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Archive for November 30th, 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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