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Being there (Hal Ashby, 1979)

A very simple-minded gardener is turned out of his house when his master dies and in search for a TV set he encounters fame and fortune.

This very beautiful, quietly set film is a tour de force of Peter Sellers' comic timing. His character is slow and mostly repeats what everybody says around him. This doesn't only lead to great comic moments, but renders the whole spectacle into a farcical satire. I enjoyed Sellers' dead-pan performance a lot and was amazed by the careful balance that Ashby manages to give the portrayal of the character. Most of the times I was meandering between pity, amusement and even a bit of cringing at Chancy's outrageous actions, or rather, non-actions.

The film is deliberately paced very slowly but has meticulous attention to details in the set and the production design. Many fabulous long shots introduce the characters in their respective settings and leave it up to the actors to fill those lush sets with life. The camera also deserves the notion "dead-pan" - there are few movements, pans and dollies I could remember. I like this tableau-setup of the camera very much, I call them "rectangular shots", lining up the camera in right angle (or sometimes to a 45 degree angle) towards the dominating wall, essentially closing most frames.

The dialogue is cut in standard shot-reverse-shot editing. But as the story progresses, the doctor who is mostly a silent witness to these exchanges is cut to in a close up, detailing his reaction and his mounting skepticism.

Most of the shots set the stage for a coming scene but a few of them used the style of long shots to emphasize a joke or a punch line, like the last shot.


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

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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…