Archive for the ‘Allan’s 60s Countdown’ Category

by Joel

This post is a tribute to Allan Fish, who has just concluded his ambitious, erudite, and stimulating countdown of every era in film history (a top 100 for the first 35 years of cinema, a top 25 for the 1930s, a top 50 for the ensuing decades of the 20th century, and another top 100 for the decade just past). The project was launched on the popular website Wonders in the Dark in the autumn of 2008. A poll was attached to the end of each countdown, so that the readers could voice their own opinions. Not that they needed the excuse – if anything defined the excitement around Allan’s exercises, it was the fantastic discussion which sprouted from many of his choices, sometimes voyaging far abroad from the starting point, spanning hundreds of comments and dozens of topics. Many of these were among the best conversations I’ve had on the internet – or anywhere else for that matter.

There were numerous contributors to the buzzing atmosphere, not least of whom was Sam Juliano, the irrepressible administrator of Wonders in the Dark, who drummed up enthusiasm and participation in Allan’s countdown with the exuberant discipline of a Falstaffian ringleader. And then, of course, there’s Allan himself. A thirtysomething Brit who has seen just about every major film known to man, he also harbors a no-bullshit attitude and a brooding sensibility. Though bruising at times, he was the perfect yin to Sam’s yang – and their odd couple routine defined the site’s bright but unpretentious tone from the get-go. More important, his virtually peerless immersion in film history provided a wealth of choices for the countdown and he drew on them with gusto. Many times his #1 (not to mention lower-ranked picks) took us by surprise and sent us scurrying to the margins of filmdom to polish off his proclaimed masterpieces.

In several paragraphs, Allan would summon up the world of the movie effortlessly, giving a bit of history and story, but focusing on the film’s mood, its connections to other movies (and books and TV shows and plays…), and whatever it is that drew him in the first place. These short, succinct, yet highly evocative pieces were intended to evoke curiosity and excitement, and in this they were assisted by an often bold and original image – a screen capture in almost all cases, snapping a picture in the midst of merry movement, making us want to see more. The remainder of this tribute focuses on these pictures. Rather than lay these images out in the order of his ranking, I’ll fuse them into a seamless portrait of movie history, a voyage into the silver screen’s past, starting with the most recent and ending with the earliest glimpses of the medium’s potential.

Click on the picture and you will be taken to the review in question. (And if you click on the picture topping this post – an arresting, sultry frame from the French miniseries “Mesrine” – you will arrive at a list of all Allan’s countdowns in numerical order.) Enjoy…

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1969 216m) DVD2 (France/Japan only, no Eng subs)

Aka. Erosu purasu Gyakusatsu

Appreciation requires an ambivalent participation

p  Shinji Sushizaki  d  Yoshishige Yoshida  w  Yoshishige Yoshida, Masahiro Yamada  ph  Motokichi Hasegawa  ed  Hiroyuki Yasuoka  m  Toshi Ichiyanaga  art  Tsuyoshi Ishii

Mariko Okada (Noe Ito), Toshiyuki Hosokawa (Sakae Osugi), Yuko Kusunoki (Itsuko Masaoka), Kasuko Ireno (Akika Hiraga), Etsushi Takahashi (Jun Tsuji), Taeko Shinbashi (Chiyoko), Daijiro Harada (Wada), Ejko Sokutai (Toshiko), Masako Yagi (Yasuko),

Upon watching this film for the first time, even in the shorter 166m version that was for a long time the only one available anywhere with English subtitles, one is left drained, a quite literal mental wreck.  Even those versed in the seminal works of Yoshida’s contemporaries, Oshima and Imamura, will be unprepared for this.  That his work still remains unavailable to the English speaking world, barely mentioned in any major film guide or tome, is one of the greatest oversights of accepted film reference literature.  If he only made this one film, Yoshida would be recognised as a giant. 

            Essentially the film relates the story of the famous Japanese anarchist Sakae Osugi, who was killed by the authorities soon after the Tokyo earthquake of 1923, aged 38.  It tells his story through his three women; his wife, Yasuko, his current lover, Noe Ito, who was killed with him, and Itsuko, who tries unsuccessfully to kill him in 1916.  His story is inter-cut with that of two students in modern day Tokyo, who discuss the merits or otherwise of free love and Osugi’s life and times. (more…)

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mepris 1

by Allan Fish

(France 1963 100m) DVD1/2

Aka. Contempt

Snakes, Funerals and la Bébé

p  Carlo Ponti, Georges de Beauregard  d/w  Jean-Luc Godard  novel  “Il Disprezzo/A Ghost at Noon” by Alberto Moravia  ph  Raoul Coutard  ed  Agnès Guillemot, Lila Lakshmanan  m  Georges Delerue  art/cos  Tanine Autre

Brigitte Bardot (Camille Javal), Michel Piccoli (Paul Javal), Jack Palance (Jeremy Prokosch), Georgia Moll (Francesca Vanini), Fritz Lang (himself), Jean-Luc Godard,

Welcome, my friends, to the true cinema of wonder.  There have been many films made about the movie-making process, but none of them remotely reach the depths of feeling, both for the subject and for the characters, as does Jean-Luc Godard’s wonderful masterpiece Le Mépris.  To put it simply, it’s his greatest film.

            The storyline is simple; a down on his luck writer with aspirations to great things is forced due to a lack of money to undertake a script-writing job on a sword and sandal adaptation of Homer’s masterpiece The Odyssey, to be made by great director Fritz Lang for an egotistical producer.  Slowly but surely, over the course of the pre-shoot, his wife slowly comes to not only lose love for him, but grows contemptuous of him, so much so that she begins an affair with the egotistical producer, a man whom she despises. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Czechoslovakia 1967 162m) DVD2 

Do not be an animal

p  Josek Ouky  d  Frantisek Vlácil  w  Frantisek Vlácil, Frantisek Pavlicek  novel  Vladislav Vancura  ph  Bedrich Batka  ed  Miroslav Hajek  m  Zdenek Liska  art  Oldrich Okác  cos  Theodor Pistek  sound  Frantisek Fabian

Josek Kemr (Kozlik), Magda Vásáryová (Marketa Lazarova), Nada Hejna (Katerina), Jaroslav Moucka (Jan), Frantisek Velecký (Mikolas), Karel Vasikek (Jiri), Pavla Polaskova (Alexandra), Ivan Palúch, Václáv Sloup, Martin Mrasek,

In the 1964 epic The Fall of the Roman Empire there is a wonderful funeral scene in the snow on the German frontier where you really could “hear the Gods laughing.”  If the Gods of Rome were still around in the 13th century, they would doubtless weep at the goings on here.  Yet as one old crone, as she is called, says, “weeping is the gift of relief.  Men do not know it.”  Here men are animals, no different to any other creature that hunts in packs, but his prey are stray travellers, to satisfy his lust for money and women.  This is a medieval world like no other.  If you thought The Lion in Winter or The War Lord were stark, you’re about to get a rude awakening.  The film may have been influenced by Bergman, Dreyer and Jancsó, but it’s bleaker than any of them.  As the opening narration tells us, “our tale takes place during a savage winter with frosts as passionate as Christianity at the time.”  So frozen are the wastelands depicted that one half expects the screen to freeze over completely.  The huge snow-covered trees may look Christmassy, but these are not mere tannenbaums, but living wooden statues marking time, crying like weeping willows.  Even the wolves stand back here and let the humans get on with it, knowing there will be enough corpse meat to last them through the winter.  Death really is a steady diet here. (more…)

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persona 1

by Allan Fish

Persona (Sweden 1966 81m) DVD1/2 

Two-Faced Woman

p  Lars-Owe Carberg  d/w  Ingmar Bergman  ph  Sven Nykvist  ed  Ulla Rhyge  m  Lars John Werle  art  Bibi Lindström 

Bibi Andersson (Nurse Alma), Liv Ullmann (Elisabeth Vogler), Margaretha Krook (Dr Lakaren), Gunnar Björnstrand (Mr Vogler), Jorgen Lindström (the boy),

This has nothing to do with Ernst Lubitsch’s supremely disastrous comedy of 1941, except that its star is Swedish.  And as for the genre, well this is about as close to being a comedy as any set of Antipodean locations on the globe.  But Persona is in my opinion one of the best films of its decade, the greatest film of its director and the supreme cinematic expression of the human soul…and then some.

            An actress has suddenly stopped talking, right in the middle of a performance of Sophocles’ Electra, and, after being observed by medical experts, they conclude that there is basically nothing wrong with her, though the woman displays some psychosomatic tendencies.  A young nurse is assigned to her care, who immediately questions her own ability to do the job, but is nonetheless soon on her way to actress’ remote coastal home to help her recuperate.  While there, the two women grow closer, with alarming results. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Spain/USA 1966 119m) DVD2 (Spain only)

Banish plump Orson and banish all the world

p  Emiliano Piedra, Angel Escolano  d/w  Orson Welles  plays  William Shakespeare  ph  Edmond Richard  ed  Fritz Mueller  m  Angelo Francesco Lavagnino  art  Gustavo Quintano, José Antonio de la Guerra, Mario Erdorza

Orson Welles (Sir John Falstaff), Keith Baxter (Prince Hal), John Gielgud (Henry IV), Jeanne Moreau (Doll Tearsheet), Margaret Rutherford (Mistress Quickly), Norman Rodway (Henry Percy), Alan Webb (Justice Shallow), Marina Vlady (Kate Percy), Fernando Rey (Worcester), Tony Beckley (Poins), Ralph Richardson (narrator),

Chimes at Midnight is a film whose very title and spirit evokes its own response.  Though on the surface it is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays (and also included lines from three others) it is so much more than that.  Chimes at Midnight is an elegy to times past, to the Bard, and to Welles himself.  If Welles were a composer, it would be entitled Requiem for Myself.  In Kurosawa parlance, it’s his Ran, and every bit its equal. (more…)

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red angel 1

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1966 96m) DVD1/2

Aka. Akai Tenshi

We may die tomorrow

p  Ikuo Kobudera  d  Yasuzo Masumura  w  Ryozo Kasahara  novel  Yoriyoshi Arima  ph  Setsuo Kobayashi  ed  Tatsuji Nakashizu  m  Sei Ikeno  art  Shigeo Mano

Ayako Wakao (Nurse Sanura Nishi), Shinsuke Ashida (Doctor Okabe), Yusuke Kawazu (Private Orihara), Ranko Akagi (Nurse Iwashima), Ayako Ikegami (Nurse Tsurusaki), Kei’ichi Noda (General), Jotaro Senba, Daihachi Kita,

On the Region 2 UK DVD cover for this Japanese classic they refer to it as one of the most underexposed films of the period to western eyes.  They are quite right.  Try and find a listing for it in either the Halliwell, Maltin, Radio Times or even the Bloomsbury Foreign Film Guide if you can.  There was a time when such neglect could have been down to slight regard, but here it’s simply down to really not knowing enough about it.  Indeed, it’s a complaint one could make about many Masumura films, for you’ll struggle to find any film by the director in any of the above tomes.  It’s as if the poor fellow never existed, when in actual fact, along with Oshima, Teshigahara, Shindo and Hani, he was at the vanguard of the new Japanese wave of directors in the sixties.  To overlook him is a mistake that, thankfully, in the age of DVD when rarity upon rarity can now be resurrected and restored, that oversight can be corrected. (more…)

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leopard 1

by Allan Fish

(USA/Italy 1963 185m) DVD1/2

Aka. Il Gattopardo

Not changing one’s spots

p  Goffredo Lombardo  d  Luchino Visconti  w  Luchino Visconti, Suso Cecchi d’Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli, Massimo Franciosa  novel  Giuseppe de Lampedusa  ph  Giuseppe Rotunno  ed  Mario Serandrei  m  Nino Rota (and Giuseppe Verdi)  art  Mario Garbuglia  cos  Piero Tosi, Reanda, Sartoria Safas

Burt Lancaster (Prince Don Fabrizio Salina), Alain Delon (Tancredi), Claudia Cardinale (Angelica Sedara/Bertiana), Paolo Stoppa (Don Calogero Sedara), Serge Reggiani (Don Ciccio Tumeo), Romolo Valli (Father Pirrone), Rina Morelli (Maria Stella), Leslie French (Aymone Chevalley),

The Leopard is Luchino Visconti’s most personal and acclaimed journey into his beloved lost Italian aristocracy, into a world vanished but, in his eyes, not forgotten.  It’s a splendorous, yet almost funereal elegy to his heritage.  As Luchino Visconti, Marxist idealist, he would welcome such revolutions as Garibaldi’s.  But as Don Visconti di Madrone of Milan, a remnant of that same ruling class, it’s with a tinge of melancholy. 

            Don Fabrizio Salina is a Prince of Sicily, known as ‘The Leopard’ to those who respect and fear him.  But in the 1860s Sicily is on the brink of revolution, as Garibaldi is leading them to join Italy as one nation and wave goodbye to the old Sicilian aristocracy.  At the same time, his nephew, Tancredi, is fighting for this revolution and to win the hand of the daughter of a local nouveaux riche, Angelica.  Fabrizio realises his world is coming to a close, but cannot bring himself to either admit it to others, or do anything himself to either stop or encourage it. (more…)

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 from PC


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by Allan Fish

(France 1967 124m) DVD1/2

Aka. Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

Twins born in the sign of Gemini

p  Mag Bodard, Gilbert de Goldschmidt  d/w/ly  Jacques Demy  ph  Ghislain Cloquet  ed  Jean Hamon  m  Michel Legrand  art  Bernard Evein

Catherine Deneuve (Delphine Garnier), Françoise Dorléac (Solange Garnier), George Chakiris (Etienne), Jacques Perrin (Maxence), Michel Piccoli (Simon Dame), Gene Kelly (Andy Miller), Danielle Darrieux (Yvonne Garnier), Grover Dale (Bill),

It was a film I avoided for a long time.  It got slashed to pieces on its release forty years ago, and in North America at least it hasn’t recovered.  It was only on when I got the DVD that I settled down to see why the reaction had been sorutal; some influential critics defended it, Jonathan Rosenbaum most notably.  Besides, I’d warmed to Demy more as I grew older, his flimsiness and style over content not being the crimes I once prematurely accused them of being.  So let’s take that plot, for it forms both the defence and the prosecution when the film is on trial.  Its detractors point to its convenience, the predictability with which it resolves its various strands and episodes.  The characters weave in and out of scenes like couples on the dance floor, the plot thus flows rather like the camera of Demy’s beloved Max Ophuls (and Darrieux’s appearance, with memories of La Ronde, Madame de… and Le Plaisir, only adds to that feeling).  (more…)

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