Sunday, November 7, 2010

Classic Soup #3: Wild Strawberries, Defiant Ones, & Battleground


Bergman's dissection of old age and the trials of life serves as a wonderful companion piece to his analysis on life and death in The Seventh Seal. Aging professor, Isak Borg's cold and fruitless life gives great context to the many conflicts a man can run into throughout a life without real passion. 

In many ways Wild Strawberries is reminiscent of Kurosawa's Ikiru. Both deal with men who must face death, each in their own way. Ikiru tries to find out what one can do with what's left of life, Wild Strawberries seeks out the things that never did. Love, passion, intelligence, all fading aspects of human life. Things that must be constantly rekindled, maintained, or shall be forever lost.

Bergman's Strawberries is a lovely take on human life, filled with increments of great happiness and sorrow. Never offering full answers, but never depriving the viewer of a chance to decide for themselves. The forefront Victor Sjostrom and Ingrid Thulin (as Borg's daughter-in-law) light up the screen. Each giving tour de force performances worthy of membrance.

Overall Score: 9.00/10



Battleground serves as the rare 1940's world war 2 epic more concerned with the mentality of its characters than the vibrance of its  battles. 

Covering the "Bastards of Bastogne," Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, and James Whitmore headline a star studded cast during one of the deadliest battles of the war. Yet Battleground does not maintain the myth of the American soldier, as classic films of its ilk tend to do. Instead Battleground treats the soldier as a far more human entity.

The soldiers in Battleground laugh, fear, hate, fight, and die (not all in that order and not all the same). These fighting men aspire to flee, seek to save, and try to find some way of surviving their numbing battles and short supplies. Wellman does a fantastic job of creating a timeless film by not relying on any fancy techniques of the time. The enemy is seldom seen but constantly there and always a threat. The tension is ever building and perfect in climax.

Despite being a rather realistic portrayal of the Bastogne battle, there are moments of unnecessary liberty taking (most notably the English speaking Germans subplot). 

Overall Score: 8.75/10



Escaped convicts Joker (Tony Curtis) and Cullen (Sidney Portier) must find a way to work together, despite their racial issues, if they want to find freedom from their life as part of a chain gang.

Most notable for its use of race as a platform for building character Kramer's 1958 film, The Defiant Ones, is a thrilling adventure tale with two of Hollywood's very best leading men at the helm. Curtis and Portier are simply a delight with every turn. Joker's 'that's just the way it is' mentality clashes beautifully with Cullen's need for a better life. 

Kramer, Smith, and Young (unfortunately not the name of a 60's music band) do a great job of balancing views on race. The characters go back and forth, each making mistakes, and each atoning for them. The line between convict and human has never been more transparent. A tale of two people trying to survive in the lives they were given, wanting to get what they'll never have. 

The only real problem with The Defiant Ones lay in the ending. The duo's rather anti-climatic finale leaves a bit to be desired from the directors and writing team. Still, The Defiant Ones survives because of its great adventure and message. That when push comes to shove, no matter who you are, humanity always supercedes race.

Overall Score: 8.00/10

2 better thoughts:

Simon said...

Ah, war movies...

blake said...

I love watching Wild Strawberries and Fanny and Alexander together. It's such a fascinating way of viewing the way he viewed things when he started directing, and where he ended up as a filmmaker.

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