Archive for April, 2009


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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Guess the film…

All I’ll say is this, it’s from the 1960s and it’s due up in my countdown within the next few days.  If you’ve seen it, it’s easy.  If not…


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by Allan Fish

(USA 1960 125m) DVD1/2

Living like Robinson Crusoe

p  Billy Wilder  d  Billy Wilder  w  Billy Wilder, I.A.L.Diamond  ph  Joseph La Shelle  ed  Daniel Mandell  m  Adolph Deutsch  art  Alexandre Trauner

Jack Lemmon (C.C. (Calvin Clifford) Baxter), Shirley MacLaine (Fran Kubelik), Fred MacMurray (Jeff D.Sheldrake), Edie Adams (Miss Olsen), Jack Kruschen (Dr Dreyfuss), Ray Walston (Dobisch), Joan Shawlee (Sylvia), David Lewis (Kirkeby), Hope Holiday (Margie MacDougall), Johnny Seven (Karl Matuschka),

In 2000, just a year before his death, Jack Lemmon was interviewed by Mark Cousins for the BBC’s Scene by Scene series and during their discussion about The Apartment Cousins made an interesting point.  He asked Lemmon whether, in his opinion, he thought it was possible that if C.C.Baxter (the hero from Billy Wilder’s classic) had not found happiness with Fran Kubelik, and if things hadn’t gone too well for him, he might have turned into Shelley Levene, the bag of nerves, ageing real estate salesman from Glengarry Glen Ross, who tries to cheat his way to success to pay for his daughter’s operation.  Lemmon thought about it and responded that it was perfectly possible.  However, for all its cynicism, The Apartment ends on a high on New Year’s Eve so, for the sake of auld lang syne, let’s look on the bright side. (more…)

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The costume designer of the popular Broadway show Irena’s Vow, Astrid Brucker, starring the extraordinary Tovah Feldshuh, commented today under Wonders in the Dark’s review of the production, posted yesterday.  The staff deeply appreciates her much-valued input:

” I agree with you, Tovah Feldshuh is truly amazing!

After having worked with her on the Off-Broadway play and now on the Broadway run I would never miss a play with her in it. She is magical and brings Irena to life with her earnestness and her great sense of humor. It’s been a wonderful experience designing the costumes on this very moving play.

I’m not sure what you find so “manipulative”!

Irena Gut also had a great sense of humor (according to her daughter that’s what got her through those times) and her faith in her religion gave her strength to save people. When I go to see the play I can hear people commenting on how wonderful the play is as they leave the theater. I hope it gets all the audience and acknowledgement it deserves.

Every one of us can make a difference and that is an incredible message in today’s world.”

Ms. Brucker’s comment is actually No. 17 on the comment thread of the post.


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by Allan Fish

(Spain/Mexico 1961 91m) DVD1/2

The beggars’ banquet

p  Ricardo Munoz Suay  d  Luis Buñuel  w  Luis Buñuel, Julio Alajandro  ph  José F.Agayo  ed  Pedro del Rey  m  W.A.Mozart, George F.Handel  art  Francisco Canet

Silvia Pinal (Viridiana), Fernando Rey (Don Jaime), Francisco Rabal (Jorge), Margarito Lozano (Ramona), Victoria Zinny (Lucia), Teresa Rabal (Rita), José Calvo, Joaquin Roa, Luis Heredia, José Manuel Martin,

Viridiana occupies a special place in the hearts of all Buñuel adherents for numerous reasons; it was his first film to be made in Spain for over twenty years after his return from Mexico, it was then banned by the Spanish government after – deservedly – winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and because it represents his views on religion and faith in a nutshell.  On the other hand, maybe the reasons they love it are their own, for Buñuel’s films, more than perhaps any other director’s, are open to infinite interpretation and misinterpretation.  And it’s that characteristic that Luis would have loved the most, for he would have hated to have directed anything that his audience would truly understand; it would have been like letting both them and him down. (more…)

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