28 April 2012

Film Review: Lost City (2005), by Andy Garcia, ****

In 1958 Havana, nightclub owner Fico Fellove (Andy Garcia, who also directed) watches as political upheaval grips Batista-ruled Cuba. While his brothers join Castro's revolution, Fico refuses an offer from American gangster Meyer Lansky (Dustin Hoffman) to help turn his club into a casino and falls in love with his soon widowed sister-in-law (Ines Sastre).

The film was shot in the Dominican Republic, ironically the country batista fled to after his forces capitulated to Castro on new year's day, 1959.

A good historical movie to show how right were many middle class Cubans to despise the Batista dictatorship and how wrong they were to believe that supporting Castro and Guevara would improve things much. Yet, the widespread criticism that Garcia does not show enough of the poor and destitute of pre-revolutionary Cuba is only partially mitigated by his ridicule of Batista in the first part of the movie. The title itself (translated "Adieu Cuba" in the French version) betrays a certain nostalgia by the author for the bygone days. But in the end the viewer is left with a strongly negative view of both Batista and Castro, as well as Guevara. Well deserved.

The movie is a bit long but well worth its time for it allows the viewer to savour the colors, music and atmosphere of Cuba 50 years ago. But this is perhaps due to the long script by Guillermo Cabrera Infante.

25 April 2012

Book Review: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself, by Louise Meriwether Harriet Jacobs, ****


Louise Meriwether Harriet Jacobs in her narrative reveals how she refused to be victimized within her own mind, but rather chose to act instead from a steadfast conviction of her own worth....Hers is an example worth emulating even in these modern times.

Published in 1861, this was one of the first personal narratives by a slave and one of the few written by a woman. Jacobs (1813-1897) was a slave in North Carolina and suffered terribly, along with her family, at the hands of a ruthless owner. She made several failed attempts to escape before successfully making her way to freedom in the North, though it took years of hiding and slow progress. Eventually, she was reunited with her children.

23 April 2012

Stazione ferroviaria di Cittadella (PD)

Arrivo di buon mattino alla stazione di Cittadella, provincia di Padova, per prendere un treno per Treviso. La biglietteria è chiusa, PER SEMPRE, come avvisa perentoriamente il cartello posto sulla vetrata.

Però c'è in bella vista una modernissima macchina automatica per emissione di biglietti. Anzi di "Biglietti regionali veloci". Mi avvicino con mano al portafoglio.

Però anche la macchina automatica per emissione biglietti, che peraltro accetta tutte le principali carte di credito, è fuori uso, ma almeno, forse, non per sempre: il cartello però non si impegna ad una data precisa...

Meno male che c'è il bar! Cappuccino, cornetto, scatola di sigari Toscanelli al caffè, i miei preferiti, e biglietto del treno.

20 April 2012

Film Review: Space Tourists (2009), by Christian Frei, ***

Frei's film takes a humorous and laconic view of the way billionaires depart our planet earth to travel into outer space for fun. Space Tourists succeeds in surprising its audience with images and situations that have very little to do with the futuristic fantasy of space-tourism. The Swiss filmmaker sets up encounters with the least likely people imaginable: places even stranger and more unknown than outer space itself. The film investigates the emotional oscillations of an expensive enterprise and questions the meaning and boundaries of the human spirit and our hunger for adventure and discovery.

Anousheh Ansari is a billionaire who allegedly spent some twenty million dollars (expensive but, as she puts it, how do you put a price on a dream?) for a 10 day flight to the International Space Station. She explains in her own words why she did this and what her Spiritual experience was. An interesting personality, an Iranian who left her country after the revolution and became American but never forgot her cultural roots. She specifically greeted the Iranian people from space, though she was not allowed to do so in Farsi. She also wore the Iranian flag, but significantly without the Islamic writings in the white part.

This film is another Frei foray into the lives and vicissitudes of the most unusual of people. Ansari is a genuine enthusiast of space, her youthful and genuine passion transpires at all times in the film. She has a child-like naivete for looking at the earth from above, but at the same time a high degree of maturity when she speaks of her travel as a symbol for women's rights, especially in the region of the world where she comes from, where women often do not receive the same opportunities that men do. A spoiled girl's whim? Perhaps, but a great adventure nonetheless. And I can say I would have done what she has done if I had had the money! Go for it Anousheh and thanks Christian Frei for bringing her to us.

Buy your DVD here:

If you live in the US you can get your instant video here

14 April 2012

Film review: The Dreamers (2003), by Bernardo Bertolucci, ****


Paris, spring 1968. While most students take the lead in the May 'revolution', a French poet's twin son Theo and daughter Isabelle enjoy the good life in his grand Paris home. As film buffs they meet and 'adopt' modest, conservatively educated Californian student Matthew.

With their parents away for a month, they drag him into an orgy of indulgence of all senses, losing all of his and the last of their innocence. A sexual threesome shakes their rapport, yet only the outside reality will break it up.

