Showing 251 - 260 of 265 Performing Arts annotations

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

In 1877, Richard Maurice Bucke (1837-1902) (Colm Feore) becomes the superintendent of the asylum in London Ontario, where physical restraints are used. His lovely but tense wife (Wendel Meldrum) is grudgingly deferential to his professional needs. They are parents of a happy little girl. Bucke travels to a Philadelphia conference to read a paper on his liberal ideas about care of the mentally ill, but he senses the intolerance of the audience and storms out.

An odd "free thinker" in the audience--who turns out to be the great American poet Walt Whitman (Rip Torn)--admired the paper. Whitman invites the doctor to meet his mentally disturbed brother kept at home rather than in an asylum. Smitten with Whitman and his philosophy, Bucke brings him to Canada.

At first, his wife and the town are suspicious of the famous stranger, but they gradually change their minds. The asylum replaces its coercive methods of care with exercise, music, and talk. The film closes with a lively summer cricket match between the asylum (patients and workers) and the town.

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Summary:

Dr Bernard Rieux (William Hurt) says good-bye to his ailing wife at the Oran airport in South America. Their only child is dead. She has gone to the distant capital for tests and he plans to join her in a few days. But a mysterious epidemic of rats and what turns out to be bubonic plague breaks out. The city is sealed by draconian authorities who separate family members and drag people from their homes. Rieux decides to stay; months pass and his wife will die before he can see her again.

He befriends two stranded French journalists, Martine (Sandrine Bonnaire) and Tanto (Jean-Marc Harr), who volunteer as aides. They visit Joseph Grand (Robert Duvall) who keeps the cemetery statistics and writes an interminable novel. Tanto and Grand contract the disease but manage to survive under Rieux's care.

Constantly palpating her body in fear, Martine is desperate to flee, even as she strives to evoke passion from the emotionally numb Rieux. She is robbed and incarcerated by Cottard (Raul Julia) an unscrupulous profiteer. As the epidemic wanes, the journalists, the doctor, and Grand are reunited, but in that same instant Cottard shoots Tanto dead. Rieux and Martine are left sobbing in each others arms.

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Annotated by:
Brown, Kate

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

An American surgeon (Cary Grant) and his wife (Paula Raymond) are detained against their will in a fictional South American country to save the life of the country's dictator (Jose Ferrer). Compelled by a sense of duty, the physician performs a successful surgery despite his abhorrence of the dictator and his government.

Before the surgery, the physician negotiates safe passage out of the country for his wife. However unbeknownst to him before the surgery, she is kidnapped by revolutionaries. They convey word to the doctor that their ransom demands that he cause the dictator's death. This demand betrays the physician's previously felt allegiance with the revolutionaries whom he believed to have been acting from ideals of liberty and justice.

The dictator does die, although not at the hand of the physician. Ironically he dies because he does not follow the physician's advice. Believing that the physician complied with their demands to kill the dictator, the revolutionaries allow the couple to return to the United States.

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A Midwife's Tale

Rogers, Richard; Lee, Kaiulani

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This docudrama traces the life and work of Maine midwife, Martha Ballard (Kaiulani Lee), through the account of her own diary from 1785 to 1812. She and her surveyor husband, Ephraim (Ron Tough), moved from Massachusetts to the frontier of Maine during the Revolution; the rapid social changes in their new republic are felt at the domestic level. Ballard cared for many sick people, more than a thousand women in labour, and their infant children. She also becomes a witness for a woman who was raped by a judge.

A local doctor makes a brief appearance as a bungling meddler; other doctors perform an autopsy of her own deceased niece, which the midwife attends; but most often Ballard works alone. Her five surviving children leave home, and she comes to relate the experiences of her patients to those of her own life.

Her husband shares the slow decline into age surrounded by the frictions of proximity with an uncaring son and his months in debtors' prison. The recreation is interspersed with interviews and voice-over with historian and author, Laurel Ulrich. Ulrich describes her discovery and fascination with the Ballard diary, the difficulties in interpretation, and the still unanswered questions.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Chris Cooper (Kevin McDonald) is a shy researcher working for a huge pharmaceutical firm with a team of sympathetic, but unusual personalities. He discovers a substance that makes people (and the company executives) very happy. Promoted as "Gleemonex," the new "brain candy" rapidly begins to make money, and Chris becomes a hero; however, the team soon realize that their wonder drug can render its users comatose.

Their "good" efforts to stop their own creation are opposed by their employer, especially the "bad" chief executive (Mark McKinney) and his cloying "yes-man" (Dave Foley), who relentlessly pursue sales to a craving market. After many tragicomic and slapstick escapades, good mostly prevails in the end.

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In 1831 Edinburgh, Cabman John Gray (Boris Karloff) delivers a paralyzed little girl and her mother to the office of Dr. Wolfe "Toddy" MacFarlane (Henry Daniell). A body snatcher by night, Gray has a special hold over the doctor, who has lost his clinical nerve and hides in the teaching of anatomy. The earnest medical student, Donald Fettes (Russell Wade), is on the verge of abandoning medicine, but MacFarlane notices his good bedside skills with the little girl, makes him his special assistant, and initiates him into the business of grave-robbing. His wife (Edith Atwater) is opposed to this action, complaining that the student will be "ruined."

Fettes is unaware that Gray and MacFarlane narrowly missed conviction for murder in the Burke and Hare affair of 1823. Obsessed with helping the child, Fettes begs Gray to find a subject on which they can practice spinal surgery. Gray complies by "burke-ing" (murdering) a well-known street singer. MacFarlane forces Fettes to remain silent and they begin their research, but they are overheard by the servant, Joseph (Bela Lugosi), who then tries to blackmail Gray only to be "burked" himself.

The child's operation does not supply immediate results and in a fit of frustration MacFarlane murders Gray as he cries: "you'll never be rid of me." Buoyed up by the news that the child has finally begun to walk and mostly to prove to himself that he does not need Gray, MacFarlane robs a fresh grave.

On the return journey from the cemetery in a driving night rain, MacFarlane is tormented by Gray's last words; the elderly woman's corpse changes into the partially animate body of Gray. The doctor loses control, his horse breaks loose, and the carriage plunges down a bank where Fettes finds the doctor dead beside the woman's corpse.

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Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film is based on Anton Chekhov? play, Uncle Vanya (see literature annotation). It started out as an acting exercise and the actors worked on it for five years before the actual filming was done. The film is set in a crumbling Times Square theater, where the actors perform with no costumes and very few props. Andre Gregory plays himself, the play's director.

The story centers on a provincial Russian family whose lives are all upset when an aging professor retires to their country estate, bringing along his beautiful young wife, Elena (Julianne Moore). The result is that he is dissatisfied and people are brought together who are bored and in love with people who can? love them back. Astrov, the family doctor (Larry Pine) who falls in love with the young wife, is more interested in ecology than in medicine.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The beautiful Polish student, Marie Sklodowska (1867-1934) (Greer Garson), is the only woman graduate student studying physics in Paris. She attracts the attention of her kindly professor by fainting in class. A father of two daughters, the professor realizes that she is both brilliant and poverty-stricken. He offers her a paid research project, and, without revealing her sex, arranges for her to occupy space in the laboratory of absent-minded Professor Pierre Curie (1859-1906) (Walter Pidgeon).

At first, Curie is annoyed by her presence, but he soon realizes that she is immensely gifted. When she decides to leave Paris (and physics) after standing first at her graduation, Curie is horrified and clumsily proposes marriage to stop her. Their union will be based on respect, reason, and physics, he claims, and she accepts. With his support, she embarks on an obsessive project to isolate what, she realizes, must be an unknown element in the compound pitchblende--a substance that emanates rays like light.

Four years of intense labor with few resources, inadequate facilities, incidental child-bearing, the threat of cancer, and many disappointments lead to the isolation of a minute quantity of radium in 1898. The Curies share the 1903 Nobel prize in physics with Henri Becquerel. Their future seems assured, but tragedy soon strikes: the distracted Pierre is run over by a horse-drawn cab and dies instantly.

Madame's grief is powerful, but she recalls her husband's prophetic words and returns to work. In the final scene, the elderly Madame Curie, now twice Nobel laureate (1911 chemistry), delivers an inspirational lecture on the promise of science to help "mankind" by curing and preventing disease, famine, and war.

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The title refers to the lineage of women who form the unusual community surrounding the central character’s life in the decades following World War II. When we first meet Antonia (Willeke Van Ammelrooy), she is an elderly Dutch woman announcing to herself that today is the day she will die, and when the film concludes, indeed, she does. However, what transpires in-between presents a rich story of birth, death, disability, love, hatred, and, above all, a tenacious sense of nurturing regeneration in spite of harsh and difficult obstacles.

Audiences are swept into a pastoral epic filled with the pathos and joy of human life. In the unfolding flashback, Antonia and her teen-aged daughter, Danielle (El Dottermans), return to her rural birth setting on the day her own mother dies, and where she will become the life force for her daughter and, eventually, for the entire village.

Two women running a large farm seems at first daunting, but we discover that Antonia is a farmer in what might be called a feminist sense: she cares for everything that grows. Not only do her crops thrive under prudent management, but so do the vulnerable, infirm and damaged figures who are brought into her garden and house for recovery.

