#237- Storm Over Asia

Quick recap: A Mongolian herdsman starts a revolution because he got ripped off by a fur trader.

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To be fair, that’s a pretty nice piece of fur

Fun (?) fact: A silver fox fur coat will put you back about $5,000.

My thoughts: I’ve recently gotten into the podcast You Must Remember This, which examines the history of American cinema. This season, they are tackling the story of the Hollywood Blacklist, which fits perfectly with Storm Over Asia because it is legit Soviet propaganda, yo.

Did this movie create a bunch of Communists? Probably not. Unlike Salt of the Earth which had me legitimately questioning what I believed, Storm Over Asia only made me feel sorry for the poor foxes murdered for their fur. Not too sorry, though, because Mongolia is a very cold place and I’m sure fur was invaluable for keeping warm. The story itself, about the Mongolian joining with the Communist Partisans to fight the evil British army never really happened. Britain never invaded Mongolia, although they did occupy other places in Asia so it’s not too far fetched of an idea. Granted, I don’t know my USSR history as well as I should, but I just can’t imagine hoards of Russians rushing to movie theaters only to leave as card carrying members of the Communist Party because they were so angry about the fictional invasion of Mongolia.

Propaganda aside, the movie itself ran much longer than it should have. There are¬†several scenes that made fun of Eastern religions, which made sense for the USSR to put in but watching 20 minutes of ritualistic dancing got old very quickly. I also didn’t really sympathize with the Mongolian herdsman, although I agree he should’ve gotten more for that pelt than what was given to him. Really, the only part I truly enjoyed was the last minute or so of the film when an actual storm blows in. At first, I wondered why someone chose to film a wind storm but then I got it- THIS is the storm over Asia! To make sure I understood the subtlety, among the wind blown objects were British Soldier hats and dead bodies, It was an exciting way to end an otherwise boring movie, although it still didn’t make me a Communist.

Final review: 1/5

Up next: La Notte

#230- Pan’s Labyrinth

Thank you to Sam for recommending this movie! I know you could’ve chosen LOTR but I appreciate the restraint ūüôā¬†

Quick recap: A young girl growing up during the Francoist Period in Spain enters a fantasy world to escape her frightening real life situation.

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jazz hands!

Fun (?) fact:¬†In literally every other country except America,this movie is known as ‘The Labyrinth of the Faun’, which makes way more sense.

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All glory to the Hypnotoad

My thoughts: Boy, was this a dark movie. I remember the depressing ending from when I watched it a few years ago but I was still a little taken aback by its bleakness. Then again, this is directed by Guillermo del Toro so no one should go into this expecting rainbows and sunshine. Or go ahead and believe that. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life.

It’s hard to describe why I loved Pan’s Labyrinth so much because I lack all those fancy words that real film reviewers use, but I’ll try my best. To me, the world that del Toro created in the movie felt real. It went beyond creating a creepy set and cast of characters and it moved into something that truly had life. At first I was like, ‘Can’t Ofelia at least catch a break in her OWN MADE UP WORLD?’ but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. This girl has seen stuff and like many kids, uses her imagination to try and make her situation better. But even then, you can’t ever really escape and so her fantasy world is completely intertwined with her real world. Which makes this movie ten times more depressing, honestly.

While looking up trivia for the film I came across several theories about the meaning or theme of the movie. Of course there is the religious element, which I usually shoot down because people think they see Jesus everywhere (mostly in toast). And there is the theme of good vs. evil, which a) seems too simple for a movie like this and b) once again, this theme is in everything. I didn’t bother to read too much into what I watched and instead just enjoyed the story. I trust that del Toro put in a bunch of symbols but I like that Pan’s Labyrinth can also be taken at face value as a (very depressing) fairy tale.

Also- war is hell, man.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: There’s Something About Mary

#225-Closely Watched Trains

Quick recap:  A young man wants to lose his virginity but his inadequacy to perform is an issue. And also Hitler. Hitler ruins everything.

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Not sure why the girls weren’t all over him ūüė¶

Fun (?)fact: According to IMDb, “Iva Janzurov√° turned down the part of Zdenicka Svat√°, eventually played by Jitka Zelenohorsk√°.”

MIND. BLOWN.

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This stamp scene. Oh my.

My thoughts: I thought France’s portrayal of teenagers took the ‘wtf’ cake, what with their sexual fluidity and sleeping with their mothers, but NO, Czechoslovakia has to burst in and ruin the whole thing for everyone. This is why we can’t have nice things, you guys.

Although the setting and characters are a little odd (Milos is an apprentice train conductor during World War II), the story itself is very relatable. Basically, Milos wants to get laid and even has a girl (Masa) who practically strips every time she sees him, but he doesn’t really want to make the effort to go through with it. Instead, he spends his time lamenting over how horrible life is, which is actually pretty accurate for teens these days. When he finally gets the chance to sleep with Masa, he orgasms early and both of them treat it like the world has just ended and Milos might as well go kill himself for sucking so badly. Which he does. But then a doctor tells him that premature ejaculation isn’t a big deal and he needs a ‘more experienced woman’ to help him out. As dramatic as Milos was (he definitely would’ve fit in at Degrassi), I liked him and wanted him to reach his goal. He does finally find a woman to help him out and everything is groovy. Masa even returns and forgives him and wants to try and sleep with him again. ¬†Happy ending, right? And all totally relatable up until the point that Milos gets shot dead by Germans and his body carried off on a train, which subsequently explodes.

So, besides the ending, most of the movie was pretty funny. The other people working at the train station are bumbling idiots¬†that try to help Milos by giving him advice, but who ultimately fail to fix anything. There was one scene where a conductor and receptionist have an encounter, where he ends up stamping her butt with official seals. The next morning the girl’s mother finds the stamps and parades her around town, showing her butt to anyone who will pay attention. She is angry that her daughter has been taken advantage of, but the girl loves the attention and finds the whole situation hilarious. For a movie that ends so tragically, I think it still holds up as a rather accurate portrayal of teenage life, if just a little dramatic.

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Final review: 4/5

Up next: Amadeus

 

#219- In the Year of the Pig

Quick recap: War is hell, you guys.

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Fun (?) fact: Nope. Sorry.

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My thoughts: the Vietnam War was bullshit. I already knew that before watching In the Year of the Pig, but the documentary helped me understand more about how we get there in the first place.

That previous line was also bullshit, I’m sorry to say. I still have no idea why the US got involved. I mean, I do at a factual level but logically, it still doesn’t make sense. This film was released in 1968 when we were right in the middle of the war and it pissed off a lot of people because it raised questions. In 2015, I wasn’t shocked by anything revealed in the interviews, but what left an impression on me was the parallel between Vietnam and Iraq War.

And now it’s time for Mary Gets On Her Soapbox:

The Iraq war is/was also bullshit. We shouldn’t have been there but we went anyway because of fear and bad intelligence. And we are about to be in another pointless battle if people continue fearing what they don’t understand.

Back to the review- The hardest part of the whole film was seeing all of the innocent people involved. It’s very easy to look at what the soldiers said about the villagers as condescending and dehumanizing, but I don’t blame them. They didn’t understand why they were there either, and having sympathy for the ‘enemy’, which they were taught was everywhere, would get someone killed. Still, this movie wasn’t afraid to show the reality of war and that our actions, no matter how we tried to justify them, had devastating consequences.

Final review: 3/5. If you love history, check it out. If you hate war, check it out.

Up next: One-Eyed Jacks, which will sadly have nothing to do with Twin Peaks.