Archive for June, 2009

hauser 1

by Allan Fish

(West Germany 1974 110m) DVD1/2

Aka. Every Man for Himself and God Against All/Jeder Fur Sich und Gott Gegen Alle

Are you a tree-frog?

p/d/w  Werner Herzog  ph  Jorg Schmidt-Reitwein  ed  Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus  m  J.Pachelbel, T.Albinoni, Orlando diLasso, W.A.Mozart  art  Henning V.Clerke

Bruno S. (Kaspar Hauser), Walter Ladengast (Daumer), Hans Musaus (unknown man), Brigitte Mira (Kathe), Michael Kroecher (Lord Stanhope), Willy Semmelrogge (circus director), Henry Van Lyck (cavalry captain), Elis Pilgrim (pastor), Enno Patalas (Fuhrmann), Volker Prechtel (guard),

Through his series of memorable collaborations with actor Klaus Kinski (particularly those great studies of ego- and megalomania Fitzcarraldo and the earlier Aguirre, Wrath of God), Werner Herzog is guaranteed his place in movie history.  It is therefore perhaps ironic that his greatest film does not showcase the undoubted talent of Kinski, but an anonymity, in every sense of the word.  Unlike many films dealing with such enigmatic mysteries, it does not even attempt to explain the central mystery, but rather to see the world through the eyes of its protagonist.  And a very cruel but beautiful world it is.

            In 1828 a young man, Kaspar Hauser, is dropped off into the town square in Nuremberg and left there by the man who has been his only contact with the outside world.  The letter he carries in his hand informs those who read it that he has been kept effectively imprisoned in a small dingy cellar for his entire life, since being left to the unknown man’s care as a foundling.  Though some of the everyday townsfolk show compassion, it is a well to do gentleman who teaches him the finer things in life.  Sadly, however, Kaspar Hauser’s happiness is short lived. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

This is the first post in a brand new weekly column here at WitD that aims at getting readers to talk about what they’ve seen during the previous week, what they’ve listened to, what they might have seen on stage or in concert, or even what they may have watched on DVD or listened to on CD.  This post is also open to ‘anything’ that one wants to talk about, and that includes DVD announcements, politics or recent passings, like Michael Jackson’s which is sure to be brought up here.  This post is meant to stimulate discussion, and each new submission may well bring talk in one direction for a good part of the thread.  Finally, as I often see 2 to 5 films theatrically every week, in addition to some plays and concerts in the mix often enough, I simply am unable to review everything, and feel this is my way to attain accountibility and allow for some discussion and sharing.  I will often use a picture from one of my events to go with this thread, but this week it’s Michael Jackson.

     My own week ended on an excrutiatingly sad note with this terrible news about Michael Jackson, and despite rational pleas to scale back from fellow WitD colleagues Allan Fish and Tony d’Ambra, it’s just my nature to react this way.  As our good friend Movie Man has rightly asserted, Jackson’s death for all of us who grew up with his music have “lost something.”  His bizarre antics of recent years for me have done little to taint his iconic status, and hearing his music over the weekend brought tears.

     I saw two films this week, Food Inc., and Moon.   I saw Moon first on Thursday night, and found this science-fiction opus as heavily cliched, tedious and redundant.  Only Clint Mansell’s score survived the debacle, although I can’t really say that Sam Rockwell isn’t up to the task.  The documentary, Food Inc., makes the contention that just about everything we eat is made directly (or indirectly) from corn.  It also makes the stomach-churning assertion that a humburger we eat may come from 8 different cows.  Lovely.  It also reveals that there are presently only 13 slaughterhouses in the US, and that the food industry has a stranglehold on everything produced and eaten.  Really nothing we don’t already know, but reasonably well presented.

Moon  **   (Landmark)

Food Inc.  *** 1/2  (Montclair Claridge)

I saw two stage works this week:  Delroy Lindo in The Things of Dry Hours at the Theatre Project on 4th Street off 2nd Avenue, and The Little Foxes, a classic play by Lillian Hellman, presnted by the prestigious New Jersey Shakespeare Society on the lovely Drew University campus.  The Lindo play boasted some strong acting by the star and the reast of the cast, but it was extremely dull and forgettable, rarely more than verbal histrionics all to little resonance.  The Little Foxes, on the other hand, was an exquisite production, with wonderful sets, fine use of entrance and exit portals and outstanding performances.  With this play it practically “can’t miss.”

I also finished Rivette’s Out 1 on DVD.  I wish I could say I liked it as much as Movie Man and Allan, but I’ve leave the possibility of discussion here.

So what would you like to discuss?

