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Archive for October 14th, 2008

by Sam Juliano

Nyack native and Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme is essentially a man of the stage, and for a number of years has been the driving force behind a community theatre in this rustic community near the Tappan Zee Bridge along the Hudson.  He has also been known as a philanthropist, and a pillar of his artistic circle of friends and colleagues.  He runs a special film series at the Jacob Burns Film Center of movies that are tabbed as “hard to find” or obscure.  Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend a Wednesday evening screening of Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard, Balthazar, and I contributed a question on roving microphone about Bresson’s patented used of naturalistic sound in his films.  Humbly and with great appreciation the famed director made you feel like you really had made a major contribution to the discourse.  Demme’s endearing sensibilities, which were first evidenced in the feature that launched his intermittent filmmaking career, Melvin and Howard (1980), went on sabbatical in the middle years, when films like The Silence of the Lambs, a grisly horror film that achieved spectacular critical and box-office success, gave the reserved director the enviable privilege of picking any of his upcoming projects.  He made a slew of documentaries (music was his favorite subject), of which Stop Making Sense, Swimming To Cambodia and Neil Young: Heart of Gold are best.  He achieved moderate success with the fiction film Married to the Mob, and his Philadelphia, which followed Lambs, and won Tom Hanks the first of two Academy Awards, was closer to the director’s sphere of interest, regardless of the flawed presentation that came of it.  Recently, he received bad notices for his remake of The Manchurian Candidate, and more than a few figured his filmmaking career may have run its course. (more…)

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Sansho Dayu *****

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1954 125m) DVD1/2

Aka. Sansho the Bailiff

When will your children be home?

p  Masaichi Nagata  d  Kenji Mizoguchi  w  Fuji Yahiro, Yoshikata Yoda  novel  Ogai Mori  ph  Kazuo Miyagawa  ed  Mitsuji Miyata  m  Fumio Hayasaka  art  Kasaku Ito

Yoshiaki Hanayagi (Zushio), Kyoko Kagawa (Anju), Kinuyo Tanaka (Tamaki), Eitaro Shindo (Sansho), Akitaka Kono (Taro), Masao Shimizu (Masauji Taira), Ken Mitsuda (P.M.Morozane Fujiwara), Chieko Naniwa (Ubatake), Kikue Mori (Priestess), Kazukimi Okuni (Norimura), Masahiko Kato, Keiko Enami,

Akira Kurosawa always referred to Mizoguchi as the greatest Japanese director.  Many critics have agreed with him over the years and, though the great man directed numerous great films before his untimely death in 1956, this final masterpiece is arguably his finest achievement, long overshadowed by Ugetsu Monogatari released the previous year, but at the very least its equal.  In the same year Kurosawa released The Seven Samurai, Mizoguchi was making a radically different analysis of the lot of the peasant in feudal Japan. 

            In the Japan of the 11th century, when “the majority of the people were considered less than human“, an official is exiled after he incurs the wrath of ministers for his trying to stop the exploitation of the peasant class.  Seven years later, his wife and children set out to follow him, but they are attacked by bandits and, as the mother is taken away to begin life as a prostitute on Sado Island, the children are sold off into slavery at the hands of the merciless bailiff, Sansho.  Years later, the children – still in slavery – are now 23 and 18 respectively and the young girl persuades her elder brother to make a run for it without her.  Though he vows to come back for her, she realises her situation is hopeless and commits suicide.  Meanwhile, their mother anxiously awaits them daily, now crippled after an escape attempt of her own. (more…)

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