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Guerre Est Finie, La (1966)

Guerre Est Finie, La (1966)

“Spain is no longer the dream of 1936 but the truth of 1965.”

Synopsis:
A middle-aged revolutionary (Yves Montand) fighting against Fascism in Spain tries to decide whether to retire with his lover (Ingrid Thulin) or continue supporting the cause — a choice made even more difficult when the beautiful young daughter (Geneviève Bujold) of a compatriot makes herself available to him.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alain Resnais Films
  • French Films
  • Genevieve Bujold Films
  • Mistaken and Hidden Identities
  • Revolutionaries
  • Yves Montand Films

Review:
Alain Resnais followed up his first three art-crowd favorites — Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and Muriel (1963) — with this more accessible but still heady film about an aging revolutionary confronting the potentially interminable nature of his work. In my write-up, I’ll cite DVD Savant’s review, in which he explains his own appreciation for the film:

Although its style is definitely that of Alain Resnais, La guerre est finie‘s subject is not an abstraction, but a real man’s revolutionary politics. Although some people will be frustrated, it has a compelling story, big stars, romance and intrigue that seems far more ‘real’ than similar mainstream movies.

He adds:

La guerre est finie is a remarkable film, beautifully photographed and acted, and probably a lot more accessible to American audiences now that storytelling styles have caught up with the avante garde of 1966. Resnais uses flash-forwards and stream-of-consciousness associative editing that can become quite confusing. But unlike some of his earlier successes that seemed to exist on a mental plane outside of time, Guerre is for the most part quite linear.

Yes — refreshingly so! Having fairly recently watched Resnais’ first three films, this one is remarkably easy to follow and relate to — a good thing, given the intense subject matter. We are watching a man who has literally given his life to a cause yet must still live on edge (he could be detained at any moment), is unable to settle down without feeling a sense of resignation, and has to track numerous running threads of false personal narratives at any given point.

On the aftermath of revisiting The Battle of Algiers, seeing what the long-game might look like for someone this committed to revolution was especially poignant; as DVD Savant writes, “Montand, playing a Spaniard who passes for French, is a soulful soldier whose war was lost long before he began to fight. The tension of being an outlaw to the state shows on his tired face.”

Film fanatics will likely enjoying seeing an impossibly young, faux-cherubic Geneviève Bujold in her very first cinematic role:

… and Ingrid Bergman-favorite Ingrid Thulin in a non-Scandinavian film.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Yves Montand as “Diego Mora”
  • Sacha Vierny’s cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Links:

Battle of Algiers, The (1966)

Battle of Algiers, The (1966)

“It’s hard to start a revolution — even harder to continue it. And hardest of all to win it.”

Synopsis:
A petty criminal (Brahim Hadjadj) is recruited by a revolutionary leader (Saadi Yacef) to fight with the FLN (National Liberation Front) in the Algerian War of Independence, and is soon among a handful of individuals sought out by French paratroop commander Colonel Mathieu (Jean Martin) and his men.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Flashback Films
  • Historical Drama
  • Revolutionaries

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, this “extraordinary revolutionary film by Gillo Pontecorvo” — who “directed and wrote the script with Franco Solinas” — covers “the pivotal years, 1954 to 1957, in the Algerian struggle for independence from France.” While the “entire film looks like a cinéma vérité documentary” — especially given cinematographer Marcello Gatti’s use of “grainy stock,” and the intentional hiring of non-actors for all but one key role — this is actually “a fictionalized account of real and representative events that took place during the National Liberation Front’s guerrilla war against the French.”


It “not only shows how to conduct an urban guerrilla war (the reason it was studied by America’s Black Panthers) but also the necessity of violence in revolution” — and “equally important, it shows how oppressors — the French, in this case — conduct a counterrevolution.” As Peary argues, “you won’t believe that the shots of women planting bombs”:

… “and those of innocent people being killed aren’t real,” and “you’ll also feel you’re watching history when the French close in on some holed-up Algerian leaders.”


I should point out that Peary’s analysis of this “fascinating, thrilling” film is just one of many that have emerged since its highly contested release (it wasn’t shown in France for five years), with Criterion’s DVD release including numerous extras for those who would like to dive even deeper. Just part of this movie’s own storied history is that it was screened by the Pentagon in 2003 “for officers and civilian experts who were discussing the challenges faced by the US military forces in Iraq” (and as of the exact day I’m writing this, it remains enormously relevant for different but related reasons).

