Monday, June 30, 2008

All Mine To Give (1957)

I work in a production/media company as a proof-reader of subtitles/close captions for DVD's. American studios outsource a lot of the DVD subtitling work overseas, our offices is one of those places where they give their films for subtitling. We work on mostly American TV series and old movies. Some of them real classics both famous and rather obscure. Some of them I liked, some of them I could barely stand watching, some of them I loved. I usually don't review any of them on-line. But this particular one I'll make an exception since it is so exceptional.

All Mine to Give (Allan Reisner, 1957) is a drama said to be based on a true story about an immigrant couple (Glynis Johns and Cameron Mitchell) who set out to make a life for themselves in 1850's America. They managed to build a home and have six children. They were happy. For a while. Then tragedy strikes the family and the eldest child, a barely 12 year old boy, is taken to task to carry a heartwrenching burden.

This film is a major tearjerker. Unlike other major tearjerkers, however, the film never felt phony or overly manipulative. The story and the emotions involved all feel genuine thanks in large part to the great performances of the leads: Glynis Johns as the matriarch of the family, Cameron Mitchell as her husband and Rex Thompson, as the eldest child who gives one of the best on-screen child performances.

I would personally rank this alongside Grave of the Fireflies and Bicycle Thieves as among cinema's greatest tearjerker drama. In fact, it would be sort of accurate to describe this as an American Grave of the Fireflies. The opening scene of the boy pushing his baby sister in the snow in a sled strongly reminded me of Isao Takahata's anime masterpiece.

Apart from a few airings at Turner Classic Movies, All Mine to Give is woefully underseen. It's a good thing they'll be releasing this gem on DVD so that more people would have access to see it and discover what a classic film it really is.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Filmmaker Focus: Alejandro Jodorowsky

This is the first of what I hope to be a series of blogs on filmmakers I've encountered in my cinematic travels (or simply put, directors I've watched). The latest director that have caught my fancy is Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky whose films are really something else. The first film of his I've seen was
Fando y Lis, one of the strangest love stories I've ever seen. The title characters, a man and his paraplegic girlfriend, go on a strange journey to find a mythic city to have their dreams and wishes fulfilled only to be driven mad. Shot in black and white, the story gets into all sorts of directions incorporating surreal and shocking imagery (including a scene where characters actually drink real human blood) but unlike, say, Peter Greenaway wherein story and character pretty much take a backseat to imagery and abstract ideas, Jodorowsky manages to engage the characters with the audience enough that gets them through the strange imagery and give them a surprising emotional wallop in the end.

As much as I admired Fando y Lis, I personally think El Topo is a genuine masterpiece. Like the former film, El Topo also concerns a strange journey. But this time far more complex and complicated. And colorful. And how. Some of the best use of color in film can found in El Topo. Some shots, I felt, were like moving abstract paintings, the deep reds, the bright blues, the blinding yellows. The film is a Western about a man who defeats a group of bandits and abandons his son for a woman who convinces him to go and defeat four gun masters then finds himself amongst freaks and battling an evil religious cult (believe me, it's even WEIRDER than it sounds). It's colorful as it's strange and fascinating, the film is filled with allegorical religious and political symbolisms and imagery that really has to be seen to be believed. Yet it manages not to feel the least bit pointless or pretentious. I really felt like I was watching a Fellini, Bunuel and a Leone film all at the same time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

R.I.P. Cyd Charisse

I'll let her work speak for itself.