Film Review: Alphaville (1965) by Patrick Ivers

kinopoisk.ru-Alphaville_2C-une-_26_23233_3Btrange-aventure-de-Lemmy-Caution-674800Sci-fi drama set in a utopian society where emotions are forbidden.
 
(b/w; Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution, French). Posing as Ivan Johnson, a journalist from the Outlands, Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine), secret agent 003, wearing a trench coat & brimmed hat, checks into a hotel in the futuristic city of Alphaville, 9,000 km from his planet. A hostess, Beatrice, seductress 3rd class, offers to bathe with him; a man barges into the room, attempting to attack him, which he later leans was a psycho-test. “All things weird are normal in this whore of cities,” he declares. Lemmy’s assignment is to find & bring back Professor Leonard Vonbraun (Howard Vernon), formerly known as Dr Nosferatu of Los Alamos, inventor of the death ray, “alive, or liquidate.” But first he intends to locate Henri Dickson (Akim Tamiroff). Miss Natasha Vonbraun (Anna Karina) comes to the hotel room with an offer to take him to the gala reception of the city’s annual festival. As they walk down the hotel corridor, listening to her explanation of providing services for visitors, Johnson asks with incredulity: “You never have love affairs?… Has no one ever fallen in love with you?” “In love?” she replies: “What is that?”
 
A legend can make complex reality easier to communicate in director/writer Jean-Luc Godard’s sci-fi drama of a utopian society, in which asking “why” rather than saying “because” is forbidden, sometimes employing film negatives in scenes. Neon signs of “hf=mc2” & its alternative equivalent “E=mc2” flash momentarily throughout the film.
 
Dickson lives at the Red Star Hotel on Enrico Fermi, after Heisenberg Blvd, not far from Mathematical Park. On the drive, Natasha, repeating in her “pretty sphinx voice” what she’s been taught, tells Johnson, who asks her if Prof Vonbraun is her father (yes, though she’s never seen him): “No one’s lived in the past or will live in the future.” When Dickson arrives at the Red Star, Johnson gives him US currency with which Henri pays for his room key & a seductress.
 
Many people who cannot adapt to Alphaville’s highly organized lifestyle, from which all artists have been eliminated, commit suicide; others who behave illogically are executed. With is dying breath, Henri begs Johnson to make Alpha 60 self-destruct. The seductress drives Johnson to the south district where he enters the Central Memory complex of Alpha 60’s logic organization. “The present is the form of all life,” declares the computer, describing life & death as a circular pattern. Words change meanings, or meanings change words. Next Lemmy travels to the north district where he joins Natasha for a display of executions performed at a swimming pool with girls diving into the water where the victims fall after being shot. Natasha says to Johnson, taking photographs of people getting shot for expressing their emotions: “Isn’t that a crime in the Outlands?”
 
In an elevator, as Lemmy tries to speak to Prof Vonbraun alone, he’s prevented by a couple of thugs who beat him senseless. When Natasha sees him, tears flow, though she denies she’s crying because that is forbidden. Interrogated by Alpha 60 (“working for universal good”), Johnson after answering the questions hears the mechanical voice pronounce: “You are hiding certain things.” In answer to Johnson’s inquiry about Dr Nosferatu, he’s told that the scientist, who was exiled from the Outlands in 1964, no longer exists, only Professor Vonbraun. Johnson is introduced to Professors Jeckell & Heckell, who expect a war with the Outlands, so Johnson could be useful. Back in his hotel room, Lemmy finds Natasha waiting for him, admitting: “When I’m with you, I’m afraid.” He reads poetry to her from The Capital of Pain by French surrealist poet Paul Éluard. Among the words she doesn’t comprehend – words disappear every day, replaced by new words, confusing communication – is “conscience”; she searches the room for a Bible, which when she finds it (“conscience” not in it) is actually a dictionary. Alpha 60 tries to bribe Johnson with an offer of his taking charge of a galaxy with its gold & women; he poses a riddle to the computer: “If you find it, you will destroy yourself simultaneously because you will become my kin, my brother.”
 
***

 

Alphaville is available at UW’s Coe Library.

Patrick is a regular contributor to Laramie Movie Scope. See many more reviews of his at: http://www.lariat.org/AtTheMovies/old/others.html

Film Review: Loves of a Blonde (1965) by Patrick Ivers

sw01Romantic comedy wherein a provincial factory girl follows a pianist to Prague.
 
(1965, b/w; Lásky jedné plavovlásky, Czech). A reserve military unit is sent to the provincial town of Zruc where young factory girls, relocated by the Communist government, outnumber the male population sixteen to one. Three soldiers send a bottle of wine over to three girls at a dance mixer, but the waiter initially delivers it to the wrong table, before correcting his mistake. One of the men, accidentally dropping his wedding ring on the floor, retrieves it by crawling under the table where the bottle had originally been sent. Retreating to the ladies room after spending some time dancing with the soldiers & visiting at their table, having been asked to accompany them for some fun, Jana (Jana Nováková) says to Marie (Marie Salačová: “I’m not going. Those old geezers will try to drag us to the woods.” The third girl, Andula (Hanu Brejchovou), chats with the young pianist, Milda ((Vladimir Pucholta), who while reading her palm remarks on her long life line & a scar. Andula confesses to once having attempted suicide. He induces the coy girl up to his room & cleverly – ostensibly while demonstrating methods of how to defend herself from someone being a nuisance – gets her to disrobe. In bed with him, she asks him to pull down the window shade, initiating a comic routine.
 
Behind the iron curtain in this romantic comedy from director & co-screenwriter Milos Forman – with Jaroslav Papousek, Ivan Passer, & Václav Sasek – Andula says to Milda, “I don’t trust you,” & then she does with her entire heart. Repeatedly Milda assures her: “I don’t have a girl in Prague.” He compliments her as having an angular figure like a guitar in a Picasso painting.
 
At the conclusion of their weekend together, Milda returns to Prague & Andula to the shoe factory. Her previous boyfriend, Tonda (Antonin Blazejovsky), after a month’s absence, shows up, demanding that she wear or return the gold ring with a diamond that he gave her. Andula refuses: “You’re disgusting like a beast.” If they want to win a decent boy who will become the husband who will love & cherish them forever, a female comrade instructor exhorts the factory girls that they must hold onto their personal honor while earning respect from the boys by not going out with someone different every time. They all pledge to improve their conduct. Andula, catching a ride on a truck to Prague, appears in the evening at the home of Milda’s parents with suitcase in hand. Informed by Milda’s father (Josef Sebánek) that he doesn’t keep track of his son’s whereabouts, she asks if she may leave her suitcase while she goes out looking for him. “Incredible,” exclaims Milda’s mother (Milda Jezková) when her husband relates the unexpected appearance of a girl asking for Milda: “I’m worried about him.”
 
Unable to leave the building because the exit door is locked, Andula returns to ask to be let out. Instead, Milda’s mother insists on the girl’s coming inside, asking her about why she has made an appearance with apparent intention of spending the night. While his wife worries about what the neighbors will think, Milda’s father says: “We’ll fix up a bed for her. We can’t throw her out.” When Milda returns after midnight from an evening of playing piano & enjoying female company, he tells his father he didn’t invite anyone to come see him, until he recognizes Andula.
 

***

Loves of a Blonde is available at UW’s Coe Library.

Patrick is a regular contributor to Laramie Movie Scope. See many more reviews of his at: http://www.lariat.org/AtTheMovies/old/others.html

Film Review: Pierrot le Fou (1965) by Patrick Ivers

 
pierrot-le-fou-movie-poster-1965-1010203278Surreal, picaresque adventures of a madman & his girl living outside the law, is like a bad dream made beautiful.
 
French, English, & Italian). A pretty girl is playing tennis. Ferdinand Griffon (Jean-Paul Belmondo), recently fired from his job in television, is reading a book about Velázquez, the painter of Spanish royalty at “a court that lived outside the law,” in the bathtub to his little daughter. His wife Maria (Graziella Galvani), an Italian with money, intends to introduce him to an executive with Standard Oil at a surprise party for her parents, Mr & Mrs Expresso. Ferdinand prefers staying home, but Maria says that Frank’s niece, a student, is coming to babysit. “His niece?” says Ferdinand: “Knowing him, it’s a call girl.”
 
