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The tragic life of British jazz singer extraordinaire Amy Winehouse is chronicled in exceptional documentary, AMY.

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Pixar’s INSIDE OUT may not be the staggering masterpiece that most critics are saying it is, but still it is wonderful.

by Sam Juliano

Local fireworks events and some glorious weather defined July 4, 2015 in the New York City area, but reports across the country happily conveyed much the same.  Here is Fairview, New Jersey it is business as usual with administrators on duty through much of the hot season, and the creative writing/literature enrichment program that I teach is running through August 7.

The Childhood/Adolescent Films Countdown at the site is moving along quite nicely with two full weeks of entries complete.  The project will continue into October.  Both page view and comment totals are solid, as as was the case with our past multi-writer genre pollings (musicals, comedies, westerns and romances) the quality of the writing is consistently first-rate.  J. D. Lafrance, Jamie Uhler, Patricia Perry and Allan Fish wrote magnificent essays this past week.   Mr. Uhler’s staggering piece on the harrowing 1985 Russian war film Come and See ran over 4,000 words.  Lucille and I enjoyed a comparatively relaxing week after the previous madness associated with end-of-the-year milestones and heavy June bookings (just kidding of course, I truly loved every minute!), though we still managed a few outings over the weekend.

Surprise!  After a very long absence, I have brought back site links this week, though the future of this long-abandoned practice will strictly be week to week, contingent on available time.

On the theatrical movie front I watched Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali for the second time in three weeks at the Film Forum as a result of a close friend wanting to see the stunning 4K restoration for the first time.  Lucille and I also saw two new releases with various members of our brood (my daughter Melanie is a huge Amy Winehouse fan, and urged a viewing of the documentary about her sadly brief life as a titanic jazz singer in the UK).  I also re-watched several blu-rays at home including Arrow’s terrific spaghetti western Day of Wrath, and the Roger Corman horror film The Tomb of Ligeia.  Watching the rousing holiday musical 1776 again on a 4K restoration was utter joy!  We saw: (more…)

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by Jamie Uhler

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Book of Revelations, 6:7-8

In a film that borrows its title from the words spoken by the beasts of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse in the Bible’s Book of Revelations, it’d be interesting to note that as the phrase is continually uttered by the beasts (I count no less than four times, once each time one the Horseman open a seal) it’s meant to coerce anyone of shaky faith into belief by the threat of plagues and Armageddon that are surely to come. But, just as each (potential) action implies an opposite (potential) action, there is the promise that if these riders are avoided, or not followed, a paradise for eternity awaits. One not of the flesh or air, but of the afterlife, a reality in need of a tremendous leap. The ‘come and see’ adage as much a fearful warning as a hopeful promise.

But that reading implies what’s to come, and while as a title to a film you’d be about to see that seems fitting (this reading prompts visions of red velvet curtains being drawn as we’re led into the horror show theater, think Dario Argento’s intro in Deep Red), the title here implies to current events (to the film’s World War II setting) and probably what always has happened and always will happen (especially during war). That’s the scary connection to the Book of Revelations; a book prophesying the coming end, here is read as implying it has come and our contemporary post life is akin to nomadic forsaken souls wondering an earth with only sinners. Put differently, the Book of Revelations is pure fantasy, or at the very least, something that is promised to come, just don’t hold your breath, while here is an accounting of events born from actual historical truth. If we are only continually reminded of these horrors, perhaps we’d be struck into action to insure they never happen again. The meek shall inherit the earth that same book says elsewhere, but then who wants to be born and come of age in a burned out husk? Come and See accounts for two choices and they aren’t heaven or hell, but only a life of agony, or death. A title that is an urging to watch this collectively and strike to see this never happens again.
(more…)

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78. Walkabout (1971)

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by Patricia Perry

At first glance, Walkabout would seem to belong to that most classic of story tropes: in which a young person leaves home – to escape danger or to seek his/her fortune – and, after an arduous journey with setbacks and side trips, emerges on the other side a transformed and wiser young adult.

But the journey made through the Australian Outback by the three youngsters in Nicholas Roeg’s 1971 film has different consequences. Roeg subverts this familiar trope to show children who cannot escape their cultural conditioning and cannot bridge the chasm between their own experience and that of another young person from a wildly different life.  For at least one, the journey the ends in tragedy; for another it is not a transforming experience, but one that sends her reeling back to a more familiar life of comfort and conformity. An enigmatic, impressionistic film that occasionally nods to conventional expectations, but more often demolishes them, Walkabout offers cold-eyed observations of the worlds its characters inhabit, but no easy judgments.

It opens with scenes of a an upper-middle-class life in Sydney: students in a girl’s school practicing their elocution lessons; ground kangaroo meat for sale in a sterile, white butcher shop; a woman slicing fruit in her high-rise condominium kitchen while watching her children (Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg) swimming below in a chlorinated pool that lies mere steps from the edge of the ocean. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The Childhood Films Countdown enjoyed an extraordinary opening week with page views totals that have resurrected the site to banner status.  Ed Howard’s opening essay on The White Ribbon garnered an impressive number of page views and comments, as did the review of River’s Edge which amassed some truly fabulous numbers by both barometers of measurement.  The other three pieces did quite well in addition.  Five more terrific films will be examined starting today, and will continue well into October.  There are still a handful of unclaimed films for network writers to consider.

