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K. Gordon
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Salt of the Earth
Salt of the Earth
DVD ~ Juan Chacón
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 71.61
5 used & new from CDN$ 47.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Not without dramatic flaws, but historically important, Dec 16 2013
This review is from: Salt of the Earth (DVD)
If a bit awkward and rough edged in form, a bit on the nose in it's politics, and a bit melodramatic
in it's telling, this story of a miners strike is an historically important early 'independent' film. Made
by artists largely blacklisted from Hollywood for liberal beliefs, and/or for refusing to testify against
others, this was the only film in U.S. history that was itself blacklisted, and kept out of theaters despite
positive reviews.

Yet what it preached; basic dignity and rights for Hispanics, for women, and for workers could hardly
be seen, even then, as a real threat to America -- had it not been for hysteria towards all things
liberal, progressive, or intellectual –- those things being lumped in with communist revolutionary
activity.

It's remarkable for a 1954 film to see a U.S. film with all the leading roles being Hispanic, and
played by Hispanics, not white actors in 'brown face'. Even more impressive is the film's early
but potent feminist viewpoint.

The issue of women also adds a nice level of complexity to a story that could have felt too simplistic
in terms of right and wrong. The male Hispanic workers are almost as guilty of oppressing their wives
as the Anglo bosses are of oppressing their Hispanic workers. So there's an acknowledgment that
everyone still had a lot to learn about creating an equal society in those days.

Along with the occasionally awkward acting (most of the cast were non-professionals) and occasionally
too blatant speech-making, there are some very moving, human and inspiring moments.

And in a nice twist of fate, after being blacklisted from theaters and kept from the public, the film now
resides on the U.S. National Registry of important films.

Germinal [Import]
Germinal [Import]
VHS
2 used & new from CDN$ 20.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful adaptation of Zola novel, Dec 8 2013
This review is from: Germinal [Import] (VHS Tape)
Berri once again turns a book into a near masterpiece, as he did with "Jean de Florette" and "Manon of the Spring".
This adaptation of Emile Zola's dark polemic novel abut the hard lives of French miners in 19th century France is both
political and epic, with neither element drowning out the other.

Very strong performances abound. Miou-Miou is heartbreaking and, at times, frightening in her rage, as a mother and wife
trying to help her family survive on the slave wages paid by the mine -- her anger growing ever harder to control as the mine
literally consumers her family. Gerard Depardieu is also excellent as her husband, a big, likable fellow who is finally pushed too
far by the bosses and working conditions. He joins with a more educated newcomer to the area, played by the also excellent
Renaud, to help start a strike against their bosses, who plead poverty, and the inability to pay the workers more (indeed they
want to cut wages), but who live in "Let them eat cake" splendor.

While the film may be heavy handed at times in its cross cutting between the lives of rich and the poor, it escapes the trap of making
"the poor" just a lovable, or pitiable mob. These are well drawn individuals, with light and dark sides, (some with more of one than the
other) and the violence of the mob is shown as ugly and brutal, if also understandable. Berri is not above acknowledging that it sometimes
takes violence to force change, but even if that change may be for the good on the large scale, the violence also always leads to tragedy in
the realm of individual human beings.

The film is beautifully shot and art directed, the grim hard life in the mines brought to startlingly real life, full of details and
specifics that help, once again, the film transcend generalizations about being poor. These men and women take pride in their difficult,
dirty and dangerous work, even as they have reached the end of their tether with their poverty.

Why this film, a huge hit in France, quite well reviewed in North America. with a star the size of Depardieu isn't available on region 1 DVD or blu-ray
is beyond me, but it's this kind of thing that makes the case for getting a region free player. Especially when a decent copy is part of an inexpensive
4 DVD Claude Berri box set on Amazon.uk.

Far Out Isnt Far Enough: Tomi Ungerer Story [Import]
Far Out Isnt Far Enough: Tomi Ungerer Story [Import]
Price: CDN$ 29.30
19 used & new from CDN$ 17.07

4.0 out of 5 stars Quite enjoyable, if not quite emotional, Dec 5 2013
Enjoyable documentary about 1960s and 70s children’s book author, creator of powerful, iconic anti-war and other political posters, and artist of
erotica, often with a bondage or S+M theme. As diverse as this work is, it all shares Ungerer’s trade mark dark sense of humor.

The film follows his interesting life, from Childhood in Nazi occupied Alsatia, to his coming to America, his success as an illustrator, and then
hugely as a children’s book author, his politicalization and involvement with erotic, to the fateful moment when they all came together after
he was attacked for his sexual drawings at a children’s book convention, and was almost immediately black-listed. His books were taken out
of libraries, publishers dropped him, publications (including the New York Times) refused to review his work. Much of the film is Ungerer himself,
a very engaging interview subject, now in his 80s ruminating on everything; art, life, death, sex, politics, success and failure, children, fear.
He is eccentric to be sure but in a way that feels very open and inviting.

All that said, there’s a lack of emotion for the great majority of the film. Also, I’m just slightly mistrustful of how complete a portrait the film
actually is. Growing up in NYC I happened to know Ungerer’s daughter when we both were about 10 years old. Yet there’s no mention of her,
or her mother in the film, which gives the distinct impression that Ungerer was a wild man bachelor until he met his later wife, with whom he
moved to Canada, and then Ireland. It troubles me a bit that feels like such a thorough portrait and deals so much with children, sex, morality,
and ‘the swinging 60s,' there’s no touching on what his ‘first family’ situation was like, or even that they existed.

Fruitvale Station [Blu-ray] [Import]
Fruitvale Station [Blu-ray] [Import]
Price: CDN$ 43.49
18 used & new from CDN$ 33.15

5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing debut, Dec 3 2013
A devastating film. An amazing debut from Ryan Coogler that worked in spite of what could have been serious obstacles.
Not only did I know the true story the film was based on, but the first two minutes of the film gives away much of the climax,
so I was very worried that I'd find it interesting, but not emotional.

Warning - some could consider the following to have vague spoilers;

But by filling the movie with rich, real, human characters who we get to know and care for, by casting and shooting the film
brilliantly, and filling it with all those little human details that make you feel like you're watching real people, knowing the outcome
didn't matter. By about a third of the way in I was hooked, and by the end I was in tears in a way no film has done to me in
a long while. It also manages the always tricky feat of being terribly sad without being depressing or nihilistic. Coogler treats
all his characters, even the 'villains' with grace and humanity. I can't wait to see what he does next.

Frances Ha (Bilingual)
Frances Ha (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Greta Gerwig
Price: CDN$ 26.99
10 used & new from CDN$ 6.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly sweet low budget comedy/drama from the normally far darker, very talented Baumbach., Dec 2 2013
This review is from: Frances Ha (Bilingual) (DVD)
More a character study than plot driven film, it tells of the lost, screwed up 27 year old Francis, played with lost, screwed up loveable-ness by co-writer Greta Gerwig.
She has what seems an amazingly close relationship with her roommate and best friend Sophie (a terrific Mickey Summer), but it all comes crashing down when
Sophie decides to move out (and maybe grow up) for a better apartment (not as crazy as that sounds in NYC), leaving Frances suddenly uprooted and alone.

We follow Frances as she pin-balls through places to live and people to connect with (or not), seeming too childlike for her own good, and unable to take control of her
life. But she never sinks so low that she loses the spark that makes us want good things for her, in spite of her continually getting in her own way.

While the film has some very touching moments, and generally excellent acting and writing, something in it made me feel held a bit at arms length. For all the joy and
sorrow in Frances’ life, I felt more like a clinical observer and less like a participant than I wanted to. And while some of Baumbach’s nods to French new wave film-making
work wonderfully (the high-spirited musical romp Frances takes down New York streets is wildly infectious), some of them, like the constant use of music from those seminal
1960s films as score was, for me, distracting and too self-conscious. Frances is a good enough character, and Baumbach a talented enough story teller that it the film didn’t
need such heavy handed style laid over it.

Still, a unique, if flawed film about a unique if flawed character. It’s good to see Baumbach stretch, even if he – like Francis – hasn’t quite figured out where he’s going yet.

Partner
Partner
DVD ~ Pierre Clémenti
Offered by marvelio-ca
Price: CDN$ 26.95
13 used & new from CDN$ 17.96

4.0 out of 5 stars A lot of fun for a experimental, revolutionary 60s tract., Dec 1 2013
This review is from: Partner (DVD)
While the often noticed aping by Bertolucci of his hero Godard in this early film is quite true (even the film itself admits its debt to Godard
right on screen), there is more here than mere imitation. Whether intentional or not I saw plenty of other influences from Bunuel, to the
paintings if Rene Magritte. A loose, examination of schizophrenia; an inhibited intellectual young man spawns a separate self who is
confident, aggressive and revolutionary.

While vaguely based on Dostoyevsky’s “The Double”, this is very much it’s own story, and a hell of a lot of fun. I found Bertolucci’s surreal
playfulness more inviting than most of Godard’s work from that period. It asks many of the same questions, and has much of the same
distain for modern consumer society, (and film narrative conventions) but does it with an absurdist sense of humor that give rise to some
moments that now seem as much “Monty Python” as they are French New Wave.

The most egregious Godard rip-offs can be annoying (sudden inappropriate music, etc), but they are for the most part mercifully brief.
Mostly this is more influence and homage than theft, and creates a time capsule that still has relevance and interest, and pleasure in the
watching. Pierre Clementi does a fine job playing the two different versions of the hero Giaccobe.

The "No Shame" transfer is quite nice, and contains a number of interesting extras, including an entire 2nd feature film by critic
Eduardo Bruno.

Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man
Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man
VHS
2 used & new from CDN$ 86.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if not quite compelling, with swings from drama to near farcical satire, Nov. 30 2013
Well acted by Ugo Tognanzzi as a self made cheese factory owner whose son is apparently kidnapped, although we can see there’s a real possibility the
kidnapping was staged so the son could raise money for left-wing causes he supports. Most of the film is about Tognazzi dealing with the kidnapping
by pondering selling his factory, and getting to know two go betweens who may or may not have there own agendas (the son’s girlfriend, and a leftist
sort-of priest), as well as dealing with his wife, Anouk Aimee, who is far more anxious to sell everything they own to pay the kidnappers than the more
cynical and wily Tognazzi.

What was hard for me was that, unlike it’s spiritual forerunner “The Spider’s Strategem”, the more satirical, lighter-toned approach seems to work against the
drama and vice versa. None-the-less this is interesting and thought provoking. And if not among Bertolucci’s greatest works, still well worth seeing.

Lucie Aubrac [Import]
Lucie Aubrac [Import]
2 used & new from CDN$ 19.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid WWII romance and thriller, Nov. 30 2013
This review is from: Lucie Aubrac [Import] (VHS Tape)
While not on a par with Berri’s remarkable 2 film epic “Jean de Florette” and Manon of the Spring”, this is a fairly engrossing, romantic, if somewhat
romanticized true story of a married pair of resistance fighters in WWII France. Both Daniel Auteil and Carole Bouquet are solid as the couple, especially
in their scenes together, which nicely capture the erotic tension of a married couple deeply in love, whose passion is not just physical, but fed by the
fact they admire each other as human beings as well. It’s also nice to see a war film where the woman pulls off the heroics to try and save her man,
rather than the other way around.

But the darkness of occupied France seems a but sanitized here, the awful price paid by those fighting back and their innocent families is alluded too but
never fully dealt with, and there is something a bit light weight about it in the end. Bouquet keeps everything so hidden when not around Autiel that she
becomes somewhat opaque.

It’s always interesting, but a bit stolid. Rarely truly tense, frightening or emotional. Still it’s a good, decent, involving film, if not a great one.

Blue Jasmine [Blu-ray] [Import]
Blue Jasmine [Blu-ray] [Import]
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 27.93
6 used & new from CDN$ 6.88

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars After 44 films, Allen continues to evolve, Nov. 29 2013
Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of Allen's yearly offerings, you have to admire a man that
is in his 70s, has made 44 movies, and yet seems to keep trying to stretch his wings, and style,
while still retaining a very recognizable film-making technique. Allen's films are always clearly
his, yet the tone, feel and structure of the films is so almost always something a little new. In
this case, Allen is going for straight drama, (yes there are a few amusing moments, but in general
this is pretty serious stuff) something he hasn't done since "Match Point". But "Match Point" also
had the structure of being a mystery/thriller, whereas "Blue Jasmine" is a character study, pure
and simple. And in that it's not quite like anything Allen has done in his many, many films. The
earlier dramas like "Interiors" or "Another Woman" were both more stylized and weren't really
about dissecting a single fatally flawed character as if under a microscope.

This grew on me on a second viewing. Some of my problems remained; a lot of the supporting characters
are stereotypes, in spite of being played by wonderful actors, doing all they can to bring them life. But
the great Cate Blanchett, who seems incapable of being less than amazing, somehow manages to bring
reality, humanity and sometimes even pathos to this self-involved borderline crazy and theatrical mess
of a human being.

Whatever the quibbles, this is intelligent, grown up film-making, trying to grapple with big questions of
morality and personal responsibility, and unafraid of being a study of a largely unlikable woman. Allen is
still among the braver and least compromised of U.S. directors, and continues to be worth watching
and supporting.

Blue Jasmine (Bilingual) - UltraViolet [Blu-ray]
Blue Jasmine (Bilingual) - UltraViolet [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Bobby Cannavale
Price: CDN$ 21.98
14 used & new from CDN$ 14.99

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars After 44 films, Allen continues to evolve, Nov. 29 2013
Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of Allen's yearly offerings, you have to admire a man that is in his 70s, has made 44 movies, and yet
seems to keep trying to stretch his wings, and style, while still retaining a very recognizable film-making technique. Allen's films are
instantly recognizable as his, yet the tone, feel and structure of the films is so almost always something a little new. In this case, Allen
is going for straight, dark drama, something he hasn't done since "Match Point". But "Match Point"also had the structure of being a
mystery/thriller, whereas "Blue Jasmine" is a character study, pure and simple. And in that it's not quite like anything Allen has done in his
many, many films. The earlier dramas like "Interiors" or "AnotherWoman" were both more stylized and weren't really about dissecting a
single fatally flawed character as if under a microscope.

As a film, to me it's not Allen at his very best. A lot of the supporting characters are stereotypes, in spite of being played by
wonderful actors, doing all they can to bring them life (Andrew Dice Clay, of all people, is something of a revelation). And at times,
even the great Cate Blanchett, who seems incapable of being less than amazing, does cross the line from playing a theatrical, unstable, over
the top woman (Blanche Dubois comes to mind) to giving a slightly theatrical performance where the close up lens reveals some of the
actress playing a character.

But for all that, this is still intelligent, grown up film-making, trying to grapple with big questions of morality and personal responsibility,
and unafraid of being a study of a largely unlikable woman. By merit of that if nothing else, Allen is still among the bravest and least
compromised of U.S. directors, and continues to be worth watching and supporting.

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