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Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Last Of Robin Hood (2014)

Legendary film star Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline) seduces and becomes infatuated with an underage aspiring actress (Dakota Fanning). Her mother (Susan Sarandon) encourages the relationship in the hopes he can further her daughter's career. Directed by the late Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, this film slipped under the radar when it was released with little fanfare last year. The duo had much better luck with their film STILL ALICE which went on to went an Oscar for Julianne Moore.  The story of an alcoholic aging washed up movie star's love affair with a 15 year old girl (her age when they met) is rife with pitfalls. Flynn is portrayed in an unflattering light, his forcing of himself  on her on their first night plays out like rape. More problematic is that Flynn is a movie icon and forever fresh in our mind. While Kline might look like the bloated aging Flynn during the last years of his life, Kline lacks the charisma and elan that Flynn projected. In short, he's not convincing. Fanning and Sarandon fare much better and at heart, this isn't so much a film about Beverly Aadland and Flynn as it is a story of a mother and daughter. It works better that way. Some of the film's recreations are dubious, was Stanley Kubrick really auditioning actresses for Lolita in 1959?  With Bryan Batt, Max Casella (as Kubrick) and Patrick St. Esprit. 

Personal Affair (1953)

The wife (Gene Tierney) of a small town school teacher (Leo Genn, QUO VADIS) accuses one of his students (Glynis Johns) of being in love with her husband. When the girl disappears, gossip and innuendo run rampant that he and the girl were lovers and that she either committed suicide or he killed her. As he loses his teaching position and his marriage unravels, will the truth ever come out? While the film touches on some interesting and valid points (first love, small minds, guilt and innocence), eventually its laborious execution does it in. It's based on the play A DAY'S MISCHIEF by Lesley Storm (who also did the screenplay) and it's a talky piece that might well play better on the stage. Genn is rather dull and Tierney is wasted in the "wife" role and Johns (who's good) is absent for a good portion of the film. The most interesting character is the young girl's spinster aunt with ulterior motives of her own played by Pamela Brown. Directed by Anthony Pelissier (ROCKING HORSE WINNER). With Nanette Newman, Megs Jenkins, Thora Hird and Walter Fitzgerald.  

Marked Woman (1937)

A woman (Bette Davis) who works as a nightclub "hostess" in a clip joint run by a notorious gangster (Eduardo Ciannelli) is targeted by the police after a guy (Damian O'Flynn) she left the club with is found murdered. She refuses to cooperate with them but when her sister (Jane Bryan) becomes a victim, she changes her mind. But will she live to tell? The film opens with a disclaimer that the story is fictitious and any resemblance between any living persons is not intended. Bollocks! The film is based on Thomas Dewey's (Humphrey Bogart standing in) prosecution of Lucky Luciano (Ciannelli standing in) for vice crimes including prostitution though the film code required changing them to nightclub hostesses. This was the first film for Davis after her lawsuit against Warners (she lost) in an attempt to get better scripts. She may have lost but after years of dumping her in flicks like SATAN MET A LADY and FASHIONS OF 1934, they listened and this was the first of many films that made her the actress of her generation. Oh, it's the kind of lurid "ripped from the headlines" crime melodrama that Warners did so well during this period but Davis's performance elevates it to something just a bit more. Nicely directed by Lloyd Bacon. With Lola Lane, Isabel Jewell, Allen Jenkins and Mayo Methot, who would go on to marry Bogart a year later.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sauve Qui Peut (La Vie) (aka Every Man For Himself) (1980)

Three protagonists struggle with their relationships, their professions and existence in an increasingly indifferent world: a TV director (Jacques Dutronc), his soon to be ex-girlfriend (Nathalie Baye) and a prostitute (Isabelle Huppert). The iconoclastic Jean Luc Godard returned to "mainstream" (though has he ever been mainstream?) film making with this experimental puzzle of a movie. Like most of his films, Godard isn't interested in a conventional narrative technique in telling his story. This one is no different as he uses sound, editing, slow motion and seemingly irrelevant fragments to create a reflective if unsettling sense of disorientation. What is it about? I haven't a clue, not really unless it's that we're all whores to some extent. But it is a challenging, provocative anagram of a movie. One doesn't necessarily think of performances in a Godard film, but Isabelle Huppert is really wonderful here. It's amusing that Godard names the male protagonist after himself since Dutronc's character is a real jerk. I don't love it the way I love some of his other films like BREATHLESS, CONTEMPT or VIVRE SA VIE but it's not a film you can shake off.

April Love (1957)

After being caught joy riding in a stolen car, a boy (Pat Boone) from Chicago is sent to live with his Uncle (Arthur O'Connell) and Aunt (Jeanette Nolan) on a Kentucky farm although he is still under probation. A girl (Shirley Jones) from a neighboring farm takes a liking to him but he seems to prefer her sister (Dolores Michaels). A musical remake of HOME IN INDIANA (1944), this CinemaScope feature isn't as saccharine as its reputation suggests (even though Boone at this stage of his career still refused to kiss his leading ladies). Boone may be the most wholesome juvenile delinquent in movie history but there's an innocence to the project that is quite disarming. The songs by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster are adequate with one winner, the lovely title song ballad which went to no. 1 on the charts and was nominated for a best song Oscar. If you like your movie romances milkshake style as opposed to scotch on the rocks, this film should find favor with you. With Matt Crowley and Bradford Jackson.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Plague Of The Zombies (1966)

In a small Cornwall village in 1860, many of its inhabitants are dying of a mysterious illness. When a highly respected medical expert (Andre Morell) visits the town at the request of a former student (Brook Williams), it doesn't take too long to discover the source of the "plague" ..... voodoo! A minor entry in the Hammer horror library, nonetheless this is a stylish and effective piece of low key horror movie making. The director John Gilling (THE MUMMY'S SHROUD) doesn't overdo the gore but instead discreetly emphasizes the tension and fear that have taken over the village. Certainly it's tame compared to the zombie movies of today but its influence on the genre (starting with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) is not to be dismissed. With Diane Clare (THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE), John Carson, Jacqueline Pearce and Alexander Davion.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Woman Of Straw (1964)

