A very beautiful joke played on a Parisian girl of fourteen under the German occupation.
Her soul can bear the great suffering that raises her to the title rank in a Polish labor camp, transferred from Auschwitz as a criminal and no longer Jewish, an SS whore so she can eat. A Soviet prisoner of war excites her pity and her love, she’s sacrificed in a mass escape.
With her dying breath, disabused, she says Sh’ma Yisroel.
There’s nothing one can say, critics such as Bosley Crowther (New York Times) felt mightily abused, that includes Time Out Film Guide and Halliwell, who describes this film as a “curious exploitation piece”.
The substance of this takes place in a flashback after the opening scene, a man seated on his chair, shaking with the tortures he has just undergone. The great gag is that Ali La Pointe is a purveyor of Three-Card Monte, i.e., a street Arab. The flashback occurs during a situation like that of Le Jour se Lčve.
There is an amusing revelatory sophism (still more in Queimada) that Richard Lester and Sydney Pollack developed in Cuba and Havana, respectively. Saadi Yacef as the NLF leader Jaffar bears a striking resemblance to Robert Forster in The Delta Force (dir. Menahem Golan).
The essence of this film is the predicatory realism of the handheld camera in the Rouch manner. There is the Casbah, there is the sea, over the rooftops. The absoluteness of the structure is the fait accompli of style waiting to be born every second and doing so explosively, thanks to special effects unmatched until The Pianist (dir. Roman Polanski) reversed the perspective, observing the mayhem at first hand and an answer to it at a distance.
The score takes note of Bartók to very thrilling effect.
An arbitrarily shortened version of Pontecorvo’s Queimada, for American distribution.
History repeats itself, the island burns twice, once to quell the natives and again the blacks shipped in to replace them.
Paralleling this is the story of a black leader raised up by the British to overthrow the Portuguese and put down by the Antilles Royal Sugar Company.
The influence on Lester’s Cuba is palpable. Brando’s role is deeply thematic, The Ugly American and Viva Zapata! are all but cited.
The Spanish earth in Madrid smells something rotten, “a gas leak”.
ETA and Admiral Carrero Blanco, Premier of Spain and successor to Generalissimo Franco.
The tunnel dug under the street used by the Admiral on his way to church is apt to cave in, traffic is therefore routed away from the tunnelers by double-parking.
Revolutionary cadres, softening with the end of the Caudillo. Death of an intransigent.
“Let’s pretend we’re working...”
A masterwork hardly known at all outside Italy, where it won prizes at Venice, and presumably Spain where it was filmed with a Spanish crew (Clarke Fountain of Rovi tells us the material is “still politically sensitive”).
Cinematography by Marcello Gatti, score by Ennio Morricone.