Category Archives: Film

“ROCKS IN MY POCKETS”— Five Women

rocks poster

“Rocks in My Pockets”

Five Women

Amos Lassen

Signe Baumane tells us a tale that is based  on true events in her own family—five women and the director herself battled with depression and madness. This is a story that brings mystery and redemption together and it raises questions about how genetics determine who we are and “if it is possible to outsmart our own DNA”. This is an animated film that is filled with metaphors, surrealism and a somewhat twisted sense of humor.

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Baumane is a Latvian born artist and filmmaker who brings us five courageous women and we see their battles with mental issues. The stories all deal with the major issues that we all face in life— romance, marriage, nature and business. We also see something about the upheaval in Eastern Europe. However the most important thing we see here is the fight for sanity.

Baumane got the idea for film just by listening to her own thoughts. She says that even with all that she thinks about her mind seemed to always return to how she could just end it all and the way to do so. She finds the fragility of the human mind to be fascinating and that is the reason she is still alive today. All of us face the unpredictability of life but if we only try we can find humor in being alive. I remember my mother saying to be several times that if we cannot laugh at life then we have no reason to live.

Baumane learned that she was not the only member in her family to have depressing thoughts but not all of them were able to deal with their demons. Therefore she dedicates this film to those who did not survive as well as to those that did.

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Baumane’s animation is unique—it combines papier-mâché stop-motion and classic hand-drawn animation and she uses it to tell the story of mystery, mental health, redemption and survival. The animation is the way that she says she can fully express her mind. Here animation is the medium of very sophisticated storytelling. “It is able to depict what no one can see — the utmost inner feelings and thoughts. It can deal with abstractions of problems in a way that a camera cannot. It can juxtapose inner worlds with the outside Universe and tie them all into comprehensive narratives. Animation can bring humor and visual metaphor to storytelling. Walt Disney himself proclaimed that, “animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive”.

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The film had its World Premiere at the 2014 Karlovy Vary Film Festival and it was the first animated feature ever to take part in the Karlovy Vary International Competition. The film will open at the IFC Center in New York on September 5, and at Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles on September 12. A national release will follow.

“THE EMPTY HOURS”—- Opening Soon Near You

“A DELIGHT…
A MENTAL VACATION FROM THE NOISE
AND BOMBAST OF THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER”
- Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York TimesCritics' Pick CRITICS’ PICK
“A STUDIED, COMING-OF-AGE NARRATIVE
THAT MAKES A FAMILIAR TALE SING”
- Zachary Wigon, The Village Voice

THE EMPTY HOURSA FILM BY AARÓN FERNÁNDEZ 

Starring Kristyan Ferrer and Adriana Paz

Official Selection:
San Sebastián Film Festival

Opens Friday, July 11 in New York at the Village East Cinema
Opens Friday, July 18 in Los Angeles at Laemmle’s NoHo 7 & Playhouse 7

View Trailer
On the desolated coast of Veracruz, 17 year-old Sebastián takes over running his uncle’s small and cozy rent-by-the hour motel. There he meets Miranda, a regular customer who comes to the motel to meet a lover who always keeps her waiting. As Sebastián and Miranda get to know each other, an ambiguous game of seduction begins between them.
100 Minutes | Drama | In Spanish with English Subtitles | Not Rated
OPENS FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2014 IN NEW YORK
VILLAGE EAST CINEMA
181 – 189 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10012
(212) 529-6799
For Tickets & ShowtimesOPENS FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2014 IN LOS ANGELES

LAEMMLE’S NOHO 7
5240 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
310-478-3836
For Tickets & Showtimes

LAEMMLE’S PLAYHOUSE 7
673 East Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91101
310-478-3836
For Tickets & Showtimes

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“ORPHEUS DESCENDING”— New Hope in Mississippi

orpheus descending“Orpheus Descending”

New Hope in Mississippi

Amos Lassen

Peter Hall, the acclaimed director, gave his hands to a brave and bizarre adaptation of one of Tennessee Williams’ most complicated plays, “Orpheus Descending” which later became better known as “The Fugitive Kind”. Brook stayed as close as possible to the playwright’s vision— of the decadence and unruliness of the American south with its violence and sexuality. The South eschewed realism as saw itself as a universe that was impossible to accept as literal but so powerful in its emotions that we cannot deny it.

