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Archive for December, 2022

 

by James Clark  2022

Falling apart has had its fortune. In the course of tending to complete the film, Nenette and Boni, I expected (as with the double parts in the proceedings in, Both Sides of the Blade) a happy result. The strictness of the Henri  Mouron dealing put an end to that hope (“all rights reserved”). All I can say is that the graphic artist, A.M.Cassandre, was a giant, his advertising work, touching those who could engage the lithographic magic. That he ended his life by suicide, must not be a way of demeaning the effort.

We start with the city of Marseille. Many years ago, we would visit Marseille as vintage poster dealers, embracing the city’s rich lithographic treasures. Not only that, we became friends with one of the brokers. His home was one of the small islands nearby. We spent several happy days there. (During the War, the Nazis used it, in various ways. Long before that, there was a nefarious prison.) Our story today, Nenette and Boni (1997), focuses upon poisonous instincts. One could place the planet in this way: a very large group; and a very small group which finds something very different.

Along that way, we find a young man, Boni, of Marseille, sketching out a big problem, which could lead him to the few. In much of the saga, the only positives are that he doesn’t kill anyone. His wrath involves lucidity.

However, a crucial matter has to be in place. Planet Earth is rapidly dying. It is a sign of a form of insanity, that this matter is not focused. In a hundred years there will be no birds. Birds with more depth than humans. Birds having engaged and held their fortune, while humans overrate. Does that mean that transaction is over? Not at all. One’s reach of understanding, clearly overtakes the dimness of this rabid disaster called Earth. Other places would be of higher quality.

Our protagonist ignores such burdens, in order to attempt feeling that he’s on the right track. Boni’s idea of progress, and he’s got something there, is to ignore the past. He moves around, of course, but he doesn’t trust anyone. He moves around, however, largely because his father had given him a pizza business; and with that, also, took over his dead mother’s house. On the basis of those windfalls, Boni takes his time to grow up. (He does very little to maintain his “business,” and plays around with “collectible” cards.) It gets worse; it gets better. “I do solemnly swear to fuck her brains out… to love everything minute before draping her. I’ve milked this stupid joke for all its worth. I swear on my mother’s grave that no one or nothing will stop me. If even I don’t keep this oath, may I be branded a coward like my asshole father who left us…and may burn in hell eternally…” (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Yes, that’s right!   Tuesday Moring Diary.  This does happen one in a great while for various reasons.  The reason this time was some COVID-19 issues in my home, my last aunt passing away several days ago,  and no internet access in my school because of electricians there who are rewiring the entire system.  I am crafting this post from my local Ridgefield Library.

In behalf of my family, Jim and Valerie Clark, Jamie Uhler, Tony d’Ambra, Bill Kamberger, J. D. Lafrance, Mark Clark and others I am wishing a Happy New Year to all our great friends and readers!

   From Andrew Castrucci on the Cliffs/Cliffside FB Forum page:

“With Sammy Juliano at Rudy’s two weeks ago. I am working on a painting for his new book cover for his completed novel “Irish Jesus in Fairview”, which is planned to publish by Easter. Father McTague plays a major role in the narrative.” (photo at the top of this post).

Note from Sam: The first stage of the editing process on the massive 60 chapter work (by Rob Bignell) is nearly completed. However, the final stage, which involves vigilant proofreading, (tentatively to be performed by Bill Kamberger, who did the same for the first book) is a longer process. Yet, Easter seems doable, and it would perfectly coincide with the title and some of the novel’s themes. Easter Sunday falls on April 9th. Meanwhile I have begun writing the third novel, “Roses for Saoirse,” which I believe will publish in April of 2024, God willing of course. Andrew’s ideas for the cover of “Irish Jesus” greatly impressed me. “Irish Jesus” begins in 1972 (where “Paradise” ended”) and ends in 1980. “Roses from Saoirse” will go from 1980 to 1985). Then a book about my 11 year intercontinental relationship with the late film genius Allan Fish, before I return to Fairview again to write the untitled fifth book.

If Bill Kamberger does end up taking on the assignment, his pace will, in the end, dictate the release date. I will NOT NOT NOT pressure that man in any way, shape or form. And I will continue to take his invaluable advice, as I always have.

(Please excuse this and other posts about my novels. I know well this could turn off some people. But FACEBOOK seems to be my sole forum to promote them, prior to their publication. Thank you for understanding) 

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by Sam Juliano

I will be posting the next Monday Morning Diary on Sunday, December 25th.  Most of the time I do post this long-running weekly feature on Sunday afternoon, though it is always referred to as the Monday Morning Diary.  At that time I will post some Christmas-related photos and ornamentations.  Wishing everyone a safe and soulful holiday.

In place of my annual Caldecott Medal Contender review series, I have taken up a daily Facebook presentation titled “Caldecott Capsules.”  The series comprises short reviews of a few paragraphs, though I strive to frame the book’s artistic excellence.  I plan on gathering together the 25 to 30 capsules at the end of project and posting them here at the site in one single post.

