6/26/2018

Movie Review: The Yellow Birds (2017)


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Striving to do justice to Iraq veteran Kevin Powers' eponymous 2012 award-winning novel, Blue Caprice director Alexandre Moors anchors his adaptation of The Yellow Birds with lyrical Thin Red Line style voice-over narration and scenes that – like a river – sway back and forth in time.

A solidly made if ultimately underwhelming war picture, although it's elevated by an impressive ensemble of actors, Birds fails to connect us in any real way to a majority of the young soldiers we follow from boot camp into Iraq over the course of the film.


The Achilles Heel of the genre, while at least we get a better sense of the characters than we did in Black Hawk Down –thanks largely in part due to the decision to bring the mothers of our two leads (played by Jennifer Aniston and Toni Collette) into the narrative – just when we begin to bond with the main characters in The Yellow Birds, we unexpectedly move on.

And while these segues provide a very real, stylistic link to the unpredictability of life during wartime, when you combine the narrative shortcomings with the film's mere ninety-five minute running time, it's easy to wonder how much material was left on the cutting room floor or not shot at all due to budget and/or time constraints.


Originally developed by Pete's Dragon writer/director David Lowery who was forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts, when he first climbed aboard Birds as a replacement director, Moors found himself working not only from a novel but also the script and vision of someone else.

Hoping to remedy that, he hired his Blue Caprice writer R.F.I. Porto to revise Yellow's script, which led to more delays and cast changes. And while as a experienced writer, director, and editor in his own right, Moors was able to find his groove, certain scenes in the film feel muddled enough that you get the impression that they might have worked better in – if not a different movie altogether – than at least a different version of the script or final cut.


Repeatedly moving from past to present throughout to find the soldiers pre-war, in war, and post-war, the film follows the experiences of eighteen year old Daniel Murphy and twenty year old John Bartle (played by Tye Sheridan and Alden Ehrenreich) who become fast friends in boot camp before they're quickly deployed overseas.

And although we know what happens to one of the two characters due to an ill-advised opening narration that must've worked much better in Kevin Powers' novel than it does here, more than just filmic CliffsNotes, The Yellow Birds is still a beautifully rendered and haunting portrait of the way that war changes the men and women who answer the call.

Not nearly as impactful or as cohesive as it wants to be however, unfortunately aside from Murphy, Bartle, and their mothers, the other characters are shortchanged throughout.


At its best when it opts for an understated approach as opposed to a late-introduced, heavy handed baptismal motif that immediately pulls you out of the movie, Birds is nonetheless average overall.

Breaking our heart in two memorable sequences, particularly by way of a bittersweet dance scene which bookends the work, although it doesn't soar for very long, just like real birds, Moors' Yellow Birds dazzles more in the quiet moments than it does during war.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

DVD Review: Hamlet (2015)


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A dazed and unhinged Hamlet, Maxine Peake is nevertheless able to unleash paragraphs of dialogue with ferocious, lightning quick speed. From growls to laughter, she uses the various notes of her voice almost musically.

And as the first actress to tackle the role of Shakespeare's vengeful Danish prince since Frances La Tour took it on in 1979, Peake simply dazzles in Manchester's 2015 Royal Exchange Theatre production directed for the stage by Sarah Frankcom, which has at last made its way to DVD courtesy of Film Movement's sister label Omnibus Entertainment.


Yet considering the fact that they didn't alter the text or characterizations much to suit the casting, Hamlet's daring gender blind casting might throw you at first. However, once you settle into Frankcom's bold, minimalist, and (fittingly for its Danish setting) near Dogme '95 like staging which wouldn't have been out of place in one of Lars von Trier's late '90s era movies, it becomes not only thrilling to see women deliver some of Shakespeare's most quotable lines but also makes you reevaluate some of the work's core characters and relationships.

As the anchor of the play, Peake's performance is sure to make Shakespeare scholars recall Sarah Bernhardt's argument that Hamlet should only be played by women. Yet the decision to cast a woman in the role of Polonius makes the now mother/father and daughter tragedy of Ophelia all the more more upsetting.


A worthwhile endeavor for fellow theater buffs that translates impressively well to DVD with Margaret Williams directing it for the screen, Hamlet features a strong supporting cast, inventive staging, and fortunately only a couple of minor hiccups few and far between that don't quite live up to potential we've seen displayed in other Bard variations.

Making us feel like we're a part of the action, Hamlet sets itself apart early on during the opening scene where palace guards in neon vests hunt for any sign of Hamlet's father's ghost. Reminding us of the same feeling later on in the production when multiple characters simply stand around and watch Hamlet and Ophelia go mad without doing a thing, in the hands of Frankcom, bearing witness becomes a recurring, emphasized theme, thus giving the 1603 play greater urgency in today's violent world.


Ensuring that everything from Peake's David Bowie meets Billy Idol clothing and hairstyle to the wailing, dissonant jazz that plays between scenes during set-ups serves to punctuate the material even more, in this angry punk rock production of Hamlet, Frankcom and company take Polonius' advice of “to thine own self be true” to heart.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

6/25/2018

Blu-ray Review: King of Hearts (1966)


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Fresh out of film school and stuck making military documentary shorts, director Philippe de Broca discovered that not only had he had enough of war but he only wanted to make movies that would lift people up from that moment on.

Honing his skills even further as an assistant director on Chabrol's Le Beau Serge and Truffaut's The 400 Blows, de Broca's earliest successes revealed he had less in common with those filmmakers than he did with Tati and Demy given his affection for the cinematic showmanship of action vs. dialogue (best expressed in well choreographed over-the-top stunts) alongside ultra-bright colors and song.


Drawing on a number of genres from action to comedy to espionage in such influential international hits as That Man From Rio and Up to His Ears (both of which I reviewed earlier in another glorious Cohen Media Blu-ray release), de Broca proved that “laughter is the best defense against upsets in life.”

But try as he might to put war behind him, when his frequent collaborator, actor, and screenwriter Daniel Boulanger turned in a script for the daring antiwar comedy, King of Hearts (based on an idea by Maurice Bessy), de Broca took advantage of the opportunity to look back at the past with satirical glasses.


A bona fide cult hit made all the more significant given the war in Vietnam, Hearts experienced greater success in the United States than in de Broca's home country of France to the point that it played for five consecutive years in a Boston arthouse in the mid 1970s once it finally made its way across the pond.

Set during the final days of World War I, in this surrealist cross between Catch 22 and Alice in WonderlandScottish soldier Private Plumpick (Alan Bates) is given the plum awful assignment of traveling to a picturesque village in the French northern countryside that the Germans have wired to blow sky high. His mission? To locate and disarm the bomb, of course.

But while most of the occupants have abandoned the village, in a humdinger of a twist, the residents of a nearby psychiatric asylum wander out of their now unlocked surroundings to take their place. Replacing the sterility of shared white rooms with homes and businesses that had been left behind, the patients eagerly welcome the bewildered Plumpick upon his arrival.


Although it takes a good twenty minutes or so for viewers to get acclimated to King's unusual rhythm and storyline or lack thereof, de Broca's intriguing allegory isn't lost on us at all as he skillfully uses the absurdity of the situation to ask the viewer (as well as Plumpick) whether any of the film's characters are more or less sane than war.

Largely plotless save for the soldier's main mission to find and dispose of the bomb as well as a late developing romantic subplot involving the lovely Genevieve Bujold, Hearts gives de Broca the freedom to continue build upon his favored recipe of contemporary French absurdist humor and ‘20s era Hollywood slapstick, which he'd employed earlier in Rio and Ears.


The son of a production designer, de Broca’s attention to detail is spectacular here and everything about Hearts gives off a big screen Technicolor wonderland carnival vibe from Bujold’s main sunshine bright yet cotton candy light costume to composer Georges Delerue’s pitch perfect, merry-go-round ready score.

Overwhelmed by the idea of any anything goes free-for-all, while de Broca’s house of cards starts to topple during its second act, scripter Boulanger wisely shuffles in greater stakes – reminding us that although its residents might be blissfully unaware – war lingers on either end of the street.


An obvious cinematic impact on M*A*S*H* and No Man’s Land among others, while de Broca’s decision to make an experimental, near silent comedy excels overall, it prevents us from getting as close to his characters as we’d like as we find we're only able to identity them by their royal and/or playing card names.

And although it keeps the players at an arm's length for a majority of the picture, ironically this set up makes the war vs. peace impact of Hearts all the more meaningful by the time we reach the picture's moving conclusion, which is sure to stay with viewers more than any mind-boggling, comedic stunt.


Given a meticulous Technicolor restoration in time for its fiftieth anniversary and theatrical re-release back in 2016, Hearts has at last been transferred to stellar Blu-ray and DVD format complete with a few terrific bonus interviews and features, thanks to the Cohen Film Collection.

Requiring more patience than de Broca's more universally revered adventurous fare, although it's admittedly not for everyone, King of the Hearts remains one of de Broca’s most daring, ambitious, and surprisingly personal works.

A war movie where true to de Broca form, laughter provides the best defense against the madness of mass violence, although topical in the ‘60s, more than fifty years later, King of Hearts proves it still has something to say.



Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

6/15/2018

Movie Review: Hearts Beat Loud (2018)


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Having flirted with original songs and musical moments in his two previous pictures – perhaps most notably in the moving ensemble dramady more deserving of a bigger audience, I'll See You in My Dreams – writer/director Brett Haley decided to fully embrace the genre that made him fall in love with theatrical storytelling back in high school with this summer's feel great indie, Hearts Beat Loud.

Sure to be a word-of-mouth hit, although it's not a traditional musical in the song and dance sense of the word, much like John Carney's recent works Once, Begin Again, and Sing Street, Hearts Beat Loud is centered on the art of making music.


However, much like taking a song we've heard before and putting it in an entirely new key, the fact the characters in the film are father and daughter as opposed to simply two members of a band sets this effort from Haley and co-writer Marc Basch apart from the pack.

Giving it added urgency, Hearts is set during the last summer that Nick Offerman's widowed father Frank Fisher has to spend with his brainy seventeen year old only daughter, Sam (played by Dope's Kiersey Clemons in a star making role) before she's set to trade Red Hook, New York for med school at UCLA.

More than just a mere hobby, as explained by Haley in the press notes, music is Frank and Sam's preferred “mode of communication.” In impromptu jam sessions, Frank's guitar, Sam's keyboard and the lyrics she scribbles in her journal (the same way her rocker turned record store owner father did before her) allow the two speak “the language they know best.”


An obsessive High Fidelity level music encyclopedia, since Frank is clearly the more enthusiastic of the two, initially we get the sense that Sam might just be indulging her father in his favorite ritual. But once we hear her record and mix the song they'd pieced together like a puzzle, we understand not only how tremendously talented the seemingly introverted overachiever is but also just how much she thrives on a musical outlet because it gives her the opportunity to process thoughts to her father she otherwise might not.

Having met a beautiful aspiring artist (played by American Honey star Sasha Lane), it isn't until Frank helps Sam decipher the lyrics she's written which she sings with such earnest soulfulness that she realizes she's fallen in love.

Enjoying her new summer romance even though she's set to leave in the fall, Sam's future is complicated even more after Frank submits the film's infectious title track to Spotify and it begins to catch on.



While, like Once, Hearts is ultimately light on plot, there's much more going on in the film than meets the eye. Perhaps best epitomized near the beginning of the movie – given that we're first introduced to Sam in a class discussion on medical symptoms of the heart right before she meets her love interest – in addition to showcasing the creative process, in Hearts, Haley pays tribute to the way that life inspires art.

Filled with symbolism, the film makes the most of its character driven plot in big ways as Frank faces a future without Sam and/or his failing record store (both of which Haley and Basch inform us are approximately the same age) or small ones as witnessed in a lovely sequence where Sam learns to ride a bike, move forward, and let go.


Complete with a standout soundtrack, the movie boasts four terrific original songs by its composer Keegan DeWitt, who much like Basch has collaborated with Haley on his last two films which premiered at Sundance, much like Hearts.

One of my favorite films of 2018 so far, Hearts Beat Loud achieves the darn near impossible feat of telling the story of a relationship between parents and teens that's not only positive in its tone but also feels real.


And while a great deal of the credit for that goes to the believable chemistry between its two stars, it's buoyed by great character performances from its supporting players throughout, including Toni Collette as Frank's landlord with romantic potential, Ted Danson as his local bar owning friend, plus Haley's I'll See You in My Dreams leading lady Blythe Danner as Frank's dementia laden mother.

Reminiscent of his Cheers days, as the purveyor of bartender wisdom, Danson steals scenes with ease. And although admittedly some of Danson (as well as Sasha Lane's) quotable lines of advice could qualify as signposting – which in most movies could threaten a viewer's suspension-of-disbelief – the reason Hearts gets away with it is owed as much to its genre as its plot.

