Irish Film Studies: The Crying Game

This semester, I’m attending a course on Irish cinema. Each week, we are expected to write a blog-like journal about the film we watched in class and/or our class discussion about the film. I’ve decided to include those entries to my blog, so it would be more agreeable to read than a Word document. This is my journal entry for The Crying Game (week 10).

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It’s a funny coincidence that we watched The Crying Game on week 10 as I had just recently watched a video where the film was mentioned. I had never seen it before, but this movie poster with a lady looking like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction (film made AFTER The Crying Game) was one that had a mysterious appeal and, to me,  and an aura of mystery just the way I like it.

The film is one that didn’t disappoint me. I have to say, I think it’s one of my favourite ones we watched in class. The subject of transsexuality is one that is not often exploited in cinema,so this film remains a significant one on that level. On this subject, what we could call the situation reversal is something that is significant in The Crying Game. I’ll explain. The relations between the characters definitely are an important element of this film. When Fergus (Stephen Rea) discovers that the beautiful Dil (Jaye Davidson) is, in fact, a man, his reaction (throwing up) is the most shocking element of the situation. But, as the film advances, Fergus manages to see the situation from another angle as he is, despite all, still attracted by Dil. So, it’s interesting to see how this element of the plot is developed in a favourable light (to a certain point).

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Aesthetically, the film remains a very special one by borrowing touches of film noir as the smoky poster à la femme fatale proves it. But, as it is not a black and white film, the colour cinematography is used to its full potential, with images that sometimes almost like paintings. This colour becomes particularly majestic, thanks to Dil’s sparkling costumes. There’s also something about this colourful cinematography (and the subject of transsexuality) that also made me think a bit of Almodovar movies.

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Despite its mainly dramatic background, there are some touches of humour in The Crying Game that are agreeably appreciated and make the film less heavy. Of course, it is far from being a comedy, but this scene where Dil throws the aquarium of her ex-lover by the window doesn’t fail to make us laugh.

Now, one last thing I wonder: why is this film called The Crying Game? Sure, Dil sings the song of the same name at one point of the film. But wouldn’t there be a deeper meaning? Could it evoke the sadness of the characters? There are probably many possibilities.

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Words: 410

Image sources

Gracenote, ” Movie Photo: The Crying Game.” Cineplex, 2015, https://www.cineplex.com/Movie/the-crying-game/Photos.

“The Crying Game.” Coral Gables Art Cinema, n.d, http://www.gablescinema.com/events/the-crying-game/.

“The Crying Game.” Roger Ebert.com, n.d, http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-crying-game-1992.

Irish Film Studies: Hunger

This semester, I’m attending a course on Irish cinema. Each week, we are expected to write a blog-like journal about the film we watched in class and/or our class discussion about the film. I’ve decided to include those entries to my blog, so it would be more agreeable to read than a Word document. This is my journal entry for Hunger (week 9).

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Hunger was a film on the program that I longed to see since it was directed by Award Winner movie director Steve McQueen (not to confuse with the star of The Towering Inferno and The Great Escape). I hadn’t seen any of his movies before, not even 12 Years a Slave. Dear!!! Well, we had to start somewhere and Hunger was the initiator.

That film made me very uncomfortable, but I think it was meant to be. So, I can positively say he succeed in his task. The film is a one that visually disturbs the viewers by using very crude violence and images of a jail with terrible living conditions. If you feel a bit sick watching those images, you are not the only one.

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There’s something quite clever about this film and that resides both in its aesthetic and narrative aspects. Hunger is an HONEST movie. It doesn’t try to embellish the reality. Of course, all realities are not horrible like the one inside this Irish jail, but life isn’t a bed of roses either. We could definitely call this type of films anti-Hollywood movies. The actors are also terribly convincing, it’s somehow hard to say if they are only acting or if they are truly hurt or hurting people. Of course, a movie is a movie, but how many times have we heard that some movies were physically and mentally hard to shoot? I’m pretty sure it was the case for Hunger.

Now, did I like Hunger? Well, no… I recognize its brilliance for the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but, I honestly prefer movies that are more a form of escapism and this one is far from being one. I’m someone who has always loved beautiful things. On-screen violence can be beautiful depending on how it is executed. But it’s not the case for Hunger. This film is honest but cruel.

