Monday, April 21, 2014

Foreign Correspondent

120 min / 1940
Rating: 7/10

In 1939 rumors of war were constant but real news, the real facts, were hard to uncover. When American journalist Johnny Jones is sent to report on Europe’s increasingly desperate peace efforts he discovers instead a spy ring using peace conferences as a cover for their activities. This is Alfred Hitchcock’s take on the months before World War II, with much of the action taking place in the Netherlands, including in and around windmills.

There are no real cautions to offer: The film has no nudity, one kiss, and while an assassination is shown, it is over in less than a second. It does have some "love at first sight" nonsense, but even this is pulls off with charm:
Johnny Jones: I'm in love with you, and I want to marry you.
Carol Fisher: I'm in love with you, and I want to marry you.
Johnny Jones: Hmm... that cuts down our love scene quite a bit, doesn't it?
Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, this is a good yarn that I would recommend it to any classic film lover. But you've not seen a black and white film before, the pacing on this one might be too slow for you.

You can buy it on Blu-ray here and DVD here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Song of Survival

1985 (2004) / 58 min
Rating: 7/10

By early 1942 the Dutch East Indies were under Japanese control and all Westerners were being interned in camps. It would be three-and-a-half years before they were freed.

Song of Survival chronicles how after being held captive for 18 months a group of women in one camp – Dutch, Australian and British – came up with the morale-boosting idea of performing the works of Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin. The problem was, they had no all parts were performed vocally! The choir's principle organizer, Margaret Dryburgh, had an extraordinary memory for music and, as we hear in the documentary,
she had no sheet music, no instruments, but she was able to recall the melodies and harmonies of over two dozen orchestral and piano themes and arrange them for 4-part women's voice.
The founding of this vocal orchestra serves as the framework for the much larger story of what it was like in these Indonesian internment camps. Of the almost 100,000 non-Asians who were interned many died of malnourishment, and untreated diseases. The Japanese captors were often brutal, and generally uncaring.

So who would want to see this? Anyone with an interest in history, World War II (and particularly the Dutch perspective), music, or simply stories of courage, will appreciate this story.