Archive for WWII

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2018 by cdascher

bridgeOur most recent Oscars winning movie was The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957 British-American war film directed by David Lean. The film stars Alec Guinness as Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, the senior British officer; Sessue Hayakawa as Japanese Commandant Colonel Saito; William Holden as survivor and US Navy Commander Shears; and Jack Hawkins as British Major Warden. The film starts when a train full of British soldiers arrives at a Japanese labor camp under Saito’s control. Saito informs the group that regardless of rank, they will all have to perform manual labor to build a bridge over the nearby River Kwai to connect Bangkok and Rangoon.

This does not sit well with Nicholson, who explains repeatedly to Saito that the Geneva Conventions expressly exempt commanding officers from manual labor. However, Saito is having none of it. The two begin to engage in a battle of wills – with their men looking on. Shears is already at the camp, observing from afar and quite often trying to get out of as much work as possible.  

The David Lean streak continues here at Red Carpet Roulette. And we can’t have a David Lean movie without Alec Guinness. And while William Holden’s name is at the top of the poster, this really is Guinness’s show. (His name, by the way, is an anagram for ‘genuine class’.) I find Colonel Nicholson to be one of cinema’s more compelling characters. He refuses to legitimize Saito’s disregard for the laws of war with his own cooperation – even in the face of torture and possible death – and Guinness sells this as a sort of ultra-British stolid fanaticism. If on the homefront they are adopting an attitude of “keep calm and carry on,” Nicholson faces his captor with a strategy of “decline to submit and politely remind the enemy that he is a war criminal.” It’s impossible for the audience, like the men under his command, not to cheer him on as a righteous warrior. The scene where Saito concedes to Nicholson’s terms is gold. Saito ‘magnanimously’ rescinds his demand that the officers work under the pretense of a patriotic holiday and Nicholson stumbles out into the arms of his cheering men. Cut back to Saito in his office – crying. Continue reading

CASABLANCA (1942)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by katyotto
CasablancaA brief note on history: In the first few months of WWII, Nazi Germany overran most of mainland Europe. As France was being invaded, the French government split into two factions. The first was composed of those who accepted defeat and surrendered to Germany. The other refused surrender and continued fighting abroad, forming a government in exile. The remnants
of the French government that had capitulated formed a state that came to be known as “Vichy France”, after the French town it was based in. While nominally an independent nation, it was more like puppet regime of the Third Reich. The setting of the movie, the French colony of Morroco, exists in a sort of grey area: not under occupation by fascists, yet not really free from
them either.
 This was the second time I’d seen Casablanca, and I really love it. I actually asked at the beginning if Casablanca was a real place, because it does feel like a hazy, gray in-between – not quite real. From our first introduction to Humphrey Bogart’s character Rick, we are given clues as to his history. The question of why he is in Casablanca reveals itself in time. Rick, or Richard, delivers many of the one-liners that have made Casablanca one of the most quotable movies of all time. The real strength lies in his dry, deadpan delivery. One detestable character, Vichy Captain Louis Renault, is an unscrupulous character throughout the film. A casual acquaintance of Rick’s who regularly polices his saloon/gambling den, he uses his power to distribute traveling papers as leverage to procure sex from young women desperate to fly out of Casablanca to Lisbon and then on to the United States. By comparison, Rick is fiercely ethical – he takes decisive action on behalf of others and is very fair. But he begins to crumble when his former lover Ilsa walks into his bar.
Here we are at a real Golden Age of Hollywood classic, no obscure footnote in film history here. Casablanca is a film about passions. Of course there is the love story/love triangle at the plot’s core. But also hatred, nationalism and heroism- the passions of the World War still ongoing at the time of production- and with the outcome very much uncertain. Casablanca’s great strength is it’s dialogue. Character is revealed and plot is moved along by the words of the characters, but rarely in the “now I am going to Continue reading