Showing posts with label Vidas Secas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vidas Secas. Show all posts

Friday, August 23, 2019

"Blinded by the Light" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Blinded by the Light" as well as DVDs "Her Smell" and "Ash is Purest White."  The Book of the Week is "A Paris Year" by Janice MacLeod.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Vidas Secas" (Barren Lives)]

Blinded by the Light

In 1987 England, a young man finds his voice after discovering the music of Bruce Springsteen.

The racism that immigrants are facing today around the world is nothing new.  This film, set during the 1980's Thatcher government in the U.K. when people were out of work and experiencing a crushing recession and the National Front with its jackbooted thugs roamed the cities doling out punishment to anyone who wasn't white, brings that statement home.  

But that is just the background of this film which is an unabashed love letter to the power of music with Bruce Springsteen as its centrepiece (notice my spelling?  I am a Brit at heart).

Javed (Viveik Kalra) is a Pakistani teen who dreams of getting out of Luton, his working class town, where he lives with his dominant father (Kulvinder Ghir), subservient mother (Meera Ganatra) and sisters, Yasmeen (Tara Divina) and Shazia (Nikita Mehta).  He is a shy guy who has no girlfriend, and even if he did, his father wouldn't allow it.  Javed can't even go to a party.  He dreams of becoming a writer but so far mostly writes lyrics for his best friend, Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman), who has a George Michael-type rock band and dresses like him.  I mean it's the 1980's, after all.  Nobody is listening to Bruce Springsteen anymore.  That's music for your Dad!

And Javed also experiences the indignities of racism - called a Paki (the equivalent of the "N" word for Pakistanis); roughed up by white supremacist thugs; little kids urinating through the letterbox. Add to that Javed's father losing his job and his mother having to take in more work, sewing from dawn to dusk.  Welcome to Margaret Thatcher's England.

However, one day at school Roops, a Sikh classmate, gives Javed some Springsteen cassettes (remember those?) and all of a sudden Javed's world opens up.  In the albums "Born in the U.S.A." and "Darkness at the Edge of Town," Javed finds Bruce speaking directly to him and saying everything Javed feels.  Javed starts dressing like Bruce, fills his room with Bruce posters and he memorizes every lyric, and in so doing, starts to get the confidence to not only talk to a girl he is attracted to (Nell Williams), but to stand up to the white supremicist bullies.  He also gets the courage to share his poems with his supportive English teacher (Hayley Atwell) and to eventually stand up to his Dad.

The film, directed by Gurinder Chadha, who is best known for directing the 2002 film "Bend it Like Beckham," which did for women and soccer what this film does for fanboys and music, is a marvel.  Not sure why this is only Chadha's sixth feature film directorial effort since her first in 1993, but all I can say is we need more from her. I remember being blown away by "Bend it Like Beckham," but this film?  

My favorite of the year so far.

Written by Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges and Sarfraz Manzoor
a journalist and major Bruce fan who saw over 150 of his concerts (it's based on his book "Greetings from Bury Park: Race. Religion. Rock 'n' Roll), this film has everything I love in a movie:
  • Engaging actors
  • A delightful story
  • Wonderful music
  • A message
  • Innovation (lyrics swirl around the screen and a fantasy wind storm erupts to illustrate Javed's inner world as he discovers Bruce)
  • Layers of meaning

You could see this film many times and every time find something new to love.

And you don't need to be a Springsteen fan to love this film, but it helps.  Chadha weaves his songs into the film in just the right way - "Dancing in the Dark" shows Javed looking at himself in the mirror feeling lost; he stands up to the bullies to the sound of "Badlands; "Prove it all Night" gets him the kiss from the girl of his dreams and "Born to Run" captures the sheer exuberance of music and plays out like a wonderful music video.

One can't help but compare this film to "Yesterday," which also takes place in the U.K., stars an Asian actor, where music plays a big role (The Beatles) and features dancing in the street, but Javed didn't need to get bonked on the head to find his mission in life.  All he needed was Bruuuuuuce!

This film highlights the power of music and the meaning and emotion it has for a young fan.  It brought back many memories of my own fangirl days, but for me it was the Beatles! They changed my young life just as The Boss changed Javed's. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...but young or old, you will love this movie - it will make you glad you are alive! And don't miss the end credits where you can meet "the real Javed" and his family.

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


Her Smell (2018)

A self-destructive punk rocker is on the road to hell.

Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) is, well, something, as in a great big mess of a something.  Her story is told through five different periods of her life beginning with some home movie footage of her band, Something She, a 1990's punk band, performing in clubs and appearing on magazine covers. 

But when we meet Becky in person she has just finished a show and is backstage working with her personal shaman and hanging out with her bandmates, her ex-husband, Dan (Dan Stevens - remember Matthew Crawley?), her manager, Howard (Eric Stoltz - where has he been?), and her little girl.  It's apparent that she and her band are already on a downward spiral.  She is in such bad shape, that when she grabs her little infant daughter, she ends up falling on her face.  

Several months later, when Becky is in the studio trying to record, the band is disfunctional and it doesn't help that Howard introduces them to a new and younger band, Akergirls. When you are on top, there is always someone coming up behind you nipping at your heels.  

Time passes and the tables have turned.  Akergirls have become famous and Becky is now opening for them as she continues on her downward spiral.  Several years later, Becky is sober and her daughter, Tama (Daisy Pugh-Weiss), is a young girl now living with her Dad. Becky may be sober but she is now afraid to leave her house and her life is still chaotic and her relationships have all fizzled. Her daughter doesn't even remember living with her. This is as much a story of the damage someone like Becky can cause others as it is about her own self-destruction. 

But then she gets another shot.  Will she take it?

Written and directed by Alex Ross Perry, this the classic story of a rock and roller on a destructive path as her career goes downhill.  The film has a documentary, home movie feel with a wobbly camera, odd camera angles, and many, many close-ups of Moss and her smeared lipstick. 

Speaking of Moss, she is on a roll.  She is everywhere these days from "Us" to "A Handmaid's Tale" to her latest film "The Kitchen."  You name it, she's in it.  This is a tour de force for Moss who is in practically every scene and she gives it her all, but her as a Courtney Love type punk rocker was kind of a stretch for me. And speaking of Courtney Love, I actually thought Her Smell was going to be the name of the band in the film, which would have been right up there with Hole, vying for one of the most cringeworthy band names of all time.  So I was glad it wasn't.

Having just seen "Blinded by the Light," I couldn't help but think of that one while watching this one. They are both films about rock and roll, but this one is about as far away as you can get from "Blinded by the Light (see review above)." Where "Blinded" is joyous and meaningful and shares the story of a young man on his way up and out, this film is bleak and wasted, telling the story of a woman on her way down and out. Was into the film for the first hour, but then it just got really unpleasant.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...left a bad smell

Ash is the Purest White (2018)

Yet another story of a man not appreciating a woman's loyalty.

Qiao (Tao Zhao) and Bin (Fan Liao) are lovers. Bin is a Chinese mob boss, a member of the "jianghu," the Chinese underground in the provincial town of Datong and Qiao is his girlfriend. It's 2001. Bin rules his small gangster kingdom, settling disputes and handing out punishments.  Qiao enjoys her status as Bin's girl. But one day a motorcycle gang attacks Bin and Qiao uses Bin's illegal gun to save him from the ambush.  When the police arrive and tell her that the gun is illegal, they ask whose gun it is.  She refuses to tell them so takes the rap for Bin and ends up in jail for five years.  While she is there she suffers the indignities of prison life, and Bin not only doesn't visit her, he doesn't get in touch with her at all. When she gets out she discovers that Bin has moved on so she sets out to track him down.

Sadly, this beautifully produced film took forever to get to the crux of the film and was too long in general. But sometimes the look and mood of a film can be enough.  It reminded me of "In the Mood for Love," one of the moodiest and beautiful films ever made. Tao is a mesmerizing actress who really gets to spread her acting wings as she goes from devoted girlfriend to a woman with a mission.

Written and directed by Zhangke Jia, this film appeared on many lists of Best Films of 2018 and continues Jia's motif of showing the social and cultural changes that have taken place in China over the last century.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you liked "In the Mood for Love," you might enjoy this film but Tao's performance alone is worth a look.
(In Mandarin with English subtitles)

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

65 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Vidas Secas (1963)
(Barren Lives)

A poor family in the Northeast of Brazil wander a barren landscape looking for a place to live.

Fabiano (Atila Iorio), the father, Sinha Vitoria (Maria Ribeiro), the mother and their two children and dog, Baleia, are victims of a drought and the film follows them as they wander the barren land looking for food, work and a better life. Think of a Brazilian "Grapes of Wrath." 

Why it's a Must See: "An extraordinary adaptation of the homonymous novel by Graciliano Ramos, one of the unquestionable masterpieces of Brazilian literature..."

As in the book, the film presents each person's viewpoint - even the dog gets a "say."  Speaking of which, the scene at the end of the film featuring the dog is too terrible to watch.  Awful.

Adapted and directed by Nelson Pereira dos Santos, the film is an example of the influence of Italian Neorealism on Brazilian filmmaking which became New Cinema or Cinema Novo in Brazil.  The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1964 and it still holds up today as a grim reminder of how the poor are exploited and why they would want to go to another country to seek a better life..

Rosy the Reviewer I said, grim.
(In Portuguese with English subtitles - Available on YouTube)

***The Book of the Week***

A Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World by Janice MacLeod (2017)

A day-by-day account of a woman's first year in Paris.

Did you know that -

  • King Louis XVI was brought to his beheading in a green carriage and that's why all of the park benches and bookstalls along the Seine as well as signs and fountains are painted "Carriage Green."
  • Napolean III (he's the less famous one) eliminated famine in France by modernizing agriculture and making France a large export country. You can thank him for that French wine you are drinking!
  • The City was going to tear down Notre Dame Cathedral but Victor Hugo petitioned against it and won.
  • And you had better say "Bonjour," before starting a conversation with a Parisian.  It's the magic word.

Those are just a few of the facts in this charming memoir cum travel guide to The City of Light by Janice MacLeod, who also wrote "Paris Letters."  But the facts that MacLeod shares are only a small part of this colorful book that is MacLeod's daily journal of her year in Paris.  It is full of colorful pictures and sometimes humorous ruminations as she roams Gay Paree.

And speaking of "Bonjour," she is so right. I made the mistake of walking up to a ticket taker in the Metro to ask a question and didn't say "Bonjour" before I asked my question.  He looked down at me disapprovingly and said to me pointedly, "BONJOURRRRR".  I got the message and never made that mistake again!

Rosy the Reviewer MacLeod roams the streets of Paris, sharing what she sees, you get to vicariously live there with her.
(P.S. This is for you, Jackie)!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Where'd You Go, Bernadette?"


The Week in Reviews

(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.