Archive for the ‘Allan Fish Online Film Festival 2017’ Category

by John Grant

vt Tragic Error
France / 25 minutes / bw silent / Gaumont Dir & Scr: Louis Feuillade Cine: uncredited Cast: Suzanne Grandais, René Navarre, Marie Dorly, Ernest Bourbon, Paul Manson.

According to the opening intertitle, René, Marquis de Romiguières (Navarre), and his wife Suzanne (Grandais) are “In their chateau, built atop the battlements of the Cévennes,” where they “enjoy a wonderful honeymoon.” The atmosphere doesn’t seem terribly honeymoonish, to be honest: the couple seem to be a staid and settled pair, content to be waited upon by their elderly housekeeper (Dorly).

One day a note arrives for René from his lawyer, Panonceaux. René’s properties in Paris require some personal attention, and as soon as possible.

Stuck for a couple of days in Paris, far from the arms of his wife, René takes himself to the cinema to see Onésime, Vagabond.

Although, as far as I can establish, Onésime, Vagabond never existed outside the bounds of Erreur Tragique, it’s clearly meant to be one of the (genuine) long-running Onésime series of perhaps nearly eighty silent comedy shorts (authorities differ on the exact number) released between 1910 (Le Rembrandt de la Rue Lepic) and 1918 (Onésime et le Billet de Mille). In the English-language incarnations of these movies the character of Onésime, who was played throughout by Ernest Bourbon (1886–1954), was renamed Simple Simon, which gives you about as much as you need to know of Onésime’s personality: he’s an Innocent Abroad figure whose presence sparks off humor, sometimes quite sharp, sometimes involving social commentary, sometimes of a fantasticated nature. You can watch one of these movies, Onésime Horloger (1912), which falls into the latter category and was written by Feuillade, here (with English intertitles). (more…)


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by James Horsefall
Allan introduced me to a wide range of classic Japanese directors over the years beyond Ozu, Mizoguchi and Kurosawa, with films such as The Ball at the Anjo House scoring highly in his top 3000 list on this site, and recommendations such as Earth (Uchida), Mr. Thank You (Shimizu), Floating Clouds (Naruse) and the titles by Heinosuke Gosho and Shiro Toyoda mentioned below.  Many remain hard to find, with Criterion’s Eclipse series sadly slowing down it seems, and the BFI’s Naruse titles out of print, although Arrow encouragingly have released The Human Condition trilogy, and more and more titles regularly appear online with fan subtitles.   I have chosen Muddy Water by Tadashi Imai because Allan’s review back in 2014 intrigued me, a film which beat Tokyo Story in the Kinema Junpo poll for 1953, by a director who also came top in 1950 ahead of Rashomon top again in 1956 ahead of The Burmese Harp, and 1st and 2nd no less in 1957.    Donald Richie attributed the director’s popularity with Japanese critics of the time to being less of an individualist and less personal than Ozu, Yoshimura and others, Noel Burch damned him with faint praise as a ‘competent technician and dramatist’, his star has certainly waned with modern film-lovers.  But while his output may have been uneven, films like this show the same humanism and sincerity of the best of Japanese cinema of the period, told with an unsentimental compassion, a strong ensemble cast and impressive cinematography.   Available on You Tube currently under the title of the third of its stories, Troubled Waters 1953, I recommend this to any fan of Mizoguchi.

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by Maurizio Roca

Like many other fellow readers of Wonders In The Dark, I had the pleasure of gaining considerable film knowledge from Allan Fish through his Obscuro Series and Decades Countdown. In fact, it was his Early Years (1895-1929) Top 100 list that made this blog an essential component of my day starting back in late 2009, early 2010. It rekindled my then dormant love of early avant-garde and surreal shorts from the silent era—my first serious gateway into more advanced film viewing beyond Hollywood mainstream fare. Part of what sparked my renewed interest was that many of those silents that I had treasured as a young adult were relegated to Allan’s Nearlies section. How is it that only the bottom two made the essay portion of his list I wondered!?!?

  1. Ballet Mecanique (Fernand Leger)
  2. Un Chien Andalou (Luis Bunuel)

Yes, these exclusions annoyed me at the time, but they also made me examine those movies that Allan had held in higher esteem. And in many cases, I discovered works of art that I may never have seen otherwise. One particular film of which I had made a mental note actually was placed in the Nearlies portion of Mr Fish’s countdown. It is called Fievre, made in 1921 by Louis Delluc, and a film Allan placed at #186. I had heard of this early French director before through his association with Germaine Dulac (who ironically made the list at #187 with one of my favorite experimental shorts, The Seashell And The Clergyman), but I had never seen any of Delluc’s films prior to that. I knew he wasn’t really a surrealist filmmaker, and more of an impressionist, which had fascinated me to a lesser degree at the time. Regardless, I made sure to seek this early French film out whenever the chance arose (which eventually happened through the internet).


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By Bob Clark

The careers of most celebrated anime directors, generally speaking, begin on television, and one might say that if they’re lucky, they remain there. Sure, filmmakers like Miyazaki and Takahata are renowned and beloved the world over for their feature works, but there’s a liveliness and spontaneity to the workmanlike stuff they did for Japanese television in the early parts of their careers that often matches, sometimes even exceeds their most critically acclaimed (or to put it more honestly, critically approved) works. Like many, they did time producing adaptations of long running manga series where they first got a chance to sharpen their skills as directors. Miyazaki’s first feature film “Castle of Cagliostro” was an extension of his highly entertaining years on the action-packed thief comedy series “Lupin the 3rd”, and plenty of other directors have followed suit beginning their career translating comics to the small and big screen. Occasionally, you’ll even get somebody who began on original work retreating into existing material, like Hideaki Anno did after the emotionally exhausting double-header of “Nadia” and “Evangelion”, turning on a dime away from existential sci-fi to adrenaline-injected high school rom-com in “His and Her Circumstances”. There, having already sharpened his skillset and developed his authorial voice, he inevitably wound up butting heads with the original mangaka and eventually had to quit and cede control to his collaborator Kazuya Tsurumaki, a turn of events that Mamoru Oshii would face after his second directorial feature, “Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer”.


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Director/Screenwriter: James Bidgood


The Allan Fish Online Film Festival 2017

By Roderick Heath


Pink Narcissus is a relic of cinema that has journeyed from virtual oblivion to belated appreciation in a corner of the cinematic world that long hungered for elders to respect. The story of how it came to be unearthed and its worth today is bound up in who made it and why. Born in Madison, Wisconsin, James Bidgood arrived in New York in the early 1950s aged 17. Like many young gay men then and now, self-described farm boy Bidgood was surely on the search for a tenable existence and a community, and he carved out his place in the city’s queer underground as a drag queen and night club dancer. He found commercial success as a dress designer prized for his opulent debutante apparel, as a window dresser, and as a photographer. This last passion became increasingly compelling to Bidgood, and through the 1960s his homoerotic studies were popular in the “physique” magazines that allowed a little soft-core gazing to gay readers; at a time when most of their pictures were flat and trite, Bidgood gained attention by bringing his decorative and compositional gifts to bear. Bidgood sarcastically referred to his Hell’s Kitchen apartment as Les Folies Des Hommes, in tribute to the Folies Bergeres, as that tiny abode doubled as his studio and theatre of creation, and he soon started using that name as a pseudonym when publishing his photos. Soon Bidgood began trying to make a movie, shooting entirely within his apartment confines. Bidgood’s partner of the time, Bobby Kendall, a former hustler, became the epicentre of his attempts to inscribe in pure cinematic terms an obsessive fascination with his lover’s body and, beyond that, to create a total work dedicated to celebrating his aesthetic fetishes, in a film encapsulating a series of fantasy sequences built around what Bidgood himself described happily as “gay whack-off fantasies.”