The nephew (Sean Connery) of an ill tempered but wealthy curmudgeon (Ralph Richardson) romances his Uncle's nurse (Gina Lollobrigida) and coerces her into marrying him for his money. Since the gentleman doesn't have very long to live, once he dies they will share in the money. But things never quite work out the way they're supposed to, do they? Directed by Basil Dearden (SAPPHIRE) from the novel by Catherine Arley, this should have been a better film. Lollobrigida's character seems terribly naive and trustworthy to the point of stupidity. It's interesting to see the young Sean Connery (post FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and pre-GOLDFINGER) in an unsympathetic part, he's positively oily. But it's Ralph Richardson's grumpy old man that takes the acting honors. It's wonderful to see his transition from cranky to lovestruck. Always watchable but not what it could have been. With Alexander Knox and Johnny Sekka. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Barry Lyndon (1975)

In mid 18th century Ireland, a headstrong if naive young man (Ryan O'Neal) gets himself into trouble by dueling with the Englishman (Leonard Rossiter) in love with his cousin (Gay Hamilton). He flees to Dublin to avoid the hand of the law but this is only the beginning of his adventures and his rise to the British aristocracy and his great fall. This gorgeous masterpiece from Stanley Kubrick is possibly the most divisive of his films (outside of the core Kubrick fanboys). Usually, slow and boring is the accusation most flung at it by its detractors but while Kubrick's pacing is decidedly languid, I was never bored for a minute. Visually, it's one of the most beautiful films in cinematic history and John Alcott's lensing of it has reached near legendary proportions. Each composition, each frame, the incredible lighting is almost a work of Art in itself. One would think that the role of Barry Lyndon would be a juicy role for any actor but Ryan O'Neal seems reined in and I'm sure this is exactly the way Kubrick wanted it. I suppose one could say O'Neal is merely a blank slate for Kubrick to work his "magic" but that would be unfair. O'Neal is very good in the part and one wishes Kubrick had relaxed his hold a bit but it is a very controlled movie. With Marisa Berenson, who has precious little to do, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Marie Kean, Andre Morell, Murray Melvin and the narration is by Michael Hordern.

Dior Et Moi (aka Dior And I) (2015)

In Spring of 2013, Raf Simons became the artistic director of the House Of Dior with only two months (six months is average) to complete a collection in time for the first showing at fashion week. High fashion or haute couture if you will is considered frivolous in certain quarters. I am of the group that consider it every bit an Art as painting. Instead of using a canvas, the designer uses the human body to display his Art. That being said, Frederic Tcheng's fascinating documentary on Simons' first season with Dior shows that it literally takes a village to make that Art. The detail, the skill, the team work, the pride of the workers in the work they do and their dedication is inspiring. The best documentary on the fashion world since UNZIPPED in 1995 and though Simons doesn't have Isaac Mizrahi's flashy personality (he's very low key), his charming assistant Pieter Mulier more than picks up the slack. The runway show that ends the film is spectacular and the clothes stunning. I managed to pick out Marion Cotillard, Sharon Stone and Harvey Weinstein in the front row. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Scream (1996)

A small California town is stunned by the murder and mutilation of a popular high school student (Drew Barrymore doing a Janet Leigh) and her boyfriend (Kevin Patrick Walls). But it seems the killer known as Ghost Face is only just beginning. Wes Craven's sly satire on horror films was a massive hit and spawned three sequels. His film only partially works as a horror film as he doesn't take it seriously, so why should we? It works best if you're familiar with the films he's satirizing (a character refers to a "Wes Carpenter movie"). Some of the acting is pretty bad. Notably Skeet Ulrich and especially Matthew Lillard, who thankfully didn't return to the superior sequel SCREAM 2, the best film in the franchise (probably because Craven took it more seriously).  Neve Campbell as the film's heroine grounds the film in a semblance of reality while everyone else goes along with the joke. With Courteney Cox as a bitchy TV reporter (her character is softened for the sequels), David Arquette, Liev Schreiber, Henry Winkler, Rose McGowan and Jamie Kennedy.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hondo (1953)

A dispatch rider (John Wayne) for the U.S. Cavalry arrives at the desolate ranch of a woman (Geraldine Page) and her son (Lee Aaker) who have been deserted by her husband (Leo Gordon). Apaches angry over the betrayal of the white man who have broken the treaty between the Apache nation and white settlers are on the warpath. But the woman, who lives in the middle of hostile Apache territory, refuses to leave. Based on the short story THE GIFT OF COCHISE by the western writer Louis L'Amour and directed by John Farrow (THE BIG CLOCK). Although filmed in 3D, the film is rather introspective for a western. Oh, there are gunfights and Indian attacks but the focus on the film is the relationship between the loner scout and the lonely wife. The pairing of the iconic movie cowboy (Wayne) and the great stage actress (Page in an Oscar nominated performance) may seen strange but their scenes together are beautifully played out with each complementing the other. The film may not have the luster of Wayne's Ford and Hawks westerns but this is one of his best oaters. With Ward Bond, Michael Pate, James Arness and Rodolfo Acosta.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

God Told Me To (1976)

In New York City, a series of random killings occur with each of the murderers claiming that God told them to commit the killings. As the murders escalate, an Italian-American police detective (Tony Lo Bianco), who is also a devout Catholic, finds himself obsessed with the killings but worse than that, he may somehow be the reason for them. This ambitious sci-fi/horror flick courtesy of writer/director Larry Cohen (IT'S ALIVE) is one crazy blasphemous movie but done with enough intelligence and grit that it's become quite the cult film among aficionados of the horror genre. But however provocative, the film teases and incites but it can never quite deliver what it promises and the ending is a cop out. But what it gives us is strong enough to keep us involved in its journey. The film is dedicated to Bernard Herrmann who died before he could compose the film's score and was replaced by Frank Cordell (CROMWELL). With Sandy Dennis (very good), Sylvia Sidney, Deborah Raffin, Sam Levene, Mike Kellin and a young Andy Kaufman as one of the murderers.

