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Archive for August, 2010

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1970 143m) DVD2 (Japan only, no English subs)

Aka. Mujo

A smile of self-mockery

d  Akio Jissoji  w  Yoshiro Ishido  ph  Youzo Inagaki  m  Toru Takemitsu  art  Niriyoshi Ikeya

Akiji Kobayashi (the monk), Ryo Tamura (Masao), Michiko Tsukasa (Yuri), Eiji Okada (Master Mori), Kotobuki Hananamoto, Kin Sugai, Minori Terada,

In writing about Akio Jissoji’s film on Midnight Eye, Roland Domenig compared Jissoji to Bresson and Dreyer, and wondered why Jissoji wasn’t better known.  The answer is fairly obvious; Dreyer and Bresson are accessible to all, not just spiritually from a western standpoint but films that can be watched by anyone, whereas Jissoji’s films deal with bestial desires as much as faith, turning Buddhist simplicity into virtual nihilism, or an extreme form of post-modernism, depending on your point of view.  Where the only nudity in Bresson’s films is chaste and brief, in Jissoji’s films it’s rampant, with enough disturbing sex scenes to send the hard right into a seizure.  The irony is that Jissoji had two simultaneous careers, one producing increasingly sexually dominated films, the other making children’s fantasies for TV; half Miyazaki, half Oshima.  This Transient Life was and remains Jissoji’s most famous film, and if the sexual content seems mild compared to his later Eros trilogy, it’s still a shocking, bracing experience.

            Set around a remote Buddhist monastery, it features Masao, a young son of a rich merchant who doesn’t want to follow his father into business or go to college, preferring to study under a famous Master how to make Kannon statues of the Goddess of Mercy.  At the same time, his sister Yuri is struggling to find a potential husband, only for it to explode when their horseplay in masks one day leads to an incestuous consummation that brings disaster to all.  They fall in love, she gets pregnant but it’s assumed to be someone else’s, who she marries.  A monk at the monastery knows the truth, and confronts Masao, who goes off instead to the master sculptor to be his assistant, only to then begin another affair with his wife, who in turn seduces her young son who, in horror, blames the whole business on Masao and sets out to kill him.  (more…)

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Terrill Welch (Creativepotager’s) ravishing impressionistic painting “The Sea”

Note:  This is the fourth entry in an ongoing series that honors creative bloggers who have really made a difference, raising the bar for quality and productivity on the cultural front.

by Sam Juliano

     Mayne Island.  Located between lower British Columbia and the much larger Vancouver Island, this rustic and temperate paradise is a veritable refuge for ardent nature lovers and those with a ceaseless creative hankering.  Though seasonal bubbles frustrate any attempts to confirm yearly population figures, at least 3,000 reside here in the summer months, and no less than 1,000 count themselves as permanent islanders.  Among this alfresco lot of those who receive their daily inspiration from the nature’s beauty and wonderments, are Terrill Welch and her husband David Colussi, who moved to this picturesque hamlet three years ago in May, and have since established a base from which to simultaneously study and appreciate the island’s wifelife species and geographical resplendence while using it as a springboard for a budding career as an artist.

      Holding a B.A. in sociology with a minor in women’s studies, Ms. Welch is currently working towards a Master’s in Gender Studies at the University of Northern BC.  Like many, who climbed the ladder from humble beginnings, Terrill piled green railroad ties in a portable sawmill, served many meals in restaurants, pumped gasoline, and worked as a teller in a small neighborhood store before assuming leadership positions in the social service field – specifically in the area of violence against women – and as a program developer.

     An ardent photographer, who loves to walk and observe the scenery around here, Terrill was spurred on to launch the entrancing Creativepotager blogsite this past December as a result of an unfortunate occurence in her life that required some serious reapplication.  In August of 2009 David Colussi suffered a stroke that required cognitive therapy exercises to assist him in his recovery and required a great deal of one-on-one attention.  As David’s health improved, assisted in large measure by disciplined walks with Terrill, an idea sprung to blunt the daily loneliness in their lovely strawbale timberframe home to “build community and conversation around creativity” while maintaining a flexibility that would not intrude upon David’s healing process.  The blog, which has achieved a remarkable popularity among fellow artists and nature-lovers, has in the space of nine short months attracted the regular and profound participation of a number of exceedingly intelligent and passionate contributors, some of whom proctor their own blogsites, specializing in science, nature and art.  Many, including the gifted Laurie Buchanan have commented on literally every single one of Terrill’s posts, which are bi-weekly for the summer, but far more frequent during the rest of the year.   By using her own art and photography as a springboard for discussion, Terrill concludes all her posts with a “sprout question” which is aimed at fueling the creative process by self-reflection, pride, self-awareness or discovery.  Some of Terrill’s most superlative responses have all centered around the sprout, which is usually an extension of the theme expressed in the actual post.  Ms. Welch’s life reads like an open book, and her personal anecdotes and descriptive diary-like passages lend the creative process a refreshing context that only experience can successfully inform.  She not only talks about her adventures, but she takes you into her habitat, and induces you to see, feel, hear and touch all the scenic wonders that are exclusive to her home and her lifestyle.  Alas, she gives you, the reader, all the tools to make your own explorations, and forge your own path. (more…)

