Archive for April, 2013


by Allan Fish

(UK 2009 306m) DVD1/2

Aka. 1974, 1980 & 1983

Twinkle, twinkle, little star…

p  Wendy Brazington, Anita Overland  d  Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker  w  Tony Grisoni  novels  David Peace  ph  Rob Hardy  m  Adrian Johnston, Barrington Pheloung  art  Christina Casali

Andrew Garfield (Eddie Dunford), Warren Clarke (Bill Molloy), David Morrissey (Maurice Jobson), Sean Bean (John Dawson), Paddy Considine (Peter Hunter), Eddie Marsan (Jack Whitehead), Rebecca Hall (Paula Garland), Maxine Peake (Helen Marshall), Sean Harris (Bob Craven), Mark Addy (John Piggott), Peter Mullan (Martin Laws), Jim Carter (Harold Angus), Robert Sheehan (BJ), Anthony Flanagan (Barry Gannon), Saskia Reeves (Mandy Wymer), Lesley Sharp (Joan Hunter), Cathryn Bradshaw (Marjorie Dawson), Daniel Mays (Michael Myshkin), Joseph Mawle (Peter Sutcliffe),

Settling down on the 5th March 2009 to watch the first instalment on Channel 4 one was immediately struck by the look of Red Riding.  It’s bathed in a distinct golden veneer.  No nostalgic glow this, more like yesterday’s stale beer, or dried up piss.  Appropriate really, for this is a horrible place, West Yorkshire (Riding as it was back in the days) in the seventies and eighties, a county terrorised by two evils, a child kidnapper and killer with a passion for turning the children into posthumous angels by attaching swan’s wings to their backs and, infamously, the Yorkshire Ripper. (more…)

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© 2013 by James Clark

 The partnership of filmmaker, Robert Bresson, and artist-at-large, Jean Cocteau, on behalf of bringing to light (in 1944, during the darkness of the German Occupation of France) a scenario loosely based upon a novelistic reflection about intentional freedom and material determinism, by the eighteenth-century philosopher, Denis Diderot (an exponent of the Heraclitean notion of dynamics as the essence of matter), has often been noted as somehow significant. But it tends to be eclipsed by citing how different from one another these artists were (only, apparently, seeing fit to tolerate each other for the sake of subtly sticking it to the Nazis). The austerity of Bresson’s work subsequent to the offering in question, namely, Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945), seems to settle it, in most minds, that this would be a chic aberration (with Cocteau’s screenplay the culprit), a cracking good melodrama, but bereft of the profundity of our auteur’s serious output. My response to this film wants to point out that, on the contrary, this honey of a performance design carries as deep and painful a sting as any of the more famous, iconic Bressonian marvels.

    The first point to be dealt with is the misconception that in some way Cocteau was a kind of flippant gadfly unworthy to be linked to such an unassuming, noble and devout artisan as Bresson. Though definitely not as prone to sackcloth and sacred music as Bresson, Cocteau’s productions were in line with the deadly métier he pursued as an enlisted soldier in World War I, namely, that of a stretcher-bearer. The zest of the full extent of his artistry would entail horrific catastrophe and danger every bit as sharp as that of Bresson. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1962-1974 1,678m) DVD2

You dir-ty old man!

p/d  Duncan Wood, John Howard Davies, Douglas Argent  w  Ray Galton, Alan Simpson  m  Ron Grainer (theme tune)

Harry H.Corbett (Harold Steptoe), Wilfrid Brambell (Albert Steptoe),

Did a small screen monument ever have such quite literally humble beginnings?  In the aftermath of their split from Tony Hancock after five years providing him with classic situations, Galton and Simpson were commissioned by Auntie Beeb to produce a series of comedy plays for the ‘Comedy Playhouse’.  Unfortunately, by the time they got round to the final one nearly all the budget had been used so they settled on making the final one very much a two-header, set virtually entirely in one set.  And to play the lead roles, as cockney rag and bone men, they cast a Mancunian-raised straight actor and a fifty-year old Irish theatre actor.  The incredible success of the original play, ‘The Offer’, lead to a series later that year and seven more followed, spread over the next twelve years.  Steptoe and Son thus became an institution, and surely the finest British sitcom – making it prime contender for finest worldwide – of the 1960s. (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

I’m in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For the first time in my life I’ve taken a plane and left my country, Chile, to visit somewhere else, and the promise that I made the year earlier that I would go one step beyond each year is getting real and tangible, I’ve been here for about 4 days now and it’s been an amazing and at the same time tiring endeavour. The city is enormous and beautiful, even if a bit cranky at times (the public transport is slow as hell) and the usual hunger that one suffers when you are travelling on a budget… but, what the hell, we are here for the movies! And movies we shall have! There have been surprises and incredible conversations had with directors and other assistants to the festival. Now, I shall chronicle in a brief way how my first days of Bafici went by using the movies that I saw as a marking point. Shall we proceed?