Father Of The Bride (1991)

When his young daughter (Kimberly Williams) returns from Rome and announces she is getting married, a businessman (Steve Martin) finds it difficult to realize his little girl is now a woman and resists the idea. But nothing can prepare him for the monumental preparation and costs of the big day! I'm not one of those who gets himself in a dither over remakes of popular or classic films. True, most of them aren't very good when compared to their predecessors but some not only equal them but just might be a tad better. Case in point is this delightful remake of the 1950 Vincente Minnelli film. It adheres sufficiently to the original so that the original screenwriters (Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett) are given screenplay credit along with Nancy Meyers and the film's director, Charles Shyer. It's heartwarming (normally an adjective I detest but appropriate) and Steve Martin's comedic talent has never been so subtly displayed. Indeed, if it weren't for ALL OF ME, this would probably be my favorite of his film performances. Diane Keaton as his wife doesn't have much to do but she provides a lovely foil for him. With Martin Short (who overdoes his part), BD Wong, George Newbern, Kieran Culkin, Eugene Levy and Martha Gehman.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Boardwalk (1979)

As they approach their 50th wedding anniversary, an elderly Jewish couple (Lee Strasberg, Ruth Gordon) must contend with their Coney Island neighborhood deteriorating as gangs roam the streets but also the wife's ill health. This is the kind of film filled with good intentions that you really want to like but nothing goes right with it. The characters don't comes across as real but stereotypes, the dialog is cliched, the gangs seem phony and bongos play on the soundtrack whenever they appear which gives you an idea of how poorly the film is executed. And, with one exception, the acting ranges from uneven to downright amateurish. Strasberg may be a legendary acting teacher but as an actor, his line readings are monotonous and Gordon tries too hard to be adorable. The one exception is Janet Leigh as their daughter, her professionalism wins out as she nicely fleshes out a poorly written character though she looks more shiksa than Jewish. Directed and co-written by Stephen Verona. With Lillian Roth, Joe Silver, Eddie Barth, Kim Delgado, Linda Manz (DAYS OF HEAVEN) and Altovise Davis (Mrs. Sammy Davis Jr.) 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Emperor Waltz (1948)

Set in Austria at the turn of the 20th century, an American phonograph salesman (Bing Crosby) and his dog travel to Vienna hoping to have the Emperor (Richard Haydn) endorse the product. Instead, he and his mutt fall in love with a haughty Countess (Joan Fontaine) and her snooty French poodle. This candy box period romance with humor and music seems like an odd choice for director Billy Wilder's follow to his darker and grittier previous two films (DOUBLE INDEMNITY, LOST WEEKEND). I'm just speculating but I suspect it might have been an homage to his mentor Ernst Lubitsch who had recently passed away. But Crosby is no Maurice Chevalier and the film lacks the wit, sexiness and insouciance of Lubitsch at his best. It looks gorgeous however with George Barnes' three strip technicolor lensing with Canada's Jasper National Park standing in for the Austrian Alps. The songs are negligible, the plot tired and anticipated. The movie's sole comedic high point concerns a dog psychiatrist (Sig Ruman) analyzing Fontaine's neurotic poodle. With Roland Culver, Lucile Watson and Julia Dean. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ruby Gentry (1952)

A small town North Carolina girl (Jennifer Jones) from the wrong side of the tracks isn't accepted socially by the snobbish small minded town. But when the opportunity arises to marry up socially to a rich widower (Karl Malden), she grabs it. But her money won't buy her what she really wants ..... the man (Charlton Heston) that got away. But money can buy her revenge. This overheated lurid swamp melodrama reunites Jennifer Jones with her DUEL IN THE SUN director King Vidor. While it doesn't reach the insane and delirious heights of that trash masterpiece, this more modest B&W effort is entertaining enough. Curiously the film wants us to condemn Jones's Ruby for her wrathful path of destruction but I don't know. If I were in her shoes, I'd probably have done the same and not looked back. Why should she forgive those mean spirited snobs, after all they never gave her a break. Who was it who said, "Revenge is a dish best served cold"? The underscore is by Heinz Roemheld whose theme for Ruby (with added lyrics) later became a standard and a popular hit for Ray Charles. With Josephine Hutchinson, Tom Tully, James Anderson, Phyllis Avery and Barney Phillips.

Partie De Campagne (aka A Day In The Country) (1936)

In 1860, the owner (Andre Gabriello) of a hardware store in Paris takes his wife (Jane Marken), daughter (Sylvia Bataille), mother in law (Gabrielle Fontan) and ill bred shop assistant (Paul Temps) for a day in the country. They stop for a picnic lunch along the banks of the Seine. It is there that two young men (Georges D'Arnoux, Jacques B. Brunius) plot to seduce both daughter and mother. Based on a short story by Guy De Maupassant and clocking in at under an hour, this is a poignant yet sensual interlude. Visually, the director Jean Renoir approximates the impressionism of his father (Auguste Renoir) and it's ravishing. One can only contemplate what Renoir might have done if he had shot the film in color. This isn't a regret, the film is visually stunning, just a thought. The film is languid, perfectly approximating a lazy afternoon so that one is caught unprepared for the pathos of the film's epilogue. Lovely and haunting and one of the gems of cinema. Reputedly Luchino Visconti was one of Renoir's assistant directors on the film.

The Wrecking Crew (1968)

A secret agent (Dean Martin) is assigned by the U.S. government to track down a billion dollar gold shipment that was stolen en route by train from Denmark to England. The fourth and final entry in the Matt Helm series though the end credits announce the next Matt Helm film would be THE RAVAGERS. This is the movie that killed off the franchise. It's sloppy film making, cheap looking and whatever wit it may have had early in the series had long since evaporated. Typical of the film's juvenile sexual innuendo, Sharon Tate spouts, "I've been ordered to work under you" while Dean Martin leers. Set in Denmark but obviously shot in Southern California with antiseptic violence. When Elke Sommer is riddled with bullets from a machine gun, there's not a trace of blood much less bullet holes! Other than the tasty eye candy (in addition to Tate and Sommer, there's Nancy Kwan and Tina Louise), there's nothing to recommend. Hugo Montenegro should get some kind of award however for writing one of the worst film scores to assault a film. Directed by Phil Karlson. With Nigel Green and John Larch.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Clouds Of Sils Maria (2014)

A famous actress (Juliette Binoche) returns to the play that made her famous 20 years ago as young woman who seduces an older woman and drives her to suicide. This time however, she will play the older woman. The ghosts of the now deceased playwright, the deceased actress who played the older woman originally hover over her attempt to do the role. Then there's the hot film actress (Chloe Grace Moretz), playing her old role to contend with. As directed by Olivier Assayas, this is a marvelous actor's film. And by that, I'm not just talking about the three central performances but it's a film about actors, the acting process, tabloid fame, adjusting our way of thinking with the passage of time and letting go of the past. It has a lot on its plate. It's rare to find an unsentimental film with three strong female protagonists. There's a bit of Bergman's PERSONA, a bit of ALL ABOUT EVE but still freshly original. The gorgeous Swiss landscapes are beautifully lensed by Yorick Le Saux. With Kristen Stewart as Binoche's personal assistant in a role that won her the Cesar (the French Oscar) for supporting actress, Johnny Flynn, Hanns Zischler, Lars Eidinger and Angela Winkler.

Before I Go To Sleep (2014)

A 40 year old woman (Nicole Kidman) suffers from anterograde amnesia. She wakes up every morning with no memory and whatever memories she acquires thru the day evaporate once she goes to sleep. Her husband (Colin Firth) leaves a photographic history of their life together on the wall but he must remind her who he is each morning. A doctor (Mark Strong) is helping her in trying to recover her memory. But as the layers are peeled away, she must eventually come to a horrible and violent truth. Based on the award winning, best selling novel by S.J. Watson and adapted for the screen and directed by Rowan Joffe. I'm a sucker for damsel in distress mystery thrillers and for the first two thirds, it's an ingenious "who can you trust" mystery (what might seem as inconsistencies or loopholes are actually clues) until it takes a very dark and disturbing shift in the last third. The film is no more than a clever jazzed up puzzle but with yet another strong performance by Nicole Kidman anchoring the film, it's quite persuasive. With Anne Marie Duff and Adam Levy.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Spiral Road (1962)

Set in the Dutch West Indies in 1936, an arrogant and over confident young doctor (Rock Hudson) comes to Java to work alongside a doctor (Burl Ives) whose expertise in the field of leprosy is renowned. It's the younger doctor's intention to profit from this when he returns to Holland and publishes his experiences. But fate (or the hand of God?) will break him or at least humble him before his tenure is over. Based on the novel by Jan De Hartog, the film has high aspirations as it examines the existence of God and man's ability to exist without him. It's the kind of movie that would drive an atheist batty! It's hardly subtle in hammering away at the obvious but I suspect (I haven't read it) that might go back to the De Hartog source material. It's one of his least seen films but it contains one of Hudson's very best performances. You can see what attracted him to the part, an opportunity to show he could sink himself into a part as much as any Actors Studio alumnae. There's an exotic underscore by Jerry Goldsmith. Directed by Robert Mulligan (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD).  With Gena Rowlands (looking luscious), Geoffrey Keen, Neva Patterson, Philip Abbott, Larry Gates, Karl Swenson, Parley Baer, Edgar Stehli and Barbara Morrison.

Eraser (1996)

An executive (Vanessa Williams) with a defense contractor corporation cooperates with the FBI in exposing her boss (James Cromwell) who is selling weapons to terrorists. A U.S. Marshal (Arnold Schwarzenegger) working for the Witness Protection Program is assigned to protect her. But there's a mole in the organization working for the other side putting her at risk so the witness and the Marshal go undercover. Early in the film, in a quiet suburban neighborhood there's a noisy and aggressive attack on Vanessa Williams' house, loud explosions and a small of army of thugs with guns. Yet none of the neighbors peek out to see what's going or apparently think of calling the police! This sets the tone for the rest of the movie. It's a live action cartoon exempt from realism and if you're okay with that, there's a good chance you can enjoy the film. I did. If lack of logic or large plot loopholes bother you, this movie is not for you. Schwarzenegger gives one of his better performances here by not trying to act and James Caan as his superior gives one of his worst performances by overacting. Granted, he's in a violent cartoon movie but Schwarzenegger's underplaying makes his over the top performance look worse than it should. Directed by Chuck Russell (THE SCORPION KING). With James Coburn, Robert Pastorelli, John Slattery, Camryn Manheim and Danny Nucci.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Le Vice Et La Vertu (aka Vice And Virtue) (1963)

In the waning days of Nazi occupied France in WWII, two French sisters find themselves leading different lives. The older (Annie Girardot) is an amoral whore who sleeps with Germans, each more powerful than the last one, in an attempt to assure herself a life of comfort. Her younger sister (Catherine Deneuve) marries a member of the resistance and has contempt for the Germans. Directed by Roger Vadim (AND GOD CREATED WOMAN), the first half of the film is very good as it explores the moral rot of the Third Reich as well as surviving however one has to as one's world (literally) comes crashing all around them. However, the second half of the film is another story. It's a ludicrous, often silly, piece of softcore S&M titillation. Michel Magne's piano underscore thunders away as nubile lovelies are submitted to the brutal lust of Nazi leaders in a private castle brothel. Apparently based on De Sade's JUSTINE (which I've never read), it's as if Vadim switched boats in mid-river and going from a serious look at Paris under Nazi occupation to an erotic S&M fantasy with its heroines in diaphanous gowns! With Luciana Paluzzi, Robert Hossein, O.E. Hasse (Hitchcock's I CONFESS) and Georges Poujouly.

