The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Depending on your source for DVDs, they may or may not be available that particular week, so you may want to clip the SOFA CINEMA column for future reference. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.
A tribute to director Fred Zinnemann, who also directed "The Old Man and the Sea," "A Member of the Wedding," "High Noon," "Oklahoma," "The Nun's Story," "The Day of the Jackal" and "The Search."
"From Here to Eternity"
Fred Zinnemann was only 46 years old when he directed the famous kiss on the beach between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. Even if you've never watched the 1953 release "From Here to Eternity," you probably have seen the passionate kiss as waves crashed over the two lovers.
Based on the James Jones novel of the same name, "From Here to Eternity" was a challenge to make post World War II. To secure the U.S. Army's cooperation, any number of details from the book were watered down or distorted. Even without knowing the book, the film set on an Army base in Hawaii seems "tame" by any standards.
Sgt. Warden (Burt Lancaster) is a model soldier and indispensable to Capt. Holmes, his superior officer, who is more interested in wooing the ladies than commanding his men. Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr), the captain's wife, resists Warden's advances as long as she can.
Pvt. Pruitt (Montgomery Clift) loves the Army but refuses to box for the company and Pvt. Maggio (Frank Sinatra) wants to live life to the fullest, on and off the base. The scenario sounds close to a contemporary soap opera and the interwoven clandestine relationships keep the viewer involved.
"From Here to Eternity" has few special effects (even with the bombing of Pearl Harbor), lots of unrequited love affairs and good old-fashioned military camaraderie. And then there's the kiss.
1977 was a wonderful year for actresses. Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall," Marsha Mason was "The Goodbye Girl," and "The Turning Point" had Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft.
Director Fred Zinnemann paired two of the finest actresses of our time, Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave, in "Julia."
Based on Lillian Hellman's novel, "Julia" is a fictionalized portrayal of a childhood relationship in her life, how the friendship progressed and the demands on the friendship as the turmoil in Europe escalated prior to World War II.
Cleverly told in flashbacks to various moments in their relationship, Lillian (Fonda) narrates the story. Her relationship with writer Dashiell Hammett (Jason Robards) moves the plot along as Hellman at first struggles as a playwright and then struggles with being a successful playwright.
Julia (Redgrave) meanwhile is in the thick of it in Europe, working with the underground to aid refugees in their escape from tyranny.
Acquaintances come and go but true friendship endures no matter how much time lapses or distance separates.
"A Man for All Seasons"
Whether you think it a good or a bad thing, the fact of the matter is: "They don't make movies like they used to." If you've ever found yourself uttering those words, then you should be leading the parade of the thousands who opt for the shelves of DVDs that are not displaying New Releases.
"A Man for All Seasons" is based on the life of Sir Thomas More, who was martyred in the 16th century. Released theatrically in 1966, it is being re-released on DVD five centuries after the fact.
Screenwriter Robert Bolt ("Lawrence of Arabia"/"Doctor Zhivago") adapted his stage play and Fred Zinnemann directed this period drama. They trusted the movie-going audience to pay attention. Amazing!
What's truly amazing is that the man for all seasons, Sir Thomas More, was a principled government official appointed by King Henry VIII. A devout Catholic at a time when the king opted for creating the Church of England for his convenience, More resigned his position of considerable stature and was banished to the Tower of London for his troubles.
Bolt's script does a superior job describing the events and the cast (Paul Scofield as More, Robert Shaw as the king, a very young John Hurt as the traitorous Richard Rich, and Dame Wendy Hiller as More's wife) never misses a beat.
Quoting Pope Boniface VIII at his trial, More says, "The maxim is 'Qui tacet consentiret' - the maxim of the law is 'Silence gives consent.' If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented, not that I denied."
Taking that position cost Sir Thomas More his head.
What? A politician who never heard of flip-flopping? He didn't do the politician's tap dance? He left no room for being misquoted and still paid a price. What's up with standing up for your principles? Oh, for the good old days, 'cause they don't make politicians the way they used to.
Rent "A Man for All Seasons," a movie for any time of year.
Rebecca Redshaw worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for 25 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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