Day 1 – April 11th

I arrived Buenos Aires at 7:45 am, and due to a confusion with the incredible guy who is admitting me in his house, I arrived the apartment that I had to arrive to at 10.30 am, loosing my first screening of the festival, but anyway I had to get my credential that allowed me to see a maximum of three movies a day (except for the press screenings that are made every morning). My credential reads ‘Jaime Grijalba – wondersinthedark.wordpress.com’ so, yeah guys, the site has an special corresponsal in Argentina covering the festival, but what did I see that day? (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

With the spring break reaching it’s conclusion, those of us in the teaching fraternity will return to the stretch run – the fourth and final marking period.  Lucille will be staying back for a day or two more as a slight complication arose on Sunday when fluid built up in the area of the stitches, necessitating a brief return to the emergency room on Sunday, where another small incision allowed for a draining.  She’s now on antibiotics.  I want to thank all the friends and readers who in one way or another have extended kind words for her speedy recovery.

The tireless and gifted film critic Richard R.D. Finch has once again given the film community an unforgettable blogothon, with a wholly enthusiastic fraternity of writers covering the work of acting icon James Cagney all week long at their respective sites.  Hosting the venture from The Movie Projector, Finch wrote a stupendous piece on White Heat, a classic gangster film from the 50’s directed by Raoul Walsh that Finch later revealed was his favorite of all Cagney pictures.  Following up on the spectacularly-successful William Wyler project from last year -one that attracted letters from hugely appreciative members of the great director’s family -Finch covered the full gamut of Cagney’s craft from the most famous roles to those that have languished off the radar for years.  The net result is a reference archives that Cagney fans can refer back to well into the future.  Congratulations to R.D. Finch and to all those participating with reviews and/or comments. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Best Picture Blue Velvet, US (7 votes)

Best Director David Lynch, Blue Velvet (10 votes)

Best Actor Gérard Depardieu, Jean de Florette & Bob Hoskins, Mona Lisa (3 votes each, TIE!)

Best Actress Marie Rivière, The Green Ray & Kathleen Turner, Peggy Sue Got Married (3 votes each, TIE!)

Best Supp Actor Dennis Hopper, Blue Velvet (13 votes)

Best Supp Actress Isabella Rossellini, Blue Velvet (7 votes)

Best Cinematography Frederick Elmes, Blue Velvet (6 votes)

Best Score Ennio Morricone, The Mission (10 votes)

Best Short Street of Crocodiles, UK, The Brothers Quay (4 votes)


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By Bob Clark

The films of Danny Boyle always seem to represent an almost perfect condition for me as a filmgoer, each of them offering something of a genuine pleasant surprise, without exception. I was never terribly aware of little modern gems like Sunshine or 28 Days Later before they came into theaters, even though they both hit squarely in my favorite mode of science-fiction, but that only meant that I never had to build up any of the hopes and excitement whose tendency to be met with histrionic disappointment seems to be a hallmark of this current generation of cinephiles. Perhaps one of the reasons that Boyle’s films can avoid this particular hype-boobytrap is because of his position as a consumate genre chameleon, turning on a dime from horrors and thrillers to rom-coms and true-life stories, always looking for fresh narrative material to mine his particular cockeyed directorial vision. And as oddball and strained as his aesthetics can sometimes feel (The Beach feels particularly calibrated to alienate any segment of the audience at any given moment, though perhaps that’s by design, inheriting Leonardo DiCaprio fresh off his heartthrob death on Titanic), he’s usually been able to unite the disparate parts of his chosen scripts and unusual visual sensations to create movies that beg for skepticism just as hard as they try to then win it over.

The unlikely awards-sensation of Slumdog Millionaire may represent his greatest, yet at the same time most dubious success yet– a movie that thrives on old-school movie charm and modernist realism and panache, yet in a way that over time only goes to underline the deeply troubling third-world exploitation both dwelled upon by the film’s story and sadly represented in the behind-the-scenes drama of its making (were those kids ever paid?). Even 127 Hours was able to win me over with its visual ingenuity and dramatic focus, even in spite of featuring a central performance from one of my least favorite actors of this generation (in fact, no– I think I can safely say James Franco is definitively the bottom of the barrel for me). If nothing he’s done has managed to match the sensational one-two punch of material, cast and visual dynamism that Trainspotting representing, the very least one can say of Boyle is that he’s never stopped trying as hard as any one director can (or several of them at once, for that matter) to pour all of his creative resources and faculties into each project. Putting his all into every project can sometimes lead to uneven results– even personal favorites like Sunshine and 28 Days Later are full of script problems that Boyle is never able to quite fix on the set, and indeed sometimes seem exacerbated by his unrestrained visual style– but there’s something psychologically appealing about a filmmaker running free of any kind of censoring quality-control, and it’s easy to see how the hypnosis-thriller story of Trance could appeal to that “all in” sensibility.


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by Allan Fish

(UK 1991 560m) DVD2

Come on, Eileen!

p  David Jones, Alan Bleasdale  d  Robert Young  w  Alan Bleasdale  ph  Peter Jessop  ed  Anthony Ham  m  Richard Harvey, Elvis Costello

Robert Lindsay (Michael Murray), Michael Palin (Jim Nelson), Lindsay Duncan (Barbara Douglas), Julie Walters (Lillian Murray), Dearbhla Molloy (Laura Nelson), Daniel Massey (Grosvenor), Michael Angelis (Martin), Tom Georgeson (Lou Barnes), Andrew Schofield (Peter), Peter Hugo Daly (Bubbles), David Ross (Matthew Weller), Alan Igbon (Teddy), Jimmy Mulville (Phillip), Philip Whitchurch (Frankie Murray), John Shrapnel (Doctor), Jane Danson (Eileen Critchley), Julia St John, William Gaunt, Anna Friel, Jean Anderson,

Bleasdale’s G.B.H. has always been a problem.  When it came out it was hailed as a small screen masterpiece to rank alongside his earlier BBC classic Boys from the Blackstuff, and was a sign of Channel 4’s continuing political agenda in drama following the previous success of Traffik.  It wasn’t and isn’t a panoramic view of a changing Britain over thirty years like Our Friends in the North, as Bleasdale is more interested in the here and now, the immediate problems of modern Britain, and he has always done this in an idiosyncratic, blackly humorous way.  Even the title is a misnomer for, though a lot of grievous bodily harm is depicted, he has always said the title stands for Great British Holiday.

A militant Labour councillor in an unnamed northern city (obviously Liverpool, indeed the story is partly based on the rise and fall of Derek Hatton) arranges a show of force, a day where the entire local government network shuts down – public transport, offices, schools, emergency services – but one school stays open, making its headmaster a hero to the politically apposite press and causing stress not only to the headmaster’s family, but to the councillor, from whose past various demons come back to haunt him. (more…)

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Note: The following review of Max Reinhardt’s 1935 film version of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is part of The Movie Projector’s ‘James Cagney blogothon’ hosted by R.D. Finch.

by Sam Juliano

The advent of the shimmering 1935 Hollywood interpretation of Shakespeare’s ethereal A Midsummer Night’s Dream was appropriately enough the result of public adoration of the stage work that ultimately inspired it.  Back in the days of the pre-code cinema, theater director Max Reinhardt was known for his flamboyant and controversial stage incarnations of the Bard, and his production of Midsummer was a huge hit in Vienna.  Attending one of the stagings, coincidentally enough, was Warner Brothers film mogul Jack Warner, who was executive in charge of overseeing what films the studio would be producing.  While at the time crime dramas and backstage musicals were the rage, Warner wasn’t oblivious to the Oscar bait films that could bring added prestige, what with the slew of successful literary adaptations crafted at M-G-M.  Two such works in fact debuted in the same year as Midsummer, and both ere based on Dickens’ novels: A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield.  While Reinhardt had long scoffed at the possibilities of cinema approaching the “superior” form of live theater, he quickly reversed himself after Warner offered him a sweet deal and the complete access to the studio’s advanced technical capabilities; that for example would enable characters to dissolve into this air.  Sold into expanding the possibilities of the stage Reinhardt drastically reversed himself, stating with unbridled enthusiasm: “The motion picture is the most wonderful medium for the presentation of drama and spectacle the world has ever known.  The screen has leaped further ahead in the last few years than the stage has evolved in centuries.” (more…)

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by Allan Fish

the next in the series of small screen classics

(UK 1969 670m) DVD1/2

Man – the measure of all things

p  Michael Gill, Peter Montagnon  d  Michael Gill, Peter Montagnon, Ann Turner  w  Kenneth Clark

presented by  Kenneth Clark (with Ian Richardson, Patrick Stewart, Ronald Lacey, Eric Porter (voice))

There are so many reasons to venerate Kenneth Clark’s monumental – in every sense – small screen undertaking.  It was the first of the mammoth documentary series that came to redefine the BBC’s factual programming unit in the seventies.  It was the first major series undertaken in the colour age.  It was the start of a series of three such momentous works – Alistair Cooke’s America and Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man are the others – that still stand as magnificently as the rocks at Stonehenge in British – and thus world – television history.  It is on the foundations laid here, and on those laid by Cooke, Bronowski and later the natural history programmes of David Attenborough (who had a large part to play in persuading Kenneth Clark to do this epic series when a BBC2 administrator in the mid-late sixties) that all the wonders of the digital age documentaries from around the millennium, from The Blue Planet to Auschwitz to A History of Britain, stand fast.  It might be old school, but its targets, modus operandi and intentions are probably more relevant than ever. (more…)

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