Lucille and I just finished the most torrid week of our nearly 20 year marriage, starting with Jillian’s 8th grade graduation on Tuesday night.  Then the following day Sammy graduated high school, and on Thursday we attended two retirement affairs, a luncheon and a dinner for a group of teachers and the school superintendent.  On Friday night we attended the wedding of a fellow teacher in our school, and then on Saturday I escorted Lucille, Sammy and Melanie to a Morrissey/Blondie concert at Madison Square Garden, while Jeremy, Broadway Bob and I watched the film Dope while the others were taking in the musical show.  Finally on Sunday I attended the Film Forum Jr. screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory  Though the school year has ended, Lucille continues working over the summer until the last two weeks of August as principal, and I begin teacher the summer program (8:15 to 12:15 Monday through Friday) today until August 7th. (more…)

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By Dean Treadway 

After years of merely seeing the title Sundays and Cybele bandied about, I only recently got the chance to see it courtesy of our heroes at Criterion. I had long had it on my radar, knowing that it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1963. And, then, in 1964, due to arcane Academy rules, it achieved that ancient and odd achievement of being nominated the following for Best Adapted Screenplay (it comes from a novel by Bernard Eschassériaux, who threw in on the screenplay, though he’s uncredited) and also for the legendary Maurice Jarre’s evocative score. When I finally got the chance to see it in 2014, I was seriously blown away by its visual acuity, intense performances and complicated emotions. I could barely comprehend its immense breadth, and immediately wanted to know more about its maker. But here I quickly found myself thwarted. Even in the age of the Internet, there are still artists about whom you can find little. And its director/co-writer Serge Bourguignon is one of them.

So here is what I have learned about him: From 1948-50, he studied at France’s L’Institut Des Hautes Etudes Cinematographiques (the IDHEC, translated as the “Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies,” and now known as La Fémis). This is the famed film school that spawned the likes of Alain Resnais, Claire Denis, Volker Schlondorff, Theo Angelopolis, Louie Malle, Costa Gavras, Claude Sautet, Patrice Leconte, Arnaud Desplechin, and Jean-Jacques Annaud, as well as countless other cinematic craftspeople (and I’m forced to say: that’s quite an alumni there). After traveling the world in search of material, he began helming documentary shorts in the late 50s, culminating with his Palme D’or win at Cannes for his short film La Sourire in 1960 (this short is available on the recent Criterion Collection release of Sundays and Cybele, though I must confess, I haven’t yet seen it). (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The real thing in terms of summer heat has descended on the metropolitan area for the past few weeks, but this is pretty much the report from many of our friends elsewhere.  With the rising temperatures comes barbecues, pool parties and weekend seashore respites, not to mention end-of-the-school-year graduations, retirement dinners and extended vacation plans.  That scenario is playing out in my neck of the woods, though here at Wonders in the Dark the excitement of another genre poll is building.

Today the long-awaited Childhood Films Countdown launches with an opening salvo from film, music and comic book writer extraordinaire Ed Howard.  The “Top 83″ will continue on into October, running Monday through Friday, and there are well over a dozen contributors to the cause.  Though there were initially some issues broached in mild debates on the e mail chain of the countdown’s actual voters, the bottom line is that some very great reviews of some very great films will be upcoming.  There can be little dissension connected to the results, and as our very good friend David Schleicher has remarked: “This countdown has the potential of being the best ever.”  Site readers and lurkers are urged to follow the countdown and if possible to comment on what is sure to be a fabulous collection of reviews. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Germany 2013 225m) DVD2

Aka. Die Andere Heimat: Chronik einer Sehnsucht; Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision

Where the sun goes when it sets here

p  Christian Reitz  d  Edgar Reitz  w  Edgar Reitz, Gert Heidenreich  ph  Gernot Roll  ed  Uwe Klimmeck  m  Michael Riessler  art  Anton Gerg, Hucky Horngerger

Jan Dieter Schneider (Jakob Simon), Antonio Bill (Henriette Niem), Maximilian Scheidt (Gustav Simon), Marita Breuer (Margarethe Simon), Rüdiger Kriese (Johann Simon), Philine Lembeck (Florine), Mélanie Fouché (Lena Seitz), Eva Zeidler (grandmother), Reinhar Paulus (uncle), Martin Habersheidt (Fürchtegott Niem), Christoph Luser (Franz Olm), Barbara Phillip (Mrs Niem), Andreas Külzer (Pastor Wiegand), Werner Herzog (Alexander von Humboldt),

After making the greatest trilogy of the German screen Edgar Reitz could be forgiven for considering his life’s work done.  There had been Heimat: Fragments, but that had been no more than a retrospective highlights package, adding nothing to the work that had gone before.  In 2013 the BBC unveiled the first series of Peter Moffat’s The Village, a series he intended to be a British Heimat.  What he probably didn’t know in writing it was that Reitz was penning a new chapter himself, not a continuation, but a prologue, a prequel to the original work.

The location, the village of Schabbach, is the same, except that it’s the early 1840s not 1918.  The village itself is barely a village, little more than a hamlet with a kirche, but with many other such villages in the vicinity.  It’s the period before the revolutions of 1848, a time when Schabbach was still a part of the Rhineland state in western Germany, with its capital in Mainz.  The Holy Roman Empire was no more and it was essentially under Prussian overlordship, but a bigger influence was coming from Emperor Pedro II of Portugal, who was campaigning for Europeans, and especially Germans, to up sticks and emigrate to the plains of South America.  Here we find Jakob Simon, a dreamer who has learnt the native language of Cayacachua and dreams of escaping.  Sadly, like another dreamer in Bedford Falls, his dreams are put on hold by familial devotion and essentially stolen by his brother Gustav, who first takes his girl Henriette when Jakob is imprisoned for a minor misdemeanour, and then later announces his intention to quit Germany and go to Brazil himself, leaving Jakob home with his otherwise helpless consumptive mother and blacksmith father.  (more…)

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