Archive for June, 2013

num 1


by Allan Fish

(France 1975 88m) DVD1

Aka. Number Two

This is a factory

p  Georges de Beauregard, Jean-Pierre Rassam  d  Jean-Luc Godard, Anne-Marie Mieville  w  Jean-Luc Godard  ph  William Lubtchansky  ed  Jean-Luc Godard  m  Leo Ferré

Sandrine Battistella (mother), Pierre Oudry (father), Alexander Rignault (grandfather), Rachel Stefanopoli (grandmother), Jean-Luc Godard (himself),

Looking back on Godard’s career I have always had problems with his films made post 1970, indeed post Weekend a few years earlier.  Some talents just burn brighter for a shorter period of time – take Sturges or Carné.  Godard, to these eyes, always seemed to want to push the envelope, to break new boundaries.  Others may see his radical attempts as merely wallowing in his own introspections and revelling in his own pretensions.  There’s a certain amount of truth in that as Godard has cultivated his own legend, for better or worse, but in truth few of his films made in the forty or so years since Weekend have galvanised me in the same way.

So here we are, in 2009 as I write, discussing one of only two films made in that apparent void here selected.  Numéro Deux is selected for different reasons.  It’s not a film that I particularly like, or would like to watch too often – twice so far and I am in no hurry to make it three or four – and yet it’s a film that provokes a response, cultivates debate and does exactly what Godard set out to do; namely, push that envelope.  (more…)

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Screen grab from Ozu’s “There Was A Father,” one of the great screen masterpieces, shown appropriately enough on Father’s Day at Film Forum’s Ozu Festival.

by Sam Juliano

Wonders in the Dark salute to all the fathers out there who were treated to dinners by family members and all of whom were on the receiving end of the traditional “Happy Father’s Day” greeting.  Weather in the northeast was exceptional after a what must have been the longest sustained period of rain showers in a very long time.  Many thanks once again to our dear friend Dee Dee for adorning the sidebar with the holiday banner.

This past Saturday marked the first installment of what is planned to be a long running series on television anthology episodes from some of the best series of their kind ever aired.  The western polling continues, with about six more weeks left for voters to cast ballots.  This far, eight have been submitted.

Lucille and I attended three films at the Ozu Festival, including a Father’s Day doubleheader of films I have seen many times over the years.  We also took in two new releases, one of which I am tempted to sue the filmmakers for stealing two hours of my life.  Ha! (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Best Picture Toy Story, US (7 votes)

Best Director John Lasseter, Toy Story (4 votes)

Best Actor Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking (6 votes)

Best Actress Julianne Moore, Safe (7 votes)

Best Supp Actor Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects (6 votes), beating himself for Se7en

Best Supp Actress Kate Winslet, Sense and Sensibility (6 votes)

Best Cinematography Darius Khondji, Se7en (5 votes)

Best Score Randy Newman, Toy Story (4 votes)

Best Short A Close Shave, UK, Nick Park (5 votes)

OK, thank God that one’s behind us…


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by Sam Juliano

Note: This is the first in a new series that will be focusing on individual episodes of classic American anthology television series of the late 50’s through the early 70’s.  The following shows will be well-represented: ‘Boris Karloff’s Thriller,’ the original Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, One Step Beyond and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.  Gary Gerani’s seminal volume ‘Fantastic Television’ covered the anthology concept as well, though I will stay clear of sitcoms, and will basically examine the half-dozen or so shows that I have identified above.

The 67 episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, a one-hour horror anthology that ran on network television from 1960-62, were later syndicated and for a number of years were a staple on the popular Sci-fi Channel.  E bay subsequently supported the bootleg sales of various sets that included some of the better know episodes, and in the late 90’s Universal released six shows to VHS and laserdisc, with the LD quality so layered and luminous that some to this day argue it is still incomparable.  While Universal moved forward at a snail’s pace releasing individual seasons of Alfred Hitchcock Presents throughout the first decade of the new millennium, they steadfastly stayed clear of bringing Thriller to DVD, in large measure because the sales on VHS and LD were reportedly very poor.  But Universal has long been tagged with a reputation of indifference when it comes to their classic television holdings, and they opted to lease the series to Image Entertainment, who released all the episodes with generous extras in an August, 2010 box set that can now be had inexpensively.  Image followed up the comprehensive box two years later with a single disc Thriller: Fan Favorites, which offered up ten of the very best episodes of the series on a single disc aimed at tempting neophytes with the larger purchase. (more…)

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alpha 2


by Allan Fish

(France 1965 98m) DVD1/2

Aka. Alphaville, une Etrange Aventure de Lemmy Caution


p  André Michelin  d/w  Jean-Luc Godard  ph  Raoul Coutard  ed  Agnes Guillemot  m  Paul Mizraki, Michel Legrand  art  Bernard Evein

Eddie Constantine (Lemmy Caution/Ivan Johnson), Anna Karina (Natasha Von Braun), Akim Tamiroff (Henri Dickson), Howard Vernon (Professor Von Braun/Leonard Nosferatu), Laszlo Szabo, Michel Delahaye, Valerie Boisgel, Christa Lang, Jean-André Fieschi, Jean-Louis Comolli, Jean-Pierre Léaud,

Of all Godard’s classics of the 1960s, surely Alphaville is the daftest.  And yet, as you try to laugh at one scene or another you find yourself inexplicably unable to do so.  It’s a strange feeling whereby what seems almost a spoof of sci-fi at its most pretentious manages, in its borderline flippancy, to capture the essence of the Kafka and Orwell nightmare.  For 1954 it may be 1965, and where in Oceania language was being redefined and shrunk till it lost all of its wonderful ambiguity, so in Alphaville it’s done by replacing the Gideon bibles with dictionaries, still calling them bibles, but reprinting each new edition with even less words than before.  Who needs such words as tenderness or Robin Redbreast?  Indeed, who even needs colour at all?

So Lemmy Caution goes to Alphaville under the soubriquet of Ivan Johnson in search of the missing Henri Dickson.  He finds him, briefly, but also finds that Alphaville is the nerve centre of a society intent on removing all essences of humanity.  Human beings effectively turned into subservient androids.  Questions such as ‘why’ become reasons such as ‘because’ and everywhere else is the ‘Outer Countries’. (more…)

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© 2013 by James Clark

It’s been a long time since Terrence Malick strove, as an academic researcher, to bring focus to the bewildering cacophony of Heideggerian phenomenological insights and oversights. That is not to say, however, that he has turned his back on this endeavor, now that his métier is movies instead of monographs. The phenomenological imperative has for him taken the form of accelerating sluggish sensibilities (by way of surging visuals and sounds, as evoking voice-over narration) to pry open their innermost alarms. Alarm has always been the watchword for Malick’s investigative films, and the magnitude and delicacy of its filmed procession (its filmed phenomenality) need involve no apologies for being repeated from various angles through a number of decades.

But the very emergence of such threatening dismissal entails that world of alarm that can never really be passé. Someone somewhere has chided Malick about (supposedly) losing sight, in his most recent film, To the Wonder (2012), of the supposed axiom, “Beauty is not enough…” The assumption in this rather smug rejoinder is that prettification fails to speak to full-bodied discovery. Heaven forbid that the extraordinary enhancement of the action by cinematographic intensities should lead to wondering what challenges the “beautiful” panoramic and intimate rushes should pose. (more…)

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sauve 2

by Allan Fish

continuing with the Godard series

(France 1980 87m) DVD2

Aka. Every Man for Himself; Slow Motion

Cinéma et video

d  Jean-Luc Godard  w  Anne-Marie Mieville, Jean-Luc Godard  ph  Renato Berta, William Lubtchansky, Jean-Bernard Menoud  ed  Anne-Marie Mieville, Jean-Luc Godard  m  Gabriel Yared  art  Romain Goupil

Isabelle Huppert (Isabelle Rivière), Jacques Dutronc (Paul Godard), Nathalie Baye (Denise Rimbaud), Cécile Tanner (Cécile), Anna Baldaccini (Isabelle’s sister), Fred Personne (Mr Nobody), Roland Amstutz (2nd client), Paule Muret (Paul’s ex-wife), Monique Barscha (opera singer), Catherine Freiburghaus (farm girl),

If each film-maker was a movie character, who would Jean-Luc Godard be?  If asked he may have chosen that played by Jean-Pierre Melville in his own A Bout de Souffle.  To me, he’s Johnny Strabler, the biker gang leader played by an iconic if too-old Marlon Brando in The Wild One, being asked what he’s rebelling against and replying “whaddya got?”  That’s how Godard seemed to wish to be seen, as an enigma, rebelling for the sake of rebelling and unsure of exactly what he was rebelling against.  Like the cinema’s take on the ageless rocker who will never recapture the anarchic best of his twenties, but still struts round the stage like he’s 25 when he’s 40 years older.  Godard wasn’t that old in 1980, but he was turning 50, an age which doubtless seemed light years away to the man responsible for A Bout de Souffle, Vivre sa Vie and Bande a Part.  If anything, what does the 50 year old Godard see the world as?  No paradise, that’s for sure, but rather a desert in which sexual fantasy seems the only escape, and only then if it’s of the taboo variety not to be spoken in public. (more…)

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Kenneth Branagh’s extraordinary opera film based on Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’

by Sam Juliano

June continues, leaving behind some torrential rains and some seasonal temperatures.  Graduations, proms and summer programs are on the horizon in area school districts, while in the private industry vacations are fast approaching.  While movie lovers can look ahead to high profile Cannes releases, a number of highly-regarded independent films are competing for attention with the commercial fodder, at a time when movie greatness is normally elusive.

The western countdown draws closer, though there are still about seven weeks left for prospective voters to finalize their Top 60 choices.  Eight (8) ballots have been submitted to this point according to Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. who again will be compiling the numbers in early August to determine the 60 films that will be receiving full essays by a host of writers, in assignments to be firmed up when the totals are sorted. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Best Picture Sátántángó, Hungary (8 votes)

Best Director Krzysztof Kieslowski, Three Colours: Red (7 votes)

Best Actor Johnny Depp, Ed Wood (9 votes)

Best Actress Irène Jacob, Three Colours: Red (11 votes)

Best Supp Actor Samuel L.Jackson, Pulp Fiction & Martin Landau, Ed Wood (9 votes each, TIE!)

Best Supp Actress Faye Wong, Chungking Express (8 votes)

Best Cinematography Gabor Medvigy, Sátántángó & Piotr Sobocinski, Three Colours: Red (6 votes)

Best Score Zbigniew Preisner, Three Colours: Red (10 votes)

Best Short Bottle Rocket, US. Wes Anderson (3 votes)


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passion 2


by Allan Fish

continuing the Godard mini-series

(France 1982 88m) DVD1/2

Looking for real light

p  Catherine Lapoujade, Armand Babault, Martine Marignac  d  Jean-Luc Godard  w  Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Claude Carrière  ph  Raoul Coutard  ed  Jean-Luc Godard  art  Jean Bauer, Serge Marzoff  cos  Christian Gasc, Rosalie Varda

Isabelle Huppert (Isabelle), Jerzy Radziwilowicz (Jerzy), Michel Piccoli (Michel), Hanna Schygulla (Hanna), László Szabó (Lászlo), Patrick Bonnel (Patrick), Sophie Luchachevski (Sophie, script-girl), Myriem Roussel (Myriem), Magali Campos (Magali),

In his introduction to Godard’s film on the UK DVD, Colin MacCabe talks of how Passion grew out of a time in Godard’s life when he was given to the belief that it was “no longer the time for great masterpieces, but a time when everything will become a masterpiece.”  It’s a statement Andy Warhol might once have agreed with, the effective irrelevance of story, films where what happened on screen was sufficient for art.  So in Passion, the real, the staged and the merely observed merge and separate on impulse.

How to begin to describe it; first take the notion of a film being made within the film, directed by Polish director Jerzy and a film whose mission statement seems to be to capture the light effects of various western painted masterpieces.  Rubens and Delacroix are mentioned, while Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ and Ingres’ Valpinçon Bather feature heavily.  Around them are spun three other central characters, or ciphers as may be more accurate.  Michel is a hotelier who houses the crew during the shoot.  Hanna is his wife, who loves director Jerzy and who Jerzy wants to be in his Rubens portion of the film.  Isabelle works in a nearly adjacent factory – also owned by Michel – and tries to start a strike seemingly mirroring the events of the Solidarity movement in Poland. (more…)

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