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Archive for October 1st, 2018

by Sam Juliano

A week after Princeton, we attended an even bigger festival up in Chappaqua, New York on Saturday afternoon (where the Clintons have long resided) on the specious grounds of the Bell Middle School. Jeremy, Sammy and I met up with some our friends, with whom we chatted with while securing their most recent titles. Jeremy is featured below with Florence Friedman and Wendell Minor though photos were also taken with Caldecott legends Jerry Pinkney and Bryan Collier.  There were so many others we crossed paths with as well including Caldecott Honor winner Nancy Tafuri, Susan Hood, Jason Carter Eaton, the Ransomes and others. Next week Warwick!!!!

Both James Clark and J.D. Lafrance published extraordinary essays, with Clark’s review of Bergman’s The Silence the continuation of an ongoing series devoted to the iconic director.

Jamie Uhler’s latest Horrorfest review considers The Vampire Bat (F. Strayer/1933):  “A cheapie made to capture on the success of the Lionel Atwood/Fay Wray pairing in Doctor X from a year prior (review on that to come) and the Mystery of the Wax Museum that was set to arrive in theaters imminently, looks at least a decade older than each of these in comparison given its threadbare production. Sure, it borrows sets from James Whale’s great, lavish vehicles Frankenstein and The Old Dark House, which creates an aura beyond what would’ve been there otherwise, which is talk heavy plot (hey, actors could talk in the talkies now, so some of the early ones took full advantage!) and minimal suspense. That being said, it is a curious oddity, if a slightly mundane one. When you consider the plot, it uses a red herring in an actual, deranged young man who is obsessed with bats whom the townspeople suspect to be an actual vampire when several dead bodies turn up due to ‘blood loss’. As the townspeople build towards mob justice (surely lifted from Frankenstein), lead investigator Karl (the always stiff Melvyn Douglas) suspects more earthly suspects. Soon, Dr. Otto (the lean, cold Lionel Atwill) appears to be the prime target, and when his blood transfusion experiments are revealed for their more nefarious intentsto feed the artificial lifeforms the blood they need to keep going—we build to the films climax. It’s that idea, how science and technology can drive Horror rather than the classic Horror tales of Monsters and supernatural phenomenon from the Old World that provides something interesting, and relatively original. It would certainly become the norm for the cheapies made in the Horror and Science Fiction films for the next 3 decades or so. 

The direction is compact and subtle from Frank Strayer, perhaps greatest is his idea to use slowed, diagonal wipes to denote scene ends, evoking something like a bat wing or vampire cape cascading across our visual frame. While I wouldn’t rush anyone to see this one, in an age when the heavies—James Whale and Todd Browning—were defining what Horror looked like to American audiences, this is an interesting juxtaposition that I’d say Horror fans could stand seeing (of course Browning would make Freaks after Dracula and make any easy characterization of his aesthetic moot). If it was a bit brisker and more action oriented, which is perhaps unrealistic on poverty row, it’d have been tremendous. 

A ravishing biographical period piece “Colette” stars a luminous Keira Knightley in what could well be her finest performance since ‘Atonement’ as the radical bi-sexual title character who because of her gender is denied of credit for her famed writing by her husband, Henry, an unrepentant womanizer. Colette is actually the iconic French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1948 and famously penned “Gigi” upon which the beloved Lerner & Loewe musical was based. This pioneer in women’s rights fought back with fiery determination, allowing Knighley to flex her acting chops with dynamic fortitude. Directed by Wash Westmoreland this exquisite British work features resplendent period cinematography by Giles Nuttgens and above all the absolute greatest score of 2018 by Thomas Ades, whose classical themes and melodious flow beautifully underscores the film’s temper. 4.5 of 5.0. One of the best films of the year. (Seen in Montclair Saturday night with Lucille, Sammy and Danny). (more…)

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