domingo, 23 de agosto de 2009


I have had the opportunity to see this movie in the television in several occasions. Directed by the Mexican Luis Mandoki in 1994 it led then a great success in ticket office; but as the time passes, every time this film disillusions me more and I like ith less. And it in spite of having been in preparation there being based on one notes written by the very same Orson Wells and of beginning with the beautiful panoramic one of Frisco´s Bay, with the involvidable Percy Sledge's topic that gives its title degree to the tape as soundtrack.

We are present at the history of love led by the Green´s marriage: Alice (Meg Ryan) and Michael (Andy García). From the initial scenes, the director shouws us a protagonist who gets drunk with too many facility, reaching this happy and enterteining point. We admit that the comparisons are odious, but they turn out to be inevitable. The interpretation of alcoholic wife opened by Meg Ryan in this film takes me fancy certainly insufficiently on having compared it with the veracity and the dramatic quality wasted by Lee Remick as the role of Kirsten Arnesen in " Days of wine and roses " (Blake Edwards, 1962).

At present, the descriptive model based on the different kinds of the alcoholic disease has been overcome. But in a graphical simple way we might fit Alice's case as the representative one of the so called housewife´s alcoholism. In his genesis and maintenance diverse elements take part: loneliness, shame, frustration, depression, autopity and fall autoestimates... In certain moments, she manages to reproach her husband, a comercial pilot, his long absences out of the familiar home. The initial concealment of the habit is here also present, since the patient hides the bottles for the drawers of the cupboards far from the looks of her own family.

In these situations the classic one turns out to be already the reference to the vodka as the choice´s drink, since supposedly his ingestion does not leave tracks of ethyl breath. Anyhow an uncertain information, an urban legend...

The whirlpool of drunkenness in that little by little Alice is submerging leads that the couple takes a drastic decision: she´ll have to join an institution specializing in the alcoholic detoxification. The temporary separation between Alice and Michael and the feeling displacement that this one feels when he visits his wife they brought to my memory the personal frustration suffered by the personage of Grant Anderson (Gordon Pinsent) in "Away from her" (Sarah Polley , 2006) when oneself sees obliged to deposit his wife in a residence for patients with dementia.

This film is revalued precisely because emphisizes in the domestic consequences provoked by the alcoholic disease. And not only during the weeks that Alice remains entered, but also later, when she tries to join again the daily homeloving life. Specially Tina Majorino's interpretation (Jessica), and the one of the prolific Mae Whytman (Casey) in the role of the small daughters of the Green´s, they help to heighten the veracity of the argument. Girls at these time, nowadays pretty twentyish. Tempus fugit...

In almost all the North American movies that treat the problem of the alcoholism, Alcoholic Anonymous it´s always present, on having treated itself about a brotherhood very powerful and extended both in the USA and aslo in Canada and Mexico. In this movie there exists a reference to Al-Anon, the association of support formed by the relatives of the alcoholic ones who also re-join from time to time.

We emphasize also the modest participation in this tape of a great actress (Ellen Burstyn) and of a serious actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman) whose good respective one to do artistically surelly soon will be commented in this same blog: "Requiem for a dream" (Darren Aronofsky, 2000) and "The Savages" (Tamara Jenkins, 2007).

To finish these ramblings, a last note melomaniac. An intimista version of "My Funny Valentine" adorns the scene in which the equal protagonist dances celebrating their 4th weeding´s anniversary. This musical piece nowadays turned into a standard of the jazz, originally it was composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the musical one "Babes in arms" (1937).

No doubt, my favorite version is the Chet Baker's sentimentally heart-breaking one:

jueves, 6 de agosto de 2009


Robert Downey Jr is Dr. Robert Merivel

In our opinion, from a strictly point of view, the central idea of this movie realized by Michael Hoffman in 1995 is the genesis of the medical vocation. And if they were allowing me to add a subtitle, surely they would choose "Medicine´s Triumphs", paraphrasing the name of a book published in Spain in 1977 supported by Prodes Laboratories. Stocks on the homonym novel of the writer Rose Tremain, the script was adapted to the screen by Rupert Walters.

