“A short course of nothing” review of “Las Maestras de la República”

I hate to start a review with a spoiler, but knowing your history is always a spoiler.  And, if you don’t know your history, historical films often lack interest.

Spain was backward during Franco’s dictatorship, just as fundamentalists in the middle east are making their own countries backward.  Much of Europe only truly emerged from the dark ages in the past 200 years, some parts have yet to emerge.

This documentary “Las Maestras de la Republica” is a story about education in a time between extremes, not only Franco’s extreme, but the extreme of the other guys.  The Second Spanish Republic was not a bed of roses, and the documentary skims over most of the problems of that regime.  Instead, it focuses on the new found equality of Spanish women through education, especially the role of teaching. Continue reading “A short course of nothing” review of “Las Maestras de la República”

Topsy Turvy (1999) Review

Poster with the words "The Mikado on top, and a full length portrait of the character kaisha, in traditional dress and holding a sword, surrounded by flowers.
The Mikado, promotional poster from the Gilbert and Sullivan theatrical production, by Johnathan B. Jeffrey, ca. 1885

I purposely avoided Moliere, Shakespeare in Love, and almost every other movie about a playwright.  I do this because I respect writers like Shakespeare, and I find their period fascinating.  I likewise avoid most movies about Thomas Jefferson.  I prefer the Jefferson that I read in his letters, or from his contemporaries, to the cartoon lecher that Hollywood spoon feeds us with.

It ain’t just reverence and respect for the past, I don’t like the glossy misinterpretations.  Those movies about great people are often like sampling Mozart into some kind of techno elevator music. Continue reading Topsy Turvy (1999) Review

Review: Le Rayon Vert

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE meets AMELIE POULAIN. Or, the grandmother of both films.

Le Rayon Vert is a classic. It’s not black and white, it’s not silent, and you probably never heard of the actors. The director’s name, Eric Rohmer, may easily be confused with a military general.

It’s title is apparently taken from a Jules Verne novel, but this is no sci-fi. No, Le Rayon Vert is the same down to earth, independent filmmaking that made Napoleon Dynamite seems so at home with audiences. And the main character is sort of the kind of hopeless romantic as Amelie. Only, she’s a bit more self-absorbed and socially maladroit, perhaps like young master Dynamite. (Or a female, French version of him.) Continue reading Review: Le Rayon Vert

Mysteries of Lisbon: A historical film.

Like many of today’s historical films, Mysteries of Lisbon is long (very long). Before investing four and a half hours in a movie, it might be an idea to read a review or two.  After I invested my four and a half hours, ideas for reviews kept invading my head. But there are so many things to talk about, the director’s style, the actors, the camera work that one observer called “unobtrusive”, the level of history, it was hard to settle on something.

Sure, I could write a PhD thesis, researching the director’s life and speculating how that influenced the production, but I’m not interested in that. Instead, I’ll answer the two questions I think every reviewer should answer. Did I like the movie? And, how do my readers know if they’ll like it? Continue reading Mysteries of Lisbon: A historical film.

Remembering Antietam, with civil War expert John Michael Priest

John Michael Priest is a well respected author of the American civil war, especially the battle of Antietam.

Notice we didn’t say War Between the States or Sharpsburg.  Some of you might accuse us of bias. Well, that’s nothing new. Continue reading Remembering Antietam, with civil War expert John Michael Priest

Laura (1944) review

A mystery, filled with red herrings, deceptions and hilarious false leads, but at the end, when it’s all solved, it seems so obvious. The entire plot falls into place. How can anyone claim to forget who the murderer is? Roger Ebert claimed in his review that “I’ve seen the movie seven times, and the murderer still doesn’t immediately spring to mind.” Continue reading Laura (1944) review

Review of John Lawson’s Circus

You won’t find lions jumping through hoops of fire at John Lawson’s circus.  Nor would a school of dancing elephants fit in its cozy ring.
The only animals around are in the audience, roaring with laughter at the Popolino musical clowns and shrieking with delight at acrobatic feats of strength and skill.

John Lawson claims to have the funniest clowns in Britain, and that may be true. Continue reading Review of John Lawson’s Circus

Heads will roll

On November 3, 1798 six men were beheaded in Cairo, on the orders of General Napoleon Bonaparte.  They lost their heads only months after General Bonaparte landed “The Army of Egypt” to liberate the Egyptian people from the terror of the Mameluke Beys. Now, Napoleon was seen by many as the Mameluke.

So, what happened since June?

Continue reading Heads will roll