by Sam Juliano
The funeral service on Monday in Kendal (U.K.) for Allan Fish included an exceedingly beautiful celebration of his life at the Cathedral-like Kendal Parish Church. It was lovingly moderated by the Rev. Jo Hurst, I was beyond deeply honored to deliver a eulogy for my dear friend, -along with Allan’s uncle Dave Fish- and my daughters and I spent our time during the brief two and a half day stay with Allan’s saintly mum Sue and devoted aunt Anne Cafferkey, who once again served as incomparable hosts at the worst time in anyone’s life. We were also stunned to be told we would be included in the main limousine with Sue, Anne and Allan’s Dad Michael. Allan chose the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” “The Rains of Castamere” from Game of Thrones and the shattering “When I Am Lain in Earth” from Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell. It was so deeply moving to see Allan’s former Kendal College workers standing at attention as the procession passed by. Allan’s final resting place is under a tree in Parkside Cemetery, but this extraordinarily talented writer’s legacy is only just beginning.
Here is the eulogy I delivered at the Kendal Parish Church in the U.K.’s stunningly beautiful Lake District hamlet about 90 miles south of the Scottish border:
Living with my large family in northeastern New Jersey just minutes from the Hudson River and Manhattan there seemed to be a culture divide. I had unlimited arthouse movie theaters for one at my grasp and I took full advantage of much of what the Big Apple offered. Any doubts about personal or cinematic compatibilities were forever dashed after a nearly four hour phone conversation in early July that allowed us to discuss our reciprocal obsession and the vast movie collections that were amassed under our roofs much to the incredulity of Allan’s mum and my own wife. But after the friendship truly blossomed after two unforgettable three week trips to our home Allan made in 2007 and 2008, when we visited numerous art house cinemas when not elevating to the top of the Empire State Building or touring other New York City landmarks. At that time we co-founded the film blogsite “Wonders in the Dark” which quickly became in good measure the sanctuary for many of my extraordinarily talented colleague’s capsule reviews. I had the privilege in my own home of seeing my friend’s inimitable composition method – an astonishing off the cuff forty minute exercise in lyrical propensity fashioned with the amunition of an encyclopedic knowledge of film and a memory like no other person I have ever known. In the six weeks he spent at our home he somehow learned the exact location of all my holdings. I thought it funny and amazing that whenever I couldn’t find something I’d contact Allan and he’d say after a biting but benign one line reprimand that it was on the third shelf on the back wall of the basement in between two other films that he’d identify.
Allan was perhaps the most organized person anyone could ever come across, but concurrently he was a completist of the highest order. This unusual parlay resulted in a man who came to be regarded as the final word on categorization, efficiency and reliability. While he was an astonishing film scholar, unparallelled in his critical acumen and discerning value judgements, he was also a perfectionist, a quality that endlessly delighted the international clientele he began to amass after word got around the cinematic circles that a genius was operated amongst them, one willing to share.
All around the globe cinephiles received copies of films Allan had graciously made in their behalf at no cost to the receivers. All he asked for in return was a little feedback after their viewings. Allan at heart if not quite exactly by profession was a teacher, and had he desired to work in a school in that capacity he’d be the best there ever was. It gave him unremitting joy to hear from those receiving his gifts and he relished in the ensuing analytical disccussions.
It is safe to say that Allan through the eleven plus years I knew him and no doubt several years before that was a “mercenary” of the cinema. His candid and uncompromising opinions which diavowed political correctness for “correctness” were so impassioned and confident that they often created some spirited debate. Allan was not one to tolerate films that were unabashedly emotional, and he wouldn’t think twice at taking down some that were revered by others. His satiric dismissal of a few like “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Brother Sun Sister Moon” would compete with the most hysterical one man comedy routines. One of the blogsite’s other writers and a close friend of Allan’s the Chicogoan Jamie Uhler understood and appreciated Allan’s brand when he opined that Allan “showed his affection with a wisecrack instead of a hug” and that Allan painted the same picture but just with a different color.” “His dry humor masked a trenchant wit that invariably left all his listeners enthralled, often at a loss of how to keep up with him. Unceasingly fecund and brilliant, he was headed for a Doctoral degree, and conceivably a position as Professor of Film Studies. While he was an exceedingly skilled historian and knowledgeable sports fan he drew his primary inspiration from the cinema, which he referenced and quoted and regularly demonstrated a mastery of with an all-encompassing and exhaustive bravado. His specialty was foreign language cinema, though no country worldwide escaped his passionate scrutiny. Over the last two years his primary concentration was the Japanese cinema, which he came to regard as the greatest nationalist cinema ever. Listening to Allan discuss and promote Ozu, Mizoguchi, Yoshida, Kurosawa, Naruse, Teshigahara, Masumura, Oshima, Kawashima, Gosho, Ichikawa, Kinoshita, Yamanaka, Kurahara, Shimizu, Imai, Uchida, Kinugasa, Wakamatsu, Sono, Miyazaki and numerous others was to be transported to a exotic world with a humanist ethic to rival any other nation’s. His infectious enthusiasm projected through extraordinary prose did more to bring back forgotten masterpieces and their creators – the result of which would astonish the most skilled of archeologists. If it was there Allan knew how to find it. And his work provided joy to so many. There was nothing that Allan couldn’t do. He was a technical wiz, a champion of meticulous organization, and one who never left any stone unturned.
His tragic, unconscionable passing after has left many at a loss for words, and his adoring and fiercely devoted mum Sue, loving father Michael, cherished Aunt Anne, loving Uncle David, his long treasured paternal grandmother Phyllis (whom he once said he’d stand in front of a bus for), his very dear friends Martyn Roberts, Marco Tremble and Sarah Baker and other family members are understandably left asking why, and how will the world be navigated without this larger than life man – no less than a genius and through and through a generous and accomodating life force who’d go to the ends of the earth to help all who crossed his path.
> Allan’s legacy is two-fold. For his family his much-too-short life has been etched in aching permanance. This dynamic, witty man left an indellible impact on all, especially those he saw each and every day. Though their hearts are broken, they can be comforted in knowing they are the primary caretakers of his massive output. The world at large has yet to discover Allan’s spectacular 3,000 entry tome “The Cinematic Pantheon-the Greatest Works of the Screen: A Personal Selection” a wholly extraordinary 13 year project that is in the works for kindle publication. Nothing like this in the cinematic literature has ever been even attempted, much less completed. It is the film book to end all film books. Said the Australian friend and blogger Tony d’Ambra: “Allan’s passion was his redemption. A kind of courage. To give yourself totally to something and to live and breathe it.”
Allan derived endless joy from turning others on to his painstaking discoveries, and those who knew him in any capacity will keep him eternally alive through his electrifying prose. All Allan ever wanted to do was to share with others. As our beloved Abraham Lincoln once immortally said “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” Allan’s gift to cinephiles, which as long as civilization endures will have a special and lasting prominence. His work will continue to speak to us in all its persuasive ardor and we owe to him in thought, word and deed to ensure this remains a two-sided conversation. You were a superstar Allan. We will love you for all-time, and will continue to be guided and inspired by your work till the end of our own days.