Monday, 6 July 2009

The Ice Runner, The Prisoner of Askaban

The event which marked Saturday January 26th from other days, was not the 4th round of the FA Cup where two matches were shown live and Newcastle at Arsenal was a radio commentary, or that all the laminate was laid to form a new floor in the kitchen and the first surround was also fixed, or my first viewing of the Harry Potter film The Prisoner of Azkaban, the third of the five film released with the 6th due in November and the final film of the books, or that I did not win a penny on the weekend lottery where over $70 million was available in the two first prizes, although a small sum compared to the $4000 million taken at the box office by the films alone which must make the author J K Rowling the self created wealthiest artist in the world.

The event was a film I had not heard of before, a tale worthy of Dostoevsky. The Ice Runner 1993 evidently failed to make any mark when it was released in 1993 as there is only a listing on the On line Film Critics Society, nothing on Film Four or Wikipedia and one brief review on Rotten Tomatoes. There is also a brief note on IMDB I can speculate that one reason is that the film has no "recognisable" stars, or audiences and critics have not reacted. Perhaps the film was made for TV although the production suggests otherwise. The story of the lead actor Edward Albert is worth telling on its own( later).

The story covers the end years of the cold war and involves a CIA agent in Moscow who is sacrificed as part of the changing relationship, and is sentenced to 15 years labour Gulag in Siberia, instead of repatriation after being persuaded by his bosses to pleaded guilty and disassociates himself from the CIA. He had been sent to Russia to purchase soviet weapons to be sent to the rebels in Afghanistan, and in this respect the story fits into the efforts of Congressman Charlie Wilson who arranged for soviet produced weapons to be acquired through an Israeli arms source to make their way to the rebels to successfully rive out the Russians.

On the journey to the prison camp which his employers do not expected him to survive, the train crashes and he decides to adopt the identity of fellow prisoner who dies in the fire which engulfs part of the derailed train. I have no means of knowing if the life in prison camp is authentic, or the obsession of camp commander to prevent anyone escaping, shooting anyone who attempts, had any basis in the reality of the those camps, but what made the film stand out for me was the quality of the acting performances of the prisoner and the camp commander in a duel of wills worthy of some of the world's greatest fiction writing and dramatic dramas of stage and screen.

In order to confirm his suspicion that the prisoner is not who he says he is the camp commander arranges for his Russian wife to visit and this provides another performance of interest and merit by the actress Olga Kabo. The only references I can find for Olga is that she was a guest star at the first of the Stozary international film actors festival involving former soviet states, Austria, Italy, Germany and the USA, but not the UK which commenced in 1995 and continued every two years since. She accepted the invitation in order to persuade her husband for a divorce from what had been a loveless arranged marriage, and she goers along with the fiction of their relationship to achieve her objective but, they develop a relationship which leads him to question his drive to escape and return to the US to find his son from a marriage which was also ending in divorce. The fourth character of significance in the film is a native Siberian played by Victor Wong, the eccentric former prize winning news reporter who became a successful support actor who might have had a more significant career had he not quarrelled with Bernardo Bertolucci who then cut most of his scenes from the film The Last Emperor after Wong is said to have challenged aspects of the historical authenticity of the film. He appears in the 3 Ninjas series of films and in Seven Years in Tibet. In The Ice Runner he plays a mystic who guides the prisoner about the time and means of escape. He also explains to the "wife" of the prisoner that although the feelings of the man are genuine and he will attempt to keep his word to her, he has to make the escape attempt, regardless of his chances of success.

The end of the cold war sees the release of political prisoners, and although information arrives at the prison about the true identity of prisoner, he is taken by the camp Commander when he is demoted (because of his backward views and behaviour) to an outpost less than forty miles from US territory. The prisoner makes his escape across the Ice, but is caught up by the camp commander and shot, but survives and is rescued by American speaking reindeer herders. As a consequence of watching the film I missed FA Cup Match of the day to be watched later this Morning

