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Category Archive for 'Film connection'

Set in Berlin and Tokyo in the 1930s, Swiss author Christian Kracht’s latest novel offers an unusual fictional vision of the prewar years in Germany and Japan – one in which the primary focus of the author – and ultimately of his two main characters – is not that of reality as much as it is of cinema: Life and the future can be controlled in a film, even if they can not be controlled in real life. Emil Nageli, a young Swiss film director nearing his thirtieth birthday, has been in Berlin talking with the Reich Minister, who believes that a well-made horror film – “an allegory, if you like, of the coming dread” – would attract much attention, even in America. He also wants to involve the Japanese, however, since he believes that they “will sooner or later subdue the Asian continent.” Masahiko Amakasu, a Japanese film maker and admirer of Nageli, hopes to establish a relationship with the Germans. Amakasu, too, envisions film changing the world, hoping that a Japanese film will “counteract the seeming omnipotence of American cultural imperialism.” A thin plot connects some well developed characters as real characters mix with fictional characters and the action fades to a conclusion.

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Peter Turner, who befriended Hollywood Oscar winner Gloria Grahame in 1979, was then a twenty-seven-year-old budding actor in England, and Grahame was fifty-five, a four times married American actress who had won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1952 for “The Bad and the Beautiful.” Their twenty-eight-year age difference became irrelevant as they came to know each other and Turner found he was able to keep Grahame on an even keel and able to inspire her to perform her acting duties. The two traveled and explored New York, a place new to Turner, a resident of Liverpool, as Grahame showed him the places to go and the things to do there. When, after two years, she suddenly ended all contact with him, refusing to explain anything or answer any of his messages by phone or mail, he was forced to go on with his life, his relationship with Grahame just a memory. As the novel opens, Turner is suddenly contacted by Grahame months later about getting together, and he soon discovers that she broke off her relationship with him and ended all contact because she was seriously ill and did not want to be a burden. Now, however, he realizes that she needs help – and quickly. A physician is recommending that she seek hospitalization, but she is adamantly opposed to it. Instead she wants to move in with his large family in Liverpool and stay with them until she feels better. Book has been reprinted to coincide with the release of a film of the same name, starring Annette Bening, Vanessa Redgrave, and Jamie Bell.

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Produced and directed by famed cinematographer Louis Malle and written by Louis Malle and Patrick Modiano, who became the Nobel Prize for Literature winner in 2014, this 1974 film of Lacombe, Lucien broke some unspoken taboos when it was first shown. Only once before had a film raised questions about the masses of French citizens, many of them living in the countryside, who were ignorant or oblivious to the horrors of the Holocaust and the terrible costs to France at the hands of the Nazis in Vichy France. Marcel Ophuls had first produced a documentary, The Sorrow and the Pity, in 1972, nearly thirty years after World War II ended, claiming that the prevailing view of the actions of the French citizenry during the war was naïve. Many citizens had been working farms in rural areas during the war and did not know or care to find out about what was happening on a national level – they had enough to worry about keeping food on the table and their families safe. A surprising number of citizens had collaborated with the Germans, not for political reasons, but because they believed that it was the only way they would be able to survive, and far fewer had worked with the Resistance to overthrow their German occupiers than was once believed. Ophuls suggested that most citizens just accepted what was happening because they did not believe they had much choice. With Lacombe, Lucien, Malle and Modiano continue this theme, and both had had experiences that made this subject important to them.

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The film version of this novel won the Academy Award in 2010 for Best Foreign Film. Now the novel itself has been released in English, and it’s proving to be as popular as the film. Main character Benjamin Chapparo, a deputy clerk and chief administrator associated with the investigative courts in Buenos Aires, has just recently retired, and having more time than he knows what to do with, he decides to tell the story of his most compelling case, a murder from 1968 and its aftermath. Alternating between the present and the fraught circumstances of the late 1960s in Argentina, Chaparro lets the reader into his life, a life in which he bemoans his two divorces; his seeming inability to find true love; his commitment to justice at a time in which Argentina was experiencing turmoil from a succession of militaristic dictators; and his thirty-year, unrequited love for a married colleague who seems not to know he adores her. Sacheri’s observations about his characters, their motivations, and the circumstances in which they work or find themselves by accident are particularly astute, giving sociological and psychological explanations for many of the unusual scenes in which they find themselves. The conclusion is full of surprises.

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Flemish author Patrick Conrad, who is also a poet, screenwriter, director, and painter, combines his varied talents in this lively and unusual novel of the silver screen, and fans of classic film, including Hollywood’s early black-and-white films, will be kept thoroughly entertained and engaged throughout. Several Antwerp deaths modeled after murders in classic films, or associated with the scandalous lives of Hollywood stars and directors, keep Chief Superintendent Fons Luyckx, known as The Sponge, and his assistant, Detective Inspector Lannoy, involved with all the gory details as they search for real clues to real murders while also searching for the cinema connections which might provide them with suggestions about the possible motivation of the killer or killers. At the heart of the mystery is Professor Victor Cox, who teaches the History of Cinema at the Institute of Film and Theatre Studies and whose wife Shelley vanishes one night, later found dead. The author keeps the tension high as the police (and the reader) try to figure out which famous films provide clues to the various deaths, only one of which is obvious. Original, filled with dark humor, and great fun to read (even for novices to classic film).

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