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Michael [Import]

Walter Slezak , Max Auzinger , Carl Theodor Dreyer    NR (Not Rated)   DVD

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let the boy go Nov. 26 2005
By Steven Hellerstedt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Brooding depression sets in when a famous artist's ward, and principal model, leaves him for a beautiful and much younger Russian princess. A young and not-yet-corpulent Walter Slezak plays the young model, and the title character, in Carl Theodor Dreyer's MICHAEL. Slezak, who's most famous as the duplicitous German sailor washed aboard Alfred Hitchcock's `Lifeboat,' is about the only recognizable actor in this 1924, German-produced, silent movie.

Although Slezak is the featured star, the leading character is Benjamin Christensen's Claude Zoret, the great artist, usually referred to by the others simply as The Master. The story begins, and spends most of its time in, the Master's mansion - one of those big, drafty, rococo/Victorian art mausoleums that looks like a toney funeral home and, to that extent, more or less fits the movie. Young Michael is feckless and self-centered, good-looking enough to step comfortably in and out of an Arrow shirt ad, and its his image that graces the Master's greatest painting, `The Victor.' Disruption arrives in the form of Princess Lucia Zamikoff (Nora Gergor,) who persuades the initially reluctant Master to paint her portrait. Before the paint is dry Michael is in love with her, and ready to leave the Master.

`Mikaël' was written by Danish Impressionist novelist Herman Bang (1857-1912.) (...). Danish film historian Casper Tyberg tell us, in his interesting and fact-filled commentary, that MICHAEL has a disputed place in the history of gay cinema. The movie's central relationship, between the Master and Michael, is at best ambiguous. There are, as Tyberg says, hints and `cues' of something more, but on screen there's only evidence of the Master's paternal affection, rather than passionate physical attraction. If, as Tyberg tells us, the theme was buried in the book, it is so in the film as well.

Beyond the `cue' hunting MICHAEL is interesting if viewed as a giant step toward Dreyer's towering masterpiece of 1928, `The Passion of Joan of Arc.' Tyborg tells us MICHAEL was a `lost' film until a print was discovered in 1952. It wasn't released to many foreign markets during its original run. Even France wouldn't take it. A studio exec, if I remember Tyborg's comment correctly, said it was too boring even for the art houses. Probably so. Dreyer's movies tend to be character driven. This is the fourth one of his I've seen and I'm getting used to his heavy reliance on facial expressions and significant glances. However, unless the subject fits the method - as it does brilliantly in his `The Passion...' it gets to be pretty heavy going. Perhaps most difficult is the choice of an older, somewhat autocratic character as the one we're supposed to feel the most for. Christensen is perfectly fine as the Master, but Mary Pickford or Lillian Gish he ain't. It's hard enough to warm up to him, much less ache for the betrayal he suffers. So, a weak four stars for the watchably restored MICHAEL, a reserved classic that perhaps offers more to the historically curious than those who want to get emotionally caught up in a movie.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HOBBY FARM April 17 2013
By The Movie Guy - Published on Amazon.com
Jules (Paul J. Murphy) works for a large organized crime syndicate in England. He collects money from illegal fights and runs a farm filled with forced prostitution with girls from the Eastern Bloc. He was gotten soft and has empathy for the girls. His boss realizes the problem and wants to toughen up Jules. He sends some strong arms to help run the Farm. One of the girls is extremely rebellious (Melanie Holt) and makes trouble for Jules. Jules is also troubled by bad memories involving his dog being killed.

The acting was superb. You could feel the tension and anguish. While there are girls who are prisoners and work as prostitutes, it is not really a prison girl movie as the movie centers around Jules and his desire to do right in a bad situation.

Language, abuse to women, brief nudity.

Movie also released under the title "Hobby Farm."
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Rendition of Gay Love still Contemporary: A Must See April 20 2010
By Alberto M. Barral - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This is a German silent film. Obviously it would take Hollywood at least half a century longer to get anywhere near this subject in such a natural manner, and in many ways, still to this day it has not produced anything to compare to this sensitive portrayal about an aging master painter (Benjamin Christensen) who takes a male model/hustler and aspiring painter (Walter Slezak) under his protection. Soon however, their relationship begins to change when both men encounter the gorgeous Princess Zamikoff (Nora Gregor) who is supposed to be ruined but happens to be on her way to the opera when she makes a visit to commission her portrait and comes back later dressed to kill, with an outfit that must have cost a fortune and that we must assume she did not pay for herself.