Mark Of The Hawk (1957)

Set in British colonial Africa, one of the few black leaders (Sidney Poitier) elected to the white legislative council attempts to pressure the British government into setting a date for turning the country over to its native population thus allowing them to rule themselves. The white supremacists resist while native terrorists attack white homes, killing the inhabitants and burning the homes. Into this volatile atmosphere comes an American missionary (John McIntire) who hopes faith will settle the hate on both sides. Today it's not at all unusual for Christian groups to fund films with a Christian agenda and marketed toward Christians and most of them do quite well with their intended audiences and even some studios court religious groups for their films (NOAH is a recent example). It was much more rare in the 1950s and this film was sponsored by the Presbyterian church's Board Of Foreign Missions. The film doesn't bother to hide its agenda and parts of the film's dialog have you feeling that you're listening to a sermon. The film's dubious premise that accepting Jesus will heal all wounds and bring Africa together would be offensive if it wasn't so unabashedly in your face. Somehow the film makers managed to get a strong cast of actors. In addition to Poitier and McIntire, Eartha Kitt (as Poitier's French wife) and Juano Hernandez have key roles in the film. Directed by Michael Audley. With Helen Horton and Marne Maitland.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Zandy's Bride (1974)

A cattle rancher (Gene Hackman) on the Monterey coast of California sends away for a mail order bride (Liv Ullmann). He's a crude, unfeeling brute who wants someone to help work the ranch and "comfort" his bed at night. She's looking for a home. But his brutality (he rapes her on the wedding night) places a wedge in their future ..... if there is one. After the success of THE EMIGRANTS and THE NEW LAND in the U.S., Hollywood made overtures to the director Jan Troell and this was his first American film. Its simplicity and directness is carried over from his two Swedish films but as cinema, it feels uneven. It seems to be searching for its tone but never quite finds it. Ullmann seems born to her role but Hackman seems uncomfortable, as if resisting the coarseness of his character instead of inhabiting it. The real "star" of the film however is the gorgeous Big Sur coast line so lovingly photographed by Jordan Cronenweth. I could have done without the insistent banjo underscore by Michael Franks. Based on the novel THE STRANGER by Lillian Bos Ross. With Eileen Heckart, Susan Tyrell, Harry Dean Stanton, Sam Bottoms and Frank Cady.

The Devil Is A Woman (1935)

It's carnival time in turn of the century Spain. A revolutionary (Cesar Romero) sees a beautiful woman (Marlene Dietrich) and becomes enthralled and plans on seeing her again. But when he meets an old friend (Lionel Atwill in a rare sympathetic role), the friend tells him of the true nature of the woman. She uses men and breaks their hearts without pity. Perhaps the most insane of the collaborations of director Josef von Sternberg and his muse, Marlene Dietrich. Based on the novel THE WOMAN AND THE PUPPET by Pierre Louys, it's hard to tell how much of this overheated melodrama we're supposed to take sincerely. I'm still not sure if it's another bad Dietrich performance or if she's not winking her eye at us as if to say, "Don't take all this too seriously, darlings". It's all rather silly but in a good way and the film is an art director's dream and it's a stunning looking film (von Sternberg was also the film's cinematographer). Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol is used as the underscore. With Edward Everett Horton and Alison Skipworth.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Shanghai Story (1954)

In communist China, a group of American expatriates are interned at a hotel while the authorities attempt to ferret out a spy in the group. Among them are a disillusioned doctor (Edmond O'Brien), a glamorous apolitical beauty (Ruth Roman) and a man (Richard Jaeckel) on the run from the law in several countries. This cold war potboiler from Republic studios is directed by Frank Lloyd (1935's MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY), one of only two films he made in the 1950s. It's got the usual Red paranoia and demonizing (the commies shoot a little dog in front of the child who owns it) and the screenplay is rather lax and illogical. Roman as the mystery woman who may or may not be a traitor comes off best as the script favors her character. However, if one is in a forgiving mood, it can be entertaining the way those modest "B" level Republic programmers often are. With Whit Bissell, Barry Kelley, Frances Rafferty, Paul Picerni, Yvette Duguay, Marvin Miller and what 1950s Far East setting movie would be complete without those Asian stalwarts, Philip Ahn and Richard Loo.

Dementia 13 (1963)

When her husband (Peter Read) dies suddenly of a heart attack, a scheming wife (Luana Anders) hides his body in a lake so she can coerce her mother in law (Eithne Dunn) to change her will. But there's an ax wielding killer on the family estate who might have plans of his own. Roger Corman gave many young directors, Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme among them, their first break letting them cut their teeth on exploitation films before they moved on to the big time. Here, it's a young Francis Ford Coppola at the helm directing his first feature film. It was made for about $30,000, Corman was unhappy with the final product and shot additional scenes against Coppola's wishes. What remains is a rather silly but richly atmospheric PSYCHO rip-off. The dialog is mundane and the acting with the exception of Luana Anders and William Campbell (who plays her brother in law) is amateurish. No one is worse than Patrick Magee (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE) because he overacts so terribly that he makes the amateurish performances look good! The score is by Ronald Stein. With Mary Mitchel and Bart Patton. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry (1945)

A middle aged bachelor (George Sanders) is saddled with taking care of his two sisters. One, a widow (Moyna MacGill) and the other (Geraldine Fitzgerald) an invalid but more likely a hypochondriac. When a beautiful woman (Ella Raines) comes to work at his place of employment, they fall in love and the woman becomes a threat to the "sick" sister who fears her brother will abandon her.  Based on the play by Thomas Job, this is an enjoyable psychological thriller (though some consider it noir) with a few twists and turns. Sadly, everything that's good about it gets done in in the film's final couple of minutes thanks to the Hays code. It's still a very good film but the nasty aftertaste that minute and a half leaves is hard to get rid of. Sanders, one of the gread cads of cinema, has one of his rare sympathetic roles and he's quite touching. Fitzgerald is also very good as she masks her true nature under a guise of delicate nicety. Solidly directed by Robert Siodmak. With Sara Allgood, Ethel Griffies, Barbara Pepper, Will Wright and Irene Tedrow.

The China Syndrome (1979)

While doing doing a generic news story at a nuclear power plant, a TV reporter (Jane Fonda) and her cameraman (Michael Douglas) find themselves in the middle of an emergency shutdown when the reactor malfunctions. Although a crisis is averted, the shift supervisor (Jack Lemmon) suspects that the pumps are faulty and does some investigating of his own. Can the truth get out there before it's covered up? THE CHINA SYNDROME is one of those perfect examples of the "political" thriller. Instead of doing a melodramatic message film lecturing us on the potential evils of nuclear power, the film makers concoct an intense narrative of secrets and lies and corporate cover up and a race against time to get the truth out there before it's nipped in the bud. The plot may have been deemed far fetched and poo pooed as paranoia on the part of the anti-nuke crowd but almost two weeks after the film opened, life imitated art in the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania. That shut the naysayers up! Politics aside, this is a first rate piece of muckraking cinema with a superb (one of his best) performance by Lemmon. Fonda's role is poorly written but she does wonders with it anyway and there's not much Douglas can do with his hot headed camera man but go through the motions. The director James Bridges keeps it tight and edgy, punching away till the very end. With Scott Brady, Wilford Brimley, Peter Donat, James Hampton and James Karen.

While We're Young (2015)

A childless documentary film maker (Ben Stiller) and his wife (Naomi Watts) find themselves in their early 40s and distanced from the lifestyle of their friends with children. When they meet a hip young couple (Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried), they're refreshed and attempt to enter their world. But the generation gap is too wide to be bridged successfully. I like what I've seen from Noah Baumbach (his MARGOT AT THE WEDDING is one of the most underrated films of the 2000s) and while WHILE WE'RE YOUNG may be his most commercial film to date, it still has his razor sharp eye on the follies of contemporary living. On the surface, it may appear that Baumbach is siding with the over 40s but he's just as hard on Stiller's documentarian  as he is on Driver's ambitious film maker. The humor in the film has the sting of recognition so that your laugh gets caught in your throat. I can see how someone can see the film as the rant of an "old" man (Baumbach is 44) but that's hardly the case. The flaws of one generation are no greater than the flaws of another, the aim is to go past those stereotypes. Baumbach also takes a perceptive cut toward contemporary documentary film making. While the women don't fare as well as the males, Watts and Seyfried are good enough actresses to flesh out their characters. With Charles Grodin, Adam Horowitz and Maria Dizzia.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Beat Generation (1959)

A police detective (Steve Cochran) doesn't trust women based on his unfaithful first wife. When a psychotic serial rapist (Ray Danton), who only assaults married women, goes on a rampage, the detective is remarkably insensitive to the rape victims as if they invited their own rape. But when his second wife (Fay Spain) becomes a victim of the rapist and later becomes pregnant, not sure if he or the rapist is the father makes him realize there is a thin line between him and the rapist. This B&W thriller with noir-ish trimmings is quite daring for its era in its subject matter but is also a victim of its era. When the raped wife understandably wants to terminate the pregnancy, a priest (William Schallert) lectures her on "executing" the baby and even her husband says it is wrong. There's also an uncomfortable subplot about a potential rape victim (Mamie Van Doren) whose ex-husband (Ray Anthony) walks in before the rape can occur but she's so turned on by the rapist, she pursues him! Talk about sending out mixed signals. Part exploitation film, part social message. Directed by Charles F. Haas. With Louis Armstrong, Margaret Hayes, Guy Stockwell, Billy Daniels, Vampira, James Mitchum and Irish McCalla (SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE).

The American President (1995)

The President (Michael Douglas) of the United States is a widower who will soon be running for re-election. He becomes romantically involved with an environmental lobbyist (Annette Bening) and their romance has repercussions, both political and in matters of integrity. The word Capraesque is mentioned a couple of times in THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT and it's fitting as Rob Reiner's film encompasses an old fashioned homespun view of America while wrapping it up in a new suit of clothes. Capracorn isn't my thing and I genuinely despise films like MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. But Reiner and his screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (TV's WEST WING) have cleverly remodeled the old Capra mold into a romantic comedy with political trimmings. Douglas (in one of his most likable performances) and Bening make for a marvelous couple and they're surrounded by a solid supporting cast. I could have done without Marc Shaiman's shameless underscore which is movie music at its worst. With Martin Sheen, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael J. Fox, David Paymer, Samantha Mathis, Wendie Malick, Anna Deavere Smith and John Mahoney. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Kaguyahime No Monogatari (aka Tale Of The Princess Kaguya) (2013)

In medieval Japan, a woodcutter (Takeo Chil) discovers a doll like child in a bamboo stalk. He takes her home where he and his wife (Nobuko Miyamoto) raise the girl as their own. But the woodcutter becomes ambitious and decides to raise the child as a noble woman and uses the gold he finds in the same bamboo grove where he found his daughter (Aki Asakura) to take her to the capital to be raised as a Princess. Based on the Japanese folktale TALE OF THE BAMBOO CUTTER, this jewel from Studio Ghibli is one of the most beautiful animated films I've ever seen. The artistry in its simplicity is stunning and it's like watching a series of pastel watercolors in motion. Directed by Isao Takahata, the film is more than just a visual treat however. It's a bittersweet rumination on dreams, ambition and lost opportunity. I watched the Japanese language version but the voice cast of the English dubbed version includes James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Chloe Grace Moretz, Beau Bridges, Lucy Liu, George Segal, Oliver Platt, Dean Cain and James Marsden. 

La Battaglia Di Marathon (aka The Giant Of Marathon) (1959)

In 490 BC, Persia has plans to attack Athens which is ill prepared to defend itself. The city lays its hope on an Olympic champion (Steve Reeves) who attempts to get Athens' nemesis Sparta to join them in defeating the Persians. But treachery may defeat him before he gets the chance. This is a superior piece of peplum, quite possibly Reeves' best sword and sandal effort. This may well be due to Jacques Tourneur (CAT PEOPLE) at the helm. It looks good (Mario Bava did the lensing) and the action sequences, especially the underwater attack, are very well done. The leading ladies, Mylene Demongeot (BONJOUR TRISTESSE) and Daniela Rocca (DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE) are fetching and can act. Ironically, the weak leak is Reeves himself. The part isn't complex but there's a little more depth to the character than the usual Hercules roles and Reeves isn't a good enough actor to give any shading to his character. It doesn't help that the usual post sync sound never lets you forget you're watching a peplum. With Sergio Fantoni and Albert Lupo.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Rawhide Years (1955)

After working as a shill for a crooked gambler (Donald Randolph), a young man (Tony Curtis) attempts to go straight but he is falsely accused as an accomplice in the murder of a respected rancher (Minor Watson). He goes on the run but eventually returns to claim the woman (Colleen Miller) he loves. Big mistake as his past comes to the forefront. Universal churned out a lot of westerns in the 1950s and most of them are routine but a few of them are just about good enough to hold your interest. THE RAWHIDE YEARS is one of them. There's nothing special about it whatsoever but its narrative is clever enough to keep you watching and the young Tony Curtis is quite appealing. If you're a westerns fan, you should be quite entertained if you go in with your expectations restrained. Directed by Rudolph Mate (WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE). With Arthur Kennedy as one of those con men that we're supposed to find lovable, William Demarest, Peter Van Eyck, William Gargan and Leigh Snowden.

Lady L (1965)

An 80 year old dowager (Sophia Loren) relates her rise from a laundress in a French brothel to the respected Lady Lendale of the British aristocracy to her biographer (Cecil Parker). Based on the novel by Romain Gary and written and directed by Peter Ustinov, who also plays Prince Otto of Bavaria in the film. It's a total misfire. What should have been a sumptuous and elegant farce ends up a dull leaden lump of a movie. Loren and Paul Newman (who plays her anarchist lover) have zero on screen chemistry and poor Newman doesn't have a farcical bone in his handsome body. The film had been planned several years earlier with George Cukor at the helm and Gina Lollobrigida and Tony Curtis in the Loren/Newman roles with Ralph Richardson as the impotent Lord Lendale, a role played by David Niven here. I don't know that it would have been a better film but it certainly couldn't be any worse.  Totally lacking in wit and charm, at least it looks good with Henri Alekan's (ROMAN HOLIDAY) cinematography and the lush art direction and costumes. With Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, Claude Dauphin, John Wood and Marcel Dalio.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Laura (1944)

A police detective (Dana Andrews) is investigating the murder of a beautiful advertising executive (Gene Tierney). As he begins to probe into the life of the dead woman by interviewing her mentor (Clifton Webb), her fiance (Vincent Price), her Aunt (Judith Anderson) and her maid (Dorothy Adams); he finds himself drawn to her and her lovely portrait which hangs in her living room. One of the quintessential film noirs, LAURA is elegant, stylish and bolstered by a witty screenplay which is what makes it so different than the tougher grittier noirs like DOUBLE INDEMNITY or OUT OF THE PAST. Based on the novel by Vera Caspary, Otto Preminger keeps a firm grip on the proceedings and displaying a talent for the genre that he would return to for the next ten years. Clifton Webb walks off with the film with his acidic line readings and pretty much established his persona for the rest of his career. Of course, mention must be made of David Raksin's seductive theme that permeates the film and became a classic in its own right. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Wings In The Dark (1935)

A daredevil aviatrix (Myrna Loy) is attracted to a daring pilot (Cary Grant). But their romance is just in the beginning stages when he is blinded in an accident. She begins to take an active presence in his life but keeps it from him that she is footing most of the bills since he's in financial straits. Pauline Kael once said, "If we've got so used to the absence of stars that we no longer think about it much, we've also lost one of the great pleasures of moviegoing: watching incandescent people up there, more intense and dazzling than people we ordinarily encounter in life". The reason I bring up Kael's quote is that Grant and Loy are the sole reason for watching a routine aerial romance like WINGS IN THE DARK. Even if they're not at their best (and they're not), they're still Grant and Loy and their screen presence alone (though Grant hadn't yet perfected his) make the movie eminently watchable even as you realize, it's not very good. One can bask in the pleasure of watching them do their stuff even though the material is not worthy of them. Directed by James Flood. With Dean Jagger, Roscoe Karns and Hobart Cavanaugh.

The Leech Woman (1960)

An endocrinologist (Phillip Terry) and his older wife (Coleen Gray) travel to Africa where he hopes to discover a rare plant that will reverse the aging process. It is there that that the wife discovers how little she means to her husband and how he has been using her. But she gets her revenge. This minor piece of sci-fi horror is rather absurd but it's done well enough and anchored by a strong performance by that underrated actress Coleen Gray that makes up for the rather preposterous narrative. The African scenes are clearly shot on a sound stage with stock footage of jungle landscapes and animals inserted to dupe the gullible that it was actually shot there. Directed by Edward Dein. With Grant Williams (THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN), Gloria Talbott, John Van Dreelen, Estelle Hemsley and Kim Hamilton.

The Long Hot Summer (1985)

A drifter (Don Johnson) with a reputation as a "barn burner" arrives at a small Southern town run by the patriarch (Jason Robards) of the Varner family. The old man takes a liking to the drifter and even urges him to get involved with his spinster daughter (Judith Ivey) while his own son (William Russ) seethes with anger at being displaced. Although the screenplay is attributed to Rita Mae Brown and Dennis Turner based on the William Faulkner novel THE HAMLET, the film is based more on the 1958 film version of the same name rather than Faulkner's book. Some of the dialog is taken verbatim from the previous Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank screenplay. The first half of the film stays closely to the 1958 film but the last 40 minutes drifts off with material that is neither from Faulkner nor the 1958 film and it deflates quickly. Up until then, it was a solid piece of entertainment, well done. The acting however is uneven, ranging from awful (William Russ) to adequate (Don Johnson) to good (Judith Ivey). And I could have done without the hideous droning synthesizer score by Charles Bernstein. Directed by Stuart Cooper. With Ava Gardner (wasted), Cybill Shepherd, James Gammon and Wings Hauser.

Effie Gray (2014)

The famed Victorian art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise) marries a naive young girl (Dakota Fanning). But the marriage is a disaster. Not only is he a mama's boy but she finds herself stuck in a sexless and passionless marriage. Based on the true story of Euphemia Chalmers Millais (she would later marry the pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais), the film was made 4 years ago but various lawsuits against Emma Thompson (who wrote the screenplay and plays Lady Eastlake) citing plagiarism kept the film off screens until late last year when it open it England and is now getting a U.S. release. The film's unusual topic and its often penetrating look at the status of women in Victorian England elevates it from the usual Masterpiece Theater feel of these kinds of costume dramas. But damn, it moves at a snail's pace and more than once I wanted to yell at the screen, "Just get on with it!". Two things: one, it was great seeing Claudia Cardinale back on screen even if her part is no more than a cameo and two, the film is further evidence that Dakota Fanning is a talented young actress just waiting for the right role. Unfortunately, this isn't it. Directed by Richard Laxton. With James Fox, David Suchet, Julie Walters, Tom Sturridge, Derek Jacobi and Robbie Coltrane.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Horror Of Dracula (1958)

A librarian (John Van Eyssen) arrives at the castle of Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) to take up his duties but in reality, he is a vampire hunter. But the Count soon disposes of him and sets his sights on the librarian's fiancee (Carol Marsh). This Hammer horror (in which Lee plays Dracula for the first time) takes great liberties with the Bram Stoker source material. The director Terence Fisher is able to infuse the film with a suitably colorful atmosphere but except for the movie's graphic finale, the film is short on genuine horror. Tod Browning's Dracula may creak and Lugosi's Count may be a bit stiff but there's an authentic dread to the proceedings which are lacking here. That being said, for what it is, it's quite entertaining. With Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, Michael Gough and Melissa Stribling.