The medicine will be the discipline that will triumph finally in the turbulent life of Robert Merivel, pupil of William Harvey in the Royal College of London, doctor of the royal kennels, who after young boys taking in his years a dissolute existence finally decides to dedicate the rest of his days to the care his similar ones. But for any victory a price must be paid: the doubts will harass the doctor protagonist during the whole movie; is he really capable of recovering? For the way he will lose Pierce, his best friend and colleague, who dies in the lazaretto of the Quakers without Merivel could avoid it. The history will repeat itself also with his wife. Then, so bold efforts deserve really a sorrow trying to save from the claws of the death a few unfailingly mortal neighbors?

The setting of this movie places in the period of the British history known as Restoration. It was initiated in 1660, soon after Oliver Cromwell's death, under the reign of Charles II, popularly known as the Happy Monarch, defender of the arts, spendthrift, keen on women and famous in addition for his sexual promiscuity, which generated an illegitimate children's long list.

In this movie, the royal libertinism passes parallel to that of the physician interpreted by Robert Downey Jr, actor who turns out to be much more convincing in the comical records, enterteining scenes in those that Merivel will finish turned into confidant, procurer and royal buffoon. Winner of the Oscar to the best actor in 1992 for his splendid interpretation of Charles Chaplin, his professional career is full of unevenness, including problems with the law.

Robert Merivel, son of a gloves´s manufacturer, accedes to the studies of medicine thanks to the paternal efforts. Companion of learning and misfortunes of his colleague John Pierce (David Thewlis), lives immersed in a stage of the history of the medicine placed in the whiteness of the adoption of the scientific method. In this aspect, some scholar holds that "the well-known correlation of the disease during the life with the structural alterations after the death drove to the modern development of the scientific medicine".

In those times, Harvey had discovered and described the major traffic of the blood (being based on the works of the spanish Dr. Miguel Servet). There exists a significant scene of the movie, in which Merivel and Pierce face a patient who presents a tremendous thoracic, secondary perforation to the cicatrization in wound opened of a fistula provoked by former costal fractures, in that it is perceived in vivo through the beat of his heart. She seems to be extracted of the picture "Lesson of Anatomy", identical with 1681 for the baroque Dutch artist Cornelis de Man.

Fruit of the chance, Charles II (Sam Neill) observes furtively as Merivel dares to introduce his hand in the palpitating opened scar. Immediately he will call it to his side, in order that he tries to recover to one of his favorite bitches. He says an old aphorism that the patients recover, still in spite of the doctors. Merivel passes the night close to the sick pet, allowing that the natural course of the disease should evolve freely. The recovery of the animal elevates towards the success Merivel. The king will admire the euphony of his name, his ingenuity and his sauciness in the intrigues of the court, he fulfils him with gifts and favors, even he delivers him in marriage one of his favorites, Lady Celia Clemence (Polly Walker) and sends him to live through Bidnold, a mansion with gardens and estates confiscated to a puritan partial to Cromwell, trying to conceal his lover before the jealousies from other one from his favorites, Lady Castlemine.

In my own opinion, too many coincidences exist between the imaginary Merivel´s character and that of the notable one that lived through the reality of the court of Charles II those years. It is a question of Samuel Pepys, son of a modest tailor, who thanks to his ingenuity and his political skills reached the post of Lord Secretary of the British Navy, he was a member of the Parliament and President of the Royal Society. As Merivel, preferred happening his time of leisure touching the piccolo and the viola. Even he managed to be platonically in love with the proper Lady Castlemine. Author of a prolific diary, criticized the customs of the society of the epoch, portraying, almost like in an article, the desolation of London in 1665 provoked by the pest and for the fire that devastated the city one year later. Maybe the writer Rose Tremain inspired by Pepys's life to recreate the personage of Merivel.

