Archive for June, 2015



by Sam Juliano

The real thing in terms of summer heat has descended on the metropolitan area for the past few weeks, but this is pretty much the report from many of our friends elsewhere.  With the rising temperatures comes barbecues, pool parties and weekend seashore respites, not to mention end-of-the-school-year graduations, retirement dinners and extended vacation plans.  That scenario is playing out in my neck of the woods, though here at Wonders in the Dark the excitement of another genre poll is building.

Today the long-awaited Childhood Films Countdown launches with an opening salvo from film, music and comic book writer extraordinaire Ed Howard.  The “Top 83” will continue on into October, running Monday through Friday, and there are well over a dozen contributors to the cause.  Though there were initially some issues broached in mild debates on the e mail chain of the countdown’s actual voters, the bottom line is that some very great reviews of some very great films will be upcoming.  There can be little dissension connected to the results, and as our very good friend David Schleicher has remarked: “This countdown has the potential of being the best ever.”  Site readers and lurkers are urged to follow the countdown and if possible to comment on what is sure to be a fabulous collection of reviews. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2014 77m) DVD2

1827 days in hell…with Roy Wood

p  Barney Reisz  d  Carl Tibbetts  w  Charlie Brooker  ph  George Steel  m  John Opstad  art  Joel Collins

Jon Hamm (Matt), Rafe Spall (Potter), Oona Chaplin (Greta), Natalia Tena (Jennifer), Janet Montgomery (Beth), Rasmus Hardiker (Harry), Dan Li (Tim),

Think of Christmas specials on TV in 2014.  Easy to think of Doctor Who, especially as 2014’s Christmas special was the best yuletide adventure for the Timelord there has yet been, in its way a far from cosy piece, hinting at the nightmarish world of dreams.  Then there was Faye Marsay’s Shona, dancing through a sick bay to Slade, strumming her leg like a guitar.  Over on Channel 4, though, something very different was brewing, no Crimbo special with Santa saving the day with his reindeer.  No, kiddies, Jack Skellington has taken over Christmas with a very real nightmare.

As a whole Black Mirror has been a mixed bag, but you daredn’t miss an episode for fear of missing a corker.  The first season in particular had unforgettable moments with poor Rory Kinnear’s Prime Minister given a dilemma and a half and Rupert Everett essentially playing a Simon Cowell from a nightmarish future.  White Christmas is another nightmarish future, but one which leaves you feeling like Holmes after Moriarty takes his blood out pint by pint.  It’s against a golden rule of inclusion, taking out one episode from a series, but the fact is that White Christmas is just too good to leave behind, as much as a warning as entertainment.  (more…)

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heimat 1

by Allan Fish

(Germany 2013 225m) DVD2

Aka. Die Andere Heimat: Chronik einer Sehnsucht; Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision

Where the sun goes when it sets here

p  Christian Reitz  d  Edgar Reitz  w  Edgar Reitz, Gert Heidenreich  ph  Gernot Roll  ed  Uwe Klimmeck  m  Michael Riessler  art  Anton Gerg, Hucky Horngerger

Jan Dieter Schneider (Jakob Simon), Antonio Bill (Henriette Niem), Maximilian Scheidt (Gustav Simon), Marita Breuer (Margarethe Simon), Rüdiger Kriese (Johann Simon), Philine Lembeck (Florine), Mélanie Fouché (Lena Seitz), Eva Zeidler (grandmother), Reinhar Paulus (uncle), Martin Habersheidt (Fürchtegott Niem), Christoph Luser (Franz Olm), Barbara Phillip (Mrs Niem), Andreas Külzer (Pastor Wiegand), Werner Herzog (Alexander von Humboldt),

After making the greatest trilogy of the German screen Edgar Reitz could be forgiven for considering his life’s work done.  There had been Heimat: Fragments, but that had been no more than a retrospective highlights package, adding nothing to the work that had gone before.  In 2013 the BBC unveiled the first series of Peter Moffat’s The Village, a series he intended to be a British Heimat.  What he probably didn’t know in writing it was that Reitz was penning a new chapter himself, not a continuation, but a prologue, a prequel to the original work.

The location, the village of Schabbach, is the same, except that it’s the early 1840s not 1918.  The village itself is barely a village, little more than a hamlet with a kirche, but with many other such villages in the vicinity.  It’s the period before the revolutions of 1848, a time when Schabbach was still a part of the Rhineland state in western Germany, with its capital in Mainz.  The Holy Roman Empire was no more and it was essentially under Prussian overlordship, but a bigger influence was coming from Emperor Pedro II of Portugal, who was campaigning for Europeans, and especially Germans, to up sticks and emigrate to the plains of South America.  Here we find Jakob Simon, a dreamer who has learnt the native language of Cayacachua and dreams of escaping.  Sadly, like another dreamer in Bedford Falls, his dreams are put on hold by familial devotion and essentially stolen by his brother Gustav, who first takes his girl Henriette when Jakob is imprisoned for a minor misdemeanour, and then later announces his intention to quit Germany and go to Brazil himself, leaving Jakob home with his otherwise helpless consumptive mother and blacksmith father.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

WARNING – contains spoilers and conjecture, so do not proceed if you haven’t seen till the end of series 5.

It seems so long ago now.  Arya serving Tywin Lannister at Harrenhal, trying to keep out of sight of those like Petyr Baelish who may know her real identity.  Tywin finds himself surrounded by idiots and is beginning to wonder how he can deal with Robb Stark – remember him? – the impudent Stark wolf pup who’d defeated him on the field.  Tywin asks Arya, as an authentic northern girl, about how Robb is perceived, and Arya talks of how some people talk as if he can’t be killed.  “Do you believe that?”, Tywin asks her pointedly.  “No”, she replies with just the right air of resignation, “anyone can be killed.”

Don’t we know it!  For anyone coming to Game of Thrones as a Westerosi virgin, unacquainted with the doorstopper-sized books that inspire it and who have successfully avoided spoilers, it will have been a chastening journey.  The first season alone had seen the king done in by a wild boar and a would-be candidate for his throne covered in molten gold.  The would-be heroine of the piece, Daenerys Targaryen, had her child and husband taken from her.  Oh, yes, and a bloke called Ned Stark lost his head.   If a king and the star of the show could both be talked of in the past tense before we reached the end of round one, what hope for the rest of them? (more…)

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First Annual Art Exhibit near Hudson County Lake over the weekend

by Sam Juliano

Some steady improvement in my mobility and knee issue has enabled me to stay the course with various planned events over the past week, though as many of us in the metropolitan area well know this past week was one where we’d be successful in frying eggs on sidewalks.  The upcoming weeks for Lucile and I will feature several weddings, a class re-union, two retirement affairs in the same day, and the graduations of my son Sammy and daughter Jillian from high school and Jr. High School respectively.  Here’s a great big shout out to Marilyn Ferdinand in Chicago, who will be the focus of a 60th Birthday party out there on Saturday.

     The Childhood Films Countdown will launch a week from today for a nearly four month weekday run until early October with an opening essay from writer extraordinaire Ed Howard.  E mail chain members/writers are advised to keep abreast of the schedule grid in preparing their work.  This should be quite a venture, certainly in a league with our previous countdowns covering musicals, comedies, westerns and romances.  Once again we have some of the finest films writers online ready to strut their stuff. The past week was quite hectic.  An appearance at the Hudson County Park Art Show (the first annual) on Sunday yielded some magnificent work, and art aficionados showed their appreciation with remarkable attendance.  Later in the afternoon we attended the Paramus Book Festival on the grounds of the Public Library, and sat in for my lifelong friend Peter Danish’s presentation on his amazon bestseller on speech making.  Nearly 100 authors were part of this amazing venue.

     I was unable to see The Apu Trilogy Film Forum restorations, but I plan to make good on the last two days this Festival is being run at the Film Forum (today and tomorrow).  Lucille, Danny and I saw the new film on the Beech Boys’ Brian Wilson last night, though.  I watched the French television masterpiece LA MAISON DES BOIS on Friday night.  Maurice Pialat’s magnificent work would have been a perfect fit for the childhood films countdown. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(France 1971 355m) not on DVD

Aka. The House in the Woods

Hervé’s war

p  Pierre Long, Yves Laumet  d  Maurice Pialat  w  René Wheeler  ph  Roger Duculot  ed  Martine Giordano, Arlette Langmann  m  Maurice Ravel, etc.  art  Isabelle Lapierre

Hervé Lévy (Hervé), Michel Terrazon (Michel), Albert Martinez (Bébért), Pierre Doris (Albert), Jacqueline Dufranne (Mother Jeanne), Agathe Natanson (Marguerite), Ovila Légaré (priest), Alexandre Rignault (Birot), Jean Mauvais (Mahu), Fernand Gravey (Marquis), Henri Saulquin (Le Bedeau), Albert Michel (Cottin), Henri Puff (Marcel), Michel Tugot-Doris (sergeant), Paul Crauchet (Paul, Hervé’s father), Philippe André (Jacques), Maurice Pialat (teacher), Marie-Christine Boulard (Mme.Pouilly), Micha Bayard (M’elle Latour), Barbara Laage (Hélène), Serge Kovacs (Serge), Brigitte Perrier (Brigitte), Eliette Demay (Michèle), Marie Marc (Aunt Marie), Magali Vacher (Magali),

Maurice Pialat’s TV drama begins with a sense of familiarity; a soldier in what is clearly a French soldier’s uniform from World War I, traipsing across the fields to return to his home village.  We have been there before; Edgar Reitz’s Heimat began the same way with a German soldier, but there the returnee was demobbed, the war was over and the series would become a chronicle of life for the next 60 years.  La Maison des Bois takes place during and the immediate aftermath of World War I, but the difference is that Pialat, as one may expect from a director who had not long ago made L’Enfance Nue (whose young star Michel Terrazon reappears here),tells it from the point of view of a child.  Not the French Heimat then, but more of a World War I variation of so many French stories of childhood or lost innocence over the course of a summer, only the summer here is rather several seasons reduced to one figurative one. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

I never met Christopher Lee.  Most people who were left deeply saddened by yesterday’s announcement of his death won’t have done either.  But they feel as if they did.  Only yesterday horror buff Mark Gatiss tweeted how he’d been a huge part of his youth and the fact is he was a part of the youth of several generations of film lovers.  It seemed as if he was, to quote our Sam yesterday, indestructible, and on a personal level his birthday was only 24 hours (if 51 years) before mine.  I’d hoped he’d live to receive a telegram from Her Majesty, and imagined him smiling at the irony.  Elizabeth Windsor’s bloodline is impressive and can be traced back over a thousand years.  “You can trace your lineage back to William the Conqueror, ma’am, not many can say that.”  He wouldn’t have added, because he was too much of a gentleman, “I can trace mine back to Charlemagne.”  He’d have scoffed at such proud sentiments. (more…)

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 © 2015 by James Clark

      It wouldn’t seem plausible, from the perspective of bloated numbers pledging their allegiance to “commonsensible” understanding of the world in general and film in particular, that an approach to the whimsy of Melville’s Bob le Flambeur (1956) requires a brief update of the reflective history of the planet. But, when you stop and think about the flaming absurdity and mawkishness of mainstream (law-abiding) experience, it is precisely a disregarded figure like Melville (and his most acute contemporary associate, the much-maligned Michael Mann), who would be doing the heavy lifting so germane to the roster of geniuses who have left things in so self-satisfiedly superficial a state.

Incisive investigation tends to come in two forms. The first, stemming from 19th century idealist-academic inquiry (in turn stemming from pre-Socratic endeavors) comprises conceptual architecture having tripped open lacunae of the rational (Platonic) tradition. The second, stemming from the arts, comprises construction of physical objects in such a way as to reveal an underbelly of rewarding startlement that physical events can be endlessly compelling.

The arts having to do with that black magic have jealously maintained that those whiffs of ecstasy and frisson they trade in are to stand as sacrosanct in their ineffable and almost utterly confusing power. As such, in radical film production, the sensuous bite of malaise, impasse and fleeting thrill tends to stand out as an unsurpassable frontier unto itself.

But this now venerable electrical storm (along lines of Antonioni, Fellini, Bresson, Lynch, Von Trier et al.) does admit of being cultivated further. And the inception of this problematic peeks out of the well-trodden ground by way of a film feted for elegance, technical audacity and panache; but not recognized as a bold departure speaking to the heart of modern existence. (more…)

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1944 Mexican masterpiece ‘Maria Candelaria’ shown at Film Forum as part of Gabriel Figueroa Festival.


Screen capture from brilliant conclusion to Roy Andersson Trilogy, “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” shown at Film Forum

by Sam Juliano

My second knee meniscus tear in ten years necessitated a mid-week arthroscopy (Thursday), and temporarily had me out of commission, but I couldn’t stay back for long, what with some familial responsibilities.  Later this week I will begin what will surely be a month of therapy, but I know that routine well.  In any case I did manage a full week, and returned to school this morning.  My deepest apologies to those who were motivated and gracious enough to comment on last week’s Monday Morning Diary.  I still haven’t responded to several, but will do so today.  It is not a routine I normally embrace, but this has been a maddening week.

The Childhood countdown has been all sorted out and is now officially set to launch on Monday, June 22nd with a banner opening salvo by film writer extraordinaire Ed Howard.  I’ll leave the identity of the title until that date, as I don’t want to spoil anything for the non email network site readers.   The vast majority of the assignments have been taken, with a few left that will certainly be sorted out by the respective publication dates.  The countdown will continue until Wednesday, October 14th, the date the #1 film will be unveiled.  Talk has already started on doing a Great War Films of All-Time Countdown in the spring of 2016, but we are better off taking thing s day and a week at a time.  God willing we will approach that hurdle when the time comes.  Right now the Childhood Films Countdown takes center stage, and writer David Schleicher may be right on when he opined by e mail that “this could be the site’s greatest countdown ever!”

The hectic week was largely fueled by the three day attendance (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) at the Governor’s Ball musical events on Randall’s Island that involved my daughters Melanie and Jillian.  They got to see and hear some of their heroes like Bjork, Lana Del Rey and Florence and the Machine.  A real Woodstock styled affair with pot smoke in the air, and 40,000 strong each day.  Lucille and I escorted our girls to and from the location, with the late night pickups around 11:30 P.M.  The bottom line of course is that the girls had a whale of a time traversing the tent covered stages set in the grassy expanses. (more…)

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fff 1

by Allan Fish

(France 1973 85m) DVD1/2

Aka. Vérités et mensonges

Watch out for the slightest hint of hanky panky

p  François Reichenbach, Dominique Antoine  d/w  Orson Welles  ph  Gary Graver, Christian Odasso  ed  Marie-Sophie Dubus, Dominique Engerer  m  Michel Legrand

Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Laurence Harvey, Joseph Cotten, Paul Stewart, Richard Wilson, Clifford Irving, Elmyr de Hory,

It’s now forty years since Welles’ final cinematic sleight of hand was released.  It would be his last original feature, only behind the scenes documentaries on the making of Othello and The Trial would follow.  Yet to use the term original may be somewhat misleading, for F for Fake exists somewhere between the real and the fraudulent, between fiction, documentary, mockumentary and even cine-essay.  It even exists loosely in time, shot on one of several sabbaticals while filming was halted on his unfinished The Other Side of the Wind.  And it is the greatest hors d’oeuvre ever made for a main course that never arrived, a side order to Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie(more…)

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