Archive for June, 2010

by Allan Fish

(UK 2008 74m) DVD1/2

The anus mundi

p  Sol Papodopolous, Roy Boulter  d/w  Terence Davies  ph  Tim Pollard  ed  Liza Ryan-Carter  narrated by  Terence Davies

It’s been called a eulogy and a love song – Davies himself might say chanson d’amour – to Liverpool, but upon finishing Davies’ latest work one was filled with a great deal of inner sadness.  Could Davies see it as his own eulogy, the end of his career, with Of Time and the City as his own final footnote?  It’s a sad state of affairs, but look at the facts; since Distant Voices, Still Lives appeared in 1988, Of Time and the City, made exactly two decades later, is only his fourth film.  Even then, it was made to celebrate Liverpool’s nomination as European City of Culture in 2008.  But what sort of country are we living in where talentless hacks peddling more and more thoughtless, vacuous cockney gangster rubbish can get funding from the National Lottery while Terence Davies, to these eyes the greatest British filmmaker of the last 20 years, struggles about for whatever change he can find walking alone along the corridors of power.  It really is a joke, one deserving of the richest irony and if I sound pompous, well me thinks we sometimes need pomposity.  (more…)

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Guess the pic

Courtesy of the Fantastic Mr. Fish

The winner can submit their screen-cap to movieman0283@gmail.com. Do not include film title in file name so I can participate as well! (Give a day or two for the new picture to go up)

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Guess the pic

Courtesy of Samuel Wilson

Just Another Film Buff already guessed “36th Chamber of Shaolin” though the comment was caught in limbo.

The winner can submit their screen-cap to movieman0283@gmail.com. Do not include film title in file name so I can participate as well! (Give a day or two for the new picture to go up)

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© 2010 by James Clark

      Whereas, for all but curmudgeons, the vicissitudes of the lovers, showing from out of In the Mood for Love, elicit a direct and memorable response, the second phase of reversals for one of those lovers, in Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046 (2004),  proves much harder to warm up to. Though the visual and aural design of the latter film is very similar to that of the former, and though even much of the two narratives is shared, we are made to engage 2046 with energies never brought to bear by the closely revealed twisting of Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow.

    Apparently the film released later was in the works earlier, but the writer-director could not fix upon a structure to deliver its goods (those goods themselves mountainously difficult to bring to sufficient resolution). The two films, then, are aspects of one cinematic package, In the Mood for Love being a more readily presentable introduction. It was one thing to launch a spare duet (a “chamber-music” work) redolent of a devastating crisis, whereby attractive soloists could form an ensemble action of limited and immediately assimilated powers. But the writer had come to be haunted by the full ramifications of those casualties, lightly touched upon by impingements there of the world at large. In awkwardly (understandably so) proceeding toward that arena, Wong Kar Wai—hitherto never a conventional practitioner—began to exasperate his production coterie and the film world at large, losing, along the (very long) way his longstanding genius cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, who subsequently went on record as opining that the chief had expended all his ammo in producing that singularly profitable hit, and could not move on to other forms of entertainment. So laconic and elusive were his working methods, even a close partner in making unique sparks fly hadn’t a clue about what he was driving at! And that impasse speaks to not only the content of 2046, but the wider sphere of attempting serious innovation by means of consequently big-money-losing ventures, like those of Demy and Lynch, which eventually result in careers, if not terminated, massively complicated and compromised. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 2001 126m) DVD1/2

Aka. Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi

Chihiro in Wonderland

p  Toshio Suzuki  d/w  Hayao Miyazaki  story  Hayao Miyazaki  m  Joe Hishaishi 

VOICES BY:- Daveigh Chase (Chihiro/Sen), Suzanne Pleshette (Yubaba/Zeniba), Jason Marsden (Haku), John Ratzenberger (Aogaeru), Michael Chiklis (Father), Susan Egan (Lin), David Ogden Stiers (Kamaji), Lauren Holly (Mother), Tara Strong (Boh), 

You are lucky” exclaims Pixar’s John Lasseter in the introduction to his friend Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece on the US DVD.  Indeed we are lucky, for Miyazaki is the man who has, single-handedly, re-established faith in traditional animation at a time when, post the brief renaissance after Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, Disney had not only reduced it once more to a lesser art, but abandoned it altogether.  He also brought true respectability to Japanese animation which for so long had lain in the shadow of Manga, from the children’s serials like Battle of the Planets to fully fledged features such as Ghost in the Shell and Akira.  Yet it was only in the nineties that Miyazaki’s reputation began to spread outside his native land and, great though his earlier works are (check out Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service and particularly the ecological animated classic Princess Mononoke), I’m in agreement with Lasseter; Spirited Away is indeed Miyazaki’s masterpiece.

            Ten year old Chihiro is a disaffected, sulky little girl who is moving with her family to a remote new home away from the city.  However, on the way they take a wrong road and turn into an old abandoned theme park which they decide to explore.  There they find some food cooking which the parents start tucking into only to turn into pigs.  So begins Chihiro’s adventure to win back her parents’ human selves as she is taken to a mystical fantasy land within the old theme park, a sort of bath-house for spirits and ghosts where she is set to work on menial tasks by the magical witch boss Yubaba.  (more…)

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by Joel

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

“It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small, small, small, small world…”

“The world” of this film’s title is a theme park which combines a lushly wooded landscape with reproductions of international monuments: a towering yet smaller-than-normal Eiffel Tower which looms over the whole park like a panopticon, a small set of the New York skyline which still includes the World Trade Center, a bite-size Leaning Tower of Pisa which perpetually invites tourists to stand twenty feet in front of it with their hand out so that photographic “tricks” can make them appear to be holding it up. (Director Zhang Ke Jia always shoots these particular tourists from the side, so that the absurd artificiality of their gesture is highlighted.) This demi-monde, further dislocated by being placed in Beijing instead of the American setting (say, World Showcase in Disney World, or else any number of miniature golf courses) where we might expect it, is fascinating enough to sustain the film even if there isn’t a plot. Which, at first glance, there isn’t, really. Still, a story of sorts develops over the course of the film, or rather several stories, glimpses into characters’ lives which remind us how vast and implacable is the real world outside the bounds of our dreamlike global village. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 2007 122m) DVD1/2

Looking for what’s coming

p  Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin  d/w  Ethan Coen, Joel Coen  novel  Cormac McCarthy  ph  Roger Deakins  ed  Joel Coen, Ethan Coen  m  Carter Burwell  art  Jess Gonchor

Tommy Lee Jones (Sheriff Ed Tom Bell), Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh), Josh Brolin (Llewelyn Moss), Woody Harrelson (Carson Wells), Kelly MacDonald (Carla Jean Moss), Garret Dillahunt (Deputy Wendell), Tess Harper (Loretta Bell), Barry Corbin (Ellis),

No film was more universally praised in its year than the Coens’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s tale of consequence, changing times and murder.  Yet no film excited more discussions over an ending arguably in its decade, let alone its year.  For those seeking a traditional climax, they’ll come away scratching their heads and bemoaning a lack of cohesion.  Yet were they really looking, or to be more accurate were they watching but not really listening.  It’s your ears you need to have at attention, even more than your eyes.

            Set in 1980 in Texas, No Country follows one Llewelyn Moss.  One day out hunting he finds a group of abandoned trucks, several corpses, a stash of heroin and two million dollars.  He decides to keep the money, a decision which leads him to suggest his wife leave and meet up with him later while he tries to shake off the various types after him.  They consist of Ed Tom Bell, a soon to be retired sheriff and son of a sheriff in turn, a group of underworld Mexicans, Anton Chigurh, a psychotic hit-man who wants the loot, and Carson Welles, hired to find and deal with Chigurh.  (more…)

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Original cast of ‘Hair’ since displaced for the latter part of the run

 by Sam Juliano

     A pregnant hippie takes a toke on a joint and proclaims: “As Mary Magdalene once said, ‘Jesus, I’m getting stoned!’  In the free-spirited, wildly anarchic and gleefully interactive Hair, which is winding down its successful run at the historic Hirschfeld Theatre on 45th Street, one is reminded of a number of theatrical properties that dotted the cultural landscape in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar are closest to Hair in spirit and form, but Hair stands alone in the sense that it is loosely based on one consideration: whether or not “Claude” will allow himself to be drafted.  Claude spends most of his time hanging out with his friends in the park.  These are kids who have no qualms burning their draft cards, but Claude is still influenced by his middle-class upbringing as can be evidenced by flashback sequences featuring his parents in cartoon incarnations.  Of course Claude’s fate ultimately delivers an overwhelming final blow to theatregoers, before the rafters of the theatre are shaken by an all-out lovefest that includes audience members, chapping and cheering to the soulful strains of “Let the Sunshine In.”  Director Diane Paulus’ spirited revival of the beloved musical, which won the Tony for Best Revival in 2009 ably delineates Claude’s inner conflict with conscience and upbringing, and this deft and necessary simplification of Gerome Ragni and James Rado’s sprawling book serves as the work’s most profound emotional underpinning.

     But most theatregoers who best appreciate Hair are those who were brought up during the time time of cultural upheaval, peace marches and that were staged at peak of the hippie movement and the doctrination of Woodstock and the anti-war crusade.  The same baby boomer set were apt to appreciate, if not become ravenously attuned to the songs (by Galt MacDermott, and the aforementioned Ragni and Rado) that were popularized on AM radio and on vinyl, and these include the Fifth Dimension’s Number 1 hit “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” Oliver’s “Good Morning Starshine,” Three Dog Night’s “Easy to be Hard” and the Cowsills’ “Hair” which reached Number 2 on the pop charts.  Fortunately, these songs are not acid-infused, but in a popular vein, with soaring lyrical harmonies.  At the heart of Hair are these infectious, irresistible songs. (more…)

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Screen cap from spectacularly-reviewed ‘Toy Story 3’ burning up the box-office

by Sam Juliano

As the school year winds down to its final days, some us have been pre-occupied with proms, graduations and retirement dinners, and the realization that some of our friends will be going their separate ways until September.  Others have made plans for summer vacations and various day trips, while still some others (like our good friends Down Under) are actually beginning their winter season.