Leaving aside the reality, and continuing with the plot of the film, in Bidnold he will consume his days former debauchery, left the melancholy, touching the flute, painting the local landscapes, passionately lover with Celia, wife and forbidden fruit for him for express royal desire. Only the veteran butler Will Gates (interpreted by the distinguished British actor Sir Ian McKellen) will use him as support in so bland days. As well as the chance relieved in the past the evil of the sick puppy of the sovereign one, this time the natural course of the disease ends with the life of Lady Celia's pet, an Indian nightingale. They are reborn in Merivel the ideas of the impotence of the doctor before the disease and the death. Conquered by the tedium, the desire and the passion, he approaches his wife in the night of Bidnold's gardens, but she humiliates it and rejects it. Elias Finn (Hugh Grant), a social climber painter who comes to Bidnold to realize the royal order of Lady Celia's portrait, reaches the perfidy on Merivel, the loss of the favor of the monarch and his exile of the kingdom of the abundance.

With the only possession of his clothes and of a mount, Merivel leaves Bidnold and intends for a sanatorium for mental patients managed by the Quakers of John Pierce. In certain way, come to this point of the cinematographic story, one comes to the head the recollection of the history of the adventurer Raymond Barry (Ryan O'Neal) the central personage of "Barry Lindon" (Stanley Kubrick, 1995). Merivel is a holder of a special gift for the exercise of the medicine; with his methods manages to free the young woman Katharine (Meg Ryan) of the claws of the depression and of the hysterics, but simultaneously, his passion pushes it to the arms of his patient, whom there makes pregnant. Again in the way, Merivel comes again to London, where he will live discreetly of medicine´s practice.

But the mishap returns to do his appearance. The childbirth is complicated, his wife is unable to bring her son to the world, and before the possibility of losing also the mother, Merivel takes the most difficult decision of his life, practising a caesarean to Katherine without anesthesia, with the alone help of a midwife. The unsuccessful young woman dies in the puerperio, consumed by the fever and the depletion.

THE PEST IN LONDON: in the movie, the director portrays with mastery the surroundings of the Thames, hundred where of workers they develop their daily labors in conditions of misery and insalubrity. It seems to be that it was an epidemic of bubonic pest the one that devastated Great Britain between 1665 and 1666, imported from Holland, which ships were trading with the Britishers. The proliferation of rates, carriers of the causal agent Yersinia pestis, provoked the dissemination of the disease, which according to the chronicles finished with the life of the fifth part of the inhabitants of London (near 100000 persons). There exist authors who distrust the hypothesis of the pest as person in charge of The Great Plague of London, inclining more in favour of a hemorrhagic viral fever. In those days, and up to approached good the 19th century, the doctors were thinking that the transmission of these infectious diseases was realized by air, caused by pernicious effluvia (steams, mists) and miasmas. To fight the evil, they were using big pyres of fire, in which they were burning all kinds of strongly aromatic substances (pepper, incense, hop, enclosed tobacco).

In the movie, to face the pest, Merivel makes pass for John Pierce, to purify his own life, a curious mask is placed (precedent of certain Venetian masks?) In the shape of head of bird, and in the supposed beak he introduces mixtures of flowers and medicinal herbs this way to avoid to inhale the corrupt air of the stays of the patients. A great censer (as a classic botafumeiro) flies for the rooms of the royal palace while Lady Celia convalesces in bed. Paradoxically, for the fire the end of the epidemic will come, since in 1666 the flames destroy the humblest and motley neighborhoods of London. The natural selection did the rest. This great fire is present in the movie when Merivel tries to rescue desperate his small daughter Margaret of a sure death among the flames.

THE ISOLATION OF THE PATIENTS: Merivel orders to separate the healthy ones of the patients. Already preventive measures of quarantine existed, closing the infected homes and punishing with the death sentence the abandon of the same ones, but applied to all its inhabitants. It was a historical fact the heroic example of the people of Eyam (Derbyshire), which shut in thereselves among their walls to avoid the spread of the plague. This way they obtained it, still at losing 75 % of their inhabitants. A similar quarantine would be reported by Albert Camus in his work "The Pest".

Happy end. The medicine triumphs, Merivel will dedicate his life to the care of his similar ones. And the film was rewarded by two prizes Oscars in 1996: Eugenio Zanetti, for the artistic direction, and James Acheson, for the wardrobe.

miércoles, 5 de agosto de 2009


Johnny Depp is The Libertine

Thanks to the magic of the cinema, let's move back once again in the time to travel up to the convulsed reign of Charles II of England (May 29, 1660 - February 6, 1685). Previously, in the same binnacle already we had planned the same day´s run when we comment on the tape "Restoration" (Michael Hoffman, 1995).

