Thursday, September 20, 2007

Seven Beauties (1976)

Starts off our little tale of a reluctant Italian to participate in WWII. And in doing so he sees the horror of the German Nazis up close.
Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmuller directs the black comedy Pasqualino Settebellezze (Seven Beauties). During WWII, Pasqualino Frafuso (Giancarlo Giannini) ends up lost in a dense forest along with fellow army deserter Francesco (Piero De Orio). After they witness a mass execution by German soldiers, Francesco admits his moral opposition to the Nazis and Pasqualino reveals his criminal past in a series of flashbacks. Back in Naples, he was known as "Pasqualino Seven Beauties," a petty thief who lived off the profits of his seven sisters while claiming to protect their honor at any cost. When Totonno (Mario Conti) pimps out his sister Concettina (Elena Fiore), Pasqualino kills him, chops up his body, and mails each piece across the country. He is then arrested and sent to a mental institution, where he commits sexual assault against another patient. Kicked out of the asylum, he is sent to fight in the army. The Germans capture him and he gets sent to a concentration camp. He then plots to make his escape by demoralizing himself in an attempt to seduce a German officer (Shirley Stoler). Seven Beauties was nominated for four Academy Awards in 1977, including Best Foreign Film. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 115 mins
Seven Beauties (1976)
He is also a womanizer and likes to flirt with the young girls which he finds a fancy in one teenager and they meet a few times through the film.
Well worth watching and you have the choice of subtitles or listening to the dubbed version. It is interesting to see how both versions are different.

I do want to leave with the deep philosophy presented by an old man in the concentration camp and Pasqualino's interpretation of this philosophy.
P: I want to live, have children.
See my children's children, and more... and the children of my children's children. All the children I can possibly have.
OM: Bullshit, amigo. (Laughter)
P: You pig! How dare you tell me what to do?! Who are you?! HOw dare you insult me like that?!
OM: Come on, that's nonsense, you're talking bullshit...because the more children you have the faster the end will come.
PF: In what sense? What do you mean?
OM: In the year 1400 there were 500 million people on earth. By the year 1850 the amount doubled to one billion. Now we're all extremely indignant because the death of 20 million men, but in 200 or 300 years, there'll be a lot more of us, 30 billion or more. Anywhere you go on earth will be worse than here. That's when men are going to butcher each other and murder an entire family for a piece of bread or an apple and the world will end. Too bad, because I believe in man but soon very soon, a new man. A new man will be born. He'll have to be civilized not this beast who's been endowed with intelligence and obliterated the harmony in the world and brought about total destruction just by disturbing nature's equilibrium. A new man with values, able to rediscover the harmony that's within.
PF: You mean, put things in order?
OM: Order? No, no, no...
The orderly ones are the Germans. A new man in disorder is our only hope. A new man in disorder.

This reminds me of some of our previous discussions about the Übermensch ("superman", "overman", or "super-human").
P: Good. Now quick, you're giving it up, we're getting married. [Prostitution to young girl he flirted with 11 years before.]
There isn't much time to lose. I want children. Many children: 25, 30[10,20 in dub]. It's a matter of self-defense. They must be strong.
Look at the crowds out there. Soon, they'll be murdering each other families slaughtered, for an apple. So must see to it our family is large. That'll be our defense, understand?
YG: [Shakes head.] I've always loved you very much. And I'm ready.
P: [Nods head/] We'll get married, the sooner the better.
I think this is taking The Will to Power to the extreme. LOL...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

American Visa (2006)

A Bolivian man with dreams of reuniting with his son and starting a new life in the United States is forced to resort to questionable methods due to harsh laws designed to curb immigration in director Juan Carlos Valdivia's thoughtful meditation on the post-9/11 political climate. Mario Alvarez (Demián Bichir) wants nothing more than to travel to Miami, re-connect with his long-lost son, and seek out a new life in a new country. Obtaining a visa in Bolivia is no easy task though, and in order to achieve his goals Mario will be forced to bend the rules nearly to the breaking point. Mario's diligent efforts to escape to the U.S. are soon complicated, however, when a beautiful young dancer named Blanca (Kate del Castillo) voices a desire to quit her job at a seedy strip club and settle down with the desperate dad in Bolivia. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 90 mins
American Visa (2006)
A completely inept man tries to use questionable methods to get money that only ends him up broke and broken as a man. If not for his loved one (Blanca), he would have nothing of value. The most ignorant aspect was when he had the cash in had that was stolen out of a suitcase, he proceeds to carefully count out how much he wants. He could have just taken the briefcase and run off safely.

Gods of the Plague (1969)

Gods of the Plague (Gotter der Pest) is one of several German films directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder under his pseudonym of Franz Walsch. That's Fassbinder, however, playing the small role of a buyer of pornography. The main story involves a pair of two-bit hoods who spend most of the film one-upping each other with a brace of scheming females. Their dreary life of crime comes to a spectacular head in a shoot-out at a supermarket. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 88 mins
Gods of the Plague (1969)
Yes a major disappointment and even other reviews at REVIEWS state:
"The narrative is random and disposable, which means you’ll have to settle for the allure of the film’s many women."
Click for Full Review
-- Ed Gonzalez, SLANT MAGAZINE

"This wallow in fatalism is a minor but memorable crime flick."
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And much of the film has already left my mind. Forgettable easily.

Amores Perros (2000)

Three stories of life along the margins in Mexico City converge in this inventive thriller. Octavio is sharing an apartment with his brother, which leads to a serious problem when he falls in love with Susanna, his sister-in-law. Octavio and Susanna want to run away together, but Octavio has no money. He does, however, know a man who stages dog fights, and he volunteers his dog Cofi for the next round of fights. Cofi bravely rises to the occasion, but the dog's success in the ring leads to a violent altercation. Elsewhere, Daniel, a successful publishing magnate, leaves his family to take up with a beautiful model, Valeria. Valeria, however, soon loses a leg in an auto accident, and as Daniel tends to her needs, her tiny pet dog gets trapped under the floorboards of their apartment. And finally, El Chivo (Emilio Echeverria) is an elderly homeless man who is trying to contact his daughter, whom he hasn't seen in years. Desperate for money, El Chivo is hired by a businessman to assassinate his partner; however, as he's following his target, he's interrupted by an auto accident, from which Octavio and his injured dog stagger in search of help. Amores Perros (aka Love's a Bitch) was the debut from director Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 153 mins
Amores Perros (2000)
Another long film but held my attention-maybe it was all the violence in the film. Also with the intertwining stories it brings in plenty of plots that weave together in the right manner without being contrite. Most of the struggles are resolved ultimately even if not ideal situations. Some of the characters learn and grow but the young Octavio never really grows up.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Schindler's List (1993)

Based on a true story, Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List stars Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, a German businessman in Poland who sees an opportunity to make money from the Nazis' rise to power. He starts a company to make cookware and utensils, using flattery and bribes to win military contracts, and brings in accountant and financier Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) to help run the factory. By staffing his plant with Jews who've been herded into Krakow's ghetto by Nazi troops, Schindler has a dependable unpaid labor force. For Stern, a job in a war-related plant could mean survival for himself and the other Jews working for Schindler. However, in 1942, all of Krakow's Jews are assigned to the Plaszow Forced Labor Camp, overseen by Commandant Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), an embittered alcoholic who occasionally shoots prisoners from his balcony. Schindler arranges to continue using Polish Jews in his plant, but, as he sees what is happening to his employees, he begins to develop a conscience. He realizes that his factory (now refitted to manufacture ammunition) is the only thing preventing his staff from being shipped to the death camps. Soon Schindler demands more workers and starts bribing Nazi leaders to keep Jews on his employee lists and out of the camps. By the time Germany falls to the allies, Schindler has lost his entire fortune -- and saved 1,100 people from likely death. Schindler's List was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won seven, including Best Picture and a long-coveted Best Director for Spielberg, and it quickly gained praise as one of the finest American movies about the Holocaust. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 196 mins
Schindler's List (1993)
I don't think this film needs much said about it. Simply a great film. And even the special features were good to point out the story behind the story.

