THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL. (2021) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL. (2021) DIRECTED BY STEFANO MORDINI. INSPIRED BY THE BOOK BY EDOARDO ALBINATI. STARRING BENEDETTA PORCAROLI AND FEDERICA TORCHETTI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. This based-on-a-true-story Italian language film set in the mid-Seventies is a really grim watch. For the first hour and a quarter, say, it’s just a mish-mash of a story about the most awful privileged rich white boys you could ever have the misfortune to meet, and how they practically get away with murder in their exclusive Catholic school for rich boys, which is located in Rome.

The sense of privilege and entitlement just radiates off these late-teenage boys like the stink of rotten fish, with heartfelt apologies to the poor fish, who can’t help it. These boys treat women like possessions, to be used, abused and then tossed aside like so much rubbish. It’s horrible to watch.

Then, when they get in any trouble, Mummy and Daddy, who are filthy rich, bale them out and there are never any consequences for their wrongdoings, unless you count the odd slap from a rich father when he loses patience with the little scut he calls sonny boy.

We are told by the narrator, Edoardo Albinati, that consequences for misbehaviour were so randomly applied that the boys chose to go ahead and do exactly what they wanted to do and just take their come-uppance if- and when- it ever arrived.

These rich boys have sex willy-nilly with their friends’ mothers and sisters, all of whom are inter-changeable gorgeous European women with the long dark hair and terrific bone structure. The boys are brought up thinking that the world and everything in it, including the women, is theirs for the taking. Sort of like a bunch of mini-Scarfaces. If no-one ever tells them any different, how are they meant to know right from wrong? The parents and the titular Catholic school are jointly at fault here.

The film is confusing as hell, jumping between the points of view of various boys who all look the same, and it’s divided up into equally confusing ‘time chapters’ such as ‘six months earlier’ to ‘130 hours earlier.’ I mean, what the hell…? It was difficult to make out, not only which boy was which, but which female they were f**king was which. Was it someone’s mum, someone’s sister or someone’s bloody granny? Who knows?

Anyway, the last half hour of the film sees the crime happening, the true-life crime from 1975 to which the whole movie is leading up, the crime that became known as the Circeo Massacre. In September of that year, two beautiful unsuspecting young Italian students, Donatella and Rosaria, are lured to a fabulous seaside villa by two of the boys from the school.

Once there, they are horribly raped, beaten, bullied, humiliated, taunted and tortured by the two boys, who are later joined by another guy whose father apparently owns the villa they’re using to commit their nasty crimes in. The third guy is supposed to be just out of prison as well. Such nice company they keep, right?

Angelo Izzo, Andrea Ghira and Gianni Guido are the mens’ names, though I use the word ‘men’ ironically. They’re not men. They’re cowardly little bully boys who use their superior physical strength to intimidate and frighten defenceless women. Real men don’t seem to feel the need to prove to themselves and their friends that they’re tougher than women or even other men.

I don’t know how any of them expected to get away with it. It’s probably that awful confidence they have in them that makes them feel that there is no price to pay when you’re a rich handsome young guy and your dad can buy off the police. And the school.

One of the girls will be dead after their torturous ordeal, the other as good as. And all because a bunch of lads developed toxic masculinity in the environment that more or less demanded it of its young men. Violence is what is expected of the boys in this environment, the narrator tells us. To be a man is to be violent.

And was justice done, in the end? Sadly, only partially. One of the perpetrators went on to kill two more women after he was released from prison for his part in the Circeo Massacre. As good a candidate for Throwing Away the Key as I’ve ever come across.

Apparently the Italian carabinieri were not exactly ruthless in pursuit of justice for these two lovely young women. Were palms greased, as they undoubtedly had been at the school? I don’t know. One good thing came out of this whole convoluted mess, and that was that Italian law finally allowed that rape was a crime against the person, and not just an outrage against public morality.

Public morality? One wonders how the Italians had been used to prosecuting rape cases in the past. Did a ton of perpetrators walk free? Don’t tell Donatella Colasanti that rape is not a crime against the person. That’s exactly what it is; a crime against the person, and the person’s body, mind and spirit, a crime against the person’s very soul and psyche. Never mind your public morality.

Is this a good film? I don’t even know. Turn to Netflix and see for yourself, but be warned: as I said at the start, it’s a grim watch.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. (1978) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. (1978) DIRECTED BY ALAN PARKER. SCRENPLAY BY OLIVER STONE. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY BILLY HAYES.
STARRING BRAD DAVIS, JOHN HURT, RANDY QUAID, NORBERT WEISSER, IRENE MIRACLE, BO HOPKINS, MIKE KELLIN AND PAUL L. SMITH.
MUSIC BY GIORGIO MORODER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’ve always thought this prison drama based on a true story was an absolutely cracking film, and I still do, but it’s regarded by many as an exercise in racism and hate for its diabolical portrayal of Turkey and the Turkish people. The prison guards are seen as sadistic, lazy, inefficient brutes and the supposed upholders of the law as ignorant, prejudiced and corrupt beyond anything you can imagine.

