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Archive for September, 2009

by Sam Juliano

     Last night’s high definition screenings of the beloved classic The Wizard of Oz in over 400 theatres nationwide  leaves one questioning if they were really privileged to be part of this 70th anniversary celebration, in spite of reported sell-outs in nearly every location showcasing the enhanced print.  With a flat rate of $10 a ticket, including for even the youngest kids, the price point is comparable to what moviegoers are being asked to cough up for the recent spate of 3D versions of summer fare, much of which hasn’t measured up to the hype.

     The 10:00 P. M. screening last night at the AMC multiplex in Clifton, New Jersey featured a print no better than any DVD of the film that has been released to date, and particularly disappointing sepia tone bookend sequences that failed to bring out the ‘sharp detail’ that was promised by distributors.  While the larger image is of course a special treat for fans, it accomplished nothing by way of compositional enhancement or color saturation, two factors that motivated many to attend in the first place.  True, the audio mix was lively, and the most minute orchestral cues were decipherable, but it’s a glass half-full.  With this kind of shoddy execution, one can’t help but question the build-up and the motivation behind this aggressive promotion of a film that needs little publicity or marketing. (more…)

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asthenic 1

(USSR 1989 153m) not on DVD

Aka. Asteniceskij Sindrom

A bottleful of sadness has been spilt

p  Micha Lampert, Kira G.Muratova  d  Kira G.Muratova  w  Kira G.Muratova, Sergei Popov, Alexander Tschernych  ph  Vladimir Pankov  ed  Vladimir Olinik  m  Franz Schubert  art  Oleg Ivanov

Olga Antonova (Natasha), Sergei Popov (Nikolai), Galina Zakhrudayeva (Masha – blonde), Natalya Buzko (Masha – brunette), Pavel Polishchuk (Iunikov), Natalya Ralleva (mother), Aleksandra Svenskaya (teacher),

Surely one of the least seen of all great films of the last twenty-five years, director Kira Muratova’s magnum opus is one of the most taxing films you’ll ever see.  Though my introduction aimed to try and open up new possibilities to the popcorn munching brigade, this one probably isn’t for their membership.  I’d suggest that they try, but I think in converting people to watching foreign, and especially difficult foreign movies, one must start them off in more favourable surroundings; start with Cinema Paradiso, Crouching Tiger, some Kurosawa and the Claude Berri Pagnol films and work from there.  This, one might say, is a graduation assignment.

              Syndrome opens in stark monochrome at a funeral, where the deceased’s wife suddenly bursts into extreme hysteria and walks away from the graveside.  The mourners follow her, but she tells them in no uncertain terms to “go to hell”, and stomps off to deal with her grief in her own way.  That way involves changing into the epitome of rude, aggressive offence, deliberately pushing people over in the street, insulting people, including one’s boss in the act of resigning, and even slapping a man and bursting into hysterics when he answers in the negative when she asks whether he’ll sleep with her.  She picks up a drunk, offers sex, and then screams as she throws him out afterwards. (more…)

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Greetings fellow cinephiles, horror buffs and afficiandos, and everyone who just loves movies —

I would like to invite you all to participate in the Italian Horror Blog-a-Thon October 19-31 at my site Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies.  This is my first attempt at hosting a blog-a-thon, so I am sending out this email well in advance to see if anyone would be interested in participating either through writing an original piece, submitting something they’ve already written about an Italian horror film, or would just like to help me out by promoting the blog-a-thon on your site (another email with sidebar banners to help advertise is coming in a week or so). 

For those that read my blog you no doubt know by now my affinity for Italian horror.  So, the purpose behind this email is just to make you all aware of the blog-a-thon and to try and gauge interest.  Some of you I know quite well, some of you have horror themed blogs that I sometimes comment on, and others either follow my blog or I follow yours…so here’s a good way to introduce ourselves.

Anyway, I just wanted to get the word out.  My hope is that this will be a lot of fun for people to write about.  If you’re unfamiliar with Italian horror, but love horror films and are thinking that you’d like to write something for the blog-a-thon, but don’t know where to start, I suggest beginning with Mario Bava’s seminal slasher film Bay of Blood, or Argento’s Deep Red or Suspiria.  If zombies are your thing you can’t go wrong with the kind-of-good Fulci stuff like Zombi 2 or City of the Living Dead…if you want absurdly good cult fare that Tarantino himself has quoted then look no further than Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City (starring Hugo Stiglitz!). 

Thanks for letting me bug you all about this.  I hope you all will join me the last two weeks of October as we look at an array of Italian horror films.  Please reply if you think you would be interested in submitting a piece and contributing to the blog-a-thon, or if you just want more information so you can help promote it.  I will be thrilled and honored by either form of participation.  I will send an email in another week or so with all of the details and how the format will be (and how you can go about helping me promote this thing)…as for now I just wanted to test the waters to see if anyone besides me will want to participate.

