Charm City Kings Panel

Thank you Sapphire Chase for hosting this panel discussion on Charm City Kings, a film about teens who love dirt bikes.

Queen Christina (1933)

Starring Greta Garbo, Queen Christina shows a woman who became the leader of Sweden as a child when her father died, lead like a man. Garbo captivates. I don’t think I’d seen her in a movie, just in photos. My, was she compelling. Her magnetism keeps all eyes on her. This strong, passionate queen had no qualms about leadership. Her problem is the nagging requests for her to marry the King of Spain.

In the beginning of the film she had no desire to marry. When she gets fed up with the wheedling to coax her into the King of Spain’s arms, she bolts from the court. Dressed as a man, followed by her mentor, she encounters the Spanish envoy whose carriage falls into a rut. She teases and mocks him and his retinue. When she overhears the envoy’s plan to take a room at a nearby inn, she beats him to it and takes the last room for miles. Incognito, the queen teases the envoy when he arrives at the inn. Yet he gets the last laugh when the innkeeper, who’s swayed by the envoy’s higher offer, convinces the disguised queen to share the room with the envoy.

It isn’t long before the queen’s gender is revealed to the envoy and before you know it, they’re madly in love. Of course that presents problems because 1) the envoy’s mission is to convey his King’s proposal to Queen Christina and 2) he’s bound to discover his love’s true identity.

Garbo gives a strong performance and the story offers a surprise ending. The costuming was elegant and arresting. I’ve got to see more of Garbo’s films. You should too.

Note: There was a Queen Christina, who ruled Sweden in the 17th century, but I can’t find any evidence that this film isn’t more than conjecture.

Sanditon

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PBS/BBC’s Masterpiece drama Sanditon just hasn’t grabbed me. Based on an unfinished Jane Austen novel, it actually seems like a phlegmatic version of one of Austen’s masterpieces. The cast features Charlotte, a bright heroine who to me seems like a cross between Lizzy Bennett and her drab sister Mary with a mix of her friend Lydia. There’s an arrogant hero, who I expect will change after learning from the heroine. There’s a strict, rich widow and a fop or two. The only new character is a woman from Antigua who’s Black. There’s a possible injection of orignality, but like the others this character doesn’t do much for me.

The story starts with a couple getting stranded by Charlotte’s house and when this real estate developer invites Charlotte to his seaside development for an unknown period of time, her parents agree even though Charlotte’s father is wary of the wild ways of seaside villages. I couldn’t believe that even if it was the norm to let your young daughter go off with strangers, that this father wouldn’t have. Of course, money’s a big issue and the developer’s out of cash and his business is in peril.

The woman from Antigua, though an heiress, is treated with prejudice by all the social set she encounters. Her family has died and she’s under the supervision on her guardian, but she has a fierce desire to return home.

All in all, I think the story is predictable and I miss Austen’s perfect wit. To me the show doesn’t measure up to Poldark, Victoria, Mr. Selfridge, or The Paradise. I wish they’d add a season to either of those shows than mess around with an unfinished Austen novel.

Wings of Desire (1987)

Wim Wenders fascinated me with his Wings of Desire.¬†This story of and angel, who wants to become human to experience human life is light on plot and on desire. Middle aged angel, Damiel slowly moves through Berlin, observing humans with compassion. At times he and his angel friend Cassiel do console or guard a frail human, but it’s with a light touch. Sometimes they succeed, but not always.

The film’s plot line is lax and the tone mellow. There’s no Hollywood hero with a high-level desire who speeds through the story facing obstacles till he wins in the end. Here a pensive angel wonders about humanity. A female trapeze artist catches his eye. He’d like to meet her, to woo her, but he lives in a different realm and faces few personal obstacles. Aristotle would have tightened things up, for sure.

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The film, which was produced without a script, captures all manner of emotions and small experiences. It delights with beautiful images and no over-the-top special effects. The effects are made as they would be in the 1920s with the camera used to its utmost. We’re won over with simplicity and that was a joy.

The angels could change at will and it wasn’t hard to do so. Peter Falk plays an actor whom Dameil meets now and then. It turns out Falk’s character is a former angel so he mentors Damiel a bit. Again everything’s done with a light touch and Wings of Desire is as much an homage to old Berlin as it is a story of an angel.

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I watched while listening to Wim Wenders’ commentary which included some discussion with Peter Falk. Wenders talks at length about how he can’t film with a script and how he prefers the uncertainty of taking an idea and creating the story day by day. I can’t imagine a studio today to allow such a thing. Also Wenders commented on sights featured in the film and how they’ve disappeared or changed. His love for Berlin was deep and lasting.

I could see people who expect the usual obstacles and the usual ending to a romance to be disappointed, but I was willing to take in the gorgeous images and see where the film would go. So few films meander as much that I felt I could indulge Wenders.

Derry Girls

I’ve sped through two 6 episode seasons of Derry Girls and loved every minute. Set in Londonderry in the 1990s when Northern Ireland was experiencing the “Troubles” a time of military occupation and bombings by the IRA,¬†Derry Girls focuses on a tight knit group of teenage girls growing up amidst violence. In spite of all this we see Erin Quinn and her friends and family dealing with taking exams, the goody-two shoes at school, mothers, the fragility of a friendship.

Writer Lisa McGee is adept at weaving stories together and taking her audience on a funny and meaningful tour of teenage Ireland. I commend her for the funniest laundry joke I’ve ever seen and for adeptly mixing hilarity and pathos. She protects no sacred cows. Now there is a lot of swearing, so you’ve been warned.

Each actor superb and as an ensemble they produce delight from start to finish. There is no weak link in this cast.

I can’t wait for Season 4.

Derry Girls is available on Netflix and www.meilju22.com.

Henry V

For my Great Books Book Club, I read and watched Shakespeare’s Henry V. I saw the 1989 film directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also adapted the play and starred in it.

Filled with intrigue, camaraderie, betrayal, battles and even wooing, Henry V is compelling. The best speech is this “We few, we happy few” band of brothers speech. It’s right at the climax of the film as the Brits are about to battle the French who far outnumber them. Like many speeches in Shakespeare it’s stirring and wise.

I did fast-forward through much of the battle scenes because they were authentically brutal, but at the same time true to life. While the film doesn’t contain every line from the play, it’s a faithful version and still packs a wallop and ends with a cute flirtation between Henry and the French princess. The end does have a very different tone than the main part of the film. Is that an error?

If so, I’ll forgive it because it gave another facet of Hennry’s personality.

Summertime (1955)

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I was surprised that Katerine Hepburn could bore me. In Davide Lean’s Summertime (1955) she did. Hepburn plays Jane, an American secretary on her dream vacation in Venice. She’s dreamed of this trip for years and has a lot of energy and high expectations. Soon Jane’s pouting because her trip isn’t as idyllic as she hoped. She doesn’t have any horrible mishaps like getting robbed or sick so to me she just needed to look for some alternatives. Maybe she should go out for a day with the American couple who seemed a bit corny, maybe she should go to a different city or get a tour guide over the age of 10 instead of the urchin who looked about 6, had no shoes, spoke English better than a lot of Italian university students and who spoked cigarettes, which Jane gave him. (That was something you wouldn’t see today. Jane didn’t spoke on screen ever, but had a pack and bargained with this ragamuffin for.)

Jane does bump into an handsome Italian, Renato in the Saint Marco’s Square and the next day happens to go into Renato’s shop. There’s clearly some attraction, but Jane’s awfully standoffish despite her severe loneliness which makes it impossible to enjoy Italy.

About half of the film consists of Jane moping, which made it drag. Eventually, Renato pursues Jane, who soon discovers he’s married. At that revelation, Jane wants to end things, but she’s so lonely.

Ugh!

Jane had built this trip up in her mind so much that it was destined to disappoint. When she talks of home, it’s not as though she hates it. We’re not sure why she never married. She does mention going to a real ball as teen so she’s had opportunities for romance apparently.

Renato continues to pursue her and responds with pat answers to questions about his wife and children. Jane could do better. I hoped she’d end things with Renato.

All in all, I found the film dull despite Hepburn’s ability to be clever and energetic.