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Archive for May, 2011

by Allan Fish

(France 1978 780m) DVD2 (France only)

The Man with the White Beard

p/d/w  Albert Barillé  anim/art  Philippe Landrot, René Borg, Jean Barbaud, Bernard Fiève, François Fiève  m/sound  Jacques Michau  title music  “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” by Johann S.Bach

There certainly won’t be many more obscure entries than this in the selection, but you will have to forgive me this nostalgia.  Here is a series very close to my heart, something I grew up with from the days when kids television seemed from an altogether gentler, more likeable time.  The ‘Once Upon a Time’ of the title could not be more apt, as what we have here is a potted history of civilisation, of man’s history, told in twenty six just under half hour episodes.  From the dawn of time to the future, man’s history is told accompanied by the day to day lives of a group of core characters as their descendants and ancestors are seen through time.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1967 144m) DVD2

The old scrap heap of humanity

p  Don Levy, James Quinn  d/w  Don Levy  ph  Keith Allams  ed  Don Levy  art  Gerald Coral, James Meller

Michael Gothard (Max), Gabriella Licudi (Clio), Peter Stephens (Farson), Antony Paul (Pointer), Helen Mirren (girl in advert), Brigitte St John, Hilda Marvin, Vivienne Myles, Ines Levy, Charlotte Wolff,

It was a striking face.  It was a visage first glimpsed when he played the puritanical Felton in Richard Lester’s Musketeer movies.  He looked like, as one critic once famously said of Paul Henreid, “his idea of fun would be to find a cold, wet grave and sit in it.”  Such was my first acquaintance on film with Michael Gothard, but others followed, most famously as the maniacal witchcraft specialist in Russell’s The Devils.  He seemed made for Russell, and yet I have always felt, at the back of my mind, that there was something untapped, a missed opportunity somewhere.  It was then I heard of Herostratus

            Gothard plays Max, a young man in his early twenties, a virgin, who has slowly drifted into depressive madness up in his flat with what could only be described as schizophrenic décor.  One day, after a fit of vandalism in his apartment, from which he is evicted, he goes to an advertising agency executive and offers him a rather strange proposition.  He announces that he intends to commit suicide, and offers the boss, Farson, the opportunity to market it or otherwise as he sees fit.  (more…)

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Author Harper Lee in hometown courtroom setting echoing similar scenes in her beloved novel "To Kill A Mockingbird"

by Sam Juliano

One of modern literature’s greatest mysteries, is one that is unlikely to ever achieve complete closure.  In 1960, an unknown writer from Alabama named Nell Harper Lee stepped into the offices of J.B. Lippencott in Manhattan, and the twentieth century’s most celebrated American novel began it’s legendary dominance of high school literary curriculums.  But To Kill A Mockingbird was brought into the public consciousness at a time when sociological upheaval changed the nation, and gave birth to the civil rights movement  and an end to segragation in the south.  As posed by one of the narrators of the new documentary by Mary Murphy, the book didn’t attract much attention at the beginning but gained some momentum after it won the Pulitzer Prize and was picked up for film rights.  The Robert Mulligan-directed film that featured Gregory Peck as lawyer Atticus Finch is regularly referred to as the greatest novel-to-film adaptation in history, though over the years its minority detractors have derided its conventional approach.  Yet Lee patterned her characters in large measure over people who lived in her midst.  Atticus Finch was modeled after her beloved father, who stood as the most admirable person in her life.  The boy Dill is seen as author Truman Capote in his youth.  And the film’s famous small-town settings, like the courthouse where Atticus defends Tom Robinson, are modeled after real places in Maycomb, where the novel is set.  In any event, the aforementioned ‘mystery’ for literary scholars and fans centers around the how and why Harper Lee has balked at writing a second novel, and perhaps even more inexplicably, has refused requests for interviews all the way back to 1964.  It’s even been asserted that Lee sometimes summarily dismissed some of these written applications with curt dismissals, including two word refusals like “Hell, no!”  Attempts in the documentary to solve the standstill turned up fruitless, though McDonagh knew from the start that the focus of her film would instead be on the hold the novel has exerted on the literary scene for over 50 years, and how Lee herself, now 85, has stayed the course, to the exasperation of those who have both been influenced by and have had their lives changed by the book. (more…)

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Depraved and trashy "A Serbian Film" earns first 0 star rating since grades were instituted at site.

by Sam Juliano

Allan Fish’s Top 3,000 films of all-time presentation has (as expected) attracted spectacular attention from the blogging community, with the lion’s share of the respondants engaging in a thorough discussion of the individual components.  It’s the kind of venture that has defined the mission of this site, though for a chosen few it has been an intimidating endeavor that instigated some harsh words.  But this labor of love will provide those willing to click on their ‘copy’ icon, an invaluable reference point for a comprehensive study of the form.  In any case, it’s a proud moment for Allan on a professional note, as it serves to introduce his soon-to-be-published book,  and showcases the unGodly time he’s spent during his 37 years watching, watching and watching more.

Elsewhere, our pal filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman has sent out a press release announcing the upcoming encore release of his film noir smash The Last Lullaby, which is expected to include a number of new extras.  Goodman is excitedly anticipating a fall 2011 release, and further envisons the film becoming available in other venues.  Wonders in the Dark is thrilled for Jeffrey and will keep watch for the official release of the revamped DVD.

Those with seasonal allergies (Yours Truly included) are doubtless having a rough time the past two weeks, but if the usual pattern hold up we are nearing the end to the chronic sneezing, watery eyes and congestion.  Otherwise, graduations, proms and summer vacations are being discussed by many, and the blistering heat will soon be making an unwelcome appearance.

Playing catch-up after the Tribeca Film Festival I managed to see five films in theatres this week, though I missed out  Sunday on seeing Kon Ichikawa’s beautiful 1963 film The Makioka Sisters, having to settle on an afternoon showing that day of the harrowing Chinese film City of Life and Death.  But luckily, Ichikawa’s film will run through Tuesday, so I am hoping to see it Monday night. (more…)

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by Bob Clark

The majority of you probably have no idea what you’re looking at. That’s perfectly understandable. I’m actually none too proud to admit that I can identify this at first glance, myself. If you’ve ever played a tabletop role-playing game, or if you’ve merely browsed the Internet enough for its various memes to work their way into your very gene pool, you’ll know that the above image is called an “alignment chart”. Used for the purposes of creating fantastical characters in Dungeons & Dragons and various related games, it’s intended to provide a sense of easily expressed identity for the various fictional personas that get tossed about on so many epic, imaginary quests. With its three-by-three grid, one can fit themselves into any moral/behavioral coordinates they see fit, and decide not only whether or not to play as a face or a heel, but what kind of face or heel. Proportionally, it works on a rather simple mathematical scale, with the conditions of “lawfulness” applied to the left-hand of the matrix, “neutrality” to its middle and “chaos” to its right, as a means of assigning codes of behavior. At the same time, it uses a no-brainer association of “good” at the top and “evil” at the bottom, with another “neutrality” in between. In other words, morality is graphed on the vertical axis, and behavior on the horizontal, and in this way one can chart the relative position of one’s personality in the same manner that students were tasted to rate poetry before Robin Williams asked them to start ripping out pages in Dead Poet Society.

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By Bob Clark

The alternate-history is an interesting sub-genre of science fiction, and one that you don’t see all too often in anime. Imagining a different path that the past might have taken is usually overlooked in favor of attempting to foresee where the future might take us, even if it’s only done in leaps and strides so short that we’re bound to catch up with the date in question in about a decade. Yet there’s a potential for ripe nostalgia in that hazy look at history’s lost potential that particular narrative facet affords, a chance to detour from the more traveled, trodden path for a more meandering, personal look at everything that makes us what we are. It’s an especially apt genre for focusing on the trials and tribulations of youth, full of all kinds of joys and regrets that the adult imagination cannot help but revisit endlessly in so many loops over the years, forever wishing to reclaim some storied glory from yesterdays long past or redo some awful episode so long ago that it always feels just minutes past. When last year’s Never Let Me Go was released, one might’ve wondered why that tale of cloned-children raised to the cruel fate of parceling out their internal organs one by one would be set in a not-too-different past instead of a not-too-distant future, but indeed it’s the very fact that the story was set in a recognizable version of our history that it was possible for audiences to have that much easier a time identifying with the pangs and longings everyone of those genetically bred adolescents felt for the smallest privilege of time they’d been given before the falling of the axe. Alternate-histories arrive with their own automatic sense of revisionist nostalgia, yet one that is all too often used only for epic concerns– the battles lost that ought to have been won, the nations standing fallen that ought to rise again. Rarely do we see it used to examine personal failures and victories in quite the same way, and if we do, it usually falls down the slippery rabbit hole of so much sentimentality, that there’s little wonder we wind up retreating back to into the shells of so many Turtledoves.

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1972 110m)DVD2

Our father, king of worms

p  Jack Bond  d/w  Jane Arden  ph  Aubrey Dewar  ed  David Mingay  m  Sally Minford

Sheila Allen, Susanka Praey, Liz Danciger, Ann Lynn, Jane Arden, Penny Slinger, Sally Minford,

When The Other Side of the Underneath was announced on DVD by the BFI, along with Arden’s Separation and Anti-Clock, I made a point of checking the rating on the IMDb and found exactly what I expected.  It didn’t have one.  No-one had seen it; or at least no-one had voted who had seen it.  Here really was buried treasure, films unseen pretty much since their first release, made by a woman who had been dead for the best part of thirty years. Arden died in 1982, aged55, a suicide.  She’d battled with depression and her mental state for years and this film was the only one where she directed as well as wrote.  It’s her most personal vision, a shocking, polarising one – it’s rating as I write on the IMDb is now 6.1, and you can bet that few will have given it 6, there will be a meeting of opposite ends of the voting spectrum in that mean. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

And we’re there. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

OK, we’re getting there…

(more…)

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by Allan Fish

and again…the next batch…

(more…)

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