Thanks again for your time,

Kevin J. Olson

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Alexander

(Sweden 1982 309m) DVD1/2

Aka. Fanny och Alexander

One role follows another

p  Jörn Donner  d/w  Ingmar Bergman  ph  Sven Nykvist  ed  Sylvia Ingemarsson  m  Daniel Bell  art  Anna Asp  cos  Marik Vos

Pernilla Allwin (Fanny Ekdahl), Bertil Guve (Alexander Ekdahl), Jan Malmsjö (Bishop Edvard Vergerus), Ewa Fröling (Emilie Ekdahl), Gunn Wallgren (Helena Ekdahl), Allan Edwall (Oscar Ekdahl), Boerje Ahlstadt (Prof.Carl Ekdahl), Christina Schollin (Lydia Ekdahl), Jarl Kulle (Gustav-Adolph Ekdahl), Pernilla Wallgren (Maj), Mona Malm (Alma Ekdahl), Gunnar Björnstrand (Filip Landahl), Erland Josephson (Isak Jacobi), Harriet Andersson (Justina), Lena Olin (Rosa), Anna Bergman, Kirsten Tidelius,

Ingmar Bergman’s final masterpiece has been called many things; a childhood rhapsody, an elegy to the past, a subtly intricate family saga, a compendium of his entire oeuvre and a ravishing recreation of turn of the century Sweden.  In truth it’s all these things and much more.  All Bergman’s favourite themes run through its five hours, from life and death to love and sex, from food and drink to fidelity and marriage, from faith and truth to pleasure and lies, from childhood and family to grief and joy, with more than a little time for dreams and ghosts.  It’s not only a masterpiece but a summation of one man’s brilliant career.  As Bergman himself has said, “Fanny and Alexander is the sum total of my life as a filmmaker.”

            The tale covers the lives and loves of the Ekdahl family in the small town of Uppsala, beginning in Christmas 1907.  During this family gathering, which was very much a Scandinavian institution, the servants mingle with the gentry and the gentry eye up the maids.  However, the almost detached reality of this holiday period is soon shattered when the father of the two eponymous children dies suddenly of a heart attack and his bereaved mother agrees to marry a local puritanical bishop.          (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

     John Boorman’s Hope and Glory stands apart from nearly-all other World War II-themed films in that it presents an idyllic view of terrible events, seen through the eyes of a ten-year old boy.  By displaying the humor and the resilience of the boy’s family and the British people in general, the film at first broaches denial, and then segues into domestic life wrought under danger and hardship, where luck plays a large part in the survival game.  Hope and Glory is for it’s writer-director a semi-autobiographical work centering around his own experiences of a child growing up during the war, and of the psychology of a nation not yet ready for such a calamity.  When a school teacher quips “a few bombs may wake up this country” and the boy’s mother complains that they’re “starting  a war on such a beautiful day”you know that many aren’t prepared for, nor aware of the deadly battle of wills that is to soon ensue.

     Young Bill Rohan, played by a spunky young actor named Sebastian Rice Edwards, lives with his parents and two sisters in a London suburb.  His father, who is too old to serve in combat, is assigned to a military desk job early in the film, so the young boy is surrounded by females and a close friend of his mother.  His daily routine is in large measure to attend school, engage in mischief with friends, and scour through the wreckage caused by bombs that penetrate the blimp defense employed around the country.  You don’t have to be British to be stirred by an emphatic school master’s patriotic speech invoking Churchill and and the brave young warriors enlisted to defend the country, with the strains of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” underscoring the noble defiance.  When Billy holds up the cover of a war periodical at the end of the sermon, we’re reminded that the kids think it’s a big adventure, no different that when Billy plays with his collection of soldiers before going to bed.  And few mothers won’t be able to relate to a wrenching scene when Bill’s mum breaks down a the train station, at the planned prospect of sending Billy and his youngest sister away to safer pastures until the end of the war, only to change her mind and be rejected by the officials. (more…)

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The Shining (no 9)

Shining

(US/UK 1980 146m) DVD1 (114m only on DVD2)

Redrum…redrum…redrum

p/d  Stanley Kubrick  w  Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson  novel  Stephen King  ph  John Alcott  ed  Ray Lovejoy  m  Bela Bartok, Wendy/Walter Carlos, Rachel Elkind, Gyorgi Ligeti, Krzysztof Penderecki  art  Roy Walker, Leslie Tomkins 

Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrence), Shelley Duvall (Wendy Torrence), Danny Lloyd (Danny Torrence), Scatman Crothers (Dick Hallorann), Barry Nelson (Stuart Ullman), Philip Stone (Delbert Grady), Joseph Turkel (Lloyd, the barman), Anne Jackson (doctor),

Of all the puzzling enigmas at the heart of Kubrick’s bona fide horror masterpiece, the biggest that still plagues me is rather why he saw fit to shorten the film for its UK release from the version that showed elsewhere.  In the UK it is only shown in the full 2½ hour version on TCM, Kubrick himself having had control over his movies in the UK (which of course allowed him to withdraw A Clockwork Orange so famously).  At the time of its release, like Barry Lyndon before it, it was roundly misunderstood and jeered; critics and audiences expected a horror movie and a transcription of King’s novel.  They failed to understand that source novels are merely the bare bones upon which Kubrick fleshes out his movies with something deeper that interests him more.  What is so baffling is that the shorter version, though tighter, misses a pivotal early sequence with Lloyd, Duvall and Jackson’s psychiatrist, which at least goes some way to explaining one aspect of the piece, if not remotely all. 

            Jack Torrence is a recovering alcoholic who has had trouble in the past getting started on writing a novel and has come to the Rocky Mountain resort of the Overlook Hotel to become the site’s new winter caretaker during the off-season.  He brings with him his wife and his young son, Danny, who unbeknownst to his parents, is possessed with a special gift of sight which the hotel chef, also a possessor of the ability, is the only one to recognise.  Jack slowly begins to feel at home at the hotel, and thinks he’s been there before, but the atmosphere proceeds to send him insane, much like a previous holder of the post, who killed his family several years earlier. (more…)

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                                                       John Malkovich and Jessica Haines in Disgrace

by Sam Juliano

     Fall is now officially with us, and the cool weather has underscored the seasonal change.  The movie roll out is underway with highly-anticipated works from Jane Campion and Stephen Soderbergh making their weekend debuts.  Yet the multiplex remains indundated with the kind of junk, that isn’t even worthy of a DVD viewing.

     The highlight of my own week was meeting up with the popular blogger “Pat” Perry of Doodad Kind of Town. on Thursday evening.  Pat was in Manhattan seeing the play The Gods of Carnage, and Lucille and I (and three of the young ones) met her as she exited and drove for a snack and had a great talk.  What a lovely person!

     On the movie scene, I did see four films over the past week, two locally in multiplexes, and two in Manhattan during exclusive runs.  Only one film of the four is really worth taking about, though the animated feature was passable.

Give Me Your Hand  **  (French; Quad; Monday evening)

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs  ***  (Edgewater multiplex; Friday afternoon)

The Informant  ** 1/2  (Edgewater multiplex; Friday night)

Disgrace  ****  (Quad; Saturday night)

     The French film, gay-themed, about two brothers, brings Two-Lane Blacktop to mind, but it’s a plodding, one-note movie that is overeliant of rural settings.  Again ‘minimalism’ which strives for quiet tension, but fails.

     The animated Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, at least manages to turn a short picture book into a 90 minute feature, but the results are mixed, and the film changes some of the book’s premise.  The animation is lively, and it’s intermittantly fun and tedious.

     Stephen Soderbergh has once again thrown scenes together that eventually become torturous to sit through.  It’s a dull, talky film, that wastes a fine performance by Matt Damon.  I’ll elaborate further at some point this week.

     The director Steve Jacobs has made a strong film from J.M. Coetzee’s well-regarded novel, in which John Malkovich sustains a “fall from grace” much in the fashion of the inferior “Elegy” but it’s extremely well-acted and dramatically engrossing.  I may pen a full review.

     Around the blogosphere I have some links again, although I have been ill all day and can’t be as comprehensive.  Still here we go:

    Our dear friend Tony d”Ambra has what appears to be fabulous piece up on The Maltese Falcon” at filmsnoir.net:

http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/the-maltese-falcon-the-beginning-of-noir.html

     At “Sayamshot” Kaleem Hasan has a piece up now titled “A Few Scattered Thoughts on Yeh Mera India (Hindi):

http://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/a-few-scattered-thoughts-on-yeh-mera-india-hindi-2009/

     At the “Powerstrip” Jon Lanthier has a post up titled “Bromberg and Work”:

http://blog.aspiringsellout.com/2009/09/bromberg-and-work.html

     Ed Howard has a fascinating essay up on “In the Mirror With Maya Deren,” which examines the famed forerunner of avante garde cinema:

http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2009/09/in-mirror-of-maya-deren.html

     John Greco has a very fine piece up on The Clay Pigeon (1949) at “Twenty-Four Frames.”:

http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/the-clay-pigeon-1949-richard-fleischer/

Dave Hicks’s annual countdown will resume on October 1st.  His excellent Raging Bull essay is still top-lining:

http://goodfellamovies.blogspot.com/2009/09/1980-raging-bull-martin-scorsese.html

     David Schleicher has an absolutely essential piece on “The Greatest Living Composers” at his place:

http://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2009/09/17/the-greatest-living-film-composers/

     Dee Dee continues with review by Andrew Katsis, with reviews of animated shorts at Darkness to Light: (more…)

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a nos amours 1 

piece amended ACF 220909 – comments prior to this relevant to earlier piece

(France 1983 102m) DVD1/2

Aka. To Our Loves

I don’t want to always hurt people

p  Micheline Pialat  d  Maurice Pialat  w  Arlette Langmann, Maurice Pialat  ph  Jacques Loiseleux  ed  Yann Dedet  art  Jean-Paul Camail, Arlette Langmann

Sandrine Bonnaire (Suzanne), Dominique Besnehard (Robert), Evelyne Ker (mother), Maurice Pialat (father), Anne-Sophie Maillé (Anne), Christophe Odent (Michel), Cyr Boitard (Luc), Cyril Collard (Jean-Pierre), Maite Maillé (Martine),

David Thomson never wrote a truer word than when he declared “has any actress made a debut of such force – and youth – as Sandrine Bonnaire managed in À Nos Amours, made when she was fifteen?excited, afraid, daring, sensual, and innocent.  Everything was there, without coyness or boasting.”  Yet that very unique quality has proved a double-edged sword.  American distributors were not used to such naturalism from one so young, but rather teen stars who were ex-film moppets slowly growing up before our eyes.  They were not fresh, startling, precocious lookers, who mix fragility with a truth that takes root not in the fantasy of the movies, but in the harsh light of reality.  Furthermore, Bonnaire was not afraid of the sexuality of the part, she owned that character of Suzanne.  Such maturity from young actresses is hardly uncommon in French, or indeed European, cinema.  Such modern stars as Delpy, Gainsbourg, Sagnier, Ledoyen and Morton all bared their souls at a period when American actresses are stuck in formulaic teen movies.  (more…)

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blade 1

(USA 1982/1991/2007 114m) DVD1/2

Moonbeams on the shoulder of Orion

p  Michael Deeley, Ridley Scott  d  Ridley Scott  w  Hampton Fincher, David Webb Peoples  novel  “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K.Dick  ph  Jordan Cronenweth  ed  Terry Rawlings, Marsha Nakashima  m  Vangelis  art  Lawrence G.Paull  spc  Douglas Trumbull 

Harrison Ford (Rick Deckard), Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty), Sean Young (Rachael), Daryl Hannah (Pris), Edward James Olmos (Gaff), M.Emmet Walsh (Bryant), William Sanderson (J.F.Sebastian), Brian James (Leon), Joseph Turkel (Tyrell), Joanna Cassidy (Zhora),

Blade Runner is a film that will either entrance or infuriate and probably as many people don’t respond to it as do.  But this could also be said to be true of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  For a sci-fi film to become a classic, it must first pass through that darkest of tunnels – cinematic cultdom.  In its original cut, the film was at best a cult classic.  In Ridley Scott’s director’s cut, which was surely the only major one in history to be shorter than the original (by two minutes), it becomes a classic.  Period.

            In Los Angeles in 2019 we find the earth radically altered.  Many of the intelligent minds have moved off the planet to “off worlds” where they are supplied special slave labour, in the form of the Tryell Corporation’s series of Nexus androids, known as Replicants.  These androids are programmed to have everything but human emotion, but with that itself also acquirable in time, a self-defence mechanism is included whereby the Replicants self-terminate after just four years.  A group of six Replicants escape the off world to come back to earth to try and get the process revoked so they can continue to live.  The law enforcement authorities recruit a seemingly retired assassin, known as a Blade Runner, to ‘retire’ (ie. kill) the Replicants before they achieve their objective. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

     Wonders in the Dark loyalist and good friend Jason Giampietro has dug up an old video of Oscar Night 2000, held at my 7 Spruce Street, Fairview, New Jersey home and has posted it at You Tube.  I must admit I was embarassed to see this, as I was 60 pounds heavier at that time, and I was shown here grotesquely bare-chested.  Yes, I am the deliriously pompous fool who did all the talking here.  Dennis Polifroni, who sported blond hair back then is prominently displayed, and another site poster, Jack Marsh is also seen and heard here comprehensively.  For those curious to see and hear how silly some of us acted on this annual night of infamy, and for those wanting some laughs check this out.  I hope I’ll still have friends after this:

 
 

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