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 Misfits (1961)
Directed by John Huston
Written by Arthur Miller
The Misfits opens as an auto mechanic comes to appraise a car. The car belongs to Rosalyn (Marilyn Monroe). It’s from her husband, but she doesn’t want it. She is in the process of preparing herself for divorce court proceedings when the auto mechanic arrives. The divorce is finalized within the first five minutes of the film with hardly more than a hint that it has taken place. Rosalyn is free and hopes to forge a new path.
Rosalyn and her friend, Isabelle (Thelma Ritter), go to a local barroom to celebrate the divorce. Isabelle is a divorce court “pro” and she is proud to have ushered another woman through a divorce. In the barroom they run into the car mechanic, Guido (Eli Wallach). He introduces Rosalyn and Isabelle to Gay (Clark Gable). They become fast friends in the barroom and it is these bonds that hold them for the rest of the movie. Isabelle who offers the humor in the film leaves the group when she happens on her former husband and his new wife. The three of them leave town for a reunion of sorts elsewhere but not in this movie.
The remaining crew: Guido, Rosalyn, and Gay stay close. All are lost souls, each grappling or grasping on to something or someone. The road they travel is long and leads to the territory “beyond the daily routine” and for the men to a life of “used to be.” It is 1960 male roles are challenged: the work isn’t the same, the old life is cracking at the seams. Gay and Guido, want some adventure, some sense of worth, a feeling that they still are doing what they were meant to do: catch wild stallions and bring them to buyers. They find a former acquaintance to go with them, Perce (Montgomery Clift), a cowboy on the rodeo circuit, another lost soul. He agrees to come along – the pay will be better and the excitement can’t be beat.
But as Rosalyn discovers, to her profound sense of betrayal, the horses are no longer sold to people who will used them as ranch work-horses or riding horses, they will be killed and ground up for pet food.
The film turns on this point. Their illusions crash in a grand act that forces each to face what really lies before them. After some grappling they are each forced to make hard choices. Guido is anchored to the past. The others follow paths that may bring them to a positive future. In a film with characters who have only their inner chaos to guide them, it is a chance worth taking. The result in this John Huston film makes it well worth watching.
The actors in this film are among Hollywood’s best known: Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, as well as Montgomery Clift and Thelma Ritter. Monroe and Gable give one of their best performances on the screen. Gable died before the film was released and Monroe died a year-and-a-half later, this was her last completed film. The screen play was written by Arthur Miller, who was still married to Marilyn during the time of this film’s shooting.
Too much has been said about the behind the scenes activities while this film was being made to the point of ignoring the film itself. Watch the film first, then if you’re interested read what other reviewers have said about it:
Flickering Myth site (Simon Columb)
City Lights: A Film Blog by Laura
The Telegraph (Tim Robey)
Three Movie Buffs
The Band’s Visit (2007)
Directed and written by Eran Kolirin
Ronit Elkabetz (Dina, the restaurant owner)
Sasson Gabai (the bandleader)
This is a simple story: an eight member band traveling on the wrong bus ends up in a town they didn’t plan on performing in and certainly had no intention of visiting. The band is Egyptian and they are in Israel to perform at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab arts center in Israel. The town is a small back water Israeli town in the middle of the Negev Desert.
The band leader, Tawfiq Zacharya (Sasson Gabai) reluctantly asks Dina (Ronit Elkabetz) the owner of a small restaurant to accept Egyptian money for enough food to feed the eight member band. She is amused and fascinated by this man who reminds her of the actor Omar Sharif and she agrees. Because the town has no hotel, and the band has no place to stay, and because there is no transportation out of the town until the next morning, Dian invites them to stay the night. She finds places for all eight to stay: in her restaurant, at her friend’s apartment, and at her apartment.
There is a lot of room for misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Room for romance too, and revelation about life and death and sacrifice. The humor in the film is generally subtle except for the youngest member of the band, played by Saleh Bakr, is nonchalant and romantic. Otherwise, almost everyone in this film is cautious. The pace of the film reflects this caution. So does the photography by underscoring the relative isolation and starkness of the town with long slow shots. It is a town which one of the inhabitants describes as having “No culture… Not Israeli culture, not Arab culture. No culture at all.”
It is no surprise that Egyptians stuck in an Israeli town (and the wrong town too boot) feel constrained. This constraint is underscored by the bandleader’s compulsive and rigid personality. He is wonderfully contrasted with the Dina, the restaurant owner. She is active, searching, and flirtingly provocative. She reaches out to Tawfig, resulting in one of the film’s most touching moments of revelation.
The magic of this film is that in addition to moments of personal revelation for several of the characters, it points beyond to the universal everyday struggles of all people, struggles that exclude political games.
This wonderful film was made by Israeli director, Eran Kolirin, with Arab and Israeli actors, is a welcome view of life. The victories may be small, but they are personal. A nice change from the general malaise and heartbreak that fills our world these days.
The film is in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, with English subtitles.
More commentary about the movie on these websites:
The Independent Critic
Director and screenplay: John Carney
Music composed by: Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová
Straight forward and “simple” the film “Once” is a delightful joy. A chance meeting on the streets of Dublin between an Irish street performer, Glen Hansard, and young Czech immigrant, Markéta Irglová (who is also a musician), is the foundation of this love story and because they are both musicians, it is surrounded by music.
It is a love story that never quite jells beyond strong mutual attraction. The “lost” loves are suggestions of what might have been. There is no “happy Hollywood” ending, on the other hand there is no tragedy, a little heart break on the way but no disaster. The story unfolds naturally and lovingly. They invite each other to meet their relatives. It is a film the invites closeness and implicitly underscores family ties. And both characters have full lives of their own that emerge at the close of the film.
If you have never seen Once, it is worth seeing, and it is worth seeing more than once. The music was composed by the principal actors.
Read about what these reviewers have to say about “Once”:
The AV Club
Slow 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.