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Archive for February 8th, 2010

       A scene from EYES WIDE SHUT (Photo: The Film Society of Lincoln Center)
        Zohar Shtrauss and Ran Danker in austere and moving
       Israeli drama “Eyes Wide Open” at Cinema Village

by Sam Juliano

     Super Bowl Sunday is the highlight of most American households this past weekend, but I’d venture to say that few Wonders in the Dark regulars are affiliated with either of the “off the beacon track” participants in the culminating game of the NFL’s season.  Of course, sports fans in general may be more interested in Friday’s Winter Olympics games launching in western Canada. (note:  The New Orleans Saints won the game 31-17, and many Americans are happy.  I was rooting for them myself in this game, as I do want some happiness for the people of New Orleans.  It was quite a game I must say!)

     The silent poll countdown at Wonders has now reached the halfway point, with Sunday’s posting of the #50 selection, Verdun, and it’s projected that the marathon venture will conclude at the end of March, with a week further to complete the reader polling.  I was informed today by Mr. Fish that he will be going with 100 for the 2000’s countdown as well.   Over at Good Fellas, our Ohio friend Dave Hicks has reached #73 in his “Film Noir” countdown with the popular Key Largo on display.  Over at Darkness Into Light our dear Dee Dee is commencing with preparations for the Academy Award interviews, an endeavor that went over quite well last year.  Our British friend Stephen Russell-Gebbitt really initiated a firestorm with his negative appraisal of Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane,  at Checking the Sausages, but it can’t be denied it’s a splendidly written piece.  It raised my ire to the point where I responded a bit too strongly, but I think Stephen understands we’re good friends.  I’m Italian-American after all!

      I had an extraordinarily busy weekend culturally, managing a marathon HD simulcast of the Met’s production of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, with Placido Domingo in the titular baritone role, beginning at 1:00 P.M. on Saturday afternoon at the Edgewater multiplex; an off-Broadway production at the Theatre 80 St. Marks of “When Joey Married Bobby” which featured an introduction by the playright William Wyatt and a performance by the “legendary” Lady Bunny, the ‘sister’ of Chelsea icon Hedda Lettuce.  The Verdi opera, a carry over production (which I’ve seen before) was impressively staged and performed, and again the assets of the simulcast were evident in the fascinating back stage interviews moderated by Rene Fleming, and an interesting look at the frenzied work of the set carpenters.  A rare interview with conductor James Levine was a special bonus.  Meanwhile, down at the former residence of The Pearl Opera Company on Saturday evening at 8:00 P.M., opening night of this often uproarious – but often tedious as well –  look at a dysfunctional family preparing for a same sex marriage involving the brood’s son.  Wyatt’s writing incorporates some recent political references, much of which are funny, but the audience, largely comprised of friends of the cast and crew on opening night, overeacted with their continuous laughter.

I saw three movies in the theatres, in what turned out to be a terrific and surprising movie weekend in the Big Apple:

Terribly Happy  **** 1/2 Denmark   (Angelika Film Center) Sunday
Eyes Wide Open **** 1/2  Israel  (Cinema Village)  Friday Night
Anjami  ****   Israeli/Palistinian   (Film Forum)   Thursday night
The Danish film, TERRIBLY HAPPY was an exceedingly entertaining thriller about a rather twisted town with some deranged characters, that qualifies as a modern noir, with a sure sprikling of the sensibilities of the Coens and David Lynch.  Directed by Henrik Ruben Genz, this captivating drama boasts striking claustrophobic lensing by Jorgen Johansson.
The Israeli drama, EYES WIDE OPEN is an autere and deeply moving tale of a married -with four children- Israeli butcher, who falls for a younger job hunter, causing severe repercussions in this strict Hasedic community.  This is a sensitive, acute-observed and tightly paced story, that says as much with its silences as it does with it’s spare dialogue, and it employs depressed Jerusalem locales to powerful effect.  The film goes far beyond the target audiences of Jews and gays, and delivers a film of universal resonance,  negotiating as it does how oppression dominates in a segregated society.  Both th ebutcher, Zohar Shtrauss and the transient, opular Isreali television actor Ran Danker give exceptionally piercing performances.
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in this year’s Oscars, the co-Palistinian-Israeli production, ANJAMI is a complex drama with a number of dissecting sub-plots, and it’s the kind of film that you really need to see more than once to fully understand and connect with, but even on first viewing it’s riveting and powerful, and it’s fiction is really a mirror of what is happening on the streets today in the war-torn zones, and it recalls the lawlessness of City of God among others.
As always the blogosophere is bustling: (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1929 109m) DVD1/2

Nodding Buddha

E.A.Dupont  d  E.A.Dupont  w  Arnold Bennett  ph  Werner Brandes  m  Neil Brand (DVD reissue)  art  Alfred Junge

Anna May Wong (Shosho), Jameson Thomas (Valentine Wilmot), Gilda Gray (Mable Greenfield), Cyril Ritchard (Victor Smiles), King Ho Chang (Jim), Charles Laughton (diner), Hannah Jones (Bessie), Ellen Pollock (vamp), Ray Milland,

One of the last silent films to go into production in Blighty, it was later reedited with some talkie sequences added, but all such films to be so changed midstream were inevitably changed for the worse (even Hitch’s Blackmail was greater as a silent, for all its merits as a talkie).  Dupont’s film wasn’t totally dismissed at the time, but it was accused of having too little plot at its core, of being all about visual style and directorial panache.  Dupont wasn’t the first director to be so charged and certainly wouldn’t be the last.  His Variety was regarded as one of the seminal German films of the twenties, its reputation only dimmed by its unfathomable unavailability in recent times.  Piccadilly, at least, has been given the deluxe restoration treatment and, in the BFI print, it is what Martin Scorsese said it was; not only a revelation, but “one of the truly great films of the silent era.” (more…)

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