Archive for March, 2014

by Sam Juliano

     There are some small but telling indications that the ferocious winter that most of us have somehow endured over the past months is drawing to an end.  But I must say that without an ounce of confidence, as March can still bring some unwelcome surprises.  The snow on the ground in the NYC area is melting away and the clock has now been pushed forward, extending our daylight, and we are being promised some days in the 50’s.  The romantic polling has officially commenced, with ballots being sent out to the email network from Dean Treadway, Allan Fish, Tony d’Ambra and Yours Truly this past week.  They will be accepted up until April 16th, at which point Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. will step in to compile the results.  Shortly thereafter, assignments will be decided voluntarily.

For Sammy and I it has been all Hitchcock this past week, with a real sense of purpose in absorbing the Film Forum’s fabulous five-week festival on one of the cinema’s greatest masters.  We saw nine (9) films, though we still didn’t see every film that was offered during the week: (more…)

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by Duane Porter

It’s been a great year for movies, even though there are quite a few I have yet to see. I try to limit my selections to those that had prominent premiers during the year 2013. For example, Kiarostami’s Like Someone In Love, Baumbach’s Francis Ha, and De Palma’s Passion have appeared on some 2013 lists. All three of these are in my top ten for 2012. Also, there are several films from 2013 that I am waiting to see, such as Claire Denis’ The Bastards, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, Philippe Garrel’s Jealousy, Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin, and Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. Any one of these may have the potential to alter my present list. So, with these reservations in mind, here is my list of the best films of 2013.

1. Before Midnight, Richard LinklaterImage

After putting his son on a plane for home, Jesse returns to his car and the waiting Celine. For the next ten minutes or so, in a scene evoking Rosselini’s Voyage to Italy and more recently Kiarostami’s Certified Copy, Celine and Jesse talk. The long take allows the conversation to flow with a naturalness not often encountered in American movies. It’s the talking that’s exciting, the banter, the arguing, the philosophizing, I could listen to them talk for hours.

Dinner time. The conversation continues. This time there are several couples, in a scene reminiscent of Rohmer’s Le rayon vert, talking of food, books, relationships, sex, and life itself. Mingling the perspectives of youth, midlife, and old age the consensus around the table seems to be that we are all just passing through. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 2003 170m) not on DVD

Call 555…

p/d/w  Thom Andersen  ph  Deborah Stratman  ed  Seung-HyunYoo

narrated by  Encke King

The wording of the title to Thom Andersen’s three hour visual doctorate thesis on his home town could act as its ultimate summarisation.  It’s Los Angeles, not LA.  There had been a film titled LA Plays Itself, of course; that infamous gay porn classic from 1972 which Andersen even includes and praises.  Yet Andersen spends some of his three hour address – actually spoken by Encke King – talking about how he hates the abbreviation and how Hollywood became complicit in the foreshortening of the name.  This attitude, pernickety in the extreme to outsiders, sums up Los Angeles’ curmudgeonly appeal.  It’s the prejudiced, jaundiced diatribe of a grumpy old man.  In some ways it’s reminiscent of Terence Davies’ later Of Time and the City, but twice as long and no less grouchy.

That in itself brings another thought, of Los Angeles as one of a series.  Say that the BFI commissioned, as they did the Century of Cinema series in 1995, a series of movie documentaries along the lines of Los Angeles, but with different locations.  Andersen talks of the difference between LA and New York, so New York’s an obvious one, with Marty Scorsese, but then how about London Plays Itself by Patrick Keiller, Paris Plays Itself by Godard or Rivette, Rome Plays Itself with Bertolucci, even Tehran Plays Itself with Mark Cousins?  Interesting concept, but one for another diatribe than this. (more…)

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 © 2014 by James Clark

 What can we bring to an ambitious film masking its ambitions in many ways? This question becomes especially pressing in face of the ultra-sophistication inherent in an order of modern Italian cinema, generally perceived to be inexorably receding into oblivion. The peculiarities of such a dilemma might never have staged a counter-thrust without the deft cinematic archaeology of Paolo Sorrentino as disclosed in his film from 2013, The Great Beauty.

    It will take a while to lucidly get to the point of such a unique tangle; and as good a beginning as any would be a passage, near the work’s outset, where a celebrity journalist attends a display of site-specific performance art on the outskirts of Rome. Along with a few dozen middle-aged Gran Tourismo drivers and a clutch of academics having put through precious, runic (spring solstice?) paces their expensively educated young children, the writer, Jep, beholds a nude woman (with a hammer and sickle trim of her red-dyed pubic hair), her head covered by a veil, sprint headlong into an ancient stone pillar of the aqueduct defining the space, after which she lies on the ground, bleeding through that veil, and then gets back on her feet, announcing to the shaken audience, “I don’t love you!” But now having passed beyond that, and given her a couple of noncommittal claps of applause, Jep proceeds to interview her, the late sun having finally (iconically?) set. He interrupts the swarthy, bruised sensation of the moment, to protest her referring to herself in the third person, an inflating of her specifics in art-prissy terms of “The Talin Concept.” The unsmooth, rather rustic toiler, a far cry from Jep’s unmistakable urbanity, gallops into the infelicitous harangue, “I don’t need to read. I live on vibrations. The pattern of vibrations cannot be supported by the vulgarity of words.” When Jep registers his sense that that tangent is passé (“You can’t charm me with things like this…”), she retorts, “I’m starting to dislike this interview. You’re an ass!” (It may come about that she herself is one of a surprisingly viable herd of asses.) After arguing, the picture of reasonableness, “I want to know what a vibration is… Lives on vibrations, but doesn’t know what a vibration is…” Jep thinks to put her in her place by patronizingly informing her that he works for a journal that has “a core of cultivated readers” who are beyond being “taken as fools.” She backs down from this chastisement, quietly stating, “It’s a difficult journey for an artist…” But she signs off with the more energetic protest, “You’re an obsessive jerk!” (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Canada/Sweden 1987 873m) DVD2 (France only)

To comment on the process of the film

p/d/w  Peter Watkins  ph/ed  various

Peter Watkins’ monumental study of life in the nuclear age had, for over 25 years, become a thing of myth.  Glimpsed as frequently as the village of Brigadoon, barely seen even when it was released.  It had been financed by various European organisations and Watkins intended it to be seen in schools, with each episode between 30 and 50 minutes, the length of a single class or period in a classroom.  After shooting for several years, over a hundred hours of footage were edited down to 19 episodes.  At its centre there was a summit between Ronald Reagan and Canadian leader Brian Mulroney, but also visits to Japan, Norway, Finland, West Germany, the US, Scotland (including the Isle of Lewis), Mozambique, Tahiti and the Soviet Union.  (more…)

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norman lloyd

99 year-old ‘Saboteur’ actor Norman Lloyd speaking to Film Forum audience via Skype from Los Angeles

classic 45

Classic 45 band at Whiskey Cafe in Lyndhurst

by Sam Juliano

Incredibly, more of the white stuff is headed our way tonight, though forecast updates are now painting a much better picture than was was originally speculated.  (In the end we got nothing, praise the Lord!) The New York City area is now facing 2 to 4 inches overnight, with an expected starting time of around 8 P.M.  The way it stands now I’d be very surprised if any of local schools were to be affected, though as always the proof will be in the pudding.  In any case our annual Oscar party is being held at the Tiger Hose Fire House -I am actually writing this MMD just two hours before the gathering commences- where we are expected in the neighborhood of around 35 people.  The expected snowfall will probably impact the attendance of several people who must travel a long way to get here.  The party will be catered by a fantastic local Italian market – Dante’s, which will provide two robust six-foot heroes with three sections (fresh roast beef; turkey and cheese; and an Italian combination) and trays of meatballs, chicken parmigiana, eggplant parmigiana, sausage and peppers, cavatelli and broccoli and a three-color arugula salad, and beer, soda, coffee and desert.  As always we will be conducting our annual Oscar pool, where willing participants will choose winners from every one of the 24 categories. (more…)

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