The Greek Experience, Dario Argento alerts, and Mondomark & join Twitter

July 6, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

Before I get to the latest reviews – Elia Kazan’s America America (Warner Home Video), and William Kyriakis + Radley Metzger’s Dark Odyssey (First Run Features / Image), here are a few quick news items:

1) Your mail will not arrive in a timely fashion in spite of what the government and Canada Post [CP] have said on camera, and in print. A co-worker asked our local letter carrier why we haven’t received a big bundle of mail, now that the strike is over.

Off the record, he said, the government has placed priority on ordinary mail, and has told  CP to put everything else on hold, particularly any priority mail. To clear the backlog would require overtime, but since the gov’t doesn’t want to appear to be giving any extra money to workers just off strike duty, any express or priority mail – essentially shipping with a premium price – has no priority. Ergo, if you’ve been waiting for an express post package from anywhere, you’re not got to get it any faster than the Hydro bill, or junk mail from Fred’s Flatulence Clinic.

Somewhere in Mississauga, Ontario, lies a room resembling the end shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and buried in there are my review copies. As one nice lady said, expressing a modicum of discontent, “Barnacles!”  At least the queen bees reported stranded in a postal warehouse were saved last month from mortal danger. Apparently CP will ship bees, whereas couriers will not. Who knew you could mail bugs?


2) Torontoist reported yesterday the Bloor Cinema isn’t in fact doomed for some permanent closure or some condo for Stage One of The Bloor West Gentrification Project. Instead, Hot Docs and Blue Ice Film have acquired the building from the brothers Bordonaro, and when it reopens for mostly docs / still cult shows like the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), it’ll have undergone some major renovations.

Mostly likely office, wiring, seating, sound, and use of space will be improved, but until it reopens (the article infers a possible fall date), it seems Rue Morgue has moved their monthly CineMacabre screenings to the Toronto Underground Cinema [TUC], which is great for its operators, because the cinema – which has the second largest seating capacity in the city – is buried away from the street under a condo, and deserves more exposure. In an ideal world, T.O. can sustain an eclectic set of indie, non-profit and corporate cinemas that cater to a number of audiences and types of entertainment.

Rue Morgue’s next CineMacabre event is Tom Holland’s Fright Night (1985), and to make the debut of the magazine & cinema’s first collaboration, the 35mm print screening Thurs. July 21st at 9:30pm is FREE.

TUC also Tweeted on Aug. 25th CineMacabre will not only present a 35mm print of Near Dark (1987), but feature a Q&A with Lance Henricksen and Richard Crouse. Great movie, great Tangerine Dream score, great eyeball smooshing. More details are at RM, and note the very cool poster, which is a great tribute to the film’s tone, and Henricksen’s brilliantly bad attitude in the film.


3) And related to things Rue Morgue and Tweeting, I just uploaded the second RM blog concerning this past Saturday July 2nd  screening of Fellini’s “Toby Dammit” segment from Spirits of the Dead (1968) and Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

In Part 1, I blather about the screened prints, and why the Weinsteins are dreadful hoarders; and in Part 2, I blather about Argento’s Opera (1987), which screened the same day. There’s also links in Part 2 regarding audio excerpts from the Intro and post-Fellini / Argento screening discussion by Guillermo del Toro, who’s in town for the next 1.5 years shooting Pacific Rim.

He likes our city, and had fun talking for what amounted to SIXTY MINUTES of incisive, amusing, and ribald matters concerning the giallo genre, and will probably return to the TBL for future themed screenings. If it includes more Argento prints on the big screen, all the better. Those who weren’t aware of the screenings or weren’t able to make it ought to mark off Sat. July 23rd, because TUC is screening Deep Red at 7:30pm, and the Argento-produced Demons at 9:30pm.

Lastly, just a short mention that I’ve set up a Twitter account, under the moniker of mondomark_kqek, which will contain more timely alerts, because as I’ve discovered, writing long blogs like this and proofing them for sthpellingk mithtakes takes a while, whereas typing “Reviews of America America & William Kyriakis + Radley Metzger’s Dark Odyssey now online” takes like, what, a minute?

These bloated blogs will continue, though, as the Tweets are pre-blog alerts of newly uploaded reviews and editorial blather. Coming soon will be a Facebook account for, because I wish to expand my empire into your PC, your Mac, your mobile, and your bathroom.


Now then, let’s get to the latest pair of uploaded reviews.

What an absolutely ugly publicity campaign.

Elia Kazan’s Wild River (1960) screened this past Sunday and last night TIFF Bell Lightbox (this is why there’s a lag in reviews & interviews – Toronto has too much to offer cineastes), and it’s the 3rd film in its Montgomery Clift-Hollywood Classics series that spans June-August.

I reviewed Wild River not long ago via a Spanish DVD (note: it’s also out in Fox’s Elia Kazan box), and the second time around confirms it’s one of my favourite films. I love the way its social commentary and historical facts support a slow-burning drama about lovers from two unlikely backgrounds who need each other to escape the doldrums of their respective lives.

