Film

Kino Eye: American fascism on film

Unsurprisingly, here’s another American film. Tony Kaye’s American History X (1998) features Derek, a committed Nazi, complete with swastika tattoos and membership in the “Disciples of Christ”. He is sentenced to three years for voluntary manslaughter of an African-American. While imprisoned he begins to distrust the “Aryan Brotherhood”, the prisoners’ fascist network. Instead, he befriend’s Lamont, an African-American with whom he works in the prison laundry. On release he finds that his younger brother Danny has become a hard-line Nazi but eventually Derek persuades him to drop his views...

Kino Eye: When abortion was illegal

Good news from Argentina: its Senate voted for abortion rights on 30 December. Back in the 1960s one of the most restrictive places in Europe for abortion was Nicole Ceauşescu’s Romania, where Abortion Law 770 was passed in 1966. Obtaining an abortion necessitated going “underground”, and estimates suggests that 500,000 women died because of the crude, unsanitary methods used. Abortion was relegalised, on similar lines to Argentina, after Ceauşescu was overthrown in 1990. Christian Mungiu’s film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) takes us through the harrowing experience of Găbiţa (Gabriela)...

A socialist-feminist take on Xmas films

It’s my last column of the year, so time for our socialist feminist Christmas film review. Muppets Christmas Carol: Like many Muppets movies this shows the Muppets experiencing and expressing the misery of capitalism. This is ameliorated not by working-class struggle but by benevolent capitalism, which had been faced with its own horrific reflection. This is the most liberal of the Muppets movies. The Muppet canon contains working class resistance to capitalism whilst ultimately accommodating to the power of capital. Why? In part due to the leadership of Kermit, who constantly curtails the...

Bosnia-Herzegovina: 25 years after Dayton

There is a film nowadays rarely seen which was once, perhaps surprisingly, the most popular foreign film ever shown in China: Walter Defends Sarajevo (directed by Hajruin Krvavac in 1972) is a Yugoslav film, set in the Second World War, telling the story of the Nazis’ attempts to eliminate the mysterious Walter – based on a real person – who is the leader of the Sarajevo Partisans and a master at disguise and intrigue.

Kino Eye: Alternative "Christmas special"

For those of you who (like me) aren’t that arsed about Christmas, here’s a couple of films (available on DVD and online) chosen as an antidote to John Wayne re-runs, Mary Poppins, or The Sound of Music. Let’s start with Greek director Theodoros Angelopoulos’ The Travelling Players (1975), an epic of Greek history from 1939 to 1952 seen through the eyes of an itinerant theatre group. At 3 hours 45 minutes the film takes in the turbulent politics of pre-war Greece, World War 2, and the civil war that followed. Second choice is Soviet director Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1966 stunning version of Tolstoy...

The classic mining film

The report in Solidarity 573 regarding the Ukrainian miners’ victory prompted me to think of a mining film. Kameradschaft (“Comradeship”, 1931, directed by G. W. Pabst) depicts a gas explosion which traps a number of French miners underground. It is based on events surrounding the terrible 1906 Courriès disaster in France, when 1,099 died. The mine straddles the Franco-German border. When the German miners hear the news they rush to give assistance, and during the rescue operation the miners symbolically dismantle the iron gate separating “French” from “German” coal. When the rescue is...

Kino Eye: One of the most beautiful films ever made

There are other reasons than the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for us to take an interest in Armenia. The countries of the Caucasus have a rich cultural history, and Armenia is home to one of the most beautiful films ever made. Sergei Parajanov’s The Colour of Pomegranates (1969) is a poetic biography of the eighteenth century “ashugh” (bard or minstrel) Sayat Nova. Its seven dialogue-free chapters follow Nova’s life from “Childhood” to “Death” and contains scenes, like tableaux or paintings, of stunning beauty which resist description. Of mixed Georgian and Armenian parentage, Parajanov lived at...

Kino Eye: An "epidemic" film

Time now for an “epidemic” film: The Killer That Stalked New York (1950, Earl McEvoy). On-the-run jewel thief Sheila Bennet (Evelyn Keyes) unknowingly has smallpox. As New Yorkers start dropping like flies, the police and medics begin a desperate woman-hunt. She is solely concerned to reach her (cheating) husband. The film ends on a ledge outside a hotel room. The husband plunges to his death, but Sheila lives long enough to help the medical services with “track and trace”. The epidemic is defeated and a final credit pays tribute to “the men and women of Public Health — the first line of...

Kino Eye: Sunshine - a film about antisemitism

There are many films about antisemitism. I am highlighting Sunshine (1999) by Hungarian director István Szabó. The story concerns three generations of the Sonnenscheins, a Budapest Jewish family — from the late 1890s to the collapse of “state socialism” in Hungary in 1990. The Sonnenscheins are assimilated and successful, their prosperity being based on a popular elixir bearing the family name (Sonnenschein translates as “Sunshine”). They change their name to the Hungarian Sors (“fate”) and convert to Christianity; yet antisemitism becomes ever more threatening. Even the second generation Adám...

Rebecca: feminist failure

This article contains spoilers for Wheatley’s 2020 Rebecca film, the 1940 Hitchcock film, and the original 1938 Daphne Du Maurier gothic novel. Ben Wheatley’s Rebecca, showing on Netflix, was always going to be haunted by Hitchcock’s 1940 film. Wheatley and screenwriter Goldman were right to try and create a new film adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s novel, rather than a remake of the Oscar-winning classic. They tried to give us a more explicitly feminist Rebecca, but sadly do not pull it off. Rebecca, in all her incarnations, is in many ways a feminist hero. She refused to let marriage crush...

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