Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954, USA, Donen)
I try to imagine how this movie was pitched. I think it went like this: All the MGM bigshots sit around a table discussing ideas, and one of them says, “I know what, let’s take that old Roman legend, you know, the one about the rape of the Sabine women, and make a bright, cheerful musical out of it!” And everyone thinks it’s a brilliant idea. Brilliant. “But”, says one, “could we lose the rape angle? Some of our viewers are women, and may be a bit narrow-minded about that sort of thing.” “Sure! We’ll just pretend that when a gang of lonely men kidnap a group of women, and keep them locked up in their cabin over the winter, sex would be the furthest thing from their minds! And they’ll all fall in love in the end, so it’s okay!” (Actually, that was how the Romans spun the story too. As if!) And thus was born the most unintentionally disturbing musical ever made. Watched it all before, and bits of it this time.
Casino Royale (1954, USA)
Ah yes, the famous quiz question: Who was the first James Bond? I’ll tell you: It was Barry Nelson. But I encourage you to register a protest with the quiz master, because this made for TV version of Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel has stripped away everything that is Bond about Bond. Watched: 15 minutes.
Heat Wave (1954, UK)
The first (and last?) Hammer film noir that’s any good, and it’s not even any good. But it does have a cynical author doing voiceovers while getting mixed up in a love triangle, which is a very traditional and proper thing for this sort of movie to do, and it makes you feel at home. Watched it all.
The Mad Magician (1954, USA)
Vincent Price’s brilliant and potentially murderous inventions bring him no fame, just persecution and ridicule. But he’ll show them. He’ll show them all! Ahem. So, anyway, do you want fries with that? Watched: 19 minutes, then fast-forwarded to see the gruesome deaths. There are only two, and they’re not that gruesome.
Det brenner i natt! (1954, Norway, Skouen)
The unbearable weight of his journalistic genius turns Claes Gill into a pyromaniac. Oh, will nobody in this cold, cruel world of ours show him a bit of compassion so he can overcome his disease?! Watched: 24 minutes. The scene where he stares longingly at a pack of matches stands out as the most unintentionally hilarious among many. Is this the moment when Serious Norwegian Filmmaking began to go wrong?
Troll i ord (1954, Norway)
The Norwegian mountains take the breath away of Danish girls, and make them vulnerable for decent proposals. Watched. 25 minutes. Actually, the downhill ski flirt scene was used by Hollywood at least a decade earlier, with Sonia Henie. Btw, hilarious mistranslation in the subtitles: “Å, da jeg spilte på kam?” => “When I threw up on the roast?”
Mens jeg akkurat satt og skrev om dem forsvant de siste restene av AntiJihad Norges blogginnlegg i sommer fra nettet. Så jeg har lagt ut en kopi. Det mest interessant er “Når er begeret fullt?” fra 18. juli:
Både i Norge og andre vestlige land har anti-islamske bevegelser og organisasjoner lagt vekt på å opptre lovlig og bare med ikke-voldelige midler. Det er vanskelig å kritisere dem for det, det tilsvarer på sett og vis om noen hadde forsøkt ikke-voldelig motstand mot den tyske okkupasjonen. Det ville selvfølgelig ikke vært noe galt i det, problemet er bare det at hadde all motstand mot nazismen vært ikke-voldelig ville Hitlers etterfølgere ha regjert Europa i dag, og for all sin djevelskap er nazismen bare som blåbær å regne mot islam.
På hvilket tidspunkt desinformasjonen, som denne saken fra Bergensbanen er et godt eksempel på, har pågått så lenge og så intenst at myndighetene ikke lenger er å anse som lovlige og legitime, og at væpnet motstand og opprør blir en rett, for ikke å si en plikt, vil i siste instans være opp til den enkelte å avgjøre i forhold til sin egen samvittighet. De som måtte si, og mene, at nå er begeret fullt må selvsagt regne med å bli dømt, av illegitime domstoler etter illegitime lover, slik de over 20 norske motstandsfolkene som ble henrettet etter Majavatn ble dømt, av illegitime domstoler og etter illegitime lover. Historien har imidlertid gitt dem en annen dom.
Her er resten.
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954, UK)
Well, it’s Nineteen eighty-four, and an excellent version too, featuring that guy who played a few scenes in Star Wars. But not only that, this is an early example of that huggable British form of sci-fi television where the sets look like cardboard, but the words are poetry. Watched it all.
The Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954, USA)
Members of the French academic elite use the power of phrenology, Freudianism and other pseudosciences to pin the murders on the gorilla. It’s an outrage of justice! Watched: 20 minutes, + lots of screaming and Karl Malden with a very sinister moustache.
Gojira / Godzilla (1954, Japan)
Yes, I guess Japan has made many contributions to the world of serious art, but what we really love them for is their outrageous sense of fun, isn’t it, and that all starts here. Watched it all. It’s pretty good for a stupid monster movie, and the Harryhausen-inspired stop motion effects are quite cute.
Carmen Jones (1954, USA)
After decades of segregation, there are not enough movie stars to fill this black version of Carmen with, only second raters. And the color line stands firm: No white actors at all, no mixing. It’s all or nothing. What a shame. Watched: 10 minutes. Now, Rita Hayworth, there was a Carmen who could lure disco donalds to a life of vice.
Tore Rem – Sin egen herre (2009) / Født til frihet (2010)
Jens Bjørneboe has been so much to so many that it is impossible to entirely like or dislike him. He abandoned Rudolf Steiner’s bullshit mysticism, and became a passionate individualist, but a whimsical intellectual. He was open about his faults, but also a myth-maker. He got beatified as the saint of radical clichés, but that’s hardly his fault. It was a small pond. Almost forgotten now is how he was a product of a time when Norway was part of the Germanic cultural sphere. Our move to the Anglo-American sphere left a vertical cultural gap through the decades, with him on the other side, burning Disney comics. He never did “love America”, and his world is further apart from us than it seems.
Recommended: Yes. And like any good biography, it uses both the age to study the subject, and the subject to study the age.
Megan K. Stack – Every Man in this Village is a Liar (2010) / Michael J. Totten – The Road to Fatima Gate (2011)
Along with the blood and death and the pain that never goes away, one of the things all wars seem to produce is a trickle of excellent war reporting, hiding within a torrent of lies and fantasies. So also in the Middle East. It’s not worth the cost, but there it is, poetry and insight from pain.
Recommended: Yes, both. Stack for the writing, Totten for the macro insights. Their first-person observations are particularly interesting in light of the revolutions that came afterwards.
“Bush killed all those politicians because he doesn’t want peace in Lebanon.”
“Why wouldn’t Bush want peace in Lebanon?” I said.
“I don’t know!”
“Americans don’t want war in Lebanon,” I said. “It would not serve our interests or yours. Do you think Americans want chaos in Lebanon just for the heck of it?”
“We don’t hate the American people, only the government.”
“Okay,” I said. “So why then does [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah repeatedly say ‘Death to America’?” I asked these questions in the most friendly and casual tone of voice I could muster.
“He only means death to the American government.”
“Why doesn’t he make that clear then?” I said.
“No, he doesn’t,” I said. “He says ‘Death to America’. What would you think if George W. Bush gave speeches where he screamed ‘Death to Lebanon’? Come on, guys. Be honest with me. I want to know what you really think.”
“I want to go to America,” the leader kid said. “I love America and I want to live in America. America is rich and free. I want to be rich and free, too.”
- Michael J. Totten, The Road to Fatima Gate (2011)
I know everything I am supposed to know. The facts that shaped the biographies of the Middle East. I see all of it in one glance, how the borders were drawn, religion swept over deserts and through empires, colonialism came and went and came again. I’ve read the books and considered the arguments. I signed up for the listservs of professors and writers who argue over Islam’s perpetual promises and America’s eternal interests. Everybody lying; everybody failing a little, then failing some more. The powerful tripping along, blinded by their own mythology, led astray by their morals. I can see all of it. I am bogged down in facts. But here I stand among the mad and maybe that’s all it’s ever been. The Middle East goes crazy and we go along with it. So many of my generation have trooped here for these latest wars – the soldiers, the sailors, the UN workers, the State Department enfant terribles, Mad Max contractors with guns strapped to beefy thighs, the writers and volunteers and freelancers and adventure-hungry travelers. We chased it all down into the Middle East and came up dry, coughing on other people’s blood.
And now, in the depths of this war, I believe that nobody will ever see this, that Israel will never really look, and America will never really look, either. This is real to nobody. This would never be real to me if I were not here.
- Megan K. Stack, Every Man in this Village is a Liar (2010)
Saudi Arabia stuck to me, followed me home and shadowed me through my days, tainting the way I perceived men and women everywhere. Back home in Cairo, the cacophony of whistles and lewd coos on the streets sent me into blind rage. I slammed doors in the faces of delivery men; cursed at Egyptian soldiers in a language they didn’t speak; kept a resentful mental tally of the Western men, especially reporters, who seemed to condone, even relish, the marginalization of women in the Arab world. [..]
People asked, always: What’s it like, being a woman [in Saudi Arabia]?
You are supposed to say that you were privileged, because you had a pass to the secret world of local sisterhood, to a place where faces showed and words were honest. You are supposed to say, in an almost mystical voice, “I could write about the women“. [..] And then, too, the truth is not really easy to admit or articulate. You can’t admit how dirty it made you feel, the thousand ways you were slighted and how flimsy your self-assurance turned out to be, how those little battles bit at you like acid. Men who refused to shake your hand; squatting on the floors with men who refused to look at your face because you brimmed with sin, not one glance in an hour-long interview; the sneering underfed soldiers who hissed and talked about your ass when you walked past.
- Megan K. Stack, Every Man in this Village is a Liar (2010)
Davy Crockett (1954, USA)
Davy, Daaaavy Crockett! Was this the first good TV series ever made? It’s a silly children’s adventure story, but Disney Corp are great at silly children’s adventure stories, and, by 1954 production standards, this is HBO. Watched: 1 episode. This show launched a Crockett craze that reached Norway in the form of Danish author Karen Brunés’ books under the pseudonym Tom Hill, which I devoured in a reprint 30 years later. And here I am back at the beginning. Round, like a circle in a spiral / Like a wheel within a wheel / Never ending or beginning / On an ever spinning wheel.
Sansho the Bailiff (1954, Japan, Mizoguchi)
Until Japan discovered their sense of fun, (whenever that was, Godzilla?), there was only Kurosawa, and lots and lots of dull, serious historical dramas. This falls in the latter category. Watched: 8 minutes.
Karius og Baktus (1954, Norway, Caprino)
Don’t brush your teeth, or you’ll kill the nice gay couple who lives in your mouth. Watched it all.
Un americano a Roma / An American in Rome (1954, Italy)
The young Italians have gone crazy over American culture. They eat American, speak American, think American, sing American, dress American. It’s so funny! Although, if you ask me, it’s better than being, you know, fascists. Watched: 17 minutes.
People who live in a dictatorship will tell you the most with awkward silences, the fear that flashes on their faces, and the implausible exclamations of rote enthusiasm. It’s what they don’t say that counts. You have to consider the negative space, to trace the air that surrounds the form to get an idea of its shape, because nobody will dare to articulate the things itself. If you accumulate everything that is unmentionable, feared, stamped out, then you have an idea of just how much terror people have swallowed over the years. You begin to grade the repression on a spectrum. Egyptian politics have been languishing in a torture cell for decades, for example, but people on the street still gripe about the government and roll their eyes at the president.
Not in Libya. The people I met in Libya were locked in the basement of an asylum. Social interaction was all nervous smiles, evasive answers, and cups of tea. Nobody wanted to talk about the Leader.
- Megan K. Stack, Every Man in this Village is a Liar (2010)