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Archive for December, 2010

 

by Allan Fish

(USA 1940 113m) DVD2 (Spain only)

In Paris with Gusto

p  Arthur Hornblow Jnr  d  Mitchell Leisen  w  Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett  ph  Charles B.Lang  ed  Doane Harrison  m  Victor Young  art  Hans Dreier, Robert Usher

Claudette Colbert (Augusta Nash), Ray Milland (Tom Martin), Walter Abel (Mr Phillips), Dennis O’Keefe (Joe Shepard), Dick Purcell (Pinky O’Connor), George Zucco (Prison governor), Frank Puglia (Father Jacinto), Esther Dale (secretary), Paul Leyssac (Bresson), Aubrey Mather (Achille), Ann Codee (Mme.Bresson), Lionel Pape (Lord Kettlebrook),

A caption tells us of the International Brigade who came to Spain to fight the fight against the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War.  It further tells us that, “of the soldiers of fortune who came from all over the world, only a few remain, waiting to be written off in a military prison near Burgos.”  A slow pan down across a cobbled courtyard in the said prison reveals a man being marched to his death by firing squad.  The camera rests not on the execution but on the grille to the ground level cell of an American man, Tom Martin, who is, in a few hours, to follow the other gentleman to his death.  We find him playing cards with a monk, Father Jacinto, who is there not because of his delicacy and expertise in handling dealings with the soon to be terminated, but because he could speak English.  His young charge, however, seems remarkably nonplussed by his upcoming removal from this mortal coil.  “This is my first execution” remarks the padre; “don’t worry, father, it’s mine, too” retorts Milland’s Martin.  The padre wants to provide comfort; Martin just wants him to keep playing cards and, eventually, the padre gives in and grants his wish.  (more…)

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Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in masterful "Blue Valentine"

by Sam Juliano

    A dark boat through the gloom—
and whither? The thunder roars But still we have each other!
The naked lightnings in the heavens dither

And disappear—
what have we but each other?
The boat has gone.

                                                                     -D.H. Lawrence

     After an opening night screening of his brilliant new film at the Angelika Film Center in Manhattan director Derek Cianfrance confirmed that Blue Valentine was “in preparation for no less than twelve years” and that he always felt he was “born to make the film.”  The achingly realistic observational “day in the life” styled film may indeed have been a long time in planning mode, but you’d never know it from it’s seemingly improvisational execution, nor in its dearth of events that could be characterized as anything out of the ordinary.  There’s more than a hint of Cassavettes here, and the raw and naturistic urgency of the work validates the cinematic use of a magnifying glass to document marriage fallout by way of an aching idiosyncratic portrait.  Rarely has movie intimacy achieved such harrowing results.  And even rarer still is the remarkable navigation of a narrative balancing act by Cianfrance that has the viewer wondering well after the screen turns black who is really the blame for the painful deterioration of such a supreme example of unconditional love. (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba

After a long time, and a trippy interlude, I’m back with the debut novel of the recent Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, which was handed to him just recently (December the 10th) after an acceptance speech given three days earlier called ‘In Praise of Reading and Fiction’, which I recommend reading here. It’s an astounding piece and you should absolutely read it as I’ll make references to it during this and maybe forthcoming reviews of his fiction work.

Before I dwelve into the aspects of ‘The Time of the Hero’, the first published novel written by Mario Vargas Llosa, I do have some reservations regarding his political thinking that I can’t avoid. Reading his acceptance speech was a truly illuminating experience in two senses: one, he truly demonstrates his  capabilities with the written word, with subtle nuances and low blows, passing them as praise and human perfection; and two, his political views are clearly the weakest aspect of his thinking. He may know how to write about political figures, political processes, specially regarding dictatorships, but that doesn’t mean that his hate towards that kind of government makes his astoundingly ridiculous political statements correct. His lack of vision of the real situation of Latin America is caused by the distance he usually has with the continent (he’s a  ‘citizen of the world’, according to his speech), and because of the blindfold that right-wing political thinking can be.

Mario has said that a government without a culture is a goverment that doesn’t work with the people (I’m paraphrasing here), yet he  supported the right-wing presidential candidate of my country (Mr. Sebastián Piñera) who ended up winning the election and now is passing an education reform that it’s currently reducing the hours dedicated to History, now there’s a contradiction caused by the blindness of biased political thinking (‘we’re from the same political party, so I should just aid him’ nonsense). Just one more example before the review, in his speech he has called the indigenous population as an ‘unresolved issue’ in Latin America, specially due to their lack of recognition; yet, at the same time, he calls Bolivia a ‘pseudo populist, clownish democracy’, only because of its socialist democratic regime, which is the only one that’s actively working on the recognition of bolivian indigenous minorities (being the president himself an indigenous descendant).

