January 27, 2008

Director: Carlo Lizzani

Year: 1969

This is a real gem by Carlo Lizzani. Or maybe gem is the wrong word, as this is not a particularly refined, precious picture, but rather a choppy ride through Sardinia, where we follow the bandit Graziano (played by Terrence Hill) and his Spanish sidekick Miguel (played by Don Backy) as they kidnap the children of rich land owners and hold them for ransom. The whole is done in a semi-documentary style, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it relates real events. This is actually the best role I have seen Hill in, and it is a real shame he did not do more like it. As for Don Backy, he is always interesting to watch. To further add to the great cast, there is Frank Wolff, who masterfully plays a sleazebag lawyer.

Great cinematography. Great score, by Don Backy, interestingly enough, who seems to have had some kind of reputation as a singer in the 60s. Yet another film definitely in need of restoration and proper DVD release.  

Afyon Oppio

January 14, 2008

Director: Ferdinando Baldi

Year: 1972

English Title: The Sicilian Connection 

First scene: Funeral. Sicily. Women dressed in black. Rough looking characters with moustaches. A policeman asks to investigate the interior of the coffin, and so it is opened. “Undress the body,” he says. The shirt of the corpse, which has been returned home from abroad, is unbuttoned, revealing a stitched up chest. “And that?” Moustached man opens wound with stiletto. Bags of morphine. But an unlucky cop, as the mafia stuffs him in the coffin and nails the lid shut.

Thereafter, some wonderful scenes in Turkey, including one about opium production which seems to have inspired a certain scene in the recent Hong Kong film Protege. Yes, there are also a number of camp episodes, such as Turkey disco dancing, but it’s all good fun.

Looking at IMDB, I noticed that, while this film has an overall good rating, those who left comments did not seem to think much of it. My conclusion is that this is because they all saw the English version. Now, though it is true that Ben Gazzara is American and was clearly saying his lines in English, one should pretty much never choose to see the English version of Italian films. The reason is this: Pretty much all Italian films were made without live sound. The sound was always added in the studio. So, very often, they would get an international cast together and everyone would more or less just mouth their lines-in the 60’s and 70’s often enough in English, even though most of the actors did not speak English. Then several versions would be made, Italian, English, German, etc. The English speaking actors would often not even dub their own voices. The Italians always would. Furthermore, when dubbing foreign actors, Italians pretty much always do a good job. They are true experts at dubbing, and very often American films are actually better in their Italian versions. The latest Star Wars films are a good example. The English versions simply suck, but in the Italian, the princess’s awful California accent is exchanged for a very enticing Italian voice. Anyhow, a lot of the B movies from the 60’s and 70’s were released to an English speaking audience dubbed, unlike the films of guys like Fellini, who I suppose they were trying to sell to a different audience. And this is a real shame, because I think many of these films would be much more appreciated if people could see them in their Italian versions with English subtitles. 

Achtung! Editors!

January 13, 2008

Authors hear a lot about what editors are looking for. Rules for submitting etc. I thought I would write some rules that I think editors should follow:

1) Reply to submissions and emails in a prompt manner. A lack of communication is a large fault and sends out a signal that you don’t really care much about the author or their work.

2) I really don’t like to have a manuscript rejected accompanied by an in depth critique of my work. These always come from non-professional editors-folks who don’t actually get paid to edit, but have set up their own zines. Almost never do professional editors do this. Yes, they might say something about how they really liked it, but decided not to publish it, but generally they leave it at that. Accept or reject the manuscript. You shouldn’t be giving lengthy feedback unless you want a rewrite.

3) After accepting a manuscript, an editor should publish it in a timely manner. I shouldn’t have to note the time between acceptance and publication by how many inches my hair line has receded.

4) If an editor accepts something, they have an obligation to publish it. Telling an author a year later that you have changed your mind is very bad form. Remember, it takes a hell of a lot of time and energy to write something.

5) When an editor publishes something, they should promote it. Being stingy with review copies, not getting the work out there, in the end makes the thing almost not worth doing.

6) An editor should actually edit. Just accepting a manuscript and printing it is not acceptable. If you have accepted a manuscript without suggesting a single change, you probably are doing something wrong. All manuscripts have at least some small factual or grammatical errors. It is your job to find these. Having a reader is also helpful. It is true however, that with flash fiction or poetry, the case is a bit different, as a story of 300 words might well be perfect just how it is.

7) Editors should pay what they say they will pay. Not getting paid is a very unpleasant thing.

Recently Seen Films: Quick Comments

January 5, 2008

No Country For Old Men: Very good, though the last third doesn’t keep the pace quite like the beginning. Still, worth a look.

The Brave One: I lasted 10 minutes through this. Yawn.

The Host: Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant. We should be grateful for Kang-ho Song, a truly wonderful actor.

Brothers: A bit of a let down. Hong Kong action flic with out much action and a too small role for Andy Lau.

Protege: A much better Anday Lau flic. Definately worth a look, though it is odd that both this one and brothers had unconvincing ‘ironic’ endings. A new Hong Kong trend?

Rescue Dawn: Good, but what’s with the Rah Rah ending and the rather bad score?

Charlie Wilson’s War: The first Tom Hanks film that I can actually say I liked. 


January 4, 2008

Director: Massimo Dallamano

Year: 1967

A pretty good western; camera work excellent, with some shots being actually brilliant.

There is one scene in particular that is an absolute masterpiece where some bandidos set up an ambush in a bar. Lots of interesting camera angles, including one from the inside of a sombrero.

Though the movie is quite good, it doesn’t quite gel. This is probably because the lead actors never seem to be able to bring the sort of on-screen charisma necessary to make the film truly great, though Enrico Maria Salerno comes very close. Still, definitely worth a look, particularly for fans of the genre. Here is the trailer, which is very cool.

Ladro Lui, Ladra Lei

January 1, 2008

Director: Luigi Zampa

Year: 1958

Though this film never seems to have been released to an English speaking audience, I would translate the title as: He’s a Thief, She’s a Thief.

The story is about a brother (Alberto Sordi) and sister (Sylva Koscina) who are thieves in Rome-performing some very clever tricks to con various people.

For the most part, is pretty standard stuff, but Alberto Sordi elevates the whole production a considerable degree, especially in three or four scenes where he is especially brilliant, and which I believe he had a hand in constructing. Of course, comedy doesn’t do very well when described, especially Sordi’s, which really depends a lot on his tone of voice, hand gestures and timing-apart from simply the situations.

It is truly a shame that this actor isn’t better known to English speaking audiences, as his best stuff is truly world class.