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Archive for January, 2012

by Allan Fish

(UK 1953 107m) DVD1/2

Be back in half an hour

p  Norman Spencer  d  David Lean  w  Norman Spencer, Wynyard Browne, David Lean  play  Harold Brighouse  ph  Jack Hildyard  ed  Peter Taylor  m  Malcolm Arnold  art  Wilfrid Shingleton  cos  Peter Taylor

Charles Laughton (Henry Horatio Hobson), Brenda de Banzie (Maggie Hobson), John Mills (Willie Mossop), Daphne Anderson (Alice Hobson), Prunella Scales (Vicky Hobson), Richard Wattis (Albert Prosser), Derek Blomfield (Freddy Beenstock), Helen Haye (Mrs Hepworth), Joseph Tomelty (Jim Heeler), Jack Howarth (Tubby), Julien Mitchell (Sam Minns), Gibb McLaughlin (Tudsbury), Philip Stainton (Denton), John Laurie (doctor), Raymond Huntley (Nathaniel Beenstock), Edie Martin (customer),

If we are being absolutely honest, Hobson’s Choice doesn’t quite come close enough to perfection to automatically guarantee a place here.  The main problem is no fault of the film, but rather the play on which it was based; namely, that the final act is a redundant epilogue which brings the audience down from the highs of the first three. 

            We find ourselves in Salford in around 1880.  One Henry Horatio Hobson, as pompous as his name, is the owner of a bootmaker’s.  Hobson is a widower after his wife left for a higher place and is left with three daughters.  The two youngest, Alice and Vicky, are frivolous, love shimmying in their bustles and have their eyes on two young men, a lawyer and a corn merchant’s son respectively.  The eldest, Maggie, the only one with any brains, is hard-working and unmarried at thirty.  Just to spice it up a bit, the latter is son of Hobson’s sworn enemy, a temperance advocate.  Henry lives just to pop over to the pub opposite, The Moonraker’s Arms, for a gallon or two of refreshment.  (more…)

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by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

(Japan 1997, 61min – aka It’s Keiko; Keiko Desu Kedo) not available on DVD

Director, Writer Sion Sono Starring Keiko Suzuki

Keiko Suzuki is a 21 year-old girl. Her father passed away a year ago and the film (part diary, part document, all fiction) depicts her life and her grief, which lasts.

We see a clock and she counts the seconds. 1, 2, 3, she walks down the street for minutes on end counting each step as she goes (as you can imagine this can dip into boredom a couple of times, but not only briefly). The passing of time fascinates her; her loss has made her aware of what comes and goes. Each second a struggle without him, each second forward to, perhaps, peace. She is comforted and daunted by the fact that life goes on regardless; what moves seems to be standing still, what stands still seems to slip away. Time is even more of a fetish here than in Wong Kar Wai’s stories.

We will see her smile a little, and watch her continue to return, almost imperceptibly, back to herself.

At the very beginning, she tells us that the film will last precisely 1 hour, 1 minute and 1 second, after which we can leave (“This film will be over at exactly 8:23”). She doesn’t want to intrude but she appears to need us as an audience (she lives alone) and, frankly, when that 1 hour, 1 minute and 1 second is over, it has been a privilege. How often do we feel as an audience that we are of use? Therefore I expected the film to end exactly as it did, with one simple word in Japanese, two in English.

(more…)

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Declaration of War

Sylistically audacious French drama "Declaration of War" emotionally potent

by Sam Juliano

While at least one person with a long Wonders in the Dark association will be rooting his head off for the New England Patriots in next week’s Super Bowl contest, it does appear that most with a feigning interest are hoping short order vindication isn’t achieved.  Joel Bocko believes a Pats victory will erase the bitter taste of the 08 upset that spoiled a perfect season and sent New England fans into a prolonged depression.  He also sees a side of stone-faced head coach Bill Belichick, that Pats haters hate to acknowledge, one that reveals a master at his craft and the genius behind the NFL’s most dangerous offense.  Tom Coughlin’s Giants, however, are the stronger defensive unit, and the Big D is often what wins Super Bowls.  The oddsmakers by 3 points believe the Pats will be getting their revenge in Indianapolis on February 6th.

