She was referred to as “Soviet Sophia Loren” and “the most beautiful Kremlin weapon.” But who was the Red Queen? Was she the queen of the catwalk or a KGB agent seducing foreign diplomats? How did she manage to succeed and what was the price she had to pay? The life of Regina Zbarskaya, the most famous USSR, is full of mystery and drama.
In 1950’s Communist Russia, a family tragedy leaves Zoya Kolesnikova a stigmatized orphan. Leaving her home town, she heads to Moscow to escape her past. While there she adopts the name Regina. With the help of a benefactress,she reinvents herself through education and determination.
Initially she pursues her mother’s dream of becoming an accountant, but a chance encounter leads her into the world of fashion. Regina works hard not only to become a clothes model but also to overcome past mistakes. Eventually, she realizes success not only in Russia but also world wide. But past traumas still haunt her and a life of fame has its’ price. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -The Red Queen (2015)”
François and Thérèse are happily married with two young children. During the week Francois works as a carpenter for his uncle and on the weekends the young family enjoys exploring the nearby countryside. Their life is full of bonheur (happiness) , perhaps even idyllic.
But then François meets Émilie to whom he is instantly attracted. It’s not long before they being an affair, even though she knows that he is married. François seems to believe that his affair with Émilie is not subtracting from what he has with his wife. He doesn’t love Thérèse any less. Instead, his love with Émilie only adds to his overall happiness. But when, he finally confesses to his wife about the relationship and his viewpoint, tragedy ensues. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Le Bonheur (1965)”
MORROCO: LOVE IN TIMES OF WAR
It is the early 1920’s and Spain is at war with local tribes in a Northern African area known as the Rif. The Spanish Queen wants to boost morale and to create positive public relations for the Spanish monarch and government. So she give her good friend, the Duchess, a task. She must establish a Red Cross hospital in the Spanish occupied city of Melilla.
Several newly trained nurses, daughters of privilege, join the Duchess in travelling to Morocco to begin this endeavor. Among them are Pilar, a young widow and the Duchess’ right hand. Magdalena is a somewhat flighty but effervescent young woman who leaves her fiancé behind in Spain. Then there is Julia. Julia has not yet had time to complete nurse’s training. But she is determined to use her job as a way to search for her missing brother and fiancé who are soldiers.
Upon their arrival, the Duchess faces some opposition from the army’s director of health and sanitation, Victor Ruiz-Marquez. He does not wish to give control over hospital decisions to the Duchess. But she is able to arrange for several army doctors to be attached to her new hospital, including Dr. Fidel Calderon, Dr.Luis Garcés and Dr. Guillermo. Together, along with field nurse Verónica and ambulance driver Larbi Al Hamza, these men and women accomplish the impossible in difficult circumstances. They also see their professional and personal lives intertwine while war takes its’ toll.
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In post WWII Japan, families live in small community planned housing. The men take the train in to work, if they are lucky enough to have jobs. In this community, the wives and mothers spend their days, bossing their children, preparing meals and gossiping about each other. Families are making ends meet, but barely.
The children (all of who are boys) band together for their walks to school, and make up little challenges for fun. They also congregate at a neighbor’s house to watch television when they can get away with it.
Two of the boys, who happen to be brothers demand that their parents buy them a television, but they are refused. An argument follows about who talks too much, children or adults. So the boys Minoru and Isamu make a vow of silence between them as an act of rebellion against their parents’ refusal to purchase a television. This leads to further misunderstandings among the gossiping neighbors who already believe the boys’ mother is angry with them over some missing money. Meanwhile, the boys’ aunt has a crush on their kind English tutor and contrives reasons to show up on his doorstep. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Good Morning (1959)”
Brigitte Laurier (Brigitte Bardot) is the precocious daughter of France’s president. She has fallen in love with her father’s employee, the handsome womanizer Michel Legrand (Henri Vidal). Not only does she arrange to become Michel’s secretary, but she sticks like glue to him outside the office despite his apparent lack of interest in her.
On a weekend when President Laurier is hosting various government officials at his home, Brigitte contrives to be found in Michel’s bed. Her furious father insists they marry. Once she has caught him, Brigitte isn’t as eager for the union since the marriage was forced upon Michel.
However, Michel surprises her by displaying a previously hidden appetite for his sexy new wife. But Brigitte hasn’t forgotten Michel’s past as a notorious ladies man. She is convinced it is only a matter of time until he cheats on her. When an old mistress phones their home, Brigitte decides two can play that game. She resolves to have an affair of her own. The problem is she has chosen an aging married prince as her partner, who is on a diplomatic trip to Paris.
Michel has no specific intentions of cheating on his wife and at first doesn’t take her stated payback seriously. But when Brigitte and the Prince Charles (Charles Boyer) both happen to disappear on the same day, his suspicions are aroused. Not only that, but if Brigitte and the Prince are linked together, it could create an international incident. Will this husband and wife reconcile before they create a political scandal? Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -La Parisienne (1957)”
Marriage Italian Style tells the story of Filumena (Sophia Loren), a prostitute, and her decades long relationship as the mistress of a wealthy Neopolitan business man named Domenico (Marcello Mastroianni).
The film opens with Filumena on her deathbed requesting that the wily Domenico marry her before she passes away. He is loathe to marry her as he is already engaged to be married to one of his young employees. But, Domenico feels he owes it to her, so he agrees.
We then learn in flashbacks the history of their relationship beginning with their first meeting in a whore house when Filumena is seventeen. The first flashbacks are from Domenico’s perspective and we meet a man who is entitled and feels as if he is doing a favor to Filumena with his patronage. He eventually sets her up as his mistress and then as his dying mother’s caretaker. Finally, he trusts her to manage his businesses as he travels around Europe. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Marriage Italian Style (1964)”
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)”
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)”
Il Paradiso delle Signore is an Italian television drama series loosely based on Emile Zola’s novel Au Bonheur Des Dames.
After breaking her engagement with the mayor’s son, Teresa escapes her small village and heads to Milan to visit her uncle. On her very first day in the city, she happens to run into Pietro Mori. A man with a very mysterious past, he also happens to be the owner of the ladies department store, Il Paradiso delle Signore. Teresa also meets Mori’s right hand man, long time friend and the store’s genius ad-man, Vittorio Conti.
Both men are instantly smitten with her and a love triangle forms when Teresa begins work as a sales girl in the store. But Mori is hiding a dark secret which is threatening his business and Vittorio is quite the ladies man. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Il Paradiso delle Signore (2015)”
For a Woman is a recent French film which explores the dynamics of marriage, family and even politics. It begins as two sisters, Tania and Anne, go through their mother’s effects after her passing. This leads Anne into a further search into her parent’s history. The film then moves into the past and the main story line surrounding their parents Michel and Léna.
Michel and Léna are Russian Jews. They have managed to survive WWII and escape from the horrors of the concentration camp. Michel falls in love with Léna at first sight. But their decision to marry is more one of gratitude and necessity for her. They migrate to the French city of Lyon where they apply for citizenship, start a family and open a men’s clothing shop.
Their life is a contented one with Léna absorbed in raising their daughter and Michel joining a small group of Communists. Everything changes with the arrival of Jean, the man who claims to be Michel’s younger brother. Because Jean is Michel’s only remaining family, he is welcomed into their home. Though Jean and Michel reminisce about their childhood, Jean is less forthcoming with his role in the war and his current secretive activities.
As Jean’s stay with them drags on tensions mount and rise to the surface. Michel begins to question his brother’s political beliefs and purpose in France. Léna wrestles with her growing attraction to her brother-in-law and her increasing discontent with her life. When Jean’s undercover life finally catches up with him, it puts the whole family in danger.
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