Posted in Film Review

‘Moonlighting’, (1982) – directed by Jersy Skolimowski – film review

The history of immigrants equals to the history of humankind. It has always been and will be part of the civilization of the world: Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the Trojans’ migration into modern-day Italy, the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, the Norman conquest of England, peoples of all continents landing on America, and many others still counting to this date. It is innately natural for man to move to a place for different reasons, whether they result from cohesion, or volition, or a little bit of both. Jersy Skolimowski’s “Moonlighting” (1982), a British film about a polish electrician named Nowak leading a team working illegally in Lonon, focuses on his daily moments of existential vertigo between the winds of the world and provisional needs of livelihood.


Nowak is an intelligent laborer who accepts the offer from a Polish government official to renovate his house in London with lucrative promise, plus a taste of glamourous capitalism. Yet at the first taste of cold London and cold Londoner that makes his presence miserably pathetic and casually ignorable, Nowak decides to survive in a game of hide-and-seek as best as he can. The work is his only painkiller that rids anxiety and worries off his chest, but the effect is only temporary and minimal. As Rome is a great city when you have money, so is London, and Nowak and his team live their provisional days in hiding and stalking under the suspicion of their not-so-gentlemanly and kindly English neighbors. They regard the Polish workers as no more different than poor foreigners unsuitable for their daily English landscapes. Nowak chooses to be a Hector of his own with his crew of non-speaking polish in a vertigo of existential quandy.


Setting in the early 1980s when Poland was going through her first labor pain of democracy with Lech Wałęsa leading Solidarity Movement, the film’s realistic portrayal of illegal workers’ dailiness is visually palatable. The narrative of Nowak transcends to a ballad of Man anxiously adhering to a sense of purpose that gives him a reason to live in a harsh land surrounded by strangers who don’t like them. It’s a film about how changes in the world affect an individual’s daily life based on a symbolic interactionist theory. The present and future of Nowak and his team cannot escape from the winds of changes crossing their faces, which change the compass of the wheel of fortune.

The film is a hidden gem, starring the veteran English actor Jeremy Irons, whose excellent performance of Nowak deserves special recognition from the Polish audience. Irons is so convincingly Polish in appearance, manners, and speech that the non-speaking performance of the other Polish actors as his team of laborers serves to make his presence more outstandingly Polish. Also, the director being Polish himself contributes to the genuineness of the story’s narrative, which guards against patronizingly officious outsider’s perspectives of the people he wants to tell about because it is also his story. For these reasons, Moonlighting is a bracing film that makes you think whether existentialism in which experience proceeds essence is right.

Posted in Film Review

‘Hawaii’ (1966) – film essay

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Religion is a man-made institution that has a hierarchy with a set of values and norms as dictated in protocols. Even the reformation trailblazer Martin Luther, who protested against institutional abuses of the Church, is not entirely free from the criticism. Thus, I hold a healthy amount of preconception about a religious individual whose outwardly practice of faith incongruent with his or her inwardly reflection of personality, which is a view shared by Gandhi’s opinion attesting, “I admire Jesus, not the followers of his.” The movie “Hawaii” (1966), an American drama about Calvinist missionaries and the Hawaiian natives directed by George Roy Hill, echoes the sentiment conflated with the profundity of religious zeal and the nature of humanity laid bare in the clash of cultures.

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The epic adventure story is structured around stern Calvinist Reverend Abner (played by Max von Sydow) with his faithful and delightful wife, Jerusha (played by Julie Andrews). Abner’s devotion to the religious cause at the urge of young Hawaiian prince Keoki at the Yale Divinity School brings them to the beautiful heathen islands of Hawaii. Abner is a good man disoriented in the realm of dreary religiosity and ethnocentrism. He sees the beauty in his wife Jerusha and the land of the people he comes to serve but averts his eyes from it with the Bible on the one hand. He keeps all-natural feelings of love, joy, sadness, and even jealousy locked in his puritanical castle of mind and preaches the ire of God that imbues the natives with fear, not love. One look at him will make a man like Captain Hoxworth (played by Richard Harris) infuriated with contempt for the loss of her beloved Jerusha to such ungainly zealot. Abner is, in short, a man of God and would like to think him so as the will of God he serves.

