Crowder’s Back!

After a 2 months haitus due to his surgery, Steven Crowder’s back. It’s been such a news-packed time. He’s been missed.

Mirror (1975)

Haunting and challenging, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror isn’t an easy film. It’s intriguing, beautiful and poetic as it depicts the dreams and memories of a dying poet. We rarely see the narrator of the film. We see his memories of life before and during WWII as well as conversations in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Rather than a linear plot, the film consists of dreams, images (plenty of mirrors are shown). The most compelling scenes for me focussed on his ex-wife and their conversations about custody of their teenage son. The film drew me in and mystified me. I felt that I need to do some research to make more sense of Mirror so that I can better understand it. I understand that a lot of movie lovers don’t have the time or patience to invest in decoding a movie so it’s not for everyone, but if you’re curious and willing to be perplexed as well as mystified, watch Mirror. Your library probably has it or can get it. 

Here’s a video explaining Mirror should you accept the challenge of watching.

Flowers of Shanghai

Set in the Qing dynasty, The Flowers of Shanghai offers a look at life amongst courtesans who cater to elite men who gather in brothels to eat, drink, gamble and . . . we never see what else. The camera stays in the main rooms. So use your imagination.

The film’s strength was its costumes and set. The languid ladies squabbles about getting money from their biggest customers left me cold. I understand that was the tradition within this subculture but it wasn’t clear that the patron was obligated to give his flower as much as she wanted. As girls these women were sold to the flower houses, yet they can marry their way out of this life. These characters didn’t win me over. 

The arguments were repeated throughout the film. If there were some change in direction, a revelation or action, my interest would have grown. Sumptuous silk costumes can only do so much to help a movie.

Pick of the Litter

Who doesn’t like dogs, puppies? Yeah, there are a few. Some have bad experiences, but that’s rare. Dogs can do so much for us. It’s hard not to love them.

The documentary Pick of the Litter shows how wonderful dogs can be, how lucky we are to have them. Pick of the Litter follows the puppies of the P litter: Patriot, Phil, Primrose, Poppet, Potomac as they go through the training and testing to become a guide dog. Few puppies ever make the cut. 

We meet these pups as their born and see how the staff at Guide Dogs for the Blind names each one. Then after 8 weeks the puppies are place with families that will begin training them so that they’re comfortable out on the street, in stores, at the airport, that they aren’t easily distracted and that they can heel. Some families are veteran trainers; others are first timers. Some will fail and the dog will be moved to another home. The guide dog center frequently observes these dogs and when a dog shows the wrong characteristics will “career change” the dog removes him or her from the program. 

After 14 to 16 months the dogs return to the center for more intense and specific training. They’re put on guide dog harnesses and taught to obey, to navigate busy streets and to know when to disobey a command because the surroundings are dangerous. Dogs are tested repeatedly. Some who don’t make it will become breeders; others will find new homes, new purpose.

This touching film shows how life changing a guide dog can be. Interviews with people who’ll receive these dogs show how much more independent a they will be. It’s a touching story of the dogs and people who work to make life much better for others.

Audience: Fine for all ages. No bad language, violence or sex.

Available: I got a DVD from the library but Hulu and Amazon also have it.  

Lara Logan on the Truth about Afghanistan

This could have been a success. Instead the Biden Administration chose fiasco. Why?

He’s not the first President to mess up there, but Biden’s failure will end up costing more in lives.

On Vaccine Passports: Naomi Wolf

Liberal, feminist author, Naomi Wolf explains what v@c¢ine passports mean for free societies. Their tracking capability can curtail all our freedoms.

These passports are far worse than high tea taxes.

Shaun Thompson Show

Shaun Thompson recently got a third hour for his radio show. Mr. Thompson comments on the blunders of corrupt Pres. Joe Biden’s failure in Afghanistan and how the Democrats run for cover.

Utterly, bizarre how CNN thinks the Taliban is friendly. Thompson points out how in the past Biden supported the Taliban. Yep, supported.

Shaun doesn’t give you the same old thing. He’s a true independent thinker.

You can now hear him from 4 to 7 pm Central time at 560theanswer.com. If you’re near Chicago, listen at 560 AM.

The Bigamist (1953)

A pretty good film with a different storyline, that kept my interest.

No Fixed Plans

Starring Joan Foutaine and Ida Lupino, who also directs, The Bigamist spends most of its time explaining how traveling salesman, Harry Graham, played by Edmond O’Brien wound up married to two women. A commenter on IMDB captures the plot well writing:

Harry and Eve Graham are trying to adopt a baby. The head of the agency senses Harry is keeping a secret and does some investigating. He soon discovers Harry has done an unusual amount of traveling from his home in San Francisco to Los Angeles. Harry gets tracked down in LA where he has a second wife and a baby. Via flashbacks, Harry tells the adoption agent how he ended up in two marriages.

From imdb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045557/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

Harry’s second life is revealed by the adoption agency head played my Edmund Gwenn, who’s most known for playing Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street.

I thought the film would show…

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The Sword of Doom (1966)

I thought Jef Costello of Le Samouraï was the most cold-blooded killer in film but that was till I saw The Sword of Doom. A Japanese film set in the days of samurai, The Sword of Doom introduces viewers to Ryunosuke, a lone samurai. The embodiment of evil, Ryunosuke kills and rapes for something to get an advantage. Despite the masterful, choreographed sword fighting It’s hard to watch. I hoped that Toranosuke, a master who led a school for samurai, would vanquish Ryunosuke and that hope carried me through this film.

It’s no exaggeration that Ryunosuke is pure evil with no redeeming quality. He killed dozens with no remorse. He shows no chivalry whatsoever. He breaks a promise to the wife of a samurai he fights, rapes her, and her husband then divorces her. She winds up stuck living with Ryunosuke, who treats her badly, but then again that’s how a sociopath treats everyone. 

The cinematography is striking as is the choreography of the sword fighting. Even though Ryunosuke is completely loathsome, actor Tatsuya Nakadai (of The Human Condition, Yojimbo,  Sanjuro and dozens of other classics) deserves praise. 

When I lived in China, someone told me that the Chinese like the beauty of violence a lot more than Westerners do. I wonder if this is the case with The Sword of Doom. As repugnant as the hero was, I must say the film was beautiful. 

Below’s the beginning of the essay The Sword of Doom: Calligraphy in Blood by Geoffrey O’Brien. To read the whole essay, click here

Kihachi Okamoto’s The Sword of Doom is likely to strike the unalerted viewer as an exercise in absurdist violence, tracking the career of a nihilistic swordsman from his gratuitous murder of a defenseless old man to his final descent into what looks like a rehearsal for global annihilation, as, in a kind of ecstasy, he slaughters a seemingly endless army of attackers both real and phantasmal. 

Geoffrey O’Brien, criterion.com

While it’s beautiful, I don’t think it’s essential to watch The Sword of Doom. I don’t recommend it for people sensitive to violence.

Le Samouraï (1967)

Icy and aloof, hitman Jef Costello enters a night club, surveys the room, smiles at the chic woman playing the piano, proceeds to the back office and shoots a man. We don’t know the reason for the hit and we never do. 

The police are called and haul Jef and some others in for questioning and a line up. Some  witnesses’ think Jef is the one and and others insist he isn’t. The piano player knows he did it, but tells the police he didn’t. Why does she do that? 

Though Jef has ice water running through his veins, a beautiful red head agrees to give him an alibi and she sticks to it. The police sense she’s lying but even when they ransack her apartment, she sticks to her story. 

Jean-Pierre Melville’s classic Le Samouraï doesn’t feature any samurai’s. In fact, compared with Kurosawa’s or Tokuzo Tanaka’s samurai, you wonder what’s going on? Where’s his posse? Jef Costello is a loner par excellence, a ronin (i.e. a samurai without his feudal lord). Yes, up the chain Jef’s got a boss, but he has no idea who. We do. We see the big boss decide that someone needs to take Jef out. That plan goes awry because Jef’s that good. He’s unbeatable so the boss thinks maybe he is useful and should take on another contract. 

The police investigator admires Jef’s impeccable skills, but is determined to win. Yet his network of detectives can’t catch the elusive Jef. 

I haven’t seen a character this icy. He lives in near poverty in a dingy, gray apartment with a poor bird as his only companion. Even when he kisses significant other, no emotion registers. Yet he’s compelling.

Melville pares down the film to the minimum. Dialog is spare. Alan Delon, who plays Jef, took the role because when Melville pitched it to him, he realized there was no dialogue for the first 8 minutes. While it’s in color, the film mainly consists of grays, black and white. The only red is blood. 

By using the elements of silent films, Le Samouraï compels because it’s so simple, so stark.