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Paradise Road

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Tom’s Recommended Film of the Week

Paradise Road

After I recommended No Country For Old Men a few weeks ago, I found that friend and fellow Market Update writer Maggie Pahl is also a Coen brother’s fan. This led to some DVD lending and a little local Coen revival. I rewatched Miller’s Crossing and Blood Simple and then got to thinking. What other films has Frances McDormand done without the Coens?

A little checking turned up a healthy number of interesting sounding movies, two of which I was able to watch this week. City by the Sea is a well-acted action thriller, with Frances McDormand, Robert De Niro and James Franco (of the Spiderman franchise). Director, Michael Caton-Jones, keeps your attention with a simple, yet compelling plot that pulls the viewer in its emotional directions. Honor, character and personal choices are the driving themes, but this film maintains high entertainment levels as well. Extras on this disc include a six point film making school by Michael Caton-Jones which is well worth watching if you enjoy the behind the scenes stuff.

The second film, my recommended film of the week, was Paradise Road, starring Glenn Close, Pauline Collins, Frances McDormand and Cate Blanchett. Set during WWII, this film tells the story of a group of woman who end up detained by the Japanese military in an internment camp in Sumatra for the duration of the war. The lyric flow of class, cast, race and nationality distinction being broken down and rebuilt as comradery and fellowship through hardship and common threads makes for an outstanding piece. It’s hard to recognize the British ladies you saw dinning in Singapore at the beginning of the film by the time the gates are opened by the defeated Japanese at the end. It is also rather hard to watch what they went through, given that this film is based on a true story.

Though music is the tool that these women finally use to bond and regain strength and dignity for themselves, it is the journey to a broader acceptance of humanity and the rejection of prejudice that I found to be the gem of this film.

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