Vanessa Redgrave stars as Lady Torrance, the middle-aged proprietor of her husband’s mercantile store in the Deep South. Jabe, her husband, played by Brad Sullivan, is laid in a bed upstairs from the store, every hour further consumed by a cancer almost as malignant as Jabe’s own temperament. Lady doesn’t quite know if she grieves more because her husband is going to die or because he is taking so damn long to do it; for months she has endured his raging invective, everything from criticisms of her management of the store to accusations that she is trying to kill him. Neighborhood women, some related to Jabe but others merely gossips and snoopers, busybody around her store whispering about his condition and judging her own behavior as the wife of a dying man.

 Lady has gone so long without luck or love that initially she doesn’t even recognize a good thing when it comes her way and it comes in the personage of Valentine Xavier (Kevin Anderson), a guitar-toting drifter whose car breaks down outside town and who comes asking for a job in her store. Val immediately attracts the attention of all the women in the community but he is reticent and cool to their attentions and no one can make sense of him.

 The woman who tries the hardest is Carol Cutrere (Anne Twomey), the local “fallen woman,” who lets on she knows something about his past before initiating her attempted seduction. The problem with small town living like we have here is that even when Val refuses Carol’s advances, the mere fact of their interaction is enough to make him suspicious. It isn’t long before the men of the community watch Val’s every move.

 Because of this it is probably a blessing that Val has set himself in the employ of Lady Torrance, who is accustomed to dubious glances and thinks nothing of harboring someone like Val once he has proven on her own terms that she can trust him. At least, that seems to be Lady’s perspective; it is only after about an hour that we begin to understand how far-reaching Lady’s dreams are, how thoroughly thwarted her passions have been, and how cleverly she can plan for an escape route out of the hell she inhabits.

 The title implies, the myth of Orpheus as one of its chief inspirations and this overtly stages its developing conflicts as a sort of a parable. We are made aware of the story of the burning alive of Lady’s immigrant father to the smell of cigarettes that proves a give-away as to Val’s presence at moments he would probably prefer people not to know.

 Kevin Anderson, does a fine job navigating the tricky course Williams designs for this character, namely of achieving an incendiary effect on almost every character who passes through the Torrance Mercantile Store but without actually seeming to do anything to merit this. He says over and over that he wants to grow out of his past– he wants to “play it cool,” and Anderson lends sincerity to that project of lying low without erasing the sensual buzz around a man to whom Lady shouts, “Everything you do is suggestive!”

The rest of the cast is excellent as each creates a real character that draws on real emotions. It is impossible not to say something about Vanessa Redgrave’s performance. Redgrave exaggerates all of her physical movements and slathers on a an “Italian” accent that, while occasionally too weird to understand, achieves the dimension of theatricality and artifice that Williams so clearly intends for this character. She delivers a moving performance. Her Lady Torrance comes across as a devilish kind of a woman with energy but she also lingers for a long time whenever she can. Every wringing of her hand or tripping of her tongue in this performance is a grasp for the life that Jabe’s illness, her brutal childhood, and the town circle of vultures are forever threatening to take from her. Lady Torrance is the sort of role that calls for histrionics and these are supplied readily by Redgrave.  I saw the Broadway production from which this was filmed and I must say that I sat with my mouth open during Redgrave’s presence on the stage (95% of the play). She was absolutely amazing and deserved every second of the 15 minute standing ovation at the end (and this was a Sunday matinee).

“Orpheus Descending” is a play which, after all, describes the sad fate of men and women who look too long on visions of what they’d like to be, never noticing what sad sacks they have in fact have become and we certainly see that here.

“THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS”— “A fantasia of death, sex, panic, confusion, nipples and razors.”

the strange color“The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears” (“L’étrange couleur des larmes de ton corps”).

 ”A fantasia of death, sex, panic, confusion, nipples and razors.”

Amos Lassen

  “The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears” is a fantasia of death, sex, panic, confusion, primary colors, aggressive music, 60s modern interior design, nipples, blood and straight razors. There seems to be no narrative and much comes across in a disjointed manner.

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Belgian directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (“Amer”) open their new picture in classic giallo fashion. To electronic rock music We see a man running around his “old world” elegant apartment building looking for his missing wife as electric rock music plays. He buzzes doorbells and finally meets “the old woman upstairs” (represented by a voice and some legs in stockings.) As he explains that his wife has gone, she starts to tell him what she feels is a relevant story. Now we watch a fifteen-minute short film (or it at least feels like that) and interesting symbols float across the screen. Just as we find ourselves engross in the story, the man (who we have forgotten about) is upset that time is being wasted. Similar scenes ensue with other people and with the detective who comes over to discuss the case. It starts to feel like a musical, with each narrative break as a big showcase number.  Must say I had no idea of what was happening here but it all looks so interesting.

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There are split-screens, there are negative exposures, there are extreme close-ups, there’s over-saturated color and there’s black and white. There’s a whole sequence made up entirely of still shots against elaborate sound design. There’s also a scene edited to a “sound-alike” of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (perhaps a wink at how frequently the original is used?)

The man is led on a wild goose chase by cryptic messages from his mysterious neighbors. He becomes entangled in a hellish nightmare as he unlocks their strange fantasies of sensuality and bloodshed. This is a visually dazzling experience takes us on a journey into mystery and blood soaked terror that, I doubt, we will never forget.

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This is not just a movie—it is a sensorial experience, pulling us into an audiovisual trip inhabited by things nightmares are made of. It is complex and shows a serious attempt at multi-layered storytelling. This is abstract film making with a high level of artistry, so with regards to the actual (fragmented) storyline, you might very well still be scratching your head at the end of the film.

 Underneath the surface, the seasoned viewer will spot many more references to the Giallo genre.  The giallo seems to be growing in popularity year by year. A whole new generation of horror fans sees these films.  This is as metaphysical as they come. At times you might think that Klaus has killed his wife, or that she has simply run off, or that he never had a wife at all, or that, perhaps, the entire building is a metaphor for male fear and desire of women. There are no easy answers here. 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkLXLLymDAM

“’Night and Fog’: A Film in History” by Sylvie Lindeperg— “The Greatest Film Ever Made”

night and fog

Lindeperg, Sylvie. “’Night and Fog’: A Film in History”, (translated by Tom Mes)  University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

“The Greatest Film Ever Made”

Amos Lassen

 Francois Truffaut has said that Alain Renais’s film “Night and Fog” is “the greatest film ever made.” However, due to its subject matter, it is not an easy film to watch. When Renais finished this documentary, with its depiction of Nazi atrocities, the resistance of the French censors was fierce. It has only been ten years since the war ended, and the French public was unprepared to confront the horrors shown in the film—let alone hear about the possibility of French complicity. In fact it would be through this film that many learned “that the worst had only just taken place.

“Night and Fog” is an engrossing account of the genesis, production, and legacy of Renais’s incomparable film. This book shows us that the film that began as part of an educational process became a significant step in the building of a collective consciousness of the tragedy of World War II. Sylvie Lindeperg frames her investigation with the story of historian Olga Wormser-Migot, who played an integral role in the research and writing of the film and whose slight error on one point gave purchase to the film’s detractors and revisionists and Holocaust deniers. Lindeperg follows the travails of Resnais, Wormser-Migot, and their collaborators in a pan-European search for footage, photographs, and other documentation. She discovers creative use of liberation footage to stand in for daily life of the camps featured to such shocking effect in the film. This has raised hotly debated questions about reenactment and witnessing even as it enhances our understanding of the film’s provenance and impact. This is a unique look at the inside workings of biography, history, politics, and film in one epoch-making cultural moment.


