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Jim Forest (Alkmaar Netherlands)

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Command and Control
Command and Control
by Eric Schlosser
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.07

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an important book and also a page-turner, 24 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Command and Control (Hardcover)
I'm well into "Command & Control" -- an important book and also a page-turner. It's far from comforting, but perhaps it is already helping renew the struggle for nuclear disarmament. It would be at the top of my list for White House and Ten Downing Street reading.

Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £12.21

5.0 out of 5 stars a Russian classic, 21 Aug. 2012
At the end of a US lecture trip in the spring of 1982, while in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a friend took me to see the newly-released "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears." I was reluctant to go, assuming it would be a Soviet propaganda exercise, but my friend said that the film had been awarded an Oscar and, more to the point, was one of the funniest movies he had seen in months. So we ate a Mexican meal and went to the movies.

"Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears" is about economic and social classes in the "classless" society. Centering on three women who share a dormitory room in Moscow in 1960, the film follows their struggles to build careers and families. Despite differences in temperament and ambition, they create an enduring friendship. Mid-way the film jumps to the 1970s, so that we see what has happened after the passage of fifteen years. The stories told are comic, tragic, convincing and socially revealing. Muscovites became quite three-dimensional and not simply cardboard figures living in the grey world of Communism.

The film finally centers on a love story I still enjoy after many viewings.

Last Holiday [DVD] [1950]
Last Holiday [DVD] [1950]
Dvd ~ Alec Guinness
Price: £9.50

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free as a Bird, 13 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Last Holiday [DVD] [1950] (DVD)
(Warning: plot spoiler)

When I think about films that have mattered in my life, "Last Holiday" is on the short list -- an ironic British comedy written by J.B. Priestly and released in 1950. Alec Guinness plays George Bird, a salesman as cautious as a civil servant, who has never married because what women see in his face is dread of life, not an attractive quality. A persistent headache has made him consult a doctor. After medical tests, Bird has been told to come back the next day for the diagnosis, but by the time he returns the files have been mixed up. The doctor has someone else's results in Bird's folder and so informs him that he has an untreatable illness and will be dead in six weeks. In fact, all Bird needs is an aspirin or perhaps a pint of beer.

The doctor's error transforms Bird's life. He quits his job that very day, empties his bank account (there is no longer any point in saving up for old age), and books a room in a luxury hotel, a coastal resort for the affluent. He had never imagined setting foot in such a place until he spotted the graveyard racing toward him. A day later he begins his last holiday. No longer needing to play it safe, Bird can say and do things he previously would never have dared -- there is nothing left to fear. For the first time in his life women find him attractive. Bankers, corporate executives, and government ministers are soon lining up for his advice, offering partnerships and vice-presidencies. Everyone senses in him a mysterious quality, a detachment and freedom that make him a figure to be reckoned with. The viewer alone knows just what that mysterious quality is: Bird's death sentence has been his liberation. He is no longer a prisoner of the terrifying future.

The people in the hotel are far from a happy group. In many ways their holiday hotel is a well-appointed purgatory. Bird becomes something of a Saint Francis in his efforts to help his fellow guests become less selfish people, though it takes only his being late to a meal in his honor to sour their affection for him. What they don't know is that the guest of honor has just been killed in an auto accident while off on a mission of mercy. The doctor with the wrong file was right after all, not in his diagnosis but in the basic fact that George Bird -- not to mention every one of us -- is going to die and there's nothing we can do about it. The physician's only error was that it took less than six weeks to happen.

It's a film about poverty of spirit: stepping into a life in which I am no longer in charge, in which I own nothing, in which, like George Bird, I am freed by news of my own death. Free as a bird.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2012 7:13 AM BST

Repentance [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Repentance [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a stunning film, 7 Sept. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Extract from "Pilgrim to the Russian Church" by Jim Forest (New York: Crossroads, 1988)

Kiev, April 22, 1988: In the afternoon Fr. Boris, Lydia, Volodya and I went to the movies to see "Pokayaniye" ("Repentance"). Last February, in Moscow, I tried to get a ticket to see the film. It was showing in seventeen cinemas around the city but tickets were completely sold out. It was easier to see the Bolshoi Ballet. Tickets were unavailable in Leningrad as well -- Fr. Boris and I went to the opera. But here Fr. Boris finally succeeded in getting tickets. Even then there were only a few vacant seats in the theater despite the early hour and the fact that it was a weekday. "It's said that Gorbachev ordered enough copies of the film to be made so that everyone will see it," Volodya told me. If the rumor is true, Gorbachev must be pleased.

The film, directed by Tengiz Abuladze, was made in 1984 in Georgia, the Soviet Republic where Stalin was born. It ended up on ice with all but a few prints destroyed. That even one print survived is credited mainly to Eduard Shevardnadze, who backed Abuladze in making the movie. At the time Shevardnadze was First Secretary of the Communist Party in Georgia. Now he is Foreign Minister of the USSR and one of those most identified with Gorbachev. Following Gorbachev's election and the subsequent overthrow of the Brezhnev-era old guard in the film-makers' union, Goskino, the film was finally released.

Ostensibly about the mayor of a Georgian city, "Repentance" is really about Stalin. The dictator is a parable-like figure named Varlam who not only resembles Stalin but Hitler, Mussolini and Napoleon. Varlam is one of those people who, even after death, have a continuing awful presence among the living, becoming objects of veneration to those who are dazzled by cruelty and raw power. Their death is a kind of nap. In one scene we see Varlam/Stalin waking up in a lidless coffin, grinning dangerously at the camera, then rolling over to make himself more comfortable.

After Varlam's burial his body, black boots and all, keeps re- appearing, propped up in the garden of the family villa. Death seems unable to contain this man responsible for the deaths of millions. The family, who thought they had seen the last of the Great Man, become increasingly distressed and call in the police to put an end to all these undesirable resurrections. A night watch in the cemetery reveals that there is nothing magical about Varlam's post-mortem mobility. The daughter of two of his victims has been digging up the corpse and is using it to haunt Varlam's slick, modern, high-living descendants.

The story centers on the parents of the grave-digger. We meet them earlier in their lives, when their daughter was eight or nine. They are a young couple, both artists. In our first glimpse of the couple their faces are lined with apprehension as they watch Varlam give a speech from a balcony facing their home. On a gallows in the background a vulture sits complacently on the cross beam. In the sky, Varlam's portrait is suspended from a balloon. (In fact there were similar pictures of Stalin decorating the Soviet sky fifty years ago.)

The man has a Christ-like face, the woman looks like Mary and wears a cross. In a prophetic dream suffered by the mother she sees herself and her husband buried in the earth. Only their faces are uncovered, their eyes open and alive. [photo]

The couple are trying to save a local church that has been turned into a scientific laboratory -- Fr. Boris guessed it was meant to represent the huge Savior Cathedral that once stood across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, now the site of an outdoor swimming pool. The camera slowly explores the peeling frescoes of biblical scenes before it discovers the shining apparatus of high technology that has taken the place of worshippers.

Varlam, flowers in hand, visits the artists' home and seeks to win their support with an excess of charisma. In fact Stalin occasionally sent flowers to those whom he had added to his death list. Varlam pretends sympathy with their desire to save old buildings, but after his departure, the church is burned and the two artists -- first the husband, then the wife -- are swallowed up in the gulag. We see the man again when he is dying under torture. As the camera closes in on his suffering face, one realizes that it is also the face of Christ dying on the cross.

There is a heart-rending scene of his wife, warned that she is about to be arrested, trying to escape with her daughter in the dead of night, but grabbed as she steps out the door of their dingy flat.

The couple's daughter survives. By the time of Varlam's death, she is devoted to baking cakes modeled as churches, each steeple crowned with a golden baptismal cross such as her mother wore. One of Varlam's admirers in the film is a curiously stunted man wearing an old soldiers' uniform who, paying more attention to the newspaper than what he is doing, takes the steeple from one of her edible churches and, cross and all, stuffs it in his mouth. His eyes are held by the headline announcing Varlam's death.

