Archive for February, 2009


by Allan Fish

(France 1956 102m) DVD1/2

Aka. Un Condamné a Mort s’est échappé

Two steel spoons

p  Jean Thullier, Alain Poire  d/w  Robert Bresson  articles  André Devigny  ph  Léonce-Henry Burel  ed  Raymond Lamy  m  “Mass in C.Minor” by W.A.Mozart  art  Pierre Charbonnier

François Letterier (Lt.Fontaine), Charles le Clainche (François Jost), Roland Monod (De Leiris, the pastor), Maurice Beerblock (Blanchet), Jacques Ertaud (Orsini), Jean-Paul Delhumeau (Hebrard),

Forget all thoughts of The Captive Heart, Stalag 17 and The Great Escape, this is the greatest POW film (okay, maybe La Grande Illusion excepted).  Yet there’s no internal camaraderie, no carols at Chrimbo, no tunnelling at night and emptying dirt through pockets in the morning, no informers and no friendly German guards.  Bresson’s protagonist tries to escape not because it’s the soldier’s duty to attempt escape, but because he has to escape to survive.  As a member of the captured Resistance, he’s effectively on death row. 

            Lieutenant Fontaine has been captured for sabotage work after blowing up a crucial bridge.  Awaiting his sentence he is sent to a secure prison camp and given one of a row of solitary cells, only two by three metres in size.  He only has brief contact with the other prisoners and concentrates every effort into attempting to escape while awaiting his inevitable death sentence, but comes to realise that he needs an accomplice to help him succeed.  Who can he trust? (more…)


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by Sam Juliano

While the 1950’s are rightly known as the decade where the term “art house” really came into being, and a period that produced some of the greatest musicals and strong sociological statements from Hollywood, it is also a time when science fiction and low-budget horror made its mark.  Films like Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, Howard Hawks’s The Thing, and Fred M. Willcox’s Forbidden Planet were seminal and influential works in their genre, while horror films like Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon, Hammer studio’s Dracula, and camp cheapies like William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill, were all the popular rage.  Films like Roger Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters seemed to blend characteristic elements of both genres, adding to the mix an unmistakable strain of tongue-in-cheek humor. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

next up in the World War I commemorative series…

(USA 1957 86m) DVD1/2

Do not be afraid to ask for credit for our way of refusing is very polite…

p  James B.Harris  d  Stanley Kubrick  w  Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson  novel  Humphrey Cobb  ph  Georg Krause  ed  Eva Kroll  m  Gerald Fried  art  Ludwig Reiber

Kirk Douglas (Col.Dax), Ralph Meeker (Cpl.Paris), Adolphe Menjou (Gen.Broulard), George Macready (Gen.Mireau), Wayne Morris (Lt.Roget), Joseph Turkel (Pvt.Arnoud), Timothy Carey (Pvt.Ferol), Richard Anderson (Maj.Saint-Auban), Emile Meyer (Priest), Peter Capeli (Col.Judge), Suzanne Christian (Girl), Bert Freed, Harold Benedict,

…and do not be afraid to go over the top, because if you don’t, we’ll shoot you anyway.  When people come to discuss that most arbitrary, futile and, in some respects, distasteful subject of what the worst war in memory is or was, answers vary according to age, country and creed.  This will always be the case and it is perfectly understandable.  To everyone brought up during or, worse still, fighting through a war, that war is the worst in history.  One thinks even now of C.Aubrey Smith in The Four Feathers berating the younger generation that the Crimea was when “war was war and men were men.”  He knew no better either.  But in reality, with the deepest respects to the fallen of all other modern wars, when I think of war I cannot help but think of the so-called Great War.  Never have more men been lost in so short a period of time for seemingly no purpose while actually taking part in military battles.  And for me, Paths of Glory showed the reason for this better than any film before or since. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Sweden 1957 93m) DVD1/2

Aka. Smultronstället

1957: A Human Odyssey

p  Allan Ekelund  d/w  Ingmar Bergman  ph  Gunnar Fischer, Bjorn Thermenius  ed  Eric Rosander  m  Erik Nordgren  art  Gittan Gustaffson

Victor Sjöstrom (Prof.Isak Borg), Ingrid Thulin (Marianne Borg), Bibi Andersson (Sara), Naima Wifstrand (Isak’s mother), Gunnar Björnstrand (Evald Borg), Julian Kindahl (Agda), Folke Sundquist (Anders), Björn Bjelvenstam (Viktor), Gunnel Bröstrom (Berit Almann), Gertrud Fridh (Isak’s wife), Max Von Sydow (Petrol attendant),

So what does Bergman have to do with Kubrick?  Superficially, not much, but there are undoubted subliminal similarities.  Both Bergman’s fifties masterpiece and Kubrick’s sci-fi paragon question where we come from, where we go to, and the very notion of death.  Like in many Bergman films, dreams play a large part, at times uncannily drifting between reality and the subconscious.  Yet we are never made to feel disoriented by Bergman’s approach.  It may have its roots in the vast landscape of the human memory, but it’s easy to empathise with both the elderly hero and Bergman himself.

Isak Borg is a 78 year old retired professor who is on his way to Lund cathedral to receive an honorary degree for his services to science.  His companion for the journey is his beautiful daughter-in-law, Marianne, and on the way he recounts not only how his life has lead him to this point, but how it might have been different.  Along the way, he gives a lift to a young girl, her intended and a chaperone (who also has feelings for the girl).  Borg’s memories once more rekindled by the uncanny resemblance between the girl and the cousin he once loved. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1950 87m) DVD1/2

Stories in the rain

p  Jingo Minuora  d  Akira Kurosawa  w  Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto  story  “Inside a Bush” by Ryonosuke Akutagawa  ph  Kazuo Miyagawa  ed  uncredited  m  Fumio Hayasaka  art  H.Motsumoto   

Toshiro Mifune (Tajomaru), Machiko Kyo (Masago), Masayuki Mori (Takehiro), Takashi Shimura (firewood dealer), Minoru Chiaki (priest), Kichijiro Ueda (commoner),

There are very few films in history that can truly be said to have become a word in themselves; Rashomon-like being a term applied to a plot that shows a tale in the past tense and from more than one angle.  In the case of Rashomon itself, four ways, a method repeated in the awful US remake, The Outrage and, coincidentally or not, in the 1957 musical Les Girls.  It opened doorways with regards to the restructure of cinematic narrative, quite appropriately considering the Rashomon of the title was a medieval gate.

            In 11th century Japan, three men – a priest, a woodcutter and a commoner – gather under the ruins of the eponymous gate to shelter from the rain storm.  The commoner finds the priest and the woodcutter shell-shocked and learns that they have been discussing the events of a few days previously that they have been party to.  They relate the tale of how a famous bandit, Tajomaru, happened across a samurai, Takehiro, and his seemingly virtuous young bride, Masago, deep in the woods.  With Takehiro found dead, all three relate their side of the tale (Takehiro by way of a medium), but is it the woodcutter, who saw everything unseen, who really knows the truth? (more…)

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(“The Oscars @ Interview)…. My Interview with Sam Juliano, From Over There at Wonders in the Dark….

Good-Morning! fellow bloggers and Wonders in the Dark, readers, this morning I am so happy that the proprietor of, Wonders in the Dark, and fellow blogger Sam Juliano, took the time out of his very busy schedule to sit down and talk with me over a cup of coffee and croissant(s) about how his interest in the cinema began….

Dee Dee: Welcome! Sam Juliano, what a pleasure it is for me to meet you, (I reach to shake… Sam Juliano, hand…) please sit down and…Let me begin by asking you the first question that I ask all my guest and that is… Can you please tell me a little about your blog,
Wonders in the Dark?

Sam Juliano: First of all, Dee Dee, it is my honor to sit down with you. You have been gracing so many blogs with your ceaseless effervescence and good will, not to mention humility and passion. I was moved when you asked me to join with you in covering the Oscars this month, and a number of readers at both blogs have enjoyed the coverage.

Dee Dee: I’am not so sure about my blog, but I ‘am quite sure about yours, methinks, that you are developing a loyal readership and several new friends along the way. But, thank-you, just the same for the very generous compliment.

Sam, excuse me, please continue when was “Wonders in the Dark” launched….Wonders in the Dark was launched late in September by yours truly and my dear friend Allan Fish, who lives in the U.K, (Allan, has written well over 1,200 reviews in a film book.) (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(France/Italy 1953 148m) DVD1/2

Aka. Le Salaire de la Peur

Waltz of death

p  Henri-Georges Clouzot  d  Henri-Georges Clouzot  w  Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jerome Geronimi  novel  Georges Arnaud  ph  Armand Thirard  ed  Henri Rust, Madeleine Gug, Etiennette Muse  m  Georges Auric  art  René Renoux

Yves Montand (Mario), Charles Vanel (Jo), Peter Van Eyck (Bimba), Folco Lulli (Luigi), Vera Clouzot (Linda), William Tubbs (Bill O’Brien), Dario Moreno (Hernandez), Jo Dest (Smerloff), Antonio Centa (camp chief), Luis de Lima (Bernardo),

If you asked your average filmgoer which film comes to mind when he hears Strauss’ immortal ‘Blue Danube Waltz’, you can be fairly safe in your assumption that about 90% of them would pick Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The odd buff who may be old Hollywood minded might recall the background music in Grand Hotel, or even, for those with a real memory, Cukor’s Holiday.  Yet I, though occasionally thinking of Kubrick or Grant and Hepburn’s slow music-box waltz at New Year, generally think of this, Clouzot’s masterpiece of tension from the early fifties. 

            In the Central American outpost of Las Pedras, drop-outs of assorted nationalities congregate on a crossroads to nowhere.  Italians, French, Spanish, Mexican, German, English or American, it matters little here.  The only nationality of note is that of anonymity, of hitting rock bottom.  However, a pay out opportunity comes when an oilfield disaster occurs that requires desperate remedies.  $2,000 is put up as payment for those willing to take the chance.  The downside is that the job is driving trucks over 300 miles of rough roads to the oilfields with nothing less than nitro-glycerine onboard (uncannily recalling Richard Barthelmess’ flight in Only Angels Have Wings in a not too dissimilar location).  Of a handful who take driving tests to prove their worthiness, four eventually make the journey; an Italian, a German, and two Frenchmen – one older Parisian and a younger Corsican. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(France 1959 99m) DVD1/2

Aka. The Four Hundred Blows

I want to live my own life

p  Georges Charlot  d/w  François Truffaut  ph  Henri Decaë  ed  Marie-Joseph Yoyotte  m  Jean Constantin  art  Bernard Evein

Jean-Pierre Léaud (Antoine Doinel), Claire Maurier (Mme.Doinel), Albert Rémy (Mons.Doinel), Guy Decombie (teacher), Patrick Auffay (René Bigey), Georges Flament (Mons.Bigey), Yvonne Claudie (Mme.Bigey), Robert Beauvais (director), Claude Mansard (magistrate), Jacques Monod (commissioner), Jeanne Moreau (woman chasing dog),

Though one gives nods to Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo, if one had to name one iconic face of the nouvelle vague it would be Jean-Pierre Léaud.  His career spanned the movement’s beginning, with this Truffaut masterpiece, and was still around for its death pangs with Eustache’s La Maman et la Putain.  In the interim, his character from Coups, Antoine Doinel, made four other appearances for Truffaut, taking him through to his mid thirties, but though all full of interest, they pale beside Truffaut’s astonishing debut.

            Antoine Doinel is a twelve year old boy who is continually punished for misdeeds at school, often when not his fault.  He has only one real friend, the fellow rebel René, and his parents regard him very much as an irritant.  Briefly his mother takes an interest in him on the proviso that his grades improve, but when his inspiration by Balzac for an essay is taken as plagiarism and he is sent to the director, he runs away.  Finally, he is caught with a stolen typewriter from his father’s place of work and is sent to a correctional institution from which he can only dream of one day escaping. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Italy 1954 105m) DVD1/2

Aka. The Road

All clowns are unhappy

p  Carlo Ponti, Dino de Laurentiis  d  Federico Fellini  w  Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli  ph  Otello Martelli  ed  Leo Cattozzo, Lina Caterini  m  Nino Rota  art  Mario Ravasco, E.Cervelli

Giulietta Masina (Gelsomina di Constanzo), Anthony Quinn (Zampano), Richard Basehart (Matto), Aldo Silvani, Marcello Rovena,

La Strada is a film that still provokes argument to this day.  Fellini enthusiasts bickering for over forty years on whether his later gargantuan pieces of semi-autobiography (such as ) are superior to the smaller scale, neo-realist influenced films of the fifties (such as I Vitelloni and Nights of Cabiria).  In truth, to truly appreciate Fellini’s genius, one must have it all, the small scale joys and the seemingly oversized but scathing later works.  They are all circus acts on the same bill, a bill comprised for over thirty years of Fellini’s oeuvre.  Certainly one cannot argue with Martin Scorsese when he said that, if you had to watch only one Fellini film to grasp his essence, it would have to be La Strada.

