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Sunday, 17 July 2011

5 Mini Film Reviews

I'm really lax when it comes to writing film reviews, mainly because I don't think I'm very good at them. So, I thought that to get me more used to writing about the films I watch, I'd start doing mini review posts. I think this is also a good way to share with you what I think about the films I watch because this way I get to talk about a few at once! I hope you enjoy reading the reviews :D

Rating System

★★★★★ = watch it immediately because you need this film in your life
★★★★ = watch it soon
★★★ = watch it sometime
★★ = watch it if you must
★ = watch it only if you want to waste a couple of hours of your life

Johnny Belinda, 1948 (Jean Negulesco)

The stars: Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford, Agnes Moorehead
The story: A young Doctor arrives at an isolated village in Cape Breton and soon after meets Belinda, the deaf and dumb daughter of a local farmer. He befriends her and helps her be able to more easily communicate with people by teaching her sign language. Everything is going well for Belinda until she is raped by a customer of her father's, the consequences of which are disturbing to say the least.
The verdict: It's rare to see the subject of rape portrayed so candidly in the 1940s because although it's grips on the film industry were loosening, the Hays Code was still in full force (of course, although Belinda's rape is heavily implied, the word itself couldn't be used.). In a lot of classic films, rape is often implied but it's not always accepted as an atrocity - heck, sometimes the victim can even find it "romantic" afterwards, apparently (throwing glances in your direction, Gone With the Wind). The frankness of the film is one of the reasons it's so powerful; it makes quite clear that the man who raped Belinda is scum and that in absolutely no circumstances can rape ever be excused or justified.
The rating: ★★★★★ 

Sullivan's Travels, 1941 (Preston Sturges)

The stars: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake
The story: A young Hollywood film director, Sullivan, who makes a fortune making light, fluffy comedies decides that he wants to make a serious film about the hardships of the poor. So he dresses as a tramp, puts a dime in his pocket,  and goes out into the world to find out first hand what it's like to be poor. On the way he meets a wannabe actress about the quit the profession because she just can't seem to get a break. They team up and the adventure begins.
The verdict: I'd never seen a Veronica Lake film before this, but I loved her in it. She may not be the best actress but she's charming and funny and captured my attention from the moment she appeared on the screen. Whilst it's without a doubt a comedy, it's also a first class drama too. Preston Sturges bring the harsh realities of life to the screen in a way that Sullivan could benefit from learning from! 
The rating: ★★★★★

Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves), 1948 (Vittorio Di Sica)

The stars: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola
The story: A poor man in Rome finally lands a job putting up posters around the city, however, on his first day at work his bicycle, a necessity for his job, is stolen. The man and his young son must now search all over Rome to find the precious bicycle.
The verdict: Everything about the film is bleak and desolate, with seemingly no glimmerings of hope anywhere. The man, Antonio Ricci, was finally given and job and then just like that, his chance of finally being able to support his family were cruelly snatched away from him. Everything about him reeks of desperation, even his little son becomes desperate as their quest for the missing bike wears on. It's not a film you want to watch over and over, but there are many things to be taken away from it. I guarantee that you'll be mulling it over in your head for several days afterwards.
The rating: ★★★★★

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1945 (Elia Kazan)

The stars: Dorothy McGuire, Joan Blondell, James Dunn  
The story: Francie, a young, sensitive, intelligent girl with a vibrant imagination, is growing up in Brooklyn with her alcoholic, but kind and caring, father, her hard-working mother, and her younger brother. Although the family is very poor, the children are happy and their father encourages Francie to use her intelligence and imagination to the best of her abilities.   
The verdict: To be honest, I'm sold as soon as I seen the name 'Joan Blondell' in the titles, but joking aside, this is a really great film. Elia Kazan is one of my favourite directors and, whilst I don't think this is his greatest film, he adds the touch of truth and humanity that I think is present in all his films.
The rating: ★★★★

Les enfants du paradis (Children of Paradise)
, 1945 (Marcel Carné)

The stars: Arletty, Jean-Louise Barrault, Pierre Brasseur
The story: It's almost impossible to compress this 160 minute long French masterpiece into a few short sentences without butchering it, but I'll try. Garance, a free-spirited and beautiful French actress, is caught up in a tragic love pentagon. She loves Baptiste, a brilliant theatre mime, and he loves her, but as always happens, tragedy strikes and everything goes pear-shaped.
The verdict: As I said, this is a French masterpiece. It's tragic, melodramatic, overwhelming at times, and just a truly beautiful piece of cinema. It's impossible not to be drawn in by Baptiste's incredible pantomimes; he, who seems to be so weak and almost pathetic at times, is able to command the complete attention of audiences from a couple of dozen to a whole theatre full. It's magical.
The rating: ★★★★★

Thanks for reading! 


  1. I need to check some of these out! Thanks!
    Kate x

  2. I LOVED *Johnny Belinda* and *Sullivan's Travels*. I haven't seen any of the others, though.

    Thanks for the great reviews. I like the concept of doing a collection of shorter reviews; the format makes it easier to get the crux of the film and pique the interest just enough to make one want to see it. Great idea to have a rating system, too.


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