Archive for March, 2014

Iconic final freeze shot of Francois Truffaut masterpiece “The 400 Blows”


by Sam Juliano

More moderate temperatures have descended on the metropolitan area as some rain has cascaded on the region as if to portend what could be in store for April, traditionally the wettest month of the year.  While I wouldn’t quite recommend putting those winter coats in mothballs just yet, it does appear that Father Winter has nearly gone into hibernation.  These benign observations however, may serve as a jinx, so readers are advised to roundly reject them.  Baseball fans are no doubt in their own kind of nirvana as the season is set to commence this week.  Yours Truly of course is a lifelong Yankees rooter, and has reason to be optimistic this year in view of the spate of new acquisitions.

The romantic countdown ballot phase is nearly over with any and all ballots still outstanding due no later than tomorrow evening (April 1st) by 11:00 P.M.  I believe we have received in the neighborhood of 22 or 23 ballots, and may well get a few more before the deadline.  Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. will probably have the final Top 75 results ready for the inner group of people who cast ballots or were privy to the constantly updating e mail chain a few days later, or by the end of the week.  Readers of course will learn the results peace meal during the course of a three to four month Monday to Friday essay presentation that will launch on Thursday,  May 1st.  Some titles have been reserved by specific writers, but all this is tentative as some of these films may not even make the final cut, while others may draw multiple statements of interest. Latest report from Angelo:   As of this morning 25 ballots have been cast!

Locally the five-week ‘Complete Hitchcock’ Festival at the Film Forum has ended, with the ‘Tout Truffaut’ two week run officially starting.  Lucille, Sammy, Danny and I were busy taking in the various screenings and events of the week in what was surely one of the more active weeks in quite a while.  When I have time I will discuss the entire festival in a separate post.  I managed to see 40 of the 53 films screened over four and a half weeks, though I have already seen the ones I didn’t watch in the festival. (more…)


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fruit 1

by Allan Fish

(Czechoslovakia 1970 99m) DVD1

Aka. Ovoce stromu rajských jíme

Ye shall surely not die

p Pavel Juracek, Jaroslav Kucera, Bronka Ricquier d Vera Chytilova w Ester Krumbachová, Vera Chytilova ph Jaroslav Kucera ed Miroslav Hajek m Zdenek Liska art Vladimir Labsky

Jitka Novakova (Eve), Karel Novak (Joseph), Jan Schmid (Robert), Julius Albert,

When Vera Chytilova died earlier this year film, enthusiasts, writers and critics tweeted about the influence she had on feminist cinema. Her film Daisies was trending, but there was no mention of any of her other works. She made seventeen fictional feature films and yet most people have only seen one. Is there any other director in history of film to be remembered for just one film out of so many? Her gender undoubtedly had to have played a factor, but even then, were the feminist readings accurate? Daisies never seemed a particularly feminist work to these eyes, but rather an anarchic essay, a petrol bomb in the face of the establishment, like its two female protagonists were urinating on the desks of those in authority.


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aiwma 1

by Allan Fish

(USA 2000 300m) DVD2 (France only)

A little fragment of paradise

p Jonas Mekas d/w Jonas Mekas ph/ed Jonas Mekas m Auguste Varkalis

narrated by Jonas Mekas

There’s a scene in Stephen Poliakoff’s masterful Shooting the Past when Emilia Fox’s Spig and Blake Ritson’s Nick arrive at Timothy Spall’s Oswald’s flat. Oswald is in a coma after a suicide attempt, but not before letting his old colleagues know that he’s made a discovery potentially vital to their staying in business. As Spig and Nick arrive, though, they realise they’re faced with a decision. There’s so much stuff in Oswald’s flat that they’ll never get through it all in the time left to them. So they have a toss of the coin decision to make; do they take the material from one side of the room or the other.

That was 1999, and around that time one can imagine Jonas Mekas making a similar sort of decision. He tells us about it in his opening narration. “I have never been able to figure out where my life begins and where it ends”, he begins. “I have never, never been able to figure it all out. What it’s all about. What it all means. So when I began now to put all these rolls of film together, to string them together, the first idea was to keep them chronological, but then I gave up and just began splicing them together by chance, the way that I found them on the shelf.”


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Screen grab from ‘The Birds’

by Sam Juliano

Spring is now official, and the weather has certainly risen to the occasion over the last several days, at least in the NYC metropolitan area.  However some snow is now predicted for mid-week, and once again temperatures will drop into the 30’s.

Sixteen (16) ballots have been cast so far for the romantic countdown, and the April 1st deadline for further submissions is fast approaching.  The actual countdown will commence around May 1st, with essays to post every Monday through Friday.

Sammy and I were busy all week with The Complete Hitchcock Festival at the Film Forum.  Lucille attended most of the screenings as well.  A big event was held on Friday evening at 6:30 P.M. at the Nyack Public Library on Broadway in Nyack, New York, where author Peter Danish offered up readings from his new book The Tenor, and spotlighted a soprano and tenor from a local opera company to sing two arias vital to the book’s narrative.  The first was the beloved tenor aria “Una Furtiva Lagrima” from L’Elisir d’Amore.  Danish employed a slide show on some of the novel’s World War II era settings and signed copies of the book afterwards.  The entire family attended the presentation.  That same night we drove back down to Closter, New Jersey for an encore of the rock group Nemesys at the Harvest Bistro.  60’s and 70’s rock standards were performed by the three member band.  The kids were absolutely thrilled with the show. (more…)

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Scarlett Johansson Under the Skin

by Allan Fish

(UK 2013 108m) DVD1/2

The girl who fell to earth

Nick Wechsler, James Wilson  d  Jonathan Glazer  w  Jonathan Glazer, Walter Campbell  novel  Michel Faber  ph  Daniel Landin  ed  Paul Watts  m  Mica Levi  art  Chris Oddy

Scarlett Johansson (Laura), Paul Brannigan (Andrew), Jessica Mance (alien), Krystof Hádek (swimmer), Scott Dymond, Michael Moreland,

After watching Under the Skin Mark Cousins tweeted “if movies hadn’t evolved out of other art forms, like the novel or theatre, what would they have looked like?  Like Under the Skin.”  Ne’er a truer word was tweeted, and yet it’s a statement that also gets to the heart of why the film was always going to be so divisive.  Many film writers, critics and commentators and the vast majority of audiences are set in their ways.  They like their films to have a linear narrative.  They can jump forward and back in time, so long as they explain everything by the end credits.  Under the Skin is a film that is happy to explain nothing.  It revels in its ambiguity.  To appreciate it one has to take a quantum leap, not to wonder what will happen next but to wonder what we will see next.  (more…)

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© 2014 by James Clark

Jep, the erratic protagonist and man-about-town of Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (2013), could be described as a man who has experienced a thousand and one Arabian nights. His embrace of “vibrations” does, very markedly, include a rich sense of irony and a strong sense of self-criticism. Not for him an educated playboy’s satisfaction in soaking up the fruits of a liberal historical momentum. During a lull in one of his parties, he sits with his rather glum and confused housekeeper and pronounces, “This wildlife I’m surrounded by…they’re my people…” [I’m stuck with them; and they keep me away from serious literature].

    Nuredin, one of the two main protagonists of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Arabian Nights (1974) [actually, The Flower of One Thousand and One Nights], is an impoverished illiterate boy who harbors no literary ambitions and gives us in action his definition of “wildlife,” namely, being favored by women, like the slave, Zumurrud, for his “smooth cheeks” and “beauty.” More specifically and compellingly, he gives us a rendition of a bird having won over a mate by seemingly the most reflexive telepathy, only to have her stolen from him by more alert and shrewd members of an aviary strung across the whole expanse of this “Arabia.” His go-getter of a lady-love chooses him for her master in a raucous outdoor marketplace. That the transaction comprises her promptly producing the money for his purchase of her and their rental of “a house [nest] in the district” introduces the arresting stylization of such no-fuss-no-muss breeding exigency into a pulse of human interaction that very definitely poses the issue of one’s having much more to do than breed. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Syria 1972 106m) not on DVD

Aka. Al Makh-du’un

The heartbeat of the earth

d/w  Tewfik Saleh  novel  Ghassan Kanafani  ph  Bahgat Heidar  ed  Farin Dib, Saheb Haddad  m  Solhi El-Wadi

Mohamed Kheir-Halouani (Abou Keïss), Abderrahman Alrahy (Abou Kheizarane), Bazzan Lofti Abou-Gazzala (Assad), Saleh Kholoki (Marouane), Thanaa Debsi (Om Keïss),

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to composing a work like this is to put aside but not entirely dismiss personal taste and familiarity.  Where this becomes most difficult is with regard to foreign classics tailored for home audiences.  The most obvious example is Bollywood, which western audiences can either embrace or shun, but there are others.  Take the often broad comedy employed in Hong Kong action films or the gypsy subculture that forms the heart of several important Yugoslav films from Petrovic to Kusturica.  Then there’s the biggest blind spot of all, African film, a true appreciation of which requires an immersing into the culture, flavour and aroma of what is, to western eyes, the most unknown of continents.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Is that Spring that has been trying to force its way through the chilly air mass?  And what’s with the snow melting away under a rejuvenated sun?  Well, I think we are in a fair enough position now to sign the certificate of death for Winter 2013/14, and look ahead to some very nice things from Mother Nature.  For those living in areas where the dire weather continues to persist I can only offer my best wishes for a soon enough changeover.

The romantic films countdown was given a real shot in the arm this past week with a flurry of completed ballots being sent on to e mail network members.  As of Sunday afternoon a total of fourteen (14) Top 75 lists have been sent on to the members and Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr., who will be enforcing an April 1st deadline for all submissions and changes.  About a dozen films that are anticipated to make the final cut have been “reserved” by several bloggers to write essays for, and further requests to that end will be similarly honored.

That portly man with the trademark profile and distinct English accent has been haunting our dreams over the past several weeks, and this past seven day stretch has been again dominated by his specter with Lucille, Sammy and I overdosing  at the Film Forum, seeing nine (9) more of his films, while taking in two new 2014 releases on Saturday, when Hitch had a day off.  We saw: (more…)

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mw 2

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1953 130m) not on DVD

Aka. Nigorie; An Inlet of Muddy Water

Three tales of sacrifice

d  Tadashi Imai  w  Yoko Mizuki, Toshiro Ide  stories  Ichiyo Higuchi  ph  Shunichiro Nakao  m  Ikuma Dan  art  Totetsu Hirakawa

Ken Mitsuda (Kanae Saito), Yat’suko Tanami (Seki Harada), Akiko Tamura (Moyo Saito), Hiro Kumon (Inosuke Saito), Hiroshi Akutagawa (Rokunosuke Takasaka), Yoshiko Kuga (Omine), Nobuo Nakamura (Yasube), Michiko Araki (Shin), Hisao Toake (Tobei), Haruko Sugimura (Ohatsu), So Yamamura (Asanosuke), Seiji Miyaguchi (Gen Shichi), Meiko Hojo (Otaka), Chikage Awashima (Oriki),

Tadashi Imai’s Muddy Water was on a hiding to nothing.  In 1953 it was rated the best Japanese film of the year by Kinema Junpo, which could normally be taken with a pinch of salt, until you take a look at those in the top 10 below it.  Three of them didn’t quite make the cut here, but were all close (Shindo’s Shukuzu, Naruse’s Older Brother Younger Sister and Imai’s own Tower of the Lilies).  The others?  Toyoda’s The Mistress, Mizoguchi’s Gion Bayashi, Kinoshita’s A Japanese Tragedy, Gosho’s Where Chimneys are Seen and Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari.  Oh, and at number two, the little matter of Tokyo Story. (more…)

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lil 1

by Allan Fish

(Yugoslavia 1970 80m) not on DVD

A tale of two slippers

d  Branko Plesa  w  Dragoslav Mihailovic, Branko Plesa  novel  Dragoslav Mihailovic  ph  Aleksandr Petkovic  ed  Bojana Subota  art  Miodrag Hadzic

Dragana Kalaba (Milica Sandic), Blanko Plesa (counsellor), Ljerka Drazenovic (Aunt Jelena), Danilo Stojkovic (Poocim Sandic), Lilijana Kontic (Djurdjica), Vladimir Pevec (Peca),

We all know the final freeze frame of Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups; Jean-Pierre Léaud looking not so much at the camera as beyond it, to a free future.   It’s one of the most iconic closing shots in movie history.  Take another 13 or 14 year old child, this time a girl, with blonde hair, tiny freckles and blue eyes.  She’s seen in colour, not in black and white, and this ending has the opposite effect.  Where Antoine Doinel ran away from the equivalent of borstal to the freedom of the sea, this girl, Milica, is being taken from the freedom of the coast to the confinement of, in her own words, “a prison for children.” (more…)

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