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Patricia Charkson and Alexander Siddig in sleeper hit, 'Cairo Time.'

by Sam Juliano

While it’s likely that the summer heat still has some legs, the beginning of September will serve as a reminder that its days are numbered.  School starts, the baseball season is winding down, and here at Wonders in the Dark the horror poll will soon be launching.  It’s the time when the year’s prestige movie season commences, and when both the theatre and opera schedules take flight.  It’s a time when the spectre of autumn leaves begins to take hold.

Over at Movies Over Matter, Jason Marshall continues his intricate Top Ten listings (in reverse order of 10 to 1) of every year in cinema, and he’s presently nearing the #1 choice of 1934.  Meanwhile, John Greco is continuing his stellar coverage of Anthony Mann at Twenty Four Frames, and Judy Geater has resumed her incomparable William Wellmann series at Movie Classics with a hard-to-find pre-coder.

Back on home turf, Allan’s superlative Yoshida series has just concluded at least for now, and the site continues to offer up a wide diversity of reviews and features, including a terrific and exhaustive essay on Fat Girl by Jim Clark, a report on a Mozart concert and a comment section resurrection of Jamie Uhrer’s exquisite series on Rainer Maria Wilke.

On a personal note, my family’s all-too-short seashore vacation is now history, and one day brought torrential rains that kept us cabin-bound for a full day on Wednesday.  (Yeah, I watched some Yoshidas as a result – brought down for such a possibility – but it’s never fun, especially for the kids).  Between a few ongoing festivals, and a pair of new releases, the week’s movie viewing was still substantial, though again I am not sure how this pace can be maintained in the upcoming months.  I saw the following films:

A Film Unfinished  ****    (Friday night)    Film Forum

Cairo Time     **** 1/2           (Saturday night)   IFC Film Center

Dial M For Murder  **** 1/2  (Saturday night)  3D Festival at Film Forum

House of Wax   ****           (Sunday night)       3D Festival at Film Forum

Those Redheads from Seattle ** 1/2 (Mon. night)  3D Festival at Film Forum

A Hen in the Wind   *****        (Sunday morning)  Ozu Festival at IFC

I also saw three more Yoshidas:

A Promise        *****        (Tuesday)

Heroic Purgatory   **** 1/2   (Wednesday)

The Affair (Flames of Love)  ***** (Wednesday) (more…)

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by Joel

In what may become an ongoing gesture, I’d like to point your attention to an interview conducted nearly 50 years ago. In December 1962, Cahiers du cinema spoke with their alumnus Jean-Luc Godard, who in just about three years had become a prolific and world-famous filmmaker. Many of you have probably read this, but it’s worth re-visiting, because of the 50th anniversary of Breathless (A bout de souffle), because we’ve been discussing relevant issues here (from Godard’s method to the relationship between filmmaking and criticism), and because it’s always fun to read Godard. Hopefully a lively discussion will ensue.

I was going to transcribe the piece, but luckily it is excerpted in Google Books, and the first page is here:

“Jean-Luc Godard: ‘From Critic to Film-Maker’: Godard in interview (extracts)”

Just to kick off some conversation, here are a few prime quotes:

(more…)

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by Allan Fish

Further to Maurizio’s query in the Wuthering Heights thread, to liven up a lazy Sunday I list the numbers of ***** and ****½ films directors have – in my opinion – taken from those listed in my book (using those with three or more entries). 

They’re ordered by *****, then ****½.  Start throwing things at the monitor as soon as you click CONTINUE READING. 

(more…)

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Guess the pic

Courtesy of Jaime

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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by Allan Fish

completing the Yoshida mini-series…

(Japan/France 1988 142m) DVD2 (Japan only, no English subs)

Aka. Arashi ga oka

We are like shadows and light

p  Francis von Buren, Kazunobu Yamaguchi  d/w  Yoshishige Yoshida  novel  Emily Brontë  ph  Junichiro Hayashi  ed  Takao Shirae  m  Toru Takemitsu  art  Yoshiro Muraki

Yusaku Matsuda (Onimaru), Yuko Tanaka (Lady Kinu), Rentaro Mikuni (Takamaru), Tatsuo Nadaka (Mitsuhiko), Eri Ishida (Tae), Nagare Hagiwara (Hidemaru), Keiko Ito (Shino), Masato Furuoya (Yoshimaru), Tomoko Takabe (Kinu the younger), Masao Imafuku (Ichi),

Name the greatest Japanese adaptation of a classic piece of English literature?  Easy, you say, Kurosawa’s Ran…or Throne of Blood.  They’re magnificent, brooding, powerful works and yet…no.  I have got to be crazy, I hear Kurosawa’s adherents decrying, what’s the opposition, what could you possibly rate higher?  I’ll just say one thing – I don’t blame you for picking the Kurosawas for you won’t have seen their superior.  Ran would be Kurosawa’s final defining statement as a filmmaker, but Yoshida’s Wuthering Heights did him one better.  Kurosawa got to the spirit of Shakespeare as well as anyone could not using the peerless original dialogue, but Yoshida achieved something altogether more stunning, remarkable in fact, he captures the decay of Brontë, a foetid, mouldy cancer eating away at the souls (or the vacuums where they should be) of the protagonists. (more…)

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Louis Langree and Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in Avery Fisher Hall

by Sam Juliano

     The dynamic Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra and the vibrant veteran French conductor Louis Langree performed an all-Mozart venue on the evening of Saturday, August 14 to a wildly enthusiastic sold-out crowd at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.  Langree and Finnish pianist Antti Siirala performed three of the composer’s most beloved works with Symphony No. 25 in G minor, Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K.466, and Symphony No. 40 in G minor K.550 to a crowd largely composed of summer tourists and festival faithful at the renowned concert hall standing across the courtyard from the Metropolitan Opera House and the New York State Theatre.

     Siirala received four curtain calls for his spirited reading of the piano concerto, one of the greatest of all classical compositions.  In 1784, at the peak of his fame in Vienna as composer and pianist, Mozart composed no fewer than six immortal piano concertos for his insatiable public, one of the most “spoiled” audiences in history, at least rivaling  J.S. Bach’s Sunday morning congregations at St. Thomas’ Church.  Mozart, buoyed by the success of his piano work, decided to embark on a new concerto, more personal in expression than any of its predecessors.  The first Mozart concerto written in a minor key is assessed by musicologist C. M. Girdlestone in his classic study of the concertos as a work to stir the soul, specifically the emotions: “the story here becomes more stirring and more full of color, and there enters into it a sense of adventure and heroism, hitherto unexperienced.”  The work includes a mysterious, sycopated throb of violin opening, and segues into the timbre of menacing bass, eventually giving way to the piano as a lonely protagonist with a plantive new theme.  Throughout this musically dazzling opening movement Mozart preserves a sense of antagonism between piano and orchestra, avoiding blended ensemble writing for them.  The cadenza that concludes this movement was not written by Mozart (who never wrote one) but by Beethoven, who added it years after Mozart’s death. (more…)

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by James Clark

During his Big Adventure of 1985, Pee-wee Herman would amusingly come close to collapsing from boredom as exposed to rote-embraced old-world “charm.” At the outset of a very different adventure (of 2001), a fat girl, “Anaïs,” sings a remarkable set of lyrics (never heard around a campfire), bringing to mind the Princess` invocation to a ‘True Spirit’ as things begin to happen in Terrence Malick`s, The New World (2000).

    I get so bored from 6 to 10, from 10 to 6
    Both day and night.
    All my life…
    If only I could find
    A man or a woman
    A body or a soul,
    A werewolf,
    I couldn`t care less.
    Just to dream.

Whereas the Princess needs a little help from a benign “Mother,” in order “to sing the song of our lives,” and Pee-wee needs his sublime red bike to feel on top of the world, Anaïs needs a loved one to get her rolling, even if it`s a beast, une bête, La Bête, with whom, against all the facts, she would be La Belle (Beauty), and as such subject to unfolding splendors, “singing the song of our lives” in the form of a “dream,” an uncanny flowering. Fat Girl takes the strangest of routes to the most improbable of werewolf-liberators.

(more…)

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Guess the pic

Courtesy of JPK

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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