The Promise Trio

Film Review: The Promise

Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, an Armenian-American, was the driving force behind The Promise. His aim was to make a film about a disputed subject: the Ottoman Empire’s slaughter of over one million Armenians in World War I. Kerkorian wanted the story to evoke classic films like Dr. Zhivago. Good intentions only go so far in filmmaking. The Promise is preachy and formulaic, emphasizing a clichéd love triangle over human tragedies. Its one redeeming quality is Oscar Isaac’s beautifully modulate[Read more]
Dr. Zhivago Yuri & Lara Together

Film Appreciation: Dr. Zhivago

A bit of trivia-the first screen adaptation of Dr. Zhivago was a 1959 Brazilian television mini series called Doutor Jivago. It was also made as a mini series in 2002 and 2006. But if you ask someone to recall a screen version of Dr. Zhivago, chances are they will mention David Lean’s 1965 film. Dr. Zhivago had an impact on its first release roughly equivalent to Titanic’s in late 1997. Audiences could not get enough of Boris Pasternak’s tale of star-crossed lovers in the Russian Revolutio[Read more]
A Farewell To Arms Bros

Not The Western Front: List For Week Ending April 23, 2017

The Western Front played a huge part in World War I. It makes sense that the majority of films made about WWI are set on the Western Front. However, there were many other areas that also figured in the war effort. Our list this week list salutes films that are set in those areas. This is not intended as an all-inclusive list. Reader suggestions are welcome. If you know an addition to this list, please write using the comments below. The Promise (2016) (Reviewed In Thinking Cinema 4/21/17)  ht[Read more]
Their Finest Catrin

Film Review: Their Finest

Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest casts a light on Britain’s efforts to sustain wartime morale through cinema. Their Finest, adapted from the novel by Lissa Evans, is the story of an accidental female screenwriter working for the Ministry of Information during the London Blitz. The screenwriter, naïve Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), contacts the Ministry of Information because she and her husband need additional money. Catrin thinks she is being considered for a secretarial position. To her immens[Read more]
Living In Oblivion Green Dress

Film Appreciation: Living In Oblivion

You do not have to be fan of independent films to enjoy Living In Oblivion, but it helps. Tom DiCillo’s film is a warts-and-all depiction of shooting on a low-budget indie. It is real, and often savagely funny. DiCillo was experiencing a high level of professional frustration in 1993. Despite having won Best Picture at Locarno with his first film (1991’s Johnny Suede), DiCillo kept hitting roadblocks in securing funding for his second (Box Of Moonlight). One day he attended the wedding of hi[Read more]
Classics are still being made

Film Review: The Promise

Film Review: The Promise

Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, an Armenian-American, was the driving force behind The Promise. His aim was to make a film about a disputed subject: the Ottoman Empire’s slaughter of over one million Armenians in World War I. Kerkorian wanted the story to evoke classic films like Dr. Zhivago.

Good intentions only go so far in filmmaking. The Promise is preachy and formulaic, emphasizing a clichéd love triangle over human tragedies. Its one redeeming quality is Oscar Isaac’s beautifully modulated performance.

The year is 1914. Mikael (Isaac) is an Armenian villager who wants to study medicine in Constantinople but lacks funds. He becomes engaged (in other words, makes a promise) to Maral (Angela Sarafyan), whom he feels he will “come to love”. She has a dowry that will pay for his medical studies, which certainly does not hurt.

Mikael journeys to his uncle’s house in Constantinople, where he will live while he studies. Almost immediately, he meets a glamorous dance instructor, Ana (Charlotte Le Bon). PG-13 sparks are everywhere, sort of.

Ana is involved with an American journalist named Chris (Christian Bale), though he seems to take their relationship more seriously than she does. Chris keeps getting into trouble while trying to follow up on reports of atrocities committed against Armenians.

Much as he cares for Ana, Chris feels the Armenian issues take precedence. This would clear the way for Mikael and Ana, if not for that pesky promise to Maral. Writers George and Robin Swicord give these circumstances precedence over the Armenian situation.

Not that George omits depictions of war or its cruelties. Hostilities commence, and Mikael winds up on a brutal labor detail. One scene that remains in memory has Mikael clinging to the side of a moving train while surveying the wreckage all around him. Here, as throughout, Javier Aquirresarobe (The Others, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) does fine work.

As mentioned before, Isaac turns in an impressive performance. Isaac manages to bring life to Mikael through small gestures and expressions. It is a fine example of an actor effectively compensating for an underwritten part. When called upon to speak, Isaac manages the accent without a hitch (all characters in the film speak English).

Shohreh Aghdashloo is also quite good as Mikael’s stalwart mother.

I am a big fan of Christian Bale, but I think he is wasted in this film. Kerkorian intended The Promise to be like Dr. Zhivago; that means the role of Chris is a combination of Antipov/Strelnikov and Komarovsky. I have no idea what that character would be-apparently, neither do George and Swicord.

It is obvious that Kerkorian and company spent quite a lot of money on The Promise. I truly wish these efforts had resulted in a more stirring and original film.

Theme: Not The Western Front

Film Appreciation: Dr. Zhivago  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-appreciation-dr-zhivago/

Not The Western Front: List For Week Ending April 23, 2017  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/not-the-western-front-list-for-week-ending-april-26-2017/

Film Appreciation: Dr. Zhivago

Film Appreciation: Dr. Zhivago

A bit of trivia-the first screen adaptation of Dr. Zhivago was a 1959 Brazilian television mini series called Doutor Jivago. It was also made as a mini series in 2002 and 2006. But if you ask someone to recall a screen version of Dr. Zhivago, chances are they will mention David Lean’s 1965 film. Dr.Continue Reading

Film Review: Their Finest

Film Review: Their Finest

Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest casts a light on Britain’s efforts to sustain wartime morale through cinema. Their Finest, adapted from the novel by Lissa Evans, is the story of an accidental female screenwriter working for the Ministry of Information during the London Blitz. The screenwriter, naïve Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), contacts the Ministry of InformationContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: Living In Oblivion

Film Appreciation: Living In Oblivion

You do not have to be fan of independent films to enjoy Living In Oblivion, but it helps. Tom DiCillo’s film is a warts-and-all depiction of shooting on a low-budget indie. It is real, and often savagely funny. DiCillo was experiencing a high level of professional frustration in 1993. Despite having won Best Picture atContinue Reading

Last Minute Revisions: List For Week Ending April 16, 2017

Last Minute Revisions: List For Week Ending April 16, 2017

Our films this week all deal with cinematic or theatrical productions where many revisions occur. This is not intended as an all-inclusive list. Reader suggestions are welcome. If you know an addition to this list, please write using the comments below. Their Finest (2016) (Reviewed In Thinking Cinema 4/13/17)  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-review-their-finest/ Living In Oblivion (1995) (ArticleContinue Reading

Highlights For Week Ending April 16, 2017

Highlights For Week Ending April 16, 2017

FILM AND SCREENWRITING CLASSES AT BALTIMORE’S JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY! Yale professor Marc Lapadula will teach two seminars at Johns Hopkins University: APRIL 15, 2017: IT’S BLACK-AND-WHITE! THE GREATEST COMEDY AND FILM THRILLER Join Marc for a screenings of Some Like it Hot and Psycho, which will be followed by lecture and audience discussion. APRIL 29,Continue Reading

Film Appreciation: Searching For Sugar Man

Film Appreciation: Searching For Sugar Man

Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching For Sugar Man tells a real-life Frank Capra story. A 1970s U.S. rocker fails miserably when his two albums are released and drops out of sight. No one knows what happens to the rocker, and he is presumed dead. Years later, his recordings become hugely popular in another country. Sixto Rodriguez (knownContinue Reading