Archive for April, 2012

by Jaime Grijalba.

a.k.a. Romancing in Thin Air

(China/Hong Kong, 111 min)

For some reason we’ve been having a surge of ‘known’ asian directors that have released films in early 2012 (if at this time can be called early), I’m talking about the action-cop film director Dante Lam and our last entry on this series: ‘The Viral Factor’ (2012), and now this, from the director Johnnie To, famous for his films about mafia, crime and detectives, we have… a romantic film. Even though it’s not his first foray into this genre, last year he made the romantic film ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ (2011), co-directed with his usual collaboratorKa-Fai Wai. But this one is something of another kind, as it mixes both comedic and melodramatic elements into the plot, as well as incorporing some meta-elements, as a film is made inside the plot of the film, and we actually get two parallel storylines inside one movie, and I’m guessing that’s why the film seems to have a numerical number in its original title (the ‘II’ at the end of the title is not a chinese word), as if we were grateful we got two stories by the price of one, when what we actually want is one good strong story, not a back story that turns into some kind of confusing side-story that makes up for almost 45 minutes of the runtime and then go away and try to combine both of the plotlines trying to make some sense of the connection, giving us an unsatisfying sappy ending.



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Rachel Mwanza as lead in Canadian filmmaker Kim Nguyen's "War Witch" the sole five star movie shown at Tribeca and the Festival's clear masterpiece.

by Sam Juliano

As I write this brief lead-in at 11:40 P.M. on Sunday evening, April 29th, I will admit being bushed and completely spent after a torrid week at the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan, a venture that once and for all has cast serious questions about my sanity.  Still it was a time I entered the portal to world cinema with a hands on resolve and a determination to see all the feature films that had received the most sterling word of mouth, glowing anticipation, and ultimately the awards given by the Tribeca jury and the audiences.  With Lucille in tow for most (and Broadway Bob for some) I took in 18 feature films over this past seven-day period, making for a grand total of 28 for the festival.  With only a very few exceptions, I managed to watch just every must-see, and feel qualified to post a list of what I felt were the 10 Best Films of the TFF, a venture that will be up at the site tomorrow morning.  I had intended on posting it today over the diary, but I spent most of Sunday cleaning up at Tribeca, seeing some vital films that had won awards, and weren’t negotiated in the hectic schedule proper over the past nine days.  I have much to say, and WitD readers will get the full report and the top ten with capsule reviews in the morning.

At The Movie Projector R.D. Finch inches closer to his upcoming William Wyler Blogothon, which will surely get the world-class treatment in the hands of the passionate and gifted movie writing veteran.  At Wonders in the Dark, Dee Dee’s sidebar interview with European poet Claudia Schonfeld has been enormously popular with readers.  The site regulars, including Bob Clark with a terrific piece on Daren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, Jim Clark with a stupendous essay on the Japanese Teshigahara classic Woman in the Dunes, Jamie Uhler with another extraordinary posting in his ‘Getting Over the Beatles’ series, and Allan Fish with an utterly-engaging piece on the screen legend Jane Greer, has all kept the site moving along full throttle. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

again, straight to it…

Best Picture Modern Times, US (12 votes)

Best Director Charles Chaplin, Modern Times (10 votes)

Best Short I Love to Singa, US, Tex Avery & Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor, US, Dave Fleischer (2 votes each, TIE)

Best Actor Charles Chaplin, Modern Times (7 votes)

Best Actress Greta Garbo, Camille (6 votes)

Best Supp.Actor Humphrey Bogart, The Petrified Forest & Paul Robeson, Show Boat (4 votes each, TIE)

Best Supp.Actress Helen Morgan, Show Boat (5 votes)

Best Score Charles Chaplin, Modern Times (8 votes)

Can I just repeat how much I hate ties.  LOL.  At least in acting categories.

and my choices


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By Bob Clark

In the modern film age, it’s possible for projects that began and failed to find a foothold in the movie industry gain a new life in any number of other ancillary markets. Projects that began as major motion pictures have found themselves resurrected in any number of forms, particularly as comics, where the shared visual components of each medium help ease the transition somewhat while providing a creative vehicle a little less bound by the restraints of time, money and competing egos. Some filmmakers have even found whole secondary careers in the realm of comics, with talents as disparate as Alejandro Jodorowsky to Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon penning scripts for mainstream superhero narratives and groundbreaking sci-fi epics that could never be told in the confines of film or television without breaking bank somewhere in the world. Furthermore, given the number of films both mainstream and indie alike whose roots begin as comic books, repurposing a screenplay as a graphic novel can just as easily wind up a mere detour back to the original destination of a feature film in the first place, in much the same way that John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men boomeranged from script to novel and back to script again. As such, it’s interesting to chart the development of Darren Aronofsky’s third film, The Fountain, from its roots as a prospective mainstream studio effort starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, to its second wind as a graphic novel illustrated by Kent Williams, and then back to its ultimate cinematic form starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, not only to observe its creative development through the channels of contemporary Hollywood, but moreover to be thankful that we wound up getting anything of value at all.


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by Allan Fish

It was in a casino, somewhere on the East Coast, if memory serves.  Kathy Moffat is round the roulette table and has just squandered a fairly large amount in one spin of the wheel.  Her lover Jeff Bailey observes dryly “that’s not the way to win.”  She looks back at him quizically; “is there a way to win?”  “There’s a way to lose more slowly” he replies.

In Hollywood’s roulette game, there were stars who you knew were there for the long haul; Stanwyck, Crawford, Davis, even Hepburn, in between being declared box office poison at her actual peak.  Others just came to the table, put everything on either black or red and kept doing so until they lost.  Then they’d pick up their bag, make for the exit and never be seen again.  Some never really gave a proverbial fig.  Others were pre-destined it seemed to roar through the sky like a comet and ne’er be seen again.  (more…)

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Copyright © 2012 by James Clark

This widely recognized to be surreal film (from 1964) less widely but no less magnificently reveals an Impressionist infrastructure about its climb toward the “more real.” It does so, right from the first frames, first coming to microscopic and delicate focus upon the skeleton of an insect and then a cluster of grains of sand of various shapes, shadings and textures. Then it gives us a universe of sand, a tidal roll of sand dunes, caught from various perspectives and in various intensities of sunlight, some of them melding land and sky into a radiant void. The steep ridges and their gentle patterns drawn by winds through the eons tease us toward some species of regal sufficing. (more…)

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Not a full post as I was intending as I have been too ill for the last couple of days, but a quick alert to the 100th birthday of Japanese director Kaneto Shindo on Sunday.  While he may not quite figure in the absolute front rank of Japanese postwar directors, the likes of Children of Hiroshima, Naked Island, Onibaba, Kuroneko and Edo Porn – often featuring his last wife, Nobuko Otowa – remain essential viewing for cineastes while his Eulogy from 1972 remains one of the unseen masterworks, seemingly under lock and key and unseen by anyone.

What’s less known is his contribution as a screenwriter to other directors, not least Yasuzo Masumura, whose Manji and Irezumi, to name two, were founded on his incisive scripts.  He also wrote the multi-layered adaptation for Kozaburo Yoshimura’s masterpiece The Ball at the Anjo House and his later A Tale of Genji, as well as for Fukusaku’s Under the Flag of the Rising Sun.

We trust he had a great day and thank him for his contribution to our enjoyment over the past sixty years or so.


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by Allan Fish

(Philippines 2011 360m) not on DVD

Aka. Siglo ng pagluluawl

Love in the house

p  Lav Diaz, Ricky Gallardo  d/w  Lav Diaz  ph  Lav Diaz  ed  Lav Diaz  m  Lav Diaz  art  Perry Dizon, Dante Perez, Hazel Orencio

Angel Aquino (Sister Angela), Perry Dizon (Homer), Roeder Camanag (photographer), Joel Torre (Father Tiburcio), Betty Uy-Regala (poet), Bart Guingona (criminal), Soliman Cruz (philosopher), Hazel Orencio (virgin), Angeli Bayani (Anna), Modesta, Dante Perez,

It had been three years since Melancholia turned audiences’ heads inside out.  In the time between that film’s unveiling Lars Von Trier had loosed his own Melancholia on the world, but not even the forbidding blue planet and sense of Wagnerian doom of that film erased memories of Diaz’s earlier like-titled piece.  The prospect of Century of Birthing was something to be impatient for, while knowing it would be no stroll in the park.

Dizon plays Homer, a filmmaker who is having problems finishing his latest opus, Women of the Wind.  While he plays, edits and mixes footage on his laptop, we get to see portions of the story, dealing with a nun who has recently given up her vows to get to know about being a woman and picks up a criminal in order to have sex with him.  This tale is then woven within another story, about a religious cult lead by the stern Father Tiburcio, who gathers virgins and one male follower around him to prepare them for being the only ones fit to enter heaven.  Meanwhile a young photographer gets himself an interview with the male member of the group and tries to infiltrate the community.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The Tribeca Film Festival, now in it’s eleventh year has been steadily gaining in popularity and in perception among the world’s cineastes.  Founded by the actor Robert DeNiro, the eleven day film celebration, primarily offered up in four houses, but also extended to other venues for special events, features over 200 features and shorts, and a plethora of films that will eventually win release in theatres within months of the festival’s conclusion.  The Festival is divided into several categories and awards a $25,000 prize to the winner of the “Heinecken” audience award, determined by exit voting on a small white ballot and simple rating from one 1 to 5.  The “Spotlight” selections are usually the most prestigious, while the ‘World narrative competition,’ ‘World documentary competition,’ ‘Viewpoints,’ ‘Cinemania’ and ‘Short film programs’  regularly yield some great surprises.  It’s a time the sitting is overcome by movie fans from around the world, and visits from directors, stars and industry people.  Appearing in the Tribeca line-up is a dream come true for aspiring artists and it’s usually the first stop for eventually distribution and acceptance.

Tribeca Film Festival followers usually get a fair chance to piece together schedules, because of the programming that usually offers four screenings of any given feature or shorts compilation.  In some instances, like the world premiere of The Avengers or the two screenings of Michael Winterbottom’s Trisha -which is only screening twice- schedules won’t permit for expanded coverage, bit in exceedingly large measure, most fans will be able to see the vast majority of films on their must-see lists.

The Festival launched on Wednesday April 18th with galas and special events, and on Thursday when the regular screenings went full-swing, a restored print of Jaws was shown at a drive-in location near the World Trade Center.  The first four full days of the festival were attended in force by Yours Truly, with a total of ten feature films successfully negotiated, a few of which were most impressive.  A full round-up will be published at WitD after the festival concludes, one that will also include a listing of the event’s favorite works. (more…)

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Seth Rogan and Michelle Williams in Sarah Polley's perceptive and moving drama "Take This Waltz" screened at Tribeca

by Sam Juliano

April showers bring May flowers.  Almost every year this adage rings true, but in the NYC area there has been little of the wet stuff.  Only the past few days have we been reminded of how it might feel walking down the street without an umbrella.  Those with allergy problems have been faithfully taking their allegre tablets twice a day, while wearing shorts has suddenly come into vogue again.

It’s been business as usual at Wonders in the Dark, with a high-quality posting by Peter Lenihan on an early Ford, Jamie Uhler’s excellent treatment of David Bowie in his amazingly prolific series, and the usual contributions by Allan Fish, including the latest entry in his ‘forgotten artists’ series and the Sunday posting on the most recent year in voting for all the major movie categories.  The comedy countdown specifications draw closer, but Yours Truly has barely had enough time to visit the bathroom the last few days since the start of the Tribeca Film Festival.  As a result I have not a spare moment to do any link updating, and was only able to put together this brief MMD lead-in before departing on Sunday morning.

Everyone is urged to keep watch for Dee Dee’s sure to be exciting new interview, which is tentatively planned for posting this morning. (more…)

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