At a pivotal crossroads in both of their lives, it's safe to assume that both father and daughter could use some guidance. Plus there's something absolutely musical about the brevity of lines such as "you have to be brave before you can be good." And who knows? Their lines just might end up in a song so good that, as with Hearts you'll find yourself wanting to sing along.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

6/10/2018

Olive Films Blu-ray Review: Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)


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Wanting something and needing it fast is a trait often attributable to male leads in American movies but – whether planning a heist or offing their lover's husband – it's safe to say that men in Film Noir pictures are an altogether different breed.

Willing to do whatever it takes after they zero in on what they need, the men in director Robert Wise's largely overlooked, stylish 1959 feature Odds Against Tomorrow are no exception. And this is perhaps best epitomized in a scene where Robert Ryan's racist, domineering screw-loose lead barrels down the road on his way to rob a bank, driving 110 miles-per-hour with his eyes closed towards the film's literal and metaphorical dead end.

Closer to the work of Sam Fuller than Fritz Lang, Wise's odd, thought-provoking, atmospheric effort works best as an allegory about racism and masculinity filtered through the lens of Film Noir.


Occasionally using an infra-red camera to create “black skies with white clouds” and change the look and feel of certain scenes including our introduction to Robert Ryan's WWII vet and ex-con Earl Slater, similar to the way that the screenplay employs creative call backs to lines in earlier scenes to give them a brand new read, Robert Wise does the same thing with Tomorrow’s editing and cinematography.

The first major film to be edited by Dede Allen, who would change the craft forever less than a decade later in Bonnie and Clyde, in Odds Against Tomorrow, you can see her experiment with the jump cuts that would serve her so well in Dog Day Afternoon as well as Bonnie and Clyde.


Shot by Edge of the City's Joseph C. Brun, from the film's use of quick cuts to get us into Slater's lonely, paranoiac frame-of-mind to some to others that took my breath away in their artistry as pigeons flew off like a shot just as two of the film's heavies meet, Odds looks better than ever in this new high definition Blu-ray release from Olive Films.

Based on William P. McGivern's novel of the same name, although producer and star Harry Belafonte tapped the blacklisted Abraham Polonsky to pen the script, the two had to use Belafonte's novelist friend John O. Killens as its credited front for thirty-seven years until Polonsky's name was rightfully restored.


Singing a few lively numbers (and banging the hell out of a xylophone), the ever-charming Belafonte serves as a terrific foil to Ryan's Slater as gambler Johnny Ingram.

Up to his eyeballs in debt, although he initially turns down mutual friend Dave Burke (Ed Begley) on his offer to rob a bank alongside the bigoted Slater, once his ex-wife and daughter are threatened, Ingram quickly changes his mind, even though he knows it's sure to end in tragedy.


Co-starring dynamic scene-stealers Shelly Winters and Gloria Grahame, there's an interesting sequence revolving sexual invitation and the idea of a locked or unlocked door that moves from lovingly romantic to frighteningly manic, which takes on additional meaning as the film continues and we learn the robbery's success or failure all hinges on the chain of a door lock.


Composed and conducted by the Modern Jazz Quartet's John Lewis, the film's hit soundtrack album had more staying power than Wise's riveting, bold film, especially compared to the work that was to come from The Sound of Music director. Thankfully its long overdue Blu-ray release from Olive Films serves up a much needed second chance to discover a forgotten classic that Noir lovers in particular are sure to want.



Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Blu-ray Review: Savannah Smiles (1982)


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A family comedy about an accidental kidnapping is an odd concept to say the least but a kidnapping comedy inspired by Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion is an altogether different thing as actor turned writer/producer Mark Miller proved with this 1980 release, Savannah Smiles.

Reminiscent less of Grand Illusion than a long lost 1930s comedy complete with a palatable Depression era friendly “money doesn't buy happiness” theme, time has not done many favors for French director Pierre De Moro’s nostalgic comedy about a precocious six-year-old girl who hides out with two crooks-on-the-lam after running away from her wealthy home.


Not edgy enough to attract a studio and perhaps just a little too risky to appeal to ticket buyers acclimated to Walt Disney’s instantly identifiable kiddie comedies, Miller’s self-financed feature (which was named after his daughter and muse), plays like a saccharine blend of Smokey and the Bandit, Paper Moon, and The Kid.

