Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

Hidden Figures – ***

Posted: April 5, 2017 in 2016, Civil Rights, Drama, USA, XXX

Hidden Figures is light-hearted, but memorable. It’s a movie for the largest audience possible. It’s a chick-flick with a masculine theme. It has three black women in the lead who anyone can relate to, regardless of the color of their skin. It’s a period drama, with references to today’s society. It’s a movie for young and old. For black and white. For men and women. It’s positive. It’s good. It’s a jackpot. It only has one flaw: Jim Parsons. Of all people they could cast as an annoying math scientist they chose Sheldon! But he only has a few lines. So you’ll survive. Watch it. Period.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4846340

This is a movie for those who love Jane Austin stories, but think they are too white. It’s set in the same period of time, but this time the female heroine is a mulatto heiress.

The illegitimate daughter of a wealthy navy officer (and a slave from the West Indies) is raised by her uncle and aunt, who are already raising another niece. When her father dies she has a good fortune, but that doesn’t mean much, because as a mulatto she can’t really go higher up in society. Until a noble man fancies on marrying her, telling her that ‘unlike others’ he is ready to ignore the traits she received for her mother because ‘it is clear that the traits of her father luckily are more evident’.

In the mean time, the uncle is settling a case about a (slave ship) company that threw their human cargo overboard in order to get money back from their insurance. A young lawyer is trying to convince the uncle that he should speak against the company. Soon the mulatto heiress falls for him.

Yawn.

It’s a period piece. With a different take. But it tells the same story. It sucks being a woman at that time. Let alone a mulatto woman with money.

Somehow, British people love seeing movies and series about class distinction so they can continue using it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2404181

There are only positive reviews of Son Of Saul, winner of Best Foreign Language Movie at the Academy Award Ceremony of 2016. It’s one of those movies that all critics just adored. Probably because none of them want to come across as heartless or anti-Semitic if they didn’t.

But apart from them, no-one else recommended it. It kind of flopped at the box office as well. It wasn’t even a success in the arthouse theaters. Very few people saw it and those who did, didn’t spread the word.

So finally after more than a year the time was right to watch this heavily awarded Holocaust drama!

The best thing about this Hungarian movie is the direction and the editing.What makes this movie really great is the distance from which the camera films the main character. It’s like he’s pulling the viewer along in his story. It’s a very daunting and thrilling experience. You’re so close to this man that you feel like you’re really next to him. Excellent! It also feels like the whole movie was recorded in one single take. Which it wasn’t of course, but that’s the merit of the editor. Another unique cinematographic feat is the depiction of the horror in a blurry and distant way.

The story however isn’t all that engaging. The setting is quite dramatic of course. But the actual story isn’t.

Saul, the protagonist, is part of a Sonderkommando working at a concentration camp near the end of World War II. A jewish prisoner himself, he is forced to help bring incoming prisoners to the gas chambers, remove all the valuables from their clothes, pull out their bodies (called ‘pieces’) and carry them to the ovens, then disinfect the chamber and also bring the ashes of the burnt prisoners to the nearby river. That’s the setting. If you haven’t read/seen/heard anything about this aspect of the concentration camps and you are used to watching movies like La Vita E Bella or The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, then yes, this can be very unsettling.

The story however is about this same man who spends all movie long trying to save a dead boy from being burnt with the others and give him a typical Jewish burial. For that purpose he needs to find a rabbi. But he also needs to ‘steal’ the body, hide it and find a place to bury. All within 24 hours. He is also given the task to collect certain items for a riot that the Sondercommando he’s part of, is anticipating. Somehow, this just doesn’t make sense. Sure, he wants to do at least one thing right after all this time of forcefully collaborating with the atrocious acts of the nazis. But why add the riot story?

Watch it nevertheless.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3808342/

The Loving Story – *(*)

Posted: February 20, 2017 in 2011, Civil Rights, Documentary, USA, X1/2

After watching Loving, you may want to watch the documentary that was the main source of the movie: The Loving Story.

Mr and Mrs Loving were the interracial couple who were sentenced to exile in the state that they lived (Virginia) just because they married ‘a different race’. Their case ended up being brought to the Supreme Court, which allowed interracial couples to be married all over the United States.

The most interesting thing about watching this documentary is the realisation that the casting director of Loving did a tremendous job looking for actor that ressemble the real life characters. The actors must also have watched this documentary over and over again. The HBO special itself isn’t giving that much extra information about the case. It’s pretty much all covered in the movie. You get to see still pictures of the couples, home videos of the family, interviews with the lawyers (at the time of the trial and later on in life). They also add vintage footage of tv interviews from back in the days when people just openly talk about wanting to keep segregation…

That said. It’s 2017 and you have the alt-right KKK-clones claim the same things on tv.

It’s sad that you don’t really get to know much more about the family members. They interview the daughter, but she’s basically telling general stuff about her parents.

So, watch the movie and leave it at that.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1759682

Loving – **

Posted: February 20, 2017 in 2016, Civil Rights, Drama, Political, USA, XX

A construction worker gets his girlfriend pregnant and wants to marry her.

There are a few problems though. It’s 1958. He lives in Virginia. He is white. His girlfriend is colored.

Loving is based on the true story of an interracial couple who got married in a place where it was legal (Washington DC), but decided to live in place where it was illegal (Virginia). They got sentenced after spending some time in jail. A judge was ‘mild’ and sent them in exile. They couldn’t set foot as a married couple for 25 years in the state where all their family and friends lived and where they owned some property.

Until the wife was fed up living in the big city and wrote a letter to Bobby Kennedy, who forwarded it to the . After a legal battle and uncertainty for several years, their case made it possible for everyone all over the United States to marry whomever they wanted. Well, heterosexuals that is.

Loving is a historically interesting movie. We just take it for granted that people of mixed heritage can marry, but that wasn’t the case until quite recently really. It’s a well made movie, but it’s not as emotionally gripping as you’d want it to be. A lot has to do with the personalities of the main characters. They are just ordinary people who love each other and just want to be left in peace. They don’t want the police to interfere, nor the court, nor a civil rights movement, nor the press. They just want to be left alone. They are so calm, it’s nerve wrecking. The performances may be based on the real personalities of Mr and Mrs Loving, but a cinematic drama needs characters that are more alive and vocal.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4669986

Based on an autographical book from the seventies, Un Sac De Billes tells the story of the Jewish family Joffo (and in particular the youngest sons Joseph and Maurice) during the Second World War. The family has a popular barber shop in occupied Paris and even has German officers as clients. But when Jewish people need to start wearing a yellow badge, the family decides to flee to unoccupied southern France. Not as one family, but split up. It’s quite a journey, but they make it to Nice, which is in the unoccupied zone and under surveillance of the more moderate Italians soldiers. Until Mussolini is disposed and the nazis come marching in and the family has to flee again.

This classical tearjerker is made for kids. They are the central characters and all focus is on them. It’s adventurous at times and there are some funny scenes too. But it also has some harsh moments that may not be suitable for kids (there is an execution by firing squad f.i.). The movie theatre was filled with adults though, a lot of seniors even. And almost everyone was sobbing. It’s not as good as Au Revoir Les Enfants, but it’s worth the watch. The period setting is praiseworthy and it’s not all that moralizing and pretty factual. The kids’ performances are good. But it’s in the supporting roles dat you see talented actors like Patrick Bruel or Christian Clavier shine.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5091612

Hm.

There’s something really disturbing about this movie that is difficult to digest if you have given up on religion as something good. It’s constantly referring to it, in particular the christian faith. The bible and christianity have both been used by slave owners and slave/civil rights resistance leaders as a source for their cause. That’s a known fact. But in this tale,  there’s just too much focus on it.

Sure, it’s the core of the story: a young slave learns to read the bible and then is later used to preach the bible to rebellious slaves so they can obey their masters again. At one point the man is ordered to preach a verse that goes like this: “Slaves, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” (Peter 2:18-19). That’s in the bible! And however you interpret it or put it in a historical context, it’s VILE.

Then of course things go wrong, at which point a fellow slave asks with reason: “Where is God now?”

Birth Of A Nation is the story of this preaching slave who uses his faith and skills to start a slave rebellion after having seen too much unchristian misery. It’s based on true facts. The man did exist and he did transform from an obedient slave to a wrathful revenge rebel. So no critique there. It’s wel directed and well acted by Nate Parker. (and other members in the cast). Yet somehow it’s not as engaging as it should be. And that’s not because there are hardly any ‘good’ white people on screen. It’s just focusing so damn much on religion that you feel like the director wants people to believe faith is something good and will guide you through vengeance.

Revenge can be cool. Ask Quentin Tarantino. But revenge out of faith is just annoying and disturbing. But that’s probably the whole point of the movie.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4196450