            Set in the years just after the war, itinerant strongman Zampano buys the half-witted daughter of a war widow for 10,000 lire to teach her to be his assistant.  Thus sold into effective slavery, she follows him with a childish sense of adventure, a sense of adventure sadly checked by Zampano’s brutality.  However, the couple soon run into a rival attraction, the tightrope walker known as the Fool, and Gelsomina befriends him instantly, as they share the same sense of wonder. (more…)

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Sam Juliano’s Prediction For “Best Picture” of 2009….

Sam’s Best Picture Prediction:With a leading 13 total nominations The Curious Case of Benjamin Button would under ordinary circumstances stand an excellent chance at taking the big prize. The film, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, is the kind of film that Oscar voters rally behind; it’s a sweeping emotional fantasy that is beautiful to look at, and it’s Alexander Desplat score is gorgeous. Yet, it appears that Button has no chance for the big prize, due to another film’s powerful grip on voters’ sensibilities. Still, it’s extremely likely the David Fincher-directed drama will draw the second most votes on this shortlist. As alluded to on the director’s thread, Frost/Nixon is a category “filler” and poses no threat of any kind.

It’s likely this Ron Howard adaptation of a successful Broadway play will finish dead last in the balloting. It’s placement in the top five has drawn much derision on internet blogs and truth be said, the animated gem Wall-E should have been here in Frost/Nixon’s place. Winner of the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Picture, Gus Van Sant’s biopic of the slain gay activist Harvey Milk entitled Milk has been a critic’s group’s darling since it’s release, and there’s a tiny fraction (and I mean miniscule) who are thinking it’s capable of pulling an upset, especially as a kind of “pay-back” for the unexpected loss of Brokeback Mountain in 2005, a decision that enraged the gay community and even those outside of it. Like several other films here in this category though, I feel it has no chance to win.

Stephen Daldry’s The Reader is a ravishing and moving drama that internet bloggers have had a ball railing against, (partially over dislike for the film’s executive producer Harvey Weinstein) but the film was gloriously vindicated weeks ago when one of the world’s most distinguished film scholars, the great David Thomson declared The Reader is easily the best film of 2008. Others in addition to Thomson have also praised it, but it has it’s share of enemies too. It’s Holocaust theme surely helped to propel the film to a very surprising nomination here in the big category, especially with the large Jewish vote in the Academy. That same vote gives the film a tiny shot at an upset, but similar to Milk, it simply won’t happen. Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire is as sure to win as any film in modern times. It’s a prohibitive favorite, and has previously been named Best Picture by more critics’ groups nationwide than any other film; it captured the Golden Globe for Best Picture Drama, it won the coveted Producer’s Guild Award; won the DGA for Boyle, and won the BAFTA two weeks ago from the British Academy. The feel-good movie has really struck a nerve with critics and audiences, and it’s win on Sunday night is simply a foregone conclusion.

[Sam Juliano’s Personal Choice: The Reader]
[Sam Juliano’s Predicted To Win:  Slumdog Millionaire]

[Alexander Coleman’s from over there at Coleman’s Corner in Cinema]

Best Picture Prediction: Although there have been theories about a Benjamin Button upset in recent days, the one film to win the Scripter, Golden Globe, Critics Choice Award, Screen Actors Guild for Best Ensemble (a dubious victory in the face of Milk and Doubt that demonstrates just how well-loved this film appears to be), the Ace Editing Award, the BAFTA Award, Cinema Audio Society, the Directors Guild Award and a host of other “precursors.”

It would be a shock of Brokeback Mountain proportions if Slumdog Millionaire were to somehow lose Best Picture–which means that it is a possibility. But estimating the Best Picture race makes it apparent that Slumdog Millionaire is easily the favorite for the Best Picture Oscar.

The Nominees:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

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