Archive for February 15th, 2010


by Sam Juliano

It is hoped and anticipated that everyone enjoyed Valentine’s Day and did something special, big or small for their loved ones.  Lucille and I spent Sunday night doing something highly unusual:  we went out to see a movie!  Ha!

In the mid-west, tireless Marilyn Ferdinand has officially launched one of the most worthy ventures we’ve yet seen in the blogosphere: the long publicized ‘Film Preservation Blogothon’ which started yesterday and will run until February 21st.  All sorts of festivities, including a post by Film Noir luminary Eddie Muller are being showcased at Marilyn’s place, (Ferdy-on-Films) and comments, clips, enrichments and donations are most welcome.

The countdowns continued at the homes of Dave Hicks and filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman, where the former is engaged in a remarkably exhaustive consideration of the Top 100 ‘noirs’ of all-time, while the latter (following the former in fact) is covering the best films of every year in cinema since 1926.  Both Hicks and Goodman are internet sweethearts, making visits to their abodes even more desirable, aside from their astounding expertise.  Of course here at Wonders in the Dark Allan Fish’s ‘almost silents’ poll is reaching the home stretch, where some of the great masterpieces of cinema will be showcased, and the ever-active Dee Dee is working hard to cover the various categories in the Oscar race both here and at her Noirish City blog.

With a marked dearth of movie releases this past week both in the art houses and the multiplexes, I settled for Wolf Man with the family. two documentary features and an independent  playing in Manhattan theatres.

October Country  *** 1/2   (IFC Film Center)  Friday night
Wolfman  *   (Edgewater multiplex)    Saturday afternoon
Barefoot to Timbuktu *** 1/2   (Quad Cinemas)  Saturday evening
The Vicious Kind  **** (Cinema Village)  Sunday night
Jon Lanthier hit it right on when he compared October Country to Jonathan Caoette’s Tarnation, a film that tried to “wring beauty from ugliness.”  This new film, set in upstate New York, centers around a lower-class, dysfunctional family and issues of poverty, child abuse, theft and the military are examined within the framework of an economically impoverished family with deep-rooted emotional issues.  The film is free-flowing and sometimes narratively incoherent, but there some power in these have-not’s plight.
Wolfman is the kind of horror film that gives the genre a bad name.  It’s a tedious watch, fueled by narrative incoherence, cardboard characters, no character development, and a woefully derivative series of gory set pieces that recalls An American Werewolf in London. Just about nothing works in this unmitigated train wreck of a movie that again defines the essence of multiplex trash.  Even my horror-loving kids seemed completely indiffernt to it, and Lucille just shook her head.
Barefoot to Timbuktu chronicles the fearless traveils of a Swiss-American “Renaissance Man” named Ernst Aebi, a free-spirit who sets up a small African town at Araoane, which he reaches by traveling several days by barefoot from the larger Timbuktu.  Aebi establishes a small hotel and a school, the first ever for th enatives, and actually serves a while as school teacher.  When his restless spirit has him leave for NYC, where he earns money by renovating SoHo apartments, his encapment is destroyed by tribal warfare, and years later he returns to those who were indepted to him in a moving coda.  There is ‘documentary padding here,’ and not all th einterviews are enlightening, but this obvious ladies’ man has an interesting family, who try and shed some light on the psychology of this oddly inspiring spirit.
A perverse, dark comedy-romance, the Sundance hit The Vicious Kind was a most bizarre Valentine’s evening night out for Lucille and I, but this sharply-scripted yarn about a dysfunctional brood and a young woman caught between two opposite brothers, was rightly advertised as the ‘comedy that Neil LaBute never made.”  Great performances in this story about pain and the difficulty in connecting.
Now to the blogosphere and the great work recently appearing:
First up is Marilyn Ferdinand who is the famed proprietor of Ferdy-on-Films, where she writes film, theatre and music reviews with her colleague, Australian Roderick Heath.  Ms. Ferdinad’s most auspicious and admirable venture to date in the ‘Film Preservation Blogothon’: http://ferdyonfilms.com/
Dave Hicks is up to #66 with his review of Fritz Lang’s Clash By Night in his ongoing noir countdown at his Goodfellas blogsite: http://goodfellamovies.blogspot.com/2010/02/66-clash-by-night-fritz-lang-1952.html
Over at the blogosphere’s altar of Film Noir, the tireless Tony d’Ambra has as of late been examining his favorite cinematic form from various perspectives, including the latest post on Preminger’s Laura using a painting and revered critical study to shed some light: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/film-noir-and-the-portrait.html

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by Allan Fish

(Czechoslovakia 1929 85m) DVD2 (Czech Republic only)

A bottle of perfume

d/w  Gustav Machaty  ph  Vaclav Vich  m  Jan Klusak  art  Julius Von Borsody, Alexander Hammid

Ita Rina (Andrea), Karel Schleichert (Gateman), Olaf Fjord (Georg Sydney), Theodor Pistek (Hilbert), Charlotte Susa (Gilda), Bohumil Kovar (railwayman), Luigi Serventi (Jean),

A young woman emerges from her bedroom.  A man approaches her.  He opens out her dressing gown and caresses her neck before kissing her.  He picks her up and takes her to bed.  Placing her on the bed, the camera cuts between the woman’s ecstatic face on the pillow, as she goes into the throes of orgasm, and the walls of her room, shot in distorted angles, before the camera comes to rest with her lover nestling his head on her waist.

            The very basic description of a love scene, one might think; in itself, not especially surprising, until one realises when it was shot.  A woman in the throes of orgasm…in 1929?  Surely not.  And yet here we have it, probably the first depiction on screen of a woman during sexual intercourse, three years before a not too dissimilar scene in Machaty’s Extase shook the world.  The film’s nude scene, involving Susa, now only survives as a still (used on the DVD copyright warning), as the surviving print the restoration was done from was censored.  Yet it still has a palpable sense of the erotic that perhaps only G.W.Pabst was willing to match.  (more…)

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