A fairy tale by way of the Three Stooges, though largely predictable and plot-free, the film’s winning original songs from Ken Sutherland coupled with Miller and Donovan Scott’s gamely performances as the accidental kidnappers turned temporary surrogate parents of adorable Bridgette Andersen’s eponymous lead keep us watching by the time the film wins you over in its heart-tugging final scenes.


Newly released as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from MVD Visual, don’t let the vintage cover design (and included poster) befitting of its original video store era fool you as Savannah Smiles looks better than ever in a 2K transfer from its original 35mm film source, on loan from Washington D.C.’s Library of Congress.

Offering viewers three behind-the-scenes documentary featurettes on different aspects of the title, MVD Visual serves up a bittersweet tribute to the gone-much-too-soon Andersen, whom I grew up watching repeatedly on a well-worn VHS recording of the Wonderful World of Disney’s made-for-TV movie The Parent Trap II.


And while I’m sure that De Moro’s Gen X cult family classic has similarly devoted fans, unfortunately even the sharpest restoration is unable to erase the flaws of Miller’s Grand Illusion inspired genre free-for-all.



Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Film Movement Blu-ray Review: The Great Silence (1968)


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Giving new meaning to the phrase “close but no cigar,” word is when Twentieth Century Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck reached the end of Sergio Corbucci's darkly subversive 1968 Spaghetti Western The Great Silence, he was rendered so speechless by the film's bleak ending that he swallowed the cigar he'd been smoking in absolute shock.

Unwilling to distribute the stark, anti-authoritarian picture in the United States (even after Corbucci was asked to shoot two new thankfully unused conclusions), Zanuck relegated Silence to a foreign release. And Corbucci's film did fairly well everywhere but its native Italy where – like Zanuck – one Sicilian viewer was so upset by the final showdown that he fired his gun in anger directly at the movie screen.


A revisionist take on the genre's classic Shane style paradigm wherein good triumphs over evil once a polite cowboy rides into town and sets things right, in Silence, A Man and a Woman actor Jean-Louis Trintignant saddles up for duty as the film's mute gunfighter-for-hire title lead.

Newly arrived in Snow Hill, Utah, Trintignant's Silence finds himself quickly caught up in a two-sided conflict. Turning the convention of "bad" outlaws and "good" bounty hunters on its head, in The Great Silence, the turf war is between a group of outlaws – many of whom committed petty crimes in order to give their loved ones something to eat – and the "bounty killers" who make a living getting away with murder plus a reward by gaming the system of killing in the name of (forced) self defense.


The brutality of the film's bounty killers led by Klaus Kinski's sadistic Loco (whose character was partly inspired by Boris Karloff's vampire in Mario Bava's Black Sabbath), as well as its message of political and judicial corruption are apparent right from the start of what Repo Man filmmaker and knowledgeable genre scholar Alex Cox has dubbed "the most pessimistic western of all time."

Reflecting the off-screen violence of 1968 – and the deaths of Che Guevara and Malcolm X in particular – by subverting the genre that he treasured but had recently felt growing stale as a storyteller, Corbucci set out to make his own snowy homage to John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn and Andre DeToth's Day of the Outlaw.

Filmed in the Italian Dolomites as opposed to the traditional Spaghetti locale of Spain, Corbucci's opus opens with a sea of white as far as the eye can see. Augmented by twenty-six tons of shaving cream, the snowy visual scope not only matches Silence's melancholic tone but, contrasted by its dark sets and costumes, it punctuates the film's bursts of red blood and black gunfire that much more.


And similar to the way that a memorable match cut of a flame is employed to take us from the present to a flashback – from Ennio Morricone's simpler and relatively downbeat score to the brutal (and occasionally blurry) beauty of Silvano Ippoliti's cinematography – everything in Silence foreshadows the eventual literal and metaphorical darkness to come.

Worthy of endless analysis from political to religious to Freudian to moral, the revolutionary work makes brilliant use of a genre that lends itself so well to subtext.


Breaking new ground, although relatively chaste, Silence notably features Corbucci's one and only love scene. Serving as a powerful step in the right direction in terms of gender and racial equality, not only is the romantic moment initiated by its female lead (after she's given a firm no to someone else) but by featuring a white actor and black actress in the form of Trintignant and talented newcomer Vonetta McGee it's also interracial in nature. And although Corbucci had no interest in filming another, by using love instead of war, Silence's brief moment of tenderness might've broken down walls that violence wouldn't breach in movies to come.

