Category Archives: Film

“FROM THE EAST”— Eastern Europe After the Fall of the USSR

“From the East”

Eastern Europe After the Fall of the USSR

Amos Lassen

Chantal Akerman’s “From the East” (“D’Est”) is something of an experimental film,. Akerman took a trip through Eastern Europe to document life there after the collapse of the Soviet Union where she filmed people who seem to be waiting for something. The images that we see are gorgeous and tend to push us into a state of meditation about the past.

There is no text and no voiceover. The only sound that we hear is what was being filmed at the time. There is no story and no characters in any traditional sense and no one ever tells us where a particular location is. Akerman uses two types of shots in the film.  One is the tracking shot, always a slow, steady, unbroken shot and the camera never pauses to pick out a particular person or detail.  The other type of shot is the static shot that is usually head-on, unmoving.  Sometimes this is an interior shot of someone at home making a sandwich, watching TV or more often, just sitting staring into the lens.  Sometimes it is an exterior shot of a building and

the viewer is forced to draw his or her own conclusions.  The dominating motifs are movement and waiting.  We see unbelievably long lines of people waiting.  Sometimes it’s obvious that they’re waiting for a bus or a train but at other times, it is not clear.  We see a lot of motion— cars go by, people are walking and there’s a lot of hustle and bustle but we never reach any destination.  Here is society in transition, that is uncertain of where it’s going or what to do next.

Early in the film, we see youths dancing at a rock concert and this is the most joyful and active scene we witness.  It’s almost a static shot, but we catch some movement as the camera keeps the dancers in the frame.  Late in the film, we see a cellist perform a Tchaikovsky solo.  As she finishes, the camera slowly moves to the edge of the stage, where admirers wait to present her with flowers.  Both of these incongruous shots are centered around music and we wonder if Akerman if suggesting that the appreciation of the arts is a source of hope and light for these people as well as a break from the routine of waiting or it is simply a matter of being the best way to capture what she wanted to capture at those moments.  While the movie otherwise has a rigid formal construction, these shots stand out and make you think.

The film is an excellent piece of anthropological voyeurism that puts us into the middle of a particular type of society at a particular time.  We can enjoy merely watching the reactions of people to the camera and there are many faces to take in, and these faces mesmerize us.

“OPERATION PETTICOAT”— Cary Grant and Tony Curtis Together

“OPERATION PETTICOAT”

Cary Grant and Tony Curtis Together

Amos Lassen

Together Cary Grant and Tony Curtis give this comedy about aboard a broken-down submarine that welcomes five navy nurses below decks for a perilous ocean voyage some good laughs.

Blake Edwards directed this thin service comedy. On December 10, 1941, the new Sea Tiger is ready for battle in the Philippines when a surprise enemy attack badly damages it. Although Matt’s boss, Capt. J. P. Henderson (Robert F. Simon), orders the ship grounded, Matt gets permission to make enough crude repairs to transport her to the nearest port. Henderson assigns Matt a skeleton crew. The next day there’s the auspicious arrival of the brash wheeler-dealer Lt. Nick Holden (Tony Curtis), a socialite Naval officer in a spotless uniform who has never sailed before. Viewing himself more as an “idea man” than a sailor, Nick gets appointed to be the new supply officer and since the ship has no supplies, he recruits seaman Hunkle (Gavin MacLeod) and a sailor called “The Prophet” (George Dunn) to help him raid the local supply warehouse.

The crew steals enough supplies from everywhere possible to get the Sea Tiger seaworthy again. The Sea Tiger then goes out to sea and when forced to dock at a Pacific island because of a leak, Nick brings back to the ship a quintet of stranded army nurses –Maj. Edna Heywood (Virginia Gregg), Lt. Barbara Duran (Dina Merrill), Lt. Claire Reid (Madlyn Rhue), Lt. Ruth Colfax (Marion Ross), and Lt. Dolores Crandall (Joan O’Brien). Matt has little choice but to take them to Manila.

A major money-earner when released in 1959, the film tries to marry the traditional service comedy genre with sex farce. However, too much of Operation Petticoat is dated and tired to work effectively today, which may explain why this former box office winner has disappeared from most serious discussions of 1960s film comedies. The film is released as part of the Olive Films signature series and is only available on Blu Ray.

