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The Bad Sleep Well

Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well blew me away. It’s not one of his most famous films, but it’s packed with power. I learned of The Bad Sleep Well via Tony Zhou’s Every Frame a Picture channel where Zhou analyzes Kurosawa’s effective placement of actors.

The film opens with reporters and detectives invading the wedding between the handsome apparently straight as an arrow Nishi to Yoshiko, the pretty and disabled daughter of CEO Iwabuchi, whose corrupt deals caused Nishi’s father’s suicide. Nishi has positioned himself in Iwabuchi’s corporation as his assistant and married into the clan to exact revenge for his father’s death.

Disrupted by the appearance of a wedding cake that looks like the building Nishi’s father killed himself and by the arrest of a loyal, timid employee indicate the disaster of the marriage. Nishi has spent five years trying to get into Iwabuchi’s inner circle to expose the kickbacks and violence that fueled the success of Public Corporation. Iwabuchi and his colleagues are cold blooded, willing to goad their employees to suicide if it helps them keep their dirty cash flowing in.

While the film differs from hamlet, there are many intended parallels. Nishi’s obsessed with his father’s death. Yoshiko is very much like Ophelia and she meets no better end. While Nishi’s mother never married, Kurosawa uses gray flannel ghosts to freak out his characters.

The evils of corporate greed have bene a common theme in modern film Somehow Kurosawa, while showing blatant, unrepentant evil, doesn’t seem to have exaggerated. The executives and their conniving seem all too real.

Every scene had me riveted and the ending was a complete surprise, though it was perfect. It’s a film the I won’t soon forget.

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Sepia Saturday

Sepia Saturday Header

Sepia Saturday’s prompt is a photo of Queen Elizabeth II and her sister. I’d like to honor the Queen on her 90th birthday so I’m sharing a photo of her and Prince Philip on a train in the Yukon.

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Sepia Saturday

Sepia Saturday Header

Families is the theme from Sepia Saturday so I searched for three different sorts of families from yesteryear. All these photos, like the one above, came from Flickr Commons.

Click here to get to the Sepia Saturday blog where you can get to all the other posts for the week.

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Russian Royal Family, Nicholas II, Alexandria & their children

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Farm Family, Montana, 1921

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I wouldn’t want to cross the woman on the right

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monochromatic

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Chicago's Wrigley Building

Chicago’s Wrigley Building

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts.

Other great photos:

Sepia Saturday

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Tunnels are perfect devices for storytelling, seemingly neutral spaces that can lead someone from one world to another. They can also look rather cool and evoke mystery and adventure. The ones I’ve found for Sepia Saturday, though older, have a sci fi vibe to them. I can envision them in Doctor Who or a retro sci fi movie along the lines of Things to Come. To see more Sepia Saturday posts, click here.

Source: Tyne & Wear, Flickr Commons

Source: Tyne & Wear, Flickr Commons

Swiss Guard Tunnel, 1910 Source: Flickr Commons, Library of Congress

Swiss Guard Tunnel, 1910
Source: Flickr Commons, Library of Congress

Source: Tyne & Wear Archives

Source: Tyne & Wear Archives

La Grande Illusion

b3_d__0_GrandIllusionI knew that Phil Jackson would show Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion  (1937) to his players before every season, but I wasn’t sure why. (I’m still uncertain as to what he wanted his team to learn, though the film has plenty of insights.)

I didn’t know what to expect. The DVD package promised a war film, which I’m never in the mood for, but if 3:10 to Yuma was good, perhaps this would be too. Starring Jean Gabin (whom I saw in Touchez Pas au Grisbi) La Grande Illusion tells the story of French POWs in World War I. Of course, if the main characters are stuck in prison, the film’s objective must be to get them out, n’est pas? Bien sur.

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The three central characters are Gabin’s working class Maréchal, Pierre Fresnay’s blue blooded Capt. de Boeldieu and Marcel Dalio’s Lt. Rosenthal. When Maréchal is captured he’s put in a cell with de Boeldieu and Rosenthal, who shares the delicacies his family send him from France with all his comrades. Maréchal soon learns that the men have been digging a tunnel to get out. While other escapees get caught and shot, these men’s plan is thwarted as they are all moved to another prison camp just before they plan to use the tunnel.

de Boeldieu et von Rauffenstein

de Boeldieu et von Rauffenstein

The three are transferred and try to escape repeatedly till they’re sent to Capt. von Rauffenstein’s camp. Played by Eric von Stroheim, von Rauffenstein is a compelling character. Throughout the film, von Rauffenstein wears a full body cast and wears white gloves to hide his burned hands. He lives in a gothic chapel that he’s oddly decorated and made into an apartment. He prides himself on running a civilized prisoner of war camp for officers, whom he treats almost like guests.

Von Rauffenstein most connects with de Boeldieu as their family trees are most on par. While de Boedleu has come to see that the old social order is dying, von Rauffenstein’s blind to that. He also can’t fathom how de Boedieu can seen any value in the working class or nouveau riche, that’s his downfall.

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From critic Peter Cowie’s essay on the Criterion Collection website:

Made just three years before World War II, it gazes back to a different era, and to a war, in the words of the director, “based on fair play, a war without atom bombs or torture.” Hitler had not appeared. “Nor,” says Renoir, “had the Nazis, who almost succeeded in making people forget that the Germans are also human beings.”

The film is simple, but compelling with fascinating characters I won’t soon forget. It unfolds effortlessly and haunts me days after I’ve seen it. I can’t wait to watch it again, next time with the commentary.

3:10 to Yuma

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I’m normally not a fan of Westerns, but if the Criterion Collection saw fit to offer Delmar Daves’ 3:10 to Yuma (1957), maybe this Western was worth a look. It sure was. Starring Glen Ford, whom I associate with TV sitcoms if anything, 3:10 to Yuma is a psychologically compelling game of cat and mouse. Ford plays Ben Wade, a slick, charming head of a gang of stagecoach robbers. After his gang kills a stagecoach driver while robbing the coach, his gang disperses to hide out. Ford miscalculates and allows a little romance to detain him and so he gets nabbed.

He’s in hick country and doubts the locals can keep his gang from him from breaking loose or getting rescued. Surely, he can outsmart these poor yokels. The central yokel, is a small rancher Dan Evans, who agrees to escort Wade to a town where a train to Yuma will take Wade to the nearest judge. Evans needs the $200 reward to save his cattle. Just as desperately Evans heeds his wife and sons’ esteem. That they seem to see him as a man who always plays it safe is getting to him.

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Some of the tensest moments are in a hotel room where these two character kill time till the train’s about to leave. The film’s strength is the psychology of the characters, that and the remarkable cinematography of the desolate Western landscape.

Good quote:

Bisbee Marshal: Do I have two volunteers? First Posse Member: We gotta know what we’re gettin’ ourselves into.

Second Posse Member: Sure… might not be safe.

Bisbee Marshal: Safe! Who knows what’s safe? I knew a man dropped dead from lookin’ at his wife. My own grandmother fought the Indians for sixty years… then choked to death on lemon pie. Do I have two volunteers?

As with all the Criterion films I’ve seen, the extras were well worth my time. One was an interview with Glen Ford’s son, who’s written his father’s biography. The other was an interview with Elmore Leonard, who wrote the short story the film’s based on. I’ve heard Leonard’s name and associated him with short stories, but the interview was inspiring and insightful for writers. The power of this spare film, stuck with me for days. I’d definitely check out more of Daves’ films. [categorie film, review, New Years’ Resolution Film Challenge]

Ordet

If you’re looking for something to watch as penance, perhaps Ordet will satisfy. I saw this listed in the bulletin at the Northwestern University Catholic center and thought for sure they’d have chosen a good film to discuss.

While I’m joking, Ordet is a a heck of a serious film. As Roger Ebert wrote it’s hard to get into, but once you’re in, you’re in. Perhaps.

Set in Denmark in 1925, Ordet’s the story of a family headed by Morten Borgen, a dour pastor in a stark rural town where religious denominations carry serious weight. If you’re not in the “right” one, you’re considered beyond the pale. Borgen’s got three sons, the oldest is married with two daughters. He’s an unbeliever, while his wife is sincere and devout. She’s also pregnant. The middle son is looney and thinks he’s Jesus, which gets on most people’s nerves. The youngest son wants to marry the tailor’s daughter, but her family goes to another church, one known for particularly dour worship services. Her father rejects marriage to a man from another denomination.

I doubt any character cracked a smile in the whole film. Yet after awhile the film does pull you in. It’s rather eerie. The daughter-in-law experiences complications when she goes into labor and this brings the story to a climax. I’m still not sure what to think of the film. I’m curious how the Northwestern discussion went. It’s a well crafted film, but certainly not for everyone. You have to be patient and interested in puzzling out meaning.

If you find the meaning, let me know.

Ordet

If you’re looking for something to watch as penance, perhaps Ordet will satisfy. I saw this listed in the bulletin at the Northwestern University Catholic center and thought for sure they’d have chosen a good film to discuss.

While I’m joking, Ordet is a a heck of a serious film. As Roger Ebert wrote it’s hard to get into, but once you’re in, you’re in. Perhaps.

Set in Denmark in 1925, Ordet’s the story of a family headed by Morten Borgen, a dour pastor in a stark rural town where religious denominations carry serious weight. If you’re not in the “right” one, you’re considered beyond the pale. Borgen’s got three sons, the oldest is married with two daughters. He’s an unbeliever, while his wife is sincere and devout. She’s also pregnant. The middle son is looney and thinks he’s Jesus, which gets on most people’s nerves. The youngest son wants to marry the tailor’s daughter, but her family goes to another church, one known for particularly dour worship services. Her father rejects marriage to a man from another denomination.

I doubt any character cracked a smile in the whole film. Yet after awhile the film does pull you in. It’s rather eerie. The daughter-in-law experiences complications when she goes into labor and this brings the story to a climax. I’m still not sure what to think of the film. I’m curious how the Northwestern discussion went. It’s a well crafted film, but certainly not for everyone. You have to be patient and interested in puzzling out meaning.

If you find the meaning, let me know.

Chronicle of a Summer

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I’d heard the term “cinema verite” and like many wrongly thought that referred to a film that’s extremely realistic. It turns out that’s not exactly right. For my classic movie resolution, I watched Chronicle of a Summer by the inventors of cinema verite, two French sociologists. Cinema verite is a sociological film that forces people to come to the truth. Released in 1961, captured on black and white film, which adds a filter of reality that color couldn’t strangely enough, Chronicle of a Summer sets out to prompt real people to come in contact with truth through interviews and discussions that begin with the simple question: Are you happy? The directors behind the film are Jean Rouch, an engineer turned ethnological filmmaker who mainly worked in Africa and Edgar Morin, a sociologist based in Paris.

With two directors, the film does have two distinct moods. Viewers can feel when the somber, analytical Morin is in charge or when the more playful Rouch has the reins. The film begins with a woman agreeing to interview people on the street asking subjects whether they’re happy. It turns out that in Paris in 1960 few were. Still the film gets under your skin. Though neither director has gone to film school, the creative shots grabbed me and did feel very real. At times the film just shows people, working in a factory, eating lunch, walking down a street. They’re shown in their individualism in a way that’s compelling and fresh. I liked some of the subjects more than others. For the most part, the subjects came off as sincere and they presented a snapshot of life in 1960. I found the ending simple and powerful. Rouch and Morin gather their subjects for a screening of the film followed by a discussion. We hear their reactions whether they thought some people were exhibitionists or authentic, whether the whole endeavor was true to life or indecent. People were honest and through this scene were elevated beyond just being “performers” or “subjects” to being co-creators. Chronicle of a Summer is a Criterion Collection film and as usual features some worthwhile bonuses. The best was an insightful interview with Faye Ginsberg, who worked with Jean Rouch after he made this film.

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