The sensitive twenty-year-old narrator (he has written poems and a play called “Saul”) reaches manhood through three years of service as a soldier in the second company of the German army during World War I. His loss of innocence during the cataclysm is the focus of the author’s anti-war sentiment. If one views this book as a roman a clef (a thinly veiled autobiographical novel), he is telling the basic story of Erich Maria Remarque. Although he feels cut off and alienated from past values two years after the war begins, Paul is compassionate to his dying friends. In camaraderie, the author suggests, is salvation. One by one, Paul sees his comrades die; he also stabs a French soldier, a death that torments him profoundly. He is killed by a stray bullet just before the declaration of the armistice. Critics differ on the degree to which Baumer is Remarque, but the general consensus is that Paul Baumer is foremost a fictional . . . Read More
Part I-Behind the Lines
Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front is the story of a young German foot soldier, Paul Baumer, during the waning days of the First World War. Since Paul narrates his story-which consists of a series of short episodes-in the first person and in present tense, the novel has the feel of a diary, with entries on everyday life interspersed with horrifying battle episodes.
We find that Paul joined the army with his classmates Muller, Kropp, and Leer at the urging of their schoolmaster. In the first section, Paul also introduces his friends Tjaden, Westhus, and Katczinski, called Kat. At forty, Kat is the oldest of the soldiers and is skilled in the practicalities of life. As the book opens, the soldiers concern themselves with food, cigarettes and thoughts of home.
While resting, Baumer and his friends decide to visit Kemmerich, a wounded comrade, at the field hospital. They discover . . . Read More
Nola Darling is a young black woman living in Brooklyn. She is sexually involved with three men: the caring but overly protective Jamie, the affluent but arrogant Greer, and the fun but immature Mars. Each man wants to date her exclusively, but Nola resists deciding on a single partner, wanting to maintain her independence. The impatience – and insecurity – of her three suitors pressurizes her into making a choice, but she soon begins to question whether she has picked the right man, or if she even needs a man at all.
As the cultural landscape of American independent cinema becomes increasingly obscured by the perception of the sector as an industrially necessary stepping stone, discussion surrounding Spike Lee’s directorial debut, She’s Gotta Have It, has centred less on the black sexual politics which caused such a stir in 1986 and more on Lee’s entrepreneurial production . . . Read More
An angry black man shouts at his son for failing to get into a fight to protect his younger brother; the boy’s mother contemptuously slaps him. Years later, the boy, Stan, lives with his wife and children in Watts, a black Los Angeles neighbourhood. He works in an abattoir. He cannot sleep, and is unable to respond to his wife’s sexual desires. Life unfolds slowly, a day at a time. Children play in vacant lots, on rooftops, in derelict buildings and railroad sidings. Two men try to get Stan to join them in committing a crime. The white woman who runs the liquor store hits on him. He scrapes together the money to buy a car engine, but the engine gets broken. He tries to take his family out into the country to a racetrack, but the car gets a puncture and there is no spare tire. Back home, it looks like it might rain. Stan is finally able to – wants to – return his wife’s attentions. He still works in an . . . Read More
DJay is a Memphis pimp and small-time drug dealer who operates out of his car and resides in low-rent housing with erratic air conditioning, sharing his space with his hookers Nola, Shug and Lex. Frustrated with his life, DJay decides to reinvent himself as a rapper with the assistance of former school classmate Key, who is now a recording engineer. Despite lacking experience and money, they set up a makeshift studio in DJay’s home with the aim of cutting a demo that will sufficiently impress hometown rap star Skinny Black and lead to a recording contract.
