Archive for the ‘author Allan Fish’ Category

by Allan Fish

(USA 1928 107m) DVD6 (China only)

A little man the world will hear from

p  King Vidor  d  King Vidor  w  King Vidor, John A.Weaver, Harry Behn  ph  Henry Sharp  ed  Hugh Wynn  Carl Davis  art  Cedric Gibbons, Arnold Gillespie

Eleanor Boardman (Mary Simm), James Murray (John Simm), Bert Roach (Bert), Daniel G.Tomlinson (Jim), Dell Henderson (Dick), Lucy Beaumont (mother), Freddie Burke Frederick (Junior), Alice Mildred Puter (daughter),

One of the last classic silent films of the American cinema, King Vidor’s unquestioned masterpiece is probably the finest insight of its day into the daily rigour of modern urban living, a film whose visual and technical advances were revolutionary to the point of since becoming clichés, but which still stands fresh to this day.

We begin in 1900 on Independence Day, where John Simm is born to happy parents, but twelve years later his father is killed in an accident and his son is told to be brave, as his father would have wished.  We next see him in 1921, slaving with thousands of others behind an office desk and living only for the five o’clock bell to get home and study.  However, one night he is persuaded by his friend, Bert, to go out with two women friends.  Paired off with Mary, John falls in love with her and, following a night at Coney Island, he proposes and they marry.  At first things are idyllic, with a honeymoon at Niagara Falls and two children, but when their daughter is killed after being run over by a lorry, John cracks up and things begin to enter a downward spiral. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 2006 96m) DVD1/2 A little natul tortuosa p  Arnon Milchan, Iain Smith  d/w  Darren Aronofsky  story  Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel  ph  Matthew Libatique  ed  Jay Rabinowitz  m  Clint Mansell  art  James Chinlund Hugh Jackman (Tomas, the Conquistador/Tommy/Dr Thomas Creo), Rachel Weisz (Queen Isabel/Izzy Creo), Ellen Burstyn (Dr Lillian Guzetti), Stephen McHattie (Grand Inquisitor Silecio), Mark Margolis (Father Avila), Fernando Hernandez (Lord of Xibalba), Cliff Curtis (Captain Ariel), Sean Patrick Thomas (Antonio), Donna Murphy (Betty), If ever a film divided audiences and critics, it’s this one; the sort of existential fantastic work that comes along once in a generation or even two.  No-one can say they know exactly what it’s about, just as with Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey nearly forty years previously.  As with his enigmatic monolith, trying to find answers is not the point.  You get from The Fountain what you want to get, or more importantly what you want to believe.  It’s a leap of faith, or as the film itself might make you observe, the first step on the Road to Awe.  In an age where bookshelves are groaning under the weight of New Age books on ancient history and religions, we have a film that Maurice Cotterell and the rest of his ilk would love.  And for those who saw Aronosfky’s fledgling but brain-aching debut film, π, it was not in any way a surprise.  Welcome to the universe of New Age Cinema. Dr Thomas Creo is a scientist undergoing crucial experiments into the reduction of ageing and finding a cure for cancer, spurred on by the onset of the fatal disease in his beloved wife, writer Izzy.  Meanwhile, in the 16th century, as Spain comes under the dark shadow of the Inquisition, the Queen sends her best warrior, conquistador Tomas, to Central America to find the truth behind the legend of the Tree of Life.  Concurrently, a shaved headed transcendental figure sees images of both these disparate events in time as if they’re his own memories, while cocooned with a tree in a massive bubble in space.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

A few years ago, in response to requests from various people I caved in an did a top 3,000 films list.  Despite the success of countdowns on this site, I’m not really one for ordering film or any art for that matter.  Having set levels – ratings, whatever you want to call them – is fine, but ordering those that fall between one rung on the ladder and the one above or below seems increasingly like an insane act of a world champion ADD hair-splitter.  Almost immediately after it went up as a page on the top bar, I wanted to take it down, but I have always been of the belief that one cannot remove without an act of replacement.  And I could think of nothing to replace it.  So I let it stay, getting increasingly out of date as masses of rarities I’d never expected to see or, in some cases, even heard of, suddenly came into my clammy mitts.  Until now.

The book which I have laboured over long and hard for over 10 years now should be ready for Kindle publication by the end of the year, so it’s only partially connected to that.  But throughout the internet we have best lists of everything, so why not go the extra hog?  3,000?  Child’s play.  How about 5,000?  To one who has seen as many films as yours truly has, even 5,000 is insufficient, there are still films left circling the perimeter that I mourn, but this isn’t strictly just a best 5,000 films.  For one thing, as in the book, TV is included, too.  While there are also films that I may not be a fan of but which have many critical fans out there and/or which are just too important in film history to ignore.  There are also films I have not yet seen including a selection of 2013 and 2014 films still to come to Blighty and a selection of lost films (one can dream…).  A week or two from now I shall remove the top 3,000 page and replace it with a copy of this list, which I feel is the most important I have ever posted at Wonders.  Each year I hope to update it, but if the fates ordain otherwise as that’s still in the balance, then Sam will have to, at least with additions if not exclusions.

The list is in chronological order.  At the end is a sort of directorial scorecard, showing all directors with multiple entries.  Titles followed by an asterisk (*) are those I don’t possess copies of, though some I have seen.  Those followed by an x (x) are foreign films I have copies of, but without English subtitles.


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by Allan Fish

(USA 2003 106m) DVD1/2

So much ‘More Than This’

p  Ross Katz, Sofia Coppola  d/w  Sofia Coppola  ph  Lance Acord  ed  Sarah Flack  m  Kevin Shields  art  Anne Ross, K.K.Barrett  cos  Nancy Steiner

Bill Murray (Bob Harris), Scarlett Johansson (Charlotte), Giovanni Ribisi (John), Anna Faris (Kelly), Fumihiro Hayashi,

Sofia Coppola’s fresh and funny masterpiece is that rarest of beasts; a film that plays with convention in a witty and original way and comes up fresh every time you see it.  A film that is not merely about Japanese customs, Tokyo or indeed going to any foreign places, as these are merely the outer levels.  At its lovely heart is a story of fate and being in the right place at the wrong time.  Or just about the power of unlikely friendships and how a single night can alter your life.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 2007 131m) DVD1/2

Strawberry jam

p  Matthew Gross, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd  d  Julie Taymor  w  Dick Clement, Ian le Frenais  ph  Bruno Delbonnel  ed  Françoise Bonnot  m  Elliot Goldenthal  m/ly  John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison  md  Elliot Goldenthal, T-Bone Burnett  art  Peter Rogness  cos  Albert Wolsky spc/tit Kyle Cooper

Evan Rachel Wood (Lucy), Jim Sturgess (Jude), Joe Anderson (Max Carrigan), Dana Fuchs (Sadie), Martin Luther (Jojo), T.V.Caprio (Prudence), Joe Cocker, Bono, Salma Hayek, Harry Lennix, Eddie Izzard,

It’s a commonly perceived opinion that whether one loves or loathes Julie Taymor’s phantasmagoria of love n’ the Fab Four depends on whether you grew up with the music and knew it with any degree of not just depth but feeling.  The Beatles had broken up several years before I was even born, so that rules that one out.  The approach of having characters burst into famous song was hardly a new one – it was mastered by the likes of Dennis Potter.  Nearer to the mark, however (in that the actors actually sing rather than mime or undercut) is Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, another love story set in the past and splitting audiences right down the proverbial spinal column bonemarrow.

