Film Review -Bitter Harvest (2017)

THE HOLODOMOR

Holodomor is a word which translated literally means death by starvation.  The word comes from the Ukrainian words holod, ‘hunger’, and mor, ‘plague’ possibly from the expression moryty holodom, ‘to inflict death by hunger’ (Source: Wikipedia). The Ukrainians use it more commonly to refer to a literal event which occurred in the early 1930’s when Stalin’s government created a famine. The intentional policies of his government led to the death of millions of Ukrainians from starvation and subsequent disease. Although the final tally of deaths varies, it ranks with the Holocaust as one of the worst tragedies of this century. Bitter Harvest is the first Western feature film to portray this historical event onscreen.

SUMMARY

Yuri and Natalka are childhood sweethearts who have grown up together in a small Ukranian village. They have come of age in a time where the ruling Russian monarchy has been ousted and Communism has become a popular governing concept. It is a chaotic time, particularly as the Ukraine has taken advantage of Russia’s political instability to assert their own claim to national identity and independence…and failed.

Yuri and Natalka lives remain relatively untouched by the turmoil. Their biggest concerns are more personal. Yuri (Max Irons) is an artist who struggles to live up to the reputation of his famous warrior grandfather. Natalka (Samantha Barks) worries that her illegitimate birth will taint Yuri’s reputation if they marry. But the outside world soon crashes in on their simple life. Orders from Moscow have sent Russian soldiers to the Ukrainian heartland to confiscate the wealth and property of this area. These soldiers are cruel and violent as they force collectivization on formerly free landowners and peasants. But Stalin needs the grain from this Eastern breadbasket to fuel his army.

 

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Foreign Film Friday -Sissi (1955)

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Sissi is a German film about the real life historical figure of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The real Elisabeth (nicknamed Sisi) had royal Bavarian blood and was well connected through her many royal relations. She was fifteen when her first cousin, Franz Ferdinand, the Austrian emperor, fell in love with her and coerced her into marriage. Though she was renowned for her beauty, once married she lived a rather unhappy life. Sisi’s rather free upbringing made it difficult for her to adjust to the rules and strictures of court life. This was made even more difficult by her overbearing and controlling mother-in-law. Though her husband loved her, he stayed busy being emperor and she didn’t reciprocate the depth of his feelings. Although she is the longest reigning empress of Austria, she spent most of those years away from court and uninvolved in its’ politics.

Sissi is the first of a trilogy of German films which portray the life of this famous woman.  As with most historical films, it is fairly romanticized. Still it manages to give a somewhat true accounting of Sisi’s early life.

The picture covers the brief period of Elisabeth’s life prior to catching the eye of the Emperor until the day of their wedding. It introduces other historical characters such has her sister Helene, who had been the original intended bride of the Emperor. Other characters which appear are Sisi’s parents and siblings, and her aunts and uncles who were the ruling monarchs of other German principalities. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Sissi (1955)”

Documentary Review -Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015)

One of the reasons I love books and films are for the stories they tell. But I’m not just a huge fan of fictional stories. I’m also fascinated by real people’s individual stories; their personal experiences, what makes them tick etc. This is why when I heard about Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story I was interested in watching it. Then of course, I read several positive reviews about this ordinary couple who worked in an extraordinary industry and knew I had to see it. Harold and Lillian Michelson were a behind the scenes Hollywood institution. Despite all of my interest and research into film history, I had never heard of them before.

ABOUT Harold and Lillian

The Michelson’s moved to Hollywood from Florida in 1947. Harold was a self-taught artist who eventually found a job working in the movie industry as a Storyboard Artist. He slowly worked his way up to become an Production Designer. Lillian (like myself) loved to read. She used it as away of escaping a busy and demanding life as a wife and mother. This interest led her to become a volunteer for a film studio as a researcher making sure that the movies were as historically and otherwise accurate as possible. Along the way she became the owner and manager of a huge collection of books and other source materials. Continue reading “Documentary Review -Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015)”

Classic Film Review -Star of Midnight (1935)

Star of Midnight SUMMARY

When a friend approaches attorney Clay Dalzell requesting his help in finding a missing young woman, Dal reluctantly agrees. Before this amateur detective can even begin, long time friend and wannbe girlfriend Donna Mantin also requests his help retrieving some incriminating letters from a local gangster. That same evening a masked actress disappears from the theater after being recognized and Dal’s friend is shot in Dal’s apartment.

Dal must try to piece together the various puzzle pieces of these seemingly unconnected events while also fending off Donna’s amorous advances. But Dal is more accommodating towards Donna’s sleuthing efforts and allows her to help him investigate. No sooner do they discover a clue, but it turns up more questions. Will Dal and Donna crack this case or will it crack them? Continue reading “Classic Film Review -Star of Midnight (1935)”

Foreign Film Friday -Mr. & Mrs. Murder (2013)

SUMMARY

Charlie and Nicola Buchanan are a happily married couple who also happen to work as crime scene cleaners. Their business allows them to feed their interest in solving crimes as amateur detectives. Aided by their niece Jess, they put their deductive reasoning and observations skills to good use as they work with local detective and friend Peter Vinetti to gather evidence that the police might not otherwise obtain. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Mr. & Mrs. Murder (2013)”

It Takes a Thief Blogathon -Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Unlike in real life, in the cinematic world, thieves are usually lovable rogues thanks to their charm, intelligence and ingenuity. I blame Ernst Lubitsch. Long before we knew the names of John Robie, Thomas Crown or Danny Ocean, Lubitsch introduced us to the ideal image of a suave international thief in Trouble in Paradise.

SUMMARY

Our first introduction to Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) comes just after a wealthy guest in a Venetian hotel has been robbed of 20,000 francs. Gaston, masquerading as a Baron, waits in a nearby hotel room for his dinner date, instructing a waiter on how to arrange the dinner. Before leaving to complete his instructions, the waiter picks a leaf off of Gaston’s dinner jacket. This is our first clue that Gaston is not all he seems.

Cue the arrival of Lily (Miriam Hopkins), a glamorous blonde claiming the title of Countess. She enters bemoaning the gossip of her peers, which will soon disclose her private dinner date with the Baron. But Lily is not what she appears to be either. Over dinner, the two confront each other over their real identities while also preening with pride over their skills as they reveal what they have stolen from each other. However, it’s not just wallets, watches and garters which are stolen this night, but hearts. It seems light fingers serve as an aphrodisiac. Gaston and Lily are instantly smitten. Continue reading “It Takes a Thief Blogathon -Trouble in Paradise (1932)”

Top Ten Tuesday -Favorite Films of My Childhood

Today’s Topic: Top Ten Books I Want My Future Children to Read (Or nieces and nephews, Godchildren, etc.)

Hosted by: The Broke and the Bookish

I’m deviating a bit from this week’s prompt. I have been an avid reader since I was about four years old, so I read plenty of books in my childhood. But when I think back, the stories that stick out the most in my memory are those from the films I watched. These are movies that I love to recommend not just to the children in my life but also adults. Continue reading “Top Ten Tuesday -Favorite Films of My Childhood”

Eve Arden Blogathon -The Voice of the Turtle (1947)

I’ve been on a bit of an Eleanor Parker kick this year. So I chose to watch The Voice of the Turtle for her sake. However, when Eve Arden came onscreen I finished it for hers. But then, who can blame me? Eve Arden has always been a scene stealer.

SUMMARY

Originally a popular Broadway play, The Voice of the Turtle (also titled One for the Book) was adapted for film in 1947 starring Parker, Arden and the pre-political Ronald Reagan. Parker is the innocently sweet Sally Middleton who has been disillusioned in love. She is the opposite of her good friend Olive (Arden) who has no problem dating up all the various soldiers who come through New York on their weekend furloughs. Continue reading “Eve Arden Blogathon -The Voice of the Turtle (1947)”

Classic Film Review -Light in the Piazza

I have a shameful confession to make. Although I adore classic films, I’m a bit of a snob about it too.  As a general rule I prefer black and white pre-war (that’s WWII) pictures. I like them even better if they are comedies. Although I have found some movies which don’t meet my criteria, generally these types of films are my first choice. So, a movie such as Light in the Piazza, a drama set in Florence in the 1960’s in full color is just the type of film I put off watching. But after finally giving it a chance, I found out just how much personal prejudices can be wrong. And I’ve never been more glad.

SUMMARY

Mother and daughter, Meg and Clara Johnson, are newly arrived in Florence from North Carolina. They are there to see the historical sights. But unbeknownst to Clara, this open ended vacation is all for her benefit. Because of an accident when she was young Clara has the mental capabilities of a ten year old but the body of a grown woman. She attracts men, but her innocent exuberance towards them leaves her vulnerable. After an incident with the grocery man, her mother whisks her away as a means of escape.

While in Florence the Johnson women meet a handsome young Italian man by the name of Fabrizio Naccarelli who is instantly smitten with the pretty blonde Clara. The attraction is mutual, but Clara’s naivety concerns Meg who does everything she can to keep the two apart.  She becomes even more worried when Fabrizio’s father encourages the relationship. Able to see that Clara and Fabrizio truly love each other she decides to separate them. Meg drags Clara with her to Rome where she has arranged for her husband to meet them. But after a conversation with her husband and witnessing Clara’s despair, Meg is left with a very important choice to make.

To read my full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

 

Classic Film Review -The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

SUMMARY

Recently widowed, Lucy Muir demands her independence from her deceased husband’s overbearing family. With a small inheritance from his estate, Mrs. Muir is able to rent a small seaside cottage for her daughter, maid and herself.

Though the rental agent warns her that Gull Cottage is haunted by its’ former owner, a sea captain, Mrs. Muir insists on renting the property. It isn’t too long before the ghost of Captain Daniel Gregg attempts to frighten her away. You see, he has plans for his house and doesn’t intend to share it. But Lucia (Lu-CHEE -A) as the Captain calls her, makes for a formidable opponent. Lucia wins Daniel’s respect and they agree to share the house.

Slowly, and despite their extreme personality differences, they form a warm friendship. When Lucy is in danger of losing Gull Cottage, Daniel devises a way for her to buy the house outright. Eventually, they each develop deeper feelings for each other.  But when Lucia becomes torn between the living and the dead Daniel must make a painful decision.

To see my full review on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.