Archive for the ‘author Allan Fish’ Category


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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mon 1

by Allan Fish

(France 1958 116m) DVD1/2

Aka. My Uncle

Mind the fountain!

p Louis Dolivet d Jacques Tati w Jacques Tati, Jacques Lagrange ph Jean Bourgoin ed Suzanne Baron m Alain Romains, Franck Barcellini art Henri Schmitt

Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot), Jean-Pierre Zola (Charles Arpel), Adrienne Servatie (Madame Arpel), Alain Becourt (Gerard Arpel), Yvonne Arnaud (Georgette), Jean-François Martial (Walter), Betty Schneider (Betty, Hulot’s landlord’s daughter), Dominique Marie (neighbour), Adelaide Danieli (Madame Pichard),

If I’m being honest with myself, Mon Oncle is the one of Jacques Tati’s seminal quartet that in some ways I have problems including here. The problem is it sets up a paradox, a comedy that actually doesn’t have many laugh out loud moments. It’s clever, of course, but we don’t laugh at Tati’s look at modernism as we laugh at, say, Keaton’s The Electric House or Chaplin’s Modern Times. We smile, we sort of laugh, but it’s always subdued. And between the jokes, not a lot happens at all. It’s a problem that many people have with Tati, that gags come and go, often without beginnings and nearly always without ends. Many one can see coming, others one wishes we didn’t. Yet still, for all that, it’s hard to find fault on a technical level with Tati’s film.         (more…)

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lilika 1

by Allan Fish

(Yugoslavia 1970 80m) not on DVD

A tale of two slippers

d  Branko Plesa  w  Dragoslav Mihailovic, Branko Plesa  novel  Dragoslav Mihailovic ph  Aleksandr Petkovic  ed  Bojana Subota  art  Miodrag Hadzic

Dragana Kalaba (Milica Sandic), Blanko Plesa (counsellor), Ljerka Drazenovic (Aunt Jelena), Danilo Stojkovic (Poocim Sandic), Lilijana Kontic (Djurdjica), Vladimir Pevec (Peca),

We all know the final freeze frame of Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups; Jean-Pierre Léaud looking not so much at the camera as beyond it, to a free future.   It’s one of the most iconic closing shots in movie history.  Take another 13 or 14 year old child, this time a girl, with blonde hair, tiny freckles and blue eyes.  She’s seen in colour, not in black and white, and this ending has the opposite effect.  Where Antoine Doinel ran away from the equivalent of borstal to the freedom of the sea, this girl, Milica, is being taken from the freedom of the coast to the confinement of, in her own words, “a prison for children.”

In actual fact there was nothing much liberating about the beach for Milica.  The times we see her there it’s in a flashback, just her and her infant little brother playing with a ball on the beach.  Or else she’s running around, screeching, chased by her aunt, like a headless chicken with no sense of direction.  It’s a scene that acts as a metaphor for her whole existence.  She’s never had a sense of direction.  She lives at home with a brutish father who beats her and a mother who seems to spend her days in bed in her negligee, slapping Milica for not attending school.  The reason she doesn’t is that she feels equally unloved there, and has to bunk off regularly to do laundry, spied on by her idiot savant best friend, Peca.  She’s also caught stealing and had up in front of counsellors.  The only one in her family who does have any time for her is her aunt, but she’s a whore and has to pay for her board and can’t have a teenage girl staying when she brings home clients. (more…)

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happ 2

by Allan Fish

(USA 1998 140m) DVD1/2

Die, die, die, die!

p Ted Hope, Christine Vachon d/w Todd Solondz ph Maryse Albertz ed Alan Oxman m Robbie Kondor (including “Soave sia il Vento” from “Cosi fan Tutte” and “Requiem” by W.A.Mozart) art Therese Deprez

Jane Adams (Joy Jordan), Dylan Baker (Bill Maplewood), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Allen), Lara Flynn Boyle (Helen Jordan), Ben Gazzara (Lenny Jordan), Jared Harris (Vlad), Cynthia Stevenson (Trish Maplewood), Louise Lasser (Mona Jordan), Jon Lovitz (Andy Kornbluth), Elizabeth Ashley (Diane Freed), Justin Elvin (Timmy Maplewood), Rufus Mead (Billy Maplewood),

It’s a traditional notion that American movies are all about entertainment. By and large, this may be true, and when so-called ‘cinema to make you think’ comes along, it’s so calculated to make you think a certain way, so cynically designed to win Oscars as ‘message films’ as to verge on moral propaganda and make you want to heave. These are then the twin cities of American film, so where does one place Todd Solondz in that? Not an easy question, for Solondz wouldn’t be found dead in either city, places so foreign to his outlook as to need a passport to travel to and from. His cinema is the cinema of discomfort, of squirming in your seat, of inadvertently smiling against your better instincts in embarrassment. Forget Oscars, forget takings, come to wince. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Czechoslovakia 1970 74m) DVD1/2

Aka. Valerie A Tyden Divu

Valerie the Vampire Slayer

p  Jaromil Jires  d  Jaromil Jires  w  Jaromil Jires, Ester Krumachova  story  Viteslav Nezval  ph  Jan Curik  ed  Josef Vausiak  m  Lubos Fiser  art  Jan Oliva

Jaroslava Schallerova (Valerie), Jan Klusak (Gracian), Helena Anyzova, Petr Kopriva, Juiri Prymek,

Well, it’s certainly more of a mouthful than Buffy.  And slayer probably isn’t quite the word either, but the idea of a young girl coming face to face with vampires was not just created by Joss Whedon; Jaromil Jires beat him to it by over twenty years.  However, though vampires appear it isn’t a vampire movie at all, but rather a study in adolescence and female sexual discovery.  It’s also the sort of film that could never, and indeed will never, be made in the US or even the UK, where it would outrage the moral majority.

Valerie is a thirteen year old redhead who has fantastic dreams and a rich imagination.  She lives with her grandmother, a pale but youthful looking woman who has never been near a man since her seduction and impregnation with Valerie’s mother at seventeen.  Valerie is warned by her grandmother not to wear her mother’s earrings, which seem to possess some sort of magical significance and, not doing so, finds herself in increasingly fantastic scenarios, involving witchcraft, vampirism and ghosts (even involving her dead parents) and at the same time, is beginning to explore her sexuality.  (more…)

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