Here at Wonders in the Dark, our final decade poll (don’t quite think we’ll be around here in ten years ya know!) has entered the home stretch, with the usual combination of surprises and expected placements spurring on some lively discussion in the comment threads.  After the final results of the polling are announced, there will be a one-month break before the horror poll launches.  During that ‘poll-less’ period, a number of exciting features will be posted.

Yankee fans can rejoice in the 2-1 series win over the crosstown rival Mets at Yankee Stadium, while the World Cup seems to have devolved into a series of 1-1 ties, for USA, Italy and England fans.  But there is a long way to go, and our guys Maurizio and Jamie are pumped up.

I saw two stage productions and five films in movie theatres over the past week, as well as two important DVDRs sent to me by Allan.  I rarely discuss on this thread what I watch on DVD at home, but this one instance is well worth discussing, as one of the films (a Japanese work from 1947) is a supreme masterpiece of world cinema.

Experiencing Hair on Broadway (at the historic Al Hirshfeld Theatre on Thursday evening, June 17) with Lucille and Melanie was pure bliss, especially in view of the Tony Award-winning musical revival’s imminent closing at the end of June after an impressive run.  But this was the ultimate interactive show, which served as a reminder of what a great score served this defining work of late 60’s and early 70’s hippie sub-culture.  Some other surprises in the theatre had us all smiling from ear-to-ear. (review above diary, which includes clarification of the last point).

The previous night (Wednesday, June 16) I was solo, when I embraked on a trip to the ‘Producer’s Club Theatre’ on 44th Street to take in a 90 minute off-off-Broadway staging of a show titled Dickinson, William Roetzheim’s play, which ran for three weeks, timed to align with the opening of the Emily Dickinson Garden exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden. According to playwright William Roetzheim, “The myth of Emily Dickinson is that she was a prudish Victorian spinster who wrote beautiful poetry. The reality of Emily Dickinson was that she was a stunning creative intellect coping with an emotionally and sexually abusive Father, an enabling mother, surfacing lesbian feelings, raging sexual emotions, and mental breakdowns. This play brings the real Emily Dickinson to life, with all of her depth and complexities, and takes the audience on a magical journey of love and discovery.”

In DICKINSON at the Producer’s Club Grande Theater, the secret story of Emily Dickinson is told thru the one-night dream of a playwright struggling to write a play worthy of her genius.  Sadly, the play was static, uninvolving and claustrophobic (the theatre it was staged in gave a new meaning to the word “seedy”) and it was pure torture to sit through.  The stage featured a shabby bed with a single chest of drawers and two chairs, and while the two central performers delivered sparkling portrayals, the words they spoke were redundant and a dare for audience members to stay awake, even with the short running time.

On the movie scene I managed:

Toy Story 3   *****   (Friday afternoon) Edgewater multiplex

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work   ****  (Monday night)   Chelsea Cinemas

Stonewall Uprising  ***          (Saturday night)   Film Forum

Solitary Man  ****  (Saturday afternoon)   Montclair Claridge Cinemas

Le Amiche (Antonioni; 1955) Film Forum; Sunday night (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2009 121m) DVD1/2

Getting wasted

p  Kees Kasander  d/w  Andrea Arnold  ph  Robbie Ryan  ed  Nicolas Chaudeurge  art  Helen Scott

Katie Jarvis (Mia Williams), Michael Fassbender (Connor O’Reilly), Kierston Wareing (Joanne), Rebecca Griffiths (Tyler), Sarah Bayes (Keeley), Charlotte Collins (Sophie), Harry Treadaway (Billy), Brooke Hobby (London),

There’s a moment in Andrea Arnold’s Cannes success where the young protagonist, seemingly for want of anything better to do, states “let’s get wasted!”  A common cry for a generation of what we have come colloquially to know as chavs and the usually depicted stereotypical attributes and accessories are there – attitude, language out of a sewer, hoodies, track suits, trainers, bling, daytime TV, cheap 12 inch portable TVs with built in DVD players and mothers not worthy of the title.  In America they’re cheap white trash or trailer park class, over here it’s suburban council estates with the soul drained out of them till everyone is the same shade of grey as the vandalised one-time playgrounds round the corner.  Any greenery there once was has turned to wasteland, and those who wander around this desolate place are wasted in more ways than one.

            Take Mia Williams, the fifteen year old seriously angry daughter of a mother who probably had her when she was Mia’s age and has been living for the next benefit cheque and temporary boyfriend ever since.  Kids, they just get in the way, both Mia and her younger sister, Tyler, who has already (and she’s no older than 11) taken to smoking and drinking.  Mia has but one escape and that’s a love of hip-hop dancing.  Truth be told, she’s hardly anything special, but she’s never been taught, never had anyone take an interest in her to encourage her in anything.  That is until mum gets a new boyfriend, Connor, who takes a shine to Mia initially in a protective way, only for things to then take a turn for the complicated. (more…)

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