THE RULES OF THE GAME takes place on the eve of World War II at an aristocratic house party at an opulent chateau on a country estate just outside of Paris where the overlapping ‘affaires d’amour’ of all social classes are observed with a keen eye. Jean Renoir looks to the eighteenth-century world of commedia dell’arte and Mozartian opera, seamlessly integrating farce with tragedy, using a classical form to offer his audience a profound and multifaceted parable on the disturbing realities that underlie the veneer of contemporary French society, and which are themselves symptomatic of the nascent decline of Old World Europe. The film was initially condemned for its satire on the French upper classes and was greeted with derision by a Parisian audience at its première. The upper class is depicted in this film as capricious and self-indulgent, with little regard for the consequences of their actions. It was banned by the French government. FILMS
Billy Budd is a young man impressed from a merchant ship in 1797 and made foretopman on the British Navy frigate Avenger during the French revolutionary wars with England. In a conversation with the Captain, Edward Fairfax Vere, the ship’s master-at-arms, Jon Claggart, accuses Budd of mutinous conspiracy. Skeptical of the accusations (given Budd’s easy-going and cheerful bearing), Captain Vere invites Claggart to make the accusations in Budd’s presence. Given the opportunity to rebut the accusations, Budd, who suffers from an inability to speak under duress, is unable to do so. Frustrated and angry, Budd strikes Claggart, killing him. Though believing Budd innocent of mutiny and free of any intent to kill Claggart, Vere quickly convenes a drumhead court to try Budd . .
A powerful and moving film about the battle of good versus evil
‘Why passports? Why immigration restrictions? Why not let human beings go where they wish to go, North Pole or South Pole, Russia or Turkey, the States or Bolivia? Human beings must be kept under control. They cannot fly like insects about the world into which they were born without being asked. Human beings must be brought under control, under passports, under finger-print registrations. For what reason? Only to show the omnipotence of the State, and of the holy servant of the State, the bureaucrat. Bureaucracy has come to stay. It has become the great and almighty ruler of the world. It has come to stay to whip human beings into discipline and make them numbers within the State. With foot-printing of babies it has begun; the next stage will be the branding of registration numbers upon the back, properly filed, so that no mistake can be made as to the true nationality of the insect. A wall has made China what she is today. The walls all nations have built up since the war for democracy will have the same effect. Expanding markets and making large profits are a religion. It is the oldest religion perhaps, for it has the best trained priests, and it has the most beautiful churches; yes, sir.’
The Death Ship — Das Totenschiff, B. Traven (Germany 1926)
The extraordinary story of Eli Kazan’s paternal uncle, Avraam-Elia, born in 1909 to an Anatolian Greek family living under brutal Turkish rule during the Ottoman Empire. In 1913 he was four when his parents immigrated to New York City. His father, George Kazancioglu, a rug merchant, continued his trade in America. AMERICA AMERICA tells of Elias Kazan’s father’s brother who fled to Constantinople (renamed Istanbul in 1930) to escape Turkish Ottoman brutality towards native Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians. Before escaping to Constantinople, his uncle’s father gave his son the family treasures and a plan to earn sufficient money so that his family could later join him in Constantinople, and from there take passage to America. However, BEFORE UNCLE AVRAAM-ELIA KAZANCIOGLU reached the United States, his journey led him into a series of experiences — each one one more shocking than the next. Avraam-Elia came across Ottoman Turks burning a church filled with trapped and helpless Armenian children and elderly people. He also witnessed the violence of an “abortive massacre”, which filled him with even more determination to escape from the violence against the Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians and other Christians of Asia Minor (now called Turkey). After many trials and tribulations, Avraam-Elia did reach New York City where he worked as a shoeshine boy. Eventually, from his savings, A. E. Kazan his newly adopted name, brought his family to the land where they, and Elia Kazan, had the chance to escape Ottoman brutalities and to fulfill their potential.
Search FILMS: America, America 1; America, America 2; America, America 3; America, America 4
Early silent film (1915) set in Tsarist Russia, where a newly married woman’s husband, an anarchist, is framed by a corrupt police chief and sent into exile in Siberia along with one of her former lovers. She attempts to rescue her husband only to find that the former suitor has assumed his identity. Based on a stage play by John Oxenham and starring Clara Kimball Young, Montagu Love and Claude Fleming.
A 1920 silent film directed by Robert Wiene from a screenplay by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. It is one of the most influential of German Expressionist films and is often considered one of the greatest horror movies of all time. This film is cited as having introduced the twist ending in cinema. It has also been postulated that the film — with its tyrannical central character of Caligari — can be considered as an allegory for German social attitudes in the post World War I period. Who knows! . . .
