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#21 TopBilled

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 12:23 PM

I am "rerunning" one of my earlier columns, since Jennifer Jones is currently TCM's Star of the Month. I hope you enjoy the review and get the chance to see:

 

LOVE LETTERS (1945)

 

A lot can be said for romantic films of the 1940s, especially ones made at the end of the war. In this Paramount classic, the focus is on a soldier’s ability to readjust to life on the home front. It features two of David Selznick’s stars (and probably a lot of his input). Joseph Cotten plays the soldier who is thrust into an uncertain future when he goes back to England after international battles end.
 

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-3-13-34-pm.png


Of course he quickly discovers there are newer types of battles, and they rage inside his heart. He is deeply connected to Victoria Morland (Jennifer Jones), a girl he was writing letters to while he was away. In a clever psychological reworking of Rostand’s ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ screenwriter Ayn Rand shows us Cotten has written the letters on behalf of another, less poetic, war buddy. When Cotten goes home, he learns the buddy died but not until after he had married Victoria. All did not go well in the marriage, because the other man was a phony, not the one she had fallen in love with while Cotten was pouring out his innermost feelings from somewhere in Italy.
 

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-3-15-10-pm.png


Rand’s script relies on more than one coincidence to bring it all together. After Cotten has been mustered out, he goes to a party and meets a girl named Singleton. She just so happens to be the widowed Victoria, but she became an amnesiac when her husband was fatally stabbed. We learn in a very skillfully photographed flashback how she went on trial and was found guilty, though she had no recollection of the killing or about herself. At first Cotten doesn’t know Singleton is the girl who received his letters, and then when he does find out, it becomes a matter of her realizing who she is and how her whole being is connected with his. Before we get to the resolution, she is prone to fits of hysteria.
 

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-3-14-55-pm.png


Critics of the day were not too kind to the film, but audiences loved it. It became a huge hit for the studio and its stars. Jennifer Jones, on the heels of her Oscar triumph for SONG OF BERNADETTE, received another nomination. In particular Bosley Crowther found fault with her performance, calling it fatuous (silly or contrived). I would agree with Crowther to a point, but only when Jones is trying to show the girlish innocence of the character. I think the dramatic scenes, where she has to summon more adult courage and a wiser perspective, are exemplary. Cotten for his part is fairly solid, though I don’t think he totally invests himself in the material. Cecil Kellaway does an outstanding job as the caretaker of the house; and so does Ann Richards who plays a well-meaning friend of the couple.
 

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-11-29-31-am.jp


While it is not a perfect film, it succeeds in combining the more terrifying elements of post-war readjustment– not only for the men who are returning, but also the women they return to. Both main characters in the story have a duality that puts them on a mutual path of healing. Like Rostand’s Cyrano, the mask has to come off and love has to be followed to the letter.
 

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-11-30-37-am.jp


LOVE LETTERS was directed by William Dieterle and is scheduled to air on TCM on September 5th.


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#22 TopBilled

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 03:34 PM

Thanks for the info \ tip:    Looks like a nice film for my Saturday. 

 

James, I will be posting my reviews on Saturdays (like I usually do on this thread). But Jennifer Jones' Star of the Month selections will air on Tuesdays. So this will give people time to read my comments then see the film on TCM a few days later.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#23 Jlewis

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 03:12 PM

Probably better than MGM's '52 reboot of The Prisoner of Zenda, which is only worth watching for the stars involved. There is an overall lack of "fun" in the newer version compared to Selznick's '37 one. Yet they matched the dialogue and costumes fairly closely.


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#24 jamesjazzguitar

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 02:38 PM

While the earlier version is fantastic, the remake certainly has merit. First John Gielgud gives a strong performance as the father. And so does Bill Travers taking on Fredric March's role as the lover. Probably the reason MGM updated it was to take advantage of funds that were frozen in Great Britain and to redo the story in Technicolor. It's a beautiful movie.

 

Thanks for the info \ tip:    Looks like a nice film for my Saturday. 


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#25 TopBilled

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 02:30 PM

I didn't know that Jones was in a remake of The Barretts of Wimpole Street;  Not sure there is much of a reason for seeing the film since it was directed by the same director (Sidney Frankin), as the 1934 film,  using exactly the same script.   

 

While the earlier version is fantastic, the remake certainly has merit. First John Gielgud gives a strong performance as the father. And so does Bill Travers taking on Fredric March's role as the lover. Probably the reason MGM updated it was to take advantage of funds that were frozen in Great Britain and to redo the story in Technicolor. It's a beautiful movie.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#26 jamesjazzguitar

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 01:19 PM

 

Theme for September 2017: Jennifer Jones romance dramas

 

 

 

Saturday September 2, 2017 

LOVE LETTERS (1945), with Joseph Cotten. Studio/production company: Paramount.

