Archive for August, 2009

criminal 1

by Sam Juliano

      With August now a memory, the new school year looks the teacher contingent at WitD dead-on, and many must now focus their efforts in different directions. Three threads here at the site got fantastic action, with the Inglourious Basterds review attracting 109 comments, Joel Bocko’s Boston Examiner review of Spielberg’s Jaws nabbing 71 responses, and the Hannah and Her Sisters countdown review garnering well over 60. That man from The Aspect Ratio, the tenacious Bob Clark, has given WitD his heart and soul (and mind) for over a month now, and I can’t possibly thank him enough for all he has done. What a trooper this man is! I can’t wait to meet him. Joel Bocko (Movie Man) again gave the site a fabulous review yesterday of a thought-provoking film, Historias Extraordinarias, that has yet to open, and spurred on an interesting discussion.

     Around the blogosphere, there is a plethora of stellar writings, led by Ed Howard at Only the Cinema, whose latest superb piece is on “Rock Hudson’s Home Movies,” Dave Hicks’s annual countdown is up to 1973 with “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”, John Greco gives a stellar appraisal of Wilder’s classic “Ace in the Hole” at Twenty-Four Frames, the Inglourious Basterds battle continues with my dear friend Jon Lanthier sharing views with Jonathan Rosenbaum, related at The Powerstrip, David Schleicher at The Schleicher Spin, Pat at Doodad Kind of Town, and recently married Kevin Olson, returning from his Honeymoon at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies. My close friend Craig Kennedy reviewed the DVD of Sean Baker’s “Take Out” at Living in Cinema, R.D. Finch has his third Jacques Tati essay up at the lead spot at The Movie Projector, Daniel Getahun and Joey Demme have Ponyo pieces up at Getafilm and Movie Zeal respectively, Marilyn Ferdinand’s review of “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” is one for the ages at Ferdy on Films, Judy at Movie Classics has Frank Sinatra’s “Suddenly” and Chuck Bowen is also talking Tarantino at Bowen’s Cinematic. Two continuing projects are on display at Screen Savour with T.S. and Buster Keaton, and Ibetolis with that true labor of love the 8 month old “Zeros Project”, at Films From the Soul which is one of the net’s most astounding sustained accomplishments. Samuel Wilson also has a Tarantino piece up at Mondo 70.  Of course, Jamie Uhler, our own resident writer and prolific commentator posted a unique take on Tarantino’s film at WitD, and Matt Lucas at From the Front Row penned a mixed assessment of the film at his place.  Yet another talented blogger, Andrew Wyatt of Gateway Cinephiles wrote a glowing appraisal of the Tarantino film.  Film Dr. is considering two DVD releases, including The Last Days of Disco at his place.  Alexander Coleman has been on sabbatical, but I still mention his great review of Tetro, which still leads at CCC.

Dearest Dee Dee and Dorothy Porker have “The Men Who Stare at Goats” by Eric Armstrong and “The Disappearing Act: Say Goodbye to the Classics” up at their respective sites, Noirish City and ITG. There are other fine pieces up, but I’ll wait for another week to point some of these sites out. I had a torrid week myself, that kept me away from the PC a good part of the time. Here’s what I saw:

In A Lonely Place ***** (Nick Ray Classic; Film Forum; Friday night)

Brighton Rock ***** (Brit Noir gem; Film Forum; Saturday night)

The Fallen Idol **** 1/2 (Brit Noir Carol Reed classic; Film Forum; Saturday night)

Yield to the Night **** (Brit Noir; Film Forum; Sunday night)

The Criminal ***** (Brit Noir; Losey masterpiece; Sunday night)

I also saw two contemporary films in the mix:

 Taking Woodstock ** (Ang Lee misfire; Edgewater multiplex; Friday afternoon)

We Live in Public *** 1/2 (Internet pioneer doc; IFC; late Friday night after BN screening)

The director of WE LIVE IN PUBLIC, a film that focuses on millionaire-turned-pauper Josh Harris, Ondi Timoner, appeared for a Q & A after the film, but I just couldn’t muster the staminer to stay on for it.

As always, we’d love to hear from all of you, whether it be film, theatre, music, food, politics, DVDs, CDs, or literature. This is an open forum.


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spinal tap 1

(USA 1984 83m) DVD1/2

This goes up to eleven

p  Karen Murphy  d  Rob Reiner  w/m/ly  Christopher Guest, Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer  ph  Peter Smokler  ed  Robert Leighton  art  Dryan Jones

Christopher Guest (Nigel Tufnel), Michael McKean (David St Hubbins), Harry Shearer (Derek Smalls), Rob Reiner (Marty DiBergi), R.J.Parnell (Mick Shrimpton), David Kaff (Viv Savage), Tony Hendra (Ian Faith), Bruno Kirby (Tommy Pischeda), Fran Drescher (Bobbi Flekman), Anjelica Huston, Ed Begley Jnr, Billy Crystal, Patrick MacNee,

Rob Reiner’s spoof rockumentary of an ageing British rock band on tour in the US at the twilight of their careers truly was one of the most original films of its decade.  Here was a film that finally, deservedly attacked and made fun of that most pretentious of musical art forms, the heavy metal rock band, in this case the fictitious Spinal Tap, one of England’s loudest bands behind such ‘classic’ albums as Intravenus de Milo, Shark Sandwich and The Gospel According to Spinal Tap, the latter prompting one reviewer to say that if God rested on one day why did he not rest the day he made Spinal Tap?  Thank God he didn’t, because the world would be a far less funny place without them. (more…)

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by Joel Bocko

What comes to mind when you hear the words “extraordinary stories”? An adventurous journey down a long river, pursuing a strange and possibly illicit mission? A mysterious murder, witnessed by a man who flees and hides from his pursuers while unraveling the crime? A journey spanning years and continents, in pursuit of a buried treasure? Is it war which quickens the pulse, with its threat of violent death and suggestion of enemies hidden away in the jungle, waiting to launch a guerrilla attack? Or perhaps you are a romantic, and your extraordinary story would involve an enigmatic woman, whose enchanted entrance into your life seems to foreshadow an implicit departure – one which arrives one day, confirming your suspicions while breaking your heart. As you’ll notice, the title of Argentinian writer/director Mariano Llinás’ remarkable film is plural. Not one but all of these storylines are pursued (simultaneously, no less), with surprising results. (more…)

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grave 1

(Japan 1988 94m) DVD1/2

Aka. Hotaru no haka

The little red tin

p  Tohru Hara  d/w  Isao Takahata  novel  Akiyuki Nosaka  ed  Takeshi Seyama  m  Yoshio Mamiya  art  Ryoichi Sato

VOICES BY:- Rhoda Chrosite (Setsuko), J.Robert Spencer (Seito), Amy Jones (aunt), Veronica Taylor (mother), Shannon Conley, Crispin Freeman, Dan Green,

For those who do not know Takahata’s masterpiece, my exclaiming it to be one of the most emotional films in the entire list would seem like a statement bordering on lunacy, when you consider some of the material herein.  Yet it is not lunacy, but rather a profound response to a truly profound movie.  And before you say it, yes, it is an animated film.  But to merely call this an animated film doesn’t just insult the film, it insults the reader.  Studio Ghibli has, in recent times, meant simply the work of Hayao Mizayaki to most westerners, but Takahata’s film equals anything Miyazaki has ever achieved and may come to be regarded as the greatest Japanese anime film of them all.  (more…)

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hannah 1

(USA 1986 105m) DVD1/2

E.E.Cummings, page 112

p  Robert Greenhut  d/w  Woody Allen  ph  Carlo di Palma  ed  Susan E.Morse  m  various  art  Stuart Wurtzel

Woody Allen (Mickey Sachs), Mia Farrow (Hannah), Michael Caine (Elliot), Dianne Wiest (Holly), Carrie Fisher (April), Barbara Hershey (Lee), Lloyd Nolan (Evan), Maureen O’Sullivan (Norma), Max Von Sydow (Frederick), Daniel Stern (Dusty), Sam Waterston (David Tolchin), Tony Roberts, Julie Kavner, J.T.Walsh, John Turturro,

As soon as one sees those plain white credits on a black background accompanied by instrumental versions of old ditties we know we’re back in Woody territory.  To be honest, his directly previous run of films, from A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy through Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose and The Purple Rose of Cairo were quite underwhelming.  But perhaps they were necessary steps on the way to this, his third – and to date last – masterpiece, seven years after his second, Manhattan.  Like all his best films, it’s a homage and love letter to so many things, a nod to everything from Bergman to Chekhov, and a billet doux to his beloved Manhattan.  Its intricate, delicately plotted narrative is worthy of Dickens, let alone Chekhov, but its depiction of a close-knit family and their overlapping love affairs is quite delicious, if faintly incestuous when analysed in full.  A film summed up perfectly by Barry Norman as “not exactly a comedy, but a very funny drama.” (more…)

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big red one 1

(USA 1980/2004 163m) DVD1/2

Damned wetnoses!

p  Gene Corman  d/w  Samuel Fuller  ph  Adam Greenberg  ed  Morton Tubor  m  Dana Kaproff  art  Peter Jamison

Lee Marvin (Sergeant), Mark Hamill (Griff), Robert Carradine (Zab), Kelly Ward (Johnson), Bobby DiCicco (Vinci), Siegfried Rauch (Schroeder), Stéphane Audran (Walloon), Serge Marquand (Ransonnet), Alain Douley (Broban), Charles Macaulay (General),

