To tide you over until I have some more stuff, this is a repost of some of my film writing from the old MySpace Blog.
DONKEY SKIN: (1971) Directed By Jacques Demy.
On her deathbed, a queen tells her husband that he must marry again to sire a heir but makes him promise to marry only the most beautiful princess in the land. The only problem is that princess is his daughter. And she escapes with the help of a fairy and the skin of a donkey.
Oui! The french and their fairy tales.
Adapted by Demy from the story by Charles Perrault (Who also wrote “Cinderella”.), the film is an enjoyable, if not completly sucessful fairy tale film. The plot is very slight and even at a running time of eighty-nine minutes, feels padded. But it also has it’s share of fantasical imagery. (An old lady who spits frogs. A dress the color of weather.) And it also proves that even wrapped in a dead animal skin and with a face smeared with soot, Catherine Deneuve is still the most radiant woman ever to grace the screen. With music by Michel Legrand.
THE WAR GAME/CULLODEN: (1964/1965.) Directed by Peter Watkins.
This double feature from New Yorker Films/Project X are two of the most potent political films ever made. “Culloden” is a recreation of the 1746 battle between Charles Stuart’s army of Jacobite highlanders and the The English Army led by the Duke of Cumberland. Watkins has no love for either side. Many of Stuart’s men are there to fulfill obiligations to their landlords and Stuart himself is seen as a selfish dandy. (When asked by the offscreen narrator how he can be so hopful when he is clearly outnumbered and in a location that offers him no advantage, he responds by saying that “God is on our side”. The battle was in 1746 and the film was made in 1964. History has a way of relentlessly repeating itself.)
And after the battle, the english respond by killing the scottish wounded and macassring thousands of innocent families. The films last line sums it all up…
“They created a desert and called it ‘peace'”.
“Culloden” garnered huge ratings for the BBC and made Watkins a rising star with in it’s ranks. His next film for them was “The War Game” which showed what could happened to Britian if a Nuclear War were to strike. Using data pulled from the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombings at Dresden, Watkins’ film puts a lie to the concept of a winnable nuclear war with stark imagery and unflinching honesty. It was so honest that the BBC banned it from broadcast for twenty years and Watkins left the organization under a cloud. Even forty years later, both films still have the power to make you feel like you’ve been punched in the heart. As a political filmmaker, Watkins is the director that Oliver Stone wishes he was. No higher praise can I give.