 

 

screen-shot-2017-08-27-at-4-58-27-pm.png

 

Saturday September 23, 2017 

THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (1957), with John Gielgud. Studio/production company: MGM.

 

 

 

I didn't know that Jones was in a remake of The Barretts of Wimpole Street;  Not sure there is much of a reason for seeing the film since it was directed by the same director (Sidney Frankin), as the 1934 film,  using exactly the same script.   



#27 TopBilled

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 07:18 PM

Theme for September 2017: Jennifer Jones romance dramas

 

screen-shot-2017-06-06-at-7-39-09-am.png

 

Tuesday September 5, 2017 

LOVE LETTERS (1945), with Joseph Cotten. Studio/production company: Paramount.

 

screen-shot-2017-08-27-at-5-10-44-pm.png

 

Tuesday September 12, 2017 

PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1948), with Joseph Cotten. Studio/production company: Selznick.

 
screen7.jpg

 

Tuesday September 19, 2017 

LOVE IS A MANY-SPLENDORED THING (1955), with William Holden. Studio/production company: 20th Century Fox.

 

screen-shot-2017-08-27-at-4-58-27-pm.png

 

Tuesday September 26, 2017 

THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (1957), with John Gielgud. Studio/production company: MGM.

 

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#28 TopBilled

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Posted 26 August 2017 - 09:17 AM

Essential: THE EYE OF THE STORM (2011)

 

Patrick White helped put Australian literature on the map. He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature right before the publication of his novel ‘The Eye of the Storm.’ It’s one of his most well-known works, and it’s not surprising that it would eventually be adapted for a motion picture. White’s prose, while fictional, reads like a memoir; and it was probably not easy for the director and his screenwriter to translate all the internal monologues cinematically. Though they seem to have done a fairly grand and impressive job.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-03-at-6-36-14-am1.pn


In THE EYE OF THE STORM Charlotte Rampling plays an ailing matriarch named Elizabeth who has been on her own for many years. Her grown children Basil and Dorothy (Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis) live abroad and learn she is unwell. In a series of flashbacks we see what a troubled woman she is– and the trouble it has caused, and continues to cause, her children. As the story unfolds we see how the pain inflicted on them during their childhood never left.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-20-at-6-02-19-pm.png


Elizabeth is suffering from dementia. Yet she still retains memories of her sordid past and the less than perfect things her children have done that she still holds against them. Basil and Dorothy have come back to Australia because they’ve been told mummy dearest is dying. But in a strange bit of irony, their return wills Elizabeth to live even longer so she can continue to wield control over their lives. During her prolonged illness her adult children are able to come to terms with themselves, so that when she does die, they have a more profound understanding of their place in the world.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-20-at-6-01-34-pm.png


The title of White’s story, used also as the title for the film, has more than one meaning. While Elizabeth holds on out of spite, and weaves back and forth from the past to the present and back again, her eyes reveal a woman with a stormy history. As we see in one crucial flashback sequence, there was a time when she came quite close to death and was caught in a hurricane. Her entire home had been destroyed that day; and afterward, she walked along the beach coping with what had happened. This provides a unique bit of foreshadowing– because when Elizabeth finally does succumb to her illness, we see an image of her on the beach after the storm.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-20-at-6-03-01-pm.png


The film glides effortlessly from one realm to the other. Even after Elizabeth’s metaphysical return to the beach, we cut to the present where both her children have left Australia and have gone back to their homes. Basil lives in London; and Dorothy resides in Paris. Like their mother they journeyed to the land of their birth and found comfort again in more familiar environs.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-20-at-6-03-31-pm.png


THE EYE OF THE STORM is directed by Fred Schepisi and can be streamed on Hulu.


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#29 TopBilled

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Posted 23 August 2017 - 01:32 PM

Look for my review of THE EYE OF THE STORM on Saturday.

 

screen-shot-2017-08-03-at-6-36-14-am1.pn


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#30 TopBilled

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 11:56 AM

Could this film have been inspired by David Lean's "Brief Encounter"?

 

Strong possibility. 

 

Another interesting thing about this film is there are scenes where she walks into public places that only have men in them. She is sometimes told women are not allowed. The story is full of realistic touches which give the fiction an added dimension of truth.


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#31 rayban

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 10:44 AM

Essential: CAIRO TIME (2009)

 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-42-56-pm.png

Director Ruba Nadda was born in Montreal, but her parents emigrated from the middle east. Her first feature was about a Muslim woman in Canada. When she wrote the romantic drama CAIRO TIME, she envisioned another story about a woman’s immersion in a foreign culture. This time a Caucasian woman from Canada would travel to Egypt to see a husband who worked for the United Nations.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-16-56-am.png


For the lead role Nadda chose U.S. actress Patricia Clarkson. She plays Juliette Grant, a well-to-do middle-aged woman who is experiencing empty nest syndrome. With her kids off at college, Juliette decides to go visit her husband Mark who is working outside Cairo. While she is there, she will soak up the city’s culture, and on one of his breaks, they plan to see the pyramids together. While waiting for Mark to join her, she gradually becomes acclimated to the environs of Cairo. When Mark is delayed, he sends an attractive Egyptian friend named Tareq (Alexander Siddig) to check on Juliette. I think you can guess where this is going.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-15-09-am.png


During the next portion of the film Tareq functions as Juliette’s personal tour guide, or glorified taxi driver. He takes her wherever she wants to go and in the process gives her a deeper appreciation for his culture and the history of Cairo. The film is made so much better by on-location filming. The authenticity of her experiencing the culture first-hand could not have been duplicated in a studio back in Canada. There’s an excellent sequence where he takes her to a traditional Egyptian wedding. None of the wedding is in English, of course, and we’re kind of on the same level as Juliette, just letting the sights and sounds and the vividness of Tareq’s people draw us in.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-21-59-am.png


There is another notable sequence where she splits up from him and goes off on a bus across part of the surrounding desert. Nadda doesn’t tell us if it’s terrorist activity or drug smuggling, but the bus is stopped and several people on board are interrogated then arrested. Because Juliette is the wife of a U.N. diplomat, she is automatically taken off the bus and removed from the situation. But she is now stranded and has to call Tareq to come pick her up. This part of the film perfectly conveyed how vulnerable and alone she was without her husband and how she came to rely on Tareq even more.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-15-20-am.png


Of course Mark’s been delayed again. So Juliette decides to go to the pyramids without him. Tareq accompanies her and they have a magical time experiencing ancient Egypt. The cinematography is just marvelous. At this point she has begun to fall in love with Tareq, and he is clearly smitten with her, too. Just as they are returning to the hotel, with the realization they might sleep together, Mark returns.
 

screen1.jpg?w=660


There is never even a kiss between Juliette and Tareq. Some hand-holding is about the extent of it. It’s a purely platonic relationship, but of course, much more seems to have been wanted by the two adults. I love how Nadda gives us all this romantic build-up, which is never acted upon. In the last scene Juliette has gone back to the pyramids, this time with Mark. She acts as if she hadn’t been there yet, and she has a lovely time with her husband.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-21-07-am.png

CAIRO TIME can be streamed on Hulu.

Could this film have been inspired by David Lean's "Brief Encounter"?


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#32 TopBilled

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 08:17 AM

Essential: CAIRO TIME (2009)

 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-42-56-pm.png

Director Ruba Nadda was born in Montreal, but her parents emigrated from the middle east. Her first feature was about a Muslim woman in Canada. When she wrote the romantic drama CAIRO TIME, she envisioned another story about a woman’s immersion in a foreign culture. This time a Caucasian woman from Canada would travel to Egypt to see a husband who worked for the United Nations.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-16-56-am.png


For the lead role Nadda chose U.S. actress Patricia Clarkson. She plays Juliette Grant, a well-to-do middle-aged woman who is experiencing empty nest syndrome. With her kids off at college, Juliette decides to go visit her husband Mark who is working outside Cairo. While she is there, she will soak up the city’s culture, and on one of his breaks, they plan to see the pyramids together. While waiting for Mark to join her, she gradually becomes acclimated to the environs of Cairo. When Mark is delayed, he sends an attractive Egyptian friend named Tareq (Alexander Siddig) to check on Juliette. I think you can guess where this is going.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-15-09-am.png


During the next portion of the film Tareq functions as Juliette’s personal tour guide, or glorified taxi driver. He takes her wherever she wants to go and in the process gives her a deeper appreciation for his culture and the history of Cairo. The film is made so much better by on-location filming. The authenticity of her experiencing the culture first-hand could not have been duplicated in a studio back in Canada. There’s an excellent sequence where he takes her to a traditional Egyptian wedding. None of the wedding is in English, of course, and we’re kind of on the same level as Juliette, just letting the sights and sounds and the vividness of Tareq’s people draw us in.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-21-59-am.png


