Archive for April, 2009

Guess the pic…

Jon Lanthier opts for a touch of minimalism.



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by David Lean

(UK/USA 1962 221m) DVD1/2

Nothing is written

p  Sam Spiegel, David Lean  d  David Lean  w  Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson  ph  Frederick A.Young, Nicolas Roeg (2nd unit)  ed  Anne V.Coates  m  Maurice Jarre  art  John Box, John Stoll, Dario Simone  cos  Phyllis Dalton  sound  John Cox

Peter O’Toole (T.E.Lawrence), Omar Sharif (Sheriff Ali), Anthony Quinn (Auda Abu Tayi), Jack Hawkins (Gen.Allenby), Anthony Quayle (Col.Harry Brighton), Arthur Kennedy (Jackson Bentley), Alec Guinness (Prince Feisal), Claude Rains (Dryden), José Ferrer (Turkish Bey), Donald Wolfit (Gen.Murray), Michel Ray, Zia Mohyeddin, I.S.Johar, Clive Morton, Cyril Cusack, Howard Marion Crawford,

Lawrence of Arabia is a film so deified by the current Hollywood elite that it seems churlish to pick any holes in it.  For sure it’s the greatest film of Lean’s epic phase, a film of incredible visual beauty, intelligently scripted, exceptionally acted and dipped in the sort of majesty few films even aspire to, let alone achieve.  Yet though it may be worth his later efforts Doctor Zhivago, Ryan’s Daughter and A Passage to India put together, forgive me if I don’t yearn for his earlier, more linear and certainly leaner forties works.  (As one quipping critic put it, inside every Lean picture, there is a fat one wanting to get out.)  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Spain 1963 90m) DVD2 (Spain only, no English subs)

Aka. Not on Your Life; The Executioner

The future executioner

d  Luis Garcia Berlanga  w  Luis Garcia Berlanga, Rafael Azcona, Ennio Flaiano  ph  Tonino delli Colli  ed  Alfonso Santacana  m  Miguel Asins Arbo  art  José Antonio de la Guerra

Nino Manfredi (José Luis Rodriguez), Emma Penella (Carmen), José Isbert (Amadeo), José Luis López Vásquez (Antonio Rodriguez), Angel Alvarez (Alvarez), Guido Alberti (prison director), Maria Luisa Ponte (Estefania), Maria Isbert (Ignacia),

It’s one of the forgotten great films of the sixties.  I myself have only been able to view it very recently, and its reputation more than preceded it.  Despite the sixties alone offering such Spanish masterworks as Buñuel’s Viridiana and Saura’s The Hunt, native critics consistently named El Verdugo not only the greatest film of its director, but the best Spanish film of its decade and even of all time.  Take in what that means.  Better than anything made by Buñuel on Spanish soil (admittedly most of his best stuff was made in France or Mexico), better than anything by Edgar Neville, by Erice, by Almodóvar, by Medem, by anybody.  There was a danger of over-inflated expectations when I finally put the sought after DVD into my player.  It was quickly dispelled.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Italy/France/Algeria 1965 121m) DVD1/2

Aka. Maarakat Alger/La Battaglia di Algeri

You don’t win battles with outrages

p  Antonio Musu, Yacef Saadi  d  Gillo Pontecorvo  Franco Solinas  ph  Marcello Gatti  ed  Mario Serandrei, Mario Morra  m  Ennio Morricone, Gillo Pontecorvo 

Brahim Hagiag (Ali la Pointe), Jean Martin (Colonel Mathieu), Yacef Saadi (Kader), Tomasso Neri (Captain Dubois), Fawzia el Kader (Halima), Michele Kerbash (Fathia), Mohamed Ben Kassen (Little Omar),

Among the fearsome mountain range that is political cinema, there is one peak that stands tall above all others.  For sure, such classics as The Manchurian Candidate, Memories of Underdevelopment, Z, and any one of a handful of Andrzej Wajda films have their merits as peaks, but the zenith of this artform within an artform came in 1965 with Gillo Pontecorvo’s still seminal masterpiece.  The Battle of Algiers is a political film unlike any dreamt of by Hollywood, and is all the better for it.

            Pontecorvo’s film begins in 1957, with a captured Algerian resistance member forced to give up the hiding place of the last of the leaders of the National Liberation Front of Algeria (FLN).  Paratroopers storm the hideout and threaten the leader, Ali la Pointe, with death for both him and his family trapped with him unless he surrenders.  At which point we go back three years to 1954 and the first signs of rebellion in Algiers and follow the leaders of both the colonialists and revolutionaries, up until that fateful moment when the last member of the FLN is wiped out.  Almost as an afterthought, we are shown the final uprisings of 1960 that finally lead to the declaration of their independence in 1962. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Still basking in the glow of his successful 2008 run of Almost an Evening, an off-Broadway production that played for an encore after it’s initial run, Oscar-winning filmmaker Ethan Coen is hoping to again wow theatre goers with his second theatrical offering.  Offices, like it’s predecessor, is comprised of three interrelated one-act skits that tap into Coen’s experiences of working in offices years back after finishing college.  They all take place in offices or places of business and involve white-collar workers, and much like Almost an Evening, (which is similarly structured) showcases Ethan Coen’s inimitably distinct and dark comical tone.     

The first segment, “Peer Review” features a disgruntled worker named Elliot, who is fired after he is accused of harassing other employees, and some sexual escapades in a female’s office.  Joey Slotnick, who gave an excellent performance in Almost an Evening, again delivers the goods with a scene-stealing over-the-top, comically emotional turn, while as an executive, Cassidy, F. Murray Abraham is inflexibly wry in delivering his potent one-liners.     

“Homeland Security” pokes fun at governmental bureaucracy, and features John Bedford Lloyd as Munro and C.J. Wilson as Wilten.  One of the funniest skits in the piece involves a domestic scene involving a child, played by Daniel Yelsky.       (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Hungary 1965 90m) DVD2

Aka. Szegénylegények

Search for Sandor

András Nemeth  d  Miklós Jancsó  w  Gyula Hernadi  ph  Tamás Somlo  ed  Zoltán Farkas  art  Tamás Banovich, Tilda Gáti  cos  Zsuzse Vicze

János Görbe (Gajdar Janos), Tibor Mólnar (Kabai), András Kozák (Ifj.Kabai), Gábor Agárdy (Torma), Zoltán Latinovits (Veszelka), Bela Barsi (Foglar), Janus Koltai (Varju Béla), Jószef Madaras (Magyardolmányos), Magda Schlehmann (Julie), Istvan Avar, Lajos Oze, Attila Nagi, Zoltán Basilides,

The Round-Up sounds rather like the title of a Monogram B western of the forties, but it couldn’t be more apposite.  Horses do feature, but that’s about it.  This is probably still the most influential film to come out of Hungary and, despite the various merits of the likes of Mephisto and Sátántangó, it remains, for me, the best film to come out of that long oppressed nation.  Oppressed is the operative word here, for Hungary was oppressed at the time of its release and the film itself is about an oppression earlier in its history.  Yet the film itself is also oppressed, as it is so hard to see these days.  Aside from a heavily priced semi-letterbox print released on video in 1993 in the US, it’s virtually impossible to see these days, but in some ways it contributes to its elusive aura.  Though Jancsó made many other fine films, from the magnificent The Red and the White to the almost terpsichorean Elektreia and the sexually explicit Private Vices, Public Virtues, this remains arguably his masterpiece, a film which, though maybe not comfortable viewing for many reasons, remains somehow just as essential over forty years on.  (more…)

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Guess the pic…

from Jenny Bee

She’s surpassed herself with this one.


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by Allan Fish

(France 1961 94m) DVD1/2

Aka. Last Year at Marienbad

Or was it Frederiksbad?

p  Raymond Froment, Anatole Dauman  d  Alain Resnais  w  Alain Robbe-Grillet  ph  Sacha Vierny  ed  Henri Colpi, Jasmie Chasney  m  Francis Seyrig  art  Jacques Saulnier  cos  Coco Chanel, Bernard Evein

Delphine Seyrig (A), Giorgio Albertazzi (X), Sacha Pitoeff (M), Françoise Bertin, Luce Garcia-Villet, Héléna Korbel, François Spira, Karin Toche-Mittler, Pierre Barbaud,

L’Année Dernière à Marienbad is undoubtedly one of the most exasperating films ever made, but it is also undeniably one of the most original, going beyond surrealism to find a category all of its own. Everything that happens is perfectly plausible, it’s just that, well nothing really does happen, yet much takes place.  That is the paradox of it. 

Alain Resnais first came to prominence with his magisterial Holocaust documentary Nuit et Brouillard in 1955 before becoming one of the darlings of the intellgentsia with Hiroshima, Mon Amour, a sort of anti romance.  Yet Marienbad is the film he’s most likely to be remembered for, a film of such joyous enpuzzlement as to resemble a cryptic puzzle for minimalists.  Taking place in a huge French château, a man meets a woman who may, or may not, have had an affair with him the previous year at Marienbad, or was it Frederiksbad?  They spend their time there dreaming of their possible past and future and of their desires. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Czechoslovakia 1963 110m) DVD2 (Czech Republic only)

Aka. Az prijde kocour; The Cassandra Cat

Once upon a time there was…more was than wasn’t 

p  Vojtech Jasny  d  Vojtech Jasny  w  Jiri Brdecka, Vojtech Jasny, Jan Werich  ph  Jaroslav Kucera  ed  Jan Chaloupek  m  Svatopluk Havelka  art  Arch Oldrich Kucera

Jan Werich (Oliva/the magician), Emilia Vásáryová (Diana), Vlastimil Brodsky (Robert), Jiri Sovak (school director), Vladimir Mensik (janitor), Jirina Bohdalová (Julie), Karel Effa (Janek),

Probably the most whimsical of all Czech films, or at least the most whimsical of Czech classics, it’s criminal that Vojtech Jasny’s seminal piece is so hard to see these days.  It’s never been available in the UK or in the US on video or DVD, and the only opportunity to see it is via importing the Czech DVD.  All I can say is – import it, while you can! (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(France 1967 105m) DVD1

Aka. The Godson; The Samurai

Beware of white gloves

p  Raymond Borderie, Eugène Lecipier  d/w  Jean-Pierre Melville  ph  Henri Decaë, Jean Charvein  ed  Monique Bonnot, Yo Maurette  m  François de Roubaix  art  Georges Casati, François de Lamothe

Alain Delon (Jef Costello), François Perier (Inspector), Nathalie Delon (Jan Lagrange), Caty Rosier (Valerie), Jacques Leroy (gunman), Michel Boisrand (Wiener), Jean-Pierre Posier (Olivier Rey), Catherine Jourdan (hat-check girl), Robert Favart (barman),

We live in an age where coolness is measured by quips delivered and bodies despatched.  Thrills are all cheap, explosive and o.t.t.  We have forgotten what it is to savour cinematic understatement.  All of which is somewhat ironic when you consider this, Melville’s seminal crime film.  It’s a film of massive influence to so many film-makers, from Jim Jarmusch to Luc Besson and to John Woo – who rates it his favourite movie and whose protagonist in The Killer was named Jeff in homage – and still seems to personify cine-cool.  And yet it is not only the hip film-makers of today who worship him, but the critics, too; the same critics who decry Besson and Woo for the modern trend of style over substance.  Yet isn’t that exactly what fascinated Melville in his crime films?  Yes, but something else, too.  Melville’s characters remind one in some ways of those of Robert Bresson, in that they are nearly all loners or outsiders in society – the quasi-incestuous siblings in Les Enfants Terribles, the eponymous Bob le Flambeur, the Resistance leaders in The Army in the Shadows.  The huge difference is that Melville’s protagonists are generally loners by choice, whereas Bresson’s are rejected by society.  (more…)

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