by Sam Juliano
Allan Fish’s Top 3,000 films of all-time presentation has (as expected) attracted spectacular attention from the blogging community, with the lion’s share of the respondants engaging in a thorough discussion of the individual components. It’s the kind of venture that has defined the mission of this site, though for a chosen few it has been an intimidating endeavor that instigated some harsh words. But this labor of love will provide those willing to click on their ‘copy’ icon, an invaluable reference point for a comprehensive study of the form. In any case, it’s a proud moment for Allan on a professional note, as it serves to introduce his soon-to-be-published book, and showcases the unGodly time he’s spent during his 37 years watching, watching and watching more.
Elsewhere, our pal filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman has sent out a press release announcing the upcoming encore release of his film noir smash The Last Lullaby, which is expected to include a number of new extras. Goodman is excitedly anticipating a fall 2011 release, and further envisons the film becoming available in other venues. Wonders in the Dark is thrilled for Jeffrey and will keep watch for the official release of the revamped DVD.
Those with seasonal allergies (Yours Truly included) are doubtless having a rough time the past two weeks, but if the usual pattern hold up we are nearing the end to the chronic sneezing, watery eyes and congestion. Otherwise, graduations, proms and summer vacations are being discussed by many, and the blistering heat will soon be making an unwelcome appearance.
Playing catch-up after the Tribeca Film Festival I managed to see five films in theatres this week, though I missed out Sunday on seeing Kon Ichikawa’s beautiful 1963 film The Makioka Sisters, having to settle on an afternoon showing that day of the harrowing Chinese film City of Life and Death. But luckily, Ichikawa’s film will run through Tuesday, so I am hoping to see it Monday night.
I saw the following, all except for one with Lucille:
Incendies **** 1/2 (Thursday night) Lincoln Plaza Cinemas
Hey Boo: Harper Lee and ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ **** 1/2 (Sat.) Quad Cinemas
Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff **** 1/2 (Sat.) Quad Cinemas
A Serbian Film 0 stars (Saturday night) Cinema Village
City of Life and Death **** (Sunday) Film Forum
The Canadian film INCENDIES received an Oscar nod for Best Foreign Film. It’s frustrating for sure, but it still manages to bring together it’s divergent elements of mystery, love story and melodrama, yielding one of the year’s most electrifying final revelations. At times it seems to lost it’s focus, but it’s maintains it’s grip, calling urgently for a second viewing. It’s the kind of film that needs to be ‘experienced’ rather than seen.
Although I was warned about A SERBIAN FILM I still thought I’d give this ultra-controversial film the benefit of a doubt. With an obscure “allegorical” excuse, the director Srdjan Spasojevic goes headfirst into necrophila, pedaphelia and depraved child defilement with a veracity that defies the very essence of human civility and decency. A SERBIAN FILM is sickening beyond comprehension, but when it moves away from the sensationalism it’s a downright bore. It’s shabbily filmed (purposely of course) on unattractive film stock by a director with little knowledge of how to use a camera, and it leaves one questioning a fellow human being’s sanity. Comparing it with Pasolini’s near-masterwork SALO (1975) is a affront to cinematic art, but this awful film is truthfully an affront to the human race.
One of literature’s greatest mysteries is why southern author Harper Lee never followed up her 1960 masterpiece “To Kill A Mockingbird” with an encore and furthermore has steadfastly refused to grant interviews since 1964. This one-hit wonder has endlessly intrigued those who see her book as the greatest American novel of the 20th Century, one that has been taught in school for decades, and a work that has stood as a centerpiece for the civil rights movement since’s it’s timely publication. The documentary’s director Mary McDonagh Murphy examines the continuing role of the character “Scout”, and of the book’s universality. It’s a sure labor of love for the book’s admirers and it tries in modest ways to crack Lee’s enigmatic spectre. (A full review is planned for today).
Another notable documentary is also running at the Quad in Manhattan, and Lucille and I saw it as part of the double-feature on Saturday with the Harper Lee film. CAMERAMAN: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JACK CARDIFF takes an affectionate look at the greatest color cinematographer of all-time, examining his ascendency to artistic prominence, his celebrated work with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger, and his later years as a director on his own account. While some of the clips are familiar, they help to paint this indellible portrait of a man whose work has eclipsed his persona, and has served as a reminder of the exceeding artistry that highlights his distinguished a long-lived life span. Jack Cardiff was a larger than life figure, yet director Craig McCall lovingly traces all the human connections and personal validations along the way.
A disturbing film based on one of history’s most deplorable episodes, THE CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH chronicles the Rape of Nanking, the infamous aftermath of the capture of Chinese city of Nanking and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians by the Japanese Imperial Army. Over 20,000 women were raped by Japanese soldiers during a six-week period. Precise statistics are not known, as the Japanese destroyed or hid records. The film is extremely difficult to watch, but never dehumanizes its subjects, and in the end is utterly wrenching. I would only take issue with the inability or unwillingness of the filmmakers to examine why or how the Japanese soldiers chose to perpetrate such unconscionable evil. I am unsure if I will ultimately go with a 4 or a 4 1/2 star rating with this, but I will think further.
I offer up 35 links this week to some splendid work in the blogosphere:
At Movie Classics Judy Geater takes a perceptive look at another Wellman film, 1937′s Nothing Sacred: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/nothing-sacred-william-a-wellman-1937/
Samuel Wilson offers up a superlative analysis of Volker Schlondorff’s Coup de Grace, a kind of homage to Melcille, at Mondo 70: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2011/05/coup-de-grace-der-fangschuss-1976.html
John Greco has made a fantastic contribution to a 1939 blogothon, examining Paul Leni’s The Cat and the Canary: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/the-cat-and-the-canary-1939-elliot-nugent/
At the always-inspiring Creativepotager’s blogsite, artist and nature-lover Terrill Welch offers up two ravishing oil paintings by Sue Wiebe: “Autumn Bounty” and “Courtenay in the Moonlight”: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/autumn-bounty-and-courtney-in-the-moonlight-by-sue-wiebe/#comments
All kinds of film noir news, posts, posters and information is on display at the incomparable Darkness Into Light, courtesy of it’s tireless proprietor, Dee Dee: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/
Wonders in the Dark readers by now have surely seen and accessed Tony d’Ambra’s collection of poems and prose, Cinematic Poetica, a new volume available at areasonable price, featured on the sidebar. For those who have been ravished by the works as they appeared over the past two years, here’s the chance to own the entire sensory collection in a beautifully ornate booklet: https://www.lulu.com/commerce/index.php?fBuyContent=10534204
At Speaking From The Heart Laurie Buchanan is featuring an egg’s nest, and a wooden backyard structure built by Len, but as always it’s a lead-in to a pertinent world view: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/eggstra-eggstra-read-all-about-it/
Jaime Grijalba is featuring an intricate play station post at Exodus: 8:02 that should fascinate fans: http://exodus8-2.blogspot.com/2011/05/ps-3-gokujou-parodius-deluxe-pack.html
Just Another Film Buff (Srikanth Scrivasson) has another exceptional capsule review up at The Seventh Art, this time on Pedro Costa’s 2009 Change Nothing: http://theseventhart.info/2011/05/07/ellipsis-40/#comments
Great news has just been announced at The Schleicher Spin where crack Garden State writer David Schleicher, great friend and supporter of WitD, has announced the recent publication of his newest short story in a collection: http://theschleicherspin.com/2011/05/14/scratch-anthology-volume-3-is-here/
Bayou Filmmaker and Beastie Boys fan Jeffrey Goodman makes glowing mention of his recent viewing of Adam Yauch’s Fight For Your Right Revisited at The Last Lullaby. Of course as mentioned in the lead-in of this thread Jeffrey has some great news for fans of his first film: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2011/05/2011.html
Stephen Russell-Gebbett asserts that Scream 4 “isn’t very scary nor funny, but imminently likeable and engrossing.” The typically insighful essay is leading the way at Checking on my Sausages: http://checkingonmysausages.blogspot.com/2011/05/scream-4.html
At the home of the delightful fellow known as the “Coffee Messiah,” the erstwhile proprietor Michael Harford offers up an altered playing card in his most recent post: http://coffeemessiah.blogspot.com/2011/05/another-day.html
At The Blue Vial, it’s Trees/Scream/Curtains to celebrate “Friday the 13th” and Drew is there with his typically impeccable taste in screen caps: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2011/05/treesscreamcurtains.html
