Archive for the ‘author Allan Fish’ Category

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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by Allan Fish

(West Germany 1979/2010 164m) DVD1/2

Aka. Die Blechtrommel

Somewhere between wonder and disillusion

p Franz Seitz, Anatole Dauman d Volker Schlöndorff w Franz Seitz, Volker Schlöndorff, Jean-Claude Carrière, Gunter Grass novel Gunter Grass ph Igor Luther ed Suzanne Baron m Friedrich Meyer, Maurice Jarre art Nicos Perakis

David Bennent (Oskar Matzerath), Angela Winkler (Agnes Matzerath), Mario Adorf (Alfred Matzerath), Katharina Thalbach (Maria), Charles Aznavour (Sigismund Markus), Heinz Bennent (Greff), Daniel Olbryschki (Jan Bronski), Andrea Ferreol (Lina Greff), Tina Engel (Anna Koljaiczek, younger), Otto Sander (Musiker Meyn),

Gunter Grass’ original novel was always going to be a challenge to adapt for the screen, hence Schlondörff’s gaining the assistance of the author himself, as well as the illustrious Carrière, whose career spanned numerous collaborations with Luis Buñuel, another impossible adaptation for Schlondörff (Swann in Love), and the classic 1990 version of Cyrano de Bergerac. Even with such help, Schlondörff’s film was attacked by the literary purists for jettisoning much of the complexity and detail of Grass’s work. Such charges do seem rather unjust, however, when one considers the time constraints of a feature film. To do real justice to the book would require the sort of running time Fassbinder was giving almost simultaneously to the concurrently set adaptation of Doblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz. What Schlondörff aims rather to do is use the essence of the story, coupled with his own visual schemas to create a view of the rise of Nazism through the eyes of a child and, in that regard, he could not have been more successful. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1992 85m) DVD2

Shining a torch into the night sky

p  Olivia Stewart  d/w  Terence Davies  ph  Michael Coulter  ed  William Diver  md  Robert Lockhart  art  Christopher Hobbs  cos  Monica Howe

Marjorie Yates (mother), Leigh McCormack (Bud), Anthony Watson (Kevin), Nicholas Lamont (John), Ayse Owens (Helen), Tina Malone (Edna), Jimmy Wilde (Curly), Robin Polley (Mr Nicholls),

Watching Terence Davies’ autobiographical piece was, to this reviewer, rather like flicking through a family album, heralding from a family barely removed from that depicted in the film, in location, time and spirit.  It isn’t a prerequisite to be acquainted with the north, or with Catholicism, or remembrances of the 1950s, but it certainly helps.  And though those who cannot tick those boxes can and do enjoy and celebrate the film, they do miss something in the translation.

It’s more than merely an exercise in nostalgia, critics both professional and amateur have talked of it being like a stream of the subconscious, and in many ways they’re right, with remembrances of different years and moods taking place seemingly at the same time.  Essentially, the viewer is transported much like Scrooge by the spirits of Christmas into the childhood remembrances of Bud, an 11 year old from the terraced streets of Liverpool.  All the expected reminiscences are present and correct, from canings to show the kids who’s boss and visits to Nitty Nora the Bug Explorer to the mind-numbing tedium of assembly and warm welcomes to black men who mistakenly come to the door to begging for a shilling for the pictures and neighbourly gatherings on the doorstep.  It really is a different world, and one so dreamlike that one is not surprised when seemingly otherworldly voices ring in one’s ear, reminiscences not just of Bud’s but of our own collective movie-going subconscious.  Those with ears to hear will recognise choice sound-bites from Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Happiest Days of Your Life, Meet Me in St Louis, The Ladykillers, Private’s Progress, Great Expectations and, several times, The Magnificent Ambersons, mixed with songs from Nat King Cole, Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds (Tammy, naturally).  To this, add several choice snippets of hymns known to anyone who’s suffered through a Catholic primary education, Waltons-like ‘goodnights’, and a friend of the family who lives to do Cagney and EGR impressions.  To this add a truly stunning visual sense, which bathes the film in a romantic, nostalgic glow despite actually being very gloomy in its surface aesthetics.  Rain, as befits the wet North-West, is never far away, and the reflection of rain patterns on windows on wallpaper in darkened rooms adds a further ethereal touch.  And not for nothing does the film open with a credit time lapse shot of a bowl of roses slowly wilting and dying, a simple but telling metaphor for the fleeting nature of those happiest days of Bud’s, and Terence’s, lives.  (more…)

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