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Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971)

A death obsessed young man encounters a crazy, but spirited elderly lady and a most improbable love story unfolds.

After "Being there", I felt pleasured recognize the director's trademark. Slow editing, a penchant for very long shots and an incredible attention to production design. The story is rarely cut for punch lines and once in a while I felt that he would linger around a bit too long after the point was made. (Most notably in the shot where the 'date' runs off after presumably having seen him burning himself in the garden)

Although it is too early to derive anything from only having seen two of Ashby's films I had the impression that the films don't take place in the US, but they seemed to fit the general mental landscape of the quirky English upper class whose brains deteriorate in lavish mansions somewhere in the countryside as the growing grass on their perfect lawns watches them wither away morally. In any case, both films have an extremely strong sense of class and class divisions.

Also, this film, has breathtakingly beautiful camera shots - and there is a certain prevalence of symmetry in many shots, although not as dominant as in "Being there". Again, there is some beautiful production design, especially on the interiors. Exterior long shots are often framed that the characters completely disappear in their chosen landscape, making them a bit insignificant sometimes.


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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…