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Archive for February, 2012

by Allan Fish

(France 1913 120m) DVD1

Aka. The Child of Paris

Little Marie-Laure

d/w  Léonce Perret  ph  Georges Specht  art  Robert Jules-Garnier

Suzanne le Bret (Marie-Laure de Valen), Jeanne Marie-Laurent (Madame de Valen), Émile Keppens (Pierre de Valen), Louis Leubas (Edmond la Bachelier), Léonce Perret (Léonce), Maurice Lagrenée (Le Bosco), Marie Dorly (governess), Henri Duval (Jacques de Valen), Marc Gérard (Tiron), Suzanne Privat, Adrien Petit, 

The name of Léonce Perret is not a name you will find in many film histories.  He made around 60 films, most of them now lost, and would continue making them right up to his death in 1935.  He was only 55 when taken from us, an age at which Hitchcock hadn’t yet made Vertigo or Psycho, at which Manoel de Oliveira had barely started.  Yet he had become as obsolete as any French filmmaker. 

            His age was the age of la belle époque, of entente cordiale and of Mistinguett.  L’Enfant de Paris is his most famous film and justifiably seen as his masterpiece, but just take into consideration when it was made.  It was premiered on 17th September 1913; only the first few episodes of Feuillade’s Fantomas had been released, Griffith’s Judith of Bethulia still hadn’t seen the light of a projector, Renoir was in his teens, Pearl White had yet to be tied to the tracks, Gance was barely getting started, Chaplin had only just crossed the Atlantic, Méliès was only just coming to the end of his popularity and, most importantly, Gavrilo Princip was known to-one but his mother.  This was cinematic pre-history. (more…)

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Screen capture from William Wellman masterwork 'Wild Boys of the Road' seen on Friday at Film Forum

by Sam Juliano

Mild weather continues to grace metropolitan area denizens as the specter of March is now within hailing distance.  The Oscar broadcast is six days away and “Presidents’ Week” has yielded a full week off for schools and some private agencies.  The movie scene has yielded few films worth seeing, but various classic festivals have picked up some of the slack.

Here at Wonders in the Dark business proceeds as usual with Allan’s weekend voting survey of the cinema, Jim Clark’s superlative comparative essays, Jamie Uhler’s exceptional (and winding down) “Getting Over the Beatles” project and Bob Clark’s polished forays into animation making their scheduled appearances.  Peter Lenihan will return this coming Wednesday for his latest fabulous ‘Finding John Ford’ installment and an Academy Awards interview with Dennis and Yours Truly filmed by Jason Giampietro will be posting on Tuesday morning.

The past seven days have been largely devoted to the William Wellman Festival now entering it’s second week at Manhattan’s Film Forum.  With only a single new release negotiated on Sunday (ironically also at the Film Forum) the week was all back-and-forth to take in 13 Wellmans in a series of double features that included a single instance of error when an early Wellman Woman Trap was accidentally replaced by a forgettable 1936 film with the same title.  Obviously this reduced by one the total Wellman films available to patrons during the three week event. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

As always, straight to it.

Best Picture The General, US (10 votes)

Best Director Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, The General (9 votes)

Best Short Menilmontant, Dimitri Kirsanoff, France (5 votes)

Best Actor Buster Keaton, The General (12 votes)

Best Actress Vera Baranovskaya, Mother (5 votes)

(more…)

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By Bob Clark

Note: In honor of upcoming screenings for Makoto Shinkai’s  latest feature, Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below at the forthcoming New York International Children’s Film Festival, I’ll be rerunning this review of his first feature this week, followed by write-ups of his OVA releases, and a rerun of my review of his new film.

Whenever a new talent in anime pops up, the first impulse among most viewers is to instantly compare them to the gold-standard of Japanese animation gone worldwide and mainstream, the storied house of Studio Ghibli. If a director proves to be worth any consideration more than just a passing mention in an online forum or a convention round-table, the next impulse is to place upon them the mantle of so many undue expectations and declare them “the next Miyazaki”, as though one were a racing commentator always on the look-out for the next Seabiscuit, the next Secretariat or so many other triple-crown figments of the imagination. Most of the time, the comparisons are interesting, but don’t quite match up– Mamoru Hosada is a great talent from the work he’s done on The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and the stellar Summer Wars, but it’s a little too early to make prognostications as to his long-term status. Sometimes, the comparisons can be flat-out unfair to the director in question, and ignorant of the substance in their work– the late Satoshi Kon was perhaps the biggest anime-figure to make a big splash in the worldwide art-house circuit, but you couldn’t imagine a director farther from the childish tendencies of Miyazaki if you tried lucid dreaming.

