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Archive for August, 2012

by Pedro Silva

On Almodovar’s films everything is extreme. His universe of characters and situations is exacerbated staged, often within kitsch environments over the sound of old boleros.

On ‘Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios’ the comic elements comes mainly from the absurdity, like the old screwball comedies, softening the transgressive nature of his work. As a narrative strategy, Almodóvar uses elements of melodrama and comedy, alternating the tragic and the comic, the functional form for his speech. The story is full of events, plot twists and revelations. Words are fast and give the characters emotional amplitude. The script has a sore authorial mark, minutely articulated plot, weird characters and a strong approach to various topics as betrayal, virginity or senility.

The first impact comes from the image. The strong colors as elements of the costumes, using mainly red in reference to passion, become plastic strategies that help make up the melodramatic/comic aesthetics. Colors are so vibrant that it seems indeed that the scenario was painted in ink, remembering the old coloring in Techinocolor. The almost palpable contact with the image lush, the costumes worked, the eloquent soundtrack, photography multicolored and almost blinding, the actors, and especially the actresses. It’s difficult to imagine an Almodóvar film in black & white. The mere visual contemplation already affects us with a flood of feelings and emotions and the well-chosen Spanish music also take an important role in construction of emotions, sensitivity and empathy. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2005 150m) DVD1/2

Coucher avec moi ce soir

p  Kate Harwood  d  Simon Curtis  w  Kevin Elyot  novels  “The Midnight Bell”, “The Siege of Pleasure” & “The Plains of Cement” by Patrick Hamilton  ph  John Daly  ed  Adam Recht  m  John Lunn  art  Grenville Horner, Christopher Wyatt  cos  Charlotte Holdich

Bryan Dick (Bob), Sally Hawkins (Ella), Zoe Tapper (Jenny Maple), Phil Davis (Ernest Eccles), Tony Haygarth (Landlord), Susan Wooldridge (Ella’s mother), Jacqueline Tong (Landlady), Ruth Sheen (Aunt Winnie), Kathy Burke (voice of Jenny’s landlady),

One of the most overlooked mini-masterpieces in recent TV history, nestled away in the schedules of fledgling BBC4, Hamilton’s tapestry is faithfully brought to the screen in three fifty minute instalments.  Each deals with the same set of characters – a bar waiter, a barmaid and a prostitute – and concentrates on each in turn.

The first takes place in the eponymous pub where, in 1930s London, Bob is a bar waiter who aspires to be a writer, spending his time reading everything from novels to Gibbon.  Though he’s loved by his colleague, barmaid Ella, he instead is infatuated with a common prostitute, Jenny Maple.  She at first inveigles him into paying her rent for her and then, over the course of a few months, swindles him out of his entire £80 savings (you could buy a small house for that in the early 1930s), going off with other fellas while not even letting him cop the remotest feel.

The second goes some way to show how Jenny came to be so heartless, detailing her fall from servant to two spinsters in Chiswick to the events of a fateful night when, after being involved in a hit and run accident, she ends up drunk and seduced by a cynical playboy living only for pleasure to escape memories of the trenches.  Abandoned by him, she descends into prostitution, and then into the all too welcoming arms of Bob.  And in the third, barmaid Ella tries to escape her love for Bob in helping her impoverished family, and she falls into the clutches of a seedy regular at the Midnight Bell, Mr Eccles.  When it becomes clear he’s very much an old school army type who sees women as creatures to be seen as flirtatious lovely soft fillies gagging for it, she runs away, only to find Bob has left to escape his woes with Jenny. (more…)

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by Judy Geater

If there’s one  murder mystery where nobody cares whodunit, it has to be The Thin Man. Why waste time puzzling over clues when you could be enjoying William Powell and Myrna Loy, and their portrayal of  glamorous detectives Nick and Nora Charles?  The scenes everybody remembers from this sparkling pre-Code comedy-drama are all about Nick and Nora – and, of course, their wire-haired terrier, Asta.

For the uninitiated, the film centres on supposedly retired private detective Nick Charles, who has given up the day job to concentrate on enjoying life with his rich wife. Or so he thinks – but, inevitably, when the couple leave their San Francisco home and visit his native New York to stay in a grand hotel suite there over Christmas, the festivities get mixed up with solving one last crime. Which will lead to plenty more “last crimes” in a series of sequels. There is a fine supporting cast, including Maureen O’Sullivan as a lovelorn young girl and Nat Pendleton as a comic  detective, and the murder mystery is well done in itself, leading up to a scene round the dinner table where Nick brings all the suspects together before revealing the killer. However,  it isn’t what anybody remembers the film for. Few people even remember that the phrase “The Thin Man” is actually supposed to refer to a character involved in the murder mystery, a complicated tangle about an eccentric scientist suspected of killing his ex-lover, and not to William Powell. (more…)

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© 2012 by James Clark

In trying to convey the special contributions inherent in the films of Robert Bresson, there emerges, to complicate matters enormously, the question of actually being able to see them. Apart from once-a-decade retrospectives in select venues few and far between, and DVD’s of the few titles (Mouchette, Balthazar…) having been lifted by media frequency into the pantheon of “classics,” a large percentage of this small to begin with output has been rushed into very early obsolescence. Bresson deals with subject matter most people are determined to live without; and, moreover, his methods of treating that matter are so low-key, that the effort seems to be in love with marketing catastrophe, a characteristic those in the business of selling films would be quick to act upon.

We have, however, a way of offsetting this prescription for becoming an Unknown Soldier, a way nicely prepared by Bresson himself. There is a subtext of these narratives—so witty and thrilling as to be enjoyed in reportage irrespective of the widely terrifying and thereby repellent main disclosures. Bresson has set the table for a discursive foretaste blithely detached from actual screening, one of many heresies he delighted in. Notwithstanding failing mass—or even niche—appeal and paralytic distribution, there is, in a film like Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971), so much sleight of hand going on as to form the content of a sort of magic show, or, if you like, gossip column. Perhaps if the gossip is tasty enough, one or two readers may actually pull themselves together and go on the lookout for experiencing a film that otherwise might not have seemed to hold rewards. (Contributing to the buzz here, I should add that the Coen Brothers’ dark comedy, The Big Lebowski, is all over the efforts of Four Nights of a Dreamer, as we shall see two weeks from now.) (more…)

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How Bullets Over Broadway made the Top 100:

Marilyn Ferdinand    No. 8

Pedro Silva   No. 26

Bobby McCartney  No. 40

John Greco   No. 43

David Schleicher  No. 55

Tony d’Ambra   No. 60

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2006-2007 920m) DVD1/2

A word in yer shell-like, pal

p  Cameron Roach, Claire Parker  d  S.J.Clarkson, John Alexander, John McKay, Bharat Nalluri, Richard Clark, Andrew Gunn  w/created by  Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan, Ashley Pharoah, Chris Chibnall  m  Edmund Butt

John Simm (DCI Sam Tyler), Philip Glenister (DCI Gene Hunt), Liz White (Annie Cartwright), Dean Andrews (Ray Carling), Marshall Lancaster (Chris Skelton), Noreen Kershaw (Phyllis), Tony Marshall (Nelson), Lee Ross, Marc Warren, Georgia Taylor, Peter Wight, Anthony Flanagan, Paul Copley, Rebecca Atkinson,

It all started in Hyde, a real yet somehow mythical place.  Did it ever exist?  It all ended there…or should I perhaps say the last act began there.  That didn’t take place until 2010, or was it 1983, and would not be under the jurisdiction of the title Life on Mars.  Yet can we discuss Life on Mars without discussing its successor, Ashes to Ashes, Acts III-V in Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharaoh’s tale?  That’s all after the event, of course.  As George Lucas knew, one has to have a success before one can have a saga.

So we go back to a hit and run on Satchmore   Road in Manchester in 2006, as DCI Sam Tyler drifts in and out of potentially fatal unconsciousness and dreams himself – or is it a dream – back in the same place in 1973.  Gone the official suits, iPods, Playstations and skin dabs, hello leather jackets, collars the size of 30° set squares, vinyl heaven, the test card, Camberwick Green and demotion to DI, a fish out of water in a CID marshalled by DCI Gene Hunt, the self-proclaimed Sheriff of Manchester, an old-school gut instinct first and procedure second copper who sees political incorrectness as ticking the wrong ballot paper (or worse, voting for a woman prime minister – he may have had a point).  Sam thinks he has to find his way home to 2006, finds that the killer he’s searching for 33 years hence actually killed in 1973, but whatever he tries, he stays put.  (more…)

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by Tony d’Ambra

The pre-coder The Dentist is about as close as Hollywood ever got to Dada. W. C. Fields wrote and starred in this late Mack Sennett talkie about a dentist who would rather be creating havoc on the golf-course than torturing his hapless patients.  Running at just over 20 minutes you get good value with a lot more than a laugh a minute.

