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Archive for the ‘Allan Fish Online Film Festival 2020’ Category

by Sam Juliano

Those who were fortunate and privileged to know Allan or just even to cross his path immediately understood he was someone quite out of the ordinary.  His incomparable obsessiveness guaranteed that any venture he embarked upon would be afforded a maximum level of accountability.  Most know him for his cinematic prowess, the go to guy for reference, film availability and quality control specs.  Some also knew that movies, astonishingly enough, were not his sole focus.  He was a remarkably astute historian and could hold his own with anyone hankering to discuss music, theater and soccer and his grasp of literature from around the world past and present was beyond exceptional.  His still-unpublished massive tome, though primarily about the cinema, also includes a masterly investigation of television, a field Allan was as passionate about as any other, even to the extent of insisting there be no differentiation with its most towering achievements with those comparable film works.  Any list Allan composed invariably included television mixed together in a somehow comfortable melting pot with motion pictures.  He was a fervent aficionado of British small screen landmarks -often by his own admission serving as his country’s mercenary with the exclusive intent of turning heads of those he derided as American xenophobes.  Mind you Allan was attuned to the best in American television as well and often championed the shows we all do, but he was educated on the international scene and was always proud of Britain, which he once boldly told me eclipsed American television, despite the long list of great shows produced stateside.

This takes me to our family’s trip to England in 2013 when we spent two weeks in London and at Allan’s home in Kendal.  A running joke at that time was a carry-over from online ribbing with Allan as an exasperated host who was beside himself with my lifelong infatuation with American anthology television, particularly the horror and science fiction shows that originally aired in the late 50s through the early and mid 60s.  In a secret conversation with my five kids Allan instructed them to get hold of my DVD collections and books on Boris Karloff’s Thriller, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and Alfred Hitchcock Presents and hide them so I couldn’t access them anymore.   To be sure Allan himself loved (and included in his book with perceptive and generous entries) them well enough, but were not programs he considered at the forefront of his life.  Due to my sometimes excruciating nostalgic slant and my fondness for anthology television I directed conversations with my friend to these shows much too often and the result was sometimes hysterical chiding.  Allan wasn’t always willing to embrace my incessant defense that this era was my “specialty”, as he knew only too well -as he did when I attended Manhattan movie theaters to see classic films for the umpteenth time – that watching stuff over and over came at the expense of delaying the negotiation of new discoveries was patently absurd.  My kids to this day are in stitches when relating what was said in those talks, though based on our phone and e mail chats I think I have a very good idea.

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by Sachin Gandhi

West of the Tracks (Tie Qi Xu, 2003, Wang Bing): Parts I, II and III

Wang Bing is one of the best filmmakers working today yet his films are not as well known compared to other international film directors. One big reason has to do with accessibility of his films via legal channels. His films have been a fixture at many international film festivals but have found little distribution beyond the film festival circuit. Physical media of his films (DVD/Blu-Rays) are a rarity and until recently, many of his films weren’t available for streaming. Tracking down his debut film West of the Tracks was almost a seven year hunt for me.

I was first alerted to Wang Bing’s potential via a magnificent article by Robert Koehler in Cinema Scope where Koehler asks of Wang Bing’s West of the Tracks: “is there a more sublime debut in recent history?Thus began a hunt for that film but a DVD/Blu-Ray was out of sight. That changed in 2010 when a Rotterdam Film Festival issued DVD came out. I wasn’t the only one who came across that DVD in 2010. Allan Fish posted an entry on this site in 2010 as well.

West of the Tracks, divided in three parts, highlights the decline of the Tie Xi industrial sector in Northeast China. The film requires an investment of nine hours from its viewers but it rewards those patient viewers with plenty of riches. The three parts are a great example of “Direct Cinema” where the camera patiently records everything in sight and allows viewers to listen in to all the daily noises while leaving plenty of room for us to draw our own conclusions.

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By J.D. Lafrance

Somewhere, there’s an alternate universe where James Le Gros is playing recurring Elmore Leonard character Deputy United States Marshal Raylan Givens in a series of television movies instead of Timothy Olyphant in a T.V. series. Watching Le Gros in Pronto (1997) is a study in contrast of styles to what Olyphant would do later in Justified. Airing two years after Get Shorty (1995) was released in theaters, and based on the 1993 novel of the same name, Pronto clearly tries to ape it in style and tone only with less money and star power in front of the camera.

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Director: Peter Fonda
Screenwriter: Thomas Matthiesen

The Allan Fish Online Film Festival 2020

By Roderick Heath

Peter Fonda famously left John Lennon uneasy but also creatively stirred when, as the young actor dropped LSD with the Beatle and his bandmate George Harrison, he recounted a childhood accident when he almost fatally shot himself in the stomach, reporting “I know what it’s like to be dead.” Lennon was inspired to write his song “She Said” sporting his riposte to the utterer, “It’s making me feel like I’ve never been born.” Fonda would for his part later try, when he became a film director, to articulate his enigmatic report from the fringes of existence. Fonda, son of movie legend Henry Fonda, found himself a figure strongly associated with the emerging counterculture vanguard around Los Angeles, an association that would briefly make him a major cultural figure. After making a mark in a small role as a young recruit confronted by the ugliness of life in Carl Foreman’s antiwar epic The Victors (1963), Fonda’s embrace of the hip scene in Hollywood saw his rise to conventional stardom frustrated, but he gained starring roles with Roger Corman in cheap and spurious but fascinating attempts to court a youth audience with tales of the new bohemia like The Wild Angels (1966) and The Trip (1967).
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Fonda accepted a sense of mission in trying to convey a more authentic sense of the zeitgeist in working with his friend and fellow actor Dennis Hopper on a project that eventually became Easy Rider (1969). Fonda and Hopper’s divergent sensibilities were thrown into sharp contrast in making the project a reality even as they joined in fertile collaboration. Fonda’s ambitious and thoughtful approach saw him turn to satirical writer Terry Southern to co-write the film with an eye to making an epic portrait of assailed Americana, but Hopper would later claim it Fonda and Southern took too long and he finished up writing most of the film himself. Hopper was generally accepted as the film’s auteur and engine for its rugged, improvisatory, freewheeling artistry. Hopper and Fonda’s quarrel over both the credit and profits for the film would spoil their relationship for decades, but Fonda did get a crack at directing in his own right on the back of Easy Rider’s industry-jarring success, whilst Hopper rolled on towards glorious disaster with The Last Movie (1971).

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This year Sam and I debated about having our yearly Allan Fish Online Film Festival. While it seemed an obvious choice in the positive—kept isolated and largely at home, what better time to hold an online only film festival in honor of our dear friend and esteemed cinephile, the late Allan Fish? A thought furthered when I kept seeing an array of arthouse theaters and actual famous film festivals copping the idea of showing their films to online communities, all in an effort to recoup costs as they hope to survive such a turbulent, uneasy time. But in reality, the second half of that statement was the reason for our trepidation: we wanted to respect the anxiety that so many face on a daily basis. But after some contemplation, we figured recommending films to friends and strangers alike, with the potential for discussion, could at the very least possibly offer a slight break, a diversion, to some. It was, as always, why the venture was started in the first place, to respect the memory of site co-founder Allan Fish, and remember him in a way he’d want, via the cinema.

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