Archive for March, 2013


by Jaime Grijalba.

Brief Introduction/Thanks

I want to thank for all the support that this new series has garnered and I hope that in the near future it can gain more discussion into the ouvre of the auteurs that will be mentioned in the near future. I don’t know if this particular master was expected or not, but I’m mostly interested in your opinion on this particular filmmaker, so, let’s take a look at this german filmmaker of grand stature.

File #2 – Paul Wegener

I’m not sure if there’s been specialized books on the figure, stature and importance of Paul Wegener, after all he is one of the most important early figures of german cinema in general and to the world of horror in particular, he was one of the co-directors of what’s been widely recogniced as the first feature-length horror film, and that isn’t something that you can go saying around without getting some praise and lauded comments, it doesn’t actually matter the actual quality of the film itself, it’s the freaking first horror film ever made, of course you’re going to get attention then and now, either from the historians, the fanatics and specially the horror hounds that like to call themselves that because they are able to watch from every angle and spectrum of the genre and never be dissapointed. Anyway, back to this handsome fellow. Wegener it’s not the first, but maybe here we have one of the greatest examples of the actor/director, he directed and acted in many of what would become the seminal films of the early horror period in Germany, and he was another pioneer, as he practically invented the modern horror franchise, by having him playing the same character in a trilogy of films, playing not other role than the one of the main monster, and by that making his name, his makeup, his monster (the Golem) one of the first known institutions of horror in years to come. The thing is that there aren’t many horror directors that are also actors… maybe the only exception that comes to mind is the one of Ed Wood Jr., which isn’t very enciting (though is he a Master of Horror? we shall know soon enough), and maybe I’m wrong, but I’m just putting this out there because while most of what we consider horror is thanks to the aesthetical aspect of the whole endeavour, there aren’t many award winning performances in horror films historically, and while I do consider this to be a mistake (most of my favorite performances of all time come from this genre, specially from the female protagonists), I think that it’s rare to see a horror film where the main source of the admiration and praise comes from the actors, but I think here we have a special condition: Paul Wegener enters the directing world at the same time as he enters the acting world in his first film, mainly because he has an interest in the aesthetics and the sets, but gradualy his own acting talents permeate the feature and the attention that its given to: closeups start to appear and the makeup gradualy starts to become important. Paul Wegener created the film monster… and oh, so many other things. (more…)

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© 2013 by James Clark

This past year has brought a rich array of films that tackle from various angles the challenge of doing justice to one’s sensibility. In paying homage to these works, I would often recall that past master of presenting the transcendent glow of finite intent, namely, Michelangelo Antonioni. It’s time, I think, to reacquaint ourselves with this consummate, deluxe designer of haunting cinematic anticipation. With so many and varied practitioners in the field now, the brave and virtually solitary researches Antonioni dared to put into play can function as a welcome—even necessary—draft of extremely quiet, extremely direct traction for a métier surging into Surrealist extravaganza (often provoked by Antonioni’s contemporary, the sombre and formidably equipped Dadaist, Robert Bresson.)

I’ve become fascinated in gradually realizing that almost the full complement of this indie—yes—but also guerrilla art has, apparently, been produced by casts and crews expending a remarkable devotedness to the projects, matching that of the often troubled and troubling auteur. Antonioni’s accomplishment, for instance, is inconceivable without the presence of his muse, lover and heaven-sent physiognomy, Monica Vitti. So it was something of a jolt to learn that the film on tap here, La Notte (1961)—where she plays a somewhat minor role—hinged upon two great performers (and specialists, to boot, concerning problematic incident), namely, Marcelo Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau, who hated this assignment and did not take seriously the roles they were to sustain. Mastroianni, in particular, already a star due to his memorable work in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, spent quite a bit of time on the set quarrelling with one of the writers of the piece, Tonino Guerra. And that rancor, with its behind-the-scenes clutter, cues our special concern here, regarding the precise nature of Antonioni’s pristine disclosures within complex and even Byzantine involvement by associates, though contrarian with regard to conventional filmmaking, unlikely to have absorbed the unique physicality of his inspiration. (more…)

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office 1

by Allan Fish

(UK 2001-2003 440m) DVD1/2

Free love on the free love highway

p  Ash Atalla  d/w  Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant  theme song  “Handbags & Gladrags” by Mike d’Abo performed by Fin

Ricky Gervais (David Brent), Martin Freeman (Tim Canterbury), Mackenzie Crook (Gareth Keenan), Lucy Davis (Dawn Tinsley), Ralph Ineson (Chris Finch), Patrick Baladi, Ewan Macintosh, Oliver Chris, Stacey Roca, Stirling Gallacher, Joel Beckett,

True greatness in television comedy is not appointed lightly.  So many popular series have drifted along in their own complacency for far too long, not realising the damage they were doing to their own posterity.  Despite the undoubted quality of Father Ted and Spaced they didn’t quite join the likes of Fawlty Towers and Blackadder in the halls of the almighty and, ever since Edmund and his cronies climbed over the trenches in November 1989, British TV had searched for such a giant.  When The Office arrived on BBC2 it was hardly to a chorus of trumpets.  Indeed, viewing the first episode might have lead one to believe it was not a comedy at all, and that very factor was part of the masterstroke.  It so uncannily mimicked those TV documentaries that were then in vogue showing the behind the scenes life in hotels, airports and whatever, that it just seemed like another cringe-making peer into areas we weren’t supposed to see.  It wasn’t until some time into that first episode that you realised, many guffaws later, that what you were seeing unfolding could be greatness. (more…)

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Marcello Giordani and Eva-Maria Westbroek in Zandonai’s opera ‘Francesca da Rimimi’ performed at the Met and broadcast Saturday on HD in movie theatres worldwide

Screen cap from Christian Mongiu’s austere and powerful Romanian film “Beyond the Hills”

by Sam Juliano

A day late, but a Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!  Those still with the Irish fever, can pick from among many movies with Irish settings, themes, or characters for a mini festival that is unique, featuring unusual diversity.  Some suggestions: The Dead, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Once, The Quiet Man, The Informer, The Field, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, The Butcher Boy, The Secret of Roan Inish, The Magdalene Sisters, In Bruges, My Left Foot, Waking Ned Devine, The Field, Into the West, Angels with Dirty Faces, Odd Man Out, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Michael Collins, In the Name of the Father,  Ryan’s Daughter, In America, Snapper, The Commitments, The General (Boorman), The Crying Game, Bloody Sunday, Hunger, Da, Borstal Boy, Cal, Adam & Paul, I See a Dark Stranger, An Everlasting Piece, Breakfast on Pluto, The Secret of Kells, The Long Good Friday.  Admittedly the list is extensive, and it may take until St. Patrick’s Day of 2014 to complete it!  Lucille’s maternal grandmother (nee Hughes) was half Irish and half English, so my own children are only 7/8 Italian descent.  Yet there you have it, they are distinctly part Irish and wore some green yesterday.

My Habemus Papam post on Thursday pretty much covered the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires (Pope Francis) so I will now move on the same way I departed from past MMD coverage of President Obama’s re-election, the Olympics, the passing of former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, unspeakable tragedies, the Oscars, family trips and excursions, and various festival and awards competitions that periodically mark a weekly column that always attempts to expand cinematic horizons with a full consideration of the world around us.  As such discussion is always encouraged on any or all, of the subjects I broach or offer capsule commentary on.  Alas, I am an incurable competition junkie when various contests are part of the equation. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Best Picture Fanny and Alexander, Sweden (9 votes)

Best Director Ingmar Bergman, Fanny and Alexander (9 votes)

Best Actor Ben Kingsley, Gandhi (6 votes)

Best Actress Meryl Streep, Sophie’s Choice (18 votes, Gawd help us!)

Best Supp Actor Borje Ahlstadt, Fanny and Alexander & Jan Malmsjö, Fanny and Alexander (5 votes each, TIE)

Best Supp Actress Gunn Wallgren, Fanny and Alexander (7 votes)

Best Cinematography Sven Nykvist, Fanny and Alexander (11 votes)

Best Score John Williams, E.T. The Extraterrestrial (9 votes)

Best Short The Snowman, UK (4 votes)


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Two reasons to rerun this article this year– both the second anniversary of the devastating crises in Japan that began March 11, 2011, and a rare American television broadcast of Hideaki Anno’s magnum opus in the form of  Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone. The film will be showing on Cartoon Network this Sunday at 1am during its Toonami block. Anyone in the States with basic cable, there’s no excuse to miss it. Not even Church in the morning.