OLIVE SIGNATURE FEATURES 

  • New High-Definition digital restoration
  • Audio commentary by critic Adrian Martin
  • “That’s What Everybody Says About Me” – with Jennifer Edwards and actress Lesley Ann Warren
  • “The Brave Crew of the Petticoat” – with actors Gavin MacLeod and Marion Ross
  • “The Captain and His Double: Cary Grant’s Struggle of the Self” – with Marc Eliot, author of Cary Grant: A Biography
  • Universal Newsreel footage of Cary Grant and the opening of Operation Petticoat at the Radio City Music Hall
  • Archival footage of the submarine USS Balao, which doubled as the USS Sea Tiger in Operation Petticoat
  • Essay by critic Chris Fujiwara

‘SOUTH”— In Jasper, Texas

“South”

In Jasper, Texas

Amos Lassen

In “South” filmmaker Chantal Akerman focused on James Byrd Jr., an African-American man, was chained to the back of a pick-up truck and dragged to his death by three men claimed to be white supremacists. The murder shook the small town of Jasper, Texas and, far too briefly, the rest of the nation.

Through the use of tracking shots through town (including one that may be a retracing of the pick-up truck’s route) and no-frills interviews with locals and a lengthy sequence filmed at Byrd’s funeral service, the film is shocking. The film is a meditation on racial hatred as seen through a true story about racial hatred in the rural south. There is no narration during the first 15 minutes as we look at an unnamed city’s black community in a rural southern town, where we view the poor houses and the barren landscape of the farm community. We then learn the town is Jasper, Texas, and in 1998 three white supremacists chained the peaceful black man James Byrd Jr. to the back of their pickup truck and dragged him on a 3-mile stretch down a deserted summer country road in the black section of town. They left him beheaded and mutilated near a black cemetery, with pieces of flesh thrown along the road. The men were quickly arrested, and said their motive was to kill a black man to restore white pride and as a symbolic gesture to drive the blacks out of the country. The victim’s Christian family refused to call for a violent payback and in a black church memorial service for the victim we hear the congregation call for tolerance and a better racial unity in town. The film briefly explores the town’s racial makeup, its past and current racial problems, and the twisted beliefs of the dangerous Christian Aryan hate group and the town’s hopes for the future in overcoming racial hatred. The film ends bringing up ghosts from the South’s past history of bigotry by going over the entire 3-mile death route and allowing us to picture for ourselves that torturous execution scene that might remind some of the crucifixion.

Jasper has an African-American plurality, and early in the film a black woman hails the progress that has been made since the Civil Rights movement, yet Akerman decides to uncover the town’s whiteness. One interviewee details how the Aryan Brotherhood methodically takes over churches and other institutions and trains followers to respond to “trigger phrases” without actually inciting violence. What is alarming is not the perpetuation of racism, but rather the Brotherhood’s invocation of America as a nation defined by whiteness. Akerman explores  this through prolonged shots of trees. As the camera lingers, the film foregrounds the passage of time such that the pasts of these trees, sites of past hangings and lynchings, become all but visible, and virulent racism seems to emanate from the landscape and from America itself. Even a paved road is corrupted with the stench and history of violence, so the film ends with an 8-minute long shot following the path in which Byrd was dragged, finding tragedy in the racial attitudes of the Brotherhood. Few films today have so simply and so effectively captured the paradoxical state of race relations in America today. We see a de facto whiteness that threatens not only lives but also the sense of belonging and therefore identity.

“FATHER GOOSE”—Meet Walter Eckland

“FATHER GOOSE”

Meet Walter Eckland

Amos Lassen

American beachcomber Walter Eckland (Cary Grant) is an unkempt, unshaven and uncouth beach bum who loves his booze. He has been coerced into serving as a coast-watcher on a remote South Pacific island during the outbreak of World War II by his Aussie friend Navy Commander Frank Houghton (Trevor Howard). “Mother Goose” is Eckland’s code name and Houghton’s is “Big Bad Wolf.” For every enemy plane movement spotted, Mother Goose gets a bottle of whiskey. Ordered to rescue a fellow spotter on another nearby island, Walter finds French teacher, Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron), and her seven schoolgirls, who are on the island because their American plane set them there to go on a rescue mission of a plane crash. Walter takes them all back to his paradise island, and Catherine tries to reform Walter of his drinking and coarse language. 

“Father Goose” was Cary Grant’s penultimate movie and he was still able to deliver the charm and comedy that he has been known for. Yet ironically “Father Goose” isn’t a movie which asks for Grant to be charming, it asks for him to be a curmudgeon who becomes frustrated by not only being forced to help the war effort but losing his island to a woman and her class of girls who force him out of his home and hide his booze. But you can’t take the charm out of Cary Grant and even when he is playing a curmudgeon he is a charming one. In fact, I would say that Grant is the reason why “Father Goose” despite now being over 50 years old is still a lot of fun. But it is also the combination of the writing and direction with Ralph Nelson keeping the movie ticking over with one joke following another but with just enough breathing room so that it doesn’t become a gag movie.

Leslie Caron acts with a sense of polite bossiness which she gives Catherine and compared to Walter is truly beautiful. There is great romantic chemistry between the two stars the comic timing between them works. In fact the comic timing works just as well with the younger actresses who play the school “Father Goose” is a new addition to the Olive Signature Series and it is released as a Blu ray disc.

OLIVE SIGNATURE FEATURES 

  • New Restoration from 4K Scan of Original Camera Negative
  • Audio commentary by film historian David Del Valle
  • “Unfinished Business: Cary Grant’s Search for Fatherhood and His Oscar” – with Marc Eliot, author of Cary Grant: A Biography
  • “My Father” – internet pioneer Ted Nelson discusses director Ralph Nelson
  • Universal Newsreel footage featuring Leslie Caron
  • Essay by Village Voice critic Bilge Ebiri

 

“THE SKYJACKER’S TALE”— A Documentary

“The Skyjacker’s Tale”

A Documentary

Amos Lassen

In 1972, 16 people were shot on the grounds of the Fountain Valley Golf Club in St. Croix, part of the Virgin Island that was then and now an American “protectorate”. Eight died, and after a massive roundup of black militants, petty criminals, and whoever happened to be around, a self-styled revolutionary called Ishmael Muslim Ali was given multiple life sentences for the massacre.

He was born Ronald LaBeet to a local mother and a German father and he grew up poor and frustrated at the island’s color-based caste system. Technically he was an American citizen, and was drafted into the U.S. army, quickly shipped to Vietnam, and came back, like many others, radicalized by the experience. He got involved with the Black Panther movement and converted to Islam. Canadian filmmaker Jamie Kastner makes it clear that police used torture to get confessions from Ali and his codefendants and that the trial itself was a pure sham. The judge was a corporate hack appointed by Richard Nixon, and the lead lawyer, famed activist William Kunstler, just might have muddied the waters by over politicizing their defense.

Ali spent more than a dozen years in American prisons before returning to St. Croix on appeal. When that appeal was denied, he managed to smuggle a gun onboard the return flight and overpowered his guards and forced the American Airlines pilot to head for Cuba, where Kastner recently found him. Kastner does not seem to be interested in establishing Ali’s role in the first crime, although the victims of the hijacking (which happened without bloodshed) are less forgiving. Ali comes across as an unlikable character with no wisdom or insight. Here is a man who, on New Year’s Eve, 1984, hijacked a passenger flight en route to New York City from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Years earlier he been convicted for his part in a robbery that left eight people murdered, and while those facts are never in dispute, director Jamie Kastner manages to throw them aside.

The film’s early scenes focus on the two events most inextricably tied to Ali: the hijacking, in which he eventually forced the plane to land in Cuba, and the bloody event known as the Fountain Valley Massacre, which occurred in St. Croix in 1972. Kastner explores one and then the other, showing how the two crimes seem too different to have been committed by the same person. In order to take over the flight, Ali, as a prisoner, had to escape his handcuffs as well as outmaneuver several armed men. By contrast, the massacre was hard, fast, and violent, involving countless rounds unloaded rapidly at an upscale golf resort and for a small amount of money. It’s possible Ali took part in both crimes, but the mass shooting doesn’t seem to match his M.O. Also such a bloody deed also seems incongruous with a man who had served in the Vietnam War which haunted him. He subsequently rejected American ideals of democracy and embraced communism. The film makes a point that this was during the 1960s during a turbulent era in which legions of Americans went through similar forms of rebellion. In Ali’s case, he became awakened to the economic and racial inequalities in his homeland, and so he returned to St. Croix, where he supported himself through petty criminal activity while taking part in a movement for a free and independent Virgin Islands.

The first half of the film makes us question whether Ali could be a cold-blooded murderer while the second half explores how a possibly innocent man could be convicted for such a crime and punished with eight consecutive life sentences. Kastner’s theory is that the massacre hurt tourism to the islands, and so the U.S. government acted swiftly to punish Ali and several other co-defendants. Through interviews with various attorneys, law enforcement officials, and other parties who took part in the original arrest and trial, the film argues that the original proceedings amounted to a kangaroo court. Particularly, there’s the issue of whether torture was used by police to secure confessions, which the court, presided over by a flunky of the Nixon administration, treats in a manner that seems unlikely able to actual justice. Kastner gives equal time to persons on both sides of the case, yet the prosecution gradually seems less and less credible.

The film reframes the initial skyjacking as a desperate attempt to escape persecution, as opposed to a guilty man trying to avoid justice, and turns Ali into something of a hero. Kastner repeatedly uses dramatic recreations that allow for a visceral experience. During the staged version of the hijacking, there’s a moment in which the camera cuts to a series of worried reaction shots by the passengers after they learn their plane has been commandeered by none other than Ishmael Muslim Ali.

We can watch this film as an attempt to correct a possible miscarriage of justice, but it’s also a highly empathic tale of someone who made a desperate stab at freedom, only to be trapped by his own success. This is a documentary that is that filled with dramatic vibrancy and intrigue.

“HANS RICHTER: Everything Turns – Everything Revolves”— Redefining Art

“HANS RICHTER: Everything Turns – Everything Revolves”

Redefining Art

Amos Lassen

Hans Richter was a Dadaist, a radical provocateur, a surrealist painter, a pioneering filmmaker and a visionary educator but above all else, he was a major force in redefining art in the 20th Century. However, he remains largely unknown and often misunderstood and undervalued. He made great contributions to creating a new social art that forever changed the act of self-expression. This film explores just that through taking us on a journey through the century as we see Richter’s struggles to establish film as a unique art form.

Richter collaborated with his many friends (including Marcel Duchamp, Sergei Eisenstein, Tristan Tzara, Mies Van Der Rohe and Hans Arp) and he was part of the leading edge of the European Avant Garde. He established film as an art form in the 1920s with his experimental films “Rhythmus 21” and “Ghosts Before Breakfast”. With these, he liberated film from the theatrical conventions of script and actors. After being forced out of Europe by the Nazis in 1941, Richter escaped to the U.S. Here he became a prophet of modernism and was followed by young American artist/filmmakers, who would become the New American Cinema movement.

Now 25 years after his death, Hans Richter remains misunderstood and undervalued for his contributions to creating a new social art that forever changed the act of self-expression. With this film, Dave Davidson hopes to change that.

Those who disagreed with Richter claimed that he was nothing more than a witness to history or even a person who used his friends’ good names to get ahead. Here we see him as a visionary who was committed to creating communal art that held social significance.

As a young man, he was at a creative mind who dared to rebel against the European aristocracy during World War I. During the years between the wars, Richter collaborated with luminaries such as Sergei Eisenstein and Mies van der Rohe while making his own seminal experimental films. His radical political ideas and passion for the Avant Garde caused him to be exiled from Germany and labeled as a ‘degenerate artist’ by the Nazis.

In 1940, just as he was to be arrested by police in Switzerland, Richter escaped Europe and came to New York with little money and a limited command of English. He soon was able to get a teaching position at the newly formed Institute of Film Techniques at The City College of New York. For the next 17 years, Richter became an influential figure to generations of American filmmakers. He made them aware of documentary, experimental and European films unlike anything they had ever seen. He became an inspiration to filmmakers such as Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick who illustrate Richter’s lasting imprint. The film has captured Richter’s energy as a radical artist. He was at the epicenter of major art movements of the 20th Century and out of them, he strove to create a new social art.

The DVD contains the bonus shorts of “Rhythmus 21” (1921) and “Ghosts Before Breakfast” (1928).

“CENTRAL PARK: The People’s Place”— A Loving Portrait

“CENTRAL PARK: The People’s Place”

A Loving Portrait

Amos Lassen

Central Park is often referred to as New York’s collective backyard. It is the first truly public park and Martin L. Birnbaum paints a lovely tribute portrait to the green space among the cement towers that surround it. The film is “a biographyof a living place that continues to evolve as the city changes”. The documentary takes us to its creation as the first truly public park, its psychological and sociological significance, artistic design, and role as an urban oasis as the world becomes increasingly aware of the importance of green spaces.

We see nature’s seasonal changes with beautiful photography. Central Park is home to birdwatchers, sunbathers, children and their playtimes, musicians giving impromptu concerts and big events like Shakespeare in the Park and the New York City Marathon. It is safe to say that the name Central Park is a reflection of its centrality to the life of the city.

I remember my first trip to New York sometime back in the 1950s and my parents made sure that one of the places we went was to Central Park. It was important that we see the greenery in the city and not take it for granted as it is in New Orleans where I am originally from and where there are many green parks all year long. We see here Central Park’s democratic birth and diversity of people, activities, history, landscapes and values.  We also see the role Central Park plays in the lives of New Yorkers both as a communal backyard and as being of psycho-sociological importance as a green spot in an urban environment. We see and hear interviews with a cross-section of people who use the Park daily to those who are professionally connected to the park like Betsy Barlow Rogers, Art Historian and Founder, Central Park Conservancy; Morrison H. Heckscher, Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of the American Wing, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Francis Morrone, Historian/Writer; Edward Hallowell, MD Child & Adult Psychiatrist; and Douglas Blonsky, President & CEO, Central Park Conservancy. We also hear from the gardeners, the soil scientists and the volunteers.

With its 843 acres of green space, Central Park plays a unique role in the city and is a perfect place for picnics, strolling, dog-walking, outdoor concerts, Shakespeare under the stars, and a place for quiet contemplation, outdoor painting, and performing all kinds of music. Central Park has appeared in many famous movies and during the annual New York City Marathon, it represents the spirit of New York around the world. Many will be surprised to hear the unlikely story of Central Park’s creation and how it became the prototype for other parks in the U.S.

The idea for this film began years ago when Director Martin L. Birnbaum began photographing its seasons over the years thus creating a visual poem.  As he met other park lovers, the film grew into a 90-minute documentary with beautiful cinematography and original music. “Central Park: The People’s Place” looks art the collective and individual experiences of Central Park as it rejoices in the diversity and splendor of an American experiment in social democracy.

Douglas Blonsky, President & CEO, Central Park Conservancy, describes the evolving story of the park and the experiences it offers, “It is a series of these travels through the park, all these wonderful little destinations, that’s what we want to highlight.”

Interviews with: Morrison H. Heckscher, Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of the American Wing, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Francis Morrone, Historian/Writer; Edward Hallowell, MD Child & Adult Psychiatrist; and other experts, provide a range of perspectives on the social and historical sides of the park’s story.

 

“SCHOOL OF BABEL”— Fitting In

“School of Babel”

Fitting In

Amos Lassen

Julie Bertuccelli’s documentary “School of Babel” takes us to Paris, the city that has taken over as the center of migration from many countries around the world. The children of émigrés to France are placed in a special “reception class” where few speak the same language. They must learn French in order to be allowed to move on to regular school.

Bertuccelli has gathered children from 24 countries to talk about how it is to be a stranger among strangers. The film follows the kids for a year and we see them grow and change. At first, they communicate in rough, pidgin French but, as the year progresses, they become more fluent and articulate in the language as they prepare to move on in the French school system.

