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Archive for July, 2009

scenes from 1

by Allan Fish

(Sweden 1973 299m) DVD1 (only shorter 168m version on DVD2)

Aka. Scener ur ett Aktenskap

Love in an earthly and imperfect way

p  Ingmar Bergman  d/w  Ingmar Bergman  ph  Sven Nykvist  ed  Siv Lundgren

Liv Ullmann (Marianne), Erland Josephson (Johan), Bibi Andersson, Jan Malmsjö, Anita Wall, Gunnel Lindblom,

When Ingmar Bergman made Saraband, his swansong to the cinema in his 85th year, it highlighted something I’d always suspected.  There was something about his TV drama Scenes from Marriage that made me think it was the one in which he put most of himself.  It was the first of his major TV works, and here he was, thirty years later, revisiting the same characters of Johan and Marianne, now in old age, and filming on his beloved Faro. 

            Scenes told the story of the disintegration of a bourgeois marriage after ten years of wedded bliss.  Johan goes off with another woman leaving Marianne distraught, then Bergman catches up with them again several times, intermittently, to see how their lives have progressed.  In the shorter film version the structure and the probing analysis fell apart, leaving characters it was hard to like.  In the full version we still may not entirely like them, especially the selfish Johan, and yet we know them, we feel them, and bring our own lives to the mix.  Scenes shows, unlike any other film in his canon, the doubts, fears and insecurities of relationships, the hurt, despair and anguish, coupled with the odd moment of joy.  Sex plays its part, and yet Bergman also looks at the desire just to be held; “I wish we could spend all week in bed, just cuddling” Marianne says at one point. (more…)

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clockwork

by Allan Fish

(UK 1971 137m) DVD1/2

A bit of the old ultraviolence

p  Stanley Kubrick, Bernard Williams  d/w  Stanley Kubrick  novel  Anthony Burgess  ph  John Alcott  ed  Bill Butler  m  Walter Carlos (including Henry Purcell, Edward Elgar, Giacchino Rossini, L.Van Beethoven, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)  art  John Barry, Russell Hagg, Peter Shields  cos  Milena Canonero

Malcolm McDowell (Alex de Large), Patrick Magee (Mr Alexander), Michael Bates (Chief Guard), Warren Clarke (Dim), James Marcus (Georgie), Michael Tarn (Pete), Anthony Sharp (Minister of the Interior), John Clive (stage actor), Adrienne Corri (Mrs Alexander), Miriam Karlin (Miss Weathers), Carl Duering (Dr Brodsky), Clive Francis (Joe), Dave Prowse (Julian), Philip Stone (Dad), Sheila Raynor (Mum), Aubrey Morris (P.R.Deltoid), Godfrey Quigley (prison chaplain), Paul Farrell (tramp), Steven Berkoff (cop), John Savident (conspirator), Margaret Tyzack (lady conspirator),

Viddy well at this horror show cine, o my brothers.  Kubrick’s most controversial film, this was the definitive cult film in the U.K after its withdrawal from our eyes for 26 years.  (Indeed, I still remember the sweaty-palmed glee with which I devoured the film for the first time when a friend imported a video copy from the US.)  A horror comic masterpiece of sorts, without a shadow of a doubt, it follows the story of a young murderer cum rapist in a futuristic nihilistic Britain who is released from prison after undergoing the Ludovico experimental treatment, this time as a victim of society. (more…)

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fiddler 1

by Sam Juliano

     Based on stories by Ukranian writer Sholem Aleichem, the Harold Prince production of Fiddler on the Roof stands as one of the most beloved musicals in Broadway history, and has inspired productions all around the world.  The show debuted at the Imperial Theatre in New York in September 1964 and ran till July of 1972, amassing an impressive 3242 performances.  It has spawned four revivals, and has been regularly performed by school and community groups.  It’s beautiful score has produced some of the most widely-loved standards of the past fifty years, but perhaps most significantly, it has galvanized audiences worldwide, celebrating as it does the trasncendent themes of tradition during change, homelessness and suffering and religious faith and doubt.  But this is central work in the Jewish experience, as it poignantly chronicles religious persecution and the indominable spirit of  a people who stood steadfast in their devotion to God, community and family, and Fiddler on the Roof, set in a Russian village, is a symbol for Jews moving to America at the turn of the century and of  the inevitable geographical transience that has informed a number of ethnic groups.   The musical’s title stems from a painting by Marc Chagall, one of many surreal works he created of Eastern European Jewish life, often including a fiddler.  The fiddler is a metaphor for survival, through traditional and joyfulness, in a life of uncertainty and imbalance. (more…)

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hourglass

by Allan Fish

(Poland 1973 124m) DVD2

Aka. Sanatorium podklepsydra

Here he hasn’t yet died

p  Wojciech Has  d/w  Wojciech Has  stories  Bruno Schulz  ph  Witold Sobocinski  ed  Wojciech Has  m  Jerzy Maskymiuk  art  Andrzej Plocki, Jerzy Sjarzynski

Jan Nowicki (Józef), Gustaw Holoubek (Dr Gotard), Tadeusz Kondrat (Jakub, Józef’s father), Halina Kowalska (Adela), Irena Orska (Józef’s mother), Mieczyslaw Voit (blind conductor), Bozena Adamek (Bianca), Janina Sokolowska (nurse),

Anyone who has seen Wojciech Has’s earlier phantasmagoria The Saragossa Manuscript would find it hard to believe that Has would later make another masterwork even more surreal than its predecessor.  Likewise, I’m sure that when filming stopped on Andrzej Zulawski’s The Third Part of the Night, lead actor Jan Nowicki would have been forgiven for thinking that he’d just made the weirdest film he would ever be in.  Lesson to learn – never presume anything!

            Ostensibly the plot of Sanatorium surrounds the journey made by Józef, who arrives after a long train journey at his destination, a seemingly derelict sanatorium out in the middle of nowhere where his dying father is being treated.  He’s told soon after his arrival that his father, though actually dead in Józef’s world, he’ll be brought back to life as time can be altered in the sanatorium (in the Doctor’s words, they “reactivate time past with all its possibilities”).  (more…)

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vlcsnap-923959

by Allan Fish

(West Germany 1973 205m) not on DVD

Aka. Welt am Draht 

Wo ist Güenther Lause?

p  Peter Marthesheimer, Alexander Wesseman  d  Rainer Werner Fassbinder  w  Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Fritz Müller Scherz  novel  Daniel F.Galouve  ph  Michael Ballhaus, Ulrich Prinz  ed  Ursula Elles, Marie Anne Gerhardt  m  Gottfried Hünsberg  art  Horst Giese, Walter Koch, Kurt Raab

Klaus Löwitsch (Fred Stiller), Barbara Valentin (Gloria Fromm), Mascha Rabben (Eva Vollmer), Gunther Lamprecht (Fritz), Gottfried John (Einstein), Wolfgang Schenck (Franz Hahn), Karl Heinz Vosgerau (Herbert Siskins), Ulli Lommel (Rupp), Ivan Desny (Güenther Lause), Adrian Hoven (Henry Vollmer), Margit Carstensen (Maya Schmidt-Gentner), Joachim Hansen (Hans Edelkern),

Not only the forgotten masterpiece of screen science-fiction but one of the forgotten masterpieces of the screen in any genre, Fassbinder’s adaptation of Galouve’s novel is like the ultimate cinematic Kafka, a science-fiction epic which hardly any of the trappings of the genre.  We assume it’s set in the future, but aside from the technology we take for granted and a few novelties like video phones, we could just as easily be in the 1970s.  (more…)

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don't look now 1

by Allan Fish

(UK 1973 110m) DVD1/2

What is it you fear?

p  Peter Katz  d  Nicolas Roeg  w  Allan Scott, Chris Bryant  story  Daphne du Maurier  ph  Anthony Richmond  ed  Graeme Clifford  m  Pino Donaggio  art  Giovanni Soccol 

Donald Sutherland (John Baxter), Julie Christie (Laura Baxter), Hilary Mason (Heather), Celia Matriana (Wendy), Massimo Serrato (Bishop), David Tree (Anthony Babbage), Leopoldo Trieste (Hotelier), Renato Scarpa (Inspector Longhi), Giorgio Trestini (Workman), Ann Rye (Mandy Babbage), Adelina Poerio (Dwarf),

So Donald Sutherland is asked by the police inspector he visits when looking for help in tracking down his wife who he believes has returned to Venice.  His answer should perhaps be “the unknown”, for it is into this unknown that he finds himself drawn inexorably right up until the shocking finale.  Nothing is what it seems here, all emotions and factors that one takes to be as immovable as the pyramids (love, time, death) are anything but.  Many of Roeg’s films delve into the darker areas of the mystic and hint at almost otherworldliness (one thinks especially of the outback in Walkabout), but Don’t Look Now is his masterpiece and arguably the best British film of its decade. 

