Othello's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Macbeth (1971)
9 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

(Presentation) (First Viewing, 6th Polanski film)

[b]Macbeth[/b] was the first film Polanski made after his wife brutal murder by the Manson family, and it shows. The film is considered to be the bloodiest and most violent straight Shakespeare adaptation ever made, and it certainly explores deep into the dark psychology of Shakespeare's famous tragedy.

The young and beautiful Jon Finch and Francesca Annis are unexpected casting choices to play Macbeth and his notorious wife, but it does emphasize that these two young monarchs had everything going for them until they got involved in the evil that destroyed them. And speaking of evil, the Weird Sisters are certainly bizarre (the couldron scene is an image that can't be easily forgotten), and leads to some striking but unnerving montages that links back to Polanski's psychological horror films like [b]The Tenant[/b], [b]Repulsion[/b] and [b]Rosemary's Baby[/b].

I wouldn't call it one of my favorite Polanski films, but it's certainly top-notch as far as Shakespeare adaptations go. Polanski, always a master at delving into the horrors that lurk in the mind, takes Shakespeare's play into unexpected, memorable directions.

Ovoce stromu rajskych jime (Fruit of Paradise)
10 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes


(DVD) (First Viewing, 2nd Chytilová film)

Gone is the giddy anarchy of DAISIES (SEDMIKRASKY) as Czech New Wave icon Vera Chytilová opts for a more formal but equally audacious and experimental approach with FRUIT OF PARADISE, the film which followed several years later. Using the Biblical story of Adam and Eve as a reference point, Chytilová sets up an elaborate, symbol-laden allegory dealing with temptation, infidelity, and, I fully expect, political commentary and general subversiveness that went completely over my head.

But even if the film itself seems deliberately obscure and overly cryptic, the amazing use of color and texture keeps the entire film in this kind of perpetual dream state that is fascinating to witness. The score, which incorporates everything from grand operatic choral work to the atonal is also quite amazing in its own right. Thankfully the image and audio quality of Facet's recent DVD release is excellent, but this seems to be a film meant to be seen on the big screen where the images and the sounds can achieve a kind of overpowering, hypnotic power over the viewer.

I don't think that many will be able to buy into Chytilová's vision, and long stretches are deathly dull, but as a major fan of DAISES, I'm glad to finally have the opportunity to see it.

Kanal (1961)
10 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Viewed 11/04/03 (VHS) (First Viewing)

Quick reaction: Very dissapointing. The first part is very uninteresting, and once the sewers are actually reached, it's still not very engaging. The clausterphobic atmosphere is its best quality. Much more hesitant to watch Wajda's [i]Ashes and Daimonds[/i], a film that's been high on my to-see list for a long time.

Chu Chin Chow
Chu Chin Chow (1934)
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes


(DVD) (First Viewing, 1st Forde film)

Until the mid 1950's, the most successful stage play to ever run in England was "Chu Chin Chow," a lavish adaptation of the Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves legend. In 1934, it was made into a huge, overblown film with little reworking, meaning that in some ways, CHU CHIN CHOW is a time capsule, capturing (intentionally or not) the sensibilities and creative values of another time in history.

I think that's an essential approach to take when watching CHU CHIN CHOW, because to modern eyes and ears, this seems like an overblown, ridiculously hokey mess of a movie. It contains almost zero cinematic awareness (it's essentially a stage performed before a camera), and the heavily-gestured acting style and stylized way of speaking is an obvious hold-over from stage and silent film acting techniques. That's not to say anything of the ridiculous way Muslims and people of Arabic origins are depicted by English actors (complete with foot-high turbans, child-like comprehension skills and a habit of yelling "Allah!" in moments of fright or surprise) which at times borders on offensive.

All of this demonstrates that even as last as the first half of the 20th century the idea of the Middle East laden with silks, spices, monstrous stashes of gold and writhing, half-naked female slaves was as widespread and accepted as it had been when it inspired de Gama and Columbus to set out in ships to collect these precious commodities for the Western World. But at the same time, it also shows the appetite for the sumtuous, exotic and the overblown at this time between the World Wars, when financial hardship was widespread. Perhaps then the overwhelming success of CHU CHIN CHOW is not so much a demonstration of how tastes in entertainment has changed over the years, but of the enduring desire to be entertained.

There is one particular redeeming aspect of CHU CHIN CHOW that cuts through the historical static and still contains a raw power to this day, and that is Anna May Wong. Wong, an intelligent and by all account massively talented star of Asian descent (Hollywood's first), left Hollywood for Europe to search for roles beyond the exotic vamp she had been typecast as. She is the only actor in CHU CHIN CHOW who possess any awareness of how to act for the camera, and her role, though rather limited, still has a raw sexiness and erotic pull that still packs a punch today. It is no wonder that Wong has been experiencing a recent critical renaissance, and that CHU CHIN CHOW is now being chiefly marketed as an Anna May Wong film.

It should also be noted the VCI Entertainment has done a knock-out job on bringing this film to DVD, giving it a Criterion-like treatment. It's a three-disc set with the original British cut (which I watched), an edited American version and a full disc of extras (which I'm still working through).

So what does one make of this film? It's not good, but in its own way, its historical importance is undeniable. Fascinating, bizarre, and really, quite bad, but in a good way.

A Canterbury Tale
11 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

(VHS) (First Viewing, 6th Powell and Pressburger (7th Powell) film)

Such an interesting idea, such a dull treatment. Though the last half hour proved to be much more satisfying than everything that had preceeded it, it still didn't make up for the fact that I was almost completely disinterested for the first hour and a half.

I suppose it doesn't help that the video quality was rather poor, especially when long sequences take place in the dark where only faint outlines are visable. The "mystery" wasn't intriguing in the least, but my biggest complaint is (Sergeant) John Sweet's performance as the American who finds an unexpected joy in the English countryside. This was his only film, and his lack of experience is painfully obvious, and I found his presence grating.

Thankfully, Sheila Sim is lovely, and she has the best scene in the film (remisicing in her "caravan"). I also liked the mysterious presence of Thomas Colpepper despite the fact his character isn't fleshed out, and I have to admit I fell for the relentless flurry of miracles at the end. I'm starting to "get" P&P's sentimentality more with each film I see, and I'm actually starting to enjoy it.

If this film ever makes its way to DVD I'll gladly give it another shot, but as for now I have to admit it's far and away my least favorite Archers film.