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Archive for May, 2011

by Sam Juliano

The defining event at Wonders in the Dark was initiated this past week when Jamie Uhler offered up graphic models for Allan Fish’s film book.  Further additions and enhancements will follow, and a publication date is tentatively planned for some time in 2012.  Kudos to Mr. Uhler for his ardent and impassioned work, and for his sustained belief in the exceeding worthiness of the project.

Apart from this proud undertaking, the site has understandably been slow as of late, aside from the Monday Morning Diary, which saw a barrage of activity this past week, mainly as a result of the controversy surrounding A Serbian Film.  With the musical poll tentatively scheduled for a late summer launching (WitD’s good friend Pat Perry will formidably involved in the project) the present time is a kind of “between polling” period, and as such the site will be showcasing a diet of Fish Obscuro entries, science-fiction and anime pieces from Bob Clark, Jamie Uhler’s continuation of his landmark ‘Getting Over the Beatles’ series, and an anticipated resumption of Jim Clark’s stellar bi-monthly contributions.  In addition “Yours Truly” is planning the next installment in the blogger appreciation series, and some film and theatre reviews on recent releases.

Dee Dee is again negotiating a prize contest on her interview thread that will include questions to be posted there on June 2.  Authors Kohl and Beetner have been periodically visiting the thread with comments expressing their appreciation for the interview and the glowing acknowledgement of their new book expressed by several commentators.  Again, the intricate and impassioned sidebar work has been Dee Dee’s domain for quite some time now.  Many thanks our very dear friend!

For the most part the past week has been a kind of ‘recharge the batteries’ period, a time when one drifts away from the blogosphere to attend to other matters in their lives.  Just about all bloggers go through this period of malaise, and it’s often a time of reflection and a re-estimation of priorities.  Hence, I’ve been less active at others blogsites as of late, but fully expect to return to the swing of things very soon, especially at the blogsites of those WitD loyalists who spend part of their precious time commenting under our posts.  To those stalwarts I thank you a hundred times over. (more…)

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The story of Hideaki Anno’s tumultuous times with Gainax, the fan-created animation studio he helped found in the 80’s, is one that is usually dominated by continuing disappointments, the first of which being the box-office failure of their first feature, 1987’s Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise. Anno had plans to create a sequel to that film, and though those ideas and themes would later lay the foundations for his magnum opus in Neon Genesis Evangelion (as would his musings to create a spin-off from Miyazaki’s Nausicaa), at the time he was forced to accept a much more humble and profit-motivated project to stand as his directorial debut. At a first glance, there really shouldn’t be anything overly special about Gunbuster (also known in Japanese as Aim for the Top, a pun on the classic tennis manga/anime series Aim for the Ace), and indeed resembles nothing more than just another giant-mech OVA set in outer space with pretty girls piloting big robots in some kind of do-or-die conflict against an alien race bent on conquering and/or destroying mankind. The savvy viewer might spot echoes from anime of the 70’s and 60’s all throughout its early run, with special emphasis on the influence gleaned from the likes of Leiji Matsumoto’s Space Battleship Yamato (better known internationally as Star Blazers), as well as the tongue-in-cheek spoofing of various well-worn cliches prevalent throughout the mecha and shojo genres. Probably the closest thing most Western otaku will have to this in their experience would be Katsuhiko Nishijima’s Project A-ko, and if that kind of action-packed, fanservice-drenched schoolgirl adventure/satire were all that was amounted to here, there would already be plenty of reason to recommend it as an overlooked little gem from the yesteryear of 80’s anime. Something fun and funny, if not terribly important.

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1980 187m) DVD1/2

Violent Unknown Events

p  Peter Greenaway  d/w  Peter Greenaway  ph  Mike Coles, John Rosenberg  ed  Peter Greenaway  m  Michael Nyman, Brian Eno, John Hyde, Keith Pendlebury

Colin Cantile, Peter Westley, Aad Wirtz, Michael Murray, Lorna Poulter, Patricia Carr, Adam Leys,

Self-indulgent?  Overlong?  Very much so, yet also full of genius, Peter Greenaway’s mindbender is one of the forgotten great films of the 1980s.  But how on earth can one sum it up?  Essentially we are told there has been on earth what has been described as a VUE (Violent Unknown Event).  There are numerous theories, many of which centre around birds and flight obsession in general.  19,000,000 people have been affected by this event (which is never explained or referred to as anything other than as a VUE), and The Falls is a sort of mockumentary (shot in 92 languages, this is the English version) in which 92 people whose surname begins with the letters F, A, L and L (hence Falls), are discussed in detail.  Some of these discussions last only a few seconds, some over ten minutes, yet all are interrelated in theme and in some cases, by fate.  From Orchard Falla to Anthior Fallwaste, we are taken through them in rather punctilious detail.  (more…)

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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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