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Archive for August, 2014

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Screen capture from A Nagy Fuzet (The Notebook)

by Sam Juliano

Labor Day.  Summer’s End.  The arrival of September.  The time the year’s most prestigious movies are released.  The opening of the opera and classical concert season.  The launching of the NFL Season.  The final weeks of MLB.  The start of cooler weather.  The opening of the school year.  Back to work for some late vacationers.   Lucille, the kids and I will be attending a holiday barbecue at the home of our lifelong friends Tony and Sara Lucibello today (Monday, that is).  A nice group, including my brother Paul and his family, and some cherished friends will also be in attendance.

The Romantic countdown is set to examine the Top 25 tomorrow.  Its hard to believe that three-quarters of the marathon project is complete, but here we are in the final lap.  The superlative quality of the writing continues, and no doubt will continue to right up until the final entry on October 6th.  It has not been an easy endeavor for a number of people -myself included- but in just five weeks many will earn a well-earned extended rest.  Many thanks to those who have taken the time to comment and follow the unveiling, and especially to the writers, all of whom have worked their tails off to offer unique new interpretations of the films that landed in the countdown. (more…)

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penistan crag

by Sam Juliano

Heathcliff, it’s me, your Cathy, I’ve come home
I’m so cold, let me into your window
Heathcliff, it’s me, your Cathy, I’ve come home
I’m so cold, let me into your window

                                            -Kate Bush, 1978

Emily Bronte’s wildly-popular Victorian Age novel Wuthering Heights is surely one of the half dozen greatest novels ever written in the English language.  It is also one of the most adapted works for television and the screen, with nearly twenty titular interpretations, including a 1920 British version directed by A.V. Bramble that appears to be lost.  The most recent adaptation was a visually resplendent 2011 revamping by Andrea Arnold, while the most faithful to its source is undoubtedly the 1978 television series, directed by Peter Hammond,which practically followed the book line by line because of its 255 minute running time.  Some of the most famous of the films based on the novel include Luis Bunuel’s Spanish-language Abismos de Pasion, filmed in Mexico, which accurately reflections the original personalities of the characters while largely eschewing narrative fidelity; the stylish and primordial Japanese Onimaru by master Yoshishige Yoshida which features a serpent-like Heathcliff and a story of taboo desires; French maestro Jacques Rivette’s spiritually provocative and beautifully shot. Hurlevelent, which covers the first half of the novel; and a 1992 interpretation by Peter Kominsky and starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche that divided the critics.

Two operas were written on the novel – one an extraordinary work by celebrated American opera composer Carlisle Floyd that was released in 1958 and the other by film maestro Bernard Herrmann, who wrote it in the late 40’s, though it wasn’t actually recorded in its entirety until 1966.  The British pop singer Kate Bush, who was just 18 at the time, never wrote a more popular song in her distinguished career than her 1978 “Wuthering Heights” whose plaintive refrain “Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy…I’ve come home” helped bring the complex romantic novel new life with teenagers, many of whom were motivated to tackle the novel as a result of the Number 1 charts single. (more…)

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My Darling Chico,

You have been away from me for nearly 2 years now at war. I simply can’t believe you’ve been away that long. It’s also been so long since I’ve heard from you. I miss you so much. We parted on our wedding day and I relive those last moments together as if they exist outside of time. I wonder how you are and pray to God that you will return home soon. I long for you to hold me in your arms. So many moments of our short life together come flooding back to me. I woke up on the street that day to you holding a violet over my face to wake me up. Words can’t express how much I wanted you to take me in your arms and carry me away to safety. I had hardly met you but quickly I knew you were something special. You so selflessly gave of yourself to me, saving my life, when even I didn’t think it worth saving. Claiming me as your wife to keep me from going to jail….. I could tell you had a good heart right from the start and I knew we were meant to be.

