Friday, October 26, 2007

Disk 1&2|Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)

David Kalat provides the excellent and informative dialogue for both disks.
Full Synopsis:
Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler is the eight-reel version of Fritz Lang's twenty reeler, two-part silent thriller, Dr. Mabuse. Mabuse (Rudolph Klein-Rogge) a sinister mesmerist/psychiatrist, toys with the weaknesses of the rich and influential. He worms his way into the confidence of wealthy men, plays cards with them, hypnotizes them into cheating at their businesses, then puts them in a position to be blackmailed so that he can corner the stock market. A devilishly ingenious plan-but Mabuse is up against the plodding, methodical police detective Wrenk, whose subconscious is not so easily least, not at first. In 1932, Lang directed a talkie sequel to Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Running Time: 229 mins
Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)
Again the narrator of this film as some of the other Fritz Lang movies did an excellent job filling in details and explaining the story. Otherwise the story line and the characters were a jumbled mess that would have taken me a few times just to sort out. Maybe voices help to identify characters more than I thought.
"There is no love -- there is only desire!
There is no happiness - there is only the will for power!"
And where did we hear that before?

I liked the phone that moved when it 'rang'. Phernologist?
Weimar Republic

Mabuse: a Flemish Master Painter by the name of Jenni Gosart, or Jennyn van Hennegouwe that painted under the name Jan Mabuse. And Norbert Jacques liked the name.
I had noticed on other films to be either called Mabus and they used that so "He kills and kills without excuse, that is the terror of Dr. Mabus".

Others to look for/notes:
The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuseby David Kalat, published by McFarland Press
Everybody loves Dr. Mabuse
Club Extinction
Dada or Dadaism
Obsessed with self destruction as in jimabuse???
Indian Fakirs
"Golden Putrefaction" was the Russian version of Dr. Mabuse.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I Love Miami (2006)

Cuban leader Fidel Castro is humbled when he arrives in Miami and experiences America from the unique perspective of a typical Cuban-American in producer-turned-director Alejandro Gonzalez Padilla's clever culture shock drama. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 95 mins
I Love Miami (2006)
The movie gives Castro to present his positive points about his regime that do not get questioned. Also the anti-Castro side presents their points that do not get challenged. Thus it is almost a perplexing movie of cross talk but no direct dialogue. The presentation is basically one view give and another view but no contrasting points.

The most poignant scene is the end that has the dove that supposedly landed on his shoulder during the revolution. This time the dove shits on him.

I Love Miami (2006)
A story involving the famous Fidel Castro, who ironically arrives at Miami, like so many of his fellow Cubans, and at the same time living through a Cuban- American experience, creates the perfect scenario to watch him become a more humble person; the "Quixote of American Socialism". At the same time two sub- stories will strike the "emotional string" in our interior. The movie does not pretend to make any political statements on the Cuban Revolution or Fidel Castro's biography, however its purpose is to establish the story of the Miami of Today, in which all kinds of Cuban- American characters display their lives, their feelings and intentions relating to Fidel in his temporary and uncomfortable exile. The story shows "the other Cuba" and her two faces; one of the exiled Cubans, seeking the "American dream" and the other of the Cubans who capitalize this dream by camouflaging their political and economic interests, manipulating the dream of the others. Written by Alejandro Gonzalez Padilla

Friday, October 19, 2007

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)