            Following the drowning of their small daughter, a couple meet two old sisters in Venice (where the husband is restoring a medieval church) who claim to able to speak to the girl in the next world.  The wife becomes interested, the husband suspicious, but he keeps repeatedly seeing a red-coated little figure walking the wintry alleys by the canals. (more…)

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i never sang 1

by Sam Juliano

     New York playwright Robert Anderson, who died in February of this year at the age of 91, may not have been on the same level of greatness as Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller, but his small body of work achieved a significant measure of success on stage and screen in its intimate and painful examination of relationships.  His 1953 play, Tea and Sympathy enjoyed a hugely successful  run of 712 performances on Broadway, where it was directed by Elia Kazan, and at one point starred Joan Fontaine and Anthony Perkins.  The original leads, Deborah Kerr and John Kerr reprised their roles in the 1956 film version, directed by Vincente Minelli.  In the late 60’s the author revealed his own familial demons with the largely autobiographical I Never Sang For My Father, which sustained a brief run before being preped for it’s eventual 1970 film release, a project that featured actors Melvyn Douglas and Gene Hackman as father and son, and Dorothy Stickney and Estelle Parsons in the supporting roles of mother and daughter.  Both Douglas and Hackman scored Oscar nominations for their superlative performances, but the film, an intimate domestic drama, did unimpressively at the box office and faded away.  To this day, Columbia has balked at releasing a proper DVD of the film despite the substantial cult following it has acrued over the past decades. (more…)

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valerie 1

by Allan Fish

(Czechoslovakia 1970 74m) DVD1/2

Aka. Valerie A Tyden Divu

Valerie the Vampire Slayer

p  Jaromil Jires  d  Jaromil Jires  w  Jaromil Jires, Ester Krumachova  story  Viteslav Nezval  ph  Jan Curik  ed  Josef Vausiak  m  Lubos Fiser  art  Jan Oliva

Jaroslava Schallerova (Valerie), Jan Klusak (Gracian), Helena Anyzova, Petr Kopriva, Juiri Prymek,

Well, it’s certainly more of a mouthful than Buffy.  And slayer probably isn’t quite the word either, but the idea of a young girl coming face to face with vampires was not just created by Joss Whedon; Jaromil Jires beat him to it by over twenty years.  However, though vampires appear it isn’t a vampire movie at all, but rather a study in adolescence and female sexual discovery.  It’s also the sort of film that could never, and indeed will never, be made in the US or even the UK, where it would outrage the moral majority. 

            Valerie is a thirteen year old redhead who has fantastic dreams and a rich imagination.  She lives with her grandmother, a pale but youthful looking woman who has never been near a man since her seduction and impregnation with Valerie’s mother at seventeen.  Valerie is warned by her grandmother not to wear her mother’s earrings, which seem to possess some sort of magical significance and, not doing so, finds herself in increasingly fantastic scenarios, involving witchcraft, vampirism and ghosts (even involving her dead parents) and at the same time, is beginning to explore her sexuality.  (more…)

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nyc parks 004

by Sam Juliano

     The lovely weather continued in the Metropolitan area over the past week, with only a few imperfections to spoil the fun.  Things at Wonders in the Dark couldn’t be hotter though, as the site experienced it’s biggest week ever in total comments, and it’s second biggest ever in “hits” only behind the week months back when the site was listed on the IMDB’s ‘hit’ list.  The thread under the review of The Return of the King nabbed a staggering 214 comments, a figure that seems close to impossible to ever attain.  The usual suspects were in their best form ever, and kudos go to Movie Man, Ed Howard, Kevin J. Olson, Jon Lanthier, Kaleem Hasan, Goodfella Dave, Frank Gallo, Pierre de Plume, Jamie, Joe, Dee Dee, David Noack, Dennis, Frederic, John Greco, Jenny, Bill Riley, Bobby J., Peter, Maria, R. D. Finch, Craig, Daniel, John R., Ricky and our own Allan Fish and Tony D’Ambra.  Many of the comments were thesis length, and all kinds of subjects were broached.  It’s a keeper thread for all-time, and it will always be here to re-examine.  Needless to say it shattered records here, and probably won’t be equaled numerically again.  But this week we also had banner responses to Allan’s reviews of  Chinatown, The Obscure Object of Desire and Two English Girls, all of which had excellent numbers by way of comments and hits.  Above all, the comments were of a very high quality all week.  Thanks to everyone for making WitD the fascinating forum it has become.

