Archive for May 7th, 2017

by Duane Porter

This selection is restricted to films that premiered somewhere in the world during 2016. My top pick was first shown February 2016 at the Berlin International Film Festival. I was finally able to see it on a Region 2 DVD imported from Spain almost a year later. It just received a limited release in the U.S. a few weeks ago. Six of my ten were first shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016. All but one of these had a U.S. release last year but I had to wait until March of this year to see my number three pick. Such are the difficulties of trying to come up with a definitive list of the films that matter most to me.

I found 2016 to be an unusually rich year for international cinema. There were a larger number of quality films, making my selection of ten much more difficult than in any past year that I recall. It’s also interesting to note that four of my ten best were directed by women. I don’t think this has ever happened before and one can hope that this is an indication of better things to come.

I should mention that there are always some films that I haven’t yet seen (not to mention the hundreds I don’t know about or barely know about), most notably Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu), A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery (Lav Diaz), Slack Bay (Bruno Dumont), The Death of Louis XIV (Albert Serra), Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello), Staying Vertical (Alain Guiraudie), and The Woman Who Left (Lav Diaz).


1. A Quiet Passion directed by Terence Davies


Evening in the Dickinson home, the young Emily (Emma Bell) sits reading, a small book in the palm of her left hand. A flickering light illuminates her face with a warm soft glow. Turning a page, she raises her head and looks to her right. In voice-over we hear the older Emily (Cynthia Nixon) reciting one of her poems, “The heart asks pleasure first.” The camera begins a slow pan in the direction of her gaze. The voice-over continues, “and then, excuse from pain; and then, those little anodynes that deaden suffering.” The camera passes over Aunt Elizabeth (Annette Badland) sitting on a sofa barely able to keep herself awake and the recitation comes to a close, “and then, to go to sleep; and then, if it should be the will of its Inquisitor, the liberty to die.” The movement of the camera continues its way around the room. There is a vase of flowers and a burning lamp next to Emily’s father, Edward (Keith Carradine), intently reading, with a book in one hand and his head resting on the other. Behind him seated at a table under a large lamp is her brother, Austin (Benjamin Wainwright and later Duncan Duff), also reading. Across from him is their sister, Vinnie (Rose Williams and later Jennifer Ehle), working on her embroidery. Now the camera comes to the mother (Joanna Bacon) who is sitting in an armchair near the fireplace gazing longingly into the fire. A lamp casts its glow on two books, lying on a small table next to her, unread. Passing by curtains covering a darkened window, the camera moves downward attending to the fire crackling in the fireplace and then up to the top of the piano where sits two burning candles, a decanter of wine and an empty glass, and then two more candles burning. Coming to another small table holding flowers in a vase and an unlit lamp, the camera has made its way around the room and back to Emily once again. No longer reading, her face betrays a plaintive sadness. (more…)

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Melanie with author/illustrator Ezra David Stein at the Astoria Bookshop on Sunday morning

by Sam Juliano

The Allan Fish Online Film Festival will be kicking off this coming Thursday May 11th, on our late colleague’s 44th birthday, and will continue until May 26th.  A schedule was sent out last week with the corresponding dates matching up with the participants.  At this time I do not have any idea at all what the content will be except in two instances, meaning I don’t know what the remaining thirteen (13) people will be presenting.  I never asked for subjects, just commitments to do something for the project.  Therefore there is a wonderful surprise element in place for not only the readers but the site administrators including myself.  I will be leaving for Washington D.C. on Wednesday to serve as a chaperone for the seventh year in row for the eighth grade class trip.  I will be returning late Friday night, so I will rely on some hotel computer access on Thursday and Friday for the opening two days of the AFOFF, if that is indeed even possible.  I am hoping.

The follow-up project, our annual genre countdown will be in full swing on June 1st, the day interested voters will be allowed to begin submitting Top 60 Television Shows/program ballots.  There will not be any length or type restrictions, as was the case when Allan ran a Best British Television countdown all by his lonesome several years back.  The major difference here -and it is a massive disparity- is that American and worldwide shows are also eligible.  As always the entire point of doing this countdown is to encourage the writing of sixty superlative essays on 60 terrific shows.  Numerical order is nothing more than a hook to bring it all together.  As was the case with the AFOFF membership, I have been receiving numerous e mails indicating pledges of support, with several expressing hope I will get the first group e mail out soon.

Many thanks to the WitD readers for the unexpected torrid traffic the site has received for the Best Films of the Tribeca Film Festival 2017 post.  The support and interest are deeply appreciated.

Lucille, Sammy, Jillian, Melanie and I attended the Cliffside Park High School production of Cinderella on Saturday afternoon at the school auditorium.  Both Jeremy and Danny were part of the cast and crew, and the show was sheer delight. (more…)

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