Film

Kino Eye: A tribute to Sidney Poitier

Along with Harry Belafonte and a few others, Sydney Poitier was a pioneer in Hollywood when African-Americans found it difficult to get serious roles and were often restricted to playing cardboard cut-out man-servants, pimps, villains and so on. Poitier was the first African-American to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field (1963). Although probably he became a somewhat marginalised figure with the rise of militant political black activism in the late 60s and 70s, his central role in establishing a meaningful black presence in Hollywood should never be...

Women's Fightback: Is Die Hard a feminist movie?

This column contains spoilers for Die Hard Christmas may be Christianity’s second fiddle religious festival, never enough to rival Easter, but it is the number one festival of the secular world. A global phenomenon filled with nebulous and contradicting traditions. Even attempts at counter-Christmas culture will be co-opted by this global hobgoblin. In A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to Be Jewish by Rabbi Joshua Eli Plaut, he describes the growth of New York Jewish families spending Christmas day in Chinese restaurants, a tradition that is now definitively “Christmassy”. In Japan, KFC have...

Kino Eye: One of China’s best films, Red Sorghum

Directed by Zhang Yimou, Red Sorghum is set in the thirties in Shandung province around the time of the second Chinese-Japanese war (1937-45). Jiu’er (Gong Li) is sold in an arranged marriage to Li Datou, a leper, who owns a distillery which brews Red Sorghum wine. Jiu’er falls in love with a distillery worker, “Grandpa” (Jiang Wen), who rescues her from bandits and later they have a child. Li Datou dies (possibly murdered); he has no heirs and Jiu’er becomes the owner of the distillery. Grandpa is the butt of a practical joke and peevishly urinates in the huge wine vats (don’t try this at...

Kino Eye: Hungarian classic films

Slightly different Kino Eye this week. Wondering what seasonal gift to buy your film-loving friend? Try this new box set from Second Run, three rarely seen Hungarian classics: Merry-Go-Round (Zoltán Fábri, 1956), Current (István Gaál, 1963) and Angus Dei (Miklós Jancsó, 1970). All three were important films when released and have stood the test of time. Merry-Go-Round captured the spirit of a people about to rise against their oppressors in 1956 with its effervescent, optimistic tale of a Romeo-and-Juliet love reaching across the barriers between collective farmers and private holders; István...

Kino Eye: Chinese film after “socialist realism”

After 1949 Chinese filmmaking was trapped in a version of “socialist realism”. Eventually the filmmakers of the so-called “Fifth Generation” broke away from that deadening practice, starting with Chen Kaige’s Yellow Earth (1984), with brilliant cinematography by Zhang Yimou. The film follows the journey of Gu Qing (played by Xueqi Wang), a soldier in the People’s Liberation Army sent to a remote region to collect folk songs. He moves in with a family of poor peasants. Gu Qing struggles to convince the peasants of his aims. He impresses 14 year old Cuiqiao (Bai Xue), the daughter of the...

Kino Eye - Ireland on film: Strumpet City

The recent articles in Solidarity on James Connolly and other aspects of Irish labour history bring to mind what some have called the “great Irish novel”: James Plunkett’s Strumpet City, adapted for TV by Hugh Leonard and broadcast in Ireland in 1980 and then the UK. Strumpet City covers the period from 1907 to 1914, taking as its central event the Dublin Lockout of 1913. Connolly doesn’t make an appearance (he was in the USA for some of this time) but we are offered a surprisingly bravado performance from Peter O’Toole as the famous labour leader Jim Larkin. For me, however, the TV adaptation...

Kino Eye: Life out of balance

After the events at COP26 in Glasgow, we are due a film about the environment (and not before time!). Often, environmental or green films feature an individual fighting against a larger organisation (a corporation or a government) something in the manner of Dr. Thomas Stockman in Ibsen’s drama Enemy of the People. One popular example from Hollywood is Erin Brokovich (2000). Koyanaasqatsi (1982) is very different. Directed by Godfrey Reggio, with music by Philip Glass, it is a poetic depiction, a collage, of often breathtaking images taken from all four corners of the world, highlighting the...

Kino Eye: Rosa Luxemburg on film

The article on Paul Frölich (Solidarity 612) brought to mind the 1986 film Rosa Luxemburg, by Margarethe von Trotta. Despite some faults Rosa Luxemburg does justice to the “Eagle”, as Lenin once referred to her. Although she doesn’t resemble Rosa Luxemburg, Barbara Sukowa turns in a superb performance as we follow Rosa from her childhood in Poland to her death at the hands of the far-right Freikorps in the dying embers of the Spartacist revolution in Berlin in 1919. All the main elements of Rosa’s life are shown in the film: her fight against the revisionist Bernstein, her friendship with...

The real-life William Walker

It was great to have the exceptional film Queimada flagged up for essential viewing in Kino Eye (Solidarity 611), but the article missed relating the film’s positive ending following on the execution of the revolutionary leader Jose Dolores. As the cynical British agent William Walker makes his exit from the island, he encounters a black dockworker who reminds him of his first meeting with Dolores. This time Walker gets his come-uppance when the docker stabs him to death. The end “message” of the film is that the people have learnt a valuable lesson through struggle and their fight goes on...

Kino Eye: Warsaw’s anti-fascist resistance

There are a number of films which depict aspects of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, including Jacob the Liar (Peter Kassovitz, 1974), The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002) and Run Boy Run (Pepe Danquart, 2013). However, I want to highlight what I think is the best film of the Polish anti-fascist resistance films: Kanal, by Andrzej Wajda (made in 1957), which actually shows the later Warsaw Uprising of 1944. In many ways it is a harrowing film; a band of Polish resistance fighters are trapped and the Nazi forces are closing in on them. Driven to desperation they devise a scheme to escape...

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