Post-screening talks after all screenings.
Choice of Lam Kam-po
There are numerous films about trains running out of control but none comes as deep as Runaway Train in its depiction of its protagonists' clashes. Jon Voight is so desperate to be free that put him at odds with Buck, who just wants a second chance in life. They eventually resolve their conflict but in comes Sara the engineer, and the trio find no way out other than death. The film ends with a famous quote from Shakespeare's Richard III, "No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore am no beast." So who's the beast? Perhaps there's no beast at all. Was this quote there when Kurosawa wrote it, or crept in during the rewriting?
Murder on the Orient Express
1935, Istanbul. Hercule Poirot hops on the Orient Express to get back to London on an urgent matter. On the way the train is stuck in heavy snow. The next morning, the American businessman Ratchett is found dead with multiple stab wounds. Poirot, who occupies the cabin next to Ratchett's, interrogates thirteen suspects onboard. He finds out that they and Ratchett are all related to a well-publicised kidnapping that has resulted in a child's death. Meticulously crafted and with a very unexpected ending, Murder on the Orient Express is still a classic of the locked room mystery. With a star-studded cast such as Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, Sean Connery and Anthony Perkins, Lumet lays out a most gorgeous web of mystery. Usually wary of adaptations of her works, Christie was delighted by Lumet's effort and attended the premiere with her husband. Ingrid Bergman won her third Oscar, this time as the Best Supporting Actress.
Choice of Thomas Shin
A most gorgeous web of mystery, the unsupassable locked room mystery.
Sidney Lumet's Murder on the Orient Express is an adaptation of Agatha Christie's hugely popular novel. The novel is the tenth novel featuring Hercule Poirot and published in 1934. A Belgian residing in London, the mustached Poirot is short, old, and has an egg-shaped head. He's also the most beloved Christie characters.
Christie kept a low profile and shunned the spotlight. In her memoirs she wrote about her love of travel and trains, and this novel was written in Istanbul. The snow-trapped train was a real experience with the slight variation of being trapped by floods. Count and Countess Andrenyi of the novel are speculated to be the representation of Christie and her husband.
Acclaimed as an actor's director and with the iconic 12 Angry Men (1957) among his best works, Sidney Lumet departed his familiar locale of New York and plunged himself in Christie's mysterious world of the locked room mystery. Lumet also took a step away from his pragmatic style while filming adaptations to stage this close-door drama with an array of big stars. Albert Finney, then in his thirties, got himself heavily made up to portray the sixtysomething Poirot.
Lumet turned Christie's train into a maze where hatred, revenge and sacrifice are acted out like a play, complete with entrances, performances and curtain calls.
Closely Watched Trains
Based on the novel by Bohumil Hrabal and co-scripted with the author, Jiří Menzel's feature film debut shot the 28-yearold director to international fame. Set in the Germanoccupied Czechoslovakia during WWII, it tells the story of a young train dispatcher, Miloš, in a small town. Getting this job fulfills a childhood dream of Miloš, but his first sexual encounter ends in embarrassment. The idyllic train station gets caught up in war with the arrival of a Nazi official and a resistance agent who plans to blow up German trains. Will Miloš get over his sexual setback and save his skin in the deadly conflict? Menzel's easygoing approach of this war story conceals a witty sarcasm of contemporary Czech politics. The overdone flattery by the stationmaster to the Nazi official and the senior dispatcher's erotic use of the station stamp are jokes with political overtones.
Choice of Joyce Yang
Adolescent sex frustration caught under train wheels. Menzel's easygoing approach of a heavy subject makes this an unforgettable Czech classic.
Menzel's handling of political subject matter is always witty. The credit also belongs to Hrabal whose story of a sexually frustrated young man transcends the limit of nation and era. To Miloš, being a train dispatcher is a dream job because it seems easy and it gives him the chance to meet his sweetheart Máša, a train conductor, at work. Outwardly, a story of the common man wouldn't be related to the WWII setting. But as the story progresses, Miloš realises the weight and danger of his seemingly easy job.
To me, Closely Watched Trains depicts a state of flux in which politics intrudes on the platform of youth. The simple and warm humanism is constantly put to the test by politics. This gem of Czech cinema is constructed on a small scale. The town, Miloš's stool, even the cast is small. Patriotism is carried out backhandedly. The periphery is used to describe the core. The roles of the stationmaster, dispatchers and the officials are used to satirise the Nazi occupation and all political scheming that came after it. If you can get the message of Closely Watched Trains, you'll also grasp the silly fun of Jiang Wen's Hidden Man (2018). Hidden Man also features a scene where an official imprints a woman's buttocks with the official stamp. Jiang's jest on the hypocrisy of politics and bureaucracy may be seen as a nod to Menzel. In the face of history or political machinations, Menzel always takes the side of the youth and humanism. Miloš's story in this tragicomedy actually goes way beyond WWII and maybe that's the reason of this film's timelessness.
The content of the programme does not represent the views of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
The presenter reserves the right to change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.
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