Category Archives: Foreign Language

Films produced in a foreign language

The Organizer

film stillThe Organizer was originally released in Italy in 1963 under the title I Compagni. It was made and shown to general audiences under interesting, and to some extent, peculiar circumstances. To begin with, it was a film about social conflict, directed by a man considered a master of light comedies. His name was Mario Monicelli and he was already well known for his previous film work.  One such film is I Soliti Ignoti (1958, known in the U.S. as Big Deal on Madonna Street), one of the biggest box office successes in post-war Europe. Another of his films, La Grande Guerra (The Great War, 1959), had won honors at the Venice Film Festival, sharing the Golden Lion Prize with Il Generale della Rovere by Roberto Rossellini. Continue reading

La Commune (1871)

film stillThis is a long film and I don’t want to make it longer with an introduction. There are a few very quick points that may provide useful context.

First, about Peter Watkins:  Watkins career has been shaped not only by a commitment to make films that matter but by the reaction to his work from sponsors and the film and media establishment. His negotiations with the BBC over The War Game, a 1966 film which the network commissioned but refused to air because it graphically showed the outcome of a nuclear attack on Britain, made Watkins an exile and turned him into a provocative critic of MAVM (mass audio-visual media). His work includes films on Edvard Munch and August Strindberg;  a fantasy (Punishment Park) about Nixon-era repression of dissent in the U.S.; The Journey, a 14 1/2 hour internationally funded and made film on issues of peace; and in 2000,  La Commune. Continue reading


In 1958 film critics and historians held a referendum in Brussels on the thirty greatest films ever made. Kameradschaft ended up as film number twenty-six on the list, ranked with films such as The Rules of the Game and Citizen Kane. I don’t know if this film would make a similar list today, but I have to say that half a century after that poll, Kameradschaft still stands out as one of the most remarkable films ever made. Continue reading

A Nous la liberte

René Clair’s À Nous la liberté (known in English as Freedom for Us, though it was released in the United States in 1932 with its French title) is a musical comedy about the alienation of modern work. It’s the kind of film that might have resulted had the Marx Brothers been engaged to make Metropolis rather than Fritz Lang. René Clair shared with the Marx Brothers a mocking disregard for most forms of authority and a joyous pleasure in the subversion of all forms of social pretension and bourgeois decorum. In fact, the Marx Brothers borrowed material from tonight’s film when they made A Night at the Opera in 1935. Continue reading

Whores’ Glory

“Everyone believes they know something about prostitution,” writes director Michael Glawogger, “particularly when he or she has never been to a brothel… Prostitution is not to be condemned or defended,” he argues, “prostitution simply is… It’s a dead end to say simply that it is bad. It’s way more interesting to ask why it exists, how it works, and what it does to all of us.” Continue reading

The Gleaners and I

film stillHistorically, gleaning was a strategy to create small food surpluses for the poor. Mosaic law decreed (Leviticus:19:22) that “When you reap the harvest of the land do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien.” Continue reading

A Grin Without a Cat (Le Fond de l’air est rouge)

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Tonight’s film is long and there won’t be time later to stay around and discuss the film. However, our September 20 Labor Lyceum program will provide an opportunity to consider Chris Marker’s take on the struggles of the decade 1967-1977 and the significance of those struggles to our own. (Lyceum details are on the flyer you should have received). Continue reading

La Danse

film stillMy comments tonight are those not of an expert on dance but those rather of a labor  historian interested in films dealing with labor themes. I will remark briefly first on Wiseman’s documentary technique, then on the structure of tonight’s film and finally on dance as work. Continue reading

Monsieur Verdoux

film stillI have admired Monsieur Verdoux since I first saw the film in the 1960s during one of its brief revivals. But I had not considered including Chaplin’s portrayal of a serial bigamist and lady killer in the labor film series. It’s a brilliant choice, however, because Monsieur Verdoux is all about the business and the work of a Blue Beard. “It was no life of ease,” Verdoux reflects. “I worked very hard for what I got.” Continue reading