“MACBETH”— The Dark Version

macbeth

“MACBETH”
The Dark Version
Amos Lassen

Orson Welles plunged into what was already one of Shakespeare’s darkest works into the primeval darkness and assumes the title role of the thane who, in response to the pre- and post-determinate urgings of four women, hacks and slashes his way to assume the crown of Scotland and spends the entirety of his short reign fearing the similarly presaged events that threaten to depose him wit great violence. In Grand Guignol fashion, Macbeth’s fears and dirty deeds result in his sanctioning further atrocities and self-fulfilling prophecy. The limited scope of Welles’s production design, turns Macbeth into the king of a kingdom that resembles nothing so much as a replica of Stonehenge and ends up making subconscious comments on his perceptibly fallen fortunes. That Macbeth’s crown rests so uneasily makes one wonder if Welles, at this point, wasn’t even less confident in his artistic command than anyone realized.

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Welles, himself, inverts his usual charisma so that it here represents a rotting soul. But beyond him and Jeanette Nolan, who plays Lady Macbeth, the rest of the cast seems stuck in readers’ theater mode. The new Olive Films release offers the long cut with the Scottish accents intact. Some of the more heavily processed sequences bear the mark of age, but there are a few scenes in the darkest recesses of those dripping caves where the black levels are incredibly inky.

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“Macbeth” is surreal and primitive and wonderfully imperfect. The production is a clear act of madness, on par with the insanity that takes place within the story. It is somewhat of a gothic murder mystery–but without the mystery. We know that Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth invent a scheme to commit regicide and take over the throne. They are spurred on by the murky prophecy of three witches, and to take care of business, Macbeth must betray his friends, murder children, and basically transform himself into a tyrant. Haunted by their crimes, both husband and wife go crazy. In addition to the magic of the three witches, Macbeth also sees ghosts. The spirits of the men he betrays return to torment him (or he’s just losing his mind).

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Welles plays up on this, and his “Macbeth” is a spooky horror tale. The rocky walls of his cavernous sets box Macbeth in, trapping him at the crime scene. The sky is dark, and thunder claps echo in the distance (though regularly without the lightning that follows) and the wind whistles through the corridors of the royal caves. The fabric of the plot takes on elemental proportions. Everything in this version is exaggerated. Welles shoots from low angles with ominous shadows on the walls. He frames actors in extreme close-ups so that it feels like we are eavesdropping, particularly during the monologues, which also dissolve into hallucinations. Sound effects are unreal and unrecognizable. When King Macbeth finally does take the throne, it is oversized and perches him high above his people. We wonder if this is just a dream? And if so, is it a delusion brought on by the witches and their smoky brew, or is it a product of Macbeth’s own paranoia?

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Welles has a tendency to be a bit of a ham, but he keeps his propensity of overdoing it well modulated here. The famous “is this a dagger I see before me?” soliloquy is delivered as a whisper with the director saving his blustery temperament for when the fever truly grows hot. Jeanette Nolan, who makes her film debut ere, is fantastic as Lady Macbeth. Her devious, thoughtful performance stays away from anything resembling comical evil, making her slide into dementia all the more disconcerting. She’s too together to fall apart. The scene of her suicide is shocking and Welles pulls off one of the best falling body special effects in classic cinema. Likewise, the eerie lead-in to the climactic battle, with Malcolm’s army advancing on the castle while camouflaged, is fantastic. In terms of cinematic Shakespearian adaptations, tis is easily one of the oddest. It’s an imperfect picture, but it’s a bold one, and is an essential part of the Orson Welles’ canon. Its breathless escalation to the frenzied finale is a desultory rush, and has finally found its way to DVD.
Olive Films’ Blu-ray of “Macbeth” is a careful encoding of the full-length, restored original Orson Welles cut. The materials exhibit a number of flaws here and but the overall appearance of the show is very good, and certainly far better than older TV prints of the short version, which were both soft and dark. The HD image pulls out a great deal of previously unseen detail in makeup, costumes and the massive sets of rocky caves and battlements, complete with painted backdrops.

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OLIVE SIGNATURE FEATURES include
New High-Definition digital restoration
Includes 1948 and 1950 versions
Audio Commentary with Welles biographer Joseph McBride
“Welles and Shakespeare” – an interview with Welles expert, Professor Michael Anderegg
“Adapting Shakespeare on Film” – a conversation with directors Carlo Carlei (Romeo & Juliet) and Billy Morrissette (Scotland, PA)
Excerpt from We Work Again, a 1937 WPA documentary containing scenes from Welles’ Federal Theatre Project production of “Macbeth”
“That Was Orson Welles” – an interview with Welles’ close friend and co-author, Peter Bogdanovich
“Restoring ‘Macbeth’” – an interview with former UCLA Film & Television Archive Preservation Officer Bob Gitt
“Free Republic: The Story of Herbert J. Yates and Republic Pictures”
“The Two ‘Macbeths’” – an essay by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum

“COFFEE AND CIGARETTES”— Seventeen Years in the Making

coffee and cigarettes

“COFFEE AND CIGARETTES”

Seventeen Years in the Making

Amos Lassen

Jim Jarmusch’s “Coffee and Cigarettes” is an unmistakably nostalgic film that takes place in a series of eleven brief discursive vignettes. It tookJarmusch over seventeen years to make this anthology of conversations most among famous or semi famous people, who to a degree play themselves. We see Bill Murray moonlighting as a waiter, Cate Blanchett as a blond movie star, Steve Buscemi waiting on tables, spilling bad coffee on Joie and Cinqué Lee (whose more famous brother, Spike, is mentioned in a later vignette).

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Some of the episodes are slight and anecdotal. Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes discuss the physics of the Tesla coil; Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni talk past each other before one of them goes off to a dental appointment and others sound like good short stories.

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We see that under the influence of nicotine and caffeine, and with too much time on their hands, people have a way of getting on one another’s nerves. You might think that a meeting between Iggy Pop and Tom Waits would be a kind of summit of uncompromising cool, but in each other’s company those musicians turn defensive and passive/aggressive. Even in the most casual exchanges, hidden agendas and unspoken tensions exist beneath the surface. Mr. Buscemi’s idle chatter, and the Lees’ response to it, shows a bit of racial hostility. Two old friends (Isaach de Bankolé and Alex Descas) talk in circles around some unnamed emotional distress before saying their inconclusive and sad goodbyes.

Title: COFFEE AND CIGARETTES ¥ Pers: WRIGHT, STEVEN  /  BENIGNI, ROBERTO ¥ Year: 2003 ¥ Dir: JARMUSCH, JIM ¥ Ref: CAC008AG ¥ Credit: [ SMOKESCREEN/UNITED ARTISTS / THE KOBAL COLLECTION / JARMUSCH, JIM ]

Title: COFFEE AND CIGARETTES ¥ Pers: WRIGHT, STEVEN / BENIGNI, ROBERTO ¥ Year: 2003 ¥ Dir: JARMUSCH, JIM ¥ Ref: CAC008AG ¥ Credit: [ SMOKESCREEN/UNITED ARTISTS / THE KOBAL COLLECTION / JARMUSCH, JIM ]

In the two strongest chapters (one featuring Blanchett and another in which Steve Coogan and Alfred Molina play a deft game of celebrity one-upmanship) we realize that vague discomforts blossom into one-act dramas of envy and suspicion.

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This movie has great music that ranges from Mahler to the Skatalites. Its magic lies in the echoes and unexpected harmonies between the selections. Snatches of conversation and stray thoughts recur like musical motifs.

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In the short film vignettes where one or two characters meet in coffee shops or dilapidated hotels and warehouses, they talk, sometimes have a misunderstanding, and at some point mention that there’s nothing better than the simple pleasures of a cup of coffee and a cigarette. However, at times, “Coffee and Cigarettes” becomes redundant and dull. Not all of the sketches work, but there are highlights: a confrontation between a goofy Iggy Pop and a growly Tom Waits inside a jukebox bar; Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and GZA discussing herbal remedies with a caffeine-delirious Bill Murray; Steve Coogan making a pompous ass out of himself to good-willed Alfred Molina; and especially Cate Blanchett playing twins, sending up her own glamorous movie star image while simultaneously proving her multitalented range as an actress. The ending comes with two old blue-collar guys on a coffee break, with an ode to the workingman (to Mahler’s music). The film is shot in black and white making the whole business seem dreary.

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The characters in the film discuss things as diverse as caffeine popsicles, Paris in the twenties, and the use of nicotine as an insecticide, all the while sitting around sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. Jarmusch seems to takes delight in nostalgia, fine music and absurd dialogue to fully capture just how absorbing the obsessions, joys, and addictions of life can be. 

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As master of minimalism and of using unique camera angles, Jarmusch draws out contrasts in pictures that tell stories without words. The main themes are the nature of celebrity and the misunderstandings that can arise between friends and relatives. The film is original and for that it should be seen.

“HOUDINI”— The Legend

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“HOUDINI”

The Legend

Amos Lassen

In the years following Houdini’s death, the legends about him, like all legends, became much more interesting than the truth. Yet as time passed and the legend, it began to reverse itself and we learn that the truth far more interesting than the legend. We certainly would rather hear that Houdini was the greatest escape artist instead of learning that he was actually boring and had no stage presence. Houdini overcame potentially fatal flaws to become someone whose very name is synonymous with magic and escape artistry and this is the Houdini we want to remember.

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Directed by George Marshall and written by Philip Yordan, “Houdini” is a fluffy, sometimes even comical presentation of Houdini the legend that highlights several key escapes and playing up his fabled interest in the paranormal. It overlooks almost every important fact about the real Houdini but there is enough other stuff to keeps us entertained. Thanks to Tony Curtis we see Houdini as a charming man and he is supported by Janet Leigh as Bess, his wife and the popularity of the couple in real life helped the film.

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The film begins at a cheap sideshow where Harry is not yet Houdini and working as a magician and “the wild man”. He sees Bess in the audience and when the two met it was love at first sight and they were quickly married. Already thinking about the legend, he claims that on their wedding night, he sawed Bess in half. That gives us a hint of where this movie is going. The film jumps around Houdini’s life with little basis in fact (which does not make this any the less entertaining). It just seems that it has chosen to the urban legends (or simply make up new ones).

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Scenes detailing Houdini’s interest in the occult stick more to the truth. After his mother died, we see that Houdini turned to spiritualism in hopes of soothing his loss, only to discover every medium he encountered was a fraud. Thus began Houdini’s side career as professional debunker, but this dealt with on a shallow level.

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The screenplay is more interested in getting back to the daring escapes which are recreated with plenty of excitement that are presented in over-the-top ways. It all ends with Houdini’s death and once again there is no relationship to the truth about how Houdini died. It is certainly more interesting and more fun to see him die as the result of a failed escape than having him die as a result of peritonitis. It might be fiction but it is fun to watch.

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What is missing here is any sense of Houdini’s personality here, and understanding of character. This is simply a straightforward point-by-point account of famous moments in Houdini’s career with no subtext. To an extent, it works, as the film achieves exactly what it sets out to accomplish but nothing more than that.

“CARRINGTON”— A Different Kind of Love Story

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“CARRINGTON”

A Different Kind of Love Story

Amos Lassen

“Carrington” tells the story of the unconventional romance between a young female heterosexual painter, Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey, the famous homosexual essayist and biographer.

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Set in England from 1908 to 1932 we meet Carrington and Strachey , two members of a bohemian group of modernist writers, artists, and thinkers. Strachey, at first glance takes Carrington (who hated to be called Dora to be a young boy) but a friendship quickly ensues the two set up house together. She remains devoted to Strachey even after marrying and having affairs with other men. They are soul mates who share an appreciation for sexual and artistic creativity.

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Writer and director Christopher Hampton based his on the biography of Lytton Strachey by Michael Holroyd. Jonathan Pryce as Strachey dominates the film with his fussy and idiosyncratic performance as an outspoken homosexual and iconoclastic chronicler of the excesses of the 20th century, Emma Thompson is perfect as the mysterious Carrington who finds her own way as a woman, artist, and lover. When Strachey discovered that Carrington was not the cute young boy as he thought, he was struck dumb and the conversation ended between them.

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The movie is historically accurate, but it focuses less on the events of the time than on the relationship between the principals. This is a special love story that challenges the intellect with the film showing that it’s possible to have love even when their sexuality is incompatible.

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Lytton Strachey was born in 1880, fifteen years before Dora Carrington. The two met shortly after the onset of World War One. Then, he was a confirmed pacifist; she wanted nothing more than to be a man so that she could fight. Strachey went on to write several unique biographies in a style characterized by “a brevity which excludes everything that is redundant and nothing that is significant.” Carrington remained a little-known talent during her lifetime, since she painted just for herself and Strachey, not to exhibit or sell.

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The film is divided into six chapters, most of are named after the men who float in and out of Strachey’s and Carrington’s lives. Strachey is there all the time and is a constant supportive and loving presence for Carrington.

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Emma Thompson gives a carefully restrained performance. Jonathan Pryce matches her movie for move., better known to American audiences for his Infiniti TV spots than for film roles like Brazil, is every bit Thompson’s equal. It’s a rare pleasure to watch two top-notch equals play off one another. There is tangible chemistry between them, although not of the conventional sort.

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Strachey and Carrington don’t have sex, but their love is definitely neither unrequited nor unacknowledged. This is a passionate, although never gratuitous, motion picture, with a clear view of how it wants to portray its characters and their complex relationship. The result is a memorable portrait of two of history’s most unique lovers.

“The Angel of History: A Novel” by Rabih Alameddine— A Man and His Era

the angel of history

Alameddine, Rabih. “The Angel of History: A Novel”, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2016.

A Man and His Era

Amos Lassen

Born in Yemen, fifty-year-old Jacob is a poet who looks back at his life as he sits in a hospital waiting room. He was raised by his mother in an Egyptian whorehouse, his adolescence was spent with his wealthy father and he lived in San Francisco as a gay man during the height of the AIDS epidemic. During his life he witnessed an era of profound political and social upheaval. The entire book takes place during the course of one night as he feels that Satan is hovering over him and making his remember his painful past. He is urged by Death to stop living while fourteen saints argue his position.

Jacob is facing a crisis and his brilliant mind is reeling as he revisits Cairo, Beirut, Sana’a, Stockholm, and San Francisco as a war between memory and oblivion fight it out and wrestle with his thoughts. His lover has just died and his emotional stability is at stake. Jacob is a brilliant man who is tormented and decides to check himself into a

psychiatric clinic because he has been besieged by hallucinations and hears the voice of Satan. Then there has also been a drone strike in Yemen. His despair is centered on his inability to deal with the loss of his lover and his friends the AIDS crisis. He remembers visits to S&M dungeons and speaks irreverently about politics and culture as he recalls his childhood separated from his parents. There is an aura of mystery here as senses Satan (presumably a projection of Jacob’s anxieties) and Death meeting in his mind. Saints try to get him to continue hating himself. Jacob’s world has become one of struggle to make sense of a world filled with HIV and innocent war victims. There does not seem to be any direction in this novel just as there is no direction in Jacob’s life. He is unable to remember his partner, Greg’s, last days and Satan provokes Jacob to talk to the fourteen saints rather than his dead partner. He is to think about painful past.

While the subject of the novel is not pretty, the prose is gorgeous. In forgetting the past, Jacob distorts it and shows how memory can take us into trouble. We immediately see the frailty and humanity of those that he writes about. Beneath Alameddine’s symbolism is a story of his loneliness and misery and as we read we read, we feel what he feels.

This is a novel about remembering. Satan wants Ya’qub (or Jacob in his immigrant, gay SF life) to remember all the horrible things he has tried hard to forget so that he can continue to wallow in self-pity and depression. We witness a tug of war between Satan and Death. I am reminded of the Yiddish story of how everyone is born with two angels, one on each shoulder, one a good angel and the other an evil angel and throughout the life of the person, they argue about who will get the body at the end of life. Death, wants Jacob to finally give up and while remembering is difficult, forgetting entirely is an impossibility.

Different narrative threads that come and go as a web of truths and paths connect things together. The testimonies of the saints prevent him from forgetting and he has conversations with his lover that are often interrupted by Satan, Jacob remembers and recounts all that has led him here.

I am not sure how to classify “The Angel of History” other than saying that it is a masterpiece and that it is erudite and witty, heartbreaking and reaffirming, bitter and sweetly creative. It is story of an AIDS survivor that is necessary to read and important to our history. We must understand that it is not Alameddine’s sanity that we are reading about, it is his identity as a poet, an Arab, and a gay man and the book beautifully captures Jacob’s mind as it moves between memory and the present.

 

 

 

 

 

“Joseph: Portraits through the Ages” by Alan Levenon— Looking at Joseph

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Levenson, Alan T. “Joseph: Portraits through the Ages”, Jewish Publication Society, 2016.

Looking at Joseph

Amos Lassen

In thirteen chapters of the Hebrew Bible, we get the story of Joseph, the most sustained and dramatic story in the holy scriptures. Joseph is a complex character and an understanding of his life and times has received many, many commentaries including Philo, Josephus, Midrash, and medieval commentators, along with many modern scholars. They have explored, re-explored and looked at Joseph, the man and asking questions such as why he did not let his father know that he was alive and well in Egypt why his brothers hated him so, his life as a father and husband and so on. Alan Levenson

Levenson deftly shows how an unbroken chain of shows how the various interpretations and commentaries have added to an understanding about Joseph and who he really was. The beauty of the Hebrew Bible is that it allows us to interpret and find what we need to find there.

It means every reader in every generation comes to the Bible from his own perspective, and finds in it what he needs to see. I have always loved the Joseph story for just that reason. I remember that I once attended a Torah study where we spend many sessions discussing Joseph and the rabbi leader the study mentioned that the Joseph narrative is the most important because of his exile to Egypt. Had this not happened there would have been no return to the land of Israel. While this is quite a strong point to make, I am not sure that I agree with it but it is a valid observation.

Levenson takes us back to the story of Tamar and incest. We can understand this story as either a look at the moral character of the times or as a story that ensures Jewish destiny.

The story of Joseph’s coat of many colors is also problematic. There is an interpretation (Thomas Mann) that the coat is made from material that originally belonged to Rachel and whenever Jacob saw Joseph and he was wearing the coat, Jacob was reminded of the love he had for her and that he lost her. There is also the idea that it was Dinah who actually made the coat but because she could not distinguish between colors that it became what is was. Levenson gives us many more stories like these and they make us think and therefore look at the narrative in ways we have never considered. We are here provided with a multi-layered look at Joseph that gives us a lot to think about. If only we had a book like this for every major Biblical character.

 

“J’ACCUSE”— One of the First Anti-War Films

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“J’ACCUSE”

One of the First Anti-War Films

Amos Lassen

Abel Gance mixes stark realism and World War I scenes to give us bitter depictions of trench warfare and the effect of four years of combat on all of those involved, soldiers and civilians alike. “J’Accuse” is an astonishing mix of science fiction and horror elements and he brings together history and literature by using the title of Emile Zola’s denunciation of the injustice behind the Dreyfuss affair. The film combine images and the message behind them, making this one of the most startling films of its era (1938) and gaining a reputation that even today some eight decades later it continues to be relevant.

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Edith (Maryse Dauvray) is married to the gruff and stern hunter François (Séverin-Mars).  She doesn’t love him and was forced into marriage by her father who respects his ruggedness.  Edith is really in love with a poet, Jean Diaz (Romould Joube), and the two try to sneak away for a quiet moment together whenever they can. It is all interrupted when war breaks out.  The citizens are elated that they’ll finally get a chance to bet the Huns, and François enlists immediately.  Jean, a member of the reserves, doesn’t have to report for 40 days however. After basic training, François discovers a love letter to his wife from Jean.  His first thought is to kill the young man, but his father-in-law talks him out of it.  After all if he does that, he won’t be able to fight.  Instead, he sends his wife off to live with his parents in the mountains.

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Edith is captured by Germans on her way to her in-laws, taken prisoner and brutally raped, repeatedly.  When Jean hears of this, he moves up his call-up date and goes to the front to rescue the woman he loves.  There he is stationed with François, and while the two initially hate each other, they soon realize that they are fighting for the same thing.  While the two men are bound together by love for the same woman and the horrors of war, things soon take a more tragic turn that will leave no one untouched.

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Most of the men used in the film were in the army and were tragically killed weeks later.  Aside from the use of real soldiers, Gance employed many innovative techniques to get his point across.  He used a lot of superimposition used through the film, to great effect. He did not need to use tricks while editing. He made powerful statements about war and in one of the scenes, we see a young child, still in diapers, running up to his playmates and declaring “It’s war!” The use of tender and brief moments show how families felt about the war and there is no melodrama here. The most amazing scene we see it when a man who is obviously crazed imagines that all of the dead soldiers from the war get up and go back to their hometowns to see if their sacrifice had been worthwhile. 

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Some feel that Gance oversteps a little in his agenda with a confusing storyline and an unfocused, shock-value ending. Quite simply, his scenario that was too good and idealistic to be true. History seems to teach that war is inevitable because it is a part of human nature. There has always been war, and there always will be war. We try to repress that nature, so that when war comes, we can only justify it by dehumanizing our opponents. If we just accepted that it is a historical part of our nature, we could better understand one another and actually avoid war by admitting that we are prone to it. In recognizing our dark nature, we would be more honest and willing to seek out a more peaceful solution instead of letting our war-like instincts take over. Gance argues here that war can be prevented with love, and while this might be true in a perfect world, it simply goes against what we know of the history of mankind. , and it actually fuels the repression that leads to dehumanization.

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This is supposed to be a riveting film that stands against the notion of war, but it eventually comes across as so idealistic and naive that it nearly patronizes its audience. Gance argues that the World War II could have been prevented with love, and that the French, and the entire world, were foolish for entering into it. While on paper, this looks good but who can blame Europeans for defending their homes when the Nazis came to destroy their homes?  In its final moments, J’Accuse! becomes a pseudo-fantasy film with the resurrection of the soldiers of the world who died in the Great War being sent to the battles of World War II.

This is a film built on good intentions and a premise that was simply too good to be true. Gance needed to realize that in addition to being idealistic, the hero of his film was also wrong, and instead of trying to stop another war he—and his film—should have tried to understand humanity’s tragic drive to fight it.

“HARA KIRI”— The Last Day

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“Hara Kiri”

The Last Day

Amos Lassen

 “Hara Kiri” is a punk infused love story of two street skaters, August (Jesse Pimentel) and Beto (Mojean Aria), and their last day on earth and how they are going to see it. The film looks at the dark extremities of love and the innate sense of belonging. Written and directed by Henry Alberto, the film was shot on location in just three days.

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Shot on location in just three days throughout Los Angeles, “Hara Kiri” is directed by award-winning director Henry Alberto, who also wrote the screenplay. This is most definitely a nontraditional film.

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The two skaters make a suicide pact and we are with them as the last days arrives and they bid goodbyes to their pasts. They stop for a bite at every fast food restaurant for their last meal(s).

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The dialogue is completely improvised by the actors and based upon conversations that the actors had with director Alberto. 

“Inside Dumont: A Novel in Stories” by Michael Craft— When Love Comes

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Craft, Michael. “Inside Dumont: A Novel in Stories”, Questover Press, 2016.