Do I want to see more McQueen’s film now? Well, I’m still curious to see 12 Years a Slave one of these days, but let’s say it wasn’t love at first sight with Hunger.

And now, I’m ironically hungry!

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Words: 351

Images sources

Becker Films International, ” Hunger: affiche Michael Fassbender.” Allo Cine, Oct. 15, 2008, http://www.allocine.fr/film/fichefilm_gen_cfilm=115096.html.

“Hunger (2008).” A Film a Day, Nov. 26, 2014, http://afilmadaybysonia.blogspot.ca/2014/11/hunger-2008.html.

Irish Film Studies: Odd Man Out

This semester, I’m attending a course on Irish cinema. Each week, we are expected to write a blog-like journal about the film we watched in class and/or our class discussion about the film. I’ve decided to include those entries to my blog, so it would be more agreeable to read than a Word document. This was my journal entry on The Third Man (week 3)

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Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out was on my long “to watch” list since I read a review of it written by one of my fellow bloggers. Film noir + James Mason + Carol Reed = what seemed to be for me a perfect combination. And it was! I didn’t remember the film was taking place in Northern Ireland, but I guess it was a good thing as it finally created a context (this course) for me to watch it.

To visualize some clips from The Third Man (with Joseph Cotten – I LOVE this actor) was quite relevant as an “introduction” to Odd Man Out. Personally, this brought back good memories of when I was in Vienna with my friend this summer: when we visited Prater (where there is the famous big wheel) and when we spent an afternoon with a friend of mine, Paul Henreid’s grandson, who showed us the famous “Third Man door” where, if my memory doesn’t fail me, Harry Lime makes his first appearance.

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Me, in front of the famous door!

But, aside from bringing back good memories, watching the clips allowed us to make a great comparison with the cinematography of this film and Odd Man Out’s one. Being two noirs, I believed this element is the one that is the most similar from one film to another. For example, the night scenes of a city, showed with a lot of contrasts and shadows, wet streets and dark corners, seem to be recurrent in both films, as well as in film noir in general. In both films there is this mysterious and oppressing ambiance created by all this darkness and complex characters as well.

It’s interesting, because each time I watch a Carol Reed’s film, I can feel I am watching a Carol Reed’s film, even if some of them are very different. For example, my favourite one, A Girl Must Live, a comedy starring Carol Reed’s fetish actress, Margaret Lockwood, obviously has nothing to do with Odd Man Out, but somehow there is something in both films that tells me that it is a Carol Reed’s film. What it is? I can’t quite say. Is it due to the fact that they are British films? Because those are so different from American films, especially classic British films. I don’t know. Of course, it’s easier to do the comparison between Odd Man Out and The Third Man, as they are both film noirs.

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Margaret Lockwood, Renée Houston and Lilli Palmer in A Girl Must Live (1939)

Odd Man Out is not about the green Ireland that we saw in the following movie: The Quiet Man, but this is indeed a way to show us different aspects of Ireland’s life. While James Mason was not an Irish actor, I believe he did an interesting and convincing job. The co-actress, Kathleen Ryan (who was Irish), made me think so much of Patricia Roc, whom I could have perfectly imagined in this role as well (although she was British). The two makes a sad pair and perhaps represent the most tragic aspects of the film, the failure of the man character. Of course, there are many more to discuss about Odd Man Out, but I’ll stop here for the moment.

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Words: 521

Images sources:

“A Girl Must Live.” Silver Sirens, n.d, https://www.silversirens.co.uk/films/girl-must-live-1939/.

“Carol Reed’s Coded IRA Drama Odd Man Out Has the Look but not the Feel of Noir.” A.V. Club, Apr. 15, 2015, http://www.avclub.com/review/carol-reeds-coded-ira-drama-odd-man-out-has-look-n-217923

“Happy St. Pat’s! ‘Odd Man Out’ by Carol Reed Is a Great Irish Drama and a Great Thriller.” Film Noir Blonde, Mar. 15, 2016, http://www.filmnoirblonde.com/happy-st-pats-odd-man-out-by-carol-reed-is-a-great-irish-drama-and-a-great-thriller/.

“Odd Man Out.” Film Forum, n.d, http://filmforum.org/film/odd-man-out-reed-trilogy.

“The Third Man, 1949.” Little White Lies, Jun. 25, 2015, http://lwlies.com/reviews/third-man-1949/.

 

Irish Film Studies: Man of Aran

This semester, I’m attending a course on Irish cinema. Each week, we are expected to write a blog-like journal about the film we watched in class and/or our class discussion about the film. I’ve decided to include those entries to my blog, so it would be more agreeable to read than a Word document. This was my entry about our class discussion on Man of Aran (week 2)

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What a stimulating class it was! After watching Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran (a “staged” documentary), the class was divided in two in order to create a debate on if the film was honoring the reality of the people from Aran despite the fact that a lot of it staged. That was not the exact question, but it was something similar to that. As I like to be original and not always follow the crowd, I went for the “yes” side, those who thought Flaherty was somehow faithful to the culture of people from Aran.

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While I felt a bit asleep during the screening (sorry!), the debate was a good way to stimulate the class and create complete and interesting discussions: first, between our “group”, while we were sharing our ideas, and then, during the debate with the opposite team. I first thought the side who was “against Flaherty’s cinematographic representation of people from Aran” would have more arguments, better and more convincing ones, as this was pretty much the easiest point to defend, but, to my surprise, we turned out to be pretty good and found awesome counter arguments. The more we debated and share our points, the more I was convinced I was on the right side. We first have to understand that Flaherty might not necessarily represent ALL the reality of Aran, but he certainly is faithful to a part of it (otherwise, what’s the point?), and that is a good start. The director gave his vision of what he was filming, but I don’t think he had the intention of overshadowing the reality, maybe more to “glorify” it if I can say so.

The exercise was an interesting one as it allowed us to go out from the usual beating tracks of university courses where people just sit and listen to a teacher talk and talk… It’s because of such original film discussions that we don’t see the time passing in Irish Film Studies!

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Words: 326

Images sources:

“Man of Aran- review.” The Guardian, March 10, 2011, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/mar/10/man-of-aran-review.

Criterion Cast. n.d, http://blog.criterioncast.com/post/85200250261/robert-j-flahertys-man-of-aran-is-now-available.

Thing Like Cricket!: The Friendship of Charters and Caldicott

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This weekend, Debbie from Moon in Gemini is hosting the You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon, honouring the beautiful thing that friendship is, on and off the screen. I was, for the occasion, inspired to write about the notorious British characters Charters and Caldicott, two friends portrayed by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne.

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It all started with The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938). This Hitchcock’s suspense is known for its variety of characters rich in personality and this includes Charters and Caldicott.

The two fellows are best known for being cricket addicts. They are always talking about it and for them, it seems that it’s all that matters in the world. In The Lady Vanishes, they are on their way back to Manchester for the Test Match and they simply CANNOT miss their train connexion at Bâle.

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On her side, Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) has lost her friend Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) and suspects something has happened to her. Oddly enough, everybody on the train tells her they haven’t seen her. Iris looks for witnesses and remembers Miss Froy had talked to Charters and Caldicott in the restaurant wagon when they were having tea. The two men pretend they don’t remember it, as they don’t want anything to interfere with their hurry to arrive in Manchester on time.

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See, cricket is the most important thing in life for them. They simply refuse to help because of it! And when Iris ask them how things like cricket can make them forget, it’s the supreme insult!

But as much as they try to avoid it, Charters and Caldicott will eventually be involved in the train situation that implies a bunch of spies.

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After having read that, you might think that Charters and Caldicott are not very sympathetic characters. But you are wrong. Their appearance in The Lady Vanishes was so appreciated by the public that they appeared in 3 other films: Night Train to Munich (Carol Reed, 1940), Crook’s Tour (John Baxter, 1941) and Millions Like Us (Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, 1943). They were also part of the BBC radio serials Crook’s Tour and Secret Mission 609. A one season TV series called Charters & Caldicott was made in the 80s, but this one obviously doesn’t star Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford.

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Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne appeared in 8 other films together as different characters: The Next of Kin, Dead of Night, A Girl in a Million, Quartet, It’s Not Cricket, Passport to Pimlico, Stop Press Girl, and Helter Skelter. 

