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Showing posts from August, 2013

White Material - Claire Denis

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By Moira Sullivan


In Claire Denis White Material set in an unknown period in an unknown country we could believe that it is Cameroun in the midst of winning its independence with a long war that dragged out for 10 more years of civil strife. Rebel soldiers roam the lands of the French and steal their possessions. The French are leaving, and those remaining are unprotected. Marie Duval (Isabelle Hubert) insists on staying. She is oblivious to the dangers, and puts her family and her workers and servants at risk for refusing to leave. A local DJ gives news to the rebels in veiled language, and everywhere in the film , a transistor radio updates the ongoing strife. In general, the news of everything frommarriage, to weather conditions is transmitted by radio. White Material is told in a smooth fragmented narrative style . Its chronology is inverted with the present at the apex of the film and frequent flashbacks to the days when the colonial presence was intact and secure. Among the se…

Still - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan
David Shields’ new book “Still” looks at the past as if it were a fresh, undiscovered country.  His viewpoint is that a pristine still is more evocative of its era than a scratchy dupey print of the same period.  By that logic, a remark I once heard about Theda Bara (“She works better in stills”) would eliminate most of her work from scholarly consideration.  So…the pictures in “Stills” are breathtakingly gorgeous but try to see the movies anyway, flawed though they may be. 

After seeing a still of Elsie Ferguson from her heyday, I finally was able to watch “Scarlet Pages” from 1930, which was not her heyday, but well worth a look.  For a very long time I waited for 1929’s Jeanne Eagles “The Letter” to crop up sometime, anytime, somewhere, anywhere.  When it finally did, it was worth waiting for.  The print quality was not the best, but to see and hear 1929’s best performance (sorry Miss Pickford, but “Coquette' wasn’t it) was unforgettable.  Eagles played a w…

Chocolat - Claire Denis

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By Moira Sullivan


The League of Nations mandated 91% of Cameroun to France after World War 1. It was not until 1960 that it became independent. Clair Denis' film Chocolat concerns a young French girl’s upbringing in Cameroun during the mandate. She lives on a manor where her father Marc Dalens (François Cluzet) is a captain in a colonial outpost and her mother Aimée Dalens(Giulia Boschi) is head of the household. Assisting her are black servants, and the most prominent and dutiful one is Protée (Isaach De Bankolé). His upbringing in the Christian church and his pride as a black man have contributed to his impeccable sense of morality, and according to de Bankolé who plays him, the hope for the future of Africa.
The grown France (Mireille Perrier) in many ways like Claire Denis who grew up in Dijbouti, returns in the beginning of the film to Cameroun. She is alone and observes a father and his son swimming on the beach. Later the father, Mungo, insists that he give her a ride to …

The Attack

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By Moira Sullivan
The Attack is an unexpectedly shocking film about a Palestinian and Israeli national whose wife turns out to be a suicide bomber.  In the opening scenes of the film Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman) receives a prize for his distinguished service as a surgeon at an Israeli hospital, the first Arab  to be honored. In his acceptance speech he thanks his adopted country for making his career possible. During the ceremony he receives a phone call that he doesn’t take and we learn of the consequences of that aborted call later. 
Amin is soon visited the Israeli secret police who accuse him of being involved in the bombing attack, something that he hears from his balcony at the hospital a few hours earlier. Nearly 20 Israelis are killed and the injured are admitted for emergency treatment, most of them children, who he attends to. To his astonishment his wife is implicated and his home is searched for evidence.
The film is adapted from the international best seller by Yasmina Kh…