Scent of the Green Papaya — Mubi.com
In the 1990s Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung came to prominence as one of the era’s most poetic and elegant creators of dreamlike visions of his native land. They have stood the test of time to become some of modern cinema’s most beautiful and quietly moving films. It all began with this coming-of-age tale set in a nostalgia-tinged vision of 1950s Vietnam, filmed entirely on a soundstage in France.
When a quiet young girl named Mùi becomes the servant for a wealthy family we enter their lives and watch as character flaws and family secrets are slowly revealed through her innocent but perceptive eyes. After the family falls on hard times several years later, Mùi, now a young woman finds herself in the employ of an urbane classical pianist, who was once the childhood playmate of one of the sons of her previous employers. Slowly and gingerly a romance blossoms and we watch to see if the loyal young heroine will finally find self-fulfillment and true love.
It’s masterfully paced, aesthetically awesome and layered with emotional complexities that offer the opportunity for new and welcome discoveries with each repeated viewing.
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STONE COLD CLASSIC:
Our Friends in the North — YouTube
This 1996, one-season, nine-part, epic saga set in Newcastle was perhaps the pinnacle of the British social realist, kitchen sink drama. It provided a masterclass in successfully combining devastating political critique with emotionally engaging stories of complicated real people and their very ordinary but powerfully true-to-life struggles, loves, losses, hopes, dreams and realities.
Written by Peter Flannery, the show was conceived as a modern historical epic about the dashed hopes of the British Left and the disintegration of the Labour party over three decades.
We watch as the story spans its course, leading from the idealism of the mid 1960s to the harsh economic realities of the 1970s and the crushing capitalist cruelties initiated during the Thatcher years in the 1980s that left the country’s working class defeated, deflated and adrift.
There’s idealistic socialist Nicky (Christopher Eccleston), determined to bring back the lessons he’s learnt during a visit to civil rights-era America and use them to create a utopia for the working class heroes of Tyneside; his girlfriend Mary (Gina McKee), underappreciated and tortured by the indifference of the men in her life before finding herself as a community activist; happy-go-lucky Geordie (Daniel Craig) who wants to take advantage of the opportunities offered by swinging London and the British revival; and lad about town Tosca (Mark Strong) who manages to fall for all the worst get-rich-quick schemes that the false promises of the capitalist boom throw at him.
All are so empathetically and confidently portrayed that they instantly draw you in to their long, uncertain and poignant journey through a tumultuous era that still casts a long shadow on the realities of British society today.
Our Friends In The North
DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH:
James Baldwin — the lost interviews. Mubi.com and YouTube
There are few voices from the past that still sound as urgent and as prescient as that of novelist James Baldwin, who 34 years after his death in 1987 stands as arguably the foremost dissector of the ugly, messy realities of race relations in the US. In recent times Baldwin’s words have become only more powerful and relevant as tensions have erupted on the streets of cities around the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Recently, two long-lost filmed interviews with the author have surfaced, and while they may have been suppressed at the time because it was felt that Baldwin was too angry, too black and too gay for the tastes of white mainstream audiences, they offer brilliant evidence of his perceptive and all-too-urgent understanding of the realities of life for many black people in the US that still ring so depressingly true today.
The first, Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris, available on Mubi.com, is a 27-minute segment filmed by a British crew in 1970 when Baldwin returned to the streets of Paris, where he had lived for a formative period in his life in the 1950s. Unsettling and wide-ranging, it offers a unique portrait of a man who spent his life exhausting his intellectual efforts to try to explain the obvious to those who were too comfortably deaf to listen.
The second, available on YouTube, is an ABC segment filmed in 1979. Here Baldwin is more relaxed, at home in the Manhattan apartment block that he bought for his family, but it also shows that he was never going to make himself into some sort of easy-to-digest version of a black intellectual that white viewers could accept.
Buried by ABC at the time, the segment has resurfaced over four decades later, revealing a unique glimpse into Baldwin’s private life—as well as his resounding criticism about white fragility, as blisteringly relevant today as it was in 1979. Video Credit: Sylvia Chase: Writer, interviewer, Narrator Joseph Lovett: Producer, Director Richard O’Regan: Associate Producer Robert Leacock, Jr.: Cinematographer Michael Lonsdale: Sound Editor: Dina Boogaard Supervising Producer: Karen Lerner (acloserlook.org) Feel free to follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/psychbrother