Archive for March, 2009

The first in our new bit of fun in which contributors/visitors to WitD send in pictures and you guys have to guess which film they’re from.  The prize will be absolutely nothing, just bragging rights until the next one.

Any with pictures you’d like to put up email them to rollo.tomassi@btinternet.com

This one from Tony d’Ambra, not that you need telling when you see it as the suspect list had only two on it…clue – it isn’t a musical 🙂



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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1953 135m) DVD1/2

Aka. Tokyo Monogatari

Isn’t life disappointing?                           

Takeshi Yamamoto  d  Yasujiro Ozu  w  Yasujiro Ozu, Hogo Noda  ph  Yuharu Atsuta  ed  Yoshiyasu Hamamura  m  Kojun Saito  art  Tatsuo Hamada

Chishu Ryu (Shukishi Hirayama), Chieko Higashiyama (Tomi Hirayama), Setsuko Hara (Noriko), Haruko Sugimura (Shige Kaneko), Nobuo Nakamura (Kurazo Kaneko), So Yamamura (Koichi), Kuniko Miyaki, Eijiro Tono, Kyoko Kagawa, Shiro Osaka,

Indeed.  That quote sounds more like something out of a Mike Leigh drama; one can imagine it issuing from the mouth of a Timothy Spall or a Lesley Manville with ease, yet it’s from Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story.  Ozu’s masterpiece is a film not only about migration to the city, but about man’s inherent neglect of our parents in old age.  It was also a thoroughly refreshing No 1 in John Walker’s “Halliwell’s Top 1,000.”

            Shukishi and Tomi are an elderly couple living in a small Japanese coastal town whose children have, with the exception of a daughter who works as a schoolteacher, gone to the big city, one of whom was killed in military service. When they go to see their children and grand-children in the big city they are treated, if not coldly, then as an embarrassment, to be entertained, ushered away and kept from view.  (more…)

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Please can someone tell Mr Juliano what the header picture is that has been up for some time.  He had it in his head it was from a de Mille film, which I found hysterically funny.  Put him out of his misery, so he can go and put himself up against a wall.

Answers on a comment?

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1958 128m) DVD1/2

I want you to follow my wife

p  Alfred Hitchcock  d  Alfred Hitchcock  w  Alec Coppel, Samuel Taylor  novel  “D’entre les Morts” by Pierre Bioleau, Thomas Narcejac  ph  Robert Burks  ed  George Tomasini  m  Bernard Herrmann  art  Hal Pereira, Henry Bumstead  cos  Edith Head  tit  Saul Bass

James Stewart (John “Scottie” Ferguson), Kim Novak (Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton), Barbara Bel Geddes (Midge), Tom Helmore (Gavin Elster), Henry Jones (Coroner), Raymond Bailey (Doctor), Ellen Corby (Manageress), Konstantin Shayne (Pop Leibel),

Vertigo is a film that still splits critical opinion to this day.  Barry Norman dislikes it and I certainly can’t say that I particularly like it.  Yet it’s one that gnaws at you, disorients you, distorts reality and ultimately leaves you as dizzy as the central protagonist.  It’s not a perfect film, but I find it hard to disagree with Leonard Maltin when he said Vertigo was “a genuinely great motion picture that demands multiple viewings.”  Each viewing gives you an extra piece to the puzzle.  Some day, you’ll see the big picture.  Though many might say that a film that can only be truly understood after multiple viewings is hardly the essence of cinema, I disagree.  Like the seemingly possessed painting of Carlotta Valdés in the museum, you come back to it again and again and look at it in different angles, in different moods.  It really does merit it.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

By any standard of measurement Kenji Mizoguchi must surely be considered among the masters of cinema.  He’s one of four Japanese directors to be so regarded, along with Yashujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa and Mikio Naruse.  He was amazingly prolific, considering he lived to be only 58, dying in 1956 of a rare form of leukemia.  He made 85 films, most of these between 1922 and 1935, (all but six of these are lost) but is known in the west for about a half-dozen films coming late in his career that are considered masterpieces by film scholars, critics and audiences.  Like John Ford, Mizoguchi once headed the vast union governing all production personnel in Japan, and he liked to consider himself as popular as much as a serious artist, but during his storied career is was unrelentingly meticulous and a ceaseless researcher.  He is said to have been tyrannical over his actors, as he sought perfection demanded by few other artists including Dreyer, Bresson and Hitchcock.  He saw his later films as the culmination of many years’ work, his style evolving from one in which a set of tableaux were photographed from an imperial distance and then cut together to one in which the camera moves between two moments of balance, beginning with the movements of a character, then coming to rest at its own proper point.      (more…)

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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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by Allan Fish

(USA 1952 102m) DVD1/2

Monumental Pictures Presents

p  Arthur Freed  d/ch  Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen  w  Betty Comden, Adolph Green  ph  Harold Rosson  ed  Adrienne Fazan  md  Lennie Hayton  m/ly  Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown  art  Cedric Gibbons, Randall Duell  cos  Walter Plunkett

Gene Kelly (Don Lockwood), Debbie Reynolds (Kathy Selden), Donald O’Connor (Cosmo Brown), Jean Hagen (Lina Lamont), Millard Mitchell (R.F.Simpson), Rita Moreno (Zelda Zanders), King Donovan (Rod), Cyd Charisse (Dancer), Douglas Fowley (Roscoe Dexter), Madge Blake (Dora Bailey), Tommy Farrell (Sid Phillips), Kathleen Freeman (Phoebe Dinsmore), Robert Watson, Mae Clarke, Dawn Addams,

Singin’ in the Rain is one of those films that finally convinces me that my generation is myopic.  If you asked your everyday film buff what Singin’ in the Rain meant to them, it’s a fair bet to say about 50% of them will say that it was sung by Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.  The fact is that musicals are dead, but not because they aren’t still popular; Chicago won best picture, Evita did alright, too, and Joss Whedon’s musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was universally acclaimed, but they represent a stagy form of musicals, based on or inspired by Broadway productions.  Real musicals are from that golden age of the studio system where studios had stars and technicians under contract and musicals were churned out like factory produce.  At MGM, producer Arthur Freed headed a mini studio within a studio and, following the success of An American in Paris, he handed himself carte blanche for his next production, which was to be a movie satire including the back catalogue of songs written by Freed with Nacio Herb Brown.  It didn’t sound promising, but what resulted was the greatest musical ever made.  Period. (more…)

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by Jennifer Boulden

Much to my surprise, the magic of Watchmen never happened for me. It did not happen for me with the graphic novel, and it most definitely did not happen for me with the film.

I was sure it would, for one of them at least. I’ve read so much about what a dizzying accomplishment the graphic novel was, marrying hard intellectualism to dark artistry, subverting every superhero-or even regular hero-cliché it could find to subvert, broaching topics from rape and torture to geopolitics and nuclear proliferation with an unflinching eye, and weaving together a piecemeal narrative from wildly disparate and unconventional elements in a startlingly complex feat of structural engineering. It sounded great.

I’d read this, heard this over and over. I’d known dozens people who loved it and I knew of countless critics’ praise and hushed respect for Alan Moore’s groundbreaking accomplishment, named one of the greatest novels ever written. The implication surrounding it often seemed to be that if you didn’t enjoy it, you were superficial, shallow, naïve, sheltered, stupid, or else just not paying close enough attention. I definitely didn’t want to be among those; I wanted to be one of those geeky gals who got it.

When I started reading Watchmen, I was indeed amazed at how well it was drawn and how confident the narrative voi ce was, especially as it veered off in unpredictable directions each time I started to get comfortable with a segment. I liked the idea of superheroes as just ordinary people with skewed self-identities and a penchant for dressing up to fight crime. I appreciated the inevitable and unenviable ethical quandaries that would ensue with a rash of masked vigilantes doing law and order’s dirty work. I was somewhat puzzled by Moore’s need to also integrate Dr. Manhattan, the godlike once-man with a supreme command of physics and a supremely detached view of humanity-into a story that already seemed to have enough meat to chew on, but, whatever. It’s his story. I can let him tell it. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1952 141m) DVD1/2

Swing low, sweet Kanji

d  Akira Kurosawa  w  Hideo Oguni, Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa  ph  Asaichi Nakai  ed  Akira Kurosawa  m  Fumio Hayasaka  art  So Matsuyama

Takashi Shimura (Kanji Watanebe), Nobuo Kaneko (Mitsuo), Kyoko Seki (Kazue), Makoto Kobori (Kiiche),

Ikiru is probably Akira Kurosawa’s least typical film, the sort normally associated with Yasujiro Ozu.  Yet this is not a film wrapped up in Japanese custom; Kurosawa’s western influences are well in evidence and it’s not Chishu Ryu playing the lead but Kurosawa’s own Takashi Shimura.  Arguably Kurosawa’s greatest achievement, it allows its narrative to unfold slowly non-linearly, and doesn’t feel a jot too long at well over two hours. 

            Kanji Watanabe has worked in the same governmental department for thirty years without getting anything out of his job.  He is ridiculed by his underlings, one of whom innocently enough nicknames him The Mummy, as he’s acted dead for twenty years.  Then, after a routine check up at the doctor’s, he comes to realise he has stomach cancer and that he has well under a year to live.  At first, he goes off with a bohemian author to get drunk, and then spends another day with a young girl in his office who has just resigned.  But neither give his life meaning or satisfy him and, realising his son no longer has love or respect for him, he contemplates his life and its worthlessness and tries to make a difference in his last remaining months.  He uses his job to obtain a plot of land and turns it into a playground with swings for children.  Upon its completion, alone on his swing, he dies peacefully in the snow. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1955 121m) DVD2

Aka. Ukigumo

We’ll always have Dalat

p  Masumi Fujimoto  d  Mikio Naruse  w  Yoko Mizuki  novel  Fumiko Hayashi  ph  Masaro Tamai  ed  m  Ichiro Saito  art  Satoru Chuko

Hideko Takamine (Yukiko Koda), Masayuki Mori (Kengo Tomioka), Mariko Okada (Osei), Deisuke Kato (Seikichi), Isao Yamakata (Sugio Iba), Chieko Nakakita (Kuniko), Mayari Mokusho (Aya), Noriko Sengoku (Nobu), Fuyuki Mutakami (Makita), Nobuo Kaneko (Kano), Heihachiro Okawa (doctor),

If ever a film summed up the career and indeed the outlook of Mikio Naruse, this would have to be it.  Though Late Chrysanthemums and When a Woman Ascends the Stairs have been more readily accessible to audiences in recent times, Floating Clouds was always regarded as his masterpiece by the minority in the know.  It appeared on several best film lists of leading critics both at the time of the cinema’s centennials and at the turn of the millennium, when such selections were in vogue.  It was quite right to be so highly placed, for it belongs in the pantheon with the best of Japanese cinema. 

            Yukiko and Kengo have a love affair during the war when both find themselves stationed on a less fiery outpost in Indo-China.  After the war, however, in 1946, when they meet up, they cannot admit to wanting a future together.  They recall the happy days of their affair, but they drift apart into various aborted relationships and become more and more resigned to their fate.  When Kengo has an affair with the young wife of a married man, matters are complicated by Yukiko’s pregnancy and by the death of the young girl, Osei.  Haunted by her, Kengo cannot commit himself to Yukiko and again they seem fated to be apart. (more…)

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