Film Reviews by CV

Welcome to CV's film reviews page. CV has written 42 reviews and rated 52 films.

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Che: Part 1

Fair Tribute to Noble Revolutionary

(Edit) 10/03/2021

Contrary to the reviews I have just read, I quite appreciated this leisurely documentary style portrayal of Che Guevara. I found the detailed incidents: the interaction with individuals of the public and the comradely relationship with his fellow revolutionaries quite informative and gave rounding to the character of the man. The drama held my attention throughout and the switch to black and white sequences for newsreel scenes was very effective. The film is also in Spanish, as the director says, to avoid the irony of revolutionaries speaking the same language of the imperialists they are opposing! The director has deliberately omitted details of Guevara's private life which also kept the film distinctive from Hollywood forms. I'm looking forward to Part 2.

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Once Upon a Time in the West

Images Linger Long After the Film

(Edit) 17/02/2021

The first two sequences of the film are quite extraordinary: no music except the amplified natural sounds of a squeaky wind-fan, dripping water and a door slam create a nerve-jangling opening to this epic Western. The next sequence, seemingly unrelated to the first, is also nerve-jarring in effect, also created by the stopping and starting of natural sounds, in this case the interrupted chirrupping of cicadas. After this the drama unfolds and the audience has to work out how the characters relate to one another as their paths constantly cross throughout: who are directly involved in the main action and who are incidental. My mind was still putting in place the earlier events way after the film had ended.

I chose the film as I wanted literally a change of scenery from my recent choices and if you have a large screen it will be all the more impressive. There are both amazing panoramic visions of Monument Valley and disturbing close-ups of the characters. Henry Fonda is cross-cast but my favourite performance was that of Charles Bronson who seems omnipresent, hovering, always observing what's going on. He has no name and has a cypher existence until the ending.

After the film had ended I looked at the extras and there was a running commentary on the film in its entirety. I was quite happy to watch it all again where the direction and photography was discussed as the film was running but time prevented.

I was surprized there were no reviews here already for this film where my Film Guide had praised it to the skies. The images linger long after the film has ended.

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Operation Chromite

Glut of Action Questions Credulity

(Edit) 07/02/2021

Supposed to be based on a factual event in the Korean War but relentless and bloody action scenes seem to stretch credulity. Liam Neesom makes the most of his MacArthur role with laconic quotations and meaningful puffs of his pipe.

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L'Orfeo: Opéra National De Lorraine (Raphael Pichon)

Imaginative Setting of Lesser Known Opera

(Edit) 05/02/2021

The music is superb, especially the beautiful and passionate madrigal-like choruses, and Rossi attains the greatness of Monteverdi in the ever lyrical arioso portions. The production is highly imaginative in a contemporary setting and the acting and singing is inspiring. The roles are very colourfully characterised involving cross-dressing for both female and male roles. Finally, the orchestral playing is exquisite and features a whole range of instruments and dancing styles

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The Winter War

Tribute to Brave Finnish

(Edit) 17/01/2021

I chose this film as I had recently visited the National Museum in Helsinki on holiday. There was a special section in it on the modern history of Finland where the Winter War had followed a civil war during the end of World War I. The Winter War, of 105 days if I remember, saw the heroic thwarting of Soviet Russia's invasion by a much smaller army of Finnish soldiers and much less equipped.

The film follows the fortunes of a family and and associated friends based on actual recorded material from letters and memoires. The film, after the initial volunteering, is all trench action and long distance shots of explosions and carnage. After a while I began to feel the show of carnage and variety of death was more consciously for technical show and designed more to shock rather than tell a more objective account. It does become rather tedious and repetitive and wished there had been more political and military background information. There are some scenes of leave which do relieve the action but perhaps not enough.

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In Search of Mozart

Mozart's Achievement Confirmed

(Edit) 11/01/2021

This excellent documentary is the product of the unstinting and dedicated efforts of Phil Grabsky which celebrates the life of Mozart. Ten hours of material were cut down to two but it is astonishing how much music is discussed and heard as well as much biographical information is given. Highpoints for me were the demonstration of a short keyboard piece, composed when Mozart was five(?), where the last phrase of the piece had an insertion of two extra bars which fitted perfectly. Many a minor composer has written pleasing tunes and interesting harmony but it this preoccupation with and development of form that becomes the manifestation of Mozart's genius. Mozart's disclosing of the jealously-guarded music to Allegri's Miserere at the Sistine Chapel by writing it out from memory is mentioned but is explained by Mozart having a photocopy facility of memory as though he remembered all the notes in a sequence. It was his appreciation and perception of overall form (for the piece is quite repetitive) that enabled him to put the details of individual notes in later that enabled him to memorize the whole.

Another highpoint was the opening of the early symphony in A major where the first few bars explode with youthful genius of thematic invention and sonorous brilliance. His friendships and family relationships are well discussed but spare a thought for his sister Nannerl whose own genius was sacrificed for the advancement of the male sibling of the family! Jane Glover's book "Mozart's Women" is a very moving read about the lives of his sister, wife and other singers he wrote music for.

The interview as a Special Feature is also worth an extra star where the unpretentious director gives a very detailed and extremely interesting description of the process of making the film and what he learnt. He revises one or two given opinions as a result of his research such as his view that Leopold Mozart, the father, is not the slave-driver many biographers make him out to be.

Some of the greatest pleasures of watching films is the added bonus of the Special Features which are so often a great revelation in themselves. This is why I choose cinemaparadiso's DVD service as opposed to others that merely stream films where you don't get any added extras.

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Benjamin Britten: Peace and Conflict

Poignant and Revelatory

(Edit) 06/12/2020

The acted part of the film focuses on Benjamin Britten as a pupil at Gresham's School where his friendships and influence of certain members of staff became formative influences on his own strong beliefs of pacifism which soon made outward expression in his composed music. The actor chosen to play young Britten captured excellently the shy and retiring but morally convicted young boy. I had wondered if the rest of the cast of young actors had been chosen from the present school for their own enrichment of the historical experience of portraying the questioning and reflecting of the inter-war years of the thirties contemporaneous with their most illustrious former pupil of genius. The film ends with a moving sequence of extracts from the War Requiem with images associated with World War II and of Coventry Cathedral. The whole is a moving, thought-provoking and revelatory view of the life of one of Britain's greatest composers of all time.

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Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace

A Little Disjunct but Sensitive Depiction

(Edit) 26/09/2020

I had recently read a biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and was interested to see how his life and influence was depicted on screen. Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, was convinced that the church should stand against the blasphemy of Nazism often treading a dangerous line of compromise of conscience. He set up the Confessing Church seceding from the main church which absorbed concessions to and adoption of Nazism into the church service and practice. Of course this marked him out to be a traitor despite being “covered” as a spy. 

Unfortunately the film was not able to follow his career in detail and I felt the narrative was quite disjunct. Time passed quickly and we seem to jump from one moment to another with events missing or assumed. However, Bonhoeffer was played very sensitively and projected a very likeable and compassionate character but the part played by his fiancée stole each scene she appeared in and added poignancy to the grimness of the plot.

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Inherit the Wind

Undermined Somewhat by Gross Caricature

(Edit) 09/09/2020

The theme of the film, that of the right to challenge Biblical fundamentalism with contemporary science in the school classroom, seemed to be undermined by gross caricature. This effect may have resulted from adapting a stage play to the screen. However, it revealed how close fundamental literalism is tied up with political power and the theme is as relevant to today as it was then.

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Vincent and Theo

More Mental Illness than Art

(Edit) 09/09/2020

Having watched other films on the subject of Van Gogh, and naturally his brother, Theo, I’m not sure that all these views from different angles has given a clearer survey of their lives and relationship. This film attempts to observe and record the decline of Van Gogh’s mental illness, a bipolar disorder, we would say today, paralleled by the very different troubles of his brother, Theo, who is financially supporting him and doing his best to promote his art as a dealer. The depiction is chaotic, messy and ultimately desolate and there is not enough concentration on their respective artistic achievements, only really appreciated posthumously, to redeem the sadness of their lives. A tragedy with no cathartic ending.

Nevertheless the visual picture is splendidly set and the portrayal of Van Gogh himself highly imaginative. There is a blend of English actors playing the main roles with French and Dutch actors speaking with strong accents. The social mores and culture of the age are colourfully depicted and the background music is also highly original. If you felt like I did at the end, watch “Loving Vincent” for a very different treatment. 

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Richard the Lionheart

Lightweight and Dated

(Edit) 28/08/2020

I’m afraid this 1963 series of Richard the Lionheart, in black and white, will not appeal to those interested in accurate and atmospheric accounts of history. The hairstyles and dialogue are sixties dated not to mention the background music which sounds as though it’s played on an old record player with sagging fan-belt. It is merely entertainment at the lightest level.

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Scarlet and Black

Interesting Moral Tale Set Post-Napoleonic Era

(Edit) 11/08/2020

I’m afraid I haven’t read the book but from what I gather from other commentaries on the book I wonder whether or not the character of Julien Sorel has been properly projected in the film. It seemed to me watching the film that Sorel is passively and impulsively victim of his situations and escapades whereas I believe the book is about his decided ambition to attain to high class society from humble beginnings. It is quite late on in the film that we are told he has been a hypocrite all along which the film has not convincingly shown us. This is probably the problem of making a film about the main character of a novel where much of his thinking is discussed in the narrative and which the camera cannot accurately or reliably convey. Nevertheless the film is enjoyable, with location settings and pithy dialogue, particularly the counsel from the clerics who try to steer Sorel on the straight and narrow. 

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Franz Lehar: The Land of Smiles

Light Operetta with Genuine Pathos

(Edit) 02/05/2020

The name of Franz Lehar is immediately linked with the perennial favourite operetta “The Merry Widow” and if you have a vocal score of this you will see a list of other works by him on the back cover which all seem very quaint and old-fashioned judging by their titles. This is one of them and I was intrigued enough to put it on my viewing list. The experience was sheer delight and what was listed as a Romantic opera had genuine heartfelt pathos and contained topical themes, primarily the issue of feminism in different cultures. The dialogue I imagine was updated and in places was genuinely witty and funny. Although I missed choral and ensemble singing, the principal quartet of singers sang and acted brilliantly and Sang Ho Choi (the Prince) well deserved his accolade at the end. This is an outdoor production and it’s great merits were the natural sound effect and the dazzlingly beautiful costumes of both the European and Oriental. The music is often redolent of the Far East sounds of Puccini’s “Madam Butterfly”. Well done Cinemaparadiso for including this gem!

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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!

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.
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