Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for December, 2010

by Allan Fish

(France 1940 81m) not on DVD

Aka. No Tomorrows; Without Tomorrows

Four Seasons, Four Promises

p  Gregor Rabinovitch  d  Max Ophuls  w  Kurt Alexander, André-Paul Antoine, Jean Jacot, Hans Jacoby, Max Kolpé, Max Ophuls, Hans Wilhelm  ph  Eugene Schufftan, Paul Portier  ed  Max Ophuls  m  Allan Gray  art  Eugene Lourie  cos  Laure Lourie

Edwige Feuillère (Evelyn Morin), George Regaud (Georges), Daniel Lecourtois (Armand), Mady Berry, Jane Marken, Michel François (Pierre Morin), Paul Azais (Henri), Jane Marken (Mme.Béchu), Georges Lannes (Paul Mazureau),

The forgotten gem in Max Ophuls’ crown, Sans Lendemain will not be found in any major movie guide, barely mentioned in any major movie tome at all unless it be as an entry in the director’s or star’s filmography.  It was quickly jettisoned from public consciousness during the occupation – Ophuls’ Jewish roots made him hot foot it from France in 1940 much as he had from several other countries around Europe during the thirties.  Even now, after watching it again, though I admit it’s not as important as his later fifties masterworks, it’s so typical of him in so many ways, is so distinctive and has so many attractive things about it that leaving it out was just too painful. 

            The setting is Montmartre one assumes in the late thirties, at the popular La Sirène (Mermaid) club, where Evelyn works as a topless dancer to support her small child through boarding school after her gangster husband commits suicide to avoid going down and her name makes it impossible to get a decent job.  One day she returns to find her son has been expelled from school and also finds that the love of her life, Georges, who she ran out on ten years previously to save his life (unbeknownst to him), is back in town on a three days visit before heading back to Canada.  She determines to enjoy the three days but not let Georges know how low she has sunk, enlisting shady help to make it look like she’s well to do.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

(Germany 1922 13min)

Director Lotte Reiniger; Specially Written Verses Humbert Wolfe

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

In terms of the text Lotte Reiniger’s Cinderella is a version much like any other. In all other respects it is unique. The opening title refers to it as “a fairy film in shadow show”. This is a delightful welcome to a fabulous and astoundingly beautiful film, the swooning product perhaps of her “extraordinarily happy” childhood during which she became obsessed with Chinese puppet theatre.

To tell her story Reiniger uses silhouetted figures with varying shades of coloured, grey or white paper for depth. The characters move both daintily and deliberately as though underwater or subject to a whole different gravity. Their poses communicate deep wells of feeling coiled within – yearning, fear and barely contained passion. Finally the effect is one of a dream of the story, aggregated from all the echoes of the past lives Cinderella has led ever since she was born on the page. This Cinderella reminds us that animation is a type of impressionism, touching more sensitively upon emotional realities than physical ones.

Cinderella begins rather unsettlingly with the silhouetted hand of the creator cutting Cinderella herself out of a piece of paper. This instant of creation, with the open acknowledgement of artifice and the presence of the puppeteer, is a mark of much animation. In Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo (1911) the artist draws the characters on a board to prove to mocking onlookers that he can make them move while Karel Zeman’s superb Inspirace has the artist peering into a drop of water to gain inspiration, to see his work grow within.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »


(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.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Les Bonnes Femmes, France, 1960, dir. Claude Chabrol

Starring Bernadette Lafont, Clotilde Joano, Stéphane Audran, Lucile Saint-Simon

Story: Four shopgirls while away the daytime hours in tedium, then spend their nights prowling Paris, looking for fun, excitement, and perhaps true love – only to find predatory jerks, cowardly boyfriends, lascivious bosses, and a mysterious motorcyclist who stands in the shadows, watching all like a wise demigod – or a prowling tiger.

When, all at once, a new group of young filmmakers arrives on a national scene, there may share some common wellspring. In the U.S., it was often an apprenticeship under Roger Corman (Coppola, Scorsese, Bogdanovich, and Hopper all made early B movies with the prolific independent producer). In Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European countries, the new generation came through the state-run film schools; in the UK, the “kitchen sink” realists were usually documentarians before they made narrative features. In France, the situation was more incestuous than most. If you were to pick the ten or so major French filmmakers to emerge in the French New Wave, at least half of them came from Cahiers du Cinema, the fiery, controversial, and influential start-up film publication. In the late fifties, right around the time Cahiers editor and New Wave mentor Andre Bazin died, Claude Chabrol, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, and Eric Rohmer all began work on their first features. It was Chabrol who hit screens first, with Le Beau Serge (about a young urbanite visiting the provinces) but Truffaut and Godard were the ones who brought attention to the movement, with The 400 Blows and Breathless. In some ways, Chabrol was the odd man out of the five.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

 

As with film, you can’t always judge the quality of an album just by the publicity it receives. Often the most brilliant work goes unnoticed by mainstream audiences. But in the case of the incredibly underrated album Herbstlaub, it was even overlooked by some in the electronic music community back when it was released in 2005. Clocking in at under 40 minutes long and with six songs total on the CD, Marsen Jules’ debut album (he had two previous MP3 only releases) had no traces of beats or any kind of vocals. It also had a German title, Herbstlaub, meaning “fall leaves,” which are strikingly illustrated on its cover. That  description is accurate because the music within creates an atmospheric aura of some fog bound autumnal place. Actually, it made me think of some remote part of Iceland or Point Reyes on the coast of California where John Carpenter filmed the 1980 horror film The Fog.

With most experimental ambient electronic music, the ability to transport you to a different place is a key factor in its success. And Jules’ music does an excellent job of building a specific mood and sending you on a journey. One Saturday afternoon while getting ready to go to a wedding, I realized I had some time before putting on my suit and leaving my apartment. I decided to play only 20 minutes of music to relax myself before I departed for yet-another boring, by-the-numbers legal union. I quickly choose to play the first Marsen Jules album, which I had yet given myself a chance to listen to. So I laid down on my coach expecting to get just a brief glimpse into his music before I shut it off and moved on to my scheduled commitment. Instead, I closed my eyes and found myself in this far-off land. The album was so effective with its ability to weave a spell on my surroundings that I couldn’t move and was literally glued in place. I had allowed the full 40 minutes to pass until the very end, completely disregarding the tedious reality that was waiting for me. Sure, I ended up being slightly tardy to the party… but it sure was worth it in the end.

What does Herbstlaub sound like you ask? It combines actual classical instrumentation with all sorts of electronic laptop-generated sounds. Unlike my previous ELECTRONIC MUSIC entry by Gas/Wolfgang Voigt, the classical instrumentation is less vague and sounds more focused and concrete. I’m not sure if Jules actually hires an orchestra, like Ryan Teague does for his 2006 Coins And Crosses album, or if he just features the classical samples more prominently. The mystery of not knowing is just fine with me—and his relative obscurity might make finding an answer difficult anyway. The music has some similarities to Arvo Part and Steve Reich as well. It’s like Modern Classical and Ableton Live programming sliced and diced and served with a giant heaping of Brian Eno/Harold Budd ambient music of the 70’s. The seasonal feel of the compositions work to great effect as the thick washes of sound never relents in its profound beauty. The filtered mass of audio would make Phil Spector blush and take notice.

Herbstlaub holds within its digital grooves six short symphonies of contemporary music. This kind of art can only be made in the here and now, since computers are its necessary ingredient and modern technology its lifeline. Yet, somehow Herbstlaub sounds timeless and free of the constraints of one particular era. It deserves to be better known and perhaps the future will be kind to this neglected masterpiece. I jumped in one weekend afternoon and have never left its warm embrace.

Marsen Jules has since gone on to release three more albums since his spellbinding CD debut. Les Fleurs, Golden, and Yara (which was one of his two MP3 only releases before 2005) are all worthy followups that deserve to be better known.

Read Full Post »


(Japan 1995 111 minutes)

Director Yoshifumi Kondo; Screenplay Hayao Miyazaki, Aoi Hiragi (comic); Music Yuji Nomi; Cinematography Kitaro Koska; Voice Acting Youku Honna (Shizuku), Kazuo Takahashi (Seiji); Editing Takeshi Sayama; Art Direction Satoshi Kuroda

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

Whisper of the Heart is a story of love between two teenage schoolchildren, a girl who dreams of being a writer and a boy who longs to be a professional violin maker. It is the first and only film by the late Yoshifumi Kondo, who was seen as heir apparent to Studio Ghibli’s Miyazaki-Takahata crown.

When it comes to the depiction of young love in film, or indeed in reality, we know the form. There are concerned parents who see the relationship as an obstacle to self-improvement and a distraction from exams. The teenagers are more often than not patronised – even, subtly, by the film-makers themselves – with the perception that their love is a phase, a hollow rite of passage, an emotional development they are neither ready for nor have true understanding of : ‘You don’t know what love is’. Those couples are forced to build a cocoon around themselves to shut the world out. They are forced to display the signs of ‘immaturity’, i.e. headstrongness and selfishness, to hold on to what they have.

