Archive for January 15th, 2010

by Sam Juliano

     There’s nothing quite like having the director of a film comment under a writer’s review of it.  It’s a rare occurance, and Wonders in the Dark’s good friend “Just Another Film Buff,” one of the finest film writers in the blogosphere, was visited by director James Benning in the comment section under his extraordinary review of the film Landscape Suicide (1986).  Typically, JAFB leaves no stone unturned in his incisive and probing examination of a film that JAFB says could pass as a “teen slasher” or a “psychological thriller.”  But the movie is much more than that, as JAFB writes in this brilliant passage of his review:

Landscape Suicide is a symmetric film. Between the five minute long prologue and epilogue, the last three “set pieces” of the film mirror the first three. While the Protti section is followed by the landscape montage and the household sequence, the Ed Gein section is preceded by them. In a way, Landscape Suicide also acts as an examination of the narrative property of cinema. We are first given Protti’s version of what happened verbally and then the images of the locations they took place in. One is thus able to situate the now-coherent account into its proper geographical location and conjure up, more concretely, the visual equivalent of Protti’s account. On the other hand, the locations of the incident are given before the oral account in the case of the Gein murder. In this case, one tries to reconstruct the incident by simulating the events being described within the locations already familiar. Benning resolves the “how” of the incident into “what” and “where” and asks us to put them back together to find out “why”. In essence, Benning divorces genre cinema from its exploitative nature by splitting up its action into words and locations. With some effort, one should be able to stitch up all the elements of Benning’s film to obtain a teen-slasher and a psychological thriller.

Additionally, Landscape Suicide is also about the act of remembering and reconstructing the past. It is an investigation about the possibility of retrieving the truth using every tool available. In both the interrogations, it becomes clear that the barrier to recovering one’s past is one’s own memory and, then, the language used to verbalize that sensory commodity. Throughout the Protti interrogation, there is a war between the sounds of her speech and the sounds of the typewriter that records her speech, with the latter seemingly trying to grab each one of her words and derive the literal meaning from it (this, somehow, reminds one of last year’s wonderful film Police, Adjective). Benning’s point may just be that our spoken and written media are incapable of translating actual experiences to words. It is evident that what Protti’s words mean are far from what she means. Throughout the two interrogations, Benning blacks out the screen regularly and adulterates the soundtrack with stray sounds, as if underscoring the incapability of the cinematic medium to capture or reproduce experiences and feelings in their entirety….”

The full review is posted at The Seventh Art and can be accessed here along with Mr. Benning’s response in the comments section:


Bravo JAFB!

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by Allan Fish

(Germany 1922 103m) not on DVD

Aka. Der Brennende Acker: The Burning Earth

The Devil’s Field

p  Friedrich W.Murnau  d  Friedrich W.Murnau  w  Willy Haas, Thea Von Harbou, Arthur Rosen  ph  Karl Freund, Fritz Arno Wagner  ed  Friedrich W.Murnau  art  Rochus Gliese

Werner Krauss (Old Rog), Eugen Klöpfer (Peter Rog), Wladimir Gaidarow (Johannes Rog), Stella Arbenina (Helga Rudenburg), Lya de Putti (Gerda), Eduard Von Winterstein (Count Rudenburg), Alfred Abel (Ludwig von Lellewel), Gerte Diercks (Maria),

Writing at the turn of the nineties for their Foreign Film Guide, Ronald Bergan and Robyn Karney wrote of The Burning Soil, “the film was acclaimed as a masterpiece by critics at the time…alas and alack, much of the film is lost and the surviving reels have deteriorated in quality and are seldom shown.”  Little did they know that but a few years later a full print would come to light in the old Czechoslovakia, and it would finally get some sort of restoration through the support of Eric Rohmer, of all people, and released in a tinted version to a grateful world.  (The film is also shown in an edited and much inferior 78m version which doesn’t do the film justice.) (more…)

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