(more…)

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Quo Vadis, cinema?

by Allan Fish

At this time of year, with the “bah humbugs” behind us, time to reflect…and I find Scrooge is alive and well…

It’s strange to be putting fingers to keyboard again.  There’s an old joke about making plans being the surest way to make the almighty laugh.  My plans had been to do a lot of rewatching and reviewing through December to meet a deadline.  I’d been looking forward to the period since the summer, but like Alex après Ludovico Technique, “as quick as a shot came the sickness, like a detective that had been watching around the corner and now followed to make his arrest.”  The flu stuck around for two weeks, like a party guest at a mansion so inebriated that he woke up in the west wing a fortnight after the event not knowing where the hell he was.  The resultant coughing fits were enough to put Derek and Clive to shame and resulted in the pay-dirt of laryngitis and the sort of inability to sleep worthy of Edward Norton’s protagonist in Fight Club.  After quercetin, perotin, pholcodine, paracetamol, covonia, ibuprofen, amoxycillin and the ghastly Kilkof (I’m sure it does, it nearly killed me) I thought I’d put digits to plastic while I could. 

In my absence I’ve missed the usual wrangling over 10 Best Lists and frantic last minute watching of films that, nine times out of ten, probably weren’t good enough, and even then, the list changes by the hour as something else comes to mind that you forgot.  I deplore year end lists simply because I don’t follow the rules of US critics of having to be shown in their country at that time.  I remember the laughable state of affairs of some critics who should know better including Melville’s The Army of Shadows in their 2005 poll because it hadn’t been seen in New York prior to then.  For me, the year is the year it was first seen, pure and simple.  But that’s another story, for it’s rather the deliberation process itself that brings me circuitously to my point.  (more…)

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Some of the high profile talking heads of Charles Ferguson's brilliant documentary "Inside Job"

by Sam Juliano

As as I type here on wordpress on Sunday afternoon, we are in the beginning stages of a ferocious snow blizzard that is promising to drop at least 18 inches on on the NYC and northern New Jersey area before it tapers off sometime tomorrow morning.  The potent post-Christmas storm originiated in the south yesterday, providing startled Dixieites the rarest of occurances: a white Christmas.  While this first appearance of the white stuff for New Yorkers this year will cause all kind of traveling chaos, it won’t affect school chosings, since the holiday break is already in effect until January 3rd.

In the meantime, I just received an e mail from a coordinator at “Inde Screens’ in Brooklyn that the scheduled showings today of several films (including the 8:00 P.M. screening of the documentary Wasteland) will be held as planned.  So, I’ll be donning my winter gear and heading out, as I suppose it’s far more important to do what has to be done to compose a respresentative “Top Ten” list than it is to worry about my personal safety.  Makes sense, no?  Postscript:  I never made it to Wasteland, as I got stuck in the snow about three blocks from the theatre on an unplowed street near the Williamsburg Bridge.  After about 30 minutes, almost miraculously a woman with a shovel passed by and volunteered to help dig me out.  She surely was worth the tip I gave her, as I was thinking I would doomed to spend the night in my car in this seedy riverfront street with condemned factories and deserted cars.  The film is playing at MoMA on Wednesday in Manhattan, so weather permitting I’ll have another shot, if I opt to try again.

The Illusionist   *** 1/2  (Christmas night)  Landmark Cinemas

Inside Job  **** 1/2   (Friday afternoon)  Millburn Cinemas (Millburn, NJ)

The Conformist  *****  (Thursday night)  Film Forum (more…)

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(by Joel)

Cleo From 5 to 7, France, 1962, dir. Agnes Varda

Starring Corinne Marchand

Story: After a bad visit to a psychic, pop star Cleo Victoire (real name Florence) fears that her recent medical tests will offer a sentence of death. As she wanders the streets of Paris, flitting from rehearsals to sickbeds to restaurants to strolls through the park, the artifice of her persona and appearance is slowly stripped away, until only Florence is left to find out what fate has in store.

The visual touchstone of French New Wave cinema is a character wandering down the real-life streets of Paris, trailed by a handheld camera or preceded by a makeshift dolly: think Jean Seberg shouting “New York Herald-Tribune!”, Jean-Pierre Leaud playing truant, Bernadette Lafont pretending to ignore flirtatious overtures from a passing car, or Betty Schneider ducking into a cafe to discuss a mysterious disappearance with Jean-Luc Godard. This visual tradition traveled through time when Jules and Jim brought the New Wave spirit to prewar bohemia, parading down the period avenues and alleys, Truffaut’s big hit seemed to capture the restless motion of a whole generation at the dawn of a new, exciting era in art and life alike (although in its ending it contained foreshadowings of the frustrations, disappointments, and uncertainties to come).

Then “the walk” crossed the Channel in 1963 with Julie Christie’s daffy, free-spirited stroll through a Yorkshire town in Billy Liar, and it crossed the Atlantic when Liar‘s director John Schlesinger set Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman loose in a downbeat, grimy New York – by then, the sixties had taken a darker turn. (In 1974, Louis Malle would turn the French “city-walking film” on its head: rather than follow one character with a moving camera, he fixed the camera in place, allowing it to glimpse into the lives of all the passerby who crossed its path.) But no film more perfectly captures or fully explores the potential of this method than Cleo From 5 to 7, Agnes Varda’s second feature and her first fictional film since 1955’s Le Pointe-Courte, a documentary-narrative hybrid, which preceded the New Wave.

(more…)

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Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

——John Lennon


(Happy Christmas, Kyoko
Happy Christmas, Julian)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas (War is Over, if you want it, war is over now)repeat with verse
For weak and for strong
The rich and the poor ones
The road is so long
So happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas (War is over, if you want it, war is over now) repeat with verse
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
And we hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now

Merry Christmas

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