Sergei Eisenstein‘s Strike, (his first full-length feature film — pre-Stalinist) is among the most outstanding cinematic debuts in the history of film. Triggered by the suicide of a worker falsely accused of theft, a strike is called by the labourers of a Moscow factory during Czarist times (1903). The managers, owner and the Czarist government send in spies and provocateurs in an attempt to break the workers unity. Unsuccessful, they hire the police and, in the film’s most harrowing and powerful sequences, the unarmed strikers are slaughtered in a brutal confrontation with the military.
After the widespread controversy surrounding his racist film The Birth of a Nation (1915), Griffith attempted to answer, defensively, his critics by taking a smaller feature film that he was working on about the contemporary, ‘Progressive Era’ struggle between capital and labour [titled “The Mother and the Law”] and the theme of social injustice, and combining it with three new stories to create a more dramatic epic. All four widely separate stories, spanning several hundreds of years, ages and cultures, are held together by themes of intolerance, man’s inhumanity to man, hypocrisy, bigotry, religious hatred, persecution, discrimination and injustice achieved in all eras by entrenched political, social and religious systems. In the original print, each story was tinted with a different color.
* THE ‘MODERN’ STORY (A.D. 1914): (Amber Tint) In early 20th century America during a time of labour unrest, strikes, and social change in California and ruthless employers and reformers – a young Irish Catholic boy, an exploited worker, is wrongly imprisoned for murder and sentenced to be hung on a gallows. The boy is saved from execution in a last-minute rescue by his wife’s arrival with the governor’s pardon.
* THE JUDAEAN STORY (A.D. 27): (Blue Tint) The Nazarene’s (Christ’s) Judaea at the time of his struggles with the Pharisees, his betrayal and crucifixion (told as a Passion Play in his last days) – it is the shortest of the four stories.
* THE FRENCH STORY (A.D. 1572): (Sepia Tint) Renaissance, 16th century medieval France at the time of the persecution and slaughter of the Huguenots during the regime of Catholic Catherine de Medici and her son King Charles IX of France, and the notorious atrocities of St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (including its effects upon the planned wedding of a young innocent Huguenot couple – Brown Eyes and Prosper Latour).
* THE BABYLONIAN STORY (539 B.C.): (Gray-Green Tint) peace-loving Prince Belshazzar’s Babylon at the time of its Siege and Fall by King Cyrus the Persian, due to the treacherous High Priests – and the Mountain Girl’s vain efforts to avert the tragedy. The outdoor set for the Babylonian sequences was the largest ever created for a Hollywood film up to its time, and its crowd shots with 16,000 extras were also some of the greatest in cinematic history.
Director Robert Hamer’s fiendishly funny Kind Hearts and Coronets stands as one of Ealing Studios’ greatest triumphs, and one of the most wickedly black comedies ever made. Dennis Price is sublime as an embittered young commoner determined to avenge his mother’s unjust disinheritance by ascending to her family’s dukedom. Unfortunately, eight relatives, all played by the incomparable Alec Guinness, must be eliminated before he can do so.
Generally considered the most sublime of the Ealing comedies and a brilliant vehicle for the astonishing versatility of Alec Guiness – both of which it is – journalist and critic Simon Heffer also considers Kind Hearts and Coronets to be one of the most subversive films ever made in the British cinema, with an innovative, destructive temper that make later anti-Establishment films such as If and A Clockwork Orange seem derivative by comparison.
This 1949 film about a man who murders member after member of his extended family in order to inherit a dukedom is dark not only because its subject is mass murder, but also because of its subtle attack on almost every aspect of British social order – the legal system, the class system, the Church, the City. More unusually, Heffer also considers it as a perfect assault – often disguised by its comedy – on the shallow and narrow lower middle-class values and proprieties that predominated in Britain in the immediate post-war period.
TO THE HONORABLE MISS S… AND OTHER STORIES by Ret Marut a.k.a. B. Traven With an introduction by Will Wyatt, Producer of the BBC documentary B. Traven: A Mystery Solved (See FILMS) (Translated from the German by Peter Silcock). Originally published in English by Cienfuegos Press, Sanday, Orkney (1981)
In 1916 Ret Marut, the author who later became famous under the nom de plume of B. Traven, published this collection of fifteen stories under the title TO THE HONOURABLE MISS S … Written during the years when he was an itinerant actor and journalist in Germany before and during World War I, most of these stories first appeared when Marut edited the anti-war journal, Der Ziegelbrenner (The Brickburner), in Munich. They foreshadow many of the themes and philosophy that characterise such great works as The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Death Ship, The White Rose, The Bridge in the Jungle, and other novels and stories Traven wrote later in Mexico. This collection includes such tales as “The Story of a Nun,” in which a doctor marries a doomed woman whom he first meets as a ghost, and “The Silk Scarf,” a simple story with an acidulous ending. Other stories deal with such subjects as pretension, fashion, greed, exploitation, and the price of success, all themes that Traven further developed in his subsequent work. The title story, “To the Honourable Miss S…”, is a romantic love story told against the backdrop of trench warfare in World War I. The vivid realism of the war scenes is reminiscent of Enrich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.