Blogathons, Films I Love, Japanese Cinema

The Non English Language Blogathon: Sisters Of The Gion(1936)

cthd_languageblogathon2Catherine over at Thoughts All Sorts is hosting this blogathon about Foreign Language films. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I had to take part in this blogathon because I adore foreign language films. I love many of them not only for being excellent films, but also because they provide me with a glimpse into other cultures and different ways of living life. 

I think that anyone who only watches films and series from their native country is seriously missing out, there are so many film and TV gems to be found from around the world. My favourite country for foreign language films is Japan.

There are three great masters of Japanese cinema in my opinion. The first one is Akira Kurosawa. He made some truly epic masterpieces. He was also responsible for helping to bring Japanese films to the attention of Western audiences. 

The second one is Yasujiro Ozu. His films were all about characters and emotions, he told very human stories which appeal to audiences the world over. His films also gave us the enchanting Setsuko Hara, the actress who was Ozu’s screen muse. 

The third one is Kenji Mizoguchi. Kenji Mizoguchi’s films uniquely often focused upon the struggles and hardships that women faced in society at the time his films were made.   

For this blogathon I’ve decided to write about the 1936 Japanese film Sisters Of The Gion. This film is directed by one of my favourite film directors of all time, Kenji Mizoguchi. I love Kenji Mizoguchi’s work because his films are very realistic, gritty, and because they also focus much more on the characters rather than on the visuals and the mood of the film.

I also love Kenji’s films so much because they deal very frankly with subjects and issues that most other films of this period didn’t focus on all that much. I love that his films focus primarily on women and on the way they are treated. His films focus on the things that women have to do to survive, and they also show the strength and determination of women who are enduring tough and bad times in their life. 

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Umekichi and Omocha take a walk together. Screenshot by me.

Sisters Of The Gion is one of Kenji Mizoguchi’s finest films in my opinion. It is a real character piece and it feels very modern when viewed today because of the strong feminist attitudes present in the film.

The film tells the story of two very different sisters. There is the outgoing, modern and rebellious Omocha(Isuzu Yamada), and the older, much more traditional and submissive Umekichi(Yoko Umemura). 

The sisters both work as geishas in a district of Kyoto. They do the same job, but each woman holds  very different opinions about what they do and how they are viewed and treated. 

Omocha hates men and she just views them as means to get money and nice things. She feels that men use women (especially geishas)for their own desires and then abandon them when they are through. She is also better educated and far more wordly than her older sister is.

Omocha is also very modern in her views and she mostly wears modern Western clothes, instead of always wearing more traditional Japanese attire. Omocha also has no hesitation about playing with the feelings of her male clients in order to get something that she wants from them. The way she sees it, if the men can use the women, then why can’t the women play them at their own game?

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Omocha sweet-talks her patron. Screenshot by me.

Umekichi on the other hand is dutiful and passive, she also seems to genuinely enjoy her role as a companion and source of pleasure for male clients. She also feels that things are not as black and white as her younger sister makes them out to be.

Umekichi knows that there are some men who are not all bad and are not out to use the geishas and abandon them when they are finished with them.

Despite their many differences, the two sisters love each other very much and they always look out for each other no matter what. Umekichi is deeply in love with her patron Shimbei Furusawa (Benkei Shiganoya)and she offers him help when he goes bankrupt. Omocha plays with the hearts of two men in order to get gifts and money from them; the first man she toys with is a young store clerk who loves her, the second man is his much older boss who is persuaded to become her new patron.

I think that the two sisters represent the two different types of women who have always existed throughout history. One represents women who accept their lot in life, and who are accepting and uncomplaining when their man treats them badly. The other represents women who fight for equality, for protection from abuse and for the ability to be away from the control of men.

 I also like that the film shows how strong women can be in times of hardship and pain, the spirit of these women may break, they may be beaten and tossed aside, but they endure and struggle on and they never give up and wilt away.  Mizoguchi’s films often show the appalling ways women of this time were treated, but they also clearly highlight their courage and internal strength to make the best of what life throws at them.

The film also shows us that society often lets men get away with sleeping around, being abusive and using women for no other reason than that they are men. If a woman did the same things as men, then she would find herself being punished and judged for sleeping around. Double standards much?

In this film all the male characters we see have control over women, and they also have a controlling position in their own life in some way, such as their job or their wealth for example. It seems like the women in this time only have three options in life; the first choice is to marry and bear children, the second is to become a geisha or prostitute, the third is to try and live an independent life which will earn them disapproval and alienation from a very traditional society. 

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The two sisters represent two very different types of women. Screenshot by me.

If women of this time didn’t conform to traditions they suffered. If they did conform to traditions, many would suffer emotionally because they didn’t love the man they were married to, or because deep down they hated themselves for selling their bodies for money. 

By the end of this film, both Omocha and Umekichi will discover just how they are actually perceived and valued by men. The ending is quite bleak and I really like that it doesn’t sugar coat the life endured by many women the world over at this point in history. 

The performances are all very good and the film really draws you in. The only downsides to the film are that it is very short, it clocks in at just one hour and nine minutes long. I would also have liked more scenes between the two sisters. While the film gives us a good sense of their respective personalities and views, I don’t really get a good enough sense of what their sisterly relationship was like, a few more scenes of them interacting on a day to day basis would have been welcome.  

This is an early gem from Kenji Mizoguchi and it feels very modern due to the feminist views found within, and also because of its visual depiction and condemnation of the way women were treated by some men.

I highly recommend it. I think that this film could also serve as a good gateway film to Kenji Mizoguchi’s work and to Japanese cinema in general. If you haven’t ventured outside your country for films and series before, then I would say to you be brave, go and check some foreign language films out. Once you get accustomed to subtitles these films and series are very easy to get into.

