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Years ago, I saw a couple Iranian films that were as good as any films made anywhere. The best thing about “Children of Heaven” and “The Color of Paradise” is the humanity of the characters. So, while political relations between Iran and much of the West are very, very strained to say the least, the film gives you insight into the people and shows that there is goodness everywhere. And, the issues these folks deal with (particularly in “The Color of Paradise”) are universal.
While “Children of Heaven” is Majidi’s most famous film, I think “The Color of Paradise” is his best. In fact, I’d place it in my top 10 of ALL films–it’s that good since I have seen so many. It’s the story of a blind boy whose father will not accept him–a problem many disabled children struggle with throughout the world. As a father of a deaf daughter, it was particularly poignant. I won’t tell you more of the plot–just see this film for yourself.
As a result of my loving these two films, I have sought out all of Majidi’s films and have enjoyed every one of them. They each star normal folks and seem like a more modern version of the Italian Neo-Realist films–movies made without professional actors and filmed out in the real world.
“Baran”, “The Song of Sparrows” and “The Willow Tree” are all exceptional films by Mijidi which haven’t yet been discovered by most film snobs. Of the three, “The Willow Tree” is the best. It’s a strange story of a middle-aged man who is blind but is given his sight–and it actually ends up making his life much worse! It’s a wonderful look into human nature and I appreciate how in this story, a disabled guy isn’t wonderful and noble!
My suggestion is to start with “The Color of Paradise” but have some Kleenex handy. It packs a huge emotional punch and is perfectly appropriate for all ages. Then by all means see his other films. You will thank me–they are that good.
If you can find a copy, try watching “Charley Bowers: The Rediscovery of an American Comic Genius”. Fortunately it IS currently available from Netflix and is an absolute must for fans of silent comedy. As the title of the DVD set implies, Bowers is pretty much forgotten today–even though his silents are among the best shorts of the era–rivaling those of Keaton, Lloyd and Chaplin in quality and creativity. Now despite placing his name beside these great comics, Bowers’ style was really nothing like any of these three men. No, he was truly an original as he integrated stop-motion cinematography into more traditional silent comedies–and wrote, directed and starred in many of these films. And, the results were often brilliant (such as in “There It Is!”–and there’s a link to the film above). However, very sadly, very few of his films remain today and so you’ll just have to content yourself with the DVD set as well as this other film currently posted on YouTube. I’d like to say more about the man, but the bottom line is that you should just see these films–they speak for themselves. Do yourself a favor–give it a look.
I have always loved silent films. Even as a child, I remember watching them whenever they came on TV. I even remember going to an honest to goodness theater to see Harold Lloyd’s “The Freshman” (1925). No, I am NOT 100 years old–heck, I’m not quite even half that. I just have a love for early films. Now I could go on and on about the early comics like Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd or even Charley Bowers (that’s a new one–perhaps I’ll talk more about him in a future post). However, this post is about a different comic genius of the age….Felix the Cat! Now before you think I’ve lost my mind (again), hear me out first. The Felix cartoons you grew up watching were probably NOT the ones I am talking about at all. I grew up with the stupid Trans-Lux version made in the late 1950s. There also were other re-inventions of Felix in the 1930s and 1970s and 80s. No, I am talking about the ORIGINAL Felix cartoons–from about 1919 to about 1928. Back when Felix was a silent film star. In these films, Felix rarely was normal in any way. In fact, the cartoons seemed a bit inspired by Salvador Dali–weirdly surreal and a very mischievous leading man!
Of all the Felix silents I have seen, so far my favorite is “Comicalamities’–a genius of a film from 1928. In it, Felix repeatedly violates every rule for cartoon characters and the results are amazing and refreshing…yes, refreshing. He is not some boring nice-guy (like he was in the three Van Beuren Studios Felix the Cat shorts) but crazy, wild and a little bit of a jerk! My advice is to click on the link above and watch “Comicalamities’ yourself. Go ahead, I dare you. Then feel free to let me know what you think about this forgotten comic genius.
For fans of television and films (especially television) from the 1950s and 60s, there’s little doubt that this man’s face is familiar. Burt Mustin must have appeared in about half a billion TV shows in supporting roles in shows such as “Leave it to Beaver”, “The Andy Griffith Show”, “Dragnet” and “All in the Family”*. And each time he appeared, I found myself smiling. Was he a great actor? I doubt if many would say that. But he sure added color and fun into whatever he did!
Mustin was an unusual man. His first appearance, in “The Detective Story” in 1951, was at age 67!! So, instead of staying retired from careers in engineering, sales and selling stocks and bonds, he took up acting! And, he continued acting well past that. His final role was at age 91–when I guess he decided to slow down just a little! He also was unusual, by Hollywood standards, for being married to the same woman for 54 years! All in all, I really miss the guy. He managed to infuse quite a bit of heart in everything he did and I really don’t know who is like him in film or television today.
By the way, I have no idea what role this is but I’d sure love to know!!
UPDATE: My cousin, Jason, is AMAZING at trivia and somehow knew this was Mustin playing ‘Kimba’ on the TV show “The Monkees”. While part of me wants to see this, part of me is afraid…very afraid…
*Okay, I admit it. He only appeared in about 150 different shows and movies–but it sure seemed like a lot more, as he seemed quite ubiquitous on the big and small screen.