Archive for the ‘author Allan Fish’ Category

conf 2

by Allan Fish

(France/Spain 1955 105m) DVD1/2

Aka. Mr Arkadin

Paying twice for the same thing

p Louis Dolivet, Orson Welles d/w Orson Welles novel “Mr Arkadin” by Orson Welles ph Jean Bourgoin ed Renzo Lucidi m Paul Misraki art Orson Welles

Robert Arden (Guy van Stratten), Paolo Mori (Raina Arkadin), Orson Welles (Gregory Arkadin), Michael Redgrave (Burgomil Trebitsch), Akim Tamiroff (Jakob Zouk), Katina Paxinou (Sophie), Mischa Auer (the professor), Patricia Medina (Mily), Jack Watling (Marquis of Rutleigh), Peter Van Eyck (Thaddeus), Grégoire Aslan (Bracco), Suzanne Flon (Baroness Nagel), Tamara Shayne (woman in apartment), Frederic O’Brady (Oscar),

One could write a doctorate thesis about the incomplete world of Orson Welles. It’s easy to imagine all of his films as incomplete. Kane could easily be longer, with additional titbits and stories surrounding his myriad of objects awaiting the incinerator in that final shot. The bastardisation of Ambersons is almost as mythic as the film itself. His three Shakespeare films could all be seen as fragmentary in some form or another, even if at least one now survives as a masterpiece. The Lady from Shanghai feels like part of a hazily recalled drunken nightmare. The Trial likewise feels somehow abridged, as if cutting from one room in Kafka’s descent into hell and into another while missing others out. The Immortal Story is such a flimsy anecdote it could be part of a portmanteau film that doesn’t survive. Despite heroic efforts no-one can be entirely sure which version of Touch of Evil would be Welles’ own personal choice. Not to mention the abandoned Don Quixote and It’s All True or the legal minefield of surviving footage that is The Other Side of the Wind.

Or maybe they’re all cover stories perpetuated by a criminal mastermind, a Mr Wu figure, a Hagi or Mabuse if your tendencies are towards Fritz Lang, a mythic magnate so paranoid as to make Charles Foster Kane seem avuncular. Some might call him James Moriarty, others Keyser Soze. Here it’s Gregory Arkadin, the name you barely speak and live. Arkadin is a figure shrouded in mystery, and Guy van Stratten, a small-time criminal long in Italy, is told about him by two men, firstly a dying old man and then another at a Naples dockside who also dies. He is intrigued and goes to look into this Arkadin, and on the way becomes enamoured of his daughter, before being hired by the same Arkadin to look into his own past, telling him that he’s suffered from amnesia and can’t remember anything before 1927. The more van Stratten digs into Arkadin’s past the more he becomes aware that he’s being used as a pawn to draw a line under Arkadin’s shady past, the scapegoat to end all scapegoats. (more…)

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kramer 1

by Allan Fish

There’s perhaps only one thing more predictable than the love of Steven Spielberg in modern film buff circles; the deification of Meryl Streep. Or at least maybe there’s something else equally predictable, my thunderous objection to this sanctification. Meryl Streep is a technically gifted actress with a marvellous command of accents, but she’s also the personification of a poison that has inflicted American cinema since the turn of the 1980s.

What’s wrong with her, I can see her millions of worshippers saying? My reply is to look carefully at what she represents. The fact is this, in terms of individual performances Meryl has given at least a dozen that can be seen as just about faultless, taken on their own terms, and many others would say a lot more than a mere dozen. But what do you do when her performance is part of the problem why the films themselves don’t work? (more…)

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hard 2

by Allan Fish

(Russia 2013 177m) DVD1/2

Aka. Trudno byt bogom

Earth minus 800

p Viktor Izvekov, Leonid Yarmolnik d Aleksei German w Aleksei German, Svetlana Karmalita novel Arkadiy Strugatskiy, Boris Strugatskiy ph Yuriy Klimenko, Vladimir Ulin ed Irina Gorokhovskaya art Elena Zhukova, Georgi Kropachyov, Sergei Kokovkin

