Silence of the Lamb

The Quiet Room (1996)First person narration in films can be a tricky proposition. Not only can it become monotonous but it can also work against the visual storytelling, imposing a structure on the film that frustrates the viewer’s attempt to interpret and come to their own conclusions about events, characters and dialogue. One of the rare exceptions to this often overused device is Rolf de Heer’s THE QUIET ROOM (1996), the story of a marriage coming apart as told by the couple’s seven year old daughter. Seen from her viewpoint, the increasingly hostile relationship is something she can’t fully comprehend but she decides to take steps to alter her unhappy situation by refusing to speak until her parents reconcile. Despite a highly stylized visual approach (the cinematography is by Tony Clark), THE QUIET ROOM is a simply told but emotionally complex character study with moments of magical realism and a refreshingly unsentimental but compassionate look at how one child reacts to a marriage on the rocks.    Continue reading

Golden Salamander: Treasure and Death in Tunisia

Golden Salamander posterThough relatively unknown today, Golden Salamander (1950), Ronald Neame’s second directorial effort, is one of those unexpected but welcome cinema excursions that actually delivers on its exotic title. On the surface, it appears to be no more than pure pulp, a B-movie thriller, but the casting, direction, music score and atmospheric setting elevate it to A-picture status. It might not be great art but it’s total escapism, executed with flair.      Continue reading

Missing in Action: Birds in Peru Starring Jean Seberg

Jean Seberg in Birds in Peru (1968)

Jean Seberg in Birds in Peru (1968)

There is a popular misconception these days that almost any movie you want to see is available for streaming or viewing somewhere in cyberspace but that simply isn’t true. Thousands of films go missing, become inaccessible or go into distribution purgatory as the years pass and they become forgotten in time. Birds in Peru (aka Birds Come to Die in Peru) would probably be forgotten too if it hadn’t received such scathing reviews upon its original release in 1968.     Continue reading

Faded Delusions of Grandeur: The Desert of the Tartars

The Desert of the Tartars (1976)Each year hundreds of international films never get picked up for distribution in the U.S. and the select few that do are either high profile film festival prize winners like Michael Haneke’s Amour (2012) or popular commercial hits like March of the Penguins (2005) from France and Life is Beautiful (1997) from Italy. So when you come across an austere and haunting cinematic work like Valerio Zurlini’s The Desert of the Tartars (Il Deserto Dei Tartari), you have to wonder how many great films from other lands are out there that you are not going to see…and probably never will.       Continue reading