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Author Topic: Queimada aka Burn! (1969)  (Read 11471 times)
General Sibley
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« on: October 26, 2004, 07:29:54 PM »

Anyone been watching Burn! on cable?  It's been on TRUE a lot for the past couple months.  You've got to see this is if you get a chance.  I missed it at a theater screening here in Chicago not long ago, I'm really bumming out about that.

Fascinating movie, whenever it's on a watch at least part of it, unfortunately it hasn't been released on DVD yet.  Too bad, the TV version is a poor pan & scan.

Our good friend Alberto Grimaldi produced and Il Maestro Morricone composed a great score.  Marlon Brando stars.  Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo (The Battle of Algiers, another great movie that just got released on DVD).    

As a said, a must see!

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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2004, 07:50:38 PM »

Anyone been watching Burn! on cable?  It's been on TRUE a lot for the past couple months.  You've got to see this is if you get a chance.  I missed it at a theater screening here in Chicago not long ago, I'm really bumming out about that.

Fascinating movie, whenever it's on a watch at least part of it, unfortunately it hasn't been released on DVD yet.  Too bad, the TV version is a poor pan & scan.

Our good friend Alberto Grimaldi produced and Il Maestro Morricone composed a great score.  Marlon Brando stars.  Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo (The Battle of Algiers, another great movie that just got released on DVD).    

As a said, a must see!
yeah, i saw it on BBC while i was in uk in '76.
i need to watch it again ! brando burns ! great film  Wink
it's not in DVD ?  YET ?  ......BABY JESUS !!!!

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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2004, 04:21:21 AM »

A neglected classic! Brando lights up the screen!  Cool

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« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2004, 07:18:20 AM »

Fistful of Dynamite was made after Burn - call me sacrilegious, but I think Burn is a much stronger film dealing with similar subject matter.  I wouldn't be surprised if Burn made Leone (with a notorious ego) a tad jealous, and played a role in  his decision to make FOD.

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« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2004, 09:55:27 AM »

hate 2 go against the leone love of mine, general but i agree with you  Undecided

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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2004, 12:52:11 PM »

hate 2 go against the leone love of mine, general but i agree with you  Undecided

I dissed Sergio, I feel the devil biting me in the ass now  Shocked

Please forgive me brother

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« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2004, 03:32:41 PM »

Here's a good review from Washington Post re a screening recently.  This is the version I missed in Chicago, if you get a chance to see it you should.

The version on cable is English language, with Brando doing his Fletcher Christian accent.  I thought he was great in the role, his accent didn't bother me at all.  I haven't seen the Italian version though, it would be pretty weird if he sounded like Brega....Anyway, enjoy.  One of those movies you can watch again and again and get something new each time.  Doesn't matter what your politics are.
================
'Queimada': Revolution In Perpetual Motion
By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 2004

It is somewhat disconcerting: A foppish Marlon Brando, his blond fake locks flying in the tropical breezes, his silk scarf flouncing in the same zephyrs, opens his mouth and John Wayne's voice comes out -- in Italian!

But deal with it. That is the price that must be paid to enjoy Gillo Pontecorvo's incandescently furious Vietnam allegory, "Queimada," in its fully restored version.

Filmgoers with long memories may remember the original release from 1969 where Brando's shaky English accent -- he'd first tried it in "Mutiny on the Bounty" in 1962 -- stood in comic counterpoint to Pontecorvo's devastating critique on the futile ambition of First World nations on the battlefields of the Third.

This new version is the domestic Italian release, some 20 minutes longer (mostly Marxist musings on the direction of history, which, unsurprisingly, is toward revolution), and Brando has been dubbed by some Italian actor who clearly learned his craft doing voice-overs for westerns. Where once in English Brando was ironic, amused, utterly confident and seriously cool, now a basso profundo cascades out of the speakers whenever the actor's lips move, and it sounds like the words have to be, "Baby sister, I was born game and I intend to go out that way," as Rooster told Mattie in "True Grit."

So just grind your teeth, accept the mismatch between actor and the dubbing, try to ignore the flat tonalities, and just read the subtitles. The benefits are amazing: You can marvel in the imagery of hell in a very small spot, as a colonial island goes up in the flames of war and revolution twice inside of two hours.

