© 2015 by James Clark

 You might say that Anton Corbijn was remarkably positioned to do justice to the brief and lugubrious life of British rocker, Ian Curtis, the writing and vocal dimension of a short-lived sensation in the late 1970s called Joy Division. In his earlier career as a photographer—following in the footsteps, you might say, of Stanley Kubrick—he became involved with the band in the capacity of producing publicity stills, a coverage entailing extensive contact with Curtis, and also his wife, Debbie, whose book Touching from a Distance (1995) formed the backbone of the 2007 film. (She was also an associate producer of Corbijn’s project, his first entry into directorial duties.)

Be that as it may, there are, I think, even more important factors behind his long-after-the-fact, stunning illumination of the protagonist’s plunge toward suicide. They pertain to evidence of a deep appreciation of the film work of that renowned but unknown as such precursor, Kubrick, whose life had come to an end quite a while before our guide here commenced his new career. So it is that in his debut, Corbijn sends us from out of his forte, visual design, a Kubrick moment zooming in on the nub of the crisis of Ian Curtis and myriad others. It occurs at the time when Curtis’ band was clawing toward television exposure on a local (Manchester) bellwether of the best of recent rock. Having produced a demo and put it into the hands of the show’s supercilious guru, the lads are nonplussed that all they received for their trouble was, as the star-maker was signing off, a quick mention of the disc as promising. Later that night the musicians catch up with that lax responder to their talent (“He’s gotta put us on!”), in a bar and Ian is designated to go over to his table and straighten him out. He comes to the celebrity’s table, leans over to him and blows smoke into his face, bringing to rude Manchester the rude and lost Redmond Barry showing his contempt for a woman who was far more remarkable than the dubious object of Ian’s resentment. Unlike the passenger in Barry Lyndon, the attacker goes on to complain, “You’re a bastard!” and receives the assurance, “You’ll be the next band.” Continue Reading »

wh 2

by Allan Fish

(UK 2015 350m) DVD1/2

Attempting a three card trick

p  Mark Pybus  d  Peter Kosminsky  w  Peter Straughan  novels  Hilary Mantel  ph  Gavin Finney  ed  David Blackmore, Josh Cunliffe  m  Debbie Wiseman  art  Frederic Evard, Pat Campbell  cos  Joanna Eatwell

Mark Rylance (Thomas Cromwell), Damian Lewis (Henry VIII), Bernard Hill (Norfolk), Claire Foy (Anne Boleyn), Anton Lesser (Thomas More), Jonathan Pryce (Wolsey), Mark Gatiss (Gardiner), Jessica Raine (Lady Rochford), Mathieu Amalric (Chapuys), Joanne Whalley (Katharine of Aragon), Natasha Little (Liz), Monica Dolan (Alice More), Charity Wakefield (Mary Boleyn), Bryan Dick (Richard Rich), David Robb (Thomas Boleyn), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Rafe), Harry Lloyd (Harry Percy), Saskia Reeves (Johane), Richard Dillane (Suffolk), Will Kane (Cranmer), Kate Phillips (Jane Seymour), Aimee-Ffion Edwards (Elizabeth Barton),

We’d be forgiven for thinking we’d had enough of Henry VIII.  How many have there been?  Charles Laughton, Robert Shaw, Richard Burton and Keith Michell (four times!!!), we all know them, they were memorable.  Not forgetting The Tudors, but we’ll leave the final apologies to cover what was wrong with that; what Wolf Hall gave us was the antidote to The Tudors; no sex or bodice ripping here, no time for that nonsense. Continue Reading »


Brilliant and electrifying British film, 71, set in Belfast during IRA-British army violence


by Sam Juliano

Still no reprieve from snow, ice and the coldest winter in many a year, though as I’ve noted before we on the East coast have nothing on the much maligned Bostonians and mid-westerners, who have been chosen as the prime targets in this ultimate demonstration of arctic rage.  Some in the know are predicting a very cold March as well.

As mentioned on last week’s Monday Morning Diary, Allan Fish has returned after a lengthy health related absence, but he’s as good as new, and his latest writings have confirmed he has lost even a tenth of a stride.

For the very first time I am announcing the earliest stages of the ‘Best Films About Childhood’ project that we are projecting will commence sometime in May.  Specific rules and propositions will be send out to the film blogger e mail network in the coming weeks, and each participant will be asked to choose their own Top 50 in numerical order.  As was the case with all our previous countdowns, tabulation will be followed by review assignments.  We are presently thinking that the countdown will be a 50 film affair, running ten weeks.  But no firm decisions have yet been made. Continue Reading »

nwf 1

by Allan Fish

(UK 2014 75m) DVD2

I peered into hell

p  Sally Angel, Brett Ratner, Stephen Frears  d  Andre Singer  w  Lynette Singer  ph  Arik Leibovich, Stephen Miller  m  Nicholas Singer  narrated by  Helena Bonham Carter

On showing Andre Singer’ potent documentary on Channel 4 the broadcaster made the decision to show the film without interruption from commercials.  It was a deference to the subject and there had been a precedent; the Holocaust episode of The World at War was also shown without breaks.  Breaks in 1974 would have just been one break of four minutes with less offensive adverts.  In 2015, we we’d cut from the emotional heartbreak of a survivor’s interview to cut to an old Scottish man with bad sight shearing his sheepdog to demonstrate he should have gone to Specsavers.  In the seventy years since the events depicted the survivors still cannot forget.  In the forty years since The World at War, the world millions fought and died for has sold its soul to crass commercialism. Continue Reading »

john grant

With our terrific friend, the talented author John Grant (Paul Barnett) and his wife Pam at Joey’s in Hewitt



HOPE AND GLORY director John Boorman at Film Forum on Wednesday night for a Q & A of his fabulous new film QUUEN AND COUNTRY


by Sam Juliano

Allan Fish is back, and this is cause for celebration for all of us here at Wonders in The Dark!  Physically he is rebounding wonderfully, and he is back on the movie trail.  The very best news in a very long time, and a time to give thanks!!

