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Archive for June, 2013

1997

by Allan Fish

Best Picture Boogie Nights, US & The Sweet Hereafter, Canada (4 votes each, TIE!)

Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson, Boogie Nights (5 votes)

Best Actor Ian Holm, The Sweet Hereafter (7 votes)

Best Actress Pam Grier, Jackie Brown (7 votes)

Best Supp Actor Robert Forster, Jackie Brown (10 votes)

Best Supp Actress Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights (9 votes)

Best Cinematography Eduardo Serra, The Wings of the Dove (6 votes)

Best Score Angelo Badalamenti, Lost Highway & Michael Nyman, Gattaca (6 votes each, TIE!)

Best Short The Old Lady and the Pigeons, France, Sylvain Chomet (3 votes)

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by Sam Juliano

Robert Florey’s association with acting icon Boris Karloff was finally negotiated after a close call thirty years prior. The French-born director was the initial choice to helm the 1931 horror masterwork Frankenstein, but despite his involvement on the screenplay, he was removed from the project by Universal executives, and instead assigned to direct Murders of the Rue Morgue, another genre work based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe. The replacement James Whale, was far less a visual stylist than the expressionist-attuned Flory, but most film historians ring true when they predicate that Whale was superior with actors, was far less austere, and understood the playful nuances of language and physical movement.

Alas the creepy ghoulishness, disorientation and unremitting gloom that defines Thriller’s second-season episode “The Incredible Doktor Markesan” are gears in Florey’s wheelhouse, and the show is an uncompromising, old-fashioned gothic horror package that features a decaying mansion à la Roger Corman’s The Fall of the House of Usher and death-like visages that envision (and pre-date) Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls. Thriller alumni Benjamin H. Kline, lens man par excellence and art director Howard E. Johnson, both of whom fashioned the fog-laden and cobweb subjugated pictorial design of the work are consummate collaborators for an overseer who during his career was far more predisposed with visual rather than spoken language. The subject matter of “Doktor Markesan” also suited Florey especially well, as his career yielded multiple instances when the motif of bringing the dead back to life was showcased. The complete absence of comic relief, aside from unintended guffaws that will undoubtedly greet some of Dick York’s corny lines (“There’s not a muscle in my carcass that’s not howling bloody murder” or “There’s something horrible going on…something unholy!”) and a powerful nihilist undercurrent that characteristically wallows in utter hopelessness, and suggests a resolution of eternal damnation. It appears deliberate that the tone of the piece is so irrepressibly bleak, that Karloff in his opening narration hammed it up a bit by referring to himself as that “creepy, sinister sort of chap” and the film’s Morton Stevens score concluded with a light, if pensive piano flourish under the closing credits.

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cria 2

by Allan Fish

(Spain 1976 110m) DVD1/2

Aka. Cría; Raise Ravens

Porque te vas to the Rains of Castamere

p  Elias Querejeta  d/w  Carlos Saura  ph  Teo Escamilla  ed  Pablo G.del Arno  m  Federico Mompoli  art  Rafael Palmero

Geraldine Chaplin (Maria/Ana as adult), Ana Torrent (Ana), Monica Randall (Paulina), Florinda Chico (Rosa), Conchita Perez (Irene), Josefina Diaz (Abuela, grandmother), Mirta Miller (Amelia Garontes), Hector Alterio (Anselmo),  Maite Sanchez (Maite),

Occasionally, through fate, coincidence or whatever force you may or not believe in, you watch a film at a time when the stars seem to align.  Such was the case with Cría Cuervos.  I’d seen it before, but I had deliberately not gone back to it as soon as the BFI Blu Ray was announced.  I wanted to wait to see it in Hi-Def.  The Blu Ray was then delayed but still I was resolved to hold back.  On first viewing, Carlos Saura’s film, like many of his early works, seemed dominated by political allegory and left me relatively cold.  Finally, I got the Blu Ray, but I didn’t watch it immediately.  I waited a week or so, so that when I put it on a seemingly unrelated event took place; the showing of the already infamous Game of Thrones episode ‘The Rains of Castamere’.  There’s no link there, I can hear you mutter, and you’d be right, but take a look again at the opening scene of Cría, of a series of pictures from a family album.

As Cría was shot, Franco was lying on his deathbed and Geraldine Chaplin had been working with Carlos Saura for nearly a decade, since Peppermint Frappe.  They had no family, but they’d been lovers, and one can see that candidness in the photos in the album.  Yet Geraldine had another family, of a father who went from Fred Karno to knight of the realm and had as big a hand in the popularity of the movies at a time when Francisco Franco was only an unknown soldier in the regulares. (more…)

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certified-copy-1

© 2013 by James Clark

After accompanying Terrence Malick in that magisterial conjuring of epidemic self-torment titled, To the Wonder, I think it is apt that we return to Abbas Kiarostami, this time by way of his 2010 film, Certified Copy, to temper the perspective of millennial reverie with some close-up nastiness requiring emergency attention. Kiarostami functions, it seems to me, within the métier of elementally consequential films, in a notably uncrowded middle ground between Malick’s world of cosmic light years and that frequently shattered domain—staked out by the likes of Lynch, Tarantino, von Trier, the Coens, Wong Kar Wai, Haneke et al—where one sees no point in conveying all the news that’s fit to print in any other register than blood. Viewers have twigged on to the sharp and agonizing pitfalls of the film in question here, by groping toward possible inspiration by practitioners of isolation, like Antonioni, and even the Rossellini of Voyage to Italy; but, although there are three glimpses of Antonioni which are quite indispensable, the real locator, for its fixation upon perfidy, is Robert Bresson and, particularly, his 1969 film, Une Femme Douce (A Gentle Woman), the bloody suicide of the distraught female lead at the outset (setting off a flashback) helping to cue up the combative course of Kiarostami’s echoing film. As such, the critical bid to palm off the occasionally (but stressfully) amusing Certified Copy as a twenty-first century upgrade of a Mid-Century bourgeois travel comedy is far from efficient. No one gets literally slaughtered here. But make no mistake; the “cruel war” remarked by tenuously speculative Marina, in To the Wonder, comes right into our face and never stops, within Kiarostami’s phenomenology of the early days of a now overt and irrevocable war. (more…)

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angyaliudvozletpn8_large

by Allan Fish

(Hungary 1984 100m) DVD1

Aka. Angyali udvozlet

Like cattle in a treadmill

d/w  András Jeles  play  “The Tragedy of Man” by Imre Madách  ph  Béla Ferenczy, Sándor Kardos  ed  Margit Galamb  m  István Márta

Péter Bocsor (Adam), Julia Mérö (Eve), Eszter Gyalog (Lucifer), Györge Belme, Réka Gévai, Ference Foltányi, Mónika Oláh,

András Jeles’ miracle of a film is another one of those works that demand a rewriting of film history.  Imre Madách’s play is one of the great bastions of Magyar literature, often compared to Milton and Dante.  It shows Adam, Eve and Lucifer in the Garden of Eden and Lucifer giving the ‘first’ couple a view of what will happen to mankind, with Adam, Eve and Lucifer seeing themselves in future guises.  It takes in stops in Egypt, Athens, Rome, Paris, Prague, London and even visits the future in a yet to come Ice Age.  Adapting it for screen may have seemed insane in itself, but Jeles goes one step further; his entire cast would be made up of children.  There in itself is the problem and why the film is so little seen in the west.  In this so-called enlightened age, where Saw VI can get passed uncut but an astonishing work like The Annunciation is treated like Maladolescenza and its vision of naked but innocent children as unfit for viewing.

The film cuts out several of the scenes and incarnations of the Eden triptych, jettisoning Rome and Egypt and the future episode.  We go instead from Eden to Athens and the tale of Miltiades; from there to Constantinople where Adam becomes Tancred leader of the First Crusade, to Prague where he’s Johannes Kepler, to revolutionary Paris where he’s Danton and to Victorian London where he plays a nameless individual.  (more…)

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Ozu’s 1953 masterpiece “Tokyo Story” stars Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara and Chieko Higashiyama

Screen grab from Jason Giampietro’s Rockaway-set short “The Sun Thief” which played at BAM Fest on Thursday as part of narrative shorts program

by Sam Juliano

The passing of the exceptionally talented James Gandolfini at the very young age of 51 has left everyone in a state of shock. Those who faithfully watched every episode of The Sopranos won’t forget the character’s towering and charismatic presence, nor the larger than life persona that has followed him through his movie career. Many have attested to his exceeding generosity and dynamic personality, and his passing has deprived the cultural community of a bonafide superstar, and his family of a beautiful human being.

Lucille, Sammy, Danny and I traveled to Brooklyn on Thursday night to watch a narrative shorts program at 9:30 P.M. as part of the BAM Fest. Jason Giampietro’s 20 minute “The Sun Thief” and three other shorts attracted a nice gathering at the Rose Cinemas of the Peter Jay Sharp Building. Giampietro’s short, easily the best of the four screened, is set on Rockaway Beach and features a seemingly bi-polar surfer who injects a dose of contentiousness into an otherwise benign relationship.  But the film’s interracial lovers are also buffooned by some woodwind players on the beach. Well-regarded Manhattan cinematographer Sean Price Williams (a former Kim’s Video employee) collaborates with Giampietro, who again shows exactly why editing is his particular forte in this brisk little oddball hybrid that offers up realism with a surrealist undercurrent. The less said about the other three shorts, the better.  Giampietro’s latest short, “I Will Paint Your Spirit” can be viewed on this Vimeo link:

https://vimeo.com/67344412

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1996

by Allan Fish

Best Picture Fargo, US (10 votes)

Best Director Joel Coen, Fargo & Lars Von Trier, Breaking the Waves (7 votes each, TIE!)

Best Actor Geoffrey Rush, Shine (5 votes)

Best Actress Emily Watson, Breaking the Waves (15 votes)

Best Supp Actor William H. Macy, Fargo (17 votes)

Best Supp Actress Juliette Binoche, The English Patient (6 votes)

Best Cinematography Robby Muller, Breaking the Waves (9 votes)

Best Score Carter Burwell, Fargo (19 votes)

Best Short  Hyperballad (2 votes)

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by Sam Juliano

“When a man shuts himself off from his neighbors, when he conducts experiments behind locked doors, there is bound to be talk.  There were those who whispered that Dirk Van Prinn was a sorcerer – and worse.  He might never have been remembered at all had not his research led him to the discovery of a most unusual formula for making glass.”    –Boris Karloff

Robert Bloch’s short story “The Cheaters” made it’s first appearance in the November 1947 issue of Weird Tales.  Bloch, who also authored the sources that yielded two other exceptional episodes in Boris Karloff’s Thriller, (“The Weird Tailor” and “Waxworks”) and seven other teleplays for the series, also included it in his acclaimed 1960 short story collection Pleasant Dreams: Nightmares, which won the Hugo Award for the selection “The Hell-Bound Train,” a captivating tale about outsmarting the devil.  “The Cheaters” which debuted on Thriller’s fifteenth week, is one of the most perfectly executed episodes of the series, showcasing an extraordinary ensemble, a clever specification of a popular science-fiction deceit and  a remarkable economic teleplay that unifies four short stories with a pre-title vignette.  “The Cheaters” with it’s focus on human greed and the murderous treachery that people will engineer to acquire money is one of the darkest episodes on the show, one where nearly all, the central characters meet their doom by violence or horrific means.  The play on the term ‘cheaters’ extends to virtually all the activities in the omnibus narrative: a wife cheats on her husband, a player cheats in a card game, characters cheat to gain wealth, and the glasses themselves as invented are devices to cheat since they reveal something that should not be observed by another person. (more…)

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mf 2

by Allan Fish

concluding the small series on Godard…

(France/Sweden 1966 110m) DVD2

Give us this day TV and car but deliver us from freedom

p  Philippe Dussart  d/w  Jean-Luc Godard  novel  “La Femme du Paul” by Guy de Maupassant  ph  Willy Kurant  ed  Agnès Guillemot  m  Francis Lai (and W.A.Mozart)

Jean-Pierre Léaud (Paul), Chantal Goya (Madeleine Zimmer), Catherine-Isabelle Duport (Catherine-Isabelle), Marlène Jobert (Elisabeth Choquet), Michel Debord (Robert Packard), Birger Malmsten (Him, in film), Maj-Britt Strandberg (she, in film), Brigitte Bardot (girl in café), Françoise Hardy, Henri Attal, Dominique Zardi,

It’s amazing the random thoughts that pop into your head as you prepare to type one of these pieces.  Take now, where I have just watched Godard’s pop culture film as my third film of the day.  The first two were by Bergman – All These Women and The Hour of the Wolf.  One might see no immediate connection, but then one recalls that Masculin Feminin was shot in Sweden; Sandrews and Svenskfilmindustri co-financed it.  With that, the similarities end, for Bergman and Godard could not have been more diametrically opposed in their outlook on the cinema.  Bergman’s biggest preoccupation was with the human condition, its loves, its hates, its fears, its joys, sanity and otherwise, religion and atheism.  Godard was an anti-humanist, for whom individuals were no more important than Subutteo figures, weighed down not as if in a bowl of cement ready to be thrown into the waters of the deep by some mobster, but by the weight of political and social discourse, and of being part of the youthful Coca Cola generation of the mid-sixties.  (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

Kapringen (2012, Tobias Lindholm)

How much would you pay for a human life? I’m not talking about how much does it cost to actually bring a life into existence (there are many calculations regarding doctors, clothes, education, nurishment, etc, that can easily go sky-high in terms of the actual price of bringing another life to this planet in our present condition), but I’m talking about how much of a price do you put in someone else’s head… of course, you’d say that it depends, you wouldn’t pay a dime for the life of someone like Hitler (to put the most obvious and terrible example), but for your actual son or daughter, it could easily go into millions and millions of dollars, that you might not have, but would be able to pay nonetheless so that their life is still there. But again, I’m still not talking about that, I’m talking not about a sense of actual pertainence, that you could get to ‘own’ the life that you pay for, but how much would you actually pay for someone to be alive, for somebody that you also don’t know, to keep themselves alive, how much worth does actual human life has in a pure ‘let this human being keep on living’ sense has? That is one of the questions that is asked in this film, and you might say that in any other ransom film the question is the same, as to how much are you actually willing to pay to release a bunch of people that are being held captive by another party, but here it’s different, as we are put in the skin of not only those who are held captive, but in the mind of the one in charge of paying the ransom, but the man in charge is also a business man. Let’s say you’re responsible for the situation, but at the same time you have to be senseless: you can’t pay too much for human life, in the end, how much does it actually cost?

(more…)

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