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Archive for January, 2014

solah 1

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1937 89m) not on DVD

Aka. Aien kyo

All your answers were “no”s

d  Kenji Mizoguchi  w  Kenji Mizoguchi, Yoshikata Yoda, Matsutaro Kawaguchi  novel  “Eesurrection” by Leo Tolstoy  ph  Minoru Miki  ed  Mitsuo Kondo, Tatsuko Sakane  m  Mizuo Ukogami  art  Hiroshi Mizutani

Fumiko Yamaji (Ohumi Murakami), Masao Shimizu (Kenkichi), Seizaburo Kawazu (Yoshi), Yutaka Mimasu (Kenkichi’s father), Ichiro Sugai (Sanjuro Mori), Haruo Tanaka (Hirose), Kumeko Urabe (Ume), Kaoru Nobe (Satako), Yoshiharu Oisumi (Kota), Akira Harue, Taizo Fukami, Kiyoshi Kato,

When Artificial Eye released their four film Blu Ray set of Kenji Mizoguchi’s work, while one was grateful for Hi-Def releases of Osaka Elegy, Sisters of the Gion, Five Women Around Utamaro and, especially, The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums, one was still left with a sense of there being something missing.  Actually, one could make a case for two other Mizoguchis that should have been in that set.  My Love Has Been Burning, however, does at least exist in a decent DVD print and tracking down a fan-subbed version isn’t too difficult.  Straits of Love and Hate has had no such luck.  For many years the only so-called English subtitles were unintelligible and it was on Youtube of all places that a print with decent English subtitles was first glimpsed.  (more…)

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lgb 3

by Allan Fish

(Italy 2013 142m) DVD1/2

Aka. La grande bellezza

All the rest is just disappointment and fatigue

p  Francesca Cima, Nicola Giuliano  d  Paolo Sorrentino  w  Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello  ph  Luca Bigazzi  ed  Cristiano Travaglioli  m  Lele Marchitelli  art  Stefania Cella

Toni Servillo (Jep Gambardella), Carlo Verdone (Romano), Sabrina Ferilli (Ramona), Carlo Buccirosso (Lello Cava), Iaia Forte (Trumeau), Galatea Ranzi (Stefania), Pamela Villoresi (Viola), Franco Graziosi (Conte Colonna), Giorgio Pasotti (Stefano), Aldo Ralli (Cardinal), Giovanna Vignola (Dadina), Roberto Herlitzka (Cardinal Bellucci), Isabella Ferrari (Orietta), Giusi Merli (Sister Maria),

Though set in the present day of Silvio Berlusconi’s Italy, The Great Beauty is a film that takes you back.  And it’s appropriate that it does so, because it doffs its hat to the art-house intellectual cinema of the 1960s that, with very few exceptions, now seems a lifetime away.

The lifetime in question here is Jep, a native Roman who is celebrating his 65th birthday in the way he celebrates everything in his life, with a loud party.  Since he published his first and only novel 40 years previously, partying and living a life of professional leisure has been his life.  All changes when he hears the news that his first love, who rejected him for reasons that remain unclear, has died.  While flashing back to a beach encounter at dusk when he was 18 and she 20, he wanders about Rome looking in equal measure for a purpose to go on, distractions, divertissements, and the looking up of an occasional old friend.  His journey will take in nightclub owners, a cardinal who cannot stop talking about how to cook meat, a fortysomething stripper, his female dwarf editor, and even his neighbour who, it transpires, is one of the world’s ten most wanted.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Brian Floca’s dazzling picture picture book Locomotive, which relates a family’s cross-country journey from a depot in Omaha, Nebraska to the new home that is waiting for them in San Francisco on the just completed transcontinental railroad, was awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal in a bit of a surprise decision from the American Library Association at their winter meeting this morning.  Though Locomotive appeared on virtually every ten best list of children’s books, it was thought it would probably win a silver Honor, largely because of the committee’s usual aversion to non-fiction winners for the big prize, and because the prolific Floca had been previously ignored several times for some great books he authored and illustrated.   It was generally though that the race would be between Journey and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. (more…)

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Choral Art Society of New Jersey after classical performance in Westfield, New Jersey

Will Aaron Becker be wearing the Caldecott Gold for JOURNEY today?

by Sam Juliano

A blustery cold afternoon outside the Presbyterian Church in Westfield, New Jersey on Sunday, January 26th was mightily tempered by the inner glow experienced by those who exited onto Mountain Avenue after  the latest concert by the Choral Art Society of New Jersey.  Entering their 51st year the non-profit group presently led by musical director Martin A. Sedek, performed two of the most widely performed choral works in the repertoire.  Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, a personal favorite, has long been admired for its clarity, balance, serenity and ethereal beauty, all qualities sustained in an exceptionally stirring performance by the 40 strong singers of the Choral Art Society and 21 musicians of the Choral Art Society Orchestra.

