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by Sam Juliano

Lucille and I received our virtual pass to this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.  We managed to watch seven features in the first few days, with many more lined up for the coming week.  It is safe to say next year with be in person attendance again, as this current year came very close.  My ratings for the seven films are as follows:

Kubrick by Kubrick (documentary) 4.0
The First Step (documentary) 4.0
See For Me (narrative) 3.0
7 Days (narrative) 3.0
Mark, Mary & Some Other People (narrative) 3.0
The Kids (documentary)  3.0
All the Streets Are Silent (documentary)  4.0

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by Sam Juliano

The Fifth Annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival was a huge success, in fact the biggest triumph of any we’ve hosted.  One of the reasons was the re-emergence of veteran Australian film writer Tony D’Ambra who did all that was humanly possible to inspire discussion, embolden analysis and resurrect the spirit of the old days, when Wonders in the Dark was the place to be for cinephiles.  We still have plenty going for us here – even if nothing like the glory days – because enthusiasm does surface several times during the year.  Jim Clark and J.D. Lafrance have been brilliant constants and Jamie Uhler has always come up big for the horror festival and for the just-completed AFOFF.  Thank you Tony!  Your generosity and inimitable scholarship was just what we needed!  Somehow I feel Allan is up there saying “Well done, Tony!”  The sublime Ozu post is of course one of the greatest ever published at the site, and I had the great privilege of seeing it during incubation.  What many probably don’t even know or remember is that Tony was crucially instrumental in getting the site launched.  And his philosophy on not changing what has worked for over a decade has been heeded.  Tony is the most modest of men and will demure from taking any serious credit, but I know what happened back in the day, and his scene-specific involvement allowed us to survive.  Both Tony and I have Italian blood, meaning we both can sometimes exhibit tempers.  But I had no right to show this side of me, ever, considering this man has given so much of his time, efforts and expertise in behalf of this site.  There is nobody online I have ever known as good-hearted as this man, and few as resilient.  His return is truly a Godsend and I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart for what he has done for the lion’s share of our nearly fourteen years as a blog-site.  I was thrilled to see that superlative action in the comment section under his post too!  So well deserved!

Thank you Jamie Uhler.  Thank you Jim Clark.  Thank you Roderick Heath.  Thank you Sachin Gandhi.  Thank you Jon Warner.  Thank you J.D. Lafrance.  Thank you Joel Bocko.  All of you contributed astounding posts.  To all those placing comments like Duane Porter, Rick Chinigo, James H., Celeste Fenster, Todd Sherman, as well as the writers, thank you.  What a great project this was!  One to next year God willing! (more…)

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Yasujirô Ozu's resting place

The gravestone at Yasujirô Ozu's resting place
is of large black granite with the only inscription
the Japanese character for void

by Tony D’Ambra

“A little girl is returning from the beach, at dusk, with her mother. She is crying for no reason at all, because she would have liked to continue playing. She moves off into the distance. She has already turned the corner of the street, and do not our lives dissolve into the evening as quickly as this grief of childhood?”
– Patrick Modiano, Missing Person (2004 Prix Goncourt)

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by James Clark

 

      

For her sagas of crime, the films of Kelly Reichardt dedicate a remarkable wealth of ardor. Such tutelage becomes not only a gift but a confusion, a fertile confusion.

Seemingly of no significance to the zealots, she was the daughter of both parents working as police officers. Could there be a lacuna in that market which makes all the difference? There seems to be in play that the rigors of contemporary life are so beyond coherent management that appalling outrage can coincide with gentle ways and seem a fine validity. Seem. But not, in fact, for a moment. And Reichardt, so West Coast and so donnish, knows very well that that turkey won’t fly, as such. (In another of her films, Certain Women [2016], a construction business owner allows one of her workers to be injured for life, due to careless management. She suckers the victim to throw away, in a pittance, his worker’s compensation rights and, after long and reckless pleading his case, ends up in jail. The owner has a case of insomnia.) As we enter, once again, that precinct of presumptuousness, now namely, First Cow (2020), our work cut out for us becomes the whereabouts of courage. Like the frequent bathos and very rare pathos in Certain Women, we are on the hook to measure what Ingmar Bergman would think of the coterie of the new film. And where our guide today could find her footing.

This astounding film poses many possibilities of entry. I’ve settled upon the treasure of foliage here, for its foundational (and nostalgic) powers, in the form of Oregon Territory in 1820. Our protagonist, namely, Cookie, first appearing in deep forest, unearthing mushrooms in the capacity of providing food for a crew of fur hunters, has been provided by a world of beautiful uplift and a world of deadly violence. At this point, positivity is in ascendence. So concentrated is the growth, that Cookie becomes far from a mundane toiler, and instead part of nature itself. In the murky atmosphere, close-up snippets of his body meld with the forest itself. (more…)

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by Sachin Gandhi

That car’s dirty.
It’s dirty..black as pitch

Yasuzô Masumura’s Black Test Car is a brilliant industrial espionage film about two rival car manufacturers who are racing to get their sports car first to the market. The film shows that the car manufacturers will spy, lie, cheat and go to any extreme lengths to get ahead regardless of ethics or their car’s quality. This hot intense race to be first puts immense pressure on all the individuals involved forcing some of them to cross moral and ethical boundaries. The film is packed with many memorial dialogues especially around the ethical dilemma facing the characters, with this one being one of my favourite:

“You can’t get hung up on morals, you’ll just feel remorse.
Remorse?
I want to live like a decent human being”

This 1962 film is even more relevant today because industrial espionage has increased substantially over the last few decades and launching one’s product in the market first is even more intense now.

I don’t want to give away any other details about the film because I want all of you to experience this film with as limited knowledge as possible in the hope that you can experience some of the giddy delight I had in watching this recently. I was familiar with a few of Yasuzô Masumura’s films such as his 1966 movie Irezumi. However, I hadn’t heard about Black Test Car until I came across the new Arrow edition along with that of Black Report. Watching both these movies was an exhilarating experience from a cinematic perspective and helped me to forget the state of things in the world outside. (more…)

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The kick off post is by Jamie Uhler

We opened last year’s Allan Fish Online Film Festival with a pointing out of the obvious: how being under lockdown in a pandemic would necessitate the exact modus operandi of the Festival idea, watching movies and shows via streaming platforms (or, if you’re still like me, physical media as well). This year is still little different, perhaps with a bit of the uncertainty eased via a full scale vaccine rollout (at least for those of us in the States, I don’t want to speak for anyone else), but still very much living in a nervous year, now stretched to another.  

So my picks begin with that still very much in mind. To ease my mind during the endless work from home hours and emotional strain of the pandemic, I found myself, almost like a zombie, subconsciously drawn to my past loves without even really thinking. The pieces of art that had been an emotional balm for me my entire life, the things I loved unconditionally that had shaped much of my tastes and psychological concerns during my younger years. Days started with spinning of 45s from a pool of my top favorites, the types of songs I’ll never tire of, ones that instantly charge you up to face the day. Days then wound down with movies, much of which would be derided as ‘low art’–car chase films, B- or C-level action, Charles Bronson vigilant pictures, forgotten studio genre pictures, gore and classic Horror, Hong Kong fight movies and 1950’s American technicolor epics. In between was reading of course, which saw me get back to reading literature and poetry again, after a few years away spent mostly reading nonfiction. All things to reclaim something that had been taken from me—as I understood it, live culture—but realizing they’d never gone anywhere, I’d just drifted elsewhere, sought different joys. I suppose this wasn’t much different from what most would do, anything to ease their minds and find little pockets of distraction in an otherwise chaotic, turbulent year. And, along with a pandemic, being in Chicago, I spent many of the warmer months trying to bike as often as possible. Not only a great reliever of stress, I quickly found this particular mode of transportation greatly conducive to easily transporting me to points of protest in the city, a near weekly occurrence during 2020 as the Black Lives Matter movement gained steam across the globe. COVID wasn’t enough, we had to heap even more onto our plates. 

