Film Reviews by CV

Welcome to CV's film reviews page. CV has written 29 reviews and rated 38 films.

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Les Paladins: Jean-Philippe Rameau

Desperate Attempt Visually to make up for Vacuous Libretto

(Edit) 19/01/2020

I agree with the other reviewer mainly. The short up-rushing phrases of much of Rameau's music expressing a libretto that is virtually empty of any substance does make for some tedious viewing. However, to make up for this paucity of literary interest, at least, the choreography department have gone overboard with frenetic break-dancing that is completely at different tempos to the more stately music and seems quite divorced from it. The stage area is quite linear made up for by projections on one or two higher levels behind. These are also mostly pre-recorded film-strips and often show human figures metamorphosing into animals in comic-like chases, trampoline -bouncing and more frenetic dancing. There are much better productions of Rameau's operas so don't start with this one!

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On Chesil Beach

Absorbing Psychological Study

(Edit) 31/12/2019

I must confess I have not read the book yet so I am not qualified to judge this film as an adaption of the book though Ian McEwan did write the screenplay. Some reviewers expected action but this was a satisfying psychological study in itself and was sensitively acted though I thought the parents' characterisation was a little overdone in order to give explanation to the problems of the central couple. I'm still trying to resolve the two seemingly conflicting endings. Maybe the book itself will provide me with the answer!

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Elizabeth I's Secret Agents

Good Study

(Edit) 31/12/2019

Specialist historians were chosen for each protagonist who spoke over action sequences. Some of the narrative was lost in slangy modernism, for instance, Robert Cecil was described as a "prick", by one commentator. This sort of thing needs explanation and the meaning is otherwise left vague. What was particularly interesting, I thought, was the showing of the continuity of the running of the state when the monarchy radically changed from Tudor to Stuart. The relationship between the two dynasties was very well explained. I thought there should have been more on John Walsingham and the betrayal of Mary Queen of Scots.

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Judgment at Nuremberg

Soul-searching Courtroom Drama

(Edit) 15/11/2019

Writing a review concerning a crucial and heart-searching courtroom drama, which had ensuing profound moral and political implications, seems very strange while at the present moment leaders of the once national victors of WWII are riding roughshod over their own legal procedures. What on earth would those officers of law make of our travesty of government today?

Four former German judges practising under the Nazi regime are charged with complicity and knowledge of the mass extermination programme instigated under Hitler. The prosecution is naturally visceral and passionate including horrific images of the death camps being shown on film during the procedures. But the defence draws attention to the hypocrisy of the allied nations who one way or another have supported Hitler's regime before armed conflict and compares the atrocity of the devastation of the atom bombs with that of the concentration camps.

The case is conducted during the beginning of the Cold War(1949) and it is of paramount importance that the West can rely on German co-operation if things turn adverse in the East. Germany needs to regain self-respect and credibility in order to resist communism and so the verdict on the four once eminent German judges is a very sensitive issue.

The strength of the drama itself rests on a triumvirate of great American actors of the past: Spencer Tracy, Richard Widmark and Burt Lancaster as one of the German judges.

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Spies of Warsaw

Interesting and Absorbing Aspect of WWII

(Edit) 16/10/2019

This is a very absorbing, love-interest notwithstanding, film that covers the months before the invasion of Poland at the beginning of WW II. Diplomatists and spies are trying to anticipate what move Germany is going to make to initiate a second European war and trying to decide what information they are receiving is reliable or convincing. There is a continuous thread of tension with minimal overtly violent scenes. It is also visually scenic in that there are a variety of locations and sunny settings despite the main setting being the streets of Warsaw. I wonder if viewers may find David Tennant maybe a little too self-assured in the role of the French army officer.

Incidentally, by coincidence, I happened to watch the day after the film 'The King's Choice' which is an account of how Norway was brought into the war in 1941 which involved an ultimatum put to the then king of Norway by a German envoy to co-operate with the Nazis on the pretext that Britain had plans to invade! If you are interested in this general War theme of diplomacy and espionage you could watch this next.

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In Search of Beethoven

Generous Length but still Omissions

(Edit) 23/09/2019

This is a very good survey of Beethoven the man and composer with many interviews with contemporary musicians and shots of his dwelling places. To criticise, though, there were topics which were not mentioned at all which I would have thought were indispensable. Also there were many amazing anecdotes that were not told, such as his confrontation with the British violinist Bridgewater. There is his achievement as an improviser and his triumph over his rival Stiebelt which was the stuff of legend. There is his career as a string quartet player as well and his sense of humour which is everywhere in his quartet composition. I wish there might have been more about his relationships with and influence on other composers particularly that of Haydn and his own pupils Ries and Czerny. His own respect for Cherubini and his later adoration for Handel were never mentioned. Also there was no mention of the Diabelli Variations which has another interesting anecdote attached. I think also for musicians for whom English is a second language they might not have conveyed their deepest and profoundest thoughts so well and I missed the comments of the older champion players of Beethoven such as Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Nevertheless it was very enjoyable and inspirational, not just musically, but in showing how adversity can be overcome, aspiring to a noble idealism and a vision for a perfect world. Hopefully that sums up Beethoven's music!

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A.D. Kingdom and Empire

Credibility Compromised by Conscious Preaching

(Edit) 13/08/2019

There are all the panoramic vistas and action of an old Biblical epic but the attention to visual detail is rather cancelled by other factors which try to make this drama "relevant" to a modern audience. Firstly we get an obviously multiracial-looking cast of disciple figures who are supposed to represent all peoples of the earth. There are also consciously feminist themes introduced, mainly expounded by the wives of Caiaphas and Pilate where they frequently challenge their husbands' ambitions and decisions. The dialogue is needless to say, modern to the extent that etiquette is stretched and there is a familiarity and informality between characters of different social standing which are not at all convincing for the historical period. There is emphasis too on the emotional in conversions rather than the immediate cultural and ethical re-orientation that new believers have to come to terms with: often it looked too much like the traditional altar call experience.

All the actors seemed to be British in this American directed epic: was the idea to give a more Shakespearean air of profundity? Some seemed to be too British for their roles,however, like the High Priest, though he delivered well and the minor roles were much more convincing, as a matter of fact. The role played by Caligula was especially well-done, in fact the roles of the more wicked characters were more successful as a rule. The character of Saul/Paul was played with a rich Irish brogue which made it difficult to be convinced that this character was "a Pharisee of Pharisees and a Jew of Jews"! I wondered if his conversion to Christianity was to be a reference to the Irish reconciliation in more recent history: the former militant IRA terrorist becoming a Protestant peace-loving believer. The multiracial idea would be more appropriate in the theatre with minimal scenery where the message there is more important than the outward form but it does not work in epic film-making.

I haven't done the research but it looks like the narrative of this film has taken real characters in the Acts account, such as the Centurian Cornelius and the Ethiopian Eunuch, and given them an imagined, if not contrived, context, that links all the incidents of the Acts story of the Bible together in a way that all their paths cross and the two themes: Kingdom (God's) and Empire (Pagan Roman) are quite tightly knitted together in a dramatic whole. As the historical accounts are sketchy this licence has been taken to make an entertaining and fluid drama if not wholly convincing.

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Cezanne and I

More Personal than Artistic in Content

(Edit) 27/07/2019

This film shows the contrast in birth circumstances and subsequent careers of the two Frenchmen Cezanne and Zola. There is much about the intensity of the love-hate relationship between the two contemporaries and not so much on their respective artistic developments, however. This means that their respective geniuses are accepted as premises rather than being demonstrated in the narrative. British viewers may find such friendships strangely intense and frustratingly unstable! Beautiful and atmospheric photography.

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13 Minutes

Gripping and Compelling

(Edit) 27/07/2019

This was an interesting insight as to life in Nazi Germany behind the lines during the war. No one was safe from Nazi bullying and persecution. It is amazing how this young rebel was able to co-ordinate a sophisticated bomb-plot with a complicated love life! Perhaps the real heroes of the war were such enlightened and brave objectors who must have felt everyone was their enemy and to have the presence of mind to remain consistent to one's beliefs and conscience to the end. If you enjoy this film you must see Sophie Scholes, a female heroine working for the White Rose, on a similar subject. There is no explicit violence in this film but there is a particular scene of excruciating and almost unbearable tension which is virtually in silence!

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The Golden Bowl

Complex Novel made as TV Drama a Notable Feat

(Edit) 15/06/2019

I read this novel two years ago and as I read its few-hundred page length felt that more must have been happening in it than I was reading consciously. Having watched the film I it was revealed that I hadn't missed anything at all! The plot of this film is aided by two of the minor characters periodically stepping out of the action to guide the viewers as a commentary. In the novel, the plot unwinds at snail pace and you are overwhelmed with questions and possibilities that the characters are concerned with. At first, in this production, I felt that the characters of the Prince and his new wife, Maggie were very undistinguished but it was not until the last episode that something like drama was taking place arising, at long last, between the conflicting desires and ambitions of the quartet of characters.

Who would this production appeal to? At one level, one may be shocked, or even be indignant that the Edwardian rich had nothing better to do than observe each other and make pleasantries while servants made their tea and put their coats away! The idle rich indeed! We have to accept this setting and adjust to a drama of psychology which may be interesting to some and utterly trivial to others!

I have given the production fours stars as a valiant effort was made of this difficult novel to make it accessible to a wider public without losing much of its complexity.

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Wagner

An epic Biography

(Edit) 01/05/2019

This epic production is as lavish and expansive as Wagner's Ring itself and so appropriate for the subject of his colourful and self-obsessed life and music. There is a cluster of great English classic actors who play minor characters with masterful twitches, nods and laconic utterances. Richard Burton is well chosen for the character of Wagner and looks right: I have often wondered what the physical attraction was about Wagner looking at contemporary paintings and sketches.

I have given five stars on the strength of the final disc as I found it particularly powerful: the long speech given by Schopenhauer towards the end on the condemnation of Wagner's character and effect of his music was classic theatre and the death of Wagner, despite who he was, was quite touching. Also there were some splendid shots of the building of the Bayreuth Theatre.

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A Musical Journey: Finland - Jean Sibelius

Pleasant Viewing

(Edit) 13/03/2019

There is no commentary at all while Sibelius's music accompanies landscape images of Finland. There are two or three short string pieces followed by a complete recording of Sibelius's 2nd Symphony. The images reveal a sunny, clean and vibrant landscape which seem to have been photographed in the summer. My first LP of Sibelius was a 60's recording of the First Symphony and the cover was a chilly landscape of frozen pools and tufts of vegetation which was an appropriate illustration to reflect the music inside. Pleasant though the images on the DVD were, I wished we had seen dark winter scenes as well.

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The Killing Fields

A Shocking Image of Reality

(Edit) 14/02/2019

This film emphasises the importance of international reporting particularly when its content is adverse to the reputation of the reporter's own country. I remember the reporting of the Vietnam War on television as it happened but was confused about the involvement of Cambodia. The Americans helped themselves to chasing the Khmer Rouge into Cambodia which involved clumsy indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians. The second half of the film reveals just what the Killing Fields were.

The filming, often on the run, like reporting footage gives, a strong immanence and brutal reality to the subject. Like other reviewers' experience it leaves a lasting impression and strong cathartic response. The music by Gary Oldfield is often haunting and disturbing and accompanying the helicopter sequences especially creates a strangely alien-like apparition. The choice of John Lennon's Imagine towards the end is quite gauche and frustrating however!

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My Cousin Rachel

More Muddle than Mystery

(Edit) 27/01/2019

Other reviewers have asked: Did she or didn't she? Did Daphne du Maurier herself know? I have not read the novel but the answer to the last question seems to be No. It seems that any decision to the first question cannot be reconciled with the total behaviour of Rachel one way or another when you look back on the film. Muddle is a cheap and easy way of creating mystery which looks all too apparent here. Also an outburst from Rachel on one occasion looked quite forced and unnatural as though the actress herself couldn't decide the motivation. However, there are some attractive settings and the character of Philip is more naturally portrayed.

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Anthropoid

Grim, Grey and Intense

(Edit) 21/01/2019

I have seen the first film 'Daybreak' many years ago which left a long-lasting impression on me so much so that I made time to visit the church when I was in Prague last year. This newer film is very grey and grim and leaves one feeling that the mission was ultimately purposeless as retribution taken by the Germans was ruthlessly manic and insane. We are excluded from what is going on on the other side whereas in the older film Heydrich was introduced as a character and all German speech is unsubtitled. I also remember in the older film one or two aborted attempts at assassination before the actual. It's a tense build-up to the ultimate bloodbath and perhaps there could have been more information on what ensued to add to a more cathartic experience.

The church involved, Greek Orthodox, has information displays as to the final fatal events and the crypt is now a shrine displaying busts and attributions to the Czech partisans involved. Bullet ho;es and bloodstains remain. The opening to the crypt is a section of Spitfire wing and glides open at the gentlest touch. The anteroom has a very comprehensive display of information and in the silence one's blood boils reading that this evil man was given a martyr's funeral that Czech citizens were impelled to observe. "You are the two most bravest men I have ever known", says one of the resistance organisers to the two assassins but the film does not report that the Greek Orthodox priest offered himself to the German SS as sole responsibility for the affair. He endured months of torture before execution and was later canonised as a local saint.

Which film to watch? Watch both and visit Prague.

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.
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