Summer is here and so is Classic Film Book challenge! This summer I will try once again read Mai Zetterling’s memoirs. And maybe Åke Lindman’s biography. And Christa Wolf’s novel Divided Heaven. We’ll see if I finish six books within the time limit. The challenge runs until September 15th.

Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge

The sixties is absolutely my favourite decade. It had the best music, films, design and fashion. But it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t all about the Swinging London. There were no fun and games for some. Poor Cow is a novel by Nell Dunn. The writer along with Ken Loach adapted her book to film in 1967. Director Ken Loach is the master of social commentary. And apparently so is Nell Dunn.

I first read the book (Finnish translation Kukkinut ja kukoistanut) and I was disheartened. The story of a young mother Joy (who in her innocence is almost childlike) has married a thug, a thief and a robber named Tom. Life is pretty good as long as Tom has money. The young couple even move to Ruislip that is a more reputable part of London. Joy dreams of a traditional suburban life even though Tom lives the life of crime. And it is inevitable that things will fall apart. Tom gets caught for his crimes and goes to jail for a few years. Meanwhile Joy starts an affair with Tom’s friend Dave and for the first time Joy feels loved and respected. However, Dave is also a criminal and also goes to jail for 12 years. After that Joy is adrift. She finds work in a pub but soon turns to nude modelling and even prostitution. She sends letters to Dave proclaiming her undying love and promises to wait for him. She even tries to divorce Tom but when Tom comes back home she soon conforms to his presence and starts to dream about middle-class life again. And all along the reader knows that her dream is not really realistic. And even Joy herself knows that. Is it better to conform to your class and situation than to dream of a better life? Is it giving up when you face the facts and do whatever it takes to survive? Tom and Dave accept that the life of crime is all they know and make no apologies for it. And Joy doesn’t care how her man makes his living as long as it is also in her and her son’s benefit. The reality of working class life in London in the sixties seems a very dreary one indeed.

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The film directed by Ken Loach is kitchen sink at it’s best. Joy’s world is mostly sad, dirty and poor. You know it from the beginning that this town is surely no Swinging London. But what I like most about Ken Loach’s directing is that he always finds a tint of joy and happiness in the most unhappy situations. The part with Joy and Dave’s love affair is so sweet and lovely that you want them to have their happy ending while very well you know that it is not going to happen. The cast is also excellent: Carol White as Joy and Terence Stamp as Dave are wonderful. And Donovan‘s music is just right, comforting and beautiful. At the end of the film you want to believe that there is a way for Joy to be happy even if she doesn’t ever climb the social ladder.

This post is part of The Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon.

Black Magic was probably the first episode of The Bionic Woman that I ever saw and it remains one of my favourites. The plot is pretty typical for TBW. Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) is assigned a task to impersonate Tracy Carstairs, a member of the infamous Carstairs family. Jaime must find a top secret formula that the late Cyrus Carstairs (Vincent Price) planned to sell to the government. Unfortunately, there are others who want to find Cyrus’ formula just as bad. And Cyrus didn’t make finding it easy. He hid his belongings in his manor and now it’s up to his crooked relatives and employees to find them. This time Jaime has to use her special powers as well as her intelligence to solve the riddle and save the day.

This episode doesn’t actually have anything to do with black magic. I don’t know what the title refers to. The reason why I like this episode is that it has takes place in mysterious manor in the Louisiana swamp, there is an eery creature lurking in the manor and people disappear without a trace. And then there is the riddle to be solved. The miscellaneous group of characters are just perfect for this setting. There is Vincent Price in dual role as Cyrus and Manfred Carstairs. And who wouldn’t appreciate Vincent Price in a bit of a horror/mystery story? And then there’s ever so lovely Julie Newmar as Claudette Carstairs and Abe Vigoda as the butler. Great cast I would say. One thing that is lacking in Black Magic is Jaime and Oscar Goldman’s interaction. Oscar is not playing a major part in this story.