Europa, Europa (1991)

This drama was based on the true story of a young German Jew who survived the Holocaust by falling in with the Nazis. Solomon Perel (Marco Hofschneider) is the son of a Jewish shoe salesman coming of age in Germany during the rise of Adolf Hitler. In 1938, a group of Nazis attack Solomon's family home; his sister is killed, and 13-year-old Solomon flees to Poland. Solomon winds up in an orphanage operated by Stalinist forces; when German forces storm Poland, Solomon's fluent German allows him to join the Nazis as a translator, posing as Josef Peters, an ethnic German. In time, "Peters" is made a member of the elite Hitler Youth, but since Solomon is circumcised, he can be easily revealed as a Jew, and he lives in constant fear that his secret will be discovered. Solomon's close calls include an attempted seduction by Robert Kellerman (André Wilms), a homosexual officer, and his relationship with Leni (Julie Delpy), a beautiful but violently anti-Semitic woman who wants to bear his child for the glory of the master race. Europa, Europa (shown in Europe as Hitlerjunge Salomon) also features the real Solomon Perel, who appears briefly as himself. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 114 mins
Europa, Europa (1991)
Almost a tragic comedy as the young Jewish boy gets into deep trouble at every turn including someone that rats him out for being a Jew and then that person is shot by the Nazis. The part of the film where he tries to cut off blood to his member seems to be the most bizarre but soon he realizes just before it dies to try something else. The love story intertwined is a nice touch.

This story is similar to another story that has recently been confirmed through much research in The Telgraph The tale of a Nazi mascot.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Lives of Others (2006)

A man who has devoted his life to ferreting out "dangerous" characters is thrown into a quandary when he investigates a man who poses no threat in this drama, the first feature from German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. It's 1984, and Capt. Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is an agent of the Stasi, the East German Secret Police. Weisler carefully and dispassionately investigates people who might be deemed some sort of threat to the state. Shortly after Weisler's former classmate, Lt. Col. Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur), invites him to a theatrical piece by celebrated East German playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), Minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme) informs Weisler that he suspects Dreyman of political dissidence, and wonders if this renowned patriot is all that he seems to be. As it turns out, Hempf has something of an ulterior motive for trying to pin something on Dreyman: a deep-seated infatuation with Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), Dreyman's girlfriend. Nevertheless, Grubitz, who is anxious to further his career, appoints Weisler to spy on the gentleman with his help. Weisler plants listening devices in Dreyman's apartment and begins shadowing the writer. As Weisler monitors Dreyman's daily life, however (from a secret surveillance station in the gentleman's attic), he discovers the writer is one of the few East Germans who genuinely believes in his leaders. This changes over time, however, as Dreyman discovers that Christa-Maria is being blackmailed into a sexual relationship with Hempf, and one of Dreyman's friends, stage director Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert), is driven to suicide after himself being blackballed by the government. Dreyman's loyalty thus shifts away from the East German government, and he anonymously posts an anti-establishment piece in a major newspaper which rouses the fury of government officials. Meanwhile, Weisler becomes deeply emotionally drawn into the lives of Dreyman and Sieland, and becomes something of an anti-establishment figure himself, embracing freedom of thought and expression. A major box-office success in Germany, Das Leben der Anderen (aka The Lives of Others) received its North American premiere at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
The Lives of Others (2006)
Yes a nice film about voyeurs becoming too involved with their victims. Although they never really meet they share a moment in the end through the writing of Dreyman years later. Well worth watching the movie for the suspense and drama.