The film's images have the brilliant clarity of dreams. In one scene people are waiting in line at a prison gate to deliver letters to relatives. If a letter is accepted, relief floods the face of the person who brought it. But for many the voice behind the gate refuses the letter, saying only, "Left, no forwarding address." Those who wait know the awful meaning of the words. This is no film-maker's visualization of nightmares but simply how it was.

In another scene several women are in a muddy timber yard searching the ends of the logs. One fortunate woman finds her husband's name and, weeping, caresses the rough wood as if it were her husband's face. Over supper I asked Fr. Boris if this was a dream scene. "It was no dream," Fr. Boris said. "It was common for people to search among logs for names. Prisoners working in the forests carved their names and dates as a sign that, at least until the date on the log, they were still alive. What you saw happened many times."

"Repentance" spans three generations. So little of the terrible truth has reached the third generation that Varlam's privileged grandson has no idea of the horrors that are buried in the family past. His discovery of them leads him to accuse his father, a powerful man living elegantly in his mansion. "You don't understand," the father angrily tells the son, "you don't know how it was! We did our best!" The boy barricades himself in his room and shoots himself.

His death drives the father to repentance. He goes into the cellar of the house where paintings that had belonged to the murdered young artists are stored. The room is now a kind of chapel illumined by vigil candles. In this setting the paintings resemble icons. Varlam's son gazes at himself in a cracked mirror and watches his own image dissolve into the face of Varlam leering at him, laughing satanically. The image fades. In the darkness near the mirror a half-visible figure silently raises a fish to his shadowed face -- the face of Christ -- and eats it. In the darkness, in repentance, there is eucharist and forgiveness.

More than anything else, this is a religious film. In the final scene we see an old lady asking the woman who makes church- like cakes, "Does this street go to the church?" "No, it is Varlam Street -- a street named after Varlam can't lead to a church."

"What good," asks the old lady, "is a street that doesn't lead you to a church?"

The film ends as we watch this babushka hobbling down the barren street.

"What good," asks the old lady, "is a street that doesn't lead you to a church?"

The film ends as we watch this babushka hobbling down the barren street.

As impressive as the film were the stunned faces of the audience as the theater emptied and we returned to a world marked in so many ways by the era of Varlam.

* * *

The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (20th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray] [2008] [Region Free]
The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (20th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray] [2008] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ John Neville
Price: £7.64

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the BluRay makes a real differences, 25 Sept. 2010
Others have expressed disappointment with the BluRay edition of Baron Munchausen, which made me hesitate to buy it. I'm glad I overcame my hesitations. I have now watched the BluRay edition twice (once for the film itself, once for Gilliam's narration) and am looking forward to future viewings. Fine rendering of color, the image very crisp, improved sound track. The Venus scene, the climb to the tip of the waning moon, the wrecks of ships inside the sea monster -- a treat in each case to see these in BluRay. The film itself, it has been a favorite for years, but it always made me aware of the limitations of DVD. In light of wars in progress, Munchausen is more timely than ever.

Toward the Endless Day: The Life of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel
Toward the Endless Day: The Life of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel
by Olivier Clement
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a remarkable biography, 8 Aug. 2010
Elisabeth Behr-Sigel was one of the most challenging - often controversial - Orthodox theologians of the last century. For decades, until her death in 2005, she was a key participant in building up an Orthodox presence in France in a process that integrated both refugees from Eastern Europe and converts from the West.

Born in 1907 in Alsace, France, to a Protestant father and a Jewish mother, she received a master's degree in theology from the Protestant Faculty of Theology at Strasbourg and began a pastoral ministry, but it lasted only one year. Attracted by the beauty of the Orthodox liturgy as well as its spirituality and theology, at age 24 she embraced the Orthodox faith.

Her many friends and mentors included Sergius Bulgakov, Mother Maria Skobtsova (St. Maria of Paris), Vladimir Lossky, Georges Florovsky, Lev Gillet, John Meyendorff, Olivier Clément, and Kallistos Ware.

During most of World War II, with her husband André Behr and their children, she lived in Nancy, France, where she taught in public schools. Living under military occupation was her apprenticeship in ecumenism, when people of different Christian traditions came together in the Behr-Sigel home for religious dialogue, at the same time finding the inner strength to oppose Nazism, hide Jews, and provide escape routes.

