Archive for April, 2010

© 2010 by James Clark

The prospect of understanding what it is Lynch communicates from film to film is never within easy reach; but it only attains to extra-galactic proportions with that battle-fatigued singularity, titled, Dune (1984), and directed, variously, by “David Lynch” and “Alan Smithee.” Lynch has been quoted as being attracted to a film rendition of Frank Herbert’s 1965 blockbuster sci-fi novel, inasmuch as there were “tons and tons of possibilities for things I loved.”
Notice he did not allude to “things” Herbert loved. As coming from a practitioner in good standing of sci-fi as “entertainment,” those latter “things”—abundantly salient in the literary plot—would occupy a groove of breath-stilling futurity (the story begins in the year 10,192) wherein awesome physical forces clash for the sake of succeeding in dominating all comers. “Domination” is the keyword; and, you know what? It ain’t new. One of the “things” Lynch loved was industrial design in the form of continuation of the occupant’s level of consciousness, and in Dune he clearly relishes enmeshing the “advanced” experiences in fusty Victorian/Edwardian decor (and garments). For instance, on a reconnaissance mission by the hero and his royal father, conducted by someone known as the “Judge of the Change,” the plush, quaint and busy interior of their flying craft (with silk-quilted walls, no less) strongly resembles that of “innovator” Captain Nemo’s submarine in the Disney version of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1954). (Design tinctures [as well as Oxbridge emanations] from other Victorian adventures, like Journey to the Center of the Earth [1959] and The Time Machine [1960] also come to bear. And, to cap things off, the desert derring-do comes saturated with tropes from the “stout chap” heroics of Lawrence of Arabia [1962].) (more…)


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Guess the pic is back

Joel Bocko has selected this mystery image. Please share your own conjectures below: whoever guesses correctly is invited to send him their own selected screen-cap at movieman0283@gmail.com. He will then post it here, and the game will begin again. (Make sure you don’t title the file with any giveaway names, so that he can participate too!)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2005 358m) DVD2

Looking for Ambrose Chapel

p  Sanne Wohlenberg  d  Dearbhla Walsh, Susan Tully, Brian Kirk  w  Simon Ashdown, Jeremy Dyson  ph  Lukas Strebel  ed  Emer Reynolds, Tony Cranstoun

Kris Marshall (Dudley Sutton), Ian Puleston Davies (Shirley Woolf), Daniel Mays (Carter Krantz), Roy Barraclough (Onan Van Kneck), Judy Parfitt (Mercy Woolf), Frances Barber (Connie), Sarah Smart (Lola Sutton), Emily Aston (Ruby Woolf), Philip Jackson (Leo Finch), Beth Cordingly (Vienna), Mark Gatiss (Ambrose Chapfel), Ron Cook,

It all begins with a man in a gorilla suit climbing up Blackpool Tower.  We see him fall.  We don’t see why or who he is.  Could be a she for all we know.  We are then told it’s several days earlier.  Each episode will begin the same way with the same gorilla-suited man plummeting to the pavement on the Golden Mile, and each time the clock ticks down.  This in essence is Funland’s Laura Palmer.  I evoke the comparison with David Lynch’s ubercult quite deliberately, for there’s more than a touch of Lynch about this sleeper hit for the then fledgling BBC3. 

            One wouldn’t necessarily have expected too much.  Dyson was one of the creators of the grotesque comedy series The League of Gentlemen, which had long since lost its original brilliance.  Ashdown was one of the main staff writers on EastEnders for many years.  It would not have been too hard to guess we could expect a darkly comic soap opera pastiche.  It came along just one year after an another excellent fantasy set in the old Northern entertainment capital, and the spirit of David Tennant’s copper from my home town and David Morrissey’s Ripley Holden can be felt everywhere.  It’s the same place as was seen in Blackpool, yet it’s like it’s being viewed not through the nostalgic lens of that series, but through a distorted lens, like the hall of mirrors at the old Pleasure Beach House of Horrors.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(US/UK 2001 138m) DVD1/2

Awfully long repertoire

p  David Levy, Robert Altman, Bob Balaban  d  Robert Altman  w  Julian Fellowes  ph  Andrew Dunn  ed  Tim Squyres  m  Patrick Doyle  art  Stephen Altman  cos  Jenny Beavan

Kelly MacDonald (Mary Maceachran), Clive Owen (Robert Parks), Alan Bates (Jennings), Michael Gambon (William McCordle), Kristin Scott Thomas (Sylvia McCordle), Helen Mirren (Mrs Wilson), Maggie Smith (Constance Trentham), Richard E.Grant (George), Jeremy Northam (Ivor Novello), Ryan Philippe (Henry Denton), Emily Watson (Elsie), James Wilby (Freddie Nesbitt), Eileen Atkins (Mrs Croft), Derek Jacobi (Probert), Jeremy Swift (Arthur), Bob Balaban (Maurice Weissman), Stephen Fry (Inspector Thompson), Charles Dance (Lord Raymond Stockbridge), Sophie Thompson (Dorothy), Adrian Scarborough (Barnes), Geraldine Somerville (Louisa Stockbridge), Camilla Rutherford (Isobel McCordle), Tom Hollander (Anthony Meredith), Finty Williams (Janet), Trent Ford (Jeremy Blond), Claudie Blakley (Mabel Nesbitt), Frank Thornton (Mr Burkett),

It took a trademark ensemble piece to inspire Robert Altman to his last really major film, a return to the glory days of Nashville and Short Cuts.  It was more than that, of course, but it was often mistaken for something it was not.  It was not, and was never meant to be, a whodunit.  There is a murder.  Check.  Everybody is suspected.  Check.  Yet who did it or why is merely an ends to a means, allowing Altman and screenwriter Julian Fellowes to weave a tapestry of a film that is worthy, if not quite of placing alongside Altman’s very best, then only fractionally behind it. 

            The plotline likewise merely serves as a means to an end.  In 1932, an American film producer is invited by Ivor Novello to a society gathering at the estate of a distant cousin of his to allow him to do research for his next project, Charlie Chan in London.  Along for the ride is his Scottish valet who, it transpires, is an American actor doing research of his own while trying to add a few romantic conquests to his resume.  The host William McCordle is hated by all, from relatives, prospective and past business associates, even many of the servants.  When he is then murdered – poisoned and then stabbed – there are any number of suspects.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Sweden 2008 114m) DVD1/2

Aka. Lat den Ratte Komma in

Twelve years, eight months and nine days

p  Carl Molinder, John Nordling  d  Tomas Alfredson  w  John Ajvide Lindqvist  novel  John Ajvide Lindqvist  ph  Hoyte van Hoytema  ed  Daniel Jonsater, Tomas Alfredson  m  Johan Söderqvist  art  Eva Norén 

Kare Hadebrant (Oskar), Lina Leandersson (Eli), Per Ragnar (Hakan), Henrik Dahl (Erik), Karin Bergqvist (Yvonne), Peter Carlberg (Lacke), Ika Nord (Virginia), Mikael Ramm (Jocke),

We live in a world where vampires are cool and they have been since the days of Anne Rice and Joss Whedon.  On TV alone, one can think of True Blood, of Human Nature and even an episode of Doctor Who.  Then on film the gormless Blade films and the terminally bland teen candy that is the God-awful Twilight series, compared to which even the Harry Potter movies seem like masterpieces.  Into this pit of recycled regurgitations we have Tomas Alfredson’s film of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s celebrated novel.

            It’s set in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm, in 1982, and centres around the existence of a small boy, Oskar, bullied at school and desperately in search of a friend.  His only friend is a young 12 year old girl, Eli, who he only sees at night, hanging around on a climbing frame in the courtyard of their apartment block.  She lives with a middle-aged man and lives very reclusively.  The reason being of course that she is a vampire and that her guardian is getting closer to being captured following a series of killings in which the victims’ blood is drained for Eli’s consumption.  Rather than being just 12, she’s actually been 12 for over 200 years. (more…)

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the city in the film Metropolis

[Note: I usually post my “In The Spotlight” conversations on Sunday morning, but due to scheduling conflict…I had to post my conversation with my special guest Gil Anderson, this morning. I hope that you enjoy what my guest Gilchrist Anderson, has to say in our interview about his painstaking restoration of Giorgio Moroder’s version of director Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis

Good-Morning… Wonders in the Dark readers, and fellow bloggers, this morning I am so happy that film editor Gilchrist Anderson, took the time out of his very busy schedule to sit down and discuss with me over a cup of coffee and croissant(s) his restoration of Giorgio Moroder’s version of director Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis.

Dee Dee:
Good-morning…Gil Anderson, what a pleasure it is for me to meet you, (as I reach to shake Gil Anderson’s hand) please sit down.

