Tag Archives: New York Times

Note from Roger – Notes on Blindness

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479Dear Cinephiles,

Notes on Blindness is like no other film you’re likely to see this year.   It traces one man’s difficult journey and emerges with a reflection on the human condition that’s as uplifting and edifying as it is simply moving.

Below find the New York Times Review which named it Critic’s Pick. It plays throughout the week; tonight at 5:00pm, tomorrow at 7:30pm, and Thursday/Friday/Saturday at 11:00am at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling


‘Notes on Blindness’ Is John Hull’s Trip From Darkness to Light
By Stephen Holden – The New York Times

In 1983, John M. Hull, a professor of religion at the University of Birmingham in England, lost his eyesight and began the agonizing personal journey to hell and back that he describes in the magnificent documentary “Notes on Blindness.”

Adapted from Professor Hull’s memoir, “On Sight and Insight: A Journey Into the World of Blindness,” the film, using mostly his words, describes with extraordinary eloquence, precision and poetic sensitivity his physical and psychological metamorphosis as he felt the world retreat until it seemed mostly out of reach.

Not only his vision faded, but his visual memory to the extent that he felt his past disappearing as well as his future. At his lowest point, he was overwhelmed by a profound loneliness and isolation, a sense of being forever cut off and trapped in darkness.

The spine of the film — the first feature directed by Peter Middleton and James Spinney — is an audiocassette diary that Professor Hull kept for three years and published in 1990 as “Touching the Rock.” A decade earlier, while awaiting the birth of his first son, Professor Hull became alarmed by black discs interfering with his vision and underwent a series of unsuccessful operations to correct the condition. In 1983, he went completely blind and by September of that year, he began forgetting what his wife and children looked like, except their images in still photos. “I knew that if I didn’t understand blindness, it would destroy me,” he says.

One of his first responses was to amass a collection of recorded books related mostly to his academic career. But behind his determination lurked fearful dreams and fantasies. In the most vivid nightmare, restaged in the film, he is in a supermarket aisle as a torrential wave rounds a corner and rushes toward him. A low point came at Christmastime 1983 when he suffered panic attacks and decided he could never accept blindness. He describes a desperate sense of being enclosed and “entirely alone.”

But he was not alone. By his side until his death in 2015, at the age of 80, was his wife, Marilyn. The couple are portrayed by Dan Skinner and Simone Kirby, who lip-sync his words with such impeccable precision and delicacy you quickly forget they’re actors. The intensity of their bond is evoked in a scene of the pair slow dancing to the Mamas and the Papas’ recording of “Dedicated to the One I Love.”

Shortly after this nadir, Professor Hull was roused from his despair by the sound of rainfall, which gave a shape and texture to his environment, and he began using the tape recorder to document his interactions with his wife and children, as well as his inner thoughts.

Because he was born in Australia, he decided that reconnecting with his roots might provide solace. But the trip was a disaster when he discovered that his homeland had changed so much that the comforting sense of familiarity he expected was not to be had. He struggled to communicate with his aging parents, and to rediscover a landscape that he thought he remembered but didn’t.

Returning to England, he felt re-engaged with the world and determined to live not in nostalgia but in reality, and to accept his blindness. After a profound spiritual revelation and sense of renewal, his despair miraculously lifted and he was filled with joy and appreciation of the fullness of life.

“Notes on Blindness” avoids the sentimental pitfalls of a documentary this personal. Its overt religiosity is minimal. The tone of the narration is so wrenchingly honest that the film never lapses into self-pity or relies on mystical platitudes.

(Source: http://www.sbiff.org)

Note from Roger – Closet Monster

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479Dear Cinephiles,

It’s rare that I find a film so entrancing and hopeful that makes me feel excited about the future of cinema.  It’s a most auspicious film debut from director Stephen Dunn which won Best Canadian Feature at the Toronto International Film Festival. You’ve seen coming of age stories before, but Dunn has a completely unique and theatrical language.

The film was reviewed by the New York Times and it was a Critic’s Pick. It plays tonight at 5:00pm and tomorrow at 7:30pm at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling

Click here for tickets.


In ‘Closet Monster,’ a Teenager’s Self-Discovery Is Tinged With Danger
By Ken Jaworowski – New York Times

You may find yourself hoping that “Closet Monster” fades to black during one of its few cheerful scenes — that way, the conflicted young man at its center will get a happy ending. This affecting film prompts that kind of concern for its characters. You want them to be safe.

Still, as with all of us, happiness isn’t guaranteed, a fact made clear in Stephen Dunn’s script. Mr. Dunn, who also directed, has created individuals who defy easy branding. Outcomes are far from assured, and there’s a constant sense of danger. That threat, as Saul Bellow said of death, becomes “the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything.”

We first meet Oscar as a boy struggling to comprehend his parents’ breakup. Soon he witnesses a sadistic assault against another boy. Those events echo years later when, in high school, he’s desperate to escape his home and understand his sexuality.

As in “Mysterious Skin” or “Boyhood,” this coming-of-age story can feel entrancing, particularly with its surreal touches. Oscar talks to his hamster, which speaks back (voiced by an actress — no spoilers — who knows something about the surreal). And Oscar’s imagination occasionally takes flight, and we ride along.

Connor Jessup wonderfully inhabits the teenage Oscar, who observes others while trying to find himself. Aaron Abrams, as his father, and Aliocha Schneider and Sofia Banzhaf, as friends, are just as multilayered. Jack Fulton is heartbreaking as the younger Oscar.

Near the end of “Closet Monster,” Oscar’s mother recalls his difficult birth, explaining that he has rarely been fortunate. It’s a tough scene that may portend his future. Of course, we don’t know if Oscar will be safe, and neither does he. In this film, and in life, that uncertainty is both deeply scary and greatly exciting.

OBIT: Celebrating Life @nytimes

How do you remember a life? OBIT takes us into the world of the legendary obituaries desk at The New York Times where the writers and editors ask themselves this question daily. The film eloquently reveals the art and craft of writing obituaries and shares the journeys of extraordinary individuals to show us why writing obits is not about death, but about celebrating lives. — Silvina Fernandez-Duque


Obit is screening on Saturday, June 25th, 2016 at 6:00 P.M. at the Landmark 6 in Washington, D.C. as part of the 2016 AFI DOCS. For more details visit Obit.




Two films announced for #SBIFF The Wave Film Festival ~ Pan-Asia



Take a five day trip to Asia by seeing eleven brand new Asian films including the recently announced Mr. Six and Sweet Bean!


Mr. Six 

This thrilling new film from gifted auteur Guan Hu (Cow) immerses us in the crime-riddled labyrinth of Beijing’s rapidly changing underworld. Based on actual events, Mr. Six is the story of a fascinating man whose life reflects the history of a nation.
In a welcome return to acting, great Beijing writer-director Feng Xiaogang stars as the mysterious Mr. Six. Many years ago Mr. Six was a notorious gangster. That was back when there was still such a thing as honour among thieves, when criminals earned respect and maintained principles. These days Mr. Six is all but forgotten, a living relic residing in a hutong, or narrow alley.

Feng Xaiogang as Mr. Six  (Credit: China Lion Film)

One day Six’s son, Xiaobo (Li Yifeng), is abducted by some spoiled punks after scratching their precious Ferrari. Mr. