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sabato 22 ottobre 2011

32nd Manaki Brothers Cinematographers Film Festival THE AWARDS

 The “Golden camera 300” went to
The Turin horse from the cinematographer Fred Kelemen, who was among the favorites of the audience, judging by their first reactions.
Explanation by the jury “The Golden Camera 300 goes to the cinematographer Fred Kelemen, for the film The Turin horse, for his outstanding ability to capture the difficulty of the human`s life and the power of the film rolls to inbuilt all the nuances between black and white in the wondering above the sense and nonsense of human existence with the film camera. The award was granted by Goce Smilevski and received personally by the author.

Silver Camera 300 goes to
Silent Souls from the genuine from Russia, Mikhail Krichman.
Explantaion of the jury „The winner of the second prize this evening was earlier this year described by Quintin Tarantino as having created a ‘poetic story’. The jury could think of no better words to describe his brilliant cinematography. Something seems to have happened happen when he has turned on his camera which complements ideally the sadness and love of this mystical story.The award to the cinematographer of Silent Soul, the Russian cinematographer Mikhail Krichman  is richly deserved for the simplicity and power he has brought to create such memorable imagery.“
The award was granted by Kristina Depo, representative by the Sparkasse Bank (Official Sponsor) and received by the author himself.

The Bronze camera 300 went to
The Mill and the Cross
from Lech Majewski, that left Bitola only a few days earlier.
Explanation by the jury: “The award Bronze Camera 300 goes to the cinematographers Lech Majewski and Adam Sikora that capture the expressiveness of the painting sheets  of Pieter Bruegel on the screen.

The Small golden camera 300 went to
The short film named Coral from the Argentinian cinematographer Jorge Crespo.
The official jury was composed of Dante Spinotti (president), Martin Schweighofer, Goce Smilevski, Eva Zaoralova and Nigel Walters.

The award from “New visions” :
“The film Shelter from Krum Rodriguez, because of the young team, as much as the innovative aesthetics that that entirely fits in the concept of the program.
The jury consisted of Julijana Mirchevska, Emilija Jovchevska and Dimitar Kolondjoski.

All the winners with at the center Festival Director Labina Mitevska

Miki Manojlovic winner of the Special Golden Camera 300

Manojlovic with Bitola's mayor and former actor Vlade Talewski
Extraordinary Serbian actor Miki Manojlovic, winner of the Special Golden Camera 300 for Outstanding Contribution to the World Film Art at the 32nd edition of Manaki Brothers. 

He has worked with Kusturica (Underground, Dad is away on business) and in a lot of European and International hits like  Emporte-moi (1998) by Lea Pool, Criminal Lovers (1999) by Francois Ozon, Epouse-moi (2000) by Harriet Marin, Mortel Transfert (2001) by Jean-Jacques Beineix, the film about the comic book hero – Largo Winch (2008) by Jerome Salle, the hit-comedy Irina Palm (2009) by Sam Garbaski and the controversial Besa. Apart from Manojlovic, at the closing, Besa director Srgjan Karanovic was greeted by the audience that remembers him as one of the cult directors in the Balkans.

Director Srgjan Karanovic with official festival selector Blagoja Kunovski 

Artist Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel awarded at 32nd Manaki talks upcoming Dark Shadows

Bruno Delbonnel reknown artist cinematographer (Le Fabuleux Destin D'Amelie Poulain, Harry Potter And The half Blood Prince, Faust) has been awarded with the prestigious Golden Camera 300 for his outstanding contribution to the art of film during the 32nd Manaki Brothers Cinematographers Film Festival.
Delbonnel held a master class that lasted almost 2 hours telling episodes and aneddoctes of his career and explained how he lighted his masterpieces showing sequences of his works. I was able to ask him about Tim Burton's upcoming new venture into horror Dark Shadows (the whole cast in the picture above) that he just wrapped last week. While he actually saw a black and white episode of the old series (a successful horror/soap that lasted for more than 300 episodes and was created by legendary Dan Curtis), he and Burton opted for a new way and approach. Delbonnel told that Burton was more interested in a dark comedy tone and was often referring to Mario Bava, whose works Delbonnel confessed he never saw. While the two have a different background, one citing Bergman and the other Bava, they really enjoyed work with each other and Delbonnel told about Burton's predisposition to accept suggestions from everybody in the crew.

mercoledì 19 ottobre 2011

More on the Manaki Brothers Cinematographers film festival

Milton Manaki statue in the park in front of the Bitola Cultural Center where the festival is held

The Manaki Brothers Cinematographers Film Festival takes place in the city of Bitola, Republic of Makedonia. The event is held every year and has wellcome during its long run the most famous cinematographers including Vittorio Storaro, Freddie Francis, Sven Nykvist, Tonino Delli Colli and more.
The festival is named after the great Milton Manaki who, with his brother Yanaki, took the first images in the Balkan region with their cameras from 1905. They opened the first cinema in Bitola and worked as photographers as well. Their works are considered a national treasure and their names were the natural choice for a Festival dedicated to cinematography. The selection is made combining the most awarded movies of the year of some that present an innovative or unique style from a photographic point of view. The selection goes towards the arthouse work more than commercial fare, and this year competition list is the following
Festival Director
Labina Mitevska

Main Competition  - 12 films
Awards: Golden, Silver and Bronze Camera 300
Selector: Blagoja Kunovski  - film critic

Short film program: 12 films

Awards: Small Golden Camera 300
Selector: Christian Guinot – Cremont Ferrand Short Film Festival

Documentary Program: 5 films

Non competitive
Selector: Gena Teodosievska - journalist

New visions: 5 films

Non competitive
Selector: Suncica Unevska – film crtic/journalis

New Visions Program

Dante Spinotti receive prestigious lifetime achievement award at 32nd Manaki Brothers Cinematographers Film Festival

Dante Spinotti (left) receiving the prize from the President of Republic of Makedonia
Last Saturday, master cinematographer Dante Spinotti, whose credits include such high profile films like Heat, Last of the Mohicans, LA Confidential, just to name few, has been awarded with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award Golden CAMERA 300 at the 32nd Manaki Brothers Cinematographers Film Festival, a unique event in film circles dedicated to cinematography. The event is still running in the city of Bitola, Makedonia. Spinotti gave a couple of days ago a Master Class showing scenes frome his movies and telling how he achieved to light them. The Master Class was so successful that a second part has been scheduled for next Friday. I filmed the whole class and plan to post it soon in two parts. 
(photo courtesy of official festival photographer Aleksandar Grozdanovski)

venerdì 29 luglio 2011

Redefining a genre with a touch of Buddhism. King Hu’s Kong Shan Ling Yu (Raining in the mountain, 1979).

In a monastery over a mountain the old abbot is preparing for Nirvana, he’s old and is going to decide soon who will be his successor. For this reason, General Wang (Feng Tien) and wealthy merchant Wen (Yueh Sun) are called in to help with their suggestions. But both of them have their own goal to achieve: to steal the Tripitaka a unique sacred scroll held in the library of the monastery. White Fox (Feng Hsu) and Gold Lock (Ming-tsai Wu), two master thieves are helping the merchant while Wang is helped by policeman Chang Cheng. Also both of them are promoting each one his favourite disciple to the succession, with the promise, in exchange, to get the sacred scroll or to be helped in the theft. But the Abbot and the other holy leader decide to appoint a newly ordered monk, an unjustly sentenced former convict that has come to live in the monastery as a monk instead to be put in prison. The newcomer demonstrated in just few days, humility and devotion while all the others are only pursuing personal interests, drove by their own greed. Shot in 1979 Raining In The Mountain could be considered as part of a Zen trilogy shot by Hu, that includes his masterpiece Xia Nu (A touch of Zen, 1971) and Shan Zhong Zhuan Gi (Legend Of The Mountain,1979). The film is masterly shot continuing to redefine a genre, the martial arts one, that Hu initiated the previous decade with his two famous Da Zui Xia (Come Drink With Me, 1966) and Long Men Kezhan (Dragon Gate Inn, 1967).
Come Drink With Me signed a milestone in Wuxia changing from a technical point of view the way to shoot a martial art film. The stagey fights of elder films left room to a fast paced cut of many takes that improved the sense of action and the viewer’s feeling to be part of it. Hu also introduced the female character as integrant part of the story, dominant and leader, not only a passive object of men’s passion. Even in Raining In The Mountain, White Fox is a well trained woman, with strong physical skills and the strong will to be the only judge of her own decisions. Those looking for a kill them all martial arts film, will be disappointed, RITM is a reflection on mankind’s greed and need of possession while trying to introduce the audience to some basic element of Zen Buddhism. The scroll, as the abbot declares, is unworthy of all this attention. It’s only an old piece of paper and his valuable doctrine must be carried inside our hearts. This is the only thing that counts since transcendence is not tight to a physical object. We can free ourselves only when we’ll get rid of our helpless need to possess things. In the end the new abbot, to general delusion, will destroy the scroll, as it brought only misfortune over the monastery. He has made copies of it, so that its teachings could be learned by everybody. There’s no need to keep the original anymore, it’s not it, but what’s on it that has relevance. But the monastery is also a microcosm of a modern society. The fights for power are exactly the same occurring in a government, as the movie could be read as an allegory of the struggle for Mao’s inheritance, and also of the corruption in the church as well. The first fight in the movie occurs after 45 minutes and there’s almost no other until the end. This could sound boring, but it’s not. The action is kept running, following all the plots of the two fractions to possess the scroll. The camera is always close to one of the character s as he/she is spying unnoticed someone else. There are a lot of wonderful camera movements; long track sequences that amaze and keep the viewer’s attention on constant alert. Hu’s technical skills are outstanding as is the way he shoots the fights with an incredible rhythm, created by the many takes cut together. The composition of the frame is beautiful to watch, when Hu films also the many landscapes around the mountain and in the climax at the end in a forest, a source of inspiration for Zhang Yimou’s Shi Mian Mai Fu (House Of Flying Daggers,2004). The DVD examined here has been released in France by SFS in 2004 (Region 2). Re-mastered probably from a positive print and quite restored, even if the image is too soft at times (DVNR). Colours are good, and the OAR of 2.35:1 is anamorphic enhanced. Mandarin mono audio it’s ok, with French and English subtitles available. Extras are only liner notes on cast and crew and critical essays. There are other editions of this film in Germany and many bootlegs around, but this one is proven worthy. I strongly recommend Hu’s films even to people not that much into this genre, but that are  lovers of foreign movies. His approach is unique and there’s a lot to learn from his technical ability. Like in most of the old movies, there’ are no CGI tricks, no wires and no flying popstars. The golden era of the Wuxia and martial arts is long time gone. Unfortunately. 

Film mass is ended you may go in peace

The Vikar


domenica 24 luglio 2011

Parable of desire. Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End.

French re release poster
As a poet my mind is trained along the path of poetic associations—I’m not afraid to wander away from direct narrative—I feel safe with a story that tempts you to believe or disbelieve (Jerzy Skolimowski)

Mike (John Moulder-Brown) is a fifteen year old good looking boy. He lands a job in a public bath, where Susan (Jane Asher), little older than him, works as assistant as well. She is beautiful and free spirited, while Mike is only little more than a kid, that has just started to be interested in the other sex. First day of work Mike is the object of the attentions of an older lady (Diana Dors) who almost rapes him while chatting of football. But Mike is not that much into these older women attending the swimming pool, looking for an affair; he likes Susan that never looses her chance to provoke him, with her wild beauty. Mike begins to be more and more obsessed with the girl, and when he learns that she has a boyfriend, he doesn’t give up. He follows her everywhere, just to learn soon that she is not what she appears to be. Susan is only flirting with him, she has a “beau” and another lover, a married swim teacher at the pool, plus she has been modeling naked and probably she works as a call girl in a her free time. Not with this standing, Mike obsession grows bigger every day more, until he manages to have the chance to be intimate but without succeeding to have sex due to be too emotional. When Susan wants to leave him alone because she wants to go to her lover, in a desperate attempt to stop her, he accidently kills her. Her body naked, floating in the water of the pool is gently embraced by Mike who probably is going to drown with her and die as well while finally possessing her.
Deep End was the second English language film of Polish auteur Jerzy Skolimowski. Shot in 1971, the movie is set at the end of the era of the swinging London and well captured the frenzy, swarming life of the younger people using also a score composed for the occasion by Cat Stevens and celebrated experimental rock  band The Can from Germany.
After his expulsion from Poland, Skolimowski shot first a film in Italy (The Adventures of Gerard, 1970) a commercial fare that he considers his worst film, then got the opportunity to work on a project: a coproduction between UK and Germany, whose result was Deep End. Magic of movies, the film was shot mostly on location in Munich, including an exterior in a park with the snow. What worked so well was not only the good services of art director Anthony Pratt, but because Skolimowski managed to capture the essence of a country in the chaos of changing times, using even an iconic actress like Diana Dors (the Brit Marilyn) in a small part in which she was able to display her talent, being not afraid to show her fattened and aged body, something very  few actresses would dare to do. Antonioni with Blow Up and Polanski with Repulsion were able to understand these times with  foreign eyes as well, but Skolimowsky’s film more than an ode, or an allegory, of the 60’s, delivers a farewell to them and an introduction to the 70’s. The idealism of that decade is left behind, the proclaims of peace, unheard, will leave room to the ones inciting to an armed struggle, to a fight that will leave a trail of blood all around the world with the shaping of terroristic, well organized, groups.
The ingenuity of Mike is allegorical for the ones of those years.  Unwillingly he will make use of violence to prove his love and his destructive power will overcame his desire. “Each man kills the things he loves”, specially when he cannot own them. Susan is the symbol of the modern woman to come, who will not compromise her freedom. The woman that nowadays is so scary for so many men. Powerful and secure, she has reached, in many cases, a dominating position and she has to rely on a man anymore. Mike looses control because he can’t understand Susan, her behaviour and her promiscuity. He is still a “mama boy” with strong sexual desires that will destroy him, instead to please him. Only when Susan is dead, he will be able to make love to her, because she doesn’t scare him and she is not a danger anymore. Grown up in post war conservative Britain, Mike has a lot of taboos and shyness about sex, probably imposed by a strong religious education, typical of the mid class, a situation so well depicted in Ian McEwan's excellent novel “On Chesil Beach”, only reversed. The tone of the film is apparently a coming of the age comedy, with a sudden change in the last five minutes in which the turn of the events makes it so dramatic and almost surreal. The narrative goes in circles, deeper and deeper in Mike’s obsession, like in a spiral that will lead him to his tragic fate. There are many signs, premonitions of the events to come, during the movie. Skolimowski makes a good use of the colour red as the symbol for the blood that is going to be shed in the end. The first image is a close up of a drop of red painting; red is Mike’s bicycle and the teacher’s car. In a scene Mike’s cut his hand and red is again the painting that some workers are using in a soon to come remodeling of the baths. Red are also Susan’s hair and so on. Small particulars suggested to the viewer that unconsciously feels uncomfortable wondering why all these gory details, until he’ll realize the dreadful “deep end”. The hand held camera follows the actors with apparent freedom, but all the takes are well planned and brilliantly executed, with long outstanding sequences with  no confusing images and useless shakings. This closeness to the players render a sense of intimacy and complicity in their actions, and a freshness in their performances possible only with the use of this method.
This is one of the most important films of the early seventies and one of Skolimowski best. An exceptional career that made him one of the most respected authors of international cinema, having been worked in such different conditions and countries, always with master ability. The movie has been painstakingly restored from Bavaria Media, the copyright owner, and is going in general release in video on DVD and BR in Germany and UK, while in France distributor Carlotta is re releasing it in theatres before HV.
The BR examined here is the UK one available courtesy of BFI in a combo edition including the DVD as well and part of their acclaimed Flipside collection. The glorious Institute was in charge of the new HD transfer at CinePostProductions. The BR is region free, the new HD master has been obtained by scanning at 2K the original interpositive. The movie looks excellent and very faithful to his original cinematography, grainy and dark specially in externals shot with natural light. The interiors look magnificent with the pastel like colour palette that well reproduce the atmosphere of those years and its trend in fashion and design. Those expecting a modern digital  aspect for this film, should look somewhere else, this is not the proper demo to show up with a fancy HT equipment. Sound is very good, restored from the original 17,5mm magnetic track of the main mix.
Extras are excellent, above all, the feature length (74 mins.) featurette, Starting out: The making of Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End an inside look, to the making of the film with stars and crew. It is very informative and full of interesting anecdotes on the casting, shooting and post production (Starting Out was actually the initial shooting title). The original UK theatrical trailer (the very same one included in this post), Deleted scenes (12 mins) that were cut and unfortunately thrown away after few years. The original script have been used as Skolimowski and his editor tell about the sequences left on the cutting room floor. Careless Love (1976, 10mins) a short by Francine Winham. A colourful booklet is included with nice pictures and critical essays. Deep End OAR 1.85:1 is retained anamorphic on a BD 50, 1920X1080 24 fps, audio PCM (48k - 24 bit). The movie il also available in a limited 3 discs edition, with bonus disc including Q&A with Asher and Moulder.
Skolimowski’s films are daring and provocative, most of the times they deal with the inner side of men and women; their needs to evolve and their difficulties to grow up. Social barrier and status are a limitation to overcome for them, and repressive societies, being them communist or capitalist, have their impositions and put forward claims that they cannot or don’t want to satisfy. The results are often disastrous and lead this people to destruction or alienation. Soon I’ll be posting again on Skolimowski’s earlier movies. His stalling career has been recently revamped by the critical acclaimed Essential Killing that earned two prizes at Venice Film Festival (Special Jury Prize for Skolimowski and Best Actor for Vincent Gallo starring in it), and it is available on BR and DVD by Artificial Eye in UK.

Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar


martedì 19 luglio 2011

Stay true to facts. Samuel Fuller’s Park Row (1952), an ode to American Journalism as it was.

 “If you don’t like the films of Samuel Fuller, then you just don’t like cinema” 
(Martin Scorsese)

“I decided that the only way to make Park Row was to put up my own dough and produce it myself. Two hundred grand, to be exact. To hell with Zanuck and Fox! Fuck the entire studio system! My film was going to be a personal gift to American Journalism” (Samuel Fuller)

New York late 19th century. Park Row is the street where most of the newspapers have offices. The place in which Pulitzer lived and worked. Phineas Mitchell (Gene Evans) is a well known journalist. He’s very concerned about the way his newspaper, run by fancy dame Charity Hackett (Mary Welsh), is treating the news. Matter of fact a man has been executed, for a crime Phineas is convinced he didn’t commit, as the result of the pressure on the public opinion made by Hackett and her staff of journalists. Phineas leave the job and start his own paper with the help of a wealthy man fascinated by the press. But things, smoothly at first, get worse when the new journal, called the Globe, manage to reach success, even because of the new way of circulation invented by Mitchell and his fellows journalists. Hackett can’t afford to loose readers and decide to start a street war to consolidate her power and kill the competition.
Horses, bringing paper and newspapers, are killed. Newsstands’ owners are menaced and beaten. But not with this standing the Globe is still going on. Hackett has her own plan to merge the two companies together and regain control. She’s very attracted by Phineas that return her love but is well aware the lady is poison.
Gene Evans (left), Samuel Fuller (center), Mary Welsh (right)
But Phineas doesn’t give in, so Hackett put in charge some of her men to find a way to shut down the Globe once and for all. One night, they launch a bomb to the offices of the Globe destroying most of the furniture and specially the printing machines. Phineas give up, he can’t make it to the morning edition and this would mean the end of the newspaper he envisioned: a free, independent journal, reporting facts and not making them up. But the following morning the Globe is in the streets. Hackett tell him, she gave the order to win the war over but she didn’t mean to use violence and fired the men who did. Out of her love, she printed the morning edition of the Globe suppressing hers once and for good. In the days of a scandal devastating one of the biggest media empire of the world, News Co., failing under the blows of their own faults and mistakes (to spy on people and making up news); Fuller’s film is as relevant as it was in his days. This remarkable man, a journalist himself, would be surely disconcerted by the way press, even the glorious American one, is ruled and conducted nowadays. Park Row is an exciting look at a long gone era of right men that fought for their principles. They gave up everything to achieve the dream to get a free press, to inform the people reporting facts and news with truthfulness and courage. The movie is an outstanding piece of filmmaking with the only fault, if one, to be a little bit too much sentimental in the ending. The character of Hackett is well created, but her sneaky and cruel behaviour change too sudden at last. If she was so mean and power thirsty she would have never gave in to feelings like love and respect, not so abruptly at least. But even with this flaw, the film is engaging and so well made to reach perfection even with a small budget, mostly gone to recreate in studio the Park Row set. This allow Fuller to shoot long tracks sequences, that are technically dazzling and provide also the viewers with the sense of chaos and energy of a NY street, as Fuller remember:
I was writing with a camera now, painting a character and his own environment on film”.
Samuel Fuller and the Benjamin Franklin's statue
He displayed all his abilities in film technique to the point to be a precursor of modern ones. Comparing the style of Park Row to most of the studio films of those days is enlighting: the difference from the engaging long takes and camera movements with no cuts, to the motionless shots, reverse shots and master takes of these productions, show a skill in Fuller that will later be featured in all his masterpieces.
Park Row was a turning point for me. I was more confident than ever, having made that picture, ready to broach any material, even the most controversial. I was better able to write with my camera, inventing techniques to capture the atmosphere I wanted on film”.
Park Row is an honest film made by an honest man who always fought for his principles like those journalist he depicted with such fondness.
A true American that made great contribution to the develop of the movies as an art form. He was able to bend genres and techniques to his own purpose, to create a new, inventive, style that would have influenced filmmakers to come: from the French nouvelle vague to modern Hollywood authors like Scorsese, Spielberg and many others.
Grauman's Chinese Theatre In Hollywood
An accomplished technician, but  also a great actors’ director. Performances are excellent, from the leaders, to the supporters like Herbert Heyes and Bela Kovacs, Fuller always got the most even out of lesser known actors, a sign of distinction running along all his philmography. It's unfortunate that the film was a BO flop at the time, even with strong reviews. But Fuller declared, he was happy to loose his money to make something he believed in so firmly. The movie grew up a cult status during the years.
The DVD examined her is part of the MGM Limited Collection, a DVD-R on demand. The only extras is the original trailer (the very same one under here), but the film has been re mastered from the original materials in good condition. There are only few dirts here and there, no massive restoration has been done but the movie look very good, the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio rendered FF.
The quotes and photos showed here are taken from Samuel Fuller’s bio: A Third Face: my tale of writing, fighting, and filmmaking (Applause theatre & cinema books, 2002). The book was edited by Jerome Henry Rudes and by former actress Christa Lang that was married to Fuller since 1967. I strongly recommend to watch Park Row, but also to read this. It’s not only one of the best books ever written on movies, it’s a great one on a great man that took some of his time to share with the readers his vision of life, telling his experience in war, journalism and filmmaking. Unforgettable.

Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar

"The press is good or evil, according to the character of those who direct it"

martedì 12 luglio 2011

Africa blood and guts as seen through the Technicolor eye of Jack Cardiff: The lion (1962), Dark of the sun (aka The mercenaries, 1968).

“…Michael Powell always said Cardiff was the greatest cameraman in the world and he did such things with colour - I wouldn’t say people can’t do it today, but it never seems as good as Cardiff did.” (Marius Goring)

I had the pleasure to meet Jack Cardiff back in 1997 at a film festival. He was already in his mid 80’s and I was supposed to interview him for fifteen minutes. The conversation, one of the most memorable I had, lasted for two hours and it ended only with his exquisite wife begging me and him to stop because she was concerned for her husband health, since he was old and needed to rest. Well, he didn’t occur to me that he actually was 84 at that time, since he precisely remembered everything about his movies and the ones he shot as d.o.p. He was one of the greatest cameraman of all time; to my knowledge, the only cinematographer turned director, that won the Academy Award for his photography and was nominated as best director as well (Sons and lovers, 1960).
Due to his greatness as cameraman, his movies as director are always put aside, but most of them are as good as exciting, specially when his great visual sense and style were applied to a serviceable story. He has turned his eyes twice over the black continent with striking results. His vision of Africa had the million colours of mother nature and the million controversies of the people living in it. From the hunters to the mercenaries,  “whites” were always (and still are) the exploiters of this immense natural treasure.