When Love Comes

Amos Lassen

If you have never heard of Dumot, Wisconsin, you are not alone but it is not to late to do so. Get a copy of Michael Craft’s “Inside Dumont” and sit back and have a good time reading the place where so much goes on. We begin by meeting Marson Miles as he gets dressed for dinner and celebration on New Year’s Eve. When he meets his wife’s nephew Brody Norris who has come from California to join his architectural firm, his life changes drastically and the town of Dumot will never again be what it was. “Inside Dumot” chronicles the relationship of Marson and Brady as well as what happens in the town around this relationship. The story is told from different viewpoints and different perspectives and in twelve different chapters.

Dumot is a town that is filled with busybodies, racists, scandal and crime and its story is humorous. The characters are well drawn and wonderful to read about. The book comes to us as a collection of stories that come together to give a whole look at Dumot. We move from narrator to narrator and from past to present. Marson is the link that holds them together.

Here is small town America that those of us who have lived in places like this will immediately recognize as well as be reminded of people and events in our own pasts.

 

 

“SMART: Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team”— Saving Animals

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“SMART: Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team”

Saving Animals

Amos Lassen

I would probably be crazy if my Jack Russell got herself into a situation in which saving her would be nearly impossible. Did I say impossible? That is a word that the members of SMART do not have in their vocabulary. In this documentary, we meet Armando Navarrete and Los Angeles’ Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team. The film looks at Armando’s journey as he works to get his team off the ground. For anyone who has ever had a pet or loved an animal, this is a must-see film.

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Here is a group of highly trained, adrenaline-fueled professionals who risk their lives to rescue animals! They will save anything and everything, wild or domestic, from an all kinds of dangerous situations. The film was shot over a three year period and it follows team leader Armando Navarrete as he helps lift a horse from a river by helicopter, tranquilizes a deer in Pee-Wee Herman’s back yard and falls five stories from the top of a tree. These animal rescues come at great cost; both personally and professionally and at the same time there is another struggle that is being fought at animal shelters. Armando refuses to let an animal die alone in the dark, but in the end, Armando may be trying to rescue himself.

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In February 2012, the Small Animal rescue Team (SMART), Department Air Rescue Team (DART), Wildlife Program and Permit Section were consolidated into one Special operations Unit. The Department further unified the Small Animal rescue Team (SMART) and Department Air rescue Team (Large Animal Rescue Team – DART) into one joint venture now called, the “Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team” (SMART). This reorganization resulted in leveraging staff to do more than one function, and existing staff was cross-trained to support each other. The end result is more staff is available for emergency call outs and Departmental field support. Most importantly, the Department is able to provide increased quality and improved services to the public while maximizing safety and support to personnel.

SAN PEDRO - 04/16/12 - (Scott Varley, DAILY BREEZE Members of the L.A. Animal Services Small Animal Rescue Team (SMART) climbed to the top of a 2-story building to coax a cat named Gizmo down. The cat had been on the roof for nearly a week and eagerly walked to its rescuer before being put in a bag and lowered to the ground. Rescuer Annette Ramirez lowers Gizmo to her partner on the ground.

SAN PEDRO – 04/16/12 – (Scott Varley, DAILY BREEZE Members of the L.A. Animal Services Small Animal Rescue Team (SMART) climbed to the top of a 2-story building to coax a cat named Gizmo down. The cat had been on the roof for nearly a week and eagerly walked to its rescuer before being put in a bag and lowered to the ground. Rescuer Annette Ramirez lowers Gizmo to her partner on the ground.

The SMART team now has a 100% perfect save rate since they began using their specialized training, experience and knowledge for rescuing small and large animals in distress. The Special Operations Unit, including the SMART team, is under the command of Director of Field Operations, Mark Salazar and being led by Acting Lt. Armando Naverrete. The SMART team consists of ten LA Animal Services Officers and one Registered Veterinary Technician.

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This is a fascinating movie and one that I will remember for a long time. It is interesting how pets have moved to the forefront of the protection movement and it seems that we now realize their importance.