mom 1

by Allan Fish

(Canada 2014 138m) DVD1/

Selfie on a square screen

p  Nancy Grant, Xavier Dolan  d/w  Xavier Dolan  ph  André Turpin  ed  Xavier Dolan  m  Noia  art  Colombe Raby

Anne Dorval (Diana Després), Antoine-Olivier Pilon (Steve Després), Suzanne Clément (Kyla), Patrick Huard (Paul), Alexandre Goyette (Patrick), Michéle Lituac (director of centre), Viviane Pascal (Marthe), Natalie Hamel-Roy (Natacha),

Back in 2008, an Irish film was released that got little attention outside of the Emerald Isle, but which comes flooding back to memory upon watching Xavier Dolan’s Cannes Prix Jury winner.  On the surface they have little in common, except in a single artistic decision made by the director.  The film was Lance Daly’s Kisses, a tale of two kids, boy and girl, living in the slums on the outskirts of Dublin – who run away from their respective domestic hells to the city centre.  It begins in steely monochrome, but no sooner have they mounted a canal barge to make their journey to the Emerald City, their world slowly – and I mean slowly – begins to discover its colour, until by the time they reach the city centre, the monochrome has entirely been dispelled.  Continue Reading »

Note: Here are six fabulous screen caps from the 1918 film ‘Cupid in Quarantine’, which were sent on to me on Tuesday from Marilyn Ferdinand.  The silent, is the subject of this year’s Film Preservation Blogathon, being run at Ferdy-on-Films, This Island Rod and Wonders in the Dark on May 17-17th.  The theme of the blogathon is ‘science-fiction.’  hence all those planning to participate are urged to prepare their review son a chosen sci-fi film imminently as the time ticks down to the 13th.




Continue Reading »

Eric Lampmann, saxophone (3)

Rutgers University’s principal saxophonist Eric Lampmann

by Sam Juliano

The lovely spring weather that has graced the Metropolitan area for the last two weeks seems to have finally marked its turf, with winter vanquished after a long and arduous haul.  On a personal note this couldn’t be more timely what with the three-day 8th Grade Washington D.C. slated for this coming Wednesday through Friday.  I will once again be on that venture, as will me daughter Jillian, whose year this is.  With the prohibitive walking involved, I have scheduled a cortisone shot for later today to enable me to proceed in view of my left knee torn miniscus.  I will have arthroscopic surgery for that later this month.  But I know the drill, as I had it done on the other knee nine years ago.  The worst part is actually the one month (three days a week) one-hour therapy sessions.

As we inch closer to two major events here at Wonders in the Dark, I want to offer up reminders to all.  The first -as advertised on the side-bar- in the Film Preservation Blogothon, being hosted by Marilyn Ferdinand and Roderick Heath at Ferdy on Films and This Island Rod respectively.  For the first time ever, WitD will be joining in as an honored guest with one day serving as the home base, during this honored May 13 through 17 endeavor.  All are urged to write a review on a science-fiction film and/or make a modest contribution to the cause.  When the blogothon concludes we will then focus our passions on the Best  Films About Childhood Countdown, which will commence with ballot submissions by all participants, starting at May 18th.  The actual countdown (Top 60) will begin on June 1st, after the ballots are received and tabulated by Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. during that two week window.

Lucille and I had a lively week for sure, taking in two marvelous musical venues on the college and high school level, and then following that up with a viewing of a new release and two unseen Tribeca films, which rolled over to the nearby up-and-coming Montclair Film Festival, where we will be tonight and tomorrow night as well.  At Rutgers University in New Brunswick on Saturday night we listened to the gifted young Eric Lampmann (Lucille’s sister’s youngest son) dazzle his audience with a saxophone and viola (piano accompaniment) recital that covered some famed classical composers including Bach.  This young man has quite a musical career ahead of him, this much is certain.  Meanwhile, earlier in the week on Thursday we attended the Paramus High School ‘Spring Concert’ to witness another young man with talent–the son of Lucille’s graduate school buddy Frank LaRose (Joshua) exercise his vocal talent with a splendid rendition of “La Donna e Mobile” from Verdi’s Rigoletto.  Some other high school seniors did a fine job, as did the jazz ensemble.   To boot on Sunday afternoon we attended a rousing First Holy Communion gala for my brother’s daughter Gianna at the Fiesta Restaurant in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey. Continue Reading »


by Allan Fish

(UK 1990-1998 1,710m) DVD2

Interlocking brain spaces in the work area 

p  Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin  d  Liddy Oldroyd, Andy Hamilton  w  Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin, etc.

Neil Pearson (Dave Charnley), Stephen Tompkinson (Damien Day), Jeff Rawle (George Dent), David Swift (Henry Davenport), Victoria Wicks (Sally Smedley), Robert Duncan (Gus Hedges), Susannah Doyle (Joy Merryweather), Ingrid Lacey (Helen Cooper), Haydn Gwynne (Alex Pates),

Coming back to Donkey nearly 20 years after it finally went off air, it wasn’t without some sense of trepidation.  After all, it was a show that built much of its humour on current affairs, a successor to the heritage of That Was the Week That Was, Spitting Image and Jasper Carrott.  How much laughter will be lost to memory of the events in question?  In reality it stands up remarkably well; partly because what they’re saying about current affairs and celebrities of the nineties can easily be transferred to a present day satire, partly because it blows away the insipid so-called newsroom insights of Broadcast News but essentially because at its heart it’s a study of office politics that prefigures The Office.

GlobeLink is a news service on an unspecified network.  The executive in charge, Gus, insists he’s not there but undermines everyone’s authority at every turn with his boss-speak garbage.  George is the official editor in chief, but couldn’t make a decision if his life depended on it, leaving the essential running of the day to day business to his deputy, Alex (later Helen).  To these add their roving newshound Damien, so ruthless he’d sell he’d burn his own parents at the stake for a story, and Dave, a serial philanderer addicted to gambling who sets up books in the office on the merest trifles.  Chief newsreader is Henry, a borderline alcoholic who thinks he’s still irresistible to women, and he shares his desk with Sally, a faux-posh former children’s TV presenter with the political acumen of a dead crab.  Finally, there’s Joy, acid-tongued PA, who spits venom at regular intervals and keeps a scorpion in her desk that she calls Sally.

Donkey is a literal time capsule of the 1990s, a series which caught the spirit of the zeitgeist on a weekly basis.  Yet the challenge of being as up to date and topical as possible made it a nightmare for the cast.  The first four series ended each episode with a couple of the cast talking over a news item, quite literally recorded at the last minute.  Yet even during the core episode the scripts were often delivered so late that the cast had no time to learn their lines so that prompters and cards had to be placed at strategic points on the set to allow them to be read.

By taking the newspaper headlines as their autocue, Hamilton and Jenkin would never run out of one-liner material and it maintained a steady stream of incisive humour across six series which still holds up today.  Much of the credit must go to the cast, who would always be associated with their GlobeLink alter egos.  Gwynne was missed when she left after two series, but Lacey was a worthy replacement, while Wicks and Duncan were part of the office furniture.  Pearson is a perfect office lothario, matched by Tompkinson’s Damien, speaking to his camera like a Machiavellian David Attenborough, the only reporter who could “find dead bodies before the vultures.”  Rawle is a hypochondriac joy as George, while Swift is a grouchy, combustible pleasure as Henry and Doyle is brilliant as the least appropriately named character in TV history.  Great quotes are ten a penny.  One recalls Alex reading a statement where the Iraqis call Thatcher “a grey-haired old hag with a canine voice who vomits poison like a spotted serpent” and Henry muttering “they’ll never get around her with flattery.”  Or there’s George pondering how the old East Germany would make the change from socialism to capitalism and Alex retorting “the Labour Party managed it.”  Or Henry on the rise in crime figures; “apparently that’s the fault of the general public for not being careful enough.  They’re going to start prosecuting mugging victims for going equipped to be beaten up or wilful bleeding on the pavement.”  A series scabrous enough to use copies of Whitaker’s almanac as bog roll, we’ll never see the like again.



burg 3

by Allan Fish

(UK 2014 104m) DVD1/2

Let’s see if you’ve done your job properly

p  Andrew Starke  d/w  Peter Strickland  ph  Nic Knowland  ed  Mathias Fekete  m  Cat’s Eyes  art  Pater Sparrow, Renato Cseh, Zsuzsa Mihalek  cos  Andrea Flesch  sound  Martin Pavey, Rob Entwistle

Sidse Babett Knudsen (Cynthia), Chiara d’Anna (Evelyn), Monica Swinn (Lorna), Fatma Mohamed (the carpenter), Kata Bartsch (Dr Lurida), Eugeni Caruso (Dr Fraxini),

Upon the release of his Berberian Sound Studio a few years ago, Peter Strickland was feted in many circles, especially by critics with a solid grounding in Italian horror and giallo.  Sound really was the key character in that film, and yet, while Toby Jones’ typically committed performance deserved all the praise levelled at it, the film itself tended to fade from memory even as one was watching it.  Intriguing, yes, but not yet visionary. Continue Reading »


 © 2015 by James Clark

      Mastery comes in many forms. A few nights ago we were rocked by a master at work, namely DeMar DeRozan. Who?! That night he put on a show the value of which could be doubted—but only by the blind. Professional basketball isn’t often included in avant-garde questions; nor, for that matter, are the films of Michael Mann. But let’s see if we can move the ball into that “new unknown” so palpably in the air but so hard to take seriously.

DeRozan’s righting that night a Raptor ship that had for weeks resembled a suicide/terror affair ineluctably headed for a murderous obstacle was a vivid case of shaking off protracted depressive blahs. The first 8 or 9 minutes our man of the moment was dogged but middling and generally easily squelched by a very good Houston Rockets quintet. His body language was more on the register of desperation than self-possessed poetry. But thereabouts the real DeMar smashed through that cockpit barrier and the sky became the limit. Kinetic dimensions of agility and authority (offensive and defensive) began to eclipse the ubiquitous and never-ending rock soundtrack rather mechanically groping for pizzazz. There was, for all to see (and possibly retain), a stunning enactment of self-control and precision lifting the proceedings to not only a fun victory but a fund of well-being going way beyond the NBA. (Pressed to play with few breaks, near the end of the game his now-exhausted performance became ragged—even free throws were missed, very rare for him. But a clinching 3-pointer in the last minute—he suspended in space, at one again with elementary particles—gave us to understand something unusual about the imperative of guts.

Whereas De Rozan’s patter in the post-game interview was standard jock taciturnity, the live-wires in Michael Mann’s Heat (1995), putting all their might into both career-level performance and careerist travesties, are seldom at a loss to articulate (for better or worse) a world-view so far from the optics and sonics of the history of planet Earth and yet deemed to be so necessary. A figure in that theatre of very big migration, master criminal, Neil McCauley, intones—almost in the function of a Zen chant—“Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel heat around the corner.” He flashes this proud shocker of a maxim (a sort of steroid-enhanced version of the old trench coat guy who would whip open his garb to reveal naughty pictures) in our presence on a couple of occasions. But I think the entryway to that self-serving bravado beckons to us during the instance of his right-hand man, Chris, being distraught and put off his game by conflict with his wife about his crime and gambling obsessions. Here Neil not only whips out the ruthless loner vision, but refers to it as having been the brainchild of another transgressor, Jimmy McIlrain. Chris had declared with good-old-boy sentiment (almost as if he were in the maelstrom of the actress [Ashley Judd] portraying his wife, Charlene, an implication in the country-western Judd franchise), “To me the sun rises and sets for her…” Thus, in such multiple setting in relief of an instinct to ape perhaps dubious players we are provided a means of fathoming this film’s in fact remarkable multi-media disclosure and coup. Continue Reading »




by Sam Juliano

Eleven days of glorious Tribeca madness, and the 2015 installment of this exceedingly popular Big Apple venue has concluded.  Lucille and I did have a whale of a time, even though our stamina took a major hit.  We watched a total of thirty-six (36) feature length films with this final weekend of five-six-five proving the most frantic sequence of all.  But in reality the festival is not quite over, when you consider that four or five of the Tribeca films I had wanted to see but couldn’t quite work them into an already wall to wall schedule  engineered around my full time teaching position, are now playing at the nearby Montclair Film Festival that is set to launch this coming Friday.  I have every intention of seeing the likes of Jackrabbit, Slow West, Dream/Killer, (T) error, and perhaps The Armour of Light and Kurt Cobain: the Montage of Heck over the first several days of the festival.  I will then be able to complete my “Best Films of Tribeca” post by next Monday.  With a doctor’s confirmation that I have a torn miniscus in my left knee, I know now the source of all my discomfort and pain over the last few months.  This issue will require orthroscopic surgery, but not until sometime in mid-May,m as I have a three-day Washington D.C. trip with the school set to go on May 6th.  I will resquire a shot of cortisone for the trip.

The Tribeca Festival included many highlights, but none more thrilling than meeting and shaking hands with Monty Python icon John Cleese and the rest of the troupe after a screening of The Life of Brian and before the presentation of the splendid documentary Monty Python: The Meaning of Live.  To futher the celebrity glee, we sat on the next table to the troupe at a Chealsea Restaurant.  This year’s Festival was a most impressive one artistically, and the star ratings and subsequent ‘Best Of’ post will reflect this happy re-cap.

The Festival for the most part was staged in three places: the sprawling Regal Cinemas near the World Trade Center, the Bow-Tie Cinemas on 23rd Street, and the SVA Theatre down the block from the Bow-Tie.  For a number of reasons the 23rd Street location were vastly preferred, but still we took in several vital films at the Regal, which does boast excellent screens and seating. Continue Reading »


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