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Archive for March 22nd, 2010

 

by Sam Juliano

     He’s often been referred to as the “energizer bunny” of early music and the sunniest of conductors.  The London Independent refers to him as “one of the finest Baroque conductors of his generation” while The New Yorker considers him “an expert in 18th century style.”  He is known throughout the world for performances that weds authority with passion, erudition with effervescence and curatorial dependability with evangelical exuberance.  Yet, Nicholas McGegan’s most accessible attribute with contemporary audiences is his realization that the music of “yesteryear” shouldn’t be presented in dogmatic terms, but rather in a style that won’t alienate music lovers.  To accomplish that, McGegan has invariably favored more conventional symphonic forces than than the ones committed to a more restricted employment of period instruments, while still managing to retain the more austere and spiritual aspects of the music written during that time. (more…)

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Naomi Repace as Lizabeth Salandar as the title character in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” a wildly popular Swedish thriller.

by Sam Juliano

WitD site traffic this past week was at his highest level since nearly one year ago, (the biggest day was Friday with 2,100 hits) and a combination of factors, including the superlative contributions of Jim Clark, Joel Bocko, Dee Dee, Marc Bauer, Jamie Uhrer, as well as the peak essays of Allan’s rightly celebrated silent countdown, all contributed to an unexpected flurry of activity and some stellar comments from site regulars and newbies.  Readers who haven’t yet cast ballots in that long-running silents polling are urged to enter then under the proper tab under the site header, although ballots will be accepted till around April 6th.  There has been a short break in the action at Dave Hicks’s “GoodFellas” blog and Jeffrey Goodman’s “The Last Lullaby” place in the film noir countdown and annual examination of the greatest films, respectively, but both are due to continue to this morning.

A weekend horror convention was held at the nearby Jersey City Loews, featuring screenings of Night of the Living Dead and creepshow, a three day ‘Twilight Zone’ marathon, and various costume contests and the presence of directors George Romero and Tom Savini among other dignitaries, but the prohibitive $25 ticket fee kept us aways, and for seven (including resfreshments) would have had us mortgaging our home.  But I’m sure this was quite a venture, and I hope to hear more about it this week.

Theatrically, this past week I managed three films:

Greenberg ** 1/2  (Saturday night)  Angelika Film Center
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo  *** 1/2 (Friday night)  Landmark Cinemas
The Green Zone  **   (Monday night) Edgewater multiplex
     Ben Stiller plays a narcissistic neurotic named Roger Greenburg, who movies from Lost Angeles to New York after a mental breakdown, and you know that director Noah Baumbach is on solid Woody Allen turf here.  But Stiller’s character is uninteresting, nothing really happens (both dramatically and psychologically) and the almost-romance is rather painful to watch.  Greta Gerwig is wholly endearing, but Stiller is really a major annoyance, in a film that is only intermittantly funny.  Some of the observation are trenchant, but it all really adds up here to very little, and all is forgotten a day later.
    The biggest problem in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is that the plot turns are continuous, leaving very little room for any character development.  But there’s no question this is a dizzying thriller with some terrific individual scenes, and a terrifying denouement.  The title character, played by Naomi Repace, and the two male leads, are superb, and the film is strikingly lensed.  It’s exorbitantly long, but I can’t really say it’s not riveting.  It’s interesting to see the Swedish take on what has traditionally been an American genre, and it’s likely we’ll be seeing a re-make on these shores soon enough.
     
    THE GREEN ZONE is a bombastic and frenzied movie with neither a heart nor a soul, and some high-profile performers, could have been effectively replaced by your next door neighbors.  There’s little here that surprises us, and after a while you just want to get up and leave, with nothing on display here to engage the mind intellectual, despite some considerable technical prowess. (for whatever that’s worth)
     Lucille and my two daughters Melanie and Jillian took a look on Saturday afternoon at THE RUNAWAYS at the Edgewater multiplex, but I needed to stay back with the three boys to complete some domestic chores here.  It seems that all three of them had good things to say.
     Anyway, I have some very interesting links to add here, so I suspect time will prevent me from going as far with it as I usually do:
 Dee Dee is highlighting with a post on the 1944 Hollywood classic Gaslight, starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman at Darkness Into Light: http://noirishcity.blogspot.com/2010/03/gothicfilms101takingcloserlookat.html
At Films Noir.net Tony d’Ambra is showcasing another one of his poetic, thought-provoking and sensory looks at doomed protagonists in noir: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/femme-noir-4-evelyn-
John Greco has what appears to be a most engaging essay up at “Twenty-Four Frames” on Somebody Up There Likes Me: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/somebodyuptherelikesme1956robertwise/ (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Germany 1922 96m) DVD1/2

Aka. Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens

A true symphony of horrors

Albin Grau  d  Friedrich W.Murnau  w  Henrik Galeen  novel  “Dracula” by Bram Stoker  ph  Fritz Arno Wagner, Günther Krampf  m  Hans Erdmann/James Bernard/Art Zoyd  art/cos  Albin Grau 

Max Schreck (Count Orlock), Alexander Granach (Knock, the estate agent), Gustav Von Wangenheim (Wutter), Greta Schröder (Ellen),

Werner Herzog is of the belief that Nosferatu is the greatest German film ever made and certainly it would have to be a serious contender to that crown, and Herzog paid it his own homage with a fair remake with the loathsome Klaus Kinski in 1979.  However, there is only one version of the tale and Murnau’s film, freely adapted from Bram Stoker’s masterpiece of Gothic horror, is the greatest vampire film of them all, a film that truly lives up to its subtitle, “a symphony of horrors.”  If it were a symphony, it’s worthy of those eternal children of the night Dowland, Moussorgsky, Borodin and Kilar.

            Many versions of Dracula have followed, with the 1931 Universal (with the immortal Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye) and the 1958 Hammer (covered previously) standing out and a mention in despatches for the romantic Frank Langella.  They may indeed stick closer to the novel and keep the characters’ names, but the very term ‘Nosferatu’ isn’t just referring to the undead, rather a sort of pestilent plague that spreads after sunset.  Indeed the opening titles refer to the tale that follows as “A Chronicle of the Great Death of Wisborg – 1838.”  The story, which we shall not waste space detailing, may be changed radically from the original, being set in Germany and Transylvania rather than England and with rather dramatic changes to the rest of the characters, but it’s still a truly disquieting movie to this day.  There are scenes here that truly chill over eighty years on; the first vision of the Count, beckoning on his guest into the castle with cadaverous glee, lusting after his blood when he pricks his finger; the shot of Orlock standing on the deck of the ship of the dead; the immortal shadow of Orlock climbing the stairs and unlocking Ellen’s room; his death as the sun rises over the very houses opposite which he owns; and arguably most memorably of all, the numerous shots of sunsets and sunrises over the German countryside.  Murnau has always been fascinated with temptation and the symbolism of sunlight and of the earth itself (just check out The Burning Soil, for example), but never has it been more prevalent than here in his first true masterpiece.  It’s here that we first see the imagery that would be so perfectly deployed in Hollywood in Sunrise(more…)

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