The Lion

Robert Hayward (William Holden) is visiting his former wife Christine (Capucine), remarried to ex hunter, now reserve guard in the heart of Africa, John Bullit (Trevor Howard). Christine has problems with Tina, the girl they had together and that never met his father and can’t remember him. Tina has grown with a profound affection for Bullit, that has encouraged her fondness for animals and care for the uncontaminated nature. Tina is fascinated by everything into this lost paradise, even the most obscure and incomprehensible rituals of the native tribes. She has been bewitched by Africa, she is possessed by her ancient wilderness. Tina has a special relationship with King, a big, young, lion that she has nursed since the animal was just a puppy. She’s also the object of attention of a young warrior whose expectations are to be chief of his tribe soon and marry the little girl.
Christine, still in love with her first husband, has realized that she made a mistake. Romance and infatuation for the wild are long time gone; the problems remain as Tina is growing fierce every day more and with no education. Matter of fact Christine wants Hayward to take their daughter away. Shot in 1962 in Cinemascope and on location, the film is full of beautiful landscapes of the uncontaminated country of Kenya. At the time it was a wonder, while today it is the rest of the story the most interesting, since every viewer can enjoy the beauties of wildlife on cable channels like Discovery or Animal Planet.
Often dismissed as tearjerker and conventional, Cardiff’s film offers a whole lot of extremely daring themes rendered with subtle innuendos, hidden behind the larger than life vistas of the savannah.Tina has a reverse Oedipus complex, while looking for a father like figure to love. She is growing up faster exposed to the beauty but even the cruelty of this savage environment. She is too young to be aware of her sexual life and the sexual complications that her presence implies, but she is nurturing the seeds that will blossom soon in a beautiful and desirable flower. The lion is both her puppet, her (un) imaginary friend and the object of a compulsory, obsessive affection. The lion is a mate, a beast that will succumb to the beauty, because of his love. The triangle faced feline is part of the many triangles that represent the lives of the characters. Christine, Robert, Tina, - Robert, Christine, Bullit, - Bullit, Christine, Tina, and Tina, Lion, Warrior. The last two will destroy themselves to win over the love of Tina; the perverse and fascinating primordial chaos will be annihilated. Order will be restored by civilization, the establishment of family is saved, the original triangle Robert, Christine, Tina recomposed. This is a coming of the age tale mixed with the beauty and the beast myth, full of erotic tension between all the characters involved. Only suffering a fatal loss, Tina will grow and be aware that she doesn’t belong there.
Still unreleased on DVD in the US and most of the countries of the world, The Lion has been made available by Fox in Spain in their, already mentioned in this blog, Cinema Classics Collection. There are no extras, the Amaray case is housed in a nice cardboard. The film is very well presented with a digital transfer that features a 2.35:1 AR, probably sourced from some dupe materials (OAR 2.55:1). Audio English and Spanish with removable Spanish subs. Unfortunately, while there are almost no damages, or materials issues (except for those involving some optical processes like fade ins and outs and over impositions) the movie has not been 16X9 enhanced and it's region 2 coded. 


Dark of the sun


“The gun's Chinese, Ruffo, paid for by Russian rubles. The steel probably came from a West German factory built by French francs. Then it was flown out here on a South African airline probably subsidized by The United States. I don't think he got very far." (Captain Curry)

Captain Curry (Rod Taylor) is a mercenary at the service of the Congo’s president. The newborn state is in danger under the pressure of groups of rebels, ferocious tribes well armed and determined to subvert the democracy, for power and ethnic reasons. Together with Ruffo (Jim Brown) a well bred and educated native that decided to stay and fight for his country pacification, Curry has three days to recover a case of diamonds in the vault of a bank in the north of the country, a region menaced by the rebels. The president needs the help of a multinational, owner of the stones, to keep his Republic alive, he needs weapons and men and only when the diamonds, worth fifty millions dollars, have been brought back, the foreign company will finance his government with the money he needs to keep fighting. Curry and Ruffo assemble a blue force from the best men of the regular Congolese army, under the command of Heinlein (Peter Carsten) a German born officer (based on a real lifer character) that doesn’t hide his past wearing a shiny swastika (the real man was photographed wearing an iron cross) on his regular uniform; another merciless mercenary without scruples.
The mission starts and it’s a disaster from the beginning. The train is attacked by ONU that consider it not an humanitarian mission but a breakthrough in a monitored area. Then when they finally get to town, Curry and Ruffo have to wait three hours until the vault of the bank will open. Time enough for the rebels to arrive and attack them. Initially escaped, the convoy has to stop due to the rebels’ bombing of the tracks and a missing carriage of refugees, the case with the diamonds is kept by the multinational’s representative, stuck there.
When Curry decides to counter attack the town at night, for the people it’s too late, all of them have been slaughtered, tortured and raped. Curry and Ruffo manage to get the diamonds back and steal some trucks, in which to load up the survivors.
Run out of gas, Curry gets a Jeep and heads to a closer telecommunication point but before to go leave the diamonds to Ruffo, that questioned him about the possibility for him to run away. As soon as Ruffo says so, he understands that made a mistake not to trust his friend and hides the case in the Jeep.
When Curry comes back, with the news he was able to deliver a rescue message, finds Ruffo killed by Heinlein that was trying to steal the diamonds. Curry goes on a rampage screaming for a bloody revenge. After completed the slaughter, Curry decides to win back the respect of the soldiers with him, that were scared of his reactions and cold blooded inhumanity. He turns in to one of his officials to be court martial for the killing of Heinlein.
Shot in 1968, Dark of the sun is a blood drenched trip into the brutal reality of an African civil war. At the moment of this writing, two hundred and fifty women have been raped and many have been killed in an attack of a ferocious armed group, in a war that is still going in Congo after so many years. The recent events make this film even more meaningful and prophetic. The situation didn’t get better, if possible got much worse and after all this time from the  movie and the Wilbur Smith’s novel on which the film is based is as dramatic as unchanged.
The mercenary figure has never been showed with such in depth and controversy as in this powerful film that is as shocking nowadays as it was in 1968. Arrogance and violence are the only mean these men have to relate to the world that surrounds them. Only Ruffo is a positive character, with his idealistic thoughts of a better future for his country. Matter of fact he’s the one that will die stabbed in the back. Even the President has his own political reasons, that are stronger than his humanitarians ones. The rescue of the civilians comes second to the recovery of the diamonds that will allow him to stay and consolidate his power. A problem that affected African countries for most of the last century and still is nowadays. After the apparently end of the colonialist period, Europe and US have found new ways to keep their power over these countries exploiting them with the multinationals that have no interest to a real development of the area. The more confusion and war the better: a weak government it’s easy to control and to be persuaded to give concessions for whatever it is oil, diamonds and other natural resources. Humanitarian missions were unable to solve mass genocide like the one that took place in Rwanda and to finance some governments that are only puppets in the hand of an hidden master is no solution. The African dilemma is still unresolved and there’s no political will to do. Facing this back in 68, Curry’s line from the film quoted above synthesize the whole problem with brilliant simplicity.
This is a buddy film, where males are unable to cope with the other sex if not only trough violence and overwhelming manners. There’s a woman, a refugee (Yvette Mimieux) that shows interest in Curry, but he doesn’t know how to relate to her, giving away at the end a possible future romance with her, deciding to be prosecuted. But their relationship is almost neutral, I had the impression (coming from some stills) that a romance between the two has been shot and cut out to render Curry’s character colder and un romantic. While the relationships between the males is made by mutual hate and disrespect and even friendship leaves room for suspect and deception. The hidden desire to prevail one over the other has the only function  to mask an almost latent homosexual desire.
A bleak journey into violence and when it comes to graphics, nothing is spared. Bodies dismembered and bare stripped are lacerated by the wounds inflicted, as a parallel to the ones suffered by an entire continent. Brutality and rapes, of both men and women, are shown to the outmost resulting effects and it’s still a wonder the movie found its way to the theatres. Performances are excellent: in the case of Taylor, one of his finest. He plays Curry with subtle coldness, and sudden flies into rage. Brown is simple and likeable, while Carsten is a perfect and unforgettable villain. Dialogues are excellent as well, helping all of them to deliver more than one memorable line.
The DVD analyzed here is part of the DVD on demand program of The Warner Archive Collection. It features a new transfer of good quality with few minor issues due to the conditions of the original materials. The image is crisp and colours (Metrocolor) are saturated and with warm tones. OAR of 2.35:1 is retained and 16X9 enhanced. Audio is good and a trailer (the very same one under here) is included as the solely extra.
Recently a good documentary on Cardiff has been released: Cameraman: the life and work of Jack Cardiff. An extensive Dark Of The Sun deconstruction will be featured from my fellows’ bloggers at soon. I suggest to take a look as they have an unusual and always interesting approach to movies.
As I strongly recommend everybody Cardiff’s films, specially Dark Of The Sun, a unique, unmatched piece of filmmaking, daring, compelling and shocking at the same time. It couldn't be a better source of inspiration for Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds out there.

Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar