Tag: War

April 23, 2010 / / Main Slate

William Benker

Yojimbo – 1961 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

It’s common Kurosawa knowledge that Japan’s greatest director was a huge fan of American westerns.  The wandering warrior often casually walks into a village at war.  What Kurosawa delivers in Yojimbo is a western all its own.  Complete with stand offs, hostages and a local brewery, the film encompasses a variety of talents at work.  Along with the usual duo of Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, Yojimbo exemplifies the valiant efforts that go on behind scenes, raising the film above most western/gangster stories to an experience so entertaining, it illustrates the significance it plays in later American cinema.

March 29, 2010 / / Main Slate

By William Benker

Seven Samurai – 1954 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

The philosophical insight Akira Kurosawa unleashes in his epic Seven Samurai stands above most war films ever produced.  Though the portrayal of war is common among films, the true essence of conflict itself is often times overlooked.  The manner and tempo with which Kurosawa delivers his epic is where the message emerges.  With a steady pace and extensive view into every facet of struggle, the director breaches the threshold of cinematic philosophy into a new realm of artistic meaning.  In 16th century Japan, the framework of conflict is embodied within seven selfless warriors who use all of their abilities to defeat a clan of bandits.  Kurosawa’s stark vision of life itself is extrapolated in the picture.  Constantly put into question by smaller battles along the way, the director paints a decadent landscape of morality, giving audiences the very essence of cinema and story in its most ancient form.  Seven Samurai is a perfect step-by-step guide into the very heart of conflict.

June 30, 2009 / / Main Slate

By Peggy Nelson

Nashville – 1975 – dir. Robert Altman

Set in Nashville, Tennessee, home of the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville (dir. Robert Altman, 1975) follows musicians, con artists, politicians, and weirdos as their lives overlap and intersect over the course of a fateful few days.  The film showcases Altman’s signature style of combining multiple story lines, noisy, overlapping dialogue, and realistic, scattered camera angles into a complex yet consistent narrative whole.  Considered by many to be Altman’s best film, it sashays between dialogue and song, the individual and the political, and humor and tragedy, without missing a beat.

June 30, 2009 / / Main Slate

By Peggy Nelson

The Last Picture Show – 1971 – dir. Peter Bogdanovich

The Last Picture Show (dir. Peter Bogdanovich, 1971) presents the enigma of the old western wrapped in the mystery of the new.  Set in the early 1960s in a windswept Texas town — the kind of small town that springs up on the way from somewhere to somewhere else — the story focuses on two high school seniors, Sonny and Duane, co-captains of a football team so monumentally inept that at one point they manage to lose 121 – 14.  The future they face seems as bleak as the empty streets in the town and the endless flat plains of the surrounding land.  They sense it as they stumble through the paces of late adolescence: girlfriends, jobs, uncertainty.

January 15, 2009 / / Film Notes

By Peggy Nelson

Dr. Zhivago – 1965 – dir. David Lean

There are many characters in David Lean’s Dr. Zhivago (1965), the sprawling, epic portrayal of people caught up in the Russian Revolution, the least of which is, surprisingly, Dr. Zhivago himself.   In addition to Zhivago, Lara, Komorovsky, Pasha, and a host of others, there is the land, the weather, the first World War, the mountains, the interminable train ride, the tide of political events, the Five-Year Plans, even the giant posters of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, all playing their parts and threatening to upstage the action.  Beside all these a small story about love and betrayal should pale; as Strelnikov claims in the film, “the personal life is dead in Russia.”  But it is Lean’s achievement that it is not: it more than holds its own, and forms the core around which the rest crash and swirl.

September 14, 2007 / / Film Notes

By Jessica Singer

The Great Dictator is Charlie Chaplin’s overtly anti-Fascist, anti-Nazi opus. Written, acted, directed, and produced by Chaplin, the film tells the story of a Jewish barber who gets mistaken for a dictator. The dictator, Adenoid Hynkel, is of course a very thinly veiled version of the similarly named Adolph Hitler. The film–and its famous pantomine scene where the dictator dances around the room with a balloon globe of the world–has made an indelible mark in film history and popular culture, and is fondly remembered today for its rich political satire as well as its delicate blend of pathos and comedy. What is not always remembered, however, is just how daring it was for Chaplin to produce this film in the context of his times.

April 23, 2007 / / Film Notes

By Robert Farley

In a March 3 American Prospect article, Charles Taylor did a fine job of debunking the myth of Clint Eastwood. While Eastwood is a talented filmmaker, his catalogue is uneven, and the worst work nearly unwatchable. Unfortunately, in the process of criticizing Eastwood, Taylor gets his latest work, Letters from Iwo Jima, badly wrong.

April 23, 2007 / / Film Notes

By Stuart Kurtz

We’ve come to have certain expectations of World War II films over the years. We expect to see bloodshed, of course. We know there will be sacrifices, as well as displays bravery and heroism. We know we will see men put to the reaches of endurance and conquer their fears. These are givens. World War II films, as opposed to those about Vietnam, have usually conveyed these principles. There are exceptions: George C. Scott barking and slapping his way to immortality in Patton, and the problem of what’s worth sacrificing oneself for in Saving Private Ryan. Clint Eastwood has one of the handful of alternate views of what they call “The Good War.” The film’s tagline, “a single shot can save the war,” signals Eastwood’s intention, as it points up the difference between publicity, one photo, and reality, the actuality of fighting on that island.

August 25, 2006 / / Film Notes

Chelsea interviewed director Stuart Cooper in December 2005

U.K., 1975. 85 min. Jowsend. Cast: Brian Stirner, Davyd Harries, Nicholas Ball, Julie Neesam, Sam Sewell John Franklyn-Robbins, Stella Tanner; Cinematography: John Alcott; Editing: Jonathan Gili; Music: Paul Glass Produced by: James Quinn; Written by: Stuart Cooper and Christopher Hudson; Directed by: Stuart Cooper.

Every cineaste worth their stack of Criterions has a list of “holy grail” movies – films whose titles have been lost to time or whose availability has been restricted due to pressing distribution or legal issues. Chief among mine was Overlord, a British feature from the 1970s that used archival footage from the Imperial War Museum to observe the story of a doomed British soldier. I’d first heard about the film from John Gianvito, an esteemed local cineaste who recommended it to me after seeing a dreadful short I’d made that incorporated found newsreel footage. Unfortunately, Overlord’s entire American distribution amounted to a few broadcasts on the esteemed LA pay cable station Z Channel, followed by a weekend engagement at New York’s Walter Reade Theatre in 1985. While bootlegs of the Z broadcast and British VHS tape existed, finding them on the cult-driven black market made for a challenge.