This clearly indicates that the Princess is a professional gold-digger-hustler, and though not a courtesan, certainly someone in the related business of living by her charms, with enough savoir-faire to be part of the trade. This is an important character trait of the woman in the triangle, because it makes perfect sense within the context of co-dependent sex relationships: She is hustling Michael as much as Michael hustles the painter and that is the actual mechanism of the relationship.

This is an excellent Dreyer film, not quite popular or well know here for the subject matter being an early example of a homosexual relationship. Most importantly, both of the men involved are portrayed as virile and masculine, there is no cross dressing, hilarity of character or the usual histrionics that was the sole, monolithic identity of gay men in an American cultural context until the arrival of "Brokeback Mountain". Some viewers may be in such denial as to the existence of a gay life for "straight-looking" men that they may debate that the film is not about homosexuality, as one of the men gets involved in a heterosexual relationship, and I completely disagree with this stance, as most gay men are actually like the ones in this movie and not like the more flamboyant part of the group that naturally steal the limelight and distort the statistical truth.

The complexities and variety of homosexual experience either in gay men or women have always posed a challenge on the imagination and intelligence of society, but we can not deny that there was much more than simple friendship between these two men, if only because there had to be a valid reason for Michael to accept money gifts and also steal as much from the painter. However, because there were an infinite amount of choices by means of which this could have been clarified, and certainly there are earlier movies that showed it was done in Germany ("Different from the Others" for example, 1919) I see this important detail as an error in character development and that's why I have given it an 8 ranking.

The cinematography by Rudolph Mate and Karl Freund is exquisitely handled. All details of decor, furnishing and costume are lavish and within the cultural context of the period. We see the subtle transitioning from Art Nouveau to early Deco in the differences between the older painter's home and the younger hustler's apartment.

The character of the suffering, self-sacrificing older lover in a relationship is a very 19th Century attitude and romantic posturing that reached a climax with Dumas famous "Dame aux Camelias" that became the "Camille" of the stage and movie adaptations as well as Verdi's "Traviata" in opera. Christensen's devoted love for Michael, even when he discovers his thievery and baseness is part of that socio-cultural heritage, the extreme of which had been Oscar Wilde in the generation before the one in this movie, which went one step further in the 'sacrifice' to self destruction. Within this context the painter's plight is totally believable and acceptable, but aside from the artistic beauty of the film itself, the important message that comes through is the validity and truth of that love.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine example of "film as art" May 26 2006
By Barbara Underwood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This 1924 German UFA production is perhaps one of Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer's most overlooked and almost forgotten films, but seen from the perspective of artistic quality and character psychology "Michael" stands the test of time. Dreyer's style of intimate character portrayals, meticulous and slow studies of faces, expressions and characters' emotions are all brought to the fore in this somewhat controversial film about a middle-aged artist and his young protégé. Although billed as one of three `Gay-themed films of the German Silent Era', there are no overt references or gestures implying a gay relationship, and at times the relationships and feelings of the characters remain somewhat ambiguous and perhaps open to viewer interpretation, but deliberately so. To me, "Michael" seems first and foremost to be a study of characters, their emotions, and their relationships with each other. The scenes are mostly set in the Master painter's house which is filled with lavish and elaborate turn-of-the-century furniture and decorations which greatly assist in creating a certain atmosphere and the backdrop to the characters' interactions with each other. To enhance the character study, lighting is used very effectively, as are various close-ups, which was not yet commonplace in the mid 1920s as they are today.

"Michael" closely follows the novel by the same name, written by gay author, Herman Bang, who no doubt was able to embellish the relationship between Master and protégé very effectively, making the whole film a bitter-sweet study of human feelings and relationships, and lifting it to the heights of artistry. Not one, but two love-triangles feature in this story, one being a sub-plot to parallel the main relationship between the Master and Michael, the latter falling in love with a beautiful countess who sits for a portrait. Not only is classical art a main theme in the film, but Dreyer strove to make "Michael" a work of art in itself, and judging by European reviews at the time, it succeeded very well. This film appealed to the high-brow and aristocratic societies of the 1920s, but for the serious viewer of silent and/or art films, "Michael" should still have as much appeal as it did in its day. As a bonus feature, an audio commentary by a competent Danish Film scholar provides further insight into the techniques used by Dreyer and other interesting background information on the players. The picture quality is very good throughout, and the gentle classic music accompaniment fits the mood and images perfectly. All round, a high standard production with emphasis on visually stunning sets and human relationships.
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars incredibly stupid April 18 2013
By thewayiseeit - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
ninety minutes if my life i wish i could get back.. this could possibly be the most boring movie I have ever watched

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