Archive for August 18th, 2009

District 9

by Sam Juliano

     After a brief day and a half in immaculate and picturesque Hershey, Pennsylvania, I returned home in time to check out another double feature at the ongoing Brit Noir Festival at the Film Forum, and am now ready to summarize for the delayed Monday Morning Diary, which for this week only is the ‘Tuesday Morning Diary.’  At Wonders in the Dark the action this past week has been torrid.  We had a record shattering thread, as Allan’s review of Akira attracted a staggering 365 comments, the most ever at the site by a wide margin.  Bob Clark, Movie Man, Kaleem Hasan, Dennis, Ed Howard, Tony d’Ambra,  Jamie, Joel, Anuhavbist, Joe, Bobby McCartney and Allan himself fueled a discussion for the ages that segued from the film into the essence of American cinema and it’s most celebrated directors.  Allan’s encyclopedic memory and inimitable caustic humor was sprinkled throughout.  Several other threads did extremely well, and as always the countdown, Movie Man’s Boston Examiner reviews and Tony’s creative noir-related pieces were showcased.  The monthly TOERIFC discussion at Fox’s Tractor Facts was a fabulous consideration of Fassbinder’s The Merchant of Four Seasons.

     Since last Monday’s Diary, I have seen three double features of Brit Noir:


    They Drive By Night  *****  (Arthur Woods; 1938)  Monday, Aug. 10 

     On the Night of the Fire  **** (Brian Desmond Hurst; 1939) Monday, Aug. 10

     It Always Rains on Sunday  **** (Robert Hamer; 1947) Friday, August 14

     Night and the City  *****  (Jules Dassin; 1950)  Friday, August 14

     I Met A Murderer  *** 1/2  (Roy Kellogg; 1939)  Monday, August 17

     The Seventh Veil  **** 1/2  (Compton Bennett; 1945)  Monday, August 17

     I plan on posting a comprehensive essay at the end of the festival in early September, that will fully include every film I see.  Suffice to say it has been a fantastic venue thus far even if some of the films are really not ‘film noirs’ but films that contain some noirish elements.  ‘The Seventh Veil’ for example, is really a melodrama.  Although I’ve seen that and two others here numerous times, it’s really a treat seeing them in this fashion.

     On the contemporary scene, I can say without reservation that I had one of the best weeks in a long time:

     Ponyo  ****  (Friday afternoon; Edgewater multiplex)

     It Might Get Loud  **** (Saturday night; Landmark Cinemas)

     District 9  **** 1/2  (Sunday night; Coco Cinemas; Hershey, Pa.)

     The latest Miyazaki animated feature PONYO, has the typically beautiful design, and it’s a poignant yarn with narrative creativity.  It may not be the best film by this celebrated director, but on balance it’s still an exquisite work.  The electric guitar celebration that unites Jimmi Page, Jack White and The Edge is a riveting rock film, even if White isn’t in a class with the others.  The science-fiction polemic, DISTRICT 9 is a shattering film about man’s inhumanity to man, and for once the pyrotechnics don’t distract from the compelling theme.  It’s one of the best American films of the year.

    So for me it was a week of all movies.  No theatre or music intruded on this one-sided menue, but it’s been a great span.  How about you?  As always, movies, plays, music, literature and food are on the table.

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alice 1

by Allan Fish

(Czechoslovakia/UK/Switzerland/West Germany 1988 85m) DVD1

Aka. Neco z alenky

He’s late again

p  Peter Christian Fueter  d/w  Jan Svankmajer  novel  Lewis Carroll  ph  Svatoluk Maly  ed  Marie Drvotova  art  Eva Svankmerova, Jiri Blaha

Kristyna Kohoutova (Alice), Camilla Power (narrator),

There have been many vastly differing screen versions of Lewis Carroll’s phantasmagoric children’s nonsense tale, dating back to a star packed – Cary Grant, W.C.Fields, et al – Hollywood misfire in 1933, to Disney’s rather soporific 1951 animated version to a Jonathan Miller TV take and the 1972 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  There was even a rather hilariously awful adult version in 1976 with Kristine de Bell doing more than just taking tea with the Mad Hatter.  Carroll’s tale was always a surrealist’s fantasy before the very term was invented, a dark tale with undeniable erotic subtexts which Svankmajer more than acknowledges in his version, for those with eyes to see.  Compatriot Milos Forman called it a mixture of Disney and Buñuel, and he wasn’t far wrong. 

            Svankmajer was the greatest apprentice of great Czech puppeteer Jiri Trnka, and he was in his early fifties when he made Alice.  He’d made his name with such disturbing animated short fantasies as Down to the Cellar and The Pit, the Pendulum and Hope, which, by their very titles, are anything but traditional children’s fare.  He maintained that stance with the very opening words of Alice; “now you will see a film made for children…perhaps.”  Alice is first seen by a stream, tossing rocks into it while her mother or nurse reads a book.  Bored out of her mind, she imagines herself in her nursery, and a whole world opens up in front of her when a white stuffed rabbit – who loses stuffing very easily and is continually eating sawdust to replenish his vitals and then sewing himself back up together – enters and quickly departs her room, with a sharp looking pair of scissors.  Alice chases him across a muddy field, and into the drawer of a desk, which she disappears into head-first.  Her adventures see her take in meetings with the caterpillar (who creates himself with the help of false teeth and goes to sleep by sewing his eyes shut), the Mad Hatter, the March Hare (with a passion for smearing clocks with butter), the Dormouse (actually an animated fox fur that comes out to lick the cups clean) and the King and Queen of Hearts. (more…)

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