (Ian Johnston) review

 

Nikolaj Efimov on G. W. Pabst & Louise Brooks (1936)  Louise Brooks Society

 

Best Actress Of 1929-30: Louise Brooks (Pandora's Box and Diary Of A Lost Girl)   Mythical Monkey, August 29, 2009 

 

DVD Outsider  Slarek

 

Diary of a Lost Girl - DVD Movie Central  Ed Nguyen

 

DVD Times - Diary Of A Lost Girl  Noel Megahey

 

digitallyOBSESSED.com (Mark Zimmer) dvd review

 

Cinema and the Female Star: Louise Brooks  Tina Marie Camilleri

 

Diary of a Lost Girl (Masters of Cinema)  Graeme Hobbs

 

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)  L’Eclisse

 

Diary of a Lost Girl (Tagebuch einer Verlorenen - german films ...  German Films Archive

 

'Diary of a Lost Girl' 1929 (dir. GW Pabst) "Diary of a Lost Girl ...  Montage Film Reviews

 

Movie Alphabet - part I  Art, Movies, Wood and Whatnot, March 27, 2009

 

User comments  from imdb Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio

 

User comments  from imdb Author: dbdumonteil

 

User comments  from imdb Author: tedg (tedg@FilmsFolded.com) from Virginia Beach

 

User comments  from imdb (Page 2) Author: Polaris_DiB from United States

 

User comments  from imdb (Page 2) Author: brocksilvey from United States

 

User comments  from imdb (Page 2) Author: Reichswasserleiche from United States

 

User comments  from imdb (Page 3) Author: nycritic

 

The Village Voice [Leslie Camhi]  Distribute the Wealth, July 30, 2002

 

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)  The Auteurs

 

DVDBeaver dvd review  Gary W. Tooze

 

Diary of a Lost Girl - Kino on Video

 

Louise Brooks Society

 

BBC - h2g2 - Louise Brooks: Actress and Writer  biography and filmography

 

Diary of a Lost Girl - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

THE WHITE HELL OF PITZ PALU (Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü)

Germany  (150 mi)  1929   co-director:  Arnold Fanck               U.S. version (75 mi) 

 

Chicago Reader (Jonathan Rosenbaum) capsule review

White goddess Leni Riefenstahl, who later directed such ideological entertainments as Triumph of the Will, starred in this silent 1929 mountain-climbing epic, codirected by the great G.W. Pabst and the more modestly pictorial “mountain film” specialist Dr. Arnold Fanck. It's reputed to be one of her best early efforts as an athletic actress. 150 min.

Time Out review

The title of this late silent mountain picture refers to a sequence in which a party of rescuers brandishing flares enter a crevasse to retrieve the bodies of some students caught in an avalanche. The imagery is indeed hellish, the scene itself the only one to suggest that Fanck and Pabst might genuinely have collaborated. For the rest, a lengthy passage in which a grim, grief-stricken Diessl shares a mountain hut with a sexy couple (Riefenstahl and Petersen) is echt-Pabst, while Fanck's trademarks - distant figures traversing fantastic ice-scapes, the theme of endurance in the face of hostile Nature - are overwhelmingly present. The plot is rudimentary, with WWI ace Ernst Udet, as himself, flying in to round things up. Altogether a curious example of bifurcated auteur syndrome.

The White Hell of Pitz Palu | DVD Review | Slant Magazine  Fernando F. Croce

While the Mabuse spy thrillers would later be molded (and shrunk) into Bondian escapades, the mountain film—Weimar Germany's other staple genre—would scarcely survive the end of the regime and the arrival of sound. The White Hell of Pitz Palu sums up the romantic motifs of the genre invented by geologist-filmmaker Arnold Fanck, though the film's superiority to most of the movement's other entries might be due to the presence of G.W. Pabst, who shares directing duties with Fanck. Still, as the credits pronounce, it is a film "by" Fanck, whose fascination with vast, alpine beauty is evident from the opening shots. Cocky Dr. Johannes (Gustav Diessl) climbs the eponymous glacial peak and laughs at Nature, only for Nature to laugh back—an avalanche claims his wife and Johannes is reduced to a pensive shadow of his former self, grimly roaming the mountains for her body. Years later, he bumps into Maria (Leni Riefenstahl) and Hans (Ernst Petersen), a newly engaged couple who promptly join him in his journey toward Pitz Palu. The setup suggests a rehash of Von Stroheim's merciless triangulation in Blind Husbands, but survival takes precedence over romance once the trio gets pinned down in the icy face without supplies. It's easy to see here the mysticism of purity that will fuel Riefenstahl's later work as a director, particular her collaborations with the Nazi Party, yet the film is more earthbound, less dreamlike than Riefenstahl's own mountain epic, The Blue Light—where her camera seeks out perfection of line, Fanck and Pabst prefer rugged verticals and sudden shadow patterns. Nature here can shift from ethereal to ominous in a heartbeat, so it's no surprise that the film vacillates from a sense of wonder toward the voluptuous expanses to a need to conquer them. Striking pictorial moments abound (a torch-bearing expedition into the glaciers is staged as a chilly infernal descent), yet, like much of its ilk, The White Hell of Pitz Palu suffers from monotony and laboriousness. Fritz Lang achieved truer awe in Woman in the Moon that same year, though Pabst, who had already aided Greta Garbo and Louise Brooks into screen sublimity, understood that snow-covered behemoths have nothing on the human face—accordingly, and movingly, the most spectacular shot remains a close-up of a tear forming in Riefenstahl's terrified visage.

CABINET // Mountain and Fog  Nina Power from Cabinet magazine, Fall 2007

 

Teleport City  Keith Allison

 

DVD Talk (John Sinnott) dvd review [4/5]

 

digitallyOBSESSED.com (Mark Zimmer) dvd review

 

User comments  from imdb Author: blue-7 from Salt Lake City, Utah

 

User comments  from imdb Author: rdjeffers from Seattle

 

User comments  from imdb Author: Ingo Schwarze from Karlsruhe, Germany

 

Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü  Niciole Gagne from All Movie Guide

 

The White Hell of Pitz Palu  Robert K. Klepper, including a Leni Riefenstahl photo:  here

 

White Hell of Pitz Palu, The (weisse Hoelle - german films - Film ...   German Films Archive

 

AN ALPINE ROMANCE.; "The White Hell of Pitz Palu" at the Cameo Has Many Thrills.  Mordant Hall from The New York Times

 

Critic's Choice: New DVD's  Dave Kehr from The New York Times, November 15, 2005

 

Reich Star  Clive James’ book review of two books on Leni Reifenstahl from The New York Times, March 25, 2007

 

First Chapter: ‘Leni Riefenstahl’   Jürgen Trimborn from The New York Times, March 25, 2007

 

Kurzbeschreibung auf stummfilmmusiktage.de  (in German)

 

Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü – Wikipedia

 

The White Hell of Pitz Palu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Image results for Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü photos

 

WESTFRONT 1918

Germany  (97 mi)  1930 U.S. version (75 mi) 

 

Time Out review  Tony Rayns

Pabst's first talkie offered a grim, humanitarian perspective on trench warfare, not unlike that in the almost contemporary All Quiet on the Western Front. Hardly any film since has given such an unremittingly horrific picture of warfare-in-action, from the agonising lulls to the surprise attacks, from harsh resilience to the release of madness or a death wish. The point is ultimately a simple pacifism, with all the political limitations that implies. But Pabst's brilliant tracking shots along the trenches, through ruins, and across no man's land, remain more haunting than anything in 'expressionist' cinema.

Chicago Reader (Dave Kehr) capsule review

Made during the wave of pacifist sentiment that swept the movies in the early 1930s, this German feature by G.W. Pabst is relentless in its portrayal of the horrors of war. It follows four members of a German infantry company stationed on the French front as they stumble from battle to battle, and eventually to their deaths. Pabst doesn't permit the vaguest glimmer of hope; apart from a sentimental interlude in which one of the soldiers dallies with a French farm girl, the depiction of human relations is unremittingly bleak and cynical; at times, you wonder if the film isn't really a prolongation, into even darker and more brutal territory, of the bilious fatalism of Pabst's celebrated silent Pandora's Box. With Fritz Kampers, Gustav Diessl, Claus Clausen, and Hans Joachim Moebis; existing prints are missing 13 minutes of atrocity footage trimmed by the censors.

Tivo Alert  J. Hoberman from The Village Voice, May 3, 2005

An unknown masterpiece, cablecast early Saturday morning at the ungodly hour traditionally reserved for such treasures, Austrian director G.W. Pabst's first talkie—released in 1930—is a World War I movie far superior to the same year's All Quiet on the Western Front. The always protean Pabst made a brilliant adjustment to sound. Despite the crudeness of the available technology, Westfront 1918 is at least as audio-innovative as Fritz Lang's M in its brilliantly extended, existential battle sequences, thudding sense of the material world, and close-to-overlapping dialogue. (The first words heard in this exceedingly bitter and uncompromisingly anti-authoritarian German movie are in French.)

Even bolder than the use of sound is the way in which Pabst makes monotony and terror tangible, returning again and again to ponder the scarred and denuded deathscape of the trenches. Westfront 1918 feels as much lived as acted. Indeed, Siegfried Kracauer (who reviewed it for the Frankfurter Zeitung in 1930) praised Pabst for making something like a historical document: "Already a generation has reached the age of maturity which does not know those years from personal experience. They have to see, and see time and again, what they have not seen for themselves." And so it goes.

Turner Classic Movies review  Jeremy Arnold

At its Berlin premiere on May 23, 1930, some moviegoers supposedly found Westfront 1918's realism so shocking that they fainted in their seats. A New York Times reporter at the screening called the picture "the most vivid argument yet contrived against war. A book or a speech are cold, dead things beside it." These were powerful effects from a powerful film - so much so, in fact, that in 1933 it was one of two dozen movies suppressed by the Nazi party when they came to power.

German director G.W. Pabst's first talkie, Westfront 1918 follows four German soldiers of varying backgrounds who are sent to the French front towards the end of WWI, when the war's outcome is in little doubt and the continuation of combat seems futile and senseless. The view of war here is stark, raw, and totally unromantic, qualities reflected not just in the barren landscapes but also in the film's narrative structure. It's made up of loose episodes rather than a straightforward, linear plot progression, and violence is not exciting, heroic or narratively "satisfying" in the traditional sense.

1930, of course, was also the year that an Oscar®-winning, anti-war American film dealing with WWI was released: All Quiet on the Western Front. The two films are remarkably similar, from their titles, plots, settings and themes to their amazingly virtuoso filmmaking techniques. Westfront 1918, however, is the more pessimistic of the two, delving into the German homefront in scenes that paint a picture of a corrupt, bitter society which is in serious economic disrepair. As film historian Robert Keser has put it, these sequences illustrates that "the homefront offers no escape from the anxieties of the front lines."

Pabst was one of the architects of modern cinema and Westfront 1918 is a major achievement alongside his better-known The Joyless Street (1925), Pandora's Box (1929) and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929). The technical craftsmanship of Westfront 1918 is impressive. Pabst and his cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner (who also shot Nosferatu, 1922 and M, 1931), created a stunning lighting design both realistic and expressive, and the camerawork is full of long, fluid tracking shots. Such advanced camerawork was not that unusual at the end of the silent era, but it was unusual in the first talkies, when the technical challenges posed by the new sound recording technology often resulted in stagy, stilted films. Even more unusual was the surprisingly sophisticated use of sound for such an early talkie, with expressive sound effects conveying the horror of war.

Cast member Gustav Diessl was an actual prisoner of war for a year during WWI and turns in an especially believable performance as one of the soldiers. Westfront 1918 and All Quiet on the Western Front each opened in their home country six months before the other film, and it was the first release in each case that caused the sensation among the public and film community.

Westfront 1918  Robert Keser from Senses of Cinema, June 2004

 

An Endless Number of Great Deeds: Film Front Weimar ...  Jay Weissberg reviews Bernadette Kester’s book Film Front Weimer: representations of the First World War in German films of the Weimar period (1919 – 1933), from Senses of Cinema, March 2004

 

Film front Weimar  Michael Paris reviews Bernadette Kester’s Film front Weimar: representations of the First World War in German films of the Weimar period (1919 – 1933), from Screening the Past, May 4, 2004

 

Forms of Culture in Hugh MacDiarmid's 'Etika Preobrazhennavo ...  Michael Whitworth from the International Journal of Scottish Literature, (4th paragraph following the initial poem) Autumn/Winter 2009

 

Westfront 1918  Study Guide

 

G. W. Pabst's 1930 movie about WWI trench terror and tedium ...  Stephen Murray from Epinion

 

Classic Film Guide review

 

Ronald Bergan: Films of the first world war | Film | guardian.co.uk   Grand Illusions: Films of the First World War, by Ronald Bergan from The Guardian, November 11, 2008

 

FILM; How the First World War Changed Movies Forever - The New ...  Stuart Klawans from The New York Times, November 19, 2000

 

Cinema And Film Industry in Weimar Republic, 1918-1933  Seçil Deren from The Cradle of Modernity: Politics and Art in Weimar Republic (1918-1933), part of a Masters thesis (1997)

 

Bartov's Paper  Industrial Killing:  World War I. The Holocaust, and Representation, an essay on his own book, Murder in Midst: The Holocaust, Industrial Killing, and Representation, by Omer Bartov, March 1997

 

Bright Lights Film Journal | Realism, Part 2  How to Turn One’s Back on a Tyrant, by Andrew Grossman, May 2003

 

Weimar Cinema and the Contested Remembrance of World War I: The Ban of All Quiet on the Western Front in Germany (1930)   Benjamin Schröder from The University of Sussex Journal of Contemporary History, 2008  (pdf format)

 

Westfront 1918 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

SKANDAL UM EVA

Germany  (96 mi)  1930

 

The New York Times (Mordaunt Hall) review

Even those unfamiliar with German will at least appreciate the clever character studies in "Skandal um Eva," a German dialogue screen comedy now at the Eighth Street Playhouse. G. W. Pabst, who has several worthy films to his credit, is responsible for the direction of this offering, the story of which can be summed up as one wherein people who dwell in glass houses regret in the end that they have thrown stones.

To aid in understanding the action of this production, the management of the theatre has had a synopsis of the tale printed in the program. Nevertheless, it is really a production that can be enjoyed far more by those with a knowledge of the Teutonic tongue.

Fraulein Henny Porten, who recently played a dual rôle in "Gretel und Liesel," impersonates Eva, a cheery young school teacher who adopts a little boy. The village folk and those connected with her school are amazed one day when the child runs up to Eva and calls her "mother."

Soon the gossipers are busy and Eva's dismissal from the school is demanded. Everybody appears to be frightfully worried about the child except Eva. The scandal whisperers bring about an investigation of Eva's conduct, which appears at first to be welcomed by the principal of the school and one or two of the teachers. But subsequently they are led to understand that all those connected with the school are to be interrogated concerning their own private lives, and one after another they visit Eva and plead with her to resign.

The climax comes when Kurt, the minister of education, who is engaged to marry Eva, discovers that the child who has caused all the fuss, is none other than his own. By that time the hypocrites have learned their lesson and all is well with Eva, Kurt and the youngster.

Oscar Sigma gives a facile performance as Kurt. Ludwig Stoessel is excellent as the school principal. Fraulein Porten is charming, and in the course of her portrayal she sings several ballads.

THE THREEPENNY OPERA (Die 3 Groschen-Oper)                                    B                     89

aka:  The Beggar’s Opera

Germany (112 mi)  1931

 

Bertold Brecht play, Kurt Weil music, where Mack the Knife rules the underworld until he marries Jenny, Lotte Lenye, daughter of the King of the Beggars, where the beggars actually steal the movie with their incredible hordes of cripples marching to gain control of the city.

 

Time Out review  Geoff Andrew

Brecht and Weill may have sued Pabst over what they considered his manhandling of their musical (the director rewrote Brecht's script and dropped several songs), but the social satire remains thankfully intact. The story itself is preserved: in Victorian London, womanising gentleman thief Mack the Knife joins, through marriage, both the king of the beggars and the chief of police in setting up a bank. If Brecht's anti-capitalist sentiments are muted by Pabst's heavily stylised lyricism, there is no denying either the sheer visual eloquence of the sets and photography or the charismatic power of the performances, most notably, perhaps, Lenya as the whore Jenny.

Superfluities Redux  George Hunka

What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank? —Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera

The streets and buildings are carved from stone and eerily lit in G.W. Pabst's 1931 film of The Threepenny Opera, available now from The Criterion Collection in a new restoration. Designed with more than a glance to Expressionism, the film retains the identification of Victorian London with Weimar Berlin; the camera sinuously snakes, like Mackie Messer himself, through the alleyways, basements and offices of the urban landscape. This is, easily, a true black-and-white underworld. Mackie himself, while dapper and well-dressed, is a rapist, arsonist and murderer; the whores are given the most lush accommodations among the characters of this world. As Brecht wished (despite a lawsuit he instigated to stop the film), it's no longer the fun romp through a Guys and Dolls ambiance that it had become, but an incisive critique of the bourgeois world, and it also retains the sweet aura of desiccated sexuality that permeated the German theatre and culture of the time. (Neher's Polly, through the first half of the film wearing a tight, bright white wedding dress that seems to glow, is a fetishistic object of false innocence and becomes, at times, even a more central character than Macheath; this provides an echo of the tormented sexuality present in Brecht's early plays like Baal, Drums in the Night and Edward II.)

There are other ways, too, in which it's not the Threepenny Opera with which we're most familiar. Only half of the music is retained (most sadly, the "Tango-Ballad" in which Macheath and Jenny describe, in song, the circumstances surrounding the abortion of their child was dropped, for fear of censorship problems, early in the production process); the plot elements are rearranged and shifted, and, rather than a near-hanging, the film now ends with the four principal characters founding a bank. Mackie himself is a middle-aged, graying Rudolf Forster, not Sting nor Raul Julia nor Alan Cumming, three recent Macheaths. The film however does the singular service of preserving three of the most mesmerising performances from the original Berlin production – Neher, Lenya and Busch – and the musical direction is by Theo Mackeben, who also presided over the music at the 1928 Schiffbauerdamm premiere.

Pabst's Threepenny Opera is mostly his own; those who seek a truer rendition of the Brecht/Weill original will have to look elsewhere. (Unfortunately, the sparkling Columbia recording of the Richard Foreman/Stanley Silverman Threepenny Opera from the mid-1970s, which restored Weill's original score and orchestrations, remains out-of-print, as does the 1956 recording of the full score in the original German language, supervised by Lenya and something of a benchmark, for all its faults.) But Pabst does cut to the criminal core of the original, which continues to remain relevant. The DVD also contains an informative 49-minute documentary, featuring Eric Bentley, Weill expert Kim Kowalke, Pabst scholar Jan-Christopher Horak and Pabst's son Michael, about the origin and history of both the play and the film.

Die Dreigroschenoper - Film (Movie) Plot and Review - Publications  Rob Edelman from Film Reference

G.W. Pabst's film version of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera is a fascinating though flawed curio. The property, initially presented on the stage in 1928, is an adaptation of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera , a parody of Italian musical dramas first performed 200 years earlier.

While Brecht retained the basic plot of The Beggar's Opera , he updated it and related the satirical elements to his own era. At the same time, he was concerned more with ideas than coherent storyline or character development. In cinematizing the play, Pabst treated the plot and characters far more realistically, with greater emphasis on the feelings and motivation of the principal roles; in this regard, the film bears more the mark of Pabst than Brecht or Weill.

The sets, lighting and props are very stylized (except for the sequence detailing a beggar's demonstration) resulting in an odd conglomeration of surrealism and reality. Brecht originally collaborated on the film, but the script was rewritten when his ideas clashed with those of Pabst. Brecht and Weill were displeased with the filmmaker's interpretation, and took out a lawsuit over the material's copyright.

Brecht's social satire is still preserved though, along with this unaffected lyricism. The theme is as relevant to the present as to 1928 or 1728: the government and the underworld are as equally amoral in terms of self-interest. A once orderly world—which may only exist in the fantasies of those nostalgic for the "good old days" that in reality were never really so good—has been polluted by economic and political chaos. The setting is a dreary Victorian London of pimps and prostitutes, thieves and killers, and crooked politicians. ( The Threepenny Opera was banned in London after a single showing). Polly Peachum, with the members of Mackie Messer's gang, opens a bank, in the belief that "honest" thievery is more profitable than larceny outside the law. In the end Polly's father (who is king of the beggars), Tiger Brown (the corrupt police commissioner), and Mackie become partners in the bank—and mainstays of society.

Weill's songs, so important in the stage production, seem less so here: some—"Ballad of Sexual Dependency," "The Tango Ballad," and "The Ballad for the Hangman"—were omitted by Pabst. On one level the film is difficult to evaluate because current prints are faded; and the soundtrack seems archaic because of the technology then available for recording dialogue and music. But the disunity of style (a fault) and the keenly realized satire (an asset) are both lucidly apparent.

The Threepenny Opera is one of a trio of films Pabst directed in the 1930s that were anti-capitalist, stressing the importance of friendship and the moral obligation to oppose the forces of evil. The others were Westfront 1918 and Kameradschaft. Though The Threepenny Opera is far more romantic and stylized than the first two, all are united thematically.

The film was released on the eve of Hitler's seizure of power in Germany. Pabst captured the essence of the atmosphere which allowed the existence of the Nazi state, and all original German prints were destroyed by the Third Reich. The film was shot simultaneously in both German and French, with different casts; the French Threepenny Opera became a success in Paris, and was hailed as a masterpiece, but the German version is more well-known in America. A complete negative of the latter was reconstructed by film distributor Thomas J. Brandon in 1960, after a decade-long search through Europe for sections and scenes.

The Threepenny Opera: Doubles and Duplicities  Criterion essay by Tony Rayns

 

The Threepenny Opera  Criterion essay by Anneliese Varaldiev

 

The Threepenny Opera (1931) - The Criterion Collection

 

Preface to G.W. Pabst: The Threepenny Opera  The Threepenny Opera, by Bruce Williams from Senses of Cinema, 2000

 

Will the Shark Bite? G. W. Pabst and The Threepenny Opera   Gordon Thomas from Bright Lights Film Journal. November 2007

 

Brecht and Pabst’s Three Penny Opera  Jan-Christopher Horak from Jump Cuts

 

Able to Forget (on G. W. Pabst's Die Dreigroschenoper--The Threepenny Opera) Green Integer Blog, February 11, 2009

 

nthposition online magazine: Two Pabst operas reviews of PANDORA’S BOX and THE THREE PENNY OPERA BY Douglas Masserli from nth Position (undated) 

 

The Threepenny Opera (1931) | Classic Movie Review  Lenin imports

 

not coming to a theater near you (Ian Johnston) review

 

Turner Classic Movies dvd review  Sean Axmaker

 

Threepenny Opera movie diva

 

Shooting Down Pictures » Blog Archive » Video Essay for 920 (61 ...  Kevin Lee analyzes a video sequence from Also Like Life, July 23, 2008

 

Shooting Down Pictures » Blog Archive » 719 (60). (Die ...  Kevin Lee’s full review from Also Like Life, July 23, 2008, also seen here:  The House Next Door: 920 (61). (Die 3groschenoper / The Threepenny ...

 

Pabst's Blue Ribbon - Threepenny Opera - Epinions.com  Metalluk

 

Marilyn Ferdinand, Ferdy on Films, etc.

 

The Film Sufi

 

Movie Reviews UK review [4/5]  Damian Cannon

 

User comments  from imdb Author: JoeytheBrit from www.moviemoviesite.com

 

User comments  from imdb Author: Terrell-4 from San Antonio, Texas

 

DVD Talk (Jamie S. Rich) dvd review [4/5] [Criterion Collection]  also seen here:  Criterion Confessions

 

DVD Verdict [Bill Gibron]  Criterion Collection

 

Q Network Film Desk (James Kendrick) dvd review [3.5/4]  Criterion Collection, also seen here:  100 Top Flowers Sites 

 

DVD Savant (Glenn Erickson) dvd review  Criterion Collection

 

DVD Town (Christopher Long) dvd review  Criterion Collection

 

dOc DVD Review: The Threepenny Opera (1931)  Jon Danziger, Criterion Collection

 

DVD Authority.com ("Fusion3600") dvd review [Criterion Collection]

 

In Review (Adam Suraf) dvd review [Criterion Collection]

 

CineScene.com (Chris Dashiell) review

 

About.com [Ivana Redwine] - The Threepenny Opera DVD Review

 

Moving Pictures: The Talkies Learn to Move: Pabst's 'Threepenny ...  Justin DeFreitas from The Berkeley Daily Planet, November 30, 2007

 

Pennies From Heaven - September 25, 2007 - The New York Sun  Gary Giddins from The New York Sun

 

Wilmington on DVD: The Man in Black - Isthmus | The Daily Page  Michael Wilmington

 

The Threepenny Opera (1931)  The Auteurs

 

Die Dreigroschenoper (1928)  Kurt Weill Foundation for Music

 

Variety review

 

The New York Times (Mordaunt Hall) review

 

CRITIC'S CHOICE  Dave Kehr from The New York Times, September 25, 2007

 

DVDBeaver dvd review  Per-Olaf Strindberg

 

THE THREEPENNY OPERA (L'opéra de quat'sous)

Germany  USA  (104 mi)  1931              French language version

User comments  from imdb Author: Gary170459 from Derby, UK

I feel a bit odd being the 1st post as I would have thought Artheads would have been here years ago describing this one's social significance, contextualising it, contemporary relevances, and dissecting comparisons with the simultaneous German version. As I'm only a dumb-cluck who happens to like "old" movies I can only offer some humble humdrum opinions on a few points instead.

I've seen Die 3groschenoper a number of times now, but this was my 1st visit to the French version, my first impressions being favourable as it is an exact scene-for-scene re-run after all - for the story refer to everyone's comments for 3G. The French runs 7 minutes faster - is that just down to the language differences? I wonder how many of the background extras acted in both (and did they get paid for 2 movies!), but the speaking parts of course were handed to French actors and actresses - the whole reason why this talkie was made. I can almost get by in French - but German is a real tongue-twister for me, so to me a lot of the earthy harshness and Weimar cynicism is lost here for a typically French airy artiness, even down to the song lyrics. Without that overpowering cynicism it becomes for me simply a very good film, not a great one like the simultaneous original. Otoh it's easier to follow, meaning it enlightened me on some aspects of the German release I'd struggled over. Here, in the English translation of the French the people in the shadows ultimately "melt away" - I prefer the "lost to sight" translation of the German. Etherial compared to material.

If you enjoyed 3G then you're sure to enjoy this. Overall, for an Englishman a very enjoyable (French) curio, but for instance if I ever feel that I need a shot of Cynical Sleazy Singing I'll be heading back to Ernst Busch, Carole Neher, Lotte Lenya and Co.

L’Opéra de quat’sous (1931)  James Travers from Cinema Forever                    

In 1928, Bertolt Brecht et Kurt Weill worked on one of their most successful collaborations, Die Dreigroschenoper, a stage play based on John Gay’s 1728 satire, The Beggar’s Opera.  The success of the play soon led to a film adaptation by W.G. Pabst, then one of Germany’s most prominent directors.  Three versions of the film were planned – one in English, one in German, and one in French.  The English version was abandoned at an early stage, and the German and French versions were made in parallel, with two separate casts.  The German version, Die Dreigroschenoper, is the one which is most widely available. L’Opéra de quat’ sous was the name given to the French version.

Considered for many years as a masterpiece, the film has lost some of its impact, mainly because its overt political messages no longer have the force they once had.  With its artificial, obviously stagey sets and morose songs, the film now appears more of an oddity than a monumental work of cinema.  The film’s strength now lies in its intense atmosphere, the way it conjures up a world ravaged by underground vice, cynical exploiters of people’s misfortune, of poverty and corruption.

The sombre tone of the film jars somewhat with its liberal use of comedy, although some of the visual jokes are still exceedingly funny.  It is interesting to note that Pabst gave the film a slightly different ending to that of the original play, to make a veiled assault on the financial corruption which was becoming apparent in Germany at the time.

W.G. Pabst is recognised as one of the great German expressionist directors, and the expressionist style is apparent in the intimidating, shadowy sets and the dehumanised crowd scenes.  This, together with the film’s subject matter, makes the film an obvious forerunner of the film noir genre which would emerge across the Atlantic in the following decade.

Bizarrely, the song which opens and closes the film, Moriat became a pop music hit in 1959 as Mack the Knife, sung by Bobby Darin.

Opera De Quat'Sous, L' | CLOSE-UP  Close Up Videos

 

DVD Talk (Jamie S. Rich) dvd review [4/5] [Criterion Collection]  also seen here:  Criterion Confessions

 

DVD Verdict [Bill Gibron]  Criterion Collection

 

Q Network Film Desk (James Kendrick) dvd review [3.5/4]  Criterion Collection, also seen here:  100 Top Flowers Sites 

 

DVD Savant (Glenn Erickson) dvd review  Criterion Collection

 

DVD Town (Christopher Long) dvd review  Criterion Collection

 

dOc DVD Review: The Threepenny Opera (1931)  Jon Danziger, Criterion Collection

 

DVD Authority.com ("Fusion3600") dvd review [Criterion Collection]

 

In Review (Adam Suraf) dvd review [Criterion Collection]

 

COMERADESHIP (Kameradschaft)

Germany  (93 mi)  1931 U.S. version (86 mi) 

 

Chicago Reader (Dave Kehr) capsule review

G.W. Pabst's 1931 film recasts an actual incident—a mine disaster on the Franco-German border in 1906—into a parable on international relations; the “little people” transcend their political differences in helping each other. It may be naive and sentimental, but Pabst's filming packs a punch—the action is well-nigh irresistible. The pessimistic ending, in which the boundaries are reestablished, has been clipped from many prints.

Time Out review  Tony Rayns

 

The absolute high-point of German socialist film-making of its period. Pabst imagines a coal-mine on the French-German border, where the aftermath of World War I is still being played out: French prosperity and chauvinism hard up against German inflation and unemployment. There's a disaster in the French wing of the mine...and the German miners go to the rescue. Both the visual style and the 'message' of solidarity owe a lot to Soviet Socialist Realism, but Pabst was a more sophisticated social critic than any of the Russian film-makers. Only a bruised and cynical Berlin pessimist could produce a film as moving, sincere and committed as this.

User comments  from imdb Author: rsoonsa (rsoonsa@bandbbooks.com) from Mountain Mesa, California

This, the finest achievement from Georg Wilhelm Pabst's Social Realism period is based upon a tragedy in early 1906 that claimed the lives of nearly 1100 French miners as a coal dust explosion deep in mines at Courrieres in northern France took place after a fire had smouldered for three weeks, eventually releasing deadly pit gas that brought about the fatalities. Estimable designer Erno Metzner creates stark sets that simulate the tragedy, providing a perception of reality, augmented by matchless sound editing, with the only music being produced by integral orchestras during the beginning and ending portions of a work for which aural effects possess equal importance with the eminent director's fascinating visual compositions. Pabst's manner of "invisible editing" that segues action from shot to shot through movements of players proves to be smoothly integrated within this landmark film that also showcases sublime cinematography utilizing cameras mounted upon vehicles, enabling the director to shift amid scenes without having a necessity of cutting. Although the work's cardinal theme relates to Socialist dogma, the unforgettable power of this film is held in its details, born of Pabst's nonpareil skill at weaving numerous plot lines into a cinema tapestry that stirs one to admiration for German rescue squads of whom their Fatherland is greatly proud while no less despairing of disastrous losses to the families of French victims; certainly, a seminal triumph fully as stimulating today to a cineaste as it was at the time of its first release.

Turner Classic Movies review  James Steffen

In the Lorraine region on the French-German border, a gas explosion and series of tunnel collapses threatens the lives of French miners. A German rescue team, headed by Wittkopp, convinces the German mine director to allow them to conduct a rescue operation. In the meantime, a French miner descends an old stairway into the shaft in order to rescue his grandson on his own. The rescue mission ultimately becomes the expression of a common humanity that extends beyond national boundaries.

G. W. (Georg Wilhelm) Pabst's Kameradschaft (1931) is based on an actual event: the 1906 Courrieres mining disaster in northern France, among the worst industrial accidents in history. A coal dust explosion resulted in 1,060 deaths and German miners from the Westphalia region came to France to assist in the rescue effort. Pabst and his scriptwriters relocated the event to the present day (that is, in the aftermath of World War I) and to the French-German border, transforming the story into a message of pacifism and solidarity among workers. In that respect, the film may be seen as a follow-up to Pabst's previous film, the anti-war picture Westfront 1918 (1930), which shares largely the same production team and even some of the cast members.

In the opening scene of Kameradschaft, a French boy and a German boy quarrel over a game of marbles, each speaking in his own language, suggesting that war represents and infantile stage of human development. The shadow of war reappears at other points in the film, as well: a French mine worker, upon seeing a rescuer wearing a gas mask, involuntarily relives the trauma of the Great War. In order to reach their French counterparts, the German rescuers must break through an underground gate dating from 1919 and erected on the border between France and Germany. In the epilogue, cut from some versions, we see German and French guards rebuilding the border gate.

However, Kameradschaft is more than a mere message film; it is also one of the most technically accomplished works of the early sound cinema. For his first sound film, Westfront 1918, Pabst had decided to forgo the bulky soundproof booths that were commonly used in Hollywood in favor of a "blimp," or soundproof case that covers the camera itself. This enabled him to move the camera to a greater extent than most films of the era. In Kameradschaft, some of the more impressive instances of this include the episode where a German wife walks alongside a truck to say goodbye to her husband and the lengthy tracking shots over the smoking rubble of the collapsed mine shafts. The massive, authentically detailed reconstruction of a mine interior, designed by Erno Metzner and Karl Vollbrecht, still looks convincing today.

As befits the subject matter, Kameradschaft was a French-German co-production and thus was financed by Gaumont in addition to Nero-Film. The film's producer, Seymour Nebenzahl (also spelled Nebenzal) founded Nero-Film together with Austrian director Richard Oswald in 1924 as a competitor to UFA. Nero-Film's artistic peak was undoubtedly the later Twenties and early Thirties, when Nebenzahl produced a series of films for Pabst, among them Pandora's Box (1929), Westfront 1918, The Threepenny Opera (1931) and L'Atlantide (1932), as well as Fritz Lang's M (1931) and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933). After the rise of the Nazis, Nebenzahl moved to France where he produced films with Anatole Litvak and Max Ophuls during the 1930s. With the onset of war in Europe, the New York-born Nebenzahl returned to the U.S. and produced a number of films for PRC and United Artists, among them Douglas Sirk's first American features and the Maria Montez camp classic Siren of Atlantis (1949), a remake of L'Atlantide. Most notably, in 1951 he produced a remake of M for Columbia Pictures, directed by Joseph Losey and starring David Wayne.

Senses of Cinema (Andrew Tracy) review  June 2004

 

Raging Bull Movie Reviews (Mike Lorefice) review [3.5/4]

 

CineScene.com (Chris Dashiell) review

 

Ozus' World Movie Reviews (Dennis Schwartz) review

 

User comments  from imdb Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida

 

Classic Film Guide (capsule)

 

TV Guide

 

Variety review

 

Channel 4 Film capsule review

 

MISTRESS OF ATLANTIS

aka:  The Lost Atlantis

Germany  (87 mi)  1932

User comments  from imdb Author: Robert Keser (rfkeser@ix.netcom.com) from Chicago, IL

Atlantis in the Sahara? This English-language version of L'ATLANTIDE follows two French Foreign Legionnaires lost in the Algerian desert who stumble into the subterranean kingdom of Antinea, the enigmatic ruler of the title. Fantasy buffs may find this production is all elaborate build-up with little dramatic payoff, while the politically inclined may see this as a late spasm of colonial chic that exploits real people for their exoticism. However, for fans of director Pabst's erotic indirection [as in PANDORA'S BOX], this makes a heady lesson in how to build a sensuous, suggestive atmosphere.

Pabst sets his cameras gliding across the sands and into real locations in the Hoggar mountains. Towering, black-shrouded tribesmen appear, then sleek native women beckon with mysterious gestures of invitation. When they descend into the maze of tunnels that is Antinea's kingdom, they find a tipsy, excitable Quentin Crisp-y character, a longtime resident who holds some key to its history. As Antinea, the great German star Brigitte Helm has a mesmerizing presence as she lolls on a divan, with a menacing leopard at her side. Equally imposing is a monumental stone head of her visage that figures in several memorable compositions. When the protagonist [who is not a traditional hero] is first summoned to Antinea, what unfathomable depravity will take place? They play chess, of course. The story comes from a popular French novel, but it is Pabst's fluid style that makes this masterly kitsch.

Mistress of Atlantis Fesfilms   

(Germany, 1932) 78 min. Directed by G.W. Pabst. From the novel "L'Atlantide" by Pierre Benoit. Copied from the only known archive print. Cast: Brigitte Helm, Tela Tschai, Gustav Diessl, John Stuart. English language version made at the same time as the German and French versions.

Very rare "Lost" adventure film from the great director G.W. Pabst. Brigitte Helm, the legendary beauty from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," stars as Antinea, the Mistress of Atlantis, the lost empire that yet survives in the Sahara Desert. Frigid Antinea is surrounded by her leopards, a giant stone statue of her face and a harem of hapless men ready to die for her. Antinea! The valleys echo her name in the African desert where her lovers dance round her throne in the Sahara.

The novel by Pierre Benoit was first filmed in 1921 in France by director Jacques Feyder. At the time it was the most expensive French film ever, but it went on to great commercial success in France and abroad.

Germany's most accomplished director, G.W. Pabst (Joyless Street, Pandora's Box, The Threepenny Opera, etc.), re-made it in 1932 as "Die Herrin von Atlantis" with Brigitte Helm. French and English versions were made at the same time on the same sets. Helm re-shot her scenes speaking French and then English. Some of the other actors also repeated their roles though some substitutes were made because of the language. The English language version (not dubbed) is the one being offered.

Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings (Dave Sindelar) capsule review

Two soldiers on a mission in the Sahara desert are captured and held prisoner by the residents of Atlantis and their queen, Antinea.

I have never seen PANDORA'S BOX, but I am aware of the movie's reputation and am looking forward to catching it one of these days. This has become even more true after watching this movie, directed by the same man, G. W. Pabst. I'd seen the 1922 version of the movie with Italian title cards, but I was never able to figure out the story; I'll get back to it now that I've seen this one and have an idea of what's going on.

When I'd reviewed the earlier version, I made the comment that it seemed similar to SHE. Seeing this one, I can say that it is similar in terms of plot, but the comparison ends there; though the various versions of SHE that I've seen have all been entertaining, not a one of them has been as compelling as this movie. There is a real sense of exotic mystery that never dissipates, and the breathtaking shots of the desert and the blowing sand are exquisite. This was one of three versions made concurrently in different languages, mostly with the same cast; I notice that one of the ways they made this work was to keep the dialogue to a minumum for certain characters; Brigitte Helm (who plays Antinea) has only a handful of lines in this version. Therefore, it relies on visuals and the commentary of certain key characters to tell its story. I found myself drawn into this world and totally caught up in the story, a rarity for lost civilization movies, most of which have a little too much silliness to them. This movie is a rare and somewhat unexpected treasure; it has proven to be one of the best movies to come up in my movie-watching project that I hadn't already seen before.

User comments  from imdb Author: melvelvit-1 from NYC suburbs

At a French outpost in North Africa, Lieutenant Saint-Avit and his comrade listen to a radio broadcast concerning the lost city of Atlantis now believed buried under the Saharan sands. Saint-Avit confides to his friend that he'd once been there and proceeds to tell his bizarre story in flashback. He and a fellow Legionaire, Captain Morhange, were on a scouting mission for the war office in the desert when they came upon a Turgai warrior dying of thirst. They rescue him but are soon captured and taken to a series of catacombs deep in the mountains that are all that's left of the fabled city of Atlantis. It's ruler, Antinea, keeps all men in thrall; Saint-Avit falls under her spell but Morhange resists so Antinea orders Saint-Avit to kill him. He does but, shocked at what he's done, takes to drugs. The Turgai warrior they had saved helps him and Clementine, a native in love with Saint Avit, to escape the underground labyrinth but the woman later dies in the desert. After Saint-Avit tells his tale, his comrade writes to the home office notifying them that the battle-weary lieutenant has gone mad from the sun and heat while Saint-Avit wanders out into a sandstorm following a vision of Antinea...

Jacques Feyder was the first to film L'ATLANTIDE in 1921 and there have been many versions since, including one by Edgar G. Ulmer in the early 1960s. Pierre Benoit, author of the 1919 novel on which the films were based, was accused of plagiarism because of similarities between his adventure story and H Rider Haggard's "She" but director G.W. Pabst dispenses with most of Benoit's saga to create his own compelling tale. Pabst shot German, French and English language versions simultaneously with the same sets and cast using actual Sahara locations. Keeping dialog to a minimum, Pabst's vision is a cross between Haggard's "She" and THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI. The fantastic yarn gives clues along the way that it's only a madman's hallucination: there's a foppish European fond of alcohol living in Atlantis along with a Swedish drug-addict; both were former lovers of Antinea who, apparently, was once a can-can dancer at the Casino de Paris. The female reporter at the beginning of Saint-Avit's journey is also Clementine and Atlantis itself is a mixture of modernity and maze-like ruins. The vistas of the desert with it's howling wind and shifting sands is visually striking and reminiscent of Josef von Sternberg's MOROCCO. Brigitte Helm, Maria in Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS, makes an icy and imperious Antinea whom no mortal man can resist and hope to live. The storyline is a little hard to follow on a single viewing but the film's dream-like quality and the many beautiful images will stay in the mind long after it's over.

The Video Vacuum [Mitch Lovell]

 

The Mistress of Atlantis - Action & Adventure Classic Movies on ...  Oldies

 

L’ATLANTIDE

Germany  (89 mi)  1932 France version (94 mi) 

 

L’Atlantide (1932)  James Travers from Cinema Forever

Although considerably less polished and memorable than some of Pabst’s other works, L’Atlantide is a compelling film with a strong visual style throughout.  The film is a remake of Jacques Feyder’s 1921 adaptation of Pierre Benoît’s novel, with some striking differences, particularly in the portrayal of the queen Antinea.  As was the case with Feyder’s film, this film uses extensive location photography and cost a fortune to make, even though its runtime is much shorter.  The film was made in three versions, one in French, one in German and another in English.  In the French version, the actor who played Morhange, Jean Angelo, played the same role in Feyder’s film.

Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings  Dave Sindelar

A man in the foreign legion discovers the lost civilization of Atlantis in the Sahara desert, and comes under the spell of its queen.

What, we're back here again? Didn't we just do this movie some time ago? Yes, and no. During the early years of sound a phenomenon arose whereby certain movies were shot in several versions in different languages; during the silent era, this was not necesary, as merely the title cards needed to be changed. DRACULA (with its alternate Spanish language version) is merely the most famous example; L'ATLANTIDE was shot in three different languages; English, French and German. I've already covered the English version (THE MISTRESS OF ATLANTIS); this is the French version, and outside of a few different performers, it is for all practical reasons the same movie; Brigitte Helm appeared in all three, and since her character has very few lines, it wasn't too much of a problem to have her speak three different languages. Actually, this particular story seems to be giving me a language workout; the 1920 version had Italian title cards, and this French version I have has German subtitles, which makes me suspect that the German version is missing altogether. It's still a beautiful movie to look at, though I'm sure English-speakers will want to opt for the English language version first to grasp the subtleties of the plot.

User comments  from imdb Author: dbdumonteil

Pierre Benoit was then a famous writer: his extravaganza’s seem out of time now but at the time his novels were transferred to the screen at such a speed it makes you feel giddy: think that it's the second version (there is one silent movie) and there's a Ulmer's version. And "Desert Legion"(1953) starring Arlene Dahl and Alan Ladd owes a good deal of its screenplay to Benoit's book too.

The first sequence is a lecture on Atlantis "since we found the ruins of Troy, why wouldn't we do the same as far as Atlantis is concerned?" Two legionnaires are listening to the radio: "I've been there, I've been to Atlantis" says officer Saint-Avit. And he begins to tell his tale to his incredulous mate.

Flashback: Once he discovered a mysterious city with subterranean where a queen, Antinea, reigns.This queen seems to be fond of men because she is a woman to die for...or to kill for...Brigitte Helm (famous for her part of Maria in Metropolis) was an obvious choice but she has barely four lines to say and her appearance does not exceed fifteen minutes. Like in the famous Hotel California, you can check any time you want in Atlantis but you can never leave .

Pabst's talent shows now and then: a weird sequence in les Folies Bergères in Paris complete with Can Can in that context becomes downright surrealist; the flight across the desert -I studied this part of the book when I was in sixth grade, nowadays nobody studies Benoit- includes a good scene when the two fugitives find the well which is dry.

But the last sequences set the record straight: Saint-Avit is out of his mind, so all that happened might possibly be a mirage; anything is illusion anyway for the "Queen" might well be a former French Can Can dancer.

DON QUIXOTE (Don Quichotte)
France  Great Britain  (73 mi)  1933                   France version (82 mi) 
 
Time Out review

Along with an English-language doppelgänger, shot concurrently, this has long been a hard film to find, so we should be grateful for even an abridged, disjointed version (all that remains?). The film's commercial wash-out is easy to understand. This is a bleak, comfortless adaptation, emphasising madness (Chaliapin is grotesque, though not inappositely so), failure and death. But as an evocation of period (sets by Andrejew) and of sun-baked Iberian languor, it shows how stylish a film-maker Pabst could be. The ending is pure despair: Quixote dead, the police burning his books, and long, long slow-motion shots (reprised by Truffaut in Fahrenheit 451) of pages curling up in agony, accompanied by Ibert's vigorous score. (Students of the composer's work will be best placed to identify such songs as have been excised in this copy.)

Don Quixote Movie Reviews, Trailer & Summary-Spout  Hal Erickson from All Movie Guide

The French/British Don Quixote is a faithful rendition of the Cervantes novel, with a poignant ending added by director G.W. Pabst. Opera star Feodor Chaliapin stars as Cervantes' "Knight of the Woeful Countenance," an aged, addled Spanish gentleman so devoted to stories of long-ago chivalry that he decides to relive those bygone days. With his faithful squire, Sancho Panza (George Robey), Don Quixote rides off to tilt at windmills and to worship chubby milkmaid Dulcinea (Renée Valliers) as his lady fair. Sancho manages to save Quixote from killing himself, but cannot prevent the old gent from returning home utterly disillusioned. Director Pabst alters Cervantes' original ending by having the dispirited Quixote pass away as he watches his precious books on chivalry going up in flames. There are actually two versions of Don Quixote, one in English and one in French; the French-language version has a different supporting cast, but Pabst draws the same deep emotions and brilliant bits of business from both. Though the film unfailingly comes to life in front of an audience, Don Quixote is generally out of favor with devotees of G.W. Pabst, who consider the film a step down from his brilliant silent work.

DON QUIXOTE (G. W. Pabst, 1933) « Dennis Grunes

One approaches with some trepidation any one of the fifteen or so film versions of Don Quixote, the very early seventeenth-century Spanish novel by Cervantes, in full, Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra. Brilliantly philosophical and richly colored, the book, despite a simple plot, is considered by many the single greatest novel ever written. My own vote goes to a brilliantly philosophical, richly colored Russian novel that appeared 270 years later, Anna Karenina; and as surely as Lev (or Leo) Tolstoi’s Anna is perhaps the greatest female character in all of fiction, Cervantes’ Quixote is perhaps the greatest male character in all of fiction. By one of those inexplicable coincidences of literary history, Quixote appeared in print at almost the exact time that Shakespeare’s King Lear appeared on the English stage, and both these characters are a lot alike, with each up to the other’s measure. Both are stubborn and irascible old men; but Quixote surely is, more than Lear, the resident of his own mind.

That mind is full of books—books about chivalry. Quixote is an anachronism, a medieval dreamer in a sixteenth-century post-medieval world. (Lear is a real king, while Quixote only imagines that he is a knight.) The word quixotic has come to describe such an idealist, whose “madness” may be perfect sanity, only shifted in time to when it can no longer be accepted or even understood. Quixote isn’t a liar, making a show of tilting at Weapons of Mass Destruction; he is outmoded nobility tilting at windmills, which he perceives to be opponents—giants—that endanger the common good. He’s a man for all seasons, but not one for any particular time and place, including his own, and he is inspired by a world that probably never existed, except in legend. Today he would be labeled “paranoid schizophrenic” or “manic-depressive,” or something, and be locked away—for society’s convenience. At least that’s what would happen to him in the United States.

Enter Georg Wilhelm Pabst, a great German filmmaker, thirty years after the first film of Don Quixote appeared. This is the giant (not windmill) who had made The Joyless Street (1925), The Love of Jeanne Ney (1927), Pandora’s Box (1928), Westfront 1918 (1930), Kameradschaft and The Threepenny Opera (both 1931)—and, too, the fillmmaker capable of such tacky melodrama as Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), among the most dubious works by anyone of such conspicuous talent. Pabst at the time was in his late forties, old enough to grasp Quixote, and he filmed three versions in succession, in German, French and English. It’s the last that I have seen, albeit in a cut version—and this was, regrettably, Pabst’s last film as a committed Leftist. Like too many others, Pabst capitulated to German nationalism, lending his considerable credibility to the film industry of the Third Reich.

The film is often faulted for its coldness, and such criticism is fair enough. Inevitably, moreover, the film in no way duplicates the novel’s richness; it develops only two themes—and these, we shall see, belong solely to Pabst, not Cervantes. Very little of the novel, in fact, survives the transposition from one medium to another. (At least in the edition that I saw, Pabst doesn’t make room even for Dulcinea, the creature of his imagination upon whom Quixote lavishes his chivalry but who appears in the film as little more than a walk-on—and, as in the Massenet opera, real.) All that said, this is a brilliant film, a towering achievement. For all the oddity of George Robey’s beery, aggressive Sancho Panza, Pabst’s Don Quixote is a masterpiece.

What may disappoint some fans of the novel most is that, for the most part, the film proceeds as “Scenes from Don Quixote” rather than as a full-blooded adaptation. It is as though these scenes were being little more than indicated, not cinematically realized. But all this is likely a deliberate distancing strategy, to which one should add the unexpected songs that punctuate the proceedings, most of them sung by Quixote himself. (The music is by Jacques Ibert, although the star of the film had also sung Quixote in a production of the 1910 Jules Massenet opera.) Indeed, the film opens with a sharp stroke of distancing—rolling lines of print that give Quixote a negative spin. This written commentary describes Quixote as “an impoverished relic of the landed gentry that once ruled feudal Spain. . . . Living in the imaginary past, he clashes with living reality at every turn. The results are at once pathetic and ridiculous.” These are harsh words that hardly do justice to a character who is, in the Cervantes novel, as moving and inspiring as he is deluded. However, among other things, the film will reverse the impression of Quixote that this opening seems to impose on the viewer. The theme that will emerge is that of the cherished and precious nature of books.

Throughout, until the film’s two great set-pieces, there’s a hovering sense of selfconsciousness, a sustained distancing that accumulates into a shrewd and distinct impression that not only are we watching actors performing some version of Don Quixote but that the characters they are playing in the film are themselves actors selfconsciously playing characters from Cervantes. In short, the film’s distancing strategies, no matter what else they do, suggest that the characters themselves seem to have read the book. Indeed, the opening commentary that sets all this distancing into motion flashes the viewer ahead, to a point in time after the novel, before showing the viewer the seventeenth-century novel’s sixteenth-century action in a (seemingly) crudely abbreviated form that keeps constant his or her position in the present in the forefront of the viewer’s mind. We aren’t transported into the world of the book; rather, we are constantly reminded of the book itself. We are thinking this from the start when we silently respond to the opening commentary, “No, these harsh words do not sum up the character of Quixote as the novel presents and develops it.” At many subsequent junctures, we again are attending more to the book than to the film because we are thinking, “This isn’t the book!” In this way, our dispute with the film shifts our heart to the importance and value of the book. (A “warmer,” more sentimental approach would not have advanced this procedure.) All this is deliberate on Pabst’s part; it is part of the film’s thematic development.

The film claims two passages that are universally regarded as great. Both come near the end; one prepares the viewer for the other, with which the film closes. The first is the passage in which our self-anointed knight tilts at windmills. Quixote believes his mission is to right society’s wrongs and champion the downtrodden and dispossessed. To him, the advancing army of giants that he misperceives the rotating windmills to be encapsulates everything that inflicts misery on the people of Spain. Stunningly shot and edited (the cutter is Hans Oser), Quixote’s jousting rush on the windmills gives the film its own rush. And more: When Quixote becomes trapped in one of the windmill’s radiating slats, the camera angle and proximity help make it appear as though Quixote, having propelled himself into it, is stuck in the page of a book.

Quixote, now, is returned home, to the care of his loving niece. All these books on chivalry that dazzled and misled his mind: what’s to be done with them? They are ceremoniously burned. But wait: recall that the elasticity of time references distances the viewer from the time of the action and sets the viewer’s thoughts in the present. For the viewer of the film, what is the most monumental book ever written on the subject of chivalry? Why, Cervantes’ Don Quixote itself! In closeup, the camera catches a book that has been burned to a crisp in the fire. In the single greatest shot Pabst ever devised, we watch the unburning of that book in slow motion and reverse motion until, page by page, the book is restored to wholeness. The film ends on the title page. What book is this? Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

To be sure, Pabst had at his disposal Jean Epstein’s wind-caused page flappings in slow motion in the French silent The Fall of the House of Usher (1928). Whereas Epstein’s achievement in the Poe film is lyrical, intended to conjure an eerie, forlorn mood, however, Pabst’s achievement is analytical. The film opened, as a ruse, by bluntly disparaging Quixote and his idealism, heading the film in the direction of the burning of the books; by reclaiming, through visual means (trick photography), Don Quixote from the fire, though, Pabst reverses the message that the opening commentary seemed to have imposed on the viewer, while at the same time underscoring the “time trick” that puts Cervantes’ Don Quixote among the books about chivalry that Quixote himself owned and read. This book must not burn. These books must not burn. Their ideas and ideals must remain to inspire current and future readers.

A “cold” film? Anyone who loves books will be profoundly moved by the ending here, into which the entire film pours. And, yes, there’s more. Adolf Hitler became Germany’s chancellor in January 1933. Four months later, Hitler’s chief propagandist, Josef Goebbles, orchestrated the mass book burning in Berlin, executed by SA troops and students, to rid the “new Germany” of books and authors the state deemed deleterious. It’s impossible, no matter with whatever other ideas the film may have begun, that in the editing process Don Quixote didn’t become Pabst’s impassioned protest against this spectacle in Berlin. As far as I know, neither Cervantes nor Don Quixote was one of Goebbles’ targets; but in Pabst’s fiercely beautiful film, this book represents all books that engage humanity’s better angels. Pabst’s final shot in which the book, as it were, comes back to life is nearly comparable in force to the ending of Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1954).

Pabst shot all three editions of his film in Haute-Provence, France. His excellent black-and-white cinematographers are Nicolas Farkas and Paul Portier.

His outstanding Russian-born star is Feodor Chaliapin, who gives a great performance (as would Nikolai Cherkasov in the 1957 version directed by Grigori Kozintsev*). Chaliapin speaks softly and humbly at times, but some regret the declamatory style that the actor seems to use in other spots. Needless to say, I find this element of selfconsciousness perfectly in keeping with the idea that this Don Quixote is enacting a role—that this Don Quixote has himself read Don Quixote.

Heinrich Heine, I believe, once wrote that where books are burned, then human beings will also be burned. The burning of Quixote’s books is tantamount to killing Quixote. The pages we watch being reclaimed from the fire that has burned them represent the man who read and cherished them, and (given what the book turns out to be) whom they are about. On some level, it is Quixote who is also being reclaimed from the fire.

Pabst’s is a perplexing case. How could a Leftist become any part of Hitler’s state? Yet this happened. Nationalism trumped ideology and idealism—as happened also in the case of Erich Engel, whose marvelous postwar film The Blum Affair I have written about. (Please see, under “film reviews,” my essay on The Blum Affair.) Both men chose to work in the entertainment industry of the Third Reich rather than leave Germany. Who knows what their combination of motives might have been. (Is it possible that they felt that they couldn’t desert their country in what the Nazis had made Germany’s greatest hour of need?) How sadly ironic that Engel, the man who directed the original stage production of Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, and Pabst, the man who directed the film of that play, should have both found themselves for a wearyingly long spell cast adrift, separated from their souls, in the same discredited boat on the same diseased ocean.

* Indeed, Peter O’Toole’s performance as Quixote is not one of the many problems sorely afflicting Arthur Hiller’s Man of La Mancha (1972), based on the Broadway musical.

Audaud.com - DVD Review  Gary Lemco

 

User comments   from imdb Author: writers_reign from London, England

 

User comments  from imdb Author: Albert Sanchez Moreno from United States

 

User comments  from imdb Author: Benoît A. Racine (benoit-3) from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 
Cinepassion.org  Fernando F. Croce

 

New York Times [Herbert L. Matthews] (registration req'd)

 

DU HAUT EN BAS (From Top to Bottom)

France  (79 mi)  1933

User comments  from imdb Author: dbdumonteil

Although the director is very famous, this is one of the most obscure of all Gabin's movies. Who knows in his native France that he was directed by Pabst?  The movie is supposed to take place in Germany but everything sounds French, except maybe the Concierge in uniform. The plot is very simple but the treatment is quite good and "De Haut En Bas" is a charming comedy: the title (from the top downwards) hints at the tenants of an apartment building, among them Pauline Carton and Michel Simon, who does not know the "rent-is-always-due" rule. Gabin portrays the Concierge's nephew, a football champ who's got a few things to learn. A girl -who has a PhD in geography and who has still not found a teacher job (at the time, however, there were probably not many girls with such a degree!) - works as a servant upstairs. Her employers are not very nice: the woman is mean and sour-tempered, the man wants to sleep with the young maid and he is always making advances to her.

This is a must for Gabin's fans, one of the best movies of his pre mega-stardom days.

A MODERN HERO

USA  (71 mi)  1934

User comments  from imdb Author: David Atfield (bits@alphalink.com.au) from Canberra, Australia

This is not a great film, but it has much to recommend it. With the great G.W. Pabst at the helm, there is much of visual interest, and with one of the best actors of his generation, Richard Barthelmess, in the lead role, there is much of dramatic interest too. Although both men were at their height in the silent era, they were both still great cinema artists in 1934.

In the Barthelmess films of the early 1930s, there was a tendency toward a kind of tragic masochism, where everything that can go wrong does go wrong for the Barthelmess character. And we see it here again. Twenty years later we'd see another great actor being attracted to such roles - Marlon Brando. But Pabst steers the character's suffering (perhaps a symbol for a rather innocent USA suffering through a terrible war and the great depression) toward enlightenment. And the ending is both profound and a little subversive politically.

All the supporting performances are excellent, but Marjorie Rambeau stands out as Barthelmess' mother. The film is also quite risque for its day - with Richard obviously sleeping with rich older women for money, and fathering a love child. Pabst was bringing a real European sensibility to American cinema here - something that would soon become impossible with the Hollywood production code. It's a shame that Hollywood lost such a great artist, and even sadder that he chose to work in Nazi Germany instead.

Movie Mirror  Sanderson Beck

Based on Louis Bromfield's book, a circus performer fathers a son and gets rich in the automobile business; but his relationships fall apart, and he loses it all.

Pierre Rodier (Richard Barthelmess) rides horses in the circus, where his mother works. He has an affair with Joanna (Jean Muir), but his mother Azais (Marjorie Rambeau) advises him to wait a year to see if he really loves her. Azais tells Pierre his father is a rich European businessman. Pierre finds Azais drinking with Joanna's father, who tells Pierre Joanna needs money; drunk, he is killed by a train. Pierre wants to marry Joanna, but she plans to marry Elmer Croy. Pierre gives her money for the baby.

Henry Mueller (Hobart Cavanaugh) tells Pierre they could open a bicycle shop if Pierre gets $300. Joanna's aunt introduces Leah (Florence Eldridge) to Pierre. Pierre visits his child, but Joanna won't see him. Pierre borrows $300 from Leah and starts the bicycle business with Mueller, who soon builds an automobile. Homer Flint (Arthur Hohl) offers to buy the car. Leah calls on Azais for a psychic reading and is told she can't hold the younger man who is ambitious. Azais pities her and says Pierre is a new person. Pierre tells Leah he is an American citizen - Paul Rader, and he pays his debt to her. Leah realizes their relationship is over. Mueller tells Paul he is leaving the car factory.

Paul goes out with Flint's daughter Hazel (Dorothy Burgess) and while driving a car asks her to marry him. Little Pierre Croy asks to carry Paul's golf clubs, and Paul gives his son money. Paul tells Hazel he is working late; she is unhappy. At his office Paul tells Joanna that he wants to help Pierre and see him. Paul tells Flint they should go into munitions, and they do from 1914 to 1918. Paul takes Pierre on a train to school. Paul meets Claire Benson (Verree Teasdale) and invests in stock. Pierre thanks Paul for the new car. Flint warns Paul he is being taken in by a crooked Wall Street trader. Paul tells Pierre he is his father and warns him about drinking.

Paul goes to New York to see Claire. Hazel breaks into his desk and finds letters to Pierre and Paul's will leaving all his property to his son. Claire tells Paul he cost her $70,000, and the stock trader is gone. Paul learns that Pierre died in a car accident. He finds his desk open and tells Hazel he never wants to see her again. Paul recalls how he has been rejected. He visits Azais and says it is all gone. She tells him now he knows what is real. Paul says, "Maybe someday I'll be worthy of you."

This modern parable of the ambitious businessman, whose drive to success allows little time for meaningful relationships, spans the first third of the 20th century. Has he or the audience learned from his failures?

MADEMOISELLE DOCTEUR

aka:  Street of Shadows, or Spies from Salonika

France (96 mi)  1937 
 

Time Out review

A lunatic with a craving for melons accidentally strays into a den of spies. The ensuing encounter is hilarious, prototype Pinter. But it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie (WWI, glamorous German spy, handsome French officer, background of minarets, sweaty cabarets, danger under every fez), and you can appreciate the dismay of '30s cinephiles, finding that the great socialist-humanist Pabst had turned to such 'meaningless' melodrama. In any case, Pabst - glum, unromantic - was clearly miscast as director, and the result is a hodgepodge, redeemed by odd flashes of brilliance, like the melon scene. Parlo, fine as the bedraggled bride in L'Atalante, lacks the requisite Dietrich blend of insolence and melancholy, while the movie's finale is so perfunctory as to suggest production problems.

User comments  from imdb Author: writers_reign from London, England

In some ways this anticipates Welles' Mr. Arkadin inasmuch as it is an uneven film crammed with brilliant performers, directed by an acknowledged master with a plot verging on the bizarre. Welles, of course didn't need much help with screenplays - if we exclude Citizen Kane - yet Pabst had three on the payroll two of whom, the exotic named Irma von Cube and Jacques Natanson, had some tasty credits; von Cube had worked on both Mayerling and Johnny Belinda whilst Natanson worked on Max Ophuls final films, La Ronde, Le Plaisir and Lola Montes yet none of these was remotely like Salonika - Nest Of Spies which moves from Paris to Berne to Salonika in the first two reels setting up encounters between top-billed Dita Parlo and the likes of Louis Jouvet, Viviane Romance, Pierre Fresnay, Jean-Pierre Barrault, Gaston Modot, Pierre Blancheur and Charles Dullin among others. Some are little more than cameos, as in the case of Barrault, a lunatic who manages to intrigue via a schtick with a melon; Louis Jouvet seems to be anticipating Akim Tamiroff in For Whom The Bell Tolls - on the other hand Pepe Le Moko was released about the same time so maybe someone figured Jouvet would make a passable Arab/gypsy fortune teller. For good measure Viviane Romance throws in an emotive song and a good, if slightly puzzling time is had by all. This is a film of moments rather than a whole but definitely worth seeing.

User comments  from imdb Author: dbdumonteil

It belongs to the French period of GW Pabst's career. The director had an international cast at his disposal: his fellow countrywoman Dita Parlo - who starred at the same time in Renoir's "La Grande Illusion" - and the creme de la creme of French actors: Louis Jouvet, Pierre Fresnay, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Blanchar and the bad gal Vivianne Romance.

It's a -rather confusing- spy thriller: Spy Parlo is in Thessalonique, Greece, at the end of WW1. Bulgaria is said to negotiate a separate peace agreement with the allies. But as everybody knows, prepare for peace if you wish to have war and as the other title reads, there are plenty of spies in the place.

The plot is muddled and hard to catch up with. Some scenes are memorable, no matter the connection they have with the desultory story.

-Jean-Louis Barrault, in a one-scene performance, buying a melon; the audience thinks there's something hidden in his purchase, but there isn't: he is as mad as a hatter.

-Vivianne Romance's song on a stage "Qu'en pensez-vous? "; the same's death in Jouvet's shop, a model of film noir scene, with the melons rolling on the ground.

-Parlo's tapping the consul's phone.

-the final car chase.

In my copy the movie ends with Parlo's car burning. But there is a different conclusion in other copies: Parlo escapes unscathed but suffers from amnesia.

Like this? try these.....

Marthe Richard, Au Service de La France, Raymond Bernard 1937

Dishonored, Joseph Von Sternberg 1931

Mata Hari, Agent H21, Jean-Louis Richard 1964 (screenplay and dialog by Truffault)

THE SHANGHAI DRAMA (Le Drame de Shanghaï)

France  (105 mi)  1938

User comments  from imdb Author: writers_reign from London, England

Henri Jeanson had worked with Louis Jouvet on Hotel du Nord and that's a masterpiece whichever way you slice it so adding Pabst to the mix in that same year (1938) should have been a shoo-in but alas, the best-laid schemes ... It's probably fair to say that Jeanson and Pabst expect the viewer to be fully up to speed on the political situation that obtained in Shanghai at the time and not only do they fail to make the audience au fait but they also waste a lot of footage on a mother crooning to a child and tend to go overboard in the last reel with the visual equivalent of We Shall Overcome filling the frame. Not a turkey but it still falls a little short of being a contender - about from here to Macao short.

User comments  from imdb Author: dbdumonteil

This is a very complicated story and the viewer - not familiar with the situation in China at the time - may sometimes feel lost. The first thirty minutes reveal an average script, which is going all over the place: a chanteuse who sings a little song every five minutes, her daughter in a fitting boarding-school (Gabrielle Dorziat as the headmistress, a three-minute part), a people hero, Tchang, a French journalist, an organization, the "black dragon," this is really a Shanghai mixture.

In fact, this is as far-fetched as "Fraulein Doctor" aka "Salonique Nid d'Espions" which Pabst made two years before .What saves this film is the cast (Louis Jouvet, Raymond Rouleau) Some of Henri Jeanson's lines ("compared to our passports, the true ones look false!" "why didn't you do that fifteen years ago?" (kill me) are up to scratch; Pabst 's directing is sometimes excellent: the free-for-all in the night club; the bloody passport bullets went through; and most of all, the death of Kay in the jubilant crowd.

GIRLS IN DISTRESS (Jeunes filles en détresse)

France  (90 mi)  1938

 

Jeunes Filles En Detresse > Overview - AllMovie  Hal Erickson

Jeune Filles en Detresse (Young Girls in Distress) was director G. W. Pabst's last French production before his (ill-timed) return to Nazi-occupied Austria in 1941. Somewhat reminiscent of Maedchen in Uniform, the story is set in a private girl's school, populated almost exclusively by children from broken homes. Among the few students who can claim family stability is Micheline Presle, but even her happiness is threatened when her lawyer father Andre Luguet inaugurates an affair with stage actress Jacqueline Debulac. With the help of Debulac's daughter Louisa Carletti, Presle is able to break up her father's romance and deliver him into the open arms of her mother Marcelle Chantal. On the whole, the performance by the younger cast members are more convincing than those rendered by the film's so-called adults.

Girls in Distress - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

THE COMEDIANS (Komödianten)

Germany  (111 mi)  1941

 

All Movie Guide [Hans J. Wollstein]

Although she is known as a patron of the arts, a graceful duchess nevertheless refuses her nephew to marry an enterprising actress in this German melodrama starring Kathe Dorsch and silent screen legend Henny Porten. When Philine (Hilde Krahl), the troupe's ingénue, is rejected as proper marital material by the Duchess of Weissenfels (Porten), Karoline Neuber (Dorsch) creates such a furor that she is banished from the country. A performance at the court at St. Petersburg also ends in disaster for the unhappy actress and abandoned by all, Karoline dies a suicide.

PARACELSUS

Germany  (104 mi)  1943

User comments  from imdb Author: MAK-4

G. W. (PANDORA'S BOX) Pabst's celebratory film about the "revolutionary" 16th century German philosopher/doctor (known as Paracelsus and actually born in Switzerland) holds more than just historical interest as a Nazi approved subject. Though Pabst's sound films never achieved the prominence of his silent work, this is a well produced biopic with real surprises, especially when Paracelsus gives credit to Gypsy (!) folk remedies or when an Expressionist dance number symbolizes the entry of the plague (St. Vitus' Dance) into the closed town. Suddenly we're in Powell/Pressburger territory. Often obvious and slow, but certainly worth investigation, and not all that different from similar Hollywood produced biopics on ZOLA and LOUIS PASTEUR by director William (Wilhelm) Dieterle, a former colleague from Pabst's early UFA days. In fact, Dieterle's 1939 HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME has many visual and thematic similarities. The romantic subplot, straight out of Die Meistersinger, only adds to the usual discomfort of watching a Goebbels approved Nazi era production.

The New York Times (Vincent Canby) review

"Paracelsus," which was shown at the First Avenue Screening Room last Sunday and will be repeated there at noon and midnight today and tomorrow, is a very special footnote to film and political history. Never before released in New York, it is the second film made by the great, supposedly left-wing German director, G. W. Pabst, after he returned to Nazi Germany just in time for World War II.

Pabst, who died at the age of 82 in 1967, is a fascinating character, known as "the red Pabst" (Papst means pope in German) until he went back to Hitler's new German empire. His best films, including the silent "Joyless Street" with Greta Garbo and "The Threepenny Opera" (1931), are rather uproarious amalgams of stark realism, wild melodrama and pure poetry. Lots of elements in his films look dated today but also there is usually, something that looks totally new and surprising.

"Paracelsus," considering when it was made (1943) and under what conditions, is a remarkably interesting film, though full of not especially well disguised propaganda. It's the story of Paracelsus, the 16th-century Swiss healer whose reputation took on a new vogue in the Germany of the early nineteen-forties. Nazi writers and intellectuals began to attribute all sorts of Nazi ideals to the mystic healer who had been ridiculed and oppressed for choosing to write in German instead of Latin and who had challenged the authority of vested (feudal) interests.

With the exception of Werner Krauss, who plays Paracelsus as a sort of medieval Dr. Gillespie, crusty but kind, the acting is operatic. The screenplay is full of noble opinions about the German character and its ability to triumph over the ignorance of its enemies.

The physical production, however, is astonishingly handsome. In addition, the movie contains one of Pabst's most magical scenes, in which Death, in the person of a juggler, enters a town in the siege of plague and invites the citizens to join him in a celebratory dance. Realism moves into fantasy (and back again) with less awkwardness than most other directors display when making a simple cut between two scenes in the same style.

A further footnote to this footnote to history: after the war, Pabst went on to make other films, including "The Trial" (1949), about anti-Semitism in Hungary in 1882, but Werner Krauss was blacklisted, largely for his participation in the notorious "Jud Süiss."

THE TRIAL (Der Prozeß)

Austria  (108 mi)  1948

User comments  from imdb Author: solymosi from Berlin, Germany

A well known historical fact among older people in Hungary: Poor maidservant Esther Solymosi commits suicide for hopeless love. The local Jewish community has been accused for murdering her. They fight for righteousness in a long court process. Enlightened politician Dr. Karoly Eötwös triumphs over prejudice and racism. The black and white movie is some long and boring. However, for viewers knowing or interested in society of their grandparents it is an excellent presentation of how they lived and thought. Especially it shows the old roots of antisemitism in Eastern Europe resulting in most terrible crime of history: holocaust.

TV Guide

After having made two films for the Nazis during World War II, the great G.W. Pabst seemed to be in need of a way to redeem himself. By the standards of what Pabst was capable, this is a mediocre condemnation of anti-Semitism. Set in the late 19th century, the story concerns the trial of several Hungarian Jews for the murder of a young girl who actually committed suicide. A famous lawyer takes up the case on the basis of religious freedom for all people, and does a good enough job of proving his points to win a verdict of innocent. Though Pabst was still a very capable filmmaker at this point in his career, he seemed to let sentimentalism get the better of him in several sequences in this picture. Part of the service in the synagog is sung by famous Hungarian cantor Ladislaus Morgenstern.

VOICE OF SILENCE (La voce del silenzio)

France  Italy  (110 mi)  1953

User comments  from imdb Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta

Another aspect of my Catholic upbringing that I recall from my childhood days are Lenten Services which, apart from this obscure Italian movie emanating from the twilight years of the great German director G. W. Pabst, I do not think I have really ever seen dealt with in the cinema. For the uninitiated, Ash Wednesday inaugurates a period of solemnity, penance and contemplation for devout Christians all around the world that effectively ends on Easter Sunday. During this time, one is expected to give up on some of his daily cravings especially for sweets and dessert – equivalent to the 40 days of fasting that Jesus Christ spent in the desert by himself. Likewise, Christians are called to Church for special meetings called Lenten Services – that are generally sorted by category: married couples, singles, senior citizens, professionals, religious societies, social clubs, etc. – in which they reflect on The Gospel and how it applies to the world today. Well, VOICE OF SILENCE brings together several Italians to one such meeting for professionals presided over by an elderly priest (Eduardo Ciannelli): politician Jean Marais, candle manufacturer Aldo Fabrizi, former soldier Daniel Gelin, a pulp novelist and even a thief! Gradually, we come to realize that each member of the congregation has his own personal demon to confront – Marais cannot bring himself to forget (or forgive) that one of his sabotage missions while with the Resistance caused the death of 3 innocent civilian bystanders; Fabrizi's trade is being threatened by a loss in demand due to the introduction of synthetic candles; Gelin is not only tubercular but, having been given up for dead, cannot bear the humiliation of seeing his former wife walking around the streets of Rome with her new husband and their kids; the novelist sets out to write the Great Italian Novel but, begrudgingly and on the advise of his Macchiavellian agent (Paolo Stoppa), countered continual rejection by selling himself short and give the common people the lurid reading material they seemed to hunger for, and so on. Within the Church walls themselves, a young priest is having a faith crisis and is almost on the point of quitting his calling before fate intervenes in the film's closing sequence. As usual, the rotund, bug-eyed Fabrizi can be relied upon to provide fleeting moments of hilarity as he forms an unlikely alliance with the thief, in an attempt to come out on top of his particular dilemma – despite the imposition of enjoying no contact with the outside world throughout the duration of the Services. In his first of two films that he made in Italy, Pabst has (for the most part) understandably relinquished the visual stylistics that had made him a force to be reckoned with during the Silent/early Talkie era but, while perhaps being a minor work within his distinguished canon, VOICE OF SILENCE is still sufficiently well-acted, sensitively handled and altogether unusual to make it a satisfactory viewing.

THE CONFESSION OF INA KAHR (Das Bekenntnis der Ina Kahr)

aka:  Afraid to Love

Germany  (111 mi)  1954                       U.S. version (95 mi) 
 

The New York Times review  H.H.T.

WATCHING Elisabeth Mueller and Curt Jurgens in the German drama "The Confession of Ina Kahr" it's easy to see why the professional orbits of these two Continental screen toasts are widening. The lovely, gazelle-like actress sandwiched in one effective Hollywood stint, "The Power and the Prize," last season, while the strapping, strong-faced Mr. Jurgens emerged only the other day in the American-made "The Enemy Below." No wonder these two performers are in demand both here and at home.

However, in their homemade Omega Production, which opened yesterday at the Seventy-second Street Playhouse, they are personably wasting their time, and to be blunt, the audience's. Although this Sam Baker Associates release bears the trade-mark of the distinguished director, G. W. Pabst, it remains a carefully wrought soap opera of an ill-fated marriage — handsome, static and curiously unmoving. For all its taste and classy trimmings, some of the swankiest modernistic interiors ever used in a German film, the import is as pretentious as the very title.

At the outset, Miss Mueller, as a self-styled murderer, sits in a prison's death row, with sealed lips. Rather belatedly, she "confesses," and the flashbacks begin. The daughter of a scientist, she has married a frank ne'er-do-well, Mr. Jurgens, apparently expecting him to change completely. Unable to take a lengthy parade of mistresses, she finally poisons him. (Or did she really mean to? This remains fuzzy.)

As a marital study, if that's the basic intention, Mr. Pabst has carefully arranged a series of handsomely photographed vignettes, literally right off a stage, as the couple continually quarrel, separate and reaffirm their love. It's hard to swallow the aggressive naïveté of Miss Mueller (even with those beautiful eyes), so resoundingly warned about her loved one's philandering, and with a solid year's engagement, mind you, to get an inkling herself. Our hero is this kind of guy—a man who jovially tells his wife he won't leave other women alone but probably would kill her for misbehavior.

By a miracle of talent, Miss Mueller and Mr. Jurgens are, again, personable, if not especially compelling in their thankless roles. So are Arno Ebert, Albert Livien, Ingmar Zeisberg and others, on the sidelines. Incidentally, by another miracle, the "despair" of Miss Mueller's "confession" allots her a six-month sentence instead of execution.

One thing would have been of immense help to Mr. Pabst's stately superficiality, to the scenario written by Erna Fentsch, and certainly to that marriage. If only Miss Mueller had limbered up and crowned Mr. Jurgens with the nearest frying pan.

THE LAST TEN DAYS (Der letzte Akt)

Germany  Austria  (113 mi)  1955          German version (95 mi)

User comments  from imdb Author: tils4 from United States

Made only ten years after the actual events, and set in the Bunker under the Reichstag, Pabst's film is wholly gripping. It reeks of sulfurous death awaiting the perpetrators of world war. Haven't seen this in over three decades, but it remains strong in my visual and emotional memory. The characters seem to be waiting to be walled up in their cave. Searing bit of dialog between two Generals: "Does God exist?" "If He did, we wouldn't." Shame this is not more readily available for exhibition or purchase because it would be interesting to view and compare this film with the documentary about Traudl Junge, "Im Toten Winkel" {aka "Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary") and "Downfall" with Bruno Ganz.

User comments  from imdb Author: johnclark-1 from Hollywood, United States

I saw this obscure German film in Toronto in 1956, my first exposure to Oskar Werner. A "sleeper" of a movie for me, but so long ago and it seems never to be seen again. The topic has been treated many times but never, I think, to such effect. The last days in the bunker are entirely through the wondering subjective eyes of Werner, as Captain Wuest, a rather unimportant guardsman. Hitler and his henchmen are always kept at a distance, the way Wuest views them from his station, and what stands out in my memory is the finale of a drunken champagne party as though in celebration of something, but in reality as their means to forget the impending doom looming ahead as the Russians can be heard closing in. The problem with films portraying famous or infamous people is that they are almost always unbelievable because we are unwilling to suspend our disbelief, aware that they are actors up there trying to imitate the unknowable. Here, at least for the English speaking audience, the problem does not arise, we understand only through subtitles, and we hear the characters speaking in their own language. And, thank God, it is in black and white. The impact of the film stays with me still, and of course, Werner was a major revelation.

User comments  from imdb Author: ustase from United States

Since most review's of this film are of screening's seen decade's ago I'd like to add a more recent one, the film open's with stock footage of B-17's bombing Germany, the film cut's to Oskar Werner's Hauptmann (captain) Wust character and his aide running for cover while making their way to Hitler's Fuehrer Bunker, once inside, they are debriefed by bunker staff personnel, the film then cut's to one of many conference scene's with Albin Skoda giving a decent impression of Adolf Hitler rallying his officer's to "Ultimate Victory" while Werner's character is shown as slowly coming to realize the bunker denizen's are caught up in a fantasy world-some non-bunker event's are depicted, most notable being the flooding of the subway system to prevent a Russian advance through them and a minor subplot involving a young member of the Flak unit's and his family's difficulty in surviving-this film suffer's from a number of detail inaccuracies that a German film made only 10 year's after WW2 should not have included; the actor portraying Goebbels (Willy Krause) wear's the same uniform as Hitler, including arm eagle- Goebbels wore a brown Nazi Party uniform with swastika armband-the "SS" soldier's wear German army camouflage, the well documented scene of Hitler awarding the iron cross to boy's of the Hitler Youth is shown as having taken place INSIDE the bunker (it was done outside in the courtyard) and lastly, Hitler's suicide weapon is clearly shown as a Belgian browning model 1922-most account's agree it was a Walther PPK-some bit's of acting also seem wholly inaccurate with the drunken dance scene near the end of the film being notable, this bit is shown as a cabaret skit, with a intoxicated wounded soldier (his arm in a splint) maniacally goose-stepping to music while a nurse does a combination striptease/belly dance, all by candlelight... this is actually embarrassing to watch-the most incredible bit is when Werner's Captain Wust gain's an audience alone with Skoda's Hitler, Hitler is shown as slumped on a wall bench, drugged and delirious, when Werner's character begin's to question him, Hitler start's screaming which bring's in a SS guard who mortally wound's Werner's character in the back with a gunshot-this fabricated scene is not based on any true historic account-Werner's character is then hauled off to die in a anteroom while Hitler prepare's his own ending, Hitler's farewell to his staff is shown but the suicide is off-screen, the final second's of the movie show Hitler's funeral pyre smoke slowly forming into a ghostly image of the face of the dead Oskar Werner/Hauptmann Wust-this film is more allegorical than historical and anyone interested in this period would do better to check out more recent film's such as the 1973 remake "Hitler: the last 10 day's" or the German film "Downfall" (Der Untergang) if they wish a more true accounting of this dramatic story, these last two film's are based on first person eyewitness account's, with "Hitler: the last 10 day's" being compiled from Gerhard Boldt's autobiography as a staff officer in the Fuehrer Bunker and "Downfall" being done from Hitler's secretary's recollection's, the screen play for "Der Letzte Akte" is taken from American Nuremberg war crime's trial judge Michael Musmanno's book "Ten day's to die", which is more a compilation of event's (many obviously fanciful) than eyewitness history-it is surprising that Hugh Trevor Roper's account,"The last day's of Hitler" was never made into a film.

The New York Times (Bosley Crowther) review

WHAT amounts to a graphic speculation on the way Adolf Hitler died and the events that took place in his famous bunker under the Berlin Reichschancellory during the few days before the end is put forth in the German-language picture "The Last Ten Days," which had its American première at the World yesterday.

It is not a pleasant picture, nor is it a particularly significant or edifying one, as written by Erich Maria Remarque and directed by the German veteran, G. W. Pabst. It is based upon research assembled in M. A. Musmanno's book "Ten Days to Die," and it conveys no information or speculation that has not already been fully publicized.

Hitler, played by Albin Skoda, alternately flames with wild-eyed hope or flares into fits of screaming fury, while his staff generals languish, paralyzed, and the various smaller people in the bunker fearfully or fatalistically await their doom. There is a great deal of military detail about the final deterioration and collapse of the armies and the Luftwaffe, which probably absorbed German audiences when the picture was shown there, but is technical and tiresome here. And there is less than might be fascinating about Hitler's mistress, Eva Braun.

What there is of sympathy in the drama mainly centers on a young captain, played by Oskar Werner, who is a courier from one of the hard-pressed army corps. He arrives at the bunker to try to get the Fuehrer to dispatch reinforcements to the corps, and he waits in despair and frustration to witness the macabre goings-on.

As played by the blond Herr Werner, who will be remembered from the American film "Decision Before Dawn," in which he appeared as a young Nazi turncoat in the last year of World War II, this captain is a decent, rational fellow. He contrasts sharply to the obvious maniac and the frightened or cynical professional soldiers who swill brandy and bootlick to him. It is evident that this character is included to symbolize the decent Germans who were drawn along by Hitler and had to suffer his Goetterdaemmerung.

There is, to be sure, some grim excitement about a few events toward the end of the film. The representation of the flooding of the Berlin subway at Hitler's lunatic command, even though it was full of civilians and wounded soldiers in hospital cars, makes a vivid, violent sequence. And a scene of an orgy in the bunker on the night that Hitler died, with one nurse doing a lurid danse macabre, is a weird and delirious thing.

The actors are all quite effective, even though Herr Skoda's role requires him to chew the scenery in pretty hammy but probably accurate style. Lotte Tobisch makes a placid, passive Eva; Herr Werner plays the captain handsomely, and Willy Krause looks and acts Joseph Goebbels so completely that it might be he. Erik Frey and Herbert Herbe are also excellent in one conversational scene as Generals Burgdorf and Krebs. Their dismal discourse is hauntingly staged by Herr Pabst.

But for all its ironic contemplation, this is a pretty late and profitless account of an episode in history that can gratify only the morbid now.

There are, of course, English subtitles for the German dialogue.

JACKBOOT MUTINY (Es geschah am 20. Juli)

aka:  It Happened on July 20th

Germany  (75 mi)  1955

 

NY Times: Jackboot Mutiny  Hal Erickson from All Movie Guide

Two films concerning the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Adolph Hitler were released in Germany within the same week. The second to arrive on the scene was G. W. Pabst's Es Gescham am 20 Juli. Actor/director Bernhard Wicki heads the cast as Oberst Graf Von Staufenberg, the prime mover of the assassination conspiracy. The reasons for Von Staufenberg's actions are never fully articulated; the film is more concerned with the mechanics of the plot and the placing of the bomb. Though Hitler never appears in Es Gescham am 20 Juli, Joseph Goebbels does, by way of newsreel footage; cleverly, director Pabst allows Goebbels to betray himself as the jabbering lunatic and craven coward that he really was.

User comments  from imdb Author: kirksworks from Marin County, California

This is G. W. Pabst's version of the Valkyrie story. I wanted to see it after seeing the Tom Cruise version and amazingly, Pabst film is identical on a beat per beat basis, so much so that my wife asked if Bryan Singer, who directed the Tom Cruise version, had seen this film. Yet, "It Happened on July 20th" is very different in other ways. It starts right before the Valkyrie plot begins, rather than show the failed attempts on Hitler in advance and the blast that disfigured Stauffenberg. The Pabst film is fast paced, very tight, only 75 minutes and the focus is on the event, less so Stauffenberg. Yet Stauffenberg takes center stage when he delivers the briefcase with the explosive and it is quite exciting. I have to say I liked this film very much even though it's not as emotional an experience as the new film. The Pabst film felt more authentic in that it was shot only 11 years after the actual event, was shot Germany in black and white so they could blend in archival footage, and of course the fact that everyone was speaking their native German language gave it an authenticity that the new film could never have. It seems both films followed the known facts very closely. I noticed actually no major differences other than some embellishments added for excitement in the new film. "It Happened on July 20th" is worth a look both for comparison purposes and just as a well made film on its own.

User comments  from imdb Author: vandino1 from United States

This is one of famed director Pabst's final films and is available under the title "Jackboot Mutiny" although it is actually titled "It Happened on July 20th." Anyway, as a film it is more or less a docudrama, with little characterization or style. It looks like it could've been directed by any hack, much less the renown G.W. Pabst. Expect nothing stylish or atmospheric, cinematically, but do expect an expert re-telling of the events that unfolded on that day that a cabal of German officers attempted to kill Hitler and end the war. I've checked the details the film includes and they are right on the money. Much of the dialogue is lifted straight from historical records and there are no fictional characters added. The actor playing Goebbels looks much like him and the film intelligently dispenses with presenting an on-camera Hitler, therefore eliminating the obvious distraction. Wicki plays the true-life hero Stauffenberg and is excellent. An interesting opportunity to see one of Germany's most capable post-WW2 directors acting for a change (Wicki directed the outstanding film 'The Bridge' and also helmed the German sections of 'The Longest Day.') The weaknesses of this film include the lack of suspense and hysteria inherent in the enterprise of killing Hitler and trying to take over the German state. That's a heck of a story and it is told honestly, but without any dramatic oomph. It is also confusing, and with a running time of only 74 minutes, it certainly could have spent a little extra time sorting some things out. As it is, you can't make out at times who is who and doing what. That may be historically accurate but it is unhelpful to a viewer walking in on this story. Still, as a piece of history it is educational and, as I mentioned before it is a rather short film, so it moves very fast without a single slow moment.

Inglourious Basterds; Jackboot Mutiny « Louis Proyect: The ...  Finding Pabst in Tarantino, Louis Proyect:  The Unrepentant Marxist, October 25, 2009

 

Jack Boot Mutiny: The July 20th, 1944 Bomb Plot To Assasinate ...   International Historic Films

 

Jackboot Mutiny (1955)  Vernon Johns synopsis

 

VHS : Jackboot Mutiny [VHS]  American Poems

 

Jackboot Mutiny - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Pacscovszky, József

 

THE DAYS OF DESIRE (A vágyakozás napjai)                      B                     88

Hungary  (104 mi) 

 

In true Hungarian fashion, this is a broodingly sad and depressing tale that offers brief spurts of hope before growing more morbidly bleak, gorgeously shot on Black and White film by cinematographer Sándor Kardos, which almost feels like a throwback to a 60’s era film, especially with the prominent use of a muted female character, giving her the elevated stature of an idiot savant, like a similar character used in Tarkovsky’s ANDREI RUBLEV (1966), or like Balthazar in Bresson’s AU HASARD BALTHAZAR (1966), where the brutality inflicted upon them is an examination of human cruelty through the silent suffering of the character.  Anna (Orsolya Schefcsik) certainly represents a state of grace while all around her self-interested humans reveal themselves to be miserable and wretched creatures.  Shot along the riverbanks of the Danube River in the outskirts of Budapest, Anna, a young orphaned teenager, answers an ad, scribbling on a piece of paper, “I’m dumb, but I hear everything” for her prospective new boss, hoping to become the live-in maid and housekeeper of a self-centered yet eccentric wealthy woman, Angéla (Catherine Wilkening), a Lena Olin look-alike who lives in an enormous home with a window overlooking the landscape of the city, who hires her at once as her home is in a state of complete disarray.  Her character is distinguished by bringing a different man home every night until her husband Zoltán (Zsolt László) returns home, an eye surgeon who has recently lost his license due to an unfortunate incident.  

 

With her husband home, Angéla settles down into a more normal routine, where the two of them become loving parents, acknowledging the loss of their teenage daughter in a recent car accident, bestowing upon Anna all the love they once felt for their own daughter.  Both the husband and wife share personal moments of grief with Anna, who listens silently and attentively with her huge, expressive eyes, where the damaged couple can’t speak to one another about the tragedy but they can pour out their hearts to Anna, actually rebuilding their broken lives around her.  When a young boy in the grocery store, Miklós (Ákos Orosz), takes an interest in her, introducing her to his own mother, the couple lavishes her with attention, where Angéla is happy to take her shopping and buy her new clothes, creating a fantasy of family harmony.  But when Anna actually grows fond of this young boy, the wealthy couple suddenly loses interest in sharing her with outsiders, preferring to keep her all to themselves, like a prized pet.  The momentary bliss is shatterered when Angéla loses her job for refusing to respond to her boss’s sexual advances and Zoltán starts drinking heavily again, where their true colors reveal a wretchedly miserable couple who have only contempt for themselves and anyone else around them, eventually turning on Anna as well, her relationship with the young boy destroyed by the couple’s cruelty, leaving Anna alone, left adrift in a hopeless society.   

 

New Hungarian Film - European Film Festival - Palic 2010

Anna is a young woman who cannot speak and drifts from one odd job to another. She is hired to serve as a housekeeper for a wealthy young couple. They are struggling with the recent death of their only child, and as they come to terms with their pain Anna becomes a well-loved member of the family and also a surrogate for the child they lost. But the couple's affection for Anna is tested when she falls for a young man and they now have a rival for her attentions.

Padilha, José
 
BUS 174                                                        A-                    94
Brazil  (150 mi)  2003  co-director:  Felipe Lacerda       U.S. version (122 mi)  

 

Remarkably intense juxtaposition of multiple viewpoints examining a real-life incident, the armed hijacking of a bus on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, broadcast live, captured while in progress for some 5 hours on Brazilian television 06-12-2000.  Oddly, the police failed to cordon off the area, so anyone, including TV cameras, could simply walk up to the side of the bus and get a closer look, sometimes carrying on a conversation with the hijacker or some of the hostages.  While the actual events were riveting enough, the filmmaker simultaneously creates a compelling biography of the lone hijacker, a 20 year old street kid who had been living on his own since age 6, adding interviews with family, friends, journalists, police, even several of the hostages themselves.  Painting a sympathetic and detailed picture of the social plight of the poor, as if Brazilians themselves were somehow responsible for this incident, what stood out for me was a look at the inept and barbaric prison system which routinely brutalizes inmates, particularly poor inmates, including a stunning sequence where the cameras actually enter one horrific prison with inmates stacked on top of one another, where they are photographed in negative imagery, appearing as deadly ghosts of what were once humans.  This seemed to be the heart of the film, as if you treat people like dogs, then you're no better than a dog yourself.  No easy answers here, all the loose ends don't come together nicely at the end, instead it's a well-constructed, deeply provocative documentary that keeps the juices flowing throughout the entire ordeal. 

 

Bus 174  Ed Gonzalez from Slant magazine

 

José Padilha's taut, elegantly structured Bus 174 is essentially a chronicle of a death foretold. In the summer of 2000, Sandro do Nascimento hijacked a Rio de Janeiro commuter bus, holding its occupants hostage. When the city's incompetent police forces couldn't secure the area around the bus, a media blitzkrieg ensued and millions of Brazilians watched as the hostage situation unraveled on their televisions. Combining taking-heads interviews of people who knew Sandro over the years along with up-close-and-personal footage of the melodrama he orchestrated, Padilha sheds light on numerous social catastrophes and hypocrisies plaguing Rio de Janeiro and the incestuous, complex relationship between real life and reality television. Padilha clearly sympathizes with Sandro, repeatedly summoning the brutal death of his mother when he was a young boy throughout the documentary. With every mention of her name, the details of her death become more lucid. This almost novelistic decision further heightens the tension of his crime, and the audience's awareness of the horrors that plagued Sandro's young life grows in proportion with our certainty that the hostage situation can only lead to his slaughter. Padilha is critical of the miscommunication between SWAT team officers assigned to negotiate with Sandro, and though this voyeuristic work exposes the abuse of Brazil's underprivileged at the hands of the authority figures that are supposed to protect them, it also contemplates the strange allure of reality television. The great tragedy of the Sandro's life was that he was invisible (that he had "nothing to lose"), and Bus 174 details how he sought to validate this nothingness by casting himself in his very own action movie. What with all the references made to American films, it's as if Padilha is daring us to mistake the events of that summer day with something concocted by Hollywood studio execs. When one of Sandro's hostages has to scribble notes on the bus's windows using her lipstick, it's like a scene out of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. But, make no mistake: this is reality.

 

BUS 174  Steve Erickson from Chronicle of a Passion (link lost):

Most Hollywood screenwriters would give their right arm to write a thriller as taut and gripping as the Brazilian documentary “Bus 174.”

Documentaries tend to live and die according to the interest one brings to the subject matter. All too many filmmakers think they simply need to point the camera at someone, shoot hour upon hour of footage, and then magically discover something revelatory in the editing room. The magic usually fails, producing something shapeless and artless.

In contrast, director Jose Padilha put a great deal of thought into his film’s look and structure. He may be the only documentarian ever to kick off his film with a helicopter shot.

On June 12, 2000, Sandro de Nascimento took a bus hostage in Rio de Janeiro. He said that he would start killing its passengers at 6 p.m. if the police didn’t give him a hand grenade and rifle. Padilha had access to plenty of footage of the crime scene, captured in real time by the news media. The narrative of “Bus 174” alternates between the hijacking and an exploration of Sandro’s past.

Sandro suffered a childhood from hell. He never knew his father. His mother, pregnant at the time, was murdered in front of him. Afterwards, he became shy and introverted. He joined a gang of homeless street kids. Witnessing a massacre of his friends, he became even more embittered. He got addicted to sniffing glue and cocaine, and was probably on a coke binge when he hijacked the bus. In 1996, he was sent to reform school, and two years later, received a three-year jail sentence for robbery but escaped on New Year’s Day, 1999.

While most TV news coverage stresses violent drama over the root causes of social problems, “Bus 174” strives to see Sandro’s crime in the broadest possible context. The opening helicopter shots introduce this larger perspective, beginning at the beautiful, inviting coast, but moving on to the teeming slums of Rio, where every square inch not covered by a tree is occupied by a house, before ending up in the less densely populated business district.

Padilha’s wide focus is all the more essential against the context of the hijacking’s news footage itself. It was a chaotic affair, with Sandro and his hostages shouting out the window. One hostage paints Sandro’s death threat on the bus window with lipstick. The captives readily comply with his instructions to behave as histrionically as possible, while he periodically screams at cops.

The police have no idea how to handle the situation. An ex-SWAT team commander tells Padilha that the Rio police force is mostly made up of long-term slackers who can’t find any other jobs. They’re badly prepared for such a crisis. The police chief forbids them to shoot Sandro in the bus, although several cops claim that it could be done safety.

On a moment–to–moment basis, it’s difficult to figure out exactly what’s going on. If anything, Padilha heightens this confusion. When he uses slow motion and overhead shots in the finale—a resolution to the crisis that made little sense even to those carrying it out—the advantages of Padilha’s storytelling technique are obvious.

Rather than depict the hijacking simply as a bizarre true story—as Sidney Lumet did to darkly comic effect in “Dog Day Afternoon”—Padilha passes judgment on society at large for failing Sandro. He places particular blame on the police and jails. Marginalization turns street kids, most of whom are black, although the film doesn’t emphasize this point, into petty criminals. The penal system’s brutality returns their violence in kind, making them angrier and even more likely to resort to murder and robbery.

On the most superficial level, Sandro’s hijacking is never fully explained; on a deeper one, it feels like a desperate attempt to make a mark on a world that detested him.

Conservative viewers are likely to get fed up with Padilha’s sympathy for Sandro. Undeniably, there’s something a bit too deterministic about the film’s worldview, especially its conviction that Sandro’s decline began with his mother’s death.

Nevertheless, Padilha builds a convincing case without suggesting any easy answers. His two tours through Rio jails are particularly horrifying. “Bus 174” manages to glean wide-ranging implications from one finite incident. The film should strike home for American viewers—homelessness, poverty, and racism are hardly confined to the slums of Rio.

Paes, Marie-Clémence and Raymond Rajaonarivelo

 

MAHALEO                                                    B-                    82

Madagasgar  Belgium  France  (102 mi)  2005

 

A musical documentary whose international premiere was in Chicago, which features throughout the entire film the music of one infamous musical group, Mahaleo, known for their honest lyrical portrayals and their easy to sing along melodies and harmonies, together for over thirty years, since 1972, just before the collapse of the Madagasgar colonial empire.  Shot with a relatively crude visual style that reveals colorful landscapes and unique foliage that stand out, as well as the bright and colorful look of the towns and villagers living in a sunny, near tropical climate, the filmmakers follow the men joke with one another and talk seriously about group decisions they must make. Despite being the most recognizable musical names in the country, where they are legendary pop musical figures, their songs dominating the radio airwaves, they each have their own lives and reflect a cross section of local society.  Several are local doctors, one is a surgeon, examining patients, performing surgery, routinely checking the daily shipment of incoming medicines, perscribing from what’s in stock, one is a sociologist, another is a member of Parliament, while still another represents community self-help groups, encouraging locals to improve their farming techniques or increase their water supply.  Through the changing political times, they have consistently remained at the center of a cultural optimism.  While revealing glimpses of life in Madagasgar, certainly unique from a cinematic perspective, the film leads to an outdoor concert performed before an extremely appreciative audience that crosses all age groups from young and old that mouths the words to every song, laughing and dancing, sometimes eating on the ground under the hot sun, but enjoying themselves in a very animated manner, sometimes hugging one another in groups, joking with local law enforcement, or just jumping up and down, it’s obvious the songs have had a great impact in these people’s lives.  The most memorable scenes for me were a car ride in the dark while a gentle guitar melody played that seemed to sway in rhythm of the night, and a concert song about growing up as an orphan and a hoodlum, fatherless, as his father died in political demonstrations, a street urchin, a hoodlum, still a son of the people, which played with teenage smiles all around that signified a great joy at the sound of hearing music that touched ordinary and common people, everyday kids who seemed to take heart in the sympathetic poetry of the lyrics.     

 

Pai Ching-jui

 

THE BRIDE AND I (Xin niang yu wo)

Taiwan  (101 mi)  1969  ‘Scope

 

 Doc Films  A Time for Freedom:  Taiwanese Filmmakers in Transition, essay by Edo S. Choi and Paola Iovene, Spring 2009 (excerpt)

 

Even a brief overview of Taiwan cinema in the second half of the 20th century must take into account its multilingual context. The majority of films produced in Taiwan in the 1950s and early 1960s were in Taiwan's native Southern Min language, and represented locally popular genres such as opera films and romantic comedies. By the 1960s Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party, the sole ruling party since its ousting from the Mainland by Mao Zeodong's Communist Party, was aggressively enforcing the teaching of Mandarin in schools and the use of Mandarin in cinema and other media. Launched by the state-owned Central Motion Pictures Corporation (CMPC), so-called ``healthy realism'' became the dominant genre. Mostly set in rural Taiwan, these films imagined a harmonious agrarian society, a vision which was often well-received by local audiences, but also represented the ideological whitewash of a repressive government.

 

Pressured by foreign competition, mostly from the Hong Kong industry, CMPC sought to diversify their production, experimenting with costume melodramas, comedies, and musicals. Pai Ching-jui's romantic comedy The Bride and I (1968) well exemplifies this attempt to compete with glitzier foreign products by toning down ideological content. One of the highlights of this important filmmaker's career and a box office hit, this delightfully self-reflexive work calls attention to the constraints that both political and commercial demands imposed on filmmakers at the time, thus combining light comedy and veiled cultural critique.

 

Pai Ching-Jui was one of the most important Taiwanese filmmakers of the sixties and seventies. So The Bride and I serves both as a fine exemplar of the romantic comedies popular at the time, and as a wonderfully self-conscious iteration of the same, as Pai tests the limitations of the genre. The narrative, which concerns a young couple's attempts to reconcile their arranged marriage, engages a theme that would develop into a central concern of New Taiwanese filmmakers, especially Edward Yang: the obstinacy of Confucian forms of social organization in a culture undergoing capitalist transformation.

 

Painter, Melissa

 

STEAL ME                                                    C                     73

USA  (95 mi)  2005

 

A film shot in the small town of Livingston, Montana, set in a beautiful valley at the foothills of the Rockies, known for it’s legendary trout fishing according to Richard Brautigan’s prose, but in this off beat, but relatively weak story, using that ever popular voice over format, we learn that an outsider teenager (Danny Alexander) loves to steal, comparing it to some form of zen inner peace, bragging that he is so good that he could steal just about anything in order to survive.  None of this philosophizing did anything for me, as it’s a form of self-loathing in disguise, as he’s been abandoned by his parents and is homeless, so he hops on a freight train to this small town searching for his lost mother, who has disappeared without a trace.  Caught stealing a car radio, he is befriended by the kid with the car (Hunter Parrish), invited back into his home where he lives with his typically overprotective parents, Cara Seymour and John Terry, causing a certain amount of consternation, as he’s not trusted right away, and we see him taking small personal objects of others and keeping them in a box, like a personal collection, much like the objects Scout kept and hid inside the holes of a tree in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.  In the meantime, he’s supposed to have a keen sense of observation which allows others to notice him, calling attention to himself, but actually he’s just a pretty disturbed young man.  But he hides it well, as he is more mature than the other kids his age, and has an easier time with woman, actually having an affair with the brazenly sexual neighbor next door, Paz de la Huerta, easily the best thing in the film, whose husband has recently cut out on her and her newborn baby.  But he eventually overstays his welcome, as the good intentions of others turn to suspicion.  Much of this plays out in an idealized universe, particularly among the images of kids, which looks a bit forced, where few, if any characters, are sympathetic, yet this kid keeps toying with the generosity extended to him, always playing with fire.  While the Montana imagery is gorgeous, the music is terrible, adding a completely unnecessary superficial layering of commercial pop, including the song played over the credits sung by the lead, Danny Alexander – something you might see in a Hillary Duff movie.    

 

Pak, Greg

 

ROBOT STORIES                                      D                     63

USA  (85 mi)  2004

 

4 different short stories featuring robots, many utilizing the same cast, and while supposedly inspired by Ray Bradbury and episodes of “Twilight Zone,” none of these episodes are particularly inspiring, although the last story featured some interesting acoustic blues music.  The acting was atrocious, and while these were attempts to find human revelations in the robotic world, I found scant pickings. 

 

Robot Stories  Gerald Peary

 

Pakula, Alan J.

 

In Focus: Alan J. Pakula : Silver Spring Events  AFI Retrospective, April 25 – May 4, 2009

Best known for his smart, character-driven dramas and sophisticated thrillers, Alan J. Pakula excelled at creating tension through precisely rendered screen space combined with a carefully orchestrated atmosphere of paranoia -- a master of mise en scene who was adept with plot secrets, subtleties and subterfuge. He guided eight different actors to Oscar-nominated performances, including early career-boosting performances for Jane Fonda in KLUTE and Meryl Streep in SOPHIE'S CHOICE.

FilmInFocus Flashback Alan J. Pakula dies | Old Films & Classic ...  November 19, 2009

One of the quiet men of Hollywood, Alan J. Pakula, tragically died in a road accident on this day in 1998. The director, most famous for his trilogy of paranoid thrillers made in the 1970s, died when he was driving on the Long Island Expressway in Melville, New York, and another car hit a metal pipe in the road, causing it fly through Pakula’s windshield. He was struck in the head by the pipe, swerved off the road into a fence, and died instantly. Pakula's death, a freak accident, was almost like a scene from one of his three films from the 70s that came to define his career: Klute (1971), The Parallax View (1974) and All the President's Men (1976). Except that in those movies, the audience would have suspected foul play. A passionate lover of cinema, Yale drama grad Pakula started off in the business working as an assistant in Warner Bros' cartoon division, before progressing to a role as a producer (most notably on To Kill a Mockingbird) and, finally, a director. He made his debut in 1969 with The Sterile Cuckoo, for which star Liza Minelli was Oscar nominated, the first of eight performances in his films singled out at the Academy Awards. His paranoid trilogy brilliantly captured the sense of unease in Nixon-era America and established him as one of the most gifted directors around. He was fittingly nominated for Best Director for President's Men, and in 1982 got a nod for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sophie's Choice. As a director, Pakula created films that were smart and tight, but unshowy. He had something of an old-school sensibility and once said that his movies reflected "going to films in the '40s and loving a story. They're far from avant-garde, although I experiment with techniques. I'd say I'm from a kind of Charles Dickens school of filmmaking."

Alan J. Pakula - Director - Films as Director:, Other Films ...  Deborah H. Holdstein, updated by R. Barton Palmer from Film Reference 

Now considered by many a major cinematic stylist, Alan J. Pakula began his career as a producer. The quality of his films is rather uneven, ranging from the acclaimed Fear Strikes Out and To Kill a Mockingbird to the universally panned Inside Daisy Clover. Critic Guy Flatley noted that Pakula is affectionately acknowledged within the film industry as an "actor's director," eliciting "richly textured performances" from Liza Minnelli in The Sterile Cuckoo ; Maggie Smith in Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing ; Warren Beatty in The Parallax View ; Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, and Jason Robards Jr. in All the President's Men ; Jane Fonda, James Caan, and Robards in Comes a Horseman ; and Burt Reynolds, Candice Bergen, and Jill Clayburgh in Starting Over. Many filmgoers are surprised upon discovering that it was Pakula who directed all these films.

Pakula's self-effacement is deliberate. In the Oscar-winning Sophie's Choice (for Meryl Streep as best actress), the director's name is less known than the actors who worked so effectively under his direction, and far less known than the tragic personal, social, and historical themes of the film. Pakula stresses the psychological dimension of his films. Klute , one of his most celebrated efforts, is highlighted by his use of taped conversation to both reveal character and heighten suspense. The film is noted for "visual claustrophobia" and unusual, effective mise-en-scène . For her performance, Jane Fonda received an Academy Award.

Klute was Pakula's first "commercial and critical gold." As one critic writes, "the attention to fine, authentic detail in Klute reflected the careful research done by both the director and the actress in the Manhattan demimonde, and many of the shadings of the complex character of the prostitute were developed improvisationally during the filming by . . . Fonda in collaboration with Pakula." Critical response to Klute is represented by such writers as Robin Wood, who said, "If it is too soon to be sure of Pakula's precise identity as an auteur, it remains true that Klute belongs, like any other great movie, to its director." Characteristically, Pakula believes that "the auteur theory is half-truth because filmmaking is very collaborative."

Pakula's other films have had equal success: All the President's Men , for example, was the top-grossing film of 1976, and won four Academy Awards. It was nominated for best picture and best director, as well. Even the critic known as "Pakula's relentless nemesis," Stanley Kauffmann, "relented a little" concerning All the President's Men. Alan J. Pakula is a filmmaker whose work most notably features tautness in both narrative and performance; he is a director of "moods," and is often "congratulated for the moods he sustains." He has described his approach to filmmaking as follows: "I am oblique. I think it has to do with my own nature. I like trying to do things which work on many levels, because I think it is terribly important to give an audience a lot of things they may not get as well as those they will, so that finally the film does take on a texture and is not just simplistic communication."

Although he has remained active in recent years, Pakula has not produced—with one exception—work of real significance since Sophie's Choice (itself more of an actors' than director's film). See You in the Morning attempts to recycle the melodramatic poignancy of Klute and The Sterile Cuckoo , but does not rediscover the stylistic finesse that made these earlier films so successful. See You in the Morning 's examination of family and personal breakdown is heavy-handed and hence strangely unaffecting.

The Pelican Brief , based on John Grisham's amateurish novel about the corrupt Washington establishment, makes no good sense, but is also strangely unexciting and unsuspenseful. Unlike Hitchcock, Pakula here proves unable to forge a masterful thriller from a marginal literary source; The Pelican Brief , it must be said, also fails to create the paranoid atmosphere that is the hallmark of Pakula's earlier, more successful forays into the political thriller ( The Parallax View is the best of these). Consenting Adults is a domestic thriller centering on an unfaithful suburban husband who falls victim to a psychopath eager to perpetrate insurance fraud and steal his wife. The first part of this film offers a chilling version of contemporary upscale suburban life; but the film's second half descends into sub-Hitchcockian third-rate twists and turns that fail to engage or excite.

Only in Presumed Innocent does Pakula recapture some of his earlier success. Despite numerous plot inconsistencies (the legacy of Scott Turow's novel), Presumed Innocent is compelling viewing because Pakula takes pains to fashion a detailed setting (heightened by fine character performances); he also astutely directs Harrison Ford in the lead role.

Alan J. Pakula  biography by Lucia Bozzola from All Movie Guide

 

Alan J. Pakula: Facts, Discussion Forum, and Encyclopedia Article  biography from Absolute Astronomy

 

Alan J. Pakula  biography and filmography from Discos.eu

 

Tribute to Alan J Pakula | Lasting Tribute  biography from Lasting Tribute

 

IGN: Featured Filmmaker: Alan J. Pakula  biography

 

Alan J. Pakula Summary  biography from Book Rags

 

INEX: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Alan J. Pakula)  brief biography

 

Alan J. Pakula  NNDB profile page

 

Alan J Pakula from The Pelican Brief - at Film.com  brief bio and production credits 

 

Authors : Hannah Pakula : Author Revealed

 

Alan J. Pakula Filmography

 

Alan J. Pakula  The Auteurs

 

Pakula's Choice | The New Republic  Pakula’s Choice, by Stanley Kauffmann from The New Republic, January 17, 1983

 

KEVIN ANDERSON FINDS A HOME IN 'ORPHANS'  Myra Forsberg from The New York Times, September 13, 1987

 

At the Movies  Lawrence Van Gelder from The New York Times, January 27, 1989

 

FILM; Family Ties Bind Pakula To His 'Morning'  Bruce Weber from The New York Times, April 16, 1989

 

At the Movies  Lawrence Van Gelder from The New York Times, January 25, 1991

 

FILM; Stop the Presses! Movies Blast Media. Viewers Cheer.  Glenn Garelik from The New York Times, January 31, 1993

 

Beijing, Trying to Bully Film Festival, Misjudges  Letter to the Editor from The New York Times, September 29, 1995

 

Disaster? Was There a Disaster?  Ian Fisher from The New York Times, March 30, 1997

 

PUBLIC LIVES; A Filmmaker's Family Faces Mental Illness  Elisabeth Bumiller from The New York Times, May 13, 1998

 

Alan J. Pakula, Film Director, Dies at 70  James Sterngold from The New York Times, November 20, 1998

 

Academy Award Nominated Writer-Director-Producer Alan J. Pakula ...   obituary from Ain’t It Cool, November 20, 1998

 

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; Finding Depth In Society's Shallow End  Janet Maslin from The New York Times, November 23, 1998

 

PUBLIC LIVES; Not Exactly Starting Over: Writer's Choices  Jan Hoffman from The New York Times, June 9, 1999

 

WATCHING MOVIES WITH/Steven Soderbergh; Follow the Muse: Inspiration To Balance Lofty and Light  Rick Lyman from The New York Times, February 16, 2001

 

She Shtups To Conquer  Manohla Dargis from The LA Weekly, April 26, 2001

 

The Conspiracy Thrillers of the 1970s: Paranoid Time - Article ...  Jay Millikan from Stylus magazine, July 7, 2004

 

This is not a game: Alan J. Pakula's Rollover. | Goliath Business News  Cine-Action, March 22, 2005

 

Alan J. Pakula by Jared Brown - Hardcover - Random House  book overview from Random House, September 1, 2005

 

Book Review: Alan J. Pakula: His Films And His Life - Books & Reviews  Matthew Reynolds book review from Variety, October 2, 2005

 

Moving Pictures: Alan J. Pakula: His Films and His Life  Mark London Williams reviews the Jared Brown book (400 pages) from Moving Pictures magazine, October/November 2005

 

Bright Lights Film Journal | Film Noir Since the '50s  Beyond the Golden Age, by C. Jerry Kutner, November 2006, originally published in 1994

 

Great Director #66: Alan J. Pakula « News from the Boston Becks  director profile, May 22, 2009

 

Creative Minds: True Stories of Imaginative Writers, Entertainers ...  Olivier Boler under Groundbreaking Entertainment from ForeWord Reviews, August 30, 2009

 

TSPDT - Alan J. Pakula

 

American Film Institute interview  Interview from a 1985 AFI Seminar

 

The Cinematheque - The Top 5 Project -- Week #27 / Top 5 Political ...  Top 5 Political Films, by Kevin Knox from The Cinematheque

 

Obama inauguration: The 25 best movies about American politics of ...  Scott Feinberg from The LA Times, January 20, 2009

 

The 50 Greatest Political Protest / Social Commentary Movies of ...  Andrew Vinstra from Associated Content

 

Best Films of the 1970s  Jeeem’s Cinepad

 

100 Greatest Movies of the '70s  Digital Dream Door

 

Whatever Happened To… » Blog Archive » The Greatest 70s Movies  Whatever Happened To…

 

Rob's Favorite Films  a list of Robert Altman’s favorite films

 

Independent Lens . Inside Indies . Favorite Films | PBS  Filmmaker’s favorite films from PBS Independent Lens

 

501 Movie Directors: A Comprehensive Guide to the Greatest Filmmakers

 

Alan J. Pakula (1928 - 1998) - Find A Grave Memorial

 

Alan J. Pakula - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Image results for Alan J. Pakula

 

THE STERILE CUCKOO

USA  (107 mi)  1969

 

Time Out review

Pakula's debut as a director, two years before making Klute, is one of those rare American films which manage to be gently observational without succumbing to the Europeanism of Mazursky or Cassavetes. Liza Minnelli, improbably, is the kook of the title, a college girl who tumbles through an autumn romance with a bashful student (Burton). Not a lot happens: the camera watches, winter comes, the kids split up, Pookie drops out...but the sympathy of the direction for once makes ...romantic realism likeable.

Chicago Reader (Don Druker) capsule review

Director Alan J. Pakula's first effort is so technically imprecise and understated that it has a kind of wistful charm—as if Wendell Burton, who plays the superstraight, mild-mannered preppie to Liza Minnelli's sad, quizzical, freaked-out emotional loser, had directed and written it himself. This is the film that established Liza Minnelli as the living Keane portrait, the compulsively talkative adolescent who's in pain and comes on freaky, and resulted in her overblown reputation as a heavy dramatic actress. Pakula has gone on to do better work (Klute) and Liza has her Oscar.

Turner Classic Movies review  Margarita Landazuri

A bittersweet story of first love between two misfit, mismatched college students, The Sterile Cuckoo (1969) was Liza Minnelli's second film, earned her the first of two Oscar® nominations, and made her a star. Minnelli plays Pookie Adams, whose mother died giving birth to her, and whose father rarely sees her. To cover her vulnerability, Pookie has adopted a brash, wisecracking manner and refers to most people as "weirdos." On the bus taking her to college in upstate New York, Pookie latches on to Jerry (Wendell Burton), a shy geek headed for a nearby college. Their romance plays out during the course of their freshman year.

Minnelli, the daughter of superstar Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli, made her stage debut at the age of 17 in an off-Broadway revival of the musical Best Foot Forward (1963), and became the youngest person to win a musical Tony Award for Best Actress when she starred in Flora, the Red Menace two years later. Minnelli's only previous film appearance before The Sterile Cuckoo was in a small role in Charlie Bubbles (1967). Around the same time, director Alan J. Pakula had contacted her about playing Pookie, but she hadn't heard back from him. Meanwhile Burt Bacharach and Hal David offered Minnelli the lead in their Broadway show, Promises, Promises (1968), a musical version of the 1960 film The Apartment. At first she agreed, but as she told Tom Burke in a 1969 New York Times interview, she ultimately backed out. "I think I still had Pookie very much on my mind." When Pakula did contact Minnelli again and offered her the role in The Sterile Cuckoo, she was available.

To play Jerry, Pakula chose Wendell Burton, whom he had seen playing the title role in the San Francisco production of the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. That had been Burton's stage debut, and The Sterile Cuckoo would be his film debut. Burton followed The Sterile Cuckoo with a grim prison drama, Fortune and Men's Eyes (1971), and he had a fairly successful career in television before giving up acting in the late 1980s and devoting himself to the Christian religion.

Although he had been a successful producer for more than a decade, Pakula had never directed before. In 1962, he had formed an independent production company with Robert Mulligan, who directed the films that Pakula produced such as To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963). With The Sterile Cuckoo, Pakula, who had directed plays in college and always wanted to direct films, showed excellent instincts his first time out.

In the same New York Times interview, Minnelli noted that Pakula scheduled several weeks of intensive rehearsals before they went on location at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Most of that time was spent improvising, so that the actors could really explore their characters. Once on location, Pakula put Minnelli together with a group of actual college girls who were going to play her dorm-mates, and Pakula asked them to get to know each other by talking about their backgrounds and families. When her turn came, Minnelli, who had planned to talk about her showbiz upbringing, instead talked about Pookie's family because she had completely inhabited the character by that point. However, the scenes with the other girls never made it into the film. As Pakula recalled in a 1972 Sight and Sound interview, "I wanted to suggest...that Pookie Adams was a girl who belongs nowhere. In the script originally, there was a whole sequence on her campus, but now you never see her college. You see her in boarding-houses, in buses, in his college, always coming and going." But the improvisations helped the actors make their characters true and touching. Over the years, such attention to characterization earned Pakula a reputation as an actor's director, and he has guided eight actors to Oscar® nominations, including winners Jane Fonda for Klute (1971), Jason Robards, Jr. for All the President's Men (1976), and Meryl Streep for Sophie's Choice (1982).

Many critics disliked The Sterile Cuckoo's then de-rigueur "falling in love" montages of the lovers frolicking in golden-hued light, to the strains of a syrupy song, Come Saturday Morning. ("I suppose they are Lelouchy," Pakula admitted in the Sight and Sound interview, referring to Claude Lelouch, the director of the film that started the trend, 1966's A Man and a Woman.). But Come Saturday Morning earned an Oscar® nomination, and Fred Karlin's score was nominated for a Grammy.

Some critics also complained about the shifts in tone, from romantic comedy to poignant drama. Roger Ebert called Pakula's work "a schizo directing job. Pakula has a good story, and tells it, and then gums it up with the unnecessary scenes he probably felt obligated to include.... But parts of it are awfully good, and Miss Minnelli is one hell of an actress." On the latter there was general agreement. There were raves for both Minnelli's and Burton's performances, and the critical consensus was that Pakula had made an auspicious debut as a director.

Both Pakula and Minnelli would go on to greater glory. Pakula's next film was the superb Klute, and he earned Oscar® nominations for directing All the President's Men and for his adapted screenplay for Sophie's Choice. Minnelli won her Oscar® for Cabaret (1972), and while her film career has not lived up to her early promise, she has become a legendary stage performer. Pakula later recalled working on The Sterile Cuckoo as "One of the happiest times of my life....mostly because of Liza. I've never seen anybody get more joy out of working, and it's contagious."

Epinions.com [AliventiAsylum]

 

FilmFanatic.org

 

Channel 4 Film capsule review

 

TV Guide review

 

Variety review

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [3/4]

 

The New York Times (Vincent Canby) review

 

KLUTE                                                                      A                     96

USA  (114 mi)  1971  ‘Scope

 

Alan J. Pakula, a Yale drama graduate, is one of the leading proponents of richly textured, character-driven dramas, where he helped guide eight different actors to Oscar-nominated performances, including Academy Award winners relatively early in the careers of both Jane Fonda (age 34)  in KLUTE (1971) and Meryl Streep (age 33, another Yale grad) in SOPHIE’S CHOICE (1982).  In much the same vein as Roman Polanski, Pakula excels in smart, sophisticated thrillers, known for creating tension through oppressive, tightly constricted screen space, with a fascination for sleek, modern exteriors that lend a timelessness to his films.  The 70’s may be the greatest era of American cinema, where the once-powerful Hollywood Studios sold off many of their assets temporarily reducing their power and influence, leaving an opening for directors to have an impact on films like never before, producing the likes of Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces (1970), Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971) and BARRY LYNDON (1975), Altman’s MASH (1970), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Images (1972), The Long Goodbye (1973),  California Split (1974), Nashville (1975), and 3 Women (1977), Coppola’s THE GODFATHER (1972), THE GODFATHER Pt. II (1974), THE CONVERSATION (1974) and APOCALYPSE NOW (1979), Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976), Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973) and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), Polanski’s CHINATOWN (1974), Woody Allen’s ANNIE HALL (1977) and MANHATTAN (1979), but also American independent films like Barbara Loden’s Wanda (1970), Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978), along with a decade of films from movie maverick John Cassavetes, Husbands (1970), Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), A Woman Under the Influence (1974), The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), and Opening Night (1977).  Almost forgotten in this firestorm of powerful dramas are the carefully orchestrated paranoid thrillers of Alan J. Pakula, who specializes in suspense thrillers layered in subtlety, plot secrets, and deception.  The first of what would become known as the “paranoia trilogy,” along with THE PARALLAX VIEW (1974) and ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976), these were films made in response to the looming fears that gripped the nation coming on the heels of 60’s assassinations, the Vietnam War, and Watergate, where television images flooded the nation reinforcing a government that had lost control, where behind the scenes secret and often nefarious powers vied for the power vacuum, where instead of the massive participatory demonstrations of the protest movements of the 60’s, suddenly ordinary citizens felt powerless to effect their destiny. 

 

The paranoia thriller exemplified impotence in the face of danger, simultaneously ushering in an era of 70’s disaster films like AIRPORT (1970), THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972), EARTHQUAKE (1974), THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974), and JAWS (1975), with revenge films to follow in the 80’s, vividly portraying a breakdown of community cohesiveness leaving the individual feeling isolated, hopelessly trapped and alone, exuding a strange and mysterious passivity bordering on defeatism, represented by Sydney Pollack’s THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975).  What’s lacking in these films is a conquering hero to eradicate the pervasive threat, like Clint Eastwood in DIRTY HARRY (1971) or Charles Bronson in DEATH WISH (1974), as the mythical era of the western hero has passed, replaced by ineffectual real-life political leaders disgraced by unethical abuse of power and rampant corruption, where Pakula in particular emphasized the empty spaciousness of the surroundings, where the individual is dwarfed by the seemingly mammoth skyscraper reflections of power and modernity, barraged by interior fears, often of unknown origin, while the idea of security or personal well-being has all but vanished, left with a feeling of impending doom creeping into the moral fabric of society.  Ironically, Pakula himself lost his life in a freak auto accident on the Long Island Expressway in 1998 when another car hit a lead pipe on the road that flew through his windshield, killing him instantly.  KLUTE was the director’s first major commercial success, significant for the exhaustive research done by both the director and lead actress in exploring the lurid, behind-the-scenes lives of Manhattan’s call girls, including meticulous production values that included fashionable haute couture outfits from Fonda’s own personal wardrobe that made such a splash onscreen.  Despite Pakula’s considerable talents, this is largely remembered as a Jane Fonda movie, having lost the Oscar earlier to British actress Maggie Smith in THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE (1969), despite being the odds-on favorite for her amazing performance in Sydney Pollack’s THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY? (1969), suspected to be due to her unpopular (in Hollywood) “Hanoi Jane” activism against the war in Vietnam at the time.  But in KLUTE Fonda is quite simply brilliant in a career-defining performance, blowing away the all-British competition to win the Best Actress Award, the last of her “sexy” performances playing a high-priced call girl in this interesting dual exploration of sex and capitalism as seen through the lens of the burgeoning feminist movement.  Written by Dave and Andy Lewis, almost exclusively known as television writers, Fonda’s character is uncommonly rich and fully realized, a complex composite of a prostitute and film noir femme fatale, much of it developed improvisationally by Fonda herself, especially the therapy sessions, exhibiting mood shifts that are often beautiful and ugly in the same scene, where her surface level wit and everpresent sarcasm is her chief defense mechanism hiding a more scarred and wounded interior soul. 

 

KLUTE is an unusually intelligent film that balances mood and atmosphere with personality and vulnerability, which is what we remember afterwards in Fonda’s character of Bree Daniels.  Dressed in mini-skirts and high boots, wearing tight sweaters without a bra, with a shag haircut accentuating her bangs designed by a hairdresser in New York’s Lower East Side, Bree is a modern woman that always looks like a million bucks.  An aspiring model and actress, seemingly in control of her own career path, she is a part-time call-girl making quick cash in order to pay for the lavish lifestyle to which she has become accustomed, living alone, drinking wine and smoking an occasional joint upon returning home at night to relax and wind down.  Mixing themes of surveillance and voyeurism, over the opening credits the audience is introduced to an audio tape recording where Bree can be heard reassuring one of her customers to relax, have fun, and basically “let it all hang out,” which serves as a kind of code for the sexual revolution of the 60’s that went awry when certain factions turned violent, basically spoiling the party for the free love generation.  Meanwhile, somewhere in the heartland of Tuscarora, Pennsylvania, a family man and business executive Tom Gruneman (Robert Milli) disappears during a business trip to the city, where his boss, Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi), feels somewhat responsible, so he hires Gruneman’s best friend, Donald Sutherland as John Klute, a Pennsylvania-based private detective to search for his missing friend.  According to the police, they reached a dead end after six month’s, as the only evidence obtained is an obscene typewritten letter found in Gruneman’s office addressed to call-girl Bree Daniels in New York, who reports receiving several letters and phone calls from Gruneman, though she can’t recall meeting him, while she also has a feeling she’s being stalked.  Renting an apartment in the basement of her building, Klute taps the phone of Ms. Daniels while also following her as she turns tricks.  While she exudes confidence and a sense of personal liberation by always being in control of her male customers, seen faking an orgasm while looking at her watch, we’re also privy to a different side, seen in a series of visits to her psychiatrist (Vivian Nathan), where she reveals the sex work is more a compulsion than a necessity, though it pays well, but it’s hardly fulfilling, leaving behind an interior void in her life, where she’s been trying to get out of “the life” with little success.  When Klute finally talks to Bree, after her initial reluctance, she reveals she was seriously beaten by a psychopathic customer several years earlier who “was serious” about beating women, though she can’t connect the photo of Gruneman to that man. 

 

Klute discovers Bree is his only connection to a lurid world of women-for-hire in a city that he is already excluded from, so he needs her help, delving more deeply into her personal associates, including ex-boyfriend Frankie Ligourin (Roy Scheider), her former pimp and protector, a slick con man with underworld connections who is the picture of male arrogance and pride, always seen with a beautiful girl on his arm, making sure Klute gets the company message, “I want to make something clear:  You know, I don’t go to a woman.  A woman comes to me.  *Her* choice.”  Frankie reveals it was one of his other girls that passed on the abusive client to Bree and another girl, Arlyn Page (Dorothy Tristan).  While that girl is now dead from a suicide, Page has become a drug addict and completely dropped out of sight, where she could be anywhere.  Despite dealing with a sophisticated call-girl who speaks freely and openly about sex, Klute remains an honorable man, who comes from a small town and retains his core values of conservatism and good will, offering his protection, which is something Bree takes advantage of, “Don’t feel bad about losing your virtue.  I sort of knew you would.  Everybody always does.”  However, their relationship deepens, developing into a sexual romance (as it did in real life between the two leads), where one of the best scenes in the film is walking the streets of New York together where they stop and pick up fruit at an outdoor market, where she is just eying the guy, as if for the first time, afterwards seen telling her therapist that she’s afraid of losing control, that this man is good and decent to her, who’s seen her look fabulous, but also completely horrid, where trusting a man is not easy, suggesting she wishes sometimes she could go back to “just feeling numb.”  Throughout the film, she is frequently shown alone in her apartment from the vantage point of a stalker across the street who is watching her.  At one point Klute realizes he’s on the roof, but his search proves futile.  The uninhibited freedom of her lifestyle is constantly under threat, reflective of the early stages of a feminist era that was continually under attack as well, where it’s interesting that early feminist critics lauded the film as a realistic portrayal of a woman’s personal conflict, only to later reverse course, as her attempt to accept a man in her life for stability or balance is paramount to endorsing patriarchy.  This reflects, however, the complexity of the role, as it appeals to a cross-section of viewpoints, even after the passage of time, retaining a unique blend of modernity and film noir, pitting hardboiled cynicism against the romanticism of a possible relationship.    

 

Movies and Methods: An Anthology  Pt. 1, by Bill Nichols, 1976 (pdf format)

 

More than a classical thriller, a “film noir,” or a contemporary reworking of the “private eye” movie — as some critics have seen it — Klute seems closer to the psychological suspense thriller, with most of the action going on inside the central character’s head.  Klute is told from a highly subjective viewpoint, and the other characters, while “real,” can be seen as projections of the heroine’s psyche.  The film functions on both levels, as a straight suspense story and as a dramatization of intense inner conflict, but it is from its second level that it derives its power. 

 

Critic Diane Giddis in her essay The Divided Woman:  Bree Daniels in Klute, taken from her book Women and Film, 1973, suggests women should completely disregard the conventional film noir conventions and reclaim the film on the basis of its sexual politics alone, where Bree becomes a stand-in for the feminist cause.  But the film offers an equally compelling narrative about the male psyche, where the private eye genre is a vehicle commonly used for strong individual male characters, where the stalker element in a tense paranoia film adds a disturbing element of potential male violence directed towards women.  Offering an openly cinéma vérité style of viewing the streets of New York, the interior shots, by contrast, beautifully photographed by cinematographer Gordon Willis, create a visual claustrophobia that explores the male fears about women.  While championing Bree’s interior psychological world, where asking what a woman wants becomes such a significant aspect of her character, the film simultaneously delves into a world of male apprehension, where a liberated woman, as reflected by the repeated tape recording loop heard at the opening, somehow opens the floodgates of a demented male psychopath whose masculinity is threatened by these open sexual freedoms, where his only response is criminally inappropriate.  This unfortunately reflects the existing reality where rape remains a systematically entrenched violent form of criminal male domination over women that continues to plague all sections of the globe, including the American armed forces, but is especially prevalent in war ravaged regions.  The distinctively eerie musical soundtrack by Michael Small, so effective in the film, is reminiscent of John Carpenter’s memorable synth score in HALLOWEEN (1978), where it’s hard to believe Carpenter wasn’t hugely influenced by this film, as much of this has the same creepy feel as a slasher movie, where something is always approaching Bree, with the camera continuing to follow her wherever she goes (as it does Jamie Lee Curtis), at times literally becoming the eyes of the stalker.  Pakula does an extraordinary job creating a feeling of pathological disassociation, of being outside societal boundaries and literally over the edge, especially the view of a man seething in his own disgust with himself, alone in the darkness of a penthouse skyscraper office with floor-to-ceiling windows revealing an utterly spectacular vantage point of the city of New York.  But in fairness, the film also offers another more balanced male view, that of the titular character Klute, who may as well be a stand-in for the audience.  Sutherland is terrific in a performance defined by quietly subtle restraint, where his impassive stoicism is laudable, making no judgments about her former life as a Manhattan prostitute, recognizing that she needs total acceptance as a woman to really be free of her past.  He appreciates her even when she doesn’t appreciate herself, but in a subversion of the testosterone-laden film noir detective genre, he’s not the featured central character.  While she freely exposes her inner domain both sexually and through repeated visits with a therapist, his more closed, inner psyche remains hidden and largely unknown, as it’s uncertain where this will all lead and whether they even have a future together.  Ahead of its time both then and now, the film’s true insight is the revelation that feelings of love alter the sexual and psychic dynamic, as the normally self-reliant Bree feels increasingly overwhelmed and disempowered by a sudden surge of feelings she can’t control, as it’s no longer all about her, where learning to share the uniqueness and fragility of her own inner world with a significant other remains one of the mysterious challenges of anyone’s life.      