The Bresson Film Festival at Manhattan’s Film Forum has concluded, but the same venue has presently reached it’s meatiest stage at the Siskel Center in Chicago, where several WitD staff and associates are presently immersing themselves.  Back at the Film Forum after a one-week run of a minor camp classic Pretty Poison, the theatre will be running a comprehensive three-week festival on William Wellmann, that will include appearances by author William Wellmann Jr., some piano accompaniments by Steve Sterner, and a few rarities. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

As per the norm, straight to the results…

Best Picture  Our Hospitality, US (5 votes)

Best Director  Buster Keaton, Ernest G.Blystone, Our Hospitality (3 votes)

Best Short  Paris qui Dort, René Clair & Le Retour à la Raison, Man Ray (3 votes)

Best Actor Harold Lloyd, Safety Last (4 votes)

Best Actress Edna Purviance, A Woman of Paris (6 votes)

(more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Italy/Switzerland 2010 88m) DVD1/2

Dust to dust

p  Philippe Bober, Elda Guidinetti, Marta Donzelli, Gabriella Manfré, Susanne Marian, Andres Pfäffli, Gregorio Paenessa  d/w  Michelangelo Frammartino  ph  Andrea Locatelli  ed  Benni Atria, Maurizio Grilli  m  Paolo Benvenuti  art  Matthew Broussard

Giuseppe Fuda, Bruno Timpano, Nazareno Timpano,

Of all films of the 21st century I have had cause to write about, there is none that has filled me with more trepidation than Michelangelo Frammartino’s truly extraordinary Le Quattro Volte.  After all, my role is one of converter in chief, of trying to make the reader want to seek out the film, a minority film at best, and yet any description of what takes place cannot help but send the reader into a mild coma. 

            We’re in a remote Calabrian village perched high on a citadel, and in essence we follow the last days of an old goatherd.  We see that he’s frail; he’s coughing repeatedly and is seen taking something in his water before he goes off to sleep in his truly Spartan bedroom.  On his rounds, we see him go to the local church where an old woman tears half a page out of a magazine and folds up some dirt from the church floor into it.  It transpires that he’s using this to put into his water as a sort of immersion.  Needless to say it does no good, and he’s found dead one morning and is taken away for burial.  (more…)

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One of the top 20 movies from the list

by Jaime Grijalba.

Well, here we are, it’s time to be outraged, whine and scream as I mention my 20 favorite movies of 2011, the year that just went about three weeks ago. I usually do my list around this time of year, because it gives me time to catch up with the late releases, when supposedly the good stuff comes out, as well as a personal task to come up with a list after the Oscar nominees are announced (as this past tuesday showed us how surprising they can be, for better or worse). Why after the nominations? Well, the thing is that where I live, Chile, there are certain festivals at the start of the year (first two weeks of january), and they show a lot of films that haven’t had their premiere in Chile as of date. As years have gone by, these festivals have diminished in their overall quality, and they have become more and more expensive, which is a bitch for a film student as myself, who barely can finance his own short film. So, yeah, out of a whim, I used to do this even before I started to comment in this amazing house of bloggers/writers, I did it when my blog was the number one stop of my friends when they needed a film recommendation, and now is just a barren wasteland, filled with new content, but voided of comments, the thing I love the most about having a blog: the conversation. So now I have the opportunity, at a bigger venue, a wider audience, a better time and more universally understandable language: english. Now I’m just making a mess of myself, so why don’t we just go ahead and move along, onto the movies? (more…)

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By Peter Lenihan

Finding Ford is a biweekly series in which I examine the films of John Ford.

There are, it seems, at least two ways of framing Rio Grande, one of the three Ford features of 1950 (Wagon Master and When Willie Comes Marching Home are the other two). The first (and far more common) way to discuss it is as the final entry in the cavalry trilogy, a series of films starring John Wayne and many members of the Ford stock company that revolved (some would say obsessively) around notions of duty and justice and the (im)possibility of reconciliation. Despite these films’ rejection of classical storytelling technique and traditional methods of audience identification, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Fort Apache are, at least among Fordians and western aficionados, very kindly looked upon, and have been embraced in a way that Rio Grande, a film no one seems to know what to do with, hasn’t.

It’s not all that hard to see why. Next to Fort Apache, whose tonal complexities and simultaneous celebration and repudiation of the U.S. military is among the most contradictory in the director’s filmography, and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, which features some of the most poetic color cinematography in the history of cinema, Rio Grande can seem a little, well, slight, and its undeniably low-budget feel only contributes to the sense that the director might be on auto-pilot here. History suggests Ford made it for Republic to help get The Quiet Man off the ground, and the digressive, ramshackle nature of the “plot,” and the familiarity of the characters’ names (protagonists named York, Quinncannon, Sandy and Tyree had all appeared in earlier Ford films) has helped encourage the view that it is something minor. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

     Yeah the Oscars are a sham and many of the voters are wankers.  Artistry escapes them, and politics and commercialism rear their ugly heads definitely.  When Crash beat Brokeback Mountain in 2005, many tuned off for life, unwillingly to even engage in the fun.

     Allan Fish, Maurizio Roca and Jamie Uhler are classic Oscar bashers as well as they should be.  I choose to engage in all the guilty pleasures it afford, and have hosted a party with an Oscar pool since 1978 at my home.  it’s fun to discuss the omissions and the dire rules each and every year and to make predictions.  It’s also fun to acknowledge that rare unexpected time when the voters by luck or a rare moment of inspiration make some right choices.  While the masterful The Artist will be taking home the Best Picture prize on February 26th (it received 10 nominations to Hugo’s 11) the naming of The Tree of Life in the nominations for Best Picture, and Terrence Malick for Best Director is surely one of those great moments that are reached even as Allan Fish states, ‘they have to get it right sometimes.’  War Horse also got into the Big Show in the main category.  Here are the nine films that are in for Best Picture: (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2010 166m) DVD1/2

Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose

p  James Gay-Reese, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner  d  Asif Kapadia  w  Manish Pandey  ph  Jake Polonsky  ed  Chris King, Gregers Sall  m  Antonio Pinto

In the introduction I recall mentioning how up until a certain age movies didn’t mean much to me.  As a youngster, sitting down to watch anything for over two hours meant it was either a football match, a Saturday afternoon’s racing or a Formula One Grand Prix.  I’d grown up with it.  I even used to do my own commentaries, amusing myself for hours using bits of card with the drivers’ names on.  Invariably, one driver always won…Alain Prost.  He had the same name as me, after all, and he was called The Professor. 

            There were two camps, of course; you were either for Senna or for Prost.  At the time I was for Prost.  Prost had retired in 1993.  By that time, I was beginning to move away from watching Formula One.  Schumacher was emerging on the scene, Mansell had retired.  Yet if someone were to ask me what turned me away from Formula One to the point where I no longer watch it at all and haven’t done or a decade, it’d be the events of 1st May 1994.  I don’t really remember where I was when Prost won any of his four World Titles, but I remember where I was when the news of Senna being declared dead was announced; at my grandmother’s an hour or two later.  (more…)

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The Choral Art Society of New Jersey outside of Westfield church

by Sam Juliano

Felix Mendelssohn’s Paulus, first performed in 1836, is the first of the composer’s two oratorios, and the more popular during his lifetime.  The later work Elijah has since eclipsed Paulus in popularity by some distance, but Paulus remains a major intrigue for choral groups and conductors looking to further scrutinize the work of one of music’s greatest melodists.  Indeed, musicologists periodically make a spirited case for it, arguing that it was central to the revival of the German oratorio tradition in the early 19th century.  There can be little doubt that Paulus is a kind of outgrowth of the composer’s celebrated 1829 revival of J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” in Berlin.  The opening of the oratorio is modeled on Bach with a preponderance of chorales, fugues, and inflamed crowd scenes.  Mendelssohn’s indebtedness and reverence for Bach (and for Handel) manifests itself in the recitatives and in the contrapuntal rigor of some of the choruses. The first half, comprising 22 sections and dealing with Paul’s conversion from Judaism to Christianity is the more dramatic -it has been suggested that Mendelssohn’s decision to employ a four-part women’s choir to voice the words of Jesus was controversial – but it is still highly effective.  The second half deals mainly with Paul’s ministry in a general sense, opting to leave out the more dramatic narratives from the book of Acts that could have transformed the work into something far more compelling.

Still, if “Paulus” is never as inspiring and consistent as “Elijah” it is still genuinely powerful and moving at junctures.  The Choral Art Society of New Jersey, a distinguished ensemble entering their fiftieth year of operation, have followed up their own staging and orchestration of “Elijah” from a few years ago with a performance of “Paulus” at the beautiful Presbyterian Church in Westfield on a blustery Saturday evening, January 21st, under the baton of CAS musical director James S. Little, who is serving his fourteenth and final year in that capacity. (more…)

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