He Walked By Night (1948)

He Walked By Night (1948)

http://fourstarfilmfan.com/2022/11/03/he-walked-by-night-1948/
— Read on fourstarfilmfan.com/2022/11/03/he-walked-by-night-1948/

A terrific read on my favorite film blog.

American Girl

Raw emotion fills American Girl, a film set in Taiwan. When she’s 13, Fen must return to her homeland Taiwan because her mother got cancer. Understandably, Fen wants to stay with her friends, to go to summer camp, to have a normal, safe life.

It’s a rocky transition for Fen and her younger sister. Getting used to living with her father again, going to a new, strict school, and coping with her mother’s illness and possible death, Fen is pushed to her limit. The entire family is on the verge of collapse.

While it’s a sad and emotionally exhausting film, I was drawn to Fen and her struggle with reverse culture shock and her mother’s illness. This is on top of the usual American conflicts many mothers and daughters experience.

I understand why this film garnered three Taiwanese film awards.

Un Triomph/The Big Hit

 

Based on a true story, Un Triomph tells the story of an actor who agrees to teach convicts to act. The initial rationale for the activity is to keep the men busy, to help them pass the time. As is usual for such projects the actor couldn’t connect with the men who were jaded 8 ways to Tuesday.

Eureka! The actor figures out what to do. He’s going to tilt at a windmill and have the men rehearse and event perform Waiting for Godot. This motley crew excels and the show is a hit. The critics rave about the show and soon theaters around the country ask for more performances.

The troupe hits the road and the men’s outlooks pivots. The ending was beautiful and real.

My Small Land

A gem

In My Small Land, after fleeing their homeland, Sarya and her family have found a new life in Japan. These Kurdish refugees speak Japanese well, go to school and work, have friends and are planning their futures. Sarya, 17, has excelled in school so that she can go to college to become a teacher. She works at a convenient store so she can save money for university.

Her father had protested against the government in their homeland and was imprisoned. They fled to Japan and all was well until Immigration rejected their claim for asylum. Now they can’t leave their town or work. Her father defies the law and soon is arrested. Now what?

As the oldest child, Sarya tries to keep her family afloat, but her financial troubles build and build. My Small Land is a beautiful film about a girl and her family trying to survive despite impossible rules. Sarya’s played by Lina Arashi with strength and innocence.

CODA

CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults and the film takes us into the home or Ruby Rossi, a high school senior, whose parents and older brother are deaf. Ruby is the only hearing person in the family, which is tough. She’s been bullied at school since kindergarten because she talked funny and her family was different.

The movie begins with Ruby belting out an Eta James song on her family’s commercial fishing boat with her dad and brother. Ruby’s needed to pitch in on the boat, monitor the radio and haggle with the fish buyers. She’s integral to her family’s success. Then she races off to school where she’s mocked because she smells like fish. As a bit of a lark, against her best friend’s wishes, she signs up for the school choir, which is taught by the demanding, often perturbed, Mr. Villalobos.

As her father points out, Ruby’s always been an adult. She translates for her parents when they visit the doctor, when the fish dealers are cheating them, when the local news interviews them.

Once Mr. Villalobos sees that Ruby has talent, he taps her to do a duet with a boy she has a little crush on. He pushes her to do her best and to apply to Berklee School of Music. He offers to work with her nights and weekends. Her parents know nothing of this or of her talent. Music isn’t something they appreciate. The plot revolves around the choice of helping her family when their fishing business is threatened or pursue her dream to study music.

Ruby’s down to earth and likable as a girl who’s the third adult in the family. Her singing is beautiful.

The film suffers a bit from the usual Hollywood contrivances: the either/or choice of living your dream or living a dreary working class life, the high school stereotypes with the boring classes, mean girls pecking order and the contest (here an audition for a scholarship). Mr. Villalobos has an acerbic wit, but it’s rather sad since he’s the only one who enjoys his sarcasm. No one ever criticizes him for that. It bothered me that though he states that he is a rags to riches story, he showed little interest till the end in Ruby’s family’s real struggle and the reason they needed her more than most families need a child to help with the family business. In a non-Hollywood film, I think he’d have more dimension as would her best friend.

2020 Best Picture, CODA is definitely worth seeing. Marlee Matlin should have gotten an Oscar for her role as Ruby’s mom just as Troy Kotsur did as her father.

Crowder’s Back!

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

I cued this up about 19 minutes in when they talk about the Signal Foundation’s rescue of a woman and her children

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.