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by Allan Fish

(USSR 1974 106m) DVD1/2

Aka. Zerkalo

Andrei’s childhood

p  E.Waisberg  d  Andrei Tarkovsky  w  Andrei Tarkovsky, Alexsandr Misharin  ph  Georgy Rerberg  ed  L.Feiginova  m  Eduard Artemyev  art  Nikolai Dvigubsky

Margarita Terekhova (Alexei’s mother, Natalia), Philip Yankovsky (Alexei, aged 9), Ignat Daniltsev (Ignat/Alexei, aged 12), Oleg Yankovsky (Father), Alla Demidova (Lisa), Anatoli Solinitsin (doctor), Larissa Tarkovskaya (Nadezha), Innokenti Smoktunovsky (narrator), Arseny Tarkovsky (narrator poetry),

Tarkovsky’s most personal meditation, Mirror is undoubtedly one of the greatest cinematic poems put on celluloid, as well as one of the most beautiful.  It’s a film that undoubtedly will infuriate as many as it will captivate, but I guarantee that anyone who watches it once in a state of rapture will continue to do so in later life.  Like the dreams and remembrances of its protagonist, its memories haunt you for years to come.

            A perfect example of this is in the first shot in which we see Terekhova.  She is sitting, back to the camera, atop a wooden fence looking out over a meadow at dusk.  In the distance we see a man approaching.  Then the camera cuts into Terekhova’s face as she smokes a cigarette.  Ever since I first saw that shot it has troubled me, haunting me every time I see it.  As if recalling a memory locked deep in the subconscious that I cannot summon to the conscious.  And the conscious and the subconscious play a large factor here, as there is undoubtedly a dreamlike quality to Mirror.  It’s a film that does not lend itself to a plot synopsis, but does lend itself to unprecedented interpretation.  Just as Terekhova on that fence to me represents that which is lost in time, she could signify something totally different to someone else.  It’s this dreamlike quality, intensified by Rerberg’s gorgeous photography (cutting back and forth from the golden bathed colour into which Terekhova’s hair seems to meld to sepia tinted monochrome) in the infamous magic hour that gives the film its soul.  But a soul in itself needs an expression and Tarkovsky is that mouthpiece.  Mingling together contrasting images of his own childhood and archival footage of the wars and revolutions of the 20th century, he manages to capture the very essence of his nation’s soul in its most turbulent century.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1970 105m) DVD1

No curlers!

p  Harry Shushter  d/w  Barbara Loden  ph/ed  Nicholas T.Proferes

Barbara Loden (Wanda Baranski), Michael Higgins (Mr Dennis), Dorothy Shupenes (Wanda’s mother), Peter Shupenes (brother-in-law), Jerome Their (Mr Baranski), Charles Dosinan (Father), Marian Thier (Miss Godek), Anthony Rotell (Tony), Joe Dennis (Joe), Frank Jourdano, M.L.Kennedy,

In the ‘Halliwell’s Who’s Who in the Movies’, Barbara Loden receives this typically succinct entry; “American general-purpose actress.  She was married to director Elia Kazan.”  She appeared in small roles in two of his films – Wild River and Splendor in the Grass – before turning thirty and made just one other contribution to the cinema, this one stand alone film as writer, director and star.  Suffice it to say it joins the ranks of the great movie debuts, the select list of cinematic masterpieces directed by women and as one of the great films of an almost foetal American independent cinema. 

            Wanda is a thirty-something loser who, in the words of her husband, is a “lousy wife, always bumming around drinking…”  She allows him his divorce, turning up to court late, in curlers and holding a fag.  Left to her own devices, she goes into a movie theatre to watch a Spanish language pot-boiler, only for her wallet to be stolen while she slept.  She then pops in a nearby bar and asks to use the bathroom, not realising she is interrupting a robbery performed by an incompetent middle aged petty thief.  She hooks up with him, following him like a lapdog and putting up with his petty abuses – including a memorable confrontation about onions in a burger – and watching naively as he tries to commit petty larcenies on anything from grocer’s stores to hotwiring cars.  That is until he gets delusions of his own mediocrity and plans to rob the Third National Bank using Wanda as the getaway driver. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(France 1973 219m) not on DVD

Aka. The Mother and the Whore

Jump, Narcissus!

p  Pierre Cottrell  d/w  Jean Eustache  ph  Pierre Lhomme, Jacques Renard, Michel Cenet  ed  Jean Eustache, Denise de Casabianca  m  W.A.Mozart, Jacques Offenbach 

Jean-Pierre Léaud (Alexandre), Bernadette Lafont (Marie), Françoise Lebrun (Veronika Osterwald), Isabelle Weingarten (Gilberte), Jacques Renard (Alexandre’s friend),

As it is with any art form, the ending of a given movement or style is hard to pin down.  One might say Nights of Cabiria represented the end of neo-realism, The Testament of Dr Mabuse the end of German Expressionism and Touch of Evil the end of old school film noir.  To these one must add Jean Eustache’s film for representing the requiem to the nouvelle vague.  And yet how accurate is it to say so?  The nouvelle vague was famous for its jump-cuts, speedy takes, fast pace and irreverence.  Eustache’s film doesn’t have any of that.  It might be fairer to call it a requiem to the late sixties.  It’s like an autopsy on the pseudo-intelligentsia, the generation of sexual liberation and the Cultural Revolution.  It depicts a Paris still trying to pick up the pieces of the infamous events of 1968 but rather with a protagonist who obstinately refuses to pick up the pieces, preferring instead to analyse them to the point where everything becomes meaningless. (more…)

