The Painted Bird (2019)

Movie review

I don’t review every movie that I see, only those that I have a strong reaction to, good or bad. Had I seen The Painted Bird in 2019 when it was first released, it would have jumped to the top of my Top 10 list. As it stands, it is very high on my all-time best film list. A rare bird indeed.

The Painted Bird (2019) is a film by Vaclav Marhoul based on the novel by Jerzy Kosinsky. It runs just short of three hours and is unrelenting in its depiction of the horrors encountered by a young boy as he makes his way across war torn Eastern Europe trying to find his way back home. If it were not for the occasional modern references such as a plane flying overhead, or a vehicle on a road, we would think the action was taking place in villages found in the middle ages.

Central to the story was a starling that was painted white and released back into its flock only to be pecked to death because it was different from the others. This is the analogous to what happened to the boy who was subjected to unimaginable horrors along the way because he was different and didn’t quite fit in and wasn’t from around wherever he found himself to be. And one could say that is true of minor groups not fitting in to larger groups such the Jews of Eastern Europe and in Germany.

This is a movie of cruelty, inhumanity, and bitter truth. It is not an easy watch. As a matter of fact, when the film was shown in Venice large parts of the audience fled the theater. But the film has to be admired for the unvarnished truth it portrays and the artistry and craftmanship that went into its making. The acting is superb by all the participants. All the characters were believable and real. The crisp black and white cinematography by Vladimr Smutny is extraordinary. Each frame is composed as a masterwork of inspired creativity and shades of grey.

I can’t recommend this film to everyone due to its strong content, but it has my rating as an artistic achievement.

The Curious Case of Dr. Benjamin Franklin Woolery

Doctor, Mother and Baby in Childbirth Case All Die

Dateline Louisville, Kentucky, Friday, November 3, 1944


815 Cecil Avenue

Physician Falls Dead at Bedside of Woman  

A childbirth case ended in a triple tragedy here yesterday. While attending 36-year-old Bessie Ford, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Woolery, age 64, of 815 Cecil Avenue, a general practitioner here for thirty-five years, was stricken by a heart attack and found slumped over the woman’s body at 2:30 pm at her home at 3130 New High St. She was under general anesthesia at the time. She died a few minutes after her ninth child was born dead.

Neighbors Were There!

The mother, Mrs. Bessie Ford, died at 8:10 pm at St. Joseph Infirmary, where she was taken after Dr. Woolery’s death.

Jess Ford, Bessie’s husband, was an employee of Armour Creameries here in Louisville. He said Dr. Woolery had been attending his wife since 1:00 pm. His wife was under the influence of anesthetic and knew nothing of the physician’s death until effects of the anesthesia wore off, he said. He and several neighbor women were in the room at the time.

Husband Calls Police!

“After the doctor died, I was running around so much I don’t know just what I did,” Ford said later at the hospital. He explained that he rushed to a nearby grocery store and telephoned in quick succession City police, General Hospital, St. Joseph Infirmary, and the Ambulance Service Company in an effort to obtain proper medical treatment for his wife.

Making the run to the Ford home in four minutes, ambulance driver William Rakestraw, formerly with the Police Emergency Squad, had Mrs. Ford at the hospital within less than an hour after the physician’s death.

A score of children, including some of the Ford family, crowded around the small frame cottage, and in the dusty dirt road near the doorway as police cars and the ambulance jolted up the drive way to the Ford home.

Native of Indiana

Dr. Woolery, a native of Bedford Indiana, was a graduate of the University of Louisville School of Medicine and worked as a medical examiner at the Goodyear Engineering Corporation, Charlestown, Indiana.

 Met Son at Station

Mrs. Emma Woolery said her husband was called to the Ford home immediately after he had met his son at the station, Musician 2nd Class Ernest Woolery, 27, US Coast Guard, who was home on furlough.

He is also survived by two other sons, Private Orville Woolery, and Carrol C. Woolery; a sister, Mrs. Alice Forbe, of Mitchell, Indiana; a brother, Marshall Woolery of Bedford, Indiana, and six grandchildren.

Funeral services for Dr. Woolery will be held at Lee Cralle’s, 1330 S. Third Street.

In Other News of the Day

 Bus driver kills wife and self in Richmond, Kentucky. He shot her then turned the gun on himself. She filed for divorce and was planning on moving out of the house today. Man, 70, robbed and burned in a cabin in Beattyville, Kentucky. Fire destroys hotel in Morehead. James Park, Republican nominee for the US Senate, warned of disunity is Roosevelt is reelected. Three negro women attack a City police officer in an incident at a local factory in Portland. Instigator fined.

News from Around the World

 Auschwitz begins gassing inmates. Roosevelt re-elected November 7, 1944. US bombers on Saipan begin first attack on Tokyo November 24, 1944. First open-heart surgery performed November 29, 1944 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Battle of the Bulge rages on. Nazis surrender February – May 1945. Japan surrenders June – September 1945.

That is all. Goodnight and good luck!

Note: This is a true story based on an article from the Louisville Courier Journal published November 3, 1944. Dr. Benjamin Franklin Woolery was my Great Grandfather and namesake.

















While film noir remains my favorite film genre, emanating mainly from the 1940’s and ‘50’s as it were, it seems to me that film (now mainly digital) hit its high water mark, like so many other things in the culture, in the 1970’s. I just haven’t seen anything as good at the movies as those produced during that time frame.


Lacombe Lucien falls into that category. Released in 1974, it was directed by French filmmaker Louis Malle. Screenwriting credits go to Louis Malle and Patrick Modiano. Modiano won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2014.


The movie takes place during WWII in Nazi occupied France. Eighteen year old Lucien lives in the rural southwest of the country with his peasant family on a farm. His father is a POW and his mother helps to operate the farm. Lucien, who has no particular political leanings, is bored and looking for something to do beside mop the floors at the local nursing home. We see a little bit into his nature as we observe a series of troubling behaviors that would indicate his propensity for violence and brutality. First he sling shoots a song bird for target practice, then he shoots a rabbit, then he knocks the head off a chicken in real time.


Lucien tries to join the French Resistance but he is turned down because of his age. On his way home he makes a chance encounter with some collaborators and the German Gestapo. They welcome him with open arms. They bring him into their fold, ply him with alcohol, food, a place to stay, and other comforts. He is given a gun and becomes an enforcer for the German police. This gives Lucien a chance to belong to something bigger than himself and gain a little power. It is not hard to make the leap from this disaffected youth in 1944 to the disaffected youth of today who join ISIS.

He is taken to a rich Jewish tailor who is in hiding by the name of Horn to have a suit of clothes made. Horn becomes a father figure to the boy and an awkward relationship begins between the two. Horn has a beautiful daughter whose name just happens to be, France. Lucien falls for her hard.

Things became complicated as the Horns are part of the persecuted minority and Lucien inadvertently is responsible for Horn’s imprisonment and being sent to a concentration camp. When the roundup comes for France and her grandmother, Lucien is conflicted but opts to help them out. They run off together and hideout in the countryside. Fast on their heels are the French Resistance and the Gestapo. The war comes to an end and Lucien meets with an unhappy fate.

There are many things going on here not the least of which is the depiction of the banality of evil as demonstrated by the French collaborators. It is a unique character study of Lucien Lacombe who is a confused, naive, bully. Also, the movie shows that there were perhaps more collaborators that the French would like to admit. All in all a great movie and an early masterpiece for Louis Malle.



The movie Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie, proves that Miss Jolie is not only a movie star of the first magnitude, but a first rate director as well. There have been a lot of snarky comments about Angelina lately in the press, but I don’t know why there should be so much hate out there for the beautiful and talented Miss Jolie. Jealousy is the only thing I can see. I think credit is due for this masterful piece of work.
The film was beautifully photographed by Roger Deakins, also known for his work on The Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men and, Skyfall. Writing credits go to Joel and Ethan Coen. The film was based on the best-selling book of the same name written by Laura Hillenbrand.
I was somewhat taken aback by some of the critics who called the movie boring and the hero unheroic. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was mesmerized for the entire running time of 2 hours and 17 minutes.  This film was about the triumph of the human spirit. It was not about super human deeds on the battlefield.
The movie was a faithful rendition of the book on which it was based. It told in a straight forward way with flashbacks throughout to flesh out the back story and give the audience understanding of what gave Louie Zamperini the strength of character to remain unbroken throughout the many ordeals he faced during WWII. He first survived a plane crash in the ocean, then survived 45 days at sea on a rubber raft with very little food and water. When he was picked up by the Japanese he was incarcerated in a prison camp and braved harsh conditions, mistreatment, and torture at the hands of a sadistic camp commander known as, “The Bird.”
In my view this is an inspirational film of epic proportion that shows us that the human spirit can triumph over evil. We need more films like this one. I see Oscar buzz and a possible nomination for best picture. It has my vote. Bravo Angelina Jolie!