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Archive for February 1st, 2010

by Sam Juliano

     The first month of the 2010 is gone, and typically, movie fans don’t have a heck of a lot to celebrate.  In the New York area, only the art house showcases offer something remotely worthwhile, as the multiplexes are loaded with carry-overs from last year, and critically-trashed low-brow fodder.  This is probably the time of year where at-home viewing is the panacea for all outdoor frustrations (which in the NYC area are frigid temperatures-last night the mercury plunged to 12 degrees) as you aren’t in danger of missing out on much.

     Allan’s ‘almost silent film’ countdown continues in all its splendor – and that includes Tony d’Ambra’s diversely beautiful sidebar graphics, and we’re reaching the stage where some truly great stuff will be presented.  Meanwhile at “Goodfellas”, Dave Hicks’s trenchant ‘Top 100 Noir countdown proceeds in to the ’70’s’ this week, and the promise of some classic noir.

     Lucille, Melanie, Bob and I endured some frigid arctic weather in Manhattan on Saturday night, heading down to the ‘Wings Theatre’ on Christopher Street to take in an off-Broadway production of the popular 1990 musical hit Jekyll and Hyde, a show that Broadway Bob informed me with straight face that he saw it “53” times, including two roadshow versions in California.  I had never seen it even once until last night, nor had I ever heard the music, but in both cases I am rather happy I was kept in the dark.  I found the score uninspired, insipid and torturous, and light year’s from Stephen Sondheim’s melodious Sweeney Todd, upon which Jekyll and Hyde bears an uncanny thematic resemblence with.  The singing ranged from mediocre (Dalles Wilie as Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde) to downright bad (Dorothy Massey as Lucy Harris) and the stage orchestration was low-volume to the point of non-existence.  But Bob thought is was a decent production, Lucille liked it and my daughter Melanie enjoyed it, so who am I to say?  Two of the songs “This is the Moment” and “Someone Like You” are showstoppers among a plethora of unremarkable music.

     On the movie front I saw three films theatrically:

Edge of Darkness *** (Friday afternoon)  Edgewater multiplex                    North Face  *** 1/2   (Friday night)    Sunshine Cinemas                                     The Girl on the Train  *** 1/2   (Sunday afternoon)  IFC Film Center

Mel Gibson’s latest, EDGE OF DARKNESS, based on a 1985 British miniseries, seems to downplay what could have been a fascinating psychological context in favor of a more conventional revenge drama, but it has its moments, even if at the ed you know you’ll forget the whole thing in a matter of hours.  The scenes with Danny Huston and Denis O’Hare as slimebags are the film’s best along with a horrifying murder at the beginning on the front steps of a home.

Sweeping mountain scenes abound in an intoxicating allegorical study of treacherous peak ascending a la 1936 in the throws of national socialism, but it’s clear that NORTH FACE is an unabashed, hefty dose of propaganda.  The last time I saw such captivating outdoor camerawork on this topic was the documentary Touching the Void, but in a sociopolitical sense, the comparison ends there.  It’s intents are painfully obvious, but it’s still a journey worth taking.

Andre Techine is one of France’s most talented contemporary directors.  His best film was his first, Wild Reeds, a thinly disguised coming-of-age tale with considerable political underpinnings, and his 2008 The Witnesses again explored gay relationships to telling and moving effect.  His newest film is more concerned with character than narrative and such it’s fascinating to a point.  Yet, this is still Techine’s least satisfying film, as it doesn’t probe deeply enough in an incident concerning a Frenchwoman who reports an anti-Semetic incident, and then recants. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USSR 1926 90m) DVD1

Aka. Mat

Don’t look under the floorboards

d  Vsevelod I.Pudovkin  w  N.Zarkhi, Vsevelod I.Pudovkin  novel  Maxim Gorky  ph  Anatoly Golovnya  ed  Vsevelod I.Pudovkin  m  Tikhon Krennikov  art  Serge Kozlovsky

Vera Baranovskaya (Niovna Vlasov), Nikolai Batalov (Pavel Vlasov), Anna Zemtsova (girl revolutionary), Alexander Chistyakov (Vlasov, the father), Ivan Koval-Samborsky (Vesovshchikov), Vsevelod I.Pudovkin (officer),

Once regarded as highly as his contemporaries Eisenstein and Dovzhenko, it’s perhaps surprising how the reputation of Vsevelod Pudovkin has dimmed.  Or rather not so much dimmed as been forgotten.  Following the success of his short classic Chess Fever in 1925, he would go on to make four excellent classics of the Soviet cinema.  The End of St Petersburg, Storm Over Asia (especially) and Deserter all have their admirers, but to me Mother remains his best film and his most complex. (more…)

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