An independent film with obvious crossover potential, Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow was bought by MTV Films at the Sundance Film Festival for a record $9 million and later released through Paramount Classics. Produced by the studio-affiliated African-American filmmaker John Singleton, who parlayed his breakthrough success with . . . Read More
Duke, a young African-American, struggles to survive and make a name for himself in the slums of Harlem. The film opens with a close-up of a bearded, black Muslim on the street preaching hate against whites and the cruel world we live in. We then get a tour from Duke’s high school teacher, the only male Caucasian in the film, guiding his class through Fifth Avenue to the public library. The rest of the movie plays out in the ghetto, depicted with montages of real locations and real people around the city. Duke’s main motivation is to obtain a ‘piece’ (a gun), and thus become president of the ‘Royal Pythons’, the local gang that he belongs to. Once he has the weapon, Duke can wage war on their rival gang, the ‘Wolves.’ There is also a love story, which follows Duke’s seduction of the gang’s official prostitute, Luanne. He takes her to Coney Island to see the ocean, which she had no idea was just a few subway stops . . . Read More
Coffy embarks on a spree of bloody vengeance against drug dealers, dirty cops, and corrupt politicians after her family become casualties of organized crime. Her older sister is a prostitute, her brother a coke addict and her younger sister, LuBelle, is brain-damaged as a result of contaminated drugs. The film begins with Coffy meting out her own brand of street justice with a sawn-off shotgun and a syringe to two drug dealers responsible for supplying LuBelle. At first Coffy is conflicted by her actions but when her childhood friend, and one good cop, Carter Brown, are violently attacked when Brown takes a stand against police corruption, by refusing to go on the take like his partner, McHenry, she is transformed into a vengeful femme fatale, wreaking a path of destruction and mayhem as she seeks justice for those close to her, and the black community as a whole. Disguising herself as a high-call Jamaican call girl (appropriately named . . . Read More
Bill is a successful car salesman, famous from his television advertisements. He and his wife Bernadette are an affluent couple living in Beverly Hills. One day, they find a rat in their swimming pool; suddenly a big, black man, Bone, appears in their garden, disposes of the rat and then, despite being completely unarmed, invades their home, demanding money. There is no money in the house – indeed, Bill and Bernadette are deep in debt, living on credit – but Bone discovers that Bill has hidden $5,000 in a secret account. Bone sends Bill to withdraw the money while he holds Bernadette hostage, and threatens to rape and murder her if he is late returning. Bill begins to wonder whether or not this might be a way to get rid of his wife and, while he has run-ins with two kooky women, Bone fails to rape Bernadette. She counsels him about his problems, and makes love to him. Together, they set out to kill Bill for the insurance . . . Read More
David Lynch has always been obsessed with getting beneath the surface. From the start of his most famous film, Blue Velvet (1986), where the camera dived beneath a lawn to reveal a subterranean world of gigantic insects, reality in Lynch’s works always seems to be a cover for something more evil and monstrous. Mulholland Dr. is perhaps the apotheosis of this, taking the analytical eye to the extreme in its examination of fairy-tale Hollywood and its frightening underbelly. After a car accident, Hollywood actress ‘Rita’ becomes a confused amnesiac, adrift in Los Angeles. Concurrently, a young ingénue, Betty, arrives in Tinseltown keen to make her name. When the two women discover each other, they are drawn into an increasingly-disturbing fantasy, where the glossy veneer of LA is peeled back to reveal a nightmare world of mistaken identity, murder, love affairs and more besides. Can Betty help ‘Rita’ discover who she once was? Is . . . Read More
Staff Sergeant William James, a soldier known for his ability to disarm bombs whilst under fire, joins his latest detail in Iraq and finds he is an unwelcome presence: his new teammates, Sergeant JT Sandborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge, are mourning the loss of their previous commanding officer, Sergeant Matt Thompson, whose zen-like approach to bomb disposal is immediately contrasted by James who, comparatively, behaves like a bull in the proverbial china shop. The three soldiers gradually bond during the remaining month of their tour, with Sandborn and Eldridge initially infuriated by James’ impulsive actions in dangerous situations, but eventually respecting his bravery and the efficiency with which he makes life-and-death decisions. They dismantle a bomb in a crowded public area, evade sniper fire in the open desert, and become involved with a local boy who makes a living selling pirate DVDs. James attends sessions with the base . . . Read More