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Screen grab from outstanding Swedish film ‘Broken Hill Blues’ screened at Tribeca Film Festival

by Sam Juliano

The late April Easter has come and gone amidst a nagging cold spell that performed an uneasy tango with the Spring temperatures that ruled the day-time hours on the day of Purple and Yellow.  The unusual tardiness of the holiday allowed it to clash with the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, which launched on Holy Thursday, and will continue until Sunday, April 27th.  Lucille and I have taken full advantage of the press passes we have enjoyed for the past several years, and found ourselves cabbing back and forth between the Bow Tie Cinemas on 23rd Street and the East Side Loews Village 7, with even a single stop at the SVA, a block down from the aforementioned Bow-Tie multiplex.  The madness will continue through next week, and attendance will be challenging, what with school re-convening today.  But I have four unused personal days (I am rarely absent, and have over 200 sick days in the can) and will be using two of those this week on Tuesday and Friday to allow for better options and more movies.

After attending the final Tout Truffaut feature of the well-attended Film Forum retrospective of the iconic New Wave French director (Small Change) we rested up for a few days, knowing that the 11 day Tribeca event would have us in cinematic overkill, and partaking in the cut-rate -for-Tribeca-patrons veggie burger program at Lucky’s next to the Bow-Tie multiplex.  As always, the festival has featured some most impressive films that deserved full distribution, and some others that left us indifferent.  But what a fun time this experience allows for and you could feel the excitement in the air on the streets around the theaters. Continue Reading »

IA20

by Allan Fish

(USSR 1965 189m) DVD0 (Russia only)

Aka. Mne dvadtsat let

Stand up, damned of the earth!

Viktor Freilich  d  Marlen Khutsiyev  w  Gennadi Shpalikov, Marlen Khutsiyev  ph  Margarita Pilikhina

Valentin Popov (Sergei Zhuravlyov), Nikolai Gubenko (Nikolai Fokin), Stanislav Lyubshin (Slava Kostikov), Marianna Vertinskaya (Anya), Zinaida Zinovyeva (Olga Mikhailovna Zhuravlyova), Svetlana Starikova (Vera Zhuravlyova), Lev Prygunov (2nd Lt. Aleksandr Zhuravlyov), Lev Zolothukin (Anya’s father), Aleksandr Blinov (Kuzmich), T.Bogdanova (Lyusya Kostikova), Gennadi Nekrasov (Vladimir Vasilyevich),

There is no better barometer of the cold winds of change that swept through Soviet Russia in the years 1959-1965 than Marlen Khutsiyev’s I am Twenty.  It’s a film that should be remembered with the best of Soviet films of the period, but by the time it was ready for release, a deep freeze had set in.  From the mid-late fifties, after the death of Stalin, Russia moved to a less extreme position with regards to the arts under Nikita Khrushchev, allowing such films as Kozintsev’s Don Quixote, Kalatozov’s The Cranes are Flying, Chukhrai’s Ballad of a Soldier, Bondarchuk’s Destiny of a Man and Heifits’ The Lady With the Little Dog to play successfully at western film festivals.  It was in 1959, at the height of this period, that Khutsiyev’s masterpiece entered its gestatory stages. Continue Reading »

by Sam Juliano

The vital importance of water in everyday life is given center stage in a sublime new picture book authored by Olive Senior and illustrated by Brooklynite Laura James.  Senior, born and raised on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, moved to Europe and then to Canada after the capital city of Kingston was ravaged by a hurricane in the late 80′s.  Senior is renowned for her poetry and adult novels and short stories, but was supremely flattered when publishers chose Anna Carries Water and the 2012 Birthday Suit as worthy of the picture book treatment.  Senior credits Laura James and Eugenie Fernandez -the illustrator of the earlier book- for transforming her material into such exquisite works, but the veteran writer is certainly to be credited for half the acclaim for her wholly exhilarating ideas.