Gunfighters, cowboys and vampires, oh my! There is a strange disease spreading in a small western town. Young girls are withering and slowly dying and the local medicine man, Dr. Carter,  has no cure. When Dr. Carter is found dead in his buggy it is the vicious and greedy neighbour Buffer who is blamed for the murder. And the doctor’s daughter Dolores is out to get him. Unfortunately, there is greater evil lurking on the prairie, a gunfighter named Drake Robey and he doesn’t mind a little bloodshed since he is also a vampire.

It sounds silly. The idea to combine a western and a vampire horror film is quite unusual. But this B movie pulls it of. I liked the references to Hammer’s Dracula and the traditional horror soundtrack. And then there were the classic old west gunfights and land disputes not forgetting a stand-up sheriff. And an independent and brave heroine who also plays the role of damsel in distress. Maybe it’s campy but good entertainment nonetheless.

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DVD cover of the Italian release

 

 

 

Separation

04.02.2016

Separation (1967) was directed by Jack Bond and screenplay written by Jane Arden. According to the DVD booklet Separation is a forgotten gem. And why forgotten? Separation didn’t receive good reviews back in the sixties. Perhaps because it was too art-housey? Or because the protagonist Jane is a 40-year-old separated woman who has not just left her child and husband but also taken on a younger lover? The world was not ready for this sort of thing. It was not ready to see a middle aged woman having a nervous breakdown on film. I have to say I don’t understand why this film isn’t appreciated just like all the other great new wave films of the sixties. Like Blow Up or Clèo de 5 á 7 or Sedmikrásky. It has it all: Procol Harum on the soundtrack, wonderful clothing choices, a female protagonist who has the perfect facial expressions (I adore Jane Arden now), an elusive storyline and some dead-on social commentary on the role of women. What’s not to love?

Thanks again to BFI for this DVD & blu-ray release!

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Everyone who has ever studied media culture or film theory has at least heard of Laura Mulvey‘s essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975). The essay is definitely one of the major texts in feminist film theory and it is often quoted. Mulvey’s claim is basicly this: mainstream Hollywood film always positions the actress as the object of a male gaze and desire. Mulvey uses psychoanalytic theory in constructing her own theory of traditional film narrative as a manifestation of patriarchal system. One can ask is psychoanalytical theory still relevant to analyse film. I’m not really one to say. Mulvey’s point of view is interesting though.

Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) is Laura Mulvey’s and Peter Wollen’s second collaboration in filmmaking. It is an avant-garde classic and ever since I read Mulvey’s essay I’ve wanted to see this film. However, I was a bit hesitant to watch it since I don’t always appreciate avant-garde… Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The film is very political yet artistic. I quite liked the 360 degree panning shots that break the traditional narrative. The film score (by Mike Ratledge) is almost hypnotic. The film consists of chapters, most of them show protagonist Louise who struggles with society’s expectations of her as a woman and a mother. Mulvey and Wollen definitely have a  unique point of view that comes across in the film.

British Film Institute has yet again done a marvellous job by releasing this film on DVD and Blu-ray. Extras include Mulvey’s and Wollen’s first film Penthesileia and audio commentary with Mulvey.

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Old Film Magazines

18.01.2016

I bought two old Finnish film magazines from a second-hand bookshop. Filmin kasvot was published between 1945 and 1949, Elokuva-aitta between 1932 and 1968. On the cover of Elokuva-aitta (5/1948) is one of my favourite film stars, Lea Joutseno. On the cover of Filmin kasvot (3/1946) is of course Hedy Lamarr.

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These magazines are so adorable, sweet and innocent. Clearly meant for the young female film fan. There are articles about international films and Finnish films as well. And Hollywood gossip 😛 There is a column for readers to ask questions about film stars and how to send letters asking for an autograph.

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What I like the most is that there are reviews of films from non-English-speaking countries. Like in Filmin kasvot there is a short review of a Norwegian film Vi vil leve (1946) and a Danish film De røde enge (1945). These days it is quite rare in Finland to see international films in mainstream cinemas. Or to even read about them in (women’s) magazines. If I wanted to see either of these films, would it be possible? De røde enge is available on dvd in a Danish online store but… no subtitles. I might understand some Danish but hardly enough.

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