Also, some of the most eye-popping incidents in the film, which I probably shouldn’t mention for fear of spoilers, apparently never happened, and were added by the film-makers for dramatic effect. That might affect the way you see the film when you’re reflecting on it afterwards.

The real Billy Hayes, who penned the book on which this film is based, was disappointed by the portrayal of Turkish people in the film and eventually, I believe, apologised for it to the Turkish nation.

Having said that, it’s still a brilliant and iconic movie, and it catapulted the lead actor, Brad Davis, into international stardom, which was good for him. Everyone in the film gives a sterling performance, and there’s a fantastic electronic score by Giorgio Moroder. (Together in Electric Dreams, anyone…?)

The film tells the story of Billy Hayes, an American college student who, in 1970, is arrested at a Turkish airport with 2kg of hashish strapped to his chest. Don’t worry, folks! We’re not dealing with a hardened drugs kingpin here. ‘I wuz only gonna sell it to my friends.’ Oh well, that’s all right, then.

The Turkish guards are coming down heavy on drugs offenders, however, and Billy gets thrown in prison for four years, a sentence later changed to something much worse, for his trouble.

The prison is so horrific, and Brad Davis as Billy so handsome and personable, that you’d very quickly forget that he wasn’t put there unjustly; there’s been no miscarriage of justice here. He has actually committed a crime here. And, even though the drug is hash and not heroin, it still might have ended up bringing untold misery to the families of the college kids to whom he sold it.

Anyway, back to the horrific prison. Conditions are awful, and the savage brutality of the Turkish guards and their ‘trusties’ has to be seen to be believed. Hamidou, the gigantic head guard, is a veritable monster, the kind who’ll grind your bones to make his bread.

On Billy’s first night under his care, Hamidou rapes him and savagely beats him for stealing a blanket. Poor Billy! He just can’t stop getting into trouble. Paul. L. Smith, an American-Israeli actor, is superb as the sadist with the two small sons whom he allows to witness his horrendous beating of four young boys. I wonder what a guy like that would be like as a husband and father. Don’t tell me there wouldn’t be violence at home behind closed doors…

Whenever Hamidou heaves on stage, practically seething with anger and striding purposely towards the inmates with his big plank of wood (for beating!) in his hand, you just know someone’s gonna be in for a terrible whuppin’…

Rifki, the guards’ trusty, or favoured prisoner, is sly, slimy, self-serving and a terrible snitch (all the s’s!), and Billy and his friends positively loathe him. Billy has formed a little sort of clique with another American, Randy Quaid as Jimmy, John Hurt as Max the Englishman and the German actor Nobert Weisser as Erich.

Jimmy is a crazy hothead who keeps getting beaten half to death for his ill-advised escape attempts. Max is a fragile drug addict who loves his cat, and Erich is a pragmatic German who would like to have sex with Billy but Billy isn’t quite ready to cross that final barrier between his old life in America, when he had a pretty blonde girlfriend called Susan, and his new sexless one in a men’s prison in Turkey.

I love the performance given by Mike Kellin as Billy’s Dad, who has been utterly destroyed by his son’s incarceration. He’s such a good dad and Billy himself is in bits for having put his old man to the trouble and expense of flying over from the United States to Turkey to see his son and consult with Billy’s lawyers.

I always cry when Billy and his dad cry, it’s just too sad! Dad never seems to blame Billy for the whole thing, instead venting his vitriol on the head guard Hamidou, who doesn’t give two figs.

I also love Ahmet, the perfect-English-speaker in the insane asylum played by English character actor Peter Jeffrey, and all his gobbledy-gook about ‘bad machines.’

Irene Miracle as Billy’s girlfriend Susan is good too, visiting Billy in all her clean unsulliedness when he looks like he’s been dragged backwards through the seven circles of Hell. That scene where Billy begs her to take off her top so he can see and touch her breasts through the glass is sad. Very sad. Look what he’s come to, it’s saying to us.

Other stand-out scenes include the tongue-biting-out one, Billy’s speech from the docks in which he calls all Turkish people ‘pigs’ and the scene in which Hamidou, the feared head of the prison, accidentally hangs himself up on his own coat hook. It’s a real ‘ouch!’ moment.

Brad Davis turns in a stunning not-quite-debut performance as Billy Hayes. It’s such a good sympathetic performance that, as I mentioned before, you tend to forget all about the crime that puts him in prison and just notice how bravely stoic he’s being in confinement and how awful the guards are who are keeping him there.

It’s still a genuinely good, exciting and nail-bitingly tense film, though I daresay it did for the Turkish tourist industry what JAWS did for sea-swimming. Over and out…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/
    

THE SOCIAL NETWORK. (2010) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE SOCIAL NETWORK. (2010) DIRECTED BY DAVID FINCHER. SCRIPT BY AARON SORKIN. BASED ON ‘THE ACCIDENTAL BILLIONAIRES: THE FOUNDING OF FACEBOOK, A TALE OF SEX, MONEY, GENIUS AND BETRAYAL’ BY BEN MEZRICH.
STARRING JESSE EISENBERG, ANDREW GARFIELD, ARMIE HAMMER, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, MAX MINGHELLA, ROONEY MARA AND DAVID SELBY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’d put off watching this film for ages, dismissing it as probably being a load of rubbish, but it’s not rubbish at all. It’s a strangely compelling, gripping and fascinating two-hour peek into the life of Mark Zuckerberg, the man we all know as the founder of Facebook, and I was glued to it from start to finish.

Apparently, the Harvard computer science student gave himself the idea for Facebook after being dumped by his girlfriend and writing some very misogynistic stuff about her on his blog, before figuring out a way of rating the ‘hot’ girls on campus online by using their photos. His Internet-crashing venture led to the creation of the site we know and (mostly!) love in early 2004.

The invention was originally intended as a way for college students at select universities to connect with each other, but the site expanded rapidly and had one billion users worldwide by 2012. I had been aware of it myself only since about 2010, and joined in 2012 with the purchase of my first ever laptop.

I’ve generally found using Facebook to be a really positive experience. I’ve made some wonderful friends there who all share my interest in films and books, and I’ve been able to share my movie reviews and other writings on the site as well, which has been a huge help. I haven’t really encountered too many jerks or dickheads on Facebook- maybe one or two at most- so I guess the jerks and dickheads all congregate on Twitter or Instagram or wherever else…!

Anyway, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t come across as a very nice guy in the early stages of the film because of the way he reacts to being dumped, but I began to root for him quite seriously when the Terrible Twins, now Bitcoin billionaires Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, come to the forefront of the film when they decide to sue MZ for bazillions of dollars for ‘stealing their idea’ for a social networking site.

I don’t believe that MZ stole the idea for Facebook from the twins. He’s clearly been a coding genius from a young age and was always going to do something magnificent with his life and his brains.

The twins, both ably played by the hunky Armie Hammer (he’s in trouble at the moment for being a bit kinky in his sex life; this just makes me want to embrace him, not ‘cancel’ him!), are spoiled privileged rich boys who claim MZ nicked their idea, instead of coming up with his own, which he would have been perfectly able to do without any help from them, thank you very much.

Sadly, the courts took the side of the Winklevoss twins, probably because they had unlimited use of their billionaire father’s crack law team. Remember old David Selby– he plays their lawyer- as Richard Channing on FALCON CREST? He was always coming up against the might and sleight of hand of Angela Channing (Jane Wyman), the filthy-rich businesswoman with more balls than the Wimbledon finals. God, I used to love that show, with all its fabulous glamour and under-handed shenanigans and the implausibly named Chase Gioberti! Haha, we’ll be talking about DALLAS and DYNASTY next. 

Where was I in the film review, anyway? Oh yes, Justin Timberlake turns up as one Sean Parker, founder of the computer file-sharing service, NAPSTER; I have no clue what that means. Also, he looks exactly like himself. He tries to encourage MZ to party down with underaged girlies and take all kinds of so-called ‘recreational’ drugs as he is a big messer. MZ really only likes to code, however, so he goes on with that and leaves the partying and the madness to other people.  

I don’t think the Winklevoss twins should have been awarded so much money for the so-called ‘intellectual property theft’ of their precious ‘idea.’ They should have gone off and invented something else, if they were that bothered. It was right of the court to restore MZ’s pal Eduardo Saverin’s name to the Facebook masthead, however; he remains one of the legitimate co-founders, after all.

I still remember how much fun it was to look up old boyfriends’ profiles on Facebook, back when I first joined. It was also good for checking if girls I’d gone to school with had gotten fat or had a nicer house than me. (Most of them did; the bitches!)

I’ve calmed down a good bit since then, mind you. It’s no longer such a novelty to look up other people’s business online, as we’ve had that facility for years now. It’s still nice to know it’s there, though, just in case anyone new comes along to send me a friend request.

The main takeaway from this excellent film is a negative one, sadly. Watching the disgraceful behaviour of some of the rich Harvard students in it gave me the shivers, because these are the men- it’s always men- who will one day lead the world. They are the men who’ll invent things, control things and make the big money, so big that we peasants wouldn’t really be able to comprehend it. It wouldn’t really seem real to us, do you know what I mean?

