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Archive for April, 2020

THE FIELD – Elmer Bernstein

April 30, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Field is a quietly devastating drama written and directed by Jim Sheridan, adapted from the 1965 play of the same name by John Keane. Set in Ireland in the 1930s, the film stars Richard Harris as Bull McCabe, an impoverished farmer who rents a dilapidated field on the cliffs by the sea. When the wealthy widow who owns the field decides to sell it, McCabe assumes that he will be given the first chance to buy it, but unknown to McCabe the widow has been holding on to a grudge for decades, and in a public display of spiteful pettiness directed at McCabe, holds an open auction instead. A rich American named Peter (Tom Berenger), who wants to build a factory on the site, outbids him, and so begins a bitter war which leads to betrayal, death, and madness, with the field itself acting as a symbolic representation of the desperately difficult lives the characters lead. The film has a terrific supporting cast including John Hurt, Sean Bean, Brenda Fricker, and a very young Brendan Gleeson, and was a critical success when it was first released. Read more…

WENDY – Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin

April 28, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been literally dozens of adaptations of the Peter Pan story since it was first written by J. M. Barrie in 1904, as well as numerous sequels and prequels and re-imaginings. Some of the most famous include the Disney animated feature from 1953, Steven Spielberg’s sequel Hook in 1991, and P. J. Hogan’s version from 2003, but now we have possibly the most unusual version of them all – Wendy, from director Benh Zeitlin. The film is a complete re-imagining of the entire story, transposed to the contemporary American South. Devin France plays Wendy Darling, the eldest daughter of Angela (Shay Walker), who owns a diner by the railroad tracks. One night Wendy and her younger twin brothers Douglas and James board a mysterious train, where they meet Peter (Yashua Mack), a free-spirited boy; the train takes them to a river, and eventually they swim to a hidden island where children never age so long as they believe in Mother, the spirit of the island. The children spend their days having adventures but, eventually, reality begins to encroach on their world, causing doubt and regret to creep into their idyllic lives. Read more…

REBECCA – Franz Waxman

April 27, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

David O. Selznick was captivated by the 1938 novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, a romantic psychological thriller, which he was determined to bring to the big screen. He purchased the film rights for $50,000, took on producing the film, and tasked Alfred Hitchcock to direct – his debut film in America. The screenplay was written by Robert Sherwood and Joan Harrison with adaptation by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan. Selznick insisted that the film remain faithful to the novel, and friction occurred when he overruled a number of changes made by Hitchcock. Selznick’s initial choices for the lead roles were Ronald Coleman and Carole Lombard, but both declined. Nevertheless a stellar cast was assembled, which included Joan Fontaine as the second Mrs. De Winter, Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter, Judith Anderson as the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, George Sanders as Jack Favell, Reginald Denny as Frank Crawley, and C. Aubrey Smith as Colonel Julyan. Read more…

A SHOW OF FORCE – Georges Delerue

April 23, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A Show of Force is a thriller directed by Bruno Barreto, based on true events which occurred in Puerto Rico in 1978. Amy Irving stars as television reporter Kate Ryan, who is investigating the circumstances surrounding the brutal deaths of two Puerto Rican teenagers, Carlos Enrique Soto-Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado-Torres. The government claimed the victims were radical terrorists, while their families said they were pro-independence student activists, and as Ryan gets deeper and deeper into the mystery, she finds herself embroiled in a much larger political scandal and cover-up involving the local police, and which may eventually lead to the corridors of power at the CIA. The film is adapted from Anne Nelson’s book ‘Murder Under Two Flags’, and co-stars Andy Garcia, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Duvall, and Kevin Spacey. The film marked the English-language debut of Brazilian director Barreto, who would later go on to make the films Carried Away and One Tough Cop (both scored by Bruce Broughton). Read more…

ELEPHANT – Ramin Djawadi

April 21, 2020 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Elephant is the latest feature film from Disney Nature, the subsidiary of the mouse house dedicated to making wildlife-themed documentaries, and whose previous works have included Chimpanzee, African Cats, and Bears. Although I understand that their heart is in the right place, these Disney docs pale considerably when compared to the efforts of the BBC Natural History Unit, and I especially have a pet peeve about how the filmmakers force a narrative onto the animals’ lives, and anthropomorphize them to make them more dramatically persuasive. In Elephants, for example, the ‘story’ follows a herd of elephants “led by their great matriarch Gaia and her younger sister Shani, who has helped keep their family safe. Shani has also been raising her spirited son Jomo, a very energetic young elephant who just wants to play”. How do they know the older elephant is named Gaia? How do they know the young elephant is called Jomo? These are wild elephants. They don’t have human names. The animal kingdom is intense and dramatic already, and doesn’t need to be dressed up and dumbed down with cutesy names and false constructed narratives to be compelling to audiences. Anyway, despite this, the stories have been fairly popular, and Elephants has an added level of public interest due to the fact that it is narrated by Meghan Markle, and is her first media project since she married Prince Harry and became the Duchess of Sussex. Read more…

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME – Alfred Newman

April 20, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The dawning of the new age of film with dialogue and music had arrived and Universal Studio executives decided to explore a remake of their 1923 production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A favorable fan poll in 1936 added impetus to the endeavor, but the studio was never able to assemble the lead actors to launch the project and so sold the film rights to MGM, which in turn sold them to RKO. RKO was committed to the project and built a massive recreation of Paris and the cathedral on their ranch in the San Fernando Valley outside Los Angeles. Pedro Berman was hired to produce the film and provided a massive budget of $1.8 million. William Dieterle was given the reigns to direct the film, which would again be adapted from Victor Hugo’s famous 1831 novel Sonya Levien and Bruno Frank provided the screenplay and a fine cast was assembled, which included Charles Laughton as Quasimodo, Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Jehan Frollo, Thomas Mitchell as Clopin, Maureen O’Hara in her screen debut as Esmeralda, Edmund O’Brien as Pierre Gringoire, Walter Hampden as Archbishop Claude Frollo, and Harry Davenport as King Louis XI of France. Read more…

ALEXANDRE DESPLAT: EN FRANÇAIS – PART TWO

April 17, 2020 Leave a comment

Over the past decade or so, Alexandre Desplat has cemented his status amongst the world’s most respected film composers with a series of scores for major studio films in the United States. He has been nominated for eleven Academy Awards – for The Queen (2006), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), The King’s Speech (2010), Argo (2012), Philomena (2013), The Imitation Game (2014), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), The Shape of Water (2017), Isle of Dogs (2018), and Little Women (2019) – winning twice. However, much of his early work in his native France remains relatively unknown to wider audiences – something this article intends to rectify!

In this second installment of Alexandre Desplat: En Français, we take a look at seven scores Desplat wrote during the second half of the 1990s, immediately prior to his international breakthrough – The Luzhin Defence, from September 2000. Read more…

TWIN PEAKS – Angelo Badalamenti

April 16, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There’s a case to be made for the notion that television as we know it changed on April 8th, 1990. On that date, on the American network channel ABC, Twin Peaks premiered. The brainchild of surrealist writer-director David Lynch, and TV producer Mark Frost, Twin Peaks was ostensibly a murder-mystery show that followed an investigation led by FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) into the death of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), a teenage beauty queen from a fictional town in Washington state. But of course, it was much more than that. It touched on elements of horror and science fiction, offbeat comedy, and satirized many of the tropes inherent on American soap operas. It had a sprawling cast of eccentric characters, whose interlocking lives drive the plot. It was also deeply, deeply weird: there are giants delivering cryptic messages, dwarves talking backwards, demons possessing people, doppelgängers, fever dreams and horrific nightmares, and copious amounts of coffee and cherry pie. By the end of the second season the plot had become so incomprehensible and maddeningly obtuse that it hemorrhaged viewers and was eventually cancelled; I admit that I found the show incredibly frustrating, and by the end of it I was convinced that Lynch was playing an elaborate prank on his own audience – he created a show that was so impenetrable, was so confusing, had such a bizarre visual style, and contained so much ‘intentional bad acting,’ because he wanted to see how long people would tolerate it by convincing themselves it was ‘art’. Read more…

