mid-century maunderings for men who know better

MIFF 2016 part three

Born to be blue

Chet Baker is a likeable and dedicated trumpet player. He is popular and successful. He is pretty, and sings like an off-key puppy. You just want to hug him and kiss him and pet him and stroke him and give him a bath. He really is a nice guy. He is also a junky and a pants man. This segment in the life of the thirteenth best trumpet player of the 1950s even gets you to feel sorry for the waste that heroin has wrought on his talent and good looks. Whaddya want? The truth?



Hedi is a mummy’s boy. He lives at home. He is a car salesman. Things are not going well at the dealership and he accepts a posting to a resort town. He doesn’t sell any cars. He doesn’t care. He meets Rim, a lively dancing nomad. They fall in love immediately but Hedi is already spoken for. He will be married in a few days. The marriage has been arranged on traditional principles. She is a lovely girl but leads a restricted life. Hedi tells Rim. She is not happy. Hedi tells his Mum. She is not happy. Rim the dancing nomad is leaving for Europe. What will he do? Choose marriage or freedom?


Far from the trees

It is the late sixties, just before lunch, a couple of cats are taking it easy in the Federal Department of Tourism in Fascist Spain, kicking around a few ideas:

“You know what Spain needs?”



“A strong currency?”


“An end to martial law?”

“No. More tourists.”

This misconceived travelogue may have worked had it been the 1160s and not the 1960s. It is unlikely that Franco’s coffers would have been filled by tourists flocking to see baroque atrocities such as, but not limited to:

  • Hooded men flagellating themselves with whisks before being lacerated with a wax ball studded with glass shards.
  • Starved donkeys ridden into the ground then beaten
  • Taunted bulls chased into the sea by semi-naked men
  • Wild horses corralled into a tiny enclosure being punched, beaten and shaved
  • Bullfights
  • More Klansmen types watching an unwilling donkey thrown from castle ramparts
  • Hysterical pilgrims screaming, thrashing and foaming at the mouth
  • Flamenco
  • Sick people carried in open coffins to church.
  • Elderly pilgrims crawling to church on the their knees
  • Black-shirts on parade; drumming, smoking cigars and being fierce
  • Drunk men setting themselves on fire and rolling together in an embrace on the floor

This is a ghastly spectacle but compelling nonetheless. It certainly excited the audience in the screening I attended.


Old Stone

Lao Shi is a cabdriver with a problem. He has knocked a man off his scooter. The rider lives, normally great news. In China it is better he dies, then the driver pays a small fee to the authorities. Now Lao Shi is responsible for this man’s medical bills for life. Lao Shi tries to wade through the bureaucracy of insurance and police reports, but things spiral out of control. His wife cleans out their joint account. He starts following the scooter rider and is convinced he is pulling a fast one. Things do not end well.



Wild cats rule Istanbul streets. We follow a dozen or so around the alleys, markets and docks. We meet the unrepentant humans who spoil them with treats and affection. This is one of a handful of films to receive an extra screening at MIFF by popular demand. Are you surprised? Are you surprised I went? This is a delightful film. I look forward to watching it again. In the real life I avoid the cats. If you own a cat I will never cross your threshold. You will never be invited into my home. I will withhold any gesture of physical warmth or affection when we meet. You have your cats and your millions of YouTube followers. What more do you need?


Monster with a thousand heads

There are some who believe the health insurance business is a scam. No matter how high your premiums, how many extras you pay for; when it comes time to collect: you’re screwed. No matter how close your reading of the contract, there’s always some incomprehensible exclusion buried in the thirtieth page. All those years, all those thousands of dollars—wasted. Sonia’s husband is dying. There is a problem with the claim. The insurance company doctor won’t see her. She gets the runaround. She gets angry and starts taking hostages. This film is almost a documentary. You are not going to leave feeling that the problem was solved. Your response to this film probably depends on which position you occupy on the pyramid of privilege. The ending is inevitable. In spite of that, I was stunned and had trouble getting out of my seat.


Don Juan

Oleg was diagnosed as autistic when he was a child. At 22, he submits to experts who berate, beat and cajole him. He is told he needs to try harder. He lives with his mother who alternates between flirty baby-talk and tirades of abuse. He is a lovely young man with a kind nature who can’t understand why his Mum thinks he is lazy and thoughtless. He doesn’t appear autistic, but traumatized and shy. He is intelligent and engages with people in a friendly manner. He joins an amateur dramatic society and is cast as Don Juan. It is stocked with beautiful women, one of whom, takes a shine to him and tries to bring him out of his shell. The idea that autism is something you need to be cured from has been rejected by neuro-diversity  activists who have coined the term neuro-typical to describe non-autistic people. It can be frustrating for autistic people to be portrayed in the media as a burden or public health risk. This is a sad, devastating and hilarious portrayal of families and experts getting it wrong… And one young man getting it right.


A hologram for the king

Alan Clay is a salesmen whose best days are behind him. Sound familiar? He is posted to the desert to chase a chimerical deal that would see his company provide IT solutions to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His personal and professional frustrations make for enjoyable light entertainment. There is plenty of irony and fish out of water stuff. It is nice to see Arabs portrayed in a mainstream American film as actual human beings. However, fifteen minutes from the end it turns into a Nora Ephron film and the whole thing is ruined. Ruined with a nice pink bow on it.


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This entry was posted on August 11, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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