Here is the Table of Contents”

— Foreword 
Jean-Michel Frodon

— Acknowledgments

— Introduction 
Abbreviations 
Prologue: Olga Wormser-Migot, the Missing Link

— Part I. Inception: A Breakdown of Gazes 
1. The “Invisible Authority”: The Stakes of a Commission 
2. The “ Merchants of Shadows”: A French–Polish Coproduction 
3. A Journey to the East: Research and Documentation 
4. Writing Four Hands 
5. The Adventurous Gaze 
6. The Darkness of the Editing Room 
7. Suffocated Words: A Lazarian Poetry 
8. Eisler’s Neverending Chant

— Part II. Passage and Migration 
9. Tug of War with the Censors 
10. The Cannes Confusion: Dissecting a Scandal 
11. Germany Gets Its First Look 
12. Exile from Language: Paul Celan, Translator 
13. Translation Battles in the GDR 
14. A Portable Memorial 
15. Shifting Perspectives: An Educational Institution 
16. Constructing the Cinephilic Gaze

— Epilogue: Olga’s Tomb 
Notes 
Index

“EXODUS”— First Pictures Of Sigourney Weaver & Joel Edgerton

 ”Exodus”

First Pictures Of Sigourney Weaver & Joel Edgerton

exodus-pic5Now that most of the biggest movies of the summer are in cinemas the studios can turn their attention to their major winter offerings, and few are bigger or more of a gamble than Fox’s $200 million dollar take on the talk of Moses, Exodus: Gods and Kings.

The story follows Moses (Christian Bale) who goes up against the Pharaoh Ramses so that he can lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. As Moses grew up in the royal Egyptian court, he had a close relationship to Egyptian ruler Ramses, which goes sour when he takes up the cause of his people.

In response to the inevitable comparisons to Charlton Heston in The 10 Commandments, Christian Bale says, “Charlton Heston does Charlton Heston better than anyone. But the biblical account of Moses is extraordinary, and there was lots of room for us to go to places that [Charlton Heston's movie] The Ten Commandments never dreamed of going. [There are] No fake beards. There’s nothing mild about the Exodus or Moses.”

It’s due out in December. 

“SIDDHARTH”— A Missing Son

siddharth

“Siddharth”

A Missing Son

Amos Lassen

Mahendra (a man who specializes in fixing broken zippers on the streets of Delhi sent his 12 year old son, Siddharth, away because of financial problems but when his son does not return home, he becomes worried and learns that Siddharth might have been abducted by child-traffickers. Mahendra has little money and no connections yet he travels across India looking for his son hoping that whatever force arbitrarily took his child away will return him unharmed.

Two narratives run parallel to one another. After sending his young son, Siddharth (Irfan Khan), away to work in order to help bring in more income, Mahendra (Rajesh Tailang) discovers how foolish his idea was when the boy disappears without a trace and is suspected of being kidnapped. Mahendra, facing the antipathy of his family, scrapes together what little money he has and searches for Siddharth throughout an India suffering from increasingly bleak economic conditions.

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Mahendra’s almost countrywide search begins  modestly. We then see that this story is also somewhat of a character study of a man disconnected from his homeland. The use of cell phones is ubiquitous in India, but Mahendra never seems to get a handle on the technology despite the computer knowledge that most individuals in his community evince. The man’s awakening to his own willful ignorance leads to minor scenes of humor and depth, even as Mehta tests audience sympathy toward the story’s hero: Mahendra’s admirable quality of striving to help his family makes him blind to others’ desires, much like how he carelessly sends Siddharth to work instead of school. He is frequently berated for not being as aware as he should be.

