Archive for April, 2014


 © 2014 by James Clark

      It’s a wedding reception out in the sticks (somewhat like that wedding party in Fellini’s La Strada). But we notice its far heavier acidic content, as compared with the child-like food-fight at the table where Gelsomina and Zampano relax a bit before once again putting their show on the road. A local woman has staged a quite startling invasion in the course of sending a message to one and all, a touch of theatre with no qualms about upstaging the principals. The happy complement of her entrance involves one male pig and two females, decked out in appropriate headgear, and she gets things rolling with, “Here come the brothers!” (The bride is from a farm.) She can barely keep from falling over from delight in her indiscretion, as she moves the animals toward the bridal party, amidst appreciative laughter from the guests. She refers to one of her companions as “Regina, the Pervert…If you only knew what she does!” The father of the bride stands up to deliver a seemingly heartfelt paean to the value of farming life, only to have the lady with the pigs call him a “hick,” which gets the company going on the speechmaker’s being out on bail. Someone asks her, “Why don’t you sing for us, a song from the heart?” perhaps with regard to re-establishing the moment of romance. She declares, as if emphasizing that it is her passionate nature which has brought about the creepiness wafting over the event, “When I sing, I sing with joy!” But, in going on to tell everyone that, “If you knew the whole story, it would ruin this celebration,” this disruptive entity alludes to a life of conflict unsuited for mainstream gratifications. She fires off a musical statement particularly unflattering to Carmine, the groom, whom she obviously has known for a long time; and the bride stands up and sings (in the impromptu operatic-rap at which the whole party seems to excel), “You sing and act so happily, but your heart’s bursting with rage…” To which (and to the charge that she’s jealous, being no longer the groom’s lover) the center of attention patronizingly addresses her, O Flower of Shit…” The bride is a frumpy blob with missing teeth and the groom resembles a weasel; but the invited intruder is a smartly turned out, no longer young but not yet old woman, with the kind of broad-faced handsomeness bringing to mind a dark, punchy, 40-ish version of Monica Vitti, who was radioactive at the time. However, on second thought, we should mention now that our protagonist needs no buoying by resembling a celebrity. She’s embodied by super-formidable, Anna Magnani, one of the most richly explosive presences in the history of cinema. (more…)


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Masterful Italian drama ‘Human Capital’ is one of the very best feature films of Tribeca Film Festival.

Young Samuel Lange in exceptional Venuzuelan film ‘Bad Hair’ screened at Tribeca Film Festival.


by Sam Juliano

Lucille and I saw more films on the big screens this past week than any other comparable period in our lives, and we are still alive to talk about it.  The count for the seven day period is thirty-one (31) bringing the Tribeca total (with a second online at-home viewing) to 51.  But heck, this year’s Tribeca catch-phrase that is seen on the cover of the official guide booklet and on posters around the city and on-line is appropriately Film Festivals: The Original Binge-Watching, and indeed such an event has taken place in the three prime locations around the Big Apple that are hosting the festival.  Of course seeing 51 films fully entitles me to compile a Top Ten list, what will hardly any essential films not being seen, and it will be posted at the site this coming Thursday, May 1st.  We would like to extend our deepest thanks to Pete Torres at Tribeca for his usual hospitality and all those troupers at the theaters who worked their tails off to make Tribeca 2014 the huge success it was. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

After Lucille and I watched the emotionally enthralling documentary Keep on Keepin On at the Bow Tie Cinemas on Friday night we both agreed that we had seen the best film of the Tribeca Film Festival.  The Heinecken Audience Award standings at that point had the film sitting in the Number 3 position behind two other excellent documentaries – All About Ann: Governor Richards of the Lone Star State and Djor and I.  Less than 24 hours after proclaiming this inspiring film about a blind young pianist and his special relationship with a 91 year-old jazz legend, festival audiences named the film their absolute favorite documentary of the entire event.  For Lucille and I it was not only the best documentary of the festival, but in fact the very best film period, and it will lead my Top Ten list that will be published at Wonders in the Dark this coming Thursday.  As per annual tradition that post will include comprehensive capsule reviews of all ten films seen by this writer as the cream of the 2014 crop.

Mind you, there are still four films for us to see today, so the final placements can still change.  Today on the final day of the festival we will see Point and Shoot (Tribeca jury prize winner as Best Documentary), Chef (Heinecken Audience Award for best narrative feature), the Italian Human Capital and Amy Berg’s Every Secret Thing. (which received an unexpected additional screening at the SVA at 6:30 P.M.)  Lucille will probably pass on Point and Shoot and instead take in 5 to 7, a film that we are assuming took second place in the Heinecken Best Narrative Film competition. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(India 1973 135m) not on DVD

Aka. Garam Hava

Should I stay or should I go?

p  Abu Siwani, Ishan Arya, M.S.Sathyu  d  M.S.Sathyu  w  Kaifi Azmi, Shama Zaidi  ph  Ishan Arya  ed  S.Chakravarty  m  Aziz Ahmed, Aziz Ahmed Khan Warsi, Ustad Bahadur Khan

Balraj Singh (Salim Mirza), Gita Siddarth (Amina Mirza), Jamal Hashmi (Kazim), Yunus Parvez (Fakraddin), Farook Shaikh (Sikander Mirza), Jalal Agha (Shamsad), Abu Siwani (Baqar Mirza), Badar Begum (Salim’s mother), Dinanath Zutshi (Halim), Shaukat Azmi (Kaifi), A.K.Hangal (Ajmani Sahab), Vikas Anand,

Considering the availability of so many Bollywood classics of this and previous eras, the other side of Indian cinema can still be difficult to track down.  Satyajit Ray, of course, is now becoming available in Hi Def, while Ritwik Ghatak will doubtless soon follow.  But it’s the next generation of directors who joined those two erstwhile masters in the late sixties and seventies that can be hard to appreciate.  Where can one find decent prints of films by Mrinal Sen, Mani Kaul or the director of the film in question, M.S.Sathyu.  Any that are on DVD are in deplorable condition and interrupted by those God-awful logos so prevalent in Indian DVDs that float in and out of vision like the mother ship in Space Invaders.

One should be grateful then, I suppose, that in an age when British television channels ignore film and its history completely, that occasionally Indian classics pop up in the small hours on Channel 4 in one of the sporadic celebrations of Indian culture.  It’s how I first saw Hot Winds.  Not ideal, perhaps, but you take what you’re given.                          (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK/USA 1930 120m) not on DVD

Of cabbages and kings, and cockroaches on whisky

p  George Pearson  d  James Whale  w  Joseph Moncure March, Gareth Gundrey  play  R.C.Sheriff  ph  Benjamin Kline  ed  Claude Berkeley  m  none  art  Harvey Libbert

Colin Clive (Capt. Dennis Stanhope), David Manners (2nd Lt. Raleigh), Ian MacLaren (2nd Lt. ‘Uncle’ Osborne), Billy Bevan (2nd Lt. Trotter), Anthony Bushell (2nd Lt. Hibbert), Robert Adair (Capt. Hardy), Charles K.Gerrard (Pvt. Mason),

Ask most people of my generation about World War I and there’s a strong chance they will have first become acquainted with it through TV comedy; if not by the Python sketch ‘Ypres 1914’ (“how about ‘one potato, two potato’, sir?”) then by the adventures of Blackadder and co..  Yet for comedy to work, especially small screen comedy, there must be a familiarity with the setting or else much of the humour is lost.  More than from any other source, the familiarity came from R.C.Sheriff’s play Journey’s End.

Set entirely in the dugouts and trenches on the front and supply lines in Saint Quentin, France, in March 1918, it follows four principal officers over a four day period.  Captain Stanhope has just returned from furlough.  He’s well respected by his men but three years on the front lines have exposed understandable cracks in his façade and he’s turned to drinking to keep his nerves in check.  His right-hand is the older Osborne, nicknamed Uncle, who tries to keep him going.  With them is Trotter, a salt of the earth type who’s risen to the rank of officer through the ranks.  To this motley trio is added Raleigh, a wet behind the ears public school type who answers every request with either “I say”, “right-o” or “rather” and who is delighted to serve under Stanhope, the man he worshipped at school and who had been in love with his sister before the war. (more…)

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Screen grab from outstanding Swedish film ‘Broken Hill Blues’ screened at Tribeca Film Festival

by Sam Juliano

Note: I trust all celebrating Easter Sunday had a great day!  Thanks as always to Dee Dee for her fabulous sidebar holiday tribute!

