Archive for January 11th, 2010

by Allan Fish

This review is published here in memory of the master French director Eric Rohmer who died yesterday.

(France 1969 111m) DVD1

Aka. My Night with Maud

Pascal’s Wager

p  Pierre Cottreill, Barbet Schroeder  d/w  Eric Rohmer  ph  Nestor Almendros  ed  Cécile Decugis  art  Nicole Rachline

Jean-Louis Trintignant (Jean-Louis), Françoise Fabian (Maud), Marie-Christine Barrault (Françoise), Antoine Vitez (Vidal), Léonide Kogan, Guy Léger, Anne Dubot,

The third of Eric Rohmer’s Moral Tales, Ma Nuit chez Maud could be described as the ultimate romantic movie for intellectuals.  Many would regard it as Rohmer’s greatest film, even though it goes against his general practice of using non-professionals by casting famous actors to fill the shoes of its protagonists.  It was also Rohmer’s last film in black and white and, though that may seem a surprise after the sun-kissed previous entry La Collectioneuse, it was absolutely the right decision to film in monochrome.  Not only because of the inherent cold analysis of the conversations of the characters but also because, intriguingly in retrospect, it’s a film that could fall into another one of his themed series, his later Tales of the Four Seasons.  The later Conte d’Hiver was a fine film in its own right, with faint echoes of Shakespeare’s like-titled play and had a warm and typical Rohmerian lead in Charlotte Véry, but Ma Nuiz chez Maud could only exist in the winter.  There’s something altogether bracing about the snow in the film that not only provides excuses for its protagonist to be where he is on the two nights over which the majority of the film’s action takes place, but also provides a deliberately faux fairytale quality that is unmistakeable. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

     With the holidays behind us, most have now settled into the the start of a new year, and film lovers are watching a never-ending flow of award groups bestow their “best” on movies and performers.  This week at Wonders, yours truly posted his ‘year-end’ ten best list (actually 12 with a three-way tie for #10) as well as titles and screen caps of my top 50 films of the decade that just concluded.  Both posts have attracted massive responses, and the latter will serve as an advanced look at the site’s own polling of the 2000s bets films, which will include Allan’s final countdown and readers’s own choices.  Meanwhile, Allan’s incomparable silent poll countdown continues with this week’s blend of the well-known and the obscure.

I managed to see three films theatrically: one documentary at the IFC, and two commercially released “multiplex” features.  As can be expected, the documentary was the most interesting of the three, and had the added bonus of having the film’s young female director, Mai Iskander, in attendance to host an engaging Q & A session.

I attended the two ‘commercial releases’ with the family, and the documentary with Lucille and Broadway Bob:

Garbage Dreams  *** 1/2  (Saturday night)   IFC Film Center
Youth in Revolt  **         (Friday afternoon)    Secaucus multiplex
The Day Breakers  **  (Saturday afternoon)   Edgewater multiplex
     GARBAGE DREAMS, set in Cairo, centers around the “Zaballeen,” an Egyptian lower-class group of Christian denomination who recycle nearly 80% of the city’s waste, in the absence of an official city-wide garbage collection program.  The Zaballeen are paid a pittance for for their services.  The film centers around three teenage boys who support their families collecting trash and one young woman (the latter of whom serves as a social worker who tries to keep people in her neighborhood healthy.  The director’s sentiments in this film are obvious, and Garbage Dreams is rather capitalist in its approach, emphasizing the work Laila and the Zabballeens do to learn how garbage is handled in other parts of the world and improve their service through education and modernization rather than any kind of protest or attempts to endure on anything but hard-earned merit.  The teenagers are survivors, who uphold with dignity a long cultural tradition.  The film runs only 79 minutes, and it doesn’t really scratch the surface of this lifestyle, but it certainly a modesty engaging and inspirational story of those who make what they can with what little they have.
    YOUTH IN REVOLT is director Miguel Arteta’s take on C.D. Payne’s mischievious teenage novel, whose hero is a nerdy teen named Nick Twisp, who’s crazy for a beautiful girl Sheeni Saunders.  But the girl isn’t interested in a virgin, and the boy, played by Michael Sera, everybody’s favorite nerdy romantic, adapts and alter ego named Francois who sets fires, smokes, and hits on the girls.  The film has no real sense of focus, and the narrative is mainly a lot of surface quirks with nothing examined deeper.  After a while it becomes redundant, and typically, Sera’s rang eis narrow.
   THE DAYBREAKERS is set in a near-future dystopia where vampires rule the world, and a relatively tiny band of humans are hunted for blood.  Ethan Hawke plays a vampire who joins Willem Dafoe’s human otlaw gang.  This is a train wreck of a film, with are narrative strands in disarray and the bloodletting and violence has no limits.  The directors, the brothers Michael and Peter Spierig present some interesting metaphysical ideas and the set design is quite striking, but it’s all in the service of a plot that never develops any cohesive forward movement.
     I will be having a seemingly routine kidney stone procedure on Wednesday, where I will be sedated and “knocked out” for maybe a half hour or so.  It’s basically an ultrasound maneuver that smashes the stones, enabling one to ‘pass’ the particles.  Still, I am hoping to be fine for Wednesday evening.
    There’s quite a bit of serious activity in the blogosphere this week so let’s take a look:
    ***At FilmsNoir.net, Tony d’Ambra has a quite a noir backlog that he’s promising to review in 2010:
   ***Dave Hicks will be launching his eager-anticipated Top 100 Noir Countdown at his GoodFellas blogsite on Monday Morning:
   Meanwhile, at our other most venerated places……

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by Allan Fish

(France 1913-14 334m) DVD2

Aka. Fantômas – À l’ombre de la guillotine (part one), Juve contre Fantômas (part two), Le Mort qui tue (part three), Fantômas contre Fantômas (part four) & Le Faux magistrate (part five)

Ou Monsieur Gurn, ou Nateuil, ou Tom Bob, ou Pradier

p  Romeo Bosetti  d/w  Louis Feuillade  novels  Pierre Souvestre, Marcel Allain  ph/ed  Georges Guerin  art  Robert-Jules Garnier

René Navarre (Fantômas), Edmund Breon (Inspector Juvé), Georges Melchior (Jérôme Fandor), Renée Carl (Lady Beltham), Jane Faber (Princess Danidorff), Volbert (Valgrand), Yvette Andreyour (Joséphine), Andre Luguet (Jacques Dollon), Fabienne Fabrèges (Elisabeth Dollon), Laurent Morléas (Paulet),

Asked to name the greatest director of the period 1910-1919, it’s a fair bet that the majority of knowledgeable types would plump for David Wark Griffith.  Indeed, he probably was, but Louis Feuillade would be right behind him.  Feuillade was a master director, of that there can be no doubt, the first great master of feature length film-making, but also the only person who successfully invented, maintained and personified a new medium within the cinema; that of the serial.  Mention serials to people now and visions of cheap Flash Gordon pieces with Buster Crabbe or Superman or even B westerns of the thirties are conjured.  Yet it was in France where the genre had its zenith, with Feuillade its founding father.  He made four major serials; Fantômas, Les Vampires, Judex (two serials in fact on this) and Tin Minh.  It’s probably fair to say Les Vampires is the best of them, and is covered elsewhere, but Fantômas first set the rules, and remains very much the father of all classic serials, not to mention crime films in general.  David Thomson, in his Biographical Dictionary of Film, refers to Fantômas as “the first great movie experience”, and he is absolutely right.  (more…)

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