The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo)
The Bicycle Thief (De Sica)
Closely Watched Trains (Menzel)
Fireman’s Ball (Forman)
Jules and Jim (Truffaut)
Love of a Blonde (Forman)
The Rules of the Game (Renoir)
The Tree of Wooden Clogs (Olmi)
Wild Strawberries (Bergman)
This list appeared in Facets Movie Lovers DVD Guide 9/07 p. 21
“Do you think they have tellies in the police station?”
Tickets is a film compromised of three stories that all take place aboard a train traveling from Central Europe to Rome. The first segment from Italian director, Ermanno Olmi focuses on an elderly professor (Carlo Delle Paine) who can’t really concentrate on the way home due to distracting thoughts about his seductive personal assistant (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). The Professor replays instances of their encounters in his mind and interprets kindness and attention as much more than they actually are. The second film from Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami concerns the relationship between a cantankerous widow (Silvana De Santis) and Filippo (Filippo Trojano), her young male traveling companion. While the woman is clearly obnoxious, several incidents of forced contact with other passengers reveal evidence of her underlying nature.
The gem of the three films (a 5 star segment), however, is Scottish director Ken Loach’s story. Three raucous Celtic fans are on the train to Rome to see a soccer match. Attending this match is a goal of a lifetime, but their goal is threatened when one of the young men loses his train ticket. The question is soon raised whether the ticket was lost or stolen. The dilemma of the missing ticket brings the three Scots in contact with a desperate family of Albanian refugees and causes the young soccer fans to make a moral choice. The three lads are working class supermarket employees from Glasgow, and while it’s obvious that these lads don’t have much, even they recognise that they have a great deal more than the Albanians who sit just a few seats away. This superior examination of class and moral choices presents Loach at his best–he’s a phenomenal–and terribly underrated director who consistently produces excellent films.
All three stories are weaved together very cleverly. The Professor sits in the first class section of the train but catches glimpses of the disenfranchised refugees. The widow has a second-class ticket but shoves her way into the first class section. The stories–and their diverse subjects–represent the changing face of Europe, and a subtle threat–embodied by the soldiers who board the train–runs through the film. This is a post 9-11 world–with terrorist threats haunting the travelers as they near their destination. In English (Scottish dialect), Albanian, and Italian with English subtitles.
“We’re not from Pakistan.”
Any film from director Ken Loach film deserves a look, and A Fond Kiss, although lighter fare than this director’s usual films, is not an exception. Based on the rocky romance between an Irish Catholic music teacher and a Scottish-Pakistani man, the film takes a good hard look at the difficulties faced when contemplating a relationship that crosses cultures and ethnicity.
Casim Khan (Atta Yaqub) is a young, modern Glaswegian. A DJ by night, he hopes to open his own club. He’s also a good loyal son, and lives at home with his parents and two sisters. His father emigrated from Pakistan decades early under conditions of extreme hardship, and now the family owns a small corner shop. An arranged marriage is planned for Casim and he’s due to be married in a matter of weeks to his cousin, Jasmine, when he meets and falls for Roisin Hanlon (Eva Birthistle), a teacher at his younger sister’s school.
The film does an excellent job of showing the clash between Casim and Roisin’s cultural expectations, and their failure to understand the pressures each bears when societal forces align against them. Casim straddles both Scottish and Pakistani cultures, and he successfully manages to negotiate each by leading a double life. The duality of Casim’s existence is depicted particularly well in a scene at a club. Casim’s western self is enjoying the evening at the club when he sees his sister trying to enjoy herself there too. Casim’s muslim standards kick into high gear and he orders his sister home. In one of the best scenes on the film, Casim and Roisin discuss religion. There are so many points of agreement, and yet they are also theologically poles apart. Each finds some aspects of the other’s religion absurd, and somehow this scene captures the difficulties this couple will face if they should decide to make the relationship more permanent.
In the hands of many directors A Fond Kiss would be standard predictable boy-meets-girl fare. But under Loach’s direction, the plot is elevated and thought provoking. As a result, this is a blisteringly honest film, and while Yaqub’s performance is a little weak, Eva Birthistle is wonderful. Flashes of humour soften the possibly harsh interpretation of Casim’s parents’ expectations adding a lighter element in what could so easily been an impossibly depressing film. Ken Loach is one of the most interesting directors working today, and if you enjoy this I also recommend Bread and Roses. In English and Punjabi with subtitles.