Saturday, February 28, 2015

South Pacific(1958)


South Pacific [1958]. A tragic story with postmodern social implication, ahead of its times. The songs are the story. We all long for a Bali Hai. The geographic view is of Hawaii. IMDb identifies Kaua'i, Hawaii, USA as the spot, unless in the studio. They di try to look real and they are in the Pacific.

The deeper theme of South Pacific is one of racial mixing. Lt. Cable hassopacific adjustment troubles facing the fact that he loves Liat, who is Tonkinese. In the out of the world joy of BaliHai, he loses track of his background and falls for her. Faced with the reality of his social world, he cannot bring himself at first to marry her. So to Nellie has troubles facing the fact that Emile married a Polynesian woman and had two children. Her social bak ground faces adjusting to this fact. Cable sings “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” to reveal his findings of this conflict in himself, and Nellie. Our view of others is “carefully taught” to us by our society. It is not born in us.

South Pacific islands have had this place in American culture of being where the outside world is put aside. One might see the British sailors react and change in any version of Mutiny on the Bounty to see this.

The physical world is the standard one of Warmth with broad open views of the ocean. Volcanic peaks dominate the sky. The distance this world is from the larger world of America is pronounced.  The islands are a refuge from the industrial age, though damaged by it as Gauguin clearly saw in his art from here.A beautiful picture of it all.

All the Fine Young Cannibals [1960].


All the Fine Young Cannibals [1960]. Natalie Wood and her future husband Robert Wagner team for this angst-filled melodrama of coming of age and finding what it all means in the shadow of parents and the conditions of life. George Hamilton and Susan Kohner ably assist moving the drama with the singing and bitter angst of Pearl Bailey coming along. The blues is the issue and what to do with them. A hard to find movie, but worth the search. afycannibals

The geography is that of a bit older rural South. One finds the elements of poverty and race, and the associated elements of unhappiness. Chad (Robert Wagner) can play the trumpet very well. He picks up on local African-American blues and finds his way via a twisted path to wealth and fame blowing the blues in the North. He keeps touch with his roots and marries Sally Mae (Natalie Wood). She has trouble living with the torments within Chad as he both profits from the music and yet is tormented by the blues in his own life.

The visual elements shown are that warm, rural South and its poverty, as well as urban living and it finery. Both are places of angst with the South offering home and a place of comfort and forgiveness.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mrs. Miniver (1942)


A classic film, often on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Mrs. Miniver gives a view of rural England that is hard to beat. Made in 1942, it put American in empathy with British people suffering the Nazi Blitz or Battle of Britain. A minivermajor element of World War II, Hitler’s mazing and unexplained abandonment of the Battle gave the British a breather and allowed the move toward victory. Some historians see Hitler as winning this battle had only he continued it.

The Miniver family lives in Belham. Belham is fictional as none exists, but it is clearly on the River Thames and in southeast England. The armada of small ships and the heaviness of the Nazi air attacks yield a conclusion that Belham, though fictional, is a model of many places in rural southeastern England. An airbase is nearby and the bombing begins early after the war begins. That bombing is very heavy. This eliminates the North. Their easiness and regularity of travel l to London further indicates a site near London. One can make an assumption that British travel is so superior at this time that sites further out could have been created, but nearness to London is just the natural assumption one wants to make.

The geographic elements shown of British life then and now are numerous.

1. Note that gardening is important. You will find it here, and in many of the British comedies shown on American public television. People are very involved in this in England.

2. Rural roads will tend to be tree lined. While modern highways exist and look like those here in basic respects, the rural roads often are tree lined and would seem compact to Americans.

3. Class system tension existed and still is present. Early in the film, young Vincent Miniver and Carol Belham argue slightly over the role of class in society. The older system of nobility has been in decline and the fading elements of it that remain are a subject for discussion. Should a mere stationmaster be allowed to enter, much less win, a contest on roses? His winning would upset the local lady.

4. The nature of the Thames River is shown. Boats 30 feet and longer are called into service. Note how many show up. A 30 foot boat would be hard to find in Minnesota or most states. But that the river can handle them and allow them ocean access is clearly presented.

Mrs. Miniver is a classic film. Watch for it in the regular schedule around Oscar time. For the historian it has numerous elements of the war period. For the geographer it has a quaint slice of pre-war and wartime British life.

Exodus (1960)


Exodus (1960) is a classic film depicting the establishment of Israel and the immediate collapse of the area into Israeli-Arab fighting. It begins on Cyprus where the British are trying to hold Jews from Europe from entering exodusPalestine, as it was known. The British are stretched at the end of their Empire Period. World War II has exhausted them. They are left in control of Palestine by the Sykes-Picot Agreement and seizures made at the end of World War I. All they really want is out of this situation. They no longer have the resources to continue their World role.

On Cyprus, Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman) meets American nurse Kitty Fremont (Eva Marie Saint), and then engineers the takeover of a ship of immigrants. Slyly leading their escape from an internment camp, the Jewish group boards the ship only to find the British will not allow them to leave port. Following a hunger strike to embarrass the British into letting them go to Israel, they are so released. Arriving in Israel one views a typical Kibbutz setting. The Kibbutz is a settlement form intended to place Jewish immigrants in farm settings where those with skills and no funds could work with others in creating a farm community. As the United Nations debates the fate of Palestine and the new Israeli state, you get to observe the fighting of the three sides over this area.

IMDb lists the filming sites as Acre, Israel; Famagusta, Cyprus; and Jerusalem, Israel. It is not a studio set film, it uses the real sites. This authenticity is important in making it a geographically significant film. It would have been easy to use Southern California locations which share the Mediterranean climate zone’s features.

The view of Cyprus is limited. The ship and dock area dominates, but some driving around by the characters gives you some sense of the Mediterranean nature of Cyprus.

As the action shifts to Israel, Jerusalem and Acre alternate as sites. The city has old buildings. This is its nature at this time. The viewer is given a clear picture of older stone building. The area is crowded and an odd interconnectivity of buildings is presented. For example, one can escape capture running from roof top to roof top and up and down.

Acre is the site of the kibbutz and school. It is dry with scrub forest and plantings. The landscape is rough hills. A great deal of exposed stone is shown. It has the just off the desert sense to it.

Crops will grow here. Barack Ben Canaan (Leo J. Cobb) talks to the migrants of oranges so large that “five make a dozen.” These are still a part of international markets as Haifa oranges.

While not emphasized, the famous social structure of the kibbutz is hinted at. The large number of children are herded together. Older children and all Israel’s are ready to do their part in the settlement effort. Note how the children are always in a group. This was for protection, even if they had parents. Questions have arisen over the years as to whether this communalism resulted in some toughing of the personalities resulting in some lingering person damage to some.

A great film that brings the Israeli side to the forefront. The readiness of some to bring all this in peace is met by the unwillingness of others to join that effort. We all know how this has gone.



IMDb. 1990-2015. Exodus (1960) Filming Sites.