Clare's Criterion Collection

Here Is My Criterion Collection. See What I Have Bought & Read My Reviews. Follow Me As I Explore My Collection.

The Ruling Class – Review # 7

a7614-trc

Spine #132

Available on DVD

Special Features:

  • New 16×9 widescreen digital transfer, supervised by director Peter Medak and restored to the original full-length version, never before available in the U.S.
  • Commentary track featuring Peter O’Toole, Peter Medak, and writer Peter Barnes
  • Peter Medak’s home movies, shot on location for The Ruling Class
  • A collection of rare publicity and behind-the-scenes production stills
  • Original trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer editionNew cover by Gordon Reynolds

Please note that whilst I try to not give away vital plot details/scenes/developments of the film, some reviews may contain mild spoilers.

Review

Oh dear, my first bad Criterion experience 😦

I really tried with this film, I watched without distraction and to the very end but I just could not get into it.  But, this Blog takes the rough with the smooth, the good with the not so good, so I continued and took notes during the film in order to write this review.

It started off decent enough with a hilarious introduction to the 13th Earl of Gurney.  As expected for an Earl, he lived in a big house and had a Butler.  The Earl seemed to be an eccentric type and as he walked through the house he was undressing, throwing his clothes on the floor for the Butler to pick up.  Once he reached his bedroom we saw that there was a standing arrangement between the two as to what would happen next.  A ballet tutu was donned, a rope attached to the ceiling and, accidentally, a ladder fell over!  Suffice to say, the 13th Earl of Gurney was soon replaced by the 14th.

I did find the film a little comical, the scene mentioned above was followed by another when the Will of the deceased was read.  As mentioned earlier, the Butler seemed to have had the ear of the deceased and as reward inherited “30 thousand smackers”, cue the first of many breaks into song & dance during the film.  This then brought us to the 14th Earl of Gurney (Peter O’Toole) who also, according to himself, was Jesus.  I shall presume this was the “start” of the film but for me this was where it actually started to taper off.  Sure there were still funny moments, mainly from the Butler, who, even after his inheritance, took to very forthright and candid comments towards his employers.  Title fleabags & privileged assholes who can afford to be bonkers is one of his better descriptions of “the ruling class”.

The film continued with the 14th Earl marrying the mistress of his Uncle (13th Earl’s Brother, who had his eye on the title for himself and his hapless Son), producing an Heir and no longer believing he is Jesus.  He instead moved his attention to 19th Century killer Jack the Ripper.

Now this part of the film interested me, who isn’t by Jack the Ripper?  When I read the brief synopsis on Criterion it was this part that first attracted me to the film.  The history and theory that the perpetrator was a member of the Upper class, some say even a member of the Royal Family was the connection with this film.  Maybe if this had been the Earl’s chosen “character” from the start I would have connected with the film better, who knows.  I have yet to watch the Extras that come with this Criterion, maybe they will help me see the film in a different light?

A note to animal lovers, there is a scene of a foxhunt.  I am uncertain to how graphic it is as I hit fast forward.  The scene starts at the 1 hour 58 minute mark.  There is also a scene in an animal laboratory in which a rat is injected and another is seen cut open.  I do apologise but I did not note down the time for this scene but you will be able to spot it as two characters walk through a laboratory before the animals are seen.

If you do choose to watch I hope you enjoy.  This is by no means a bad film, just not for me.

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Following – Review # 6

Spine #638

Available on Blu-ray & DVD

Special Features:

DIRECTORAPPROVED SPECIAL EDITION

  • New, restored digital transfer, supervised by director Christopher Nolan, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New 5.1 surround mix by rerecording mixer Gary Rizzo, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Audio commentary by Nolan
  • New interview with Nolan
  • Chronological edit of the film
  • Side-by-side comparison of the shooting script with three scenes from the film
  • Doodlebug (1997), a three-minute film by Nolan, starring Following’s Jeremy Theobald
  • Trailers

PLUS: A new essay by film critic and programmer Scott Foundas

New cover by Eric Skillman

Please note that whilst I try to not give away vital plot details/scenes/developments of the film, some reviews may contain mild spoilers.

Review

A highly enjoyable, extremely clever film.  This is not a story told in the classic chronological style.  This film tells a story in a fractured way, we go back and forth over a period of time.  That said, it is not too difficult to follow the main theme of the film.

We start with a voice-over, The Young Man (that is how he is cast in the credits) is describing how he watched people, followed them.  He is a would-be writer and he used this technique “to see where they went”.  Soon he is addicted and it is no longer “random” but specific people.  Here is where his troubles started!

A confrontation in a café leads to the main story of the film.  It seems that our stalker had found himself an interesting character (Cobb) of dubious employment.  He too is interested in people, or should I say interested in their property.

It is at this point when the film starts to go back and forth through time.  We see physical changes to The Young Man, a haircut, a black eye.  A strange relationship develops between the two characters; a relationship that is certainly one sided in terms of control.  The Young Man tries to impress Cobb by setting up a job himself; Cobb is not impressed with the quality of goods on offer or the person who owns them.  This does not deter our writer friend and he develops and relationship with a victim of theirs, who is not all she seems to be.

It is hard to describe the following events; this is definitely a film that needs to be seen in order to be appreciated. As I have said previously, the story is cut into segments that are jumbled; you can still follow, as long as you are concentrating on the film.  As the film quickens its pace we see a series of short segments.  I was taking notes whilst watching, to help me with this little write-up.  It was at this point where I only had to write a few words to describe what I was watching.

The Bar Lady Burglary

The Storage House

The Date

The Revenge

The High Life

The Lucky Escape

The Change

The Double Cross

The Attack Part I

The Attack Part II

The Frame

All the above indicate a part of the story and was my immediate thought to describe it.  As each one progresses, the story finally starts to all slot into place and even though you see the end before the beginning.  You start to develop your own thoughts as to how it will all pan out.

Overall I found this to be a very enjoyable film, and whilst it was only 70 minutes long it was 70 minutes of drama with twists and turns to kept me hooked.

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The Thin Red Line – Review # 5

 08799-trl

Spine # 536

Available on DVD & Blu-ray

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Terrence Malick and cinematographer John Toll, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New audio commentary by Toll, production designer Jack Fisk, and producer Grant Hill
  • Interviews with several of the film’s actors, including Kirk Acevedo, Jim Caviezel, Thomas Jane, Elias Koteas, Dash Mihok, and Sean Penn; composer Hans Zimmer; editors Billy Weber, Leslie Jones, and Saar Klein; and writer James Jones’s daughter Kaylie Jones
  • New interview with casting director Dianne Crittenden, featuring archival audition footage
  • Fourteen minutes of outtakes from the film
  • World War II newsreels from Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands
  • Melanesian chants
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic David Sterritt and a 1963 reprint by James Jones 
  • New cover by Neil Kellerhouse

Please note that whilst I try to not give away vital plot details/scenes/developments of the film, some reviews may contain mild spoilers.

Review

Director Terrence Malick recommends that The Thin Red Line be played loud.

Those were the words that greeted me from the Blu-ray menu when I hit “play” and I can understand why, war is not quiet, it is loud, it is in your face, it is all around you, it gives you no peace.  All these words can be used to describe this film.

The opening part of the film is idyllic, you may think that is a contradiction to my comment above, but still, it is not quiet.  It is more loud in its sense of visual beauty, the laughter of the children as they play, swimming in the sea, the peacefulness of the village.  Throughout the film we have several character speak voice-over narration, a commentary of their thoughts.  We hear the character of Pvt Witt (Jim Caviezel) talk about death and immortality, trying to make sense of all the chaos he has experienced.

It seems that the experiences were a little too much as soon we come to realise that Pvt Witt and another character are actually AWOL from the Army.  They are found and returned to their Company.  We are here introduced to the rest of the cast.  The ship is heading towards the battle of Guadalcanal. The top brass survey the deck, talking about the importance of taking the Guadalcanal, how it will give control of a vital route through the Pacific.  Their language is almost too simple, we do this, we do that, job done.  Do they realise people will die?  Or is it easier for them to not think about that side of the plan?

Below deck, in the claustrophobic living quarters, there are plenty of people thinking about dying.  All these men can do is wait until they reach their destination and that means plenty of time to think.  Some lounge around on their bunks, reading, writing, thinking.  Others talk endlessly about the event ahead, will they die? Another man even steals another’s pistol as a souvenir.  Throughout the film we hear voice-over narration from various characters, all trying to deal with the situation in their own way.  For some the battle is not only the enemy in front of them but also in the mind.  The mundane waiting is soon broken by the siren blaring out, it is time to deploy ashore.

Again, we are taken to a location of breathtaking beauty, a sandy beach, lush green grass and clear sky.  The beauty soon turns to horror as two dead soldiers are found, or I should say, bits of them.  There is soon more bloodshed as the battle commences.  Its bloody, its violent and its realife.  Men are blow up, shot and some who survive are almost shellshocked by the events.  You see men being brave whilst they draw their final breath, you see men to scared to even move.  These events are played over and over in the film as many battles are waged.  During a close combat fight when the Company raids the Japanese camp you see the tortured faces of the enemy, you have men screaming whilst running aimlessly, not attempting to defend themselves, people on their knees praying.  Are they praying for survival or death to take them from the madness?

Whilst this film is indeed harsh and bloody the overpowering force of nature is never far from the screen.  During a battle with bombs exploding and bullets flying through the air we see a butterfly, only for a few seconds but it is there, there to remind us that nature carries on.  Bats hang down from the trees above the soldiers, an owl sits, watching, a lizard lounges on a branch, birds are flying in the sky.  All examples of beauty versus horror on the island.

Another voice-over narration during the film tells us “Nature is cruel”  The only thing I see as cruel in this film is man, not only against his fellow man but against nature.  Destroying the landscape to build bunkers, littering the land with corpses and bullet casings as well as the black smoke from the warship engines billowing into the sky.  During the final scene Mother nature shows us that everything returns to the Earth.  The battles are over yet even after all the death and destruction, new life is born, here in the form of a plant, its shoot reaching up into the sky.   A symbol of the circle of life?

The Thin Red Line it is beautiful, it is savage and it is real.  Nearly 3 hours long but time is forgotten as you emerge yourself into the film.

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