For example, Loony Lips, an awkward Ichabod Crane of a boy, tortured as the village idiot, is rescued by Antonia to become a productive member of the farm; later, he and DeeDee, Farmer Daan’s sexually abused and mentally limited daughter, who has similarly been rescued by Antonia and Danielle, fall in love and are married. For all of their shortcomings, the couple’s shy approach to one another, and joys for the simple provenance offered by Antonia as their protector, provide an emblem of the nurturing powers in the female household. Audiences squirm with delight as they watch these discarded members of society flourish with embarrassing innocence.

We watch Danielle’s transformation from adolescence to womanhood and find nothing alarming or disconcerting about her lesbianism and her decision to become pregnant without benefit of marriage. Antonia, always acceptant of life’s realities, continues to care for Danielle’s needs by providing emotional and intellectual support in the search for an appropriate man to father the child.

Much later, Danielle’s child is raped by DeeDee’s brother, who had also been raping DeeDee, prior to her rescue from her father’s malevolent and abusive household. Justice is swift. Antonia, magnificent in her outrage, sweeps across the farm and into the village pub where the males are gathered. With rifle pointed at the rapist’s head, she orders him out of town. [Her form of justice is less brutal than that of Danielle, who, having witnessed the rape of DeeDee by the same man, thrusts a pitchfork into his groin.]

Antonia’s farm grows and expands with new life. Seasons come and go, bringing death and rebirth. Happiness and tragedy exist side by side, as exemplified by the opposing viewpoints of Antonia’s positive spirit, and the pessimistic outlook held by Antonia’s life-long friend, Crooked Finger (Mil Seghers), the melancholic, Nietzche-quoting philosopher, who finds life impossible and unbearable. Whether we are watching Antonia’s mother die, or the Catholic Mad Madonna howling at the moon when she should be loving the Protestant man separated from her by the floor in the building they share, or feeling the appreciation of Farmer Daan’s wife’s for Antonia’s strengths--strengths that she herself does not possess--we are woven in the magic of a remarkably simple and yet complex fabric.

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This is a film story in which non-professional actors play themselves. It concerns six old women and their bus driver, a middle-aged woman (Michelle Sweeney), who, when their bus breaks down, are stranded in an isolated countryside. In the two days that follow, they find shelter in an abandoned and derelict house, conspire to find food, and learn about each other and themselves through personal disclosure and storytelling.

Before meeting any of the women, the audience hears their child-like chatter and laughter as they emerge from a deep fog cover into the sunshine. Clearly the women are old, but viewers soon regard them as sisters at recess giggling at the novelty of their unexpected adventure, happy to be in good company. When they reach a dilapidated and deserted house, it offers no amenities: no beds, no electricity, no water, no food. Each woman approaches the situation in a different way, but there is a buoyancy and resourcefulness about them in spite of some possible apprehensions concerning rescue and survival.

Any notion that this is a group of interchangeable old women is quickly dispelled. Separate stories unfold against spectacular scenery and humble shelter, as they try to fix the bus, catch fish with pantyhose, hunt for frogs, collect hay for mattresses, paint, laugh, sing, and sigh. In contrast to the current portrait, additional glimpses of the women are provided by superimposed photographic montages or snapshots of each character when she was younger.

One woman (Mary Meigs) is a lesbian, another a nun, another a survivor of stroke. Some are braver than others, and some have moments in their past that, when alluded to, are profoundly moving. One, we believe, is especially vulnerable and ready to die. Another, Cissy (Cissy Meddings), makes us laugh out loud; stooped and stroke-addled, she is full of life and silliness, while enduring the quiet pain of a partially explained isolation from her son and grandchildren, only the facial expression and eyes letting on. Catherine (Catherine Roche) the nun, who will make the long walk for eventual rescue, brings a serenity to the group, while a good-natured and extremely resourceful Mohawk elder (Alice Diabo) demonstrates both strength in the face of adversity and unhappiness in recollections of her marriage.

Their outer bodies belie the inner sense of being. Except for one woman who wears a wig to cover her thinning hair, none of the characters are concerned about their appearances. We may see them as old, but their actions and spirit suggest playfulness, creative energy, and wisdom. Their options may be gone or diminished, but they think of themselves as ongoing persons with much more to say and do.

Except to say that the women survive the ordeal, there are no resounding triumphs. Viewers, possibly the strangers referenced in the film’s title, gather with the good company of old women to learn about life and themselves, especially the vitality and worth of persons frequently isolated from mainstream society. For a brief time, a new society gathers and sifts experience for mutual benefit. We know about the darkness to follow and wonder what their lives will be when they are found, when this moment has passed.

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