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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Zwartboek (Black Book) (2006)

Netflix has finally arrived in the UK! I was elated when I found out but after signing up for the 31 day free trial, I came back down to earth with a bump. Whilst they do have some really brilliant films, some of my favourites in fact, there are huge gaps in both the film and tv selections. I've heard so many great things about  the American service, especially about the classic films available, so it was a bit disheartening to find out that the UK Netflix only has 27 classic films (some of the better titles include Brief Encounter, The Red Shoes, In the Heat of the Night, and The 39 Steps.). Still, I decided to wade through the other titles and see what I could find in the post-1970 category. The following film is probably my favourite of the (far too many) I watched during the trial.
Zwartboek (Black Book), 2006
The director: Paul Verhoeven
The stars: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn
My rating★★★★★

In 1944, Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten), a Jewish singer, is helped by a member of the Dutch Resistance to escape by boat to the liberated part of the Netherlands along with her family and a handful of other Dutch Jews. However, the escape is revealed as a trap and a boat full of SS officers massacre the escapees. All, that is, except Rachel who manages to swim to the relative safety of the reeds at the riverbank.

After witnessing the death of her entire family, Rachel takes on a new identity by bleaching her hair blonde, changing her name to Ellis de Vries, and becoming involved with the Resistance. When several of its members are captured, Ellis, in a very Mata Hari-esque turn, manages to win her way into the affections of the local SD commander, Ludwig Müntze (Sebastian Koch). In the process, she comes to face-to-face with the brutal and sadistic SS officer who oversaw the murder of her family and the other Jewish refugees, is uncovered by Müntze as being a Jew, and realises that nothing is ever quite what it seems -that betrayal and protection can come from the most unlikely of places.

I knew I was going to love this film from the moment, about 4 minutes in, when I spotted this...

Yes, that is Deborah. Coolest thing ever or coolest thing ever? If I'd have blinked I'd have missed it because, needless to say, the camera was not trained on this part of the wall for more than a few seconds. Marlene was also on the wall, along with a plump-cheeked lady who looked suspiciously like Nancy Carroll. Anyway, there were several classic film references which made me happy, especially the scene in which Ellis sings Ich bin die Fesche Lola (if you live a life which has so far been deprived of Marlene's rendition of said song, I send you my condolences). The actress who plays Ellis (Carice van Houten) has a beautiful voice and her version of the song is almost as wonderful as Marlene's.

That being said, the scene just before Ellis sings is completely at odds with the words of the carefree and naughty Lola. In my opinion, it's one of the most brilliant scenes in the entire film. It's the moment she realises that the man who is sitting at the piano, playing and laughing, is the SS officer who oversaw the brutal massacre of her family and the other Jewish refugees. Utterly heartbreaking and gut-wrenching.

(I couldn't find a clip with English subtitles, but the words in this scene aren't very important.)

In the end, all I can really say is that Zwartboek is an incredible film that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys watching films about WWII that aren't full of military stratagems and bloody violence. (Yes, it's time for my usual Band of Brothers plug: WATCH IT (and watch Zwartboek too)). 

P.S. I just made it sound as though Zwartboek doesn't have much violence in it but it really does. So, if you get a bit queasy over blood and guts, you might want to keep the remote handy. :)

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's Movie Survey (in which Greer and Walter is a valid answer for every question)

Sorry I haven't posted for a while, I hope to be back posting at least once a week very soon. In the meantime, here's a fun little survey I thought I would participate in. Meredith from Forever Classics is the creator of the survey and the runner of a very wonderful blog (you should go and check it out!). Enjoy!

1. What is your favorite romantic comedy?

I'm going to say My Man Godfrey because, whilst I adore films like An Affair to Remember and Breakfast at Tiffany's, I consider them to be dramedies rather than pure comedies.

2. What is your favorite romantic drama?

Random Harvest

3. Worst romance film you've seen?

The Notebook. I'm not going to lie, I cried at the end but I'm blaming that on James Garner. I hope to never to see the film again because I'll probably weep once more and then I'll hate myself for it because it really is an atrocity.

4. How do you feel about the majority of romantic films being labeled "chick flicks"?

The same way I feel when I tell people I love Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, The Pacific etc. and they say "But they're men's tv series/films!". 

5. Favorite on-screen couple?

Greer and Walter, always.

6. Favorite off-screen couple?

The Pidgeons.

Not a valid answer? Nonsense, say I. The Pidgeons were a very well known couple back in the day. They used to go for golfing weekends in the country with the Powells. Needless to say, they  spent most of the time in the bar.

But, you know, in all seriousness, I would have to go with Ma and Pa.

7. Best kiss in a movie?

Greer and Walter in Julia Misbehaves.

8. Favorite romantic scene?

Can I say all of An Affair to Remember? Yes? Good.

9. Who are 2 film characters you wished had gotten together, but never did?

Not a day goes by when my heart doesn't ache for the Baroness and Captain von Trapp. NOT A DAY! 

The first serious couple that came to mind was Anna and the King. Seriously, they were this close and then he died. He was the most inconsiderate of men.

10. Two actors you think would have great chemistry, but have never done a film together?

Deborah Kerr and Christopher Plummer. I've never thought of them doing a film together before today but, oooh la la, yes please.. Also, Eleanor Parker and Gregory Peck in one of those Yes-The-Plot-Is-Rubbish-But-Look!-Beautiful-People films. *cough*you'resosuperficialSophie*cough*

11. Favorite romantic song in a film (doesn't have to be from a musical)?

Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific

12. Best score from a romance film?

Cliché, I know, but Breakfast at Tiffany's has such a beautiful score and the moment I hear the first few notes, I feel all warm and fuzzy.

13. Most romantic film quote?

Smithy: I don't even know who I am. 
Paula: Well, I know who you are. You're someone awfully nice. 
- Random Harvest

It's more sweet than romantic but d'aww, my heart belongs to Smith and Paula.

14.  A film you'd recommend to watch on Valentine's Day?

Random Harvest or Brief Encounter. They've both got substance but one will leave you crying with happiness and the other will leave you in a black pit of despair. Take your pick!
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