Film Reviews by ML

Welcome to ML's film reviews page. ML has written 5 reviews and rated 10 films.

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Maria by Callas

Maria in her own words

(Edit) 11/12/2020

This touching and affectionate documentary is not an analysis of Callas's oeuvre or character but an attempt by director Tom Volf to allow her to tell her own story. He achieves this through plenty of archive footage, interviews, and private letters, carefully juxtaposed with aria. As she says near the end (1'47'00"): "I have written my memoirs: they are in the music I interpret, the only language I really know."

Three arias are key to the narrative: 'Vissi d'arte' ("I lived for art, I lived for love, I never did any harm to a living soul... Why, why, Lord, why do you repay me so?), 'Mi bambino caro' (My dear child), her acknowledgement of the affection of her public, who inspired her to always give her very best; and finally 'Addio del Passato' - 'Farewell, happy dreams of the past', the last cry of a woman doubly heart-broken by Aristotle Onasis: first when he throws her over for Jacqueline Onassis, and then again, once they had re-established a friendship, by his death. Six months later she died alone in her Paris apartment from a heart attack. She was 53.

If you love Callas, you'll love this: I watched it through twice.

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A Year of the Quiet Sun

Another face of love

(Edit) 18/09/2020

This is a slow, unusual and uncomfortable film, but give it half an hour and it starts to get under your skin. Set in Poland in 1946, both the country and the people have been ravaged by war and the dismal betrayal of the Communist occupation, but love still finds a way to grow - like a flower between two paving stones. Norman (Scott Wilson) and Emilia (Maja Komorowska) are the atypical lovers, long past their youth, but for me Ewa Dalkowska stole the show as Emilia's mother, bed-ridden, but with a huge soul, prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to secure her daughter's future. Somehow desolate and hopeful at the same time.

The film is masterfully (but not beautifully) shot by Slavomir Idziak. His muted palette of blues and browns is somehow even less colourful than black and white, brilliantly evoking the colourless nature of those times. Kubrick's masterpiece "Barry Lyndon" (a film I treasure) feels sentimental in comparison.

Film reviewer Roger Ebert has a typically insightful review on his website: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-a-year-of-the-quiet-sun-1984

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Generation War: Series

Mid brow

(Edit) Updated 19/09/2020

Reasonably well done, but fails to really move one. One reviewer called it "mid-brow" and I think that sums it up quite well. A missed opportunity.

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Tehran: City of Love

Love in a warm climate

(Edit) Updated 19/09/2020

Media reviews of "Tehran: City of Love" are rather diffident. The reviewers like the film, but complain that it is too downbeat, too hard on its characters. In other words, whilst praising the film, they feel it would be better if it were either more French or more Hollywood.

I think they are missing the point: love, says Jaberansari, can be difficult in Tehran. This film may not be at the same level as fellow Iranian Abbas Kiarostami's "10", but it is a very good film, with great characters and strong performances. I have found that it lives in the memory.

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The Diary of a Country Priest

The eternal battle is the one fought between hope and despair.

(Edit) 28/08/2018

I watched this film because movie critic Roger Ebert cited it as an influence on Paul Schrader's excellent 2017 feature "First Reformed", even selecting it as one of his 'Great Movies'. It's worth watching just to see how much Schrader has borrowed from Bresson, and how wisely. In both films, the protagonist is a struggling and isolated priest in a small dead-end parish who decides to keep a journal. Bresson's film opens slowly, but sit patiently through the first half hour and it starts to draw you in. Bresson's priest is neither a hero nor an anti-hero. He is simply a man, unsuited to parish work. Despite realising this, he never gives up hope, but the community closes ranks against him. Trying to fulfil his task becomes his Road to Calvary. This film lingers in the memory.

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