Pontecorvo was an expert on the subject of revolution, possibly even the poet laureate of violent change. An Italian communist, he wore his biases plainly on his sleeve and didn't let them prevent him from reaching greatness, as he did in 1965 in "The Battle of Algiers," a movie so pungent in its realities that the Pentagon showed it to Special Forces people just last year.

"Queimada" (which means "burned" in Portuguese; it was released here as "Burn!" or occasionally as "The Mercenary," which is a complete misnomer) was his follow-up for a world audience awaiting the new work from the master, with a flamboyant and simpatico American star headlining. But the movie didn't hit big, and Pontecorvo never worked on so big a scale with so much freedom again. Sic transit gloria mundi.

It's the 1840s in the Lesser Antilles, lush, sugar-producing islands where the Portuguese rule and rake in the profits. As Pontecorvo has it, the Brits are at war -- a trade war, at least -- with them and their corrupt and inefficient empire. The sugar-producing island of Queimada is in their sights. Thus the admiralty dispatches an agent, the clever, assured experienced Sir William Walker (his excellency Brando) to stir revolution so that the rich little chunk of loam may be wrested from the Portuguese. Walker, foppish and dandy -- he wears billowing scarves, pale, chic linens, riding boots, and sips tea out of a thermos, or maybe it's cognac -- is of a type the British seemed to produce in dazzling numbers: an imperialist comfortable in mufti, clever with languages, self-sufficient, a committed servant to empire, who's ruthless, cunning, charming and handsome. These boys roamed the world in the Victorian age, plotting and conniving and inspiring Kipling, Mason, Buchanan, Maugham and Ambler, to say nothing of Fleming.

Walker makes his reconnaissance and writes the place off: The black natives are too whipped and beaten, their Portuguese masters too entrenched. But he meets a man named Jose Delores (amateur actor Evaristo Marquez, who appeared in three more movies, then never worked again), in whom he sees the possibility of leadership. Thus, acting through Jose, he quickly and cleverly conjures a revolutionary movement and then an army and soon the battle is fully joined and bloody. Ultimately, playing the sides against each other but coming to love the brave Jose Delores, Walker pries the Portuguese grip free of Queimada. A provisional government takes over, signs favorable trade agreements with the British, and everybody is happy, except possibly Jose Delores.

Ten years pass. The provisional government turns corrupt, the British sugar merchants become greedy, conditions collapse on the island, and Jose Delores begins another revolution, this time against the British. And of course, who is called in to hunt him down but his old friend, Sir William Walker (Brando doesn't wear the blond wig in the second half of the film, signifying the passage of time). Walker, though he's British, pretty much encapsulates the trajectory of American history, at least through 1969; he begins as a revolutionary and he ends as a counter-revolutionary.

The parallels to Vietnam are obvious: At one point, he has to engineer a coup to get a reluctant government out of office and install a more aggressive one, just as we did to rid ourselves of the Diems. He ultimately must call in combat troops from the homeland. His version of Agent Orange is indeed orange, orange as in flame, as he burns the jungle clear to capture or kill the guerrillas.
 
Pontecorvo, to his credit, plays fair. He's not a sentimentalist who makes the bad capitalists and colonial administrators pompous fools. As he had in "Battle of Algiers," he admires courage and professionalism no matter which side of the spectrum they occur on, and far from making Sir William an evil clown, he makes him an excitingly compelling character, just as he had done with Jean Martin's Col. Mathieu, the cool French paratroop officer in "Battle of Algiers." And he has a terrific eye for squalor of violence: His various fights and assassinations and coups and burnings are never rendered gloriously, as triumphs of the spirit, but always, no matter the circumstances or the author, dispiriting and sickening.

But the movie is most powerful as argument: It believes in the permanence of revolution, and it closes on a shot of the surly, bitter, seething people of Queimada, and in their anger it sees a forever of violence. This is the way it will go, he seems to be saying, and it doesn't seem that he got that one wrong, unless peace broke out in the past five minutes. It's brilliantly constructed to argue what might be called the classic imperial paradox: To win this war you must make inevitable the next. The corollary is that as long as there are empires, there will be wars.

You may or may not agree; that isn't the point. The point is that Pontecorvo marshals his narrative brilliantly to make it. I don't think "Queimada" is as great a movie as "Battle of Algiers," but it retains its vitality, its outrage, its savagery and its spirit. (Incidentally, AFI is going to show a new 35mm print of "Battle of Algiers" next week at its Kennedy Center theater.)

Queimada (132 minutes, at the AFI Silver) is not rated but would certainly qualify for an R with bloody violence and nudity.


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« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2004, 07:39:41 PM »

Just watched this 1969 Gillo Pontecorvo film with Marlon Brando and a Morricone score. It was on a decent VHS but a DVD would be nice. The film was very good and well done and Marlon even paraphrases Angle Eye's "I always see my job through" line, lol. It was a nice to see a contemporary big budget Italian film in a different genre.

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« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2004, 05:08:44 AM »

CJ, did you return it yet?  I'd recommend watching it again if just for the Morricone score.  It's discordant so a little wrenching first time, but it really grows on you - haunting, especially the organ pieces.  The scene where the family takes the headless body back to the village is amazing, no dialog, just minutes of Morricone & Jungle.

Just saw Battle of Algiers, another Pontecorvo/Morricone collaboration - I'll start a new thread on that.

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« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2005, 09:07:48 AM »

Bought the Criterion version of Battle of The Algiers just before christmas. It touches on his later troubled Marlon Brando effort in the Pontecorvo documentry.
Burn was recently released in the UK, but its a crappy 4:3 transfer. justice needs to be done.  Undecided

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« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2008, 05:27:02 PM »

I already posted my brief, immediate reaction to this film on the RTLMYS thread. Here is my IMDB review of the movie, having had a few days to chew it over:

Sir William Walker (Marlon Brando sporting a ridiculous blond wig) is a British agent sent to the sugar-rich Portuguese island of Queimada in the mid-19th Century. Walker's mission is to incite the island's slave population to revolt against their Portuguese masters, in order to open the island for British colonization. Walker manipulates humble porter Jose Dolores (Evaristo Marquez) into helping him rob a bank; this kick-starts a series of events in which Dolores becomes the head of an island-wide slave revolt. However, Walker has also manipulated the white landowners into declaring independence, and Dolores and his black colleagues are side-lined by the new government, which immediately opens trade relations with British sugar companies. Ten years later, Walker returns, this time accompanied by British troops, to find that Dolores has incited another revolt - and Walker is forced to put down the very revolution he started.

Queimada! is Gillo Pontecorvo's big-budget, ambitious follow-up to The Battle of Algiers. The movie seethes with the anti-colonialism and barely-restrained anger of Pontecorvo's masterpiece, but is seriously flawed in a number of important areas, which balance out the film's fascinating story and political themes.

Pontecorvo's film certainly conveys its message very well. Walker's actions to methodically secure the island are simply fascinating. He manipulates every group on-hand, focused solely on his expedient political goals. As in today's foreign policy, actions are undertaken for short-term victories, even if they backfire in the long term. Walker incites a black slave rebellion, then keeps it under control by convincing a group of white landowners to seize the capital city - an easy victory which gives Queimada a "presentable" government. Nevermind the part Dolores and his blacks played in the revolt; although no longer "slaves", their "liberation" results in their being even worse-off than before - even though the new government improves infrastructure and builds up the country - leading to a new revolt by the same rebels. Finally, when the government proves ineffective, they are disposed of by the very people who propped them up - and British soldiers intervene directly in the conflict, escalating the brutality. Though successful, these policies are also counterproductive - by burning the sugar cane forests to root out rebel forces, the British destroy the very reason they came to the island - to monopolize on its sugar. Thus, this imperialist war becomes nothing more than an exercise in pride and brutality.

All of this rings true. It is certainly pertinent to today's situations in Iraq and Afghanistan (if not as much as it was to the contemporary Vietnam conflict), showing that the more things change, the more they stay the same. On this level, the film is mostly successful.

However, the film's primary failure is in its direction. Pontecorvo's static, unemotional cinema verite style worked well with Battle of Algiers; the use of non-actors in key roles enhanced the film's realism. Pontecorvo employs the same techniques here (although the supporting cast is fleshed out with a handful of British and Italian character actors), and yet mostly fails. This is because Algiers was a relatively modest docudrama set within one city; Queimada is (or tries to be) a large-scale historical epic, and the static visual style and direction cause many of the film's major set-pieces to falter. Most of the film's action, both political and military, happen off-screen; usually, we only learn about the effects afterward. What we do see are brief snippets, which vary in effectiveness. The movie has its share of visually stunning sequences - the march of the slave army, the execution scenes, and Walker watching the massacre of rebels through an eyeglass - but on the whole, the effect is underwhelming.

The movie also lacks strong central characters. Algiers had Jean Martin's coolly professional Colonel Matthieu and the Brahim Haigag's Ali La Pointe, who goes from a street punk to a principled revolutionary. The equivalent characters in Queimada, Walker and Dolores, are cartoonish by comparison. Although his actions are fascinating, Walker himself is not a well-drawn character; he effectively stands for the ideas he represents, but nothing more. Brando's performance is surprisingly subdued, but his wig, accent and screenplay undermine his best efforts. Evaristo Marquez's Dolores is similar; he is more of an idea than a character, and unlike in Algiers, the casting of a non-actor does not work. In this case, it simply undermines the character. Neither character has much depth or development through the picture, and thus neither is really interesting. The supporting cast is made up of even more cartoonish stereotypes, and hardly worth a mention; only Renato Salvatori as the hapless President of Queimada makes any impression.

For all its ambition, Queimada! is something of a disappointment. Although it makes its points broadly and well, as a movie it doesn't quite work. It is ultimately one of those films that is more interesting than entertaining.

6/10

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« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2008, 10:26:51 AM »

I saw the 112 minutes version some time ago, and I truly liked it (the Morricone's score really fits in!). Has anyone seen the new 132 minutes restored version? Amazon does not seem to list it.

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« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2009, 07:46:32 AM »

It is somewhat disconcerting: A foppish Marlon Brando, his blond fake locks flying in the tropical breezes, his silk scarf flouncing in the same zephyrs, opens his mouth and John Wayne's voice comes out -- in Italian!

But deal with it. That is the price that must be paid to enjoy Gillo Pontecorvo's incandescently furious Vietnam allegory, "Queimada," in its fully restored version.

Filmgoers with long memories may remember the original release from 1969 where Brando's shaky English accent -- he'd first tried it in "Mutiny on the Bounty" in 1962 -- stood in comic counterpoint to Pontecorvo's devastating critique on the futile ambition of First World nations on the battlefields of the Third.

This new version is the domestic Italian release, some 20 minutes longer (mostly Marxist musings on the direction of history, which, unsurprisingly, is toward revolution), and Brando has been dubbed by some Italian actor who clearly learned his craft doing voice-overs for westerns. Where once in English Brando was ironic, amused, utterly confident and seriously cool, now a basso profundo cascades out of the speakers whenever the actor's lips move, and it sounds like the words have to be, "Baby sister, I was born game and I intend to go out that way," as Rooster told Mattie in "True Grit."

So just grind your teeth, accept the mismatch between actor and the dubbing, try to ignore the flat tonalities, and just read the subtitles. The benefits are amazing: You can marvel in the imagery of hell in a very small spot, as a colonial island goes up in the flames of war and revolution twice inside of two hours.

Aw man, I thought the John Kirk restored version had maintained Brando's voice where possible and subtitled it where not. Does anyone know of a fan-edit out there of this nature?

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« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2010, 09:38:31 AM »

According to Alex Cox in "10,000 Ways to Die", Pontecorvo named his lead Sir William Walker after the real William Walker dealt with in Cox's later film "Walker". I think I have also heard this elsewhere, however there was a real British Colonial governor of British Guiana (now Guyana) and I wonder if this was the man to whom Pontecorvo was actually making reference?

It appears that this William Walker even wrote a book, published in 1878, entitled: On the social and economic position and prospects of the British West India Possessions".

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« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2014, 01:58:58 PM »

This is probably not the kind of movie that one should ''enjoy'', but that's exactly what happened now I re-watched it after nearly 10 years. Before I liked it, I understood it was a great movie (seen it maybe 2 times). You know, like when you see a beautiful woman - you can see she's beautiful, it's that she doesn't necessarily make you tick, that kind of thing. But now, hey, now I see what a fool I was... Great piece of work; great acting, solid directing, fluid story (doesn't goo too much into details), superb Marlon Brando (and all the others to be honest), fantastic footage, superb music by Ennio Morricone (my fav lesser know score by the Maestro, as I said somewhere already)... everything. They fall a few steppes lower in the ending, and Pontecorvo sometimes gives too much screen to the natives and their miseries, but I felt it was honest, and it makes Brando's change believable.


9/10

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