Man without a Past follows the noirish travails of its protagonist M, who, in the film’s first sequence, arrives in the city on the train with a modest suitcase in tow, only to be mugged and beaten in a city park. Having sustained a gruesome head injury, M suffers from amnesia that has him forgetting both his personal identity and profession. He is taken in by a community of unemployed and underemployed container-dwellers near the city’s harbour, highlighting the film’s economic themes. With a budding relationship with the deadpan Irma and his career finally remembered, he happens to witness a bank robbery, which belatedly interests the police in his curious case. When they run his picture in the newspaper asking if anyone can identify him, his estranged/now ex-wife reveals he headed to the city after they had separated. A potential reconciliation with her funnily falls flat, and he opts for Irma and the harbour community. A . . . Read More
Meghe dhaka tara tells the story of Nita who takes on the role of breadwinner for a refugee family struggling to retain its middle-class status. When the movie opens Nita seems to be moving towards a relatively happy future, despite the self-destructive generosity with which she responds to the demands made on her by members of her family. Through the course of the film, though, Nita loses the man she loves to her attractive and worldly sister, is forced to give up her studies for a full-time job and, in an incredibly sad final sequence, is left to die of TB in a sanatorium. On the other hand, every member of Nita’s family, even her beloved and other-worldly older brother, become engrossed in their now financially secure family life, suppressing the memory not just of Nita, but also of the parasitic and cynical path that led to their status as properly middle-class folk.
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Based on a 1967 novel by Edgardo M. Reyes, Manila tells the simple tale of a country lad named Julio who ventures to the big city in search of his girlfriend, Ligaya.1 The latter goes missing shortly after being recruited to work as a housemaid. Between back-breaking jobs at a construction site and a brief stint as a call boy, Julio prowls Manila’s brothel-ridden Chinatown for any signs of Ligaya. Months later, he runs into her outside church. An ex-prostitute, Ligaya now lives as the kept woman of a Chinese shopkeeper named Ah Tek and as mother to Ah Tek’s baby. Julio convinces her to follow an ill-conceived escape plan. Ligaya does not show up at the appointed time, and dies under mysterious circumstances that same night. After her burial, Julio exacts revenge on Ah Tek by stabbing him with an ice pick. Fleeing the murder scene, Julio attracts a mob that corners him in an alley and lynches . . . Read More
Orphan sisters Xiao Yun and Xiao Hong from war-plagued northeast China live under the exploitation of their adoptive parents in Shanghai 1935. Xiao Hong, forced to work as a teahouse singer, falls in love with her neighbour Xiao Chen, whose room window faces hers. Her elder sister, the silent and gloomy Xiao Yun, has been subjugated to prostitution already and suppressed her desire for Xiao Chen. When Xiao Hong discovers that her adoptive parents plan to sell her off to the coveting local despot, Xiao Chen and his friends do all they can to stop it while dealing with their equivocating moral judgment on Xiao Yun, who, at the end, sacrifices herself to save her sister.
Produced by the Ming Xing Company1 with a strong cast2 and long-lasting melodies,3 Street Angel is one of the most beloved left-wing films made in 1930s semi-feudal, semi-colonial China.4 As the cultural milieu in . . . Read More
Set in a future time ‘a few years from now’ Mad Max tells the story of a battle between nomad bikers who are running rampant on the roads, and the policemen who are chasing them, trying to curb their anarchic behaviour. Max Rockatansky, played by a youthful Mel Gibson in a role that launched his career, is one of the policemen working for the law enforcement group, Main Force Patrol (MFP). Max divides his time between his commitment to his family, his wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) and son Sprog (Brendan Heath), and the dangerous demands of his job. After a series of tragic events, an increasingly solitary Max finds himself doomed to a life on the road, and the film becomes a fully-fledged revenge narrative.
“No other Australian films have influenced world cinema and popular cinema as widely and lastingly as George Miller’s Mad Max movies – Mad Max, Mad Max 2 (US title, The . . . Read More
Set in the turbulent months leading up General Augusto Pinochet’s violent coup on 11 September 1973, the film’s historical events are witnessed by child protagonists, Gonzalo, Pedro and Silvana. Specifically, the film follows Gonzalo as his loyalty is caught between his middle-class, and mostly right-wing family, and his two new friends, Pedro and Silvana, who come from a newly erected slum in the capital city Santiago. Their meeting is the outcome of a socialist programme within Gonzalo’s private school that offers scholarships to students from poor backgrounds yet much of the film plays out amongst their families and the urban districts of Santiago. At the same time that Gonzalo’s father sweeps confidently through the black markets and his mother conducts a clandestine affair with a wealthy Argentine benefactor, Pedro and Silvana join their uncle making small change from selling memorabilia to the opposing political factions . . . Read More
The English author W. W. Jacobs did most of his writing in a fifteen-year period around the turn of the twentieth century. Many of his stories were lighthearted tales about life on the English waterfront. But “The Monkey’s Paw,” first published in 1902 in a collection called The Lady of the Barge deals with the ghastly and macabre. According to G. K. Chesterton, it rates very highly “among our modern tales of terror in the fact that [it is] dignified and noble.” Chesterton says that Jacobs’ ‘ ‘horror is wild, but it is a sane horror.” This is in contrast to Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of “insane horror.” Even though “The Monkey’s Paw” is a short story and does not contain the royal characters or political intrigues of Greek drama, it does contain some elements of Greek tragedy. It begins in happiness and hope, and it closes in grief and despair. Mr. White’s desire for easy money (greed) leads . . . Read More
The British Empire
When Jacobs wrote “The Monkey’s Paw” a popular saying was “the sun never sets on the British empire.” By the early 1900s, England had conquered and colonized countries all over the world. The saying meant that somewhere in the world it was always daylight, and there a British colony could be found. Sergeant-Major Morris returns from India, a British colony, in ‘ The Monkey’s Paw.” In colonies like India, Hong Kong, Australia, and South Africa, British military men, explorers, archaeologists, and scientists were learning about ancient cultures and traditions little known in the West. Returning from distant colonies to England, they were first hand sources of information about other peoples and countries for their countrymen curious about exotic far-off lands. The retired colonel just back from India was a staple character in British popular fiction for many . . . Read More
Foreshadowing is a technique in which the writer hints at the events to come. Sometimes, authors depict events early in a story that are really microcosms of the plot that is soon to unfold; other times, writers create this effect by developing an atmosphere that projects the tone of what is about to happen. For instance, a rather cliched example would be a stormy night on the eve of a murder. Jacobs uses both types of foreshadowing techniques in “The Monkey’s Paw.” The Whites’ chess game at the opening of the story, when Mr. White puts his king into “sharp and unnecessary perils”—and soon sees “a fatal mistake after it was too late”—is a kind of minidrama, one that tells us what is about to happen in the story. The Whites (and readers) are given plenty of clues that the monkey’s paw is dangerous and powerful. When Herbert asks if Morris has had his three wishes, he only . . . Read More
Fate and Chance
In “The Monkey’s Paw,” Sergeant-Major Morris, an old family friend of the Whites, returns from India with tales of his exotic life and with a strange souvenir—a monkey’s paw. This paw has had a spell put on it by a fakir (a holy man), he tells the Whites. Morris goes on to say that the fakir wanted to show that “fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.”
As the story unfolds, author Jacobs provides many hints that, indeed, the monkey’s paw does possess strange powers, and that tempting fate by making the three wishes is a grave mistake. First, the son, Herbert, asks Morris if he has made his three wishes, since he is in possession of the monkey’s paw. ‘”I have,’ he said, quietly, and his blotchy face . . . Read More