Of the various director cameos in the work of Jean-Luc Godard, one stands out above all; that of Samuel Fuller in Pierrot le Fou.  At a random party, populated by pseudo-intellectuals and topless women, Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character asks Fuller, smoking his surgically attached stogie, what his definition of cinema is.  After a moment’s thought, Fuller replies “a film is like a battleground; love, hate, action, violence, death.  In one word, emotion.”  Never was that truer than here, in Fuller’s labour of love from 1980.  This film literally is a battleground, and a very personal one, as it charts the story, give or take a few liberties, of Fuller’s own tour of duty in World War II in the First Infantry Division, marked by the titular red insignia.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano 

     Sophomoric.  Sadistic.  Racist.  Long-winded.  Repugnant.  Repetitive.  Lacking in depth. Quentin Tarantino’s two-and-a-half hour epic about a squad of Jewish-American commandos and a French Jew out to avenge the murder of her family at the hands of the Nazis is a serious-minded treatise that gives fleeting concern to black comedy, and showcases some of the director’s most tedious passages of his career.  Inglourious Basterds, which won’t have Tarantino winning any spelling bees, turns potentially furtive material into an endurance test, while simultaneously showcasing some of the most repellent imagery seen in the auteur’s canon, at least since the police officer had his ear carved off in Reservoir Dogs.  With the exception of a hair-raising burning theatre climax that attempts (but fails) to bring together scattered plot elements from four previous “chapters” Tarantino opts to bypass the rich possibilities in Third Reich satire, instead focusing on scalpings, gougings, chokings and mass slaughter, which in large measure are given  Kill Bill- styled operatic treatment.  (more…)

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Rouge (no 34)

rouge 1

(Hong Kong 1987 97m) DVD1/3 (Hong Kong only)

Twelfth Master, 3811, waiting at the same place

p  Jackie Chan  d  Stanley Kwan  w  Lee Bihua, Qiu-Dai Anping  novel  Lee Bihua  ph  Bill Wong  ed  Peter Cheung  m  Michael Lai  art  Piao Ruomu, Horace Ma

Anita Mui (Fleur), Leslie Cheung (Chan Chen-Pang, Twelfth Master), Alex Man (Yuen), Emily Chu (Ah Chor), Irene Wan (Suk-Yin), Patrick Tse, Wang Yu,

Yes, the producer is that Jackie Chan, of Police Story and Rush Hour fame.  But this couldn’t be further from all that.  What we have here is arguably the most poignant of all modern films.  In truth, it always was poignant, but since the tragic untimely deaths of both of its stars, its central story now has added retrospective irony.  It’s a film to both renew your belief in love and vow never to love again.

            In Hong Kong in 1934, courtesan Fleur works at the house of Yi Hung, visited by many of the local businessmen and celebrities.  There she attracts the attention of young Twelfth Master, heir to a fortune, who is promised in marriage to his young cousin.  However, when the two fall in love, they meet obstacles everywhere and, realising they can never marry they make a suicide pact…Flash forward fifty three years later to modern Hong Kong.  A newspaper office is closing for the night when a woman looking identical to Fleur arrives, looking very pale, and asks to put an advert in the paper.  It becomes apparent that this is Fleur, and she has an amazing explanation for both her antiquated attire and for her still looking so young.  She’s a ghost and is trying to find her dead lover from over half a century ago. (more…)

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come and see 1 copy

(USSR 1985 142m) DVD1/2

Aka. Idi i Smotri

Ode to Lily of the Valley

p/d  Elem Klimov  w  Ales Adamovich, Elem Klimov  book  Ales Adamovich  ph  Alexei Rodionov  ed  Valeriya Belova  m  Oleg Yanchenko  art  Viktor Petrov

Aleksei Kravchenko (Florya Gaishun, the boy), Oleg Mironova (Glasha, the girl), Lyubomiris Lautsiavitchus (Kosach), Vladas Bagdonas, Victor Lorentz,

Anyone who has seen the Kino DVD of this film will recall that the title menu is accompanied by the use of Mozart’s immortal “Requiem” (the ‘Lacrimosa’, if memory serves).  It isn’t actually heard until the fade-out and yet, despite waiting well over two hours to understand its use, in truth it takes only a few minutes of Klimov’s film to comprehend its suitability.  Mozart’s final musical masterpiece has provided backing to numerous films, from the obvious Amadeus to Elizabeth, but never had it been used more potently or more appropriately.  Just as Mozart’s piece is a deathly lament, so is Klimov’s film.  Not in any other film has war been shown so apocalyptically and so frighteningly accurately.  For my money you can take the pretensions Oliver Stone’s ‘Nam trilogy and Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Empire of the Sun (which also told of a boy damaged by war) and flush them down the loo for, in comparison, they are child’s play.  (more…)

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After all the week’s events, something light-hearted, totally amateurish and written with the wit of a flea…but it may make you smile…

You just need to know the lyrics of that immortal anthem from Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. (more…)

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