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Category: Movies Page 1 of 32

Teacher Want A Kiss? “A Teacher”

Diana Watts is A Teacher (high school; Austin, Texas), with a nice body and a nice high-school boyfriend, Eric, selected from her class. They sleep together, and Diana is fearful that she will be caught and lose her job. But she doesn’t want to lose Eric either.

A question springs up: Is Diana a monster of irresponsibility? Her brother apparently thinks she is neglecting their mother, who seems to have some form of dementia. And eventually she is consumed with emotional need, turning into a basket case.

This 2013 indie film was written and directed by Hannah Fidell. As Diana, Lindsay Burdge shows a perfect understanding of her character’s personality. She is never overwrought and Fidell, for her part, shoots her, including her nudity, with wise discretion. It’s a quite effective item, with too many scenes, perhaps, with short-running dialogue. But I don’t mind that A Teacher is a short-running film, at an hour and 15 minutes long.

(Available on Freevee and Tubi)

Boy Trouble: “Lord of the Flies”

A prominent critic opined that in writing Lord of the Flies, William Golding created merely a situation, not a novel. Well, to be sure, Peter Brook‘s film adaptation of the Golding book (from 1963) is not a very novelistic movie and doesn’t have to be. Rather it’s an opus of visual potency. The problem, however, is that it isn’t very well directed. Brook under-emphasizes important points and fails to create a good narrative flow. The young male actors in Flies play schoolboys marooned on an island who become foolish and vengeful brutes, but the performers seem lost, their acting unfocused. The killing of a boy named Simon (Tom Gaman) is ugly but clumsy. The blame falls on Brook. Would that the Francois Truffaut who directed The 400 Blows had made this film.

What the Children Do: “The World of Us”

Yoon Ga-eun‘s Korean film The World of Us (2016) is a masterly work about childhood bullying and discontent. Sun (Choi Soo-in) is a lonely young girl non-physically bullied by her schoolmates. A new girl, Ji-ah (Hye-in Seol), enrolls in the school and Sun is clearly motivated to make friends with her, which she does. Things go swimmingly between them until Ji-ah gets chummy with a girl more esteemed than Sun and “learns” to dismiss Sun. But this precedes Ji-ah herself becoming unpopular, and yet the lass persists in taking jabs at Sun—with no glee whatsoever.

Yoon is a truly fine writer and director. The children are drawn knowingly, truthfully, memorably, fleshed out by a palatable cast. The World of Us—of Sun and Ji-ah—turns out to be the WORLD, with its bullying, harshness and sadness, as well as pleasure. The film hopes for at least some of the pleasure to be consistent.

(In Korean with English subtitles. Available on Tubi and Prime Video)

The Undervalued: “The King of Masks”

ABEB34BB-C348-4105-90D8-5D51F0D31283In the West, the lives of most little girls are hardly devoid of privileges and delights.  In China of the 1930s, however, little girls were rigidly undervalued and sold by their impoverished parents (or keepers) to ensure all-around survival.

“Doggie” (Zhou Ron-Ying), the child in the Chinese picture The King of Masks (1996), has keepers, not parents.  An elderly street performer, Wang (Zhu Xu), is fooled into thinking she is a young boy and buys her, only to be shocked and dismayed when it transpires she is a girl.  It is only a boy who can inherit Wang’s silk mask entertainment trade after he dies.  Not without pity, the old man allows “Doggie” to work for him, but a string of awful misfortunes makes it, for a while, impossible for him to support her.

Many a theme receives attention in Wu Tianming‘s rich film:  childhood destitution, the ubiquity of injustice, the seeming need (when it is a need) for accepting fate, pariahism.  For all its dramatics, King is no masterpiece of drama—it needs a sturdier plot—but it is interesting and beautifully chaste.  It ends on a sentimental note but it is also an affecting film.

(In Mandarin with English subtitles)

Natalie And Paul And . . . “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”

I gave Paul Mazursky‘s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) a second chance and liked it a little better this time. It’s the one about confusion over sexual values (in the late Sixties) and emerging freedom itself, if that’s what it is. The initial sequence is smart in how it suggests that traditional religious beliefs have been supplanted by touchy-feely, therapeutic balderdash. This and the rest of the film, moreover, is well—and artistically—directed by Mazursky.

I still find the writing by Mazursky and Larry Tucker dissatisfying, however. Too often the talk gets boring. The resolution at the end doesn’t work because Dyan Cannon‘s Alice is the only one in the quartet who hasn’t injured someone by having an affair. She and her husband Ted (Elliot Gould) are not in the same moral position. I believe the picture should be seen, though, especially since it stars a breathtakingly beautiful Natalie Wood, a true star. Why wasn’t she seen on movie screens more often after this film?

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