Archive for November 2nd, 2009

                    Screen cap of horror gem The House of the Devil 

by Sam Juliano

     With the Yankees leading the World Series over the Phillies 3 games to 1, Yankee fans are envisioning a championship for the Bronx Bombers.  Our buddy David Schleicher is leading the charge for the National League Champions from the City of Brotherly Love.

     I have worked hard to re-focus after being drained both physically and emotionally over the past two weeks, and managed to see some films and a mid-day Manhattan church concert on Sunday.  The 90’s countdown continues with Allan’s capsules, and the site was treated this past week to reviews from Marc Bauer and Jamie Uhler on the new Michael Jackson documentary and the giallo Torso. 

 I attended a magnificent “Orpheus in England” concert Sunday afternoon at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where world-class soprano Dame Emma Kirkby and celebrated lutist, Jacob Lindberg performed John Dowland and Henry Purcell, and two encores. Dowland’s “In Darkness Let Me Dwell” gave one the shivers, as it’s one of the greatest passages in the history of western music. Ms. Kirkby was angelic.
I saw three films in theatres this week:

Michael Jackson’s ‘This is It’ **** (Wed. night; Clifton multiplex)
The House of the Devil ***** 1/2 (Friday night; Angelika)
The Maid **** 1/2 (Saturday night; Montclair Claridge)

As I stated in response to a posted review at WitD by Marc Bauer, I thought THIS IS IT was a solid doc., and one that remains living proof that Jacko was prepared for the demanding schedule that the London concerts promised. Watching this often spellbinding film, one experienced both euphoria and sadness.

A throwback to 80’s horror, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL combined genre atmospherics with a surprising witchcraft/devil worship subplot that provided for a hair-raising final 30 minutes that by any barometer of measurement was absolutely horrifying. There’s a bit of Kubrick, Bava and Craven, by in Ti West we have a filmmaker to be reckened with. In a year of strong entries in this genre this is the best of them all.

A Chilean film about a maid who feels she’s part of a family she’s worked with for a number of years, THE MAID boasts a quietly brilliant performance by Catalina Saavedra, and director Silva uses a magnifying glass on his subjects, culling both the humor and dark edges in domestic family life. It’s one of the best films of the year without question.

      I have some blogosphere links, although not as many as I would like to post.  I will  hopefully return to the regular pattern next week.

      At “Darkness Into Light” Dee Dee is headling a superb review from Jon Lanthier on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:


   At FilmsNoir.net, Tony d’Ambra has penned another one of his magnificent sensory treatment’s of Marcel Carne’s classic Le Quai des Brumes:


   John Greco continues to post films that are a challenge even for the most prolific filmgoer.  His latest is No Man of Her Own (1932):



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piano 1

(New Zealand 1993 120m) DVD1/2

My will has chosen life

p  Jan Chapman  d/w  Jane Campion  ph  Stuart Dryburgh  ed  Veronika Jenet  m  Michael Nyman  art  Andrew MacAlpine  cos  Janet Patterson

Holly Hunter (Ada McGrath), Harvey Keitel (George Baines), Sam Neill (Alastair Stewart), Anna Paquin (Flora McGrath), Kerry Walker (Aunt Morag), Geneviève Lemon (Nessie), Tungla Baker (Hira), Ian Mune (Reverend),

David Thomson described it as “a great film in an age that has nearly forgotten such things.”  I have to disagree.  There have been more great films made in recent times than he might think, but one cannot argue with his calling this one great for it is truly a film for which the very adjective ‘great’ seems somehow insufficient.  It is that most nearly extinct of cinematic beasts, a journey into the human soul.  In that respect we really have been starved of such wondrous fare. 

            Ada McGrath arrives in 19th century New Zealand from Scotland with only her beloved piano and her nine year old daughter for company.  Unable to speak since she was six, she can only speak in her mind and through her daughter’s interpretations of her sign language.  However, her new husband Stewart refuses to allow her piano to be brought and, just as he had failed to learn the local Maori tongue and become an outcast, he refuses to understand her methods of communication.  But when his neighbour, Baines, a seemingly uncouth man who has embraced the local customs, offers to trade the piano for lessons it leads her into a sexual and emotional bond that very nearly ends in tragedy for all concerned.

            Campion’s poem of a film is about many things, in particular the power of the human spirit, challenged by foreign surroundings, the frustrations that come from lack of speech and true affection and the way one has to escape from reality into another world as a correction to the real one.  That spirit is undoubtedly also in her daughter, whose imagination is also a marvel to behold, but Flora’s tale would be another story.  This is about Ada and her will, and it’s a will as strong as the piano she lives for.  (more…)

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