Archive for November, 2009

Christian McKay as Orson Welles in Richard Linklater's charming film "Me and Orson Welles"

by Sam Juliano

Although traffic has declined over the Thanksgiving break at Wonders, as it has on just about every other blogsite, a number of early week posts have again attracted large comment totals, with most of exceeding high quality.  Countdown reviews of L.A. Confidential, Eyes Wide Shut and Breaking the Waves have inspired stupendous discourse with the usual suspects on hand to pull the triggers.  A recent review of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans also did well, and new essays of Lars Von Trier’s Anti-Christ, Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles, Jane Campion’s Bright Star and John Hillcoat’s The Road are due over the next week and a half.  Last week’s Monday Morning Diary was the most successful of that weekly post that we’ve ever had here at the site, so there’s reason to remain quite optimistic.  As always thanks to the readers and loyalists who have allowed this continued success.

I took a much-welcome break from the torrid activity of recent weeks, but even the three times out I did enjoy I was with Lucille for all three and with the kids for one.  I certainly have no misgivings for my complicity in the year-end frenzy, and neither does Lucille.   I hope some of the WitD faithful were able to negotiate some trips out during the extended vacation.

Lucille and I (and Broadway Bob Eagleson) attended a one-woman show at the City Center Theatre on 55th Street on Saturday evening at 8:00 P.M. that featured legendary actress Lynn Redgrave in an extended hour-and-a-half reflection that focused on her relationship with her grandmother, Beatrice Kempson.  There were some interesting segments, but the two directions the marathon monologue ventured to never came together, and much of this play was torture to sit through, even though Ms. Redgrave is often enchanting.  A full review is planned for the site.

I  managed two films over the past week:

The Road (Hillcoat)   **     Wednesday evening; Paramus multiplex
Me and Orson Welles ****1/2  Friday evening; Angelika Film Center
     THE ROAD, an apocalyptic tone poem based on the popular novel by Cormac McCarthy (which I read in its entirety shortly after it appeared and rather liked) is a dull, flavorless, one-note treatise that some have priaised -largely because of a touching final coda- and others have dismissed.  There’s little insight into behavior as there is in the novel, and basically this is an incohesive lot of invidual set pieces, impressively filmed but with no direction.  I have usually rallied behind bleak, apocalyptic films (Children of Men, Time of the Wolf) but this is a deadining and predictable journey that resembles the conventional horror film in tone and narrative.  Surprisingly, the otherwise gifted Cave and Ellis’s score is overwrought.  Both David Schleicher and Craig Kennedy liked it though, and that means quite a bit.  And to boot I’ve found out that my dear friend Pierre de Plume is a fan too, so go figure.
     ME AND ORSON WELLES  If anyone would have told me two weeks ago that I would dislike THE ROAD and love a film by Richard Linklater, I would have said they were crazy.  But there you have it.  British theatre actor Christian McKay delivers an impersonation of the Mercury Theatre genius that must surely rank as one of the year’s best performances, and even the lightweight Zac Efron is reasonably charming in a film about Welles’s staging of Julius Caesar and his notorious mean streak and obstinancy.  For once Linklater manages some genuine emotional resonance, and this is surprisingly one of the years most entertaining and well-crafted films.  I went back and forth between 4 and 4 1/2 and I decided at the last moment to be generous.
      One of the internet’s most wonderful persons, and to this site a personal favorite, Dave Hicks, an Ohio blogger who navigates the Good Fellas Blog just wound down his six-month annual countdown project, which rightly as Samuel Wilson suggests, make dave the ‘blogger of the year.”  Dave has the rare combination of humility and stupendous talent, and he’s as nice a guy as you’ll ever meet.  It was a great joy following his countdown, and I urge everyone to check up his wrap-up and backlog of yearly-roundups.  And be sure to continue following Good Fellas as Dave will surely have some great stuff posted.
     Dee Dee’s interview with authors Eric Beetner and Jennifer Kohl just posted this afternoon, and it’s a whopper.  It’s a fascinating and revealing piece, superbly moderated by Dee Dee.
Around the blogosphere there’s some great new stuff:

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(France/Poland 99m) DVD1/2

Aka. Trois Couleurs: Rouge

Geneva fraternity

p  Marin Karmitz  d  Krzysztof Kieslowski  w  Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz  ph  Piotr Sobocinski  ed  Jacques Witta  m  Zbigniew Preisner  art  Claude Lenoir

Irène Jacob (Valentine Dusseau), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Judge Joseph Kern), Jean-Pierre Lorit (Auguste), Frédérique Feder (Karin), Samuel Lebihan (photographer), Juliette Binoche (Julie, from Blue), Benoit Régent (Olivier, from Blue), Julie Delpy (Dominique, from White), Zbigniew Zamachowski (Karol Karol, from White),

Let me not waste words; Three Colours: Red is one of the greatest films of its decade by a director at the summit of modern European cinema.  Kieslowski’s whole oeuvre is ripe for discovery by millions of people, from his masterful Dekalog through La Double Vie de Véronique to this final trilogy.  Though he was planning another trilogy on heaven, hell and purgatory, which was incomplete after his death in 1996, surely even he couldn’t have topped matched this, the final part in his Tricolor trilogy, based on the symbolism of fraternity, and the last of his Tales of Three Cities (Paris, Warsaw and Geneva).

            Valentine is a young student and model in Geneva.  Her boyfriend is being unfaithful with a woman who is also being unfaithful to her partner, a young judge.  One day Valentine runs over a German shepherd, which she traces back to its owner, a retired judge, who likes to listen in to the phone conversations of those in his neighbourhood. (more…)

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Saturday, November 28, 2009
Good Sunday Morning, Wonders in the Dark readers,
I was very fortunate to interview authors Eric Beetner and J.B.Kohl, on my blog yesterday afternoon, but due to the fact, that I don’t get as much “traffic” I decided to ask Sam Juliano, if it would be all right with him if I could
share my interview with his readers, as I give authors Eric Beetner and J.B.Kohl’s book one more push…before Eric, embark on a trip to China with his wife, to adopt their second child…Well, here it goes, I hope that you enjoy it too!…By the way, I have also posted a question and video for you at the end of the interview.
and Once again Thank -you, Sam Juliano.

[Editor’s Note: Good Afternoon, readers I’am so very “happy” to welcome authors Eric Beetner to sit down with me this Afternoon (before he embark on his trip to China along with his wife to adopt their second child.) and I’am equally, happy to welcome author J.B. Kohl, who is joining us via over the telephone intercom due to the fact, that she lives on the east coast…]
Well, let me begin our interview by saying…
Good-Afternoon Eric, and
Good-Afternoon J.B.Kohl,
I know that you have been very busy promoting your book “One Too Many Blows to the Head.” (more…)

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(Denmark/UK 1996 159m) DVD1/2

Talking to God

p  Vibeke Windelov, Peter Aalbeck  d  Lars Von Trier  w  Lars Von Trier, Peter Asmussen  ph  Robby Müller  ed  Anders Refn  m  Joachim Holbek  art  Karl Juliasson

Emily Watson (Bess McNeil), Stellan Skarsgård (Jan), Katrin Cartlidge (Dodo), Jean-Marc Barr (Terry), Adrian Rawlins (Dr Richardson), Sandra Voe (Bess’ mother), Udo Kier, Jonathan Hackett,

It’s when two people are joined with God” Watson’s Bess responds to the question of what matrimony is in the opening sequence.  That’s one way of looking at it, but it’s more indicative of the strictly Presbyterian upbringing of her remote island (Shetland or Orkneys, it’s not made entirely clear); she is, from the outset, looking like she’s ready to meet her maker.  So much so that when she eventually does leave this mortal coil, it’s as if she’s returning home and it’s hard to feel any sorrow.  Certainly that is what Von Trier seemed to be saying, with his miraculous bells from on high.  (more…)

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(USA 1999 159m) DVD1/2


p/d  Stanley Kubrick  w  Frederic Raphael, Stanley Kubrick  novel  “Traumnovelle” by Arthur Schnitzler  ph  Larry Smith  ed  Nigel Galt  m  Jocelyn Pokk (including “Jazz Suite” by Dimitri Shostakovich)  art  Les Tomkins, Roy Walker  cos  Marit Allen

Tom Cruise (Dr Bill Harford), Nicole Kidman (Alice Harford), Marie Richardson (Marion), Sydney Pollack (Victor Ziegler), Rade Scherbedgia (Milich), Leelee Sobieski (Milich’s daughter), Todd Field (Nick Nightingale), Alan Cumming (desk clerk), Vinessa Shaw (Domino, the hooker), Faye Masterson (Sally), Sky Dumont (Sandor Szavost),

Stanley Kubrick’s final film must surely qualify as one of the most misunderstood of recent times.  Much of the blame for that, of course, must be laid at the late master’s own feet due to the laborious shoot, beginning in late 1996, going through cast replacements and all sorts of delays before the final release, and then Kubrick’s untimely death in post-production.  This in addition to a frankly awful marketing campaign helped the film to its modest critical reception and decidedly cold box-office performance.  (more…)

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Eva Mendes and Nicolas Cage in Warner Herzog’s ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans’

    by Sam Juliano

     Although Werner Herzog’s new feature Bad Lieutenant: Port of New Orleans is neither a sequel nor a remake of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 cult film, there’s an undeniable kinship in the immorality of the lead characters.  Like the earlier film , the central character becomes addicted to what he is cracking down on vocationally, and is caught up in gambling, prostitution and mob involvement.   But Herzog veers this film in a different direction, making his corrupt cop a kind of Hunter S. Thompson.  Hunching over as a result of a back injury, and laughing at the oddest moments, homicide detective Terrence McDonagh make claim to seeing iguanas, which are not visible to anyone else.  McDonough was hurt while rescuing someone from the rising floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina, and he quickly becomes addicted to Vicodin.  In no time he begins to swipe cocaine and heroin from the evidence room, and he shakes down people for drugs (which he then uses or sells) theatening arrest if they don’t cooperate.  He even gets high with some and forces the guys to watch him have sex with their women. (more…)

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(UK 1999 182m) DVD1/2

The Gadarene Club

p  John Chapman  d/w  Stephen Poliakoff  ph  Bruno de Keyser, Ernie Vincze  ed  Paul Tothill  m  Adrian Johnston  art  John-Paul Kelly  cos  Susannah Buxton

Lindsay Duncan (Marilyn Truman), Timothy Spall (Oswald Bates), Liam Cunningham (Christopher Anderson), Emilia Fox (Spig), Billie Whitelaw (Veronica), Arj Barker (Garnett), Blake Ritson (Nick), Andy Serkis (Styeman), Sheila Dunn, Jean Channon,

It’s time for a personal favourite here, one of the great achievements of either screen in the last two decades, but also typical of the way television is overlooked for its bigger brother.  And yet look at films such as Dekalog, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Heimat, Das Boot and Fanny and Alexander.  All are works that are listed in film guides and yet were originally made for the small screen.  Of writers at their peak around the time of the millennium, surely the best would have to be Stephen Poliakoff, whose delights have ranged from the enigmatic Friends and Crododiles to the affecting Gideon’s Daughter, from the intricate Perfect Strangers and the less successful but still memorable The Lost Prince.  All of which leads one to beg the question, why go for this? (more…)

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(France/Poland 1993 104m) DVD1/2

Aka. Trois Couleurs: Bleu


p  Marin Karmitz  d  Krzysztof Kieslowski  w  Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski  ph  Slawomir Idziak  ed  Jacques Witta  m  Zbigniew Preisner  art  Claude Lenoir

Juliette Binoche (Julie), Benoît Régent (Olivier), Florence Pernel (Sandrine), Charlotte Véry (Lucille), Hélène Vincent (journalist), Claude Duneton (Doctor), Hugues Quester (Patrice), Emmanuelle Riva (Mère), Philippe Volter, Julie Delpy, Zbigniew Zamachowski,

What sort of a tagline is that, I hear you ask?  In the movie it’s merely an account number, but it’s one of those rare almost frighteningly prophetic numbers in cinema.  You see, 270641 is Kieslowski’s birthday, leaving just the last three numbers 196; Kieslowski died, prematurely of heart failure at 54, in 1996.  A coincidence, for sure, but a rather disconcerting one.  And talking of disconcerting, this is a very disconcerting film, probably the most cerebral of the trilogy.  It’s also possibly disconcerting in another non-existent meaning; someone who goes out of their way to stop a concerto being heard might be said to be disconcerting.  Such is the attitude of Juliette Binoche here.  This is a film about grief and the ways we cope with it.  People have been known to cope with grief in bizarre, selfish and even cruel ways (think of Samantha Morton’s Morvern Callar, for example; body in the bath anyone?).  But Binoche, Kieslowski and Piesewicz make her pain almost unbearable.  When she is asked by her maid at her old country house why she is crying, the maid replies “because you’re not.”  She’s crying not just because she’s upset, but because the most affected person is so upset she can’t even show it.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

     Those who were unable to take advantage of the recent Barnes & Noble 50% off Criterion DVD sale, which ended yesterday, can instead aim their focus on another offer that appears ever better.  At ‘Deep Discount DVD’ (until November 29th only though, so there are only four days left to act) they are offering the entire invantory for 40% off.  And of course there isn’t any sales tax and shipping is always FREE.  So for those who weren’t able to attain the recently-released Criterion set of The Golden Age of Television, the Deep Discount sale will enable you to buy it for a price that is nearly as low as the Criterion mark down.

     But there is so much more there, and collectors are urged to get over there ASAP to pick up gifts and shore up the holes in their collection.  All blu-ray DVDs are also 40% off, books, 30% off and CDs 30% off.  Get over there now!  (no I am not winning any commission!)

NOTE WELL:  This sale includes EVERY DVD from EVERY COMPANY, not just Criterion.  All Warners, Paramount, MCA, MGM, Kino, Image, etc, etc, are 40% off!


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la belle noiseuse 1

(France 1991 239m) DVD1/2

We want truth in painting

Martine Marignac  d  Jacques Rivette  w  Pascal Bonitzar, Christine Laurent, Jacques Rivette  story  “Le Chef d’Oeuvre Inconnu” by Honoré de Balzac  ph  William Lubtchansky  ed  Nicole Lubtchansky  m  Igor Stravinsky  art  Emmanuel de Chauvigny

Michel Piccoli (Edouard Frenhofer), Jane Birkin (Liz), Emmanuelle Béart (Marianne), Marianne Denicourt (Julienne), David Bursztein (Nicolas), Giles Arbona (Porbus),

Jacques Rivette is probably the most individual director of the acknowledged greats of the nouvelle vague, a director of a purely personal vision, one which may alienate as many as it entrances but which remains wholly original.  His 1991 study in the creative artistic process qualifies as a Rivettian subject in more ways than one.  Not only is the film itself one to split audiences down the middle, but so too is the eponymous painting itself.  In truth, the finished article (or should one say articles, as he bricks his original up rather than have people see it) is not one that I could say I really appreciated remotely enough to confer with the notion of his being a genius, but it’s the process itself that is under the microscope here.  Well, that and the human soul.  (more…)

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