Classic Cinema Tuesday: Sansho the Bailiff

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Mizoguchi isn’t really a director that I am very familiar with. I have heard of Ugestu but have not watched it. I know that he influenced many French New Wave directors. And I know that no one thinks of him any more. Beyond of course diehard Japanese and art house cinema fans. This sums up my knowledge of Mizoguchi. After watching Sansho the Bailiff, I don’t know if I know much more about him or his work.

After a Japanese governor decides to oppose a decree by a corrupt government, he is sent into exile. After some years, his wife and children journey to this remote place to join him. Along the way, the wife trusts someone she shouldn’t and as a result gets sold into slavery… sex slavery. Her two children, one boy and one girl, get sold to Sansho the Bailiff. They are now his slaves. They toil for long hours spinning wool or policing the province. They grow up in terrible conditions, but they never loose hope that they can one day get out. Zushio (the son) incorporates himself into Sansho’s band of ruffians to find a sense of relief from the daily grind. Anju (the daughter) objects to this turn in his outlook. When a sick woman is put out in the woods to die, Anju goads Zushio to escape the camp and take the sick woman with him. Anju decides to distract the ruffians while Zushio runs for his life. Anju is killed in the process. Zushio appeals to a local governor to get some shelter in the name of his exiled father. To his surprise, the local governor gives him an area to rule that includes the area of Sansho the Bailiff. The first decree Zushio makes is to outlaw all decrees that makes Sansho’s business legal (it was incredibly legal before he came to power). Zushio then travels personally to Sansho’s area and jails him for misconduct. He also searches for Anju, unaware that she was killed when he escaped. When he finds out, he decides to let go of his ruling area and journey to find the only person left (his father died in exile) alive of his family. In a climatic moment, Zushio finds his blind and old woman freeing her from her eternal bondage as a sex slave.

To be frank, this movie is incredibly depressing. Only at the end, does any sense of hope really sustains itself for longer than a moment. This movie also seems like it is screaming for a Foreign Language Oscar. Impeccably shot, well acted, and a typically downbeat story is all you need to ever secure that Oscar, and this movie has all three in spades. This is why I can’t quite put my finger on who Mizoguchi is. He doesn’t seem to have the visual flourishes of Kurosawa or the spare storytelling of Ozu. Is this all he is? Is Mizoguchi only good for making depressing sweeping old dramas? I don’t know, but I was quite bored with this effort. It wasn’t that this movie was bad or terribly made. I just felt like I have seen this type of epic before. Maybe I have become jaded in my adult movie viewing life… It’s probably that.

My Top 100 Of All Time Part 4

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This is the fourth installment of the most self-indulgent series ever. I am basically saying “hey look at me I have awesome taste in movies!” Well I do. And here is the proof. My entries of 69-60 on the list of top 100 of all time for me.

69. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (dir. Brooks)

cat_on_a_hot_tin_roof_paul_newmanTennessee Williams wrote such amazing dialogue for actors. And if you can get actors that truly understand what they are saying and why they are saying it, then it becomes a force to be reckoned with. Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, and Burl Ives were all made for these parts and made for this dialogue.

68. The Crowd (dir. Vidor)

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If someone tells me one more time that silent pictures were all primitive and why should we even care about them, I am going to shove a physical copy of this movie down their throat. Not only is the movie visually striking and politically relevant to our times, but King Vidor had a knack for telling a story with his camera in a way that most directors still struggle with today.

67. Nights of Cabiria (dir. Fellini)

nights-of-cabiriaI have one name for you: Giuletta Masina. Oh Man is she just a fantastic actress. She is great in Juliet of the Spirits and La Strada, but this movie is my favorite of hers during her fruitful collaboration with her husband, Fellini.
66. A Streetcar Named Desire (dir. Kazan)

streetcar Another Tennessee Williams picture. His characters are strange and not quite good in any way and I think that is why they are so compelling and heartbreaking. Blanche DuBois is a character doomed to a terrible existence and yet you can’t help but root for her and hope she pulls through. Of course Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando are able to do their well constructed characters justice because they both understand exactly what is needed for them. And Marlon Brando is just plain sexy in that fitted white t-shirt. I’m getting hot just thinking about it. ūüėČ

65. Brick (dir. Johnson)

53 This was the movie that really got me into independent cinema. I found this film while listening to Filmspotting and I couldn’t help but watch this movie directly upon hearing their glowing review. This movie made me understand how a movie can call upon the tradition of movies and still make it their own. Rian Johnson’s directing and screenwriting, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s acting and the crew’s innate ability to use what limited space they were given to their utmost advantage is what made this movie great and so high on my list.
64. Modern Times (dir. Chaplin)

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When I finally dived into Chaplin’s oeuvre for the first time, I was taken aback by just how visually stunning and interesting his scenic gags were. Watching the iconic gears scene in this movie took my breath away. For that scene alone, this movie is on the list. However it is this high because of Chaplin’s ability to pull at my heartstrings.
63. A Clockwork Orange (dir. Kubrick)

a-clockwork-orangeX When I first saw this movie, I hated it. I was young and I didn’t understand what was going on in the movie at all. Then I read Anthony Burgess’ amazing novel and watched the movie again… And I still hated it. But for a completely different reason (it wasn’t the book). I watched it for a third time and realized just how much of a pull the grotesque nature of this film had for me. I had watched it three times without any one forcing me to. I then grew to love it and its visual weirdness.
62. Kiss Me Deadly (dir. Aldrich)

kiss_me_deadly In contrast to A Clockwork Orange, I was exposed to this movie in one of my undergraduate film classes and loved it from the first scene. And it just got better with time.
61. Coffee and Cigarettes (dir. Jarmusch)

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For an uncomfortable amount of time after I first saw this movie with my boyfriend, we would go to coffee shops just to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes, wishing that we could get a waiter like Steve Buscemi or Bill Murray. We would then talk about our Tesla Coils or about how Elvis isn’t really dead. Such warm and fuzzy memories.
60. Sunset Boulevard (dir. Wilder)
swansonIf you are looking at how low this movie is, don’t fret. I do have really good taste. All of the movies after this one are definitely better than Sunset Blvd. But that does not diminish the impact that Sunset Blvd had on my film watching life. I still remember watching Gloria Swanson descending that huge staircase like a madwoman. Perfection.

Chaplin

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Why oh why do I still go back to biography pictures? I know that they are usually shit and yet I can’t resist a picture about a famous person whose life I want to know about am too lazy to read a biography book. Tell it to me in picture form! I guess that is what I thought when I saw that Chaplin was on Netflix Watch Instant the other day. I care about Chaplin’s output. I care about how Chaplin made his movies. But do I care about this white washed portrayal of essentially a megalomaniac who only likes very young women?

Chaplin stars Robert Downey Jr as the title character. We see Chaplin’s progression from being a vaudeville star to being an icon in American silent cinema and finally his deportation and asylum in a foreign country. Every little minute detail is covered in this extremely long snoozer. And we get to see the height of old age makeup circa 1992. (Just a warning: if you are studying to be a visual effect makeup artist, do not look at this movie for inspiration…)

How can a biopic about one of the greatest actors and directors be so insanely boring? A worship of an icon does not mean that you need to care about every little minute detail of his life. Oh and having him narrate his own story as he takes a very long walk with an empty Michael Caine is clich√© even in 1992. I don’t care about Charlie Chaplin the statutory rapist. I don’t care about his house in Switzerland or his many failings as a person. I care about his art. I want to see how and why he made the pictures he did, not glimpses of his pictures in between scenes of him yucking it up with various young women. I don’t care. I feel like I am a broken record. The most effective biographical pictures whether they are documentary or fictional are most effective if you see one or two major events in the person’s life and use those events to construct a whole picture of who this person was/is. Is anybody freaking listening to me? Hello?

The Birdcage

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A little PSA before I start my review of the Birdcage from 1996. In the last couple of weeks, I just moved to New York City, started graduate school and started working at various places. So let’s just say my plate is full right now. I hope to keep posting like usual, but I may need to take some time off from time to time because my load might be too much. This is why you barely heard from me last week. In the next couple of months the blog may be a little sporadic. I apologize in advance.

Robin Williams passed away on August eleventh. This sudden passing was a shock to me as it was to everyone else in the world. Depression is a terrible disease that eats away at your motivation and sense of self. I can completely understand where he was coming from. I just hope that his decision to take his life has helped prevent other people from taking theirs through the dialogue that has taken place surrounding his passing. If you are depressed, please seek help. Even if it is some random person on the internet, like me. Talk to someone. I am here if you need me.

Ha! You just got two PSAs for the price of one.

In order to celebrate Robin Williams great contributions that he gave the world, I watched the Birdcage for the first time since I was young. (Yes, I saw this movie when I was ten or so. My parents saw Robin Williams as an actor that was safe for children to watch. I guess they didn’t really know what this film was about…. Neither did I, but I was obsessed with Hank Azaria’s character for the longest time.) ¬†What I found was a great example of Williams’ ability to turn a caricature into a real person.

Armand runs the greatest drag cabaret club in Florida. He does it with the help of his long time partner, Albert. Albert is the star of the show both on and off the stage. He overreact to the smallest things. One night while Albert is on stage, Armand receives a visit from his son. His son, Val, is getting married. Despite his young age, Val is in love with Barbara, who happens to be the daughter of a very conservative Senator. The Senator is involved in a vicious scandal and decides to escape to Florida to get some conservative press time with his daughter’s fiance’s parents, who he believes are ambassadors to Greece. Armand must get Albert out of the house and turn his over the top apartment into a sedated residence before they get there. It proves more difficult than he first imagines.

This movie feels like a filmed version of a Broadway play. There are whole scenes that could have been cut out to save time. Instead we get long inserts of Armand reuniting with Val’s mother and the Senator trying to out run the press with a car. It gets bogged down and drags through most of the middle part. It also feels like the script had been watered down and made safe for middle class audiences to view it without all of their sensibilities getting hurt by their being too much “gayness” in the picture. Yes Albert and Agador (Hank Azaria) are flamboyant but they are the nice, safe kind of flamboyant that never talk about actually having sex with other men (ick!). While there is gay imagery all over, it becomes a caricature of what a real house inhabited by two gay men who were life long partners both romantically and financially would look like. But all of this is forgiven because of the performances.

Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Hank Azaria (my personal favorite still!), Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest all turn in magnificent performances. Nathan Lane is perfect as an over the top gay man (I guess because he is one…) and drag queen. Robin Williams lets Lane be over the top and steal the scene from him but is able to take it back with some graceful maneuvers. Watching them together is a wonderful example of how two great actors can share the same screen without killing each other by yelling constantly “look at me!” When Robin Williams puts his mind to it, he is a really great subtle actor. Of course Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest are perfect as the two uptight conservative parents that get turned around at the end. They are both able to play the stiff upper lip so well that they seemed to have gotten type cast for it. (Thanks in no part to this movie which was wildly successful in 1996) Hank Azaria steals the show every single time he appears. My favorite gag of his is when he can’t properly wear shoes and he tip toes around them as they constantly fall off. While his character could be reduced to a stereotype, Azaria elevates him into great comic relief.

Don’t watch this movie for any nuanced approach to the lives of gay men in modern times. Don’t watch this movie if you are scared of the skeleton that is Clarisa Flockhart (she was in this movie way too much for my taste… eww). Do watch this movie if you want to see great actors elevating mediocre material.

Netflix Graveyard: Death Race 2000

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Is it a sin that I have never seen any Roger Corman produced pictures? I think it might be. Allow me to correct that as soon as possible with Death Race 2000. One of the campiest movies I have seen in a long time.

In the future, population is controlled by a cross-country car race to the death. Frankenstein (David Carradine), Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone), Nero the Hero, Calamity Jane, Matilda the Hun all race themed cars and try to kill as many bystanders and innocents as possible. Babies, old people, and other car racers are not off the table and in fact are more points than regular Joes. However there is a group that does not like this philosophy. The Resistance is run by Thomasina Paine (a descendant of Thomas Paine) and plans to sabotage the race by setting up boobie traps for the racers as well as planting one of their own as a navigator for the most popular racers, Frankenstein (so named because he has had a ton of surgeries). But what the navigator doesn’t know is that Frankenstein is actually on their side. Will the Resistance kill Frankenstein before he puts his plan into action or will the navigator fall in love with Frankenstein and tell him all about their plan just in time to save him and let him go through with his plan that involves a grenade hand? Hint: it’s the last one.

This is a silly movie. Beyond that silliness, it is a great movie full of campy thrills and chills. Tons of people get run over, some cars make a nosedive down some steep hills and there is a freaking grenade hand present throughout the last third of the movie. What more can you ask for? The answer is nothing. You can ask for nothing less or more.

My Top 100 Of All Time Part 3

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This is a continuation of my top 100 list. I have made parts 1 and 2 in August. If you would like to know more of my tastes, please look for those.

79. Elephant (dir. Van Sant)

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This movie is probably one of the very few on this list that I haven’t watched multiple times and yet the few times I have watched it, it made a very impactful impression on me. Having grown up in a post-Columbine world where school shootings are a threat that makes national news, this film helped to ground just what it is like to be an ordinary teenager thrust into an extraordinary situation. I also loved the point of view shots and Van Sant’s determination to give as a wide a view on tragic event as possible. This is a great film, but don’t expect to watch it as part of your relaxation routine.

78. American Psycho (dir. Harron)

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I don’t know what this says about me, but I find this movie to be immensely watchable. A great interpretation of a sanitized book. Plus you get to see Christian Bale’s amazing butt. Not bad.

77. Black Narcissus (dir. Powell and Pressburger)

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Powell and Pressburger are masters of the opulent picture. This impressively beautiful film explores just how crazy you must be to join an order of sisters that has a convent that high up on the mountain range. Deborah Kerr’s performance as the lead nun is easily a master class in reservation and quietly¬†impactful.

76. Oldboy (dir. Park)

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Really I recommend his whole Vengeance trilogy along with Thirst. But Oldboy is my favorite movie of the trilogy by far. It is a twisted tale that exacts revenge on someone who has no clue why. And oh boy that hammer fight scene is excellente! Do not watch the Spike Lee version of this tale. Always go with the original.

75. Mystery Train (dir. Jarmusch)

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Coffee and Cigarettes will make an appearance higher up in the list, but this is my second favorite Jarmusch movie. It is just so weird and crazy that I can’t help but love it. From the two Japanese tourists arguing about who is the greatest rock god to the bored bellhops, each episode unfolds into a better and more complete picture of Memphis, a weird town full of weird people.

74. Hiroshima Mon Amour (dir. Resnais)

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This movie has got to be the most beautiful movie made about the nuclear disasters, Hiroshima and Nagaski, ever made. From the very beginning where Resnais cuts from two lovers exploring each others bodies to pictures of the nuclear disaster museum to the devastating ending, it is just a great film. You should probably watch it if you haven’t already.

73. Vagabond (dir. Varda)

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Agnes Varda is my favorite French director. She is able to capture the woman’s experience in such a beautiful way. I feel like she is overlooked for her more famous husband director, Jacques Demy. But she is the one that deserves more of the praise. This movie is a moving portrait of one woman’s desire to be free of all constraints and society’s desire to always be putting her in a box.

72. Out of the Past (dir. Tourneur)

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Out of the Past is one of the best film noirs. Robert Mitchum is amazing in this picture of past regrets and reserved passions. Kirk Douglas is beautifully menacing and I think I would have loved him more if he would have taken more roles like this one.

71. Wings of Desire (dir. Wenders)

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Wenders’ ability to capture desire and want in a creature that shouldn’t have either is fascinating. I love everything about this movie from the cinematography to the wandering nature of the narrative, to Columbo making an appearance. It is a perfect film that never should have been remade.

70. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (dir. Gilliam and Jones)

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The holy grail of comedies. I have probably seen this movie more times than I dare to count. Each joke is known intimately to me and is instantly repeatable. Was there ever any other comedy troupe that was as funny as Monty Python?

New Indie Thursday: The Master

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With the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, his screen image is even more important to his adoring masses. He was a great actor capable of unbelievable transformations (Truman Capote) and incredibly interesting interpretations of lackluster dialogue (Along Came Polly). I have not commented much on his passing, because I do not think that the world needs yet another tribute to a great man who has died tragically. Let me instead honor him by reviewing one his last performances in the Master.

The Master is a film by the venerable P.T. Anderson. He takes our fascination with L. Ron Hubbard’s cult Scientologists and gives us an impressive portrait of his motives and his personality. While Hoffman’s performance is somewhat based on Hubbard’s life, he is not completely Hubbard. In fact he is Lancaster Dodd. Dodd is a charismatic and jovial middle-aged man who attracts people like moths to a flame. He is at once hilarious, devout and completely in possession of his abilities to persuade. When we finally see Dodd, it is through the eyes of a drunk veteran, Freddie Quell. Quell is played magnificently by Joaquin Phoenix. Quell has been through the ringer for the first twenty minutes of the film. We see him on a World War II ship, making booze out of fuel from a torpedo, placed into a mental institution upon discharge and making booze out of some sort of medical supply, and finally as a photographer in a sanitized department store making booze out of photography processing fluid. Through these different phases, we see that there is something a little bit off about Quell, other than his boozing. He is lost and he doesn’t quite fit in modern society. After a stint in a cabbage farm and possibly poisoning a fellow farmer, he escapes to a boat occupied by Lancaster Dodd. Dodd is immediately fascinated by this erratic figure. He takes him under his wing and submits him to various tests and experiments that he has been developing. In return Quell devotes himself to Dodd and is put under a kind of spell by him. He defends Dodd with his fists against questioners of his theories and police officers accusing him of fraud. Dodd surrounds himself with similar folks like his fiercely loyal wife and daughter. He is encased in a world that takes what he says as pure gospel. Quell integrates himself into this world. But something happens. Something that happens to most people once they see the outside world as it is. He rebels against Dodd and he disappears.

Like all other entries in Anderson’s oeuvre, this movie is masterful. The beautiful cinematography and musical score only highlight this powerful story of devotion and rebellion. Hoffman inhabits Dodd thoroughly and completely. He is Dodd more or less. Whereas Dodd is quiet and methodical, Quell is loud and rough. The juxtaposition of two very different personalities drawn together like this is fascinating to watch. I was struck by how great the two opposites were most thoroughly in the prison scene. Dodd is taken away on fraud charges and put into a cell. Quell fights the police officers in a fit of rage and is therefore imprisoned in the cell next to Dodd. While Dodd stands there quietly awaiting parole from his family, Quell destroys everything within sight. Their relationship is called into question by Quell who doesn’t think that the world is for him. All Dodd says to calm him down is “Who else loves you, except for me?” Now this might not calm you down, but the repeating nature of Dodd’s question inserts itself into Quell’s mind and solidifies. Quell is now certain that he can only be loved by Dodd. In this scene, you not only see great performances, but also the subtle inclination on just how a cult works. They take in the lonely and questioning and make them believe that they can only be loved by the cult itself. It is a great scene. This is a great movie. RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Netflix Graveyard: Manhunter

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Ok so who isn’t on the Hannibal bandwagon these days? When we decided to get Amazon Prime, I sat down and watched the first complete season that is posted on there in a week (I have a very boring job that allows me a lot of down time to watch things… so no judgements please). I was immediately mad about Mads (Mikkelsen that is!… Thank you Flop House podcast!), but man I could not stand that whiny Hugh Dancy (I hear he gets better in the second season, fingers crossed). This got me thinking about other interpretations of Hannibal Lector and Will Graham stories and it led me to watching a Michael Mann movie from the mid-eighties called Manhunter. Is this a better interpretation of the Hannibal story than I have seen in Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal?

Spoiler Alert: It is not.

Will Graham this time is played by William Peterson (originating the dark-haired scruffy beard look that Hugh Dancy sports in the series) and the Hannibal character is played by Brian Cox. Graham is called back to the FBI to track down a man who has odd tendencies. Graham dives into the murders and sees what the investigators cannot, including that the killer watches his victims from a tree and that he has a fascination with sight. But as per usual Graham is stumped. He calls on his previous catch, Hannibal Lector, to help him. Lector teases him and prods him but is of no real help until at the crucial moment. Meanwhile the serial killer, Frances, befriends a young blind woman. He takes her to his estate and makes love to her. But she will soon fall victim to him as well unless Graham can figure out who this person is and why he is killing the people he does.

I am not a fan of Michael Mann, and this is pure Mann territory. The white washed architecture, the popsicle color landscapes and the playing it close to the chest and not revealing anything about his characters just does not do it for me. He takes good actors like Brian Cox and Tom Noonan (who plays the serial killer) and muddles their performances by cutting too quickly away from them to focus on the milquetoast of Will Graham. I know that Graham is the main character, but I am here to watch the serial killers. Speaking of serial killers, Hannibal is barely in this movie. When he is the movie quickly comes alive with tension given Graham and his history. It is a sin to not have him worked into the plot a little bit more, especially when you have such a great actor portraying him. Cox was born to play that character. He can play dully sinister (Hannibal is behind bars, so he can’t physically get at Graham. He can only psychologically taunt him) so well. The same goes for Tom Noonan who plays the main serial killer (He is the same serial killer that Red Dragon focuses on). He is born to play odd characters and menacing characters. My conclusion is: more serial killers and you can have your damn popsicle color palette all god damn day.

Classic Cinema Tuesday: The Life of Emile Zola

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To most people today, Emile Zola isn’t even a name that they would recognize. If they do recognize it, they probably know him from Manet’s portrait of him reading at a desk with a reproduction of a Japanese samurai in the background. (Ok so that is how I was introduced to him… I like Manet leave me alone) However when Zola was alive and for some decades after he passed, he was known as a great writer who always took up the cause of the disenfranchised.¬†He wrote about prostitutes, poor families, war injustices, and overt political commentaries on the events that were happening at the time. Zola worked tirelessly to elevate the plight of the poor Frenchman. He was a real life Atticus Finch in many ways. It is only natural that classic Hollywood would decide to make a biopic about his life. They love that overcoming obstacles and championing the disenfranchised even today.

This movie is almost evenly split into two parts. The first part could be considered Zola’s origin story. He rose from abject poverty to become one of the voices of his generation and he befriended famous Frenchmen including most importantly Cezanne. As his novels became more and more popular, he began to sink into complacency. He no longer had to struggle to be heard, to pay his bills or even to find friends. He had everything he could dream of. Then the second part of the movie comes in to ruin all of this. A solider named Alfred Dreyfus enters his life. Or more accurately the wife of Alfred Dreyfus does. She pleads Zola to look at his case. He seems to have been stripped of his rank and thrown into a remote prison over something that he had no knowledge of. The corruption in the military was so rampant that each superior officer looked to cover up their actions by accusing a less senior one of the actions they themselves had done. Upon looking at this case, Zola publishes his famous column “J’Accuse” in where he accuses the French military of mass corruption. The military responds by suing Zola for libel. The last third is Zola defending himself against this strong-arm approach to silence him in the courtroom. He delivers compelling speech after compelling speech, and tries to counter act the oppressive conservative majority who disagrees with him. All the while Dreyfus is slowly rotting on a remote island being punished for something he had not done.

Emile Zola is inherently a compelling person. Add to that a great actor portraying him, Paul Muni, and you have an immensely watchable film. Muni is able to capture Zola’s ability to persuade a hostile mass so well that sometimes I believed he was Zola. Muni truly is a great actor that should be better understood today. On top of Muni’s performance, there is a great cast of supporting actors (including Dracula’s Daughter!) and you have a very good film indeed.

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum

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History lesson time: If you already know this then you can skip this section. The Baader-Meinhof gang was a group of anarchist fighters who terrorized West Germany in the seventies. They committed political acts that were seen as terrorism by the conservative government in charge at the time. (Confession: I sympathize with the anarchist philosophy although I do not consider myself an anarchist, so I do not see radical anarchists as terrorists. In fact I don’t see most people who are labeled as terrorists by the popular media as terrorists.) This gang was used as a scape goat for most violent acts in West Germany by the conservative government and most importantly (for our purposes at least) the yellow journalists and popular sensationalist papers. They blamed almost everything wrong in their society on this band of radicals that are trying to get across their political message through violence. Caught up in this fear mongering was a Nobel prize-winning journalist who defended the Baader-Meinhof against accusations that they held up a bank when the press had no proof. He was targeted by the press and his personal life was dissected for all of the world to see. He was accused of being a terrorist sympathizer and helping the Baader-Meinhof gang with their activities. Whether or not this was true is besides the point. The real point was that these papers could care less if it was true… in the eyes of the society it was because they made it so. This journalist retaliated against the accusations by writing a book about his experiences and titling¬†it the Lost Honor of Katharina Blum. Two friends of his who were also in the film industry took his story and made this film. This is the story of how a simple act can be twisted and seen as a radical one.

Katharina Blum is a maid living in Berlin. She goes to a party at one of her friend’s and meets a boy. They have an instant connection and go home together. The next morning after the boy has left, her apartment gets bombarded with police. Apparently the boy she had over the night before is a terrorist who had robbed a bank right before coming to the party. He was tailed to the party and then to her apartment, but somehow slipped away into the darkness before the police could catch him. Automatically Katharina is accused of being a terrorist sympathizer and her personal details are dissected by the police. Other than a Karl Marx quote that was hand written in a book and a few expensive items that were given to her by a lover that she will not reveal, they have nothing to accuse her of. But that doesn’t stop the police feeding information about her to a journalist and his photographer. This journalist makes up facts about her, visits her dying mother to get a deathbed confession, and basically rips her life apart in order to make the headlines look more interesting. Her reputation is completely destroyed and she is terrorized by her neighbors and strangers on the street. She decides to do just what the police accused her of doing: she helps the terrorist escape.

This movie isn’t perfect. The woman who plays Katharina Blum can be compared to Buster Keaton’s image as the Great Stony Face. She reveals close to no emotions and keeps everything close to the chest. This keeps the character mysterious, but it can also make the movie drag just a bit when the camera is pointed at her emotionless visage. The cinematography is also a little bit murky. There are times when a scene doesn’t seem to be lighted quite right or the camera isn’t positioned in the right direction and it is difficult to see what is happening in the scene. Despite all this, I think the political message is palpable enough to merit this movie a watch. I sat and watched this movie thinking the whole time why someone would be able to do this. How are we as a society think that this is okay? Surely this doesn’t happen anymore. Then I sat around thinking about it and I remembered the Boston Marathon attack that happened in 2013. The muckraking¬†that happened after that admittedly tragic event eclipsed the actual impact of a single event. For months after that event you could not pick up a major newspaper, magazine, or news site without reading about the “terrorist” that had perpetrated the event. There was even a short time when the popular media ceased upon a man who was completely innocent and accused him of being the bomber all because he had a red hoodie on that was described by bystanders. The world hasn’t changed and no matter how much we want it to be it isn’t getting better. Until we can as a society take a step back and take a deep breath, then we will continue to have events like Ferguson, Trayvon Martin and the Boston Marathon bombing take place and rock our worlds.