German filmmaker G.W. Pabst and Hollywood expatriate Louise Brooks re-team after the success of Pandora's Box for the silent film Diary of a Lost Girl. On the day of her confirmation, innocent young Thymiane Henning (Brooks) is given a lockable diary as a present. She's distraught because the housekeeper Elisabeth (Sibylle Schmitz) is leaving under curious circumstances and turns up presumably dead. Her duties are taken over by the conniving Meta (Franziska Kinz), who accepts the advances of Thymiane's pharmacist father (Josef Ravensky). Trying to understand Elisabeth's fate, Thymiane agrees to meet her father's assistant, Meinert (Fritz Rasp). She passes out, he carries her up to her room, and by the next scene she has borne a child by him. Meta snoops in Thymiane's diary and finds out it was Meinert's baby, so she suggests they get married. Thymiane refuses, so they throw her in a creepy reformatory for fallen women and leave her baby with a midwife. While in the reformatory, she meets Erika (Edith Meinhard), with whom she eventually escapes. To escape from poverty and homelessness, the girls then become nominal prostitutes in a brothel and are "sexually liberated." ~ Andrea LeVasseur, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 116 mins
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
And then all hell breaks loose when her child dies before coming back to see her and her true friend dies because he was a flop at everything including milking cows and Thymiane gave away all her inheritance. Well basically a tragic story that ends with Thumiane helping one of the wayward girls she had met earlier...
Interesting but again just a tad too long.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Spies (1928)

Spies (Spione) was the first independent production of German "thriller" director Fritz Lang. The years-ahead-of-its-time plotline involves Russian espionage activity in London. The mastermind is Haghi (Rudolph Klein-Rogge), a supposedly respectable carnival sideshow entertainer. Heading the good guys is Agent 326 (Willy Fritsch), with the help of defecting Russian spy Sonya (Gerda Maurus). The film moves swiftly to several potential climaxes, each one more exciting than its predecessor. Haghi's ultimate demise is a superbly staged Pirandellian vignette. Anticipating Citizen Kane by a dozen years, director Lang dispenses with all transitional dissolves and fade-outs, flat-cutting territory from one scene to another. The film was co-scripted by Lang and his then-wife Thea Von Harbou. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 143 mins
Spies (1928)
Another that I would say is too long for my tastes. If there had been a narrative, I would have enjoyed it more. So not much to say on it. Rating 2.5

M (1931)

Fritz Lang's classic early talkie crime melodrama is set in 1931 Berlin. The police are anxious to capture an elusive child murderer (Peter Lorre), and they begin rounding up every criminal in town. The underworld leaders decide to take the heat off their activities by catching the child killer themselves. Once the killer is fingered, he is marked with the letter "M" chalked on his back. He is tracked down and captured by the combined forces of the Berlin criminal community, who put him on trial for his life in a kangaroo court. The killer pleads for mercy, whining that he can't control his homicidal instincts. The police close in and rescue the killer from the underworld so that he can stand trial again in "respectable" circumstances. Some prints of the film end with a caution to the audience to watch after their children more carefully. Filmed in Germany, M was the film that solidified Fritz Lang's reputation with American audiences, and it also made a star out of Peter Lorre (previously a specialist in comedy roles!). M was remade by Hollywood in 1951, with David Wayne giving a serviceable performance as the killer. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Running Time: 110 mins
M (1931)
The movie has a narrative dialogue that is well worth watching it. I kept thinking that there was a twist on the plot, but it all was pretty straight forward plot. Even the commentators note that the murderer is known to the viewer and we have the clues already. We in essence are looking at how the police and the criminal elements gather the clues in a slow meticulous way. With time slipping by every character seems to be obsessed with time and what time it is even to the second. It seems obvious some meaning to the constant clock watching but when watching it I so no correlation with the script per se.

Even for being an older film the story still has resonance and has much of the same issues as we still face now-child abduction and mass murderers with asymmetrically information. The one major twist was that the criminal elements (petty thieves, pickpockets, bookies etc) tied together with beggars were actually trying to do the work of the Police. That another element of society (mass murderer) was causing an escalated strife between police and the unsavory but petty elements of society.

In many ways this film has elements repeated in many other films, of course the basic psychology underlying these criminals seems to be the same no matter what time or culture they may have come from. This included the writing of letters by the killer to both the police and then to the press.

Joseph Goebbels had felt the film was pro-death penalty and stated that Lang was going to be a good German film director for the Nazis. This of course did not work out. From the commentators they seem to imply that Lang was not pro-death penalty, but I find it pro-death as it shows the depravity of man and that at least for one man-he can not control his own actions so society has to make those decisions for him.

The funniest part of the film for me was when Inspector Karl Lohmann learns from petty thief that the criminal gang was looking for the Child Murderer in the building. He has the back against the criminal and his expression is funny but he manages to recovery his astonishment.

The commentators felt the trial a kangaroo trial. While technically correct, after the mass murderer confessed, then all counter arguments for the defense are clearly weak and lacking any substance. The defense only point they try to make is that the group of criminals and elements of the lower society should not be allowed to judge the murderer. But when I watched it I was thinking that this was not a case of Anarchy/Vigilantes but more of a case of a government formed by "his peers" for the purpose of administering justice. While the other short trial scene was the state that may or not be as efficiently administered as the informal government. I do not say the informal was better but clearly it had the elements of producing a just verdict as easily as the Police State (IMHO).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fay Grim (2006)

A single mother from Queens becomes unwittingly embroiled in international espionage indirector Hal Hartley's sequel to the critically acclaimed Henry Fool. Fay Grim (Parker Posey) is determined to raise her 14-year-old son Ned (Liam Aiken) so he won't be like his father Henry (Thomas Jay Ryan), who disappeared seven years ago after accidentally murdering a vicious neighbor. As Fay's brother Simon (James Urbaniak) serves time in a prison cell for aiding Henry in his daring escape, he gradually begins to suspect that the man who inspired him to take up writing in the first place is not the louse he appeared to be, but instead the keeper of some potentially explosive government secrets that, if made public, could prove quite dangerous. As Simon begins to explore the possibility that Henry's autobiography "Confessions" contains coded references to a wide variety of international atrocities committed by governments around the world, the CIA contacts Fay to inform her that her husband was killed in a hotel fire in Sweden shortly after fleeing America, and that the French government is currently in possession of two notebooks containing drafts of "Confessions." Convinced that the notebooks contain information that could endanger the security of the United States, CIA agent Fullbright (Jeff Goldblum) convinces Fay to travel to Paris and retrieve Henry's property before the information falls into the wrong hands. Now trapped in the middle of a cross-continental con and thrust deep into the world international espionage, Fay is about to find out that her ex-husband is not only still alive, but in more trouble than he could ever imagine. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 118 mins
Fay Grim (2006)
Basically a comic book detective story with plenty of farces. I am looking forward to the first movie of this two part character development.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sister My Sister (1994)

In this stark drama based on actual events in a small French town in the early '30s, a pair of repressed sisters slowly lose their grip on reality, leading to horrific consequences at the home where they're employed as maids. Christine (Joely Richardson), a domestic servant in the home of haughty widow Madame Danzard (Julie Walters), takes pride in her efficiency and deference. Raised by nuns, Christine bitterly resents her penniless mother, but remains devoted to her younger, similarly convent-reared sister, Lea (Jodhi May). When Lea, too, comes to work for Madame Danzard, Christine trains her dutifully while also driving a wedge between the girl and their mother. The sisters' emotional bond eventually becomes a sexual one, too, and as they turn inward their work suffers, leading to increasing disapproval from their employer. Meanwhile, Christine is driven mad with jealousy at what she perceives as a flirtation between Lea and Madame Danzard's sullen daughter, Isabelle (Sophie Thursfield). Tensions reach a boiling point when the widow and her daughter return home one evening to find burned garments, uncompleted housework, and the sisters holed up in their room together, smelling of sex. Adapted by Wendy Kesselman from her Pulitzer Prize-winning play, My Sister in This House, Sister My Sister was based on the true story of Christine and Lea Papin, whose grisly 1933 murders have also inspired several other works. In addition to Jean Genet's 1948 play The Maids, the incident was the basis for Jean-Pierre Denis' feature Les Blessures Assassines and the documentary En Quete Des Soeurs Papin, both released in 2000. The real-life Christine Papin died after four years in prison, but Lea was released after ten years of hard labor and lived for several more decades in another small French town. ~ Brian J. Dillard, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 85 mins
Sister My Sister (1994)
Other than being a true life story and having a dramatic ending, I could not get into it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Black Book (2006)