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Charters and Caldicott are like peas and carrots. One couldn’t exist without the other. They simply are like non-identical twins and their personalities connect perfectly. We have no doubt they have a big complicity and we’ll have the tendency to think that they met at a cricket match and discovered a common passion. They seem to be a bit selfish and snobbish, but, somehow, they are always involved in a political conflict: in The Lady Vanishes they take part in the final fight and help the “good ones” to escape with the train and cross the border. In Night Train to Munich, they help an old friend, Dickie Randall (Rex Harrison), and also Anna Bomasch (Margaret Lockwood) and her father Axel Bomasch (James Harcourt) to escape from the Nazis. In Crook’s Tour, they became owners, by accident, of a record containing secret instructions for the German Intelligence. Their appearance is very brief in Million’s Like Us, but once again they are here to help their country as two English soldiers fighting in the war (the second one).

Because yes, despite their indifference toward life, Charters and Caldicott turn out to be two jolly good fellows that are always willing to help. They are “very British” and would do everything to save the faith of their country, even if it includes risking their own life.

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Charters and Caldicott are English gentlemen that are hilarious and this, unwittingly. First, because of their strong and comical devotion to cricket, something that is quite anodyne. Then, for always putting themselves in some ridiculous situations, but always trying to be serious. I can think of this scene when they have to sleep in the maid’s room at the inn in The Lady Vanishes or when Charters has his face covered with whip cream when he attempts to pick save the famous record in Crook’s Tour.

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Their way of thinking and their life priorities are rather amusing too. One of the best examples is when, in Nigh Train to Munich, they learned that England is at war, and the first thing Charters thinks about is what will happen to his gold clubs (!). Or when, in the same film, Charters is reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf as if it was some little easy going lecture, as if it was an Archie Comic or something like that!

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Charters and Caldicott are always talking about cricket, but the funny thing is, in all the four films we actually never see them attending a match or playing themselves. No, they always seem to be travelling together, in countries with an unstable political situation.   This makes their character even more interesting and we surely are curious to know more about their life in England.

We have the pleasure to watch the four Charters and Caldicott films as each of them gives us more information about their life and their personality. In The Lady Vanishes, we don’t know much about them, except for the fact that they are cricket addicts. Bon. Then, in Night Train to Munich, we know that Caldicott went to college AND had a friend named Dickie Randall. We also know that Charters is not only a cricket’s addict, but also a golf ‘s addict. And, finally, we discover how patriotic they are, and how to be treated as good British subjects is very important to them (even if the German don’t seem to give a damn at all…). Crook’s Tour maybe is the most revealing of the three as Charters and Caldicott are the main characters of the film. The story depends on him. Here, we learn that Caldicott is engaged to Charter’s sister, the very authoritarian Edith (Noel Hood), who doesn’t seem to be an idealistic choice for him. We also learn their first name: Sinclair Caldicott and Hawtrey Charters. We realize how they are important to each other when Charters thinks he has killed Caldicott by accident (but he hasn’t). His traumatized face tells us a lot about how he regrets it. Poor Charters! And also, one of my favourite things about this film is the fact that Caldicott is in love! Not with Charter’s sister, but with the beautiful exotic dancer La Palermo (Greta Gynt). He’s too adorable when he smiles too her, hypnotized. And it’s in Crook’s Tour that we’ll see the only Caldicott’s on-screen kiss. So, Charters and Caldicott actually have feelings and can also be in love with girls and not only with cricket! Finally, in Millions Like Us, we learn that Caldicott has a wife, but we don’t really know who it is. Could it be La Palermo???

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Caldicott in love!
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Noel Hood as Edith Charters
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Greta Gynt as La Palermo

 

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Charters and Caldicott are one of the best examples of what best friends are. Always, calling each other “old man”, they do not only have very connective personalities, but always seems to get along well. We indeed never or rarely see them angry at each other. They are perfect travelling companions and their complicity is contagious.

The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich, Crook’s Tour and Millions Like Us certainly wouldn’t have been the same without their presence. They form one of the most appreciable duos of the British screen. Of course, their interprets were brilliant too. Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne built those unique personalities and gave them the perfect essence to become first class characters.

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Charters and Caldicott simply are the proof that two ordinary English gentlemen can become some of the most interesting characters in a film.

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I would like to thank Moon in Gemini for hosting this fun blogathon! It was a perfect occasion for me to finally watch Crook’s Tour and Millions Like Us that I had never seen before. The Charters and Caldicott’s films are all brilliant in their own way.

Don’t forget to read the other entries!

You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon Day 1

You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon Day 2

You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon Day 3

See you!

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Fun picture of Nauton Wayne, Margaret Lockwood and Basil Radford on the set of Night Train to Munich