The late April Easter has come and gone amidst a nagging cold spell that performed an uneasy tango with the Spring temperatures that ruled the day-time hours on the day of Purple and Yellow.  The unusual tardiness of the holiday allowed it to clash with the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, which launched on Holy Thursday, and will continue until Sunday, April 27th.  Lucille and I have taken full advantage of the press passes we have enjoyed for the past several years, and found ourselves cabbing back and forth between the Bow Tie Cinemas on 23rd Street and the East Side Loews Village 7, with even a single stop at the SVA, a block down from the aforementioned Bow-Tie multiplex.  The madness will continue through next week, and attendance will be challenging, what with school re-convening today.  But I have four unused personal days (I am rarely absent, and have over 200 sick days in the can) and will be using two of those this week on Tuesday and Friday to allow for better options and more movies.

After attending the final Tout Truffaut feature of the well-attended Film Forum retrospective of the iconic New Wave French director (Small Change) we rested up for a few days, knowing that the 11 day Tribeca event would have us in cinematic overkill, and partaking in the cut-rate -for-Tribeca-patrons veggie burger program at Lucky’s next to the Bow-Tie multiplex.  As always, the festival has featured some most impressive films that deserved full distribution, and some others that left us indifferent.  But what a fun time this experience allows for and you could feel the excitement in the air on the streets around the theaters. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USSR 1965 189m) DVD0 (Russia only)

Aka. Mne dvadtsat let

Stand up, damned of the earth!

Viktor Freilich  d  Marlen Khutsiyev  w  Gennadi Shpalikov, Marlen Khutsiyev  ph  Margarita Pilikhina

Valentin Popov (Sergei Zhuravlyov), Nikolai Gubenko (Nikolai Fokin), Stanislav Lyubshin (Slava Kostikov), Marianna Vertinskaya (Anya), Zinaida Zinovyeva (Olga Mikhailovna Zhuravlyova), Svetlana Starikova (Vera Zhuravlyova), Lev Prygunov (2nd Lt. Aleksandr Zhuravlyov), Lev Zolothukin (Anya’s father), Aleksandr Blinov (Kuzmich), T.Bogdanova (Lyusya Kostikova), Gennadi Nekrasov (Vladimir Vasilyevich),

There is no better barometer of the cold winds of change that swept through Soviet Russia in the years 1959-1965 than Marlen Khutsiyev’s I am Twenty.  It’s a film that should be remembered with the best of Soviet films of the period, but by the time it was ready for release, a deep freeze had set in.  From the mid-late fifties, after the death of Stalin, Russia moved to a less extreme position with regards to the arts under Nikita Khrushchev, allowing such films as Kozintsev’s Don Quixote, Kalatozov’s The Cranes are Flying, Chukhrai’s Ballad of a Soldier, Bondarchuk’s Destiny of a Man and Heifits’ The Lady With the Little Dog to play successfully at western film festivals.  It was in 1959, at the height of this period, that Khutsiyev’s masterpiece entered its gestatory stages. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The vital importance of water in everyday life is given center stage in a sublime new picture book authored by Olive Senior and illustrated by Brooklynite Laura James.  Senior, born and raised on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, moved to Europe and then to Canada after the capital city of Kingston was ravaged by a hurricane in the late 80’s.  Senior is renowned for her poetry and adult novels and short stories, but was supremely flattered when publishers chose Anna Carries Water and the 2012 Birthday Suit as worthy of the picture book treatment.  Senior credits Laura James and Eugenie Fernandez -the illustrator of the earlier book- for transforming her material into such exquisite works, but the veteran writer is certainly to be credited for half the acclaim for her wholly exhilarating ideas.

Anna Carries Water focuses on the young girl of the title, who wants to follow in the footsteps of her older siblings in sharing the task of carrying water on her head from a well at a spring located across “Mr. Johnson’s” field.  Ms. Senior’s narrative stresses the central role of water for cooking and drinking, washing faces, dishes and dirty feet.  Senior states that the family members did not carry water for bathing or washing clothes as those activities were performed in the river.   This particular variation on the coming-of-age theme is the acquired aptitude for learning how to balance a container of water on one’s head, which translates to a sure sign of responsibility and the skills associated with adulthood.  Early in the fable Anna carries around a coffee can while her five older siblings used large metal cans, plastic buckets and an empty cheese tin to gather the water.  Unwilling to concede defeat she must endure the trials of tribulations associated with such a simple yet profound act that will ultimately define her transformation from child to young adult.  In one such attempt she tears off a piece of a dasheen leaf, and floats it on the top of the can of water she puts on her head, but it falls off, necessitating that she carry it in front of her. (more…)

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© 2014 by James Clark

      Lars von Trier’s archipelago of a movie, Nymphomaniac (2013), spreading across about five hours and ranging toward us in two (time) zones of ticketed statement, could, if aptly engaged, be one of those “trips of a lifetime.” But it takes us to a place as far as you could go from relaxation.

It shows us a protagonist, Joe, a woman we’d hesitate to call an ordinary Joe; and yet, when all is said and done, we might conclude she has failed (though certainly not without giving it an exceptional shot) to get out of the rut we all know, at some level, we suffer from. Does her one-girl-assault upon that citadel of the constrictions of intimacy inadvertently whisper to us (and here perhaps the length of the exercise proves its worth)—whispering being an odd concomitant of such high-volume (would-be) subversiveness—a far better (but, alas, an even more daunting) approach?

For those many hours, we’ve seen her recounting memorable events of her life to a man who has found her badly injured on a street near his home and has kindly taken her in for repairs and for attention to her devastating story. He claims to be “asexual;” she claims: that “telling my story has put me at ease at this moment;” that “ridding myself of sexuality is now my goal;” and that he is “my very first friend.” Soon after they go to bed in separate rooms, he returns to her, attempts to mount her, and when she protests he notes, “You’ve fucked thousands of men already…” She shoots him and, as the screen goes totally black, we hear her leaving. (more…)

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lupo 1

by Allan Fish

(Italy 1949 77m) DVD2 (Italy only, no English subs)

Aka. Il Lupo della Sila: The Wolf of the Sila

A tale of two crosses

p Dino de Laurentiis d Duilio Coletti w Duilio Coletti, Steno, Mario Monicelli, Carlo Musso, Ivo Perilli, Vincenzo Talarico ph Aldo Tonti ed Adriana Novelli m Enzo Masetti, Osvaldo Minervini art Ivo Perilli

Silvana Mangano (Rosaria Campolo), Amedeo Nazzari (Rocco Barra), Jacques Sernas (Salvatore Barra), Luisa Rossi (Orsolo Barra), Vittorio Gassman (Pietro Campolo), Olga Solbelli (Signora Campolo), Dante Maggio (Gennaro), Laura Cortese (little Rosaria), Michele Cappezzuoli (little Salvatore),

One hesitates to call director Duilio Coletti forgotten because it’s unlikely he was even known in the English speaking world in the first place. More surprising is that The Lure of the Sila isn’t better known; or at least, until recently. For too long, perceptions of post-war Italian cinema were that there was nothing but neo-realism and, indeed, little but Visconti, de Sica, Fellini and Rossellini. There were other neo-realist directors and films, of course, and it was one of these, Giuseppe de Santis’ Riso Amaro, that gave neo-realism its poster girl, Silvana Mangano.

What has until recently been overlooked is that Italian film c.1945-1955 was also home to many historical spectaculars and melodramas. The Lure of the Sila is one of these, and yet it seems to owe its ancestry not to Italy at all. It rather recalls the great Scandinavian melodramas of the silent era which Mauritz Stiller, Victor Sjöstrom used to turn out in Sweden and which were still then being made by Teuvo Tulio in Finland and other directors in Denmark and Norway. (more…)

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