Tag Archives: film

He’s not wearing pants, and they still don’t look

2 Jul

 

Because movies rely so heavily on visuals, film producers and directors  are good at describing complex concepts with just a few words.

I read such a description in a book review by Susan Balee in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It comes from film producer Michael Deane, who was trying to explain the importance of car crashes in movies.

It’s a great line, a true cultural barometer, and worthy of a posting:

 

A thousand people drive past the statue of David.  Two hundred look. A thousand people drive past a car wreck. A thousand look.

 

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Imagine a land where girls go to school

8 Mar

The few Iranians I’ve known I’ve liked. But they pre-date the ayatollah. Curious about what people and life are like in today’s Iran, I went to see “A Separation,” an Iranian movie that won the Oscar for best foreign film.

Here are my quick observations about what makes that country different from ours:

  1. The women cover their heads.
  2. All buildings are in need of interior and exterior paint jobs.
  3. In court there are no lawyers.

Aside from those differences, people and life are the same as in the U.S.

Husbands and wives fight. People lie and cheat. Cities are busy and crowded. There are strong women able to fix problems caused by men. There is traffic. Girls go to school. Children are valued. The unfortunate find themselves out of work and out of money. There is an attempt to see that justice prevails.

I was looking for strong evidence of Islam. Little was found, even in court. Court mainly consisted of all parties yelling and screaming and a judge (in street clothes) trying to rule without the aid of procedure.

Some people, like in America, were more devout that others. A woman hired to take care of an Alzheimer’s patient telephoned a spiritual advisor to ask if it was OK to change the man’s soiled paints. Others didn’t seem so devout and would swear in front of women and children. Someone was accused of stealing money but there was no attempt to cut off her hand.

In the end, a couple divorces and a child is forced to choose which parent to live with.

Iran could easily have been Brooklyn.

So be advised. If we bomb them, we are bombing people very much like ourselves

One thing I also should mention: Those Iranians can act. “A Separation” was a simple yet worthy film, well executed in a shockingly realistic style. You don’t even think you are watching actors.

A truly great performance

12 Feb

Montgomery Clift in "Judgment at Nuremberg".

Each time this year, TCM – the cable movie channel – presents, “31 Days of Oscar.” I happened to have tuned in when it was showing the 1961 film, “Judgment at Nuremberg.” I had never seen it. From the beginning, it was easy to tell this film is not only very good, it is very special and unique, with a strong, unusual perspective and a universal message.

I had been expecting anti-German propaganda.

Directed by Stanley Kramer, the film is studded with stars: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland – even a young William Shatner pops up. The story is about the post-war trials in Germany. Top Nazis have already been prosecuted, and the film focuses on the trial of three judges who approved Nazi-ordered sterilizations (read castrations).

What motivated me to write this post, however, was Montgomery Clift.

His performance on the witness stand as a not-very-intelligent sterilization victim overwhelmed me with its power.

I was never a fan of Monti’s, who looks very different in this film. I had seen him play roles like soldiers and boxers and never felt they were right for him.

As the sad little witness, frightened and damaged, he is incredible. His screen time is a mere 12 minutes.

Please watch. (the first minute or so is missing)

Here is the interesting part, as reported on the Internet Movie Database site: Clift was having an extremely difficult time remembering his lines, so the director told him to ad lib, and that his confusion would ad to the confusion the character was going through under cross examination.

God did that work.

Clift usually cut his hair short after each movie, and didn’t make another until it grew back. In this film, there was no time for it to grow back.

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