Film Reviews by RhysH

Welcome to RhysH's film reviews page. RhysH has written 57 reviews and rated 79 films.

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Room at the Top

Is there room at the top?

(Edit) 10/05/2020

Sometime in the fifties John Braine in hospital being treated for tuberculosis gave birth to his novel "Room At The Top" and at its publication in 1957 Braine was placed in that very loose grouping of "angry young men".

This film made in 1959 is an accurate rendition of the novel. Although the novel was set just after the second world war the film is placed firmly in the 1950s. The clothes, the cars, even the office furniture are fascinatingly evocative of the time.

The look may have changed considerably but have attitudes? Wealth breeds wealth, success is achieved by the exploitation of others. Men gawp at women lustfully provided they conform to certain stereotypes. Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey) has a degrading grading system.

Harvey's performance is spot on, you can see the avarice in his face in the opening shots on the train. The film belongs, however, to Oscar winning Simone Signoret, she doesn't conform to the stereotype, her beauty comes from within and the way she portrays Alice's love for Joe is movingly sincere.

Most of the other performances are caricature , the boozy mates, the self made man of brass, the upper class twits. Some actors don't get a mention on the cast list. It's good to spot Richard Caldicot, Wendy Craig, Miriam Karlin, Wilfrid Lawson and Prunella Scales

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The Seventh Veil

Music maestro

(Edit) 10/05/2020

The opening crashing chords of Benjamin Frankel's score sets the tone for this film, a deliciously over the top psychological drama from 1945.

The seventh veil is the last vestige of privacy to a woman, it needs to be removed to reveal the inner workings of a woman's mind. Or so it is according to Dr Larsen (Herbert Lom) determined to identify why concert pianist Francesca Cunningham (Ann Todd) attempted suicide. To emphasise the validity of his theory Lom places on or removes his pince nez at appropriate moments.

Ann Todd shows two emotions, over excited happiness and utter despair. She does both with aplomb.

James Mason playing her guardian and Svengali like mentor plays his part with studied menace.

The "happy" ending is futile and unconvincing.

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My Name is Joe

My name is Hope

(Edit) 12/03/2020

Ken Loach points his camera at the lower depths and records it with integrity. Despite the despair that runs through this film, there is a genuine and moving love affair and some wonderful touches of humour. The humour is in the two football matches, shades of Loach's 1969 film Kes.

The performances are compelling, Peter Mullan as Joe, Louise Goodall as Sarah and, in particular, a moving performance by David McKay as Liam.

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Happy as Lazzaro

Lazzaro rises above.

(Edit) 18/02/2020

This is a beautifully shot, enigmatic film, the simplicity of the story underscored by a complex social narrative, a discourse on wealth and poverty.

The first half conjures up images of Ermanno Olmi's "The Tree of Wooden Clogs".

Adriano Tardiolo plays Lazzaro with studied ease, his face gives nothing away but it is not the face of a simpleton, as everyone around him implies, it is the face of a young man who observes the world around him and transcends its awfulness.

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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.

2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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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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