The Oscar show was a mixed bag.  Birdman is a very good film for sure, but definitely not more deserving than Boyhood nor Selma, and the results of the entire marathon presentation were so predictable.  I managed to win my own Oscar pool at our annual party attended by over 30, with 21 of 24 correct predictions, but the year wasn’t very challenging.  The best aspects of the show were the speeches by Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore and the screenwriter of The Imitation Game, and Lady Gaga’s buffo rendition of the songs from The Sound of Music.

It was great to connect with my great friend, site regular and author John Grant (Paul Barnett) and his lovely wife Pam at Joey’s in Hewitt, New Jersey on Friday night for a chat at the musical show performed by singer and guitarist Gene Focarelli.  Just a wonderful time with dear friends, with all but Melanie in attendance.  the food was fine, and the music -song standards from the 60’s and 70’s- excellent.

We all got to see renowned film director John Boorman at the screening of his new film Queen and Country on Wednesday night.  The 82 year-old director, offered up some fabulous deadpan humor during his introduction and Q & A after the showing.  We had seen his masterpiece Hope and Glory two nights earlier on Monday.  On Saturday night we saw a double feature in the Charles Laughton Film Festival, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables:   Continue Reading »

iaros 1

by Allan Fish

(UK 1947 92m) DVD2

A score of roller-skates 

p  Henry Cornelius  d  Robert Hamer  w  Angus MacPhail, Henry Cornelius, Robert Hamer  novel  Arthur la Bern  ph  Douglas Slocombe  ed  Michael Truman  m  Georges Auric  art  Hal Mason, Duncan Sutherland

Googie Withers (Rose Sandigate), John McAllum (Tommy Swann), Jack Warner (Det. Sgt.Fothergill), Edward Chapman (John Sandigate), Jimmy Hanley (Whitey), Sidney Tafler (Morry Hyams), Susan Shaw (Vi Sandigate), Patricia Plunkett (Doris Sandigate), Betty Ann Davies (Sadie Hyams), John Slater (Lou Hyams), Alfie Bass (Dicey Perkins), Vida Hope (Mrs Wallis), Hermione Baddeley (Doss house keeper), Edie Martin (Mrs Watson), Michael Howard (Slopey Collins), Meier Tzelniker (Sollie Hyams),

Welcome to the battered, bombed-out remnants of London (Bethnal Green to be precise) in the aftermath of the war; a time when the party of VE Day was giving way to the decade long hangover of further rationing, organised crime and poverty not worthy of so-called victors.  It’s also a time when Britain was going the way of Hollywood and entering the world of noir; 1947 also brought They Made me a Fugitive, an underrated little film in its own right, and the immortal Brighton Rock.  For years, Sunday was dismissed as dated, like an extended EastEnders for the 1940s; indeed, one can imagine old stalwarts like Lou Beale, Ethel Skinner and Dot Cotton growing up in environs just like these here.  It should not have been so easily dismissed. Continue Reading »


© 2015 by James Clark

There is a scene, in Kubrick’s film, Barry Lyndon (1975), which offers, within the work’s encompassing an avalanche of distemper, a moment of palpable equilibrium. A British soldier in Germany during the Seven Years War (1756-1763), namely, Raymond Barry, disguised as an officer in the course of deserting (hopefully to the neutral haven of Holland), encounters a young woman living in a farm cottage nearby and left alone with her child due to her husband’s having been swept up in the chaotic warfare. Barry, still redolent of his sweet Irish ways, is accorded a meal and then a few days of love with the keeper of the home fires, a transaction in bloom with gentle recognition of the fragility of existence. “It must be hard for you to be alone.”/ “It is… It must be very danger [the discourse sharing what English and German each can provide] for you to be in the War…” Before the encounter our protagonist is shown enlivened by his escape on horseback—a voice-over, by a narrator having heard of his misadventure after the fact, declaring (with Barry’s optics to confirm the point), “The open road… he vowed never again to fall from the rank of a gentleman…” The noble tone of the couple’s first dinner together (at a table bathed in golden candlelight enshrouded by pitch darkness) is sustained by her pristine question, “Would you like to stay with me for a few days?” and the simple touching of each other’s hand. Then he asks a question—innocent enough, but loaded with the volatility being glossed over by the flourish about constantly inhabiting a lofty rank—“Is the baby a boy or a girl?” In the eighteenth century that would mean to say (flying in the face of the ready confluence between them, just revealed), “Is this person active or passive?” The young mother tells him, “He’s a boy…” And despite the presumably blissful union onstream, as they share a poignant farewell and a kiss informed by strong and true affection, the keynote of action, with all its deathtraps, comes down like a cold, thick fog on that sparkling day. Continue Reading »


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