Indeed, as “fascinating” and “thrilling” as this film may be (and it is expertly crafted), it’s also deeply disturbing and hard to watch, precisely because of its authenticity. To that end, the filmmakers don’t shy away from depicting horrors and challenges on both sides — including, for instance, children mercilessly harassing a drunk man on the street after the FLN prohibited “the sale and use of all drugs and alcoholic drink.”

(We also see explicit scenes of torture, which were excluded from earlier versions of the film). Regardless of its challenging content, however, this remains a masterful depiction of revolutionary (and counter-revolutionary) tactics, and holds a deserved role in global cinematic history.

Note: For those seeking more precise historical context on the era, I recommend this video on The Cold War channel.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Marcello Gatti’s cinematography

  • Ennio Morricone’s score

Must See?
Yes, as an enduring cinematic classic.

Categories

  • Foreign Gem
  • Genuine Classic

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Chelsea Girls (1966)

Chelsea Girls (1966)

“l hate it here and want to go home.”

Synopsis:
Inhabitants in New York’s Chelsea Hotel interact with one another while engaging in a variety of activities.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Documentary
  • Paul Morrissey Films

Review:
Andy Warhol’s experimental split-screen film — with two video “narratives” but just one audio stream running at all times — was (according to Wikipedia) his “first major commercial success after a long line of avant-garde art films (both feature-length and short).” Here is a little more context on Warhol’s vision:

Once principal photography wrapped, Warhol and co-director Paul Morrissey selected the 12 most striking vignettes they had filmed and then projected them side by side to create a visual juxtaposition of both contrasting images and divergent content (the so-called “white” or light and innocent aspects of life against the “black” or darker, more disturbing aspects.) As a result, the 6.5 hour running time was essentially cut in half, to 3 hours and 15 minutes. However, part of Warhol’s concept for the film was that it would be unlike watching a regular movie because the two projectors could never achieve exact synchronization from viewing to viewing; therefore, despite specific instructions of where individual sequences would be played during the running time, each viewing of the film would, in essence, be an entirely different experience.

Such a precise goal is now moot given the film’s availability on DVD, but one could still argue that the constant attempt to shift views between either side of the screen induces Warhol’s desired differential effect. (Indeed, it’s fairly exhausting enduring this film — more on that below.)

Appearing as themselves at various times are, among others, Nico (who actually bookends the film):


Mary Woronov and Ingrid Superstar:

Eric Emerson:

Brigid Berlin:

… and International Velvet.

(How may of these names and faces will be familiar to and/or relevant to younger film fanatics is debatable; the only clear stand-out is Woronov, given her starring roles in other GFTFF-listed titles — mostly notably Eating Raoul.)

I dare you to attempt one or more of the following (I succeeded in none):

  • Watch this film without fast-forwarding.
  • Watch this film without almost falling asleep.
  • Watch this film without checking how much more time is left until it’s over.
  • Watch this film in precisely one sitting.

To that final point, this is most definitely the kind of experimental movie that is best placed in an art museum, where viewers can come and go at will; indeed, I can easily see myself being drawn in for part of it, and staying a little longer due to wondering what might come next. But sitting and watching it all in one go simply isn’t tenable. After all, as Stephen Koch wrote in his review for Art Forum:

The Chelsea Girls does not imagine time. It attaches itself to literal time, and by drawing it into a context of total disjunction, confounds the sense of duration under the suzerainty of the steadily ticking clock. True, like a conventional feature, it concerns itself with the relation between time and event, but it presents both in a state of radical dissociation, a structured but irresolvable disarray in which the life of narrative is disjoined and made a function of the machine.

Exactly.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
Whatever floats your boat!

Must See?
Nope. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.

Links:

It Happened Here (1964)

It Happened Here (1964)

“We don’t accept your decisions; you accept ours.”

Synopsis:
In Nazi-occupied post-WWII Britain, an apolitical Irish nurse (Pauline Murray) accepts work for the British Union of Fascists, not realizing how much she is severely compromising her values.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Doctors and Nurses
  • Historical Drama
  • Resistance Fighters
  • Science Fiction
  • World War II

Review:
Made over an eight year period (from 1956 to 1963) by novice filmmakers Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, this alternative history flick offers a deeply disturbing vision of how easily England could have become a Fascist nation if events had transpired just a little bit differently. Non-actor Murray suits the bill well as a widowed villager who is horrified to see some of her friends killed in partisan cross-fire:

… and thus crosses the murky line over into being employed as a nurse by the medical branch of her nation’s quasi-paramilitary Immediate Action Organisation (IAO), figuring it’s better to work towards social stability of some kind (any kind) than to be part of continued violent resistance. Her entrance into London shows us a truly eerie vision of what the city might have looked like under German Fascist control:


… and watching Murray insidiously indoctrinated (she barely blinks an eye while sitting and listening to reprehensible talk by English Nazis):

… is a frightening reminder of how easy it is for humans to simply accept the reality around them as normal. It’s only once Murray re-encounters old anti-Fascist friends — a doctor (Sebastian Shaw) and his wife (Fiona Leland) — that glimmers of her conscience begin to emerge.

Her acquaintance with these brave resistance fighters is seen as betrayal, and she’s sent to a seemingly idyllic countryside hospital — where the unthinkable occurs.

What’s most impressive about this low-budget film is how effectively Brownlow and Mollo manage to create an alternative vision for a 1940s England infested by Nazis; particularly helpful is a highly realistic faux-newsreel filling us in on the past few years and how things came to this state.


Speaking of history, this movie’s production story is (not surprisingly) absolutely fascinating — ranging from how young Brownlow and Mollo were when they first had the idea for this film (just 19 and 16!), to the direct financial and material support they received from bigger-name directors (including Stanley Kubrick), to how they managed to secure all the costumes and props necessary to recreate the era. According to IMDb’s Trivia section:

The production used hundreds of volunteer actors and a few professional filmmakers such as Sebastian Shaw and Reginald Marsh. Some extras were members of British science fiction fan clubs. Some British fascists in the film were actual ex-members of the British Union of Fascists. Some SS and Wehrmacht soldiers portrayed in the film were actual German army ex-servicemen.

This all adds up to a cinematic universe that’s as freaky as all get-out, and the storyline ends on an appropriately bleak note; we are reminded, as one character says, that “the appalling thing about fascism is that you’ve got to use fascist methods to get rid of it.”

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Impressive low-budget sets and costumes
  • Peter Suschitzky’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a most unique independent film.

Categories

  • Historically Relevant

Links:

Persona (1966)

Persona (1966)

“I think I could turn into you if I really tried.”

Synopsis:
When a suddenly-mute actress (Liv Ullmann) is sent to an island to recuperate with help from a young nurse (Bibi Andersson), the two women’s identities slowly become merged.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Actors and Actresses
  • Ingmar Bergman Films
  • Liv Ullmann Films
  • Mental Breakdown
  • Scandinavian Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, “Ingmar Bergman’s intense, powerful film” — one of the most analyzed in all of cinematic history — “has tremendous impact on American viewers,” ushering “in a new era of Bergman films.” He writes, “It excited us not only because it made us aware of the filmmaking process… and the unique power film has to tell stories, make personal and/or political points, and probe the minds of characters, but also because it dealt with themes that were relevant: isolation, identity, alienation, communication, loneliness, guilt, horror, [and] schizophrenia.”

Peary points out that, famously, “Bergman places the two actresses, who resemble each other, in close proximity and uses camera tricks (superimpositions/split screen) to make it seem as if two different women were fusing into one character.”


This brings up countless questions and points of contention: “Could it be that they’re exchanging identities? Are the two women the split halves of a schizophrenic woman? If so, then is the nurse real and the actress imaginary? Or is it the actress who is real? Or, perhaps, is this woman neither an actress nor a nurse?” Peary notes that “Bergman doesn’t let us know the answers,” adding that “Figuring out — or not being able to figure out — the puzzle is much of the fun.”

I wouldn’t exactly say “fun” is the most accurate word, given how dark so much of this film is; perhaps “intrigue” is a better choice. And with that said, not everyone will be taken with a story this “meta” — a film which not only critically explores complex issues of identity and psychology but plays its cinematic experimental hand so openly. So much has been written and debated about this film that first-time viewers are recommended to simply dive in and see what sense they make of it; there’s no right or wrong.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Bibi Andersson as Alma
  • Liv Ullmann as Elisabet Vogler
  • Sven Nyqvist’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as an iconic Scandinavian classic.

Categories

  • Foreign Gem
  • Genuine Classic
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Round Up, The (1966)

Round Up, The (1966)

“You’re lying — both of you. Both of you should be hanged.”

Synopsis:
In the wake of the failed 1848 Hungarian revolution, prisons guards attempt to locate the leader of a guerrilla band, using whatever tactics necessary to get inmates to betray fellow outlaws.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Betrayal
  • Eastern European Films
  • Falsely Accused
  • Historical Drama
  • Living Nightmare
  • Prisoners of War

Review:
Miklós Jancsó directed this utterly bleak historical drama set exclusively in a prison camp for individuals suspected of formerly working with revolutionary leader Lajos Kossuth. Although Jancsó publicly denied it, the film was clearly an allegory for the aftermath of the more recent failed Hungarian revolution of 1956 against Soviet Russia. While it’s praised by many as one of the best Hungarian films, there is little for viewers to hold onto narratively-speaking, given that we quickly see what a hopeless situation these prisoners are in. János Görbe’s János Gajdar is the first recognizable protagonist — a pathetic man willing to sell out his fellow prisoners for his own freedom:

… but will his efforts succeed? And if so, then what? There are really no good solutions. Eventually we watch another pair of men in a similarly no-win situation, being forced to identify an infamous outlaw named Sandor — will they? Can they?

Suffice it to say that this film gives very little hope for the future of humanity, given the banality of evil that’s on ample display. Visually speaking, the film is always interesting:

… but given that we’re watching torture and betrayal of one kind or another for 90 minutes, it’s decidedly draining.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Stark cinematography by Tamás Somló

Must See?
No, unless you’re curious.

Links:

Barrier (1966)

Barrier (1966)

“Where does it say everyone has to make good?”

Synopsis:
A Polish medical student (Jan Nowicki) whimsically makes his way through life while dating a tram driver (Joanna Szczerbi).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Eastern European Films
  • Jerzy Skolimowski Films

Review:
It is truly difficult to know what to make of this early experimental film by Polish writer-director Jerzy Skolimowski, given that there really is no… plot. I had to rely on reading reviews and overviews just to get a basic sense of what I was seeing. Apparently we are watching the travails of an unnamed young medical student (Nowicki) who becomes fed up with his studies (it’s hard to blame him):

… and leaves with simply his suitcase and a piggie bank to visit his dad in a retirement home:

… where he’s given a letter by his father and sent on a wild-goose-chase involving a World War I saber and an older woman (Malgorzata Lorentowicz).

He climbs up a wall with chickens on it (?!):

… meets and dates a pretty tram operator:

… and sits in a mostly-empty restaurant with too many waiters milling around:

… where eventually, newspapers are made into jaunty party hats.

Nowicki also attacks a plastic-wrapped car with his saber at one point.

Given how little any of this makes sense, it’s challenging to follow or care very much — if at all — about what happens next. Knowing that Skolimowski later helmed Deep End (1970), The Shout (1978), and Moonlighting (1982) (among other titles) makes this early outing more of a curiosity for those interested in how he’s evolved as a director — but it’s not must-see viewing on its own.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Occasional snippets of creative imagery

Must See?
Nope; skip this one.

Links:

Reflections on Must-See Films From 1965

Reflections on Must-See Films From 1965

I’m back for another reflection on a particular year in cinema! As a recap, I’ve already shared my thoughts on must-see titles from 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964 — and I’m now ready to discuss my take-down on titles from 1965.

Interestingly, this year holds my lowest percentage of must-see titles so far. Out of 72 movies, I’m only voting 19 (or 26%) must-see. Below are just a few highlights from this year in cinema, which offered up plenty of darkness (literally — most are in b&w) on screen; however, I’ll begin my overview with a notable exception to that tendency.

  • I’m a huge fan of Robert Wise’s Oscar-winning musical The Sound of Music, which is not to everyone’s tastes but has delighted me for years. Julie Andrews’ performance remains preternaturally compelling, and as I noted in my review: “The use of authentic Austrian/German locales — including the iconic opening shots on verdant hillsides — helps to open up the [original Broadway] play enormously,” turning “the entire affair into a wonderfully picturesque adventure.”
  • Of the 19 must-see titles from 1965, seven are in a language other than English, with two (discussed below) in Italian, two in French (see here and here), and three in Czech. From the latter (which also includes Milos Forman’s Loves of a Blonde and Zbynek Brynych’s The Fifth Horseman is Fear), the Oscar-winning flick The Shop on Main Street — a film “about the absurdity of war, politics, and discrimination” in which “we are clearly able to see the insanity of the social upheaval creeping across Europe” — stands out above them all.
  • Another powerful foreign title is Marco Bellochio’s debut feature Fists in His Pocket, about a young man who “decides to relieve his older brother… of their dysfunctional family by gradually killing everyone — including himself — off.” (!) In my review, I note that watching this movie — which comes across as “part black comedy, part character study, part horror film” — is like viewing “a train wreck in slow motion”: we remain “fascinated yet unable to look away,” particularly given Lou Castel’s “powerhouse performance” as a man suffering from “depression, grandiosity, and mental instability.”
  • Speaking of memorable performances, it’s impossible to forget Rod Steiger’s leading role in Sidney Lumet’s bleak holocaust-survivor film The Pawnbroker. As I note in my review, “Viewers must prepare themselves for relentless agony as we watch a deeply broken man perpetuate his own horrors onto others through grim apathy and misanthropy.” This film is well worth a one-time watch — but be forewarned.
  • Equally (though differently) disturbing is Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, starring Catherine Deneuve as a young French woman in London who experiences a frightening mental decline. Her performance — as well as Polanski’s ability to work atmospheric wonders within a tight budget — make this a tense psychological thriller with plenty of unexpected twists and turns.
  • Peter Watkins’ fictionalized docudrama The War Game — which was “deemed too controversial for airing on BBC television, but was given a theatrical release, and received an Oscar for best ‘documentary’ in 1967” — offers up a “hypothetical vision of a post-apocalyptic nightmare — including lack of sufficient food or medicine, military rule, and hideous physical symptoms.” As I note in my review, it “remains just as powerful today as it must have been [decades] ago, when the threat of nuclear war was even more [?] imminent.”
  • There are several cult classics from 1965, with perhaps my personal favorite being Elio Petri’s “cleverly conceived, visually stylish” (it’s in color!), “smartly scored,” Italian-language sci-fi flick The 10th Victim — about “a futuristic society which allows individuals to join a human hunting game.” Ursula Andress (the huntress) and Marcello Mastroianni (her prey) are perfectly cast as the cat-and-mouse leads, with Andress a particular revelation as she “delivers a nuanced, smart, humorous, even heartfelt performance, all while looking as incredibly gorgeous as always.”
  • Another noteworthy cult flick is Russ Meyers’ inimitable Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! — which is the only Meyers film (out of all twelve listed in GFTFF) I tend to remember with much interest thanks to “its utterly unique stars…, its unforgettable title, and its striking imagery.” My review synopsis gives you a sense of how bizarre this flick is, if you somehow haven’t yet seen it (or would like a refresher):

    “When three go-go dancers — Varla (Tura Satana), Rosie (Haji), and Billie (Lori Williams) — go drag racing in the desert, Varla ends up killing the boyfriend (Ray Barlow) of a bikini-clad girl (Susan Bernard) who the group then kidnaps. They end up at the home of a reclusive, secretly wealthy sociopath in a wheelchair (Stuart Lancaster) who is cared for by his two sons: a mentally slow hunk nicknamed ‘The Vegetable’ (Dennis Busch) and his brainier brother (Paul Trinka). Sex-obsessed Billie pursues Busch, while Varla attempts to bed Trinka in order to learn where Lancaster’s money is hidden, and Bernard tries to escape.”

    Whew — get ready for some wild, violent, female-fueled escapades!

  • Speaking of larger-than-life characters, Orson Welles’ self-professed final directorial masterpiece was Chimes at Midnight, in which he plays the recurring Shakespearean role of Falstaff — a portly knight who experiences tremendous heartbreak and betrayal at the hands of his lifelong friend Prince Hal. It’s a beautifully crafted — albeit typically “Shakespeare-ingly” dense — cinematic outing.
  • Another notable film about betrayal from 1965 was Martin Ritt’s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, which hews faithfully to John Le Carre’s source novel and offers a powerfully sobering antidote to more escapist spy fare of the Cold War era. As I note in my review: “To its credit, the film retains all the suspense of the book while both simplifying key plot points and visually opening up certain scenes. Oswald Morris’s atmospheric cinematography is top-rate, and the performances are fine across the board.”
  • Finally, I want to highlight Brian Forbes’ King Rat — a haunting adaptation (of James Clavell’s novel) which is “unrelenting in its graphic depiction of the heat, starvation, despair, craziness, lethargy, boredom, and overall sense of hopelessness pervasive in [POW] camps.”

