Archive for December 20th, 2010

by Sam Juliano

      The last time a feature film displayed the unconscionable death of a child via road kill was probably back in 1989 in Mary Lambert’s Pet Cemetery, based on the novel by Stephen King.  Of course that ghoulish work featured familial bonding so acute that the grieving mother of the tale summoned supernatural powers to bring back her dead baby.  King’s work, based on Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw” may have envisioned a horrific chain of events inspired by genre conventions, but it’s underlining concept of the parent’s denial of tragedy and subsequent refusal to come to terms with it lies at the center of John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole, a painful tale of contemporary grief and family crises set in suburbia amidst autumnal hues and suffused with wintry emotions.
     Based on the Tony and Pultizer Prize-winning stage play by David Lindsay-Abaire, (who penned the screenplay for the film) the somber drama requires the audience to consider the aftermath of what is surely the most unspeakable tragedy a human being can possibly endure: the death of a child.  It’s a subject that usually leaves one drained and shaken, yet it’s focus is usually to shed some light on the constructive aftermath and the ability of the survivors to find a reason to move forward and nurture the healing process. While renegade Danish director Lars Von Trier envisioned this scenario in last year’s controversial Antichrist, the nightmarish narrative there morphed into rampant anger, blame, and human depravity.  Rabbit Hole is a painfully real-life situational chamber drama that examines a faltering marriage and the callousness that may result from a failure to process grief and do the kind of things that might facilitate the healing process.  American cinema has produced a number of films through the years that have examined the pain and recovery, and the best are usually the ones where repression is seen as the unavoidably initial response of the grieving parents.  In Christopher Cain’s Stone Boy (1984) with Robert Duvall and Glenn Close, a young boy accidentally kills his older brother when a shot gun discharges, and he spends the rest of the film with unrelenting stoicism until he breaks down and accepts the painful reality of the situation.  Similarly in Robert Mulligan’s evocative rural drama The Man in the Moon a tractor mishap claims the life of a young man in love, and the tragedy is directly caused by that infatuation.  The painful aftermath provides this touching story a kind of coming-of-age context amidst some natural familial turmoil.  And in Todd Field’s well-received In the Bedroom (2001) grief is seen strictly as a prelude for pent-up revenge by quietly inconsolable family members, while in Katherine Patterson’s Newbery Award winning novel Bridge to Terabithia (later made into two films, the latest a well-made Disney version released in 2007) intense grief is seen as part of life’s learning process. (more…)

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A Film Forum tribute to 79 year-old Leslie Caron was staged on Monday, December 13th

by Sam Juliano

As the holiday week is just about upon us, I’d like to wish all our friends and affiliates the best of all holiday seasons.  To the staff here at WitD, I’d like to extend season grettings to Dee Dee, Joel Bocko, Maurizio Roca, Jaime Grijalba, Jamie Uhler, Jim and Valerie Clark, Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr., Bob Clark, Phillip Johnston, Marc Bauer and to Jennifer Boulden, who just authored a review for the site this week.  I also wish the best to our longtime friend and site coodinator Tony d’Ambra down in Sydney for a ‘Christmas in the Summer’, and my online soul mate Allan Fish, who lamentably has suffered through a terrible time with a lingering flu, that necessitated some hospital visits.  Beyond that there are way too many to name here, though the regulator contributors to this gloried thread know well the great friendships we’ve enjoyed.  Like John Adams I say “yea” to John Greco and his lovely wife, and to Craig and Judy, and Jeffrey and Pat, and Dennis Polifroni and David Schleicher and Jason Giampietro and Marilyn and Terrill, and Laurie and Troy and Kevin and Longman Oz and Murderous Ink, and Michael Harford, and Bobby J. and Rod, and Jason and Daniel and JAFB and Stephen (what a job with the animated polling!) and Samuel Wilson and Shubhajit, and Andrei Scala and Dave Hicks and Alexander, and sartre and Ed and Hokahey, and R.D., and Kaleem, and Jake, and Adam, and Jeopardy Girl, and Drew, and Anu and Dave Van Poppel, and Frank Gallo and Peter and Pierre,  and Greg and J.D. and David Noack and Joe and Frederick and Maria and Bill H. and Broadway Bob and Peter Lenihan and Jason B. and Joseph D. and Jake Cole and Tony D. Film Doctor, and Ronak B. Soni, Guy Buzniak and Frank A. and Ricky and John R., and Steve Russo.  I know I’ve missed some, and I do risk the possibility of slighting someone, but I can always revise and make that “senility” excuse.  Ha! (more…)

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(Japan 2004 13 Episodes X 25 minutes)

Director Satoshi Kon, Takuji Endo (co-director for three episodes); Screenplay Satoshi Kon, Seishi Minakami, Tomomi Yoshino; Producer Mitsuru Uda, Satoshi Fujii

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

What does fear look like? Does it have a demented smile? Does it wear roller skates and wield a golden bat?

Society is sick. Anyone in Paranoia Agent will tell you. Violence, disrespect, a morbid obsession with pop culture, sexual depravity. What is more, people are unwilling and unable to face the aberrant and torturous realities of modern existence. They flee from the here and now, yammering into their mobile phones to some distant listener, worshipping cuddly Maromi, a soft toy totem for the latest craze.

Paranoia Agent suggests this broken Japan could be a self-fulfilling, mass psychosoma. Tsukiko, a character designer, is the first of many to be attacked by Lil’ Slugger (Shonen Bat or ‘Bat Boy’, literally). She is the first to welcome him into her life. She is under pressure, afraid of not reaching a deadline, worried that she might humiliate herself. She feels boxed in, cornered, and the teenage boy, who swings his bat with vicious force, offers her an escape – to a hospital bed and to a place outside of the system.


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