Charles II of England, "the Happy Monarch"

We are before a movie of historical dyes directed by Laurence Dunmore in the year 2004, inspired by the Stephen Jeffreys's theatrical homonyn work (author in turn of the script of this film), where they present John Wilmot's tribulations (again colossal Johnny Depp), 2th Count of Rochester, a literary daring, rebellious and profligate genius who enjoyed the friendship and the confidences of the king Charles II.

Since privileged spectators we are present at the special relation of fondness and hatred established between the monarch and the aristocrat; the latter, which weak vane at the expense of the wind, so soon he enjoys the royal favors as falls down suddenly in misfortune due to his talkativeness and his insolence ("I hate the monarches, as well as to the thrones that occupy ... "), meeting hereby pushed to divide towards the exile, far from the court. In a sense, and saving the differences, the personage of the licentious count us resembled that of the Dr. Robert Merivel (before his definitive redemption) ..., that also alternated the appreciation and the scorn of the lewd British monarch.

We are in London in 1675, the year of death of the celebrated Dr. Thomas Willis and the date that it marked the beginning of the works of San Paul's Cathedral, under the order of the architect Christopher Wren. There is reconstructed a city that had remained decimated and devastated after suffering successively The Great Plague of bubonic pest (1665-1666) and the destroyer The Great Fire, at the beginning of September, 1666.

John Wilmot's eventful history is in addition that of a depressive, alcoholic and syphilitic patient, one more of the longest list of illustrious prominent figures who suffered this infectious disease: popes (Alejandro VI - the Pope Borgia), artists (Beethoven), writers (Baudelaire), politicians (Abraham Lincoln), gansters (Al Capone)...

John Malkovich is Charles II

In our modest opinion, the characterization of Charles II is more achieved in this film (John Malkovich, with a false nose certainly cyraniana) that in "Restoration" (in spite of possessing there the presence of the most correct actor Sam Neill for the same role).

The thick grain of the cinematographic movie, the misty environment that impregnates with certain chlorophyll tone the grown older color of the images, the impeccable artistic direction, the richness of the wardrobe and of the exquisite putting in scene, the lighting interior provided by hundreds of candles, the poetical theatrical dialogs, and the faithful portrait of the glories and the miseries of the 17th century contribute to this film all his particular beauty.

Certainly, to all this it is necessary to add the sound track of the composer Michael Nyman, specialized in recreating musical environments of the epoch, since already he had demonstrated previously in "The Draughtsman´s Contract” (Peter Greenaway - 1982).

And as sample of our devotion, a small gift for hearing. The beautiful qualified piece "If", with Michael Nyman to the piano and the velvet voice of the contralto Hilary Summers:

Others two debaucheries accompany the count of Rochester in his raids, aristocrats and playwrights who existed really; they are Sir George Etherege (Tom Holland) and about Sir Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset (the potbellied Johnny Vegas). About this trio of dissolutes orbit like a satellite the young man Billy Downs (Rupert Friend), ephebe towards which Rochester inclines his homosexual trends. In fact, of the original movie there was cut a scene in which Wilmot and Downs were kissing each other passionatly.

The women occupied a basic role in John Wilmot's dissolute existence; from his self-sacrificing and puritanical mother, the Countess of Rochester (Francesca Annis), pawned in turns his son into a God-fearing citizen, his long-suffering wife, Lady Elizabeth Malet (interpreted by the delicate Rosamund Pike), up to his dear ones, the everlasting Jane (the red-haired Kelly Reilly), the prostitute who will accompany him until the last days of his existence, and the proud Lizzie Barry (Samantha Morton), theatrical actress and lover shared with the king, turned into "the deathbed´s love" who would make suffer the unspeakable thing to him, even up to making him lose the head.


