Posts Tagged ‘film’

WE RECOMMEND: Roman Holiday dir. William Wyler

Roman Holiday (1953), dir. William Wyler

Roman Holiday cover

Upon returning from a vacation in Italy, I was inspired to revisit a classic film from 1953. Roman Holiday follows the short-lived adventure of a runaway princess in the Eternal City. Audrey Hepburn, in her first starring role, plays Princess Ann. Hepburn’s performance earned her an Academy Award. Ann is heir to the throne of an unidentified country, and is making her way through a press tour of Europe. Frazzled by the constant and structured public appearances, she is given an injection to soothe her nerves. The princess breaks out from the embassy to begin an impromptu tour of the city while in an incoherent state. Joe Bradley, an American journalist played by Gregory Peck, reluctantly assists her.

Both the princess and the reporter attempt to conceal their true identities. Ann introduces herself as Anya, a schoolgirl on the run. Joe claims to be in the fertilizer industry. However, he has already recognized his new companion as the visiting dignitary. Indebted to seemingly everyone in the city, he is eager to publish an exclusive and lucrative interview with the royal. They soon engage in a carefree tour of the city on the back of a scooter.

Roman Holiday was shot entirely on location. The audience experiences the grandeur of many of the city’s famous sights, including the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Victor Emmanuel II monument. Perhaps the most memorable scene in the movie involves the Mouth of Truth. The Church of Santa Maria has a large carving of a face whose mouth is purported to chomp off the hands of liars. Inserting a hand into the monument is problematic given the couple’s ruses. A thoroughly amusing film, Roman Holiday will make you long for a gelato or an espresso at a sidewalk café in some Italian square.

- Malia Willey, Instruction Coordinator

WE RECOMMEND: Sullivan’s Travels dir. Preston Sturges

Sullivan’s Travels (1942) dir. Preston Sturges

Sullivan's Travels DVD coverA steam locomotive barrels at high speed through the night, as two men desperately battle it out hand to hand until falling into a river.  This turns into three men in a screening room watching this film.  The director is unhappy, saying “I want to hold a mirror up to life.”  He argues with the studio executives about what kind of films to make in troubled times.  He wants to make a serious social commentary.  The studio wants light, fluffy entertainment.  The director decides to take off to travel, learning what problems common people have.  Everyone is against it; even his butler argues that the poor don’t need serious movies.  The studio threatens to sue him unless they can turn his travels into a publicity stunt.  They follow in a luxurious camper, with cook and staff in tow.  He tries to ditch the crew, but soon he gets into real trouble, first from a farm widow, and then he meets Veronica Lake in a diner.  She becomes his guide and companion through the underside of life.

Sullivan’s Travels is one of the funniest films about film and the place of art in everyday life.  It veers around, from slapstick to despair.  You have seen some of this before:  a kid driving hand-decorated car, prisoners watching a cartoon, even the title of the unmade film are all appropriated by the Coen Brothers in O Brother, Where Art Thou?  As the saying goes, “When you steal, steal from the best.”  And Sturges’ film is one of the best comedies of the nineteen forties or any time.

- Jim Hobbs, Online Services Coordinator


Le Samouraï

Le Samouraï. Melville, Jean-Pierre. [Irvington, N.Y.] : Criterion Collection, c2005.

Call Number: DVD-001488

Le Samouraï

Le Samouraï

Le Samouraï directed by Jean-Pierre Melville and originally released on October 25, 1967 in France.   Starring: Aalin Delon, François Périer, Nathalie Delon, and Caty Rosier

Sparse, monochromatic, grey sits the one room Parisian apartment.  This is the apartment of Jef Costello, a ritualistic, solitary hit man.  Jean-Pierre Melville’s minimalist film noir Le Samouraï, is an exercise in visual storytelling.  The characters actions carry the narrative.  Dialog is used sparingly.  It’s a world of trench coats, piano bars, car thieves, double-cross and deceit.  Melville’s focus centers on Costello, an unrelenting monolith of coolness no matter the situation.  Despite the dizzying array of bad guys and cops out to take him down, Costello moves forward with calm efficient grace to carry out the current task hand.

So if you enjoy noir, French New Wave, or stylish visual story telling, be sure add Le Samouraï to your list of must see movies.

Michelle Melancon, Bindery Specialist (Baking With Medusa at Blogspot)

Mirch Masala on DVD

Mirch Masala

Image from Amazon.com

Mehta, Ketan (Director). (2001.) Mirch Masala. Samrat International.
Call Number: DVD-001487

Mirch Masala [ A Touch of Spice] is a Hindi film released in 1985 and directed by Ketan Mehta.  Starring:  Smita Patil, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Suresh Oberoi, and Deepti Naval

The film takes place in rural Colonial India during the early 1940′s.  A sleepy village has been shaken by the occasional invasion of the abusive subedar [local tax collector] and his army.  The villagers are expected to turn a blind eye to the army’s pillaging and cater to the subedar’s every whim.  Even the mukhi [village chief] cowers to the subedar’s authority.  Unfortunately for the villagers, the subedar has an insatiable appetite for women and he is not above abusing his power to get what he wants.  In this case the subedar’s eye has fallen on Sonbai, whose husband has gone away to work in the city.  The strong-willed Sonbai refuses his advances and slaps him across the face, running for her life.  She finds apparent safety in the masala karkhana, the mill where local women grind red chillies into powder.  That is, until the men of the village decide that Sonbai should give herself to the subedar in order the save the village from his retaliation.

The film depicts a rural Indian village on the cusp of independence and change.   Their struggles address the injustice of colonialism, Gandhism, the power of education, women’s rights and the community’s need for basic human decency.  Beautifully shot in lush colors, with memorable characters and a delightful dance sequence.  This is not typical Bollywood fair, more of a political drama portrayed in an operatic fairy tale fashion.  Oh, and the greatest moustaches you will ever witness.

Michelle Melancon, Bindery Specialist (Baking With Medusa at Blogspot)

Carlos Saura’s Flamenco Trilogy on DVD

Bodas de Sangre

Image from Amazon.com

Saura, Carlos (Director). (2007). Carlo’s Saura’s Flamenco Trilogy. United States: Criterion
Call Number: DVD-000923

Spanish film director Carlos Saura’s first film venture featuring Latin dance was Bodas de sangre [Blood Wedding].  This film also marked his first of three collaborations with famed flamenco dancer/choreographer Antonio Gades.  I highly recommend all three films.  Each film combines narrative, dance and refined filmmaking in an effort to explore life, love and death from a Spanish perspective.

The duo’s second film Carmen is my favorite of the three.  It’s the story of a choreographer staging a ballet adaptation of Bizet’s opera, Carmen.  So, it’s back stage drama intermingled with on stage drama and lots of dancing.  Gradually the lines of filmmaking, theater and ballet begin to blur as the characters real life narratives start to mimic the staged narrative.  By the end of the film you are not quite sure if you’re watching a rehearsal, or something that was supposed to have really happened.  The tobacco factory scene alone is worth the effort.  It’s an intensely orchestrated all girl knife fight in dance – think Michael Jackson’s Beat It, done flamenco style.

Michelle Melancon, Bindery Specialist (Baking with Medusa at Blogspot)

Shaun of the Dead on DVD

Shaun of the Dead (2004)Shaun of the dead / Universal Pictures, Studio Canal and Working Title Films present a WT2 production in association with Big Talk Productions produced in association with Inside Track 2, LLP ; produced by Nira Park ; written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright ; directed by Edgar Wright.
Call Number: DVD-001127

Shaun of the Dead is an apropos watch during the Halloween season. This comedy is a homage to the zombie movie subgenre. In the midst of a zombie outbreak in London, Shaun fights zombies while simultaneously fighting for the heart of his ex-girlfriend. A whiney salesman, Shaun is an unlikely hero. Before proceeding with this review, there is one caveat: I hate horror movies. I am quite squeamish and I have never understood the popular fixation with zombies. Several of my friends recommended this movie to me over the years, but I could not compel myself to watch even a mock horror movie. Two factors contributed to me finally viewing this movie. First, I recently watched the superbly silly British television series Spaced. Created by overlapping visionaries, this show also features several of the actors who later starred in Shaun of the Dead. The Spaced characters are so loveable and quirky that I softened to the idea of a comedic zombie movie starring their actors. Second, I spotted Shaun of the Dead the first time that I perused the Monroe Library DVD collection. In addition to the blood, gore, and the undead munching on corpses, Shaun of the Dead has all of the dysfunctional relationships, moral indifference, and general cluelessness that was so entertaining on Spaced. Shaun of the Dead is worth viewing even if you do not like zombies.

- Malia Willey, Information Literacy/Learning Commons Librarian

May & Black Sheep on DVD

May; a Lions Gate Films release ; 2 Loop Films presents a Loopy production ; a film by Lucky McKee ; produced by Marius Balchunas and Scott Sturgeon ; written and directed by Lucky McKee.
Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment [2002]
Call Number: DVD-001158

Just in time for Halloween I give you two unconventional horror flicks for this holiday season.

First selection is May, the story of an awkward, shy girl and her sewing machine. May’s only wish in life is to make new friends. When her social skills fall flat, the time comes when she must rely on her crafty talents to make the perfect friend. Stitch-stitch.

Black Sheep; produced by Phillipa Campbell; written and directed by Jonathan King
Genius Products [2007]
Call Number: DVD-001111

Next up is Black Sheep, a horror/comedy about the dangers of animal husbandry and genetic engineering. Yes, we’re talking killer sheep. Anything with teeth and a killer appetite can be horrific, even baby lambs. It’s off-beat, way off-color and covered in gobs of blood, with the occasional environmental message. You’ve just got to love those New Zealanders and the special effects wizards of the WETA workshop.

Enjoy and Happy Halloween.

-Michelle Melancon, Bindery Specialist (Baking with Medusa at Blogspot)