Archive for August, 2013

Hampton Court Palace along the Thames, inhabited by Henry VIII in 1500’s

by Sam Juliano

     Note: Full report of U.K. trip will appear on the MMD of August 26.  Everyone is welcome and encouraged to comment on the this post with their usual reports, but I will be unable to respond till I return.

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by Allan Fish

(Sweden 1963 115m) not on DVD

Aka. Ett drömspel

The castle is still rising

p  Kare Santesson  d  Ingmar Bergman  play  August Strindberg  m  Sven-Erik Bäck  art  Cloffe

Ingrid Thulin (Agnes), Uno Henning (Alfred), Allan Edwall (Axel), Olof Widgren (writer), John Elfström (glazier), Maude Adelson (married woman), Else Ebbesen (gatekeeper), Märta Droff (Kristin), Börje Mellvig (schoolmaster), Eivor Landström (Lina), Manne Grünberger (Dean), Birgir Malmsten (married man), Curt Masreliez (quarantine master),

One would be forgiven for thinking that Ingmar Bergman’s obsession with Strindberg and this most iconic of plays in particular was like the old actor’s superstition with Macbeth, with a variation.  Not that he couldn’t say Macbeth, but rather that he had to say it, and keep dropping it in there, but woe betide if he came to make a film of it.  Is a TV play a film?  The volume of small screen entries here gives you one answer.

Some may recall A Dream Play as the production Lena Olin’s actress is rehearsing in After the Rehearsal.  It’s also the play being prepared in a recollection of Lena Endre’s imaginary actress in Faithless.  And what is it about?  A lengthy quote from the author himself in caption form over the opening credits, which reads like a hitherto lost letter from St Paul to some city or other in Asia Minor, gives you some idea.  “I have in this play attempted to imitate the inconsequent yet transparently logical shape of a dream.  Time and place do not exist…”  On a surface level it’s about Agnes, who we are led to believe is the daughter of the Hindu goddess Indra.  She is cast down to earth, or into the minds of various people on earth, to find out about human beings.  (more…)

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© 2013 by James Clark

In the first moments of his first feature, Lola (1961), Jacques Demy pulls us into the crux of what he knows to be urgent to us, even though we’ve never thought of it. Here’s how he does it. Shaking off whatever real or imagined need for color cinematography his scenario posed, he starts with an epigraph inscribed on a black ground, too hot to be swallowed so quickly, follows with a keyhole opening from that blackness to vivacious light upon a seaside road and a squawking seagull cheekily brushing off the indigestible profundity; and straightaway we behold the sweep of that beach roadway and the approach (from far off and into the middle distance) of a white Cadillac convertible, driven by a burly man dressed in white, with a white cowboy hat and smoking a big cigar. Rising with this approach is a rustic musical motif vaguely incongruous in its classically keyed but momentarily jazz-inflected keening. The car comes to a halt, giving us a striking profile of its non-Gallic girth and brassiness; the driver steps out to self-satisfiedly breathe in the lively shore and the commotion of its gulls. That his predilection for white extends right down to his shoes gives him the air of a slightly ridiculous White Knight, a Lancelot you couldn’t depend upon. Then he returns to the charger, swings back to the promenade (the camera pulling back to get into the swing of the Cadillac’s approach); and promptly we see him from the back seat and we’re lifted somewhat by the brisk progress of the drive along the choice real estate as transpiring through the broad windshield. Then we hear a bit of the Allegretto movement of Beethoven’s Symphony Number Seven, hardly a seamless fit with that American rockabilly presence. (He’s, perhaps disappointingly, blond and lacks sideburns. But his Texas swagger and Big Bopper features spell scant embrace of the confirmation of antiquity marching out of the soundtrack.) (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(France 1913 150m) not on DVD

Workers leaving the factory

d/w  Albert Capellani  novel  Emile Zola  ph  Pierre Trimbach, Louis Forestier  art  Pasquier, Valle

Henry Krauss (Étienne Lantier), Mévisto (Maheu), Jean Jacquinet (Chaval), Sylvie (Catherine), Paul Escoffier (Négrel), Jeanne Cheirel (la Maheude), Cécile Guyon (Cécile Hennebeau), Marc Gérard (Bonnemort), Albert Bras (Hennebeau), Dharsay (Souvarine),

Like many early European silents, I first glimpsed Germinal courtesy of the clips shown in Kevin Brownlow’s Cinema Europe, the series commissioned to be one of the memorials to the 100th anniversary of film and the first showing of the Lumières’ Sortie de Usines Lumière.  It’s been a long wait to finally get to see the full thing, so long that it’s now another centennial; that of the film’s release.

In 2013 Germinal may seem to belong to another era, not just cinematically but in terms of its setting.  But Germinal caught a time and a place before it would vanish for ever and was shot on location, where little had changed in the mere 30 years since the publishing of the book and even in the 50 since it was set.  One of Zola’s greatest and most challenging works, it follows Étienne Lantier (a figure who appeared in his earlier novel ‘L’Assammoir’ but not in its film adaptation Gervaise), a factory worker whose temper and good heart get him in trouble when he stands up for a fired worker and gets himself the sack.  Moving on to another village, he is got a position at a coal mine, but there he sees even more injustices piled on the workers by the bosses.  He urges them to take a stand and they go on strike, but when the bosses bring in the army and a group of men and their wives are shot, a stooge for the employers, Chaval, turns them against him.  He becomes an outcast, until a tragedy brings the opposing factions together. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Bon Voyage they are telling me.  Some have tabbed it as the “trip of a lifetime.”  Others note it’s a rare opportunity to have all family members together for a an all-too-brief two week period that will be referenced for many years to come.  While the trip has been dampened by medical consternation, a weekend hospital procedure, and a global terror alert that has just surfaced, we move forward with optimism and a sense of purpose.  At 58 and 49 years old, respectively, this will be the first European undertaking for Lucille and I, (yes I am the one who is 58!) and the longest distance traveled since our honeymoon to Aruba in 1995.  Though Alan Fish has twice visited us at our New Jersey home for 18 day junctures in 2008 and 2009, this will be the first time we will see him (and his lovely mum) on his own turf, dispelling all those long-held predictions that no such trip would ever materialize.  God willing we should be arriving at Heathrow sometime mid morning on Thursday, August 8th, from which point we will use our London passes to train our way to our southside hotel.  Despite the anticipated jet lag, we are figured the kids will be too excited to sleep mid-day, and we have tentative sites planned for that first day, including the Globe Theatre and the BFI store.  Numerous other sites like the Tower of London, Westminster Cathedral and Windsor Castle are on the itinerary for the six day London period, which will also include a trek up to Stratford-upon-Avon.  Sometime mid-day on Tuesday the 13th we will be taking a train up to Allan’s home in Kendal, where we will remain until the day of departure back to the U.S. via Heathrow on the 21st.  Plans to visit Liverpool for the Beatles Tour and Edinburgh, Scotland from Kendal are being firmed up.  I will of course have a thorough report with pictures on the MMD of August 25th.

I am also hoping to see a few very good friends while in the U.K., but will have more about that on the re-cap. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Best Picture Far from Heaven, US (4 votes)

Best Director Pedro Almodóvar, Talk to Her (4 votes)

Best Actor Nicolas Cage, Adaptation & Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York (5 votes each, TIE!)

Best Actress Julianne Moore, Far from Heaven (11 votes)

Best Supp Actor Ed Harris, The Hours (6 votes)

Best Supp Actress Meryl Streep, Adaptation & Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago (5 votes each, TIE!)

Best Cinematography Conrad L. Hall, Road to Perdition (5 votes)

Best Score Elmer Bernstein, Far from Heaven (5 votes)

Best Short Darkened Room, US, David Lynch (3 votes)

NB: Please note that this poll will not run for three weeks as I will not be around to tabulate votes next weekend as I am dealing with Hurricane Juliano in London and Kendal.  The next post with 2004’s nominations will thus be in 3 weeks, 25th August 2013.  We will not be looking at the site for the duration of the trip. 


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This Land b

by Allan Fish

(USA 1943 106m) DVD2

 The rights of man

p  Dudley Nichols, Jean Renoir  d  Jean Renoir  w  Dudley Nichols  ph  Frank Redman  ed  Frederick Knudtson  m  Lothar Perl  art  Eugene Lourie, Albert S.d’Agostino, Walter E.Keller

Charles Laughton (Albert Lory), Maureen O’Hara (Louise Martin), George Sanders (George Lambert), Kent Smith (Paul Martin), Una O’Connor (Emma Lory), Walter Slezak (Major Erich von Keller), George Coulouris (prosecutor), Philip Merivale (Professor Sorel), Thurston Hall (Mayor Henry Manville), Nancy Gates (Julie Grant),

There was a time when This Land is Mine was seen as one of Renoir’s most disposable films, a routine piece made to pay his expenses during his sojourn in Hollywood; one among many flag-wavers designed to boost morale, films of the immediate moment with no eye to posterity.  In some respects one could argue that it is that, but it is still more besides.  While it’s true Renoir made no stone cold masterpiece in Hollywood, he made a few glorious second tier works worthy of discovery.