Whisper of the Heart is one of the most refreshing films you are ever likely to see because it rejects all convention to treat this love with the unswerving respect that it deserves.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Bob Clark

When it comes to the great sci-fi experiments on television in the past decade, it’s easy to be blindsided and pay attention only to the works on either side of the English speaking pond, with modern classics like Lost, Dollhouse and the Battlestar Galactica remake showing in the US, and efforts like Life on Mars, Torchwood and the revamped Doctor Who in the UK. Just as live-action science-fiction has enjoyed popularity on both coasts of the Atlantic, so too have animated efforts begun to occupy higher and higher profiles across the Pacific, almost becoming ubiquitous to a new generation of genre enthusiasts. Partly this is due to the increase of outlets for such works– between late-night cable line-ups like Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, DVD releases and streaming/downloadable content over the internet, it has become easier and easier for fans of American and Japanese animation to get their fixes, no matter where they are. While the US has seen is fair share of powerful cartoon sci-fi in the past decade– from original works like Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack and George Lucas & Dave Filoni’s CGI Clone Wars series to Paul Dini & Bruce Timm’s continued and stylish mining of the DC Comics universe in Batman Beyond and the Justice League serials– the most thought provoking and adventurous fare tended to hail, as always, from the East. Kenji Kamiyama’s Stand Alone Complex series continued the Ghost in the Shell franchise in a fashion that blended Masamune Shirow’s original manga and Mamoru Oshii’s cinematic adaptation in a near-perfect synthesis of cyberpunk action and philosophical intrigue, and Satoshi Kon’s Paranoia Agent provided an essential canvas for an artist of almost limitless creative potential, and sadly less time left than anybody could have predicted.

While these works, and plenty others, provide some of the strongest, most engaging sci-fi produced in any medium over the decade, my own personal favorite of the bunch is a show that, like many other recent genre experiments, has enjoyed a far less celebrated fate. Broadcast in Japan from October 1999 to January 2000 and debuting on American television in April 2001, The Big O was a show that flew so far under the radar it’s almost a miracle that anybody managed to hear about it at all. Yet another in the long line of anime concerning intrepid heroes piloting giant robots in do-or-die fighting to save the world, or whatever’s left of it, it at first seemed nothing more than just a rather generic knock-off of more famous series like Robotech, Gundam or Neon Genesis Evangelion, especially in the way that it attempted to assume a lot of the same kinds of hokey philosophical quandaries amidst all the fever-pitch mech-on-mech battles. Even worse, a first glance at the series seemingly revealed it to have derivative qualities of Western works, as well as those from its native Japan– its design and animation bore more than a passing resemblance to the rich blacks and retro stylings of Timm & Dini’s Batman series, a suspicion all but confirmed upon discovering the show was produced by the same studio that did work for the animated caped-crusader. As such, there were many who wrote off the show as an effort that simply wasn’t worth the time to become invested in, but those who did so both missed an opportunity to enjoy one of the smartest sci-fi blends of the decade, and to help a series find an audience just when it needed it most. But there were those of us who saw The Big O for what it was, and if it was our job back then to help earn the program a second chance at life, as fans of Firefly and Jericho would later, perhaps it’s now our duty to show everyone else exactly what they had missed out on, before, and keep the memory alive.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


(JAPAN 2001 125 min)

Director / Writer Hayao Miyazaki; Voice Acting Rumi Hiraki (Chihiro – Japanese), Daveigh Chase (Chihiro – English)

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

It is a privilege to see a young girl mature through the eyes of Hayao Miyazaki.

Visiting an old abandoned theme park on the way to their new home, Chihiro and her parents find a feast laid before them. Tucking greedily into the steaming spread her Mum and Dad will soon turn into pigs. Full of panic Chihiro wishes the strange world that has enveloped her to vanish but instead it is she who begins to disappear. Drawn bewildered into the other-worldly bath-house, her name, her very identity is taken from her. She is no longer Chihiro but Sen. Her journey, therefore, and the story of Spirited Away, is the creation of a new self: stronger and more determined, more responsible and more compassionate. She will not let herself fade away.

The world of the spirits represents the overwhelming and strange world of imminent adulthood. Chihiro faces challenges that few young girls face (back-breaking work, life and death battles with evil sorcery) but she will have to make choices that all young people will be faced with, choices that require an adult’s maturity and intelligence. When she is finally reunited with her parents, having passed a sphinx-like test to ensure their transformation back into human form, the prospect of a new school and a new home that had so daunted her before now seems like child’s play:

“A new home and a new school, it is a bit scary”

“I think I can handle it”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »