Archive for July, 2010

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1965 120m) DVD2 (Japan only, no English subs)

Aka. Mizu de kakareta monogatari

A parasol on the water

p  Hirokichi Ito, Akio Komazaki  d  Yoshishige Yoshida  w  Yoshishige Yoshida, Yoshio Ishido, Rumiko Kora  novel  Yojiro Ishizaka  ph  Tatsuo Suzuki  ed  Hiroshi Asai  m  Sei Ichiyanagi  art  Itsuro Hirata, Haroyasu Kurosawa 

Mariko Okada (Shizuka Matsutani), Ruriko Asaoka (Yumiko Hashimoto), Yasunori Irikawa (Shizuo Matsutani), Isao Yamagata (Denzo Hashimoto), Shin Kishida (Takao Matsutani), Masakazu Kuwayama (Yamakazi), Heiko Yumi (geisha),

This 1965 drama represented a changing point for Yoshida from his earlier works to the thought-provoking dense masterworks for which he would become famous from here until 1973’s Coup d’Etat.  Black and white rules with Yoshida, of the nine films made within that period, only two were shot in colour and one of those on location in Europe.  Somehow colour didn’t suit the subtexts of his films.  These are dark films where white is nonetheless the most prominent colour in his greyscale spectrum. 

            This one follows effectively a group of four characters.  Shizuo is a young man who had declared his intention to marry young Yumiko, the daughter of Hashimoto, one of his bosses.  All might be rosy, but for the parents; for Hashimoto has long loved Shizuo’s widowed mother Shizuka.  Shizuo has fiercely determined that his mother shall never remarry and refuses to contemplate her possible remarriage to Hashimoto, and comes to believe that Hashimoto and his mother have been having an affair and that it may stretch back way before his father’s death ten years previously. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

the first in a series of six pieces on the classics of Anthony Mann…a one off to accompany Sam’s piece on Mann.

(USA 1948 78m) DVD1

A whole tidy little pile of rocks

p  Edward Small  d  Anthony Mann  w  Leopold Atlas, John C.Higgins  story  Arnold B.Armstrong, Audrey Ashley  ph  John Alton  ed  Alfred de Gaetano  m  Paul Sawtell  art  Edward L.Ilou 

Dennis O’Keefe (Joe Sullivan), Claire Trevor (Pat Cameron), Marsha Hunt (Ann Martin), Raymond Burr (Rick Coyle), John Ireland (Fantail), Curt Conway (Spider), Chili Williams (Marcy), Regis Toomey (Capt.Fields), Harry Tyler (Oscar), Whit Bissell (murderer),

I can’t remember who coined the term ‘termite art’ to describe the ‘B’ movie classics churned out on the cheap in Hollywood in the forties.  Edgar G.Ulmer was probably the most famous exponent, but Anthony Mann deserves a mention, too.  Easy to forget that, prior to his reinvention of the western as a psychological landscape as much as a physical, Mann also stamped his mark on the noir world.  Desperate, T-Men, Side Street, even an uncredited stint on He Walked by Night.  All decent films, yet lacking that authentic grit; Raw Deal was rather a film like the identities faked by Itzhak Stern and co. in Schindler’s List, they were too new, they needed tearing, crunching up, having coffee spilt on them to add that sense of having been places.  Raw Deal had it in spades, not on the surface where you could easily spot it, but in the hidden corners, the searchlights at the prison, the smell of the flambé Burr’s suited villain tosses into some poor girl’s face, the musky smell in the room where two characters fight it out in the dark.  (more…)

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Here are 17 ticket stubs saved from the Anthony Mann Film Festival at the Film Forum. Theatre policy is to print only the name of the first film of double or triple features. Only the very first double feature is missing (Naked Spur/Winchester 73) but pictures of that initial visit have already been displayed at the site.

 by Sam Juliano

     For the longest time, Anthony Mann was pigeon-holed as a genre director by the elitists, who saw him as little more than a reliably hard-working studio slave.  ‘Nothing original in style to impart’ was the general regard at a time when critics took film craftsmanship for granted, and preferred to study the emerging pantheon of film ‘visionaries’ who in the 50’s  played by their own rules.  These newcomers hoped to forge their own aesthetic, thereby challenging the traditional underpinnings of narrative cinema and studio intrusion, and they included the likes of Nicholas Ray, Samuel Fuller, Douglas Sirk and Otto Preminger.  Critics of the time, therefore chose to focus on the directors they saw as authentic auteurs, leaving Mann as respected but uninspiring.  Yet, Mann’s prolific output was was more versatile than any other director in the American cinema with the exception of Hawks. (William Wellman arguably rivals Mann in this department with his widely varied pre-Code work)  Mann produced top-drawer films in four genres: the western, film noir, war, and the epic, while in three others, the musical, the costume drama and the literary adaptation, he produced flawed but largely impressive works.  And during his three-decade career, Mann directed no less than a half dozen masterpieces, with about the same number pushing close.

