Archive for the ‘author Allan Fish’ Category


(L-R)  Hugh Jackman, Andy Serkis

by Allan Fish

(USA 2006 131m) DVD1/2

Are you watching closely?

p  Christopher Nolan, Aaron Ryder, Emma Thomas  d  Christopher Nolan  w  Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan  novel  Christopher Priest  ph  Wally Pfister ed  Lee Smith  m  David Julyan  art  Nathan Crowley  cos  Joan Bergin

Christian Bale (Alfred Borden), Hugh Jackman (Robert Angier/Gerald Root), Michael Caine (John Cutter), Scarlett Johansson (Olivia Wenscombe), Rebecca Hall (Sarah), Piper Perabo (Julia McCullough), David Bowie (Nikola Tesla), Andy Serkis (Alley), Samantha Mahurin (Jess), Roger Rees (Owens), Ricky Jay (Milton),

Christopher Nolan’s fifth film was met with muted applause on its release in 2006.  Many critics were impressed by it, yet at the same time maddened by it.  Others didn’t rate it at all and couldn’t take it seriously.  The reasons for ironically slighting this sleight of cinematic hand were numerous, but mostly centred around several factors, the biggest being the release earlier that year of similar magic trick The Illusionist – backed up by the fact that in the UK the earlier film came out afterwards, and received the fate Nolan’s film had received in the US.  That other film was a fine film in its own right, but once the trick is unravelled, there’s not much else to it, while it’s never explained how its protagonist managed to make himself incorporeal.  There is nothing in Nolan’s film that isn’t explained, and yet for all that, it remains enigmatic, multi-textured and involving no matter how many times you see it.  This is not merely a case of pulling the rug out from under the audience, but convincing them that the rug was never there in the first place.

Set around the turn of the century, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden are two rival up and coming magicians working the theatres of London.  Their semi-friendship is blown asunder when Angier’s beloved Julia is drowned on stage in an accident which might have been caused by Borden.  Blaming him for her death, Angier swears to make him pay, and their professional rivalry reaches new levels when Borden introduces his long cherished new trick, The Transported Man, onto the London stage, and leaves Angier obsessed with how he did it. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Note:  This review by Allan Fish considers a seminal work of the late Jacques Rivette.  Though it was previously published, it reappears to pay homage to the great director, and will be followed by a few others in the coming weeks.

(France 1961 140m) DVD2

Aka. Paris Belongs to Us

The star Absinthe approaches earth

p  Roland Nonia  d  Jacques Rivette  w  Jacques Rivette, Jean Gruault  ph  Charles Bitsch  ed  Denise de Casablanca  m  Philippe Arthuys

Betty Schneider (Anne Goupil), Gianni Esposito (Gerard Lenz), Françoise Prévost (Terry Yordan), Daniel Crohem (Philip Kaufman), François Maistre (Pierre Goupil), Jean-Claude Brialy (Jean-Marc), Jean-Marie Rohain (De Georges), Jean-Luc Godard, Brigitte Juslin, Jacques Demy,

It was only a few weeks ago.  The 11th Doctor crash-landed on earth, David Tennant had finally turned into Matt Smith.  The latter had promised a little girl he’d be back in five minutes but it turns out to be twelve years.  He comes back only to bashed over the head with a cricket bat, handcuffed to a radiator and come round to find the first thing he sees is Amy Pond’s endless legs.  She doubts his existence; four psychiatrists in twelve years have told her he can’t exist.  Then he asks her a question.  “On this floor, how many rooms?”  She’s incredulous but finally responds “five.”  After all, she should know; she’s lived there for over a decade.  The Doctor replies “six”, Amy is even more incredulous, and then the Doctor tells her to look where she’s never wanted to look, in the corner of her eye.  There, slowly looking back over her shoulder, she sees it.  “How is that possible?” she protests.  “Perception filter”, the Doctor says, of an entire room she never knew existed. (more…)

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manchurian candidate
by Allan Fish
A little solitaire?
Note:  This review is part of the Frank Sinatra Blogathon run by Judy Geater and two others.  The host site is Emily at The VintageCameo.com. 
p  Howard W.Koch  d  John Frankenheimer  w  George Axelrod  novel  Richard Condon  ph  Lionel Lindon ed  Ferris Webster  m  David Amram  art  Richard Sylbert  cos  Moss Mabry
Frank Sinatra (Bennett Marco), Laurence Harvey (Raymond Shaw), Janet Leigh (Rosie), James Gregory (Sen.John Iselin), Angela Lansbury (Mrs Iselin), Henry Silva (Chunjim), John McGiver (Sen.Thomas Jordan), Knigh Dhiegh (Yen Lo), Whit Bissell,
The Manchurian Candidate is the film Oliver Stone would love to have made but never could, a film that subtly and nail-bitingly exposes the hypocrisy of political machination and the often blurred distinction between the so called ‘left’ and ‘right’.  Frankenheimer made several classic conspiracy movies in the sixties (see Seven Days in May and Seconds), but this is undoubtedly his masterpiece and one of the all-time great political films.  Not merely a thriller, not merely a military exposé, Candidate is also just what Pauline Kael said it was; “the most sophisticated political satire ever to come out of Hollywood.”
            In 1952 in Korea, an officer, Raymond Shaw, saves his group of men on patrol and receives the Medal of Honor for bravery.  All his former subordinates refer to him in an uncommonly generous, adulating way that seems detached from his gloomy, introspective personality.  Bennett Marco, who has been having nightmares about a brainwashing program conducted by the Soviet and Chinese governments, comes to believe his dream and thinks that Raymond is not all he says he is.  It turns out that he is merely an instrument in the machinations of some truly diabolical master plan. 


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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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