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In the heat of the night (Norman Jewison, 1967)

When a falsely arrested black man turns out to be a police officers he reluctantly helps the sheriff of a racist small town in the South to solve a murder, despite all their tensions.

This was a highly entertaining watch for me. Just seeing Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier play off each other is worth the time. I was fascinated by Poitier, but I somehow preferred Steiger's crazy mood jumps.

For example: The sheriff's patience wears thin pretty fast with the smug behaviour of the big city homicide expert Tibbs (Poitier) - In one of the best confrontations between the two, the sheriff lets his deputy arrest Tibbs out of blind and helpless rage. Everybody in the room (and the audience) understands the pointless move but we can feel with the sheriff who just went over the edge of his intellectual and emotional possibilities.

Tibbs keeps cool and has the upper hand, until he is confronted with his own racial prejudices. The scene where he meets the rich white land owner is amazing: it's not the open racism of the small-towners that brings down his guard, but the cultivated and just-as-smug old guy.

As the film went on, I lost interest in the plot a bit - hoping to see more of Poitier and Steiger clashing on screen. Which is a good thing - the resolution of the story felt a bit thin and there is a wee bit of deus ex machina in the showdown scene. In general a highly enjoyable film and a must-see of stellar acting of the main two characters.

Something else I noted: all the other characters in the movie seemed a bit cardboard - and not very smart, either. This elevates Poitier's character but renders a lot of the backdrop a bit too cartoony. Would the film be newer, the other inhabitants of the town might just be as stupid, but much less obviously so.


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They drive by night (Walsh, 1940) #DTC #161

Two truck-driving brothers dream of a better future and financial independence in a sea of good and bad fortune.

Although the film has all the ingredients of a film noir, like the selfish femme fatale, Bogart, and many night scenes, this is something you could consider a feel-good movie. It pretty much surprised me with its turns and twists and I also wasn't prepared in the least to see Bogart as the sidekick, instead of the lead.

In terms of interesting characters, Ida Lupino as the selfish wife that tries to seduce George Raft's Joe she is definitively at the most intense when she slowly sheds all the layers of sanity towards the end. Although her motives are a bit unclear - the amazing thing about her behavior is that she values love over money. In that perspective the movie feels like a tragedy, as (except for the loan shark) everybody has comparatively sophisticated understanding of emotion and life.

Au revoir les enfants (Louis Malle, 1987)

During second world war the monk running a boarding school for upper-class kids hides Jewish kids.

This highly personal movie is very touching and manages to avoid all the pitfalls of being overly emotional. Music and editing are very subdued and carefully used to underline situations. This makes the story ring true (which it was) and gives the viewer good time to settle into the universe that these kids live in.

There are many quite complicated scenes and I was interested in one particular: When Jean gets invited on parent's day by the mother of his new best friend into a posh restaurant. In that very restaurant there are Nazis at one side of the room and an elderly Jew sitting on the other side. The table of the family is right inbetween. Many things about France during the war are told during this scene, I'll just try and focus on camera placement.

The focus shifts twice in the scene: From the family table to the French Jew's table  (who I have been told wears the red …

Glory (1989, Edward Zwick)

A young commander in the civil war is asked to recruit and lead the first all-black Confederate battalion into the Civil War.

I am not too interested in details of the American Civil War but the film managed to stir my interest in some ways. I might want to look up the difference in treatment of the many Chinese laborers that were employed in the development of the West and what kind of legacy this particular group of people has to suffer from in contrast to the better-known fate of African-Americans.

There are some interesting scenes in the film. I decide to examine the battle scene in the beginning. It introduces Broderick's character as a naive and brave but inexperienced soldier - a great choice of casting, especially in contrast to the hardened appearance of Washington. According to imdb footage was used from re-enactment groups and intercut with the staged film.

Before the battle scene commences Broderick walks in row of soldiers and talks over the pictures of the gathering…