Archive for May, 2013

bakumatsu 2

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1957 110m) DVD2

Aka. The Sun Legend of the End of the Tokugawa Era

I’d kill all the crows in the world

p  Takeshi Yamamoto  d  Yuzo Kawashima  w  Keiichi Tanaka, Shohei Imamura, Yuzo Kawashima  ph  Kurataro Takamura  m  Toshiro Mayuzumi  art  Shohei Imamura

Frankie Sakai (Inokori Sahaiji), Sachiko Hidari (Osome), Yoko Minamida (Koharu), Yujiro Ishihara (Shinsaku Takasugi), Izumi Ashikawa (Ohisa), Toshiyuki Ichimura (Mokubei), Nobuo Kaneko (Denbei), Hisano Yamaoka (Otatsu), Yasukiyo Omeno (Tokusaburo), Masao Oda (Zenpachi), Masumi Okada (Kisuke),

There were times when I felt that I was never going to see Yuzo Kawashima’s comic masterpiece.  There’s a bitter irony to the fact that Kawashima is neglected in the west while his protégée Shohei Imamura is rated by many as the greatest Japanese master of the post-war era.  Imamura made excellent films, but Kawashima, Oshima, Yoshida and Masumura were his peers and there are cases for Shindo, Yoshimura, Teshigahara, Wakumatsu and Ichikawa, too.  Kawashima was the biggest loss, however, as he died prematurely.  The year he died Imamura made his greatest film, The Insect Woman, starring Sachiko Hidari, who’d been so splendid in this, Kawashima’s most saluted film. (more…)


Read Full Post »


by Jaime Grijalba.

File #7 – Paul Leni

Hey, look! Another director that is familiar in the ranks of Wonders in the Dark, at least, I think he is. I wanted to start right on topic just to sway a little bit into my usual wandering of ideas in this opening paragraph, because I know that this is much more a niche project than anything and I wish that those who enjoy it continue to do so, but at the same time I have to cover some ground regarding the times and the prospect of this project, and the thing is that it will become huge any moment now, and I need more time to write these retrospectives and watch the films (that is one of the main reasons as to why this particular post is coming up so late), so I’m having some ideas on how to solve that, they aren’t entirely constructed so I’ll keep it shush, but for now I’m just going to say that maybe we’ll only have two Masters of Horror every month and the other two thursdays will be used for something different, what is and how/when it will appear, I’m not sure, but you’ll find out eventually. So, back to the topic at hand, here we have another german director who directed silent cinema in Germany and went on to direct silent cinema in the US, gaining some fame and following as well as being tremendously influential to the studios and filmmakers of the time, he practically invented the (at that time) modern haunted house genre with hidden passageways, murders and mystery, all influenced by the mystery novels that were popular at that time, but adding the layer of supernatural entities and presences that may or may not be real, but the fear and the horror is there, and that’s what counts. He was also one of the most interesting people in terms of visual craft, as he worked as an art director and custome designer in many german films before having directed his first feature (and even after that he continued working on some german films), and he is, for all we can say, a worthy disciple of the visual school of german expressionism, mainly because he managed to bring it to the films of the US and we can say that his movies there influenced the likes of Tod Browning and James Whale when they started to make their own horror films with visual lavish and grandiose scope, he brought the over-complex image to the american screen, filling it with labyrinths and people, moving and always interacting with each other, people marching towards the camera or the camera itself moving to develope a visual wonder, it’s all there and he is most assuredly related to Richard Oswald (previously discussed in an earlier installment of Masters of Horror) than to the likes of romanticists like F.W. Murnau, in a sense I can say that those who fell into the expressionism and never truly left it (like Leni) failed to deliver more profound works of art if they evolved into a more romanticist point of view towards the visual language (like Murnau did). Besides all this, I can honestly say that I can’t wait for the first non-german Master of Horror (no offense here). (more…)

Read Full Post »


© 2013 by James Clark

 With regard to Searching for Sugar Man, quixotic and heart-warming factors tend to divert attention from a significant area of its production. Though a resident and citizen of Sweden, director Malik Bendjelloul has Algerian roots, which, in his case, is to say, heightened sensitivity about reactionary imposition. Though a rock and roll TV journalist at the time of landing his big story, he would find in the subtext of apartheid something speaking to him very loud and clear. There the homing device was that primally raw, hard-edged confinement, acting as a catalyst to an upshot of peculiar affinities with an instance of going-for-broke.

    Accordingly, we’ll resist addressing the work of Abbas Kiarostami along lines of Bressonian and Surrealist endeavors, though no doubt he has been most attentive to issues emanating from such predecessors. With respect to his recent film, Like Someone in Love (2012), set in Japan, it is the weight of Japanese patriarchal tradition that rings bells for his production. And so, in tracing the informing source of this film’s great lucidity and power to possess us long after seeing it, we give its due to his Iranian compatriots and the fact that his work is outlawed in Iran. We find ourselves, as with Bendjelloul’s big surprise, thrilled by the investigative motif of atavistic dispensations unwittingly cultivating extraordinarily acute and resolute opposition to their fondest hopes. However, this rather sociological, documentary orientation must not (we’re about to fully comprehend) be pressed as science would have it; and that gets us right into Like Someone in Love. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Jean Gabin and Andre Bourvil in Claude Autant-Lara’s marvelous 1956 farce “La Traversee de Paris” (A Pig Across Paris) showing for one week in glorious restored print at Film Forum

Al Pacino and Gene Hackman in sadly underrated 1973 road movie “Scarecrow”

by Sam Juliano

May is birthday month in the Wonders in the Dark universe.  Today is Allan Fish’s landmark 40th.  Thursday, my oldest daughter Melanie turns 17, while yesterday my youngest son Jeremy celebrated his 11th.  Beyond that young Sammy turned 16 on May 15th, while Danny is now 14 as of May 17th.  Thanks again are in order for the incomparable Dee Dee, who provided yet another holiday banner on the sidebar, reminding readers of Memorial Day.

The western polling will continue until the 1st of August, at which point tabulation will be completed and essay assignments will be reserved.  Six ballots have been submitted to this point, with a number of others promised after viewings and re-viewings are managed by some of the enthusiastic participants.

The Cannes Festival concluded with the announcement that the French film La Vie d’Adele (Blue is the Warmest Color) was crowned Palme d’Or winner.  An emotional drama about a love affair between two women, La Vie was directed by the Tunisian Abdellatif Kechiche.  WitD friend Craig Kennedy was there for the entire festival, reporting back with a batch of reviews, including a glowing one on the Palme d’Or winner.  Here are the winners: (more…)

Read Full Post »

Tel Book 2

by Allan Fish

(USA 1971 88m) DVD1

The searching white lights of Moo

p  Merwin A.Bloch  d/w  Nelson Lynn  ph  Leon Perer  ed  Ian Saltzberg  m  Nate Sassover  art  Jim Taylor

Sarah Kennedy (Alice), Norman Rose (John Smith), Barry Morse (Har Poon), Jill Clayburgh (girl with mask), Ultra Violet (Miss Whiplash), William Hickey (man in bed), James Harder (caller #1), David Dozer (caller #2), Lucy Lee Flippin (caller #3), Dolph Sweet (caller #4), Ondine (narrator),

Just reading the synopsis of Nelson Lynn’s film made me smile.  The initial recollection was of that Python sketch about the world’s funniest joke; the one we never actually heard more than the first line of, but which proved as fatal in wartime as the worst mustard gas.  Here we have a girl in Manhattan, an everyday 18 year old chick; no brains, little in the way of anything really, except perhaps a nice figure.  She’s relaxing in her apartment when, while trying to sleep, she receives a phone call…

Today it’d probably be a cold-caller, that tell-tale background noise of a call centre prompting a replacement of the receiver before they’ve had a chance to say anything.  For our girl Alice though, it’s the call of a lifetime.  She is the recipient of the world’s greatest ever dirty phone call, one that gets her so aroused and so ecstatic that she just has to track down the caller.  He tells her to look him up, he’s in the directory.  His name is John Smith, so she calls up every John Smith she can find trying to find out which one he is, with initially no success.  Her quest takes her to the set of a stag movie directed by and starring the ageing Har Poon (a hilarious Barry Morse, humping away in his boxers and socks, while a bevy of naked beauties writhe all over him).  (more…)

Read Full Post »

As per normal WitD procedure the regularly-scheduled Monday Morning Diary will be moved to Tuesday (May 28) because of the three day Memorial Day weekend stateside.  Hence, the Tuesday Morning Diary will be posted on Tuesday, and will take in a period of eight days, and the activities through late Monday night.  This will of course mean that the following week will only consider the itinerary of six days (May 28 through June 3).  Many thanks to all who have supported this weekly thread since it was instituted four years ago.  Hope everyone enjoying the extended weekend and managed some interesting and worthwhile endeavors!

Read Full Post »


by Allan Fish

Best Picture Unforgiven, US (7 votes)

Best Director Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven (7 votes)

Best Actor Denzel Washington, Malcolm X (9 votes)

Best Actress Emma Thompson, Howards End (10 votes)

Best Supp Actor Gene Hackman, Unforgiven (8 votes)

Best Supp Actress Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives (8 votes)

Best Cinematography Philippe Rousselot, A River Runs Through It (6 votes)

Best Score Wojciech Kilar, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (7 votes)

Best Short A Sense of History, UK, Mike Leigh & Stille Nacht III: Tales from the Vienna Woods, UK, Stephen & Timothy Quay (2 votes each, TIE!!!)


Read Full Post »

By Bob Clark

Mamoru Oshii’s career throughout the 70’s and 80’s is interesting to consider when looking at his rise to notoreity as a feature director in the 90’s and 00’s. Like many animators in Japan, he got his start behind the scenes on television series based on popular manga, and for a time had a good deal of success with Rumiko Takahashi’s Urusei Yatsura. At first glance, the popular harem-comedy wouldn’t appear to have much in common with the more mature stabs at politics and philosophy that permeate through the director’s later, better known works, but even in his handling of the show and subsequent features based on the manga he found ways to inject his own personal themes into the characters. The series’ second feature film Beautiful Dreamer stands as a savvy precursor both to the surreal dream-narrative adventures in the heart of Satoshi Kon’s Paprika, and to the existentialist dilemmas of Oshii’s adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell, right down to the shared imagery of a protagonist confronting their own reflection in the underside of a body of water, struggling to breath and wake up out of their suffocating dreams.

Over time, however, Takahashi didn’t approve of the deviations that Oshii took from her celebrated manga, and the director eventually left to pursue his own projects, like the pure art-house animation Angel’s Egg, while his team from Urusei Yatsura moved onto less highbrow, but in a way more creatively successful works like the soft-core hentai turned mainstream satire film Project A-ko. But he wasn’t the only one who eventually left the Takahashi series to follow a newer creative direction– screenwriter Kazunori Ito would go on to work alongside Oshii on the live-action feature The Red Spectacles, a part of the director’s Kerberos cycle of films, animation and manga, and would eventually script his first Ghost in the Shell film before moving on to join the .hack franchise. But before either of those endeavors the two of them created the Patlabor series, best known in America for the second feature film and recognized as a precursor of sorts for the same ambitious blend of groundbreaking digital hybrid action animation and serious subject matters that the Ghost in the Shell films would later represent. Yet in ways both obvious and subtle, those features were merely building up from the established themes and subjects already present in the first incarnation of the franchise, as an Original Video Animation, and perhaps the best thing that can be said about Patlabor: The Mobile Police as an OVA is that, no matter what you think or know of the series or Oshii’s career from their feature incarnations, it represents something of a surprise.


Read Full Post »

The Nest a

by Allan Fish

(Spain 1980 103m) not on DVD

Aka. El Nido

More than a holy fool

d/w  Jaime de Armiñán  ph  Teo Escamilla  ed  José Luiz Matesanz  m  Alejandro Masso  art  Jean-Claude Hoerner

Héctor Alterio (Don Alejandro), Ana Torrent (Goyita), Luis Politti (Don Eladio), Agustin González (sergeant), Patricia Adriani (Marisa), Maria Luisa Ponte (Amparo), Mercedes Alonso (Mercedes), Luisa Rodrigo (Gumer), Ovidi Montllor (Manuel),

It’s over thirty years ago now.  I’d only have been nine or ten years old, and was asking a teacher at my primary school – a Catholic one – about Jesus.  I remember her looking at me and asking what did I want to know.  “Well, you know how Jesus went to the temple when he was about twelve years old…” I muttered.  She nodded.  “And then we next see him appearing to be baptised by John the Baptist when he was thirty.”  Again she nodded.  “Where did he go all that time in between?”  She just looked puzzled and smiled before saying “you don’t need to worry about that.”  You know, the standard religious response to a question they have no answer to, that if we don’t know it can’t be important.  I could hardly blame her.

The thought comes back to me twofold as I write about Jaime de Armiñán’s The Nest.  No national cinema – or at least no language in cinema – has been as associated with religion and its foibles as Spanish.  But the main jogger of that particular memory was of its young star Ana Torrent.  We all remember her, that fresh-faced, soulful six year old in The Spirit of the Beehive, and many will recall her two years later in Saura’s Cria Cuervos.  Yet then what?  According to English language sources she effectively dropped from sight until reappearing at 25 in Medem’s Vacas(more…)

Read Full Post »

by Jaime Grijalba.

Well, might as well write about some other movies of the BAFICI. Last month I had two entries on my coverage of the Buenos Aires Festival International of Cinema Independent that I attended, and I was signaling what I thought about them. Now, as part of what I did after the Festival was over, was to contact some of the people who owned the movies on competition, to know if they’d let me see their films after the festival was done, mainly because I had no time to see all of them. So, some answered and had the graciousness of giving me their movies for me to watch and review in this particular ocassion. So, I shall be repeating some capsules from those as we take a look at all the films that were on competition that I was allowed to see online or at the cinema in Buenos Aires. Thanks to all of the filmmakers, producers and releasing companies for making them available. So, without futher ado, let’s continue our travel to the cinema. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »