Thursday, October 8, 2009

Three essential movie reviews

I have a lot of catching up to do with the film reviewing after my 100-one-sentence-film-reviews project - and during that time I have seen no less than three films for the first time that I want to mention in this humble blog.

They are all very unique in their own way, and I will try to summarize the film experiences as best as I can. Hang on - we will start off at Berlin, then take a long trip down to South Korea, and then way back to Europe and the United Kingdom!

Director: Billy Wilder
USA 1948
116 min

"Want to buy some illusions?
Slightly used
Just like new"

The songs Marlene Dietrich sings, in the form of the nightclub singer Ericha von Schlütow, tells a lot about what this film is about. Especially the powerful song "The Ruins of Berlin" makes it clear what the German people of the shattered remains of the capital city is in a kind of state of mind - trying to start a-new after a huge defeat.

A group of congressmen, and a strict congress lady played by Jean Arthur, is flown to Berlin after WWII to investigate the moral of the American troops in the city. As we can understand from scenes taking place in black markets and filthy nightclubs (to the tunes of "Polyushko Pole"), we understand that the moral could be better.

A little colorized Dietrich for ya!

Billy Wilder is one of those directors that could make a comedy out of this scenario (hard to get a mental picture of it, right?), and he does so in his usual intellectual manner. It's sometimes hard to laugh during the tragic and uncomfortable circumstances (especially since the surroundings are real - the film was shot in Berlin), but the feeling of triumph is overwhelming. I felt really pleased watching this film - and as I could suspect after only minutes into the film, the United States Department of Defence didn't approve of the film since it concerned such sensitive issues.

All the actors are at their absolute best too - I think they sensed that they were participated in something special. It's sad that Jean Arthur's career began to fail, and that she only made one more motion picture after A Foreign Affair. But how charming Arthur is, it's still Dietrich that steals every scene. It's simply brilliant to cast the German actress who's name could be find on Hitler's blacklist in the role of an ex-nazi seductress.

Janghwa, Hongryeon (A Tale of Two Sisters)
: Ji-woon Kim
South Korea 2003
115 min
: Su-jeong Lim, Geun-Young Moon, Jung-ah Yum and Kap-su Kim, among others.

A psychological horror/drama, that I believe everyone feels confused by after the first watching. Some people feel reluctant towards it because of it, but I think it's brilliant. Why? Because the more you go back and think about it, the more the puzzle pieces fit together. And - the cinematography! Simply stunning.

The story is based on a Korean folktale about two girls facing cruel fates because of an evil stepmother. The tale and the film do however not have more than the basic story line in common (I read the tale yesterday here) - the film adaptation has added a lot of interesting factors to a simple and uncomplicated story.

I can't reveal much of the plot without either giving away the ending or lie to you - but I can say that the main theme is about coping with overwhelming feelings of regret and guilt, and what kind of tricks your mind can play on you. What complicates things is that supernatural factors is blended in.

You get the main idea of what everything was about when you see the ending of the film. If there still are certain details that are puzzling you (what's with the fish in the fridge? what's with the seizure at the dinner? etc), I recommend a discussion thread on IMDb, where really devoted film enthusiasts have discussed every little detail of the film, and come up with a FAQ. You have the link here. (But do not read it before you have seen the film!)

All in all, A Tale of Two Sisters is one hell of a film experience - do not miss it.

Danish film poster. Brilliant, isn't it?

Kind Hearts and Coronets
Director: Robert Hamer
United Kingdom 1949
106 min
Starring: Dennis Price, Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood and Valerie Hobson, among others.

Have I mentioned that I love the British? I think so, but my adoration has reached an entirely new level. I'm in the seventh heaven of Britain.

Think British black comedy. Think Alec Guinness playing an entire part of a family tree, seen as eight different persons by the name of D'Ascoyne with a Duke on the top. (Well, nine persons if you include the oil painting of an ancestor, a painting for which Guinness modelled.) Think a narcissistic Joan Greenwood (seen in The Importance of Being Earnest, 1952) with her sweet whiskey voice. Think marvellous black and white footage. Think an upright English gentleman with a constant smirk on his face (Dennis Price, whom I now am in love with) as the main character. Think about him being a distant and poor relative to the Duke of D'Acoyne, settled to win the Duke title by all means necessary.

There you have Kind Hearts and Coronets. This is that kind of a film that you instantly feel a desperate need to re-watch immediately - it's that good. It's clever, it's bold, it's marvellous.

Why do I love the British? Their kind of humor is the one that suits me most - refined and rather stiff on the surface, completely bizarre and unlimited underneath. I never seize to be surprised, and I laugh hysterically. By myself. Me and my fat cat. Patting it, mumbling "You only live twice, Mr. Beuund..."

Jesus. I need some sleep. Here's a colorized Joan Greenwood for you, that I was pretty proud of:


Elizabeth said...

Yay! Kind Hearts and Coronets!

Lolita said...

Big YAY!

Tom said...

A Foreign Affair is one of my all time favorite movies! Yay!!

Lolita said...

Great to hear that someone agrees with me! :)

Anonymous said...

Billy Wilder's film is a Billy Wilder's film, this is the way I saw it, marvellous. Marlene Dietrich was an ultimate actor.

"A Tale of two sisters" have the "touch" Starts like a horror film but continues in an absolutely family tragedy. Beautiful colours ana a haunting score.
He made also another great film the gangster - love story "A Bittersweet Life"

The third film "Kind Hearts and Coronets" I have not seen but I know that is famous.

Lolita said...

Don Michael Corleone:
Before I watched any Dietrich film I was absolutely sure that I would hate her, but when I saw one (The Shanghai Express being my first) I absolutely adored her. She is a tougher and more independent version of Garbo, I think.

To my amazement I really loved A Tale of Two Sisters, I have to re-watch it soon now that I know what is happening in it! Thanks for the film tip, I will look it up!

Oh, do see Kind Hearts and Coronets! I can't believe there could exist a person in this world that wouldn't love it.

Chaunce said...

You can't go wrong with an Ealing film.

miguelmarlene said...

Hello Lolita. Has you colorized Marlene's pic? It is wonderful, I would like to know coloring photos like you do. Can I put this photo of Marlene in my blog? I would like a lot...Thank you very much