 

David del Valle from 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

The post Vietnam/Watergate sensibilities of 1970’s cinema were never more evident than in Alan Pakula’s classic neonoir Klute.  From the fetishized phone conversation of the opening credits, the director makes us aware of the surveillance age that would culminate so strikingly in Francis Coppola’s The Conversation.  Klute is an unconventional film that is both detective thriller and character-driven mood piece, one rife with subtexts of urban decay and a claustrophobic sense of helplessness.

 

Despite the title, this is Bree Daniels’s (Jane Fonda) story, and its success relies on the complex inner life of Fonda’s call girl, who is neither your typical tramp with a heart if gold nor a total bitch.  Fonda’s work here is the crowning achievement of her career.  Bree wants to be an actress and model, and Pakula’s depiction of New York makes it understandable that she would need to turn tricks to survive, as it is all just another acting assignment.

 

Enter John Klute (Donald Sutherland), a small-town detective out of his depth in the underbelly of New York vice and fraud, and an enigma for Bree as he seems beyond corruption.  Sutherland’s morally uptight investigator fascinates her enough to allow him into a world he could never hope to enter on his own.  Much like Paul Schrader’s Hardcore (1979), a small-town innocent is drawn into the shadowland of urban wickedness only to find it pathetic, and reaches out to a damaged soul in hopes of salvation, even if a relationship is out of the question.

 

As a mystery, Klute has no real suspense because the killer’s identity is made known early on.  The dynamic between the two leads is what keeps the film on target.  The real joy is Fonda’s acting virtuosity, and her ability to register so many edges and contradictions on camera.  Pakula’s aesthetic centers on the voyeuristic pleasure of watching Bree develop into a nonhero as fear envelops her world and her tough veneer starts to crumble when she must trust a man, perhaps for the first time.

 

As for Pakula, his three masterworks (Klute, The Parallax View, and All the President’s Men) more than justify his place among the great directors of the 1970’s or any other decade.  His style remained unique to the last.   

 

Klute | review, synopsis, book tickets, showtimes ... - Time Out

Fonda's Oscar-winning performance as New York call-girl Bree Daniels is the real focus of Pakula's thriller, rather than Sutherland's Klute, the private eye whose increasingly obsessional 'protection' she reluctantly receives when menaced by a former client. Though it's obviously valid to follow the line that Klute, with its abstracted updates of private eye and urban noir conventions, initiated Pakula's string of paranoid thrillers (The Parallax View, All the President's Men ), it's just as fruitful to see it as belonging to a trio of features (with Comes a Horseman and Rollover), each starring Fonda, that hinge on the contradictions of autonomy and emotional commitment facing would-be independent women. The threats of dependency and destruction here become Sutherland's investigator and Cioffi's telephone breather, and Pakula's open ambivalence about Bree's eventual 'fate' will be repeated in Fonda's dealings with Caan's war-hero/Western stranger and Kristofferson's Wall Street cowboy. For once, a genuinely psychological thriller.

"It is not the film critic's business to... - Robin Wood - critic  Film Comment, 1972

It is not the film critic's business to adjudicate between rival and moral positions, except in so far as these are realized in their respective films: what concerns him, that is, is the convincingness of the realizations. Reduce (WR and Klute) to messages, and the Makavejev is certainly the more appealing- its basic assumption being that happiness through sexual liberation is possible, while the assumption of Klute is that it probably isn't. WR is an extraordinary film inviting a complex and detailed analysis: brief comment runs the risk of over-simplification. It seems valid, however, to express some anxiety at the virtual disappearance in WR of certain qualities strikingly present in Makavejev's previous work: the tenderness and sense of human dignity that in Switchboard Operator were associated with the film's more 'traditional' elements. In WR such qualities are restricted, again, to the most inhibited character, and allowed expression only after he has cut off the heroine's head with an ice-skate. The film comes dangerously close to rendering sexuality merely trivial or ridiculous- to the extent that, granted the obliqueness of Makavejev's method and the possibility of ubiquitous irony, one is tempted to take that this as his real point and read the whole film in a sense contrary to its apparent drift, though such a reading is only possible, I think, by means of a rather extreme application of the principle of trusting the tale, not the artist. Perhaps tenderness and human dignity- and deep emotional commitments- are 'old fashioned' illusions we shall have to do without; though they are not to be tossed aside too lightly, a warning which it is the purpose of Klute quite unrhetorically and unpretentiously to assert.

KLUTE (Alan J. Pakula, 1971) « Dennis Grunes

One of the eeriest, most frightening psychological thrillers, Klute is by far Alan J. Pakula’s best film. (All the President’s Men, 1976, can’t measure up because, in the absence of relevant information, Pakula couldn’t figure out what to do about Deep Throat.)     

John Klute (Donald Sutherland, giving his best performance) is a small-town detective whose best friend, an engineer, has vanished; Tom’s employer, Peter Cable, employs Klute to find Tom, which leads Klute to New York and a desperate, dangerous half-world involving Bree Daniel[s] (Jane Fonda, best actress, National Society of Film Critics, New York critics, Oscar, Golden Globe, etc.), a call-girl and aspiring actress. In psychotherapy, Bree is attempting to reclaim her life.     

Fonda, Barbara Stanwyck-no-nonsensical, is the main attraction here, propping up Pakula’s challenge to film noir: misogynistic Klute initially takes Bree, despite her vulnerability, for a femme fatale who knows more about Tom than she is telling. Working from an adept script by Andy and Dave Lewis, Pakula divests the piece of red herrings by disclosing the villain’s identity early on. This doesn’t help our jumping hearts as Pakula orchestrates point-of-view shots that indicate the stalking of Bree way more nightmarishly than anything that Brian De Palma would conjure. In a deserted garment factory, the final confrontation between Bree and the villain, a former brutal client, culminates in shattered glass as the villain leaps to his death out of the frame, to which Pakula applies stunning slow motion: a suggestion of Bree’s interiority and the end of her bad dream.     

Indeed, Pakula and color cinematographer Gordon Willis have brilliantly sculpted one widescreen shot after another to project Bree’s states of mind: overwhelming blackness whose slivers of intense light serve only to highlight the dark.    

Pakula’s “revision” of film noir honors film noir.

Jane Fonda, Klute: Pauline Kael  Pauline Kael from The New Yorker, July 3, 1971

“Jane Fonda's motor runs a little fast. As an actress, she has a special kind of smartness that takes the form of speed; she's always a little ahead of everybody, and this quicker beat--this quicker responsiveness--makes her more exciting to watch. This quality works to great advantage in her full-scale, definitive portrait of a call girl in Klute. It's a good, big role for her, and she disappears into Bree, the call girl, so totally that her performance is very pure--unadorned by "acting." As with her defiantly self-destructive Gloria in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, she never stands outside Bree, she gives herself over to the role, and yet she isn't lost in it--she's fully in control, and her means are extraordinarily economical. She has somehow got to a plane of acting at which even the closest closeup never reveals a false thought and, seen on the movie streets a block away, she's Bree, not Jane Fonda, walking toward us.

"The center of the movie is the study of the temperament and the drives of this intelligent, tough high-bracket call girl who wants to quit.... Though there have been countless movie prostitutes, this is perhaps the first major attempt to transform modern clinical understanding into human understanding and dramatic meaning. The conception may owe some debt to the Anna Karina whore in My Life to Live, but Bree is a much more ambivalent character. She's maternal and provocative with her customers, confident and contemptuously cool; she's a different girl alone--huddled in bed in her disorderly room. The suspense plot involves the ways in which prostitutes attract the forces that destroy them. Bree's knowledge that as a prostitute she has nowhere to go but down and her mixed-up efforts to escape make her one of the strongest feminine characters to reach the screen. It's hard to remember that this is the same actress who was the wide-eyed, bare-bottomed Barbarella and the anxious blond bride in Period of Adjustment and the brittle, skittish girl in the broad-brimmed hat of The Chapman Report; I wish Jane Fonda could divide herself in two, so we could have new movies with that naughty-innocent comedienne as well as with this brilliant, no-nonsense dramatic actress. Her Gloria invited comparison with Bette Davis in her great days, but the character of Gloria lacked softer tones, shading, variety. Her Bree transcends the comparison; there isn't another young dramatic actress in American films who can touch her....”

Klute - Film (Movie) Plot and Review - Publications  Thomas R. Erskine from Film Reference

Jane Fonda's Academy Award-winning performance as Bree Daniels, a New York prostitute with modeling aspirations, was her latest in a series of roles that paralleled the course of American society. After initially appearing as a cheerleader in Tall Story , Fonda had become increasingly political, prompting the ire of American conservatives by appearing in Tout va bien , made by Jean-Luc Godard, who in A Letter to Jane attacked her for the Hollywood liberalism of Klute . Though Klute did appeal to some early feminist critics who regarded it as a psychologically realistic portrait of a woman's inner conflict, later feminists have discussed it in political terms, finding a subtext which endorses patriarchy.

In an interview in Positif Alan Pakula stated that he regarded the film as similar to a 1940s thriller, a genre that he could use for his own purposes. In fact, Klute possesses several film noir characteristics, both in style and content, but Pakula shifts the psychological focus from Klute, the detective, to Bree, the intended victim. Klute's attempts to discover the identity of the killer pale in comparison to Bree's efforts at self-discovery, which are aided by a female psychotherapist. Thus the film is generically both film noir thriller and a psychological thriller, and the audience identifies with Bree, a developing character whose inner conflict torments her, not with Klute, the static and reticent male.

Bree wants to leave "the life," which ironically gives her control and independence, for modeling, but the audition with its "lineup" and depersonalization, seems to offer only a different "life." When Klute, the small-town friend of a murder victim, pursues the identity of the murderer, he seems to offer her another option, love and its accompanying dependence; for he comes to love and protect her. Ironically, his love and protection further endanger her, and as she relinquishes control to Klute, she nearly loses her life. Like Cable, the murderer, Klute poses a real threat, though it is more psychological than physical. At one point Bree attacks Klute with scissors and twice flees from him to her ex-pimp, only to find that prostitution itself involves dependency and, eventually, death. Just as Klute represents an appeal to dependency and loss of control, Cable, the murderer, represents control in the form of detachment. Neither Bree nor Cable is emotionally involved in sex, which becomes an act by which each wields power, and both wish to be emotionally numb. Even their voices, as rendered on the tape recorder, seem similar. Although the stereotypical roles of detective and criminal are antithetical, Klute and Cable actually have a great deal in common, thereby reinforcing the image of Klute as a threat to Bree. After the tape recorder is played in rural Pennsylvania, Klute appears in New York; and both men use similar methods, though for different purposes.

Just as Klute and Cable can be viewed as dramatic projections of the forces within Bree's mind, her apartment may also represent herself. She is spied on in her apartment, which is subsequently and brutally penetrated by Cable; Bree's semen-soaked underpants suggest that Cable, too, sees his action as rape. When she leaves her apartment and sleeps with Klute, she also leaves her "self" and becomes dependent on him. At the end of the film she and Klute leave her apartment, which is empty, except for the ringing telephone, her link with the "johns" and her therapist. Her furnishings, that which made the apartment "hers," are gone; and she may be empty of her past, ready to acquire Klute's furnishings, his values, his life, his identity.

Though Cable's death and Bree's decision to leave dark, claustrophobic New York for the sunlight of rural Pennsylvania imply that she has opted for love and dependence, Pakula does create some ambiguity. She has told her analyst that she will probably be back next week for an appointment, but that verbal message does not carry the weight that the visual one does: standing in the empty apartment, she is wearing the same clothes she wore at the beginning of the film. Bree may have chosen love and dependency for the present, through the efforts of the female therapist who has encouraged that choice, but the choice is not without personal cost.

Klute - Turner Classic Movies  Margarita Landazuri

Jane Fonda won the first of two Academy Awards® for what many consider her best performance in Klute (1971), playing Bree, a complicated New York City call girl whose life is in danger, and who becomes involved with a cop investigating the case. When she made the film, Fonda's life and finances were in disarray. Her marriage to French director Roger Vadim was on the rocks. She had taken time off from making films to get involved in anti-Vietnam war activities and other left-wing causes, and had poured most of her own money into them. Fonda may have agreed to star in Klute for the money, but something in her responded to Bree's vulnerability, and she made something remarkable of the role.

Working on her character from the outside in, Fonda collaborated with costume designer Ann Roth to perfect Bree's look. Much of it was based on Fonda's own style: the midi skirts, high boots, chunky jewelry, tight sweaters worn without a bra, and the leather-trimmed trench coat all became iconic looks that were copied by '70s fashionistas. So was the shag haircut, created by a hairdresser in New York's Lower East Side.

For Bree's inner self, the Method-trained Fonda researched her part by talking to New York call girls. That research helped shape her burgeoning feminism as she learned about the violence prostitutes often endured from their pimps and johns. She also seemed to dig deep into her own psyche for the scenes of Bree talking with her psychiatrist, played by fellow Actors Studio member Vivian Nathan. Their scenes together were improvised, and are among the most riveting in the film. But Fonda's insecurity sometimes got the best of her, and she told director Alan J. Pakula that she was wrong for the role and that he should replace her with Faye Dunaway. Pakula was patient, and Fonda later expressed her gratitude to him for helping her to trust her instincts.

The atmosphere on the Klute set didn't help Fonda's nerves. Many crew members did not share her outspoken antiwar opinions and support of the Black Panthers, and were openly hostile. On one occasion, when she had made negative remarks about the Nixon administration, Fonda arrived on set to find that the crew had hung a large American flag. Her costar Donald Sutherland shared her views, however, and the two began an affair. After the film wrapped, he joined her touring in an anti-Vietnam war stage show called F.T.A. (which stood for "F**k the Army," or euphemistically, "Free the Army") and appeared with her in a documentary about the F.T.A. tour.

For Klute, the reviews were mixed. The New Yorker's Pauline Kael had kind words: "Reminiscent of the good detective mysteries of the 40s -- it has the lurking figures, the withheld information, the standard gimmick of getting the heroine to go off alone so she can be menaced." Roger Greenspun of the New York Times found it less effective. "The actual intentions of Klute are not all that easy to spot, though I think they have more to do with its intellectual aspirations than with its thriller plot." But Fonda's performance received nearly unanimous raves. Jay Cocks of Time magazine wrote that she "makes all the right choices, from the mechanics of her walk and her voice inflection to the penetration of the girl's raging psyche. It is a rare performance." According to Richard Schickel in Life magazine, "Jane Fonda has emerged as the finest actress of her generation with a mercurial, subtly shaded, altogether fascinating performance." Kael agreed. "Her performance is very pure, unadorned by 'acting'...she has somehow gotten onto a plane of acting at which even her closest closeup never reveals a false note...There isn't another young dramatic actress in American films who can touch her."

Many observers believed that Fonda's radical activism had cost her an Oscar for 1969's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (Maggie Smith won for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie). During the 1971 awards season, Fonda was showered with nominations for Klute. She won a Golden Globe and sent a Vietnam veteran to pick up the award in her place, a move that earned her criticism for politicizing the event. Fonda recalled in her memoir, My Life So Far that as the Oscars approached, she struggled with how she should accept the award if she won, trying to decide whether she should reference the controversy over her political views. She asked her father what he thought. "'Tell 'em there's a lot to say, but tonight isn't the time,' was his recommendation -- and the moment I heard it I knew he was right." Her acceptance speech was brief and to the point, almost verbatim what Henry Fonda had suggested, with an added, simple "Thank you" at the end.

Klute - Bright Lights Film Journal  Dan Callahan, April 30, 2005

 

"The Pakula Parallax" essay  Richard T, Jameson from Film Comment, September/October 1976, reprinted in Parallax View, August 14, 2009

 

Klute | Tony McKibbin  The Paranoia of Style

 

Female Identity and Performance: An Appreciation of Alan ...  Rachael Johnson from Bitch Flicks, October 15, 2013

 

Klute | Forced Perspective  Jonathan Henderson, February 4, 2011

 

DREAMS ARE WHAT LE CINEMA IS FOR...: KLUTE 1971  Ken Anderson, November 16, 2011

 

The Conspiracy Thrillers of the 1970s: Paranoid Time - Article ...  Jay Millikan from Stylus magazine, July 7, 2004

 

Klute - Senses of Cinema  Karli Lukas from Senses of Cinema, April 2001

 

Edward Copeland on Film (Josh R)

 

What Ever Happened to New Hollywood? | Film | Propeller  Pt. 1 by Dan Deweese from Propeller magazine, Fall 2012

 

"Not a Love Story" by Lisa DiCaprio - Jump Cut  Lisa DiCaprio, March, 1985

 

The DVD Journal | Reviews : Klute  D.K. Holm

 

This Distracted Globe [Joe Valdez]

 

FilmFanatic.org

 

Armchair Oscars - 1971 - ArmchairCinema.com ...  Jerry Roberts

 

Public Transportation Snob [Dan Heaton]

 

MovieMartyr.com  Jeremy Heilman

 

Looking for dignity in all the wrong places [Jerry Saravia]

 

Movieline Magazine review  Michael Atkinson

 

Associated Content [Ben Kenber]

 

Klute - AMC Blogs  Pete Croatto

 

DVD Talk  Gil Jawetz

 

DVD Verdict  Harold Gervais

 

Urban Cinefile dvd review  Shannon J. Harvey

 

eFilmCritic.com (Charles Tatum) review [4/5]

 

Monster Hunter

 

Brilliant Observations on 1173 Films [Clayton Trapp]

 

Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot [Marty McKee]

 

Ozus' World Movie Reviews [Dennis Schwartz]

 

Edinburgh U Film Society [Stephen Townsend]

 

Alan J. Pakula - Film Reference  Deborah H. Holdstein, updated by R. Barton Palmer 

 

Feminism, Multiculturalism, and the Media: Global Diversities   Angharad N. Valdivia, 1995 (pdf)

 

Movies and Methods: An Anthology  Bill Nichols (pdf)

 

TV Guide review

 

Klute | Variety

 

BBCi - Films   David Wood

 

Cleveland Press [Tony Mastroianni]

 

rogerebert.com [Roger Ebert]

 

The New York Times  Roger Greenspun, also seen here:  Movie Review - Klute - KLUTE - The New York Times 

 

She Shtups To Conquer  Manohla Dargis from The LA Weekly, April 26, 2001

 

Klute | Jane Fonda  which includes an impeccably clean widescreen video of the opening 23 minutes of the movie

 

THE PARALLAX VIEW

USA  (102 mi)  1974  ‘Scope

 

Time Out

A thriller about a journalist, alerted to the mysterious deaths of witnesses to the assassination of a presidential candidate, who embarks on an investigation that reveals a nebulous conspiracy of gigantic and all-embracing scope. It sounds familiar, and refers to or overlaps a good handful of similar films, but is most relevantly tied to Klute. Where Klute was an exploration of claustrophobic anxiety, The Parallax View is inexorably agoraphobic. Its visual organisation is stunning as the journalist (Beatty) is drawn into an increasingly nightmarish world characterised by impenetrably opaque structures, a screen whited out from time to time, or meshed over with visually deceptive patterns. It is some indication of the area the film explores that in place of the self-revealing session with the analyst in Klute, The Parallax View presents us with the more insecurity-inducing questionnaire used by the mysterious Parallax Corporation for personality-testing prospective employees. Excellent performances; fascinating film.

The Boston Phoenix   Gerald Peary

This brilliant, spellbinding 1974 political thriller was the unseen bastard film of Alan J. Pakula’s watch-your-back " paranoia " trilogy, squeezed between box-office favorites Klute (1971) and All the President’s Men (1976). In The Parallax View, a Northwest TV news crew is accidental witness to a senator’s fatal shooting by a waiter, who (remember Lee Harvey Oswald) is himself slain by police before he can talk. A high court rules that the murderer acted alone (think Warren Commission), then employees from the TV station die off one by one. Are these deaths accidental, or are they the serial killings of those who may have sighted additional assassins?

One among the survivors investigates: Joseph Frady (Warren Beatty), a frazzled ex-alcoholic loner news reporter. He makes a Hitchcockian trek from one perilous environment to another until he stumbles onto the Parallax Corporation. Joseph suspects a front for assassination squads, so he decides to spy from within. Fatal mistake!

Audiences back then didn’t warm up to Pakula’s cryptic film — even for adventurous 1970s Hollywood, The Parallax View was experimental, almost avant-garde in its reliance on off-kilter, Euro-artsy visuals (the cinematography is by the great Gordon Willis). There are extended non-dialogue patches, such as the recruiting film for the Parallax Corporation: five uninterrupted minutes of eerie, brainwashing images. Best of all, there’s the way the famous political assassination in Nashville (1975) is prefigured by The Parallax View's explosive climax at a mammoth rally for a charismatic rising candidate.

Cinepinion [Henry Stewart]  also seen here:  Film School Rejects (H. Stewart)

 

The Parallax View is regarded as a paragon of the ‘70s paranoid political thriller, but, make no mistake, it is no taught, thrilling procedural along the lines of All the President’s Men—it’s an uneven bore that's as incredibly dated as Warren Beatty's haircut.

Thematic and capellic obsolescence seem to be a real problem for many Warren Beatty movies (I'm thinking of the abysmal Shampoo); as a colleague, Clayton White, told me recently: "They might have been big in their time, but most of them need to stay in their time." Beatty plays Joe Frady, who mostly uses aliases throughout the film, a two-bit journalist present at the assassination of a prominent Senator. The murder is declared, familiarly, the work of a lone, crazed gunman, but several years later many of the other people who were present start dying, whether from seemingly benign accidents or natural causes.

At first, Frady is satisfied that everything is as they say and the unusual deaths are mere coincidence. But when a fellow journalist and assassination attendee dies immediately after fortelling her own death, Frady decides to dig a bit deeper, and soon unearths a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of…the Parallax Corporation; well, that's just a cheap cop-out, a free pass to the CIA et al., that allows the film to avoid directly indicting the US government as complicit in the assassinations of the late 1960’s. The best part of the movie, though, is the classic Parallax training video that bifurcates the film, a staccato photocollage that examines the natures of, and relationships between, the concepts of self, family, country, and religion. It’s some serious, subversive Kuleshev shit.

The world of the film, in which superficially innocuous surfaces are far more sinister once you dig a bit deeper, is perfectly reflected by Gordon Willis’ gorgeous photography, the movie’s strongest point, that features bright exteriors and shadowy interiors. Willis also captures the ominous threat posed by the colossal Parallax Corporation by commonly shooting Beatty against enormous man-made artifices, be it a dam or a glass-paneled office building. (It's a visual motif that should be familiar from the same year's far superior examination of paranoia, The Conversation.) Beatty's pit himself against forces far larger than the inquiring individual.

But the first half of the movie simply plays out as a corny action movie, brimming with car chases, feral fist fights and, everyone’s favorite, big explosions! (Whereas the recent film Shooter is playfully aware of its fundamental stupidity, The Parallax View is unduly conceited, taking itself far too seriously to the point of approaching unintended kitsch.) The second half is far superior, primarily comprised of two long, tense assassination set pieces: one an aborted attempt at blowing up an airplane; the other, trouble at a political rally dress rehearsal. They're paradigms of dialogueless, suspenseful filmmaking, but they’re awkwardly stuffed into a senseless, flimsy, confusing (it felt like a reel or two were missing) film that adds up to little other than: don’t trust the Warren Commission. Well, duh.

 

Turner Classic Movies review  Sean Axmaker

Alan Pakula's The Parallax View, a political thriller with an unmistakable resemblance to the Kennedy assassination, was not the first conspiracy thriller to emerge from Hollywood – you can trace the lineage back to The Manchurian Candidate in 1962 – and it was not a hit when it was fitfully released in 1974. But its reputation and stature has only grown in the years since and it is arguably the definitive conspiracy thriller of the seventies.

Warren Beatty stars as investigative reporter Joe Frady, though when we first glimpse him in the film he's merely a face in the crowd around Senator Charles Carroll (William Joyce). He tries to bluff his way into an exclusive gathering for the Senator at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle but is rebuffed and thus on the ground when the Senator is shot and the gunman killed in an escape attempt. "There is no evidence of a conspiracy," concludes a panel of judges, who proclaim it the work of a lone gunman. (We, of course, know there was at least one accomplice who slipped to safety.) It's the film's answer to the Warren Commission and Pakula shoots the tribunal floating in a sea of shadow, a tiny image that slowly, ominously grows larger as the credits roll. By the end of the sequence, they fill the screen with an image as distorted as their conclusions.

In those first few minutes, Pakula establishes an atmosphere of unease and a distrust of authority that never lets up. When we catch up with Frady three years later, being hounded by the police for his investigations into drug crimes and enforcement, he comes on like a dogged reporter from a thirties newspaper drama with seventies style, a mix of old school journalist chutzpah and modern sensibility. But even he is dubious of conspiracy claims until fellow reporter and ex-girlfriend Lee Carter (Paula Prentiss) turns up dead (a suicide is the ruling, but Frady doesn't buy it). She's the seventh of twenty witnesses to the Senator Carroll shooting to die in the three years since, and once Frady takes up the case, he discovers that he is also now a target. With the tacit support of a paternal editor (Hume Cronyn), Frady follows his clues to the mysterious Parallax Corporation and, with the help of a former FBI agent (Kenneth Mars) and a psychologist (an uncredited Anthony Zerbe), catches the interest of a sinister recruiter (Walter McGinn). "If you qualify, and we think you can, we're prepared to offer you the most lucrative and rewarding work of your life."

The film, based on a novel by Loren Singer, is most assuredly of its time. Pakula described the film as "sort of an American myth based on some things that have happened, some fantasies we may have had of what might have happened, and a lot of fears a lot of us have had." The story comes right out of the suspicion with which many Americans viewed the Warren Commission investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the growing cottage industry of conspiracy theories of organized plots and high-level cover-ups. The atmosphere of suspicion and corruption could be Pakula's response to the growing public distrust of government, brought to a head by the revelations of criminal misconduct by the Nixon administration (which Pakula tackled directly in his subsequent film, All the President's Men, 1976).

The Parallax View marked Beatty's return to the screen after two years of political activity, raising money and actively campaigning for presidential candidate George McGovern. He had been developing Shampoo (1975) with Robert Towne, a project he would produce and star in, but he had committed to acting in The Parallax View first. "I wanted to come in and work as an actor with a director I liked," he explained in an interview. But even though Beatty was not a producer on the project, his creative involvement went beyond simply acting. A writers strike stopped all work on the screenplay and, due to Beatty's limited window of availability, the film went into production without a completed script. The script is credited to Lorenzo Semple, Jr., and David Giler (who was brought in for rewrites before the strike), but dialogue was often worked out with Pakula and the actors sometimes as little as a day before shooting and Pakula spent much of the production rewriting the script. Some of his more substantial changes include adding the assassination that opens the film and turning the character of Frady from a cop to a reporter (at the suggestion of Beatty and Giler).

The Parallax View reunites Pakula with Gordon Willis, his director of photography on Klute (1971) and perhaps the greatest cinematographer of the seventies (his work in the decade include The Godfather [1972], The Godfather: Part II [1974], All the President's Men, Annie Hall [1977] and Manhattan [1979] - and none of them, astoundingly, nominated for Best Cinematography!). Willis had earned the nickname "The Prince of Darkness" for his distinctive use of dark and shadows. Here he shrouded many of the scenes in an ominous darkness. Pakula and Willis create a visual style that favors alienation and a sense of helplessness over conventional scenes of tension and action. "The Parallax View was a whole other kind of filmmaking for me," recalled Pakula. He shot key scenes in extreme long shot to view characters overwhelmed by their surroundings and caught alone in the middle of vast, empty areas, vulnerable and isolated.

It's especially effective in the film's climax, where another assassination attempt is planned on a powerful politician in a massive conventional hall and Frady has arrived to stop it. The scene was originally supposed to occur at a crowded rally but Pakula saw the potential of the empty auditorium and reworked the scene to use the vast empty space to create a feeling of isolation and alienation. The prerecorded speech echoing through the empty hall only accentuates the eerie, surreal quality of the scene, as does the anthem-like score by composer Michael Small. It creates a surreal atmosphere and an almost abstract drama with a hero who has no personal life or definition beyond his job and his drive to discover the truth.

"If the picture works the audience will trust the person next to them a little less," Pakula reportedly told Beatty. On that score, the film works remarkably well. The seventies was rife with films, both fictional and factually based, that played off suspicions of authority and fears of conspiracy, from The Conversation (1974) and Three Days of the Condor (1975, also scripted by Lorenzo Semple, Jr.) and Pakula's follow-up film All the President's Men to the Kennedy assassination thrillers Executive Action (1973) and Winter Kills (1979). None of those films have the sense of helplessness and eerie dislocation, of being played by powers beyond your control and seeing it all unfold with a hopeless inevitability, that Pakula gives The Parallax View.

Parallax View   Political Paranoia, by Fred Kaplan from Jump Cut (1974)

 

Parallax View [Robert C. Cumbow]  13 Ways of Looking at the Parallax View, August 14, 2009

 

DVD Times review [Alan Daly]

 

DVD Savant (Glenn Erickson)

 

Cinepassion.org  Fernando F. Croce

 

eFilmCritic.com (M.P. Bartley) review [4/5]

 

Bill Chambers, Epinions.com

 

CineScene.com (Chris Dashiell)

 

Brilliant Observations on 1173 Films [Clayton Trapp]

 

The Spinning Image (Graeme Clark) review

 

filmsgraded.com (Brian Koller) retrospective [77/100]

 

Jared Sapolin review

 

Random Movie Club  Rich Nathanson

 

The Movie Archive [Marjorie Johns]

 

User reviews  from imdb Author: Graham Watson from Gibraltar

 

User reviews  from imdb Author: secragt from United States

 

User reviews  from imdb (Page 2) Author: RadioWaveTelescope from United Kingdom

 

The Conspiracy Thrillers of the 1970s: Paranoid Time - Article ...  Jay Millikan from Stylus magazine, July 7, 2004

 

FilmArcade.net: "The Parallax View" movie review by Ben Kenber  also seen here:  The Parallax View - Associated Content - associatedcontent.com 

 

The Parallax View - Alan J. Pakula, Michael Small  Snore and Guzzle

 

The Cinematheque - The Top 5 Project -- Week #27 / Top 5 Political ...  Top 5 Political Films, by Kevin Knox from The Cinematheque

 

Best Films of the 1970s  Jeeem’s Cinepad

 

100 Greatest Movies of the '70s  Digital Dream Door

 

Whatever Happened To… » Blog Archive » The Greatest 70s Movies  Whatever Happened To…

 

Rob's Favorite Films  a list of Robert Altman’s favorite films

 

Independent Lens . Inside Indies . Favorite Films | PBS  Filmmaker’s favorite films from PBS Independent Lens

 

The Village Voice [Ed Park]

 

TV Guide review

 

Variety review

 

BBC Films review  David Wood

 

Obama inauguration: The 25 best movies about American politics of ...  Scott Feinberg from The LA Times, January 20, 2009

 

The New York Times (Vincent Canby)

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN

USA  (138 mi)  1976

 

Chicago Reader [Dave Kehr]

Alan Pakula's pedestrian 1976 recap of Watergate is a study in missed opportunities. The opening of the film, with Woodward (Robert Redford) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) first stumbling over the story, is involving and sometimes exciting, but from then on it degenerates into confusion and repetition. The arch “realism” works against the film, with screenwriter William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) apparently unwilling or unable to impose any dramatic shape on the material. PG, 138 min.

Time Out review  Geoff Andrew

Inevitably softened by hints of self-congratulation concerning the success of Woodward and Bernstein's uncovering of the Watergate affair, Pakula's film is nevertheless remarkably intelligent, working both as an effective thriller (even though we know the outcome of their investigations) and as a virtually abstract charting of the dark corridors of corruption and power. Pakula's visual set-ups are often extraordinary, contrasting the light of the Washington Post newsroom with the shadows in which hides star informant Deep Throat, and dramatically engulfing Hoffman and Redford in monumental buildings to stress the enormity of their task.

All the President's Men  Neil Young from Jigsaw Lounge

"Turning journalists into heroes takes some doing" - a casual aside from The Mekons' classic 1989 track 'Empire of the Senseless.' The comment, like the song, was intended as an indictment of Margaret Thatcher - but it applies quite nicely to All the President's Men, the adaptation by Alan J Pakula (director) and William Goldman (scriptwriter) of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's book of the same name. The book chronicled how the pair's investigations proved crucial to the eventual downfall of President Richard Nixon over what became known as Watergate - a line which Pakula and Goldman are happy to adopt.     

There's rather more to the whole affair than either book or film let on, of course, and historians debate the actual impact of Woodward and Bernstein's work. Leaving such considerations aside (something many remain decidedly reluctant to do), All the President's Men continues, three decades on, to work thunderously well as a movie. Still pressingly topical in its wider implications, it's an enthralling depiction of the journalistic process that concentrates - with surprising intensity - on the profession's nuts and bolts.     

The film contains no fewer than 25 telephone conversations in which the audience is privy to both sides of the exchange: the actors playing Bernstein and Woodward's unseen interlocutors are in many ways the hidden heroes of the movie, and there's justice in the fact that 'Best Sound' was one of four categories in which the picture was successful at the Oscars.     

Jason Robards won Best Supporting Actor for his effortlessly authoritative turn as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, in a picture which has countless speaking parts and is conspicuously well cast down to the very smallest roles. It's notable that, while the main focus is squarely on men (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman prove a successful cheese-and-chalk combination as what Bradlee eventually comes to call 'Woodstein'), it's the women of Washington who provide the crucial bits of information that keep the investigation rumbling along.   

And while the journalists' quest keeps hitting various obstacles and speed-bumps, All the President's Men rips along at such a clip that its 130-odd minutes simply fly by. Even if you don't know Gordon Liddy from Maurice Stans from John Mitchell from Donald Segretti - and the film is audaciously light on exposition, featuring not a single geographical or chronological on-screen title - the picture is a textbook example on how to present decidedly complex real-life events in an accessible, compelling and enthralling manner.

Turner Classic Movies dvd review  Fred Hunter, Special Edition

On June 17, 1972 five men broke into the Watergate complex in Washington, DC in a botched attempt to bug Democratic Headquarters. It was a seemingly minor event that at first appeared to be nothing more that a local interest story, but would snowball into a scandal that would eventually bring down the president. The Watergate scandal was exposed by two young reporters with the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who would recount their painstaking investigation in their 1974 book All the President's Men, which would become a best-seller. Almost immediately upon the book's publication, actor/producer Robert Redford, who had been fascinated both by the story as it had unfolded and by the men who were writing it, picked up the rights to the book and went to work. He gave award-winning writer William Goldman the daunting task of turning a story with an outcome that was already known worldwide into a viable, compelling screenplay, and chose Alan J. Pakula (Klute, The Pelican Brief) to direct.

In the film version of All the President's Men, Redford plays Bob Woodward, who is assigned to cover the break-in at the Watergate. He goes to court to cover the five burglars' first appearance before a judge, and is surprised to find that they have hired a lawyer, when burglars are usually forced to use public defenders. He is also surprised to learn that one of the burglars has a connection to Charles Colson, one of the most powerful men at the White House. When he returns to the Post and verifies this information, he reports it to Metro editor Harry Rosenfeld (Jack Warden), who decides that this story might be a bit bigger than they'd first thought. So he assigns Woodward along with Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) to cover it, against the wishes of managing editor Howard Simmons (Martin Balsam), who thought it should be handled by more seasoned reporters.

Both reporters set out to gather more information about the connection between Charles Colson's office and the burglar, and find themselves running up against a blank wall at every turn: people refuse to talk to them, contradict themselves, and openly lie, all within twenty-four hours of the break-in. Through occasional slips on the part of the government employees they contact, they are able to at least piece together that this is a bigger story than then had imagined, one which involves highly placed government officials. It is at this point that managing editor Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards) takes a look at what they have and tells them that they don't have enough facts, so their story will be relegated to page three. But Bradlee can recognize a good story, and tells them to keep after it.

The reporters get their first real break when they start investigating the background of the burglars and discover a check made out to Kenneth Dahlberg, Midwest Finance Chairman for the Committee to Re-elect the President (which would come to be commonly referred to as CREEP), in the bank account of a firm owned by burglar Bernard Barker. From there their investigation escalates: but when they finally run out of leads again, Woodward turns to a contact he used in a past investigation. This time the contact refuses to speak to him about the new investigation, or at least that's what he tells Woodward over the phone. The contact surreptitiously gets a note to Woodward with instructions on when and where to meet him (a dark semi-underground garage in the middle of the night). When they meet, the contact lays out ground rules: he will not be named as a source, and he will not give Woodward any information, he will only confirm. He leaves Woodward with the admonition to "follow the money," and thus the legendary shadow figure of Deep Throat was be born.

Woodward and Bernstein's investigation, which would gain momentum, notoriety, and scorn as it continued from '72-'74, would eventually lead to those closest to President Nixon, and then to Nixon himself, with revelations about his knowledge and complicity in illegal activities and the notorious "dirty tricks" campaign eventually forcing his resignation.

All the President's Men is a remarkable film that works on all levels. Screenwriter Goldman and director Pakula fashioned Woodward and Bernstein's book into a combination political thriller and in-depth look at investigative reporting. Goldman presents investigative reporting as it really is rather than as it is usually depicted in the movies: not all excitement, but frustrating and (at times) plodding with long periods of getting nowhere and running into dead ends. At the same time, Pakula miraculously keeps the tension high, even as Woodward and Bernstein are forced to go down a list of hundreds of names of employees and visit their homes strying to find someone who will talk about CREEP and how their money was handled.

The film is filled with fine performances: Redford is solid as Woodward and Hoffman is equally good as Bernstein. But Jason Robards nearly steals the film in his Oscar®-winning turn as Ben Bradlee. Robards maintains a high level of control and keeps his face unreadable as he listens to each new revelation from his young reporters, often making his responses genuinely surprising. Another fine performance is turned in by Jane Alexander as the CREEP bookkeeper who opens up to Bernstein. Alexander's high anxiety performance conveys the full range of conflicting emotions of the terrified woman.

All the President's Men should be mandatory viewing in every history course in America. But beyond that, the film is a must for anyone who loves the sheer art of movie-making.

Warner Bros.' DVD of the film presents a beautiful transfer struck from source material that is in excellent shape. The black level is rock-solid and the contrast is way above par: a must for a film in which so much of the action takes place in dark areas. The audio is also in fine shape, with rich tone quality and deep bass. The two-disc special edition includes a feature-length commentary by Redford; "Telling the Truth about Lies: The Making of All the President's Men;" "Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire" featurette; "Out of the Shadows: The Man Who was Deep Throat" featurette; the vintage featurette "Pressure and the Press: the Making of All the President's Men;" and an interview excerpt with Jason Robards for the 70s talk show Dinah!, hosted by Dinah Shore.

DVD Times [Mike Sutton]

 

The DVD Journal | Reviews : All the President's Men: Special Edition  Gregory P. Dorr

 

All the President's Men  Robert Hatch from The Nation, December 16, 2008, originally published April 24, 1976 

 

DVD Times [Anthony Nield]

 

All the President's Men  Steven Loeb from Wild Sound

 

Antagony & Ecstasy: ALAN J. PAKULA: <i>ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN</i ...  Tim Brayton from Antagony & Ecstasy, October 8, 2009

 

All the President's Men (1976) - Audiophile Audition  Jim Fasulo

 

The Conspiracy Thrillers of the 1970s: Paranoid Time - Article ...  Jay Millikan from Stylus magazine, July 7, 2004

 

Top 100 Directors: #66 - Alan J. Pakula (All the President's Men review)  Night Hawks News

 

Bill's Movie Emporium [Bill Thompson]

 

All the President's Men (1976, Alan J. Pakula)  Films 101

 

Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review

 

Eye for Film (Stephen Carty) review [4.5/5]

 

Crazy for Cinema (Lisa Skrzyniarz) review

 

DVD Talk (Gil Jawetz) dvd review [5/5] [Special Edition]

 

digitallyOBSESSED.com (Jon Danziger) dvd review  2-disc Special Edition

 

DVD Verdict (Ryan Keefer) dvd review [Special Edition]

 

DVD Town (John J. Puccio) dvd review  2-disc Special Edition

 

DVD MovieGuide dvd review [Special Edition]  Colin Jacobson

 

DVD Authority.com (Matt Brighton) dvd review [Special Edition]

 

Monsters and Critics - DVD Review [Jeff Swindoll]  Special Edition

 

Movie-Vault.com (John Ulmer) review [9/10]

 

filmsgraded.com (Brian Koller) retrospective [78.5/100]

 

Celluloid Heroes [Paul McElligott]

 

Anthony's Film Review

 

Daily Film Dose [Alan Bacchus]

 

John Lee retrospective

 

Exclaim! dvd review  Michael Barclay

 

Entertainment Weekly capsule dvd review [A]  Ken Tucker

 

TV Guide review

 

Variety review

 

Philadelphia City Paper [Sam Adams]

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [3.5/4]

 

The New York Times (Vincent Canby) review

 

DVDBeaver dvd review  Gary W. Tooze 

 

COMES A HORSEMAN

USA  (118 mi)  1978  ‘Scope

 

Time Out review

From the first, with its graveyard claustrophobically hemmed in by mountains, Comes a Horseman is a misfit Western, with Pakula using Jane Fonda's uncanny resemblance to her father to set up a curious tangential relationship, respectful and rebellious, with classic Western mythology. Fonda is the rather uneasy 'banshee woman boss' of a Montana ranch in 1945, fighting off cattle baron (and former incestuous cousin) Robards, assisted only by a Walter Brennan-style old-timer and a reluctant recruit: Anzio veteran Caan. The sparring of veteran and banshee sits uneasily between conviction and irony, the set pieces - stampede, saloon fight - seem token; even the ranchers' conflicts of interest are handled too precisely, too 'politically' for genre material. Only in the later stages, with some appropriate acknowledgments - that the ranches are both mortgaged, that the film is more interested in murder than battle - does conflict come alive. Visually superb, though: a doomed attempt to make Fordian metaphors speak a language of corrupting, intimate anxiety.

Cinepassion.org [Fernando F. Croce]

Alan J. Pakula's opening shots bring to mind Ford's words to the young Spielberg, about directing really boiling down to understanding when to put the horizon high and when to put it low in the frame. The project may be couched in its maker's reverence for Shane, but it also derives from a small detail in The Parallax View, the brawl in the Western-styled lodge set to "Buttons 'n' Bows" -- Pakula approaches the open spaces of the frontier to escape from urban claustrophobia and instead finds reflections of it, lonely graves and cavernous rooms lit by oil lamps. The cowboy (James Caan) is a World War II vet riding through the hills of Montana, the heroine (Jane Fonda) is a taciturn "banshee woman boss" trying to keep her ranch from being devoured by her cousin, the land baron (Jason Robards). A dialogue with the genre's past is maintained throughout: Caan reveals a Gary Cooper side, Fonda shoulders her family's frontier legacy (The Ox-Bow Incident, Once Upon a Time in the West), open-air dances and cattle stampedes are patiently laid out while the land is dynamited for oil. The very '70s irony of Pakula's range war rests in the way even the villain's individualism is threatened by an anonymous system controlled by bankers hiding behind Gordon Willis's shadows. Much of it is mirrored laterally in Heaven's Gate and There Will Be Blood; elsewhere, the George Stevens influence is evident during Caan and Fonda's first shared meal, a single take follows the dying cowhand (Richard Farnsworth) as he climbs onto a horse and rides away into the beyond, and in the process records a lightning strike in the background. The closing shot posits a hopeful a new beginning, but only after a reminder of the problematic new decade just around the bend. With George Grizzard, and James Keach.

Turner Classic Movies review  Jay S. Steinberg

Jane Fonda was at a career peak when she signed on for the post-modern western Comes a Horseman (1978). She had just completed Coming Home (1978), the project for which she'd obtain her second Best Actress Oscar®. The new film seemed to be offering a comfort zone, as it would be directed by Alan J. Pakula, who helmed her first Academy Award-winning performance in Klute (1971). Further, she'd be re-teamed with Jason Robards, Jr., her co-star with whom she rendered another award nominated performance in Julia (1977). Throw in the added star presence of James Caan, and the cinematography of Gordon Willis, and it sounded like another batch of gold statuettes would be in the offing. However, the end result from this talented collaboration didn't quite gel, and the Academy would largely ignore this interesting misfire.

The story is set in the wake of World War II, and Colorado land baron J.W. Ewing (Robards) is looking to expand his empire by absorbing the spreads of his struggling cattle rancher neighbors. Chief amongst his targets is the willful, flinty Ella Connors (Fonda), whose resentment of Ewing has simmered since the time he bedded her in her youth. She's not looking for an ally to fend him off, but she soon finds one anyway in the presence of Frank Athearn (Caan), a local rancher who's returned from combat overseas a changed man.

As they pool their resources and hold Ewing at bay, it takes some doing for Ella to finally soften and accept Frank as a partner in business and in romance. The scheming Ewing, however, is facing battles on another front; it seems that he does love the land as much as he covets it, and he finds himself locked in battle with oil company exec Neil Atkinson (George Grizzard) in order to keep the derricks out.

Comes a Horseman did allow Fonda to show her chops in a de-glamorized role, and Pakula felt it was uniquely suited to her talents, as expressed in George Haddad-Garcia's The Films of Jane Fonda. "In most westerns the woman is in a calico dress, running after the hero on the horse saying, 'Nothing is worth dying for,' or she's a gun-toting Calamity Jane. The ideas of dealing with a heroine in the West, very much a woman yet willing to fight with the same passion as men, was a great attraction. I thought there was no one better than Jane Fonda to represent that kind of strong yet vulnerable American woman."

In reviewing the film, New West critic Stephen Farber noted that Pakula's works "often demonstrate a subtle but troubling sexual prejudice. He is fascinated by strong women but also seems somewhat frightened of them; he wants to put them in their place. In The Sterile Cuckoo [1969] the abrasive Liza Minnelli was finally rejected by the sensitive hero; in Klute Jane Fonda was rescued from degradation by supercop Donald Sutherland. Comes a Horseman reworks the same story; a strong, proud woman 'realizes' that her salvation comes in submitting to an even stronger man."

Ultimately, the industry legacy of Comes a Horseman will be the boost it gave to the career of Richard Farnsworth, the 58-year-old veteran stunt rider and bit player who received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar® nomination for his efforts as Ella's grizzled ranch hand Dodger. Even critics who savaged the movie singled out the weathered, endearingly charismatic Farnsworth as a bright spot, and he brought the film its sole nomination from the Academy.

User reviews  from imdb Author: theowinthrop from United States

 

Channel 4 Film capsule review

 

Variety review

 

STARTING OVER

USA  (105 mi)  1979

 

Time Out review

What to do if you are male, American, no spring chicken, and abandoned by your wife on the ground that you get in the way of her career? One answer is to wedge the tongue firmly in cheek, join a Divorced Men's Workshop, get yourself a new girl, and regard your ex-wife with the careful patience usually reserved for the demented. The irrepressible ebullience of Burt Reynolds, which has been known to buoy up less fragile craft than this, is here in danger of swamping not only Jill Clayburgh's rather mousy rendition of Marilyn-the-nursery-school-teacher, but the movie as a whole. Moments of little-boy-lost helplessness, thrown in to indicate his 'earnestness', merely make you wonder if he's schizoid or just a complete philanderer. It's as if Pakula had got on a fairground horse that has gone out of control, and is undecided whether to go with it or try to stop it.

PopMatters (Samantha Bornemann) dvd review

Why am I so sure I’m in big trouble here?
—Marilyn (Jill Clayburgh), Starting Over

Watching an old film you heard was great and finding it only interesting can’t help but disappoint. Such was my experience with 1979’s Starting Over, wherein airplane magazine writer Phil (Burt Reynolds, by turns amused and blank) is torn between self-absorbed ex-wife Jessica (Candice Bergen) and his quirky, kind girlfriend Marilyn (Jill Clayburgh). Based on a novel by Dan Wakefield and adapted by James L. Brooks, the script ping-pongs between earnest drama and broad character strokes, before settling for a pat happy ending.

To the film’s credit, we wonder which woman Phil will choose, and, to a lesser degree, which he should choose. But not because we want both women to be happy: Jessica is one of those annoying types trying to find herself through “creativity,” and by sleeping with Phil’s boss and then asking for a divorce. As the film opens, Phil is trying to charm her out of that decision (“I swear to God, we’re getting a divorce when all we need is separate vacations”), while she’s claiming she has found her “voice” in songwriting. “It’s not like the painting and the photography,” she argues. “It’s not.”

Trouble is, she’s a terrible singer, demonstrated when Bergen screeches to comic effect (“This woman’s got a right to be more than a shadow of her man”) as Phil leaves their sleek apartment en route to his brother’s (Charles Durning) couch in Boston. The tune will haunt him. Set up on his first date in eight years, with a lascivious single mom (Mary Kay Place), Phil arrives to hear his ex’s now-hit song playing just behind the door, and as they wait for her babysitter to arrive, she sings a few bars herself. Gulp. His next date is Marilyn, whom Phil woos with straight talk: “I just wanna have dinner with somebody. Anybody. A person,” he explains with frustration. “I’m not gonna touch you. I might not even talk to you.” “Sounds perfect,” Marilyn says—and with that, she’s doomed.

Between dates, Phil attends a divorced men’s support group in a church basement, where he trades stories with the bitter and the hapless, like Paul (Austin Pendleton), who keeps marrying and divorcing the same woman. Phil confesses that for some reason he’s avoiding going to bed with Marilyn. “Maybe she’s special,” he supposes. “It’s possible, you know.” For her part, Marilyn struggles not to believe in such fluff. After they do sleep together, she wakes just after he’s left—and chases him out into the snow to lambaste him for treating her like a one-nighter. Reassuring her that he left a note and will see her the next night, he says, with affection, “If you can avoid it, I’d prefer you didn’t act crazy anymore.” Marilyn tells herself, “I think I could love this man.”

With Marilyn, the film captures the sting of loving someone despite knowing he is going to break your heart. Indeed, Phil is such a mess that we don’t know whether to pull for her to get what she wants from him, or to get out alive. He’s clearly not over his ex-wife, whose fitful reappearances both hinder and propel his new romance. When Jessica calls and interrupts Thanksgiving dinner, Phil describes Marilyn as a friend of his brother’s family. Does he really want Marilyn, or is he just trying to hold on to something? Neither is sure, and viewers aren’t, either, because Reynolds’ vacant countenance is impossible to read. Is he a smooth talker on a down turn? Or a schlubby nice guy who delivers the occasional good line? (While some kind writers have posited that Reynolds was too pigeonholed by his Smokey and the Bandit persona to parlay his Golden Globe nomination for Starting Over into an Academy Award nomination, as Clayburgh [best actress] and Bergen [supporting] deservedly did, nothing in his performance screams “Oscar!” to me.)

When Jessica shows up in a low-cut blouse, we see the familiarity and humor they share. They seem destined to sleep together, until Jessica hits PLAY on the tape deck and ridiculously sings along to her latest composition, “Better Than Ever” (lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager). “Have you lost your marbles?” Phil asks as the music fades out, freed (along with the script) by this full-on movie joke from making a decision.

Still, the genre demands a rupture in his new romance, in order to test the pull of his old one. Disappointingly, cinematic rules and conventions take over in the film’s final stretch, granting Phil his big epiphany (“I need terrific, I need wonderful, I need love”) and propelling him into one last grand romantic gesture. While he’s not as eloquent in this climactic scene as was Jerry Maguire (a more recent incarnation of the character), he gets the job done. Though it’s staged as a victory over lowered expectations, the opposite of settling, it sure looks like a movie compromise to me.

DVD Verdict (Dennis Prince) dvd review

 

DVD Talk (Scott Weinberg) dvd review [3/5]

 

The Spinning Image (Graeme Clark) review

 

User reviews  from imdb Author: Ed Uyeshima from San Francisco, CA, USA

 

Entertainment Weekly capsule dvd review [B-]  Edward Karam

 

TV Guide

 

Variety review

 

The New York Times (Janet Maslin) review

 

ROLLOVER

USA  (116 mi)  1981

 

Time Out review  Tom Milne

A generally underrated film, admittedly not always easy to follow in its voyage through the rarefied reaches of high finance and merchant banking, discovering conspiracy and murder along the way, with the fate of the entire Western economy hanging in the balance. Disconcerting in its kaleidoscopic shifts in tone, it's nevertheless too absorbing simply to dismiss. Matching gamesmanship with gamesmanship as his financiers elaborate on their abstruse gambits in incomprehensible computer-speak, what Pakula seems to be trying to demonstrate - with the final confrontation suggesting a standoff between two gunfighters, stalemated because the villain proves able to justify his villainy - is that the complex power plays of international finance constitute an entirely new genre with which the old ones arrayed here (film noir, romantic comedy, political exposé, Western) are ill-equipped to cope. It's a fascinating experiment, well worth seeing anyway as another of Pakula's marvellous evocations of urban paranoia.

Cinepassion.org  Fernando F. Croce

The capitalist machine is presented in a swift preamble, a dormant stockroom coming to life via dissolve as the dollar plummets, followed in short order by a gag from Vidor's The Fountainhead (the diminutive mogul posing in his office with Empire State verticals in the background). Alan J. Pakula trains the x-ray camera on the financial system, where the "illusion of safety" is thoroughly demolished under the guise of a romantic thriller. Blinking digits (lit up like an electronic beehive) are revealed as windows on the side of the World Trade Center, the camera tracks into one of them just in time to catch the killing of the chairman and the disappearance of the McGuffin; the Hollywood-star-turned-corporate-widow (Jane Fonda) receives the news at a marine-themed gala soiree, with couples dancing under the beady eye of a whale. Money is a horrid thing to follow and a charming thing to meet, Henry James tells us, and Fonda is soon being courted by Kris Kristofferson, the wizard hired to take the company out of fiscal quicksand. Screwball repartee in the New World Order: "I'm still not sure I trust you." "A perfect basis for a relationship." Pakula's subtle satire -- the hero's blockiness is turned to heated abandon only after a particularly arduous monetary session -- was lost on critics, and also on the makers of Syriana, who lifted the format without understanding it. Hume Cronyn elucidates the intrigue (leading to deceit, murder, and worldwide breakdown) as a "routine baking operation," though the best summarization of the epoch was delivered the previous year by Brando's Titan Oil tycoon in Avildsen's The Formula: "You are missing the point. We are the Arabs." Capra's bank-storming is writ global for the ending, with Pakula quoting Roosevelt over 360° circulars pan that locate a couple of superstars facing each other on the brink of a new, ambiguous beginning (cf. Tout va Bien). With Josef Sommer, Bob Gunton, and Macon McCalman.

SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review review [2.5/5]  Richard Scheib

 

Plot: When the president of New York’s Borough National Bank is murdered in his office, banking troubleshooter Hub Smith is sent in to sort the bank out. When Hub sees the president’s wife, former movie star Lee Winters, being treated patronizingly by the board of directors, he supports her bid to become the new chairman. The two also become lovers. But after obtaining a $500 million loan from Saudi Arabia to keep the bank afloat, they puzzle over why the Saudis do not withdraw the interest repayments. This leads them to uncover a plan by the Saudis to withdraw all their money in cash from banks everywhere all at once, something that banks will never be able to cope with and will end up bankrupting the Western world.

This is a rather unusual thriller, one that for once does not predict the end of the world coming via nuclear holocaust or plague but rather through the deliberate disabling of the Western economy. A film set in the world of high finance is a good deal more challenging than the average thriller and certainly makes for a complex and difficult to follow plot – trying to follow the talk of positions points, bond marks, venture capital and Eurodollar exchange rates almost makes it like watching a foreign film without subtitles – and to no real surprise the film was not a box-office success. The denseness of the material is something that both Jane Fonda and Kris Kristofferson seem clearly daunted by too – at times they seem reduced to suitcases that open and spout banking chatter. Although there is at least one very good performance from Hume Cronyn who demonstrates a sharp predatoriness far removed from the feelgood OAPer roles he was stuck with in the latter half of the 1980s.

However with perseverance the plot has a certain effectiveness. The unveiling of the scheme and the edgy gamble in saving the bank from the rollover hold suspense. Director Alan J.Pakula had made excellent award-winning films like All the President’s Men (1976) and Sophie’s Choice (1982), as well as several films with Fonda including Klute (1971) and Comes a Horseman (1978). And overall the film fails to grip as a thriller, with Pakula’s direction remaining too stodgy by half. The ending, wherein comes its real science-fictional content, remains too downbeat by half, despite a ludicrously optimistic reuniting of the lovers. A more credible ending surely would have had Kristofferson defeating or exposing the scheme, which would have at least satisfied the requirements of the thriller form. Ultimately it is also a film that heavily depends on and unsubtly plays to a certain form of racism that was prevalent in the 1970s – the fear of the increasing economic strength of the OPEC nations and of the Arabic stranglehold resultingly placed on the Western economy.

This is not a game: Alan J. Pakula's Rollover. | Goliath Business News  Cine-Action, March 22, 2005

 

The Sleepless Movie Review  Dustin Sklavós

 

Alan J Pakula film Rollover | | Global financial crisis ...  Commercial Break

 

Channel 4 Film capsule review

 

Variety review

 

The New York Times (Janet Maslin) review

 

SOPHIE’S CHOICE

USA  Great Britain  (150 mi)  1982

 

Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.

Emily Dickinson, Time and Eternity, Volume 2, Part IV, verse #63, published 1890-91

 

Time Out

A summer in Brooklyn in 1947, and an infatuated boy (MacNicol) tries to learn the dreadful secret of Sophie's awful Choice. It's Pakula's first film as his own screenwriter, and his scrupulous adherence to the dense details of William Styron's novel seems to have slowed down the deft visual sense so marked in Klute. A more serious problem occurs in long flashback scenes as Sophie describes her ordeal in Auschwitz. The information (for on one level, this is a tantalising Gothic romance) comes thrillingly, in fits and starts, with revelations following on the heels of half-truths. But one watches uneasily as the obscenity of the Holocaust is served up for our entertainment yet again, and another actress with perfect cheekbones and a crew cut loses a few pounds to lend credibility to a death camp scene. By the end, the accumulated weight and lethargy of the production fails to invest Sophie's fate with the significance Styron achieves.

The New York Times (Janet Maslin) review

THE heroine of William Styron's ''Sophie's Choice'' is a creature of such extravagant and contradictory attributes that it isn't always easy, while reading the novel, to imagine her in the flesh. She is tragic, voluptuous, suddenly exuberant and then just as suddenly sodden, the survivor of one calamity and the woman at the heart of another. Mr. Styron's Sophie would seem too oversized and literary a figure to be embodied by any actress, even by an actress of extraordinary resourcefulness and versatility.

Meryl Streep has already established herself as a performer of that caliber, but nothing in her earlier work fully anticipates ''Sophie's Choice.'' In Alan J. Pakula's faithful screen adaptation of Mr. Styron's novel, Miss Streep accomplishes the near-impossible, presenting Sophie in believably human terms without losing the scale of Mr. Styron's invention. In a role affording every opportunity for overstatement, she offers a performance of such measured intensity that the results are by turns exhilarating and heartbreaking. Though it's far from a flawless movie, ''Sophie's Choice'' is a unified and deeply affecting one. Thanks in large part to Miss Streep's bravura performance, it's a film that casts a powerful, uninterrupted spell.

Mr. Pakula's ''Sophie's Choice,'' which opens today at Cinema I, follows the lengthy novel closely enough to capture it with amazing comprehensiveness in a little more than two-and-a-half hours. In fact, the novel is reflected so accurately that both its strengths and its weaknesses remain intact. Struggling as it does to compress the book, the film loses much of the novel's windiness, although a few voice-over narrative passages (read by Josef Sommer, as an older and wiser version of Mr. Styron's part-autobiographical character, Stingo) quickly recapitulate that aspect.

The manipulative and oversymmetrical aspects of the story are also here, and the events and devices that seemed awkward on the page - Mr. Styron's having Sophie and her lover Nathan dress in period garb to suggest their manic ebullience, for instance -have stayed that way. But the book's most overpowering quality is its inexorable momentum, and that has been preserved to the fullest. A suspenseful, troubling novel, it makes for a movie that is even more so.

The bulk of Mr. Styron's story is set at a Brooklyn boardinghouse in 1947, where the aspiring writer Stingo is befriended by two lovers, Sophie and Nathan, whose instability and flamboyance utterly capture his imagination. Sophie gradually tells Stingo, in a series of long confessional monologues, that she is a former Roman Catholic, an Auschwitz survivor and, finally, the woman with the terrible secret reflected in the title. She is also a liar, at least at first, and much of the book's suspense revolves around Stingo's search for her authentic story. As for Nathan, he is endowed by Mr. Styron with a terrible secret of his own and with a mixture of demonic rage and irresistible charm. Together, Nathan and Sophie storm at each other until Stingo is hopelessly caught up in their affair.

Among the more daring things Mr. Pakula attempts here is the structural anomaly of interrupting the Brooklyn drama with a lengthy Auschwitz flashback, midway through the story. He manages to make it work, both because Miss Streep so successfully holds the audience rapt and because the Auschwitz segment is so crucial and compelling. At the concentration camp, Sophie wheedles her way into a secretarial job at Rudolf Hoess's home, a bizarrely bourgeois oasis in which a child's room is decorated with swastika-pattern lace curtains and the mother of the house sings out ''I baked Himmler's favorite cake!'' That the film avoids a tone of crushing irony here and elsewhere is attributable to the strength, patience and delicacy with which Mr. Pakula has approached his material.

The film's two leading men, Kevin Kline as Nathan and Peter MacNicol as Stingo, have roles that are in some ways even more challenging than Miss Streep's. Mr. Kline, whose Nathan convincingly demonstrates the greatest of tenderness toward Sophie, is also called upon to rail at her mercilessly. In the tender scenes Mr. Kline makes himself very appealing; in the cruel ones, he does the best he can to affect a viciousness that, even on the page, seemed less than fully convincing.

Mr. MacNicol plays Stingo with a touching Southern gentlemanliness and reserve, but the role of an admiring listener has its difficulties, too. And he isn't helped by the novel's hubris regarding Stingo, preserved here in a passage in which Nathan only half-facetiously welcomes the aspiring young author into ''that pantheon of the gods whose words are all we know of immortality.'' The movie's Stingo, who hasn't demonstrated anything to warrant this, is called upon to take the compliment more or less in stride.

The chief thing Stingo must do, though, is to lead the reader or audience toward an unqualified fascination with Sophie. That part is easy. The character's halting, Polish-accented speech; her charming (and, in one instance, hilariously obscene) malapropisms; her frank sexuality (something Miss Streep conveys easily without any need for nudity); her long, haunted reminiscences -these are the components of an unforgettable heroine, and the work of the astonishing actress who brings her to life.

Turner Classic Movies review  Jay Carr

Alan J. Pakula's Sophie's Choice (1982), from William Styron's novel about the after-effects of Holocaust evil, gives us film's most memorable incarnation of survivor's guilt. If Meryl Streep had inscribed no performance other than this film's tortured Polish woman who can't forgive herself for continuing to live while witnessing so much wrenching death, it would have insured her place in film history. Sophie is forced to make many choices - not between life and death, but between death and even worse death. History, despite its overwhelming presence, isn't what gives Sophie's Choice its power. It's Streep's tragic heroine tearing at our hearts, as she lives and relives the agony she never can shake for long. She throws herself into desperate, fleeting breakouts into sex and drink, revolving around her American Jewish lover, Nathan (Kevin Kline), equally damaged in different ways.

Life, intoxicating as it can get during these brief, heady interludes, is never a match for death. Sophie's tragedy is that she can't see how heroic she has been, and is. She thinks of herself as a failure. Streep's pale-skinned, delicate features become a geography of human torment. Her immersion in the character of Sophie includes an immersion in the Polish language - not just impersonation, but internalization. She has spoken of connecting with her own inner gutteral sounds. So it's not just a matter of getting the sound right - although her flawed, heavily accented English is pitch-perfect. It's also a matter of pulling from her gut a primal depth of sound that contributes to Sophie's innate earthiness, liveliness, integrity, never long able to escape being engulfed by an undertow of sadness.

She's not just an ambulatory accent; she's a personification of soul-sickness, weariness, too much experience of the wrong kind, from the day her stomach convulses when she learns that the respected law professor father in Cracow, who she adored and whose love she craved, whose speeches she dutifully typed, was a rabid anti-Semite who helped devise the Final Solution. Being sympathetic to the Resistance but stopping short of getting actively involved doesn't keep her from being rounded up with her two small children and stuffed into an Auschwitz-bound boxcar, a Polish Catholic as doomed as the Jews she accompanies. Streep is all the more affecting for having chosen to let us see the control Sophie exercises - most of the time.

Much of what she says is with her eyes, sometimes candid, sometimes breaking the gaze of her friend and confessor, Peter MacNicol's young observer figure and Styron surrogate, Stingo. He literally gives the film much of its voice, as narrator and innocent novice who comes to Brooklyn from Virginia in 1947 to become a novelist, touchingly following in the footsteps of Thomas Wolfe and, inevitably in his literary style, Faulkner. Structurally, he's necessary. He's the one who hears Sophie's secrets, hitherto hidden parts of her past she can't divulge to Nathan - including one final soul-destroying one. Not that Styron - or Pakula - gives the Southern writer the best of anything. Of the character's romantic ardor and talent with language there is no doubt. But he's a bit of a pipsqueak, a blank slate, unformed, with the personality of sushi.

Pakula, of Polish-Jewish lineage, has said that if his father hadn't come to America, his family might well have perished at Auschwitz. Certainly, there is conviction in his film's measured progression of moods. Its problematic flashbacks from the novel never break the momentum - although a lot of the tension in them comes from the frozen alertness and fear in Streep's eyes as Sophie, hating herself more and more each time she falls back on survival reflexes. Pakula and his cinematographer, Nestor Almendros, take a chance by contrasting the desaturated Agfacolor-like concentration camp sequences with Sophie's recollection of them in closeup, face framed by spun-gold hair, lips painted scarlet, visage bathed in icy blue light that reinforces her self-image as walking corpse, a vision of dead loveliness. It's an esthetic gamble that wins. We understand viscerally why the young writer becomes drawn to her and longs to supplant Nathan as her lover.

Today, you'd call Sophie and Nathan co-dependent enablers for their shared sado-masochism. They're love and death in the same package. Since Sophie and Nathan have befriended the writer named Stingo, and drag him from his solitude in their restored Victorian Brooklyn rooming house to party and join their spirited capers, the element of betrayal is present in spades, too. After Sophie drinks with Stingo when Nathan isn't around, Nathan accuses Stingo of moving in on "his girl" and accuses Sophie of letting him. Nathan's paranoia on this score isn't altogether unfounded. Still, the brilliant, impulsive and, on rare occasions, tender Nathan's roller-coaster ups and downs suggest that not all is well with him either as he seesaws between manic elation and murderous depression. Nathan's extremes leave Kline without the equivalent of Streep's detailing - her brilliant, seemingly improvisatory way of sometimes letting the faintest curl of an extended finger, or a vocal hesitation, or a distracted tugging at a loose strand of her golden hair do the talking. She's cool, but avoids mannerism. With Nathan, you quickly just wait for the next outsized gesture. Pakula, ever sensitive to mood, charges the emotional air with tense expectation. It gets the film past some slack pacing.

Kline's is a performance insufficiently appreciated for its choices and even subtlety, partly because Nathan's paranoid schizophrenic mood swings make us uncomfortable, squirmy. MacNicol's Stingo does, too, because whatever else he is - sensitive, good, chivalric - he's also something of a drip. It was Streep who recommended Kline to Pakula even before she was cast as Sophie. Cloaked in inevitability as her Oscar®-winning performance is, it's illuminating to recall that Streep was far from a shoo-in for the role. Styron went on record as favoring Ursula Andress as Sophie. Pakula's first choice was Liv Ullmann for her ability to project the foreignness that would add to her appeal in the eyes of an impressionable, romantic Southerner. Ullmann went on to other projects when Pakula took two years to fashion the screenplay. Polish actress Magda Vasaryova, Barbra Streisand, Marthe Keller and Streep (like Pakula, a Yale Drama School grad) threw their hats in the ring. Finally, Streep prevailed, a Slavic Blanche DuBois, gallantly but vainly trying to outrun her conviction that she owes the universe a death - hers.

CultureCartel.com (John Nesbit) review [4/5]  also seen here:  Old School Reviews [John Nesbit] 

Sophie's Choice  Sophie's Choice, Undeserved guilt, by Phyllis Deutsch from Jump Cut

Pakula's Choice | The New Republic  Pakula’s Choice, by Stanley Kauffmann from The New Republic, January 17, 1983

Dragan Antulov review [7/10]

CultureCartel.com (David Abrams) review [4.5/5]

ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [4/4]

Movieline Magazine review  Michael Atkinson

Epinions.com [Grouch]

Crazy for Cinema (Lisa Skrzyniarz) review

DVD MovieGuide   Colin Jacobson

 

Apollo Movie Guide [Brian Webster]

 

Filmicability with Dean Treadway

 

Nick's Flick Picks (Nick Davis) review [D+]   calling it a false and dishonest melodrama

 

Daily Film Dose [Alan Bacchus]  tedious and poorly executed

 

Variety review

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [4/4]

 

The collected poems of Emily Dickinson - Google Books Result

 

Emily Dickinson: The Complete Poems

 

Emily Dickinson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

ORPHANS

USA  (115 mi)  1987

 

Time Out review

Adapting his own play, Lyle Kessler has ventured out from the clapped-out clapboard in Newark where Phillip (Anderson) is kept in thrall to his brother Treat (Modine). An opening sequence, showing Treat as a compassionate mugger, establishes the violent conflict of emotions within the robbing hood, but otherwise the few external excursions don't add much. Fortunately, the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the central arena is by no means dissipated. Phillip believes he will die if he goes outside, so while his keeper is out providing for them, he prowls the house like a mangy caged animal or (though Treat thinks he's illiterate) reads in the attic. This precarious state of interdependence is upset when Treat brings back Harold (Finney), a gangster who is drunk and rolling in dodgy dollars, in a ransom bid defeated when Harold, a fellow-orphan, offers these dead end kids his affection. Under Harold's munificent guidance, the lonesome sons rehabilitate both their home and themselves...until Treat's inability to control his feelings precipitates disaster. Pakula's direction extracts every ounce of energy from this ferocious tragedy, with Finney and Anderson, repeating their acclaimed performances from the London stage production, eclipsed by Modine, in stunning form. It's funny, fearsome, and finally very moving.

Washington Post (Rita Kempley) review

Clearly overwrought, director Alan J. Pakula brings us "Orphans," a roller coaster of a play adaptation that apes the carryings-on of the Steppenwolf Theater Company's original production. Not since Shelley Winters sank with the Poseidon have we seen such histrionics.

This oddball drama of male bonding finds two feral orphans -- one a delinquent, the other a recluse -- redeemed by a kidnap victim turned fairy godfather, a dapper mafioso played with welcome restraint by Albert Finney. Matthew Modine and screen newcomer Kevin Anderson, however, scramble and grapple like demented gerbils in performances that may have worked for the Steppenwolves playing to the balcony but that overwhelm on screen. Pakula and company forget the rule of thumb: You don't have to project when using a projector.

Modine, of "Full Metal Jacket" fame, plays Treat, a self-styled Robin Hood who steals to feed his kid brother Phillip, who cowers in their filthy Newark home. It's a dilapidated clapboard on the edge of New York -- and therefore, one guesses, civilization. Treat has convinced Phillip that he will die of an allergic reaction if he goes outdoors. (I'm not so sure he's wrong.) It's a frail variant of "Lord of the Flies," more on the importance of parenting.

Here, Finney's well-heeled gangster, Harold, becomes a father to the boys. "This is the best thing that ever happened to me in New Jersey," says Harold when he magically escapes his bonds. On the lam and an orphan himself, he decides to move in and play a gothic "Father Knows Best." He tames the kids with a tough-but-tender approach; Phillip goes outside and Treat gains self-discipline.

Playwright Lyle Kessler, who reworked "Orphans" for the screen, writes for the actors, not the audience. His story, a claustrophobic parenting parable, goes nowhere, but it features three actorly parts -- like ham cans waiting to be filled. So we see actors instead of characters, technique instead of truth, and performance instead of psychic progress.

Finney, in his second orphan movie ("Annie" being the first), is the exception with his amusing and mythic Harold. He's as impish as George Burns in "Oh, God!" and yet as menacingly moral as Robert De Niro's devil in "Angel Heart." Modine, muggy and moody, swaggers like a saddle-sore cowboy after an all-night rodeo. Anderson re-creates his stage role as the skittery Phillip, whose fantasy life teems with other selves. He hasn't made a successful transition, with his work wobbling somewhere between staginess and comedy-club improv.

The whole production is like an actor's workshop, where students pretend to be amoebas and egg beaters. Despite all his accomplishment, Pakula seems duped by the theatricality of the project; he's proved he can handle grand emotion with "Sophie's Choice," but somehow awed by the Steppenwolves, he unfortunately adopted their version of "Orphans."

Jonathan Rosenbaum  The Chicago Reader, September 25, 1987

 

TV Guide Entertainment Network, Movie Guide review [4/5]

 

Variety review

 

Washington Post (Desson Howe) review

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [2.5/4]

 

Siskel & Ebert  (video)

 

The New York Times (Vincent Canby) review

 

SEE YOU IN THE MORNING

USA  (119 mi)  1989

 

Time Out review

This risible divorce drama opens strikingly. Successful psychiatrist Larry Livingston and wife Jo (Bridges and Fawcett) with a couple of cute infants gambolling in the countryside; cut to another happy couple (Krige and Dukes) with two kids moving into their New York dream home; cut to Bridges and Krige in flagrante. Turns out her concert pianist husband died, while his vapid wife left him to continue a modelling career. It's about starting over, with Krige's kids forced to come to terms with a (somewhat ingratiating) new dad. The story of their new life is reasonably told, but the Farrah Fawcett subplot is a major drawback as Bridges skips over to remonstrate with his ex-wife, visit his small children, and swap philosophies with a sickeningly spiritual mother-in-law (Sternhagen). There's a lengthy scene with Bridges (who rises engagingly above the tosh) reading a retch-inducing bedtime story about a dolphin called Caring, and spook-eyed, sinister Krige is less than ideally cast as a sweet young mother.

Washington Post (Hal Hinson) review

In "See You in the Morning," Jeff Bridges moves though his scenes with an expression of vague worry, like a man who's misplaced his keys and keeps patting his pockets, hoping that somehow they'll magically reappear.

Bridges plays Larry Livingston, a Manhattan psychiatrist trying to keep his balance on the shifting domestic ground of wives and frowning offspring. At the beginning of the film he's with his wife Jo (Farrah Fawcett), a superstar cover girl, and their two adorable kids. And the opening shots of these beautiful children with their beautiful mom present them as master race material -- a sort of Uber-family, in the aristocratic, Ralph Lauren mode. They're perfect -- so perfect that you know something has to be wrong.

Something is wrong and, soon, the family is in pieces and Daddy is about to marry someone new and start all over again. Ostensibly a comedy of modern manners, "See You in the Morning" is about the chaotic, partner-switching family life of the '80s and, watching it, you feel as if you are being "Donahued" to death. The film has a sort of waxy buildup of warmth and sentiment -- it practically has LET'S HUG! stamped on every frame. Written and directed by Alan Pakula, it chronicles the troubled histories of two families, the Livingstons and the Goodwins, each in its own way insufferably accomplished. The second clan is headed by Peter (David Dukes), a world-acclaimed pianist who, early on, kills himself because of his failure to recover from a paralyzing hand injury, leaving behind his dedicated wife Beth (Alice Krige) and their two children Cathy and Peter (Drew Barrymore and Lukas Haas).

Still reeling from his divorce, Larry is introduced to Beth by their mutual friend, Sidney (Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Linda Lavin), who describes her as a saint, "the only kind of woman who'd have anything to do with you." But the last thing Larry appears to be is a handful. Larry is more the homey, good-husband type -- faithful, attentive, safe. And when Beth overhears him giving out his home number to one of his patients, she melts. Men are men, but a good bedside manner is hard to find.

The structure of the film is glibly elliptical. At the slightest provocation, one of the characters will stare off into space pensively, prompting yet another poignant flashback. From such moments we discover that Beth, who once had dreams of being a photographer but instead became a devoted helpmate to her genius husband and a doting mother to her kids, isn't the type for easy banter. Beth has a natural elegance, but there's something haggard and withdrawn in her expression. Guilt, we learn, is the reason. Having done everything humanly possible for her family, she berates herself for not doing more.

As a type, Beth is easy to identify, but that's about all she is -- an easily identifiable type. Self-punishing and feeling unworthy of anyone's love, she pushes Larry away -- not because she wants to but because she's afraid of happiness. When Larry confronts her on this, you can't believe that Pakula would dare just to dump this unprocessed psycho-drivel at our feet.

Is there anything more horribly '80s than a couple brought together by a migraine? Pakula is working hard here to deal fully and honestly and entertainingly with recognizable issues that have genuine social resonance, but why is his treatment so uninspired, so bland? There's a hunger for films about lovers who struggle to transcend their problems and make a life together, and you want to restrain yourself from ragging on anyone who takes a serious approach to the subject. But does the thing have to be such a droning bore?

The faces the actors have set for themselves are as fixed as masks. As the tender-souled, befuddled shrink, Bridges fights to find that plodding, commonplace, overearnest side of his personality, and, in flashes, he manages to convey an authentic emotion. (You can't help but wonder though how this part got away from Alan Alda.) Krige, on the other hand, seems stifled by the generalizations in her character. That migraine seems to have spread throughout her whole body. Fawcett plays a tortured beauty, unsatisfied by monogamy and comfy family life, and certainly, somewhere underneath her blond tangles, there must be facial expressions that convey some of this, but if there are, none of them made it onto the emulsion.

Banal as it is, the film may find its supporters. In "See You in the Morning" all the issues are flagged, and Pakula seems more interested in scoring easy sociological points than in penetrating to something deeper, something more personal. He has succeeded in capturing the lifestyle terrain -- furniture, the clothes, the cultural stuff. And for Pakula, this seems to be an end in itself. But in fact, the problems of this achingly self-conscious class of Manhattanites have been given more than their share of screen time. Shot in rich, soft-colored hues by Donald McAlpine, the picture is handsome in a slightly overarticulated way, and with its tasteful Gershwin numbers, what it most brings to mind is the worst of Woody Allen, and few things in life are worse than that -- it's Alan doing Woody. And this Woody isn't worth doing.

Chicago Reader (Jonathan Rosenbaum) review [3/4]  April 28, 1989

 

The Tech (MIT) (Manavendra K. Thakur) review

 

Mark R. Leeper review

 

Spirituality & Practice [Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat]

 

Variety review

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [2.5/4]

 

Siskel & Ebert  (video)

 

The New York Times (Vincent Canby) review

 

PRESUMED INNOCENT

USA  (127 mi)  1990

 

Time Out review

Pakula and Frank Pierson faced a difficult task in adapting Scott Turow's novel. The dense, first-person narrative - told from the perspective of an alleged murderer - has been simplified and tightened, its psychological subtleties jettisoned, the emphasis shifted to legal and forensic investigation. Rusty Sabich (Ford) is a prosecuting attorney whose life is thrown into turmoil after a colleague (Scacchi) is raped and murdered. They had enjoyed a brief affair, and suspicion falls on Sabich, who finds himself hiring a defence attorney (Julia). Even stripped down, the plot provides suspense and intellectual fascination, but the film quickly runs into problems of characterisation. In Turow's novel, the victim is viewed from Sabich's vantage point; here, the emotional distortion has been lost, and her role is merely functional. To a lesser degree, Sabich also loses in the translation, but he's given dimension via his relationship with his tormented, mathematician wife (Bedelia, excellent) and through Ford's earnest intensity. In a welcome return to suspense, Pakula effectively conveys the claustrophobia of domesticity and courtroom procedure.

Washington Post (Joe Brown) review

What people hate most about movie critics is that they seem to delight in giving away the plot twist or the surprise ending. The makers of "Presumed Innocent" know this. They also know that the main thing their competent, resolutely unflashy murder mystery/courtroom drama has going for it is an unanswered-to-the-end question: "Did he or didn't he? And if he didn't, who did?"

So the studio sent out imploring letters to critics everywhere: "Please don't reveal the ending in whatever you write or say on the air," they begged. And "Please don't reveal if Rusty Sabich (Harrison Ford) is guilty or innocent."

Not to worry, guys. I was kept blissfully in the dark (if not exactly on the edge of my seat) till the end of the movie, and anyway, I'd never dream of spoiling someone else's sleuthing.

What I can say is that in this faithful-to-the-letter adaptation of lawyer Scott Turow's 1987 bestseller, Ford plays assistant D.A. Sabich, who leaves his ostensibly happy home one morning for the office and finds his boss waiting for him with Bad News: Carolyn Polhemus, a beautiful young lawyer Sabich has been secretly involved with, has been murdered. And Sabich is assigned to the case.

Sabich drags his feet on the case, "forgetting" to submit crucial physical evidence to the lab for examination. But when fingerprints finally surface, they finger Sabich himself as the prime suspect. Up against it, Sabich hires his own longtime rival to defend him in the trial, and it's a toughie -- the case is further complicated by an impending election, missing criminal case files, marital discord and a victim who seems to have slept with everyone but the jury.

Director Alan J. Pakula sets the story at a methodical, unhurried pace, with a tone of sober, almost drab, realism enlivened by occasional flashes of courtroom drollery (and a smidgen of sex, when Sabich and Polhemus indulge in a desktop celebration after a successful child abuse prosecution).

Everyone in the cast underplays competitively, but no one can underplay like Ford. Here, the action-movie hero is required to react to awful evidence and accusations for much of the movie. When he does speak, it's in a barely intelligible mumble, and his haunted, hangdog look -- he's a legal beagle -- serves him well and never tips us off. Ford and Pakula do a good job of keeping you wondering ifhedunit till the end.

Bonnie Bedelia is dependably radiant as Sabich's wronged wife Barbara, and Greta Scacchi seems to carry her own light source as the sexy, aggressively careerist victim Carolyn, glimpsed only in gory evidence photos and Sabich's flashbacks. Raul Julia is an intellectual iceberg with satisfyingly sharp edges as Sabich's defense attorney. Brian Dennehy is hissably reptilian as Sabich's turncoat boss, and Joe Grifasi leaves you with no choice but to despise his wormlike prosecutor.

By the way, it's not always the critics who are the bad guys as far as endings are concerned: Some guy in my row figured it all out a few beats ahead of the rest of us, and was so proud he couldn't keep his conclusion to himself. We critics are playing fair this time -- now it's up to you.

Presuming Innocence  Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas

 

Movie-Vault.com (John Ulmer) review [7/10]

 

eFilmCritic.com review [4/5]  Slyder

 

DVD Verdict (Nicholas Sylvain) dvd review

 

George Chabot's Review

 

Mark R. Leeper review [high +2 out of -4..+4]

 

Rolling Stone (Peter Travers) review

 

Movie House Commentary  Johnny Web

 

User reviews  from imdb Author: Dennis Littrell (dalittrell@yahoo.com) from SoCal

 

User reviews  from imdb Author: James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England

 

Entertainment Weekly review [B-]  Owen Gleiberman

 

TV Guide review

 

Variety review

 

Washington Post (Rita Kempley) review

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [3.5/4]

 

Siskel & Ebert  (video)

 

The New York Times (Janet Maslin) review

 

CONSENTING ADULTS

USA  (99 mi)  1992

 

Time Out review

This faltering addition to Hollywood's yuppies in peril cycle starts better than it finishes. Jingle-writer Richard (Kline, wooden) and his supportive wife Priscilla (Mastrantonio) have every reason to be content with their lifestyle until 'financial adviser' Eddy (Spacey) and his improbably blonde partner Kay (Miller) arrive to upset the balance. Friendly relations are soon established, but 'neath the surface simmer sexual tensions which insurance scam-meister Eddy is all too keen to exploit, suggesting that he and Richard do the not-done thing by sleeping with each other's wives. The following day, police discover semen traces on Kay's battered body, and Richard is suddenly prime suspect in a murder case. His life disintegrates before his very eyes, and the movie follows suit. Twenty years after the taut Klute, Pakula's touch has deserted him; the glossy, literalist approach he favours here works firmly against the arrant contrivances in Matthew Chapman's screenplay, rendering already convoluted events even more ridiculous.

Washington Post (Hal Hinson) review

It all seemed so innocent, so harmless, just like that little tryst Michael Douglas had with Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction." Or the hiring of Rebecca De Mornay as a nanny in "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle." We're all adults. Right? We're all normal? Right?

Right?

When Richard (Kevin Kline) and Priscilla (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) meet their new neighbors, Eddy (Kevin Spacey) and Kay (Rebecca Miller), in the boneheaded new thriller "Consenting Adults," sure, maybe Eddy seems a little odd. But then, maybe he's just a little eccentric, or a free spirit. Whatever it is, he certainly seems happier and less repressed than the neuralgic yuppie couple next door. And, boy, is his wife a looker.

This fact is not lost on Richard, who eyeballs the honey blonde as if she were the dessert cart at Spago's. Nor does Eddy fail to notice that Richard's libido gets on its pogo stick every time Ms. Tastee-Freez sidles into the room. In fact, a sort of mutual titillation society develops between the two couples, with Eddy and Priscilla engaging in some of the same flirty patty-cake as their other halves.

The director, Alan J. Pakula ("Presumed Innocent" and "All the President's Men"), flawlessly executes this seductive opening act. As the couples spend an increasing amount of time together -- sailing, biking, playing touch football -- the air becomes thick with erotic insinuations. It's tremendous fun watching the subtle ways in which the characters express desires that are not entirely conscious, even to themselves. It's like watching a seduction that can't speak its own name.

Then Eddy speaks up. What if, he says casually to Richard, we just change places in bed with each other one night. You know, you slip into bed with my wife and I'll slip into bed with yours. The wives will be sleeping, and we'll make love to them, and they'll probably never know the difference. And if they do, well, we know they pretty much want it anyway, so the worst thing that can happen is that we'll be sent home with our wrists slapped. Come on, pal, you know you want to.

It's true; Richard does want to sleep with Kay. Plus, he's even being accused by his wife of being a stick-in-the-mud, afraid of taking chances and really living. Maybe he should do what Eddy says and shake things up a little. And maybe the women wouldn't know the difference. Maybe he should roll the dice and see what happens.

It's when the husbands decide to go ahead with their plan that Richard's life -- and the movie too -- goes to hell. Up to that point, Matthew Chapman's script had been immaculately intelligent. He created a potent situation among these four (well, three) rather average upper-middle-class married people, and with tremendous care and skill, developed it into a beautiful trap. But the second half of the film -- that is, everything after the dubious wife-swapping -- is as mindless and sloppy as the first half is sharp.

To even stick a toe into a plot description here would give too much away, but the main thrust of the action is that Eddy is a nut case. And no one makes for a better nut case than Kevin Spacey. In both television and movie roles, he has flitted around the edges of stardom for years, doing marvelously peculiar turns that more often than not steal the thunder of the bigger-name performers. And, as Eddy, he is given his first real opportunity to fully express his fruitcake talent.

He doesn't disappoint -- though, ultimately, he does outclass the movie and his costars. Kline, who has proved himself to be an expert comedian, hasn't seemed this pallid and forgettable since "Sophie's Choice." Though the movie focuses on Richard and the repercussions of his indiscretion, Kline only manages to seem dumbstruck; his only reaction is, like, "Duh?" As Priscilla, Mastrantonio looks pinched and artificial. (Her rarefied, porcelain beauty sometimes works against her when she plays so-called "normal" people.) And Miller, who shimmers through the movie as if all the bones in her body had been surgically removed, comes dangerously close to parody in her portrayal of a lost beauty; she's the ultimate sad-eyed lady of the lowlands.

In the end, it's the lusty, Mad Hatter gleam in Spacey's eyes that sticks with us. Even when the movie asks us to suspend our disbelief far beyond what is reasonable, he deliciously spins his web. In a just universe, his name should become a household word.

Qwipster's Movie Reviews (Vince Leo) review [2/5]

 

Movie House Commentary  Johnny Web

 

Dragan Antulov retrospective [2/10]

 

User reviews  from imdb Author: Bothan from Birmingham, Alabama

 

User reviews  from imdb Author: (rcraig62@comcast.net) from Brick, NJ

 

User reviews  from imdb (Page 3) Author: dbdumonteil

 

User reviews  from imdb (Page 4) Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico

 

Entertainment Weekly review [D]  Owen Gleiberman

 

Variety (Brian Lowry) review

 

Washington Post (Kevin McManus) review

 

Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) review [3/5]

 

THE PELICAN BRIEF

USA  (141 mi)  1993  ‘Scope

 

Time Out review

The assassination of two Supreme Court justices has bewildered the nation, but not coltish, flame-haired law student Darby Shaw (Roberts), whose unofficial conspiracy theory is shockingly vindicated by anonymous hitmen. Exit Darby's sozzled mentor Callahan (Shepard), enter crusading reporter Grantham (Washington). Writer/director Pakula's adaptation of John Grisham's potboiler is a classy but transparent reintroduction to Roberts' sympathetic spunky/vulnerable screen presence (and also, regrettably, to her limited range). Washington, on the other hand, breathes composure and self-assurance, despite finding himself fighting with his impatient news editor, clarifying the plot with a sketchy flow-diagram, and other clichés from the thriller-hack's manual. An old hand at this sort of thing, Pakula goes through the motions, but not much more.