(more…)

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by Allan Fish

(France 1931 47m) DVD2 (France only, no English subs)

Ou est l’Hebrides

p  Pierre Braunberger, Roger Richébe  d  Jean Renoir  w  Jean Renoir, Pierre Prévert  play  Georges Feydeau  ph  Theodor Sparkuhl  ed  Jean Mamy  m  Paul Misraki  art  Gabriel Scognamillo

Marguerite Pierry (Julie Fallavoine), Jacques Louvigny (Bastien Follavoine), Michel Simon (M.Chouilloux), Olga Valéry (Mme.Chouilloux), Nicole Fernandez (Rose), Fernandel (Truchet), Sacha Tarride (Toto),

It’s not a film that you will find many Jean Renoir experts enthusing about, an early talkie piece of filmed theatre based on a one act play by master farceur Georges Feydeau.  The glories of La Chienne, La Nuit de Carrefour and Boudu were just around the corner, so it’s perhaps understandable Bébé gets lost in the melee, but it deserves to be rediscovered. 

            Bastien Follavoine has a stressful life.  His porcelain manufacturing business is struggling and in need of a government contract to equip the army with toilet equipment.  He invites the War Ministry bigwig Chouilloux to his house to discuss the matter and to demonstrate the effectiveness of his ‘unbreakable’ chamber pots.  But as he’s preparing, his seven year old son Toto asks him where the Hebrides Islands are.  As such we first meet him scouring the Zs (for Zebrides) in look for the islands, only to find that they’re not there.  He calls for the maid’s help.  “Do you know where the Zebrides are?”, he asks her.  “No, madame must have put them somewhere”, she replies.  He tries to explain that they’re not an object in the house but the name of a group of islands, but then has to explain what an island is.  Still the maid is confused; “I haven’t seen them.  I haven’t been in Paris long.”  Exasperated he sends the maid to fetch his wife.  (more…)

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Copyright © 2012 by James Clark

At the outset of Kelly Reichardt’s film from 2008, Wendy is taking her dog, Lucy, for a walk in some wooded area near a railway freight yard where one of the boxcars announces, “Golden West Service.” She puts moderate body English into her tossing a stick for her golden girl to retrieve; and there’s a tone of curiously guarded warmth in her voice, “Drop it, Luce!” Coinciding with that attenuation unsuited to so young a woman with school girlish features, are her severe hair, faded complexion and boyish attire—a sweatshirt with a hoodie and tight basketball-length shorts (somehow redolent of the presence of Joan of Arc).

That overriding reserve in her presence here is set in much sharper relief by the subsequent stage of their walk. It leads them to a fire-lit encampment of late-adolescent drifters, waiting to hop a southbound freight in the morning. Lucy has discovered them first, in plunging ahead in what is now darkness, coming upon figures so raw and elemental as disclosed by the pulsing flames (bearded, dirty, with matted hair, missing teeth, a bandaged arm, head gear implicating the faces in medieval times)—who resemble a rag-tag army (say, from the early fifteenth century). They are quick and effusive to pay deference to the beast and the presence of a young, austere beauty. A shapeless girl, with studs in her nose and mouth, calls out, “Great dog! What’s her name?”/ “Lucy,” is Wendy’s quiet reply, with no eagerness to maintain the familiarity. (She had paused from the fringes of the woods to overlook the company, with far from enthusiasm on her face.) Instantly, as if she were a born leader, Wendy finds the way to glide by the little traffic jam they clearly represent to her. “I’m going to Alaska… to Ketchikan [Catch-as-catch-can], to work in a fish cannery…” That gambit elicits from the foot soldiers, firstly, a torrent of glib, callow, mildly irreverent encouragement. “… good for greenhorns… [free] housing’s awesome… Money’s better with them [that cannery]…” The head honcho of this group of routed irregulars (“Icky”) grabs from that reminiscence a take-off for cheap bravado, for instance, regarding what a person of interest he is up there. Seeing himself as a picaresque sweetheart, he first alludes to his being big-time notorious, in having, while drunk, wrecked a piece of heavy equipment, his playfulness behind the wheel resulting in rolling the big and somehow offensive (to him) instrument. “A hundred thousand dollars, gone in four seconds! … They couldn’t pin it on me… I was gone!” (more…)

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Kevin Spacey as deformed King Richard in Shakespeare's 'Richard III' at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theatre

Fred Kelemen's stunning windswept cinematography in Bela Tarr's masterpiece 'The Turin Horse'

by Sam Juliano

I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’ll modestly acknowledge the unseasonably mild weather we’ve been having in the Northeast as we approach mid-February and a hint of the Spring.  The Oscar season is in full florish, and there will be a site interview published a week from tomorrow, courtesy of Jason Giampietro who filmed a lengthy discussion between Dennis Polifroni and Yours Truly that started on the banks of the Hudson River in New Jersey and continued in the nearby Boulevard Diner.

The Giants enjoyed their Manhattan ‘Canyon of Heroes’ parade and victory rally at Met-Life Stadium in East Rutherford, and area football fans were in exceeding bliss.  At Wonders in the Dark, it’s business as usual with Peter Lenihan working his John Ford magic and Jamie Uhler, Bob Clark and Allan Fish (with his wildly-popular year-by-year voting countdown) doing some great work over the past days.  Dee Dee also featured a superlative recent poem from Tony d’Ambra with a noir theme, and she also posted an engaging piece on the various versions of The Maltese Falcon.

Early plans are beginning now to formulate for the upcoming ‘Best Comedy Films of All-Time” countdown that will tentatively go with 70 films (as the musical countdown did) and will showcase a host of writers from Wonders and other blogs proctored by longtime friends.  At this point it is thought that the final week of April or the first week of May would be a probable launch date. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

As usual, straight to it, ladies and germs.

Best Picture The Gold Rush, US (7 votes)

Best Director Sergei M.Eisenstein, The Battleship Potemkin (9 votes)

Best Short The Imaginary Voyage, René Clair, France (2 votes)

Best Actor Lon Chaney, The Phantom of the Opera (6 votes)

Best Actress Greta Garbo, Joyless Street (6 votes)

(more…)

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(1) ANH: Obi-Wan vs. Vader (2) ESB: Luke vs. Vader (3) ROTJ: Palpatine (4) TPM: Obi-Wan vs. Maul

By Bob Clark

“Have you ever encountered a Jedi Knight before, sir?”—this question is asked very early on in The Phantom Menace, as a pair of the seasoned warriors, “guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy”, begin to fight their way through a Trade Federation battleship blockading the planet Naboo. It’s an apt question for any audience of the film, especially when it was first released in 1999, twenty-two years after the release of the first Star Wars episode, and sixteen years since the last installment of the original trilogy. Even though the movies had enjoyed blockbuster success at the box-office and achieved near instant status as modern classics, ubiquitous in pop-culture, VHS and worldwide theatrical rereleases, enough time had gone by since for TPM to be the first exposure to the landmark space-opera series for an entire generation of young moviegoers. And even for everyone else, old fans who’d grown up with the original films (but wouldn’t necessarily prove fans of the new ones) and old critics alike, there was something new to experience in the way that Lucas portrayed the Jedi Knights as far more agile and powerful than anything seen in episodes prior (or rather yet-to-come, thanks to the flashback nature of the Prequel Trilogy narrative). With frenetic fencing designed by stunt coordinator Nick Gillard and crisp, polished cinematography from David Tattersall, Lucas’ work on the Jedi fighting of TPM not only sits among the strongest material from the Star Wars movies but ranks high in the canon of action-cinema in general, culminating in a contender for the greatest filmed swordfight of all time with the climactic “Duel of the Fates”. At the same time, however, it stands squarely on the shoulders of such scenes from the first three films, even those outside the centerpiece duels themselves.

(more…)

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By DeeDee

I don’t know you
I have held you, kissed you, slept with you

A crazy love
For all the wrong reasons

 Until down a dark alley a bullet to the heart

(Tony D’Ambra)

[Editor’s note: In order to visit Tony D’Ambra over there at Filmsnoir.net just “tap” the banner…Thanks, Tony,]

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