Archive for September, 2014


by Brandie Ashe

“This song of the Man and his Wife is of no place and every place; you might hear it anywhere, at any time. […] For wherever the sun rises and sets … in the city’s turmoil and under the open sky on the farm … life is much the same: sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet.”

Dubbing F.W. Murnau’s 1927 silent opus, Sunrise, a “song” is an understatement. It is a grand aria of the human condition, with a distinct lyricism that is reflected in practically every aspect of the film’s production, from the performances to the German expressionist-inspired staging to the work of the camera itself. Sunrise is an elaborate, orchestrated dance that shows us what it is to love and to be loved, to be strong and frail and conflicted and certain all at the same time–to be human, with all that it means. The anonymous characters and undefined location lend an air of universality to the movie; as the title card excerpted above indicates, Sunrise could ostensibly be about any people, anywhere in the world. (more…)


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Illustrator Evan Turk and Author Bethany Hegedus are flanked by Fairview’s Lincoln School faculty, administrator Dr. Dave Sleppin, and Superintendent DeLissio in center

by Sam Juliano

The Romantic Films countdown is nearing its conclusion, with the final post set to publish next week, on Monday, October 6th.  The project has showcased some of the finest writing on films online, and some effusive praise is in order for all who contributed during the duration of this twenty week project.

We’d all like to again wish Allan Fish a full and speedy recovery to the operation he faces mid-week.  Thanks to our muse Dee Dee for the lovely sidebar acknowledgement to our longtime friend.

The author and illustrator of Caldecott hopeful Grandfather Gandhi (Bethany Hegedus and Evan Turk) delivered an extraordinary presentation in my Lincoln School district last Monday.  The themes of violence and bullying were part of the fabric of this remarkable discussion and slide show from the former high teacher who wrote this acclaimed book with the grandson of Gandhi.  The 26 year-old Turk, a gifted artist helped make this show wildly engaging to the 4th through 8th graders.

Longtime friend, and former Fairview resident Peter Danish made a stellar presentation on his new novel THE TENOR at the Fairview Free Public Library on Thursday evening in front of a spirited group that included his wife Sanela.

Peter Brown and the son of children’s book luminary Richard Scarry appeared for an engaging talk about the work of Scarry’s father at THE WORD bookstore in Jersey City. Brown as always was fantastic.

We saw one film in theaters this past week, and attended the Chappaqua, New York children’s book festival on Saturday.  With the start of October, many of us are anticipating some great films in the coming months as per normal late year roll outs of the prestige pictures.  The Metropolitan Opera season also begins this week. (more…)

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By Jon Warner


Few films brim with the kind of cinematic magic as Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bete. For it’s entire 93 minutes, Cocteau implores us to view the proceedings with childlike wonder and suspension of disbelief. His call to order in the prologue asks us to indeed suspend our disbelief, but even more than that, it’s a request to hearken to our recollection of fairy tales as children and to adopt that sense of respect for the significance of imagination. As children our first encounters with the concept of “falling in love” involve fairy tales, and stories of princesses and princes. These archetypal stories create a larger than life sense of grandeur and most often, unrealistic portrayals of true love. Still, our early lives can be shaped in this way. I’m often reminded of this when I watch films like The Little Mermaid or Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with my daughters. Cocteau asks us to adopt this sensitivity when watching his film. Therefore, Belle’s compassion is unquestioned and The Beast’s good heart shines through and we know things will work out in the end. This is no knock on the film. For although La Belle et la Bete is a fairy tale with some predictability, the elements are plenty dark and sinister enough to lend themselves well to the sense of imagination and surrealism that Cocteau brought to his cinema. Thus, the sense of childlike wonder we adopt while watching it is coupled with our adult awareness of sensuality, carnality, and ambiguity, giving the film just enough of a subversive angle to mess with our heads.


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by Ed Howard

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of the most moving and heartbreaking love stories in the cinema, an absolutely stunning musical masterpiece that sets its bright, colorful visual palette and sweet, soaring music against an increasingly bittersweet emotional range. Divided into three parts — departure, absence, and return — Jacques Demy’s sublime musical is the story of a love affair haunted by the separation of war. Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve) is a young girl madly in love with the mechanic Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), but their sweet, innocent affair is torn apart when Guy is called up into the army, sent to Algeria for two years. As in so many French films of this era, Algeria looms large, a tear in the fabric of life, an absence that’s felt at home in the missing young men, the years of longing and waiting.

The film is an interesting type of musical in which every single line is sung, but it rarely feels like there’s a proper song: instead, all of the dialogue is more-or-less naturalistic speech that’s simply sung instead of spoken. Even the most banal lines, like Guy’s interactions with customers and his boss at the gas station where he works, are liltingly timed to Michel Legrand’s alternately jazzy and romantic music. This style can be somewhat distracting and artificial at first but it quickly comes to seem as natural as if the characters were simply speaking. By setting everything to song, it never seems as if the music is interrupting the diegesis, cutting off the naturalistic flow of life with a musical number. Rather, life itself, with all its joys and tragedies, its banal incidents, its great loves and great sadnesses, has been transformed into one big musical number, a 90-minute musical number that encompasses both the innocent sweetness of young love and the much more complex, melancholy, mysterious loves and losses that build up over the course of the years. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The following is the transcript of an interview held on August 12, 2013 with the last surviving lead performer of the 1939 Hollywood landmark ‘Gone with the Wind.”  Olivia de Havilland, who lives alone in the U.K., decided to grant a rare interview in deference to her continuing interest in WitD’s Romantic Films Countdown.  Ms. de Havilland was 97 years old at the time, but sprite to a fault.

SJ:  Ms. de Havilland, I want to thank you so much for allowing this interview, especially as I know you need your rest, and rarely grant one-on-ones anymore.

OD:  Well, Mr. Sam, I am pleased to be of some assistance.  Your site’s Greatest Romantic Countdown has attracted my interest, and it is one of the places I have been visiting during my limited on line sessions.  I have been mightily impressed with many of the reviews by a bevy of writers.  You people have really taken this project seriously, and should be proud of what you have accomplished.  I read somewhere that a man named John Grant suggested that you seek a publisher for the whole lot.  I must say I heartily agree with the bloke.  And please call me Olivia young man.

SJ:  Thanks for the compliment Olivia, but I am not so young anymore.  I think Mr. Grant came up with a very good suggestion there, and I will certainly be looking into it.

OD:  Before we go on could I order you any refreshments?  There’s a good fish n chips shop two blocks to the south, and they deliver.

SJ:  Thanks so much Olivia, but I did have something about an hour ago.  I’m good.  I was told you lived in Paris since 1960, but I was told by a reliable source you moved to London eight years ago.

OD:  That’s right Mr. Sam.  I was being heckled by the paparazzi.  They always want to exploit my non-relationship with my sister Joan, and frankly it is none of their business.  A friend helped me to secretly make passage from Paris to London using a disguise and a fake passport.  Only my daughter Giselle and a few very close friends know I am here, and one was your contact.  (editor’s note: Joan Fontaine passed away four months later in December of 2013 at the age of 96)

SJ:  Absolutely Olivia.  I can’t say that I blame you at all.   I guess you know what film I am here to talk about then, right? (more…)

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By Stephen Mullen

There is a strange irony to love stories. To be stories, something has to change – and so it seems if you want the film to end with lovers together, happily ever after, they have to spend the bulk of the film apart. Enemies, even. And on the other side – if you show the lovers together, show their happiness in the film, the story demands that something changes – they have to be parted. And so the irony – the most powerful depictions of love and desire in films are often in the doomed love affairs, while in films with happy endings, lovers spend the whole show fighting – a merry war perhaps – but war, any any case… Tragedies and romantic comedies – Romeo and Juliet; and Much Ado About Nothing – the models for so many love stories, in their broad shape at least. Blissful lovers parted; bickering enemies united.

But that offers a challenge to a clever storyteller – how do you show people in love and still have a happy ending? How do you honor the conventions of romantic comedy (about what keeps people who belong together apart), while showing them actually in love? I suppose there are as many ways to do this as there are romantic comedies – mistaken identities, amnesia, class expectations, the comedy of remarriage – or – this one. What if the lovers are pen pals? what if they have never met, but have fallen in love with one another in words, two lonely, clever people stuck in their hard lives in the big city – who find they have a bond? What about that? And then – they meet in the real world – and take a dislike to one another – and – then you’ll have a story! You’ll have a story where they are in love with one another from the start, and enemies from the start; they can be as romantic as they want; they can bicker and fight and put each other down to their heart’s content. (And cleverly – well enough they start to be impressed with their mutual nastiness.) Yes – then, you just have to play it out, the revelations, the consequences of lies and truths and self-deception – until, of course, it all comes together. (more…)

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Allan Fish will be undergoing an operation tomorrow morning for the small malignant tumor that has responded very well to previous chemotherapy.  Because of the early detection and localized nature of the tumor, Allan is fully expected to make a complete recovery, but will be on the sidelines until around February.  It has been a very trying time for Allan, his dear mum and aunt, but the successful end to this stress and fear is drawing to a close.  Here at WitD we all send our very best wishes to our longtime friend.    -Sam

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by Mike Norton

In early twentieth century Vienna, a washed up concert pianist, Stefan Brand (Louis Jordan), emerges from the rain soaked streets into his apartment, after confirming a duel the next morning that would undoubtedly end in his death, to find a letter waiting for him. The first lines of the letter, read in voiceover by Joan Fontaine, state simply and grimly- “By the time you read this letter, I may already be dead”. Fontaine plays the titular woman sending the letter, Lisa, and her narration sets in motion the main plot of the film, told in flashback from Lisa’s point of view. What follows is an epic melodrama bursting at the seams with emotion, expressed evocatively by director Max Ophüls’ camera poetry and the complex screenplay from Howard Koch, based off the novella of the same name written by Stefan Zweig. It is one of the most acutely and devastatingly felt American romantic films of all time.

We first meet Lisa as a teenager in Vienna when a dashing new tenant moves into her apartment complex. It’s Stefan Brand, a successful and talented concert pianist, and Lisa quickly becomes entranced by the man, despite never coming into direct contact with him. She listens yearningly to his playing of the piano, which she describes in her voice over as the “happiest hours of my life”. If melodrama is a genre based on bottled up emotion, than Lisa represents the perfect melodrama heroine. Her passion for Stefan starts off innocently enough, but when her family moves to Lintz and sets her up to marry a sweet, if dull, Army Lieutenant, she flees back to Vienna to be with the man who she truly loves, even if he still doesn’t know she exists. (more…)

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Lucille, the gang and I will classmate and artist extraordinaire Frane Lessac and his her husband the renowned author Mark Greenwood at Brooklyn Book Festival.


With world famous author illustrator Brian Collier in Brooklyn


Florence and Wendell Minor, author and artist extraordinaires with Jeremy and new fantastic book SEQUOIA

by Sam Juliano

One of the most hectic weekends on record for Lucille, the kids and I has resulted in a very brief Monday Morning Diary.  I am in fact trying to scratch together a short report of what we did, but will just put down a brief re-cap.  We attended two book festivals on Friday and Saturday, seeing a few of the same author-illustrators at both, though each was different in that one was exclusively for children’s books, while the other was for all types of books.  The Children’s Book Festival on Saturday was held in Princeton, New Jersey – it was the ninth annual- and it featured over a hundred writers and artists, some dual under white tents with colored designations on the courtyard outside the Princeton Library.  Numerous high-profiles figures in children’s literature were there, including Wendell and Florence Minor, Brian Floca, Peter Brown, David Collier, Edward Hemingway, Sophie Blackall, Jennifer Berne, Anne Rockwell,  and others.  Special shows and readings were done under the large demonstration tent.

The Brooklyn Book Festival, one of the largest in the world, was held on both Saturday and Sunday, though the childrens’ events were held on Sunday, when we were able to attend.  Unlike Saturday, when we only had Jeremy with us, we had the entire brood for Brooklyn.  We were absolutely thrilled to meet my old classmate at Cliffside Park High School, Frane Lessac and her husband Mark Greenwood, who performed a dramatic reading of their sublime 2012 picture book DRUMMER BOY OF JOHN JOHN.  We also got to see the young illustrator Evan Turk, (GRANDFATHER GANDHI) who will be appearing at my school tomorrow with author Bethany Hegedus to do several shows on their book to 4th through 8th graders.  We got to see Brian Floca again for the second consecutive day, and take in his fabulous reading and drawing show on his Caldecott Medal winning LOCOMOTIVE.  Again we chatted with Bryan Collier at his tent, and bought two of his John Lennon drawings for Lucille and my Lennon fanatic son Danny. (more…)

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twin peaks

by Joseph Powers

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me….Six simple words right??? Wrong! These six words represent something very far from simple. These words combined just happen to make up the title of one of the most divisive films of the last fifty years. Spawned as the sixth feature length motion picture by infamous surrealist auteur David Lynch, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me has divided and confounded critics and viewers alike since the moment it’s ominous and jazzy opening credits rolled onto the screen on May 16th, 1992 at the Cannes Film Festival. In mere minutes, viewers would begin to boo, jeer, and walk out of the theater altogether, bringing with them an air of emotions rarely seen in viewers towards any film in recent memory.

SCORN, BEFUDDLEMENT, ANGER, SADNESS, HATE, LOVE, CONFUSION, AMAZEMENT, TERROR, BEWILDERMENT, DISAPPOINTMENT, PITY, JOY, ELATION. These are just some of the known reactions Fire Walk With Me has caused over the years. I’m sure by now, most of the knowledgeable fans have heard the quotes from other directors and critics (Yes I’m talking about you Quentin Tarantino, Roger Ebert, and Vincent Canby to name a few) voicing their dislike, absolute contempt, and uncalled for comments against David Lynch and his creative abilities (or lack thereof). (more…)

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