Let's observe these former schematic engravings that show the devastations and the original treatment of the syphilis:

  • In that of the left side, attributed to Albrecht Dürer (who also suffered the disease) it shows the cutaneous tumour injuries of a patient, the syphilitic gums. For a long time, the dermatological manifestations of the syphilis were confused with the leprosy.
  • In that of the right a legend appears mentioning the called "Venus´s Pain”, doubtful honor in favour of the Greek goddess of the love as mistress of the disease, as well as the application of therapeutic measures to a few patients based on mercurial (possibly a precursor tub of perspiration like that there was using the Dr. Jean Fernel). Already in the 1st century of our age, Dioscorides was describing the healing properties of the cinnabar on pustules and burns. If this mineral was warming up on a few bowls of iron with lids of clay, it was possible to obtain the Hydrargyros or "water of silver" (mercury), a toxic liquid substance on having been ingested.

For a long time, the syphilis also was known as "the great imitator", due to the fact that in the initial phases of this disease (primary and secondary) it could be confused easily with other pathologies. The discovery of the serologic diagnostic tests put the end point to so many confusions.

In the movie there exists a scene in which the own Rochester takes the hand to himself to a side afflicted by a sudden abdominal pain, which he imputes to the ingestion of some food that is rotting in his guts... This way one tells it to his servant, a felon rescued of the creek and bravely nicknamed Allcock (Richard Coyle).

The Rochester´s marriage posing for a familiar portrait

John Wilmot´s famous portrait crowning with laurel to a small monkey, by Jacob Huysmans

Jacob Huysmans, the Flemish catholic painter, came to the English court during the Restoration thanks to the patronage of Queen Catalina de Braganza, wife of Charles II. There exist two versions of this work:

  • The first one of them property of Lord Brooke, was remaining in Warwick's Castle, until his owner changed domicile.
  • The second one is a copy, nowadays exposed in the National Portrait Gallery of London.


In this movie there exist a few scenes corresponding to a theatrical representation of "Hamlet" in Betterton's Theatre. They are led by Lizzie Barry, in Ofelia's, and she recites a few verses of the immortal Shakespeare mentioning to a few medicinal herbs; probably hereby the actress was catalyzing her emotions on the death while she was inspiring by the figure, probably already sick, of the pale count of Rochester, present among the public:

  • Fennel: used against the cold, the sore throat, the asthma, the bronchitis, the indigestions, the colics (especially in children), like antiflatulent, and in addition it favors the increase of milk in the lactation.
  • Columbine: used in England to treat the ardor of mouth and throat, as well as in the shape of syrup to treat the fevers.
  • Rue: useful in the treatment of the amenorrea, the gastrointestinal spasms, the parasitosis, the varicose veins and the haemorrhoids, for the hackneyed treatment of the vitíligo and the leucodermia, as sedative for the earache and for the stomach pains. His toxicity must be used by given prudence and is not indicated during the pregnancy (it can induce the abortion) and the mother lactation.


Lord Rochester worked definitively his own misfortune after insulting to his majesty with a theatrical pornographic and obscene representation. While the ballerinas were dancing on the stage, a few women distributed showy dildos among the public. In the reality, of the budget of the movie 3672 sterling pounds became spended to pay the confection of these sophisticated instruments, carved in wood as faithful reproductions of the authentic dildos of the 17th century.

After the baneful representation, the count of Rochester will turn into a fugitive, endorsed only by the company of his darling Billy Downs. After the death of this one in a street brawl, Rochester's progressive physical and moral declivity will finish in his own deathbed. Accompanied by Jane and Allcock disguised as an Italian charlatan, the false Dr. Bendo, Wilmot hides himself in the fairs defrauding the public with his supposed miraculous potions.

Besides the loss of the hair, of the gums that destroy his skin and his bones, and of the cutaneous typical eruption of a secondary syphilis, the suffering of a picture of neurosyphilis provokes in John Wilmot the appearance of loss of the vision and blindness, difficulties for the deambulación and urinary incontinence. To these these symptoms it is necessary to add the distress provoked by the craving and the alcoholic dependence.


To finish, hete here a poetically syphilitic curiosity; it is a question of "Neosifilización", a poem of the Mexican writer Eduardo Poletti that one walks for the history and the treatment of this disease. It seems ingenious and accurate.

Certainly, Laurence Dunmore dedicated this movie, among others, to Marlon Brando! ...; and stopping to demolish the imagination, transforming the impossible thing in possibly ... what great count of Rochester could represented Brando in his youth!...