By Bob Clark

After the recent devastations of earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear meltdown struck Japan, there were many comparisons made to the nation’s many imagined instances of various science-fiction disasters, from Godzilla rampaging through the streets of Tokyo to the apocalyptic wasteland of Neo-Tokyo from Katsuhuiro Otomo’s Akira. These, and so many other one-note similes, were rather tasteless ones, to my mind. They ignored not only the root-inspiration for all those horrifying kaiju and anime calamities in the usage of American atomic weapons on the civilian towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and furthermore ignored the untold losses of life and livelihood presented by the new disasters, ones which continue to threaten the safety and security of an entire nation that already knows all too well the cost of nuclear fall-out, with the largest and potentially most deadly radiation event since the days of Chernobyl. However, in the midst of all these pop-cultural associations, there has been one that rings true, when an energy-conservation effort to help the besieged TEPCO power plant was unofficially dubbed “Operation Yashima”, quickly spreading as an internet-meme and gaining popular support throughout Japan as a rallying-cause to help solve the nationwide crisis through personal sacrifice for the good of everyone.

But what is “Operation Yashima”, and what does it have to do with cinema or science-fiction? In short, it represents the climax of the first six-episode arc of Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion, one of the modern classics of contemporary Japanese animation, in which the entire electrical supply of Japan is used to destroy a monstrous alien invader bent on destroying mankind. Channeled into a high-powered positron cannon built by the Strategic Self-Defense Force, used as an immense sniper-rifle by the clandestine United Nations organization NERV, the requisitioned power is the only hope of beating the bizarre attacker, known as an “Angel”, but requires a nationwide outage for the duration of the assault. As the operation begins, the lights go out throughout the entire country, putting everyone in the same position, huddling together and waiting in the dark for news of victory or defeat. By the end of the battle there will be immense destruction, both in the wakes of the surreal attack and NERV’s epically desperate attempts to fend it off, but our attention as viewers will not be to the catastrophic fields of destruction or the untold millions of lives hanging in the balance throughout Japan, much less billions throughout a world that is already suffering from a near-apocalyptic contact with the Angels fifteen years ago.


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brides 1

by Allan Fish

(UK 1981 640m) DVD1/2

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas

p  Derek Granger  d  Charles Sturridge, Michael Lindsay-Hogg  w  John Mortimer  novel  Evelyn Waugh  ph  various  ed  Anthony Ham  m  Geoffrey Burgon  art  Peter Phillips

Jeremy Irons (Charles Ryder), Anthony Andrews (Sebastian Flyte), Diana Quick (Julia Flyte-Mottram), Laurence Olivier (Lord Alex Marchmain), Claire Bloom (Lady Teresa Marchmain), Stéphane Audran (Cara), John Gielgud (Edward Ryder), Phoebe Nicholls (Cordelia Flyte), Simon Jones (Bridey Flyte), Nickolas Grace (Anthony Blanche), Jane Asher (Celia Mulcaster-Ryder), John Grillo (Mr Samgrass), Mona Washbourne (Nanny Hawkins), Bill Owen (Lunt), Charles Keating (Rex Mottram), Jenny Runacre (Brenda Champion), John le Mesurier (Father Mowbray), Stephen Moore (Jasper Ryder), Michael Gough (Dr Grant), Kenneth Cranham (Sgt.Block), Jeremy Sinden (Boy Mulcaster),

It’s difficult now, 30 years on, to judge the impact of Brideshead on not just British television, but prestige drama in general.  It had long been, as Leslie Halliwell observed,  an albatross round the neck of Granada, described as an incredible folly in the long months leading up to its transmission.  The strain of classic TV drama serials had reached both its zenith in the mid seventies with Jennie and I, Claudius.  Yet however superb in terms of their acting and writing those productions may be, there’s nothing cinematic about them.  They look like BBC Shakespeare productions or series shot on left over sets from Upstairs, DownstairsBrideshead changed everyone’s conceptions; virtually entirely shot on location, punctiliously adapted from the original source to the extent that any faults it may have had were those of the original.  Just as Robert Powell swapped from Judas to Jesus for Zeffirelli, so Irons and Andrews swapped parts, and thank God they did.  For it is no more imaginable that anyone other than Andrews could play the faintly homosexual, hard-drinking and doomed Sebastian than it is for any other tones than Jeremy Irons could provide the soulful commentary provided by Charles Ryder.  Here were actors to their parts born, perfect in every way.  It is a great credit to the other cast members that they don’t get lost, but there are gems everywhere, from Grace’s definitive old queen Anthony Blanche to Bloom’s suffocating Lady Marchmain, Queen Henrietta Maria reincarnated in the 20th century.  Not to forget one time Arthur Dent Simon Jones as the blissfully boring Bridey, John Gielgud as a deliciously supercilious and witty Mr Ryder and Diana Quick as the tortured Julia.  And we haven’t even mentioned Geoffrey Burgon’s truly hauntingly fitting score, at once a theme tune for stately houses nationwide.  (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba

An Introduction to the Series

Welcome one and all to a new series of articles and features at the Wonders in the Dark. In this new segment that will go up most thursdays (when the research and watching of a certain master is complete, and that may take longer for each and every master of horror out there) I shall bring forward a film director that had an interest during some or the majority of his/her career in the genre of horror, usually the cut is that he made more than 3 films that can be described as inside the genre of horror. I’m taking a chronological view of the genre so we are going to see many directors that may not actually sound as directors that are directly related to the horror genre here, maybe because they made 4 or more horror films in their long careers. I know that the criterion exposed right here isn’t enough to qualify someone as a ‘master’ of something, we don’t even know if they’ll be masterful filmmakers… or even good filmmakers, but their appreciation and inclination towards the genre for some part of their lives makes them masters and lovers on my eyes.

Every article will have a small introduction to the world of the filmmaker, then a small list of the films of his filmography that are catalogued as horror (no matter if they are available or not), then a small description/review of the best film of the bunch, then a small description/review of the scariest of them all (if they coincide, well, the small article will turn into a long-ish one), then a brief paragraph on each of the rest of the films, and to end it all some personal thoughts on the films as a group and the director, and maybe a ranking of the films if possible. So, without further ado, let’s start our dark journey through the cracks and slippery sides of the horror genre, maybe we will find some auteurs that we didn’t think of before as masters of the horror. Special thanks to Bob Clark for creating this simple yet amazing banner for the series! (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

While the deck was basically stacked for the prospects of yet another unyielding conservative papal selection, it must at least be said that today’s shock announcement from the Vatican has at least some people excited about their faith.  The completely off-the-radar selection of Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio did more to raise eyebrows, not the least reason of course being that the 76 year-old is the first pope chosen from outside Italy in 1,300 years.  Few will even remember that Bergolio was the main opposition to Benedict in 2005, purportedly drawing 40 votes at one point in the four-ballot election of the German cardinal.  But insiders have revealed that Bergoglio begged his fellow cardinals not to choose him, hence eight years later at an advanced age few saw this incredible surprise looming.  After choosing the 78 year-old Ratzinger, and then watching his resign, there weren’t many willing to predict the follow-up choice of a 76 year-old.

Bergoglio is said to have lived his life simply, attending to the poor, cooking his own meals and moving up the religious ladder as a Jesuit.  The new pope is widely considered one of the most moderate choices in the college, even if his views on abortion, homosexuality and the ordination of women remain totally unacceptable.  Yet there seems to be a slim ray of light, when one considers he is basically a humble man, who it can be said has had only limited connection to the Vatican and the much-maligned Roman curia. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1975 410m) DVD2

Know Thy Place

p  Tony Garnett  d  Ken Loach  w  Jim Allen  ph  Tony Pierce-Roberts, John Else  m  Marc Wilkinson

Paul Copley (Ben Matthews), Pamela Brighton (Sarah Hargreaves), Nikolas Simmonds (Philip Hargreaves), Melvin Thomas (Ernest Bevin), Gary Roberts (Joel Barnett), Alun Armstrong (Billy Shepherd), Helene Palmer (Martha Matthews), Hughie Turner (Tom Crisp), Jean Spence (May Barnett), Christine Anderson (Jenny Barnett), Clifford Kershaw (Tom Matthews), Brian Hayes (Stanley Baldwin), Peter Kerrigan (Peter), John Young (Ramsay MacDonald), Edward Underdown (Pritchard), Stephen Rea (reporter),

Jim Allen’s Molotov Cocktail of a series aimed at the betrayers of the working classes was advertised as “a series of Four Films from the Great War to the General Strike.”  It was Ken Loach’s return to TV after several years away and would prove the hottest potato of his entire career.  Indeed, elements of what would follow, from Land and Freedom to Hidden Agenda and to The Wind That Shakes the Barley can be glimpsed here, a generation earlier.  Or at least they could have been, had the series been available.  It was only ever shown twice, the last time in 1978, was never released on VHS and only made it to DVD in 2011 as part of a boxset.  People asked why it was never seen, but those who had seen it knew very well why.  Indeed it’s amazing in retrospect that the BBC even green-lighted the project in the first place.  It was like Charles I sponsoring the New Model Army.  (more…)

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