Set in the sixties, the film tells the tale of Scouse dockworker Jude who sets off to America to find the GI father who left his mother pregnant during the war.  While over there he befriends Princeton student Max, about to drop out, whose sister Lucy has just waved her beloved Daniel off to the Vietnam War.  When Daniel is killed in combat, Lucy sets off to join Max and Jude and their Bohemian lifestyle in New York, from whence nothing will ever be the same. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1928 115m) not on DVD

No honeymoon

p  Pat Powers, Jesse Lasky Jnr, Adolph Zukor  d  Erich Von Stroheim  w  Harry Carr, Erich Von Stroheim  ph  Hal Mohr, Ben Reynolds, Ray Rennahan  ed  Frank Hull, Josef Von Sternberg, Julian Johnson  md  Carl Davis (including various classics)  art  Erich Von Stroheim, Richard Day  cos  Erich Von Stroheim, Max Ree

Erich Von Stroheim (Prince Nicholas Ehrhart Hans Karl Maria Von Wildeliebe-Rauffenberg), Fay Wray (Mitzi Schrammell), Matthew Betz (Schani Eberle), Zasu Pitts (Cecelia Schweisser), Maude George (Princess Maria Immaculata Von Wildeliebe-Rauffenberg), Cesare Gravina (Herr Schrammell), George Fawcett (Prince Ottakar Von Wildeliebe-Rauffenberg), George Nicholls (Schweisser), Dale Fuller (Frau Schrammell),

The opening caption to Von Stroheim’s romantic folly confirms that it is “dedicated to the true lovers of the world.”  That in itself might seem a supremely romantic statement, were it not for the fact that Von Stroheim is referring not just to physical romantic lovers, but to true lovers of any aesthetic, in this case Von Stroheim’s beloved Vienna.  He’s not the only master director to create love letters to that most imperial of cities (Max Ophuls did so many times a few decades later), but Von Stroheim’s films have an altogether grander quality.  They are follies, but also amongst the most grandiose statements in silent cinema history.  None of his classics can be seen as originally intended; Greed, Queen Kelly and Foolish Wives only survive in grossly butchered states, and The Wedding March is actually only part one of a story which was continued in The Honeymoon, which is now probably the most sought after lost film of them all.  Originally the second film finished on a note of doomed romance.  As it is, minus the second stanza, this poem to romance leaves a somewhat cynical but in some ways more realistic aftertaste. (more…)

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ida a

by Allan Fish

Ida (Poland 2013 80m) DVD2 (Poland only)

Travels With My Aunt

Piotr Dzieciol, Eva Puszczynska, Eric Abraham  d  Pawel Pawlikowski  w  Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Pawel Pawlikowski  ph  Ryszard Lenczewski, Lucasz Zal  ed  Jaroslaw Kaminski  m  Kristian Eidnes Andersen  art  Katarzyna Sobanska-Strzalkowska, Marcel Slawinski

Ageta Kulesza (Wanda Gruz), Agata Trzebuckowska (Ida Lebenstein), Dawid Ogrolnik (Lis), Jerzy Trela (Szymon), Joanna Kulig (singer), Adam Szyszkowski (Feliks), Halina Skoczynska (mother superior),

The critical and financial failure of Pawel Pawlikowski’s misjudged 2011 film The Woman in the Fifth, coming after seven years after his previous film (the much better received My Summer of Love) could have been enough to have some commentators wondering if he could recover from it.  So when Ida was announced for the London Film Festival in the autumn of 2013, I was trying to put his last misfire to the back of my mind.  Unable to attend the festival, it was on DVD that I was always likely to see it first.  But nothing could really prepare me for what I was about to see.

Ida is really several films in one; not narratively speaking, but thematically.  Set in 1962, it follows young Ida, an orphan at a convent who is informed that she must speak to her only living relative before she is able to take her vows.  This relative, her Aunt Wanda, is a former state prosecutor well respected inside the party but who has turned more and more to promiscuity and drink.  She tells Ida that her parents were actually Jewish and died during the war, murdered before they could even be sent to their deaths at the Nazis’ factories of death.  Ida and Wanda agree on a trip to see the primitive house where her family once resided and there come up against a wall of silence from those now living there.  They are sent on a wild goose chase, during which time Ida meets a young musician.  Finally they learn the truth about Ida’s parents’ death, but how will the two women react to this final act of closure? (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(India 1973 135m) not on DVD

Aka. Garam Hava

Should I stay or should I go?

p  Abu Siwani, Ishan Arya, M.S.Sathyu  d  M.S.Sathyu  w  Kaifi Azmi, Shama Zaidi  ph  Ishan Arya  ed  S.Chakravarty  m  Aziz Ahmed, Aziz Ahmed Khan Warsi, Ustad Bahadur Khan

Balraj Singh (Salim Mirza), Gita Siddarth (Amina Mirza), Jamal Hashmi (Kazim), Yunus Parvez (Fakraddin), Farook Shaikh (Sikander Mirza), Jalal Agha (Shamsad), Abu Siwani (Baqar Mirza), Badar Begum (Salim’s mother), Dinanath Zutshi (Halim), Shaukat Azmi (Kaifi), A.K.Hangal (Ajmani Sahab), Vikas Anand,

Considering the availability of so many Bollywood classics of this and previous eras, the other side of Indian cinema can still be difficult to track down.  Satyajit Ray, of course, is now becoming available in Hi Def, while Ritwik Ghatak will doubtless soon follow.  But it’s the next generation of directors who joined those two erstwhile masters in the late sixties and seventies that can be hard to appreciate.  Where can one find decent prints of films by Mrinal Sen, Mani Kaul or the director of the film in question, M.S.Sathyu.  Any that are on DVD are in deplorable condition and interrupted by those God-awful logos so prevalent in Indian DVDs that float in and out of vision like the mother ship in Space Invaders.

One should be grateful then, I suppose, that in an age when British television channels ignore film and its history completely, that occasionally Indian classics pop up in the small hours on Channel 4 in one of the sporadic celebrations of Indian culture.  It’s how I first saw Hot Winds.  Not ideal, perhaps, but you take what you’re given.                          (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK/USA 1930 120m) not on DVD

Of cabbages and kings, and cockroaches on whisky

p  George Pearson  d  James Whale  w  Joseph Moncure March, Gareth Gundrey  play  R.C.Sheriff  ph  Benjamin Kline  ed  Claude Berkeley  m  none  art  Harvey Libbert

Colin Clive (Capt. Dennis Stanhope), David Manners (2nd Lt. Raleigh), Ian MacLaren (2nd Lt. ‘Uncle’ Osborne), Billy Bevan (2nd Lt. Trotter), Anthony Bushell (2nd Lt. Hibbert), Robert Adair (Capt. Hardy), Charles K.Gerrard (Pvt. Mason),

Ask most people of my generation about World War I and there’s a strong chance they will have first become acquainted with it through TV comedy; if not by the Python sketch ‘Ypres 1914’ (“how about ‘one potato, two potato’, sir?”) then by the adventures of Blackadder and co..  Yet for comedy to work, especially small screen comedy, there must be a familiarity with the setting or else much of the humour is lost.  More than from any other source, the familiarity came from R.C.Sheriff’s play Journey’s End.

Set entirely in the dugouts and trenches on the front and supply lines in Saint Quentin, France, in March 1918, it follows four principal officers over a four day period.  Captain Stanhope has just returned from furlough.  He’s well respected by his men but three years on the front lines have exposed understandable cracks in his façade and he’s turned to drinking to keep his nerves in check.  His right-hand is the older Osborne, nicknamed Uncle, who tries to keep him going.  With them is Trotter, a salt of the earth type who’s risen to the rank of officer through the ranks.  To this motley trio is added Raleigh, a wet behind the ears public school type who answers every request with either “I say”, “right-o” or “rather” and who is delighted to serve under Stanhope, the man he worshipped at school and who had been in love with his sister before the war. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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