Slow Film 3

Slow Film 3
Films you may have missed.

Brief reviews of films that are subtle and thought provoking – in short, food for thought.
All films reviewed are available at the Portsmouth Public Library.

The Painted Veil  (2006)

Directed by John Curran.
Edward Norton,
Liev Schreiber,

& Naomi Watts


Based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham The Painted Veil is set against the visually stunning backdrop of China during the upheaval resulting from the Nationalist movement in the 1920’s. The story centers on a badly twisted and lost marriage reborn in the political turmoil of China. The road to resolution for husband and wife is long: his bitterness over her infidelity contrasts with the humanitarian work he does. She finds her own path to understanding through her own humanitarian aide. In a very unlikely world husband and wife find redemption and unexpected grace.

For more about “The Painted Veil” see what these reviewers have to say:
The Guardian and Entertainment Week

Paths of Glory (1957)

Director:  Stanley Kubrick
Kirk Douglas,
Adolphe Menjou,
& George Macready

Set during World War I, Paths of Glory is based on Humphrey Cobb’s 1935 antiwar novel, which in turn was based on actual events during WWI. The film follows a French army unit ordered to go on an impossible mission by their commanding officers. The results were a devastating failure. It will be no surprise to learn that the blame for the mission’s failure is put on the corpsmen. Paths of Glory is an unsentimental look at war. It’s spare and unvarnished combat scenes in stark black-and-white cinematography was unique for the 1950’s. The film’s resolution reflects a somber determination to continue in spite of the overwhelming forces that make every step forward and an act of courage.

The film was banned in both France and Germany for many years for its fictionalized depictions of the French military and the military ethos.

For more about “Paths of Glory” see what these reviewers have to say:
Filmsite Movie Review and Roger Ebert

The Winter Guest (1997)

Directed by Alan Rickman
Emma Thompson,
Phyllida Law


The story takes place in a small town in Scotland in February, where the sea has frozen over. Two characters dominate the story: Frances, a young widow (Thompson) still grieving over the death of her husband, and Elspeth (Phyllida Law) her mother, whose unexpected visit unravels what resolve Frances has.

Around these two characters a constellation of other characters give substance to the culture of this small town. Two older women whose affection has been formed from years of going together to anyone’s and everyone’s funeral adding a comic side to this small world. Two young boys, Tom and Sam, just on the edge of puberty take a day off from school and rampage through the town and in the process think about what their future will be like. The loss of Frances’ husband is a hurdle than not only she but her teenage son, Alex, have to overcome. His journey begins with an encounter with Nita a young woman surer of herself than he; their passion and confusion of first love in flames the film – it is a passion missing in Frances’s life.

There are remarkable moments of tenderness in this film, like snapshots adorning the film: the yearning for friendship, closeness and love. But there is also an undercurrent of despair, curiously displayed in the two youngest characters, Tom and Sam. Their needs too are for each other and adventure in the face of a determined future. The resolution for them is the most perplexing. As for the teenagers they will have another round. And Frances and Elspeth learn letting go, acceptance, and each other.

This 1997 film is based on a play by Sharman MacDonald. The screenplay is by Alan Rickman and Sharman MacDonald. An interesting added note to this film is that in real life Phyllida Law is Emma Thompson’s mother.

See what these reviewers have to say about “The Winter Guest”:
Moviereviews, Roger Ebert, and Moviemartyr

BobMiller_edit2Slow Film is a blog series by Bob Miller, assistant librarian at PPL: lover of film, music, fiction and non-fiction. If you have suggestions for something that should be included in a future blog post, email him at

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