Showing 131 - 140 of 251 annotations contributed by Duffin, Jacalyn

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Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Idealistic, nervous, and rigid, Andrew Manson (Robert Donat) takes his first medical job as an assistant to a doctor in a Welsh mining community. The greedy wife of his invalid employer obliges Manson to hand over most of his earnings. But he finds a local kindred spirit in the outspoken Dr. Denny (Ralph Richardson). In a drunken prank, they blow up the town sewer forcing the unwilling government to repair a notorious source of typhoid.

Manson marries a beautiful school teacher (Rosalind Russell) who leaves her beloved classroom to follow him to an even larger mining town. There he is employed by a group practice run on a capitation basis by the miners. In their evenings, the Mansons investigate the problem of chronic cough in miners, linking it to tuberculosis and coal dust--a discovery that they publish. But suspicious miners destroy their laboratory and force them to London and poverty.

A chance encounter with a wealthy hysteric and an old mate (Rex Harrison) raises Manson’s social standing. He opens a Harley Street practice and makes a fortune. His wife regrets the loss of his ideals and the death of his research. She begs him to remember how happy they were in poverty when each day was a noble challenge to take "the citadel" of life. Denny returns to entice Manson into a new group practice funded by community insurance, but Manson flatly refuses. Denny’s accidental death and a blunder by an elite, unethical Harley Street surgeon bring Andrew back to his idealistic senses.

The film closes with his eloquent self defense against charges of irregular practice for having intervened (successfully) in the case of a little girl with tuberculosis. Manson assists as the child is treated gratis with the controversial new pneumothorax operation administered by an American who does not hold a medical degree. Whether or not Manson keeps his license, the audience is confident that his sense of purpose has been restored and that his wife loves him more than ever. He will return both to the comfortably compatible pursuits of research and serving the sick poor.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

As a medical student, Martin Arrowsmith (Ronald Colman) approaches the revered Professor Gottlieb (A. E. Anson) wishing to accelerate his studies into bacteriology research. Gottlieb insists that he complete his clinical training first. But Arrowsmith meets the cheeky nurse Leora (Helen Hayes) and throws over his plans for science in order to earn a marriage-sustaining living as a general practitioner in her native South Dakota.

Assuaging his undying passion for research (in the family kitchen), he takes on the problem of an epidemic of black leg disease of cattle and earns the animus of a veterinarian and the admiration of the Swedish farmers by single-handedly disproving the efficacy of a government serum, developing his own serum, and conducting a controlled trial to prove its worth. His frustrated and unemployed wife--now displaced from her own kitchen--continues to support him, answering always "Yes, Martin. No, Martin. Whatever you say, Martin."

The couple move to New York City where Arrowsmith intends to devote himself full time to science at the side of his old hero Gottlieb in the McGurk Institute (a thinly disguised Rockefeller Institute). In his new laboratory, Arrowsmith utters a prayer for clear vision and humility--a prayer that seems to go unanswered.

Late one snowy night after two years of fruitless work, he discovers that "something" (in the novel, it is bacteriophage) has killed the bacteria he has been incubating. "Is it important, Martin?" asks Leora. He is brutal in his zealous response, his eyes gleaming with the promise of promotion, fame, and fortune. But after days of exhausting labour, he learns that he has been scooped by Felix D’Herelle a (real) researcher at the Pasteur Institute.

Arrowsmith quickly finds a new passion and travels to the Caribbean to conduct research into the effect of a serum on bubonic plague. Gottlieb makes him promise to act like a scientist (not a G.P. or a quack) and to withhold the remedy from half his patients. He tries to convince the colonial authorities of the importance of controlled testing, but is rebuffed with accusations of turning humans into guinea pigs. A black medical graduate of Howard University invites him to a different island where the epidemic is so thick that the people willingly cooperate with the controlled trial.

Leora, who had refused to remain in New York, is now left behind. The film implies clumsily that the now solitary Arrowsmith--ecstatic to be back in the research trenches--has a romantic encounter with Joyce, a beautiful stranded tourist (Myrna Loy). Meanwhile, Leora contracts plague from a cigarette, which has absorbed plague germs from Martin’s sloppy lab technique, and which she smokes because of Martin’s inattention and abandonment. She dies miserably and alone.

Crazed with remorse, Arrowsmith abandons his scientific principles and allows the entire population to be treated with the serum after all. The epidemic is arrested. But Martin knows that his success does not justify his scientific sin. Still grieving for Leora, he returns to New York to much fanfare, but is unable to find absolution from Gottlieb who has just had a stroke. He runs out on his lover, his institute, and a press conference to join a friend who is establishing a Walden-like institute dedicated to pure research in Vermont.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

During the Nazi occupation of Paris, the deranged doctor Petiot (Michel Serrault) abuses the trust implied by his profession to "help" frightened Jewish citizens. By day, he conducts his clinic and supports his family with a kindly obsession. By night, he leads his victims from a metro-station rendezvous to his apartment, their worldly possessions dragged in a trailer behind his bicycle. He then administers a "vaccine" and locks the now poisoned refugee in a room to face an agonizing death alone.

The doctor takes the possessions of his victims, and dismembers and incinerates their corpses in a makeshift crematorium in his basement. In March 1944, the nauseating black smoke betrays his activities; however, the now notorious doctor vanishes, abandoning his wife and son. Following the war, he is living incognito as a soldier pursuing war criminals and collaborators. But he is identified by his fascination with the Petiot case and his handwriting. In the final scene, dozens of people stand at a long table silently sorting through clothing, jewelry, books, seeking belongings of their loved ones who became the doctor's victims.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

A dark-eyed, ten-year-old Indian pauses for a moment in playing with her friend to explain that she is soon to be married, but would rather stay at home and in school. Her friend announces that she will never get married; she wants to become a policeman. Another smiling child in Yemen wants to be a doctor to help people. She looks forward to wearing the hijab. Little girls with great family burdens, and others who have no families, all expect to become mothers themselves. They talk about their daily routines.

A confident child in Peru cooks, cleans, does laundry, and then washes, dresses and feeds her younger siblings, before putting on her crisp uniform and going off to school. Two shy girls from Africa describe the painful ritual of circumcision--and a "cutting" ceremony is observed from a modest distance. One talks about her separation from her mother and life as a slave.

Interspersed are scenes of the children playing. Commentary emphasizes how soon these little girls must become women and how much of the world's work and how little of its wealth belong to them.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

A three-year old girl with globular cheeks patiently allows her calligrapher father to brush letters on her face and lips, as he recounts the story of creation: "And when God saw it was good, he signed it." Gently, he turns her round to sign at the base of her neck. Several years pass with the ritual repeated, accompanied by a cheery song that had been popular when her parents were first in love.

An aunt gives her a diary (or "pillow book"), and so begins N's obsession with writing. The tender scenes are marred by the brusque visits of her father's publisher (Yoshi Oida), with whom he has a sexual relationship. Through the child's eyes, the father is forced to prostitute his body for his written work.

Grown into a beautiful woman, Nagiko (Vivian Wu) escapes an unhappy marriage with the misogynist office boy from the publishing house by fleeing to Hong Kong. She works as a model and seeks solace (and her absent parent) in a perpetual quest for calligraphers who will become her lovers and write on her body.

She tries unsuccessfully to print her own work with the publisher as a kind of revenge for the power he held over her father. Her lover, the polyglot translator, Jerome (Ewan McGregor), urges her to write on his body for "submission" to the reluctant publisher. Jerome is already yet another of the publisher's lovers. Nagiko agrees and the plan works, but she is overcome with jealousy and spurns Jerome.

Counseled by a disingenuous friend, the unhappy Jerome takes a supposedly temporary poison in order to win her back; her affection is restored, but the poison kills him. The publisher exhumes Jerome's body, for a gruesome harvest of his skin and her words. Disconsolate and enraged, Nagiko submits book after book of her work to the publisher, each chapter written on a different male body, some perfect, some dilapidated, all her lovers.

Finally she sends "Book 13, the Executioner" on the sumo-wrestler-like body of a man who slashes the publisher's throat. Nagiko returns to Japan where she gives birth to Jerome's child and the cheerful song of her childhood returns as she writes on the infant's face.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

In the year 2000, Nafas (Niloufar Pazira) a 29-year old Afghan-born Canadian journalist travels back to her homeland in search of her sister. The sister was maimed by the long war, and her life under oppressive Taliban rule is no longer worth living; she has resolved to commit suicide on the last solar eclipse of the century.

Dependent for her travels on the uncertain help of men, Nafas encounters many other charismatic women hiding under the seclusion of the burqas. The inquiries she makes to find her sister raise the veil just enough to reveal the torment of Afghan women, deprived of rights, education, and basic health care. A doctor must question his women patients, who are hidden from him by a canvas wall, through a child intermediary; he does not touch them. The ending is inconclusive.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A young woman observes the slow decline of her grandmother into dementia and her grandfather’s reaction to the situation. Issues of denial, anger, autonomy, and intimacy rise to the surface—and expose the formerly private dimensions of their marriage. The illness also stresses her own relationship and invites the idea that someday she and her partner could be projected into a future with the same vulnerability.

