Monday, May 21, 2007

May 21st Log

2006, Sang-il Lee, Japan

1st Viewing, DVD

Hula Girls uses all the formula most typical of inspiring sport genre films, of a group of underdogs (of which includes the teacher) that bond together to defy the odds and learn lessons in the process. The film tells the fictionalized true story of the 1965 opening of Japan's first "theme park”: a Hawaiian-themed tourist centre in Joban (Northeast Japan). Though predictable Hula Girls is an undeniably fun family film for all ages. It does not take the formula to new inventive depths, yet is such a pleasure to watch. In Japan, Hula Girls was a box office and critical smash upon its 2006 release and it has the crowd-pleasing universal appeal to reach a wide audience in the West. Both touching and sweet, Hula Girls is a treat.

1952, Anthony Mann, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

That kind can't change. When an apple's rotten, there's nothing you can do except throw it away or it will spoil the whole barrel…. Well, there's a difference between men and apples.” After the success of the classic 1950 film Winchester ’73, Anthony Mann re-collaborated with screenwriter Borden Chase and lead actor James Stewart for this 1952 film, which was shot in Technicolor. Of course, this marked the second of eight films Mann made with Stewart (five of which were westerns). While I think their next collaboration, 1953’s The Naked Spur, was their greatest masterpiece, Bend of the River deserves mention among Mann and Stewart’s finest achievements. As such it belongs mention among the very best American westerns ever made. Many of the psychological and obsessive characteristic traits of the Mann westerns are evident here and Stewart once again gives an incredibly complex performance to heightenthe depth of the emotion layers. At the core of the film is greed and the destruction that is caused through greedy desire. The film observes this among other complex psychological elements, notably through it’s lead character: Glyn McLyntock (played by Stewart), a mysterious man with a troubled past that he is trying to forget as he helps guide a group of settlers looking for new farming life in open hills of Oregon. Throughout the film McLyntock seems to be convincing himself he has changed and his criminal past is behind him. He wonders or hopes the framers will accept and appreciate him, but he hesitates to tell them of his past. Through flawless performance, characterization and directing, Mann pours on the psychological depths as well as the overall mood and landscape of the atmosphere. Mann has complete control over the direction and he creates a film that is emotionally layered, while also a very thrilling one of action and humor. Bend of the River is beautifully paced and Stewart’s performance is aided by a strong supporting cast (notably Arthur Kennedy as the other troubled gunman, and Julia Adams as the woman who wins his heart). Bend of the River is best in its psychological examination of a mans struggle with himself and his past. Yet this film does have a plenty of pure excitement, suspense, and adventure to offer. A highly recommended classic of American filmmaking.


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