Scott Renshaw review [4/10]

THE PELICAN BRIEF has a lot in common with this summer's THE FIRM. Of course, both are based on uberbestsellers by John Grisham, but the similarities run deeper than that. THE FIRM starred Hollywood's most marketable male star, Tom Cruise; THE PELICAN BRIEF grabbed the most marketable female star, Julia Roberts. Both were directed by "prestige" directors, and both were constructed from the "slicker is better" model of thriller-making. In short, THE PELICAN BRIEF might as well *be* THE FIRM: an overlong, over-plotted, instantly forgettable entertainment sporadically enlivened by decent supporting performances. Unfortunately, it doesn't have Gene Hackman.

THE PELICAN BRIEF opens with the assassination of two Supreme Court justices who appear to have little in common, one an aging liberal and the other a young conservative. However, a possible link is discovered by Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts), a law student at Tulane University. Through her law professor/lover Thomas Callahan (Sam Shepard), Darby's theory, which comes to be known as "The Pelican Brief," is circulated in Washington. Among its implications are possible connections between the assassinations and the president (Robert Culp), and suddenly people start turning up dead. A frightened Darby turns to Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington), a White House reporter investigating the assassinations, and soon the two are running for their lives, desperately searching for proof of their theory before they too are added to the growing body count.

Technically, THE PELICAN BRIEF is just fine. Director Alan J. Pakula (ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, PRESUMED INNOCENT) knows how to ratchet up the tension, using pull-back crane shots to heighten the sense of paranoia. James Horner's score works well, even if it does depend overmuch on dissonant piano chords and wood block percussion. The problem with THE PELICAN BRIEF, the movie, is the same thing that's wrong with THE PELICAN BRIEF, the book: there's not a single interesting or original thing happening, either from a story or character perspective. The big conspiracy at the heart of the story is both insipid and insulting to one's intelligence. It's impossible to accept that no one considered the possibility of spacing out the assassinations, or being slightly more creative than putting a bullet in the head of a man who was on a respirator. There's only one possible reason for such stupidity: there wouldn't have been anything for a clever law student to sniff out. It's equally ludicrous to suggest that no one else in Federal law enforcement would have considered the possibilities Darby Shaw comes up with. Grisham's story is loaded with implausibilities and the payoff it offers for accepting them is simply not worth it.

The characters in Pakula's adaptation don't fare much better. Julia Roberts chose Darby Shaw as her first role in two years, but it's difficult to figure out why. There is not a shred of back story, nothing to suggest why she pursues the assassination story, nothing to make her anything but a positively bland lady in distress. To her credit, Roberts' reaction to an explosion is gripping, and she's thoroughly convincing at suggesting dazed trauma, but dazed and traumatized is about as fara as this role goes. Denzel Washington, one of the most talented and charismatic leading men around, has an equally blank slate with Gray Grantham; somehow he manages to act circles around a part where there's really nothing there. Up and down the cast it's the same story: Tony Goldwyn is the President's shadowy Chief of Staff; John Lithgow is Washington's skeptical editor; Stanley Tucci is the icy killer. Only Hume Cronyn, in a single scene as the aging justice Rosenberg, has any spark. No one else has a thing to work with.

THE FIRM was no piece of art, but at least its characters were reasonably fleshed out for the screen. THE PELICAN BRIEF asked me to sit through nearly two and a half hours of repetitive chases involving people I didn't care about. A third Grisham adaptation, THE CLIENT, is on its way next year. I suppose it's too much to ask that he's learned to write an interesting story by now.

ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [2/4]

 

Cine-Moi  Dennis Toth

 

Serdar Yegulalp retrospective [2.5/4]

 

Jon A. Webb review

 

Film Freak Central dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]  Walter Chaw

 

Apollo Guide (Dan Jardine) review [58/100]

 

Movie Reviews with Joan Ellis review

 

The Tech (MIT) (Patrick Mahoney) review

 

Laramie Movie Scope (Patrick Ivers) review

 

User reviews  from imdb (Page 2) Author: Dennis Littrell (dalittrell@yahoo.com) from SoCal

 

User reviews  from imdb (Page 2) Author: Max Salvatore from Russian Federation

 

User reviews  from imdb (Page 5) Author: Rigor from Chicago, USA

 

Entertainment Weekly review [C-]  Ty Burr

 

Variety (Brian Lowry) review

 

Washington Post (Desson Howe) review

 

Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) review [2.5/5]

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [3/4]

 

Review/Film; Presenting Nancy Drew For the 90's  Janet Maslin from The New York Times, December 17, 1993, also seen here:  The New York Times (Janet Maslin) review

 

DVDBeaver dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]  Gary W. Tooze

 

DoBlu.com Blu-ray Review [Matt Paprocki]

 

The Pelican Brief (film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

THE DEVIL’S OWN

USA  (107 mi)  1997  ‘Scope

 

Time Out review

A Hollywood blockbuster in which Northern Ireland comes over as the usual assemblage of gentle natives, scheming Brits, down-home knitwear, and gunfire stilling the plaintive sound of the uileann pipes. His fisherman dad a victim of the 'security forces', IRA man Pitt takes the battle to the sanctuary of the US, where he plots a missile shipment from a safe house set up by republican sympathisers. His unwitting host, decent Irish-American cop Ford, is kind enough to offer shelter to the young man from a troubled homeland, but as the visitor settles in, an ominous shadow is already looming over his Transatlantic sojourn. The tension between the dedicated terrorist and the family nest that might yet redeem him proves the piece's strongest dramatic suit, buoyed by Ford's believable performance as the hard-pressed NYPD man trying to do the decent thing against the odds. Otherwise, lacking the adrenalin of an out-and-out action movie, and without the intelligence to be much of anything else, the film has nowhere to go. Pitt's accent, most convincing when he says 'aye', is somewhat tested by whole sentences.

Albuquerque Alibi (Devin D. O'Leary) review

Sometimes it's both a blessing and a curse to know what really goes on in the movie industry. Take for example, the new Harrison Ford/Brad Pitt film The Devil's Own. I know that the production was marred by on-the-set squabbles between Ford and Pitt. Both stars went to the mat with director Alan J. Pakula over who's movie this really was. Such behind-the-scenes battles have a tendency to show through in the final product. If a film's romantic leads hate each other, then the on-screen chemistry just isn't going to be there. Similarly, if two action stars can't decide who's really starring in the film, how can the narrative be expected to decide between the two?

So the question is this: Is The Devil's Own the story of a sensitive IRA terrorist named Frankie MacGuire (Pitt) who comes to America to buy a load of Stinger missiles for the cause back home, or is it the story of a sensitive New York cop named Tom O'Meara (Ford) who invites the young Irish lad into his peaceful suburban household not knowing the violence that surrounds him? Having seen the movie, the answer seems simple. The Devil's Own belongs to Frankie    MacGuire. It is the story of how he comes to America on a mission of death and slowly begins to question the righteousness of that mission. While staying with good cop O'Meara and a household of stereotypical daughters in suburban New York, our protagonist is seduced by the tranquillity and ease of life in America. Miles away from the bloodshed of Northern Ireland, it becomes easier and easier to forget about the cause that brought him here. Naturally, MacGuire is unable to escape his roots, and violence soon tracks him down in the form of an evil arms dealer (played in typical scenery-chewing style by baddy du jour Treat Williams).

But being a superstar like Harrison Ford and collecting a salary somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million dollars, it seems only natural that Ford would demand his own cut of the pie. Somewhere along the line, rewrites were demanded to give Ford's character more screentime. There are now a lot of scenes showing the no-nonsense officer O'Meara performing his daily cop duties (none of which really seem to further the plot). And, of course, O'Meara gets to express a lot of angst over hunting down this terrorist he has come to love like the son he never had. The result is a slightly schizophrenic storyline that bounces between the two leads with occasional jarring effect.

Despite what TV ads would have you believe, The Devil's Own isn't much of a "thriller." It is more of a quiet, intense character study that occasionally bursts into some explosive drama. Ford is, as ever, the workhorse of American superstardom. Though he seems to have lost much of the joy and humor that marked his early work, he can still be counted on to deliver a charismatic performance. Pitt continues to prove that he is more than just a pretty face, adopting a world-weary countenance and a workable Irish burr. Though most of the secondary characters (doomed cop partners who talk a lot about upcoming retirements and daughters who spend all day on the telephone) are pretty cliché, much of the central drama works. The interaction between Pitt and Ford feels real. Pitt's character, you see, lost his father at a very early age. Naturally, Ford's character becomes a father figure to the confused lad. When the two leads actually go head-to-head in the film's final reel, The Devil's Own really starts to hum.

Despite its herky-jerky narrative and its swollen star power, The Devil's Own has a lot going for it. Points must be given for not turning this into a formulaic good-American-guys-versus-bad-foreign-guys-with-bombs thriller. Fans of both Ford and Pitt are sure to flock.

Scott Renshaw review [7/10]

You can bet that Sony Pictures executives have spent plenty of time in the last few weeks hoping that there is, in fact, no such thing as bad press. Rumors of on-set tension have been swirling for months, production delays bumped the film from its higher-profile fall '96 release date, and reports had the budget creeping into the $90 million range. Then, in a Newsweek interview, Brad Pitt took a few shots at the mid-stream script changes on his upcoming film THE DEVIL'S OWN, inspiring the kind of spin control usually seen only on the teacup ride at Disneyland. Pitt's comments were surprising in an era when stars are generally obliged to swoon over their latest project, but it may be even more surprising to see the end product of the process which frustrated him so. THE DEVIL'S OWN is an uncommonly thoughtful suspense film with a razor-sharp performance by Pitt, proving that Pitt's standards may be considerably higher than anyone else's in Hollywood. If anything, it is the missed opportunities for even more detailed characterizations which end up disappointing.

Pitt plays Frankie McGuire, a native of Northern Ireland with a haunted past and a challenging present. A man who watched as a young boy while his father was gunned down as a Republican sympathizer, Frankie has become a notorious IRA terrorist wanted for several bombings and murders. With superior government firepower threatening to overwhelm them, the IRA sends Frankie to the U. S. to purchase black market missiles for their effort. Aided by American friends, Frankie comes to New York under the name Rory Devaney, and is put up in the home of unsuspecting veteran cop Tom O'Meara (Harrison Ford). Rory soon becomes close with the O'Meara family, but they are all put at risk when complications develop in the transaction with arms dealer Billy Burke (Treat Williams). Soon two men with differing concepts of duty will be set not just against a common enemy, but against each other.

THE DEVIL'S OWN clearly wants to establish a father-son dynamic between Tom (who has three daughters but no sons) and Rory, and it works primarily because it never strains too hard to make the point. The bonding between them is casual and un-dramatic -- a game of pool here, a snippet of conversation there -- and director Alan J. Pakula trusts the actors to establish a connection without resorting to trite dialogue or inappropriate outbursts of emotion. These are two quiet, determined men who simply seem to like each other and enjoy each other's company.

We like them, too, and for quite a while both of them are the heroes of THE DEVIL'S OWN...until Pitt kicks his performance into another gear. Though the film's opening scenes show Frankie in a gun battle with government troops in Belfast, we come to believe that the soft-spoken man in New York is the "real" Frankie/Rory. That man is as fictional as "Rory Devaney," however, the man Frankie might have been if he had lived another life. He turns utterly ruthless when his back is against the wall, and Pitt gives him the weariness of a man who cannot afford the luxury of a conscience. Pitt plays the anti-hero to Ford's more conventional square-jawed hero, and it is hard to choose sides between them. It is a unique conflict for a Hollywood film, a struggle between two people whose moralities were determined by their circumstances, and who both believe firmly that they are in the right.

In a film with such an unconventional struggle at its center, it is all the more jarring when conventional formula elements rear their ugly heads. Obligatory psycho-villain Treat Williams gets to ooze malevolence and serve up severed heads; obligatory romantic interest Natascha McElhone gets to be gorgeous and supportive of Frankie. There is a distracting sub-plot as well, concerning the involvement of Tom's partner Eddie (Ruben Blades) in the shooting of a car thief, which serves only as yet another reminder that Tom is honest, hates violence, and believes in the letter of the law. When THE DEVIL'S OWN begins to resemble low-rent DIE HARD clones, it drifts.

Those occurrences are relatively rare, however, because THE DEVIL'S OWN doesn't move the way you expect suspense thrillers to move. The action sequences are infrequent but emphatic, with a premium placed on the patient establishment of character. Still, there is a moment late in THE DEVIL'S OWN (during a climax reportedly re-shot just a few months prior to opening) which may be an example of what Pitt was complaining about to Newsweek. In that scene, Tom suggests that he never wanted to be a cop, a sub-text which appears out of nowhere and might have given more depth to the character throughout the film. There are certainly instances where THE DEVIL'S OWN feels like the product of a script-by-committee, but the star power of Ford and Pitt in an intriguing relationship guides it over its rough points. I could only hope to be subjected to more "troubled productions" like this.

Salon (Charles Taylor) review

 

Nitrate Online (Eddie Cockrell) review

 

Industrious Thuggery - By David Edelstein - Slate Magazine  also seen here:  Slate [David Edelstein]

 

CultureCartel.com (Laurie Edwards) review [2.5/5]

 

ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [2.5/4]

 

Harvey's Movie Review (Harvey O'Brien) review

 

Q Network Film Desk (James Kendrick) review [2/4]

 

Film Freak Central dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]  Bill Chambers

 

DVD Town (James Plath) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]

 

DVD Verdict (Gordon Sullivan) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]

 

DVD Talk (Ian Jane) dvd review [2/5] [Blu-Ray Version]

 

DVD Authority.com (Matt Brighton) dvd review [Blu-Ray Version]

 

James Bowman review

 

Edwin Jahiel review

 

eFilmCritic.com (Rob Gonsalves) review [2/5]

 

Rambles: Tom Knapp

 

Brilliant Observations on 1173 Films [Clayton Trapp]

 

Dragan Antulov retrospective [3/10]

 

Ted Prigge review [2.5/5]

 

Mark R. Leeper review [high +1 out of -4..+4]

 

The Tech (MIT) (Teresa Huang) review

 

The Flick Filosopher (MaryAnn Johanson) review

 

Walter Frith review

 

Ben Hoffman review

 

The Onion A.V. Club [John Krewson]

 

CineScene.com (Mark Ashley) review

 

Entertainment Weekly review [B+]  Owen Gleiberman

 

Variety (Todd McCarthy) review

 

Philadelphia City Paper (A.D. Amorosi) review

 

The Boston Phoenix review  Jeffrey Gantz

 

Rita Kempley  The Washington Post

 

Desson Howe  The Washington Post

 

Austin Chronicle (Russell Smith) review [3/5]

 

San Francisco Chronicle (Ruthe Stein) review

 

Los Angeles Times (Kenneth Turan) review

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [2.5/4]

 

The New York Times (Janet Maslin) review

 

DoBlu.com Blu-ray Review [Matt Paprocki]

 

Palcy, Euzhan

 

SUGAR CANE ALLEY (Rue cases nègres)

Martinique  France  (103 mi)  1983

 

Chicago Reader (capsule)  Dave Kehr

In the colonial Martinique of 1931, a black woman (Darling Legitimus) works to save her grandson from the life of the sugar plantations, determined to send him to the city to get an education. An unusual portrait of life in the French colonies, graced by a convincing evocation of time and place but compromised by a formulaic, conventionally sentimental screenplay. Euzhan Palcy (A Dry White Season) directed this 1983 feature; with Garry Cadenat and Doula Seck. In French with subtitles. 107 min.

Time Out

Palcy's first feature is set in her native Martinique of the '30s: an 11-year-old boy lives in a shanty row (Rue Cases Nègres) in the middle of the back-breaking regime of the sugar cane plantations. Thanks to the selfless devotion of his grandmother, and the spiritual awakening offered by an ancient mentor, whose father was an African slave, he prospers at school, and manages to escape the grinding round of poverty by dint of education. Shot in ochre hues, with a remarkable polish, the movie never allows itself the easy route of angry misery, but actively engages its themes with optimism and its characters with love. The old people, especially, are treated with great dignity, while the boy's slow awakening to a poetic understanding of his condition is imbued with potent, primitive magic.

DVD Verdict  Jesse Atiade

The opening credits of Sugar Cane Alley are deceptive. A tinny piano plays a bouncy ragtime tune over faded sepia photos, unwittingly romanticizing an era now long past. But there's nothing romantic or even nostalgic about Euzan Palcy's film, which revolves around a young boy's perilous ascent from the Caribbean sugar cane fields into the schoolroom where he is destined to succeed. Though it certainly has its moments of humor and charm, Sugar Cane Alley unflinchingly depicts the suffering of the people forced to bear the brunt of the weight of an oppressive colonial socio-economic system.

Set in Martinique during the 1930s, Sugar Cane Alley tells the story of Jose (Garry Cadenat), a young boy being raised by his hard-working grandmother (the magnificent Darling Legitimus). Forced to toil long hours in the sugar cane fields to find the means to survive, she resists allowing her grandson to join her in the back-breaking labor long after all his friends begin working to help support their families. She knows that Jose is an unusually intelligent boy, and dreams of a future where he will use his head, and not his hands, to earn his living.

It would have been easy for Palcy to focus on Jose's struggle to get an education, and his grandmother's quiet willpower that allows him to achieve that goal. But she takes a different approach, weaving this central story into a rich tapestry teeming with colorful characters and minor plotlines, demonstrating that this is one single story running parallel and interacting with numerous others. This sets up Sugar Cane Alley as a film depicting the struggles of society in general, and not an exhilarating story of a protagonist who beats the odds against crippling circumstances.

It's particularly admirable how steadfastly Palcy refuses to pander to the audience or play up the emotional elements of the film. Material dealing with oppressed people is emotionally-charged stuff, but she never exploits this. Tragic circumstances and painful deaths occur frequently throughout the film, yet they are never artificially dwelt upon. She treats each situation with dignity and respect, but never plays up certain elements that would cause an emotional response, essentially allowing the viewer to come to their own decision on the ramifications of each individual circumstance. This technique allows the combined weight of suffering to increase in resonance as the film progresses, leading up to the final devastating scene, where hope somehow emerges when all seems irrevocably lost. That is the greatest success of Sugar Cane Alley: Palcy and her actors manage to find a thread of hope hidden among the sordidness of the circumstances depicted.

Sugar Cane Alley is beautifully photographed in muted tones; an attempt to recapture the tattered elegance of ancient photographs while bringing their images to vivid life. The browns and deep purples have a haunting quality in the night scenes, as if casting a perpetual shadow of sadness over the entire proceedings, while in contrast, the blinding yellows of the day scenes highlight the dusty and stifling qualities of the Caribbean sun that beats relentlessly on the tired workers' backs. The color scheme of the film does much to enhance the power and resonance of the story, underlining both the positive and negative qualities of the way of life portrayed throughout the film.

New Yorker Films thankfully gives Sugar Cane Alley an anamorphic transfer that does the gorgeous cinematography and camerawork justice. Despite some minor image defects, the beauty of the film shines through. The audio is also quite clear, with some effective use of the surround sound in regards to natural background noises. English subtitles are provided, and the only "extras" to be found are several trailers for four other New Yorker releases.

Sugar Cane Alley is a film that could easily slip under a person's cinematic radar, but it is film not easy to shake off. Director Euzan Palcy's Cesar win for her directorial debut and Darling Legitimus's award for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival were both richly deserved, and only further validate the worthiness of this haunting and heartbreaking film.

User reviews  from imdb Author: xmeenax from Canada

The historical outlook on the era of slavery depicted through films often has a direct, nationalistic approach or feel within dialogue, characters and even choice of director, actors or country of production/distribution. Euzhan Palcy's 1983 film Rue Cases Nègres is an example of a motion picture that directs away from the cliché historic tales. Based in early 19th century Martinique, the island once infamously filled with traded African labourers working for little to no wages in the high fields of the sugar canes, brings out the tale of a young orphaned boy and his personal struggle with daily life as well as the stories of assorted characters around him.

As young Jose lives in the small shack-housing area near the cane fields with his working Grandmother Adamantine, their dream of a promising future through education for the boy becomes more and more of a reality. The immediately noticed feature within the film was apparent right at the beginning, where viewers will notice the narration and point of view incorporated from the young José. In contrast to higher-authoritative figure portrayals within other films where protagonists range from military or government dignitary, this genuine depiction gains a chaste, warmer feel of the overall film. This also shines the film in a different light; the often bloody, technicalities of infamous past era overlook and a usually dismissed angle of that particular era or situation. Not to say that this adaptation of a crucial era in history is depicted as childish, naïve or unrealistic; the world is much simpler seen through the eyes of a different character, which might be the cause of even more sympathy for the viewers. Of course as every historical film's undertone establishes, the effects and situations of José and Adamantine's physically demanding life is apparent and personal insight to both their lives allows the viewers emotions side with the struggling family. The acting of most characters was significantly believable and played the part of the roles given. Because all dialogue was in Palcy's native French, there were vast differences in the film and that of Hollywood or English-language films. This varied from the English transliterations to acting methods. Nonetheless, each character seems to fit perfectly into the place of the film, drawing towards some sort of symbolism or representing a larger picture. The view of children as symbolism of innocence is very common throughout film and literature and also a quite evident theme throughout the movie. The early scenes showing José playing with the local children, even showing their quest to find food and ironically Adamantine's hidden sugar shows the innocence of unbeknownst youth; their condemnation to a life lived by the parents is masked by their pure freedom within their own space.

Directing by the then Euzhan Palcy is quite impressive, as I often compared many of the wide shots and angling to that of Martin Scorsese. Although the lightening was dim and at time faces could not be seen entirely, this once again adds more of a realistic approach to the film which allows viewers to see the Caribbean island's beauty naturally without unnecessary studio lightening or editing. A pivotal scene and character within the film was that of old man Medouze, the senior worker José befriends and undoubtedly respects; the relationship can be seen to be something like father and son where Medouze advises José and tells him stories of the past. The reference to Africa where the old man tells José he will return to was genuinely moving. The symbolism of ancestral meaning, and a having that sense of home was encompassed in Medouze's longing to go to Africa. Moreover, his statement addressing his return to Africa once he leaves this place and telling an eager José that he can not come along adds on to the significance of the importance of familial lineage.

Although most to all characters played an important role in José's life and story, many had a story themselves that was unfortunately not unfolded. An example would be the life of old Adamantine; her struggles and upbringing of her grandson were most appreciated and in the end, we all felt great empathy for the old woman. Leopold, a fellow student of José, also had an interesting life where he is seen as the by-product of an assumed native Martinique woman and a wealthy French man. His interaction with José is innocent, yet there is more beyond and within his home life. Once again, the ending for Leopold evoked mixed emotions.

Overall, the film Rue Cases Nègres sets the bar high, placing it amongst the more original, heart-warming glimpses into the world of early 19th century, colonized Caribbean. José establishes to be an intriguing individual, filled with intelligence and humour that keeps the audience latched on to his next move. Mixed in with slight humour, and full with rich heritage and valued traditions, Rue Cases Nègres is an emotional, unique look into a notorious era of European, Caribbean and inevitably, World history.

CineScene.com (Chris Dashiell)

 

DVD Talk (Robert Spuhler) dvd review [3/5]

 

Doug Pratt's Laserdisc Review

 

Channel 4 Film capsule review

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [4/4]

 

The New York Times (Janet Maslin)

 

A DRY WHITE SEASON

USA  (97 mi)  1989

 

Time Out review

 

Behind the credits, two boys play happily together. Within minutes, the black boy is caught up in the Soweto uprising, the murderous violence of which is cross-cut with the white boy's family sitting on a manicured lawn to the strains of classical music. That, unfortunately, is the end of the film. Oh, there's business to clear up over the next 100 minutes, as Afrikaaner Ben du Toit (Sutherland) sees that Something Is Wrong in South Africa and that Something Should Be Done. There's Brando's star turn as a lawyer jaded by the realisation that justice cannot exist in matters of race, puffing, pausing, snorting, looking like he's wandered in from another movie. There's Prochnow's nicely understated Special Branch officer, and Suzman playing the bitch again; horrific tortures in police custody; and a sub-plot, not in André Brink's novel, designed to include a few black faces (South African exile Zakes Mokae is particularly good). But like Cry Freedom, it's still whites debating racial injustice: fine for a book published in Afrikaans a decade ago, but a poor premise for a message movie.

 

Washington Post (Rita Kempley) review

“A Dry White Season” is political cinema so deeply felt it attains a moral grace. A bitter medicine, a painful reminder, it grieves for South Africa as it recounts the atrocities of apartheid. Yes, it is a story already told on a grander scale, but never with such fervor.

As in "Cry Freedom" and "A World Apart," the movie focuses on a white protagonist transformed -- a soft-spoken Afrikaner who awakes from his complacency to find he is essentially powerless in a police state, a dupe who has lost his freedom while ignoring the rights of others. Odd that a black director would choose this perspective, but Euzhan Palcy is after all adapting a novel by Afrikaner Andre Brink.

The film, set against the political upheaval of 1967, tells a tale of two families, pointedly pitting the idyllic life of the du Toits against the proud subsistence of the Ngubenes. Though loving, law-abiding clans, both will be broken into bits and fitted into Palcy's mosaic of injustice, ignorance and greed.

The South Africa Palcy depicts is a hothouse for sadists, a nation in which "good" men, such as Ben du Toit, look the other away. Donald Sutherland is the rather too gentle Ben, a history teacher becalmed in his Johannesburg Eden, tended by Gordon Ngubene (Winston Ntshona) whose own back yard in Soweto has become a killing field. Gordon turns to Ben when his son disappears along with other Soweto schoolchildren, who are variously shot down and arrested by police at a peaceful demonstration.

Ben tut-tuts, certain that a polite but firm inquiry will resolve what is no doubt a bureaucratic snafu. But while Ben wasn't looking, the benevolent society he imagined became a police state. There is nothing subtle about Special Branch Capt. Stolz (Jurgen Prochnow), a storm trooper who is torturing little kids in the other room. He's slime from the bottom of the gene pool, but oblivious Ben readily accepts his assurances.

When Gordon continues his search, he is detained and beaten to death by Stolz's men, who claim he committed suicide. On seeing Gordon's burned and bruised body, Ben can no longer deny the truth. "I'll ask McKenzie {a lawyer} to help," says Ben, still something of a limp rag. "If it makes you feel good," says Stanley, an enigmatic taxi driver played by South African exile Zakes Mokae.

Sutherland is a particularly sober version of the father he played in "Ordinary People," trying to keep his household together. Abandoned by his wife and daughter, he finds allies in his young son, a journalist (Susan Sarandon) and a garrulous lawyer (Marlon Brando, corpulent but masterly as an African Clarence Darrow). He advises Ben to forget about Gordon's death, for "justice and law are distant cousins ... but in South Africa, they're not related at all." While the director manipulates her agenda, she shows tolerance for her enemies, seeming to understand their motivations, creating some of her strongest scenes in confrontations between Ben and his family. The Ngubenes are not so fully drawn, but the eloquent South African actors (associates of Athol Fugard) give them body.

"A Dry White Season" is preaching to the choir, a movie we've seen before, not an easy sell. Its lessons are applicable from Johannesburg to Bensonhurst.

Turner Classic Movies review  Frank Miller

"Law and justice are distant cousins, and here in South Africa they're not on speaking terms at all."

Marlon Brando in A Dry White Season

The late '80s were a hard time for South Africa on screen and with good reason. With the world's growing disgust with the nation's racially discriminatory Apartheid policies, international filmmakers tackled the subject in a series of pictures, including Richard Attenborough's Cry Freedom (1987), with Denzel Washington as Steve Biko, Chris Menges' A World Apart (1988) and the 1989 political thriller, A Dry White Season. Although all three focused primarily on white South Africans involved in the fight for equality, A Dry White Season had the distinction of being the first major Hollywood feature directed by a black woman, Euzhan Palcy, while also containing one of Marlon Brando's last great performances.

Martinique-born Palcy had first attracted attention with her 1983 account of growing up in her homeland, Sugar Cane Alley. With that film's international success (in Martinique it out-grossed that year's biggest hit, E.T.), she set out to make a film about Apartheid. But after years of struggling to find financing, she realized that nobody wanted to finance a film on the subject unless it featured a white protagonist. Fortunately, she managed to hook up with an adaptation of Andre Brink's 1979 novel that had begun at Warner Bros. with producer David Puttnam.

Brink, one of the first South African novelists to write in Afrikaans, had risen to fame with his story of a white school teacher who becomes involved in the fight against Apartheid when his black gardener and the man's son are killed by the South African police. The novel had even achieved the distinction of being banned in Brink's native land.

Puttnam was already in possession of a screenplay written by Colin Welland, who had won an Oscar® for the producer's Chariots of Fire (1981). Then the project moved to MGM, where producer Paula Weinstein took it over. Palcy had problems with Welland's script and set out to re-write it, most notably changing the ending to introduce a note of revolution not present in Brink's novel. .

Although A Dry White Season had been cast with international actors of a high caliber -- including Donald Sutherland as the schoolteacher, British actress Janet Suzman as his wife and then rising young actress Susan Sarandon as a British journalist -- it was lacking in marquee value. As a result, MGM started pushing Weinstein and Palcy to find at least one major star to flesh out the cast. Palcy thought Brando would be excellent casting for the small but flashy role of a crusading lawyer who tries to help Sutherland win one of his legal battles. She never expected him to accept the role, but Brando, who had been off-screen since The Formula in 1980, had been so impressed with her earlier film and so moved by the story's politics that he agreed to work for scale against a percentage of the gross. He even donated his paycheck to anti-Apartheid organizations.

Not that he came without problems. Whether for artistic reasons, as he claimed, or because he simply couldn't learn his lines any more, he insisted that his lines be transmitted to him over a closed-circuit receiver he wore in his ear. He would later claim that he re-wrote his few scenes and even directed them himself. When he saw the finished film, he denounced MGM for allegedly butchering the film to give the impression that Apartheid was a thing of the past. He also complained that his best scene had been cut.

Despite his complaints, Brando got some of the film's best reviews. When the year's Oscar® nominations were announced, Brando was a surprise nominee for Best Supporting Actor. There were even gasps from the press when his nomination was announced. He lost the award to Denzel Washington for Glory.

Overall A Dry White Season received only mixed reviews, with some critics lamenting the changes from Brink's novel while others complained that it was time for an anti-Apartheid film with a black protagonist. Along with Brando, the best reviews went to three South African actors, Zakes Mokae, Winston Ntshona and John Kani. All three were associates of pioneering South African playwright Athol Fugard, another anti-Apartheid activist, and all three had won Tony Awards for Broadway appearances in his plays.

not coming to a theater near you (Eva Holland) review

 

Hollywood's apartheid: 3 films   Nicholas Wellington from Jump Cut, May 1991

 

Film Freak Central dvd review  Travis Mackenzie Hoover

 

DVD Talk (Gil Jawetz) dvd review [3/5]

 

Reel.com dvd review [2.5/4]  Tim Knight

 

User comments  from imdb Author: jotix100 from New York

 

User comments  from imdb Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York

 

Moderns and Classics Movie Reviews [Brian Bell]

 

Variety.com [Variety Staff]

 

Washington Post (Jeanne Cooper) review

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [4/4]

 

The New York Times (Janet Maslin) review

 

Paley, Nina

 

Sita Sings the Blues - About Nina Paley 

Nina Paley (b. 1968, USA) is a longtime veteran of syndicated comic strips, creating "Fluff" (Universal Press Syndicate), "The Hots" (King Features), and her own alternative weekly "Nina's Adventures." In 1998 she began making independent animated festival films, including the controversial yet popular environmental short, "The Stork." In 2002 Nina followed her then-husband to Trivandrum, India, where she read her first Ramayana. This inspired her first feature, Sita Sings the Blues, which she animated and produced single-handedly over the course of 5 years on a home computer. Nina teaches at Parsons School of Design in Manhattan and is a 2006 Guggenheim Fellow.

Nina Paley - International Museum of Women 

 

Nina Paley's career began in 1988 with her self-syndicated comic strip, Nina's Adventures, which appeared in several alternative newspapers and two paperback collections, Depression is Fun and Nina's Adventures. She created two solo comic books for Dark Horse Comics, and various graphic short stories for Last Gasp Comix, Rip Off Press, Laugh Lines Press, Grateful Dead Comix, Kitchen Sink Press, and the Japanese artist volume Jarebong. Her first mainstream daily comic strip, Fluff, was distributed internationally by Universal Press Syndicate between 1995 and 1998; in 2002 she drew The Hots for King Features Syndicate. Comics burn-out drove Nina to animation. Her first film, Luv Is...(1998), was clay stop-motion shot with a vintage super-8 camera. She went on to make 3 more films in 1998, each exploring a different medium: Cancer (drawing and scratching on 35mm), I Heart My Cat (16mm stop-motion) and Follow Your Bliss (traditional pencil and ink on paper). In 1999 she made the world's first completely cameraless IMAX film, Pandorama, and received a grant from the Film Arts Foundation to produce Fetch! (2001), a short film incorporating optical illusions. In 2002 she created a controversial series about overpopulation and the environment, including the Stork, which won first prize at the EarthVision Environmental Film Festival and an unsolicited invitation to Sundance (2003). In 2002 she briefly lived in Trivandrum, India, where she encountered the Ramayana, sexism, and the failure of her marriage. She subsequently embarked on her current project, "Sita Sings the Blues," a feature-in-progress combining the ancient Indian epic Ramayana with 1920's American jazz. In addition to making independent animated festival films, Nina freelances and teaches animation at Parsons School of Design in Manhattan. She is a 2006 Guggenheim Fellow.

 

Nina Paley: America's Best-Loved Unknown Cartoonist 

 

Nina Paley Bio 

 

Nina Paley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  

 

SITA SINGS THE BLUES                                     B+                   91

USA  (82 mi)  2008                    Sita Sings the Blues                

 

"If You Want the Rainbow, You Must Have the Rain"  —Sita, sung by Annette Hanshaw, Harmony Records, 1928
 

A remarkable film that in its origins resembles the therapy-driven, computer designed autobiographical experimentation of Jonathan Caouette’s TARNATION (2003), as the entire film was designed exclusively from the director’s own computer over the course of five years, only here this multi-media mix is animated, mixing ancient parable from India’s Ramayana with the travails of an apparently happily married modern day couple that eventually suffer an unexpectedly painful separation, all blended together in a song narrative out of the 1920’s using the torch songs of Annette Hanshaw, whose songs of love and heartbreak provide the emotional core of the story.  This interweaving of different art forms is a revelation, as the bright colors and the gorgeous detail to the exotic artwork is impressive throughout, yet it’s always surprising how the song choices and musical numbers remain so perfectly within the context with the story.  Apparently the idea behind the film was the director’s own break up with her husband, where she soon began identifying not only with Sita, inexplicably banished by her own husband who she dearly loved, but also with the clarity and simplicity of Hanshaw’s soulful, near conversational song renderings which are filled with melancholic longing and pain.  While the popular parable glorifies the perfect union of Prince Ram and Princess Sita, Hindu gods who come to personify true love, it is when Ram acts in his role as King that he banishes her, questioning her purity after she’s been kidnapped by a demon king.  Thinking that others would find any possible explanation unacceptable, her stain on his nobility is sufficient to get rid of her, love be damned.  Power is everything.  So she is exiled from his kingdom. 

Paley’s version resonates with the splendid adornment of Sita’s unconditional love, certainly one of the highpoints of the film, but it’s also perhaps a prescription for failure, as life inevitably leaves its share of emotional scars, especially as humans rarely live up to storybook idealizations.  But within this fairy tale world, where a few offscreen narrators can be heard amusingly chatting and occasionally arguing about how they recall the ramifications of the Ramayana fable when they grew up, the director is cleverly able to establish a historic link tracing back thousands of years of women being treated badly.  In male dominated societies and in fables, men always have the final word, sometimes cruelly and violently, a practice that continues into the present age, where there’s virtually no evidence of violent retaliation or fighting back by women.  Throughout the course of time, women have simply had to bear their burdens as naturally as bearing children.  While there is absolutely no finger-pointing here, the succession of songs about hurt, however, and pain in the heart certainly implies a feminist tone, suggesting perhaps we should start by recognizing how women are set up from early childhood to buy into the concept of a handsome prince who will come and rescue them, implying they are helpless and can’t save themselves, as in the iconic Disney SNOW WHITE (1937) fantasy Someday My Prince Will Come.

A subversive message permeates throughout the entire film, seen exclusively from the female point of view, but it does so with such gentle and playful humor, where exotic animals regularly frolic and dance alongside the human characters, some even fly, and where they all break character for an inexplicable three minute intermission to go get candy and popcorn.  Indian dance numbers play alongside dance sequences set to the blues, all of which provide a spirited energy throughout the film, where the more brilliantly colorful narrative of Sita coincides with the more hum drum world of the married couple.  In the end, despite their absolute devotion, beautifully expressed here by the surging, romantic Tchaikovsky music of “Romeo and Juliet,” both women are dumped and are forced to face humiliating emotional consequences, not the least of which is having to start their lives over again.  It’s interesting that not an ounce of energy is wasted on getting back for their obvious mistreatment, where instead Paley writes a scathingly satiric children’s song that hilariously praises the greatness of Rama, which of course, immediately undermines his authority.  The attention to cultural detail brings to mind KIRIKOU AND THE SORCERESS (1998), a Michael Ocelot children’s film immersed in the sunlit African traditions.  But in this day and age, religious fanaticism in India has produced death and rape threats to the director, much like similar threats to Islamic author Solomon Rushdie, as there are those who are threatened by seeing their gods and idols dancing in an animated musical, calling it blasphemy.  What this really calls attention to, however, is the hostile reaction to any perceived threat challenging the century’s old, male dominated order of the universe.  While the film is obviously heartfelt and genuine, this violent, fanatical reaction to it tosses that message aside in an all out assault to maintain the narrow interests of self-perceived credibility and power.   

You're mean to me
Why must you be mean to me?
Gee, honey, it seems to me
You love to see me cryin'
I don't know why
I stay home each night
When you say you phone
You don't and I'm left alone.
Sing the blues and sighin'
You treat me coldly each day in the year
You always scold me
Whenever somebody is near, dear
I must be great fun to be mean to me
You shouldn't, for can't you see
What you mean to me

—“Mean to Me,” songwriters Fred Ahlert and Roy Turk, 1929 

Soundtrack Music    

"Sita in Space"
Composed and Performed by Todd Michaelsen
Published by Dragon's Lair (ASCAP)

"Yiraha"
Composed and Performed by Rudresh Mahanthappa
BMI Publishing
Red Giant Records, 2002

"Here We Are"
Lyrics by Gus Kahn
Music by Harry Warren
Sung by Annette Hanshaw
Harmony Records, 1929

"Ganpatl"
By MASALADOSA
From the album "Chili Aurn"
(C)Pierre-Jean & Bruce Duffour
(P)Madaladosa 2004
Monkey Business Publishing

"What Wouldn't I Do for That Man"
Jay Gorney & E.Y. Harburg
Sung by Annette Hanshaw
Velvet Tone, 1929

"Daddy Won't You Please Come Home?"
Sam Coslow
Sung by Annette Hanshaw
Puritone, 1929

"I Like it When You Play The Blues"
Composed and Performed by Rudresh Mahanthappa
BMI Publishing
Red Giant Records, 2002

"Who's That Knockin' At My Door?"
Gus Kahn & Seymour Simons
Sung by Annette Hanshaw
Pathe Actuelle, 1927

"Bom, Shankar"
By MASALADOSA
From the album "Chili Aurn"
(C)Pierre-Jean & Bruce Duffour
(P)Madaladosa 2004
Monkey Business Publishing

"Romeo & Juliet"
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Arranged and Performed by Rebecca Lloyd

"Mean to Me"
Roy Turk & Fred E. Ahlert (as Fred Ahlert)
Sung by Annette Hanshaw
Velvet Tone, 1929

"Biryani"
By MASALADOSA
From the album "Chili Aurn"
(C)Pierre-Jean & Bruce Duffour
(P)Madaladosa 2004
Monkey Business Publishing

"If You Want the Rainbow, You Must Have the Rain"
Oscar Levant, Billy Rose & Mort Dixon
Sung by Annette Hanshaw
Harmony Records, 1928

"Intermission"
Composed and Performed by Nik Phelps
BMI Publishing

"Balancing Act"
Composed and Performed by Rudresh Mahanthappa
BMI Publishing
Red Giant Records, 2002

"Agni Parisha"
(Sita's Fire)
Compsed and Performed by Todd Michaelsen
Vocals by Reena Shah
Lyrics by Laxmi Shah
Published by Dragon's Lair (ASCAP)

"Moanin' Low"
Howard Dietz & Ralph Rainger
Sung by Annette Hanshaw
Okeh Records, 1929

"Am I Blue?"
Harry Aiest and Grant Clarke
Sung by Annette Hanshaw
Harmony Records, 1929

"Rama's Great"
Music by R. Sukhdeo (ASCAP)
Lyrics by Nina Paley
Vocals by Nitya Vidyasagar & Rohan
Composed and Performed by Rohan
OmLand Publishing (ASCAP)

"Lover Come Back to Me"
Oscar Hammerstein & Sigmund Romberg
Sung by Annette Hanshaw
Columbia, 1929

"I've Got a Feeling I'm Fallin'"
Harry Link, Fats Waller (as Thomas Waller) & Billy Rose
Sung by Annette Hanshaw
Velvet Tone, 1929

"The Song is Ended"
Irving Berlin
Sung by Annette Hanshaw
Pathe Actuelle, 1927

"It's Movie Time" [John DeSando]

 

"The blues was like that problem child that you may have had in the family. You was a little bit ashamed to let anybody see him, but you loved him. You just didn't know how other people would take it."             —BB King

The fine recent animations such as Persepolis and Wall-E have set an intelligence standard hard to equal, much less surpass. While Sita Sings the Blues at least equals those in intelligence and wonder, it surpasses them in imagination considering the parallel stories of wives unfairly abandoned by their husbands are set in modern and ancient times, based on the well-know Ramayana story in India.

Although the animation seems a primitive 2-D next to Pixar's successfully realistic product, director and almost everything-else-in-the-picture Nina Paley suffuses the frames with brilliant colors and variable landscapes. Heroine Sita is shaped in circles and curves to make her voluptuous and expressive in an endearingly abstract style.

I have never seen such richly subversive animation that pushes the feminist agenda without offending. The story, after all, is clear about the failure of mankind over the millennia to stop the sexism that puts women through humiliation without retribution. Paley's success at entertaining with a wildly imaginative palette and loveable characters and cats contradicts, however, the generalization that all women suffer degradations centuries old—she is an artist and entrepreneur, who, faced with a restrictive copyright law that doesn't let her market the film because of Jazz singer Annette Hanshaw' 1920's performance (the music is in the public domain, but not the publishing) distributes her film free (find it in ten installments on YouTube).

Hanshaw's Betty-Boop like singing is the apex of pleasure in this multi layered story, whose intricacy is richly rewarding, sometimes difficult even for Indians to decipher, such as the three Indian voice-overs who wittily try to figure out the details of the Ramayana legend. I rarely make the time to return to a film before I report on it—this time I will happily return to hear Sita sing the blues and put the beautiful mosaic into order.

 

JT Abron (a sweet blog review)   Judith Tabron

 

We got to go see Sita Sings the Blues last night. It was at least its New York debut, if not its world debut, I think, and it was showing as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. My fiancé's mother got us tickets!, as only AmEx card holders could buy tickets for the first week of sales. A wonderful birthday present!

A friend of mine pointed me to this movie and I think it was because of the art, which is incredibly detailed and gorgeous. (She herself is an artist and known for her incredibly detailed, gorgeous work.) As a feat of animation it's insanely impressive. Almost all of it was done in Flash, including hand-traced rotoscoping of a classical Indian dance sequence, and the richness and variety of the animation styles make it a tour de force of art no matter what else one could say about it.

But there's actually a lot to say about it. It's not just design styles, but storytelling traditions and cultural histories that are blending here. Nina Paley, the creator, has told a story mirroring an experience in her life in which her husband leaves her for a tech job in India, then dumps her via email, with the experiences of Sita in the Ramayana, in which Sita's husband leaves her to capture a golden deer, and ultimately banishes her from his kingdom and his life. The experiences of the two women resonate with one another and as inevitable in such cases, they illuminate each other and say more about each other than each could say alone.