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Max Von Sydow’s skillful performance of the role of Abner invokes both contempt and sympathy for the character who does not know how to act in the intimacy of human relationships. It seems that Sydow is particularly good at playing a clergy as he also did as veteran Jesuit Father Merrin in “The Exorcist” (1973). The tall slim figure carries the intellectual air without the pretentiousness that separates him from the mass, giving him the likeness of a suffering philosopher in the wrong place at the wrong time. In playing the internal character in the external context of reality, Sydow does a beautifully nuanced job of capturing all the inner conflicting emotions ranging from joy to disappointment, to ire mixed with envy, and to sorrow. Thus, Abner’s follies and foibles are forgivable and, in fact, a medium for his new conversion into the religion of Charity, Hope, and Faith.

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The movie portrays a realistic portrayal of a missionary living in a foreign land. The excellent Jesuit method of enculturation is possible only when he is celibate without a family to support. Then, even mastery of enculturation guarantees no eradication of racial and cultural pride of the actor. Perhaps, the wish of an entirely benign messenger of the Gospel is vain mother to the thought in the ideation of an impeccable man of God. The best thing is to accept our human fallibility by which the meaning of God and the purpose in life come to a realization. “Hawaii” shows us a process of conversion into the mystery of faith occurring not in the pagan natives but Reverend Abner in the beautiful kaleidoscope of nature’s sceneries and the people living in them. This movie deserves its merit on the list of great films of all time for the posteriority.

Posted in Film Review

‘A Harlot’s Progress (2006)’, directed by Justin Hardy – review

71+BMGiROqL._RI_Throughout human civilization, prostitution has been arguably something of a necessary evil, intentional or unintentional, an institution of erotic bartering between a client and s prostitute for wants of flesh and fortune. For a client, it’s all about releasing his rapacious libido in a brothel, whereas for a prostitute offering a pleasure of the flesh can be a means to a social mobility in a period when women’s place was confined by biological determinism. But that social mobility would be possible with the intervention of Goddess Fortuna. ‘A Harlot’s Progress’ follows a life of an unfortunate prostitute named Mary through the eyes of William Hogarth, an English painter and social critic renowned for choice of his subjects crossing the strata of the social class system for inspirations.

The painter Hogarth chooses Mary as his unofficial muse for various paintings depicting modern moral subjects as a series of picturesque statements of social criticism on the oppressed conditions of the poor whose lives are already determined by their biological and social statuses. Likewise, Mary’s downfall from a beautiful courtesan to a common, over-the-hill backstreet slut is already a foregone conclusion for the nature of the profession. Besides, she’s not exactly cut out for a fine prostitute with artful plans to forward her rank and condition; she has a pride but no courage. She yearns for a polite society, but her frailty of character prevents her from advancing in her career to a mistress of a high-birth man. In other words: Mary chose a wrong job that ruined her life.

The film is said to be based upon a true story with references to the famous figures of William Hogarth and his friend Henry Fielding, the author of Tom Jones. It gives the veracity of the event with a charge of authority, rendering the story of lachrymose life of Mary emotionally powerful and factually unchallenged in the veneer of historicity. Yet, in terms of objectivity of the stance that the film takes, its view on prostitution in the 18th century London is clearly askew on the side Mary because she is cast as being a victim of the social evil with her purity of the soul torn apart by men’s rampant animalistic sexual desires as presented by all uniformly unattractive and perverted men on screen. In fact, the only pitiful character in the film seems to be Mother Needham, who is mercilessly abused on the pillory for three consecutive days and nights of stoning, defiling, and cursing from the public who were once or twice her clients and neighbors. The sight is sufficient to incite pathos because of her plea for life authentically delivered by the excellent performance of actress Geraldine James.

No one can throw stones at Mary for her life of “sin and depravity” because there’s no one who is immaculately cleared of guilt and sins to judge her character as arbitrator of morals. But then she is responsible for her own life with her own free will to choose to be a harlot. For not all destitute women driven by abject economic conditions are succumbed to the trade of the flesh. Nonetheless, this film is a good period drama that resurrects the ethos of the time with the parlance, habits, and costumes of different classes peculiar to the 18th century, well executed by a cast of classically-trained fine thespians.

Posted in book review

Jane Eyre (1983 BBC TV Mini-Series)

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Jane Eyre, the Timeless Classic

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (under the pen name of “Currer Belle” to discombobulate her biological determinism) is neither a romantic novel about a lonely young woman falling for her rich master nor a proto-feminist literature subtly championing women’s economic independence and choice to select their lovers on their own. It is a story of a resilient and noble spirit armed with education, clothed in a canopy of humanity, and adorned with reflective beauty of the mind that transforms physical plainness into comeliness. That’s what makes our heroine Jane Eyre timelessly unforgettable, undeniably attractive; perchance, that’s why this novel has been made into a series of film versions for television and cinema resurrecting the ambiance of the period and bringing the hauntingly impassioned characters into life. Of all the dramatized adaptations of Jane Eyre, this 1983 BBC mini-series version merits itself in the movie firmament as the authoritative translation of Charlotte Bronte’s original novel, wonderfully delivered by a cracking screenplay, a brilliant cast of performers, and a correct setting of the story, resembling none other than themselves altogether in this riveting panoply of Bronte’s dazzling creation.

Dramatized by Alexander Baron, this TV series is composed of eleven episodes that faithfully capture the epochal moments of the passionate heroine Jane Eyre from the moments she was cruelly castigated by her callous aunt and her equally sordid cousins to her eight years of boarding school experience, to the fateful encounter with the brooding but vulnerable Mr. Rochester, and to the significant events packed full of surprises and serendipity worth every reward to the lonely Jane. The gem of this BBC miniseries is that each of the episodes is treated as a small story – that is, a story embedded in a whole story as if it were a short story itself – so you can skip the early years of Jane and jump into her employment as governess for Adele, the only daughter of Mr. Rochester at Thornfield without feeling adrift from the previous story that will defenestrate you to the middle of nowhere in the whole story. Of course, for those of us who have read and re-read the novel since the time immemorial, it’s a foregone conclusion, but even if you haven’t, take heart and play it fast forward to meet the grown Jane (although she’s only nineteen years old.) in her tantalizing, suspenseful moments with Mr. Rochester and even St. John Rivers.

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Zelah Clarke as Jane Eyre and Timothy Dalton as Edward Rochester

At the heart of the drama lies the commendable performance of the characters: Jane Eyre, played by Zelah Clarke, Edward Rochester aka “Mr. Rochester,” by Timothy Dalton, and St. John Rivers, by Andrew Bicknell invest the drama with the beautifully nuanced dialogues and gestures, which are never outlandishly displayed, vying for individual attention, but harmoniously concerted that impart the enthusiasm and the verisimilitude to the story. The appearances, gestures, and diction of these three characters are exactly what I have always imagined them to be in my mind’s eye. Clarke’s rendition of Jane Eyre is the finesse itself that would make Charlotte Bronte happy with her performance as well as physiognomy. Jane is a passionate soul, but conservative, if not conventional. She is an intelligent woman who loves her gruff but deeply hurt and lonely Edward Rochester as her equal despite a sea of an age difference and his petulant past. Unlike other Jane Eyres played previously and posteriorly, Clarke’s Jane epitomizes the heroine of oddly beautiful enigma personified: the plain but pretty, expressive but demure, passionate but docile, sensitive but intense, patient but yearning… Which is befittingly summarized by St. John Rivers, wonderfully and unforgettably played by Andrew Bicknell: “She has an unusual face rather…The grace and harmony of beauty are wanting in her features. She is not at all handsome…” I have seen other film versions of Jane Eyre, but none other than this Clarke’s Jane Eyre has won my approval in terms of all things regarding the heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s original novel.

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Andrew Bicknell as St. John Rivers

That goes the same for Timothy Dalton’s irrepressible Edward Rochester and Andrew Bicknell’s stoical but misguided St. John Rivers. On a personal note, Bicknell seems to nail the role down as handsome and intelligent St. John Rivers, who prioritizes his religious duties as a parson over his human feelings and emotions for his beautiful and kind-hearted admirer Rosemund Oliver in the irrational belief that stoicism is the grist for the mill of vocation as a man of the cloth. He believes that it is his calling to be a missionary in India and that it behooves him to abnegate sensuous delights to which a man is naturally inclined with all his might. Watching Bicknell playing the character makes me wonder if the casting director or the screenwriter had the uncanny ability to conjure up the spirit of Charlotte Bronte and ask of her the fitting image of the character before the production of the drama. The tall, imposing manly figure of St. John Rivers with beautiful Grecian facial features and golden hair is just as the description created by Bronte in the novel as if she had seen Andrew Bicknell in the peculiar alchemy of literature that enabled her to look into the future and to view her character incarnate.

All in all, this 1983 BBC miniseries of Jane Eyre will arrest your full attention to every scene of the episodes without infelicity and pomposity that classical period dramas sometimes tend to produce on account of obsolete diction and rude gestures that look incongruously emphatic to our modern senses and sensibilities. This is a quaintly gorgeous drama without the ostentatious glamor of television drama exhibiting luminous Vanity Fair; it shows that just simple good scripts based on the loyal adaptation of the original novel and excellent performance of the fine cast that seems to be destined for the roles can translate the imaginative world of the author into the visual firmament of television drama this beautifully and impressively in a way that makes you feel the emotions of the characters by passing over to their inner worlds.

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Posted in book review

“Mind Your Language” (TV Series 1977-1979)

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Have you ever tried to explain a certain colloquial expression, such as “kick the bucket,” “shoot off his mouth,” or “until the fat lady sings” to someone whose mother tongue is anything but English? You probably have been delighted to find out how meanings of words can yield multifarious feats of creative interpretations, which can also, in turn, be prospective nouveau vocabulary of the most effectively deployed Lingua Franca of our time. After all, that’s what Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare, and George Bernard Shaw did to the English language, which is still kicking and alive in keeping up with the evolution of our own cultural progress. And certainly, the students in the evening English class are a tour de force of such cultural enterprise in this hilarious original British sitcom “Mind Your Language.”

The story of Jeremy Brown, an ingenuous young academic teaching English to his slightly offbeat motley crew of foreign adult students at evening classes in an adult education college in London forms the basis of the show. Mr. Brown has to deal with his students’ creatively wily answers to his questions, while trying to instill in them the elements of the English language with his Oxford-educated academic credentials. In fact, it’s the class that gets the laugh by pushing their naive enthusiastic young teacher into an imbroglio of jocular situations all for the celebration of joviality in their evening English class after hard days of work. In bewilderment of his students’ wily but innocuous chicanery, Mr. Brown’s affection for his class grows bigger and deeper as the show continues; you see him becoming something of Jack of all trades for his students as well as the principal, Ms. Courtney. You will find Mr. Brown at the police station, in court, in hospital, on the dance floor at the school fete, and of course at the pubs with his beloved students or Sidney, the cockney school caretaker.

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The Cast of “Mind Your Language”

The delightful peals of hearty laughter, the bounty of warmth, and even remedial lessons of English embroider on these three scintillating series of the show produced by London Week Television between 1977 and 1979 for ITV in England. Each of the episodes was ingeniously written with simply brilliant feats of words and ideas on the grounds of realistic situations relating to anyone who speaks English as a foreign language or anyone who deals with such person in reality. Also, the collective efforts and performance of the cast with each actor and actress harmoniously contributing the best of the self to the respective character is the ipso facto gem of the perennial popularity of the show to this date. All in all, the setting, the topic, the storyline, and the cast of “Mind Your Language” give you the idea that in order to make a good TV comedy show that strikes the chords with a wide range of people regardless of ethnic, racial, and/or social backgrounds, all you have to do is to look into the everyday life around you and see if there is anything that transcends the subjectivity of the aforementioned backgrounds in order to reach the universal code of humor and humanity without pontificating social/political ideology. For these reasons, “Mind Your Language” is an unmissable feast of comedy of intelligence, wit, humor, and a touch of innocence that deserves of its recognition in the canons of British Classic Comedy.