No ifs and buts, Fields was a misanthrope and a misogynist.  Cruel, base, and egotistical, he lays brutal sway over all and sundry, family or stranger, friend or foe.

Liker most dentists of the period, his surgery is part of his home. We find him at breakfast being served by his adult daughter.  No wife in sight.  We get standard gags about his lost glasses being on his head and the morning paper hidden under his arse.  Fields’ side-winder voice delivery hooking you every time. (more…)

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Simone Signoret and Serge Reggiani in Becker’s masterpiece Casque d’or

by Sam Juliano

The past week has been occupied with preparations for our mini-trip this coming week to Chicago and Cleveland.  In fact by the time most people read this post Lucille and I will be on Route 80 heading west in our Honda Odyssey, with expectations we’ll be at our ‘south loop hotel’ in the Windy City in the neighborhood of around 12 noon to 1:00 P.M. today.  We’ll be cramming in some sightseeing, an expected screening at the Music Box Theatre, where the noir festival is running, and some social time with cherished blogging friends, with whom we will be meeting for the first time.  We’ll be staying in Chicago only until early Wednesday morning, at which point we will embark on the six-hour drive to Cleveland, where the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame awaits for what is anticipated will be a marathon visit.  Hopefully we’ll get to see a bit of the city too before retiring to a hotel and the planned departure for New Jersey on Thursday morning that will probably get us home around supper time if everything pans out.  It’s a short trip for sure, but it will give us a taste of places we haven’t been to.

Speaking of Chicago, Lucille and I and the family spent a marvelous Thursday evening with our good friend and blogging associate Pat Perry, who spent a few days in the Big Apple for a short vacation.  We took a driving tour of lower Manhattan, that included a look at the Film Forum lobby, a close-up of the new World Trade Center tower and the shorter buildings around it, and some shopping at the spacious J & R Music World, one of the last DVD and CD superstores left in the country.  As we learned, that’s not a place to enter armed with a credit card!  Ha!  And we had a wonderful talk later on at The Dish.  Pat’s a lovely lady. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Straight to it…

Best Picture Singin’ in the Rain, US (11 votes)

Best Director Vittorio de Sica, Umberto D (6 votes)

Best Short Water, Water, Every Hare, US, Chuck Jones (3 votes)

Best Actor Takashi Shimura, Ikiru (17 votes)

Best Actress Simone Signoret, Casque d’Or (8 votes)

Best Supp Actor Donald O’Connor, Singin’ in the Rain (9 votes)

Best Supp Actress Jean Hagen, Singin’ in the Rain (14 votes)

Best Cinematography Harold Rosson, Singin’ in the Rain (5 votes)

Best Score Bernard Herrmann, On Dangerous Ground (10 votes) (more…)

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By Bob Clark

While reading Masamune Shirow’s work in manga after being exposed to their animated adaptations, it’s easy to take for granted the growth and development of ideas and sensibilities apparent throughout much of his early work in the 8o’s. Throughout Dominion Tank Police and Appleseed it’s perhaps even more enlightening to witness the evolution on a step by step basis, as the mangaka’s concerns mature beyond the mere sci-fi mecha action set-pieces that his characters were written around and into a set of stakes, circumstances and scale that’s far more in touch with the real world, to a point. At the same time, as the more adolescent elements of pimped up robot action and even more pimped up sexuality remains in play, it’s apparent that we’re reaching the point where Shirow begins to truly outgrow one narrative branch, necessitating a move onto the next. By the end of his run on the fourth and final book of the series, Appleseed less and less resembles the high-concept utopian action-adventure manga it began as and feels more and more like Ghost in the Shell, for good and ill, and by the time that Shinji Aramaki made his CGI animated adaptations in the past decade, Appleseed had almost completely transformed into something else entire.

(more…)

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