Archive for September 28th, 2009

                                        Scene from Jane Campion’s Bright Star


                                          Poster from documentary In Search of Beethoven

by Sam Juliano

New York sports fans are on cloud nine this weekend and in baseball the Yankees completed a sweep of the Boston Red Sox to clinch the eastern division crown, while both the football Jets and the football Giants have begun their seasons with 3-0 records, the first time such a feat has occured in many years.  However as part of our staff here is a Beantown rooter and Boston-based, particularly the Patriots, we will hold our tongue.

Roman Polanski in captivity?!?  Well, everyone is welcome to discuss that here or wait for Joel Bocko’s lead-in essay next week.  Whew, that’s a stunner!

Wonders in the Dark regular Bob Clark of The Aspect Ratio  made his writing debut here with a thesis-level 12,000 word review of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, which frankly to these eyes is one of the greatest of all on-line reviews.  We are thrilled to have Bob on board.  As always, Joel Bocko of The Dancing Image and The Boston Examiner continues to raise the bar with his incomparable and lengthy comments, which take analytical discussion to the highest level.  Bocko’s newest essay, posted today on film criticism titled “For the Love of Movies” seems like a perfect conversation starter.  As a stand-alone it’s typically for its author a brilliant essay.  Site regular Kaleem Hasan had a torrid week at the site with astounding submissions under many threads, but as always there are so many others to thank including the indominable Dee Dee, John Greco, Jamie Uhler, Daniel Getahun, Dave Hicks, Jon Lanthier, Ed Howard, Dennis, Judy, Margaret, Anu, Bobby J., Troy Olson, Kevin Olson, David Schleicher, Pat, Frank Gallo, Alexander, Peter, Joe, David Noack and many others.

Of course it goes without saying that Alan Fish’s continuing countdown remains the centerpiece of the site, and the main reason why so many come here in the first place.  Anyone who can pump out review after review for every placement on a personal list deserves the highest praise, and typically his pieces get many comments including mega-action under both his The Asthenic Syndrome and The Shining essays.

I had one of the best movie weeks quality-wise of the year, with both a rare five-star film and a four-and-a-half star documentary in the mix.  I saw:

Bright Star  *****  (Sunday afternoon; Tenafly Multiplex)

Coco Avant Chanel  *** 1/2  (Saturday night; Chelsea Cinemas)

In Search of Beethoven  **** 1/2  (Friday night; Cinema Village)

On Wednesday I escorted the entire family to see the beloved classic The Wizard of Oz (1939) at a local multiplex, and while we were all thrilled to see the film on a big screen we were less than satisfied with the pedestrian HD presentation.  I wrote a short post on the experience on Thursday morning.

Jane Campion’s Bright Star was a sumptuous, intelligently written and acted period piece about a brief love affair between John Keats and Fanny Brawne, before his untimely death at the extremely young age of 25 of tuberculosis.  The film is passionate, sensory and poetic, the latter quality befitting the life of the English language’s second-greatest poet ever behind Shakespeare.

The team that made the very fine In Search of Mozart in 2007, have made an even better film on Beethoven, with th esimilarly titled In Search of Beethoven.  Piecing together talking heads, paintings, re-enactments, letters, diaries, and most of all a generous sampling of some of Western music’s most sublime musical compositions, this is a Beethoven lover’s dream, but even for the novice an educational and engrossing doc that neither insults it’s viewers nor bogs them down in off-putting musical technicalities.

Ace film composer Alexander Desplat had a field day once again with his ravishing score for Coco Avant Chanel, a film that could have been deeper, but is still a reasonably solid piece of entertainment thanks to Desplat, Audrey Tautou and some lovely costumes and cinematography.  Some of the material here seems rather simplified.  Get that Desplat score CD!

Some of the excellent work around the blogosphere includes:

John Greco once again digs deep into the cinematic landscape with a superlative review of Frank Perry’s little-seen Last Summer, at Twenty-Four Frames, a 1969 film that won Cathy Burns an Oscar nod.  The film is unavailable on DVD:


Jenny Bee Boulden has written one of the greatest reviews ever posted on-line (I kid you not!) of That Evening Sun at “Awards Daily.”  This review is priceless:


Dee Dee is headlining a very fine noir review from her affiliate Australian Andrew Katsis, on Frank Tuttle’s This Gun For Hire at Darkness to Light:


The great Jon Lanthier, who is busy with a project at the current time, has an essential review up at The Powerstrip of Von Trier’s Anti-Christ:


Before his wedding sabatical (and WitD wishes him a great week and married life!) Ed Howard posted another brilliant piece on Patrice Chereau’s Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train:


Ever on top of breaking news, Kaleem Hasan has the scoop here on Roman Polanski’s Swiss arrest at Satyamshot:


After a brief sabbatical, T.S. of Screen Savour has returned with a vengeanace, continuing his Keaton series with a stellar piece on The General:



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singing det

(UK 1986 415m) DVD1/2

Ten cents a dance, fella

p  John Harris, Kenith Trodd  d  Jon Amiel  w  Dennis Potter  ph  Ken Westbury  ed  Bill Wright, Sue Wyatt  m  Stanley Myers  art  Jim Clay

Michael Gambon (Philip Marlow), Patrick Malahide (Mark Binney), Alison Steadman (Lili), Joanne Whalley (Nurse Mills), David Ryall (Mr Hall), Ron Cook (1st mysterious man), George Rossi (2nd mysterious man), Janet Suzman (Nicola), Leslie French (“Noddy” Tomkey), Bill Paterson (Dr Gibbon), Ken Stott (Uncle John), Jim Carter (Mr Marlow), Gerald Horan (Reginald Gibbs), Sharon Clarke (night nurse), Imelda Staunton (Nurse White), Badi Uzzaman (Ali), Janet Henfrey (schoolteacher), Lyndon Davies (Philip, aged 10), David Thewlis (soldier),

Following the transmission of the first episodes of Dennis Potter’s magnum opus on BBC1, their viewer response show Points of View was bombarded with complaints from the Mary Whitehouse brigade, including a mirthfully Pythonesque response from Colonel R.S.Vine, BSc, MRCS, LRCP, FRC Path, who called it “this extraordinarily obscene production.”  It still amazes me how truly shatteringly narrow-minded the average person is – and was – in the so-called modern age, and I’m sure it left Potter equally aghast.  It was as if sex was the only thing that The Singing Detective was about, when in actual fact it was but one layer of many.  Rather than showcase Potter as having a filthy mind, they were actually uncovering their own shortcomings. (more…)

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