But, just going by what’s in the film, growing up as the privileged ‘few’ who alone have access to the elite, exclusive clubs of Harvard doesn’t seem to be filling these young lads full of empathy and compassion for their fellow men.

It’s kind of like when I saw a picture of Boris Johnson and his university chums in the news recently. All that privilege, I was thinking. All that future power. You can see it in them already. You can even smell it. Maybe one shouldn’t generalise. Maybe there’ll be a few good eggs who only want to do good in their world. It boggles the mind, though, how many of them might forget that with great power comes great responsibility. Pity, that.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THE GREAT GATSBY. (2013) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE GREAT GATSBY. (2013) BASED ON THE BOOK BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD. DIRECTED AND CO-WRITTEN BY BAZ LUHRMANN.
STARRING LEONARDO DICAPRIO, TOBEY MAGUIRE, CAREY MULLIGAN, JOEL EDGERTON, ISLA FISHER AND ELIZABETH DEBICKI.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’m not a huge fan of Baz Luhrmann’s work, and I think I would have liked this glitzy Hollywood movie a bit more if it had been directed by someone else, someone who valued a bit of realism and substance over lavish and at times overwhelming style.

I hated the modern musical soundtrack as well. I love genuine ‘Twenties music and dancers doing the Charleston in sync and at top speed, so the whole soundtrack simply didn’t do it for me. Sorry, but it just didn’t, lol.

The story I liked, but then the story is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most celebrated and iconic novel, often regarded as the Great American Novel. It’s very sad that he didn’t realise before he died what a huge big deal he was going to one day become, and mainly because of this very book.

The story here is told by Tobey SPIDERMAN Maguire’s Nick Carraway, a World War One veteran and would-be writer who, in 1929, is relating the story of the Great Gatsby to his doctor in a psychiatric hospital. Write it all down, says the doctor, who clearly doesn’t want to have to do his job properly. Write it all down, son, and that’s exactly what Nick Carraway does…

The Great Gatsby is, in fact, the Great Jay Gatsby, someone Nick knows in 1922, when he rents a gatekeeper’s cottage in New York for the summer and his neighbour in the fabulous fairytale mansion just so happens to be the elusive Gatsby, well played by Leonardo TITANIC DiCaprio.

Gatsby, a mysterious business magnate who throws the wildest and most extravagant parties at his mansion, befriends the lonely Nick Carraway, but not out of any philanthropic reasons. Nick, you see, is the cousin of one Daisy Buchanan, the woman Gatsby loves beyond all reason, and with whom he had an affair before World War One took away all the eligible young men.

Gatsby confides in Nick that the reason he throws all these magnificently decadent parties is his hope that, one day, Daisy will attend one of them. Daisy lives, also in the lap of luxury, across the bay from Gatsby’s house, with her old-money millionaire husband, Tom Buchanan. Tom keeps a mistress called Myrtle, played by former HOME AND AWAY siren, Isla Fisher, who’s married in real life to actor and comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen.

Will Nick be kind enough to ask Daisy to tea in his humble abode, Gatsby wonders hopefully, and then he, Gatsby, can just stroll by casually and see her, as if by chance? Nick, I think, is a little bit smitten himself by the charismatic Gatsby, about whom a ridiculous number of contradictory rumours abound, and he agrees to act as go-between to his new friend and Cousin Daisy…

Tragedy is coming down the track for some of the players in this little drama, which is good from a dramatic point of view, but the characters are mostly so unlikeable do we even care, that’s the question.

Daisy is a silly little selfish fool, who nonetheless knows what side her bread is buttered on. Tom, her husband, is a bit of a boorish buffoon and a cowardly bully, plus he’s cheating on his wife with Myrtle. Nick the Narrator is a bystander in his own and his friends’ lives, which is probably what makes him best suited to be a writer. He also serves who only stands and makes little notes in a spiral notebook…

And as for the incomparable Jay Gatsby himself, or should I say Mister James Gatz, well, we, the viewers probably don’t mind that he’s a self-made man who’s pulled himself up by the bootstraps to become the enigmatic millionaire he is today, even if he is ‘new money.’ But he’s a bit of a gimp for Daisy, and Daisy is a spoiled little wagon who will ultimately only do what’s good for Daisy and no more. The wagon…!

So, in a way, I suppose we should feel sorry for Gatsby, especially when the movie turns briefly into SUNSET BOULEVARD at the end. But you guys can, of course, make up your own minds. For myself, I think I might give the book a go, as I’ve never read it. At least Baz Luhrmann didn’t have a hand in it…

  AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv