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snapshot_dvd_13.54_[2015.04.09_10.51.33]

by Allan Fish

(UK 1973 300m) not on DVD

For all the Mrs Fiddymonts in the world

p  Paul Bonner, Leonard Lewis  d  David Wickes, Gilchrist Calder, Leonard Lewis  w  Elwyn Johns, John Lloyd

Stratford Johns (Det.Chief.Supt.Barlow), Frank Windsor (Det.Chief.Supt.Watt), Gordon Christie (Abberline), Hilary Sesta (Catherine Eddowes), Basil Henson (Charles Warren),

Just type ‘Jack the Ripper’ into Youtube’s search engine and stare into the abyss; dozens of videos of all kinds, from Screaming Lord Sutch to video phone recordings of Ripper walks to video game menus, plus a host of documentaries on various suspects.  None run longer than an hour and a half, and all look into the matter in such cursory detail as to make one wonder why no-one has had the idea to look into the events properly.  The main reason, naturally, is that the myth is always preferable to the facts, and any documentaries shown on TV on the subject these days assume the attention span of the viewer to equate to that of a gnat, and are often about new suspects where the evidence has been selected to fit the suspect rather than the traditional reverse of this process.  Continue Reading »

mr turner 2

by Allan Fish

(UK 2014 150m) DVD1/2

Mr Mallord Goes to Margate

p  Georgina Lowe  d/w  Mike Leigh  ph  Dick Pope  ed  Jon Gregory  m  Gary Yershon  art  Suzie Davies  cos  Jacqueline Durran

Timothy Spall (J.M.W.Turner), Paul Jesson (William Turner) Dorothy Atkinson (Hannah Danby), Marion Bailey (Sophia Booth), Karl Johnson (Mr Booth), Ruth Sheen (Sarah Danby), Lesley Manville (Mary Somerville), Martin Savage (Benjamin Haydon), James Fleet (Constable),

During the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony I was engaged in a discussion on Twitter and remember asking what would the ceremony have been like if, instead of Danny Boyle, it had been directed by Mike Leigh.  One of the replies stated that it would have just been a few hundred people milling around (you can see it, can’t you?).  At that time Leigh hadn’t made a film for a couple of years but he was already considering his next project, an unconventional biopic of the greatest of British artists, J.M.W.Turner.  Timothy Spall seemed a natural choice, but Leigh insisted that his old partner-in-crime spend two years learning how to sketch and paint.  When one sees the film one may wonder why when considering that we don’t see much of Spall in the act of creating his art.  What Leigh wanted, however, was for Spall to act like a painter, to act like someone with a painter’s eye; in short, to look, feel and live the part. Continue Reading »

2001Banner01B

by Sam Juliano

A most appreciable honor was bestowed on Wonders in the Dark this past week when our very good friends and distinguished film scholars Marilyn Ferdinand and Roderick Heath of Ferdy-on-Films and This Island Rod enlisted the participation of Allan Fish, Jim Clark and Yours Truly in conjunction with our nearly seven-year-old site to join them in hosting the 4th edition of the wildly popular For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon.  Previously uniting the FoF duo with the renowned New York Post film critic, novelist and Criterion liner note specialist Farren Smith Nehme (“the Self-Styled Siren”), the blogathon has proved to be a success both financially and in promoting film preservation awareness, while bring deserved attention to the selected subjects.  Just the idea of walking in the footsteps of Ms. Nehme is mind-boggling enough without even broaching the proposition of working with our very good friends at FoF on this worthiest of cinematic ventures.  As we get closer to the actual May date of this five day blogathon, I will bring out more details and specifics, but suffice to say now it will be launched in mid-May (13-17), and will be hosted by Ms. Ferdinand for two days, Mr. Heath for two at This Island Rod, and Wonders in the Dark for one.

The film chosen to restore is the 1918 one-reeler Cupid in Quarantine, a Strand comedy with a science theme that Ms. Ferdinand encapsulates as “the story of a young couple conspiring to stay together by staging a smallpox outbreak.”  Ms. Ferdinand goes much further in her splendid description and validation:

Following on the heels of successful repatriation projects with the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia and the New Zealand Film Archive—which brought back and preserved nearly 200 American silent-era films that no longer survived in U.S. archives—the National Film Preservation Foundation is now partnering with the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam to return and preserve more lost treasures. As part of the preservation process, the Dutch-language intertitles will be translated back into English. After work is completed, the American archives participating in the project—the Academy Film Archive, Library of Congress, National Museum of American History, and Oregon Historical Society—will take custody of the new digital scans, 35mm masters, prints, and access copies. EYE will also receive new prints and digital copies, thus ensuring that the titles are available for screening and research on both continents. Continue Reading »

tgb 7

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1962 96m) not on DVD

Aka. Shitoyakana kedamono

Putting the Renoir in the bedroom

Osamu Yoneda  d  Yuzo Kawashima  w  Kaneto Shindo  ph  Nobuo Munekawa  ed  Tatsuji Nakashizu  m  Sei Ikeno  art  Atsuhi Shibata

Ayako Wakao (Yukie Mitani), Yunosuke Ito (Tokizo Maeda), Hisano Yamaoka (Yoshino Maeda), Yuko Hamada (Tomoko Maeda), Manamitsu Kawabata (Minoru Maeda), Eiji Funakoshi (Kamiya), Hideo Takamatsu (Katori), Kyu Kazanka (Yoshizawa), Shoichi Ozawa (Pinosaku),

There are fewer films in this selection that can be harder to like, but that in itself is part of what makes Yuzo Kawashima’s black comedy – one of his last films prior to his untimely death – so compelling.  It dares one to look at the underbelly of Japanese society in a way that doesn’t conform to genre.   It’s not a film about prostitutes or yakuza, but everyday people, and if they’re all like the Maedas, it’s a doomed society. Continue Reading »

jinx 2

by Allan Fish

(USA 2015 280m) DVD1

Be careful what you step in

p  Marc Smerling, Andrew Jarecki  d  Andrew Jarecki  w  Andrew Jarecki, Marc Sterling, Zachary Stuart-Pontier  ph  Marc Smerling  ed  Zachary Stuart-Pontier  m  West Dylan Thordson, John Kusiak

Captain Blackadder, arraigned for the murder of a delicious, plump-breasted pigeon called Speckled Jim, sends a message with a plea for help from one Bob Massingbird QC, the greatest lawyer in all England.  The Captain recalled Massingbird’s most famous case, the Case of the Bloody Knife; “a man was found next to a murdered body.  He had the knife in his hand. Thirteen witnesses had seen him stab the victim. And when the police arrived, he said ‘I’m glad I killed the bastard!’  Massingbird not only got him off, he got him knighted in the New Year’s Honours List and the relatives of the victim had to pay to wash the blood out of his jacket.” Continue Reading »

is2

by Allan Fish

(USA 2014 169m) DVD1/2

Worrying about our place in the dirt

p  Lynda Obst, Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan  d  Christopher Nolan  w  Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan  ph  Hoyte van Hoytema  ed  Lee Smith  m  Hans Zimmer  art  Nathan Crowley  cos  Mary Zophres  spc  John Kelso, Michael Clarke

Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Anne Hathaway (Brand), Michael Caine (Prof.Brand), Jessica Chastain (Murph), David Gyasi (Romilly), Matt Damon (Mann), Mackenzie Foy (Murph, aged 10), Casey Affleck (Tom), David Oyelowo (principal), Ellen Burstyn (old Murph), John Lithgow (Donald), Wes Bentley (Doyle), Bill Irwin (voice of TARS),

In retrospect, Interstellar was always coming, and it’s with some irony that I say that.  Christopher Nolan has always been bending and readjusting cinematic dimensions.  In Memento he made a backwards movie, playing with narrative convention.  In The Prestige he played with perception, how our eyes and minds play tricks with us and allow ourselves to be fooled.  In Inception he played with the dimension walls within dreams, fitting them inside each other like Russian dolls.  After all that, what else is there but to try and bend the actual space-time continuum itself?  And what better year to do it than in the same year that a more traditional cinematic statue was being put up to Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything, which could even be the title of Nolan’s sci-fi opus.  Continue Reading »

millenium-mambo-1

 © 2015 by James Clark

      After exploring a number of films where protagonists seem to have brought down on their head difficulties so weighty as to suggest a mission impossible, I think it’s time for Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Millennium Mambo (2001) to make the case that it’s easy as pie. Well, maybe not exactly as easy as pie, but wisely and effectively circumventing grating levels of peevish mayhem and clueless paralysis.

Apparently this is a Hou Hsiao Hsien movie which the partisans love to hate, inasmuch as it steadfastly refuses to pay the usual tribute to Yasujiro Ozu, in his setting in relief hard domestic times (and their socio-political framework) whereby decorum of the most incisive poignancy can rule. There is no doubt that such salt-of-the-earth sweethearts have left the building in the 2001 odyssey on tap (and I’m as insatiable about seeing the graces of Setsuko Hara [and her skilful followers] as anyone). But rather than shoot first and pile on reasons later, there are rewards to be had—rewards of decorum, no less—in this apparently attention-deficient, rude scramble of a movie (which reminds one a bit of Wong Kar Wai’s Fallen Angels [1995] as taking place where gun-control is not just a saying). What is needed, I think, to come to realize that Hou Hsiao Hsien has, taking to heart the newness of the new millennium—which had been eating away at nostalgic gems for some time before the year 2000—improved not dumbed down his craft, is to (like Wong) pay close attention to the lava flow of contemporary sensuality onscreen, as only at a first and lazy glance devoid of serious content. Continue Reading »

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