     Lucille and the kids spent two evenings with me “under the stars” on Thursday and Friday evenings in the Bronx and Manhattan, listening to the New York Philharmonic performed Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, Mahler’s First and Seventh, and some Copland pieces.  Rain came down in the middle of the after-intermission Mahler symphony, during the second night in Central Park, forced a stampeding exit, but the first night in Van Cortland Park was perfect.  I hope to have a review here at some point.

     I saw three films theatrically:

     Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince   ***  (Wednesday afternoon; local)

     Somers Town  ****      (Saturday night; Film Forum)

     500 Days To Summer   *** 1/2  (Sunday night; Union Square)

     The Harry Potter film, which the five kids were split on (2 liked it a lot; the other 3 were indifferent) were the same old, same old again with only a poignant climax managing to elevate it.  The British film, SOMERS TOWN,  by Shane Meadows, who directed This is England a few years back, is a funny and perceptive black and white film about a cross-cultural friendship between a young Brit and a the son of a Polish immigrant.  I plan on having a review of this up perhaps as early as Tuesday morning.  As far as 500 DAYS TO SUMMER, the two leads, Zooey Deschanel and J. Gordon-Lewitt were enchanting, and the film did make some truthful statements about the nature of young love, but the film was also somewhat cloying and exhaustive, and both the voice-over narration and the calendar roll-out were major annoyances.  Nice final scene, though.

    The official Wonders in the Dark reaction to 500 DAYS was given by Phillip Johnson back in April, here:

     https://wondersinthedark.wordpress.com/2009/04/18/500-days-of-summer/

     Anyway, what did YOU see?  Hear?  Read?  Dine at?  How was YOUR week?

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god II

by Allan Fish

(USA 1974 200m) DVD1/2

Another offer we can’t refuse

p/d  Francis Ford Coppola  w  Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo  novel  Mario Puzo  ph  Gordon Willis  ed  Peter Zinner, Barry Malkin, Richard Marks  m  Carmine Coppola, Nino Rota  art  Dean Tavoularis, Angelo Graham  cos  Theodora Van Runkle

Al Pacino (Michael Corleone), Diane Keaton (Kay Corleone), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagan), John Cazale (Fredo Corleone), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone), Robert DeNiro (Vito Andolini-Corleone), Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth), Michael V.Gazzo (Frank Pentangeli), G.D.Spradlin (Senator Pat Geary), Richard Bright (Al Neri), Morgana King (Mama Corleone), Danny Aiello (Toni Rosato), Abe Vigoda (Tessio), Leopoldo Trieste (Signor Roberto), John Aprea (young Tessio), Marianna Hill (Deanna Corleone), Joe Spinnell (Willi Cicci), Troy Donahue (Merle Johnson), Harry Dean Stanton (FBI man), Bruno Kirby (Clemenza), Gaston Moschin (Fanucci), James Caan (Sonny Corleone),

There are not many cases of a sequel that match or surpass its classic original (The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, The Two Towers, all contenders), but Coppola’s 1974 masterpiece is undoubtedly one of them.  Put quite simply, The Godfather Part Two is a richer, more complex and morally corrupt film than its predecessor and one of the greatest films of the seventies. 

            Rather than just tell Michael’s story, the sequel parallels the story of his father, who loses his father, mother and brother before leaving Sicily for America (reminiscent of Kazan’s America, America) via Ellis Island in 1901.  We see how Vito takes over the New York gangland of the feared Don Fanucci, builds up an olive oil business and becomes Godfather.  In the present, Michael’s ideas of expansion and going legit are forever halted by the machinations of Jewish bigwig Hyman Roth, and it leads to Michael’s having to testify against accusations from the Supreme Court.  (more…)

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