After the showing there was Q&A with Nina and the other actors, dancer, musicians, and supporters involved in making the film. The audience asked the predictable first questions you would have time for in half an hour right after a movie has shown. They were captivated by the combination of East and West in the movie, captivated by the rich multi-leveled presentation of the story of the Ramayana, which is told and re-told by many voices including a chorus of shadow puppets and Mughal-style art cutouts as well as Paley's own animation creations. They were interested, as voyeuristic audiences often are, in her inspirations and her work process. (The effects she achieved were simply stupendous.) The music got less attention than it deserved, as it's fantastic. It's clear that this group of artists isn't market-oriented, because the idea of making a distributable version of the music (at least sales online through something like cdbaby.com) should have occurred to them ages ago. There were certainly questions about when the music, and the movie, might be available in other formats. (Answer: don't know yet.)

The longest answer was about the reception the movie has gotten in some areas from Indians (or perhaps more specifically Hindus) who find it objectionable. I find it personally discouraging that in this day and age an artist can still receive rape threats in response to a work as beautiful and heartfelt as this one, and Nina Paley both reported those threats and refused to let them discourage her in a way that was simple and quietly courageous. She has no choice, of course but to stand by her work. She is still hoping that the film will be shown in India and sees a positive reception for it here in America as a first step. I'm sure the film will get a reception as positive as its audience is wide, because I can't imagine anyone seeing this film and not being impressed by it, at least by the accomplishment of its art.

But it really rewards further investigation, and as soon as I was done clapping I immediately thought to myself "I must find a way to show this in the class I'm going to teach next year." That class will be on global storytelling and global markets for storytelling, particularly in new media, and I really can't think of a better framing text than this one.

The movie itself is a triumph of individual creation. Paley literally hand-created almost every frame, using technology that is very widely available. I can easily see it taking one of several routes - being distributed online (which would probably net her the most money, if she can sell enough copies to non-pirates), or being picked up by one of the larger distributers like Searchlight. I don't see that happening, because the movie isn't the sort of simple feel-good story that generally does well in those markets (it's nothing like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" - in fact one might call it the polar opposite), but it could certainly garner a big cult following and would work as well on big screens in theaters as the trailer does on laptop screens.

In addition to that, though, the movie is a demonstration of how one white Western woman connected with not only the sacred story of Sita but also with a dimpled jazz singer of the last century. There are really three women who are telling one another's stories here: Paley, Sita, and Hanshaw. Because the wavery sweet voice of the jazz singer, when put into Sita's mouth, makes Sita's pain emotional and recognizable and also in a way survivable. Sita can't help loving her man; in fact her life reflects that love is a mitzvah, a holy blessing, one she has the power to give and she does give it, freely, wholly. Christians might easily see in her selfless unconditional love a reflection of the love of a Protestant Jesus, for instance. It could be argued that only a deity actually does give that sort of bottomless unquestioning love - except that in Paley's movie we see that women give that sort of love too.

And we see the downsides of that sort of all-encompassing unconditional love. Certainly if one looks at it from the point of view of a twenty-first-century woman, a product of the post-Freudian era, the destructiveness of love is immediately evident. Hanshaw's songs tell about a woman who does not stand proudly independent and alone without her man - she clings to him, adores him, and definitely is not fulfilled without him. Sita's voice and Sita's eyes and Sita's hands and Sita's actions all embody the same devotion. It is not good for Sita - it isn't good for Rama either; perhaps it isn't good for anyone. But it is, and that wholehearted love lets the Nina character in the movie feel her own wholehearted love. It might not be healthy and it certainly isn't proud, but it is, and because it is a part of her, she can feel it and, in a sense, there are hints, move on. Paradoxically, by acknowledging the one-sided, damaged and damaging, all-encompassing love, Paley's characters somehow integrate it into their larger selves and become in their own ways whole.

The movie is what I would consider one of the best examples of inter-cultural mingling: one that does not deny the differences in cultures, traditions, language (Sita is always Sita, and the Ramayana is her story, and the shadow puppets working to remember it through the various versions they know from picture books and television and textbooks are inhabiting their own culture and it will feel alien, I think, more than co-opted, for the conscious viewer), while at the same time making connections between human stories that really do have connections. A woman's broken heart, while culturally specific, has similarities to other women's broken hearts, and those similarities can cross boundaries of time and space.

In a way, then, if the movie glorifies anything, it glorifies the unfortunate omnipresence of women's broken hearts. Paley's hopeful, optimistic treatment of such a sad theme makes it somehow positive, more positive than any images in the closing of the movie itself. It is precisely because Paley's work demonstrates the universality of her experience that we can feel hopeful about heartbreak.

Having seen "Sita Sings the Blues", yes, I want to read the Valmiki Ramayana, and yes, I also want to go back in time and give Annette Hanshaw some solid feminist advice about getting by on your own (and maybe a few new songs to sing). But I also feel closer to Paley, and Hanshaw, and I feel closer to Sita. And that's a good thing.

 

Manushi article   Lady sings the Blues: When Women retell the Ramayana, essay by Nabaneeta Dev Sen from Manushi magazine

 

Yes to Sita, No to Ram by Madhu Kishwar  The Continuing Popularity of Sita in India, by Madhu Kishwar from Manushi magazine, January-February 1997

 

Anju Bhargava's Sitayanam  Sitayanam...A Woman’s Journey…of Strength, 2000

 

Ferdy on Films [Marilyn Ferdinand]

 

Movies into Film.com (N.P. Thompson) review  also seen here:  The House Next Door [N.P. Thompson]

 

Hammer To Nail [Michael Tully]

 

eFilmCritic.com (Jay Seaver) review [5/5]

 

Film Journey  Doug Cummings

 

‘Sita Sings the Blues’  Sepia Mutiny

 

Tribeca Film Festival Review: "Sita Sings the Blues"  Phil Nugent from the Screengrab

 

A Nutshell Review  Stefan S

 

eFilmCritic.com (David Cornelius) review [5/5]

 

hoopla.nu review

 

Cartoon Brew  Jerry Beck

 

Watch It For Free: Sita Sings the Blues (2008, Nina Paley)  Paul Clark from Screengrab

 

Nina Paley | REDCAT 

 

Sita Sings the Blues in the NY Times  Amid from Cartoon Brew, February 14, 2009, where one can view the first 11 minutes of the film, also see:  2008 pick of the year for best animated feature

 

Wired  Interview by Patrick Di Justo from Wired magazine, April 25, 2008

 

interview in Film & Video  Interview by Bryant Frazer, May 22, 2008

 

Spout "Media Diet" Interview  Interview by Brandon Harris from SpoutBlog, November 17, 2008

 

Suite 101 Interview  Interview by Dominic von Riedemann, November 28, 2008, also including:  Part #2

 

Variety (Ronnie Scheib) review

 

BBC World News

 

Time Out New York  Ben Kenigsberg

 

Boston Globe review [3.5/4]  Ty Burr

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [4/4]

 

write-up in this Sunday’s NY Times.   Hindu Goddess as Betty Boop? It’s Personal, Margy Rochlin from The New York Times, February 13, 2009

 

Valmiki's Ramayana

 

Wikipedia Ramayana entry

 

Analysis of different variations of the Ramayana  from the book: Ramayana in the Arts of Asia, by Garrett Kam

 

Sita Sings the Blues - Why Annette Hanshaw?

 

Sita Sings the Blues FAQ  

 

"the voice of an angel"  Annette Hanshaw website

 

Full download of the film at The Internet Archive

 

Sita Sings the Blues - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

 

Silhouette animation

 

PuppetIndia  Shadow Puppets

 

Palfi, Gyorgy

 

HUKKLE                                                       C+                   76                   

Hungary  (77 mi)  2002

 

This film was the director’s graduate thesis at the Academy of Drama and Film Art in Budapest, and is somewhat experimental as it is a wordless feature film.  The camera examines a small farm community and integrates images with natural sound.  While there is supposed to be an actual story line to follow, I didn’t really experience it that way.  Instead it seems to be the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts, and it was one conceptualized flow of images, mixing the world of the minute animals with the world of human beings, and from where I sat, the human beings didn’t come off so well. There are some hauntingly beautiful, sub-titled songs at the end which I felt were the best part.  All in all, this was very uneven, and didn’t really work in any emotional sense.

 

Palitzsch, Peter and Manfred Wekworth

 

MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN               A-                    94

Germany  (148 mi)  1961

 

Directed by Bertold Brecht and longtime associate Erich Engel, featuring Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble production, winner of the 1954 Theatre Festival in Paris, both for the play and the production.  For Brecht, writing plays was the way to enter the world of theater, including his completely new way of viewing reality with a social consciousness, arguing against the emotional engagement of the audience, stressing empathy but distance.  Only in his last years did he have his own theater company, the Berliner Ensemble, and this play was their most famous production, featuring Helene Weigel, Brecht’s surviving widow who had an uncredited role in Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film METROPOLIS, as Mother Courage, a courageous and strong-minded woman who tries to profit from the war and does not recognize that it is the war that is killing her children, yet she can’t avoid it.  A play with musical interludes about the psychology of war profiteering, viewed from the point of view of the poor, from the starving masses who are cheated, exploited, and in the 30 Years War in the 1600’s, lost half their children, as half the population of Germany was lost to war and disease – very intelligent and compelling stuff. 

User comments  from imdb Author: msrich-1 from United States

If you know just a little German, you will enjoy this film. The casting is perfect and the acting is so subtle and intelligent that you will get a lot out of each scene, even if you don't understand every word. This movie was done from a stage production by Brecht's own company, using the techniques of epic theater that he invented, so there is a certain restraint, even dryness, to the style that is supposed to make it easier for the viewer to think about the issues. Regardless of your politics, however, once you've seen this production, others will pale by comparison. The script is based upon a very old story about female merchants who followed the troops to do business during wars. They are a tough breed, and Helen Weigel, who plays the title role, certainly conveys that.

Helene Weigel | Jewish Women's Archive 

 

Mother Courage and Her Children - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

 

Mother Courage and Her Children Study Guide by Bertolt Brecht ... 

 

Past Productions: Mother Courage   Gideon Lester on the evolution of the play from The American Repertory Theater

 

Theatre at UBC: Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht ...   historical notes from The University of British Columbia

 

ArtScope.net: Mother Courage and Her Children  historical notes by Sandra Marie Lee from Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater

 

Bertolt Brecht - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

 

Bertolt Brecht     biography

 

Bertolt Brecht   biography

 

HSC Online   biography and extensive analysis of his works

 

Biography of Bertolt Brecht | List of Works, Study Guides & Essays ...  

 

Brecht   study guide

 

Berliner Ensemble - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

 

IBS: Berliner Ensemble   history of the Berlin Ensemble

 

Berliner Ensemble - MSN Encarta  

 

THEATRE / Auf Wiedersehen Brecht?: The Berliner Ensemble has ...   Aaron Hicklin from The Independent, January 14, 1993

 

Brecht’s War Primer - 21st Century Socialism   Simon Korner from 21st Century Socialism, August 14, 2006

 

Pan, Bertha Bay-Sa

 

FACE                                                             C                     71

USA  (89 mi)  2002

 

This is the completion of the director’s graduation thesis, an all too predictable story about growing up Asian-American, separated from American culture while simultaneously loosing your Asian roots, leaving much of the film spotty and uneven, some of the acting atrocious, and all the characters stereotypically predictable, with the exception of Anthony “Treach” Criss, the lead singer of the rap group Naughty by Nature, who plays a black DJ.  The film follows Bai Ling, an American-Asian daughter of a traditional Chinese mother living in Queens, New York, who is criticized by her elders for being too white, so in an act of attempted independence, goes out alone and gets taken advantage of by a so-called friend of the family, who rapes her.  The parents, in traditional old-world style, arrange for their marriage in order to provide for the resulting daughter, but they split up after the baby is born, as neither has a clue how to be a parent, and the mother leaves the baby with her own mother and just disappears for nearly 20 years.  Meanwhile, the daughter, Kristy Wu, grows up and has an affair with the black DJ, bringing a melodramatic over-reaction of more shame into the household, as the grandmother has for an entire generation attempted to save “face,” leaving her shamed, as if cursed, by her daughter and granddaughter.  Tension mounts when the mother returns for the high school graduation of the daughter she’s never seen, as she has no interest in her mother whatsoever, and generally behaves like a spoiled brat.  Outside of the novel diverse music that plays throughout, and a layered criss-crossing narrative that suggests a continuing culture shock, everything else about this film is typically made for TV.    

 

Panahi, Jafar

 

Story Teller: Jafar Panahi  biography from Culture Unplugged

Jafar Panahi, born in 1960 in Mianeh, Iran, was ten years old when he wrote his first book, which subsequently won first prize in a literary competition. It was also at that young age that he became familiar with filmmaking: shooting films on 8mm, acting in one 8mm film and assisting in the making of another. Later, he took up photography. On being drafted into the military, Panahi served in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-90), and during this period, made a documentary about the War which was eventually shown on TV. After his military service, Panahi entered university to study filmmaking, and while there, made some documentaries. He also worked as an assistant director on some feature films. After his studies, Panahi left Tehran to make films in the outer regions of the country. On returning to Tehran, he worked with Abbas Kiarostami as his assistant director on Through the Olive Trees (1994). Armed with a script by his mentor, Kiarostami, Panahi made his debut as a director with The White Balloon (1995), and subsequently went on to make The Mirror (1997) and The Circle (2000).

Jafar Panahi  Extensive biography and profile from Adorable Movies

 

Jafar Panahi  The Auteurs

 

Jafar Panahi > Overview - AllMovie

 

Persian Directors - Jafar Panahi

 

This year's Prize of Freedom of Expression was given to Jafar Panahi  Doran Emrooz from Payvand Iran News, February 14, 2001

 

Statement of Protest - Letter to the US National Board of Review of Motion Pictures   Jafar Panahi from Senses of Cinema, April 23, 2001

 

[Reader-list] A Letter from Jafar Panahi, the Iranian Film Director  June 7, 2001

 

Don't Look at the Camera: Becoming a Woman in Jafar Panahi's Iran  Jared Rapfogel from Senses of Cinema, July 2001

 

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; Lifting the Veil On a Far-Off World  A.O. Scott from The New York Times, November 23, 2001

 

Jafar Panahi: It's the Iranian 'Taxi Driver' - Features, Films ...  Jonathan Romney from The Independent, September 7, 2003

 

Jafar Panahi: Home of the brave - Features, Films - The Independent  Roger Clarke from The Independent, September 19, 2003

 

2003 October 15  Doug Cummings from Film Journey

 

*cnn film review  Iranian Balloons: Panahi and the West from Commit No Nuisance, October 30, 2003

 

An Iranian Declares His Independence - NYTimes.com  Dave Kehr from The New York Times, January 18, 2004

 

Vertigo Magazine, Article - Squaring the Circle, by By Emilie ...  Emilie Bickerton from Vertigo magazine, Spring 2006

 

A new film explores Iranian society through soccer - CBC Arts | Film  Kicking Up a Fuss, by Rachel Giese from CBC Arts, April 5, 2007

 

Asia Pacific Screen Awards > Asia Pacific Screen Awards Announces ...  November 5 – 13, 2008

 

JonathanRosenbaum.com » Blog Archive » Jafar Panahi and Early Pere ...  May 15, 2009

 

Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi Arrested In Tehran - indieWIRE  Peter Knegt from indieWIRE, July 30, 2009

 

Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi Arrested In Tehran // Current  July 30, 2009

 

Iranian director Jafar Panahi to lead Montreal's competition jury ...   Denis Seguin from Screendaily, August 18, 2009

 

Iranian director Jafar Panahi to lead the jury of Montreal Film ...  Payvand Iran news, August 19, 2009

 

Help for Iranian Filmmakers - International Film Festival ...  Ludmila Cvikova from Rotterdam Film Festival, October 2009

 

Iran director missing as Mumbai opens  Nyay Bhushan from The Hollywood Reporter, October 30, 2009

 

India to screen films by Jafar Panahi  Press TV, December 1, 2009

 

tehran times : India's Third Eye festival to hold Jafar Panahi ...  The Tehran Times, December 2, 2009

Iranian artists warned by Culture Ministry  CBC News, December 20, 2009

Iran lifts travel restrictions on actress Motamed-Arya  The Tehran Times, December 23, 2009

 

Jafar Panahi update  er Keough from The Boston Phoenix, December 26, 2009

 

More from Iran  Peter Keough from The Boston Phoenix, December 28, 2009

 

Iranian Filmmakers Keep Focus on the Turmoil  Michael Slackman from The New York Times, January 3, 2010

Persian miniatures   Peter Keough from The Boston Phoenix, January 6, 2010

Iran's Jafar Panahi invited to Berlinale  Mehr News, January 10, 2010

 

Iran's Jafar Panahi invited to Berlinale  The Tehran Times, January 11, 2010

 

Jafar Panahi arrested in Iran   Xan Brooks from The Guardian, March 2, 2010

 

Iran arrests top film-maker Jafar Panahi for supporting Green movement  Ian Black from The Guardian, March 2, 2010

 

Iranian Filmmaker Speaks Out on Prisoners - The Lede Blog ...  Robert Mackey posts a protest letter by Abbas Kiarostami, March 9, 2010

 

The Lede: Iran Jails Filmmaker for 6 Years  Robert Mackey from The New York Times, December 20, 2010

 

2 opposition Iranian filmmakers jailed for 6 years  The Washington Post, December 20, 2010

 

Jafar Panahi, Iranian Director, Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison, Banned from ...   J. Hoberman from The Village Voice, December 20, 2010

 

Iranian film-maker sent to jail  BBC News, December 20, 2010

 

Iran jails director Jafar Panahi and stops him making films for 20 ...  Saeed Kamali Dehghan from The Guardian, December 20, 2010

 

Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof Sentenced to 6 Years in ...  Human Rights House of Iran, December 21, 2010

 

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran blog  December 21, 2010

 

Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof unjustly ...  Gabe Wardell from Creative Loafing, December 23, 2010

 

Who's afraid of Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof? - Cinema ...  Vera Mijojlic from Cinema Without Borders, January 2, 2011

 

Peter Bradshaw on Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof | Film ...  Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian, February 2, 2011

 

Jafar Panahi loses appeal  Ben Child from The Guardian, October 18, 2011

 

Panahi, Jafar   They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They

 

An interview with Jafar Panahi, director of The Circle  David Walsh interview from The World Socialist Web Site, October 2, 2000

 

The Case of Jafar Panahi - An Interview with the Iranian Director ...  Interview by Stephen Teo from Senses of Cinema, June 2001

 

Making Movies Under the Eye of Iranian Censors : NPR  Madeleine Brand interview from NPR, August 3, 2005 (radio broadcast and written transcript provided)

 

Offside rules: an interview with Jafar Panahi | openDemocracy  Maryam Maruf interview from Open Democracy, June 6, 2006

 

New York Movies - Chatting with Jafar Panahi - page 1  J. Hoberman interview from The Village Voice, March 13, 2007

 

Jafar Panahi  David D’Arcy interviews the director from GreenCine, March 29, 2007    

 

An Interview with Jafar Panahi | Reverse Shot  Chris Wisniewski interview from Reverse Shot (2007)

 

Interview with Jafar Panahi, part one - Outside The Frame  Peter Keough interview from The Boston Phoenix, September 25, 2009

 

Jafar Panahi interview, part two  Peter Keough interview from The Boston Phoenix, September 28, 2009

 

Jafar Panahi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

THE WHITE BALLOON

Iran  (85 mi)  1995

 

Time Out review

This extraordinary debut feature, about a 7-year-old's first journey alone into the streets of Tehran, is a movie of audacious subtlety and simplicity, and a deserving Cannes prize-winner. It takes place in 'real time', the 84 minutes leading to New Year (March 21), as little Razieh (Aïda Mohammadkhani) goes off to purchase, with her mother's last 500 toman, the 'chubby' gold-fish that has taken her fancy. Along the way, she encounters snake-charmers, irate shopkeepers, a country-born soldier, a young Afghan boy with a white balloon - a whole world hitherto 'forbidden'. Scripted in collaboration with leading Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, this is a film of small incident, minute, telling observations, and enormous heart and intelligence. Tethering the movie to the child's point of view (both literal and metaphorical), Panahi absorbs us so entirely into his heroine's delicate, enquiring world, that the loss of her money and her separation from her brother create an atmosphere of suspense as gripping as that of any Hitchcock thriller. Moreover, suggestive intimations of the troubled adult world - the mother's anxiety in the bazaar, the lonely 'outsiders' - combine to produce a feeling of almost metaphysical tension.

User reviews  from imdb (Page 2) Author: Rigor from Chicago, USA

Post-revolutionary Iran has produced such a high number of remarkably accomplished, humanist films. This is one of the most accessible and accomplished. The story is really quite simple- a young girl desperately, and by adult standards irrationally, desires a new gold fish for New Years ceremonies. Through a wide range of complex adventures she gains and loses the financial resources to make her purchase. With this simple story two of Iran's most distinguished and influential directors Jafar Panahi (the director) and Abbas Kiarosrami (The writer of this film's screenplay) create a narrative that argues for the basic "goodness" and "decency" of the average citizen of Tehran.

Watching this film from an American context is a remarkably political experience. In a country that has replaced cold war nonsense (USSR is the "evil empire") with a new racist "Islamaphobia" that tries to rival the days of the European crusades, watching a film in which the basic daily lives of Arab citizens are treated with dignity is a liberating experience.

While the film obviously has a number of subtle an beautifully realized political and social messages that evidently resonate within in its own national context, it should also be respected for its cross-cultural themes and it's ability to inspire audiences from diverse backgrounds around the world. ...........

Tucson Weekly (Stacey Richter) review

THE IRANIAN FILM industry operates under a blanket of censorship that's hard to imagine from the sex-crazed, blood-drenched aisle seats of our own cinematic Gomorra. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, almost all western movies have been banned due to severe restrictions governing the ways women can be portrayed. "We are not against cinema; we are against prostitution," the Ayatollah Khomeini has declared, which means, in practical terms, that Islamic dress codes requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting garments in public must be strictly observed at all times. Though a woman may be "at home" in the context of the film, the censors, who apparently don't buy into the suspension of disbelief, still consider her to be "in public" when her image appears on the screen. Women are often pictured sleeping with their head scarves on in post-revolutionary Iranian films.

Furthermore, according to Islamic codes, a woman may only be "intimate" with members of her own family. Intimacy includes activities like touching and hugging, which can't be portrayed on screen unless the actors are related. It's very difficult for Iranian filmmakers to portray husband and wife characters if the actors aren't married in real life. This, added to a legacy of harsh political censorship from the time of the Shah, has resulted in a style of filmmaking that (at least in the examples exported abroad) is often concerned with small conflicts, the lives of children and the anxieties of everyday life. The mysterious death of a cow, a crack in a water jar, a schoolboy's lost notebook and a little girl's desperate desire for a plump goldfish--these are all basic plots of some better-known Iranian films.

Despite restrictive guidelines, Iranian filmmaking has thrived. The White Balloon, the first feature-length film from director Jafar Panahi and winner of the 1995 Camera D'Or prize, is a sweet but sober glimpse into the life of a little girl in downtown Tehran. Panahi's film has the slow rhythm and attention to inner- life typical of the films of Satyajit Ray or Ingmar Bergman. The story is about Razieh (Aida Mohammadkhani), a determined 7-year-old girl who wants nothing more than a certain beautiful goldfish to decorate her family's house for the New Year. Though it's tough to convey the excitement of such a simple plot in words, her quest for the fish is surprisingly moving. This is partly because the adorable Mohammadkhani, who shouts all her lines, is so utterly appealing; and partly because the market of Tehran, where she ventures out to buy the fish with her mother's money (under strict instructions to bring back change) seems like no place for a little girl to be wandering by herself.

 A sense of threat accompanies Razieh on her journey. First, some snake charmers--a bunch of men that she has been warned not to look at--manage to separate the 7-year-old from her note. With the help of her sturdy vocal chords she manages to get the money back, only to lose it again. There's a subtle feeling that Razieh might be paddled by her parents if she doesn't get her money back--her brother, who convinced their mother to give his sister the money in the first place, shows up at one point with a black eye.

The adults who surround the two children can't seem to understand how dire it is that they get their money back, but the kids themselves are quite certain of the gravity of their task. With earnest concentration, they try a variety of techniques to retrieve the bank note that has fallen through a grating into a cellar. The film takes place in real time, heightening the sense of living inside a child's world. Though the adults can't understand how important it is for Razieh to get her goldfish or to retrieve her money, it becomes very clear to the audience that these are matters of immense importance.

Though The White Balloon is about children, it isn't really a children's movie. The subtext is probably too dark for younger kids, and there's a sense of threat, nuance and subtlety that would probably be better appreciated by Arch Deluxe-quaffing grown ups. Panahi's static compositions, which resemble still photography more than the dynamism of western directors, give The White Balloon a documentary air of mature calm; this, along with the small scale of the subject matter, lends the film the remarkable feeling of being a chronicle of real events.

The White Balloon  Michael Price from Senses of Cinema, July 2002

 

JonathanRosenbaum.com » Blog Archive » Toddler Time  March 8, 1996

 

*cnn film review  Iranian Balloons: Panahi and the West from Commit No Nuisance, October 30, 2003

 

Movie Reviews UK review [4/5]  Damian Cannon

 

ReelViews (James Berardinelli) review [3/4]

 

Epinions [metalluk]

 

The Tech (MIT) (Stephen Brophy) review

 

Steve Rhodes review [1.5/4]

 

Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review

 

Edinburgh U Film Society (Katia Saint-Peron) review

 

Mike D'Angelo review

 

Movie Magazine International review  Michael Fox

 

Variety (Lisa Nesselson) review

 

Philadelphia City Paper (Jerry White) review

 

Austin Chronicle (Marjorie Baumgarten) review [3/5]

 

San Francisco Examiner (Barbara Shulgasser) review

 

San Francisco Chronicle (Edward Guthmann) review

 
FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW; Of a Girl and Her Goldfish  Janet Maslin from The New York Times, September 29, 1995

 

FILM;In Iran, Simple Films Can Speak Volumes  Geraldine Brooks from The New York Times, January 28, 1996

 

THE MIRROR (Ayneh)

Iran  (95 mi)  1997

 

Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review

Iranian director Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon, The Circle) served as assistant director to Abbas Kiarostami on Through the Olive Trees (1994). Later, Kiarostami provided the original stories for Panahi's films The White Balloon and Crimson Gold. Though Kiarostami had nothing to do with The Mirror, which has finally been released on DVD, the film definitely channels Kiarostami, notably his 1990 masterpiece Close-Up.

In Close-Up, Kiarostami filmed the real trial of Hossain Sabzian, a man who was caught impersonating another great Iranian director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and then Kiarostami went back and recreated the events leading up to the trial, and cut them together as a seamless whole. Seven years later, Panahi begins The Mirror as the story of a little girl (Mina Mohammad Khani), whose arm is in a sling, trying to get home from school when her mother fails to pick her up. It's an archetypal Iranian film, carefully observed, with a keen sense of space and location and excellent use of character types and supporting players.

But halfway through, Mina suddenly takes off her cast and claims that she's quitting the film. A film crew appears and it's revealed that she has, up until now, only been an actor in a film about a little girl getting home. The clever filmmakers leave her remote microphone on and discreetly continue to follow her as the little actress tries to get home, this time for real.

It's a fascinating idea, and the only real problem is that Panahi doesn't really sustain it. The switch comes at about the 40-minute mark, leaving about 50 more minutes to tell the story's second part. It's never clear if the actress, not playing her role, knows how to get home. Several of her conversations contradict one another, and we never really know what's going on.

It's entirely possible that Panahi planned this. Indeed, Close-Up ends with a similar scene. Perhaps he's saying that, as much as these films strive for realism, they can never capture the messy, unpredictable nature of life itself. When, during the second part, Mina meets up with an old lady who was acting in the previous section of the film, Mina asks if the lady's dialogue, about her strained relationship with her son, was made up. The woman says it wasn't. But how do we know she hasn't made up this second time?

In that way, The Mirror treads upon a bit of new ground that Kiarostami did not get to in Close-Up. And so, though it can't measure up to its master, The Mirror is ultimately a worthy and captivating picture.

The Film Sufi: "The Mirror" - Jafar Panahi (1997)

Jafar Panahi was born in 1960 and began making his own amateur films as a teenager. In 1994, he was the assistant director on Abbas Kiarostami’s Through the Olive Trees, and the following year he released his debut directorial effort, The White Balloon, which was scripted by Kiarostami. The Mirror (Aydeh) is Panahi’s second film and was released in 1997.

In order to appreciate The Mirror, it is useful to reflect on certain conditions of the Iranian film scene. Films about children have a universal appeal, but with the social restrictions in place since the 1979 Iranian revolution, making movies about children in Iran has a number of practical advantages. Children are always credited with more innocence than adults and can be allowed to display a wide range of emotions without suspicion -- and filming them on the street is easier, too. And, further, the more limited spatial horizons of a child enable the resource-constricted filmmaker to present a plausible story context with children that does not seem artificially reduced in scope. Not surprisingly, there have been many films made in Iran depicting a child’s point of view, with Kiarostami’s 1987 film, Khane-ye Doust Kodjast? (Where Is My Friend’s Home?), being a popular early example. Panahi’s first film, the Kiarostami-scripted White Balloon, was another offering in this genre and depicted a seven-year-old girl’s afternoon-long efforts in the city streets to buy a goldfish in preparation for the Iranian new year festivities. Notwithstanding The White Balloon’s undeniable charm, there are limits to how many times this kind of thing can be represented successfully on the screen without becoming tedious. So when Panahi set out to make another child-focussed film, he was working in a field that had already been richly mined.

The Mirror begins in a fashion similar to other child-focussed films: as school lets out, a young girl, again about seven years old, is seen waiting for her mother to come and pick her up. As it turns out, the mother doesn’t arrive at the appointed time, and the entire plot is simply about the girl’s efforts to get home. So it looks like another White Balloon, and in fact the lead in this film, Mina Mohammad Khani, is the younger sister of the girl in White Balloon, Ayda Mohammad Khani. But as I will discuss here, The Mirror is significantly different and innovative, not only from that previous film but also from Kiarostami’s well-known style of filmmaking.

Almost immediately, we can see an important difference from Kiarostami: the filmmaking style. While Kiarostami typically uses austere, long-duration static camera shots of people in close conversation, Panahi opens up this film with a spectacular three-and-half-minute panning shot that makes a full 360-degree circuit around a traffic circle. Later on, there are other carefully crafted, long-lasting shots showing the girl wandering in and out of closeup, sometimes disappearing in crowd scenes, and then reappearing, still in perfect frame. Contemporary Iranian films are sometimes likened to the Italian neo-realist period of the 1940s and 1950s, and that comparison perhaps conjures up images of rough-and-ready, documentary-style films seeking to capture more of the “real world” by disregarding professional narrative film craftsmanship. But if you look at those original Italian neo-realist films, they do use narrative filmmaking techniques quite skilfully. This, however, is not the case with the more clumsy offerings of Kiarostami or Makhmalbof, who are sometimes critically celebrated as modern Iranian neo-realist equivalents. But Panahi is different; he does in fact display an admirable level of craftsmanship that must belie a considerable amount of planning and setup. You can be sure that the random conversations overhead in the background and on the buses of The Mirror are under his control. Yet the film is still thoroughly immersed in the noisy and intense hustle and bustle of modern Tehran, one of the most intense cities in the world. This is neo-realism with authorial control, not just random "reality TV".

But almost exactly halfway through The Mirror, just as one has gotten lulled into Panahi’s meandering narrative of the lost girl trying to find the right bus, something strange and unexpected happens. The young actress pulls off her costume, looks straight into the camera, and announces that she is not going to continue acting in this movie. The fourth wall has suddenly been shattered. When this happens the cinematography suddenly changes dramatically, too. Immediately, we are subjected to jerky, hand-held shots (the camera had been perfectly steady up to this point). The film stock looks grainy, the colour balance of the shots is off, and the shots are no longer framed and in focus. Now we are shown what a truly ad hoc style of filmmaking really does look like, and the contrast is striking. During these hand-held shots, Panahi, himself, is shown with his crew trying to coax Mina back into resuming her role (but she refuses). Since Mina still has her radio-controlled microphone clipped on, the film crew at this point attempts to keep the filmmaking process going and continue filming her (now “real”) journey home. As the film proceeds from here, it once again returns to the carefully crafted filmmaking and tracking shots of before. But this time the subject of that filmmaking is no longer cooperating, and the filmmakers struggle to keep her in view as she wanders down the street, often out of view and sometimes disappearing into random taxis. Many times Mina is now out-of-view, and all we see are random scenes of traffic congestion as the search for her in the crowd continues. Even the sound sometimes drops out as her clipped-on microphone is accidentally switched off at times.

How much of this actress’s rebellion and breakout is authentic, or is it staged? This has been debated by critics, but my guess is that the whole thing has been carefully contrived. But what does it all mean? For the second half of the film, there is now a tension between fiction and “reality”, and one struggles to find the boundaries between the two. The “real” Mina is not a first-grader, but is a second-grader; she is not lost, but now knows her way home (sort of). But the differences are not that great, and one can’t quite be sure what is true and what isn’t. Panahi seems to be playing with the narrative confines of the child-focussed neo-realist genre and perhaps reminding us to reflect on the true nature of the social cityscape that he is presenting. That Tehran “reality” is fascinating, and, in my view, authentic, even if crafted. We see a young romantic couple on a bus, who must occupy separate, gender-specific sections and can only shyly eye each other from a distance. We listen to an old woman complain about being neglected by her family; and we hear other women complain about their marital circumstances. For the men in the film, the primary interest and pleasure is listening vicariously to a radio broadcast of the Iranian soccer team playing South Korea. There are no villains here, though. We just have people trying to handle the vicissitudes of society in the big city.

What, actually, is meant by or supposed to represent the "mirror"? I’m not sure, but since the very nature of film expression has been called into question, perhaps the mirror is just the film, itself. But it's not really a just mirror; it's a picture that's even better than a mirror. Perhaps you will have some good suggestions here.

Overall, this film is fascinating, but not as brilliant as Panahi’s following film, The Circle. In general, stories and films that become self-reflective can offer intellectual challenges but can also have difficulty sustaining our interest over the full course of the narrative. The Mirror is nevertheless something of a cinematic tour de force and indicative of an important figure to watch on the Iranian film scene.

jafar panahi « The Seventh Art  Srikanth Srinivasan from The Seventh Art, January 11, 2009

 

The Onion A.V. Club [Keith Phipps]

 

The Village Voice [Michael Atkinson]

 

Movie Habit (Marty Mapes) review [3.5/4]

 

THE MIRROR (Jafar Panahi, 1997) « Dennis Grunes

 

Spirituality & Practice (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat) review

 

MovieMartyr.com  also reviewing THE CIRCLE

 

Variety (Derek Elley) review

 

Austin Chronicle (Marjorie Baumgarten) review [3/5]

 

San Francisco Chronicle (Edward Guthmann) review

 

FILM REVIEW; No Time for Stardom on Teheran's Busy Streets  Stephen Holden from The New York Times, November 25, 1998, also seen here:  The New York Times (Stephen Holden) review

 

THE CIRCLE (Dayereh)                                        B                     88

Iran  Italy  Switzerland  (90 mi)  2000

 

The Circle  David Denby from The New Yorker

 

Anonymous women on the streets of Tehran crouch alongside cars to avoid police, dart down alleys, and flee from dangerous places with black chadors held over their heads, as if flying under dark wings. At first, we may be puzzled by the frenetic rushing about—the women, seen one or two at a time, don't seem to have any clear goal. But after a while, we realize that this is exactly the point. They have either spent time in prison or are heading straight there, and they are looking for a place to hide in a society in which single women have no more than provisional legitimacy as citizens. The director, Jafar Panahi, offers echoes of the Italian neorealist cinema in the general forlornness and pained humanism of his approach, but he's created aesthetic strategies all his own. Despite a longueur here and there, the cumulative power of "The Circle" is extraordinary. In Farsi. 

 

Time Out review  Tony Rayns

A quantum leap forward from Panahi's films about children, this is a panoramic account of the various ways women are oppressed in present-day Iran. Taking La Ronde as its structural model, the narrative passes from one woman to another, finally completing a circle which can only be described as vicious. It opens in a maternity ward with a woman in labour producing a daughter, to the dismay of her in-laws, and ends in a police station, provocatively suggesting an equivalence between the two institutions. The main characters are three women prisoners released on (temporary?) parole; Panahi provides no background for them, the better to see how they cope with a society in which they have virtually no autonomy. Glimpses of Tehran's underworld bespeak a social economy untouched by either the country's ruling clerics or the reformist government. Brave and powerful.

The Circle   Julian Graffy from Sight and Sound, October 2001

A street in Tehran, the present. Three women, headscarfed and identically swathed in dark blue, anxiously make a phone call. They have exit passes from prison, but one, Maedeh (Maedeh Tahmasbi), is swiftly rearrested. Arezou (Maryam Parvin Almani) and Nargess (Nargess Mamizadeh) plan to go to Raziliq, Nargess' home village, but need money for the fare. Arezou gets the money but eventually decides not to go. Nargess, too, gets off the bus and wanders in search first of Arezou and then of their friend Pari (Fereshteh Sadr OrafaÏ), also released that morning. Pari is thrown out of her father's house and goes to find another former prisoner, Elham (Elham Saboktakin), a nurse who Pari hopes will help her get an abortion. But Elham has kept her past secret from her doctor husband and will not help.

Back wandering the streets of the city Pari meets Nayereh (Fatemeh Naghavi), who abandons her young daughter in the hope that she will get a better life. Later Nayereh accepts a lift from a man, but they run into a police check and she risks arrest. The police concentrate on a defiant young woman, Mojgan (Mojgane Faramarz), and Nayereh slips away. Mojgan is arrested and taken to a cell. Among the women already there are the trio from the start of the film.

Review

In the prologue to The Circle, unseen behind a black screen and the opening credits, we hear the cries of a woman, Solmaz, giving birth. The film's first words, 'It's a girl,' are met with despair by the woman's mother - 'but the ultrasound said it would be a boy.' She is certain that her daughter's parents-in-law will demand a divorce. This chilling vignette sets the scene for a connected series of powerful and engaging stories of women's experience in modern Tehran, their force enhanced by the film's stunning formal confidence and audacity.

Like Panahi's acclaimed first feature, The White Balloon (1995), The Circle uses the quests of its central characters to provide a subtle and original evocation of city life. But whereas the earlier film was unashamed to trade in the charming and the picturesque, and its plot hinged upon a large element of fakery, The Circle jettisons these props, displaying Tehran as a place of relentless intimidating bustle, seared by the noise of traffic and car horns. Above all it is a city of men - on Tehran's streets men trade, make music, ride motorbikes, swoop down in their police vans and arrest people. In this world, women are excluded, fearful, conscious of the arbitrariness with which danger can strike. Newly released from prison, Nargess alternately gazes with wonder at the energy and vigour of it all - the shops speaking the signs of modernity, the Western perfumes, a Swatch advert, a shirt 'made in Turkey, best quality' - or hides in dark corners to avoid being seen.

The men who run this world are rarely glimpsed. Elham's Pakistani husband is seen only though a window, while the cinema cashier Monire's is not seen at all. But they have arbitrary power over the lives of their wives - the Pakistani doctor has divorced his first wife, who just didn't suit, and Monire's husband took a second wife while Monire was in prison. Faced with this, the women have a choice between solidarity and frightened subservience. The first of these causes Monire to be grateful to wife number two for looking after her children in her absence. It is the latter that makes Elham unable to offer Pari the help she needs.

Jafar Panahi's contention is that women are powerless and marginalised, dependent on the whims, prejudices, and occasional kindnesses of men. This is realised through a series of dazzling visual and narrative devices. Always covered from head to toe, they additionally don dark chadors at moments of danger, which render them indistinguishable and almost literally invisible. Fearing re-arrest at the start, Arezou and Nargess run away looking like two huge crows. When Pari visits her prison friend Monire, their conversation is hidden as men buying tickets completely block the screen. This invisibility is compounded by a pervasive uncertainty about their fates - we are given no backstories, no reasons for their arrest, and the minimal information about their plans and desires is delayed or withheld with disorientating effect. In key cases we are not even given the characters' names until they are required to identify themselves to authority - Nargess in order to be sold a bus ticket, Nayereh when she faces arrest. In most cases, too, the characters share the actresses' own names, adding to the sense of universality. And the formal structure of a relay of incomplete narratives leaves the viewer with a shockingly unsettling series of unfinished stories, untold lives.

The Circle is also related through a subtly deployed system of metaphors. Throughout the film women look out at the world through bars, and windows and doors slam shut; they are forbidden to smoke in public places; they fail to complete their journeys to a place of safety. Seeing a cheap copy of a Van Gogh, Nargess recognises it as the paradisaical Raziliq of her childhood, 'only the painter didn't get it quite right.' And throughout the film, a wedding party wends its way as ironic commentary.

Panahi observes the classical unities - this is the story of a single day in a single town, a day in the life of everywoman and her daughter. At the end, when darkness falls and the women enter a communal cell, the metaphor of women's life as a prison is uninsistently realised. The Circle of the film's title is a place in Tehran where Pari goes to meet Monire, but it also serves as a subtle motif of closure. As the film ends, a young male prison guard asks whether Solmaz Gholami is among the women in the cell. But she is not there, having been transferred to the maternity hospital of the start of the film to give birth to a daughter. Sound outlasts vision. Against the black screen of the closing credits, a cell door slams. 

THE CIRCLE (Jafar Panahi, 2000) « Dennis Grunes

 

The Sheila Variations: <i>The Circle</i>; director, Jafar Panahi

 

The Circle  The Film Sufi

 

City Pages, Minneapolis/St. Paul (Laura Sinagra) review

 

Chicago Reader (Jonathan Rosenbaum) review [4/4]  longer review

 

Nitrate Online (Cynthia Fuchs) review

 

World Socialist Web Site  Joanne Laurier

 

Salon (Stephanie Zacharek) review

 

The Onion A.V. Club [Scott Tobias]

 

Harvey S. Karten review

 

Epinions [metalluk]

 

Metroactive Movies | 'Crimson Gold'  Richard von Busack

 

Movies that make you think: 61. Iranian director Jafar Panahi's ...  Jugu Abraham

 

DVD Times  Mark Boydell

 

Jigsaw Lounge (Neil Young) review [5/10]

 

hybridmagazine.com review  Eric Vanstrom

 

James Bowman review

 

Salon.com [Charles Taylor]

 

Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review

 

CineScene.com (Chris Dashiell) review

 

Exclaim! review  James Luscombe

 

Jon Popick review

 

Isthmus (Kent Williams) review

 

The Land of Eric (Eric D. Snider) review [B]

 

One Guy's Opinion (Frank Swietek) review [B+]

 

Movie Magazine International review  Moira Sullivan 

 

Movie-Vault.com (Vadim Rizov) review [8/10]

 

VideoVista review  Gary Couzens

 

The Circle & Contemporary Iranian Cinema  Banned & Censored Cinema

 

Eye for Film (Angus Wolfe Murray) review [3/5]

 

JonathanRosenbaum.com » Blog Archive » The Circle  (capsule review), also here:  The Circle 

 

MovieMartyr.com  also reviewing THE MIRROR

 

Entertainment Weekly review [A]  Lisa Schwarzbaum 

 

Variety (Deborah Young) review

 

TV Guide Entertainment Network, Movie Guide review [4/5]

 

Guardian/Observer review

 

BBC Films review  Michael Thomson

 

The Boston Phoenix review  Peter Keough

 

Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) review [3.5/5]

 

Seattle Post-Intelligencer review  Sean Axmaker

 

San Francisco Chronicle (Wesley Morris) review

 

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [3.5/4]

 

FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW; The Taboos And Panic For Women of Iran  A.O. Scott from The New York Times, September 26, 2000

 

FILM; Circles Within Circles Within Iran  Nancy Ramsey from The New York Times, April 15, 2001

 

DVDBeaver dvd review  Gary W. Tooze

 

CRIMSON GOLD                                         B+                   91                                                                                                

Iran  (97 mi)  2003

 

Unique to Iranian films, this has a certain Western commercialized style to it, almost like a sophisticated thriller, something like Neil Jordan’s THE GOOD THIEF (2002), which accentuates a certain sensuality in the filmmaking, featuring in some points a jazz soundtrack, but at the same time, it’s written by Abbas Kiarostami, so there’s brevity and conciseness to the story.  While hardly a commercial film, what stood out for me were incidents in the film which are NOT likely to be shown to an Iranian audience, such as the police routinely rounding up what appear to be innocent civilians, or showing petty thievery on the streets, the drinking of alcohol, or prostitution or homelessness in Tehran.  There’s even slang, and the use of the word “dude” spoken by an Iranian in the script.  The film moves forward with an economy of motion, driven by a certain kinetic energy following a man on a motorcycle, and one feels what he feels, and sees what he sees.

