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Culture and Arts

Culture Watch



by Angela Pressburger

Winner of 18 awards + 11 nominations, a festival favourite: The Best of Youth

Because we’re Senior Women and it’s Valentine’s Season: The Cary Grant Box Set

The Political Film Society’s “best film on Human Rights” in 2005: The War Within

A much-awarded classic finally released on DVD: Julia

Two documentaries: one charming, the other hilarious: As Life Goes By and The Yes Men

And a TV Series from the BBC: Black Books: The Complete First Series

The Best of Youth
2003, Italy, 366 min., subtitles
Director: Marco Tullio Giordana

Un Certain Regard, Cannes, 2003; People’s Choice Award, Denver, 2003, Audience Award, Palm Springs, 2004; Audience Award, Rotterdam, 2004; Golden space Needle for Best Director, Seattle, 2004; and many more.

An epic exploration of Italian life in the second half of the 20th century. The film follows the fortunes of the Carati family, from 1966-2000, mainly through the lives of Nicola and Matteo, two of the four children.

Spirited Nicola studies medicine, becomes a successful psychiatrist and wants to improve his country’s way of looking after the mentally ill. Volatile and rebellious Matteo studies literature and philosophy, flunks his exams on purpose and joins the army; later he joins the police to be better placed to right society’s wrongs.

The two brothers’ politics and personalities are inextricably linked with the tumultuous times through which Italy is passing and the time-scale allows the director plenty of time and space to show how they are pushed together and pulled apart by the tides of history and their own divergent dreams. From the early hippy days, through the floods of Florence, the Red Brigades, kidnappings, hard times and layoffs at Fiat, their lives progress with lovers and friends, meetings and partings, until some peace finally arrives both for them and for their nation. Don’t be put off by the length — no good movie is too long, just as no bad one is short enough. This is classic storytelling of the highest order.

Why It Matters
This film speaks directly to the hopes, fears, and ambitions of a generation who grew up during one of the most turbulent periods in recent Italian history. And in the end, it is quietly optimistic, expressing a belief in basic human goodness and the possibility of social progress. Perhaps a simple commitment to human dignity is ideology enough.


Once told by an interviewer "Everybody would like to be Cary Grant", Grant is said to have replied, "So would I."

Cary Grant (1904–1986) was the child of a lower-middle-class family living in Bristol, England. His mother was confined to a mental institution when he was nine — he thought she’d gone to “the seaside”. Not being too enamoured of home or formal education, he left school at fourteen, and lied about his age by forging his father’s signature on a letter to Bob Pender, leader of a troupe of young comedians.

As one of the “Pender Boys” Grant toured Britain while becoming proficient in pantomime, acrobatics – and Cockney, which he picked up in London’s music halls. In July 1920, Grant was one of eight selected to go to the US. Their Broadway show Good Times ran 456 performances and he never looked back. He loved America and after debuting in a bit role alongside Clara Bow, in It he went on to have a long and successful career as the famously handsome, elegant and dignified heartthrob with the mid-Atlantic accent.

 BOX SET, (5 discs), 2006

Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks, 1939); The Talk of the Town (George Stevens, 1942); His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940); The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey, 1937); and the never-before-released Holiday (see review below).

1938, USA, B/W (for now, this seems to be available only as part of the box set)
Director: George Cukor

Nominated for Best Art Director Oscar, 1939 and based on the play of the same name by Philip Barry

A delightful romantic comedy about a liberal-minded self-made man, Johnny Case (Cary Grant), who is about to marry Julia Seton, the eldest daughter of a wealthy establishment family. Before they give their blessing, the family wants to make sure Johnny will settle down to a life similar to their own — not like the family heir, Ned, who is a bit of a wastrel.

Julia’s younger sister, Linda (Katherine Hepburn) is the family black-sheep and her free-spirited ways are so much more what Johnny really wants. Helped by his friends Nick and Susan Potter, Johnny determines that after all happiness is with his soul-mate and a life on “holiday”.

Made in part to repair Katherine Hepburn’s reputation as “box office poison” it succeeded and audiences swarmed to the cinema to see it. Barry’s high style comedic satire on the egotism and selfishness of the American upper class proved just the right vehicle for her particular brand of sparkiness.

See Holiday with The Philadelphia Story, 1940, and High Society, 1956.

Two Oscar winning films that expand the Holiday theme. The Philadelphia Story, also by Philip Barry, that was originally written as a stage-play specifically for Katherine Hepburn. It was a Broadway hit and she used it to hone her performance as heroine Tracy Lord to perfection. Hepburn’s admirer, Howard Hughes, gave her the film rights as a present — and she promptly sold them to Louis B. Mayer on the condition that she be cast in the lead. She then asked George Cukor, who had so successfully directed her in Hollywood to direct. The film was a huge hit and was later remade as the musical High Society in 1956.

Get all three and curl up on the couch.

 Page Two of January/February Releases>>


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©2006 Angela Pressburger

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