Category Archives: Film

“THE WOLFPACK”— When Everything Changes

the wolfpacl

“The Wolfpack”

When Everything Changes

Amos Lassen

The Angulo brothers are locked away from the outside world on Manhattan’s lower east side. What they learn about the real world is from what they see in the films they watch. They are nicknamed “The Wolfpack” and they spend their childhood reenacting their favorite films by using elaborate homemade props and costumes. Then their world is shaken up when one of the brothers escapes and everything changes.

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I doubt any of us have seen a story quite like this before and it is a documentary. Seven children, all with waist-length hair, are raised on welfare in a messy four-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. And they are almost never allowed to leave the house. They have not seen the outside world for years. The only key to where they live in in their father’s possession and he keeps the place locked. There have been time that they have been allowed outside but there are other times that they have been not. Today, all but one of the children still live there.

This is one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction documentaries. In 2010, Crystal Moselle, the film’s director, met six of the Angulo siblings— boys who were then aged about 11 to 18, on one of their rare trips outside and befriended them. Over time, they allowed her to bring a camera inside the apartment. Moselle tells us, “I was their first friend, and I think they were as fascinated by me as I was by them,” “Slowly their mom warmed up. The dad was definitely a roller coaster.”

They, Bhagavan, Govinda, Narayana, Mukunda, Krisna and Jagadesh — and their sister, Visnu were homeschooled by their mother and when they were not learning, they were allowed to watch movies nonstop, on DVDs bought at a discount or borrowed from the library. What they saw of the world came from Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, David Lynch and Martin Scorsese and while these provided something of a different look at the world, the films did give them some creativity which they incorporated “into their lonely, claustrophobic lives.”

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We get a look at what happens to the human spirit when it is locked away and interaction does not occur. The kids do not realize that life is different from the movies and not all girls break boys’ hearts. The brother, Mukunda who is now 20 and who got away has said that he had seen the film and that it accurately represented his family but declined to comment further. Susanne Angulo, the children’s mother stated that “I probably should not comment further,” she added before ending the call. Attempts to reach the children’s father, Oscar Angulo, were unsuccessful; a number listed in Manhattan had been disconnected. What we see in the film is“the intertwined, complicated and nuanced relationship between filmmaker and subject. The raw intimacy she [Moselle] is able to capture is a testament of the trust and bond she was able to establish.” We see the Angulo siblings in “The Wolfpack” as articulate, sensitive and extremely likable. At times, whether lost in role play in the apartment or heaped in a pile on a mattress to watch television, they can also seem a bit feral. A few speak, at times, with a cadence that is slightly off kilter. They clearly love their mother, Susanne, who is presented as being controlled to the same degree that they are.”

“There were more rules for me than there were for them,” Mrs. Angulo says quietly on camera. The father is more complicated. Ms. Moselle, 34, does not reveal him until about an hour into her 84-minute film and, even then, he speaks very briefly and doesn’t make much sense. He is a Peruvian immigrant and Hare Krishna devotee and we see him as as a paranoid man who has struggles with alcohol. He believes his children will be “contaminated” if they are let into New York City.

Director Moselle states, “We wanted to tell the truth without making too many judgments. Believe me, I could have really gone off on the guy.” She also says that “The thing is, these brothers are some of the most gentle, insightful, curious people I’ve ever met. Something was clearly done right.”

“The Angulo children, all of whom still live at home except for Govinda, 22, according to Ms. Moselle, are shown struggling with resentment toward their father. Narayana at one point says, “There are some things you just don’t forgive.” Later, he worries about “being so ignorant of the world that I won’t be able to handle it.”

Of course, we can only wonder if the children suffer psychological problems as a result of their unorthodox upbringing. “The Wolfpack” suggests the answer is yes but does not go into what they might be. The film does note that government agencies have become involved in recent years — following a visit to the apartment from the police — and that the children, at least for a time, were treated by psychiatrists.

Moselle first met the brothers in 2010 as they walked “in a pack” down First Avenue. “All of them were wearing black Ray-Ban sunglasses inspired by “Reservoir Dogs,” and their long hair was blowing in the wind. “I just started running after them to find out more and was instantly obsessed,” she said.”

“To divulge how the Angulos happened to be out of the house that day would move into spoiler territory. The Sundance programming guide does disclose that “everything changes when one of the brothers escapes and the power dynamics in the house are transformed.”

 

 

‘LAST OF THE MOBILE HOT SHOTS”— Williams and Vidal

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“Last of the Mobile Hot Shots”

Williams and Vidal

Amos Lassen

“Last of the Mobile Hotshots” is based on the Tennessee Williams play “Kingdom of Earth or The Seven Descents of Myrtle”. It is a slapstick comedy and it really seems like a parody of the author himself. The screenplay was written by Williams and Gore Vidal.

Set in the Mississippi Delta at Waverly, an old plantation, this is a look at life and death. Jeb Stuart Thorington (James Coburn) is the last of the legitimate Thoringtons and he is suffering from terminal cancer in his one lung. He married Myrtle (Lynn Redgrave), a hooker, on a TV show for which he got $3500 dollars to fix up Waverly. His brother, Chicken (Robert Hooks), is half black and a bit simple.

The Mississippi River flooded the property as Jeb continued to die upstairs in the bedroom. He dreams how life once was and through flashbacks we see that he and Chicken would visit whores and together have sex with them. It is not clear but it seems as if they have sex with each other. Chicken sits downstairs waiting for Jeb to die. Myrtle stays on the move, running between upstairs and downstairs. She tries to get Jeb to make love to her and she makes love to Chicken because he has the deed to what she wants to inherit. If you have seen other Tennessee Williams plays and/or movies made from them then you will recognize the characters.

Directed by Sidney Lumet the film just does not make it. Parts of the film are slow but the images we see are fascinating— James Coburn descending the stairs in a wedding dress, Lynn Redgrave winning on a TV game show, the flooding of the Mississippi delta are some of what you see. I understand that the movie received an “X” rating so it was cut and rereleased with an “R”. There are rumors that Criterion plans to release the original “X” version much like it did with Williams’ “The Fugitive Kind”.

There are some interesting Biblical references here— a flood that washes everything away – except one house that bobs up in the current like Noah’s Ark. This flood occurs on the Day of Judgment, when human beings are either redeemed or damned. There is also the subplot of racial transgression and there is a lot about the past. Jeb lives in the past and is heavily influenced by it. Chicken comes to terms with the past but not until the end of the film. Myrtle, at first, is consumed by materialism but she realizes that there are personal issues that are more important than money.

The film was originally released in 1969 and I believe it was probably misunderstood. It is an honest and brutal film that takes place in the calm before the storm and then afterwards. This is the South in its decadence. The movie polarizes the viewer and makes him/her confront their personal prejudices. I collect films of Tennessee Williams and sitting down to watch this made me realize once again just how powerful he was.

“THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE— An Adaptation of Stevenson

Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne

“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne” (“Docteur Jekyll et les femmes”)

An Adaptation of Stevenson

Amos Lassen

The engagement party of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Miss Fanny Osbourne is the backdrop of an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s original novel. After the party, Jekyll and Osbourne, someone yells out that a child has been murdered outside on the street. The party guests watch a dancer perform and during which Jekyll tells a lawyer to change his will and leave everything to someone named Mr. Hyde. Soon after that the dancer was found murdered and the guests at the party realize that one of them must have done so.

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Jekyll had been spending a lot of time doing medical research and just recently he published a book that give his thoughts on transcendental medicine. While the party was underway, Fanny went into Jekyll’s lab where she sees him having a bath of chemicals. The chemicals are what cause him to transform into Hyde who is a representation of the bestial side of human nature.

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Made in 1981, this is Walerian Borowcyzk’s take on Stevenson’s classic. It is a kinky French horror film, with a disturbingly lustful sadism. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Udo Kier), a wealthy and celebrated scientist, is hosting a party to celebrate his engagement to Miss Fanny Osbourne (Marina Pierro). His crippled mother, his mother-in-law as well as assorted scions of Victorian society, a clergyman, a rival scientist and a general (Patrick Magee), come together for an evening of food and celebration. They are pompous, self-satisfied and bubbling over “with barely concealed desires as they exchange pleasantries and hotly debate Jekyll’s new theory of transcendental medicine.” Jekyll wants his estate given over to the mysterious and as yet unseen Mr. Hyde, and there seems to be a settling of accounts coming up.

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The director makes no pretense about not holding to the original story. Jekyll’s assault on the guests is savage, and yet they are complicit in their own downfall, either because he stirs in them their own (scarcely) hidden desires, or because they provide him with the weapons of their destruction. His own sadism is pitched against their own hypocrisy and general vileness. It seems that Fanny also would like to experience transformation.