So let us take This Land is Mine.  In essence, it’s France, Renoir’s land.  Yet this is very much any land, as highlighted by the “somewhere in Europe” caption at the film’s outset.  Even that, however, is too restrictive, for the danger to the civilised world, and the United States in particular, is spelled out in no uncertain terms.  It’s the danger of an invasion not by force but by infiltration, subterfuge and collaboration.  (more…)

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Note:  This review has been posted as part of the William Castle blogothon, run by Joey at ‘The Last Drive In.”  A link back to that site will appear at the end of the review.

by Sam Juliano

When a freak accident claimed the life of Polish composer and jazz pianist Krzysztof Komeda at the age of 38 in 1969, the film community lost an invaluable talent at the peak of his artistic powers and a young man was cut short well before his time.  Indeed, director Roman Polanski, in the liner notes to a 1997 Komeda tribute album wrote: “Krzysztof Komeda was not only a valued professional collaborator but a close and dear friend, and it is my abiding regret that his untimely death robbed me of him in both those capacities.”  Komeda developed a personal style that brought the jazz form a new prominence in a communist country that frowned on what was seen as an American creation.  Komeda expanded the jazz parameters by injected a generous dose of ‘slavic lyricism’ and poetic atmosphere that eventually gained the young composer a following in his native country and abroad.  One of Komeda’s most enthusiastic fans was none other than Polanski himself, who courted the fellow Pole to score his first film, Knife in the Water, after engaging the composer on his student film, after many months of attending him on the nightclub circuit.  By that time the composer had received a few other offers (which he accepted) and he came through for Polanski with a low-key jazz score to serve as a counterpoint to the mounting tensions in Knife, employing saxophone and a string-bass driven sound.  The mournful romanticism of the main theme is what most remember most compellingly from the score, but the music throughout is exceptionally applied.  Polanski again called on Komeda for his 1963 Cul-de-Sac, allowing the composer to again write a nifty  jazzy composition, with a dominant use of the moog, bongo and warbling horns.  At around that time Komeda was also composing for the Danish director Henning Carlsen, contributing scores to Kattorna, People Meet and Sweet Music Fills the Heart and the director’s masterpiece, Salt (Hunger), for which a provocative chamber music design was written.  Komeda’s most famous album to this day remains his landmark jazz work “Astigmatic” (1965) which is noted for it’s extraordinarily sublime coordination of piano harmonies and rhythms.  Komeda also worked with Polish titan Andrzej Wajda, penning the score to Innocent Sorcerers, which exhibited the experimentation of form and dark tonalities typical of some of his earlier film music. (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

Europa Report (2013, Sebastián Cordero)

There’s confusion and at the same time a sense of wonder in the first minutes of this new science fiction film. First, because the film starts in a strange position, it starts with the moment in which the footage that is being fed by the spaceship to Earth (with an 18 hour delay) is cut-off, when they’re going to make an important decission regarding the final destination of the crew and the mission itself… then the narrative makes this obvious jump to the start of the mission, showing us how it came together that this manned mission to Europa, one of the biggest moons of Jupiter, came to be and what is the purpose of it: finding life, or at least traces of it, as they did in Mars recently with the discovery of water under the ice caps. It’s strange how the cut is made there, it tries to be a film that starts In Media Res but then suddenly goes back to the beginning, trying to explain how they finally got the unseen footage that was lost after the cut-off in Earth… but then we see that the cut was because there was a solar flare that made communications impossible in space, blacking out any possibility of direct contact between the elements of the mission… and not because something extremely important was about to happen (in fact, it’s after this moment that the crew members start dying, but what the hell, it’s not extremely connected to why there was no more footage feed from spaceship to Earth). Besides that confusion at the start, there’s a sense of wonder, as I said at the beginning of this review, there’s a piece of narration that tell us a truth that seems impossible to us living in 2013: no human has travelled past the Earth’s orbit since 1972… it’s been more than 40 years since a human being has been away from Earth’s gravity! How crazy is that! Is this the future we’ve expected? I hadn’t been concious of that, and this movie has come and slapped me in the face and told me that I don’t live in the future, I live in this semi-present with a lot of fake technology that isn’t doing the important stuff: putting people out there (I’m exaggerating but, really, what the crap). And when you thought you had enough shocks, they tell you that if anyone goes beyond a few centimeters besides the moon, he or she has become the person who has travelled farthest into the universe in the history of the world. What are we doing with our future? (more…)

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