Ivan Desny

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The Marriage Of Maria Braun Review

Quite a marriage our Maria Braun has... Unquestionably Fassbinder's masterpiece, this seminal 1979 work looks at the German post-War experience from a feminist view. After all, when the economy's in the toilet, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do in order to survive.

Hanna Schygulla plays Maria, who marries her beau Hermann (Klaus Löwitsch) toward the end of WWII, just as he's being shipped off to fight for the Nazis. When Hermann disappears, presumed dead, Maria soberly gives up her search for him in favor of taking a job as a prostitute at a dancehall/brothel for American soldiers stationed there. Hermann's sudden return finds her in bed with a large, black G.I., and Maria ends up killing the G.I. in a scuffle.

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Litlle Mother Review

"Inspired by Evita!" it says on the poster. I'll say. Little Mother is an Evita clone all the way down to the costumes -- just with a few orgies thrown in here and there -- and it's just as awful.

The "Little Mother" is Christiane Krüger's Marina Pinares, a mournful woman looking back on her life after becoming the wife of a South American dictator and -- egomaniacally -- hoping to be deified by the Pope. The film comprises mostly those recollections, as Marina remembers her early life as a hooker and a maneater, clawing her way through orgies and torture chambers all the way to the top.

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Anastasia (1956) Review

This is the earlier, and definitely not animated, version of the story of the hunt for Anastasia Romanov, daughter of the Tsar who, according to legend, was the only member of the royal family to survive their massacre by revolutionaries in 1917. Anastasia starts off in the late 1920s among the exiled White Russian community in Paris, who rather obsessively keep their country's customs alive in a foreign place. Certain entrepreneurs in the community, including a disgraced former general, Prince Bounine (Yul Brynner), have been trying for years to discover a trainable woman with a close-enough resemblance to Anastasia that she could pass for the real thing - and collect 10 million pounds of Russian royal money sitting in a London bank. Bounine and his compatriots recruit the homeless and rather insane Ingrid Bergman for the task and start about molding her to pass muster before the exiles who knew the real Anastasia and who will, hopefully, sign testimonies to her identity. The twist is that Bergman at times actually thinks she is Anastasia.

There would have been plenty of opportunity for some My Fair Lady-type hijinks in the early part of this remarkably-controlled film, with Brynner playing the stern taskmaster and Bergman the not-so-ugly duckling about to transform into a swan. But director Anatole Litvak keeps everything measured and reasonably serious, focusing more on Bergman's dementia than the perfunctory romance that supposedly blossoms between her and Brynner. Bergman's performance (which won her an Oscar) has its hammy "look at me!" moments, but they're shrewdly undercut by the surrounding characters' suspicion that she is inventing not just her past as Anastasia but her entire dementia as well.

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