Borowczyk’s take on the story starts with a dread-provoking, mysteriously filmed sequence of an adolescent girl running for her life from a shadowy man. She runs through alleys and dark buildings before he finally chases her down and beats her with his cane, which shatters. He starts tearing her clothes off, but someone who happened along scares him away.

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Meanwhile back at the party we learn that Jekyll has recently published “The Laboratory and Transcendental Medicine”, a book that lays out his new theories of metaphysical medicine and is the topic for hot hotly debated at the dinner table by Jekyll, Reagan, and Jekyll’s colleague and critic Dr. Lanyon (Howard Vernon). Throughout the dinner, we see brief glimpses of horror that will take place before the night is over.

When Victoria, the dancer is upstairs resting after her performance, an intruder she is savagely raped her and left her for dead (which she was). The men at the party think that whoever did this had come into the house. The women are told to lock themselves in the rooms of the house and the men take off to find the perpetrator. The general shoots Jekyll’s coachman by mistake and the general is then jumped on and tied up by the man guilty of the other crimes and then he runs off to commit more crimes and one of those happened to be the sexual assault of one of the young male party guests. Everyone has assumed that Jekyll was outside taking care of his coachman but…

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Lanyon gets the women to take a sedative but Fanny does not and she goes to Jekyll’s lab where she sees him bathing in the solution that will cause his transmogrification into Hyde (Gérard Zalcberg). The film keeps the identity of Hyde mysterious for more than half the film, with Hyde’s appearances fast, obscured, and punctuated by unnerving glimpses of perverted savagery. Hyde’s killings are the result of sexual aggression, for in the course of the film he kills at least one man and one woman by sexual penetration (or so we’re told) with his gigantic, animalistic phallus, as Lanyon tells us. Lanyon feels that they are up against a creature that is not just brutal but has no sense of what is allowed and what is not. I could continue telling you about the plot but I do not want to spoil the mystery, etc. For anyone who is interested in the development of the horror film, this is a must see.

“BLOOD AND BLACK LACE”— One of the Early Slasher Films

blood and black lace

“Blood and Black Lace” (“Sei donne per l’assassino”)

One of the Early Slasher Films

Amos Lassen

Many trace the roots of Hollywood slasher films to “Blood and Black Lace” and that is because of the wonderful work done by the director, Mario Bava who gave us this blood-drenched mod-whodunit. It all starts with a young woman walking through misty woods where she is strangled by a man in a trench coat with a fedora on his head. We see her body being dragged out of the frame and as this happens we see statues of cherubs in the garden. That site is the House of Christina, a haute couture fashion house where the other characters are assembled. It is presided over by salon owner Cameron Mitchell and recently widowed countess Eva Bartok, While it seems quite elegant, it is actually a place filled with greed, drugs, abortions, blackmail, and especially, sadistic slaughter.

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Director Bava gives us a lot of intrigue as we try to figure out is the person responsible for the murders. His imagery with the color red is amazing and even with the blood and horror; the film is a visual feast. Some would say that it is a typical murder mystery that certainly made people pay attention. There are lots of characters and lots of suspects as to the murderer are and why is he killing beautiful women. The major clue that we get is that the murders seem to be connected in some way to a diary. As the movie plays out, people die all the time.

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The story is somewhat hard to follow but there are enough aspects of the film that will keep the viewer interested. Something else that most audiences are not used to it ending of the film does not clarify everything. The motive for the murderers is predictable. Bava is one of the leading advocates of the giallo kind of horror.

The house of Christina is really just a façade for all kinds of sins including drugs, cheating, and abortions. Because Bava filmed this having everyone look guilty, we cannot really guess who is the murderer. The narrative is very strong as is the wonderful use of colors and shadows. The violence is brutal (at least in 1964 was when the film was made).

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When the police began their investigation, the carrying-ons at the House of Christina were exposed and it was also discovered that Isabella, one of the murdered models had kept a diary that detailed all that went in the House. At first the diary went to Nicole who promised to turn it into the police but Peggy, another model was able to get the diary. Soon after Nicole was killed and we can surmise that the murderer was after the diary. When the murderer realized that Nicole did not have the diary, he then kidnaps Peggy. This shows a trend that is played out throughout the film.