Edward Albert was not a name known to me except that I remember the 1972 film Butterflies are Free in which he plays a blind man, guitarist singer song writer, dominated by his mother and who falls in love with a hippie and won him a golden globe Award as new star of the year. He then stared opposite Liv Ulman on a another film of a play 40 Carats. His daughter became a singer songwriter and his career continued until 1997 when he stopped in order to care for his aging father Eddie, who received both Oscar and Emmy nominations for his stage and film roles who was decorated as a Naval Lieutenant in World War II and then had a prolific career on stage screen and TV, married, his wife died in 1985, and therefore when he developed Alzheimer's his son decided to give up his own career to care for him over a period of eight years, and where during the last year his son developed lung cancer. Dying at the age of 55 within a year of his father who lived until the age of 99. His father had been an active environmentalist and humanitarian, among the first to call for a ban on DDT and behind the establishment of Earth Day in 1970.

The film and the information about father and son put everything else of the day into perspective. The day had its other moments when Havant and Waterloo semi professional footballers who also have day jobs, of the Conference league South went to Anfield and faced the Kop some 120 places above them in the football pecking order, and took the lead not once, but twice and nearly scored a third when Liverpool were 4.2 ahead towards the end of the game. Football crowds are notorious for vacating stadiums within minutes of the end of a game and as a tribute to the effort and skill of their opponents the KOP stood and remained at the end as the visitors took their lap of honour Throughout the first half at Arsenal's new football stadium 5000 Newcastle supporters began to believe that within his first full week Keegan had managed to inspire the team to play above their potential, and even the worldly I believe it when I see it Bobby Moncur became excited during the radio commentary on Century FM. Alas a combination of the Wenger 's half time team talk and the inherited lack of team confidence and belief failed to lift the team after Arsenal went ahead and two late goals, one an own goal and the other, also off, a Newcastle player, resulted in a deceptive scoreline of what could have been very different if Newcastle has taken the chances created during the first half. I will be a Sunderland for the visits of Birmingham on Tuesday evening when Newcastle returns to Emirate's Stadium.

I am a fan of the Harry Potter films although I have not attempted to read the books. Having said that I have only seen two of the five released films in theatre: The philosopher's stone and the Chamber of Secrets, and then saw them again on TV. Yesterday afternoon there was a showing of the third in the series, The Prisoner of Azkaban was enjoyable having switched off the radio when Arsenal scored their first goal against Newcastle. I therefore missed the opening part of the film, for another time of showing. The films and stories are adventures without the deeper writing of the Lords of the Rings which I still plan to view the three extended DVD's in a one day sitting and where I have the original BBC radio series on tape as well as the books. I became a fan of the films after getting off a train at Kings Cross used for the filming the special train sequence in the first film at the point of where a banner had been placed marking the secret platform entrance! Such imaginative imagination merited further investigation.

The films are a great joy for the involvement of major actors in addition to the three heroes whose development from children into young adults is as interesting as their screen roles. In this film Michael Gambon took over the Richard Harris role as the headmaster and Gary Oldman, Timothy Small and Emma Thompson joint Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Dawn French and Richard Griffiths, Pam Ferris and Robert Hardy. Whereas the first two films were said to painstakingly follow the storyline of the book this film is said to be the result of a loser adaptation because of the length of the book. It still lasts for 2 hours and twenty two minutes.

I continue to make progress with the kitchen floor throughout the day laying on the planks and commencing to glue the surround. There was one major mistake where I cut one plank in the wrong direction but fortunately I had one other left as this point. The main problem remains the linking of pieces around the gas cooker and this will remain as deficiency as to achieve a good fit would involve disconnecting and moving the cooker. There are three difficult pieces still to be cut to extend the floor from wall to wall, by a doorway and between the cooker and a cupboard unit. Each will involve a full charging of the saw and therefore be spread over the next couple of days. My first effort at cutting a piece 32 inches by a couple was not successful but fortunate I have the pieces over to try and try again. Adding in the surrounds, the glue, the filler and the cleaner the total cost will be around £100, but it has already created a lighter and warmer feel to the room, and I kick myself for not thinking of this sooner. It would have been cheaper to have fitted lino, but the laminate is so much better, fitting into to that of the day room and adding to cottage feel of this part of the house, I went to bed for the second in in succession content and looking forward to further work on Sunday.

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