I made a little bit of progress this past week on Roses for Saoirse, but for the most part I am tweeking Irish Jesus in Fairview and awaiting the contributions of the editor and artist.

My son Jeremy and I spent Thursday evening in rain-soaked Manhattan tonight to watch Mia Hanson-Love’s highly acclaimed French romantic film, “One Fine Morning” with Lea Seydoux on the final day of its December run. (8:00 P.M. show)  The film was deeply moving and beautifully acted and for me rates a 4.5 of 5.0.

My wife and the three boys have tickets to see Avatar: The Way of Water on Sunday night at 7:30 P.M, so I will revise this post on Monday morning. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Those of us in the New York Yankees universe were on Cloud Nine this past week as soon as the announcement came down that American League MVP and the “face of the franchise”  Aaron Judge was re-signed by the Bronx Bombers after a scary few weeks when some thought he would sign with a west coast team.  Yes, I know that salaries are out-of-control, but this is part of the culture.

My first-stage editor, Rob Bignell has completed the first half of the 60 chapter novel, Irish Jesus in Fairview.  The second half will purportedly be completed by late January, at which time my final-stage proofreader/editor Bill Kamberger will take over.  This past week I met with my artist, Andrew Castrucci at Rudy’s bar/restaurant in Cliffside Park, New Jersey to sign the contract for his cover, spine and back panel art.  Castrucci’s art for Paradise Atop the Hudson, of course, was extraordinary.  I’ve also been meeting some locals to conduct research for the third novel, Roses for Saoirse, which I have actually begun writing. I do have every intention on writing a non-fiction memoir on my eleven year intercontential relationship with Allan Fish, which will mainly focus on Fish, and God-willing I will resume with still another book on Adam Sean Furano and his family after the Fish book is completed.

R.I.P. the great director Yoshishida Yoshida, who for the last years of Allan’s life was his favorite artist.  We all grew to love this Japanese titan, and his passing this week at age 89 is a call to watch his films again.

Lucille and I watched three films this past week, two in theaters and one on netflix.

Spoiler Alert, was a relationship drama between two men, one of whom is afflicted with terminal cancer.  To say the film is a tearjerker is quite the understatement.  4/5

     Indian epic is beautiful, visceral and hypnotic!

It was my Canadian friend and fellow cinephile Todd Sherman who first alerted me to RRR well over a month ago. I was unable to work in a three-hour plus film into my schedule at that time, but last night Lucille and I negotiated a marathon, watching every minute of this unique and enveloping cinematic treasure, and then to top it off, we even viewed (on netflix) the irresistible early-year musical film, “13: The Musical.” RRR is every bit as entrancing and brilliantly-made as the best American action epics of yesteryear and for me it is certainly one of the very best films of 2022. I could talk or write for hours about the film, but this story about Indian revolutionaries who take on the British Raj, is propelled by superbly-integrated pyrotechnics, pulsating music by M. M. Keeravani, a pictorial canvas that is wholly phantasmagorical, and choreography that redefines the form. This masterpiece is a defining moment for contemporary Indian cinema, and a dare for film watchers to turn away from the screen for just a moment. I’ve never quite seen anything like this before. Kudos to director S. S. Rajamouli and his spirited team. So special. 5 of 5.
(At some point I will have more to say about “13: The Musical”, which I rate 3.5 of 5.0)

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by Sam Juliano

And the controversy has comenced over the choice of Chantel Ackerman’s Jeanne Dielman as the #`1 film in the Sight & Sound’s critics’ poll.  The project is run every decade and after the announcement, social media has been overun with opinions, some toxic.  Accusations of “woke” campaigning and rejoinders by some defending the results has led to some fascinating reading.  I am not sure what I think at this point.  For me Jeanne Dielman is NOT as great a film (by a long distance) as Tokyo Story, Vertigo, Citizen Kane, 2001 and others -I have always found it a rough slog to get through – but I DO get the voting strategy of  incorporating films directed by women and blacks, and from outlier countries.  Blindly anointing canonical choices is troubling, and yet, aren’t there some films that are simply transcendent, regardless of the gender and color of the directors who made them?  I am in neither camp at this point, but I have always admired and respected the Sight & Sound pollings. Two conflicting opinions have been voiced by two men (the latter, Todd Sherman, is a close personal friend) which I have listed here.  I have also enjoyed our regular reader and longtime friend Mark Smith’s commentary on last week’s MMD:  Anyway, here is Brian’s take:

“I was actually prepared to make peace with a radically rejiggered Sight & Sound poll, with some reservations, until reading the following: -Sight & Sound hired a consultant who vowed on Twitter to “push hard on the straight white make film canon” and “set it on fire.” In other words, he entered into it as a kamikaze mission. -Eminent, veteran critic Michael Sragow (a longtime participant in the poll) writes, “This year, the editors requested that participants fill out a form profiling our race, age, and gender, with seven categories listed for gender. So I pushed the word count allowed in ‘Comments’ to the max — I wanted to celebrate my choices according to my own personal aesthetic, not my sociological profile.” Translated: A specific outcome was desired, so they weighed the results to their liking. If true: I’m sorry, this is not charting any way forward to progress. Fierce social engineering to foster a kind of…how to put this…weirdly retrograde tokenism is, to me, more racist and sexist and homophobic than the implicitly exclusionary tactics that these measures (faux-)attempt to ameliorate. Like so much else I have seen in the last couple years, it’s a wan, doctrinaire “capital P” Progressivism that sets the fight for social progress back, because it squanders once-in-a-generation initiatives, destabilizing rather than paving real, sustainable ways forward. That’s what most upsets me. Why and how? Because it fosters the heartiest of suspicions in its wake, and appears desperate on the part of the aggregator, hereby demeaning the artists and works that have been promoted under it. Whereas before, these works might have been overlooked (perhaps unfairly), now in the wake of the above red flags sowing doubt, they will be the butt of jokes. And THAT is unfair. Jeanne Dielman, as deserving a film as I think it is (I first saw it years ago in college and it honestly took my breath away) will be pinned to every dartboard for the foreseeable future. I hate that it will become a pawn for the cynicism of others, rather than simply the masterpiece that it is. All so self-anointed crusaders can feel powerful in their bubbles, even if for the short time this list makes news. You see all these esteemed people (folks who aren’t “conservative” or “regressive”) questioning the results? Though I didn’t think so at first, I now think there’s cause. It’s not because they squirmed seeing women and disenfranchised groups finally make the list. It’s because a once-in-a-decade poll about the “greatest movies of all time” got co-opted into some elaborate experiment in hollow, performative “empowerment.” And the egg is now on the faces of those who manipulated the results toward a desired outcome, furthering a political agenda but demeaning both the exercise…and that agenda. This is the same quagmire as the Academy only allowing the nomination of sufficiently “diverse“ films, regardless of the needs of the film story or the individual production requirements. Last year, I had lunch with someone very powerful on the international film scene, and he called this type of thing “cultural Stalinism.“ He did not mince words and his candor rather shocked me. And so many are so deep down the rabbit hole of “capital P” Progressivism that they will never be able to see how they are crippling the causes they claim to be advocating. I am finishing up a book for Oxford U Press on an overlooked female director who defied the odds during her time. She was a great lady, to my mind to my mind a certified legend, very sensible, she kicked ass in her day, and I really don’t think she would have approved. I once spoke with her about this, after the release of Selma years back. We both agreed that we as a society and as an industry should be carving out opportunities for those who wouldn’t otherwise get them. What we shouldn’t be doing is putting thumbs on scales in some misbegotten effort to “burn it all down,” which is what this news both intimates and portends. Stop this train, I want to get off. I was one of those who defended the Akerman, and faced some heat for it. Now…sorry, I feel pretty stupid for doing so, knowing what I know now. This is not “progress“ – Twitter warriors pursuing brownie points does not social progress yield. I’d actually call it regression. At what point do they impede a way forward? Additional note: Just because a particular film hits the third rail of the social zeitgeist does not automatically render it worthy of inclusion on a list of the greatest films of all time. We still need to be grading these works cinematically.”

And in response we have Todd’s brilliant take on the results:

“Many have alleged that Sight & Sound pushed hard for votes for films that are not part of the Western, white-male canon, and even implied that the magazine solicited votes for these kinds of films, or rejected or somehow skewed ballot results. Let’s take a look at the 2012 vs. the 2022 in terms of the non-First World, non-straight white male canon films included:
India 2012: 1 (Pather Panchali) 2022: 1
Middle East 2012: 1 (Close-Up) 2022: 1
Africa 2012: 1 (Touki-Bouki) 2022: 2 (Black Girl added)
Latin America 2012: 0 2022: 0
China 2012: 0 2022: 0 Hong Kong/Taiwan 2012: 3 (Yi Yi, A Brighter Summer Day, In the Mood for Love)
2022: 4 (Chunking Express Added)
Japan 2012: 6 (Seven Samurai, Tokyo Story, Ugetsu, Rashomon, Sansho the Bailiff,Late Spring) 2022: 8 (Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro added)
South Korea 2012: 0 2022: 1 (Parasite added)
Thailand 2012: 0 2022: 1 (Tropical Malady added)
LGBT 2012: 3 (Beau Travail, Mulholland Drive, Jeanne Dielman) 2022: 6 (Moonlight, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and Tropical Malady added)
The lists are practically identical. And the minimal additions to the 2022 are all established, widely-respected masterpieces that few could object to — except perhaps Parasite, which is obviously here because it was so popular so recently. The only significant change of any note is the three more LGBT films in the 2022, two of which could quite reasonably considered too recent, but one of which is seriously and widely regarded as a masterpiece — Tropical Malady. So — If Sight & Sound were aggressively pushing an agenda of getting votes for non-Western, non-First World, non-“white male canon”, non-straight films, and massaging or ignoring or soliciting specific votes, they did a seriously TERRIBLE job in getting to that result.”

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