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by Sam Juliano

I’d like to express my deepest appreciation to all who have offered support and congratulations for the imminent publication of my first novel, Paradise Atop the Hudson.  It is nearly complete, but the formidable task of proofreading and arranging the chapters -almost 40- will mean a few more weeks.  I am seriously thinking of publishing on Amazon to get it out there, and then sending out to other publishers.  I am well aware of the enormous difficulties in getting a traditional publisher (and that’s an understatement) but as I say I may get the ball rolling with amazon, an option that many authors have spoken of highly.  I began this journey in early January, and have worked morning to night, at school and at home hitting letter keys till my hands hurt.  I believe it will fall just short of 80,000 words when all is said and done.  I also need to firm up an artist willing to do the cover, which I will request include an amusement park Wild Mouse roller coaster, and the depiction of two boys, one eighteen and one seventeen, the older a strong and heavy bully-type, the other a slight, five foot seven delicate boy.  Valerie and Jim Clark, your undying support has been astounding.

This past week J.D. Lafrance penned an extraordinary review on 1958’s The Lineup.

The Fifth Annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival will launch this coming Friday, Allan’s birthday with the opening post as always by project founder Jamie Uhler.  We have a nine-person lineup that will take the venture to June 5th.  Greatly looking forward to what will surely be another fantastic showcase of film scholarship. (more…)

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Screen capture from Tarkovsky’s “Stalker,” reviewed magnificently this past week by co-Editor Jim Clatk

by Sam Juliano

We are inching closer to the Fifth Annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival, launching on May 28th.  The turnout for this year’s installment is the best ever, and a glowing answer to the idea that blogsites are losing momentum.  As always one presentation will be posted a day until completion.  We at Wonders in the Dark are greatly excited about the venture which was founded by Jamie Uhler.  He will as per tradition, be writing the first entry.

This past week, Jim Clark penned a spectcular essay on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Russian masterwork, Stalker.

I am very thrilled to announce the imminent completion of my fiction novel “Paradise Atop the Hudson,” a 70,000 word plus young adult work about two friends on opposite sides of the tracks growing up in Fairview from 1965 to 1971.  There is humor, heartbreak and intricate family dynamics and some unexpected narrative events in the pointedly set work incorporating real people, places and occurrences, but played out in purely fictional terms.  The novel is nearly complete, with only two weeks or so remaining to wind things up.  I am presently exploring all my publishing options.

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by Sam Juliano

As this post is going up on Sunday morning I’d like to wish all those irreplaceable moms and their adoring families the happiest of Mother’s Days!  The weather is certainly beautiful in the Tri-State region, and hoping the same for all our friends around the country and the world.

Project founder Jamie Uhler has again outdone himself with a magnificent teaser for the upcoming Allan Fish Online Film Festival, the fifth annual in the tribute series staged near the end of every May.  We are pleased to announce that pending any last minute additions -which would happily extend it further- nine (9) writers have come forward to participate with posts that will begin on Friday, May 28th, the day that would have been Allan’s 48th birthday.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

A group e mail will be sent out on Tuesday morning, soliciting involvement for the upcoming Allan Fish Online Film Festival.  A few have already pledged a post, and it is anticipated several others will soon be coming forward.  The project will launch on May 28th and will run as long as it must to accomodate those who are participating.  Many thanks.  This should be another banner installment of the festival that means so much to those affiliated with the site.

This past week we received two more stupendous essays.  Jim Clark’s profoud piece on Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice and J.D. Lafrance’s fascinating review of Oliver Stone’s The Doors debuted on Wednesday and Thursday.

More shops, theaters and restaurants are moving forward, cutting back restrictions as the summer is looking better and better moving forward.  I will be teaching the summer school program again this year but unlike last year it will in person.

Last year’s big Oscar surprises – Anthony Hopkins and Frances McDormand continue to inspire discussion online.

Lucille and I saw two films this past week: (more…)

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