Archive for June, 2009

“For Neda”

by Tony d’Ambra

For Neda

“Policemen are not authorized to use weapons against people,” said Tehran Police Chief Azizollah Rajabzadeh, according to Press TV. “They are trained to only use antiriot tools to keep the people out of harm’s way.”

She was young
loving and loved
our sister

A simple honest life
modestly aspiring

She knew freedom
liberty dwelled in her lustrous soul
she acted
not with violence
nor rancour
a witness
against tyranny

An instant
the bullet’s trajectory unflinching
she falls
the blood
the horror
“I’m burning, I’m burning!”


Iranian Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, was killed Saturday evening when hit by a bullet during a protest in Tehran.  Thanks to Lloyd Fonville of mardecortesbaja.com for bringing Neda’s story to my attention. Quotes from Los Angeles  Times. In Farsi, Neda means voice or call.

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movies and more june 002

by Sam Juliano

    Jean Sibelius’s most popular work is his Symphony No. 2 in D Major, a four-movement masterpiece that at the very least vies with the composer’s nationalistic Finlandia amongst the Finnish composer’s pantheon.  Yet, not until the final “Allegretto moderato” coda does the work evince the same kind of melodic invention and wide appeal that characterized the earlier work.  The composition of the Second marked the culmination of the composer’s early romantic period, a time he was under the thrall of Tchaikovsky, and the flowing melodic line of the work’s denouement, which is actually a series of repeating fragments strung together, provides listeners with one of classical music’s most exquisite (and signature) passages. 

     Concert goers had to wait till the closing minutes to avail themselves of such invigorating sublimity, after hearing a first half that included two works composed by music director/conductor Lorin Maazel in the late 90’s and a brief acknowledgement by New York Philharmonic chairman Paul B. Guenther, who introduced five musicians who are slated to retire at the end of the month after long tenures.  Guenther took an apparently unprovoked poke at the Borough of Brooklyn, stating that it “used to be a hotbed of classical music” in announcing that several of the retirees were born and raised there.  That kind of demeaning cultural elitism is what often prevents this kind of music from reaching those who reside in less ‘privleged’ sections of the city.  A few catcalls from the crowd sent Guenther a clear message. (more…)

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Claire's Knee 1 copy

by Allan Fish

(France 1970 103m) DVD1/2

Aka. Le Genou de Claire

A diplomat’s fetish

p  Pierre Cottrelli  d/w  Eric Rohmer  ph  Nestor Almendros  ed  Cécile Decugis

Jean-Claude Brialy (Jerome), Béatrice Romand (Laura), Aurora Cornu (Aurora), Laurence de Monaghan (Claire), Michèle Montel (Mme.Walter), Gérard Falconetti (Gilles), Fabrice Luchini (Vincent),

Rohmer’s haunting film is perhaps the cinema’s nearest approximation to Proustian discourse” stated Sight & Sound in their review.  Over thirty years later, Raoul Ruiz’s actual adaptation of Proust, Time Regained, may have changed that, but it’s no less accurate a summation as there is something faintly Proustian about proceedings.  The fifth of Rohmer’s six moral tales, Claire’s Knee is a beautifully shot dip into the waters of not only Lake Geneva but the notion of desire itself and how it can manifest itself in the strangest ways.

            Jerome is a 35 year old French diplomat who has returned from Sweden to his childhood town on the shores of Lake Geneva prior to marriage to the unseen Lucinda.  He is met there by a platonic friend, Aurora, who introduces him to the sixteen year old Laura, who develops a crush on him.  But he is equally interested in her half-sister, Claire, who is besotted with a boorish lout of a boyfriend.  Jerome only wants to touch her knee, which becomes the focal point of his desires. (more…)

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Sunshine Cleaning

by Tony d’Ambra

A boy talks to God on a CB radio in a beat-up cleaning van. A sassy young
woman with no job and fewer prospects is transported to ecstasy trestling
under an urban train bridge.  Her older sister struggles in low-paid jobs to
survive and bring up her son. A loser father who never gives up and with a
heart of gold. A gentle one-armed man sells cleaning agents and makes model
planes. Contract cleaning the grisly detritus of messy deaths as a path to a
life with purpose.

Sunshine Cleaning is a simple film that transcends a modest premise if you
look deeply enough.  A story of the mostly painful struggle of those living
on the margins in the suburbs takes you gently, and without violence or
sermonising, on a journey where you discover the emptiness of things, the
value of family, and the pain and wistful joy of grief.

The cast is engaging and modest, they assume their roles without affectation
or histrionics.  Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are the two sisters. Alan Arkin,
who has a mortgage on such roles, is the father, and Jason Spevack is
charming as his grandson. Clifton Collins Jr. is impressive as the local
cleaning aids supplier. Christine Jeffs’ unassuming point and shoot
direction leaves the story by Megan Holley to unfold through the characters.

Not a great movie but it remains in the memory as a bitter-sweet reminder of
the transience of things, that a good life is not defined by the
accumulation of possessions but by how honestly and bravely we tread the
path fate has hewn for us.

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picture show 1

by Allan Fish

(USA 1971/1990 127m) DVD1/2

Requiem to the Lion

p  Stephen J.Friedman  d  Peter Bogdanovich  w  Larry McMurtry, Peter Bogdanovich  novel  Larry McMurtry  ph  Robert L.Surtees  ed  Don Cambern  art  Polly Platt, Walter Scott Herndon

Jeff Bridges (Duane Jackson), Timothy Bottoms (Sonny Crawford), Cybill Shepherd (Jacy Farrow), Ben Johnson (Sam the Lion), Cloris Leachman (Ruth Popper), Ellen Burstyn (Lois Farrow), Eileen Brennan (Genevieve), Sam Bottoms (Billy), Sharon Taggart (Charlene Duggs), Jessie Lee Fulton (Miss Mosey), John Hillerman, Clu Galager,

Bogdanovich’s magnum opus is a film that can be hard to categorise.  One of the first adjectives applied to it is “nostalgic”, yet is it really?  Bogdanovich himself deliberately shot it in monochrome so as not to prettify the piece, for the last thing he wanted was a nostalgic work.  Yet in some ways it is nostalgic, but only in the way a dying man hankers after his lost youth.  For in truth the object of Bogdanovich’s camera’s gaze is a dying subject.  A town that is literally on its last legs, yet somehow doesn’t know it.  It’s sort of an anti-Pleasantville and a film to justify Paul Zimmermann’s much quoted eulogy of the film as “the most important work by a young American director since Citizen Kane.”

            In the sleepy Texas town of Anarene, Texas, in 1951, three young teens, soon graduating from high school, undergo romantic and personal tribulations in the summer before moving into adult life.  Two of them, best friends Duane and Sonny, commit their time equally to girls, school sport and the movies, with the latter becoming involved with married older woman Ruth Popper.  Duane’s girlfriend, meanwhile, Jacy, knows she’s the hottest girl in the school and struts around like a cat on heat. (more…)

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Two legends - you can bet your bottom franc that isn't lemonade in that glass

Two legends - you can bet your bottom franc that isn't lemonade in that glass

by Allan Fish

It had been my intention to commemorate numerous centenaries and anniversaries on WitD over the last months, yet time did not permit it.  The centenaries of Burgess Meredith, Dana Andrews, Joseph L.Mankiewicz and James Mason.  I should perhaps mention that of Marcel Carné which falls on 18th August coming.  It’s Mason I regret not paying tribute to, however, in that he was of similar stock, a Northerner, a Yorkshireman from Huddersfield (South Yorkshire, but Yorkshire nonetheless), who indeed spent a few years at school on the shores of Lake Windermere not 10 miles from where I write.  James, above all, if you’re listening, I apologise for the oversight.

This morning, however (well actually as I write the anniversary is coming to an end), is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the son of a Tasmanian University professor, Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn.  I remember Leslie Halliwell entering him rightly in the Hall of Fame for “living several lives in half of one and almost getting away with it.”  Indeed, he only made it halfway to his centenary, dying at the age of 50 but, as the coroner observed, with the body of a man twenty years older.  Through all the charges of statutory rape (rightly dismissed), being a Nazi sympathiser (absolute rubbish!), all the abuses to his body – drink, drugs, women, anything else you care to name, it was perhaps a miracle that he lived even to see 50.  (more…)

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ollie 1

by Allan Fish

(UK 1971 111m) not on DVD

Seduced by sensual delights

p  Robert H.Solo, Ken Russell  d/w  Ken Russell  play  John Whiting  novel  “The Devils of Loudon” by Aldous Huxley  ph  David Watkin  ed  Michael Bradsell  m  Peter Maxwell Davies  art  Robert Cartwright, Derek Jarman

Vanessa Redgrave (Sister Jeanne), Oliver Reed (Fr Grandier), Gemma Jones (Madeleine), Dudley Sutton (Laubardemont), Max Adrian (Ibert), Murray Melvin (Fr Mignon), Michael Gothard (Fr Barre), Georgina Hale (Philippe), Brian Murphy (Adam),

John Trevelyan and his censors, not to mention the Daily Mail morality brigade, were just waiting for a film like this with which to accuse the entire film industry of perversion.  In America, the film was released in a butchered 103m version, so bad that US critics who attacked the film must be forgiven as they didn’t see the proper beast.  Even in the UK, it suffered.  I list the running time as 111m, which in all prints it is, but it should have been around 120m, and of the minutes cut out, by far the most important and controversial was the sequence that came to be known as ‘The Rape of Christ’.  Believed lost, it became, in the words of Mark Kermode, “the Holy Grail of Ken’s black mass.”  How fitting it was then than it was Kermode, the film’s biggest champion as he had been with The Exorcist, who was largely responsible for its recovery.  It hasn’t as yet been reinserted into the film as Warners are digging their heels in and refusing to release a DVD, but armed with an old semi-widescreen VHS and the clip of the Rape of Christ sequence sneakily downloaded off the internet, one can at last get an idea of the film as Ken intended it.  And as Vanessa Redgrave said, “I think every director should have the right to show their film the way they wanted it to be seen.” (more…)

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