Monday, June 25, 2012

Gods and Monsters: The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) ✭✭✭✭1/2



A classic horror movie becomes a symbol for humanity’s deceptions and delusions in The Spirit of the Beehive, Victor Erice’s minimalist allegory from 1973. Told mainly through the innocent eyes of a child, Sprit of the Beehive gently unfolds like a spring flower, with each new petal adding depth and symmetry to its rustic facade. Within the film’s surreal and delicate world, viewers will find pointed allusions to 20th century political struggles, the role of religion in warfare and shifting notions of man’s role in the universe.




Set on the windswept plains of Castilla circa 1940, The Spirit of the Beehive evokes the chilling atmosphere of loneliness and devastation that followed the Spanish Civil War. In the backwater town of Segovia, life appears to have changed very little in the past century. Pack mules and school children comprise the town’s only traffic. Missing from Segovia’s dusty streets is an entire generation of young men, lost in the fight against Franco. One day a battered delivery van arrives at the town’s makeshift cinema bearing a print of Frankenstein, James Whale’s monster epic from 1931. Among the excited villagers in attendance are seven year-old Ana (Ana Torrent) and her sister Isabel (Isabel Telleria), a few years Ana’s senior. But what should be an evening’s light entertainment has a profound effect on young Ana, and her attempts to understand the film’s disturbing mysteries will eventually lead her to an existential crisis.



The Spirit of the Beehive moves at a deliberate and meditative pace, bringing to mind the work of Carlos Reygadas - his Mexican Mennonite drama Silent Light in particular - and leaves plenty of space for magical thinking and unresolved issues. The film plays with changes in scale, applying its disturbing but logical metaphors in micro and macro settings. Ana’s father (Fernando Fernán Gómez), a cold and remote figure, bears a strange resemblance to a monstrous creation when clad in beekeeper apparel, yet his relationship to his wife and children reveals his heart as barren and devoid of love as Dr. Frankenstein. Isabel, sensing her little sister’s trauma, stirs the pot with mind-games designed to confuse Ana even further, her dark eyes a mirror of pained astonishment.



Erice twists his story into many challenging contours, forging a number of insightful and personal observations along the way. His visual storytelling is a primer on the everyday poetry of scant elements. Starkly formal compositions convey humanity’s bloated self-importance and feature Salvador Dali-style treeless landscapes that recede to infinity. And it is the infinite that boggles the mind of young Ana, her pristine soul suddenly invaded by the ugly and the unanswerable. Ana may soon lose her grip on reality, but considering the evil spirited world that humanity has created, who can blame her?

Gods and Monsters: The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) ✭✭✭✭1/2



A classic horror movie becomes a symbol for humanity’s deceptions and delusions in The Spirit of the Beehive, Victor Erice’s minimalist allegory from 1973. Told mainly through the innocent eyes of a child, Sprit of the Beehive gently unfolds like a spring flower, with each new petal adding depth and symmetry to its rustic facade. Within the film’s surreal and delicate world, viewers will find pointed allusions to 20th century political struggles, the role of religion in warfare and shifting notions of man’s role in the universe.




Set on the windswept plains of Castilla circa 1940, The Spirit of the Beehive evokes the chilling atmosphere of loneliness and devastation that followed the Spanish Civil War. In the backwater town of Segovia, life appears to have changed very little in the past century. Pack mules and school children comprise the town’s only traffic. Missing from Segovia’s dusty streets is an entire generation of young men, lost in the fight against Franco. One day a battered delivery van arrives at the town’s makeshift cinema bearing a print of Frankenstein, James Whale’s monster epic from 1931. Among the excited villagers in attendance are seven year-old Ana (Ana Torrent) and her sister Isabel (Isabel Telleria), a few years Ana’s senior. But what should be an evening’s light entertainment has a profound effect on young Ana, and her attempts to understand the film’s disturbing mysteries will eventually lead her to an existential crisis.



The Spirit of the Beehive moves at a deliberate and meditative pace, bringing to mind the work of Carlos Reygadas - his Mexican Mennonite drama Silent Light in particular - and leaves plenty of space for magical thinking and unresolved issues. The film plays with changes in scale, applying its disturbing but logical metaphors in micro and macro settings. Ana’s father (Fernando Fernán Gómez), a cold and remote figure, bears a strange resemblance to a monstrous creation when clad in beekeeper apparel, yet his relationship to his wife and children reveals his heart as barren and devoid of love as Dr. Frankenstein. Isabel, sensing her little sister’s trauma, stirs the pot with mind-games designed to confuse Ana even further, her dark eyes a mirror of pained astonishment.



Erice twists his story into many challenging contours, forging a number of insightful and personal observations along the way. His visual storytelling is a primer on the everyday poetry of scant elements. Starkly formal compositions convey humanity’s bloated self-importance and feature Salvador Dali-style treeless landscapes that recede to infinity. And it is the infinite that boggles the mind of young Ana, her pristine soul suddenly invaded by the ugly and the unanswerable. Ana may soon lose her grip on reality, but considering the evil spirited world that humanity has created, who can blame her?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer With Julie: Part 2

It's officially Summer! What better way to celebrate than a Julie Newmar Pictorial?























Thank you Julie for all your encouragement and support.

For More Julie Pics CLICK HERE

To Order Julie's Book CLICK HERE

Summer With Julie: Part 1 CLICK HERE

Summer With Julie: Part 2

It's officially Summer! What better way to celebrate than a Julie Newmar Pictorial?























Thank you Julie for all your encouragement and support.

For More Julie Pics CLICK HERE

To Order Julie's Book CLICK HERE

Summer With Julie: Part 1 CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Love Hurts: A Man and a Woman (1966) ✭✭✭✭ 1/2


Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman from 1966 was one of those rare films that pleased audiences and critics alike. The film nabbed the Palme d’Or and two Oscars while playing to crowded theaters worldwide. And over the years it has remained a popular property, generating over 6 million dollars in home video rentals. These days, film scholars consider Lelouch something of a lightweight, never awarding him the gravitas of Truffaut or Godard, his nouvelle vague brethren. But A Man and a Woman was a highly influential movie, especially to Hollywood filmmakers who admired its near perfect balance of entertainment and innovation.


While generically described as a romantic drama, A Man and a Woman reduces the genre to a study of specific moments in the formation of a love affair. The film deals more with the mental and emotional processes of falling in love than actually being in love. The couple in question, champion race car driver Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and script supervisor Anne (Anouk Aimèe) spend relatively little time together onscreen - just a few Sunday afternoons - yet memories of these brief reveries fill their weekdays like a ghostly presence. The couple is only separate on the physical plane, as new passions fill their damaged souls.



Lelouch’s stylish direction, complete with memory sequences, color shifting and music- cued montages, speaks a language that has become standard, some could say trite, filmmaker vocabulary. But here Lelouch wields the tools with skill and assurance, supporting and deepening the film’s existential air. Whenever the film threatens to become a bit too precious, Lelouch cleverly ups the ante with exciting scenes from the race track, including a harrowing nighttime sequence depicting the Monte Carlo Rally. But these are not mere empty thrills, for Jean-Louis and Anne will find the twisting course of love an even more perilous navigation.



In a rarity for a 1966 production, today finds all the principles alive, well and still productive. Lelouch has created an extensive filmography, although he has yet to match A Man and a Woman’s commercial success. Composer Francis Lai, whose portfolio contains a number of hit themes - Love Story among them - is scoring Lelouch’s new film Les chemins de l'orgueil currently in production. Anouk Aimèe’s career has found new traction as a character actress, lending her elegant air to several recent French comedies. And Jean-Louis Tringinant, having won accolades at Cannes last month for his work in Haneke’s Amor is poised for a new round of international success.




Its influence extending to such iconic films as Midnight Cowboy,  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and countless music videos of the 1980’s and 90’s, A Man and a Woman continues to be relevant and rewarding. Neither nihilist nor fluffy, the film ultimately resolves with an honest appraisal of love’s dangers, and the courage required by lovers to venture on. Jean-Louis and Anne may not be a match made in heaven, but within the realm of flawed humanity they could do a lot worse.




 

80 Years at the Races

Most Marx Brothers aficionados agree that 1937’s A Day at the Races was the last truly great film featuring the zany siblings. Produced by ...