Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
– a short review by Vago Damitio
In terms of keeping you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next, this movie gets a perfect score. It was amusing, well scripted, and pleasantly captured the sense of nervous tension that all of the women felt. At the same time, the mise en scene and overall composition of the frames managed to make all of the women stand out. The colors of their costumes, the very specific and unique looks that each of them had really fit with the dementia that each of them felt. Small details like the rumba cab driver and his bouffant hair style created an eccentric feeling to everything about this film. I loved it.
Slaughterhouse Five (the film)- A Review by Vago Damitio
This wasn’t a terrible film. It seemed to stay fairly true to the book, however, they did a fairly bad job of making Billy Pilgrim age effectively. This was distracting. Pilgrim was perhaps a bad job of casting, though the actor’s expressions were sometimes fun, though again, not particularly convincing. The bombing of Dresden though was a homerun. The director did a superb job of showing that Dresden was a beautiful city of arts, a peaceful city in the midst of the German war machine, and finally, a pile of rubble filled with 150,000 innocent dead. This, I believe is main point of both the movie and the novel. The secondary point of time being one continuous non broken continuum was also made, though this was done in a bit more of a didactic and belabored manner.
I suppose this might have been the movie that personified a genre, but it didn’t work for me. I enjoyed it, but not enough to remember anything but annoyance. The message from the smirking Orson Wells, however, that killing people is what governments and business do wasn’t lost. Far too much needless betrayal of friendships and love though. Nice ending. The idea of post war Vienna split into four districts was a good platform to work on.
Again, a movie I thought I knew something about but was completely off on. Manhattan is a sort of cynical and sort of sweet exploration of what love is in the adult world. Woody Allen is a sort of anti-hero who judges the world around him while committing indiscretions of his own.
The film starts with Isaac (Woody Allen) and his 17 year old girlfriend (Muriel Hemingway) having dinner with his best friend Yale and his wife of 12 years. Soon we learn that Yale is having an affair with Mary, a writer and that Isaac’s ex wife left him for another woman. Their son lives with the women.
Yale justifies his past affairs as inconsequential and Isaac condemns infidelity. Yale says his current affair is more serious. Isaac and his young girlfriend meet her at a gallery. Isaac’s girlfriend loves him but he can’t take her serious because of her age despite her obvious maturity and depth. It is she who is the heroin of the film.
Yale ends the affair, Isaac becomes involved with Mary, and casts his girlfriend away. Yale and Mary become involved again and cast Yale’s wife and Isaac aside. Isaac realizes that he made a mistake and tries to reconcile with his girlfriend, but she is on her way to London. She will return in six months and says to him that six months is not that long if they love each other and that he shouldn’t worry because everyone gets corrupted. He smiles and the movie ends.
If anything, Isaac’s callousness in ending his relationship is preferable to lying about an affair. And yet, none of them are innocent, except the one who hasn’t had time to be corrupted yet. One has to wonder if the pain he caused her was not the first stage of the end of her innocence.
The theme song, Rhapsody in Blue, came to Gershwin complete as he rode the train. He wrote it down from memory before he ever heard it. It was divinely inspired and to my ear, it is perfect.
It’s funny how I have so many preconceived notions about films I haven’t seen. Now that I’ve seen it, I remember being excited about Good Night and Good Luck. It’s the story of television journalism without fear. The story of Edward R. Murrow and CBS News taking on the junior Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph Kennedy. It was good. Understated. Done with a period feel. The lights and darks not so much nuanced as they are by Fellini or Hitchcock, but intentionally blocky and rough…much like the television of the time it represents. It wasn’t slow even though it could have been. It wasn’t bogged down by the use of CBS News footage. It flowed and it worked.
My preconceived notions couldn’t have been further from the truth. I’d listened to the soundtrack numerous times since the movie came out without having seen the film. I forgot what it was about and was led by the sultry jazz vocals of Dianne Reeves to think it was probably a homage to film noir or a heavy romance starring George Clooney. Imagine my surprise to find it to be the story of Edward R. Murrow played by David Straithairn, the man who made ten gallons of chicken soup one night in Alaska for the crew of Limbo and then told them all that I had done it so they would go a bit easier on me at the back country craft service table. I wish I remembered the wisdom he passed on to me about the Buddha nature, something like most people get caught up in the acting and the Hollywood shit, but he always tries to remember that he’s not the Buddha and it gives him perspective. Shit, that was close anyway.
If you are no longer a teenager, think back to the time when you were. If you were to pick one significant year from that time and make it into a movie, who are the people, what are the images, and what are the things that you would want people to know that you felt? Perhaps, you might focus on coming of age, the transition from childhood to adulthood, or the changes that you saw happening in your world. In the 1973 film Amarcord, Italian director Federico Fellini shares five seasons of his youth in a not quite, but probably more than he has admitted, autobiographical extravaganza.
Amarcord (literally, I remember) opens with a feathery score played over light credits that evoke a sense of dreamlike remembrance. Soon the viewer is brought awake in the streets of Fellini’s boyhood hometown of Rimini , where a flamboyantly cultured narrator informs us that the town knows that winter is done when the dandelion puffballs appear. Soon, the townspeople are introduced as they pile wood into a gigantic bonfire in order to burn the witch of winter and celebrate the coming of spring. Many of the townspeople are eclipsed by those who are more colorful such as the town nymphomaniac, the town barber who has composed a new tune on his flute to celebrate spring, and the town beauty who is named Gradisca.
As they dance, make music, burn the witch, and play pranks on one another, the viewer can see that this is a town like many towns. There are neon signs over businesses, saints in the windows, and mischievous boys that are in the process of learning about the fun they can have with women’s bodies…and their own. The priest is not the only one with his hands full as he tries to convince these adolescent boys that they shouldn’t ‘touch themselves.’ Of course they do, in one scene they have a circle jerk in a car parked in the garage. And of course, they all lust after the beautiful hairdresser, Gradisca.
One boy, who we can presume is Fellini, follows Gradisca to a movie theatre and tries to feel her up. She goes along for a while but then busts him. He is embarrassed, but not permanently. Gradisca is in search of love, but not with a young boy. She wants a royal love or perhaps to touch the fascist dictator who marches into town and brings about a bizarre surreal fascist youth wedding. And thus spring ends and the heat of summer begins.
While summer is thought of usually as a time of fun and games, the arrival of the fascists does not allow for such trivial pursuits. Suspected anarchists, communists, and subversives are rounded up and tormented by the fascist brown shirts. This is summer, but it is a summer with war on the horizon and there is no room for free thought. The grossly high cultured lawyer reappears to tell off color stories about the town’s hotel as a stark sort of contrast to the fascist presence. Knowing that he has provided a complex contrasting of emotion, Fellini introduces a crazy uncle, who on a picnic to the country climbs to the top of a tree and shouts “I want a woman!” while throwing stones at anyone who attempts to get him down. He won’t come down until a dwarf nun arrives on the scene and takes him back to the mental hospital. Fellini uses the camera to maximize the height of the crazy uncle in several shots. At one point, the bottom of the frame is the uncles head, which towers over the rest of the family, and the rest of the frame is sky. Perhaps, Fellini is making a statement about the madness of the world when seen from such a high perspective. Or, perhaps, he simply remembers this crazy uncle towering over everyone while he threw stones and shouted what all men must feel at some point in their lives. With a director as complex as Fellini, it is possible to guess about symbolism. However, it is also possible to simply enjoy the feelings that his complex camera work evokes. In any event, this quirky family picnic is an affectionate farewell to an adolescent summer.
Autumn comes quickly and passes even quicker. The events and sensations that it carries are powerful but fleeting. It is a world of night time stories and the entire town loading up on boats to see the pride of Italy , a giant luxury cruise ship, as it passes by the small seaside village. The swaying of the boats, the dancing in the fog, and the sounds of an accordion drifting across the water. It is a time of fumbling and warmth.
Fumbling and warmth can also be found in the incredible large bosoms of the town’s shopkeeper by the adolescent boy who is the centerpiece of the story. With shy awkwardness, he tries to get close to her huge breasts by offering to lift her up. She is willing, in fact, she is willing for a lot more as she closes the shop and forces him to suck her goliath mammaries, almost suffocating him in the process.
And then comes winter with snow, sadness, death, and the burial of the boy’s mother. Two scenes from winter rise above the gloom of loss. The first as the boy looks for Gradisca in the high snow banks in the center of the town. The second is a peacock on the town fountain.
By this point, things have slowed down in the film. There is less detail and more time spent on it. After the agony of winter, the puffballs again appear. Gradisca marries her royal lover, the accordion is played in the field, the town’s people return to their homes, and finally, there is naught but time, left to continually cycle and bring about what memories it might for Fellini, for the members of the town, and for the world.