(more…)

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By Jon Warner

Is there a romance that is as cute as this one? I’m not ashamed to admit it, but I think this film is immensely delightful. It’s unabashedly sentimental and romantic, yet the earnestness of the filmmaking propels it onward and upward. It’s also one of cinema’s great romance films, and one of its most unsung. Romance films can be accused of being too manipulative, sentimental, and slight and when done poorly. True they can be. However when done right, there is an intelligence, a wit, and a keen perception of our humanity on display. I think of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, or even Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. The two stars of Lonesome, Barbara Kent and Glenn Tryon, don’t have nearly the same cachet as other classic on-screen pairings, but they sure give it the old college try in this lively and charming, late silent film masterpiece. Until Criterion’s release a few years ago, this film had little exposure. It sure deserves it’s high ranking on this countdown, and in my personal opinion, ranks right up there with the best of them. (more…)

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In_a_Lonely_Place_-_1

by John Grant

US / 93 minutes / bw / Santana, Columbia Dir: Nicholas Ray Pr: Robert Lord Scr: Edmund H. North, Andrew Solt Story: In a Lonely Place (1947) by Dorothy B. Hughes Cine: Burnett Guffey Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy, Carl Benton Reid, Art Smith, Jeff Donnell, Martha Stewart, Robert Warwick, Morris Ankrum, William Ching, Steven Geray, Hadda Brooks, Jack Reynolds, Ruth Gillette, Alix Talton, Lewis Howard, Don Hamin.

Dorothy B. Hughes’s psychological thriller In a Lonely Place (1947) is one of those marvelous novels that make the hardboiled pulp literature of the 1940s and 1950s such a rich trove for lovers of what one might call vernacular literature. Its central character is a serial strangler called Dixon “Dix” Steele. He has murdered the tenant of the apartment in which he now dwells—and he’s living off the dead man’s allowance—but most of his murders are sex killings. To the world, and to his old army buddy Brub Nicolai, now a cop, he pretends he’s a wildly talented upcoming writer; like so many such, he never in fact writes anything. Against all the odds, he strikes up a passionate relationship with the redhead who lives in a neighboring apartment, Laurel Gray. What he doesn’t know is that she has recognized the cigarette lighter she gave to the man he killed; with Brub, Brub’s wife Sylvia and Brub’s boss, Captain Lochner, she works to bring the serial killer to justice . . .

To aficionados of the 1950 Nick Ray movie, the names will seem familiar and likewise some of the circumstances, but the whole basis of the plot disturbingly different, as if Hughes had capriciously thrown together the elements of the movie and made something willfully other out of them. Of course, the reality is the other way round; but the movie has become so very much more a part of the popular consciousness than the half-forgotten novel that it has come to dominate our perceptions of what’s the “right” version. (more…)

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by Jon Warner

(This review contains spoilers)
In Before Sunset, Linklater’s follow-up to his romantic masterpiece Before Sunrise (1995), we pick up Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) 10 years after they initially met on a train in Europe. Their epic day spent in Vienna talking, ruminating about life and falling in love, ended with our two lovers departing and making plans to meet up 6 months later on the train platform where they parted ways inVienna. Of course, they leave without exchanging phone numbers or any contact information, which leaves the viewer very skeptical that they would ever meet again. In Before Sunset, we learn not just what happened 6 months later, but also what else has transpired in their lives since then. Not only isBefore Sunset a brilliant and essential follow-up to the first film, in some ways, it’s better.
At the beginning of Before Sunset, we meet Jesse at a bookstore where he is signing copies of his book in a Parisian bookstore. His book, apparently somewhat popular, is the “fictional” account of his day and night with Celine, which occurred roughly 10 years before. Celine happens to be in the bookstore, eyeing Jesse from the stacks of books. They make eye contact and Jesse drops what he’s doing and goes over to see her. They meet awkwardly, slowly begin conversation, and decide to go walk around Pariswhile talking, before Jesse has to catch an evening plane from Paris to his next stop. We understand immediately that Celine and Jesse never met up 6 months after their initial day together. In fact, this point is discussed early on in the film, clearing up some mystery as to why they didn’t get together. Jesse had made it back to Vienna, but Celine missed the date because her Grandmother died right beforehand, with the funeral occurring on that fateful Dec. 16, thus eliminating any chance of them meeting up again, until now. They spend the rest of the film, as in the first, talking about their lives.

(more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Some of the most beautiful days of the entire year around the metropolitan area were enjoyed at a time when sweltering heat usually confines most indoors.  Yet, breezy, low-humidity low 70’s weather defined most of the past week.  The hottest days of the summer are set for later in the week, though an immediate cold front will restrict that rise to only a couple of days.

Labor Day barbecues are being planned, while for some the school year is set to start the day after the holiday.   September looms.  And the Fall season inches closer.  The marathon Romantic Countdown continues to move forward.  It is two-thirds complete, and will roll on until October 6th.

This past week was not much of a movie going week for the first time in quite a while.  Lucille and I did see one new release, LUCY, and also wound up seeing THE GIVER for a second time, to appease my cousin Robert McCartney, who was hot to trot to see it. (more…)

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it happened one night

By Brandie Ashe

It’s a simple enough story: girl meets boy and decides to elope. Girl’s wealthy father takes her away from her new husband and attempts to annul the marriage. Girl escapes her father’s control and tries to make it back to her husband with all manner of detectives on her trail. Girl meets a down-on-his-luck reporter who offers to return her to her husband in exchange for the exclusive rights to her story. Girl and reporter fall in love during one of the craziest road trips ever put to film.

It’s immensely hilarious and zany and clever. It’s appealingly romantic and truly sexy. It helped kick start an entire genre of films. It won a slew of Academy Awards. Eighty years after its release, it remains a favorite of many a movie fan.

Funny to think, then, that neither of its stars even wanted to make the damn picture in the first place.

Frank Capra’s 1934 screwball classic It Happened One Night remains a textbook example of effective romantic comedy. It is truly one of the greatest films ever made. And yet stars Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert had their qualms about doing the picture at all; Gable was loaned to Columbia to make the film as punishment for defying boss Louis B. Mayer over at MGM, while Colbert only agreed to shoot Night for the $50,000 salary and the promise of a short production time. In fact, upon the conclusion of filming, Colbert reportedly told friends that she had just completed “the worst picture in the world.” But both stars underestimated the appeal of this movie and their performances in it, because both were ultimately awarded Oscars for their work. (more…)

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by John Greco

Office politics has changed a lot over the years but sex in the workplace, in one form or another, is alive and well. Billy Wilder’s superb comedy/drama is a time capsule look back at one man’s struggle on how to succeed in business by lending out his apartment to four middle level company executives on various nights for their extramarital liaisons. In exchange, the four executives praise our antihero at work, writing glowing reports on him to senior management, including putting in good words with Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) the top dog at personnel.

C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is the original lonely guy, an actuarial, crunching out numbers for a major insurance company. Baxter works at a drab grey desk in a large corporate office building, populated by faceless individuals all working at hundreds of other drab grey desks. (more…)

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Doom

by Stephen Mullen

There’s no romance like a doomed romance, and no one does doomed romance like Kenji Mizoguchi. Couples form, usually ill-considered pairings, and they suffer – and suffer and suffer and suffer some more. Though not always together – women suffer more than men, usually for the benefit of men, who go on to better things because of the suffering of a woman; think of The Tale of the Last Chrysanthemum, or Ugetsu, for that matter. But that is something that distinguishes Chikamatsu Monogatari from the rest. It is a tale of doomed romance, and the lovers suffer, they suffer indeed – but they suffer together, and, by Mizoguchi standards, the ending (this isn’t exactly a spoiler, since the film is also known as The Tale of Crucified Lovers) is a positively joyous one. They die, yes, but they die together.

It is a convoluted tale, set in 17th century Kyoto, derived from two classic Japanese authors, Chikamatsu and Saikaku. A woman, Osan, is married to a printer – the Great Printer of Kyoto. She has a useless brother who begs money from her, but her husband is a cheapskate; her husband also lusts for a maid, Otama – who pines for Mohei, the printers best employee; Otama tells Ishun (the printer) that she and Mohei plan to marry, hoping he will leave her alone – it backfires, and he just grows jealous. Mohei, meanwhile, is kind of Osan, who asks him for help for her brother – he is glad to get her money, but he has to embezzle it to get it. A co-worker catches him, and tries to blackmail him – sparking repentance and honesty in Mohei, to everyone’s sorrow. He tells the Great Printer – who is already jealous, and when Otama jumps in saying he did it for her, it all gets worse. Ishun, for all his wealth, is a penny pincher and a philanderer, and here Mohei is stealing his money and his girl! So he locks up Mohei, while the women talk – and when Otama admits to Ishun’s lust for her, Osan plans to trap him by hiding in Otama’s bed – but Mohei escapes and goes to Otama (he thinks) before Ishun gets there – and they are caught together (Mohei and Osan). Ishun, fearing the disgrace to him from this, tells Osan to kill herself – instead she runs away – with Mohei. And so their fates are sealed. (more…)

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