Filmmaker Paul Verhoeven returned to the Netherlands after more than twenty years of success in Hollywood to direct this epic-scale war drama based on a true story. Rachel Steinn (Carice van Houten) is a beautiful Jewish woman living in German-occupied Holland during late 1944. Her family members - who have been falsely promised safe passage to Belgium (their names recorded in the 'black book' of the title) are instead robbed and slaughtered by the Germans on a premeditated basis; Rachel herself manages to escape by diving into the water and swimming away. She narrowly avoids capture, then joins the local resistance movement. With her hair dyed blonde, Rachel can easily pass for Aryan, and when the leader of the Dutch resistance movement learns his son has been captured by Axis forces, Rachel is asked to use her feminine charms to persuade a German commander to arrange for the boy's release. Rachel soon finds herself caught up in a dangerous double life as she becomes a sexual plaything for the Nazis while attempting to bring down their evil empire as a spy. Zwartboek was written by Verhoeven and Gerard Soeteman, who collaborated on the 1977 international success Soldier of Orange. Zwartboek received its world premier at the 2006 Venice Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 146 mins
Black Book (2006)
It was quite an epic that while at times seemed like a little fairy tale story it was still a pleasant film with lots of adventure and intrigue.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Pigalle (1994)

It's a grim world of prostitution, drug dens, transvestites, junkies and murderers. The seediest side of urban life is examined in this tragedy. The film follows the complex, interwoven lives of four characters as they live their harsh and gritty nocturnal lives on the city streets. The main characters are Fifi a pickpocket who is simultaneously involved with Divine, a transvestite hooker and Vera a peep show dancer who refuses to be a hooker. Vera lives with her would-be pimp Jesus le Gitan, a small-scale drug dealer. When the area riff-raff become embroiled in hostilities, two of main characters are slowly killed in horrible ways. Fifi is then left to avenge their deaths. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 78 mins
Pigalle (1994)
The background and interview for the film was more interesting than the film. Yes it had plenty of violence on a gritty personal level, for example the assassination of one man in the rest room.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Days of Glory (2006)

Director Rachid Bouchareb teams with screenwriter Olivier Morelle to offer a revealing look at the brave contributions made by North African soldiers who fought for France during World War II in this emotionally-charged war drama starring Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Sami Bouajila, and Bernard Blancan. The year was 1943 and France had been bending to the will of Nazi Germany for three long years. In order to break Hitler's powerful grip, the first French Army was recruited in Africa. Comprised of 130,000 North Africans who were willing to put their lives on the line in order to defeat the Nazi death machine, the fearless fighters were contemptuously dubbed indigènes (natives) by many French, despite their remarkable sacrifice. From the noble Abdelkader (Bouajila), who is fighting strictly for the cause; to the money motivated Yassir (Naceri); the impoverished Saïd (Debbouze); and die-hard romantic Messaoud (Roschdy Zem), who longs to finally visit the country he has dreamt about from afar, the selfless efforts of these remarkable men ultimately transcend their superiors' contemptuous disregard for their service by providing invaluable aid during one of the world's darkest hours. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 119 mins
Days of Glory (2006)
For most of the movie, both sides of the war seemed very inept at fighting the war. Some of the battles just like most wars shows the senseless loss of human life for just some hill. Their was a tension that brewed throughout the movie about the racism of the French and Italians to the North African men. But the fight for the small town was interesting how the 4 North Africans had held off a couple of squads of Germans with two waves of attacks. The NAs had one sharp shooter, a rifle man, one machine gunner (did the most killing) and a one armed man with a hand gun. Won't say how it ends though...