Anna Carries Water focuses on the young girl of the title, who wants to follow in the footsteps of her older siblings in sharing the task of carrying water on her head from a well at a spring located across “Mr. Johnson’s” field.  Ms. Senior’s narrative stresses the central role of water for cooking and drinking, washing faces, dishes and dirty feet.  Senior states that the family members did not carry water for bathing or washing clothes as those activities were performed in the river.   This particular variation on the coming-of-age theme is the acquired aptitude for learning how to balance a container of water on one’s head, which translates to a sure sign of responsibility and the skills associated with adulthood.  Early in the fable Anna carries around a coffee can while her five older siblings used large metal cans, plastic buckets and an empty cheese tin to gather the water.  Unwilling to concede defeat she must endure the trials of tribulations associated with such a simple yet profound act that will ultimately define her transformation from child to young adult.  In one such attempt she tears off a piece of a dasheen leaf, and floats it on the top of the can of water she puts on her head, but it falls off, necessitating that she carry it in front of her. Continue Reading »

nymphomaniac-1

© 2014 by James Clark

      Lars von Trier’s archipelago of a movie, Nymphomaniac (2013), spreading across about five hours and ranging toward us in two (time) zones of ticketed statement, could, if aptly engaged, be one of those “trips of a lifetime.” But it takes us to a place as far as you could go from relaxation.

It shows us a protagonist, Joe, a woman we’d hesitate to call an ordinary Joe; and yet, when all is said and done, we might conclude she has failed (though certainly not without giving it an exceptional shot) to get out of the rut we all know, at some level, we suffer from. Does her one-girl-assault upon that citadel of the constrictions of intimacy inadvertently whisper to us (and here perhaps the length of the exercise proves its worth)—whispering being an odd concomitant of such high-volume (would-be) subversiveness—a far better (but, alas, an even more daunting) approach?

For those many hours, we’ve seen her recounting memorable events of her life to a man who has found her badly injured on a street near his home and has kindly taken her in for repairs and for attention to her devastating story. He claims to be “asexual;” she claims: that “telling my story has put me at ease at this moment;” that “ridding myself of sexuality is now my goal;” and that he is “my very first friend.” Soon after they go to bed in separate rooms, he returns to her, attempts to mount her, and when she protests he notes, “You’ve fucked thousands of men already…” She shoots him and, as the screen goes totally black, we hear her leaving. Continue Reading »

lupo 1

by Allan Fish

(Italy 1949 77m) DVD2 (Italy only, no English subs)

Aka. Il Lupo della Sila: The Wolf of the Sila

A tale of two crosses

p Dino de Laurentiis d Duilio Coletti w Duilio Coletti, Steno, Mario Monicelli, Carlo Musso, Ivo Perilli, Vincenzo Talarico ph Aldo Tonti ed Adriana Novelli m Enzo Masetti, Osvaldo Minervini art Ivo Perilli

Silvana Mangano (Rosaria Campolo), Amedeo Nazzari (Rocco Barra), Jacques Sernas (Salvatore Barra), Luisa Rossi (Orsolo Barra), Vittorio Gassman (Pietro Campolo), Olga Solbelli (Signora Campolo), Dante Maggio (Gennaro), Laura Cortese (little Rosaria), Michele Cappezzuoli (little Salvatore),

One hesitates to call director Duilio Coletti forgotten because it’s unlikely he was even known in the English speaking world in the first place. More surprising is that The Lure of the Sila isn’t better known; or at least, until recently. For too long, perceptions of post-war Italian cinema were that there was nothing but neo-realism and, indeed, little but Visconti, de Sica, Fellini and Rossellini. There were other neo-realist directors and films, of course, and it was one of these, Giuseppe de Santis’ Riso Amaro, that gave neo-realism its poster girl, Silvana Mangano.

What has until recently been overlooked is that Italian film c.1945-1955 was also home to many historical spectaculars and melodramas. The Lure of the Sila is one of these, and yet it seems to owe its ancestry not to Italy at all. It rather recalls the great Scandinavian melodramas of the silent era which Mauritz Stiller, Victor Sjöstrom used to turn out in Sweden and which were still then being made by Teuvo Tulio in Finland and other directors in Denmark and Norway. Continue Reading »

by Sam Juliano

It has taken a far longer time than we could ever have imagined, but I could now say with the utmost confidence that winter has been vanquished at last, and won’t be seen again, even in compromised form until a good seven or eight months from now.  Pollen allergies, the baseball season, short-sleeve shirts, sneakers, and the approaching Tribeca Film Festival, not to mention some April showers and a fast-approaching Easter Sunday have all converged to paint a picture of Spring and some glorious 70 degree temperatures.  Speaking of the Tribeca Film Festival, Lucille and I will again be armed with two press passes for the entire event, and I am presently attempting to put together an exhaustive schedule for the 11 days that comprise the April 17 to April 27 window.  Opening Day (the 16th) is not covered by the passes, but in effect it is a day of special events rather than the schedule proper anyway.  The preliminary (tentative) plans are now to see 37 films over the eleven days.  Yes, I know that is “certifiable” but I did see 38 last year.  There is no cost for the films, just for the toll getting over to the city, and maybe one or two tickets that will allow my daughter Melanie to come over for the Bjork documentary and teenage horror film that follows it.  Lucille, as usual will be my companion for most of the days, though for a few she will stay back to rest, allowing Broadway Bob Eagleson to fill in as he did last year.

The Romantic Films countdown is set to launch on Monday, May 12th, with the posting of the No. 101 choice, and will continue every Monday through Friday well into September.  The full results were sent out to the voters and writers shortly after being announced by Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr, and will only be known by voters as they unspool in essays that have been reserved and assigned to an incredible 27 writers: Marilyn Ferdinand, Tony d’Ambra, Brandie Ashe, Jon Warner, Sachin Gandhi, Jaimie Grijalba, Duane Porter, Joel Bocko, Pat Perry, Judy Geater, John Greco, Maurizio Roca, Shubhajit Lahiri, Dean Treadway, Lucille Juliano, Allan Fish, Pedro Camolas, Stephen Mullen, Mike Norton, John Grant, Pierre de Plume, Jim Clark, J.D. Lafrance, Ed Howard, Sam Juliano, and possibly Peter Lenihan.  One surprise writer is also aboard for one essay.  As is the case with all the past genre countdowns, we are hoping for active comment threads under the reviews. Continue Reading »

Nymphomaniac a

by Allan Fish

(Denmark 2013 241m) DVD1/2

Mea vulva, mea vulva, mea maxima vulva

p  Louise Vesth  d/w  Lars Von Trier  ph  Manuel Alberto Claro  ed  Morten Hojbjerg, Molly Marlene Stensgard  art  Simone Grau

Charlotte Gainsbourg (older Joe), Stacy Martin (young Joe), Stellan Skarsgard (Seligman), Shia LaBeouf (Jerome), Christian Slater (Joe’s father), Connie Nielsen (Joe’s mother), Jamie Bell (K), Willem Dafoe (L), Sophie Kennedy Clark (B), Hugo Speer (Mr H), Uma Thurman (Mrs H), Felicity Gilbert (Liz), Jesper Christensen (Jerome’s uncle), Saskia Reeves (nurse), Kate Ashfield (therapist), Mia Goth (P), Michael Pas (old Jerome), Jean-Marc Barr (debtor), Udo Kier (waiter), Laura Christensen (babysitter),

Agent provocateur, enfant terrible, just plain naughty boy, call him what you like, any Lars Von Trier film is an event.  In the case of Nymphomaniac it was anticipated more than perhaps any other.  Those expecting something sexually arousing, however, may find themselves disappointed.  After all, don’t forget that this is the concluding part of his trilogy about depression, and when I say that it’s more depressing than either Antichrist or Melancholia, you should take pause.

It follows Joe, the sex addict of the title, who is found in an alley by intellectual Seligman, who takes her back to his flat to recuperate when she refuses to have the police called.  There he presses her about why she didn’t want the emergency services to come, and she tells him it’s a long story.  He’s happy to listen, so she tells him the story of her life and why she is, in her own words, an awful human being.  She goes back to her childhood with a kindly doctor father and an ice-cold mother, and takes in the loss of her virginity and her various friendships and lovers over the years. Continue Reading »

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