Dee Dee:
Let me begin by asking you the first question that I ask all my guest and that is…

Can you once again please tell me (and the Wonders in the Dark readers,) a little about your blog? Metropolis Redux

Gilchrist Anderson:
My blog chronicles the last part of my journey in re-creating Metropolis Redux, Giorgio Moroder’s version of Metropolis.

I never really planned on making the work public, but there was so much interest I thought I’d better share and started documenting what I was doing. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2003 100m) DVD1/2

Yellow, blue and grey

Andy Paterson, Anand Tucker  d  Peter Webber  w  Olivia Hetreed  novel  Tracy Chevalier  ph  Eduardo Serra  ed  Kate Evans  Alexandre Desplat  art  Ben Van Os  cos  Dien Van Straalen

Scarlett Johansson (Griet), Colin Firth (Johannes Vermeer), Tom Wilkinson (Peter van Ruijven), Judy Parfitt (Maria Thins), Cillian Murphy (Peter), Essie Davis (Catharina), Joanna Scanlan (Tanneke), Alakina Mann (Cornelia), Chris McHallem (Griet’s father),

There’s something about paintings and great art that has often daunted me, made me feel somehow insufficient, not merely my obvious inability to match the genius of the artist but perhaps not even perceptive enough to perceive his purpose, his intention.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the same is no more true of paintings than it is in the cinema, sculpture, architecture or any of the other arts.  And Vermeer is one of those painters I have always admired most because he was fascinated with the same thing that fascinates film-makers; light.  With the arguable exception of that other Dutch genius, Rembrandt, no other painter has so influenced cinematography since its inception than Johannes Vermeer.  A daunting subject then, and made perhaps even more so by the success of the historical fiction it was based on, Chevalier’s immensely popular novel.  I have to confess I have never read it and will probably always struggle to find the time, but if fans of the book have found the film less interesting – they always do, don’t they? – it remains a magnificent, seriously underrated achievement. 

            It’s 1665 in Delft, and a blind former tile-maker’s daughter is hired out of charity by the household of painter Johannes Vermeer as a housemaid, but she soon attracts the keen eye of the master.  His motives seem ambiguous initially, there’s an undoubted erotic chemistry between them, but there’s something deeper, something misunderstood by harpy wife Catharina and gossipy housekeeper Tanneke.  Griet is fascinated by what drives the master to create his paintings, and he sees in her a more than willing pupil to be his assistant and inspiration.  (more…)

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by Joel Bocko

#57 in Best of the 21st Century?, a series counting down the most acclaimed films of the previous decade.

You’re about halfway through L’Enfant when you realize whom exactly the title refers to. Sonia (Déborah François) has just had a baby boy, and when the movie opens, she’s seeking the child’s father. He’s not at his apartment, which is occupied by a surly couple who slam the door in her face (a gesture that will be repeated throughout the film, although eventually she’s the one doing the slamming). When she finds him he’s on the street, wandering between cars stalled at a stop light, begging for change. Bruno (Jérémie Renier) is a scruffy young man, who could be anywhere from mid-twenties to early thirties. The indeterminacy of his age is telling; while his thick features suggest a manliness, his mop of hair, puppy-dog eyes, and perpetually mischievous grin suggest perpetual boyhood. Though Sonia is clearly his junior, she manages to mix a girlish playfulness (she’s constantly goofing around with Bruno, amidst shrieks of laughter) with a motherly concern for her new charge. Bruno, on the other hand, as soon as he’s left alone with the baby, tries to sell his own son. (more…)

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 by Sam Juliano

     Screening at the Village East Cinemas on the first day of the Tribeca Film Festival, Brillant Mendoza’s naturalistic Phillipine art house feature Lola, traverses some of the same territory visited by Hsao-Hsien in its humanistic underpinnings and by the Dardenne brothers in its wordless sequenes and deliberate pacing.  Yet, with the use of a hand-held camera, often jerky in motion, sustained for most of the film’s length, there is also a strain of the amateur here, which, though there’s no doubt that cinematographer Odyssey Flores captures some striking images in this story of squalor and impovrishment, beaurocratic obstinance, and the economic dictates of contemporary society.

     The symetrical story basically concerns two elderly matriarchs who must bear the financial and legal ramifications of a crime in which both their grandsons are involved.  One is murdered with a knife, while the other is the prime suspect.  While trying to sustain their families’ meagre existence in makeshift shacks along and over rising waterways in Manila, the grandmothers must navigate even more trecherous domestic waters in funeral homes, prisons and court rooms, where they are always on the outside looking in.  The conflict almost never reaches levels of vocal acceleration, rather the absence of false conflicts render the film as an acute ‘slice ofd life’ drama, much in the tradition of cinema verite.  Lola is shot on video instead of film, yet the crystal clear canvas, much of it negotiated through a steady and driving rain, unveils a beautiful panorama of the urban Manila landscape.  Mendoza posesses the social urgency of a Bahreni, with the lyrical devices of a Hsaio-Hsien, yet he’s singular in his insightful focus on the lower classes in this film and in his past work.  Lola was rather a return to the sociological roots of the earlier films, apart from last year’s Serbis, which bordered more on Tsai Ming-Liang in its sensory overload and more provocative themes, which centered around pornography. (more…)

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‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ shown at Jersey City Loews on Saturday

by Sam Juliano

Dave Hicks’s marathon film noir countdown is over, and the young man deserves all the credit and veneration that’s due to him for the tireless research, re-viewings and painstaking attention he focused on this noble enterprise for the better part of four months.  Coming on the heels of his previous project, the annual countdown that launched with 1930, Dave has demonstrated an incredible resilience and committment, that has resulted in lists that many will now use themselves as reference tools.  After admitting the overwhelming difficulty in choosing a Number 1 film between his two final choices, Dave went with Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success (1958) as his top film, with Jacques Tourneur’s seminal noir Out of the Past (1947) as the first runner-up.  Rounding out the top ten are:  Kiss Me Deadly, Criss Cross, The Killers, In A Lonely Place, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Rififi and The Asphalt Jungle.  Dave is planning a final post, where he will discuss his agnonizing numerical placement, and the final decisions to disqualify some borderline noirs in his qualification process.  Again, this was a monumental undertaking, and kudos to you Dave!

Down in the Bayou, filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman is also nearing the end of his own long-running series, choosing a best film of ever year in cinema all the way up to 2009, and Goodman’s bold and audacious choices have led to some terrific discussions in the comment sections, not to mention some fabulous personal; anecdotes of discovery and first-time viewings.  It’s bound to be a spectacular finish at The Last Lullaby, as Goodman moves further on preparations for his new film Peril.

At Wonders in the Dark, Allan’s new millenium Top 100 countdown is already attracting loads of comments, though it’s just barely moved into the 80’s, with nearly three months more capsule essays ahead, as the polling winds all the way down to Number 1.  Voters are urged to enter their own Top 25 at the corresponding tab over the site header.

Finally, last but by no means least, Dee Dee will be interviewing Film Noir specialist Tony d’Ambra on some of the greatest noirs in a post that will appear at Darkness Into Light (Noirish City) and WitD over the upcoming days.  The chemistry between these two will no doubt result in a priceless converstion, and I simply can’t wait!

With a wedding occupying my attention on the prime viewing night, Saturday, I worked out a viewing schedule that included the afternoon of that same day, as well as an appearance at the Jersey City Loews Landmark movie palace on Friday for a screening of Robert Mulligan’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird with the kids, that proved to be a most memorable evening.  At midnight I raced over to Manhattan to catch an exhilarating Asian feature The Good, the Bad and Weird, which appeared on the countdown last week, as per Allan’s great regard for it.  I was disappointed with the latest James Ivory-Ruth Prawer Jabvala collaboration, The City of the Final Destination, though as always it’s lushly filmed and very well acted, (especially by Laura Linney)  But it’s dramatic underpinnings are listless, with events failing to connect, and nothing ever reaching a boil.  Having seen what we got with The Remains of the Day, Howards End, Maurice, A Room with a View and Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, lets just say that this is less than a minor footnote.

A superb Phillipine film, Lola launched the Tribeca Film festival on Thursday, and although I was rather disappointed not to win approval for a press pass, and was not thrilled with paying $19 a ticket, but still bit the bullet and attended the first of what will be four appearances at the festival this week with Lucille and Broadway Bob, including the highly-controversial Ticked Off Trannies With Knives, which may be picketed by members of the angry gay and lesbian community, who feel the film offers some slanderous stereotypes.  I hope to have a review of Lola topping the diary here.

Lola **** (Thursday night; Tribeca Film Festival; Village East Cinemas)

The City of the Final Destination ** 1/2 (Sat. afternoon; Montclair)

The Good, the Bad and Weird **** (Friday at midnight; IFC Film Center)

To Kill A Mockingbird 1962  (Jersey City Loews; Friday night)

As usual, the blogosphere offers some great stuff: (more…)

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