Archive for March, 2015

wolf hall

Mark Rylance as Cromwell in masterful WOLF ALL.

by Sam Juliano

Spring is here, but the temperatures have still yet to comply with this fact of nature.  As we move closer to April, we can only anticipate comfortable weather, but we shall see what we shall see.  Otherwise the baseball season will start later this week, and Easter Sunday is coming up next weekend.

The Childhood Films countdown venture is underway with e mails going out and many already engaged in viewing and re-viewing some of the ideal prospects.  It is expected that ballots will begin appearing in early May.  Any WitD readers not on the chain, but wanting to be just reach me at The Fountain26@aol.com, and I’ll include you.

Lucille, Broadway Bob and I attended the stage work GREAT KILLS on Saturday night.  The drama offers a good deal of laughs, and featured three actors – one of them the renowned Joe Pantoliano of Cliffside Park and Fairview upbringing.  The famed actor was the sole reason to see this decent play, and meeting him afterwards was a treat.  The huble and friendly Pantoliano graduated Cliffside Park High School, and is well-remembered for his roles in The Sopranos, Empire of the Sun, The Goonies, Midnight Run, Memento and La Bamba among others.  GREAT KILLS staged at the Theater For The New City on First Avenue.  I will run into the second week in April. (more…)


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farre 2

by Allan Fish

(France 1946 90m) DVD2 (France/Belgium only)

Aka. Farrebique, ou les quatre saisons

A world untouched

d/w  Georges Rouquier  ph  André Danton  ed  Madeleine Gug  m  Henri Sauguet

In 1983 Georges Rouquier made a return pilgrimage to Aveyron and Goutrens.  It was 38 years since he’d first gone to the region in 1945 to make Farrebique.  His new film would be called Biquefarre.  It’s an important document in itself but few would argue that it was as good as its predecessor.  Biquefarre marked a sort of diaspora, a leaving behind of the old ways of farming life documented in Farrebique.  It felt like we were watching something slipping by, while Farrebique was about continuation, a tale of the four seasons as they had been for countless generations.  Biquefarre opens with a shot of the old Farrebique farmhouse, now closed up, its family now moved into a purpose built modern house on adjoining land.  Even Biquefarre is now being sold up by its owner because maintaining it is no longer practicable. (more…)

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ws 1

by Allan Fish

(Turkey 2014 196m) DVD1/2

Aka. Kis Uykusu

Flowers of the Steppes

p  Zeynep Ozbatur Atakan  d  Nuri Bilge Ceylan  w  Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan  ph  Gökhan Tiryaki  ed  Böra Göksingöl, Nuri Bilge Ceylan  art  Gamze Kus

Haluk Bilginer (Aydin), Melisa Sözen (Nihal), Demet Akbag (Necla), Serhat Mustafa Kilic (Hamdi), Ayberk Pekcan (Hidayet), Nejat Isler (Ismail), Tamer Levent (Suavi), Emirhan Doruktutan (Ilyas), Rabia Özel (Fatma), Ekrem Ilhan (Ekrem), Mehmet Ali Nuroglu (Timur), Fatma Deniz Yildiz (Sevda),

Despite the efforts of Yilmaz Güney in the seventies and eighties, surely no director has so succeeded in putting Turkish cinema on the world map than Nuri Bilge Ceylan.  The Turkey we feel we complacently know in the west is a Turkey long gone, the heritage of Anatolia, Asia Minor and Byzantium, of the golden city of Constantinople, of the prized Hellespont and of the Troy brought back from myth by Heinrich Schliemann.  In Once Upon a Time in Anatolia Ceylan gave us a different Turkey, and he arguably goes further in this, perhaps his greatest film to date.  (more…)

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red army

by Sam Juliano

Spring arrived without much fanfare this past week but was suddenly dispatched on Friday when five inches of snow fell on the metropolitan area, again proving that one can’t be comfortable in this season from hell.  As we know from the past, even April is unpredictable.   Baseball season inches closer for those inclined, and for Lucille and I the Tribeca Film Festival is a little more than three weeks away.  No doubt that will be quite a torrid eleven day span!

