By Pedro García Cueto
Spanish cinema also has a prestige when it faces, through quality, a world of effort and tenacity. The film The Meadow of the Stars (2007) directed by Mario Camus, is a good example of the courage of a young man who faces the world of sports, specifically cycling, when he decides to participate in races.
The bicycle becomes here a metaphor of effort, it is impressive to see cyclists climb the peaks of Europe, for example. If there is a sport, where effort represents the maximum and courage can be seen, it is, without a doubt, cycling.
The story of the film takes place in Cantabria, where Alfonso lives (played by the great Álvaro de Luna), this is a humble country man, retired, who lost his parents as a child and was cared for by a woman, Nanda. She is now in a residence in San Vicente de la Barquera and Alfonso often visits her, grateful for everything she has done for him. One day a boy riding a bicycle appears in the village. He is Martín (Óscar Abad), brother of Luisa (Marián Aguilera), the nurse at the residence where Nanda is. Alfonso speaks to Luisa so that she can provide him with Martín's contact. When he already knows him and knowing his passion for the bicycle, he suggests that he take part in youth races so that he can become a professional.
With these wickers, Mario Camus shoots a beautiful film in a wonderful landscape, of mountains and green meadows, where the story of these two human beings, one almost old and the other so young, is linked to reach emotion and Importance of generational friendship.
The character of Martín, as I already mentioned, is played by Óscar Abad, at that time a youth cyclist. The young man from Corrales de Buelna was one of those chosen by the former Cantabrian cyclist and director José Antonio González Linares for the casting of the film and Mario Camus chose him for the film.
Óscar Abad would not become a professional, although he did compete in sub23 in several competitions. The boy is very good in the film, despite not being an actor, he gives his character freshness and authenticity and shows that nobility and courage is the most important thing to achieve the goals that one sets in life.
The most beautiful thing about this film are the scenes in which Mario Camus films the bicycle through the Cantabrian mountains, giving great importance to the sound, since we hear the screeching of the brakes, the movement of the chain and the gears, at the same time that the wake of the wind is heard as the platoon passes. All this universe has a metaphorical meaning, since the bicycle represents the effort, it is linked to the human being to overcome the inclement weather.
The importance of talent is essential in the film, in the dialogues between Alfonso and his friend Tasio (played by José Manuel Cervino), the latter a former cyclist. Both help Martín to face the world that surrounds him, they advise him, they are his teachers, but they do not limit his decisions, but ask him to be free and decide what is best for him. The performance of these two veteran actors gives the film authenticity, as both demonstrate their talent in their mature characters.
We must not forget the sweetness of Marián Aguilera, very natural as the nursing home nurse and Martin's sister. Without forgetting actors like Rodolfo Sancho and Antonio de la Torre who are great in their roles. As we all know, de la Torre would later begin a career full of talent and awards.
In Martín's room appears the photo of Óscar Freire with his rainbow jersey, because the references of great cyclists are also important for the young man. Óscar Freire is a former cyclist who has achieved great victories in road cycling.
The nature-human being symbiosis is important, because from the beginning of the film, nature is the protagonist and the moods of the main characters are reflected in the mountains of Cantabria. The film is a hymn to the beauty of a landscape that penetrates Martin, because he feels fulfilled when he pedals through those mountains, when he faces other cyclists in the race.
The end will not be lucky, since Martín has a serious accident when he pedals in the competition and manages to stand out from the pack. The accident comes when he collides with a television motorcycle, which highlights the danger of getting too close to the cyclists in the race, both from the public and from journalists.
We are left with the beauty of that landscape, of the pedaling scenes, the friendship between Alfonso and Martín. It is a beautiful film that tells us about courage, talent and affection. The camera of Mario Camus (a great director who we will always remember for his depth in The Holy Innocents), films beings of great nobility in a landscape that is also the protagonist of this story full of light in a landscape of mountains. As the title of the film says, it is a meadow where we can see the stars, those of the sky and those of human beings who always struggle to improve themselves.
When heroes are gods
The story goes that in Tibet in 1937 the successor of the Dalai Lama, who had died a few years earlier, was sought. It will be the regent Retting Rinpoche, who finds a twelve-year-old boy in a peasant family who meets the requirements. Recognized as the new Kundun or Dalai Lama, he is transferred to the capital to be instructed, without this meaning the separation of his parents and brothers.
This is the film Kundun (1997), directed by Martin Scorsese. Throughout the film we will see how the rise of Chinese communism threatens the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama, since China considers that Tibet belongs to it. With the setting of the Second World War in the background, the film stands out for its photography and its special beauty, making silences another fundamental element of the young Kundun's gaze. Due to pressure from China, which wants to take over the entire territory, the young Dalai Lama will have to leave Tibet for good, when the Chinese bombard the city of Lhasa.
With these wickers, we witness an exciting story based on real events that Scorsese films calmly, slowly on some occasions so that we can feel the universe of the Dalai Lama and his spiritual silences. This slowness, only occasionally, contrasts with the nervous pace of other films by the great director of Italian-American origin.
According to Scorsese's own statements, his earliest memories of Tibet date back to the 1951s, when he had the opportunity to watch the film Storm over Tibet (1989), in which the director, Andrew Marton, managed to show a large amount of documentary material on the Dalai Lama. Scorsese's interest in the subject of the Dalai Lama came when the latter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982. However, the director had important commitments that delayed the project. In his hands came the script on the subject written by Melissa Mathison, the screenwriter for ET, directed by Steven Spielberg in XNUMX and who won the Oscar for that script and Harrison Ford's wife.
All of this revolves around the idea of a film about the so-called Dalai Lama or Kundun. For this reason, Melissa Mathison's script was worked on to improve it and a production company was sought to finance the film. Neither Universal Pictures nor Warner Brothers wanted to finance the film, because it was an expensive blockbuster that intended to have actors only of Asian origin and also unknown, without their favorite actors such as De Niro or Harvey Keitel. Thanks to Mike Ovitz, the famous agent who picked up the project of The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), the project was carried out. Ovitz was the second-in-line executive at Walt Disney Productions. Another added problem was the issue of locations, since it was not possible to shoot in Ladakh, in the north of India, or in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's place of residence, due to the silence of the Indian administration and the non-response to the request. Submitted by Scorsese. Finally, filming was moved to Morocco, where The Last Temptation of Christ had been filmed, between September and December 1996.
The decision to shoot in Morocco meant a reduction in the cost of the film and an increase, therefore, in the shooting time. Very important was the photography of Roger Deakins, who was working with Scorsese for the first time, but had already worked on films like Barton Fink and Fargo. Several exiled Tibetans, with no previous experience, were hired for the film and the protagonist, due to the different ages reflected in the film, focused on four different actors.
The editing work was also complicated, entrusted to Thelma Schoonmaker, a great friend and editor of films like Raging Bull, among many others, the editing was a long process. When shooting the film in Morocco, Scorsese could not see the rushes until they arrived in the United States, eight days later. There he gave his impressions on a tape that the faithful editor listened to and they got to work. Another added problem was political, the Chinese authorities, very touchy about the Dalai issue, protested several times over the shooting of the film. As Disney produced, the Chinese officials came to blackmail the production company, since there were many products of the firm in the country, with the intention of avoiding any criticism of the regime, which would cause those products to be withdrawn in such a large country, with serious economic damage to Disney.
The biggest mistake of the film was forgetting the historical context, which even though it is present is slight, compared to a typical Hollywood scheme to attract the film, perhaps conditioned by the presence in the script of Melissa Mathison, who had already created a product for masses like ET. The serenity that the film presents, the relaxed and happy atmosphere does not correspond to the violent reality, where the Dalai Lama had to receive many pressures and threats from the Chinese government. Scorsese's idea of stopping in the silences of a very beautiful landscape and enhancing the spirituality of the Dalai detracts from how convulsive the story actually was.
For the editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, Marty's idea was to reflect a dream, a world without action and for this reason the historical facts appear rarely, but the serene and peaceful world of Tibet does. There is a lot of oneirism in the film, although we see images of the corpses of monks in full repression by the Chinese, everything seems like a dream. The almost final scene when the Dalai Lama flees from Tibet and we see his escort as if they were horsemen and corpses also has that dreamlike tone. Perhaps Scorsese's idea was to tone down his usual use of violence to make the film more suitable for all audiences, since it was produced by Disney.
The film reflects the non-violence of the Tibetan people against the violence of the Chinese people in beautiful images, which distances this film from the more usual cinema in Scorsese. Based on real events, Scorsese prints a different tone from reality, so that we let ourselves be carried away by the serenity of a unique being. A really curious and interesting film in the filmography of the great director who did not have the success of other masterful films by Scorsese, but which deserves to be taken into account.
The mafia in the movies
Shot in 1985 by Michael Cimino, after the disaster caused by Heaven's Gate (1980), the film I am going to comment on has the director's seal, his gaze on the characters, on those beings who are basically losers, who drive his life to save himself, but they are ostracized.
Manhattan South (1985) was produced by Dino de Laurentiis, tells of the crusade of a policeman (Mickey Rourke at his best, before his debacle), who embarks on a crusade against the Chinese mafia in New York (the so-called triads), and Specifically, against its new leader, Joey Tai (John Lone), a cold young man who decided to kill his father-in-law to take power. The policeman who has the rank of captain and named Stanley White causes chaos around him, because he has no control and obsessively causes chaos around him. His wife, Connie (Caroline Kava), will be murdered as revenge, after the policeman abandons her to go with a young and attractive American journalist of Chinese descent, who, in turn, will be raped as a result of Stanley's action. to unmask the Chinese mobster.
Again, as in The Hunter (1978), Cimino focuses on a character of European descent, this time of Polish origin, in the famous film that focused on several friends before the Vietnam War who were of Russian origin. Undoubtedly, Stanley wants to forget his origin and access a luxurious cosmopolitan world, because he has too many sequels on the way, because of his past. We can see him in the luxury apartment of his Chinese mistress, Tracy (played by model Ariane), a loft with spectacular views of the Hudson River.
Cimino sets his sights on a group of losers, because all that violence stems from the anxiety they feel about life. Colors are important in the spaces of the film, such as the blue of Tracy's apartment, a blue color that reminds us of the first sequence of The Hunter, where the protagonists work and then go out together joking. There are spaces in the director's cinema that remain engraved, if in The Hunter it was the mountain with its beauty where Michael (a brilliant Robert de Niro) aims at the deer to fire a single shot, in this one there are the motley spaces of a capitalist society : the human tide that surrounds the Chinatown neighborhood where many human beings live and where Stanley has to manage to achieve his goal and finish off the mobster.
We cannot forget the red that appears in many scenes, since the blood and the spaces dyed red mark a habitat in the film: the Chinese mafiosi wear immaculate white suits and red is precisely the stain on such elegance, truffled with corruption and cheated. In the presence of Mickey Rourke we also see a latent ambiguity, as we sense in De Niro's character, he may be surrounded by people, but he is a loner, there is no one for whom he feels true affection, he lives in self-absorption.
The aesthetic of the film reflects very well the cinema of the eighties where many police tapes were shot, essentially violent, where the action is fast-paced. All the characters of Polish origin, his wife, his police friend, will die, because Stanley penetrates into otherness, seeks to be another, to become a cosmopolitan and rich American. As happened with Michael in The Hunter, the latter changes when he is already in the military, we see him even more distant, he has put aside his roots and does not stop when they prepare a welcome party for him, after the war, he has metamorphosed into another being, which will not prevent him from looking for Nick in Vietnam or from continuing to feel passion for Nick's girlfriend, there are always traces of what he was.
As in other Cimino films, Stanley's character survives and others die, as if he carried in his fate a space of light in the face of the death that surrounds him. In the measured and adjusted interpretation of Mickey Rourke we can see that halo that always saves him, he can be in the greatest of dangers, but he always comes out unscathed from the crusades in which he finds himself.
The other character, Joey Tai, the Chinese mobster, is Stanley's alter ego, both measure each other, admire each other and know that there can only be one left. There is an epic in all of Cimino's films, also very present in Heaven's Gate (1980), a misunderstood but very beautiful film, which represents the twilight of a world that is no longer what it was. In the eyes of Kris Kristofferson we see that the west has changed, a new world begins and it is not known where this universe that begins to reveal itself leads. Cimino always films his characters with love, he looks at them and takes them to the field of emotions, we see it in Michael's thoughts in The Hunter, when after the war he can no longer kill the deer, everything has changed around him. Just like in this movie, by the time Stanley knows he has to stop, there is too much death and there is no point in continuing to wreak havoc that he has started.
Cimino was accused on many occasions of being a racist for understanding that the good is always white and the Chinese or any other race represents evil. Actually, it is a simplification of his gaze, which stops at the characters and condemns them or saves them forever.
Based on a novel in which his wife does not die, nor does his lover get raped, Cimino's idea is to change the character's destiny. For this reason, in the final sequence, when he stays with his lover on the bridge, Tai already dead, we realize that Stanley White also disappears, there is nothing left of who he was, now he is just the uprooted man who has accepted the game and by winning he has really lost.
This film is very well set in that cinema of the eighties where police tapes triumphed, with a very fast pace. While they weren't as technically perfect as today's movies, they contained a freshness that is sorely missed. Also being able to see a good actor like Mickey Rourke in his heyday, before the decline of this actor who was the famous "boy on the motorcycle" in Francis Ford Coppola's Street Law (1983), in the days when It seemed like a new Brando, something that never happened and that faded in our cinephile memory.
The love of two ageless beings
Jaime de Armiñan directed El nido in 1980, a film that contains large doses of affection and was shot largely in the city of Salamanca, also in San Martín del Castañar, because the landscape is important in this film. The scenes where the protagonist, Alejandro, played by Hector Alterio, walks with Goyita (Ana Torrent), are a delight of sensitivity, because the love story between the two is always seen with tenderness and modesty, at no time exceeds that affection between two beings that are in their solitudes.
Salamanca, which is a beautiful city, where the Plaza Mayor becomes a space of incomparable beauty, where culture shines and we can see the rectory where the great Unamuno suffered and taught, becomes in the film a light that leaves sparkles , because Alterio walks his solitary gaze through the corners of the city. His measured and careful interpretation gives the film great magnetism, since Héctor Alterio is a great actor who has always shown his strength in the roles he has played.
The story recounts the meeting of this man, from Salamanca, with Goyita, a thirteen-year-old girl who may remind us of Nabokov's Lolita, but without the young woman's malice, which, as we remember, became the inevitable temptation for a mature man (in the Kubrick film James Mason was great in the role of the mature protagonist and the young Sue Lyon shone brightly in the film).
Goyita is sensitive, passionate and has a sense of humor. We appreciate the change that Ana Torrent had already undergone, from the girl in The Spirit of the Hive to the young woman in this film, where there is more dialogue and more expressiveness in her performance. The Spanish actress has also endowed her characters (later, Tesis would come) with a certain strangeness, as if when looking she always left things to say, because Ana's gaze has always marked her interpretations (the gaze in the girl who looks at the world of adults in The spirit of the hive).
The games of the forest, the ease between the two. Alejandro is an unhappy man, at the maturity of his life, about fifty years old, but he seems older. Open spaces are important, because they play a fundamental role, they are the areas where both walk, as if the film avoided closed environments, because in these an uncontained desire can be fostered, which the film always avoids. It is not, for Armiñan, to describe a dirty world, but the whole film is played with ingenuity and affection. We can understand how an older man tunes in with a young woman, because he brings her a spontaneity and joy that he has been losing over time. That desire to recover that vital harmony is present in the film and beats at all times.
The staging reflects the vulnerability of the two characters, where we sometimes do not know who is stronger because Goyita, despite his thirteen years, often has the vital security that Alejandro does not have. This reminds us of Aschenbach in Death in Venice, Thomas Mann's novel, from which Visconti filmed his masterpiece, Death in Venice, because he looks at Goyita as if he were his Tadzio. There is such blush, such delicacy, that is present in the good work of this great actor that is Alterio.
With photography by Teo Escamilla and music by Alejandro Massó, El nido is an intimate and beautiful film that carefully touches on a subject that could be censored today, given the puritan current that surrounds us and that is leading to censor great classics of the cinema for unclear reasons.
The secondary actors are great, Luis Politi shines in his dialogues, Patricia Adriani demonstrates her freshness and ease at the time she stood out in the movies, Agustín González is great as always.
We are facing a film where the city of Salamanca, with its beauty, is yet another character, a witness to those encounters, those dialogues, that tenderness. In addition, it is a film that never loses its rhythm, even if it is somewhat slow, it bewitches us with its delicacy.
As a final detail, mention that Ana Torrent won the award for best female performance at the Montreal festival for this film. Her enigmatic look prevails in later interpretations of her.
El nido is a film that perhaps would not be filmed today, but the nostalgic air of that man who wants to recover that lost joy through the young woman remains. Only with tenderness and love for the characters can we understand this beautiful film, shot in a large part in the city of Salamanca.
Views of the cinema within the cinema
When we start over we do it because we believe that we can improve the past and make the present something better. Many times, we try to recompose a failed love, a broken marriage, but we also look for in our essence that which time has blurred. This topic has been touched on many times in the world of cinema, not only in Garci's memorable film of the same title, where two elderly people who lived through a past that could not bear fruit come together again when time has passed.
But also in the world of cinema the subject of resurrecting an old glory of celluloid has been addressed, Billy Wilder did it very well in Fedora, but also Robert Aldrich in the film that I am going to comment on: The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968) . The feature film, which was produced, once again by Associates and Aldrich, tells the story of a cursed project, of a film that was thought to materialize long ago, but had not come true.
The story begins when a Hollywood talent scout discovers a woman Elsa Brinckman (played by Kim Novak) who bears a strong resemblance to Lylah Clare, an old Hollywood erotic myth, who died a few years ago under strange circumstances. This talent scout realizes the need to make a biopic telling what happened to the famous star. This project becomes relevant when Lewis Zarkan (Peter Finch) meets the young woman. Zarkan was Lylah's husband and he falls in love with Elsa because he seems to be the reincarnation of her wife. Elsa allows herself to be modeled by Zarkan and loses all her personality to assume, while the film is being shot, the role of the deceased actress.
Without a doubt, with this argument, we can already see a memory of the double in Hitchcock's Vertigo, where Kim Novak also assumes that role when James Stewart chases her through San Francisco. The actress, in fact, serves Aldrich as a pretext to also analyze Novak's rise in the world of cinema and her corresponding decline, despite her still being a young woman. Do not forget that Kim Novak was successful in the fifties and began to decline in the late sixties.
The interpretations of Peter Finch, as Lylah's husband, who intends to resurrect her image, start over with a love that no longer exists, because she is no longer the same woman. While he lives in Zarkan, he blames her for having exploited her woman as an erotic myth and for precipitating her death. Finch gives the character strength and credibility (let's not forget what a fine actor Finch was and how he won a posthumous Oscar for Network in a brilliant performance). The other great in this film is Ernest Borgnine who plays Barney Sheean, the studio executive Zarkan goes to in search of financing for his film. The role of Borgnine is excellent, because he fits the type of producer of the time, unrefined and with somewhat rude gestures, but with fine intelligence to seek success, as were the producers of the golden age of cinema.
The problem with the film that is certainly interesting for reflecting the world of cinema is the way it is carried out. From the beginning of this there is a documentary desire, which tries to bring the film closer to cinema verité. The director wants to tell us a story and he does it along the lines of Welles's Citizen Kane, by listening to the opinions of another to trace the plot line of the film. This way of starting the tape was widely used in classic cinema, not only in Welles's film, which would be the model to follow, but also in such prestigious films as The Barefoot Countess or Captives of Evil. That idea of interviewing others to meet a character that has already been mythologized prevails in the film, which makes us believe that the famous actress existed or that at least someone lived whom Aldrich is energetically following. Actually, it is also an x-ray, as I mentioned before, of the rise and fall of Kim Novak, a short-lived actress of remarkable beauty, who did not maintain her glamor beyond the fifties and sixties. In fact, the weight of a great actress, who would have maintained her strength throughout the subsequent decades, was not appreciated in her either.
The final part of the film, when the domestic accident that cost Lylah Clare her life is recounted, is filmed in a more standardized way and is carried away by a more theatrical atmosphere that distances the film from the previous proposal, where it breathed more of the documentary zeal . That twist harms the film, because it reflected a Lylah Clare immersed in the depressions of many successful actresses, since she breaks her neck while drunk at her house and rushes down the stairs. The death of Ellen herself in a similar situation gives us viewers the idea of finding ourselves before a deja vú, a start over, because the entire film is centered on that desire to put a woman as if she were a mirror of a erotic myth of cinema.
Undoubtedly, the film contains successes because it reflects very well the world of cinema, its contradictions, its truths and its lies, and the interpretations of Finch and Borgnine give credibility to the story. Kim Novak gives the role a melancholic and sad air, because she was also a broken star, not taken to the extreme of Lylah Clare (the actress lives in retirement at the age of eighty-nine), but deep down we want to know something more about the interior of Lylah and Kim, because deep down Aldrich knows that the world of cinema can also be very destructive.
As if it were starting over, a broken life (Lylah's) with Ellen's, a tragic destiny for that world of dreams where not everything is glamor and there are also shadows after the applause of the spectators (you just have to remember Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Monty Clift and other myths that fell from grace being great stars). When the film ends we are left with the look of Kim Novak, as if she was crying out to start over again.
Cinema and alcohol, under the volcano
Without a doubt, in the cinema there have been many moments in which the characters toast with beer, because the ritual of partying and drinking has always been linked to cinema. We cannot forget how Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power, two great leading men of cinema and marred by their premature death, toast in Fiesta (1957), directed by Henry King, based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway and shot in Spain.
Alongside the party is the theme of alcoholism, which has also had quite an impact on the cinema with films like Days Without a Trace, directed by Billy Wilder in 1945 or Days of Wine and Roses, directed by Blake Edwards in 1962. But the The film I am going to talk about is based on the novel by Malcolm Lowry, published in 1947, it is Under the Volcano (1984), directed by John Huston and starring Albert Finney as Consul Geoffrey Firmin), Jacqueline Bisset as Ivonne , his wife and Anthony Andrews as Hugh Firmin, the Consul's stepbrother.
With these wickers, an attempt is made to adapt a complex novel, whose details are very intense, because it is all woven with a dense language, where everything becomes relevant. Lowry writes slowly, thinking of a universe that only Firmin sees, a space where alcohol and the city of Cuernavaca are clear protagonists. All this because Firmin cannot avoid drinking, he is an alcoholic, this pathology has destroyed his marriage and has thrown his beautiful wife Ivonne into the arms of her stepbrother.
The difficulty of adapting a complex novel to the cinema, full of descriptions of plants, landscapes, skies, clouds, horses, was enormous. Not only Huston had thought of taking it to the cinema, but also Luis Buñuel, Jules Dassin and Joseph Losey, among others.
Huston had read at least twenty different scripts, in order to adapt the novel, until he finally decided to do it. Produced by Moritz Borman and Wieland Schulz-Keil, the film cannot address this complex universe of the writer (it must be remembered that Lowry was also an alcoholic and that in the novel he expresses all his obsessions), but through Guy Gallo's script , that space of characters who live life like a dream, because the consul never accesses a reality, but everything remains in his world, made of books and alcohol. Since he cannot drink mezcal, because he is prohibited from doing so, he goes to the bars until dawn and drinks beer and whiskey. Therefore, his world is reflected in those dens where other drunks spend the night, he is one more in that space of degradation.
The film was not shot in Cuernavaca, but in Morelos, also in Mexico, where Mexicans have that spectral air that characterizes them, seen here through Firmin's walks, in the gaze of a brilliant Albert Finney, an actor who gives the character of great authenticity. Only actors like Finney could give the protagonist such a dignified yet pathetic presence. I think of other greats of English cinema, such as Richard Burton or Peter O'Toole who could have been great in the role too. At his side, the beauty of Jacqueline Bisset, because Ivonne is the promise, the beauty that will not die, but who, despite the love she feels for the consul, refuses to be carried away by the world of alcohol, although when she returns to Cuernavaca after his farewell and the breakdown of his marriage, he will accompany Firmin on his visits to the cantinas.
Firmin's life is narrated by Huston, with his deep and powerful style, because the director knows how to carefully film the face of the consul while he drinks beer in a joint, without forgetting the Mexicans who surround him. All that space is filmed with authenticity and rigor, we cannot take our eyes off the face of the great Finney.
The life of the consul, in the short period of time described in the film (which is the same as in the novel until the fatal outcome), goes through several stages. We see him when he walks among the decorated tombs of the dead (we already know the importance that Mexicans give to the subject of death), being a man oblivious to the landscape and the culture that surrounds him. Drunk on many occasions, Firmin enjoys an enormous culture, but has not been able to channel his enormous intelligence. His fear of his life has led him to alcohol, his inaction to walk through the canteens and always ask for a drink, neglecting his loved ones. Everything happens on All Souls' Day and in the novel Dr. Vigil and M. Laurelle play a tennis match and remember Firmin and his love story, with the famous phrase from the novel: “You cannot live without loving ”.
In the film, the actor Ignacio López Tarso plays Dr. Vigil, in his role as demiurge he is the other voice of Firmin, the sober voice of his friend. Also important is the role of Hugh, his stepbrother, who had relations with Ivonne. In their new meeting, both remain friends, but already in the affective distance. Ivonne just wants to get the consul back and get him away from Mexico. The great beauty of Jacqueline Bisset accentuates that magnetism that Lowry spoke of in his novel. Ivonne is not the most beautiful, but she has that charm and that attractiveness that remains with her forever. Hugh has fought in the Civil War with the Republicans and her supporting role for her fades in the film. There are no longer threads between them, they are desolate beings, abandoned to their fate.
While Firmin drinks beer in the bar, he can see the mezcal, the drink that made him an alcoholic and to which he will return at the end of the film, because he knows that there is no longer a destiny or a future, his life has to end there. In an almost accidental way he is killed, because the absurd is present in his life. Leaving the other drink and returning to mezcal is a way of sealing the vital failure of it. Lying in the mud, in the last act of his life, like an anonymous drunk, he exclaims: "What a disgusting way to die!"
The bulls appear when Hugh fights a calf, the atmosphere of the poor Mexicans, the bars, the suffocating heat, all of this imbues the film with a vital exhaustion, with a feeling of permanent restlessness, but the great merit is in the face of Finney that expresses surrender to life. The great actor who has already demonstrated his undoubted talent in many films gives his role all the bewilderment of existence and all the damage that alcohol has taken its toll on him. Huston follows him, films him, scrutinizes him, as if he were a clerk in search of a secret code.
Without the complexity of the novel, which is, without a doubt, a masterpiece, the film is a worthy adaptation of a complex universe that Malcolm Lowry lived during his stay in Mexico from which he was eventually expelled due to his alcoholism. Lowry's life was cut short at a very young age, because, like his character, he chose the wrong cards to play.
losers at the movies
There are films that fly over the theme of the loser, beings who are condemned to feel failure in their flesh, such as Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1975), where loneliness becomes a hell that leads to madness. There are also losers who try to get out of that failure, like Eddie Felson in The Hustler (1961) by Robert Rossen, a magnificent film where Paul Newman was great. A new version of this character who constantly plays his luck in billiards, who welcomes a girl (Piper Laurie) in a relationship that is destined to fail, was not expected, but it happened, in 1986 The Color of Money was released, directed by Martin Scorsese, one of the most impressive and brilliant directors of recent decades.
The history of the film began when in September 1984, after shooting of After Hours had finished and while he was in London, Scorsese received a letter from Paul Newman in which he proposed that he join the project for The Color of Money, since that Newman had been impressed upon seeing Raging Bull (1980) and was convinced that Scorsese was the right director for this return of the Eddie Felson character.
The story was based on the novel by Walter Tevis, the same author of the novel that gave rise to The Hustler, which clearly seemed like a sequel to Felson's story. The project for The Color of Money had been wandering around the Hollywood studios for five years, it had reached Columbia and Twentieth Century Fox without materializing in a firm project. But the interest of a powerful man like Paul Newman and his agent, the famous Mike Ovitz, made the project begin to take on real life. Two old acquaintances of Scorsese, Michael Esiner and Jerry Katzemberg, who had already wanted to work with the director from their time at Paramount, came on board. They were now top executives at Touchstone Pictures and were determined to get the movie done as producers.
Evidence of Newman's involvement in the project is the fact that he had to mortgage part of his salary to get Touchstone to agree to the $1986 million budget. In addition, Scorsese was told that it was forbidden to go back to shooting in black and white if he wanted to move forward with the film. Filming began in January XNUMX, completed in forty-nine days and with a saving of one million dollars. There were no improvisations in the film and the work of Newman and a young Tom Cruise was prepared two weeks in advance. For the pool scenes, an instructor, Michael Sigel, and various professional players were involved. The film was shot in various pool halls in Chicago, although Toronto was initially considered.
It is important to point out that this is not a sequel because Scorsese gives personality to his project and distances it from Rossen's film (it must be said that the latter was magnificent), since in The Color of Money Eddie Felson no longer understands the defeat as an end, but he will know how to bear failure, he will understand that it is part of life. If there is something self-destructive about the character, along the lines of other Scorsese leads such as Travis, Jimmy Doyle and Jake La Motta, Felson has already redeemed himself. He has lived through twenty-five years of hell (you have to remember that in The Hustler, Eddie gives up pool when the men of the character played by George C. Scott destroy his hand). Now Eddie is looking for a successor, someone who can be him many years younger and he finds him in the rooster Vincent (very convincing Tom Cruise in the movie) who arrives with his girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), Now, Eddie is the teacher, who cares less about winning than leaving his mark on the disciple.
When Vincent already knows, thanks to Eddie, the traps, tricks and pettiness of the profession, Eddie knows that they must separate. There is undoubtedly a father-son relationship between the two. When Vincent allows himself to be won over by Eddie, it is a form of humiliation, but it is also an offering, the demonstration of the gift that he wants to give the disciple to the teacher, the sign of his gratitude.
The idea of the father is unusual in Scorsese, because they never appeared in other films, Travis was alone, nothing is known about his family, neither is Jimmy Doyle and neither is La Motta, they are unprotected, lonely beings, who have no one to admire or imitate. In the case of The Color of Money, this master-disciple symbiosis takes on full meaning. There is also something mythical, Scorsese poses a generational change, the Cruise at the time of the film is a mirror of the young Newman when he filmed The Hustler.
There is undoubtedly a bankruptcy, by not knowing Felson's past in Scorsese's film, it is difficult for us to understand the epic dimension of his redemption, since Eddie was guilty of the death of Sarah (Piper Laurie) and as a consequence was punished in billiards, As La Motta was in the ring, there is undoubtedly a space that The Color of Money does not discover and only moviegoers can unravel. What Eddie does is atone for his guilt through the character of Vincent, trying to make him not fall for the mistakes of young Eddie. A glimpse of the past would have been good to better understand the underlying objective of the film and its desire to create a new billiards player without the blemishes that old Felson already has for life.
And, without a doubt, the title explains a lot, because money has color, also weight and smell, we continually see the dollars and we can feel that all that money is also the soul of the characters, they are their vital imprint, the sacrifice to which they submit for success. The luck of winning or losing is also present, they are beings who risk everything, knowing deep down that nothing is really worth it. Only the rite of the game motivates them, not the gain or loss, they live in the moment, where they are happy in that effort to be the best.
Without a doubt, Scorsese transfers the Raging Bull ring to billiards, to build a redemption film with an actor of great charisma, truly magnetic as Paul Newman, whose gaze hides a whole world that is not revealed to us but that moviegoers and connoisseurs of The Hustler we know. Both the girl and the role of Cruise give him a good replica, because the impetuous young man has to be corrected by the veteran player. It must be recognized that Cruise maintains a freshness in his role that he has been losing over time.
And how the balls move as if they were gestures of life, like the blows in the ring, ultimately tells us about an emotional and intense film, a great movie, where Scorsese sets his sights to talk about losers and winners in the scene of existence. The music is excellent, like My Baby's in Love with Another Guy, the Robert Palmer song recorded by Little Willie John, they are essential to accompany this existential duel between two men in front of the billiards ring.
There is a different movement in Scorsese compared to Rossen's film, a planning of the pool tables, a "visual extravagance" that makes this film stay with us, because it speaks of failure and redemption (with a magnificent photograph by Michael Ballhaus ), one of the most interesting themes in the filmography of the great American director.
loneliness in the movies
There are many films that reflect the poetry they carry within in their images, but there is a director who managed to make the slowness of his cinema, plagued by glances and silences, a space where the poetic became relevant. I am referring to Michelangelo Antonioni, director of works such as The Night, The Adventure, Blow Up and many others.
The landscape in the mist that appears at the beginning of The Red Desert (1964) already establishes a look at a world that seems to lose its light, enveloped in shadows. A man walks through a gray landscape accompanied by his daughter and a woman wanders with her son through a muddy landscape with industrial debris. There is a whole world that unfolds in this film that takes place in Ravenna: gigantic industrial forms, the sound set of machines and boilers that accompany the silence of the characters as a continuous noise. In this ambient noise beats a metaphor of isolation, an essential theme in Antonioni's cinema, where external noise counteracts the silence of the characters, always wrapped in the skein of their loneliness.
Giuliana (Monica Vitti) walks her solitude when she walks with her son in the extreme solitude of a world of factories, where space drowns out all language. That red desert that is the space that surrounds them, where she is torn between two men: Ugo (Carlo Chionetti), a chemical engineer absorbed by his factory, and Corrado (Richard Harris), a nomadic chemical engineer looking for workers to follow him to the Patagonia. But, despite these two men, Giulana is alone, she wanders with her son through a spectral landscape that blurs her.
Giuliana is afraid of everything around her, with a past marked by a traffic accident, which is why she walks through that spectral world without stopping, to follow an itinerary aimlessly, but without pause. There is a desire by Antonioni to print poetry to a realistic world, where factories that seem to express pollution and noise can have an emotional and poetic calligraphy. For the director, as he confessed to Godard in an interview, the lines, the curves of the factories can print more poetry than a tree that has always been a place of contemplation for poets.
And the importance of color, because a state of mind beats in the chromaticism of the film, the characters express their sadness at life in the gray that populates the landscape, in the warehouses that the woman finds, populated by greens and blues, the white in his comings and goings around the house, at night. Very interesting is the sequence where Corrado (an extraordinary Richard Harris) visits Giulana (Monica Vitti gives her role her authenticity and mystery) in her empty shop with whitewashed walls in cold tones. As in other Antonini films, glances and silences predominate, sometimes a short conversation as if the thoughts of the characters did not give rise to the language that is far from those encounters, designed for the other senses.
Poetic image is the fall of the page of a newspaper when they go out into the street because it reflects the ephemerality of everything, the expiration of life, the slight passage of human beings, fragile and silent, through the world.
There is also imaginative capacity in the film when Giulana tells her sick son a story where the blue of the sky and the sea and the pink of the sand abound, all sifted with colors, because the film impregnates the environment with color, endows it with light , creates moods in the characters through colors.
There is a clear reference to painters such as Matisse and Morandi in the settings and in its color. Matisse's painting excited Antonioni and here he shows it in that voluptuousness that predominates in the film, when factories, houses and nature are shown.
Also the reference to the still lifes and landscapes of Giorgio Morandi are present in the film. Examples of Morandi's influence in the film can be found in the paper abandoned on the street, in the blue cylinders in the hangar where the engineer gathers the workers, or the house where Corrado and Giulana meet. We can see it on the wall, the table and the upholstery, on the plants, everything radiates that world of the painter where everything is space that expresses his inner loneliness.
We must not forget Carlo di Palma's photography that leaves images of dead time, of beings in a state of waiting, as if they could only be resurrected if someone gave them life. It is also the characters, wrapped in an environment that has a lot of neorealism but that also includes a certain surrealism in its dreamlike landscape, who are giving life to that oppressing space, but despite this they are wounded beings who seek to find themselves to feel alive and revive an environment also wrapped in shadows.
Antonioni achieves one of his best films and in that slowness that characterizes his cinema we can see the soul of the characters, their heartbeat and their place in space, another protagonist of the film, along with the color that becomes relevant in the moods of these beings defeated by life. The poetry that the film gives off makes this one of the most interesting and attractive of the Italian director.
when love kills
Sometimes love becomes difficult because we are faced with the dilemma of choosing the person we are with and another that appears and changes our life. With these wickers, Truffaut, the great French director, directed the film The Woman Next Door in 1981. Without a doubt, we are facing a film where love becomes impossible because Bernard (Gerard Depardieu) is married to Arlette (Michele Bangartner). ), everything goes well until a love from Bernard's past returns, Mathilde Bouchard (Fanny Ardant), now a neighbor of the couple.
The whole story is told by a character named M. Jouve, who meets them at the tennis club. This character wanted to take his own life in the past for an impossible love, now he looks at the faces of Bernard and Mathilde and knows the tragic fate that will lead them to drama. The story has a terrible ending, since Mathilde will kill Bernard and commit suicide, because she is aware of the failure of the love story, of that fateful fate that surrounds their lives.
Truffaut shoots the film with elegance, with that tender look at the characters, but without exceeding in drama. The script by Suzanne Schiffman and Jean Aurel gives the film that authenticity, those dialogues that structure a whole space of solitude. They are beings who love each other but who know that the world will not offer them an opportunity, they are doomed to fail in their love.
The Woman Next Door is a film that caresses, that approaches the viewer in the faces of two actors in a state of grace, Depardieu, despite his usual rudeness, is tender and immature, Fanny Ardant is seen by Truffaut as if he was painting her, he looks at her face, at her gestures, he follows her through shots where we see a beautiful woman in crisis. It was a great love for Truffaut and that is perceived in the film, there is a special way of looking at the actress as if when filming her she was declaring her love.
We must not forget that Fanny Ardant was the last woman who lived with Truffaut and was present in the hardest times of his life, when he was diagnosed with the brain tumor that ended his life at the age of fifty-two.
In the film, which does not have much of a plot, since it focuses on their encounters at the tennis club, on the dialogues, but which gradually leaves the residue of a relationship that is love fou, cursed love because it has to end in tragedy.
The color of the film is remarkable, with those pale and soft colors that characterize part of the filmography of the French director. In some moments, the director distances himself, avoids passion, looks at his characters so that they express with their faces the love they feel, as if he were a demiurge pulling the strings of the lives of the beings he is filming.
The interior scenes, in the room where they love each other, gravitate in the film as a space that is gaining prominence. They look at each other, chat, touch each other, but they know that tenderness is not lasting, there is something ephemeral in their looks, as if they already knew, before it happens, that fate will be tragic.
There is, without a doubt, a latent influence from the gaze of the novelist Henry James, whom he adapted in The Green Room, because he presented a world of odd characters in his novels, as occurs in this story of love and failure.
Without a doubt, The Woman Next Door, shows a peak in Truffaut's cinema, which has been perfecting his universe of looks, the faces that he chisels when contemplating them and represents a leap to the maturity of that cinema with Antoine Doinel as the protagonist. Now his characters live the repose of a past that torments them but that no longer produces histrionics, like Doinel in Stolen Kisses (1968), for example.
Something has changed in Truffaut's gaze and Depardieu represents that passage to maturity, he is a tired man, despite being young, who still carries a child inside, but he is already in a hurry, like Doinel, because he knows that his destiny is already compliment.
THE SPLITTING OF A MAN
Many titles have emerged with the theme of identity, seeing how a man loses his reality when another looks at him and realizes that he is a mirror of the first or when they have compared us to another and have said that they have seen our double, in cinema the theme of the double is reflected very well in The Other Mr. Klein, a film shot by Joseph Losey in 1976.
Mr. Klein was a project that director Costa-Gavras was preparing, under the production supervision of actor Alain Delon, who had founded the company Adel Productions in 1968, which had already financed films such as Jacques Deray's Borsalino or The First Night of the Stillness by Valerio Zurlini.
There were disagreements between the people involved in the project and Costa-Gavras withdrew from it, Losey was in Rome at the time and became interested in the subject, since he also wanted to work with Delon again, due to the good reception and the good harmony that existed between them when Losey shot The Assassination of Trotsky.
Renowned screenwriter Franco Solinas, who had worked with Gillo Pontecorvo, went to work with Losey on the script. The British director had to do without his usual artistic director, Richard McDonald, because he was preparing the design of the sets for Losey's long-awaited project In Search of Lost Time based on Proust's novel, which was frustrated and was never shot. . The inclusion of the Hungarian Alexandre Trauner (Oscar winner for his work in Billy Wilder's Apartment) was very positive for the film.
With a budget of more than three million dollars, Mr. Klein began filming between Paris and Strasbourg. However, relations between Delon, present in the production, and Losey were not as good as on the first occasion, since the French actor wanted to dominate too much the directing aspects without being his responsibility.
Regarding the film, centered on occupied Paris in 1942, it tells us the story of Robert Klein, a man dedicated to the art trade who feels that his person is reflected by a possible double, a Jew, persecuted in those times , which leads the character to desperately search for this hidden being so that he is not arrested. Klein himself feels that he is being spied on by the gendarmerie, which causes an anguished situation, which increases throughout the film, until the end of it, where Klein's character is confused with the Jew whom the Nazis lead to the concentration camps, the art dealer who had nothing to do with the Jews becomes just another Jew who will be arrested and deported to the camps.
With this argument that I have summarized, Losey directs an intriguing film where Delon's character, who plays Klein, we can see a Kafkaesque structure in which Klein's whole desire is to meet the other, the persecuted Jew. All that happens are encounters with people who know the double, but he never appears, his presence is always that of a mirage that involves the art dealer to the point of tragedy.
The importance of the mirrors in the film marks the plot, throughout the film, as in the scene in which Pierre and Klein have dinner in a restaurant, a bellman continually calls the other Mr. Klein, he ignores without realizing it of the implication represented by that other self that follows him all the time, which reminds me of With death at his heels, when Cary Grant is always persecuted by an identity that is not his.
With luxury supporting cast, Jeanne Moreau, Michel Lonsdale (as Pierre, Robert Klein's lawyer), Massimo Giroti, Michel Aumont, the film reflects the emptiness of a hidden identity, there is no other Mr. Klein, but nevertheless , it continuously pursues him.
As in The Servant, the atmosphere of the film is oppressive, the characters seem to play a role to show that they are just shadows that persecute the protagonist, the climate of the film is very claustrophobic, which also reminds us of Orson Welles films .
The film went to the Cannes festival in 1976, but did not win, since the Palme d'Or went to Scorsese's Taxi Driver, but it must be recognized that the film catches, it leads us to a continuous doubt, hand in hand with the good Delon's interpretation and the direction of a Losey in a state of grace, which reminds us of one of his masterpieces, The Servant, a film where identity is put on trial, are we really what we seem or are we others? that we are in a different place than where we live?
Doubt prevails and leaves a mark on us, we can always be others, there is a split in each of us that makes us vulnerable, the film manages to touch our identity and make us think about our fragility as human beings, a really interesting film.
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