The Servant (1963)

A young member (James Fox) of the British upper class hires a manservant (Dirk Bogarde) to take care of his daily needs. His class conscious fiancee (Wendy Craig) takes a dislike to the servant but slowly but surely, the scale of power tips to the stronger of the two ... the servant. Based on a 1948 short novel by Robin Maugham, this was the first of three collaborations between director Joseph Losey and the writer Harold Pinter. It's an incisive look at the disintegration of the British aristocracy by the working class. It's not a pleasant film and Losey and Pinter push too hard at times but there's no denying its potency. I'm not Bogarde's biggest fan but I don't think he's ever been so well cast. You can positively feel the contempt coming out of his every pore. The moody B&W lensing by Douglas Slocombe and the effective underscore by John Dankworth contribute to the malaise. With Sarah Miles, Catherine Lacey and Patrick Magee.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Chances Are (1989)

A young District Attorney (Christopher McDonald), whose wife (Cybill Shepherd) is expecting their first child, is killed by a car. He is reincarnated and as a struggling reporter meets a young law student (Mary Stuart Masterson) to whom he is attracted. But when he meets the girl's mother (Shepherd), he begins to understand who he was in his past life and that the law student is his now grown daughter and her mother, his wife. What's a guy to do? This charming fantasy romantic comedy has a lot going for it. Directed by Emile Ardolino (DIRTY DANCING), it has four leading players (Ryan O'Neal is the 4th) with a talent for sophisticated comedy and they are able to ride over the bumps whenever the screenplay falters. The concept, of course, isn't very fresh. The subject was previously handled in HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941) and its 1978 remake HEAVEN CAN WAIT to name just two. But it's sharp and engaging and one would have to put up a fight to dislike it (unless you're the type that hates romcoms period). The film's love song After All (sung by Cher and Peter Cetera) was nominated for a best song Oscar. With Josef Sommer, Henderson Forsythe, Fran Ryan and Joe Grifasi.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Proud Ones (1956)

When the first cattle trail herds arrive in a small Kansas town, the sheriff (Robert Ryan) sees the town grow greedy at the prospect of all that money. To make matters worse, an old nemesis (Robert Middleton) takes over the town saloon while the bitter son (Jeffrey Hunter) of a man the sheriff killed in a gunfight shows up. There's not much one can say about a western like this. It's pretty standard stuff, the good guys vs. the bad guys so there are a lot of gunfights. If you're a fan of westerns (as I am), this should be enough to entertain you but others may be more discerning. It helps to have Robert Ryan in the lead as he brings his own particular brand of gravitas to the film which automatically fills in for the screenwriters lack of detailed characterization. Hunter doesn't bring much to the party except his good looks and the always welcome Virginia Mayo as the romantic interest is wasted. The simple guitar underscore is by Lionel Newman. Directed by Robert D. Webb (BENEATH THE 12 MILE REEF). With Walter Brennan, Arthur O'Connell, Rodolfo Acosta and Ken Clark.

The North Star (1943)

In 1941 Ukraine, a small village finds itself under attack when the Germans invade Russia. While some of the men take to the hills to form a band of guerrillas, others stay in the village to resist the vicious Nazi takeover. In 1943, the Russians were our allies and this blatantly pro-Soviet propaganda piece is no worse than the usual WWII propaganda films Hollywood was churning out. Lillian Hellman's screenplay has the Russian peasants working happily in harmony, throwing community picnics, singing (lyrics courtesy of Ira Gershwin no less) and dancing (so much so that the film threatens to turn into a musical at any moment). The dialog is so dreadful that one can't believe it came from the woman who wrote THE LITTLE FOXES and THE CHILDREN'S HOUR. The characters don't talk the way real people do, they're mouthpieces of Hellman. Fortunately, the director Lewis Milestone (STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS) and his ace cinematographer James Wong Howe know how to shoot action sequences and they are the highlights of the film: the first attack on the road by German planes, the burning of the village as the Nazis approach, the guerrilla attack on the German soldiers. Although admired in its day (it got six Oscar nominations), with the advent of the Cold War the film was re-cut, thirty minutes were removed that were pro-Soviet. The score is by Aaron Copland. The massive cast includes Dana Andrews, Anne Baxter, Walter Huston, Eric von Stroheim, Farley Granger, Walter Brennan, Dean Jagger, Ann Harding, Jane Withers and the wonderful child actress Ann Carter (CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE).

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

L'Eredita Ferramonti (aka The Inheritance) (1976)

Set in 19th century Italy, a wealthy man (Anthony Quinn) retires and sells his bakery. But he has nothing but contempt for his two sons, a ne'er do well (Fabio Testi) and a half wit (Gigi Proietti) plus a bitch daughter (Adriana Asti) married to a corrupt government official (Paolo Bonacelli). But he promises them they will will get nothing when he dies as he has cut them out of his will.  But when the half wit marries a seemingly modest young woman (Dominique Sanda), they use her as a pawn to get back at their father ..... or is she using them?  Based on the novel by Gaetano Carlo Chelli, director Mauro Bolognini whips up an intense cat and mouse game where you're never sure who's playing who nor what the outcome will be. Unfortunately, the ending seems right out of a 1940s Hollywood flick where the wicked must be punished but considering all of the characters are either immoral or amoral perhaps the wicked manage to win after all. It's a handsome looking film with Ennio Guarnieri's (SWEPT AWAY) soft focus cinematography at the forefront and a typical Ennio Morricone score nudging the film along. Sanda won the best actress award at the Cannes film festival for her work here.