I bought this movie because I am an Ennio Morricone completionist, but I was totally unprepared for what an absorbing movie it would be.
One might think from the pedigree and the cover of the DVD that it is another Spaghetti Western of sorts, but that would be a grave injustice. The producer, Alberto Grimaldi, is indeed the long time Sergio Leone collaborator, and the opening titles could be straight from one of the dollars movies, but the film is something quite different.
The tale surrounds Marlon Brando as an Englishman sent to a Portuguese colony in the Antilles - his role, to manipulate an uprising against the Portuguese, in order for the area to be opened up to British trade, for the lucrative sugar market. His relationship with the slave who becomes a rebel leader under his guidance underpins the movie, and it is a fine performance from Brando, even if the accent is somewhat effected.
The atmosphere of the colony is brilliantly portrayed, authentic through its use of non actors in key roles and in background colour. Not least, the atmosphere is conveyed by Ennio Morricones fantastic score. This is as equally idiosyncratic as his spaghetti western scores, but with a different flavour altogether, using tribal rhthyms and organ music to make unlikely bedfellows.
Be warned, the DVD itself has no extras, and is painfully washed out and flickers from time to time. The dubbing is not as bad as some spaghetti western lovers may be used to, but still comes across a bit strange at times. Although this would benefit from a restoration, this is a movie with a message and with character which belie the limitations of the print.
Buy this for an undiscovered Brando performance, and a terrific political tale, as long as you can thole the dubious quality of the DVD transfer itself.
on 19 December 2013
It is the 1800's and the British have sent an agent to a Caribbean island to encourage the local slave population to overthrow their Portuguese rulers. Lead by a charismatic leader, the slaves gain their freedom but once the dust has settled we find that the British have now become the new masters. As the population takes up arms against the new sugar aristocracy, the agent returns to the island this time to destroy the very man he had previously helped in the cause of liberation!
This is a great film with powerful performances by Marlon Brando as the British Agent and Evaristo Márquez as the Black Revolutionary leader.
Definitely worth watching!
It is quite nice to review something a bit more significant, from my rather insignificant orange box. "Burn" was directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, who had already made the critically acclaimed "The Battle For Algiers", proving he was no mug in the hot seat. Pontecorvo was a director who wanted to say something in his films, and he certainly achieves that in this film. The story seems to be loosely based on the life of Toussaint Louvetre, who led the first successful slave revolt in Haiti in 1794, which is alluded to in the film. The superb book "The Black Jacobins", by respected historian CLR James, gives a very colourful and accurate history of this mans life. The book has become something of a must read in the Caribbean community. I recall the ex footballer Garth Crooks, naming it as his favourite book.
In the film, British agent Sir William Walker (Marlon Brando), is sent to the fictional island of Queimada, a Portuguese island in the Lesser Antilles. The island was initially supposed to be Spanish, but was changed to Portuguese following strong Spanish protests. Thus you will strangely hear Spanish spoken, rather than Portuguese. Brando, due to British interest in the sugar economy, is ordered to ferment revolution on the island, which he manages to do through slave Jose Dolores (Evaristo Marquez), but Dolores proves to be no mans puppet, and the ideals of freedom become his life blood. Brando is later recruited to defeat Dolores, who has become too successful, and outlived his usefulness.
Marlon Brando turned down a role in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", to appear in "Burn", which would no doubt have appealed to his strong social conscience. His role as the ruthless and morally corrupt Englishman Walker, is certainly a juicy one, where he gets to improve his impeccable English accent from "Mutiny on the Bounty", in a film where he had no Trevor Howard to compete against. Brando played a similarly ruthless character in the western "The Missouri Breaks", as the cross dressing regulator Robert E Lee Clayton. In his autobiography Brando claimed the film contained some of his best acting, a self assessment I tend to agree with. He cuts an imposing figure and his accent is nay bad. Evaristo Marquez proves an able foil.
The film is not shy in showing the evils of slavery, and the damaging effects of colonialism. There are many powerful scenes showing atrocities against the black population. The importance of the freedom, that we take for granted is graphically illustrated in the film. Whilst the white nations squabble over politics and sugar, the slave population continues to suffer. Dolores gives them their only faint ray of hope. As he succinctly puts it "They may sell sugar, but we are the ones who cut the cane". The prolific composer Ennio Morricone provides another impressive, if a little unusual score. The film has had very few airings over the years and deserves it's cult status. If you have never managed to catch this one, it is well worth watching.
on 18 May 2009
This is a serious and mature piece of work. After watching this its difficult to take most of Hollywood's output in any way but as puerile and infantile. I would say that none of the movie output of the last 10 years even comes close to this level of maturity.
* it covers the period 1844-1855 after the British abolished their slave trade but slaves were still kept in the Portugese colonies
* Marlon Brando plays the wily British agent, Walker, sent to exploit anti-Portugese feelings in the Antilles islands (and rightly so in that the Portugese were brutal in their treatment of slaves)
* He helps a black slave Joses Delores to rise from a porter to leading the rebellion, thus removing Portugese control. And against his nature he grows to admire and even like the slave rebel.
* 10 years later Walker returns as the British start their "shock and awe" against Deolores
The film is shot in a ultra-realist style - I was astonished how the whole look and feel was true for the 19th century, and I dont mean a nice, clean, costume drama. The meaning of being a SLAVE comes across brutally. Naked babies playing in dusty fields, mothers pounding maize, men chained and whipped. The garden of beautiful slave whores kept for the pleasure of the white businessmen who joke about how much more efficient the whores are compared to their wives.
For Ponteverco The meaning of "forked tongue" and how directors of businesses (and their shareholders) who spoke of civilisation whilst at the same time promoting abuse, brutality and inhumane acts against black workers stands as a critical definition of western civilisation.
* The 2 leading characters Walker and Dolores play their parts well - I think Brando is good as an english toff but he plays it like Olivier may have done, by not using his usual method style which is a shame.
The lasting memory is of Delores spitting in Walkers face, and us knowing that Walker knows why his friend has spit on him, knowing that in order to bring civilisation Walker has to betray his friend, knowing that in his place Walker would have done exactly the same thing; that is say no to civilisation, say no to the stock markets, say no to capitalist abuse of workers, say no to it all.
Surely a great critical achievement, this movie is enlightening, and shows that film can rise above just mere entertainment.
on 10 December 2011
Bizarre,ironic,unusual...but really brilliant,well-made...
This movie has some interesting dialogue concerning sociopolitical/socioeconomic issues (although brief),
philosophical/cultural viewpoints (the clash between european culture and african culture),
greedy business strategy,etc(even the concept "civilization" is questioned).
Burn! is romantic(tropical/caribbean atmosphere,1800's costumes) but also
"brutally honest"(slavery,colonialism,capitalism/big business).
The film is "well-balanced" involving both action as well as
intellectual,cultural and artistic elements(music,scenery,etc),
as well as dark humour(brilliant irony!). Burn! is a dark film,somewhat tragic.
This movie is more suitable for a mature,intellectual audience,
although action-junkies will not find it slow or boring.
on 20 July 2012
how come there are no reviews of this?
Actor Jack Nicholson once said, " When Marlon dies, everybody moves up one."
and this was rated by Marlon Brando as his best performance.
So there you have it, this is literally the best of the best.