Jake Cole has penned a magnificent review of Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins at Not Just Movies: http://armchairc.blogspot.com/2011/05/13-assassins-takashi-miike-2011.html
Craig Kennedy has little good to say about the controversial A Serbian Film, giving it slight acknowledgement for some vague political connections. It’s really a terrific piece by an exceptional scribe, and it’s up at Living in Cinema: http://livingincinema.com/2011/05/14/review-a-serbian-film-2011/
Meanwhile, Slant writer extraordinaire John Lanthier likens the film to a “transgressive” experience, awarding it 3 out of 4 stars at Aspiring Sellout: http://livingincinema.com/2011/05/14/review-a-serbian-film-2011/
As part of his extraordinary ‘Postwar Kurosawa” series, our good friend the ever-resilient Murderous Ink has penned a splendid examination of 1948′s Drunken Angel at Vermilion and One Nights: http://vermillionandonenights.blogspot.com/2011/05/postwar-kurosawa-drunken-angel.html#more
Shubhajit is leading up at Cinemascope with a terrific capsule on Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2011/05/husbands-and-wives-1992.html
At Ferdy-on-Films Roderick Heath has again raised the bar with an exhaustive and beautifully-penned piece on Alberto Cavalcanti’s 1942 Brtish classic Went the Day Well?, which incidentally is scheduled to run two weeks at the Film Forum starting on May 20th: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=9900
Meanwhile at his solo site, Heath imparts his magical prose to a sprawling essay on Otto Preminger’s final film, The Human Factor (1979): http://thisislandrod.blogspot.com/2011/05/human-factor-1979.html
Jason Marshall has penned a wonderful essay for his #8 choice for 1940 at Movies Over Matter: W.C. Fields’s The Bank Dick: http://moviesovermatter.com/2011/05/13/the-bank-dick-best-pictures-of-1940-8/
Ed Howard’s superb review of Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers leads the way at Only the Cinema: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2011/05/dreamers.html
R.D. Finch has posted the second part of his wonderful ‘The Films of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn” feature at The Movie Projector: http://themovieprojector.blogspot.com/2011/05/films-of-spencer-tracy-and-katharine_09.html
Pat Perry at Doodad Kind of Town hasn’t updated for a while, but the Chicago native and very good friend, will be playing a vital role in the musical countdown that is tentatively scheduled to commence sometime in mid to late summer if everything falls into place. Here’s Pat’s long-running blogsite: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/
The Film Doctor has a most unique prentation at his place on the new multiplex vehicle, Bridesmaids. (and this film is sitting pretty at RT with 92%!): http://filmdr.blogspot.com/2011/05/humor-from-womans-point-of-view-9-notes.html
At Icebox Movies the ever-enterprising Adam Zanzie takes an “alternate” look at the 1952 western classic High Noon: http://iceboxmovies.blogspot.com/2011/05/high-noon-1952-fred-zinnemann-and.html
Dave Van Poppel has some great documentary capsules from the Toronto Film Festivals posting at his place: http://visionsofnonfiction.blogspot.com/2011/05/hot-docs-2011-we-were-here.html
At Scribbles and Ramblings, Sachin has penned a fantastic examination of the cinema of Brazilian filmmaker Jose Mojica Marins: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2011/05/spotlight-on-jose-mojica-marins.html
Troy Olson has an assortment of posts leading up at his place on live basketball blogging, a new record club and the most recent Bresson reviews: http://troyolson.blogspot.com/
J.D. has quite an exhaustive essay up at Radiator Heaven on Tony Scott’s Domino that is a must-read: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2011/05/domino.html
Jean at Velvety Blackness has a superlative lead review up on Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank: http://velvetyblackness.blogspot.com/2011/04/fish-tank.html
Peter Lenihan has some striking screen caps up on “the films of Clair Denis” at The Long Voyage Home: http://thelongvoyagehome.blogspot.com/2011/05/your-worst-enemies-are-hiding-inside.html
Longman Oz is on a brief break at his place, but his very fine piece on Route Irish is still leading the way: http://smiledyawnednodded.com/2011/03/28/routeirish/