Reviews: The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Enter the Void and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

I have been busy over the last few weeks. Have finished Chapter 1 of Iron II and also Chapter 1 of the follow up to Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate. It’s all top secret though so I can’t say anything. Instead here are some reviews of films I have seen lately:

The Bridges of Toko-Ri.
On the face of it just standard 50s Korean War drama starring William Holden and Grace Kelly. But look again. Apparently Holden only took the part on the understanding that the books sad ending would not be changed by the Director. And it pays off. I haven’t read the book but it must be very thoughtful. Holden’t character, Harry Brubaker was a hero pilot in WWII and then became a lawyer. However he is called up to fly jets in Korea and gets involved in the mission to bomb a set of bridges which are a key supply route from China and consequently very heavily defended. You might think aha 633 Squadron all over again but no – the film veers away from that kind of feat of daring-do. Instead we find out that Holden’s character is afraid of fighting. He has a wife, Nancy – ably played in one of her last films by Grace kelly, and two children and he just has too much to lose. Also he can’t understand why he has been called up when his status was completely inactive when reservists are still at home. Is it something to do with his ace-status? We never find out but he is ‘adopted’ by the admiral on-board who’s dead son, Holden reminds him of. As the mission approached both Harry and Nancy seem to have a premonition that his time is up and both try to prepare for it. The film subtly builds up this expectation and it becomes really quite dark when Harry storms out of the briefing after apparently having a breakdown looking directly into the camera. Its quite a disturbing moment. The film did win an Oscar – but for the special effects. Holden actually learned to taxi a jet on the carrier-deck, and being a fan of planes, I noticed how real it seemed even before I knew this fact. However Holden should have won an Oscar too.

The final scene is the most curious of the whole movie. I can’t give it away but it ends so abruptly, that you feel cheated. I am not sure if this was deliberate but it has a strange effect.

I hadn’t seen this film for many years but remembered it as a favourite when I was a kid although I couldn’t think why. Was just expecting a lazy Saturday afternoon film viewing but I have found myself thinking about it quite a bit since.

Enter the Void.
Set in modern Tokyo, I thought this was a Japanese film because of the outrageous title sequence – one of the weirdest I have ever seen. Bright flashing signs representing the credits moving way to fast to read in some kind of psychedelic blur. Fortunately it is followed by a more sane version. This initial sequence is a a foretaste of what is to come. The movie has a simple story – boy without parents becomes drug-addict and gets shot dealing, just after his sister comes to stay with him and becomes a stripper. His last trip is a fantastic dip into the best that special-effects can do these days and provides an oddyssey that gives a clue as to the course of the rest of the film.
That’s about it really. But then 90 percent of the movie unfolds as an out-of-body experience and its very cleverly done. It definitely has an eery quality to it and its very effective on the out-of-body stuff. I found it very enjoyable and quite provocative. My only criticism, and it is slight, is that it hints at feelings the boy has and a kind of philosophy of the director but ducks-and-dives with both, leaving the end ambiguous.

The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
Well, this has a very young Catherine Deneuve so you know you are probably in for a treat. Directed by jacques Demi, a lot has been written about this film so it had a lot to look up to when I watched it. And I have to say it didn’t disappoint.
The main point about this movie is that it is a standard sad love story but done in a limited, but colourful palate, rather like advertising posters and packaging in the 60s, and every word is sung.

I wouldn’t say there is a great deal of scope for deep acting here: the focus is on the singing but the story is touching and the acting is good enough to engage you. The melodies and choice of dialogue are subtle – not too complicated but with enough variation to keep it from being a standard ‘musical’ It’s more like an opera. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did find the audio track a little strident in places but this is a minor criticism.

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2 thoughts on “Reviews: The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Enter the Void and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

  1. The sequel to 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' is 'The Young Girls of Rochefort,' but unfortunately not even the addition of Gene Kelly to the cast could rescue it from being less than mediocre.

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