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Archive for February, 2018

forty-guns-stanwyck-1957-1

by J.D. Lafrance

Hell and High Water (1954) was one of 20th Century Fox’s earliest experiments with CinemaScope, widescreen movies that was Hollywood’s attempt in the 1950s to lure people away from their television sets and back into the theaters by giving them something they couldn’t get staying home. Samuel Fuller did such a good job with this format that he used it again on Forty Guns (1957), a hard-hitting western as only he could make.
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by Jared Dec

When the Tenth Month Comes – Dang Nhat Minh

Vietnam 1984 95m

d Dang Nhat Minh w Dang Nhat Minh p Lan Nguyen

Van Le, Luu Viet Bao Dang, Phu Cuong Lai, Huu Muoi Nguyen, Minh Vuong Nguyen, Le Phong Trinh

When the tenth month comes, rice ripens in five-ton fields…

When one thinks of Southeast Asian cinema prior to the 1990’s, few can probably name more than a few films they have seen. Vietnamese cinema largely goes unmentioned full stop aside from the occasional nod to Tran Anh Hung’s European-influenced films from the 90’s. To me, perhaps one of the largest omissions in Allan’s massive tome was the lack of a single Vietnamese film. When one thinks of Vietnam in cinema, most will think of the blockbuster US films about the conflict there such as Apocalypse Now or Platoon. In fact, my interest in Vietnamese cinema was born from reading Roger Ebert’s Great Movies review of Apocalypse Now in middle school and a line standing out to me where Ebert claimed to have heard that Vietnamese films made in the Vietnam War era never referred to the Americans as Americans but rather simply “the enemy”. At the time, I was fascinated by the prospect of seeing Vietnamese films from that era for myself, though finding such films with English subtitles remains an erstwhile difficult process. I have seen enough to know Ebert’s source was wrong, Dat Kho (1973) in particular refers to Americans by name many times. However, the fact that no one corrected Ebert on this point, is proof enough that early Vietnamese cinema remains a great uncharted ocean for most film buffs. Francis Ford Coppola famously claimed Apocalypse Now was more than a movie about Vietnam, it was Vietnam. I will not dispute the greatness of his film, but perhaps the Vietnamese themselves are more qualified to make a movie about Vietnam than Coppola.

When the Tenth Month Comes is a rare thing for an early Vietnamese film. For one thing, the film is a tender romantic drama about the Vietnam War. Unlike the aforementioned Dat Kho or a number of other contemporary Vietnamese films of the era that I have seen (some of which are so obscure they aren’t on imdb), Tenth Month is not propaganda in really any way. In fact, the film is more of a study of Vietnam as a society and as a culture rather than an attack on imperialism. Perhaps that is why this film is usually the oldest Vietnamese film that gets mentioned by Vietnamese film buffs when the topic of what the greatest Vietnamese films are is mentioned. Duyen is a young actress in the North Vietnamese countryside whose husband, Tran, is killed in the Vietnam War. Duyen wishes to hide the truth of his death from his family, which is strange conceptually, but this trope appears in several Vietnamese films of the era so perhaps there is a cultural element I am missing. In order to maintain the facade, Duyen asks a schoolteacher who inadvertently becomes aware of her secret to write letters to her in-laws posing as her husband. What follows is Duyen’s internal struggles to reconcile her lack of honesty, her continued loyalty to her husband, and her growing feelings for the schoolteacher. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Our 38th annual Academy Awards party will be held at the Tiger Hose Firehouse on Sedore Avenue in Fairview on Sunday, March 4th from 5:30 P.M. till the anticipated midnight conclusion.  As always our party isn’t held to celebrate or validate AMPAS in any way, shape or form, but to engage in our annual guilty pleasure with friends, including some we haven’t met up with since the previous year.  Our catered food is from Gandolfo’s in North Bergen this year (Dante’s closed permanently eleven months ago) and the menu includes full trays of:  cold anti-pasto, chicken parmigiana; meatballs; chicken francaise; eggplant parmigiana; penne with broccoli; rigatoni with marinara sauce; sausage and peppers; deserts; soda, coffee and beer.  As always this is an open house for anyone able to attend.  if not for anything else our Oscar party is a fabulous social gathering, and I look forward to seeing many of our friends.  A big screen television will carry the show in grand fashion.

The Greatest Television Series Countdown Part 2 will commence on Sunday March 11th.  Schedules have been sent out to the e mail chain of involved writers. (more…)

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On the Road

on_the_road_2012_1080p_bluray_kissthemgoodbye_net_0621

By J.D. Lafrance

For years, Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road had been considered unfilmable. That hasn’t stopped people from trying ever since it was published in 1957 with Kerouac himself sending a letter to Marlon Brando asking the actor to star opposite him in a film version. It isn’t the style or the structure that makes the novel difficult to adapt but rather its iconic status as one of the signature books of the 1950s. Even more daunting is its status as a book that millions of people grew up reading, like The Catcher in the Rye. As a result, it has become a much beloved and cherished book for generations of readers. Anyone attempting to adapt Kerouac’s novel into a film faces the intimidating task of living up to the impossible expectations of legions of fans, not to mention somehow making people forget the equally iconic people the characters are based on – Kerouac and his famous friends, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs.
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 © 2018 by James Clark

 In the spirit of craft, so central to this film, we’ll cover first (all but one of) the essentials of where it’s going; to be followed by how it fares. Though set in London in the 1950s, purporting to be a love story about a renowned couturier, Reynolds Woodcock, and a young woman, Alma, first seen as a waitress in a rural locale, we have to get over its old-timey, sentimental sheen and take to heart how old and wooden the maestro is and how like an ungainly woodcock Alma is (searching at night in soft ground—in her case, for poisonous mushrooms by which to seal his dependency on her). They have a child, and by their lights have a happy life.

Fans of Pride and Prejudice might be tempted to imagine that the good old days are back. But how many 50s romance aficionados are left out there? Has Anderson overestimated that the emotive skills of actors, Daniel Day Lewis and Vicky Krieps, could draw a crowd to pay the bills for his deep and difficult 21st century vehicle? (From my perspective, I’m saddened, but not surprised, that in a centre of more than 6 million, only 2 theatres found it worth showing.) This massively quixotic endeavor ensnares us in its fantastic brilliance which no one wants to see.

There are many candidates vying in this picture, for filling the presence of “phantom thread.” We’re given, if we’re awake enough, a foothold on the real breakthrough very early on. Reynold’s current doll begins to chafe at the breakfast table, denouncing him (politely, of course, this being a drawing room in the realm of British good breeding) on account of, “There’s nothing I can do to get your seeing me…” The rigidly tastefully groomed owner of the mid-town Georgian mansion which doubles as his studio and production floor—seen at the outset, one morning, attending to body and raiment as if he no longer can, as if he ever did, distinguish between perfect artefact and human volcano—stages thereby what he might imagine to be a British volcano in telling the talkative serf, “I can’t begin my day with confrontation… I simply have to have silence.” At which, a rendition of “My Foolish Heart” fills the cordon bleu air. (more…)

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by Jared Dec

Song of the Horse (1971?, Akira Kurosawa)

p Akira Kurosawa d Akira Kurosawa w akira kurosawa m ??? e ???

Hiroyuki Kawase (narrator), Noboru Mitami (narrator)

Everyone reading this likely knows who Akira Kurosawa is. Whether you prefer Ozu or Mizoguchi is irrelevant in the face of the reality that no other Japanese director would have gotten anywhere near the attention in the West they have were it not for Akira Kurosawa opening the world’s eyes to the cinema of the East. It is hard to argue that any other figure in Japanese cinema or even Asian cinema as a whole is as important from an objective perspective. I may be preaching to the choir here, but his importance needs to be established before we discuss why this film is so bafflingly unknown anywhere in the world. Most normal film buffs will say Kurosawa made 30 films and since the release of 1993’s Madadayo, they would be correct in saying 30 of Kurosawa’s films were available anywhere in the world. That does not mean however that Kurosawa only made 30 films. There are two co-productions he was involved with that remain unavailable though I am ignoring those. No I am here to tell you about the mysterious 31st film, Song of the Horse, which can now finally be seen after over four decades of complete obscurity.

1970 was a rough year for Kurosawa, Dodes’ka-den was a monumental flop that essentially bankrupted everyone who had bet on Kurosawa making a comeback. The Japanese film industry itself was in near collapse, and there was no funding for Kurosawa to make another big-budget epic like the ones he was so famous for. Out of options and strapped for cash, Kurosawa allegedly took the advice of friend and contemporary Shohei Imamura and attempted to make a low-budget TV documentary. The logic was low budget meant low risk and Kurosawa would likely make a profit that would prove to investors once again that he was a capable filmmaker at least in some aspect. Now is when the story gets hazy. The few places with information on this film claim that Song of the Horse premiered on Japanese TV in August of 1970. However, the one single other review of this film that I have found claims the horse races involved occured in June of 1971 making a 1970 release date impossible. This confusion and the lack of any other information to the contrary is why I have included a “?” next to the year. Regardless of when the film was released, it was likely not even the moderate success that Kurosawa hoped for, with the film allegedly never being shown anywhere again after the premiere. Kurosawa would attempt suicide in late 1971, and though he survived, it is a strange thought that in an alternate universe, Song of the Horse would have been the last film Kurosawa ever directed.

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by Sam Juliano

The Greatest Television Series Countdown Part 2 will commence on Sunday, March 11, and will run all the way until July 23, though there will be two twelve (12) day breaks, one in April and one in late May for the Tribeca Film Festival and the second annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival respectively.  The schedule has been sent out via group e mail to all the writers, and preparations to meet that March 11th start are in place.

Lucille,  Sammy, Jeremy and I braved the Saturday night snow to attend the Leonia Player’s Guild production of Neil Simon’s 1991 “Lost in Yonkers” last night at the Civil War Drill Hall Theater on Grand Ave. Directed by Christopher Malone the play featured outstanding performances by Dori Persson as Grandma, Rachel Alt as Bella and young Frankie Tinelli as Arty. The attractive minimalist staging seemed just right for this popular Simon work, which was brought to the screen in 1993 by Martha Coolidge. (more…)

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