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by Tony d’Ambra

“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all gone to look for America

I was among the capacity crowd of over 20,000 for Simon & Garfunkel’s third and final Sydney concert Tuesday night. The duo started with Old Friends and finished with three encores. They performed all their big numbers, and were best when the musical backing was subdued. The are both hitting 70, but they never flagged over 2 hours with no intermission. Simon looks his age, while Garfunkel belies his years. Paradoxically, Simon’s voice still has a youthful clarity and range, while Garfunkel’s voice is straining but he gets there. Simon’s acoustic guitar accompaniment was languid and elegant. The highlight for me was the Gracelands set with Simon on his own at the microphone with additional backing from two musicians from the original Gracelands album and tour.

Tonight I’ll sing my songs again
I’ll play the game and pretend
But all my words come back to me
In shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony
I need someone to comfort me

I entered the arena with a sense of unease. Forty years since it all ended and now we were all of us visibly old and greying. There were some young people in the crowd, but we were most of us baby-boomers, clinging to a past gone forever, yet remaining important in our lives. We still wear blue jeans and think we’re cool, but the reality is confronting. You can fool yourself, but faced with thousands of others of your generation going to seed, the illusion collapses, and hard. My dear late mother in her twilight years used to say that she didn’t want to be with old people. I understand her now.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

Once I was seated though and I took in the empty stage lit in a calming blue light, the anticipation turned to excitement and awe. Finally, I would hear those songs of youthful melancholy sung for real for the first and probably the last time. The excitement was at fever pitch and when Simon & Garfunkel walked out to the front of the stage, the years fell away, and we yelled and whistled like teenagers.

But old father time had not finished with us yet. I was close to the stage but up high, and those guys on the stage could still have been 20 for all I could see. So I had to rely on the giant screen for the close-ups. The screen flickered into a montage with shots of the painfully young duo when they started their partnership morphing into the year leading up to their first break-up in 1969. Then they flashed for real onto the screen – looking as old and tired as the rest of us. They embraced that stark reality and quietly sang Old Friends from the Bookends album with only Paul Simon’s guitar as backing:

Old friends, old friends sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blowin’ through the grass
Falls on the round toes of the high shoes of the old friends

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends, memory brushes the same years, silently sharing the same fears

So it was up-front and in the open now, they and we the audience were celebrating the past and myriad paths that had lead each of us to be here tonight together. This was not nostalgia or regret for the passing of the years, but a joyous reliving of our youth, our ravaged ideals, our lost innocence, our pain, the tragedies, and the fun.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
Beneath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed
By the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

From this point for a too brief two hours we all became young again and shared songs of simple elegance shaped by poetic lyrics and haunting melody sung in graceful harmony.

In the clearing stands a boxer,
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev’ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving, I am leaving.”
But the fighter still remains


Supporting line-up:

Warren Bernhardt – Piano
Charley Drayton – Drums
Jamey Haddad – Percusson
Bakithi Kumalo –  Bass
Larry Saltzman  – Guitar
Rob Schwimmer – Keyboards
Mark Stewart – Guitar

With Paul Simon:

Tony Cedras –  Accordian & Keyboards
Vincent Nguini  – Guitar
Andy Snitzer –  Saxophone

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1971 120m) DVD1/2

Like he was giving up the holy game of poker

p  David Foster, Mitchell Brower  d  Robert Altman  w  Robert Altman, Brian McKay  novel  “McCabe” by Edmund Norton  ph  Vilmos Zsigmond  ed  Lou Lombardo  m  Leonard Cohen  art  Leon Ericksen, Philip Thomas, Albert J.Locatelli  cos  Ilse Richter

Warren Beatty (John McCabe), Julie Christie (Constance Miller), René Auberjonois, Shelley Duvall, John Schuck, Keith Carradine, William Devane, Michael Murphy,

It was the age of antiheroes, twice over; on one hand it was the end of the frontier expansion of the late 19th century, a film set in the 1900s when the furthest outposts of the Northern Canadian borders were being explored.  It was also 1971, the age of Alex and his droogs, of Popeye Doyle and Harry Callahan bending the rules, of John Klute no longer having to, and of Jack Carter never having to adhere to them in the first place.  John McCabe fit uneasily with this bunch, yet he belonged there.

            Rules are a difficult thing.  People have a habit of breaking them for the sake of breaking them, no matter how sensible or ridiculous.  In the western world, the rules were those of John Ford and Howard Hawks, and though some people had tried to subvert them, it wasn’t until the age of Boetticher and Mann, and later Peckinpah and Leone, that filmmakers turned the legends on their heads.  Altman, as is his wont, went one step further, by blowing them completely asunder, or else ignoring them completely.  (more…)

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