The initial group e mail for the upcoming Best Childhood Film countdown has been sent out to the voters and writers, and a spirited discussion has commenced.  Ballots will be sent in starting on May 1st and ending on the 14th, with the results to be posted shortly thereafter by Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr.  The actual countdown will begin near the end of May and will run Monday through Friday for ten weeks.  Any Wonders in the Dark readers wishing to participate, please reach me at TheFountain26@aol.com.   My latest capsule review for a Terrill Welch painting was sent on yesterday:

Terrill Welch’s arresting impressionistic oil painting “Trail Along the Bridge” showcases a domestic refuge, one that is ideal for meditation and creative inspiration.  There is a pneumatic quality to the seemingly clandestine vantage point overlooking mountains and a wooden valley that would surely give pause for sensory reflections.  The glorious blue sky, bright textures, summer shadows and joyful ambiance define the scene, yet there is a mystique in the central almost intimidating image of the Douglas Fir, which is rooted tenuously near the edge of the ridge, a sitting duck for a storm, yet evincing a look of having survived its share of atmospheric ravages.
Everyone can lay claim to a place and a setting they revered since childhood – and the experience is a kind of Stopping by Woods on a Lovely Day, when everything comes to a halt, and there is a fusion with nature.  Welch’s painting isn’t without a more somber context – the tree’s slant suggests that such days are in limited number, and are mainly available during late spring and summer, yet there is scenic bliss and inspiration, not only attested by the creator, but to be seen by generous brush strokes of color and a wonderfully serene landscape.  It would be hard to fathom that a hike up this trail wouldn’t stoke the happiest of memories and expectations.  This is Ms. Welch in radiant mode, and it would bring any room to life, transporting its onlookers to an idyllic hamlet in this island paradise.


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sp 1

by Allan Fish

(Belgium 1944 115m) DVD2 (Belgium/France only) Aka. Boerensymfonie Four seasons and a wedding p  Henri Storck  d  Henri Storck, Maurice Delattre  w  Henri Storck, Jacques de Schryver, Marie Gevers  ph  Henri Storck, Maurice Delattre, Charles Abel, François Rents  ed  Henri Storck  m  Pierre Moulaert Even today, into the 21st century, the cinema of what have been long described, rather disparagingly, as the Low Countries, has been at best marginalised and, at worst, almost completely unacknowledged.  The lands that gave us Van Dyke, Rubens, Vermeer and especially, Rembrandt, who was playing with light and shadow centuries before the Lumières, treated like cinematic orphans. Before Paul Verhoeven came on the scene in the seventies, Dutch cinema was confined to the documentaries of Joris Ivens and Bert Haanstra.  And then what of its neighbour Belgium?  Sure, we now have the Dardenne brothers, but they’re seen as French, and André Delvaux was treated the same.  As both made French language films it was perhaps understandable.  Before Delvaux only really one name stands out, and he, too, like Ivens and Haanstra, was a documentarist; Henri Storck.


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© 2015 by James Clark

      I want to begin dealing with this fairly recent film, having already attained to august singularity status in the eyes of legions of film folks, by committing the heresy of, while recognizing it to be a very fine product, identifying it as a witty and ardent contribution to a long-standing vigil by a large crowd of filmmakers many of whom have brought to us even more fertile overtures which have gone largely unnoticed. One of those devotees not having been ignored was Stanley Kubrick. One of his contributions to that comprehensive concern, namely, 2001, Space Odyssey (1968) finds itself right up there with There Will Be Blood (2007) as an object of flat-out worship. There Will Be Blood is essentially a remake of Space Odyssey. It takes a run, in light of Kubrick’s Dave coming up short despite Herculean intensity, within a panoramically vast imperative bearing down on all of us, not only Americans and their difficulties with couth (perhaps the germ of the huge love affair for this film deriving from its brush with satanic materialism and inefficient Christianity).

