Archive for November, 2010


by Allan Fish

(Japan 1951 97m) DVD2

Aka. Meshi

All over a nosebleed

p  Sanezumi Fujimoto  d  Mikio Naruse  w  Toshiro Ide, Sumie Tanaka, Yasunari Kawabata  novel  Fumiko Hayashi  ph  Masao Tamai  ed  Mikio Naruse  m  Fumio Hayasaka 

Ken Uehara (Hatsunosuke Okamoto), Setsuko Hara (Michiyo Okamoto), Yukiko Shimazuki (Satoko Okamoto), Yoko Sugi (Mitsuko Murata), Haruko Sugimura (Matsu Murata), Akiko Kazami (Seiko Tomiyasu), Ranko Hanai (Koyoshi Dohya), Keiju Kobayashi (Shinzo Murata), Chieko Nakakita (Keiko Yamakita), So Yamamura,

I am moved by the sadness to be found in the simple lives of people in the limitless space of the universe” wrote Fumiko Hayashi, quoted over the opening titles of this, one of many adaptations of her work made by Mikio Naruse.  One can safely presume that Naruse held the same ethos, and watching films such as Repast it’s easy to see why.  There’s nothing out of the ordinary about it; something very ordinary about it, if we’re being frank.  Yet that very ordinariness is what makes the film so compelling and, as is the case with all the best films – and certainly the best of this director – true.

            Michiyo is married to Hatsunosuke, who works in the financial district of Osaka, and they live together in the south of the city.  They have been married for five years, having relocated from Tokyo due to his work commitments.  Their marriage, without them really noticing it, is on the rocks, their love not so much dwindling away as already on the way out of the door.  Into this fractured atmosphere arrives Hatsunosuke’s teenage niece, who has run away from Tokyo.  He treats her like a princess, taking her wherever she wants and spoiling her rotten, much to the consternation of his suffering and put upon wife.  Finally, she decides she’s had enough and, in taking the niece back to Tokyo, leaves herself to go back to visit her own family, leaving Hatsunosuke to fend, somewhat pathetically, for himself. (more…)


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(United Kingdom 1998 11min)

Director Ruth Lingford; Writer Sarah Maitland; Music Andy Cowton; Voice Acting Pablo Duarte, Mildred Lee, Corinne Strickett

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

Although animation, colourful and free, is most attractive to young eyes it plays host to all subjects and all audiences.

There are many animators who take advantage of the association of animation with children or childlike things with disingenuous mischief. They daub their macabre designs across the page as a challenge to our preconceptions. Ruth Lingford’s Pleasures of War is a refreshing balm to these types of stunts. It is a serious work that uses rather than abuses its medium.

It comes as a great surprise that this tale of lust and a lust for war, of death and the little death, in stark black and white with strong shapes of heady primary colour, was drawn on an everyday desktop computer. Can something as potent as this have been made with tools that seem cold and detached from the artist? Absolutely.


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Colin Firth as King George VI in “The King’s Speech,” one of the year’s best films

by Sam Juliano

With Thanksgiving Day 2010 now a footnote in history, focus is now in the direction of Christmas cards, shopping and home decorating, while those in the snow belt brace themselves for what Farmer’s Almanac has promised will be a ferocious winter.  The twelfth month of year is always the most exciting time for movie lovers, when year-end lists, award contenders and prestige releases brighten the cinematic landscape and serve as prime motivational components in the movie equation.  Likewise, football fans are now primed for playoff action, and theatre and music fans can look forward to the finest stretch of the year for performances.  In every sense, this is the time for unbridled excitement for those in event-mode.

Marilyn Ferdinand rightly referred to him as a “film critic extraordinaire” when announcing his move from San Francisco to the Windy City last week, but Jon Joseph Lanthier’s relocation has instilled some newly-rekindled spark for film criticism followers and movie and music fans as a result of the gifted writer’s commitment to “renew his cultural vows.”  Lanthier, a longtime friend of WitD, is a class act, and we all wish him and his girlfriend a long and fruitful stay in the shadows of Wrigley Field, in the general proximity of the residences of our dear friends Laurie Buchanan, Jamie Uhler, Marilyn and Pat.

Jim Clark hit a grand slam with his magisterial essay on Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, and readers responded with a boat load of fantastic comments.  Jamie’s new entry in his “Getting Over the Beatles” series caught some serious late fire, while again Bob Clark has sparked the flames of controversy with another brilliantly penned marathon essay on Joss Whedon that has attracted all kinds of traffic from undiscovered country.  Joel Bocko has again authored a superlative treatment of a profound subject for his weekly Sunday afternoon series, while in the UK Stephen-Russell Gebbett continues to astound animation lovers with one great piece after another in a countdown that will forever be referenced by those looking to immerse themselves in this beloved artistic form.

The traffic response this week to the “Film Preservation Blogothon” scheduled for February (being co-chaired by Marilyn Ferdinand, Greg Ferrara and The Self-Styled Siren) has been sensational, and many thanks to ecstatic advocate Dee Dee, for her terrific sidebar promotional work.  Seeing film noir titan Eddie Muller comment at Ferdy-on-Films was quite a thrill for many movie lovers, especially genre fans.  And the exemplary action continues at Movies over Matter, where Jason Marshall’s movie survey continues on with the final choices for 1937. (more…)

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(ITALY 1976 85 min)

Director Bruno Bozzetto; Writers Bruno Bozzetto, Guido Manuli, Maurizio Nichetti; Cinematography Luciano Marzetti, Mario Masini

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

Allegro Non Troppo comprises six shorts, animated to well-known classical pieces, that have little in common with each other. However, the thematic coherence of portmanteau films, in the same way as an album is expected to have an ideological, emotional or generic throughline, is an overrated trait. If one gets bored, and you won’t, the next installment will be something completely different, albeit presented with the same giddy inventiveness.

The delicacies on this platter include a minute old devil trying to recapture his youth on the vast undulating landscape of a woman’s body, a neanderthal’s hilariously frustrated attempts to keep ahead of the Joneses, a heartbreaking tale of a cat who haunts the ruined house where he used to live, a bee’s picnic preparations hampered by an amorous couple, and a sardonic twist on the tale of Adam and Eve where the serpent lives to regret eating the apple himself.

The piece de la resistance is the third movement in the program, one that betrays that Allegro Non Troppo‘s roots lie in Disney’s Fantasia (fantasia’ means “a free composition” or “a medley of familiar themes with variations and interludes”). To Ravel’s Bolero director Bruno Bozzetto leads us through a fantastical evolution, a march to progress, from the most sublimely ugly creations all the way up to the present day and the most extraordinary creature of all : humans. However, this proves an anticlimax as humanity is shown destroying the forest to replace it with a new glass and steel one made of skyscrapers.


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(by Joel)

Loves of a Blonde, Czechoslovakia,1965, dir. Milos Forman

Starring Hana Brejchová, Vladimír Pucholt

Story: A young woman sleeps with a charming young pianist, but when she pursues him to Prague, she discovers that he did not take their romance as seriously as she did.

The title, like so much else in Milos Forman’s second feature, is gently ironic. With its plural “Loves,” it suggests a worldly figure, a free-spirited sixties girl who rounds up loves, and lovers, with a sense of carefree fun. At the same time, “a Blonde” implies a symbolic woman more than an actual one, probably a silly girl who falls in love and breaks hearts without knowing her own power and/or foolishness. Well, the blonde in Loves of a Blonde, Andula (Hana Brejchová), is rather foolish. And in the course of the movie, she does upset and befuddle at least one boyfriend, by recoiling from him without telling him why. Yet at film’s end, she has had only one real lover, and it was her heart that was broken, not his. Most importantly, Andula is not Julie Christie sent to Prague – not a swinger, but a dreamer, a naïve young woman who is not responding to a new freedom but reacting to a lack thereof. Just as the Prague Spring would flourish for a brief period, before Soviet tanks re-imposed a totalitarian regime for another two decades, so Andula’s season of hope is short. When we last see her, she is back in the factory toiling away, sad and quite alone. Though Loves of a Blonde is a comedy, and a very funny one, at its core is a tragic (albeit still romantic) sense of life.


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(Japan 1962 37 min)

Directors Yusaku Sakamoto, Eiichi Yamamoto; Writer Osamu Tezuka; Producer Osamu Tezuka; Animator Gisaburo Sugii

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

Given that animation is the creation of the illusion of movement or life from ‘inanimate’ material, is it any wonder that so many animated films are about objects coming to life? Sometimes sculptures, sometimes paintings or toys. In Story of a Street Corner it is posters on a wall.

Osamu Tezuka has a ball breathing his spirit into their simple yet timelessly stylish designs. In one advert a man splashes water onto his face only to wash it clean off . In another a classic Toulouse Lautrec scene turns raucous. It is all ever so charming, not least the budding romance between a violinist and a pretty pianist that passes ghostlike through the prisons of their paper frames.

Above street level another story is unfolding. A young girl has dropped her blue toy bear out of her bedroom window and it lays out of reach in the gutter. Every night she looks down mournfully and throws down a piece of cheese for it to eat, a piece of cheese which is surreptitiously spirited away by a mouse that lives nearby.


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By Bob Clark

At the heart of every plausible dystopia in science-fiction, there must always be an element of paradise. After all, the root term for the very word stems from St. Thomas Moore’s satirical novel “Utopia”, which in its own way was really attempting to describe the fallen state of man’s world by painting an ideal society so perfect it could not possibly exist even in our wildest dreams– a literal “no-where”. Fueled with a religious notion of our post-lapserian world, one might even be tempted to see the Garden of Eden as a classic dystopia, filled with all the pleasures of the senses, but at the expense of any kind of recognizable human freedom. When the Snake first suggested that God’s favorite creatures taste the forbidden fruit, was he invading that hallowed territory as Milton painted him, an avenging angel of the fallen sort, or could he have instead been described as a revolutionary figure on the behalf of mankind, instead? Was the plan he hissed through the licks of a forked-tongue intended to doom us into an eternity of misery on the wasteland plains of greater creation, or did he truly wish to liberate us by activating the sleeper-agent program of free-will?

Either we were tricked out of a genuine utopia, or freed from a gilded cage, but only with just as much preparation for the outside world as a chimp set loose from a zoo, or experimental laboratory. In the end it doesn’t really make much difference if Adam and Eve were led astray or merely misguided by good intentions– the centuries of misery since then have been the same. That’s how it tends to be at the end of any dystopian fiction when the hero escapes their prison, that nagging doubt of “what happens next”, like the anxious silence of a young fool in love and a runaway bride sitting in the back of the bus. Running away from paradise, no matter how heavily policed by angels with swords of fire, must always arrive with at least a tinge of regret. When Robert Duvall escaped the subterranean electronic-labyrinth of THX 1138, it provided the perfect capsule image for this motif– a bald-headed silhouette climbing out on a desert landscape bleached by the sunset, a world heavily implied to be an uninhabitable nuclear wasteland, very much like the wilderness Adam and Eve must’ve walked out into, their blessed existences cut short by the new half-life of mortality.  The question then is whether or not the prize of free-will is worth the price of suffering the consequences of original sin, or at least if it’s better than living it up in the lap of luxury while tied to a short leash.


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(France 1934 9 min)

Directors Anthony Gross, Hector Hoppin

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

They, every inch the good time gals, bounce and sway with fresh white smiles. He, top to toe the dapper chap, pursues them. Oh no, it’s not like that at all. He just wants to give them back one of their shoes. La Joie de Vivre is a frolic, a race to the next adventure, a bike chase, a chaste romancing of life itself.

Over these nine minutes, that feel like only a couple, you get the impression that the girls don’t want to be caught because that would mean the end of the fun. When he does eventually catch up with them it is on their terms. Eventually they just flow and fall into each other’s company.

Until then, they hide behind bushes, in bushes or become bushes, their skirts morphing into voluminous voluptuous petals. It is as if the girls are at one with the world. They are able to manipulate it at will and Hoppin and Gross more than once have them play with the illusion of 3D in 2D space. They even float about a power station, zapped by lightning and captured in a flash.


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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1935 77m) not on DVD

Aka. Tsuma yo bara no yo ni

Neglected I remain these many years

d/w  Mikio Naruse  novel  “Two Wives” by Minoru Nakano  ph  Hiroshi Suzuki  ed  Mikio Naruse  m  Noboru Ito  art  Kazuo Kuho

Sachiko Chiba (Kimiko Yamamoto), Sadao Maruyama (Shunsaku Yamamoto), Tomoko Ito (Etsuko Yamamoto), Yunko Hanabusa (Oyuki), Setsuko Horikoshi (Shizue), Heihachiro Okawa (Seiji), Kamatari Fujiwara (uncle), Kaoru Ito (Kenichi),

Made when he was only 29, Naruse’s first masterpiece was made during the first golden era of Japanese cinema – the era when Ozu and Mizoguchi also first came to prominence and Yamanaka was still to be cherished. Like all his films, it has lain not so much forgotten as undiscovered in the west, and viewings today are few and far between.  Along with Ozu’s An Inn in Tokyo, it’s the first masterpiece of Japanese talking cinema, and one of the most emotional and empathetic tales Naruse ever told.

            Kimiko is a young woman who works in an office in the city.  She is about to be married to her beloved Seiji, which will mean she has to leave her mother.  She is a poet who spends her time writing poetry on her misfortune, which she traces to her husband leaving her fifteen years previously to live with another woman in the hills far away.  As her father is expected to do his duty towards his daughter at her forthcoming wedding, Kimiko endeavours to try and get her father and mother back together, with the blessing of her somewhat unfeeling uncle.  However, once she tracks her father down to his country home, she finds she quite likes his new family and sees how happy he is.  When he comes back with her to do his pre-nuptial duty, she sees how unhappy her somewhat selfish mother would make him and tells him to return. (more…)

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(JAPAN 1991 118 min)

Director / Writer Isao Takahata

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

Isao Takahata is less well known than his Studio Ghibli colleague Hayao Miyazaki. People may know his film about a pair of children orphaned by war, Grave of the Fireflies, but might not be able to put a name to it; let alone a face to the name. He is less well known but, some would say, no less talented.

Only Yesterday is about Taeko; that is Taeko at 27 and Taeko at 10. On her way to the countryside to help pick Safflowers, she recalls, through flashbacks, her younger self. She wonders if the woman she has become is someone the young Taeko would be proud of. The literal translation of the Japanese title Omohide Poro Poro is “memories come tumbling down”.

To distinguish between the past and the present, Takahata fades the edges of the image of the past, unfinished and indistinct in retrospect, and draws with softer lines the safer and more welcoming world of a child. The present is depicted in sharp lines, the past as if in watercolour (Takahata used a watercolour wash, digitally created, in My Neighbours the Yamadas).


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