Versión Original

The Reader. Stephen Daldry, 2008

The Reader. Stephen Daldry, 2008

The Reader (Der Vorleser) is a novel by Bernhard Schlink. It was published in Germany in 1995 and deals with the difficulties which subsequent generations have in comprehending the Holocaust, as the victims and witnesses of the Holocaust die and its living memory begins to fade.

The story is told in 3 parts by the main character, Michael Berg. Each part takes place in a different time period in the past.

Part I begins in a West German city in 1958. A 15-year-old Michael becomes a heated affair with the 36-year-old tram conductress Hanna Schmitz. In fact, they begin and develop a ritual of bathing and having sex, before which she frequently has him read aloud to her, especially classical literature. Months later, Hanna suddenly leaves without a trace…

Part II, 8 years later. Michael, now a law student, is observing a war crimes trial. A group of middle-aged women who had served as SS guards at a satellite of Auschwitz in occupied Poland are being tried for allowing 300 Jewish women to die in a fire locked in a church that had been bombed during the evacuation of the camp. The incident was chronicled in a book written by one of the few survivors, who is the star witness at the trial. To Michael's stunned surprise, Hanna is one of the defendants. She is accused of writing the account of the fire. At first she denies this but then in panic admits it in order to not have to give a sample of her handwriting. Michael, horrified, realizes that Hanna has a secret she refuses to reveal at any cost — she is illiterate.

Part III: Michael, trying to come to terms with his feelings for Hanna, begins taping readings of books and sending them to her without any correspondence while she is in prison. Hanna begins to teach herself to read, and then write in a childlike way, by borrowing the books from the prison library and following the tapes along in the text. She writes to Michael, but he cannot bring himself to reply.

The main characters are Kate Winslet (in the role of Hanna), Ralph Fiennes (Michael) and David Kross, who plays the young Michael. Winslet and Kross have received much praise for their brilliant performances, Kate even won the Oscar for leading actress.

Some like it hot. Billy Wilder, 1957

Some like it hot. Billy Wilder, 1957

[Some Like It Hot] is known nowadays being a film that has people bursting out with laughter and then being told by their companions to shut up so they can hear the next line.

Wilder remembered a silly German film (“Fanfaren der Liebe”, 1951) in which two guys who want to work as musicians can’t get a job in a male band, dress up as women, and join a girl’s band. The film had done no business at all but it had stuck in his head somehow. But there are some changes in Wilder’s version. The film starts like a gangster film.The film was deliberately constructed so that the first few minutes the audience would be saying, "What is this? Why’s it called Some Like It Hot? It sounds playful when it’s not looking playful at all." But then there a few laugh moments, when you discover what’s in the hearse.

Talking about the mixture of genres going on this movie, it’s important to remember David O. Selznick’s reaction: "Billy, you can’t do that." Wilder cocked an eyebrow and took it as a provocation. He said, "I can’t do it, Mr. Selznick? I can’t do it?” "You have to understand. You can frighten the life out of Americans and you can give them a very good, funny time; but, be careful about confusing the two."

And what about the cast? Jack Lemmon is probably the person people most associate with the film and it’s the most outrageous performance. And them, it was Marilyn Monroe... Wilder had worked with Marilyn before on a film called “The Seven-Year Itch” and they had a terrible time. Marilyn needed 60-70 takes just to get the right line.

Another question I would ask about the film is the last line, one of the great last lines. Is it just a get-off? A way to end the film, in other words? The question is open... mind your word!

Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra , 1944)

Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra , 1944)

“Arsenic and Old Lace” is, from my point of view, one of the funniest comedies of all time. The film's screenplay was written the Epstein brothers based on Joseph Kesselring's successful Broadway play of the same name. 

But let’s begin with the plot... Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant), a drama critic who was educated by two sweet but eccentric old aunts, has just got married and is about to go on his honeymoon when he discovers insanity runs in his family, which also includes one brother who thinks he's the USA President Teddy Roosevelt and another who is a psycho-killer fashioned after Boris Karloff. 

A very dark and funny sitcom of a much more innocent times: in 1944, the idea of respectful people committing murder was funny in it's own way because it was a situation so far removed from reality. "Arsenic And Old Lace", however, is anything but sad!  

And what about the performances? All of them were wonderful, but Cary Grant's facial expressions and hilarious body language are just out of this world!. In spite of the fact that Cary Grant always disliked his performance in “Arsenic and Old Lace” (he complained taking part into a comedy film) I think he was excellent and it is impossible not to laugh your head off.  

I must admit that much of this film's humor has become dated: some of the referrences are quite difficult to understand for today's audiences (for example, the joke of Jonathan's resemblance to Boris Karloff... how many young people know nowadays who Karloff was?). Never mind, ignore the jokes you don't really get and be prepare to burst out laugh with lines like these: 

- Mortimer: But there's a body in the window seat!!!
- Abby: Yes, dear. We know.
- Mortimer: You know???
- Martha: Of course.
- Abby: Yes, but it has nothing to do with Teddy.
- Mortimer: But, but...
- Abby: Now Mortimer, you forget about it. Forget you ever saw the gentleman.
- Mortimer: Forget???
- Abby: We never dreamed you'd peek. 

Ah! The Spanish traslation is a little bit different, as you can see if you visit this old link on my blog ( 

My final advice? If you haven't seen this movie already, what are you waiting for?.