Archive for the ‘Allan’s 50s Countdown’ Category


by Allan Fish

(Japan 1953 135m) DVD1/2

Aka. Tokyo Monogatari

Isn’t life disappointing?                           

Takeshi Yamamoto  d  Yasujiro Ozu  w  Yasujiro Ozu, Hogo Noda  ph  Yuharu Atsuta  ed  Yoshiyasu Hamamura  m  Kojun Saito  art  Tatsuo Hamada

Chishu Ryu (Shukishi Hirayama), Chieko Higashiyama (Tomi Hirayama), Setsuko Hara (Noriko), Haruko Sugimura (Shige Kaneko), Nobuo Nakamura (Kurazo Kaneko), So Yamamura (Koichi), Kuniko Miyaki, Eijiro Tono, Kyoko Kagawa, Shiro Osaka,

Indeed.  That quote sounds more like something out of a Mike Leigh drama; one can imagine it issuing from the mouth of a Timothy Spall or a Lesley Manville with ease, yet it’s from Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story.  Ozu’s masterpiece is a film not only about migration to the city, but about man’s inherent neglect of our parents in old age.  It was also a thoroughly refreshing No 1 in John Walker’s “Halliwell’s Top 1,000.”

            Shukishi and Tomi are an elderly couple living in a small Japanese coastal town whose children have, with the exception of a daughter who works as a schoolteacher, gone to the big city, one of whom was killed in military service. When they go to see their children and grand-children in the big city they are treated, if not coldly, then as an embarrassment, to be entertained, ushered away and kept from view.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1958 128m) DVD1/2

I want you to follow my wife

p  Alfred Hitchcock  d  Alfred Hitchcock  w  Alec Coppel, Samuel Taylor  novel  “D’entre les Morts” by Pierre Bioleau, Thomas Narcejac  ph  Robert Burks  ed  George Tomasini  m  Bernard Herrmann  art  Hal Pereira, Henry Bumstead  cos  Edith Head  tit  Saul Bass

James Stewart (John “Scottie” Ferguson), Kim Novak (Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton), Barbara Bel Geddes (Midge), Tom Helmore (Gavin Elster), Henry Jones (Coroner), Raymond Bailey (Doctor), Ellen Corby (Manageress), Konstantin Shayne (Pop Leibel),

Vertigo is a film that still splits critical opinion to this day.  Barry Norman dislikes it and I certainly can’t say that I particularly like it.  Yet it’s one that gnaws at you, disorients you, distorts reality and ultimately leaves you as dizzy as the central protagonist.  It’s not a perfect film, but I find it hard to disagree with Leonard Maltin when he said Vertigo was “a genuinely great motion picture that demands multiple viewings.”  Each viewing gives you an extra piece to the puzzle.  Some day, you’ll see the big picture.  Though many might say that a film that can only be truly understood after multiple viewings is hardly the essence of cinema, I disagree.  Like the seemingly possessed painting of Carlotta Valdés in the museum, you come back to it again and again and look at it in different angles, in different moods.  It really does merit it.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1954 125m) DVD1/2

Aka. Sansho the Bailiff

When will your children be home?

p  Masaichi Nagata  d  Kenji Mizoguchi  w  Fuji Yahiro, Yoshikata Yoda  novel  Ogai Mori  ph  Kazuo Miyagawa  ed  Mitsuji Miyata  m  Fumio Hayasaka  art  Kasaku Ito

Yoshiaki Hanayagi (Zushio), Kyoko Kagawa (Anju), Kinuyo Tanaka (Tamaki), Eitaro Shindo (Sansho), Akitaka Kono (Taro), Masao Shimizu (Masauji Taira), Ken Mitsuda (P.M.Morozane Fujiwara), Chieko Naniwa (Ubatake), Kikue Mori (Priestess), Kazukimi Okuni (Norimura), Masahiko Kato, Keiko Enami,

Akira Kurosawa always referred to Mizoguchi as the greatest Japanese director.  Many critics have agreed with him over the years and, though the great man directed numerous great films before his untimely death in 1956, this final masterpiece is arguably his finest achievement, long overshadowed by Ugetsu Monogatari released the previous year, but at the very least its equal.  In the same year Kurosawa released The Seven Samurai, Mizoguchi was making a radically different analysis of the lot of the peasant in feudal Japan. 

            In the Japan of the 11th century, when “the majority of the people were considered less than human“, an official is exiled after he incurs the wrath of ministers for his trying to stop the exploitation of the peasant class.  Seven years later, his wife and children set out to follow him, but they are attacked by bandits and, as the mother is taken away to begin life as a prostitute on Sado Island, the children are sold off into slavery at the hands of the merciless bailiff, Sansho.  Years later, the children – still in slavery – are now 23 and 18 respectively and the young girl persuades her elder brother to make a run for it without her.  Though he vows to come back for her, she realises her situation is hopeless and commits suicide.  Meanwhile, their mother anxiously awaits them daily, now crippled after an escape attempt of her own. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1952 102m) DVD1/2

Monumental Pictures Presents

p  Arthur Freed  d/ch  Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen  w  Betty Comden, Adolph Green  ph  Harold Rosson  ed  Adrienne Fazan  md  Lennie Hayton  m/ly  Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown  art  Cedric Gibbons, Randall Duell  cos  Walter Plunkett

Gene Kelly (Don Lockwood), Debbie Reynolds (Kathy Selden), Donald O’Connor (Cosmo Brown), Jean Hagen (Lina Lamont), Millard Mitchell (R.F.Simpson), Rita Moreno (Zelda Zanders), King Donovan (Rod), Cyd Charisse (Dancer), Douglas Fowley (Roscoe Dexter), Madge Blake (Dora Bailey), Tommy Farrell (Sid Phillips), Kathleen Freeman (Phoebe Dinsmore), Robert Watson, Mae Clarke, Dawn Addams,

Singin’ in the Rain is one of those films that finally convinces me that my generation is myopic.  If you asked your everyday film buff what Singin’ in the Rain meant to them, it’s a fair bet to say about 50% of them will say that it was sung by Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.  The fact is that musicals are dead, but not because they aren’t still popular; Chicago won best picture, Evita did alright, too, and Joss Whedon’s musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was universally acclaimed, but they represent a stagy form of musicals, based on or inspired by Broadway productions.  Real musicals are from that golden age of the studio system where studios had stars and technicians under contract and musicals were churned out like factory produce.  At MGM, producer Arthur Freed headed a mini studio within a studio and, following the success of An American in Paris, he handed himself carte blanche for his next production, which was to be a movie satire including the back catalogue of songs written by Freed with Nacio Herb Brown.  It didn’t sound promising, but what resulted was the greatest musical ever made.  Period. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1952 141m) DVD1/2

Swing low, sweet Kanji

d  Akira Kurosawa  w  Hideo Oguni, Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa  ph  Asaichi Nakai  ed  Akira Kurosawa  m  Fumio Hayasaka  art  So Matsuyama

Takashi Shimura (Kanji Watanebe), Nobuo Kaneko (Mitsuo), Kyoko Seki (Kazue), Makoto Kobori (Kiiche),

Ikiru is probably Akira Kurosawa’s least typical film, the sort normally associated with Yasujiro Ozu.  Yet this is not a film wrapped up in Japanese custom; Kurosawa’s western influences are well in evidence and it’s not Chishu Ryu playing the lead but Kurosawa’s own Takashi Shimura.  Arguably Kurosawa’s greatest achievement, it allows its narrative to unfold slowly non-linearly, and doesn’t feel a jot too long at well over two hours. 

            Kanji Watanabe has worked in the same governmental department for thirty years without getting anything out of his job.  He is ridiculed by his underlings, one of whom innocently enough nicknames him The Mummy, as he’s acted dead for twenty years.  Then, after a routine check up at the doctor’s, he comes to realise he has stomach cancer and that he has well under a year to live.  At first, he goes off with a bohemian author to get drunk, and then spends another day with a young girl in his office who has just resigned.  But neither give his life meaning or satisfy him and, realising his son no longer has love or respect for him, he contemplates his life and its worthlessness and tries to make a difference in his last remaining months.  He uses his job to obtain a plot of land and turns it into a playground with swings for children.  Upon its completion, alone on his swing, he dies peacefully in the snow. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1955 121m) DVD2

Aka. Ukigumo

We’ll always have Dalat

p  Masumi Fujimoto  d  Mikio Naruse  w  Yoko Mizuki  novel  Fumiko Hayashi  ph  Masaro Tamai  ed  m  Ichiro Saito  art  Satoru Chuko

Hideko Takamine (Yukiko Koda), Masayuki Mori (Kengo Tomioka), Mariko Okada (Osei), Deisuke Kato (Seikichi), Isao Yamakata (Sugio Iba), Chieko Nakakita (Kuniko), Mayari Mokusho (Aya), Noriko Sengoku (Nobu), Fuyuki Mutakami (Makita), Nobuo Kaneko (Kano), Heihachiro Okawa (doctor),

If ever a film summed up the career and indeed the outlook of Mikio Naruse, this would have to be it.  Though Late Chrysanthemums and When a Woman Ascends the Stairs have been more readily accessible to audiences in recent times, Floating Clouds was always regarded as his masterpiece by the minority in the know.  It appeared on several best film lists of leading critics both at the time of the cinema’s centennials and at the turn of the millennium, when such selections were in vogue.  It was quite right to be so highly placed, for it belongs in the pantheon with the best of Japanese cinema. 

            Yukiko and Kengo have a love affair during the war when both find themselves stationed on a less fiery outpost in Indo-China.  After the war, however, in 1946, when they meet up, they cannot admit to wanting a future together.  They recall the happy days of their affair, but they drift apart into various aborted relationships and become more and more resigned to their fate.  When Kengo has an affair with the young wife of a married man, matters are complicated by Yukiko’s pregnancy and by the death of the young girl, Osei.  Haunted by her, Kengo cannot commit himself to Yukiko and again they seem fated to be apart. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1951 111m) DVD1

Aka. The Big Carnival

The Leo Minosa Rescue Fund

p/d  Billy Wilder  w/story  Billy Wilder, Lesser Samuels, Walter Newman  ph  Charles Lang Jnr  ed  Arthur Schmidt, Doane Harrison  m  Hugo Friedhofer  art  Hal Pereira, Earl Hedrick

Kirk Douglas (Charles “Chuck” Tatum), Jan Sterling (Lorraine Minosa), Porter Hall (Jacob Q.Boot), Robert Arthur (Herbie Cook), Richard Benedict (Leo Minosa), Ray Teal (Sheriff Gus Kretzer), Frank Cady (Mr Federber), Lewis Martin (McCardle), John Berks (Papa Minosa), Frances Dominguez (Mama Minosa),

Considering that Billy Wilder is commonly and quite rightly regarded as one of Hollywood’s all-time great directors it is quite surprising that one of his masterpieces seems never to be acknowledged as such.  By not being acknowledged I am not talking about how it is viewed in film guides and magazines, who invariably give it the highest marks, but in terms of when people come to discuss Wilder’s greatest film.  You will get votes for Double Indemnity, for Some Like it Hot, for Sunset Boulevard, for The Apartment and even for The Lost Weekend, but you will very rarely – if indeed ever- see any votes for Ace in the Hole.

            Of course this could be down to many people only knowing it under its alternative title, but I think in many ways it is suffering from the media backlash it received upon its release and which not only hampered its commercial chances irreparably but also its reputation.  Did Wilder believe that after performing a cynical autopsy on Hollywood in Sunset Boulevard that all media was fair game?  Was Wilder being naïve?  Possibly.  But if so it was the sort of naïveté from which greatness flows. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(France 1959 75m) DVD1/2

It was more down to luck than skill

p  Agnes Delahaie  d/w  Robert Bresson  ph  Léonce-Henry Burel  ed  Raymond Lamy  m  Jean-Baptiste Lully  art  Pierre Charbonnier

Martin Lassalle (Michel), Marika Green (Jeanne), Pierre Leymarie (Jacques), Jean Pelegri (Inspector), Pierre Etaix (Accomplice), Kassagi (Master Pickpocket), Dolly Scal (Michel’s mother), César Gattegno (Detective),

Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket is a film that represents his visual and emotional apogee, a film that demonstrates his feelings about humanity in a nutshell.  He made other masterpieces for sure, two of which I have already discussed, but none were as dear to his heart as this loosely based adaptation and update of Dostoyevsky.  To quote the opening caption, “using image and sound, the filmmaker strives to express the nightmare of a young man whose weakness leads him to commit acts of theft for which nothing destined him.”  But though nothing destined him for it, he takes to it like the proverbial mallard to H2O. 