The writing and cinematic force behind this love-fest turns out to be an inspired explorer of the rich lodes of headway buried in the more or less accessible vaults of art works from recent and distant times. So it is that Anderson sends to us, in There Will Be Blood, a scenario that opens with a barely discernible but soon palpably urgent ringing which reveals more complex structure on the order of that increasingly higher volume and an increasingly high pitch, culminating in an eruption of sound. That jolt lifts the initial entropic optics of dull rocky desert to the point of far more radiant light and touches of green and yellow in the hitherto grim terrain, in addition to which showing the grey hills nearby to have texture and subtle appeal. The high tension aural motif continues over a cut to a creature powerfully chopping away with a pickaxe at the enclosing walls of a dark rocky cave. His historical position, as far as we can see at this murky point, lies somewhere between frantic primeval apes and authoritative high-tech high-flyers. The pit where he toils is untouched by speech—he being, in contrast to those apes we know, alone—and after the ringing subsides we find a similar function arising in sparks shooting from the collision of steel and rock, from the carnal effort. The intensity of his eyes (as he examines a rock), picking up what light has made his way down, is arresting. His beard is full, his hair thick and long and his tan-colored hat (which he puts on after the digging is done and he heads upwards, clambering and pulling powerfully on a rope) gives his head a roundedness. On the surface, night having fallen, he squats morosely and pulls a blanket across his chest. Wisps of his fire show at the bottom of the screen. The wind howls, there is thunder and lightning in the distance and then the date 1898, in neo-Gothic style, appears. Back to work, now by candle light, he with hammer and crowbar dislodges a small piece and examines it, finding there traces of silver. He places a stick of dynamite at the promising area and the flame of the explosive challenges the inert rock. Climbing up he encounters radiant sunshine and blue sky (giving us pause). He struggles to bring up his samples by pulling and failing twice to manage the load. (The dark vertical container being somewhat, in shape if not size or texture, like the monolith administering to the apes. A distant aftermath of this early struggle delivers to us another such arresting configuration—an oil well tower exploding and sending up a huge shaft of black smoke, and then being superseded by raging, devastating, angry flames.) The explosion, far down, suspends that focus and after the dust clears he heads down to check the vein. In his haste he misses a rung and plunges downward. We see his fall from below with an intense light in the zone of the opening to the sky—a fiery figure melding for a microsecond with the play of light. All goes black as his falling body covers our outlook. He wakes up crying in pain with a deep, wild animal timbre. He gasps and a sound like “No” comes through. Looking upward his eyes catch whatever light is to be had in his bind—a link to the apes and that leopard. The low growl of his pain also brings them onstream.) Soon he’s dragging himself up by a rope (this bid invested with more strength than those bids at the surface.) Just before that he has the presence of mind to spit on one of the rocks broken off by the explosion. The silver there braces him and he places a small rock into his shirt near his heart. Agile as an ape, his three long functioning limbs at full capacity, he heads upward. And as he does, he’s joined by steadily heightened and modulated calling, becoming increasingly excited as he negotiates the terrain on his back, pulling himself along with his uninjured leg and his two arms and hands. This crescendo develops from ringing to a siren, revealing traces of conscious imploring. The sonic apparition not only intensifies into jangling high notes, but there is a harmonic quality, elements of high and low somehow rewarding him for his courage. This new component touches upon voices, wild and resonant. At the assayers, while the staff checks out his finds and he remains on his back on the floor, the song of tribute and encouragement continues. There is a human-like sensibility in the lower registers of this extraordinary patterning linking to an extraordinary feat of heart. (Most viewers, it seems, see the protagonist as entirely lacking heart, apparently stricken with an American virus, and thus an opportunity to wallow in hatred and smug self-righteousness.) (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

It does appear conclusively that the icy grip of one of the worst winter seasons has been disconnected and signs of spring have begun to surface.  Sadly for those who have allergies this is a time when discomfort reigns supreme, but this matter is still a few weeks away for most.

As previously announced, preparations for the ‘Best Childhood Films’ countdown will proceed very soon.  As with our prior countdowns, the new one will be negotiated by gathering together the votes of approximately thirty film floggers who have been part of a cinema e mail network dating back to the musical countdown.

Lucille, the boys and I traveled down to the quaint village of Mount Holly, New Jersey on Saturday morning to attend the photography exhibit that largely included the superlative work of our good friend Jeff Stroud.  The entire venture translated to a great time, and Jeff’s framed captures deserve wide exposure.

Most of my movie watching this past week was at home on our new 50 inch 4X screen.  Classic television and blu-rays were watched with abandon, and I’m figuring there will much more to come in the months ahead.  We did get to see two films in theaters though:


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thm 1

by Allan Fish

(Mexico 1973 112m) DVD1

Aka. La Montana Sagrada

The master seeks the disciple

p  Roberto Viskin, Alejandro Jodorowsky  d  Alejandro Jodorowsky  w  Alejandro Jodorowsky  ph  Rafael Corkidi  ed  Federico Landeros  m  Don Cherry, Ronald Frangipane, Alejandro Jodorowsky  art  Alejandro Jodorowsky

Horacio Salinas (thief), Alejandro Jodorowsky (alchemist), Zamira Saunders (written woman), Juan Ferrara (Fon), Adriana Page (Isla), Nicky Nichols (Berg), Bert Kleiner (Klen), Valerie Jodorowsky (Sel), Leticia Robles (bald woman #1), Ana de Sade (prostitute), Connie de la Mora (bald woman #2),

It was said to be John Lennon’s favourite film.  It’s arguably Alejandro Jodorowsky’s purest vision and will always come into discussions about the greatest surrealist films.  Jodorowsky’s surrealism was as far from Luis Buñuel’s as could be offered; indeed, only Fernando Arrabal perhaps came within hailing distance.  Jodorowsky’s surrealism is not playful, but it’s so layered and so, top use that overused paradox, deeply meaningless as to still leave one awe-struck.  This is surrealism as history lesson, as faith, as legend, as superstition, as social commentary; surrealism as a holy relic and as Excalibur rising from the sea. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Things at Wonders in the Dark have been looking up, what with Allan Fish’s long-awaited return to the ranks, the continued high-quality work of Jim Clark on every other Wednesday, and the imminent staging of the Top 50 Greatest Childhood Films polling and countdown planned for late May.  This week the first e mail will be sent out to the e mail network.

There does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel as far as the unrelenting frigid weather and snow we been regaled with over months, sustaining for one the worst February any of us can remember.  On another note I want to thank our very dear friend Dee Dee for her lovely greetings for Allan’s return posted on the sidebar, and as always for her always cherished concern for the site and those who post here.  Great too, that Tony d’Ambra is back in print as per his blu ray review of Ride the Pink Horse at Films Noir.et this past week.  The Tribeca Film Festival inches closer, and is roughly one month away.  To say we will be busy for those 11 days would be a classic understatement, as we manged 51 feature length films during last year’s event.

Lucille and I were very busy this past week with home repairs, assisting the man who administered them, and as a result I was on-line far less than I have been in a very long time.  We did get to see two films in theaters: (more…)

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humanite 2

by Allan Fish

(France 1999 148m) DVD1/2

Life is really sick

p  Rachid Bouchareb, Jean Bréhat  d/w  Bruno Dumont  ph  Yves Cape  ed  Guy Lecorne  m  Richard Cuviller

Emmanuel Schotté (Pharaon de Winter), Séverine Caneele (Domino), Philippe Tullier (Joseph), Ghislain Ghesquère, Ginette Allegré, Darius, Arnaud Brejon de la Lavergnee, Daniel Petillon

An extreme long shot, a horizon in either the first light of dawn or at dusk.  A man emerges from trees to the left and is seen to run along the horizon.  We follow him over a wall and across some barren, unforgiving landscape that wouldn’t be out of place in a Brontë film.  He then falls to the earth, on his stomach, head turned to the left vaguely towards the camera.  His eye is wide open in a way not dissimilar to the dead Janet Leigh in Psycho.  He remains motionless, and for a few seconds we wonder whether he, too, is dead.  Then he moves.  We don’t know whether he was running from or to something. (more…)

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