What do you think of this film?

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The David Lean Blogathon Concludes

David Lean 1

A huge thank you to all of you who joined me for this blogathon celebrating director David Lean. 

You all submitted terrific and very varied articles on his films. I liked that we ended up getting a good balance in the submitted articles between his smaller films and his epics.

You can read all of the entries here.

Thanks again. I hope you all enjoyed taking part. 

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The David Lean Blogathon Begins

David Lean 3.PNGThe big day has finally arrived! Over the next two days, several truly wonderful bloggers are going to be submitting their reviews and articles about David Lean’s films.

A big thank you to all of you for joining me for this blogathon.I can’t wait to read all of the entries celebrating the life and career of this gifted director.

Check back to this post over the next two days as I update it to link back to all of the entries. 

 

Day 2 Entries

Silver Screen Classics writes about the epic romance Doctor Zhivago

 

Cinematic Scribblings takes a look at Lean’s family saga This Happy Breed.

 

Retromoviebuff discusses Lean’s spooky and funny film Blithe Spirit.

 

Movierob heads to Venice with David Lean’s Summertime.

 

Vinnieh talks about his love for the epic David Lean film Doctor Zhivago.

 

Cinema Essentials writes about the man himself in Director Profile: David Lean.

 

Poppity shares her love for the underrated Ryan’s Daughter. She also writes about one of David Lean’s lesser known films Madeleine.

 

Day 1 Entries

Realweegiemidgetreviews takes a look at the trailer for Lean’s epic film Doctor Zhivago. She also looks at Lean’s WW2 set classic The Bridge On The River Kwai.

 

Movierob shares his thoughts after a first time viewing of The Passionate Friends.

 

Poppity takes a look at Lean’s charming film Hobson’s Choice.

 

Caftan Woman discusses one of the greatest of David Lean’s films Great Expectations.

 

The Stop Button shares his thoughts on Lean’s aviation drama The Sound Barrier.

 

The Wonderful World Of Cinema discusses Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence Of Arabia.

 

I discuss David Lean’s stunning adaptation of Charles Dickens classic story Oliver Twist.

Blogathons, Films I Love, Musicals

The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon: Top Hat (1935)

fred-and-gingerCrystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, and Michaela over at Love Letters To Old Hollywood are co-hosting this blogathon about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

Top Hat is my favourite Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film. I also really love The Gay Divorcee, Swing Time and The Story Of Vernon and Irene Castle. Despite my great love for the majority of the films that Fred and Ginger starred in together, it is Top Hat which has found a very special place in my heart. 

I love Top Hat so much and I never get tired of watching it. The film is one of my go to comfort films due to it always being able to leave me in such a good mood. 

The film is also special to me because it is the first Fred and Ginger film that I ever saw, and it is the film which ended up making me a fan of their work and led me to check out their other films.

Top Hat is also the first black and white film that I ever saw. I’ve been a fan a black and white films ever since.

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An intimate moment for Jerry(Fred Astaire) and Dale(Ginger Rogers). Screenshot by me.

Top Hat is a joyous, uplifting and very romantic film. I think the film features Fred and Ginger at their very best, both in terms of their acting performances and their dancing. The film also has some of the best and most memorable dance routines in Fred and Ginger’s entire screen partnership. 

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Dale and Jerry having fun at a dinner party. Screenshot by me.

Top Hat was Fred and Ginger’s fourth film together. By this time they had developed a very good screen chemistry, and they both seemed very comfortable being in these films and working with one another. 

I think that Top Hat is the film which made audiences finally start to sit up and take some real notice of these two.

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Dale and Jerry take a boat ride and have a talk. Screenshot by me.

 Top Hat is also an incredibly funny film. The comic parts and the mistaken identity storyline ensure that the film has a timeless quality about it. The funny reactions, silly situations and funny romantic games really haven’t dated at all in my opinion.

The other fabulous thing about this film is the set design and costumes, both of which are stunning and beautiful.You can see the hours of hard work which had been put into designing, building, and making the sets and costumes in every single scene of the film.  The Venice set in particular is a truly spectacular sight to behold.

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Part of the Venice set. Screenshot by me.

The impressive Venice set was three levels high. The set consisted of canals, bridges, terraces, and balconies. The Venice set was so big that it was spread across two adjoining sound stages.

The art director for the film was Carroll Clark, he oversaw all of the magnificent set and furniture design which we see in the film. The art direction for the film was nominated for an Academy Award. It was a well deserved nomination in my opinion.

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Part of the dance finale on the Venice set. Screenshot by me.

As well as the fabulous visuals to gaze at, and Fred and Ginger to enjoy, we also get the wonderful supporting performances of Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore.

                 Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore.  Screenshot by me.

These four actors were among the greatest American character actors of the classic film era. They are all comedy gold in this film. They steal all the scenes they are all in, and the comic bickering between them all is priceless. I think that they all add so much to this film. 

I consider Top Hat to be the best of Fred and Ginger’s films because everyone and everything in it is the very best they can possibly be. Top Hat became one of the most popular and profitable films of the 1930’s, and it has also since become the most successful and best remembered of all the Fred and Ginger films. 

The film is directed by Marc Sandrich, who was the director of several of the Fred and Ginger films. Acclaimed American tap dancer, Jerry Travers(Fred Astaire) has arrived in London to take the lead in a stage show that is being produced by his friend, Horace Hardwick(Edward Everett Horton).

                                  Jerry dancing and waking up Dale. Screenshot by me.

Jerry is demonstrating a tap routine to Horace in his hotel suite one night, when his loud tap dancing disturbs the sleep of Dale Tremont(Ginger Rogers), who is staying in the suite below. Dale complains about the noise and Jerry says sorry to her. It’s clear to us that there is an instant attraction developing between the two.

Dale and Jerry fall in love but she has mistaken Jerry for Horace, as the film goes on this case of mistaken identity gets even funnier and more complicated. This mistaken identity also prevents Dale and Jerry from being able to get together as quickly as they should be able to.

When Dale discovers that Horace is married to her friend Madge(Helen Broderick), Dale is shocked that he is romancing her and attempting to begin an affair with her which would mean he would be cheating on Madge. Dale is even more shocked when Madge seems to not to mind, shows she has a very open mind about love and flirting, and seems very amused by Dale telling her that Horace got romantic with her.

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Horace, Jerry and Madge discuss Dale mistaking Jerry for Horace. Screenshot by me.

Dale goes on holiday to Venice with Madge. Dale is romanced there by dress designer Alberto Beddini(Erik Rhodes), things get complicated when both Jerry and Horace show up, along with Horace’s hysterical and meddling valet, Bates (a scene stealing Eric Blore). Can Dale and Jerry set things straight and get the happy romantic ending they deserve?

In addition to the characters and the romance story, there are also lots of dance sequences for us to enjoy. The highlight of the film for me is Fred and Ginger’s Cheek To Cheek dance sequence. The dance caused many problems at first, due to what happened with the feathers on Ginger’s ostrich feather gown. 

                               Part of the Cheek To Cheek dance. Screenshot by me.

The feathers sewn onto the dress flew off in clouds whenever Ginger and Fred started dancing during early takes. Filming was stopped, the dress was altered slightly, and dancing resumed. Although feathers can still be seen falling off during the completed sequence, the shedding of feathers is not as noticeable as it had been initially. 

                                More of the Cheek To Cheek Sequence. Screenshot by me. 

The Cheek To Cheek sequence is so beautiful to watch. The dance is very graceful and expertly choreographed. This elegant, graceful and effortless sequence is the epitome to me of what Fred and Ginger were all about. 

The other standout dance sequence in the film is the Top Hat stage routine. This scene is part of Jerry’s stage show.

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Jerry and his backing dancers in the Top Hat sequence. Screenshot by me.

Fred gets to do some terrific solo tapping in this sequence, and he gets superb support from a large group of backing dancers. The dancing, the stage design and that brilliant song and music by Irving Berlin all help to make this a stunning sequence.

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Jerry does some solo tap. Screenshot by me.

I think there is something here for everyone to enjoy in this film. You will also be sure to be tapping your toes right along with Fred and Ginger. I also love that for a film which is clearly all about fantasy and which is set in a very artificial world, the plot and characters somehow manage to feel very authentic and believable.

The film makes you care about Dale and Jerry and you want them to be together by the end. Top Hat is an uplifting and delightful fantasy that can cheer you up if you are feeling down. I always feel happy after spending some time watching this one.

Fred is at his most charming and loveable in this film. Ginger is equally lovable and she also gets to prove to us how much comic talent she had too. I love Ginger’s shocked and bemused expressions during the scenes where she is telling Madge about Horace flirting with her. I also think she and Fred are so funny in the scene where she pretends to be someone else and acts as though they used to be lovers.

For a film made during the time of the infamous Production Code, I think that this film is also rather risque in its subject matter. Madge’s reaction to the news that Horace (we know it’s really Jerry that Dale is talking about but Madge doesn’t)has been flirting with Dale and wants to have a relationship with her, is not a response that you may expect to find in a 1930’s Code film.

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Madge and Dale talk about men. Screenshot by me.

Madge makes it very clear that she doesn’t care if he cheats on her or not. Madge’s response also seems to imply that the couple may well have an open relationship. I’m surprised the Code people passed this scene discussing affairs involving a married person, when they famously didn’t even allow characters who were married couples to be shown sleeping together in the same bed!

Madge is another reason why I love this film so much. She is a middle aged woman who you expect to be very reluctant to discuss her marriage and her husband’s fidelity, but Madge is just the opposite, she is very open and she comes across as being a very modern woman in her attitudes towards marriage, and she is also a very fun person too.

Madge is very open when she talks about Horace’s flirting and fooling around, she also tells Dale that you can never really stop men looking at other women and desiring them. The banter between Madge and Horace is hilarious, and I think that both Helen Broderick and Edward Everett Horton work together so well in this film.

My favourite scenes are the following. Jerry tap dancing to shock the boring old men at Horace’s club. The Cheek To Cheek dance. Dale trying to tell Madge about Horace being in love with her. The scene where Dale pranks Jerry and acts as though she thinks they had an affair in France years ago. The Piccolino dance finale. Jerry waking Dale up with his dancing. 

Anyone else here love Top Hat as much as I do?

Blogathons, British Cinema, Films I Love, Page To Screen

The David Lean Blogathon: Oliver Twist(1948)

David Lean 1This is my entry for my David Lean blogathon being held next Friday and Saturday. I can’t wait to read all of your entries. There is still time to sign up and join the fun if you haven’t already done so.

For this blogathon I have decided to write about Oliver Twist. This is a film that I consider to be David Lean’s best directorial effort after Lawrence Of Arabia. Everything about this film is stunning. You can really see David Lean’s attention to the smallest of details in every single shot in this film.

I don’t use the word masterpiece very often, but I think that this film undoubtedly qualifies as being one. The film is very dark and bleak and Lean sensibly doesn’t shy away from showing us just how brutal and terrible the time period the film is set in was.

Despite its immense level of bleakness, there are however some wonderful moments of humour to be found in this film. There are also some terrific Dickensian character names to enjoy. 

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Oliver asks for more food. Screenshot by me.

David Lean is my favourite British film director. He was a master of his craft and I like that he put such care and attention into even the smallest details and scenes appearing in his films. If I ever had to list a handful of directors who I consider to be the greatest to have ever worked, then David Lean would be right near the top. 

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One of many stunning shots seen in the film. Screenshot by me.

I like David Lean so much because he was able to perfectly balance intimate human stories, against epic and visually stunning backdrops. In Lean’s films the characters always come first and he doesn’t rely on effects or use intrusive editing. 

David Lean made many fine films in his career. Some of his best work was completed in the 1940’s. In this decade he made two films which were adaptations of Charles Dickens novels; the first film was Great Expectations(1946), and the other was Oliver Twist(1948). Lean was able to recreate the Victorian era so well in both of these films. 

I love how in Oliver Twist, Lean manages to capture the great hardships faced by the poor and working classes in Victorian era Britain. This film perfectly captures the grime, the poverty and the outright misery of the time. It also conveys to us the gaping class divide of the time; with the poor starving and living in utter squalor, while the rich ignore their plight and gorge themselves on delicious food and live in luxury. 

                          Hungry boys watch the workhouse staff eating. Screenshot by me.

This gaping divide and lifestyle of the different classes is perfectly captured in a scene at the workhouse. Some of the boys are watching the staff of the workhouse tuck into a huge roast dinner. Those who live in the workhouse only get a small bowl of gruel and a piece of bread each day.

If the poor steal to enable them to get food they are severely punished and looked down upon by the rich and by the law. No matter what they did, the poor living in this era just couldn’t get a break. Dickens novel and this film give a face to poverty, to suffering and to injustice. 

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Oliver giving a face to the nameless children living in poverty. Screenshot by me.

I think it was a genius idea for Dickens to make Oliver a child.

Even though the story is set in a time when children tended to grow up psychologically more quickly than they do now, the amount of horrible and unjust things Oliver endures make the reader and viewer angry about these things happening to Oliver.

As readers, Dickens makes us fear for Oliver and become protective of him as the story goes along. In turn this then makes us think about the real children who lived this life during the Victorian era.  Oliver may well be a fictional character, but he represents all the real children of this time who lived in poverty, who were forced into child labour, and who often died long before their time of disease or injury. David Lean’s film manages to have the same effect on the viewer in my opinion.

I consider this film to be the best adaptation of Oliver Twist that has ever been made. It is so good precisely because it makes you feel that you are there in that miserable time period suffering right alongside Oliver.

David Lean also makes sure his film sticks very closely to the book, and while it doesn’t manage to capture everything found in the book, it certainly does a better job of it than most other adaptations have managed to do. My only big issue with this film is that I don’t think that the character of Nancy is given as much screen time as in other adaptations, but Kay Walsh who plays her does her best to make Nancy’s appearances memorable. Kay also conveys Nancy’s strength and determination quite well. 

I also love this film so much because it contains some of the most striking and unforgettable images in film history. Many of David Lean’s films contain such moments, but in this film, almost every single shot is like a work of art and so many of the scenes are hard to forget. The cinematography in this film is by Guy Green, who had won an Oscar for his work in Lean’s Great Expectations.

Guy would later go on to become a film director himself; two of the most notable films that he directed are A Patch Of Blue and The Angry SilenceGuy worked wonders on the cinematography side of things on Oliver Twist.  

The opening scene of this film is a total work of art. Oliver’s heavily pregnant mother is struggling across the rain swept moors at night to get to a workhouse. During her journey she goes into labour. Right away this scene shows us how difficult and harsh this time period is. 

Each time she gets a contraction the pain coincides with a flash of lighting, or with a thorny branch swaying and shaking in the fierce wind. I think that these images of the storm and branches symbolise the agony of her labour pains.

Part of the opening scene. Screenshot by me. 

The lighting in this sequence is incredible throughout. The sequence ends with this woman collapsing at the workhouse gate and being brought inside to give birth. The camera then cuts outside to show us later that night, a time when clearly the storm has ended but it is still dark outside.

A cloud slowly moves across the sky and splits in two. When it does this it looks to me like a pair of open legs; the moon then slowly emerges from between the split cloud, and when it does so, we hear the cries of the woman’s baby as he emerges into the world. I love this moment so much because of how the cloud imagery symbolises Oliver’s birth. 

Oliver Twist (John Howard Davies)is the baby who is born that night. His mother dies not long after she gives birth. Oliver is raised in the workhouse and endures a miserable life under the control of the pompous Mr. Bumble(played by a scene stealing Francis L. Sullivan), and the short tempered Matron (Mary Clare).

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Oliver meets Dodger. Screenshot by me.

One day, after having had the cheek to ask for more food, Oliver is sold to a local undertaker to work in his shop.

After being treated appallingly there, young Oliver decides he has had enough of this life and so he runs away to London. 

When he gets to London, he meets the skilled young pickpocket, The Artful Dodger (Anthony Newley). Dodger takes him to Fagin (Alec Guinness), an old thief who trains young boys in the art of theft, and gets them to bring him things they have stolen in return for a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Soon Oliver feels welcome and happy with this group. He quickly settles in and is accepted as one of the gang. On his first time out on a pickpocket job with Dodger, Oliver is wrongly accused of stealing a wallet. The wallet is actually taken by Dodger who manages to run away and not get caught. 

The owner of the wallet is the kindly, wealthy gentleman, Mr. Brownlow(Henry Stephenson). He takes pity on Oliver and after a witness to the theft clears Oliver of any wrongdoing, Brownlow takes Oliver home and looks after him. For the first time in his life Oliver knows real love and kindness.

I’m sure most of you reading have seen this film or read the book, but if you haven’t done so, please turn back now because there are some major spoilers ahead!

Sadly Oliver’s new found happiness doesn’t last and he is kidnapped by Fagin’s dangerous associate, Bill Sykes(Robert Newton)and Bill’s kind-hearted, prostitute girlfriend, Nancy(Kay Walsh, who was married to David Lean at the time this film was made)due to them and Fagin being anxious that Oliver will give them all up to the Police.

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The fearless Nancy. Screenshot by me.

Nancy is wracked with guilt over bringing Oliver back, and she bravely risks her own life to try and set Oliver free from this life of misery and crime. Nancy tries to get Oliver back to Mr. Brownlow and she pays for this with her life when she is discovered by Bill and he murders her. 

The murder of Nancy is one of most powerful scenes in the whole film, and it manages to be horrific and chilling without us ever seeing the murder graphically depicted. The yelping and shaking dog trying frantically to escape the room as Nancy is murdered is unforgettable. The dogs noises are mixed together with Nancy’s screams, and combined together those noises make for a sound that chills you to the bone.

                               The aftermath of Nancy’s murder. Screenshot by me.

I like that Lean shows us Bill’s slowly dawning realisation to what he has just done. His eyes dart around the room when he realises he has killed Nancy. Bill’s eyes focus on Nancy’s possessions, and they land upon things that remind him of their shared life together; such as their double bed and her dressing table. As he looks around the room, we see that Bill is absolutely horrified at what he has gone and destroyed.

The great tragedy is that Bill certainly was a violent and nasty piece of work but he genuinely loved Nancy and she loved him. When Bill kills her he also murders any possibility of himself ever being able to be redeemed. He instantly regrets his actions and he realises that he can’t alter what he has done. This sends him mad with grief and remorse. 

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The kind Mr.Brownlow and Oliver. Screenshot by me.

Despite how bleak the film is there are some kind and decent characters to be found in it.  Mr. Brownlow shows us that not everyone in the upper classes was indifferent to the suffering of the poor, and he is a genuinely kind and gentle man.

Nancy retains her sense of morality despite living among thieves and criminals, and despite having done some bad things herself. Nancy can’t stand to see the innocent Oliver get drawn into this life, and so she tries to save him from having to live this way.

The old woman at the workhouse who stole Oliver’s mum’s necklace has a conscience, and she tries to make things right before she dies(only to be betrayed afterwards by the matron).  The film also shows us that some people get drawn into a life of theft because they have no other choice. When someone is homeless, jobless and starving, if nobody will help them when they ask for help politely, what choice is left to that person other than to steal to get some money for food etc?

The actors all deliver solid performances. I like that even the actors who appear very briefly get their chance to really shine.  There are also many standout performances from the main cast.

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Robert Newton as Bill Sykes. Screenshot by me.

Robert Newton delivers one of his finest performances as the terrifying master thief, Bill Sykes. I’m always torn between Robert and Oliver Reed when it comes to considering who played the best Bill Sykes on film. I think Oliver plays the scariest and most sinister, but Robert managed to be scary and still convey how sharp and observant Bill was, and he also convinces us that his Bill genuinely loves Nancy.

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Alec Guinness as Fagin. Screenshot by me.

Lean regular Alec Guinness pulls a Lon Chaney Sr and is unrecognisable beneath heavy makeup as Fagin. Alec’s portrayal is not as fun and loveable as Ron Moody’s in the musical Oliver. Alec makes Fagin sordid and cunning. There was some controversy over Alec’s performance and over the Fagin makeup (especially the large nose) because some people thought the portrayal of this character was anti-semitic. 

John Howard Davies is all sad eyes and innocence as Oliver Twist. John delivers an excellent debut performance here and he would continue acting during the 1940’s and 50’s. He later became a producer and was the man behind the British TV comedy hits Fawlty Towers and The Good Life.

Oliver Twist is one of Lean’s finest films, and I think it could serve as a perfect example to young filmmakers on how to balance story, characters, performances, and visuals to create a film which will stand the test of time and wow audiences from any era.

What do you think of the film?

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Check Out#CleanMovieMonth Over At Pure Entertainment Preservation Society

Check out this classic film event being held over at Pure Entertainment Preservation Society blog. Pop over and check out this very informative site, which is a must read if you are interested in the Hollywood Production Code. 

 

 

Announcing #CleanMovieMonth! PEPS is officially announcing that July is #CleanMovieMonth! Many months are dedicated to celebrating history or bringing awareness. #CleanMovieMonth is dedicated to both. It’s a month-long celebration of Code films, specifically cinema sealed during the Breen era (1934-1954). Frequent PEPS readers know that PEPS is always dedicated to Breen era films. However, during […]

via July is #CleanMovieMonth! — pure entertainment preservation society

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The Greatest Audrey Hepburn Performances

I am a big fan of Audrey Hepburn. I have often thought about which of Audrey’s film performances should be considered to be her best work. After thinking about this for quite some time, I have finally chosen a few performances that I think are her best.

I would love to get your views on Audrey’s performances in these films. 

 

The Nun’s Story (1959)

Audrey stars as a nun called Sister Luke. This film is a biopic of a real life woman who became a nun and worked out in the Congo. Audrey is beyond amazing in this film. There are scenes in this where you really do believe that she is on the point of having a breakdown. You really feel that Audrey’s character is struggling emotionally and that she has conflicted feelings about the life she has chosen to lead.

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Audrey as Sister Luke. Screenshot by me.

She perfectly conveys the emotional and physical struggle this woman endures as she overworks herself, becomes physically ill and tries to adhere to the strict rules of convent life.

I’m not the biggest fan of the Academy Awards, but I think that Audrey deserved an award for her performance in this. You can read my full review of this film here.

This is a film that doesn’t get discussed often enough, and it really should be much better known because Audrey is phenomenal in it. 

 

 

 Roman Holiday (1953)

Audrey delivers one of the most natural and remarkable debut lead film performances in film history. She totally convinces as the reserved and unhappy Princess. She also convinces as the carefree, happy, curious and adorable woman enjoying a welcome taste of real life. 