. (more…)

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by Sachin Gandhi

Allan Fish was a pure cinephile who spent countless hours hunting down precious films from all corners of the world. He wrote about many such discoveries at The Fish Obscuro section on Wonders in the Dark. Of the many titles he covered, one that sticks to my mind is the 1964 Brazilian film Noite Vazia by Walter Hugo Khouri. This is a remarkable film whose discovery I owe solely to Allan. The film is unlike any of the other Brazilian films of the Cinema Novo that I have seen and is far from the rugged Brazilian landscapes of Glauber Rocha’s cinema. In fact, Noite Vazia feels closer to the sentiment of Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni.

In order to pay tribute to Allan’s review of Noite Vazia, I opted for Marcelo Gomes’ Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures. This selection brings Brazil, Italy and England together from my perspective. Marcelo Gomes’ thoughtful Brazilian road film reminded me of Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore. As for the English connection, I discovered this film at the BFI London Film Festival which was the first international film festival I travelled to. The film and the BFI London festival kickstarted my love for global cinema and film festivals, a path that eventually led me to find this website and get to know Sam and Allan.

The road film has a special place in cinema and over the decades we have seen some stellar films all set on the road where the main character takes a journey in their car or a motorcycle. The act of taking the journey on a long road leads to a transformation and a change in the character. Sometimes the character goes looking for change in order to escape from their current life. This aspect certainly applies to Johann (Peter Ketnath) in Marcelo Gomes’ film. Johann is a German who has moved to Brazil to escape the conflict back home. He makes a living by driving across the vast Brazilian countryside selling Aspirin, a new medicine as per the film’s setting in 1942. It would have been difficult for Johann to sell aspirin to people used to rejecting change but he comes up with a clever sales tactic of using the alluring cinematic medium to make his sales. This is where Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures has shades of Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Star Maker albeit with a slight variation. In The Star Maker, the salesman is a cheat but in Gomes’ film, Johann is not a cheat even though his methods portray him as a mercenary. Along the way, Johann picks up a local (Ranulpho played by João Miguel) who wishes to leave his village life behind and head to Rio. The two become good friends and Ranulpho travels along with Johann by working as his assistant. But then the War that Johann escaped from finds its way to Brazil and Johann has a difficult choice to make – to return to Europe or continue his free spirited way. The movie shows how different people’s idea of freedom varies and what makes one person happy can be torture for another.

One of the most striking aspects of the film is the cinematography. Gomes and cinematographer Mauro Pinheiro Jr. overexposed the 35mm film reels thereby creating a bleached look to the film. Watching the film in a movie theatre conveyed the heat and brutality of the scorching Brazilian countryside. Unfortunately, this striking aspect of the visuals doesn’t come across in the online version of the film as the colours are muted and not as sharp as they were in the cinema. Still, it is a film worth viewing in any manner whatsoever.

Film Link

English Subtitles: The original English subtitles are not present with the film but you can select the Auto-translate subtitles feature by clicking on the Settings Icon. This does mean that the auto-translated English subtitles are not as good as the official released version.


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by Jamie Uhler

To kick off the inaugural Allan Fish Online Film Festival I thought a film about the magic and allure of cinema could be the only appropriate selection. Cinema—the entirety of it—was the web from which Allan cast us all, trapping us within a history not of individual selections, but mountains upon mountains of eras, genres and movements. Speaking to him about anything singular and specific in the medium inevitably led to a discussion about several films, decades and countries apart. Art, it’d be easily understood, was about all the temperatures, a love born from total emersion in it all, and discussions finding relevance in not the actual film in question, but rather the (sometimes dozens of) points it came from and the echoes it had in turn created and influenced. I also wanted to select a film I’d conversed with Allan about and knew he loved (plus, an ‘Obscuro’ like pick would be even better). Thus, I narrowed in on the only film that I saw as appropriate: György Pálfi’s 2012 kaleidoscopic collage through film history Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen. (more…)

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