            A young man, Michel, who has been forced to give up his studies for financial reasons, steals a purse from a crocodile skin handbag at Longchamp racecourse and, though caught and questioned by police, he is released for lack of evidence.  The death of his mother from an unnamed illness briefly turns him back to the light, before a meeting with a master pickpocket gets him embroiled in a thieving syndicate.  However, when his two accomplices are arrested at the Gare de Lyon and he realises his friend Jeanne loves him, he bolts abroad and doesn’t return for a few years.  He returns to find Jeanne with a young baby by his other friend Jacques, whom she refused to marry.  Returning to thieving to sustain them, he is caught and arrested, only then realising his love for Jeanne. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1956 119m) DVD1/2

What makes a man to wander?

p  Merian C.Cooper, C.V.Whitney  d  John Ford  w  Frank S.Nugent  novel  Alan le May  ph  Winton C.Hoch  ed  Jack Murray  m  Max Steiner  art  Frank Hotaling, James Basevi  cos  Frank Beetson, Ann Peck

John Wayne (Ethan Edwards), Jeffrey Hunter (Martin Pawley), Vera Miles (Laurie Jorgensen), Ward Bond (Capt.Rev.Samuel Clayton), Natalie Wood (Debbie Edwards), John Qualen (Lars Jorgensen), Harry Brandon (Chief Scar), Ken Curtis (Charlie McCorry), Hank Worden (Mose Harper), Harry Carey Jnr (Brad Jorgensen), Olive Carey (Mrs Jorgensen), Antonio Moreno (Emilio Figueroa),

A common question in quizzes, which 1957 Buddy Holly hit took its title from a phrase oft-repeated by John Wayne in a film of the previous year?  Answer, of course, ‘That’ll be the Day’.  The Searchers has become, in the eyes of modern Hollywood, the prototype John Ford western and one of the great undoubted masterpieces of American cinema.  Though such adulation is well-deserved, it is perhaps slightly ironic.  It may be John Ford’s finest film, but it’s by no means my favourite and by no means representative of his earlier career.  My favourite Ford film is also his most representative, My Darling Clementine.  But as a final major statement in a genre and location he knew so well, as a moving and sharp reversal of the idealistic screen persona of John Wayne, and into the racism at the heart of modern America, it’s powerful stuff in anyone’s language.

            In 1868, three years after the Confederacy surrender, Ethan Edwards returns home for the first time to his brother and sister-in-law and their children.  While there he goes off with some Texas Rangers to check into some Comanche activity, only to realise that they have been tricked.  Returning home he finds the whole family massacred, aside from the two daughters, who are abducted.  He vows to get them back, but the family’s adopted half-breed son goes with him to make sure he doesn’t vent his racist fury on the girls, who he sees as contaminated.  Their quest takes them many years. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1957 140m) DVD1/2

Aka. Tokyo Boshaku

A child needs the love of both parents

Takeshi Yamamoto  d  Yasujiro Ozu  w  Yasujiro Ozu, Kogo Nada  ph  Yuuharu Atsuta  ed  Yoshiyasu Hamamura  m  Kojin Saito 

Setsuko Hara (Takako Numata), Isuzu Yamada (Kisako Soma), Ineko Arima (Akiko Sugiyama), Chishu Ryu (Shukichi Sugiyama), Masami Taura (Kenji Kimura), So Yamamura, Kamatari Fujiwara, Nobuo Kamakura, Haruko Sugimura,

There is little doubt that Japan’s capital meant a lot to director Yasujiro Ozu.  I can think of four major films he made with the city in the title, two in the thirties and two in the fifties, and that’s only amongst the films I’ve seen.  Each one in its way is a poem, but although the list contains his all-time magnum opus, Tokyo Story, I think this one isn’t too far behind.  It wasn’t always appreciated as an Ozu masterwork, and indeed was never shown in the west on its original release except to eclectic art houses.  Even now, it took till 2005 for the DVD releases, first in Hong Kong in the superb Anniversary Collection, and then later in the UK as part of a three film set.  It’s undoubtedly the work of an older director than the man who first came to prominence, and an even more melancholy one than the director of Tokyo Story but four years earlier.  Both are quite a bit over two hours, but though there are constants in the cast, as always with Ozu, they are very different in tone. (more…)

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