Archive for May 7th, 2010


by Allan Fish

We’ve all read the stories of the ox-car knot at Gordium, the one that Alexander the Great came across in 333BC and, seeing the knotty problem at hand, proceeded to split the knot in two with his sword.  Simples, as those confounded Compare the Market meerkats might say.  Then again, it was, for back then lawyers didn’t really exist, not in the leech, lowest of the low status we know today.

Other Alexanders came and went, from Hannibal to Julius, from Charlemagne to Genghis Khan, and Napoleon Boneparte.  The most egotistical Frenchman to have ever lived, Boneparte was the dictator’s dictator, and the sort of man who has inspired many movies; good, bad and downright indifferent.  Kubrick wanted to do it, he gave up.  Maybe if he’d been able to see Abel Gance’s version from 1927, he’d never have tried, but that was presumed lost in the early seventies.  And it was, except that one Englishman, film director and historian Kevin Brownlow, had been on a mission to resurrect this cinematic phoenix from the ashes since his teens.  He was nearing the end of his journey, and doubtless thought he was on to a good thing when enlisting the help of Francis Ford Coppola in promoting his baby to a generation of film fans who were to be blown away by the film.  Two versions were prepared; one running just under four hours and speeded up from 20 to 24 fps, would be issued in the US and have a score by Coppola’s dad, Carmine.  The other, proper version, running five hours, would be accompanied by a score by Carl Davis, incorporating not only portions of Arthur Honegger’s original score, but snippets of Mozart’s 25th Symphony, Beethoven’s 7th and numerous other classical mainstays.  The film was a hit around the world in the early eighties, and Gance himself lived long enough to see his baby reborn again.  It’s perhaps thankful that the ugly post-script that has since ensued happened too late to send him destraught to his grave. (more…)


Read Full Post »

by Allan Fish

(Canada 2001 168m) DVD1/2

Aka. The Fast Runner; Atanarjuat

I can only sing this song to someone who understands it

p  Paul Apak Angilirq, Norman Cohn, Zacharias Kunuk  d  Zacharias Kunuk  w  Paul Apak Angilirq  ph  Norman Cohn  ed  Zacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn, Marie-Christine Sarda  m  Chris Crilly  art  James Ungalaaq 

Natar Ungalaaq (Atanarjuat), Sylvia Ivalu (Atuat), Peter Henry Arnatsiaq (Oki), Lucy Tulugarjuk (Puja), Madeline Ivalu (Panikpak), Pauloosie Qulitalik (the shaman), Eugene Ipkarnak (Sauri, the chief), Pakak Innuksuk (Amaqjuaq), Neeve Urngaut (Uluriaq), Abraham Ulayuruluk (Tungajuaq), Apayata Kotierk (Kumaglak), Alex Uttak (Pakak), Mary Qulitalik (Niriuniq),

The first ever film made entirely in the Inuit language, Atanarjuat won acclaim wherever it was shown, taking in a Camera d’Or from Cannes and other awards from the Flemish, Toronto and Edinburgh Film Festivals and critics circle citations from numerous cities.  It was a breath of fresh air, not maybe an all-time great, but a massively important film culturally and, one might have hoped, the first of many films in the Inuit language.  That it hasn’t proved the case has been put down to the old “well, how many films about Eskimos can you make”, to which one can only reply “well, how many films about working class British pluck can you make.”  If you have people, if you have faces, you have a film. 

             This particular one takes place many centuries ago, the best part of 2,000 years ago to be more exact, though it could, given the location, have been in the here and now.  It tells of how a rogue shaman summons an evil spirit which results in the death of the local chief, and a usurper taking his place.  Needless to say, a blood feud develops, which only escalates when the chief’s rival’s two sons – of which the eponymous Atanarjuat is one – become the best hunters in the group and Atanarjuat wins the hand of a girl who the chief’s jealous son also wanted for his own.  As one might expect, naught good comes of it, with Atanarjuat’s brother killed and a naked Atanarjuat fleeing for his life across the frozen wastes.  All seems lost, but is it? (more…)

Read Full Post »