Clift plays a Tennessee Valley Authority manager, and Lee Remick plays a window unable to leave her grandmother’s island that’s doomed to be flooded once the TVA’s new dam project locks up.

I’m catching a number of Clift films in August, but it was nice to see the film on the big screen, where Ellsworth Fredericks’ stunning cinematography revealed a forgotten artisan. There are shots in the film with truly remarkable lighting and deep focus detail. The best example is a simple conversation between Clift and Lee Remick in the doorway of a small house during a rainstorm. It’s magic hour, and the lighting is graduated to show various amber hues inside the house, including a moving pattern of rain water cascading down an unseen window. One shot, multiple colours and textures, and ravishing in CinemaScope.

The 35mm print was grainy (like the U.S. release version of Visconti’s The Leopard (1963), Fox used cheaper film stock, which boosted grain severely), but the print was in good condition, and there were details not quite evident in the DVD transfer, such as the straight-razor nicks on Albert Salmi’s cheeks from a hasty shave prior to filming, and flies buzzing now and then into shots.

The sound mix was mono, but Kenyon Hopkins’ light blues score fit the film and its characters to a T, and it’s probably one his loveliest scores, screaming for a commercial release or an isolated score track. (Ahem: Twlight Time perhaps?)

The theatre was about 1/3 full, and most of the people wandered in 10 minutes prior to the film start, and they seemed to be pleasantly surprised by the superb script, its wit, and Kazan’s careful direction that yielded string performances from major and minor actors (including baby-faced Bruce Dern).

This of course brings me to America America [M] (1963), Kazan’s follow-up film which Warner Home Video released on DVD for the first time. Based in part on his Greek uncle’s struggle to escape the poverty in Anatolian Turkey, it’s one of the richest, most unpretentious chronicles of the immigrant experience on film, and is arguably Kazan’s best film. Unlike most immigrant tales of poor folks reaching America and enduring brutal hardships to set roots, Kazan’s drama focuses on the backstory – the reasons for flight, the unpredictable events prior to escape, and the years it takes to earn enough money to book a one-way ticket to a land and culture you know nothing about.

In a media-savvy global community, we can learn quite a bit about a future homeland, but imagine simply deciding, based on anecdotes and images in magazines, that you want to leave home and reach the shores of a new country where you don’t speak the language, the food is strange, the culture is new, and there are plenty of people willing to exploit your weaknesses because your English vocabulary will take a while to mature.  Kazan’s tale deals with the opportunities and choices his lead character – essentially a teen – must make before a burning desire to extricate himself from a life he simply can’t stomach mandates buying that one ticket.

It’s also a rare chronicle of the Greek experience at a time when Greece and Turkey were  generally portrayed by Hollywood as an exotic ancient place. Greece was the mystical tourist destination with treasure (Boy on a Dolphin [M]), and Turkey provided colour and thrills in caper films (Topkapi) and espionage (From Russia with Love) during the Cold War. Neither film told us anything about the cultures, and the few Greek-centric films focused on historical figures within the war or Biblical epic genres. Even the best-known Greek film at the time – Never on Sunday (1930) – was a fanciful comedy directed by American Jules Dassin.

Manos Hadjidakis’ film score for Dassin’s film was designed to be light and fluffy, whereas his sparse music for Kazan’s drama is much richer in themes and atmosphere, and provided a better sampling of his composing skills. He knew when to drift in and out of scenes quickly, which is unusual for a nearly 3-hour film.

America America is also one of the best-edited film and feels exceptionally contemporary; Dede Allen managed to edit 3 hours into 2 without physically compacting the film itself. It just moves, and as I blather in the review, Kazan’s film is a textbook example on how to cut an epic intelligently without sacrificing character, plot, dialgue, atmosphere, and visual beauty. It’s an art that’s lost today because the assumption is shots shouldn’t last longer than a few seconds, and that’s pure bullshit.

In 1958, indie New York City filmmakers Radley Metzger (The Lickerish Quartet [M]) and William Kyriaksi co-directed and co-wrote Dark Odyssey [M] (First Run Features / Image), a revenge film that has a Greek seaman hunt down the man responsible for his sister’s suicide back in Greece. The real drama within the film is how a traditional villager reacts to first generation Greeks that emigrated from the homeland and assimilated into NYC’s melting pot. There’s a surprising among of cultural colour in the film, and it’s a pity the movie didn’t go anywhere when it was broadly released in 1961.

Where Kazan’s film covers the backstory, Metzger and Kyriakis dealt with the present, as ordinary people deal with culture clashes Hollywood either didn’t bother with at the time, or transformed into formulaic melodrama. There’s more Greek culture in either film that Boy on a Dolphin or Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953), because the music and the dancing are subjugated in both films to background texture.

There. I proved the link between Metzger and Kazan.

Your’e very welcome.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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