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Archive for March 2nd, 2010

by Joel Bocko
This is the first entry in my renewed Best of the 21st Century series, which will continue exclusively on Wonders in the Dark.

Two pictures to sum up a decade. One, a man encased in defensive armour, surrounded by explosive cannisters. He’s a stranger in a foreign land, an embattled American, homemade bombs weaving a spiderweb in the desert sands beneath his feet. The devices are all aimed in his direction like gigantic bullets, together forming a silent threat simmering just underneath the surface. Two, a man in a cavernous, overwhelming, colorful yet utterly sterile supermarket, faced down by hundreds upon hundreds of cardboard boxes, each containing processed and mass-produced snacks. More significant than the contents is the packaging – this is nutrition second, consumption first, and an empty, dissatisfying consumption at that. The bombs are existential threats; the boxes are not, and yet somehow their spiritual threat seems deeper. As Jason Bellamy astutely notes (in an observation which inspired the pictures and paragraph which open this piece), “In staring at all the cereal boxes on the shelf, he is presented with a multitude of choices, just as when he’s disarming a bomb, but his choices don’t mean anything. There’s no ‘wrong’ choice. It’s a reminder of how he misses the rush of duty, when every decision has a potentially life-altering consequence.”

Pick your poison. Sgt. William James has certainly picked his. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(France 1925 117m) DVD1

Aka. Faces of Children

Portrait of mama

p  Dimitri de Zoubaloff, François Porchet  d  Jacques Feyder  w  Jacques Feyder, Françoise Rosay  ph  Leonce-Henri Burel, Paul Parguel  ed/art  Jacques Feyder

Jean Forest (Jean Amsler), Victor Vina (Pierre Amsler), Rachel Devirys (Jeanne Dutois), Arlette Peyran (Arlette Dutois), Pierrette Houyez (Pierrette Amsler), Henri Duval (Curé of Vissoy), Suzy Vernon (Jean’s mother), Charles Barrois,

My first sighting of this celebrated but long unseen silent drama was, as with many other films of its era, in Brownlow and Gill’s all-encompassing Cinema Europe series back in 1995.  Like many of the films seen therein, I little expected to ever get to see them in their entirety, so it was with great pleasure that the announcement of a DVD release of this and other Jacques Feyder silents was greeted in 2006.  By some fluky coincidence, I watched it the same day I reviewed Jean Delannoy’s magisterial tragedy La Symphonie Pastorale, for both share one fundamental common factor; the location, namely the snow-covered peaks of the Swiss Alps. 

            Shot and set in the Upper Valois region of the Alps, the film takes place in the village of Saint-Luc, where we find a house in mourning for the loss of its matriarch.  Her widower and their two children witness her coffin bring brought down the stairs for burial, and father and son, Jean, follow the funeral cortege to the burial place.  There, Jean faints, overcome with the emotion of the tragic event, and he begins to retreat into a personal form of mourning.  His father, however, decides after a suitable bereavement period has passed to marry again, and chooses a woman who had also lost her spouse and in need of a father for her young daughter.  From the outset, Jean does not take kindly to his step-mother and especially his step-sister, between whom an animosity develops.  This finally comes to head when, after tossing away his step-sister’s favourite doll when on a sleigh journey, he sends her out into the wintry conditions to look for it, only for an avalanche to leave her stranded and Jean guilt-stricken.  (more…)

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