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Oleanna

Mamet, David

Last Updated: Oct-29-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Act One: The professor, John, receives his student, Carol, who is seeking help with an essay. She readily admits that she does not understand the premise of the course. During the interview, he is animated and cavalier about her difficulty. He is also distracted by preoccupations from home and allows their encounter to be interrupted by phone calls about the sale of his house. Insisting that academic work is not as difficult as some would pretend, he suggests that she simply come to see him from time to time.

Act Two: Carol and John meet again in his office. She has reported to his tenure committee, accusing him of sexism, elitism, grandiosity, and offering good grades in exchange for coming to see him. He is upset and angry because he thinks she has misinterpreted his offer. He had considered himself a good and original teacher. More than insulting, the accusations now mean that he is in financial trouble because he had bought a house on the strength of his bid for tenure. He asks how he can make amends. She interprets the question as attempt to force a retraction. She moves to leave, he moves to restrain her, and she screams.

Act Three: Carol comes to John’s office at his request and against advice. There has been an investigation and he is to be disciplined. He refers to her complaints as “allegations,” but she insists that they are “proven facts.” She has asked that his book be banned, and is considering criminal charges for battery and attempted rape. His career and perhaps also his marriage are ruined. Outraged he starts to beat her—but suddenly stops as if he finally understands her position.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The young Beatrice Cenci (1577-1599) is kept with her stepmother, Lucretia, in the appalling isolation and darkness of a forbidding castle outside the Papal States by her cruel father, Francesco, whose enormous debts and misdeeds make him unable, as well as unwilling, to support his offspring. He wants to prevent Beatrice from marrying to avoid paying a dowry. She has suitors, among them a “smooth” prelate, but is unhappily resigned to her lot until her father rapes her.

With the support of her brother, Giacomo, she commands two servants--Olimpio and Marzio--to kill her father, but they waver in their resolve. She taunts them and they return to strangle the man, tossing his body below a balcony as if he had fallen. She rewards them with a bag of coins.

Suspicions about the death are raised almost within the moment of its discovery because of the wounds on the body, bloody evidence in the bedchamber, and the apparent lack of grief in the family. Confessions are extracted by torture.

The defense argued sexual abuse of Beatrice as a mitigating circumstance, but failed to convince the court. Beatrice, her stepmother, Lucretia, and Giacomo are to be executed while a younger brother is forced to watch. In the doleful final scene, the family accepts their fate with tenderness and courage.

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A Tale for Midnight

Prokosch, Frederic

Last Updated: Oct-29-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The young and beautiful Beatrice Cenci (1577-1599) is kept with her stepmother, Lucretia, in appalling isolation and darkness in a forbidding castle by her cruel father, Francesco, whose enormous debts and misdeeds make him unable as well as unwilling to support his offspring. He wants to keep Beatrice from marrying to avoid paying a dowry.

He suffers from a horrifying skin disease, possibly syphilis, that covers his lower body in itchy painful sores. He requires Beatrice to rub him nightly with a rough towel, and he is careless to the point of exhibitionism about his sexual and eliminatory functions.

Beatrice decides that he must be killed if her lot is to improve. She begins an affair with Olimpio the married seneschal of the castle—giving herself to obtain his allegiance; soon she is pregnant. She appeals to her brother in Rome for help. He sends poison, but Beatrice cannot use it, because Cenci has her sample all his food and drink.

Angry and impatient with her situation and fearing her father’s wrath when he discovers the affair with an underling, she insists that Olimpio kill Francesco immediately. With the help of the peasant, Marzio, Olimpio smashes the sleeping man’s skull with a hammer and together they stuff his body through a hole in the balcony to make the crime look like an accident.

Suspicions about the death are raised almost within the moment of its discovery because of the wounds on the body, blood in the bedchamber, and the apparent lack of grief in the family. Time passes. Beatrice and Lucretia go back to the family mansion in Rome. Olimpio leaves his own wife to be with Beatrice, and he blackmails the Cenci family into treating him as an equal. Her brother, Giacomo, barely tolerates him.

Beatrice gives birth and the child is handed to the nuns for care. Eventually charges are laid and confessions are extracted by torture on the wheel. Marzio dies in prison of his wounds. Olimpio roams freely but is himself murdered for a ransom.

The lawyer for the defense argued that the father’s sexual abuse of Beatrice was a mitigating circumstance, but he failed to convince the court. Beatrice is beheaded along with her stepmother, while her brother is tortured, drawn and quartered. Because the killig of a parent is the most odious of crimes, the executions are staged as a public spectacle in front of Hadrian’s tomb. Beatrice’s corpse is escorted by a vast crowd to its final resting place near the altar of San Pietro Montorio by Rome’s Gianicolo garden.

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