Leonid Yarmolnik (Don Rumata), Yevgeni Gerchakov (Budakh), Aleksandr Chutko (Don Reba), Valentin Golubenko (Arata), Yuri Tsurilo (Don Pampa), Oleg Botin (Bucher), Natalya Motova (Ari), Zura Kipzhidze (Zurab),

Remember that priceless moment in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, directly after the ‘Bring Out your Dead’ scene where Graham Chapman’s Arthur, King of the Britons, rides past accompanied by Terry Gilliam’s servant Patsy clumping coconut halves and John Cleese turns to cart driver Eric Idle and asked who that was, and Idle replies “must be a king. He hasn’t got shit all over him.” It’s hard not to think of Holy Grail when watching Aleksei German’s farewell statement. There’s no king here, everyone seems to have shit all over them, and proud they are, too. (more…)

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Sambizanga - 1972, Sarah Maldoror

Sambizanga – 1972, Sarah Maldoror

by Allan Fish

At the end of the interminably gestating book I hope to release on Kindle by the end of the year there’s a section I call the Final Apologies. To some, it may seem superfluous to requirements, especially given there are over 2,000 entries in the main text, but there are times when I have come to believe it the most important part of the book. It’s relatively easy to wax lyrical about why you love certain films, why they should be preserved above all others. It’s not as straightforward to say why certain other films shouldn’t.

The Final Apologies is the multi-task section of the book. On one level it’s what it says on the tin, apologies for the films left at reception when the hotel reaches capacity. On another, it’s my Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card, a way of saying that “no, I didn’t forget these, I just didn’t think them up to scratch because…” Yet on another it’s an admission of guilt, an Exhibit A for the prosecution, as it were. The fact remains that no man’s opinion is gospel, there is no arbiter of taste. But it goes beyond that, for to any discerning film buff there are films that are just not for you. It may be a taste thing, a sense of humour or outlook alien to oneself, but it may go deeper, to the point where you know that the deficit is not the film’s, but yours. A recognition that certain films are masterpieces but just not in your eyes; they don’t travel.

So what exactly do I mean? It’s a favourite line of mine, that used by Mark Cousins in The Story of Film, that film history is “racist by omission.” Often, however, it’s been ignorant by choice. Film histories are very happy with their so-called comprehensiveness, thank you very much, and don’t need masterpieces discovering left, right and centre that demand a rewriting of their pages, even whole new chapters. Film History 101 has always been blinkered, blind, focusing us on what it thinks are the accepted essentials, but in doing so people have taken these histories – and the canons they create – as inviolable. They’re not. Canons should only be stepping stones to undertake our own journeys where we go way beyond them.

Yet even with regards to zealots like me who take accepted film history as inadequate, we have to admit our shortcomings. Only recently someone asked me what I felt was my biggest cinematic blind spot, and after careful deliberation I selected African cinema. But acknowledging that is again only the first step of the journey, for one must then ask the obvious question; why? (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Steven Spielberg always seemed such a lovely bloke when seen on TV, made a KBE by the Queen, a fellow of the British academy by his old friend Dickie Attenborough, a devotee of David Lean and Stanley Kubrick. What was not to like? Schindler’s List was released when I turned 20 and was proclaimed as a masterpiece and, at the time, I saw little to discourage that fact. I was an avid reader of Empire magazine for whom he was, along with George Lucas, the ultimate God for what passed for movie geeks in the 1990s. The man could do no wrong.

I’ve written a piece before about the poisonous nature of Spielberg and Lucas’ movie doctrine on American cinema. Readers of Empire magazine would want me lynched. Many of the young students I went to Uni with not so long ago would feel the same. I can’t blame them, they’re only the age I was when I felt the same. Maturity and experience will bring the gravitas required to critique. I was but a child once. Without wishing to come across all religious, in the words of St Paul in Corinthians 13, “I have put away childish things.” (more…)

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mou 2

by Allan Fish

(France 1967 81m) DVD1/2

Going out like Mouchette

p Robert Bresson d/w Robert Bresson ph Ghislain Cloquet ed Raymond Lamy, Robert Bresson   m Monteverdi, Jean Wiener art Pierre Charbonnier

Nadine Nortier (Mouchette), Jean-Claude Guilbert (Arsène), Marie Cardinal (mother), Paul Hébert (father),

It was only a few years ago that Robert Bresson’s masterwork was referenced by another eclectic European director, Bernardo Bertolucci. In his film The Dreamers the principals discuss the final scene of Bresson’s film and “going out like Mouchette.” The film did quite well, both critically and financially, but how many people got the reference? I think most of the audience would have been under forty and thus would not have recognised the reference, going to Bertolucci’s film purely for the talked of sex and nudity. The intellectual central trio in Bertolucci’s film loved cinema, every aspect of it, and could reference everything as far back as Queen Christina and Blonde Venus. Today, the so-called movie intellectuals couldn’t go back any further than Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese and Coppola. We live in a sad world. All of which goes doubly for the protagonist of Bresson’s film. It has often been called one of the great studies about adolescence, and yet really it isn’t. It’s great, yes, but has nothing really to do with adolescence, rather about loneliness, alienation and premature adulthood. As a film about teenage alienation it has no peers, with its heroine not so much not belonging as not being wanted at all. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1948 116m) DVD1/2

What right have you to butcher me?

p  Ronald Neame, Anthony Havelock-Allen  d  David Lean  w  David Lean, Stanley Haynes  novel  Charles Dickens  ph  Guy Green  ed  Jack Harris  m  Arnold Bax  art  John Bryan  cos  Margaret Furse

Alec Guinness (Fagin), Robert Newton (Bill Sikes), Kay Walsh (Nancy), Anthony Newley (The Artful Dodger), John Howard Davies (Oliver), Henry Stephenson (Robert Brownlow), Francis L.Sullivan (Mr Bumble), Mary Clare (Mrs Corney), Gibb McLaughlin (Mr Sowerberry), Kathleen Harrison (Mrs Sowerberry), Michael Dear (Noah Claypole), Amy Veness (Mrs Bedwin), Ralph Truman (Monks), Diana Dors (Charlotte), Josephine Stuart (Agnes Fleming), Ivor Barnard (Chairman), Frederick Lloyd (Mr Grimwig), Edie Martin (Annie), Graveley Edwards (Mr Fang), Michael Ripper, Deidre Doyle, Fay Middleton, Peter Bull, W.G.Fay, Maurice Denham, Henry Edwards, Hattie Jacques,

So speaks Fagin prior to capture in David Lean’s once seminal Dickensian film.  I say once seminal because somehow it isn’t rated as highly as Great Expectations, made two years earlier.  Yet the fact remains that, in this reviewer’s eyes, it’s an even greater achievement than its illustrious predecessor.

So why is it so overlooked?  And when I say overlooked I don’t really mean in film guides, which generally give it maximum points, but rather in terms of approbation in the broader scheme of things.  The musical remake, Oliver!, can’t have helped and, though technically excellent, Oliver! has nothing to do with Dickens at all, or at least the spirit of Dickens.  Another reason may simply be that Great Expectations came first and therefore seemed more innovative and created a bigger splash.  To this add the fact that American audiences only saw a butchered version which removed any potentially offensive material to American Jews.  This leads to the fourth reason, the slur of Guinness’ Fagin being anti-Semitic.  Whether it was or it wasn’t is open to question, but when Fagin cries out “what right have you to butcher me?” no more prophetic word was spoken, for his performance and thus, the film, was butchered.  Leslie Halliwell had championed it for years, David Thomson also praises it highly, but having grown up in the UK they had been privy to the uncut version that shows in the UK.  Maybe the US Criterion DVD release will help it gain equal recognition (at least) with the earlier film. (more…)

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