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Audrey as Princess Ann. Screenshot by me.

I love how she easily switches between innocence, intense happiness, deep sadness and being torn between her duties and her desires. It really is a poignant and powerful performance. It is easy to see how she managed to capture the public’s hearts when this one was released. 

 

 

Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)

Audrey wasn’t the actress who was initially the first choice for the role of Holly but defying expectations, she more than proved that she was indeed the right choice for the role. Audrey perfectly captures the various emotions and quirks of Holly so well. One moment she is happy and quirky, the next she is vulnerable and melancholy, and the next she is daring, sexy, passionate, mean and strong. 

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Audrey as Holly. Screenshot by me.

I like how Audrey makes you feel for Holly and enjoy spending time with her. Holly is such a unique character and Audrey captures her many different facets so well. You can tell when you watch this that Audrey put so much effort into this role. It is so difficult to imagine any other actress in this role now other than Audrey. It isn’t difficult to see why this has become her iconic role and film.

 

My Fair Lady (1964)

Although she doesn’t really convince as a cockney flower girl living in poverty, Audrey certainly does convince as an awkward and nervous woman who transforms into a society lady.

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Audrey as Eliza. Screenshot by me.

Audrey always had a natural class and dignity about her that aided her in her performance here. She also does such a good job of conveying Eliza’s despair, frustration and anger over her dismissal by Higgins after the ball. She makes you feel how much hard work and effort Eliza has put in, and also feel how hurt and used she feels by Higgins dismissal of her success. 

Overlooked at the time by the Academy, her performance speaks for itself and it remains moving and memorable today. You can read my full review of the film here. 

Some other fine performances include Wait Until Dark, Sabrina, CharadeThe Children’s Hour, Two For The Road and Robin and Marian. 

Which performances do you consider to be Audrey’s greatest screen work?

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The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon Concludes

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Sadly our time spent with the master of suspense has drawn to a close. I want to say a huge thank you to you all for taking part. Your articles and reviews were all interesting and a lot of fun to read. I really appreciate so many people taking part. It has been so much fun.

My apologies to those of you with none WordPress blogs, I have been having trouble for a long time now leaving comments on none WordPress sites. If these sites have their comments section set to accept name and URL I have found I can comment, but I have trouble commenting when signed in directly from WordPress. I have replied to your messages letting me know you’ve posted, and I have shared my thoughts on your entries that way. 

You can find all of the terrific entries right here

If things are well with me next year, I will certainly try my best to host this for a third year running. I do hope you will all be able to join me again for another celebration of all things Hitch. 

You are all invited to take part in my next blogathon(I know, I’m addicted to blogathons 🙂 )being held in two weeks time. It is a celebration of the films of director David Lean. You can learn more and sign up here

Thanks again.

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The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon Begins

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The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon has finally arrived!

Over the next two days, a large number of truly wonderful bloggers will be submitting their articles on all things Hitch.  Check back to this post today and tomorrow, I will be updating it as regularly as I can linking to all of the entries.

I can’t wait to read all of your posts. Thank you so much for taking part.

The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon participants gather together in the hotel lounge. The strains of Bernard Herrmann’s music can be heard floating through the air.

Someone kindly informs us that lunch is now ready. We all tuck into a delicious buffet, this is laid out for us on top of a suspicious looking chest belonging to some guy called Brandon.

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Day 2 Entries

The Wonderful World Of Cinema goes out to sea in order to discuss Hitchcock’s ocean set thriller Lifeboat

 

Poppity flees from crop dusters as she reviews the Hitchcock classic North By Northwest.

 

Silver Screen Classics goes on a journey with Richard Hannay to uncover the mystery of The 39 Steps.

 

Vinnieh tells us what happened when Uncle Charlie came to town in Shadow Of A Doubt.

 

Taking Up Room discusses an early film which would become the only film of Hitchcock’s that he would ever remake. The film is  The Man Who Knew Too Much

 

Cracked Rear Viewer discusses the suspenseful 3D Hitchcock film Dial M For Murder.

 

Sat In Your Lap discusses the powerful Hitchcock film The Wrong Man

 

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society discusses the haunting and suspenseful film Rebecca

 

Retro Movie Buff encounters spies and windmills in her review of Foreign Correspondent.

 

 

Day 1 Entries

Down These Mean Streets spent some time with Devlin, Alicia and Alexander, and she writes about that experience in her review of Notorious

 

Cinema Essentials discusses Hitchcock’s suspenseful 3D film Dial M For Murder.

 

The Midnite-Drive In discusses the terrifying 60’s shocker Psycho and also the biopic Hitchcock. 

 

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest joins Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly to look out at the Rear Window

 

Realweegiemidgetreviews discusses Four O’ Clock, a Hitchcock directed episode of the TV series Suspicion.

 

Silver Screenings joins a party hiding a grisly secret in Rope.   

 

Bonnywood Manor gets caught up in the thrilling spy story Topaz.

 

Caftan Woman invites us all to join her at the theatre to discuss Stage Fright.

 

The Stop Button takes a look at one of Hitchcock’s early British films Young And Innocent.

 

dbmoviesblog takes a trip to Bodega Bay and witnesses nature striking back in The Birds.

 

Taking Up Room tells us all about Hitchcock’s first ever sound film Blackmail.

 

Cary Grant Won’t Eat You talks about the disappointing Hitchcock film Torn Curtain.

 

Sparks From A Combustible Mind discusses the time when Hitchcock went comic in The Trouble With Harry.

 

I take a trip to Manderley to meet Rebecca.  I also write about the 60th anniversary of the release of  Vertigo

Blogathons, Films I Love, Romance

The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Rebecca (1940)

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This is my entry for my Alfred Hitchcock blogathon being held in a few days time. I can’t wait to read all of your entries. If you would like to join in there is still plenty of time for you to do so. Learn more and sign up here. See you all on the 6th and 7th of July. 

There are not enough words available for me to be able to use to accurately describe how much I love the film RebeccaI consider it to be one of the best Gothic films ever made, and I consider it to also be one of the most engrossing and visually interesting Alfred Hitchcock films. 

Rebecca is a haunting, gripping, suspenseful and creepy film. It is also a film that lingers on in the memory long after you’ve finished watching it.   

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Mrs. Danvers upsets the new bride. Screenshot by me.

The film features Joan Fontaine delivering one of her best screen performances, that of the shy, tormented and emotionally fragile young woman who attempts to take the dead Rebecca’s place as mistress of the Manderley estate(based on Daphne Du Maurier’s house in Cornwall, which was called Menabilly). Judith Anderson delivers the other standout performance in the film as the sinister and obsessed housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. 

Rebecca was Alfred Hitchcock’s first American film, and it was also his first film made under contract to the producer David O’ Selznick. The film was based upon the novel of the same name written by the great Daphne Du Maurier in 1938. The novel is one of my favourites and I especially love how vivid and intriguing it is.

Rebecca is a book that really draws you in. I think that Hitchcock’s film does the same thing. He also did a terrific job of capturing the eerie atmosphere of the novel. He makes us actually feel the oppressive presence of the dead Rebecca de Winter, and he does so without ever showing us her face.

We don’t need to see Rebecca in flashbacks or photos to know what she was like, instead we learn what we need to know about her just as the new Mrs. de Winter learns it. We  also only become aware of Rebecca’s lingering presence and influence just as the new wife becomes aware when she takes up residence in Manderley.   

Besides being extremely atmospheric and intriguing, this film is also a real character piece. It is the unseen Rebecca who is the most memorable of all the characters in the film. The memory of Rebecca haunts most of the main characters who we follow throughout the film.

We also learn more about Rebecca’ s personality as we see why the various main characters loved her or hated her. We also learn that while she may have beautiful on the outside, on the inside she was anything but, and she also did a great deal of damage to people.

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Rebecca is always present in some way. Screenshot by me.

The second Mrs. de Winter is shown constantly comparing herself to Rebecca. She fears that she can never become the type of woman that Rebecca was, a woman who is beautiful, accomplished, fearless, confident and strong. She is intimidated by Rebecca and by the beautiful, large and well run home which Rebecca organised and arranged.

The second wife isn’t alone in being unable to escape Rebecca. Other people who knew her cannot escape her either. Maxim is unable to stop experiencing his mixed feelings for Rebecca(he both loathed and loved her)and he is also haunted by what happened in her final moments of life. Maxim has become a tortured soul desperately seeking peace and salvation(which he finds in the form of his new wife).

Mrs. Danvers is devastated by the loss of Rebecca, and she is haunted by the memory of this young woman who was so full of life and whom Mrs. Danvers loved, adored and doted upon. Jack Favell is haunted by the memory of the passionate and vibrant Rebecca; a woman who shared his temperament and tastes, and with whom he had a long running love affair. 

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Maxim and his new wife talk about Rebecca. Screenshot by me.

Rebecca may well be dead, but she lives on in the memories of all who knew her. The memory of her reaches out from beyond the grave to crush the happiness of those left alive. The living may find some amount of happiness, but try as they might, they can never truly escape the memory of this woman,they also cannot forget the things she said and did while she lived. 

We don’t need to see a photo or portrait of Rebecca to be able to form a picture of her in our minds as we watch the film. We know she was beautiful, we know she was a woman who commanded and received constant attention and admiration by all who knew her, and we know that she was a teasing and manipulative woman too. When I read the book or watch the film, I always picture Rebecca as looking like a cross between the actresses Vivien Leigh and Margaret Lockwood. 

Interestingly Vivien Leigh desperately wanted to play the second Mrs. de Winter in this film, alongside her husband Laurence Olivier as Maxim. Vivien even made a screentest for the part. I have to say that having seen the screentest I’m afraid that she is all wrong for the character.

Vivien displays none of the shyness, the fragility, or the naive quality that the second Mrs. de Winter needed to have about her. I think that Joan Fontaine was undoubtedly the right woman for this particular role. Had they gone down the flashback route with the film, then I think Vivien would have been perfect for the role of Rebecca.

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A rare happy moment for the couple.Screenshot by me.

The film begins in Monte Carlo. The brooding, middle aged, wealthy widower, Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier)is about to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. Maxim is stopped from jumping by a young woman(Joan Fontaine, playing a character who is never named in the book or film)who sees him and is concerned about what he is about to do. 

He later discovers that she is staying at the same hotel that he is. He finds that she is working as a paid companion to the odious Mrs. Van Hopper (a scene stealing Florence Bates). Maxim and this young woman gradually begin to befriend one another and fall in love. 

She loves him because he is kind to her and genuinely takes an interest in her, and because he allows her an escape from her current life and social station. He loves her because she is pure, fresh, kind and innocent; with those personality traits she is the polar opposite of his dead first wife, a woman who haunts his memories.

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The couple arrive home to be greeted by all the staff. Screenshot by me.

They marry and return to England, to stay in Maxim’s family estate of Manderley. Once in her new home, the second Mrs. de Winter must try and fit in with her husband’s upper class lifestyle, and also try and compete with the lingering memory of his dead first wife, Rebecca. The first Mrs.de Winter drowned in the sea, but there is actually much more to her death than we first believe.

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Rebecca’s monogrammed stationery. Screenshot by me.

Traces of Rebecca linger in every part of the house. Rebecca’s bedroom is kept exactly as it was when she lived. Her clothes are still hanging in the wardrobe, the furnishings, menus and the flower arrangements in the house are all still hers.

The study is still filled with her monogrammed stationery and address books. Staff and friends also talk about Rebecca quite often, and their words remind the second Mrs. de Winter of the great differences between herself and Rebecca.

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Rebecca’s monogrammed pillowcase. Screenshot by me.

The housekeeper of Manderley is Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) and she is a sinister, creepy and highly manipulative woman who is obsessed with Rebecca, and she feels very threatened by the presence of the new Mrs. de Winter.

The young woman is scared of the housekeeper and she also becomes more and more nervous as her worries and feelings of inadequacy grow. She keeps comparing herself to Rebecca and she starts to think she is no good for Maxim. At one point Mrs. Danvers even tries to take advantage of the young woman’s fragile state of mind by attempting to persuade her to commit suicide.

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Jack drops by and causes trouble. Screenshot by me.

A visit to Manderley by the suave and smarmy Jack Favell(George Sanders), who was Rebecca’s cousin and lover, makes it very clear to us that Rebecca had some major secrets. These secrets piques the interest of the second Mrs. de Winter. As the film goes on, hearts get broken, dark secrets are revealed, and nothing will ever be the same again. 

Joan Fontaine is superb as the fragile and tragic young woman trying so hard to stay strong, but who feels her control of her life slipping away.

I love how she also manages to convincingly convey the massive change that her character goes through, as she gradually transitions from the shy and fragile innocent and becomes a much stronger and dominant woman standing up to Mrs. Danvers and to the memory of Rebecca. The moment where she finally asserts her authority and makes a stand against the memory of Rebecca is unforgettable.

Joan really makes you feel for this woman and she is totally convincing as a woman on the verge of a breakdown. Joan was Oscar nominated for her work here but she lost out to Ginger Rogers for Kitty Foyle.

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Joan Fontaine. Screenshot by me.

Joan would take home the award the following year for her performance in another Hitchcock film, Suspicion; in that film Joan plays a similar character to Mrs. de Winter with both characters being in great emotional distress, both of them are also fragile and consumed by fear and worry. Rebecca would go on to become the only Hitchcock film to win the director a Best Picture Oscar. 

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Laurence Olivier. Screenshot by me.

Laurence Olivier is excellent as the tormented Maxim. He convincingly conveys this man’s changing nature, being relaxed and happy with his new bride one moment, and becoming short tempered, distant and sad when he is made to think of Rebecca.

I quite like Laurence and I think that he is a good actor, but he’s never been a favourite of mine. I have also never understood all the hype surrounding his acting skills. I think he is very good in this role though and he subtly conveys so much to us with his eyes and expressions. 

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Judith Anderson. Screenshot by me.

Judith Anderson steals every scene she is in as Mrs. Danvers. Watch her eyes and her body language, she says so much without uttering dialogue. This is one of her best performances for sure.

I like how Mrs. Danvers is a complex villain. She may well be scary and cruel, but she was made that way after becoming unhinged by the grief of losing Rebecca. Grief can do strange things to people, and it has really damaged this woman. 

George Sanders also steals all the scenes he is in. He also provides a tiny bit of comic relief as the sarcastic and interfering Jack Favell. This was the first film that I ever saw George in and I became an instant fan of his.  He plays Jack as a man for whom words are weapons. He has great fun in the role and gets to deliver some brilliant lines. 

The film is shot in black and white and this really adds to the gothic atmosphere. The cinematography by George Barnes is beautiful and memorable. I especially love the cinematography in the scene where we see Rebecca’s bedroom for the first time, and also the scene where Mrs. Danvers tries to make Mrs. de Winter jump to her death.

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Exploring Rebecca’s beautiful bedroom. Screenshot by me.

The film also features some stunning lighting and some interesting camera movement. There are scenes where the camera pulls back from Joan Fontaine and I think that was done to make it seem like Rebecca is in the same room with her, watching her, moving around her and sharing her space. Joan Fontaine is also filmed in a way that makes her appear small in comparison to her surroundings and other characters.

I also love the score by Franz Waxman. I think that the score captures the romance, the dread, the mystery and the eerie aspects of the story perfectly. 

If there is one thing about both the novel and the film that really annoys me, it is that the second wife is never named. I get why this was done (to make her seem insignificant in comparison to Rebecca), but I really think that could have still been achieved if the character had been given a name. 

My favourite scenes are the following. Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter meeting for the first time on the clifftop. The “I am Mrs. de Winter now!”scene.  Maxim’s marriage proposal. The scene where the second Mrs. de Winter goes downstairs wearing the same dress that Rebecca once wore. The scene where Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter watch their honeymoon video. Chasing Jasper on the beach and finding the cottage. The confession scene. Exploring Rebecca’s bedroom. Jack trying to blackmail Maxim in the car. 

It has often been noted that the story of Rebecca bears many similarities to Jane Eyre. I think this is true. Maxim and his second wife are so similar to Jane Eyre and Rochester. Maxim is desperate to escape a hellish past and find peace and happiness with a pure and decent woman (just as Rochester is). The second Mrs de Winter is quiet and shy, and she has been bullied and used by many people, in Maxim she finds someone who loves her and will be kind to her (just like Jane). Both the second Mrs de Winter and Jane also become very strong and determined women as their stories go on. It’s fun to study the film and spot the similarities and to compare characters and situations. 

This is one of my favourite Hitchcock films. It is also a film that I never get tired of watching. If you enjoyed this film and the book, then I would also recommend an excellent miniseries adaptation of Rebecca. The series is from 1979, and it stars the great Jeremy Brett as Maxim and Joanna David as the second wife. The series is very close to the book and is allowed more time to develop the characters. I also quite like the 1997 miniseries starring Charles Dance as Maxim. 

What are your thoughts on this Hitchcock film?