For decades only a cult film here in the United States, now thanks to Film Movement, The Great Silence has at last been given a gorgeous 2k restoration and theatrical release in time for its fiftieth anniversary. As loaded with bonus features as Corbucci's film is with symbolism, the brand new Blu-ray and DVD editions of Silence boast a terrific essay from film critic Simon Abrams, the two unused alternate endings, a commentary featurette with Alex Cox, as well as the 1988 Spaghetti Western documentary Westerns, Italian Style and more, although the main draw remains the film itself.


Visually reminiscent of Robert Altman's own subversive 1971 western, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Great Silence also served as a major influence on Quentin Tarantino's work. Yet despite the fact that Corbucci paid homage to multiple films in just as many genres, in terms of how to make a Spaghetti Western set in the late 1800s relevant to those in the late 1960s, in the end, Corbucci was far more inspired by events playing out in the news than he was by art.

A fascinating watch, now with the Trump Administration working to game the system, escape justice, and dial us back to Old West era laws, eerily some of the political arguments and warnings in Corbucci's classic have become timelier than ever. Just like the flame in the film that flicks us from present to past, The Great Silence shows us that although things have changed, when it comes to where we ultimately want to be as a country, we're still close but no cigar. Yet even though it holds up a startling mirror to society, maybe instead of feeling defeated by the ending, we can just worry about right now and keep fighting for what's right.

Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

6/08/2018

Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray Review: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)


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Leaping out of the woods of 1850s Oregon Territory and onto Blu-ray with this jam-packed two-disc Warner Archive Collection Special Edition release, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is an explosion of color, dance, and song.


Though billed as a romantic extravaganza, given the fact that Brides is not only rooted in the Ancient Roman legend “The Rape of the Sabine Women” but also features a Disney World Pirates of the Caribbean ride style sequence where its male leads kidnap a group of sobbing (vs. Sabine) women to be their brides, its legacy as a love story times seven doesn't quite add up.


Still it's an exuberant work of tremendous artistry, especially in the film's thrilling group dance sequences, in which over a dozen professional dancers perform Michael Kidd's daring, athletic, logical setting based choreography involving axes and board beams which were – seven years before West Side Story – stylistically ahead of its time. Even going so far as to inspire some of Johnny Mercer's lyrics, it's Kidd who remains Seven's MVP.

Cranking out dazzling musicals with assembly line speed, in stark contrast to director Vincente Minnelli's Lerner and Loewe vehicle Brigadoon starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charise which was filming at the same time, MGM Studios considered Stanley Donen's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to be merely a B level production.


Frequently pulling money out of the film's budget to give to Minnelli's lovely but now largely overlooked romantic musical fantasy, when Seven Brides large cast of characters don't fill cinematographer George J. Folsey's frame, its relatively sparse sets and fake backdrops can be easily recognized, particularly if, like this reviewer, you're making the jump from seeing it on VHS twenty years ago to Blu-ray HD.

Using Ansco Color, the film shot by Folsey in CinemaScope is filled with the equivalent shade range of the 120 count box of Crayola crayons we used to dream about as children. And while all of that color gives Donen's upbeat film enough energy to cause the avalanche we see in the controversial sobbing women sequence onscreen, at home, you may need to flip through your TV menus and adjust the settings to a darker Cinema setting in order to tamp things down from neon poster board hued trees to a more believable Oregon color scheme.


Boasting feature commentary by Stanley Donen, classic trailers, anniversary newsreels, and a documentary hosted by star Howard Keel that includes new interviews with cast members Jane Powell and Jacques d'Amboise, and more, Warner Archive's two-disc set also includes a rarely seen alternate flat (1.77) widescreen version of the movie in 16x9 aspect ratio.

Based on Stephen Vincent Benet's Roman legend inspired short story “The Sobbin' Women,” as sexist and narratively flawed as the film about seven bachelor brothers in need of wives by any means is, Donen's film commands our attention based on the fact that it has so much going on at any one time.


With its catchy songs, jubilant performances, and influential choreography – all of which led to its transition to Broadway musical more than twenty years later – while we might have reservations about the wedding overall, for 102 minutes, Brides offers its guests a wildly entertaining time.


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