There is another notable sequence where she splits up from him and goes off on a bus across part of the surrounding desert. Nadda doesn’t tell us if it’s terrorist activity or drug smuggling, but the bus is stopped and several people on board are interrogated then arrested. Because Juliette is the wife of a U.N. diplomat, she is automatically taken off the bus and removed from the situation. But she is now stranded and has to call Tareq to come pick her up. This part of the film perfectly conveyed how vulnerable and alone she was without her husband and how she came to rely on Tareq even more.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-15-20-am.png


Of course Mark’s been delayed again. So Juliette decides to go to the pyramids without him. Tareq accompanies her and they have a magical time experiencing ancient Egypt. The cinematography is just marvelous. At this point she has begun to fall in love with Tareq, and he is clearly smitten with her, too. Just as they are returning to the hotel, with the realization they might sleep together, Mark returns.
 

screen1.jpg?w=660


There is never even a kiss between Juliette and Tareq. Some hand-holding is about the extent of it. It’s a purely platonic relationship, but of course, much more seems to have been wanted by the two adults. I love how Nadda gives us all this romantic build-up, which is never acted upon. In the last scene Juliette has gone back to the pyramids, this time with Mark. She acts as if she hadn’t been there yet, and she has a lovely time with her husband.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-17-at-6-21-07-am.png

CAIRO TIME can be streamed on Hulu.


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#33 rayban

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 10:34 AM

You're welcome Ray. It's such an enjoyable film.

 

Another good one is CAIRO TIME which I will be reviewing on Saturday.

Can't wait, I've heard a lot about that one.


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#34 TopBilled

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 08:09 AM

Such a beautiful film, thank you for bringing it to our attention.

 

You're welcome Ray. It's such an enjoyable film.

 

Another good one is CAIRO TIME which I will be reviewing on Saturday.


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#35 Jlewis

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Posted 12 August 2017 - 12:10 PM

Haven't seen this one yet, but vaguely heard of it. Personally if I was a young Polish refugee, I would rather be adopted by Lillian Gish and Bette Davis and only have to compete with Vincent Price.

 


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#36 rayban

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Posted 12 August 2017 - 10:59 AM

Essential: LADIES IN LAVENDER (2004)

 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-7-33-06-pm.png


Based on a story by William J. Locke, LADIES IN LAVENDER is the only film directed by Charles Dance. (Dance is primarily a stage and screen actor with an impressive array of credits.) When he read Locke’s drama about two sisters living in Cornwall, he envisioned Judi Dench and Maggie Smith playing these unique characters on screen. The actresses had costarred in previous motion pictures and stage productions, and they work beautifully with one another.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-7-28-45-pm.png


The story is simple yet effective. Dench is Ursula, a woman who’s never given into passion; and Smith is her older domineering sister Janet who seems quite content to remain in charge of both their lives. They’ve been together since their parents died. Occasionally they travel into the local village, but they find greater pleasure along the beach. They keep to themselves, and they enjoy canning and knitting when the weather doesn’t allow them outside.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-6-46-35-pm.png


One night a huge storm hits, and a young foreigner (Daniel Bruhl) is washed up on the shore. Ursula and Janet discover him the next morning, and he’s barely alive. They take him inside and nurse him back to health. As he convalesces over the course of the next few weeks they try to teach him English. At first they think he’s German, because they recognize some of the German words Andrea uses as he speaks. But eventually they learn Andrea is Polish. Also, that he is a musician.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-7-27-39-pm.png


During the next portion of the story they allow him to use the piano downstairs, but he is more skilled with the violin. In his native country he had been training to become a concert violinist. The year is 1936, so though it is not fully explained, it can be assumed he found his way to England to escape the Nazis. After Andrea has fully recovered he spends more time outdoors. Ursula is becoming infatuated with him, something he may not even realize. Janet sees what’s going on and hopes Ursula will return to her senses.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-7-30-46-pm.png


There are a few good subplots. One of them involves a doctor visiting the cottage to treat Andrea. He becomes jealous of the ladies’ Polish house guest, when Andrea charms a landscape painter the doctor fancies for himself. In order to thwart their relationship, the doctor lies to the police and says Andrea is a German spy. Of course there’s an investigation, but the police decide like the sisters have, that the young man is no dangerous secret agent.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-6-45-54-pm.png


Eventually Andrea’s time with the sisters comes to an end. He Andrea gets the opportunity to go to London and takes it. There he will continue his musical studies and be able to perform in a large concert hall. The film doesn’t end when he leaves, because we see the women try to readjust to their lives as it was before his momentous arrival. Of course, a lot has changed. In the last sequence they travel to London to hear Andrea play at a special engagement. It’s clear greater things are in store for him that do not include the two sisters. The film ends on a bittersweet note, where they realize Andrea is now a stranger to them. We cut to a shot of them walking along the beach in Cornwall. Once again they enjoy their life with one another.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-6-46-55-pm.png


LADIES IN LAVENDER can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

 

Such a beautiful film, thank you for bringing it to our attention.


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#37 TopBilled

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Posted 12 August 2017 - 09:40 AM

Essential: LADIES IN LAVENDER (2004)

 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-7-33-06-pm.png


Based on a story by William J. Locke, LADIES IN LAVENDER is the only film directed by Charles Dance. (Dance is primarily a stage and screen actor with an impressive array of credits.) When he read Locke’s drama about two sisters living in Cornwall, he envisioned Judi Dench and Maggie Smith playing these unique characters on screen. The actresses had costarred in previous motion pictures and stage productions, and they work beautifully with one another.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-7-28-45-pm.png


The story is simple yet effective. Dench is Ursula, a woman who’s never given into passion; and Smith is her older domineering sister Janet who seems quite content to remain in charge of both their lives. They’ve been together since their parents died. Occasionally they travel into the local village, but they find greater pleasure along the beach. They keep to themselves, and they enjoy canning and knitting when the weather doesn’t allow them outside.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-6-46-35-pm.png


One night a huge storm hits, and a young foreigner (Daniel Bruhl) is washed up on the shore. Ursula and Janet discover him the next morning, and he’s barely alive. They take him inside and nurse him back to health. As he convalesces over the course of the next few weeks they try to teach him English. At first they think he’s German, because they recognize some of the German words Andrea uses as he speaks. But eventually they learn Andrea is Polish. Also, that he is a musician.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-7-27-39-pm.png


During the next portion of the story they allow him to use the piano downstairs, but he is more skilled with the violin. In his native country he had been training to become a concert violinist. The year is 1936, so though it is not fully explained, it can be assumed he found his way to England to escape the Nazis. After Andrea has fully recovered he spends more time outdoors. Ursula is becoming infatuated with him, something he may not even realize. Janet sees what’s going on and hopes Ursula will return to her senses.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-7-30-46-pm.png


There are a few good subplots. One of them involves a doctor visiting the cottage to treat Andrea. He becomes jealous of the ladies’ Polish house guest, when Andrea charms a landscape painter the doctor fancies for himself. In order to thwart their relationship, the doctor lies to the police and says Andrea is a German spy. Of course there’s an investigation, but the police decide like the sisters have, that the young man is no dangerous secret agent.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-6-45-54-pm.png


Eventually Andrea’s time with the sisters comes to an end. He Andrea gets the opportunity to go to London and takes it. There he will continue his musical studies and be able to perform in a large concert hall. The film doesn’t end when he leaves, because we see the women try to readjust to their lives as it was before his momentous arrival. Of course, a lot has changed. In the last sequence they travel to London to hear Andrea play at a special engagement. It’s clear greater things are in store for him that do not include the two sisters. The film ends on a bittersweet note, where they realize Andrea is now a stranger to them. We cut to a shot of them walking along the beach in Cornwall. Once again they enjoy their life with one another.
 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-6-46-55-pm.png


LADIES IN LAVENDER can be streamed on Amazon Prime.


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"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#38 TopBilled

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Posted 10 August 2017 - 01:44 PM

On Saturday I will be posting my review for

 

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-6-46-55-pm.png


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"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#39 TopBilled

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 09:09 AM

I like John Sayles, too, but I admit I've never heard of this one.  It looks most interesting.  Good cast.  Marcia Gay Harden is one heck of an actress.  I've seen her in so many movies (and one of the best Law & Order SVUs ever) and she never disappoints.

 

Harden has a way of making tricky roles look easy. Great actress.

 

I probably have not seen MATEWAN, PASSION FISH and the one or two others under my belt since they were on VHS way back when. I say "go for it".

 

Thanks. I probably will. Sometime in 2018.


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"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#40 Jlewis

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 02:15 PM



Can I just start this review by saying how much I love director John Sayles’ films..? In fact I had considered doing a monthly theme on Sayles, and I reserve the right to do so later.

 

 

I probably have not seen MATEWAN, PASSION FISH and the one or two others under my belt since they were on VHS way back when. I say "go for it".


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