Film Reviews by RhysH

Welcome to RhysH's film reviews page. RhysH has written 53 reviews and rated 66 films.

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The Happy Family

Box set.

(Edit) Updated 30/11/2019

Muriel Box who died in 1991 at the age of 86 remains Britain's most prolific female director. She overcame a number of problems, financial, health and, of course, the institutional prejudice that decreed that women were not capable of directing.

"The Happy Family" was her first solo film which she made at the age of 47. It's a feelgood film set against the background of the Festival of Britain.

As a snapshot of 1950s Britain it is a delight, with lovely performances from Kathleen Harrison and Stanley Holloway, with a delightful cameo from Dandy Nichols and George Cole giving us a glimpse of the type of role he will play for decades. All the figures of the establishment are bumbling buffoons as epitomised by Mr Filch, an excellent caricature from Naunton Wayne.

The vocal delivery lends itself more to the radio, or should that be wireless? It's a one camera film so each shot that has more than two people in it is arranged rather like a group photo.

As it states in the credits, the part of Winston the rabbit is "played by himself".

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Peterloo

From Waterloo to Peterloo

(Edit) 04/11/2019

Of course Peterloo has a resonance for today, protests are taking place all over the world, against governments, against austerity, against the fact that the rich and privileged always rule.

The film has little in the way of nuance, the villains are hideous caricatures of the ruling elite in particular Karl Johnson as the bumbling arrogant home secretary. What a great gift for an actor to play someone so odious. All the ruling class have stepped straight out of a Steve Bell cartoon.

The working class , the protesters are without exception and without being patronising, the salt of the earth. Their cause was just but did they know that their protestations were doomed?

Mike Leigh says that Peterloo should be taught in schools, his film would be a great starting point an essay in political history and a masterclass in film making.

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'Round Midnight

Long Tall Dexter

(Edit) 27/09/2019

If you are making a film about a great jazz musician why not get a great jazz musician to play the part? Difficult? Not if you get Dexter Gordon, whose playing and acting in this film is quite superb. As with his playing style, in his acting, he gives himself space, a beautifully measured performance.

In a discussion with other jazzmen for "Down Beat" Gordon talked about his move to Europe. "Since I've been over here I felt that I could breathe, and just be more or less a human being without being white or black."

On the cover of Gordon's album "One Flight Up" he stands tall, legs wide apart with his infectious big tooth grin. He looks a giant of a man, he was a giant of a player and a great actor

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The Wild Pear Tree

Timeless

(Edit) 05/09/2019

Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has crafted a beautifully elegiac film. Nothing is hurried, except for one brief fight, conversations are recorded at conversation length, discussions are continued until the arguments are exhausted.

Sinan, exquisitely played by Dogu Demirkol has written a book that nobody wants to publish and nobody wants to read, except his mother.

His father Idris, another tremendous performance by Murat Cemcir, does not have literary ambitions he just wants to win money and find water in a well.

Critics have described Ceylan's work as Chekovian, indeed it does have the mixture of comedy underlying the tragic exterior but it has a unique directorial voice.

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How Green Was My Valley

Fake views.

(Edit) 21/08/2019

"How Green Was My Valley" beat "Citizen Kane" for the 1941 best picture Oscar, I would love to have see Orson Wells's face at the award ceremony. Based on the novel by Richard Llewellyn who claimed to be a Welsh miner's son born in St David's. He was in fact born in Hendon, London and his name was Vivian Lloyd.

The film gives a rather over sentimental picture of life in a 1940s Welsh mining village. The set was constructed in Malibu, California, even the chimney smoke looks carefully manufactured. The miner's cottage is spacious and well furnished. Maureen O'Hara as the miner's daughter is immaculate in hair and makeup and a dress for every occasion. The Sunday-suited men have walked straight out of the draper's catalogue. And of course the miners on their way to work start singing at the drop of a Davy lamp.

There are, however, beneath the unrealistic chocolate box lid some hard centres. The hypocrisy of some religious leaders; the class ridden, punitive education system; how a strike can divide families; how the death of one miner touches the whole community.

It is powerfully acted, particularly by Donald Crisp, the patriarch and Sara Allgood as his outspoken wife.

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The Guardians

Waiting.

(Edit) 26/06/2019

The dream sequence which shows shooting and killing is the least effective in portraying the horror of war. The reality of war is reflected in the lives of the people left behind, they can do nothing but wait and wait and quite often despair.

The three leading actors at the heart of the drama, Nathalie Baye, Laura Smet and in particular Iris Brey are outstanding.

The film is suffused with powerful acting and is beautifully shot.

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A Delicate Balance

Curtain up.

(Edit) 26/06/2019

This is quite simply a stage play filmed, with no real cognizance of the art of film, all it lacks is a final curtain call. It does, however, make intriguing and very watchable cinema. Albee writes some great dialogue.

Katherine Hepburn plays Katherine Hepburn and does it to perfection. Paul Scofield simmers throughout and just saves his final boil from melodrama. Kate Reid is wonderful as the alcoholic Claire, too much make-up and too much to drink, she tells the truth.

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Private

Private lives.

(Edit) 29/04/2019

You don't need a degree in political science to know that this film is a metaphor for all that is happening to the Palestinian people. This is laid on a bit thickly but the film is saved by the wonderful nuanced performances by the actors playing the Palestinian family. They show the full range of emotional responses to their situation; acceptance, anger, hatred, fear and stoicism. The two youngest actors often steal the film.

The film is movingly shot, moments of calm followed by moments of awful tension.

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Three Brothers

Three points of view.

(Edit) 04/04/2019

"Tre Fratelli" tells the moving story of three brothers returning to the south of Italy for their mother's funeral. They symbolise different aspects of modern Italian society. Francesco Rosi was known as a crusading, political director who pointed out the inequalities of the economically depressed Italian south and while "Three Brothers" touches on terrorism, workers' rights and religion it does so with a very light touch.

Much of the film is overly sentimental, almost to the point of cliché, it is saved by the beauty of the shooting, the buildings, the people. It is a joy to watch.

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Suddenly, Last Summer

A cinema triumvirate

(Edit) 07/01/2019

Taylor, Hepburn and Clift take it turns to dominate a scene.

Elizabeth Taylor cannot help looking glamorous even in those scenes in which she is suppose to be dowdy and when she is allowed to wear a "nice" dress she looks fabulous. She gives a nuanced performance and excels in the final speeches of the Tennessee Williams play. The speeches could have stood on their own without the background flashbacks.

Katherine Hepburn's voice oozes charm and vitriol, often in the same sentence.

it is said that Montgomery Clift had some difficulty completing the longer scenes. He had a car crash three years earlier and had some dependency on painkillers and alcohol. Sometimes the joins in scenes are clearly visible with Clift, in close up, repeating the line of another character or simply saying "go on". It is a great, understated, troubled performance.

Did Hepburn really spit in the face of the director Mankiewicz at the end of the film because of his treatment of Clift?

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The Fugitive Kind

Magnificent Magnani.

(Edit) 07/01/2019

A great cinema adaptation of Tennessee Williams's play "Orpheus Descending".

This was Marlon Brando's tenth film and he has the hesitant brooding off to a fine art but it's not so much menacing as reflecting, he even smiles once or twice.

But the film belongs to Anna Magnani, a Tennessee Williams specialist, she gives a stellar performance Every emotion is powerfully played.

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Ashes and Diamonds

Assassinating

(Edit) 04/12/2018

The last in Wajda's war trilogy an excellent example of Polish realist cinema.

Zbigniew Cybulski who plays the main part of Maciek was asked to base his performance on the style of James Dean and there is certainly something of that in the performance of Maciek's almost total indifference to the life he leads, that is until he falls in love. An engaging performance.

Eva Krzyzewska gives a fine performance, not just the simpering barmaid but a strong and intelligent woman.

The film is beautifully photographed, often from a low level and each shot exquisitely framed

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A Generation

A dark place illuminated.

(Edit) 29/11/2018

A dark film. Dark in its cinematography and dark in its subject matter. It is hard to imagine living under a regime imposed by a foreign army but Wajda had first hand experience, his father was shot by Stalin's agents in the Katyn massacre. This film is set during the Nazi occupation of Poland and explores the politicization of the youth at this time.

Wajda had just finished film school when he made this film, it shows the influence of Italian realism without losing any of its Polish credentials.

Wajda has said that he was not entirely happy with the film arguing that it did not quite capture the sense of desperation he wanted. It, nevertheless, remains a potent film about power and resistance.

Tadeusz Lomnicki, one of the few actors who had appeared in a film before, plays the lead Stach with a mixture of naivety and political awareness. At times his smile almost looks imbecilic but this is the mask of a very aware young man. An excellent performance.

Roman Polanski is in the cast and Wajda's influence on him can be seen in his film "The Pianist".

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Journey to Italy

Journey into understanding.

(Edit) 29/11/2018

The film has been described as the Italian film that kickstarted the French New Wave, a very important film. For me it does not live up to that billing. Yes it has the languid introspection of the new wave where little happens but a lot is understood but often loses its way under the Italian sun in a miasma of frustrated egos.

George Sanders was said to be annoyed at the lack of a definitive script for the film. It shows in his performance which is somewhat stilted, although this could be an excellent performance of an unemotional English businessman. Ingrid Bergman as his wife, gives a more nuanced performance without going too deep into the emotional turmoil of the character.

As always in a period piece, in this case Naples in 1954, the street scenes give a great documentary context.

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Kaos

A visual feast

(Edit) 26/10/2018

Another lesson in the art of cinematography from the Taviani brothers.

Four short pieces and an epilogue based on stories by Luigi Pirandello. Fables set in early twentieth century Italy.

The performances are excellent, there is the history of the Italian nation in the faces of the actors.

The landscapes, the buildings, the interiors, take on characters of their own, each shot framed for the gallery wall.

A truly delightful visual feast.

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