When we first meet the kids, they are a disparate collection of youngsters thrown together. Some adjust to their new circumstances better than others and we get to know all of them over the course of the school year. Friendships are made as the kids learn how to communicate in their adopted language.

The immigration issue is one of the most contentious debates in countries all around the world and many of the questions about immigration are evident here. Teacher Brigitte Cervoni welcomes students from around the world into the school La Grange aux Belles in northern France. Her task is tough. She is to provide a transition for immigrant children who spend a year learning French and a core curriculum which will enable them to enter regular classes. The children range in age from 11 to 15 and they come from China, Serbia, Venezuela, Ireland, Guinea, Ukraine, Libya, and other countries.

The students have been encouraged by their parents to do well in school so they will raise the standard of living for their families. Interviews with the parents show us what their kids experienced in life. The most controversial topics discussed in the classroom have to do with religion and the fears about the future. Miss Cervoni demonstrates an ideal equilibrium between being tough on her pupils and being warm and welcoming when it comes to guidance.

The film’s lengthy opening perfectly opens the door for the overall tone as each child shows the class how to write and say hello in their own language. This is a multi-cultural classroom and the only way of communicating with each other at this stage is their minimal French. Despite the enthusiasm and the desire to share traditions and teachings from their homelands, each and every one of these kids has much deeper problems and as the film progresses, we see just how damaged these kids and indeed their families really are. I was reminded of when I moved to Israel and was placed in a class to learn Hebrew. There were some twenty of us from all over the world and only three of us shared English as a common language. I might not have had the baggage like these kinds but I did have to learn the language if I was to survive in the country.

Discovering the reasons why these children are here in the first place is often heart breaking and deeply affecting. They face a struggle between age, culture and class as they try to make a better future for themselves.

“THE UNAMERICAN STRUGGLE”— Our Struggle

“The UnAmerican Struggle”

Our Struggles

Amos Lassen

 “The UnAmerican Struggle” is a feature length documentary film that looks at the struggles that immigrants, Jews, Latinos, Muslims, Blacks, women Rights, and transgender and gay and bisexual people face in today’s America following the election of Donald Trump as president.

 The Trump presidency has brought about a resurgence of bigotry in America. Some 62 million Americans elected a presidential candidate whose views are rooted in racism, misogyny, sexism, and xenophobia. Many across this world are unhappy that Donald Trump is now the President of the United States. His words and actions as a candidate, and now his policies as President, have given new life to intolerance and bigotry that now sweeps across this country.

Seventeen experts representing the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Diversity Council, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and local groups, such as Black Lives Matter, have lent their voices to the film to educate viewers about the reality of bigotry in America and the necessary fight ahead to bring this country back to its principles of tolerance and diversity. (I really prefer the word “acceptance” to “tolerance”— to me, to be tolerant is to put a short-term bandage on something).

When bigotry is unchecked, it ushers in greater abuses to civil rights and we have seen this in the attacks on the free press which is the cornerstone of American democracy. The film, directed by Ric Osuna, speaks to the dangers of remaining silent in the face of state-inspired hate and threats to civil rights.

Many of us are stunned to see that our land of inclusion has been transformed into the land of exclusion. We wonder how this could have happened yet we watched it happen right before our own opened eyes. We ask Trump encouraged the Alt-Right or did the Alt-Right encourage Trump? We want to know what is the Alt-Right anyway since it seems to me to be an umbrella term for all sorts of hate groups.

“The UnAmerican Struggle” is a feature-length documentary that examines the resurgence of racism, misogyny, sexism, and xenophobia in America brought about by Donald Trump’s words and actions as a candidate, and now his policies as president.

The film pays close attention to the struggle for equality from the perspective of Immigrants, Latinos, Muslims, Blacks, Women, and Transgender People and others. We see that many want to help us better understand the fight to preserve America’s values of inclusion and civil liberties. Here we gain a counter voice to the spread of bigotry and intolerance in Trump’s America and even though these issues are not new, they still require a more in-depth analysis, reflection, and discussion action if the country is ever to once again feel truly united.

It is important that educational facilities, parents and child advocates began now to educate citizens on ways to bridge the areas of diversity such as culture, skin color, religious and political beliefs that these gaps have caused. There must be safe environments for mutual understanding, civil discourse, and respectful dialogue to take place.