Mahendra, as man and father, is an interestingly detailed character, but the parallel storylines of his search for Siddharth and his slow embrace of changing times never effectively come together. Whenever Mahendra does make some headway into his journey, even the smallest tips of information seem to come about with no explanation., it’s hard to discern whether director Richie Mehta means to show us the distressing poverty and crime facing India, or if he means to show that Mahendra’s problems can be averted through the acceptance of modern technology.

In the beginning there’s not much that seems especially distinctive here: A poor family in Delhi send their 12-year-old son, Siddharth to work in a city some 200 miles north of the capital. Mahendra  makes less than $4 a day repairing zippers, which is barely enough to sustain himself and his family. One month later, when Siddharth should be home, Mahendra is told after an anxious few days that his son ran away from his workplace two weeks earlier.

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This makes no sense to the family, which reports the disappearance to disapproving police officer Roshni at the station and Mahendra is scolded for contravening child-labor laws, and he replies with, “Why else have a son if not to work him?” The truth is, Mahendra never really had time to contemplate a filial relationship: He’s not even sure if Siddharth is 12 or 13.

The screenplay is excellent script as are the performances. Mehta concentrates on the father. The twists and turns derive from the dad’s tunnel vision, which will collide and create a push-and-pull reaction among a those who see this film.

“SECOND OPINION: LAETRILE AT SLOAN KETTERING”— A Hero–Ralph W. Moss

second opinion

“Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering”

A Hero— Ralph W. Moss

Amos Lassen

“Second Opinion” is the story of a young science-writer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who risked everything by blowing the whistle on a massive cover-up involving a promising cancer therapy.

The war on cancer began in the early 1970s and it set the stage of new ideas about fighting the menace. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is America’s leading research center and it received the assignment of testing an unconventional drug called “Laetrile”. The idea was to curb the public’s “false hope” in the alleged “quack” therapy. Ralph W. Moss PhD, a young and eager science writer, was hired by Sloan-Kettering’s public relations department in 1974 to help brief the American public on the center’s contribution to the War On Cancer. One of his first assignments was to write a biography about Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, one of the Center’s oldest and leading research scientists as well as the original co-inventor of chemotherapy.

Moss met with Sugiura and he discovered that Sugiura had been studying this “quack remedy” in laboratory mice, and with unexpectedly positive results. Shocked and bewildered, Moss reported back to his superiors what he had discovered but was met with backlash and denial from Sloan-Kettering’s leaders on what their own leading scientist had found. Moss tried to publicize the truth about what Sugiura found even when diplomatic approaches failed. Moss was forced into living a double life—he continued to work as a loyal employee at the center and he tried to help fellow employees leak the information to the American public. This was the beginning of a new underground organization called “Second Opinion”.

 Fueled by respect and admiration for Sugiura—Ralph W. Moss attempted to publicize the truth about Sugiura’s findings. And after all diplomatic approaches failed, Moss lived a double life, working as a loyal employee at Sloan-Kettering while also recruiting fellow employees to help anonymously leak this information to the American public—through a newly formed underground organization they called—“Second Opinion”.

This is the remarkable true story of a young science-writer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who risked everything by blowing the whistle on a massive cover-up involving a promising cancer therapy.

Ralph W. Moss is the author of the infamous book “The Cancer Industry”. His latest book, “Doctored Results” was released in February 2014. As a medical writer, Moss has written 15 books on questions relating to cancer research and treatment. Moss is a graduate of New York University (BA, cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1965) and Stanford University (MA, 1973, PhD, 1974, Classics). The former science writer and assistant director of public affairs at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York (1974-1977), for the past 35 years Moss has independently evaluated the claims of conventional and non-conventional cancer treatments.

In 1994, Ralph W. Moss was formally invited by Harold Varmus, MD—the director of America’s National Institute’s of Health (NIH)—to be a member of the NIH’s Alternative Medicine Advisory Council where Ralph became a co-founding advisor to the NIH’s Office Of Alternative Medicine (now NCCAM). His articles and scientific communications have appeared in The Lancet, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the Journal of the American Medical Association, New Scientist, Immunobiology, Anticancer Research, Genetic Engineering News, Research in Complementary Medicine, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, and Integrative Cancer Therapies (SAGE), of which he is Corresponding Editor. His op-ed “Patents Over Patients” appeared in the New York Times.

“MARAT/SADE”— An Experience

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“Marat/Sade”

An Experience

Amos Lassen

 Bringing a play to the screen has been approached in many ways, often disastrously, but it is hard to recall a film that solves it so triumphantly as Peter Brook’s “Marat/ Sade.” “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade” is the film version of a play presented as being written by de Sade (for whom sadism is named), and acted out exactly as if it were performed by the inmates of the insane asylum where de Sade spent his last years writing plays for them to perform. If you think that this sounds a little too bizarre to be an enjoyable movie, you’re half right. To be exact, it’s much too bizarre. 

 It is set on July 13, 1808 at the Charenton Insane Asylum just outside Paris. The inmates of the asylum are mounting their latest theatrical production, written and produced by probably the most famous inmate of the facility, the Marquis de Sade. The asylum’s director, M. Coulmier, a supporter of the current French regime led by Napoleon, encourages this artistic expression as therapy for the inmates, while providing the audience – the aristocracy – a sense that they are being progressive in inmate treatments. Coulmier as the master of ceremonies, his wife and daughter in special places of honor, and the cast, all of whom are performing the play in the asylum’s bathhouse, are separated from the audience by prison bars. The play is a retelling of a period in the French Revolution culminating with the assassination exactly fifteen years earlier of revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat by peasant girl, Charlotte Corday. The play is to answer whether Marat was a friend or foe to the people of France. 

Peter Brook is one of the world’s most famous stage directors. He and experimental theater go hand in hand. “Marat/Sade” is adapted from Brook’s own Royal Shakespeare Company production of Peter Weiss’ play. He used the Shakespeare Company for the movie, creating a daring and almost entirely successful film that makes the audience think and take sides. 

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 In an attempt at therapy, the Marquis de Sade has written and directed a play that proceeds as well as one would imagine, considering the main actress (Glenda Jackson) is a narcoleptic manic-depressive, and one of the main actors is a serial rapist. Slowly but surely, the production begins to unravel, and the inmates become harder to control. And through the production, various inmates spout out different philosophies, while the head of the asylum speaks for the Napoleonic government of the time. 

This capsule summary doesn’t do justice to this film; Peter Brook’s direction, the makeup, and the acting all defy words. Brook contrasts extreme close-ups with wide long shots to suggest that the viewer is seeing a play. However, the contrast actually works in creating a palpable tension that doesn’t let up until the final explosive moments. The makeup, suggesting not only the sickness of the inmates, but also some of the crueler tortures that passed for therapy at the time heightens the sense of unease. Most of the actors have very few lines, so they allow the makeup and their general stance to suggest their own particular mental illness. The result is that the individual characters come together to become a dangerous mass, with each individual giving a particular shading to the larger whole. 

 Of course, the leads have more than their fair share of lines. Patrick Magee is the true standout as De Sade and is eminently more expressive and restrained here, in a role that is generally known for its wild theatrics. Magee has  crafted the Marquis into a much more human and believable character. And the look of regret ever present on Magee’s face multiplies the resonance of the. Ian Richardson ably holds up his end of the film as Jean-Paul Marat, the French revolutionary leader. Richardson’s role is less articulate than Magee’s, but what he lacks in dialogue he more than makes up for in sheer misery. Marat was a leader of strong ideals who was constantly betrayed by the ravenous actions of the French mob, who had no real plan, as well as later bloodthirsty revolutionary leaders like Robespierre. He also had a skin disease that was rather unsightly. Richardson wears his emotions on his sleeve (as well as some gruesome makeup on his body), and plays most of the film with a haunting gaze that is truly chilling. 