 

The film opens with a riveting scene where a jewelry heist is going badly.  Mostly the camera shows staring onlookers who peer inside to see a large man wearing a motorcycle helmet, who appears to have lost control of the situation.  Immediately there is a flashback to the events that led up to that exact moment.  The story follows Hossain Emadeddin, a non-professional actor who is in real-life what he plays here, a motorcycle pizza deliveryman, so physically imposing that he resembles André the Giant, but his character is instead gentle and soft-spoken.  But we learn he has gained size since he served in the Army and doesn’t feel well, due to the necessity to take steroids.  As he delivers pizza, we see a world largely unseen in Iranian cinema, ultimately leading him inside an opulent, palatial home, complete with fountains and a swimming pool.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but as the camera slowly follows him from room to room, I immediately thought of Fellini’s NIGHTS OF CABIRIA (1957), where the lowly prostitute played by Giulietta Masina suddenly finds herself in a palatial villa and is overwhelmed by the splendor surrounding her.  Here as well, Hossain may as well be on another planet, sophisticated jazz music plays when the lights are turned on, and his rich playboy host who invites him in is bored and has lost all interest in the sumptuous surroundings.  It is this dizzying contrast of rich and poor, haves versus have-nots, and the brutal social inequities constantly thrown in his face that are at the core of this film, leaving Hossain a bit disoriented and dangerous by the film’s end.  Winner of the Gold Hugo Best Film Award.

 

Time Out review  Geoff Andrews

A quietly brilliant film that uses the events leading up to a suicidal jewel robbery (shown in the opening scene, before the film flashes back to chart the actions of the culprit, a pizza deliveryman, and his likewise hapless partner in crime) to illuminate and reflect on social divisions in modern Tehran. Hussein is at first merely bemused by the contents of a lost purse Ali has found, but when he visits a jeweller's to buy a ring for his fiancée, he's made all too aware of his poverty and second class status. Later, a delivery to an apartment of almost obscene luxury seals his fate. Characteristically oblique, Kiarostami's telling script is at once poetic and precise, witty and compassionate, while Panahi's strong visual sense and expertise with untrained actors ensure that one is entranced throughout.

Crimson Gold  Anthony Lane from The New Yorker

 

Jafar Panahi, the Iranian director who made "The White Balloon" and "The Circle," addresses a subject that has, until now, received scandalously little attention: the life of a pizza deliveryman. Hussein (Hussein Emadeddin) is as doughy a figure as his profession would suggest; he waddles through Tehran, or glides with unhurried dignity on his scooter. What he observes on his rounds could have amounted to a mere ragbag of details—a Westernized playboy with a swimming pool in his apartment, cops staking out a loud party—yet it comes across as the portrait of a city both humming with human traffic and quietly besieged by the state. The hero's own story has the luckless tinge that we associate with Turgenev or Maupassant: the pinch of frustration, plus the wrong move that lunges into calamity. In Farsi. 

 

Crimson Gold   Michael Sicinski from the Academic Hack

Aside from a couple of expository missteps (the older thief in the café scene; the fate of the delivery boy with the cool sneakers), Panahi's latest is pretty much perfect.  The film is both an exacting character study and an incisive depiction of the insignificant slights and oblivious wounds to fragile pride that are the real stuff of day-to-day class conflict.  Hussein Emadeddin is the best non-professional performer to grace movie screens since L'humanite's Emmanuel Schotté.  Like Schotté', Emadeddin is a mostly reactive, inward figure whose blank indignation at the world around him registers for us, makes us viewers equally over-sensitive to banal daily insult and the soul-grinding accumulation of subtle signals that others send us, to remind us that we don't really belong in the world the way we think we should, that we are over-reaching or gazing well beyond our assigned station.  The film has a precise visual style, capturing urban Tehran as an example of that postmodern anomaly, the "glittering shithole."  (Cf. Tsai Ming-liang's Taipei, or Martín Rejtman's Buenos Aries.)  Amidst dingy storefronts and office buildings and miles of asphalt, bright colors pierce the field of vision -- a blue awning at a restaurant, or the sea-green trim along the bottom of the freeway.  Panahi's images are crisp, sturdy, and carefully lit, but never ostentatious, providing the perfect stylistic bedrock for the film's examination of the little events that happen in the interstices of conventional "realism." While any of Crimson Gold's brilliantly observed set-pieces illustrate this principle beautifully, none is as heartrending or well-orchestrated as the night-time party raid.  In addition to giving us a look at an outrageous police action that, in remaining unexplained for uninformed Western viewers, takes on an almost Buñuelian quality, Panahi demonstrates the interwoven threads of authority and submission, class resentment and mutual incomprehension, throwing it all into relief by adding Hussein into the mix.  His gesture of distributing the pizzas indiscriminately among the assembled (the cops, their prisoners, concerned parents) not only shows him making the best of a stupid situation (a petty martinet of a squad captain interfering with his ability to perform his crappy job), but adopting the only available position of relative power, the power to give.  (At that moment, Hussein becomes the Pizza Man in an almost Sartrean way, moving through the crowd offering succor, because it's the only way to maintain his dignity.)  While nothing else in Crimson Gold quite equals the magnificence of this sequence, the entire film is subtle and exacting, conveying Panahi's outrage at a society more concerned with adherence to picayune codes of religious decorum than Tehran's blatant stratification and lack of concern for its veterans.  It's a message that speaks loudly to the U.S. situation, and fortunately Crimson Gold itself is allowed to enter our borders, even if Panahi himself is not.  The Bush administration hasn't yet started demanding that "enemy films" submit to fingerprinting at Customs.

Slant Magazine review  Ed Gonzalez

In April 2001, Iranian director Panahi left Hong Kong for South America, where his film The Circle was playing at festivals in Montevideo and Buenos Aries. Though he was assured he didn't need a transit visa, the acclaimed filmmaker found himself shackled by customs officers at JFK airport during a routine layover. Adding insult to injury: Kiarostami's visa to enter the United States in order to attend a screening of Ten at last year's New York Film Festival was denied. In light of these two events, numerous directors (Aki Kaurismäki, Bertrand Tavernier, among others) subsequently cancelled trips to festivals across the United States in solidarity with Panahi and Kiarostami.

Crimson Gold is more cyclical, socially conscious cinema from the world of Panahi and Kiarostami. This parable begins at the end when a lonely pizza deliveryman, Hussein (Hussein Emadeddin), shoots himself in the head after a botched jewel heist. The narrative quickly rewinds and Panahi observes the simple but devastating events that would slowly squash the man's human spirit. The genius of Kiarostami's deceptively simple screenplay is how it quietly evokes America's post-9/11 immigration policy in the repeated embarrassments of the film's lead. But because Crimson Gold is also about the oppression of one Iranian man by his own people, it's impossible to write off the film as some knee-jerk anti-American provocation.

The practical and logical Hussein tries to deliver pizza to an apartment complex but is forced to wait outside by authorities that are there to crash a party. This scenario is riddled with endless absurdities (the officers wait for their victims to come to them and not the other way around), and it's a testament to Hussein's humanity that he's able to retain his capacity for kindness in spite of the way he's treated (while the officers sit around, he offers them pizza). Hussein does a lot of waiting in the film: outside a jewelry store when the owner doesn't let him in; inside the store after he and his friends dress up and pretend to be rich; and inside a bourgeois apartment when his rich customer is engaged in nonsense talk on the telephone.

"If you want to arrest a thief, you'll have to arrest the world," says an armchair philosopher in the film as Hussein's friend Ali (Kamyar Sheissi) goes through the contents of a woman's purse he's just stolen. Tipsy from this conversation about guesswork, entitlement, and cause and effect, Ali envisions a world where he can spare himself considerable embarrassment by knowing the contents of a woman's purse before pinching it. Crimson Gold is a film largely concerned with the surface of things, and the message of this mystical scene is abundantly clear: Just as Ali cannot separate the purse from the woman, the United States cannot separate terrorism from the Middle Eastern man.

Every scene in Crimson Gold evokes oppression within Iran and, much more cunningly, the nasty "you are either with us or against us" mentality the United States adopted after 9/11. Just as Hussein's constant waiting is meant to humorously parallel Panahi's own detainment at JFK, a conversation at the film's crucial jewelry store more largely references our country's isolationist mentality (the store advises Hussein to buy Iranian gold, not the imported Italian kind). Panahi and Kiarostami understand the effects of 9/11 on our country's policies, but when does safeguarding one's country come at the expense of another's humiliation? Like one character in the film says: "Show some mercy, please."

Crimson Gold   Julian Graffy from Sight and Sound, November 2003             

A Tehran jeweller (Shahram Vazira) is attacked while opening his shop. When he hits the alarm, his assailant, Hussein (Hossein Emadeddin), shoots him dead. As a crowd gathers, Hussein shoots himself.

Ali (Kamyar Sheisi), Hussein's sidekick, rides off on his motorbike into the long flashback that makes up the film. Hussein and Ali talk in a tea room about their plan for Hussein to marry Ali's sister (Azita Rayeji) and about the receipt for an expensive necklace which Ali has found in a bag he has snatched. They find the jewellers that sold it but are not allowed in.

By night they work as pizza-delivery boys. Hussein takes pizzas to a man who turns out to have been his senior officer at the Front. Another delivery is thwarted by a police raid on a party in an adjacent flat.

They return to the jewellers, this time with Hussein's fiance, but again they are humiliated and directed to a cheaper shop, which upsets Hussein.

A midnight delivery takes him to the opulent penthouse of a man called Pourang (Pourang Nakhaei) who, deserted by his girlfriend, invites him in. Hussein wanders round the flat in amazement. Next morning, as the jeweller unlocks his shop, Hussein knocks him to the ground...

Review

Like the heroes of Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up (1989) and A Taste of Cherry (1997), or the little-girl protagonist of Panahi's own The White Balloon (1995), the taciturn pizza-deliverer Hussein spends the whole of Crimson Gold pursuing an obsessive goal, a goal that is both practical in this case buying a necklace for his fianc e and, more importantly, symbolic: achieving respect, becoming visible. As he criss-crosses bustling Tehran in pursuit of his aim, his episodic encounters provide a kaleidoscopic vision of the city, a structure deployed in both Panahi's The Circle (2000) and Kiarostami's 10 (2002). Here the two film-makers, Kiarostami as scriptwriter and Panahi as director, collaborate to produce another compassionate and revealing narrative of the tensions and ambiguities of life in contemporary Iran.

Hussein is a large, introspective man of few words. As we plunge, unannounced, into the flashback of his life, we learn about him mainly through the reactions of others: his fellow pizza men all admire him and his former officer describes him as a saint. He has fought in defence of his country perhaps it was there he underwent the experience that requires him now to take the cortisone that has blown up his face to give him a constant look of bewilderment. What this ordinary, overlooked man wants, doggedly and single-mindedly, is to be paid some attention. This is why he is drawn back to the jewellery shop where he was treated with such casual disdain. When he returns there with his fiance he is smartly dressed in a constraining grey suit, but still the jeweller ignores him.

Hussein is an unlikely hero, and a fragile backbone for the narrative, but his stillness attracts the compassion and the demonstrativeness of others. Ali, his younger friend, is much more bouncy, darting around him full of questions. Ali is constantly eyeing up women and asks Hussein what it was like when they used to walk the streets "naked", that is without their veils. Hussein did not find it offensive. Ali's unnamed sister, who is also Hussein's fianc e, is similarly a victim, kind and gentle with her unlikely partner, but herself terrified of inadvertently breaking the codes that govern the behaviour of Iranian women. Other fleetingly glimpsed characters such as fellow delivery boy Skinny, whose flashy oversized sneakers lead to his sudden death in a crash add to the picture of quiet desperation. These are characters who are oppressed by the intrusive society they live in, but all are searching for a way to autonomy.

At the other end of the social scale are the army officer, whose promise of help never materialises, and the jeweller and his assistant, whose exquisite politeness cannot conceal their indifference. This is also the world examined in the film's two longest episodes: an illicit party and a visit to the playboy, Pourang. The scene outside the party is doubly unnerving both because Panahi never spells out for the benefit of western viewers exactly what is happening (it seems to be the morality police, clamping down on illicit dancing) and because of the passivity with which people allow themselves to be arrested. This is a society in which not only the underclass is cowed.

The final episode, in which Hussein wanders around the penthouse of the absurdly wealthy Pourang, while Pourang, whom nostalgia has dragged back from the US, rails at this "city of lunatics", is structurally placed as the straw that must break Hussein's back. But it is crudely drawn and, like the party episode, overlong. Overall, the film lacks the tightness and tragic dynamism of The Circle, where the progression from one woman's story to another's plunged the viewer ever deeper into a maelstrom of appalled sympathy.

What the two films share is a brilliant use of a system of visual and aural metaphors. The pizza itself is employed as an emblem of a society in confusion. Why should a country with its own rich culinary culture fall prey to this imported form? But Crimson Gold's most pervasive image, one also deployed in The Circle, is that of imprisonment. The film opens to the frantic sound of a caged bird, a sound that recurs as Hussein lies in his cell-like flat and listens to a neighbour being arbitrarily taken away. At the start of the film we look out from the metal bars protecting the jeweller's shop, and at the end we return to them. In between, with sympathy, attentiveness, and, for the most part, with understatement, the lives of many of the denizens of this modern metropolis are revealed as being lived in a cage.

The Film Sufi

not coming to a theater near you (Leo Goldsmith) review

Village Voice (J. Hoberman) review

Crimson Gold   Henry Sheehan

Cinepassion  Fernando F. Croce

d+kaz. Intelligent Movie Reviews (Daniel Kasman) review [B]

Reverse Shot review  Class Clown, by Elbert Ventura, Spring 2004  

Reverse Shot review  #7 Film of the Year, by Erik Syngle

New York Magazine (Peter Rainer) review

Philadelphia City Paper [Sam Adams]

filmcritic.com (Jeremiah Kipp) review [4.5/5]

Film Freak Central review  Bill Chambers

World Socialist Web Site  Davuid Walsh (midway through article)

Bright Lights Film Journal [Robert Keser]  (midway through article)

DVD Talk (Randy Miller III) dvd review [3/5]

The Onion A.V. Club [Scott Tobias]

CineScene.com (Chris Dashiell) review

Movies into Film.com (N.P. Thompson) review

Harvey S. Karten review [B-]

MovieFreak.com (Howard Schumann) review [+]

Film Journal International (Maria Garcia) review

Isthmus (Kent Williams) review

stylusmagazine.com (Akiva Gottlieb) review

Lessons of Darkness [Nick Schager]

One Guy's Opinion (Frank Swietek) review [B-]

The New Yorker (Anthony Lane) review  (Pages 4, 5)

The Flick Filosopher (MaryAnn Johanson) review

Eye for Film (Angus Wolfe Murray) review [3/5]

Eye for Film (Keith Hennessey Brown) review [3.5/5]

Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review

Premiere.com review  Peter Debruge

Exclaim! review  Elizabeth Bailey

Entertainment Weekly review [B-]  Owen Gleiberman

Guardian/Observer review

BBC Films review  Jamie Russell

Boston Globe review [4/4]  Wesley Morris

Washington Post (Michael O'Sullivan) review

The Seattle Times (Moira Macdonald) review

San Francisco Chronicle (Jonathan Curiel) review

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [3/4]

The New York Times (A.O. Scott) review

Los Angeles Times [Manohla Dargis]

OFFSIDE                                                                   B                     86

Iran  (93 mi)  2006

 

A highly praised Iranian film, many stating definitively that’s it’s easily the country’s best offering of the year, though my preference leans instead towards Farhadi’s FIREWORKS WEDNESDAY, the winner of the 2006 Chicago Film festival, both films released in 2006.  Even the ending resolution fireworks sequences in both films are similar and are easily the most dazzling images in each film.  OFFSIDE is a film where not much happens narratively, yet much is expected from the audience in sympathizing with its message of social injustice, a common Panahi practice.  In the fashion of MEDIUM COOL (1969), shooting a fictionalized story right in the middle of the Chicago police actually clubbing demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic Convention, most of this film was shot just outside the Tehran soccer stadium where a World Cup qualifying match was taking place between Iran and Bahrain, the winner advancing to play in the 2004 World Cup, a treasured outcome symbolic of great nationalistic pride.  In Iran, however, women are not allowed entry into the stadium, and are instead rounded up and held in pens outside the stadium walls waiting for a police van to cart them away.  This film captures the resilience of the women in the holding pens, all presumably sports aficionados, all dressed in some form of masculine attire so as not to draw attention to themselves, several wearing the colors of the flag on their faces.  They complain about not being able to see the game, claiming women from other countries, including female journalists, are already legally inside, so why not Iranian women?  But they persist, even getting one of the young policemen to announce the play by play of the game which he can see through an open gate. 

 

The problem here is that not much happens, so the film is reduced to occasionally humorous verbal sparring, with the women all trying to extend the limits of common sense and justice, with the poor young policemen having to defend their actions by following orders that make little sense to them as well, but they answer to a higher chain of command so they keep the women locked up.  Women supposedly are not permitted to hear the foul language yelled at soccer games or read the graffiti on the walls.  Most peculiarly, there are no women’s bathrooms, so when a female prisoner needs a rest room, the policeman has to create a scene by clearing out the male occupants, then forbidding anyone entrance until the woman can utilize the facilities alone.  This turns into a comical farce that turns utterly ridiculous.  The absurdity of it all is easily understood in the West, thinking this is a no brainer, but the policy still exists in Iran, where authorities were planning to arrest the filmmaker on sight, so this was hastily shot under duress using non-professional actors to play the parts.  Still and all, the themes are enjoyable but the film feels too simplistic for the West, and not nearly ready to be addressed by the fundamental Islamic world of Iran, so filmmakers like Panahi have to continually skirt around the authorities to find appropriate subjects to film. 

 

While the women themselves are supportive of one another and are all united by their common interest in the game, there are a few standouts, one is a kick ass “butch,” a lesbian prototype known as the cigarette lady, who by her aggressive nature becomes the spokesperson for the group and at times tries to quietly talk mano a mano with the head policeman, who himself is prone to hysterical screaming, so there is an interesting dynamic at play of role reversal.  Another runs away and escapes, free to watch the game with over 100,000 screaming fans, yet inexplicably voluntarily turns herself back in, maintaining the moral high ground over the police who were squirming about losing face by allowing a woman prisoner to get away.  Eventually a police van arrives, adding a young man who has been arrested repeatedly for carrying hazardous fireworks, whose face looks like it’s been used as a battering ram for police brutality exhibitions.  But once on the bus, the tempo of the film changes, as there is a camaraderie between the prisoners and the police while in motion, best expressed by a policeman sticking his body out the front window to try to hold the broken radio antenna in place so they can listen to the last few minutes of the soccer game.  They even stop and the police buy beverages for everyone.  So it’s a wonder that they’re even taking them to the station to process their arrests, which becomes an impossibility once Iran wins the game and the entire city erupts in an explosion of fireworks and car horns, stuck in the middle of a non-moving traffic jam, where the kid pulls out his private stash and lights sparklers for everyone to wave while they are surrounded by the bright flashes of fireworks, everyone jubilant over the nation’s victory.  A nationalistic pop song breaks out and somehow the entire country is suddenly of one mind, where the policemen are pulled out of the bus to dance and prisoners simply walk off the bus and join the ongoing street festivities of song, dance, fireworks and celebratory flag waving, a vision of utopian equality. 

 

2006 New York Film Festival  Steve Erickson from Chronicle of a Passion (excerpt)

Iranian cinema was hot on the festival circuit in the ‘90s, but it’s fallen out of fashion in the past few years. Recent films like Mani Haghighi’s “Men at Work” and Bahman Ghobadis ‘Half Moon” suggest a resurgence, an impression confirmed by Jafar Panahi’s “Offside.” Iranian women aren’t allowed to attend soccer games alongside men, so the heroines of “Offside” sneak into the stadium disguised as boys. There’s a feminist sensibility in most of Panahi’s work—implicit in his early films about children, explicit in “The Circle”—but he doesn’t portray women as helpless victims of patriarchy. Instead, “Offside” celebrates teenage girls’ resistance and ability to work around ludicrous rules. It’s also rather sympathetic to the young men drafted into enforcing them.

Panahi’s ability to create an aura of reality has few peers. The narrative of “Offside” is a series of confrontations and arguments, with tension defused by humor. That makes its joyous ending all the more startling and exhilarating. In the end, “Offside” attempts something I’ve never seen before in Iranian cinema: reconciling nationalist pride and feminist rebellion. Its female characters celebrate being Iranian, while striving for full participation in the country’s culture.

 

The Nick Schager Film Project

 

With Offside, director Jafar Panahi (The Circle) once again tackles systemic inequality in his native Iran, charting the ordeal of a group of young girls who are detained after dressing like boys in an attempt to sneak into Tehran’s men-only soccer stadium for the country’s 2004 World Cup-qualifying match. Using a subtly complex verité aesthetic, Panahi beautifully reveals the discriminatory bedrock of Iranian society, though unlike his previous Crimson Gold, the filmmaker substitutes mounting tension and anxiety for lighthearted humor, revealing a surprisingly deft, gentle comedic touch that serves him well as his tale’s spunky female protagonists, determined to break out of their makeshift prison and see the game, badger their captors for release. Sequestered behind a gate, the girls reveal a resilience with which their wardens are ill-equipped to contend. Rather than a straightforward battle of the sexes, however, Offside proves a powerful depiction of rebellion, as well as a portrait of communication as a force capable of eradicating personal and cultural barriers. Assuming his heroines’ point of view throughout, Panahi offers muted tragedy tinged with heartfelt compassion, and with his touching (if overly optimistic) finale – wherein escape comes equipped with exuberant revelry and exploding firecrackers – his film also offers a stirring alternate vision of Iran in which egalitarianism is allowed to flourish without the hindrance of illogical and corrosive prejudices.

Slant Magazine [Keith Uhlich]

It's unlikely that Jafar Panahi will ever make an aesthetically uninteresting movie and his latest work, Offside, certainly doesn't lack for striking images. Most memorable: The moment where one of the unnamed girls who make up the film's ensemble shrouds herself in a gender-bending chador, obliterating her male disguise in one quietly defiant instant. It's catchy, but in context it means next-to-nothing beyond the most schematic of observations. Panahi is so concerned with a particular social problem (a law that forbids women to enter Iran's spectator-sporting facilities) that he fatally neglects the cinema—the handheld DV camerawork flattens the argument as much as the visual texture. The comically-tinged suspense and technical brilliance of certain moments (specifically a long take that details a men's room stand-off between a soldier and several increasingly agitated World Cup spectators) never grow out of anything organic as in the great Panahi/Kiarostami collaboration Crimson Gold. None of the players here have anything approaching the larger-than-life presence of Crimson Gold's oppressed ticking clock, Hussein (Hossain Emadeddin), and, though a glance at the cast list (with character names ranging from "First girl" to "Boy with firecrackers") suggests that Panahi is quite aware of Offside's diagrammatic nature, it doesn't excuse the hamstrung results. When documentary and fiction blend during Offside's conceptually transcendent climax it does little more than obliterate this ideologically loaded group of shadow people—everything and everyone whittled down to fit, peg-like, into corresponding black holes of socially progressive allegory.

The Nation (Stuart Klawans)

In Offside, Jafar Panahi has given himself a break from the intensity of his most recent films--the claustrophobic, desperate maze of women's lives in The Circle, the abjection of the wounded, would-be criminal in Crimson Gold. Instead, his new picture takes place within a holiday atmos­phere. Busloads of wildly excited fans stream into Tehran's soccer stadium, cheer themselves hoarse for their team and then pour out into a nocturnal carnival of blaring car horns, cheap fireworks, flag-waving and street dancing. Iran has beat Bahrain! Iran is going to the World Cup!

This much of Offside is documentary: shot daringly and exhilaratingly on the fly, while the real events unfolded. The fictional part concerns half a dozen young women whom Panahi assembled as his cast, with each disguised as a young man. It is illegal, you see, for women to enter the stadium, even if they love soccer as much as their fathers do, even if they play the sport better than their brothers. So, evidently, it's common for a few determined girls to try to sneak in. Offside is the deceptively light story of such impostors--their schemes, their capture, their frustration at being held where they can hear the match but not see it--and of the soldiers who keep the women under arrest.

A clue about the guardians: They're not having fun, either.

You, however, will probably have a ball with Offside, as you get to know the characters, marvel at their get-ups, share in their boisterous defiance and at last watch them join the celebration. These women won't be denied. Nor will Panahi, who in effect sneaked himself and his crew into the midst of a big public event, much as his characters sneak into the stadium.

Dissidence has rarely been such a kick.

Offside  Michael Sicinski from the Academic Hack

Or, Judith Butler Goes to Tehran: While certainly not as formally audacious as his last film, Crimson Gold, Panahi's latest continues the director's winning streak. He displays one of the deftest hands in cinema when it comes to making protest films, and this is all the more impressive when one considers how far he's come in this area. 2000's The Circle contained notable passages of beauty and intensity, but by and large that film was an overdetermined broadside meant to grapple with the oppression of Iranian women in direct yet sprawling terms. Almost in answer to The Circle's admirable but self-diluting generalities, Offside focuses on one problem in one place and time. Women aren't allowed to go watch football matches in stadiums, and although the official reason is Islamic decorum ("women might hear men using swear words," the halfhearted official explanation goes), Offside makes it clear that the law mainly serves to keep women in the home and give men yet another space to let it all hang out, away from their wives' and mothers' eyes. Offside is a relatively simple film, using an actual live football match as its set and as such allowing Panahi a bit of gonzo realism amidst his usual control. And, as with Crimson Gold, Panahi humanizes the functionaries of the Islamic Republic, showing that they too are hamstrung by laws they consider silly but are compelled to enforce. But Offside has a deep political value quite apart from its surface target, the stadium laws. Operating from a premise drawn from real life -- young female soccer fans dress as men in order to sneak into the games -- Panahi subtly demonstrates a kind of Foucaultian truism about desire and repression. Some of the women in the holding pen are conventionally feminine underneath their men's clothing, but others are androgynous and one of the women is downright butch. Although no one can address this directly, least of all the stadium cops, it seems clear that designating certain potentially co-ed activities as exclusively male potentially has the unintended consequence of making women who want to participate in those behaviors "unwomanly" by existing social codes. Make no mistake: neither I, nor Panahi I believe, is arguing that division of the sexes in any realm, least of all the relatively insignificant one of going to watch a sporting event, has the potential in itself to "make" lesbians. However, the imposed divisions do serve to generate drag-kings from the otherwise "proper" Iranian populace, and this allows for unintended prospects once one's simplest desires edge one into transgression. Think I'm reading too much in? Consider the scene in the middle of the film where a nervous stadium guard hears mysterious moaning sounds in the men's room and begins casing the joint in search of a vice that, in official terms, is not even imaginable. But there it is, crossing the State's panicked mind. These disciplines, and the divisions they create, only make it that much more powerful when, at the conclusion of Offside, social and sexual barriers breaks down, pandemonium becoming utopian.

[ADDENDUM: Something I'd meant to mention in the review, that actually occurred to me during the Toronto screening, slipped my mind while writing. Although Panahi is too socially-engaged a filmmaker to dabble in undue navel-gazing, there is an autobiographical allegory lurking in the margins of Offside. What could be more natural than football fans wanting to go see a game? Well, how about a world-class director wanting to shepherd his new film around the festival circuit? But while Panahi was a welcomed guest in Canada, he isn't allowed to enter my [retarded] country, because my [retarded] country treats all Iranians a potential enemy combatants. Panahi refuses to submit to fingerprinting on the grounds it violates his human rights. As a result, he is barred from entering the U.S. Maybe if he dressed up like a Saudi . . .]

The Film Sufi

The Village Voice [J. Hoberman]

Film of the Month: Offside  Julian Graffy from Sight and Sound, June 2006, also seen here:  Sight and Sound review 

The Match Off the Field | The American Prospect  Noy Thrupkaew, May 11, 2007

Reverse Shot [Chris Wisniewski]

PopMatters (Cynthia Fuchs) review

DVD Times  Noel Megahey

d+kaz. Intelligent Movie Reviews (Daniel Kasman) review [C+]  also seen here:  d+kaz » Blog Archive » review: Offside

 

Kamera.co.uk review  Antonio Pasolini

 

Cinema Without Borders (Luz Aguado) review

 

PopMatters (Mike Schiller) review

 

Film Freak Central dvd review  Travis Mackenzie Hoover

 

Don’t Judge a Film by Its Venue  Jonathan Rosenbaum, April 20, 2007

Oggs' Movie Thoughts

The Onion A.V. Club [Noel Murray]

 

Culture of Soccer » Blog Archive » Review of Jafar Panahi's Offside

 

The Sheila Variations: Offside, dir. Jafar Panahi

filmcritic.com (Chris Cabin) review [4/5]

 

DVD Outsider  Slarek

 

CineScene.com (Chris Knipp) review

 

Film Monthly (Tom Carrao) review

 

The New York Sun (Darrell Hartman) review

 

stylusmagazine.com (Bill Weber) review

 

Offside  Mike D’Angelo

 

DVD Town (James Plath) dvd review

 

eFilmCritic.com (David Cornelius) review [5/5]

Reel.com [Tim Knight]

The Cutting Room Blog [Yaseen-Ali Yusufali]

CineScene [Chris Knipp]

Premiere.com review  Glenn Kenny

Strictly Film School  Acquarello

Brandon's movie memory » Offside (2006, Jafar Panahi)

 

A new film explores Iranian society through soccer - CBC Arts | Film  Kicking Up a Fuss, by Rachel Giese from CBC Arts, April 5, 2007

 

Cinepassion.org  Fernando F. Croce

 

The Lumière Reader  Mubarak Ali

 

David N. Butterworth review [3/4]

 

Cinepinion [Henry Stewart]

 

Film Journal International (Maria Garcia) review

 

DVD Verdict (Kristin Munson) dvd review

 

CineScene.com (Howard Schumann) review  also seen here:  Talking Pictures (UK) review  and here:  MovieFreak [Howard Schumann]

 

Daily Film Dose [Alan Bacchus]

 

Jigsaw Lounge [Neil Young] IndieLisboa film festival report

 

Cinematical [Erik Davis]

 

Lessons of Darkness [Nick Schager]

 

Eye for Film (Angus Wolfe Murray) review [4/5]

Combustible Celluloid (Jeffrey M. Anderson) review

Bina007 Movie Reviews

The Land of Eric (Eric D. Snider) review [B]  also seen here:  Eric D. Snider

Exclaim! [Travis Mackenzie Hoover]

 

Notes of a Film Fanatic [Mat Viola]

 

Jafar Panahi on Offside  Payvand Iran news 

 

Offside by Jafar Panahi  film website

 

Entertainment Weekly review [A-]  Lisa Schwarzbaum

 

Variety (Deborah Young) review

 

BBC article about women in Iranian film  Iranian Women Tell Their Own Story, by Alex Webb from BBC News, May 4, 2001

 

Time Out London (Geoff Andrew) review

 

Time Out New York (David Fear) review [5/6]

 

Film of the week: Offside | Film | The Observer  Phillip French

 

The Guardian (Peter Bradshaw) review

 

The Independent (Anthony Quinn) review [3/5]

 

Boston Globe review [3.5/4]  Janice Page

 

The Boston Phoenix (Tom Meek) review

 

Philadelphia City Paper [Sam Adams]

 

Austin Chronicle (Marrit Ingman) review [4/5]

 

San Francisco Chronicle review  Mick LaSalle

 

San Francisco Chronicle [G. Allen Johnson]

 

Los Angeles Times (Kenneth Turan) review

 

The New York Times (A.O. Scott) review

DVDBeaver.com [Henrik Sylow]

Offside (film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

THIS IS NOT A FILM

Iran  (74 mi)  2011

 

More on This is Not a Film  Gabe Klinger from Sight & Sound, May 20, 2011

The disingenuously titled This is Not a Film, Jafar Panahi’s surprise entry to the festival (co-directed with Mojtaba Mirtahmasb), is by its very nature one of the most vital films in Cannes. Simply made but far from simple, it’s a radical cri de coeur from a filmmaker whose itch to express himself remains intact despite efforts by Iranian authorities to silence him. As Panahi makes unambiguous in the film through candid mobile-phone conversations, he will likely go to jail. This devastating reality does not seem to interfere with his capacity to reflect lucidly on his filmmaking process in relation to Iranian censorship, and to speak playfully and generously with the (few) people around him (his wife and daughter are curiously absent from the film, though they were in attendance at the official screening here in Cannes).

The film reaches an unexpected crescendo in the final ten minutes or so, as Panahi follows his doorman on rubbish-collection routine. Unexpectedly cathartic, this sequence is a powerful testament to Panahi’s filmmaking dexterity, his capacity to find poetic substance in the most ordinary of situations. This is Not a Film is built from nothing, and yet every moment has a powerful urgency to it.

The way the film came to be in the festival is still unclear. At the screening, Thierry Fremaux mentioned that This is Not a Film was smuggled out of Iran using “high technology.”

The comment turns out to be facetious. Afterwards I ran into a festival staffer who said that, in fact, the digital file containing the film was put in a pen drive that made it out of Iran’s borders in a remarkably – almost unbelievably – simple vessel: a cake.

“THIS IS NOT A FILM” AND MORE: IRANIAN CINEMA AT THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL  Livia Bloom at Cannes from Filmmaker magazine, May 21, 2011

When is a film not a film? In one of the triumphs of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the remarkable documentary This is Not AFilm, by Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, asks this question and more as it portrays, diary-like, a day in Panahi’s life awaiting trial at his home in Tehran. Panahi talks on the phone with friends, illustrates with tape the boundaries of a future film set, chats with a garbage man who has just earned his Masters degree, and is kept company by his daughter’s free-roaming and giant pet lizard, Igi. If one is forbidden by law to make movies for 20 years, if one but sits in front of another’s camera, if one merely reads a vivid script aloud, does a word like “director” still have meaning?

Well-known to cinephiles for works including The White Balloon (winner of Cannes’ Golden Camera Award for Best First Film), The Circle (2000) (winner of Venice’s Golden Lion Award), and Offside (2006) (winner of Berlin’s Silver Bear Award), Panahi has been the subject of rumor, speculation and international concern over of the of the last year. In connection with a planned project about the controversial 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Panahi was arrested in March 2010 on propaganda charges.

Contrary to many reports, including those published by The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter, Panahi was not under house arrest while making the film, nor is he currently in prison. According to co-director Mirtahmasb, who is in attendance at the Festival, Panahi currently is–and was during filmming–allowed to travel anywhere he wishes within Iran’s borders. On December 10, 2010, ten months after his arrest, Panahi was finally sentenced to six years in prison. He was also forbidden, for the next 20 years, to give interviews, make movies, write scripts, or travel outside the country. That sentance is being appealed, as Panahi discusses on the phone with his spirited lawyer during the film, and a prison term will not begin until after the appeal process is completed. The film was made after Panahi’s sentencing in December, and it includes footage from Nowruz, the Persian New Year’s celebration, which is held in March. While awaiting appeal, Panahi must remain within his country’s borders.

In the meantime, Panahi has been invited to serve on numerous juries, including here at Cannes in this year’s Director’s Fortnight section. Since he could not travel out of Iran, a chair in the centerof the Fortnight theater was kept empty for him and marked with his name at all screenings. Although Panahi is not here in person, he is very much here in spirit. The film’s title makes reference to René Magritte’s masterpiece of surrealism: a painting of pipe inscribed with the phrase “This is Not A Pipe.” Magritte’s piece was only a representation of a pipe, not a pipe itself; likewise This is Not A Film questions the boundaries between the literal and figurative; shot entirely on video, by strict definitions, it can be argued that this work isn’t technically a film. But if it’s not a film, and if it was made before Panahi’s sentance begins and is therefore not contraband, then why was it taken out of Tehran in a manner so dramatic it could be the subject of a film itself? According to Serge Toubiana, dirctor of the Cinémathèque française and moderator of the film’s press conference, a woman smuggled it into France a tiny USB thumb drive hidden inside a cake.

This Is Not a Film: (Cannes 2011 Film Review)  Deborah Young at Cannes from The Hollywood Reporter, May 21, 2011

Director Jafar Panahi works within the constraints imposed by house arrest as he awaits the court’s verdict that could send him to jail for the next six years.

What can a talented, award-winning director do after being legally banned from making movies in his country?  In This Is Not a Film, Jafar Panahi works within the constraints imposed by house arrest and, as he awaits the court’s verdict that could send him to jail for the next six years, he reads the script of his new movie. It’s a film that may never be realized, seeing that the Iranian government has asked the court to prohibit him from writing or filming for the next 20 years.

This “effort”, as the non-film calls itself, is the filmmakers’ attempt to go beyond these limitations and find a creative solution. It’s likely to engage the world film community that has supported Panahi and Mohamed Rasoulof after their arrests, most of whom will be found at festivals. Panahi’s empty place on the Cannes jury last year has not been forgotten on the Croisette. While pressure for his acquittal continues to be applied from abroad, repression appears to be mounting inside Iran itself with the fate of Panahi and Rasoulof (who also presented a film in Cannes this year, called Goodbye) lies in the balance.

This Is Not a Film is an unusual documentary that gives viewers a clear feeling for the director’s life trapped inside the gilded cage of his luxurious Teheran apartment, his frustration at not being able to express himself artistically, and the courage and humor with which he faces an uncertain future.

Panahi is virtually the only person on camera for most of the 74-minute running time, until his co-director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb is glimpsed filming him near the end, and an unnamed “assistant doorman” engages Panahi in a dialogue in the film’s final minutes.  The fact that he is not credited, nor is anyone else credited, on the film or in press materials gives a sense of covertness to the whole operation, as though mere association could endanger anyone connected with it.

Left alone in his big apartment on Iranian New Year while his wife and kids go to visit granny, Panahi begins filming himself as he goes about his day. A phone call from his lawyer suggests he will probably have to go to prison but for a shortened term, and the judge may well drop the 20-year ban on writing and directing.  She emphasizes the fact that his case is a “political ruling” rather than a legal or juridical one.

When Mirtahmasb arrives (off camera), he begins reading the film script he is forbidden to shoot about a girl locked in her home by her parents who wants to commit suicide. The poignant story clearly refers back to Panahi’s claustrophobic situation.  In the same way, the boy who comes to remove his trash, and whom he boldly films in the elevator as they chat, apologizes for the offensive smell of the garbage he’s forced to transport.  In a film that is gagged with censorship, even this offhand remark has its symbolic weight.

The tone is never sad or portentous, however, and the directors interject light moments watching the family’s pet iguana climbs up the furniture. The film also boasts one of the most disdainful portraits of a neighbor’s obnoxious dog in memory. The two animals suggest that life goes on, in all its sweetness and irritations, even while compelling events lie around the corner. 

CANNES REVIEW | Jafar Panahi Turns Censorship Into Art with Stunning “This is Not a Film”  Eric Kohn at Cannes from indieWIRE, May 19, 2011

 

Banned Filmmaker Jafar Panahi Sends a Message in a Bottle with This Is Not a Film  Stephanie Zacharek at Cannes from Movieline, May 20, 2011

 

Almodovar's limp noodle, Panahi's home movie  Barbara Scharres at Cannes from the Ebert blog, May 19, 2011

 

Cannes 2011. Jafar Panahi's "This Is Not a Film"  David Hudson at Cannes from Mubi, May 21, 2011

 

Peter Debruge  at Cannes from Variety

 

Jafar Panahi not in Cannes for This Is Not a Film premiere  Catherine Shoard at Cannes from The Guardian, May 21, 2011

 

A Provocateur Steals Cannes Spotlight  Manohla Dargis at Cannes from The New York Times, May 19, 2011

 

Panh, Rithy

 

S21:  THE KHMER ROUGE KILLING MACHINE

Cambodia  France  (101 mi)  2004

 

Time Out review

The cinema of genocide has understandably concerned itself with the stories of victims and survivors. Analyses of the bureaucracy of terror and of the perpetrators' psychology are far rarer. Rithy Panh's devastating documentary exploration of the Cambodian tragedy unites both approaches to harrowing, extraordinary effect. He builds his case from the concrete details of procedure, focusing on S21, the country's main security bureau. From 1975 to 1979, 17,000 prisoners were processed, tortured and executed there. Only three, it seems, are still alive. One is painter Vann Nath, reunited here with his former guards. Panh follows the painter's attempts to understand how and why they acted as they did, 'until there was nothing human left'. Dead-eyed, the guards recount their involvement in the 'mild', 'hot' and 'rabid' interrogation teams, read from the meticulous prison documentation and re-enact their daily routines. With great dignity, Vann Nath's interrogation shows how finally, with the normalisation of atrocity under a regime that sought to erase history and even time, 'all of Cambodia would have been enemies'. Asking the most profound questions about human agency, the film bears comparison with Shoah for its insights into the machinery and mindset of barbarism. It is dedicated, with heart-rending urgency, to 'remembrance'.

S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine  Michael Sicinski from the Academic Hack

The majority of Rithy Panh's documentary is a fine study of exactly how one should both learn from, and amend, the Claude Lanzmann paradigm. Following the complex template of Shoah in a fraction of the time, S21 is not as exhaustive as Lanzmann, but gains a different kind of power in the bargain. Its impact is sharper, at least for the first hour. The problem of representing the Cambodian genocide is brought front and center: Nath, the painter, narrates his memories of torture as the camera pans over his Leon Golub-like artwork as "evidence;" Chum Mey, the other survivor in the film, breaks down in tears, noting how hard it is to force himself not to forget; Panh shows us the physical decay of memory, as he pulls apart crumbling, water-damaged photos from the S21 archive; and, most remarkably, Panh takes one of the former guards back to the cellblock and asks him to recount his daily routine, his descriptions soon giving way to lusty, horrific pantomime. Whereas Shoah gradually accrues cumulative effect, serving as a slow, furious meditation on the unthinkable, S21's relative brevity splices all such evidence together, letting it fall like truncheon blows. At the same time, Panh's method has two notable drawbacks. First, it spends the majority of its running time eliciting self-serving pseudo-apologies (rationalizations, really) from the numerous S21 personnel participating in the film. The two survivors are shunted aside, and while it stands to reason that Panh, like Lanzmann, wants to give the Khmers ample rope to hang themselves, the effect is, ironically, to indulge in a fascination with violence, as though survival were dull by comparison. Second, this lopsided attention results in a rather aimless final half-hour, turning the horror into something tedious and bureaucratic, but not in the "banality of evil" manner you might expect. The result is that Panh implicitly answers the problematic he sets up -- the inadequacy of representation and memory in the face of mass genocide and nationalist insanity -- by backing away from the issue with a shrug.

The Village Voice [J. Hoberman]

S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine revisits the most extreme Communist regime to ever decimate a society—nearly a quarter of the Cambodian population was killed during the 1975–1979 Khmer Rouge reign of terror. Rithy Panh's compelling documentary, first shown here during the 2003 New York Film Festival, focuses on the regime's S21 "security bureau," a high school turned detention center in the middle of Phnom Penh where 17,000 prisoners were processed and only three lived to tell the tale.

Panh, who escaped Cambodia in 1979 and lives in France, documents two of the survivors—one a painter who kept his life by making portraits of the guards and now, in fantastical detail, paints the atrocities he witnessed—and, most powerfully, brings them together with men who had been their jailers. The former guards, some of whom were as young as 13 when they stoked the killing machine, explain that they were in a state of terror as well. "If you were victims," a survivor asks, "what does that make the executed prisoners?"

Taking a strategy from Holocaust documentarian Claude Lanzmann, Panh stimulates memories by directing his subjects to demonstrate how things were done. Re-enacting—or reliving—the particulars of their once daily routines, the guards seem weirdly gung ho. Perhaps it's a sort of exorcism. (One former victim asks the dead to help remove the bad karma.) However, when the guards describe how they sexually abused women prisoners or killed others after harvesting their blood with the help of doctors, they seem like former zombies—the denizens of Cambodia's long night of the living dead.

In their madness, the Khmer Rouge kept detailed records. S21 is now a museum, and the walls of its former offices are covered with hundreds of photographs of victims gazing out like reproachful ghosts. S21 is understated and unforgettable; in its modest way, this movie is as horrific an exposure to evil as Lanzmann's Shoah.

FilmsAsia [Liverbird]

Nitrate Online [Elias Savada]

Slant Magazine  Ed Gonzalez

Philadelphia City Paper [Sam Adams]

Offoffoff.com review  Joshua Tanzer

filmcritic.com (Chris Barsanti) review [3/5]

The Onion A.V. Club [Nathan Rabin]

Film Journal International (Maria Garcia) review

Mixed Reviews: The Arts, The World, and More (Jill Cozzi) review

Educational Media Reviews Online review  Paul Moeller

James Bowman review