The book includes many extracts from the prophetic letters Elisabeth wrote during a year spent in Berlin shortly before Hitler came to power. No less remarkable is the diary she kept during the war. In the midst of falling bombs, the Jesus Prayer became vitally important to her - "a cry of the heart, a cry of despair and of hope, an irresistible and never-ending need to call upon Christ to help us in our powerlessness."

After the war she studied at St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris, later joining the school's illustrious faculty.

She wrote and published essays and books on Orthodox theology, spirituality, and the role of women in the Church.

When at last the role of the deaconate of women is restored in the Church, it will be in part thanks to the labors of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel.

During the last year of her life, she met weekly with Olga Lossky, discussing her life and providing access to her journals and letters, thus giving this biography a climate of intimacy.

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh - Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters)
Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh - Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters)
by Gillian Crow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars profound, direct, accessible, 2 Aug. 2010
As a young physician working with the Resistance in France during the German occupation, Anthony Bloom decided that, should be survive the war, he would become a monk. He did so and went on to become a priest and later a bishop. For nearly half a century, he led the Russian Orthodox Church in Britain. Thanks to his frequent BBC broadcasts, he became one of the major voices of Christianity in both the English and Russian-speaking worlds, making a difference in many people's lives, both Christian and non-Christian. It often seemed to me that, in being with him, I was meeting one of the original Apostles gathered together by Christ. He spoke not as an expert on Christ, but as someone who knew him personally and had been among the first witnesses of the resurrection. This is well-edited anthology of his writings and talks plus an excellent introduction by his biographer, Gillian Crowe.

Gosford Park [DVD] [2002]
Gosford Park [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Kristen Scott Thomas
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.20

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a film to see again and again, 31 Jan. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Gosford Park [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
Gosford Park is not only a fine drama plus social comedy, but also a razor-sharp documentary of adjacent "upstairs-downstairs" cultures in between-the-wars England. It's definitely not a film that fully opens its doors in one viewing. The first and even second time around, it's not easy to sort out who's who in the cast and how they are related to one another. The dialogue moves at the speed of an express train and even when you get it, the fragments are like puzzle pieces that have to be assembled by the viewer. Thanks to the collaborative work of the cast, it's one of the great films of the past decade. It's possibly Robert Altman's best film.

The Hermit, the Icon and the Emperor: The Holy Virgin Comes to Cyprus
The Hermit, the Icon and the Emperor: The Holy Virgin Comes to Cyprus
by Chrissi Hart
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars a remarkable story, a beautiful book, 25 Nov. 2008
Chrissi Hart tells the story of how an icon of the Mother of God, painted by the Evangelist Luke, journeyed from a palace in Constantinople to a remote hilltop in Cyprus, where it remains to this day as part of the iconostasis of the monastery church of Kykkos. It's a tale that begins with the song of a cuckoo and involves a resolute hermit, a governor stricken with paralysis, a princess close to death, and an emperor whose greatest treasure is the icon painted by St. Luke. Niko Chocheli's vibrant illustrations bring the story to life and also will give many young readers their first glimpse of Byzantium. The story also introduces the realization that some dreams are God-given.

It's a book that will engage both children and their parents and no doubt will inspire more than a few readers to make their way as pilgrims to the Kykkos monastery on Cyprus.

Berndes Spatula
Berndes Spatula
Price: £5.45

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gem of a spatula, 7 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Berndes Spatula (Kitchen & Home)
My wife and I found this spatula years ago, liked it from the moment it entered the house, used it intensively for a long time, got another when it finally wore out (not easy to do), only to discover that, the cooking store where we bought having changed ownership, the new owners were no longer carrying the only spatula we had ever loved. We searched in the town's one other cooking shop. No luck. Now we've found it available on both the British and American Amazon web sites, but sadly in both cases it's not an item they ship overseas. As we live in Holland, our search goes on, but at least we can do others the good turn of saying it's a spatula that does the job perfectly and at the same time is an art object.

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