It has long been asserted that Faure composed his Requiem -one of the most sublime works in the sacred classical canon- as an agnostic, yet the ardor of its spirituality is astounding.  The Requiem is a transcendental work, but Faure is quoted as having said that he wanted it to be more of a comfort than as a rumination of our final years.  The Choral Art Society’s featured soprano Valerie Bernhardt and baritone John-Andrew Fernandez delivered electrifying vocal turns and both the “Agnus Dei” and the extraordinarily beautiful and most readily identifiable final section “In Paradisum” were sung with uncommon emotional intensity and played with aching lyricism by the committed string section of the orchestra.  Faure’s Requiem, sung in Latin, has in recent decades come to be considered one of the greatest of all requiems, and the Choral Art Society of New Jersey brought this beloved work a refreshing shade of musical serenity. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

For the final post in my long-running Caldecott Medal contender series I will provide the covers of five final books that must surely be considered in the running.  At least two of these five (the magnificent The Mighty Lalouche and Water in the Park) are among my favorite children’s books of the year, so the failure to write about them really has nothing at all to do their exceeding beauty and quality, but far more to do with the fact that I have run out of time.  As it is I was forced to go into overdrive over the last few days to cram in all the worthy titles, but the downside of that frantic activity was to leave all the readers, over-saturated because of the multiple posts and multiple titles on some of those posts.  I really should have begun the series earlier, but perhaps some of the readership to this point have seen what they need to see.  Ha!  I want to thank all those who took a look at the posts and especially those who took the time to leave comments.  Laurie Buchanan of Crystal Lake, Illinois has been a miracle for the series, though this very dear friend has been an inspiration to all of us in more ways than one.  Her appearance at all the posts were motivational and fabulously constructive, and the corresponding tags on Facebook showed yet again the extent that this amazing lady will go to when she believes in something.  I am frankly overwhelmed by what she has accomplished here. A great big thank you as well to my very good friend and colleague Frank Gallo, the great writer and good friend John Grant (Paul Barnett), my site friend the consummate gentleman and scholar Jim Clark, the incomparable Pierre de Plume,  the wonderful “find along the way” librarian Celeste Fenster, my long time friend and book lover Tim McCoy, the stupendous Peter M., my fabulous friend from the U.K. the wonderful Judy Geater, and of course that Australian soul-mate Tony d’Ambra who has done nothing but offer encouragement, physical assistance and incalculable support, and all others who added to the conversations.  It was a special thrill to hear from a number of the authors and illustrators who either commented on these pages or on Facebook and comment threads at the Horn Book.  I thank you Carin Berger (Stardines), Aaron Becker (Journey), Jennifer Berne (On A Beam of Light), Bob Staake (Bluebird)  Bob Shea Unicorn) and Yuyi Morales (Nino Wrestles the World) for bringing a huge smile to my face with your appreciative acknowledgements. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Two of 2013’s most popular picture books in the stores and the libraries are also two of the most brilliantly-conceived and artistically accomplished of the year.  They are united on this Sunday morning post because of their subversive underpinnings, though the second of the pair, Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett’s irreverent Battle Bunny is the subversive champ in a year that also features the magnificent Mr. Tiger Goes Wild in that department.  These are books of uncommon artistic unity – The Snickett/Klassen collaboration The Dark showcases some of the finest art to be seen in any picture book this year, while Battle Bunny desecrates the art of book making, capturing all the fun seen through the eyes of a child looking to do some mischief.  Both books are extraordinary and deserve close scrutiny of the American Library Association’s Caldecott committee on Monday. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

This afternoon’s post considers two biographies of women who are not likely to be immediately recognized either by name or deed.  Yet both books are exceedingly beautiful in execution and aesthetic appeal, and for more than one reason are firmly within the radar of what it takes to win Caldecott recognition. Katherine Olivia Sessions died in 1940 at 83, the exact same age when beloved children’s book author and illustrator Barbara passed on.  But Sessions and Cooney are linked by more than age, and all book lovers who first laid eyes on H. Joseph Hopkins (writer) and Jill McElmurry’s (illustrator) sublime work The Tree Lady were no doubt envisioning Cooney’s celebrated classic Miss Rumphius, which features the life story of fictional Miss Alice Rumphius, a woman who sought a way to make the world more beautiful and found it in planting lupines.  In style, theme and overall temperament, The Tree Lady sustains the spirit of Miss Rumphius, and brings a real-life horticulturist to the ‘love of nature’ fraternity.  Sessions to be sure did not plant Lupines as her fictional compatriot, but populated the San Diego landscape with trees.  Indeed as Hopkins explains in the author’s not at the end: “In 1892 Kate made a deal with city leaders to use land in City Park for a plant nursery.  In exchange she promised to plant one hundred trees in the park every year and give the city three hundred more trees for planting in other places.  People loved Kate’s trees, and by the early 1900’s one in four trees growing in San Diego came from her nursery.” Kate was primarily known for her work in City Park, renamed Balboa Park, and to this day it’s a prime attraction for those who relish the opportunity to take in the wide variety of trees, vines and flowers.   (more…)

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