At times, we will need to master the art of “agreeing to disagree” in order to come together and embrace obvious differences. This can be achieved by listening to the views of others, self-education and the harnessing of personal beliefs in order to reflect on someone else’s. We must value diversity and respect human worth.

By learning to appreciate that people are different while recognizing the existing similarities Americans can overcome divisions. It is okay to value individual beliefs and heritages while respecting someone else’s. Without allowing others the freedom of a differing opinion, we will never realize peace

At the basic level of humanity’s existence, everyone is of the same human species. We all experience good and bad times while working for a fulfilled, successful, and happy life. As it stands, the country’s diversity is under attack. The diversity of differences is what makes us unique but the commonalities we share bring us together. This is what is under attack here and the remedies for this are love and acceptance. We need to work on these now!!

“EVIL IN THE TIME OF HEROES”— A Messy Sequel

“EVIL IN THE TIME OF HEROES”

A Messy Sequel

Amos Lassen

“Evil in the Time of Heroes” is about some ancient Greek warriors who came across zombie-making evil, and their ‘story’ is cut together with the modern zombie survivors and incarnations of the heroes. Anything beyond this description can only be as incoherent as the movie. There’s a lot of silly dialogue and scenes that try to be funny but are only confusing, random fight scenes between zombies, soldiers, anarchists and ancient warriors with unrealistic blood, random supernatural abilities like faster-than-bullet speed and Jedi-knight fighting abilities that seem to come and go. There are random flashes forward, backwards and sideways, a supernatural climax against the evil forces of light that is too incoherent to even describe, an appearance by Billy Zane as a Jedi, and people that come and go, disappear or resurrect at random. On the other hand, I had a lot of fun watching this mess.

The film takes us back to how the ancient Greeks dealt with zombies (who evidently have been around throughout history). But we do not watch zombie films for historical accuracy, we watch them to see gore. How, um, educational. But one doesn’t judge a zombie movie by its historical accuracy or complex plot points; one judges on the basis of the quality of the zombies and the gore.

Basically, this is a story set in modern times, when some evil has been released that very quickly reduces most human beings to zombies. A small group of humans have banded together in a house in order to be safe. Added to the menace of the zombies, there’s a bunch of rogue humans taking advantage of the craziness, and shooting people for fun. Then every once in a while, the narrative cuts away to ancient Greece, where a few brave warriors have banded together to fight off the same zombie evil (who are just dressed differently).

Through all of this, in both ancient and modern times, there is a mysterious prophet, Billy Zane. He shows up at the strangest times, alternately killing off zombies and looking for the “chosen one.”   Director Yorgos Noussias gives us some utterly fantastic zombies, over-the-top gory fight scenes, campy dialogue, and stylish camera work and editing. There is enough gore to satisfy the bloodthirsty among us and many of the characters often looked like they had bathed in blood. We see severed limbs, impaled bodies, bullets taking out the entire back of a skull throughout film and from the opening scene to the final credits, we watch a race against time (the “authorities” are sending planes to bomb the city to rid the world of the “infection”) and to stay alive.

The epic scale of the film is totally impressive – the number of zombie extras numbered in the several hundred range, thus providing mass zombie fight scenes. There are several outstanding aerial shots of the post-apocalyptic Athens streets, and one of the stadium, post-carnage, where all you see is a fantastic stain of red. The movie is wonderfully shot and well-paced and above all, it is thoroughly disgusting with the level of blood and laugh-out-loud dialogue. It is darkly funny and completely satisfying. Now wait a second—I said earlier that the film is a total mess and so how can I say such good things? I can do so because I am thinking now about the fun value of watching it. It is one of those movies that are so bad that they are good.

The screenplay is awful and absolutely nonsensical. It is pure stupidity that is difficult to swallow and it jumps back and forth for no reason. I could never be sure if the director was merely kidding around with the material or thought that would be good horror entertainment. By this I mean why does the same actor play his own mother and dress in drag? What was the point of seeing Greek gladiators in the prologue? Yes, this is complete and utter nonsense but it is also great fun.