There are quite a few dark themes emerging across these recommendations from 1965: hopelessness, despair, violence, guilt, discrimination, betrayal, kidnapping, theft, duplicity, mental instability, starvation… These all seems particularly apt for the year in which Malcolm X was assassinated; Bloody Sunday occurred in Selma; American troops first arrived in Vietnam; the Watts Uprising took place in Los Angeles; and Quaker Norman Morrison set himself on fire in protest (to name just a few noteworthy events). There was a lot going on, both in America and abroad.

Thank goodness for movies, and for the opportunity to remember a few of our favorite things…

Juliet of the Spirits (1965)

Juliet of the Spirits (1965)

“True love requires total knowledge of each other.”

Synopsis:
When a well-to-do housewife (Giulietta Masina) begins to suspect her husband (Mario Pisu) is having an affair, she consults help from both psychics and private eyes in learning what’s going on, and leans on her friend (Valentina Cortese) and sex-positive neighbor (Sandra Milo) to explore new potential paths for herself.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Fantasy
  • Federico Fellini Films
  • Housewives
  • Infidelity
  • Italian Films
  • Marital Problems

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, this “difficult Federico Fellini film” tells the story of “a meek, passive woman… who suspects her husband… is having an affair with a young model” and thus “consults a medium, hires a detective to spy on her husband, and slips in and out of a fantasy world full of spirits from her past.”

He notes that the “picture has advanced, pre-women’s-movement themes” — such as that “women shouldn’t equate themselves with their problems; women withstand humiliation out of fear of being alone; women secretly wish they had freedom that could come only if their husbands leave them” — and he argues that “Masina’s feeling that she is unworthy and deserving of persecution and punishment can be tracked back to her childhood, when her character in a religious school play was raised to the rafters while being symbolically burned to death” (though the exact meaning of this connection isn’t clear).

Peary points out the “picture has such interesting themes that after a while you wish Fellini had forgone his confusing trips into the surreal world of Massina’s unconscious and just told his story.” He concludes his review by noting that “the casting of Fellini’s wife in the lead seems ill-advised,” given that “Masina looks like a Plain Jane in a world of flamboyant grotesqueness” (I agree, but figured there was a point to this somehow).

Like Peary, I’m not really a fan of this film — which, as many have pointed out, seems in some ways like a feminist “version” of Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963). Gianni Di Venanzo’s cinematography (this was Fellini’s first film in color) is beautiful, and much care was obviously put into all aspects of the creative set and costume design:

… but the storyline is ultimately unsatisfying. While Fellini fans will naturally want to check it out, it’s not must-see for all film fanatics.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Colorful cinematography and sets
  • Nino Rota’s score

Must See?
No, though of course Fellini fans will certainly want to see it.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Shameless Old Lady, The (1965)

Shameless Old Lady, The (1965)

“It’s only been six months since the old man died. Now she’s going to the cinema — going to the movies, watching movies, strolling about the city, living it up!”

Synopsis:
Shortly after the death of her husband, an elderly woman (Sylvie) shocks her two grown sons (Etienne Bierry and Francois Maistre) and grandson (Victor Lanoux) by befriending a prostitute (Malka Ribovska) and a shoe store owner (Jean Bouise), and living a much more expansive life.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Character Arc
  • Elderly People
  • French Films
  • Grown Children
  • Inheritance
  • Strong Females
  • Widows and Widowers

Review:
Based on a short story by Bertolt Brecht and helmed by writer-director René Allio, this character study of a widow gaining a new lease on existence offers an intriguing glimpse into the possibilities of living life on one’s own terms. Although the screenplay takes a while to start rolling, once we see the directions things are headed in, we can’t help but cheer on our protagonist. While Sylvie’s children expect her simply to mourn and continue the life of servitude and frugality she’s always led:

… Sylvie most definitely has her own plans. It turns out she has been quietly taking in the world around her, and little by little, begins to reach out to people she’s intrigued by — including (for reasons unknown) Ribovska:

… and Bouise.

We can tell that she’s enjoying shopping:

… eating out (especially a luxurious dessert!):

… gambling (she asks to learn how horse betting works):

… engaging with intellectual conversations:

… purchasing a car for the first time:

… and, perhaps most important of all, not allowing her kids’ desires, needs, or expectations drive her actions. Sylvie’s tale is a simple but empowering story of second chances, and a reminder that it really is never too late to follow your passions.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Sylvie as Madame Berthe Bertini
  • Good use of location shooting in Marseilles

Must See?
Yes, for Bertini’s performance and as an overall unique show.

Categories

  • Noteworthy Performance(s)

Links: