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Archive for August, 2019

 © 2019 by James Clark

      With many Bergman films now having thrilled us by their confrontation of distemper and ecstasy, we could conclude that a standoff has reached its outer limits. But we would be far off the mark. Our film today, Shame (1968), has something very new to impart. But it doesn’t come in a straightforward way.

As we’ve often found in these treasures of semi-theatrical drama, the very endings turn out to divulge the marvel, and here again it brings to light our foothold in a slippery terrain. A former musician, Eva, finds herself, with civil war rampant, in a small fishing boat crowded with escapees (including her husband, Jan), where the seas are strewn with corpses. She tells Jan of a dream she’s just had. “I was walking down a very beautiful street. On one side were white houses with flowering arches and pillars. On the other side was a leafy park. Dark green water flowed beneath the trees lining the street. I came to a high wall overgrown with roses. Then an airplane came and set the roses on fire. But it wasn’t all terrible, because it was so beautiful. I looked down into the water and watched the roses burn. I held a baby in my arms. It was our daughter. She snuggled up to me… and I could feel her mouth against my cheek. And the whole time I knew there was something I should remember. Something someone had said. But I’d forgotten what it was…”

Neither ecstasy nor distemper has enveloped her. What that was is the heart of this very strange film—a vision ripping the constraints of not only cinema (the first seconds entail a reel of film shredding), but also theatre and every kind of art. In many ways, this conundrum looks to Bergman’s early film, Sawdust and Tinsel (1953), where physical triumph is a drug and machination and advantage have saturated the landscape. (However, the death march there would be a Rose Bowl Parade beside what’s in store here.) A second ingredient to consider is the aura of goofiness and malignancy being a specialty of the suspense films produced by Alfred Hitchcock. (Hitch, however, would be Violence Lite in light of Shame.) To cast some light upon this virtually incomprehensible phenomenon, we should remember that the term, “shame,” covers many degrees. Mainstream morality is never at a loss to hammer a roster of the “shameful.” Mainstream morality and the reflections of Ingmar Bergman have nothing in common. Maybe someone had suggested to Eva (that name being about the primal) that the crowning shame of world history, a factor reducing social and scientific action to childishness, is the fakery of immortality and its compensatory  assaults in lieu of fully creative power. (more…)

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By J.D. Lafrance

Film director Walter Hill has had, at times, a frustratingly and wildly uneven career that features stone cold classics (The Warriors) alongside baffling misfires (Crossroads). His main stock and trade is old school tough guy action films and they don’t come anymore badass than the criminally underrated Extreme Prejudice (1987). Based on a story co-written by John Milius and starring Nick Nolte and Powers Boothe, it was Hill’s two-fisted homage to the films of Sam Peckinpah who he had worked for early on his career as the screenwriter for The Getaway (1972). Like many of Hill’s own action films, Extreme Prejudice is a modern western featuring two uncompromising men at odds with one another.

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A film clip from “The Thing That Kills Me the Most” a short by Jay Giampietro that for the second time this year features me as the central virtual character in a short film that has been chosen for an area festival. However this time it is incredibly for the 57TH ANNUAL NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL which is one of the nation’s most prestigious film fests and the grandaddy of them all. My family and the brilliantly integrated voice of Dennis Polifroni are omni-president in the film shot in my home from footage over 15 years ago.

by Sam Juliano

I don’t remember when the Monday Morning Diary last fell squarely on my birthday but I would assume it had to be seven years ago.  In any case this particular instance is unlike any of the others as I turn 65, that age so often associated with retirement and leisure.  Alas neither of those reticent terms are applicable to my own situation as I remain gainfully employed in the same school system I have been part of for 35 years and remain cognizant and active on the arts front in all regards.  I want to thank all of you who extended your kind words and concern for Lucille on last week’s diary.  It appears that November will be the month for this procedure, one where she will be fully awake for.

Though I am of course enormously proud the prevailing emotion right now is one of stunned disbelief. A short film titled “The Thing That Kills Me the Most” featuring me a second time this year as the central character and my family and close friends in support (and filmed entirely in my Fairview home) has been selected to screen twice in the ultra-prestigious 57TH ANNUAL NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL, the granddaddy of all US film festivals, where it will be shown in the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center which is a stone’s throw from the Metropolitan Opera house and Avery Fisher Hall. The short’s director is again the incomparably brilliant Jay Giampietro, who utilized footage from around fifteen years ago to craft an impressionist chronicle of the madness surrounding domestic gatherings. To put things in perspective this is the famed festival where Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” will be debuting and to boot in the same celebrated theater. It is just so unreal, it hasn’t yet sunk in for me. I will post a follow-up when ticket announcements are made for the NYFF in a short time. After the short “Best Picture” was chosen for the Brooklyn Academy of Music Festival (BAM), I was so thrilled and proud. But now that this second film has made the ultimate area and East Coast festival I can only thank our lucky stars and the fabulously gifted Jay Giampietro! As to the “exasperated fellow guest” he is a dear friend, and I will release his name hopefully on the next post!

The Thing That Kills Me the Most
Jay Giampietro, USA, 2019, 5m
World Premiere
Faces, voices, light: language itself is rendered abstract in this impressionistic fugue about fraught interpersonal dynamics at a weekly social engagement, narrated in retrospect by an exasperated fellow guest.

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North Dallas Forty

By J.D. Lafrance

There are few sports movies that rise above the tried and true conventions of the genre. For every Bull Durham (1988) that gets it right, there are a hundred ones like The Scout (1994). The 1970s was a particularly strong decade for sports movies with the likes of The Bad News Bears (1976) and Slap Shot (1977) offering gritty, funny takes on baseball and hockey respectively. These films dug a little deeper and were unafraid to present a cynical and irreverent look at sports, offering unfiltered insight inside the locker room. More so than these two sports, American football was scrutinized and satirized with comedies like The Longest Yard (1974) and Semi-Tough (1977).

It was North Dallas Forty (1979), however, that stirred up a fair amount of controversy with its highly critical look at the professional game. Adapted from Peter Gent’s novel of the same name, the film focused on the hard-partying and hard-playing team known as the North Dallas Bulls, based on the Dallas Cowboys. Gent had played for them for five seasons and then wrote a fictionalized account about his experiences. His uncompromising take on the physical punishment players endured on the field and the toll that the mind games of the coaches took on them in the locker room was authentically conveyed in director Ted Kotcheff’s film. So much so that upon its release there were accusations that the NFL blackballed some of the players that appeared in the film.

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by Sam Juliano

I can’t thank everyone enough for their kinds and concerned words about Lucille in private messages on social media, in e mails and here at the site on the prior MMD.  The latest news is absolutely fantastic.  After consultations, we were told by a neurosurgeon at Columbia-Presbyterian that her now confirmed benign tumor can be effectively eliminated through the far less invasive “radio surgery” which means they won’t need to cut her skull to operate.  To say that this news is significant would be the understatement of understatements, and we are both ebullient and relieved, if still vigilant on the entire situation.  The doctor wants to do this procedure sometime in November of December.

On the political front my brother, Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano endorsed NJ native Cory Booker for President at a meeting between the two men at Patsy’s Italian restaurant in Fairview this past week as reported by the New Jersey Globe:

Juliano backs Booker for president

Lucille and I attended the Burt Lancaster Festival again on Thursday the Film Forum, taking in three (3) film’s in that day’s marathon: (more…)

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Tim Hunter’s Tex

By J.D. Lafrance

In the early 1980s, Disney struggled to become relevant and in the process decided to gamble on several live-action films that weren’t the kinds of projects the Mouse House were known for making, chief among them Tex (1982), Tron (1982), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). Tex was an adaptation of the popular S.E. Hinton novel of the same name. Her first four Young Adult novels (The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, and That Was Then This Now were the others) were all set in and around Tulsa and struck a chord with young people as they refused to talk down to their intended audience. They also dealt with the class conflict between rich and poor kids in a way that not many other authors were doing at the time.

Her novels featured worlds inhabited mostly by teenagers with an emphasis on the intense friendships between them as well as the friction between siblings in an unflinchingly honest way. At first, Disney picking up the option for Tex seemed like an odd move as the book took a frank look at two brothers trying to stay together with very little money and each one heading off in different directions. However, it did fit in with the current regime’s desire to think outside the box and the end result was a smartly written, well-acted slice-of-life tale of regular folks just trying to get by.

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by Sam Juliano

Full speed ahead.  We are already approaching the half-way point of August, with temperatures in general far more comfortable than there have been over the past month or so.  Vacationers are taking stock of the time left before returning to work and for those in school-related positions the 2019-2020 year is only a stone’s throw away.  Those at the site would like to congratulate Brooklynite Maurizio Roca and his wife Yolanda on the birth of their first child, a son named Julian.  Happy times for the entire family and wishing them the very best.  Soon some of our site writers will be focusing in on the horror genre, normally the routine here as we near late August in the window leading up to Halloween.  Jim Clark has penned a superlative essay on Sawdust and Tinsel as part of his brilliant ongoing Ingmar Bergman series, and J.D. Lafrance an excellent piece on Pump Up the Volume this past week at the site.

There is no alarm as everything seems to be in order, but Lucille’s grape-sized benign tumor in her skull has necessitated observation.  This is almost never a life-threatening situation as opposed to malignant tumors, but her menengioma may eventually have to be removed at some point.  Consultation with a most excellent neurosurgeon will be happening around the 25th when said practitioner returns from his vacation.  I know some family members over the years who lived with these tumors their entire lives.  Each situation depends on the person.  Famed celebrities like Mary Tyler Moore and Elizabeth Taylor had similar mengiomas removed without any problems.  Yes I am seriously concerned but most optimistic after talking to many on the matter. (more…)

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