Roland Joffé’s There Be Dragons (2011) A Movie of the Spanish Civil War? or A Propaganda Piece for Opus Dei?

there_be_dragons_ver3

There Be Dragons is a movie on the Spanish Civil War, focussing heavily on the founder of the Opus Dei José Maria Escrivá. That’s in itself problematic, but the movie has other shortcomings besides reeking of “propaganda”.

There aren’t all that many movies on the Spanish Civil War that’s why I was quite keen on watching this movie. I normally like Dougray Scott and seeing that he’s in this, made me hope it would be good. Unfortunately he’s just a minor character, although the one who gets the ball rolling. Geraldine Chaplin who is also starring in this film has an equally small role.

Roberto Torres (Dougray Scott) is a young journalist researching José Maria Escrivá (Charlie Cox), a priest and founder of the Opus Dei who is a candidate for canonisation. Roberto discovers that his own father from whom he is estranged since years, knew Escrivá. He travels to Madrid, hoping his father will tell him everything he knows about the priest. While Robert’s father Manolo (Wes Bentley) was friends with José Maria when they were kids, they later fought on opposite sides during the war. The movie tells their respective stories in flash backs. They don’t overlap all that often; it’s really the story of José Maria on one side, and the story of Manolo on the other. Only towards the end, they are briefly joined again. A third story line, tied to Manolo, reveals why the relationship between Roberto and Manolo was so difficult. It has something to do with a tragic love story involving Ildiko (Olga Kurylenko).

Due to these different stories, which are only loosely connected, the movie really is a mixed bag. It glorifies the courage and determination of José Maria, his faith, his steadfastness. Although I don’t feel qualified to say much about the Spanish Civil War with which I’m not very familiar and even less about the role of the Catholic Church, I can still say that the depiction was very sentimental and never grabbed me. I was a bit more interested in the frame story between Roberto and Manolo.

Another flaw was the tempo. This was one hell of a slow movie; it never really took off. This is too bad because the cinematography and the score were superior but I felt they were wasted on this film.

I always thought that Roland Joffé was a director who would guarantee a good movie but unfortunately that isn’t the case. I have no clue what drove him to glorify the founder of Opus Dei. Very dubious. I can’t recommend this movie.

I almost forgot to mention that this is another one of those movies in which all the English speaking actors talk in a heavy Spanish accent. Ludicrous.

Have you seen it? Have seen another movie on the Spanish Civil War that you would recommend?

A Very Long Engagement – Un long dimanche de fiançailles (2004)

Very Long Engagement

It’s entirely the fault of movies like A Very Long Engagement that this blog lies dormant most of the time. Who wants to write about a film like this?

There are movies that I call “darlings” of the public. Everyone goes “oh” and “ah” and “oh so wonderful” just upon hearing the title. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Améelie is one of them, and – not surprisingly starring the same actress, Audrey Taoutou – Un long dimanche de fiançailles is another of those “darlings”. The fact is that most of the time these are precisely the movies I cannot stand. I watched Un long dimanche de fiançailles for the second time, hoping I’d succumb to its charm – but that didn’t happen. On the very contrary. I liked it even less. Why though? I’m not sure. It’s particularly sad because there aren’t all that many WWI movies.

A Very Long Engagament tells the story of two young lovers separated by WWI. Mathilde and Manech fall in love just before the war breaks out. They are still almost children. Both are outsiders. She because she is limping, he because he seems to be a bit simple-minded.

When he doesn’t return from the war, Mathilde swears to find him. It is said that he was court-martialled together with four others. The five men shot themselves in order to be sent home.

Mathilde acts a bit like a PI, interrogating people, following every lead. Although everyone tells her that Manech has been shot, she is convinced that he is still alive. Their connection is strong, she would feel it, if he was dead.

A Very Long Engagement is a typical Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie. His films often look like old sepia-colored photos and have a vintage feel. The trench scenes are not bad and from a purely cinematic point of view it’s a beautiful film but I always have a problem with his characters and find many of them off putting. I would still like to read the book by Japrisot.

Has anyone seen it? Did you like it and if so why?

We Are Looking for a Holocaust Movie

au-revoir-les-enfants-goodbye-children

It’s been a while since the last We Are Looking For a Movie post. I had some requests via e-mail and was lucky to be able to say which movie it was but in this case I draw a blank.

Can anyone help?

Years ago I watched a movie about a young Jewish boy whose mother (who had married a Jew against her father’s will) brought him to live with his grandfather to save him. She did not stay, herself.  The grandfather was either Italian or French. I think it was a foreign film with subtitles.
 
The emerging relationship was so touching. One significant scene I hope will help in identifying the movie is when the grandfather admonished the boy never to let anyone see him naked because of his circumcision.
 
I would love to view this movie again, but I don’t know the title. It has to be fairly old. Can anyone there help me to identify this movie?

The picture above is taken from Au revoir les enfants. While that is an excellent film, it is not the film we are looking for.

Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946)

Notorious

Sure it is debatable whether or not Hitchcock’s Notorious is a war movie. Let’s say it has a war theme, although a very faint one. I’m fond of Hitchcock movies and since I have a big collection, I thought I’ll re-watch this one.

Alicia Huberman’s (Ingrid Bergman) German father has been convicted for treason which leads to Alicia’s heavy drinking and affairs with various men. FBI agent Devlin (Cary Grant) is sent to recruit her for a delicate job. She’s to fly to Brazil and get access to the house of Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) who seems to be the head of a group of suspicious Nazis. Since Sebastian has always been in love with Alicia it should be easy for her to approach him.

At first it isn’t clear how far she will have to go. Not  even Devlin knows that his boss wants Alicia to become Sebastian’s mistress. From the first moment when they meet each other, there is something between Devlin and Alicia and if he trusted her he would fall in love with her. Alicia on her side falls in love with Devlin and tries to convince him that she has changed. No more alcohol, no more affairs. For Devlin the assignment to become Sebastian’s mistress is like a test which Alicia fails.

There are two story lines in this movie. One centers on the classic romance theme of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle between two people, the other story line concerns their spying activities.

When Devlin and Alicia discover  something in Sebastian’s house, it puts her in great danger.

I know I’ve seen this movie before but I could hardly remember it. I thought it wasn’t one of my favourite Hitchcock movies but this second time around, I liked it very much. Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant are absolutely great in this. I wouldn’t know of many contemporary actresses who can fill a screen with their faces only. It’s captivating to watch all those conflicting emotions on her face. But Cary Grant who tries to fight his attraction and plays in a much more understated way is equally good.

I’m glad I watched it again, I think it’s become one of my favourite Hitchcock movies now. Why it’s on the History Magazine’s 100 Best war movies isn’t entirely clear. Kevin (The War Movie Buff) and I had been discussing this when he reviewed it here. Without his review, I wouldn’t even have considered it as a war movie.  Be it as it may, it’s one of the great black and white movies of the 40s.

Have you seen it? Which are your favourite Hitchcock movies?

They Were Not Divided (1950)

THEY WERE NOT DIVIDED

I’m usually quite lucky in my choices of older British movies. Some I’ve watched in the past make my extended best of list. However, They Were Not Divided will not be on that list. It’s not a bad movie but it felt at times as if the director had intended to make a war movie – based on true events (!) – which is suitable for the whole family. The result is a bit too cute for my taste.

At the core of the movie is the friendship between a British, an American and an Irish soldier. Especially the Englishman Philip Hamilton and the American David Morgan are very close. After having undergone intense training which we are shown in a long boot camp sequence, which reminded me a bit of Full Metal Jacket, the three men are promoted and assigned to serve in the tank company of the Welsh Guards.  Two thirds of the film are taken up by the boot camp and further tank training episodes, occasionally interrupted by leaves which they spend at Philip’s home. During one of those leaves, David meets an English girl and falls in love with her.

There is a lot of emphasis on the relationships in the movie. The marriage between Philip and his wife is explored as well as the relationship between David and his future fiancée.

The last part of the film, could finally be called the real war movie part. The three main characters land at Normandy weeks after D-Day as part of the Welsh Guard’s Armoured Division. They quickly see combat and have to cope with fighting a war in another country, far from their wives and girl friends. The film then picks up speed and we see many of the crucial moments of WWII: Operation Market Garden, The Battle of the Bulge. We see how the Welsh Guards join American paratroopers at the Grave bridge before moving to Nijmegen during Operation Market Garden. The film ends with the Ardennes Offensive and the Guards’ unknown operations around the east side of the river Meuse. I suppose it isn’t spoiling the movie too much if I mention that not everyone survives.

I think They Were Not Divided isn’t exactly a must see but I’ve seen far worse. It’s an ok movie, it just doesn’t really have anything that stands out with the exception of some quite humorous scenes during the boot camp sequence. It’s safe to say that even the very squeamish can watch this. If you’re looking for a WWII film to watch with the whole family, this could be your choice.

b00tgdkn_640_360