 The only real problem is that it tends to become overly talkative. Now, realizing that even within the film we’re supposed to be watching a play, most of the action will be symbolized, and Brook employs various devices to suggest different actions, and most to good effect. But this is a movie about a play about the French Revolution, so the endless talking makes it drag at times. Luckily, there are some good songs that are lively and pick things up. On the whole I’d have shaved off five to ten minutes, and then there would be no need to complain. As it is, Marat/Sade is more than worth watching, regardless of the few extra dragging minutes.

 The play is vexing and difficult, lacking entirely in the conventional kind of plot and suspense. Because of its peculiar structure, it made us aware at all times of the gap between the stage and reality.

At one level, the inmates of the asylum at Charenton were performing a play about the assassination of the French revolutionary figure, Marat. At the next level, we knew that the play was being directed by one of the inmates, the Marquis de Sade, for an audience of powdered and wigged members of Napoleon’s court.

At the third level was the tension during the production. Would the inmates, constantly distracted from the play by their various forms of insanity, be able to finish? Would they riot first? Would the director permit the Marquis’ subversive play to continue even if they did not?

There was the dramatic situation itself to deal with. Here was a play ostensibly being performed in 1808 by madmen, before an audience of reactionaries, 15 years after the revolution had died. Why should this situation be thought relevant to us in the middle of the 20th Century?!

Brooks made a motion picture about a production of the play. He retained the original script, unaltered so far as I could tell. He used most of the members of  the original company in their original roles. He more or less reproduced the large communal cell of the stage production. Beyond the bars he placed an audience, which we see only in silhouette. He made one wall of the cell uniformly bright, supplying all the light for the filming.

And then, to what was still essentially a stage play, he added the techniques of cinema. The one power that a film director has, and a stage director does not, is the power to force us to see what he wants us to see. In the theater, we can look anywhere on the stage. But in the movies the camera becomes our eye and the director looks for us.

Brook has taken an important play, made it more immediate and powerful than it was on the stage, and at the same time created a distinguished and brilliant film. (The film was made in 1967).

“GREASEPAINT”— The Art of the Clown

greasepaint

“GreasePaint”

The Art of the Clown

Amos Lassen

Joey Thurmond is a clown along with the rest of his family. In this documentary we are with Joey as he travels America performing as a clown. We immediately sense his love for the art of clowning and he is always ready to show others the human side of his profession. Unfortunately the art of the clown is a dying institution.

Even though Joey is the focus of this film, we meet other circus performers who speak about the positive and negative ways people feel about clowns. Joey shares with us how he is able to maintain a family life at the same time he works as a clown and we become very aware of his passion for what he does—so much so that has put his life savings and police pension into his ultimate passion.  He has even gone as far as updating his show to make it relevant to day but the problem that he faces is that he and his family never know, in advance, if they will be able to make it another year. Jamie, his wife, is the money manager and she works hard to see that the family is financially solvent. Tyler, Joey’s son, is in the midst of deciding whether to continue on his father’s footsteps or to begin a new career. So we spend a little time with clowns here and we see how taxing traveling all year can be.

Hernan Colonia has joined the family and is adjusting to a new country and dealing with immigration at the same time. We get to see and hear the stories of others in the circus milieu and spend time listening to how Joey moved from professional wrestling to law enforcement to becoming a clown. This is a story about humanity and familial love.

Director Daniel Espeut takes us through the life of a first generation family of clowns and in the process we get a taste of the history of clowns. I was surprised to learn about the sociological and psychological aspects of being a clown. Joey founded the Nojoe Clown Circus and we become privy to some of the special treats found there. He has also founded the Nojoe Foundation that raises money to support seriously injured children and other charitable organizations.

Espeut and Joey met when the circus hired him to make a promotional film and the two men became fast friends—this is a product of that friendship. I certainly was taken back to my childhood with the film and as I watched I remembered the times my father and I, the two males in the family, would go to the circus together every year. This was he one time that was ours and we both looked forward to it. I never would have thoughts that clowns were so human had I not seen this film and I must say that “Clowning is no easy business”.