What a Piece of Work is Man

John Claudius, a professor of philosophy at Harvard, returns to his home in Germany after 20 years. As a young boy, he was sent to live with his mother’s relatives in Pittsburgh before World War II broke out. In his absence, his father built a financial empire with his munitions plant and became a respected member of the Nazi party. After Claudius senior was killed in a bombing raid, John’s mother Gertrud married Paul Claudius, the younger brother of her husband. The reason for John’s unexpected visit after 20 years is motivated by suspicions that his father was murdered by Paul and he is determined to learn the truth. Sound familiar? It should because The Rest is Silence (1959, German title: Der Rest ist Schweigen) is a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet set in a post-WW2 Germany.

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The Burden of Brilliance

Who was Nikola Tesla? Some people know him as the scientific genius who created the alternating current (AC) electrical system which became the industry standard instead of Thomas Edison’s direct current (DC) electrical system. Tesla is also credited with developing the first X-ray films known as shadowgraphs, inventing the Tesla coil which became the basis of modern radio technology, designing the first neon sign and holding the patents for more than 250 inventions which have improved the quality of human life. Such brilliance comes with a price and the Croatian-born immigrant was also an eccentric with no talent for profitable self-promotion or successful business ventures which often affected his career adversely. Sounds like a fascinating subject for a film, right? Director/screenwriter Michael Almereyda thought so too and his 2020 movie Tesla featuring Ethan Hawke in the title role, is currently in release but be forewarned, this is NOT a conventional biopic by any stretch of the imagination.    Continue reading

Christopher Plummer: The Von Trapp Who Didn’t Want to Sing

Christopher Plummer, out of his element and comfort zone in The Sound of Music (1965)

Christopher Plummer, out of his element and comfort zone in The Sound of Music (1965)

In interviews over the years Christopher Plummer would often jokingly refer to The Sound of Music as “The Sound of Mucus” or “S&M” but one can easily understand why he’d rather talk about almost any other film or theater production in his career because that 1965 blockbuster film was really a showcase for Julia Andrews. Plummer’s role as Captain Von Trapp was, in his own words, “very much a cardboard figure, humourless and one-dimensional.” Even though screenwriter Ernest Lehman collaborated with Plummer on improving the part, Captain Von Trapp was not destined to be one of the actor’s favorite roles. And having to sing was another drawback for him. As he confessed in his memoirs, he was “untrained as a singer. To stay on a long-sustained note was, for me, akin to a drunk trying to walk the straight white line…”    Continue reading