10 April 2012

Recensione film: Il Portaborse (1991) di Daniele Lucchetti, ****


Giovane ministro corruttore cinico, arrogante, dinamico, fintamente colto scopre in un giovane professore di liceo del Sud l'uomo adatto a scrivergli i discorsi e a dargli l'imbeccata per dichiarazioni e interviste.


Una storia scritta al crepuscolo della della prima repubblica italiana, nel 1991, ma putroppo mai divenuta obsoleta! Alcune scene di grande efficacia che lasciano immaginare quello che può veramente succedere in situazioni simili con politici veri. In senso più lato ci dà una visione del trasformismo italiano, dove cambiano i nomi dei potenti ma non cambiano i metodi che questi, ciascuno al momento del suo turno, usano. Il portaborse è una parola che in Italia è tutto un programma, per la destra, la sinistra, la prima repubblica e la seconda! Per me uno dei migliori film sulla politica italiana.

Puoi comprare il DVD qui:

09 April 2012

Film review: Das Boot (Director's Cut) (1981), by Wolfgang Petersen, *****

A trip to the limits of the comprehensible

It is 1942 and the German submarine fleet is heavily engaged in the so called "Battle of the Atlantic" to harass and destroy English shipping. With better escorts of the Destroyer Class, however, German U-Boats have begun to take heavy losses. Das Boot is the story of one such U-Boat crew, with the film examining how these submariners maintained their professionalism as soldiers, attempted to accomplish impossible missions, while all the time attempting to understand and obey the ideology of the government under which they served.

Newly remastered, the Das Boot 2-Disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray features the director’s cut of the film, adding 60 nail-biting minutes to the original theatrical release, which was nominated in 1982 for six Academy Awards® including Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Effects/Sound Effects Editing and Best Sound.

The two-disc set includes the original theatrical version of the film as well as three hours of new special features, including the Blu-ray exclusive retrospective documentary with Director Wolfgang Petersen.


This is a classic war movie, and the BD edition is great. I had seen this movie years ago when it came out in the theaters, but it was just as moving now as it was then. The human side of the story is just as moving as the historical documentation of a real story of this crew and the historical significance of the war in the Atlantic. Forty thousand Germans sailors fought in U-Boots, and three out of four never made it back.

It is a great movie about war. It is not an anti-war movie as such, and this adds to its value. There is no ideology here: it attempts to document what this particular aspect of the war at sea was like, and it does so with flying colors.

The submarine in question is U-96, whose name was used as the title for the movie in some countries. The film is not always historically accurate. For example the real sub never used La Rochelle as a base, but St Nazaire, and was destroyed much later in the war, in Germany.

I found the bonus disc very interesting, you get a clear picture of the technology for special effects of the time (early eighties).

Buy your Blu-ray or DVD here:

If you want to get... ahem... deeper! into this subject, you might want to read the book that this film was based on. The thrilling wartime novel that inspired Wolfgang Petersen's Academy Award-nominated, blockbuster film! Written by an actual survivor of Germany's U-boat fleet, Das Boot is one of the most exciting stories of naval warfare ever published, a tale filled with almost unbearable tension and suspense.

Now if you are a real U-Boot buff, consider getting the non-fiction book by the same author, with many great photos he took while on real patrols in the Atlantic.

08 April 2012

Film Review: Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), by Woody Allen, ***


In his mirthful tribute to film noir, Woody Allen reteams with Diane Keaton as residents of a New York apartment who investigate the mysterious death of a kindly old neighbor. The neighbor's husband is a prime suspect, but first Woody and Diane must find a motive and evidence, while getting over their own petty jealousies. With Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Jerry Adler.


Typical dry, neurotic Woody Allen humor mixed with a convoluted but quite original thriller plot. keaton is the real protagonist here, a woman who is so bored with her own life that she must involve herself in the lives of others.

In the course of the movie we get a glimpse of Mahnattan life, of the multicultural melting pot rife with creativity, wealth, and crime. Keaton and Allen are a fairly typical middle aged couple, from New York or from any place really, whose life together is not enough to fill the day (or the night as you will find out in this film) but whose mutual bond is still strong despite the occasional jealousy.

05 April 2012

Film Review: Sleepless in Seattle (1994), by Nora Ephron, ***


Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star in Nora Ephron's wonderfully romantic comedy about two people drawn together by destiny. Hanks stars as Sam Baldwin, a widowed father who, thanks to the wiles of his worried son, becomes a reluctant guest on a radio call-in show. He's an instant hit with thousands of female listeners who deluge his Seattle home with letters of comfort. Meanwhile, inspired in equal parts by Sam's story and by classic Hollywood romance, writer Annie Reed (Ryan) becomes convinced that it's her destiny to meet Sam. There are just two problems: Annie's engaged to someone else and Sam doesn't know yet that they're made for each other. Co-starring Rosie O'Donnell, Rita Wilson and Rob Riener.

Sad to hear of Ephron death in June 2012.