     Manhattan’s film classic mecca, the Film Forum, recently staged a comprehensive 32 film Anthony Mann retrospective over three weeks, which included nearly every significant film in the auteur’s catalogue, except  Railroaded, Serenade, and Strangers in the Night, three competently made but minor works, two of which haven’t yet made it to DVD.  The Film Forum line-up included a single “triple feature” offered on the fourth day, and a bevy of double features, for a single admission price, while the longer epics, El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire and the Korean War opus, Men in War were screened by themselves.  Beautiful 35 millimeter prints were used for all the films, and only an extremely scratchy print for The Fall of the Roman Empire seemed remotely sub-par.  (more…)

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One of the cinema’s most treasured moments: Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’

by Sam Juliano

The monumental 2000’s film countdown ended last Tuesday with the annointment of Love Exposure as the #1 film of the new millenium.  This ended an exhaustive two year examination of the history of the cinema by Allan Fish (and WitD voters) that will officially end with the polling announcement by Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr., that will reveal what films the voters have favored.  Allan’s accomplishment was unparallelled in the blogosphere, as it went far beyond mere listings, but included a top-drawer review for every single choice dating back to the the Best of the 1930’s poll that launched this amazing venture.  Obviously this totals well over 400 reviews.   Luckily for WitD readers, Mr. Fish will be on board for quite some time into the future, as he has already posted the first of his extensive series on Japanese cinema that has escaped the radar.  The subject of his first review, Yoshida’s Akitsu Springs, is wholly extraordinary, as I can personally attest to after a Thursday afternoon viewing in my home.  Writer Bob Clark wrote what was surely the most exhaustive review of Inception yet seen, and Jim Clark’s lengthy essay on Malick’s The New World was a home run.  The site will now operate as a melting pot that will contain an assortment of eviews and features from most of teh staff members, until the official start of the horror poll in about four weeks, with Jamie Uhler, Troy Olson and Kevin Olson in charge.

Over at Goodfellas, our pal Dave Hicks continues to march toward the conclusion of his popular ‘Director’s Series,’ which will finish on Thursday, July 29th, when his ‘favorite director’ will be announced.  Hicks’s work, his choices and his comment sections have all been thrilling to all.  Adam Zanzie’s exciting blogothon on John Huston will commence this coming week with many promising to contribute.

Here in the Manhattan area, another fantastic film festival has recently commenced at the IFC Film Center on Sixth Avenue, where 20 films by Yasujiro Ozu are being screened every weekend until late November.  As Ozu is one of my four favorite filmmakers ever, I plan to attend all 18 remaining films, which includes virtually all the masterpieces.  I regret missing the first two, An Inn in Tokyo and The Only Son, though of course I’ve seen both (and every one of the other 18) on DVDs over the years.  The latter film in fact has just recently been released in a two-film Criterion set with There Was a Father, which I just picked up in the Criterion Barnes and Noble 50% off sale.  One film will run on Saturday and Sunday morning at 11:00 A.M. and 12:30 P.M. for the fill duration of the festival on the state-of-the-art IFC screens in full 35 mm splendor.  With Chaplin going full speed, and the William Castle, Astaire & Rogers and “The Heist” film fests upcoming, I wouldn’t be off-line to get a full-time hotel room near the Film Forum for the coming months!  Ha!

This week, I watched three recently-released films and two festival features on the big screen as well as two films by 79 year-old Japanese director Yoshishige Yoshida, sent to me on to me from Allan on pristine DVRs from Japanes source prints.  Akitsu Springs, a Sirksian overblown love story/melodrama is set at the end of World War two and is negotiated with ravishing widescreen color cinematography and one of the greatest and most memorable of all Japanese film scores.  Allan’s exceptional review of course, appeared on the site on Friday.

Here’s the listing:

Restrepo  *** 1/2   (Thursday night)  Montclair Claridge Cinemas

Cyrus    ** 1/2    (Wednesday night)  Edgewater Multiplex

Life During Wartime   ** (Saturday night) IFC Film Center

What Did the Lady Forget?  ****  (Sunday morning)  IFC Ozu Fest

City Lights  *****   (Sunday afternoon)   Film Forum  Chaplin Festival

Restrepo’s interest in the down moments in a soldier’s overseas tours are what mainly fascinate in this intriguing documentary, that isn’t always interesting or enlightening, but is most of the time.  Cyrus features an obnoxious titel character and some overplayed themes.  With none of the three leads appealling this cliched drama fizzles.  I got to see Todd Solondz in an after-film Q & A at the IFC Film Center with two of his actors -including the young boy – but he’s not a particularly fecund, nor personable chap.  The session got waylaid by one questioner who told Solondz, who is Jewish that he was degrading Jews.   While I don’t think this was true, I found the film redundant, mean-spirited and lacking any further insights from his previous ‘pedaphile’ film, Happiness.  A few laughs but not much more.

Seeing City Lights with the family was something I’ll always cherish (now the Chaplin festival goes in full force this coming weeks after 10 days given to The Circus and City Lights)  and it was great to make my first appearance at the Ozu Festival at the IFC, for the third of what will be 20 films.  I’ve seen them all before on DVD, but the festival experience is always definitive.  What Did the Lady Forget? in an engaging early Ozu about familial discipline and growing up with domestic deceptions.

I finally completed my report on the Mann Festival and it’s posted above this diary today. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

The first in my series of generally unheralded masterworks begins with a small mini-series of works by Yoshishige Yoshida, which in turn begins a longer series on Japanese cinema.

(Japan 1962 113m) DVD2 (Japan only, no English subs)

Aka. Akitsu onsen

Like a flower in the tempest

p  Masao Shirai  d/w  Yoshishige Yoshida  novel  Shinji Fujiwara  ph  Toichiro Narushima  ed  Yoshi Sugihara  m  Hikaru Hayashi  art  Tatsuo Hamada  cos  Mariko Okada

Mariko Okada (Shinko), Hiroyuki Nagato (Shusaku Kawamoto), Sumiko Hidaka (O-Tami), Asao Koike (Osaki), Akira Nagoya (Shimamura), Shigeru Koyama (Tsuda), Kojiro Kusanagi (Army), Masako Nakamura (Harue), Kukuko Sayo (Osumi), So Yamamura (Mikami), Eijiro Tono (priest), Teiji Tonoyama (Rokusuke),

More than perhaps any other national cinema that of the Japanese has been the most revelatory in my acquaintance.  That which demands the closet look, the biggest rewriting of conventional history.  Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kurosawa, even Naruse, merely the tip of the iceberg.  Kinoshita, Shimizu, Yamanaka, Gosho, Ichikawa, even Yoshimura; still deeper.  Then the new wave brigade, led by Oshima, Suzuki and Teshigahara; still you’re not even close.  Then Masumura gets thrown into the melting pot, the eclecticism of Jissoji may provoke the odd murmured “who?” until acquaintance makes one ashamed of the pronoun.  Yet of all directors whose name belongs not only up there with the first four icons but perhaps even above one or two of them, it’s Yoshishige Yoshida. 

            Akitsu Springs is set in and around the Akitsu health spa and its tale begins in literally the last 24 hours of World War II.  Shusaku, suffering from tuberculosis, has come to Akitsu to die.  One young girl, Shinko, refuses to let him and invigorates him on the slow path to recovery.  They fall in love, and in one of his darker moments, Shusaku asks Shinko to join him in double suicide.  She accepts his love but isn’t ready to die.  Neither, it transpires, is Shusaku, and slowly they part.  Time passes, Shinko finds out that Shusaku is married with a child, and he seems to have no interest in her any more. (more…)

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Guess the pic

Courtesy of Samuel

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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Copyright © 2010 by James Clark

This is a film the components of which are balanced with unprecedented complexity and delicacy. It is, on the other hand, not hard to enter into the immense and peculiar physicality comprising its heartbeat, because it is powered by virtuosic visual and aural concentrations concerning primeval America so kinetically charged as to function as a multiplex narcotic. Not only, thereby, does the moviegoer unmistakably become transported into dynamics on a scale having been expunged from the history of “the old world.” While it’s at it, the preparation goes a long way toward discontinuing the reflex to comprehend motion as encompassed and superseded by substantial objects and their causal programs. Therefore, when Captain Smith, assigned to bring off a reconciliation between the abrasive gracelessness of his exploratory compatriots, at Jamestown, in 1607, and the vivacious gracefulness of “the naturals” inhabiting the landing point at mid-Atlantic North America, reflects, in a voiceover channel constituting one of the film’s major constructs, “What urges me on?…What voice guides me towards the best?” he really does put into question the nature of his origin and fate. The unusual architecture of this work is not going to settle for anything like conventional underpinnings and destinies. (more…)

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by Joel

This post is a tribute to Allan Fish, who has just concluded his ambitious, erudite, and stimulating countdown of every era in film history (a top 100 for the first 35 years of cinema, a top 25 for the 1930s, a top 50 for the ensuing decades of the 20th century, and another top 100 for the decade just past). The project was launched on the popular website Wonders in the Dark in the autumn of 2008. A poll was attached to the end of each countdown, so that the readers could voice their own opinions. Not that they needed the excuse – if anything defined the excitement around Allan’s exercises, it was the fantastic discussion which sprouted from many of his choices, sometimes voyaging far abroad from the starting point, spanning hundreds of comments and dozens of topics. Many of these were among the best conversations I’ve had on the internet – or anywhere else for that matter.

There were numerous contributors to the buzzing atmosphere, not least of whom was Sam Juliano, the irrepressible administrator of Wonders in the Dark, who drummed up enthusiasm and participation in Allan’s countdown with the exuberant discipline of a Falstaffian ringleader. And then, of course, there’s Allan himself. A thirtysomething Brit who has seen just about every major film known to man, he also harbors a no-bullshit attitude and a brooding sensibility. Though bruising at times, he was the perfect yin to Sam’s yang – and their odd couple routine defined the site’s bright but unpretentious tone from the get-go. More important, his virtually peerless immersion in film history provided a wealth of choices for the countdown and he drew on them with gusto. Many times his #1 (not to mention lower-ranked picks) took us by surprise and sent us scurrying to the margins of filmdom to polish off his proclaimed masterpieces.

In several paragraphs, Allan would summon up the world of the movie effortlessly, giving a bit of history and story, but focusing on the film’s mood, its connections to other movies (and books and TV shows and plays…), and whatever it is that drew him in the first place. These short, succinct, yet highly evocative pieces were intended to evoke curiosity and excitement, and in this they were assisted by an often bold and original image – a screen capture in almost all cases, snapping a picture in the midst of merry movement, making us want to see more. The remainder of this tribute focuses on these pictures. Rather than lay these images out in the order of his ranking, I’ll fuse them into a seamless portrait of movie history, a voyage into the silver screen’s past, starting with the most recent and ending with the earliest glimpses of the medium’s potential.

Click on the picture and you will be taken to the review in question. (And if you click on the picture topping this post – an arresting, sultry frame from the French miniseries “Mesrine” – you will arrive at a list of all Allan’s countdowns in numerical order.) Enjoy…

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Allan Fish’s Number 1 Choice “Love-Exposure”…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

…For Sharing Your Top 100 Choices of the Decade…Now, the voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo D’ Arminio Jr.,..Job Begins…
By the way, two films are missing from the slideroll…Unintentionally, but of course!

While I search for the two missing  screenshots can you tell me what the titles are? I will be right back!



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*** out of *****


By Bob Clark

Back when the Matrix sequels had freshly come and gone from theaters, I had talked about them briefly with a friend from college, who thought that the Wachowskis had made a critical error in not simply having Neo and his cyberpunk comrades simply wake up and discover the war they’d been fighting between man and machines had simply been another virtual reality dream-world. I asked if that wouldn’t make all of their adventures feel all a bit meaningless, and open the door to a revolving door of dreams within dreams with no end in sight. After all, David Cronenberg pulled more or less the same stunt in his own virtual-reality thriller eXistenZ, which threw out its story of Jennifer Jason Leigh as a radical game-designer with a Salman Rushdie style fatwa on her head in favor of a new paradigm in which she was an anti-VR assassin herself. It’s the sort of last-minute turn of the narrative screw that might work fine for a stand-alone feature, I said, but would more or less ruin any sense of continuity for a budding multimedia franchise. My friend simply shrugged and said, “Turtles all the way down!”


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