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The film was considered to be a tremendous advancement in the development of the modern horror film. It has remained as one of best slasher films ever made. Bava plays down characters and psychological motivations and creates a grand symphonic rendering of violence. We soon realize that no one is who he/she is supposed to be and no one is to be trusted. The camera is used in a way to make the audience part of the film’s action. What we do see about the characters is that they do not possess the ability to love. Even those characters who are in relationships are to caught up in their own lives and worlds and this has weight when we look at how they feel for each other.

“THE ALPS FROM ABOVE”—From Mont Blanc to the Dolomites

the alps

“The Alps from Above” (“Die Alpen – Unsere Berge von Oben”)

From Mont Blanc to the Dolomites

Amos Lassen

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If you have ever been to the Alps then you know the definition of the word. “beauty”. However, not everyone has had the chance to see them for themselves and here is the next best thing. “The Alps from Above” is “a stunning expedition into Europe’s greatest mountain range”. It is composed of exclusive aerial shots that are both close-ups and breathtaking panoramic images and we go on an expedition the peaks of Mont Blanc to the Dolomites traces the history and geography of the Alps.

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The film covers most of the important aspects related to the Alps. We learn about the flora and fauna, about recent developments in terms of geology, ecology and economy and about historical significance. There is a scene filmed with a falcon camera and we see the view from the bird’s perspective and it is both amazing and mesmerizing. Now this is one of those films that is best appreciated when seen on a large screen (this does not mean you cannot enjoy it at home, however).

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The film is a visual feast that emphasizes the beauty of the mountains but it does not shy away from the dark and commercial aspects of the Alps. As we watch we are totally aware of the aesthetic power of both nature and technology. However, it is fair to say that the film works on a purely visual level. There are other places to find that information.

“GIRLHOOD”— Finding Identity and Freedom

girlhood

“Girlhood” (“Bande de filles”)

Finding Identity and Freedom

Amos Lassen

Marieme is bored with her family, dead-end school prospects and the boys in the neighborhood so she begins a new life after meeting a group of 3 free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her dress code, and quits school to be accepted in the gang, hoping that this will be a way to freedom.

Writer/director Céline Sciamma’s film “Girlhood” largely ignores many of the external factors of growing up and highlights the emotional battles that we have within ourselves, as well as the struggle centered around the concept of morality. She deals with the questions of how do “right” and “wrong” apply to adolescence, and how they affect our future.

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 Marieme (Karidja Touré) lives within a difficult family structure, as she primarily takes care of her two younger sisters. She fears her older brother, Djibril (Cyril Mendy), and his abusive tendencies. Their father is absent while their mother is constantly working. She joins a group of three free-spirited girls, led by Lady (Assa Sylla) and pursues a similar lifestyle in order to find both the freedom as well as the identity that will take her from under the oppressive rule of both her brother and from what she thinks that society expects of her.

I think that most of us will agree that the people that we spend time around as a young adult truly affect the outcome of our personalities as we continue to grow up. In Marieme’s case, she wants to blend in with three popular girls so she begins spending a lot of time with them. At first she seems to be an outsider but she progressively becomes more like the group as time continues. However, her status within the group isn’t truly recognized until she receives a necklace from Lady with the word “Vic” on it, which is short for “Victory.” This is the theme that follows Marieme through her journey in growing up. She procrastinates with many of her responsibilities so that she can spend more time with this group, in which she feels a part of. When Marieme briefly meets a previous member of her clique, she slowly begins to realize that her place within this group very well may be nothing more than a step towards a greater future. She knows that her place with the in crowd will not last forever, and she realizes that if she wants to go anywhere in this world, she needs to do something with her life.

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The film is divided into chapters divided by a black screen and what is so amazing in this film is that director Sciamma perfectly captures the phases that so many individuals endure throughout adolescence. Each chapter is a section that is influenced by previous occurrences that continue to shape Marieme’s path to adulthood. There is a lot of emphasis placed on gender and its construction. One of the major elements to this coming-of-age story is society’s construction of gender. In most of Marieme’s relationships there is an obsessive patriarch and her older brother of whom she is afraid represents him. Then there are the social pressures of the popular boys, and the dominating presence of a future employer. When the film begins we see Marieme playing football and then later we see her playing sports video games. Many of her activities are viewed as being male-driven, as she continues to contradict gender stereotypes. The fights with other girl gangs are certainly provoked by the talk of male peers, as Lady and Marieme are willing to do whatever it takes in order to keep a good reputation. We realize that “Girlhood” is so much more than a film about growing up; it also is the story of a struggle to overcome the patriarchal aspects of Marieme’s community.

