Paths Of Glory – Lead But To The Grav

If it wasn’t thanks to Kirk Douglas, Kubrick’s movie, could have never existed.
Anti-war, anti-french? Paths Of Glory (inspired by on Humphrey Cobb‘s novel), takes place in 1916, during Wold War I, and focuses on the french army fighting the germans.

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Very controversial, when it came out, the movie was forbidden in France, and countries french-friendly. Indeed, it raises an issue, that despite of what it may implies in the movie, is common to every army, during war.
When you are a soldier in time of battle, it is like, you are no longer the person you were before, and you are adapting yourself into a new world, where you are no longer complying to the same rules as you did before. The worst thing war can do to you, which is an awful power, is that, it may surely pushes you to do terrible things. Death becomes trivialized, life becomes a luxury. Therefore, you are more afraid of dying outside of the battlefield. Indeed, Paths of Glory, deals with soldiers putting into death row, because they refused to fight.

Major General Georges Boulard (Adolphe Menjou) ordered the General Paul Mireau (George Macready) to pursue an attack that was quite risky. Therefore, is was Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas)’s duty to lead the soldiers. However, it turned impossible to fight. A lot of soldiers, seeing their fellows dying, refused to go into the field. Madly angry, Mireau decided to execute three soldiers in order to give an example of what can happened, when they don’t obey his orders.

Kubrick painted a clear indifference to humanity, and how absurd war decisions can be. The three soldiers were devastated, and this is where the line was drawn. There is obviously death and death. To go back to what I wrote, dying in the battlefield, for a specific and relative cause, is very different than dying for no clear reason. At least when you fight, you can survive, there is a potential possibility to avoid being killed, whereas when you’re executed, you can only pray for a miracle to happen.

Kubrick made a beautiful anti-war movie, denunciating what could happened  during war time, how human life can be taken this lightly. And the director provided the most powerful and magnificent scene at the end, which shows a German girl, who has been captured, “forced” to sing to the french soldiers, zooming into their faces, as the girl kept on with her song. When we could have thought about a different turn of event, the soldiers hummed with her, and both became an entity, but more important, they symbolized hope. A slightly bit of light, of humanity, in this very dark film.

The Killing – The Peak of Film Noir

Stanley Kubrick‘s future as a film director, was quite promising after 1956. He astonished people with his young age, and yet, large amount of experience, and potential. The Killing was the mouth-watering starter, of a nice film menu.

The filmmaker managed to transform a basic story, into a full of suspense, brilliantly mastered thriller, sprinkled by a noir atmosphere and context. Indeed, the movie deals with a group of men, going to rob a racetrack, for different personal reasons. The mastermind, Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), wanted to escape with his lady, Val (Coleen Gray), the city but also their lousy apartment, to a more luxurious life. George Peatty (Elisha Cook), a betting window teller, was trying to impress his wife, Sherry (Marie Windson) who was clearly not in love, and complaining about their lack of resources. Marvin Vinger (Jay C. Flippen), his character was quite interesting, because Kubrick, established with him, an implicit, and discrete hint of homosexuality. Indeed, Marvin, who was maybe 65 years old, was secretly attracted by Johnny who much younger. As in the 50’s, homosexuality was quite taboo if too much explicit, the young filmmaker managed to make it light, but still very present. Well, there’s left two important characters, including a bartender at the racetrack Mike O’Reilly (Joe Sawyer) who needed money to pay for heir wife’s medical treatment and Randy Keenan (Ted DeCorsia) a gambler cop with a $3000 debt.

The fact that each one had an individual reason to steal that money, shaped the whole film noir concept. That is, based on each one’s sin (except maybe for Mike), life didn’t give them no mercy, therefore one mistake in their meticulous plan, could make everything burst into fire.
And to support the crime thriller genre, Kubrick decided to structure his movie using flashbacks, and focusing on each character when coming to take the plan into action. He added the value of time, in order to accentuate on the fact that, one mistake or lateness could ruin everything.

The Killing describes people that weren’t necessarily muggers, but people desperate to leave the country, hoping to improve their current lives, in parallel with what was going on at that time in America; the Cold War. But unfortunately, uncontrollable forces were creating situations that were grotesques, and really dumb, leading to some fatalistic turnovers. Therefore, the suspense is clearly the motif of why The Killing is a good movie. We, spectators, were craving to know how their plan will be put into action. We assisted to the characters, throwing away their integrity and seeing their, sort of, stability slipping away.

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The last thing I wanted to add, not as a feminist, but more with an objective point of view, is that women, even in Killer’s Kiss, are pains in the neck. They are wether, real vicious, manipulative, and liars, or passive and totally depending on their men. And I personally think that this image of the woman, will not really change in his future movies.

In a nutshell, The Killing truly embodies, the concept of film noir and is a great tale of how madness only lead to fatalistic ends.

Killer’s Kiss – A Promising Filmmaker

I recently received as a birthday gift, a Stanley Kubrick movie pack, regrouping his twelve films (Fear and Desire not being included), I thus, decided to dedicate my future reviews on his work.

I started then, with his second debut feature Killer Kiss (earlier named Kiss Me, Kill Me). Filmed, in black and white, the camera introduced us to Davy Gordon (Jamie Smith) a prizefighter, waiting at the train station, who began narrating us, his past two days that were pretty intense.

On a beautiful background music composed by Gerald Fried, we are entering the enclosed world of Davy, in which he is trapped, showed through several metaphorical and discrete details, such as the box ring, or a fish bowl. However, there’s Gloria (Irene Kane), a taxi dancer at Pleasureland, who has her apartment’s window in front of his, through which he sometimes, watches her with a strong interest, positioning him self as a voyeur (reminding Hitchcock‘s work). They are both attracted to each other, and this complicated things, when Gloria’s boss, Rapallo (Franck Silvera), obsessed with her, tried to force her to be his.

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Being, at first a photographer, we can notice how outstanding are his shots, carefully enlightened, with actors thoroughly positioned. As an amateur, he provided a compelling photography. The whole atmosphere of the film; principally shot at night, filming in alleys, capturing every shadow, has this strong tones of film noir, in a post-World War Two, and Cold War context of fear and corruption. The differences between good and evil are blurred, and Davy found himself a little lost, trying to escape from this world of madness.

It is obvious that this low cost experimental film, was at that time a promising work, but not Kubrick’s best movie. Nevertheless, full of suspense, Killer’s Kiss provided brilliant scenes, just like the fight in the mannequin store (symbolic of crime/thriller movies), and a fantastic and a real pleasure to the eye, photography.

The Snowtown Murders – Spiral of violence

Killing a person because she deserved it ; still an issue in some countries, under the concept of death penalty. Is a person worth killing?

We all thought one day, when someone insulted us, or bullied us, “I’m going to kill him”, or wish something bad would happen to him, thus, to which extent are we willing this to happen?
For his debut feature, director Justin Kurzel decided to adapt real events that happened in Australia in 1998: The Snowtown Murders.
What is extraordinary in his work, is that he chose to speak about murders that happened back then, but in a totally different approach, that is, not focusing on the murders but more on the effects the main murderer, John Bunting (Daniel Henshall) had on others, and how he contaminated and influenced his circle. Because, if we really go deep into the whole principle of “killing because that person did an awful thing”, rape, pedophilia, etc. we might have no problem with this person suffering and/or dying, especially if we take it personally. Therefore, we can be easily convinced that, yes, they should disappear, totally. But then, where do our morals, humanity go? And when and how, could we ever stop that, once accepted?

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Going back to the plot; Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) is 16, and he lives in Adelaide, a poor suburb in Australia. He has been repeatedly abused, and he is not the only one, whereas everybody seems then to be aware of those rapes, nobody ever done a thing. As the police is reluctant about taking into consideration the multiple complains, Jamie’s mother, Elizabeth (Louise Harris), decided to get it done the other way. She is then, introduced to John Bunting, and things will little by little change.

The movie, has several strengths, starting its actors. They are all tremendously charismatic and as you look at them, in the context, you feel heavier, somehow, just like their characters should feel. Each one, knew how to perfectly embody its role, and provide brilliant performances.

And if the movie is considerably slow, it is actually, taking the rhythm of John’s contaminating his entourage, with his process established: getting rid of perverts, rapists and pedophiles.
He is a really interesting character. A nearly perfect father figure, with strong calm and confidence, but is also a cold blood murderer, who has this kind of “sociopathic virility”. You found out, that his confidence, comes from cutting penises, castrating men. Anger and excitement (maybe arousal), grew as the homicides kept going. He forced Jamie, to man up (but also his bothers, creating a beautiful scene, where the middle bother, is pulling up heavy bricks while dressed as a women) and abide to his new quest, to which was added new things. Indeed, as John was putting himself into Elizabeth’s children’s father, he developed, an urge to protect Jamie also. The psychology of the teenager, is therefore, as interesting, as his paternal figure. Indeed, he has a poignant sensitiveness, but also a passivity that might upset people. He doesn’t fight, but cry, and yet, he is able, in the future, to kill, clean up blood, and is capable of manipulation. However, revenge is not his motif. Then what is?

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The softness of Animal Kingdom mixed with the powerfulness of Henry: portrait of a serial killer; Snowtown Murders, provided disturbing scenes, but not only graphically but, especially, in what it leaves us to imagine, and think about. The movie has this strong aptitude of making you uncomfortable, even though you don’t fully understand why.

Justin Kurzel proved outstanding capacities, and potential in this first movie and made us crave for his future ones.

Trailer:

 

Bastardo – The Italian Neorealism

I had the amazing opportunity to assist for the first time a press projection. All journalists, were invited to the first screening of Bastardo in Tunisia.
Here we go, 20 people in front of Al Hambra, the cinema theater, where Nejib Belkadhi‘s movie, is going to be shown. We went up the stairs, filled a form with our name, the name of the magazine we were working for, our email etc. and got a free DVD of the film! Then we entered the room, and suddenly we were no longer 20, but maybe 100 and more. After a brief and funny introduction made by Ferid Boughedir plus a presentation of the cast and the filmmaker, the lights went off, and the show began.

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Bastardo, is the story of a men, carrying this nickname, because he was found on a garbage can, in a sort of ghetto, that seems to be outside of the city, a neighborhood with no police, no rules, and a lot of poverty. Near than forty years later, the district hasn’t changed. Except that, the leader died, and his son took the power, a power that is really being held by his mother, Kadhra. Thus he’s only a scary, big fat, dumb puppet, leashing two pit-bulls, paradoxically nicknamed Larnouba (the rabbit) performed by a breathtaking Chedly Arfaoui.

An interesting thing is that, we found again, this whole, “mama” concept, the mother holding a small family mafia, such as Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom with a slightly aspect of light incest. And this feeling is even stronger considering the fact that Khadhra is played by a man, Lassaad Ben Adbdallah, who didn’t hesitate when asked to play this role.

However, our protagonist, really named Mohsen (the outstanding Monoom Chouayet), but never called so, and always mocked, looses his job, after protecting Morjanna, the women he loved, and who stole shoes from the factory they worked for. To be able to pay then, the “taxes” to Larnouba, a friend, Khlifa (Taoufik El Bahri), approached him with a business that could make them rich, and dethrone Khadhra; bring telephone network. And from that point, things will slowly degenerate, like a disease would slowly take down a person, if they don’t treat it right away. The way it was filmed, and the rhythm of the movie, is underlining this point, of slowness.

Power, money and respect. Those are the three elements that are the core of the movie. And those are the elements, that have this ability to change people, change their behavior, and turn them into something more animalistic, more primitive, hence, the strong continuous comparison, with animals, and more specifically, with chimpanzees. Each character is seeking power, to become the lion of the jungle, to “screw” everyone, just like chimpanzees do, bring the bigger steak and fight for their territory. But, as it goes also with animals, every character is teared apart, between, the image they have to reflect on others, and what they really feel. And Nejib Belkadhi accentuated on the body language of its characters, on how they show that they are in love, or sorry, or oblige to do things.

Thus, Larnouba is a perfect example, because, Mohsen was once his friend, who happened to tattoo a rabbit on his arm, but Khadhra disapproved this relationship, and made them cut the rope. To man up her son, she made his eat a rabbit, from flesh to bones, and from that moment, he was a victim of his mother’s orders, and wishes, and could never act the way he wanted.
Therefore, a very interesting and poignant thing is set up; a love triangle put. Larnouba was in love with Bent Essengra (the beautiful Lobna Noomene) who happened to be the more human and normal person among the others, and she sort of symbolized hope, but she was marginalized. Since she was born, she attracted insects, so it was more than a shame to have intercourses with her, or even more, to have feelings. Moreover, she happened to love Mohsen, who couldn’t love her back, because he had an unconditional obsession for Morjanna. The director, painted this frustration, of not having what we want, and showed the complexity of the human mind, and how easy it was to control one. Because, each one of the character is alienated by something, despite Bent Essengra who happened to have no family, and be like this, a character on its own.

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It is true, that Bastardo, is pretty much inspired by the italian cinema, and we all observed those little elements that reminded Down and Dirty by Ettore Scola, the whole universe, the dirty characters, the prostitutes, the madness. And I believe that, it is also, a film composed of a multitudes of metaphors, and details revealing aspects of every society around the world. I was moved by this film, I was so surprised. I am extremely proud, because I was blown away by the work, by every scene, every image that had something to say, had a story and built a masterpiece.