At the party (shot with different colored filters) the conversation resembles commercials for automobiles, deodorants, hairdos, lingerie (with a naked woman’s endorsement). An American film director says he’s directing a film, Flowers of Evil – Ferdinand recognizes Baudelaire’s title – about love, hate, action, violence, sex, emotion. Saying he feels like so many different people but alone, Ferdinand, bored, smashes a handful of cake into Maria’s face before leaving. At home, finding the babysitter Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina) asleep, he tells her: “I’ll take you home.”
 
Director/writer Jean-Luc Godard’s surreal romantic drama of a madman & his girl living outside the law, in which life is an unsolved mystery, is like a bad dream made beautiful. His former lover of more than five years earlier, Marianne (“To want something, you have to be alive”) wants life to be like novels – “clear, logical, organized.” Hearing of “115 killed” in a conflict on the radio, she’s distressed by the anonymity of those lives lost. She promises Pierrot: “I’ll do anything you want.” He repeatedly reminds her when she calls him Pierrot: “My name is Ferdinand.” She sings to him a love song, “Jamais je ne t’ai dit que je t’aimerai toujour.” A scene of a man lying dead – “a story … all mixed up” – in a room with guns as another man, an Algerian gangster, enters – having connection with Marianne’s brother Fred, a gun-runner – whom Ferdinand conks out with a bottle before the couple leave in a hurry.
 
Guys like Pierrot, says Marianne, are sorry too late. At a Total gas station, Ferdinand tells the attendant, “Put a tiger in the tank,” before Marianne brings the hood of the Peugeot down on his head. They have no money, because when they fake an accident, setting the car on fire, a suitcase in the trunk is full of cash. On foot – “Travel broadens the mind,” quips Ferdinand – they steal a blue Ford convertible, which he drives into the sea. “Life may be sad,” remarks Ferdinand, “but it’s always beautiful.” In a picaresque existence, chapter 7 follows chapter 8; Ferdinand reads from a book of poetry. “There’s a war in Yemen.” To earn money, Vietnam is the topic of their play for tourists, American sailors. Conversation between words (ideas) & feelings (emotions), literature versus music – Ferdinand makes entries in his journal – just as five years before, says Marianne: “We never understood each other.” What lies between space, sound, & color? Tired of sun, sea, & sand on the coast of the Mediterranean, Marianne says to Pierrot: “We’ve played Jules Verne long enough. Let’s go back to our detective novel, with fast cars and guns and nightclubs.” Things are complicated, observes Ferdinand; no, replies Marianne, simple. “Let’s go, daddy-o.” Donovan, a short man, dies of scissors stabbed through his neck. Women can kill too. Marianne’s palm has a short fate line. “She makes me think of music,” admits Ferdinand: “Her face.” A crazy guy relates the tale of a love song he can’t get out of his head. The Algerians put Ferdinand through water torture (similar to waterboarding) in their attempt to locate Marianne & the money. Lost & found.
 
***

Pierrot le Fou is available at UW’s Coe Library.

Patrick is a regular contributor to Laramie Movie Scope. See many more reviews of his at: http://www.lariat.org/AtTheMovies/old/others.html

 

Film Review: Darling (1965) by Patrick Ivers

darling
Adult drama set in “swinging 60s” London.
 
(b/w, English, French, & Italian). A new billboard advertisement in London of a pretty face – “‘My Story’ beginning today in Ideal Woman” – covers up a plea to stop world-hunger. A professional question mark, TV journalist Robert Gold (Dirk Bogarde), interviews a professional bosom, model Diana Scott (Julie Christie), who says she had an ordinary childhood & then was “square” at 20. Outside of the studio with Robert she says: “It should be so easy to be happy, shouldn’t it? Should be the easiest thing in the world…. I wonder why it isn’t.” Both are married: she to Tony Bridges, “the nicest boy,” but immature, unprepared for responsibilities; he to Estelle with two children. On a train together, they embrace, after Robert’s interview with Walter Southgate, an elderly man of letters; they call their respective spouses to give excuses for not coming right home, instead checking into a hotel room. Her first time having an affair, not something he’s done capriciously either.
 
Apprehensive initially about breaking up Robert’s family, Diana moves into a new flat with Robert; tensions develop along with her suspicious jealousies, yet she declines his offer of matrimony. Adult drama of “swinging 60s” directed by John Schlesinger from Frederic Raphael’s screenplay is more mature & responsible than advertised; it’s not over until the fat lady sings. Chosen as the Honeyglow Girl for the Glass Group, Diana with an eye to helping her career by participating in a charity event for eliminating malnutrition in the impoverished parts of the third world, spends an evening with Miles Brand (Laurence Harvey). Referring to the firm’s safe as well as to himself personally, Diana requests: “I wish you’d open up.” Miles replies: “I can’t do that.” She plays the title role in a forgettable film, Jacqueline. Perceptive but patient with her shenanigans, Robert recognizes Diana’s ambition: “You know as well as I do what you’re up to.”
 
Pregnant, she first asks Robert if this is what he wants; then she decides it would be “the ruination of my career,” arranging for “a miscarriage” over which she feels regret. Bored from a visit with her sister Felicity & brother-in-law Alec, impatient while Robert works at the typewriter, she goes off to Paris with Miles, saying she’s auditioning for another movie. There she gets involved in a “truth game” at a party, sort of like musical chairs without chairs, in which participants partially disrobe & impersonate other participants when in the spotlight by answering questions. Returning to London, Diana wanted to make sure nobody, especially Robert, got hurt. “I don’t take whores in taxis,” Robert, having lost his forbearance, says to Diana as they walk back to their flat: “Your idea of fidelity is not having more than one man in bed at the same time. You’re a whore, baby, that’s all. Just a whore.” She replies: “We’re not married. At least not to each other.”
 
Selected as the Happiness Girl for Germany, Diana goes to Italy with her photographer Malcolm (Roland Curram) – telling him she wants to be like a sister to him, “I could do without sex,” which is copasetic with him – for a photoshoot, advertising for chocolates, where she makes acquaintance with Cesare della Romita (Jose Luis De Vilallonga), an Italian prince & ancestor of a pope, & his handsome son Curzio. Might she accept a proposal to become Princess Diana? Back in England, Miles rebukes her insult: “My impotence, my darling, makes a pair with your virginity.” She snaps back: “Impotence in every way, except in bed.” If “darling” were an obscenity, this film would be R rated; a pair of goldfish are jabbed at with a pencil & eventually accidentally killed with ice cubes & alcohol poisoning.
 
***

Darling is available at UW’s Coe Library.

Patrick is a regular contributor to Laramie Movie Scope. See many more reviews of his at: http://www.lariat.org/AtTheMovies/old/others.html

 

Thank you ACPL!

ACPL 1965 picThe Albany County Public Library is promoting the Laramie Film Society’s 1965 Movie Poll. Several ’65 films can be borrowed from the library including Doctor Zhivago, The Sound of Music, and Thunderball. The LFS has donated A Patch of Blue as well, featured on a DVD box set of 4 Sidney Poitier films.

Special thanks go to Tyler Brown for his efforts in supporting the poll at the ACPL.

Film Review: Doctor Zhivago (1965) by Patrick Ivers

DrZhivago_AsheetGorgeous visual-and-audio summary of Pasternak’s love story

Twice before reading Boris Pasternak’s great novel’s love story, having the backdrop of the Russian Revolution, I had watched director David Lean’s epic dramatic romance, a gorgeous visual-and-audio three-hour-and-twenty-minute summary of the book as adapted into a screenplay by Robert Bolt.
 
In this my third viewing of the film, which won five Oscars and received five more nominations, I found its appearance thin when compared to the rich trove of pages filled with descriptive prose and delicate poems, each like a frosted pane of glass fastidiously assembled from fascinating ice crystals. Transferring the frozen patterns of pure language into liquid images of cinematography, dialogue, and music (original score composed and conducted by Maurice Jarre) required the hot touch of editing; distilled water has a different character from scintillating snowflakes.
 
Years after the revolution, in search of his half brother’s female child, Comrade General Yevgraf Zhivago (Alec Guinness), who serves as the narrator, inquires during an interview with a young woman, selected from among a group of Soviet workers, named Tonya Komarovsky (Rita Tushingham), who has only a slight remembrance of her early childhood and parents: “How did you come to be lost?”
 
Events shift backward to the funeral of the mother of eight-year-old Yuri Zhivago (Tarek Sharif, son of Omar) on the bleak steppes before he’s adopted into the family of Alexander (Ralph Richardson) and Anna Gromeko (Siobhan McKenna), where he’s raised in Moscow with their daughter Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin) and becomes a physician and poet.
 
We first catch sight of Lara (Julie Christie) at seventeen and Yuri (Omar Sharif) together – he having not yet completed his medical studies and just raced to catch the trolley on which she’s a passenger – when they’re unaware of each other in the Russian capital still ruled by the tsar, as a premonitory spark jumps from the overhead electric cable.
On the night that Lara’s secret fiancé, the 26-year-old, pure and high-minded Pasha Antipov (Tom Courtenay), marches with peaceful demonstrators (“Brotherhood and Freedom”), Victor Komarovsky (Rod Steiger), a cunningly insidious businessman “in with everyone,” escorts Lara, his mistress’s daughter, to a fancy restaurant (the widowed mother too ill to dine with him), contrasting poverty in the streets with the luxury within. As Yuri watches horrified from a balcony, mounted troops assault the demonstrators, trampling women and children while Pasha receives a head wound from a Dragoon’s saber; at the same time Komarovsky takes advantage of Lara’s innocence as they ride home in a carriage.
 
Shortly afterward Tonya returns home from a sojourn in Paris, ready for her engagement to Yuri. Yuri first sets his eyes on Lara when he accompanies Dr Boris Kurt on an urgent request from a scared Komarovsky to rescue Lara’s mother from attempted suicide by poisoning.
 
Advised against marrying Pasha, then raped and called “a slut,” Lara shows up at a Christmas party, where the nuptials of Yuri and Tonya are announced, with the revolver Pasha had entrusted to her and shoots her malefactor. As his wound’s treated by Yuri – who asks, “What happens to a girl like that, when a man like you is finished with her?” – Komarovsky replies: “I give her to you … A wedding present.”
 
Four years later on the battlefront as war rages between the tsar’s army and the Kaiser’s Germans – “our cursed capacity for suffering,” remarks Yevgraf of his fellow Russians – Dr Zhivago again meets Lara, a volunteer nurse, looking for her husband Pasha; for six months under harsh conditions they work closely together in a hospital. Both have left a child back home: Sasha with Tonya and her father, and Katya with Lara’s mother.
 
When he returns home, following the war’s end and success of the Bolshevik revolution, to find the Gromeko mansion overtaken by families of the new proletariat, Yuri, almost always smiling, cheerful, and accommodating, readily accepts the new arrangements; but when the revolutionaries demand even more sacrifices from the former aristocrats, Yuri protests confiscation of their personal property.
 
In their first face-to-face encounter, Yevgraf, a policeman, after suggesting that the doctor consider joining the Party in “cutting out the tumors of injustice,” informs Yuri, noncommittal in his politics, of the official disapproval of his “petit-bourgeois and self-indulgent” poems, recommending they depart Moscow for Gromeko’s old estate in Varykino.
 
The family of four rides inside a boxcar like cattle on a train into the Urals; but before reaching their destination Yuri is taken before Commander Strelnikov, whom he recognizes as Lara’s Pasha from the Christmas six years earlier. Settled into a cottage (forbidden occupation of the main residence) with his wife, son, and father-in-law, making do as best they can, Yuri learns of Lara’s living in the nearby town of Yuriatin.
With Tonya again pregnant, Yuri begins a double life with Lara, before he’s forcibly taken as a medical officer by the Red partisans fighting a civil war against the White Russians. Eventually he deserts, makes an arduously long trek through the bitter winter weather on foot, before being reunited with Lara, who has a letter from Tonya telling him of having been deported to France.
 
Returning to Varykino with Lara, taking up residence in the main house and composing verse at the desk where Anna Gromeko had taught him to write, Yuri awaits their fate when Komarovsky, an official with the new government, makes his appearance, offering to provide safe transport for the couple and Katya.
 
Watch the movie first, then, if you haven’t already, read the book while listening to the soundtrack.
 
***

Doctor Zhivago is available at UW’s Coe Library, the Albany County Public Library, and for rent at Hastings Entertainment.

Patrick is a regular contributor to Laramie Movie Scope. See many more reviews of his at: http://www.lariat.org/AtTheMovies/old/others.html

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