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Archive for November 4th, 2009

by Sam Juliano

     While I have never warmed to the cinema of Spike Jonze, whose mind puzzles have developed more than a cult following over the years, I must say this latest failure was somewhat of a surprise, since the source material here is perhaps the most beloved Caldecott Medal winner in history.  Maurice Sendak’s expressionistic story centering around the fantasies of an eight-year-old boy named Max, who has a disinterested sister, an occupied mother, and an often-MIA father.  The book is comprised of 37 pages and nine sentences, and would immediately provide a huge challenge for any filmmaker hoping to go further than the cinematic ‘tone poem’ that this film at least in some measure tries to achieve.

     Sendak’s story, which spurs the dark recesses of the imagination like few picture books have makes equally creative use of the English language and alliteration.  Max’s anger in fact makes him believe he is all-powerful and can rule the world, until reality sets in and he realizes he’s in a faraway place, where he can never earn th etrue love he left behind.  Dressed up in a ubiquitous wolf-suit, Max chases the dog with a fork and growls at his Mom, who irate herself calls him a “Wild Thing” to which Max shouts back “I’ll eat you up!” a statement that wins him supperless banishment to his room.  There Max fantasizes that his bedroom turns into a magical setting with a wild forest and a little boat in the ocean. (more…)

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sweet hereafter 1

(Canada 1997 112m) DVD1/2

Berries waiting to be plucked

p  Camelia Frieberg, Atom Egoyan  d/w  Atom Egoyan  novel  Russell Banks  ph  Paul Sarossy  ed  Susan Shipton  m  Mychael Danna  art  Philip Barker, Kathleen Climie  cos  Beth Pasternak

Ian Holm (Mitchell Stephens), Sarah Polley (Nicole Burnell), Gabrielle Rose (Dolores Driscoll), Tom McCamus (Sam Burnell), Maury Chaykin (Wendell Walker), Bruce Greenwood (Billy Ansell), Alberta Watson (Risa Walker), Arsinée Khanjian (Wanda Otto), Earl Pastko (Hartley Otto), David Hemblen, Brooke Johnson, Peter Donaldson,

It would be fair to say that novelist Russell Banks was in vogue with film-makers in the mid to late nineties, with two memorable films being made of his works; Paul Schrader’s Affliction and this haunting piece from Atom Egoyan.  Both concern the same icy, wintry backdrops.  Both concern familial trauma and tragic accidents, and both are ensemble pieces which encouraged superb performances from their casts (think of Nick Nolte and James Coburn).  Yet in truth Schrader’s film doesn’t remotely come close to the impact of Egoyan’s.  And yet, future Bilbo Baggins aside, most audiences at the time would have struggled to pick out anyone that they knew. (more…)

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