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES – John Du Prez

April 9, 2020 3 comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

For a short while, in the 1990s, the biggest piece of kids pop culture in the world was a story about four wise-cracking reptiles with Japanese fighting skills. Originally appearing in a cult comic book series created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles broke through as an animated television series in 1987. The four titular anthropomorphic turtles – who are named after the Italian Renaissance artists Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo – were originally unwanted pets flushed into the New York sewers. After coming into contact with some radioactive ooze, the turtles slowly mutate and eventually become human/turtle hybrids who learn to speak like contemporary teenagers, and love pizza. Eventually they meet Splinter, the former pet rat of a disgraced ninja master, who also lives in the same sewers and was similarly transformed. Splinter trains the turtles in the ancient art of ninjutsu, and together they battle criminals, aliens, monsters, and various other threats, all while attempting to remain hidden from society. The TV show was massively popular (although, in the UK, they were the Teenage Mutant *Hero* Turtles because ninjas were illegal at the time), and so of course a movie was inevitable. It eventually arrived in theaters in the spring of 1990 with a quartet of stunt men in animatronic rubber turtle suits acting opposite the very human Elias Koteas and Judith Hoag. The film was directed by Steve Barron, and featured special puppet effects provided by Jim Henson in what turned out to be his final project before he died. Read more…

LEV YASHIN: THE DREAM GOALKEEPER – George Kallis

April 7, 2020 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Lev Yashin is widely considered to be one of the greatest football goalkeepers of all time. Nicknamed the ‘Black Spider’ for his habit of wearing an all-black uniform, he was a revolutionary figure in the game, and essentially invented the modern concept of a ‘keeper who is in control of his entire defense. He played for his club team, Dynamo Moscow, for 20 years, and played 74 times for the Soviet Union national team, including at the 1956 Olympics, and in four consecutive World Cups between 1958 and 1970. This new film, Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper, is a Russian-made biopic of Yashin’s life, charting all his major accomplishments prior to his death in 1990 at the age of 60. It stars Aleksandr Fokin as Yashin, and was directed by Vasiliy Chiginskiy. Read more…

THE HANDMAID’S TALE – Ryuichi Sakamoto

April 2, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The recent Hulu television adaptation of Margaret Attwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most critically acclaimed shows of all time. It tells of a dystopian future set in the aftermath of a second American Civil War, and the rise of a hard-line Christian theocracy called Gilead in what was once New York State. One of the issues that led to the civil war was a calamitous drop in fertility rates, and in Gilead women who are found to be capable of giving birth to children are commandeered and forced to work as ‘handmaids,’ essentially concubine sex-slaves who are raped monthly by their assigned regional Commanders in the hope that they become pregnant. With this religious authoritarianism, female disenfranchisement, and environmental disaster as its backdrop, the story unfolds through the eyes of a handmaid named Kate, re-named Offred, who is assigned to a family headed by the cruel Commander Waterford and his coldly indifferent wife Serena. What many people forget is that this story has been told once before, as a 1990 movie directed by the acclaimed German filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff from a screenplay by Harold Pinter, which starred Natasha Richardson as Offred, Robert Duvall as the Commander, and Faye Dunaway as Serena. Read more…

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD – Christopher Willis

April 1, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The great English author Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield in 1849, and it is considered by many respected authorities to be one of his finest works. It is one of the few Dickens novels that is considered semi-autobiographical; it follows the life and adventures of the titular David, who is forced to spend time as a child in a London workhouse, and eventually grows up to become a writer. It charts everything about David’s life: his relationships with his gentle mother and his domineering stepfather, his affection for the optimistic and affable Mr. Micawber and his slightly daffy but loving Aunt Betsey, his life-long rivalry with the bitter and duplicitous Uriah Heep, and of course his many romantic dalliances. It is also a wonderfully rich reflection of life and society in Victorian England, and its legacy continues to inspire art to this day. There have been several cinematic and televisual adaptations of the story, but this latest one – The Personal History of David Copperfield – is directed by Armando Iannucci and stars Dev Patel in the title role, with support from an array of British character actors including Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, and Ben Whishaw. Read more…