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Karidja Touré is absolutely brilliant as Marieme. She gives us an inspiring portrayal that perfectly captures the young adult, who is fighting to find her identity and thereby insuring that “Girlhood” gives a new meaning to the coming-of-age film. The film is a complex look at growing up, as well as the gender constructions that exist in society. It’s the feminist answer to Boyhood, yet it manages to dig deeper. The film somehow thrives in both its subtle and direct approaches, as it captures young adulthood in a unique fashion. The film does not patronize and it provides credible representations of class, race and gender as it illustrates the intricacies of social inequality. Sciamma manages to harness the specificity of both her characters and their surroundings. I found the film to be an indictment on the inaccessibility of contemporary culture as seen through the eyes of black working-class girls.

“BLIND WOMAN’S CURSE”— A Yakuza Thriller

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“BLIND WOMAN’S CURSE”

A Yakuza Thriller

Amos Lassen

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Akemi (Meiko Kaji) is a dragon-tattooed leader of the Tachibana Yakuza clan. In a duel with a rival gang Akemi slashes the eyes of an opponent and a black cat appears, to lap the blood from the gushing wound. It seems natural that revenge would follow and the cat together with the eye-victim go on to pursue Akemi’s gang and leave a trail of dead Yakuza girls, their dragon tattoos skinned from their bodies. The film combines female Yakuza with a traditional Japanese ghost story and also mixes in some grotesque-erotica and what we get is quite a mash-up of classic genre tropes.

blind1Akemi and her clan members pursue and meet their opponents and Akemi delivers a sword thrust to kill the opponents’ leader. Aiko, his daughter, tries to come between them and suffers a blow to her eyes that cuts her and blinds her. While this is going on, a black cat that goes unnoticed licks the daughter’s wound. Revenge continues for years and great dissension grows with Akemi’s people and death is prevalent. They are joined by a new member who comes to help but she is odd and also blind. She carries the curse of the blind lady and it is about to take care of Akemi, the dragon lady.

blind2The well-known erotic and grotesque film director Teruo Ishii, is at the helm here and he gives us a film that mixes horror and yakuza conventions. He sees the film as a bit of nonsense. Visually the film is gorgeous and it is entertaining to watch and when we consider that it was made in 1970, it becomes all the more interesting. Many see it as a hybrid of the period gangster, revenge, and horror film genres.

“MARK OF THE DEVIL”— In Cahoots with Satan

mark of the devil

“Mark of the Devil”, (“Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält”)

In Cahoots with Satan

Amos Lassen

 “Mark of the Devil” begins with a group of local witch-hunters chasing down a monk and two nuns who, it has been decided, are in league with Satan. A public execution in the town square follows, including the removal of the monk’s fingers and his tarring and feathering. It was indeed a spectacle and we even hear, “Strip him – that way the women will enjoy it too!” Women who were regarded as the object of temptation suffered terrible fates and since those who hunted witches were men, we can expect the worst treatment of women possible. The ugly Albino (Reggie Nalder) organized these hunts. But then Christian (Udo Kier) comes to the local tavern and advises Albino that he’s arrived there ahead of his master, Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom), who will arrive shortly to oversee future witch trials. Obviously, this upsets Albino and he’s quick to pick up on the chemistry between Christian and barmaid Vanessa (Olivera Katarina). When Albino tries his luck with Vanessa he is rebuked and condemns her as a witch and tries to take her into custody. Christian has something to say about this and here starts the story that exposes his own lust for women.

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Christian believes that he has been employed to undertake God’s will, Albino is ambiguously conscientious about his approach to his work and Cumberland sees corruption within the local authority’s ranks. These three points give intrigue to the film. That is not to say that the film is not exploitive because it most certainly is. We see young women stretched on the rack, stripped naked, whipped, raped, having their tongues torn out with tongs, burned and so on. It even becomes more violent when we understand the terror that these women feel.

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Cumberland is frustrated because he is impotent and this is what causes him to act so madly. Christian understands to mean that God does not want dead people; he wants confessions. However when Christian falls for Vanessa, he begins to see the atrocities as an excuse to swipe valuables and land from the aristocracy. Aside from being a cult film, “Mark of the Devil” is an important chapter in the history of exploitation cinema as it managed to deliver extreme material in the context of an historical, deeply pessimistic story. It shows us an utterly compromised world in which innocence has little value, money will just get one killed, and almost anything can be seized under the guise of the church.

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The cast is totally wild and participation in this movie went on to open doors for many of the actors. By today’s standards it is somewhat mild but it certainly gives us a look at horror as we once saw it and it will continue to remain a standard for many horror film aficionados.

“QUEEN AND COUNTRY”— Aspirations and Realities

queen and country poster

“Queen and Country”

Aspirations and Realities

Amos Lassen

In “Hope and Glory”, John Boorman gave us a fictionalized look at his childhood as he experiences life through the London Blitz. In “Queen and Country”, he returns to the story some ten years later (1951). We meet Bill Rowan (Callum Turner) who has just turned 18 and eligible to be drafted for two years of national service. Set just six years after VE Day, the mood in the country has changed and with the trouble in Korea seeming not nearly as serious as possibility of bombing during World War II.

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Most of the film takes place at the training camp for new recruits not far from London. Bill becomes friends with Percy (Caleb Landry-Jones), an anarchist who does not get along well with his commanding officer, Sergeant-Major Bradley (David Thewlis). Bill lusts for a mysterious girl who manages to change the boy we meet in the beginning of the film into a man by the film’s end. Percy and Bill were not sent to Korea— they were left behind as officers in charge of the typing corps. On one of their nights off, Bill meets an older woman, Ophelia (Tamsin Edgerton), and soon enough becomes infatuated with her. With love on his mind as well as the war, Bill is forced to decide where his allegiances really lie.

We get a real sense of post-War London and in the barracks where we see an army repairing itself after the devastations of previous years. The movie does give us a look at how the middle-class lived in London at the time as it moves toward the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, the end of Empire and a change in moral values. Because Boorman knows this world so intimately, we really see and feel what it was like.

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Boorman evokes a world he knows intimately with skill and affection, turning out an immaculately crafted film with an old-fashioned feel and sense of values. However, if we compare this to “Hope and Glory”, we see what worked so well in that film does not do the same in “Queen and Country”. It is certainly not easy to bring comedy and war together but in this Boorman has succeeded. We especially see this as Bill and Percy spend their days toiling under the watchful eye of Bradley teaching new recruits how to type. They don’t take their work or the military particularly seriously so when the opportunity arises to cause some trouble, Percy does. In this way Boorman is able to balance some of the more difficult sides of war with drama and comedy.

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Landry Jones is excellent as great as Percy, the wise ass who always seems to be the instigator. He works wonderfully with Callum, the young man narrating the tale. What we ultimately get is a different approach to war and a reminder of some of the great war movies of the past. If I had a problem with the film and this is not really a problem but it is as if director Boorman expected us to be familiar with the events and characters of “Hope & Glory” (which is already 26 years old). There are some references to what happened in the earlier film.

“Queen and Country” opens in New York on Wednesday, February 18 and in Los Angeles on Friday, February 27, 2015.

“DISORDER”— China Today

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“DISORDER”

China Today

Amos Lassen

Huang Weikai’s film “Disorder” is a documentary that looks at the anarchy, violence, and seething anxiety in China’s major cities today. It could not be shown in China because the government controls television and it has become aligned with the emerging underground media in the Far East.

The film is a collection of footage from amateur photographers and he then brings them together into a symphony of “urban decay”.  To give you an idea of what we see here there are photos of a man dancing in the middle of traffic, another man attempts to jump from a bridge before dozens of onlookers; pigs run wild on a highway while dignitaries swim in a polluted river. The overall result is a film that gives us the upheaval in China from the very bottom level. We see disorder portrayed symphonically and while nothing seems to be linked together, we soon realize that it is. We see a water main that causes a big leak and disturbs traffic downtown but more surprising is that the people use this as an excuse to wash their cars and then the film switches to a man who claims to be hurt in a car accident and when he is offered money by motorists, the police appear and drag him off. Is there something in common between these two scenes or are they just representative of what is going on in Chinese cities. We see the lack of identification with life when a man gets ready to jump from a bridge because his legal situation has been stalled in the courts and then we see pedestrians walking across a busy highway and at the same time risking their lives. These are examples of the disorder that exists in a country that leads the world in manufacturing. What the movie presents to us is everyday life gone amok—a civilization that has lost control of itself and where it is heading. It is both effective and surreal at the same time. The footage is in black and white and because it is somewhat grainy, we sense the hopelessness that is felt in this documentary that focuses on realism. There is no narration and it becomes the viewer’s job to assimilate all that is seen into a portrait of life that has lost its direction. This is the chaos of rapidly industrialized China and it is raw and terrifying.