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Archive for May, 2015

(1) ANH: Obi-Wan vs. Vader (2) ESB: Luke vs. Vader (3) ROTJ: Palpatine (4) TPM: Obi-Wan vs. Maul

By Bob Clark

“Have you ever encountered a Jedi Knight before, sir?”—this question is asked very early on in The Phantom Menace, as a pair of the seasoned warriors, “guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy”, begin to fight their way through a Trade Federation battleship blockading the planet Naboo. It’s an apt question for any audience of the film, especially when it was first released in 1999, twenty-two years after the release of the first Star Wars episode, and sixteen years since the last installment of the original trilogy. Even though the movies had enjoyed blockbuster success at the box-office and achieved near instant status as modern classics, ubiquitous in pop-culture, VHS and worldwide theatrical rereleases, enough time had gone by since for TPM to be the first exposure to the landmark space-opera series for an entire generation of young moviegoers. And even for everyone else, old fans who’d grown up with the original films (but wouldn’t necessarily prove fans of the new ones) and old critics alike, there was something new to experience in the way that Lucas portrayed the Jedi Knights as far more agile and powerful than anything seen in episodes prior (or rather yet-to-come, thanks to the flashback nature of the Prequel Trilogy narrative). With frenetic fencing designed by stunt coordinator Nick Gillard and crisp, polished cinematography from David Tattersall, Lucas’ work on the Jedi fighting of TPM not only sits among the strongest material from the Star Wars movies but ranks high in the canon of action-cinema in general, culminating in a contender for the greatest filmed swordfight of all time with the climactic “Duel of the Fates”. At the same time, however, it stands squarely on the shoulders of such scenes from the first three films, even those outside the centerpiece duels themselves.

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By Bob Clark

In Milan Kundera’s 1984 novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the respected surgeon Tomas finds himself unable to find work after returning to Soviet-occupied Prague, thanks to his refusal to recant an article he’d written prior to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. The matter of his article makes for one of the most persuasive readings of Greek mythology—a political interpretation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. According to Tomas, the Communists of his country who claimed to be unaware of the Soviet Union’s atrocities were just as guilty as Oedipus, the Theban king who brought plagues upon his kingdom by unwittingly marrying his mother. “As a result of your ‘not knowing,’ this country has lost its freedom…” writes Kundera. “And you shout that you feel no guilt? How can you stand the sight of what you’ve done? How is it you aren’t horrified? Have you no eyes to see?”

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2001-1 (1)

 © 2015 by James Clark

      Although this film benefits handsomely from the various high-definition enhancements of recent years, which sustain an imprecise aura of fertile vitality in actions tending to be, when not lame, deadly, we must carefully acknowledge those first two minutes when the screen is blank and then gradually allows to come into their own the sounds of a primeval territory. This first aural statement is musical not zoological—marking out a primacy of human music as compared with animal noise. An organ glide rings quietly, then more intently. Brasses sound, the impact a bit blurred. Then the organ is back, now tremulous. An ensemble produces a faintly quavering and warbling sense. Then we witness the final stage of an eclipse of the sun—first a sharp golden inverted crescent peeking out from the dark grey mass of the moon, as a range of shadowy Earth drifts downward, out of the frame. As the sun fully pulls away from the moon the elegant and dazzling opening bars of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra ring out the last word in adventurous fanfares. Then the harsh beauties of a parched land come into view; and then its inhabitants, a small tribe of apes being accompanied by a herd of herbivores, tapirs, in fact. Grazing on a minimum of palatable food goes on soundlessly, even when one of the pig-like ponies annoys one of the apes by trying to pull from him a dried twig. From a height a leopard attacks and kills one of the apes. The cries of pain are remarkably brief and restrained. Soon we hear caterwauling and see frenzied gestures when the resident tribe is challenged for its water hole. The locals are driven off. This miasma is largely upstaged by the eyes of a leopard surveying the zebra he has just killed and surveying the battlefield about to become much more complex and deadly. Those eyes burn with an unearthly, blue flame that affords access to the heavens we saw during the eclipse. (more…)

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ik 1

by Allan Fish

(Czechoslovakia 1963 81m) DVD1/2

Aka. Voyage to the End of the Universe

Earth is gone

p  Rudolf Wolf  d  Jindrich Polák  w  Jindrich Polák, Pavel Jurácek  novel  “The Magellanic Cloud” by Stanislaw Lem  ph  Sasa Rasilov, Jan Kalis  ed  Josef Dobrichovsky  m  Zdenek Liska  art  Karel Lukas, Jan Zázvorka

Zdenek Stepánek (Capt.Vladimir Abayev), Frantisek Smolik (Anthony Hopkins), Dana Medrická (Nina Kirova), Irina Kacirková (Brigitta), Otto Lackovic (Michael), Radovan Lukavsky (Commander MacDonald), Miroslav Machacek (Marcel Bernard), Marcela Kartinkova (Stephie),

When one considers the cult status it had on its release in the West, it seems surprising that Jindrich Polák’s sci-fi opus is now largely forgotten.  Even more so when one bears in mind that it’s based on a novel by the same author who also provided the inspiration for Solaris.  There are certainly thematic similarities between the two, but also differences, not least in the tone.  Ikarie ends quite optimistically, while Solaris

Naturally the time it was made has much to do with that.  The Cold War was at its most freezing and there was a genuine belief that nuclear apocalypse was unavoidable. It’s set in 2163.  On board the Ikaria, a mission has set out from Earth to explore Earth’s nearest star, Alpha Centauri, to check for signs of life.  Its crew know that while the mission will only take them 28 months that 15 years will have passed back on Earth. (more…)

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The Film Preservation Blogathon moves to Wonders in the Dark in almost seven (7) hours at 12:00 midnight and will continue for the entire duration of Sunday, May 17th.

Submissions can be sent to me directly at: TheFountain26@aol.com or on any of the comment threads (below) that are associated with the venture.

Thanks so much!  Looking forward to some fabulous science-fiction film reviews in support of the restoration of the 1918 silent film Cupid in Quarantine.

Please be sure to include the donation link on the sidebar at the end of your review!

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by Sam Juliano

One of the crowning glories of 50’s science-fiction, Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, based on a short story by Jack Finney, still enthralls both genre buffs and those riveted by the notion of the fantastic seeming perfectly credible.  The story of seed pods replicating living people and changing them into emotion-less conformists who communally work towards a world order without love or compassion, offers no obstacles to believability, and leads to the most unthinkable of nightmares.  Allied Artists were themselves so caught up in the hopelessness of this “psychological siege” that they forced Siegel to add a prologue which intimated that mankind would be saved.

The film was re-made in 1977, with Phillip Kaufman at the helm, but it lacked the original’s brilliant pacing, which has the excitement building all the way to the denouement.  Siegel employs a number of devices that keep the film in full-throttle, like characters always in motion, racing their cars, and spying each other through windows, blind and glass doors and reaching a level of unbearable tension in the scenes in the cave where the two lead characters hide beneath the wooden boards, after being chased up the steps of a long and very steep hill.  Siegel employs subtlety to great effect too, like the scene when the fleeing couple attempt to feign transformation to the soulless beings that are taking over the small town, only to be betrayed by one’s scream as a dog is about to be struck by a car.  The race against time and in the instance of this film, the struggle to stay awake, is woven into the fabric of it’s sense of urgency.  No less an authority than Jean-Luc Godard quotes the film in his futuristic Alphaville, and Francois Truffaut makes reference to it in Fahrenheit 451.  It is even suggested by UCLA Film Professor Maurice Yacowar (whose running commentary on the Criterion laserdisc in the early 90’s was one of the famous and controversial ever recorded) that maybe even the great playwright Eugene Ionesco was thinking of the film’s fearful “pods” when he wrote his absurdist masterpiece Rhinoceros, where humankind turns into thick-skinned, insensitive, conformist rhinos–pods on the hoof. (more…)

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A.I. 2

by Sam Juliano

The idea behind A.I. was originally conceived by Stanley Kubrick, who subsequently entrusted the proposed project to Steven Spielberg.  When Kubrick died suddenly in 1999, his widow successfully persuaded Spielberg to assume complete artistic control of the film, including the direction.  Set in a future time when progress in robotics poses a conceivable menace to the human species, David (Haley Joel Osment), a robotic boy, is the artificial life form who is capable of experiencing love.  As a prototype, he is given to a couple whose real son is mired in what appears to be an irreversible coma.  After a discordant initiation David and his mother bond, at which point the “real” son miraculously awakens from the coma, rejoins to the family, and tricks David into engaging in dangerous things.  The father concludes that they must return the robotic boy to the manufacturer for destruction, but the mother arranges for his escape via abandonment.  For the duration of the film David seeks to be reunited with his mother, and for a time is joined by “Gigolo Joe,” a robot designed to function as a male prostitute.  David becomes frozen I an the ocean, and millennia later–long after the extinction of the human species–robots of the future rescue him and allow him to reunite with his mother for one day that will last in his mind for eternity. (more…)

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CM Capture 2

by Allan Fish

this begins an infrequent series of films about childhood criminally neglected in the US to coincide with Sam’s childhood poll

(France-TV 1977 312m) not on DVD

Girl, boy, girl, boy…

p  Jean-Luc Godard, Anne-Marie Miéville  d/w  Jean-Luc Godard, Anne-Marie Miéville  ph  Pierre Binggeli, William Lubtchansky, Dominique Chapuis, Philippe Rony

Albert Dray, Betty Berr, Camille Virolleaud, Arnaud Martin,

If one was to ask a selection of serious film buffs, critics and writers to name the single-most influential director in late 20th century culture, I’d be surprised if Jean-Luc Godard didn’t top the poll.  He’s come to be seen as much as personification of the zeitgeist as a director, indeed often setting the tempo for what would become the daily zeitgeist.  One would think then that his work was easily accessible, preserved on DVD and now Blu Ray in the way that the work of, say, Hitchcock, Scorsese or Bergman is.  Yet this is only partly true; the canonical Godard has always existed, but it generally covers his work up to 1967-68; the experimental films that followed in the subsequent decades have always been somewhat harder to track down.  There are still a few I have been unable to see, and until recently one of them was France/Tour/Detour/Deux/Enfants.  It only became so when an old Channel 4 TV recording surfaced. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Germany 1927/2010 150m) DVD1/2

I’ve just met two girls named Maria

p  Erich Pommer  d  Fritz Lang  w  Thea Von Harbou  ph  Karl Freund, Günther Rittau  Gottfried Huppertz   art  Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Vollbrecht spc  Eugene Schüfftan

Brigitte Helm (Maria), Alfred Abel (John Fredersen), Güstav Fröhlich (Freder Fredersen), Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Prof.Rotwang), Fritz Rasp (Slim), Theodore Loos (Josephat), Erwin Biswanger (11811), Heinrich George (Grot), Olaf Storm (Jan),

Fritz Lang’s supreme folly and the most ambitious silent film ever made, UFA’s flagship sci-fi fantasy has it all.  It has influenced more films directly than almost any other (take Things to Come, Frankenstein, Modern Times, The Fifth Element, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner to name but half a dozen), nearly ruined its studio financially but now stands out as arguably their greatest achievement.  Some may decry the somewhat naïve politics and religious symbolism, and the finale is certainly quite laughable, but its message rings clear.

Metropolis is a giant city circa 2000 A.D.  Its workers live underground in an ant-commune like city whilst the children of the rich, with its Club of the Sons, play idly above ground in their mansions and stadiums.  Almost unconscious of their totalitarian power, the young rich only have their eyes opened when a young woman, Maria, comes to the Eternal Gardens with a group of slum children.  Freder, son of the master of the city, is fascinated by her and follows her underground and sees for himself the poverty.  But when his father persuades a professor, Rotwang, to create a model Maria to replace the real one and stamp out any revolutionary tendencies, things take a turn for the worse. (more…)

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The Film Preservation blogathon is in full throttle, and after two gloriously successful days at Ferdy on Films has moved over to Roderick Heath’s This Island Rod for today and tomorrow.  Wonders in the Dark will be hosting on Sunday.  I again call on all reader/bloggers to consider posting a review of any science film and to link it up with the donation icon, and I will acknowledge it on Sunday’s blogathon thread.  Both Allan Fish and I will be presented re-boots of previously published reviews, and some others have promised some of their own work.  Everyone is encouraged to pay a visit today to Mr. Heath and This Island Rod!

 

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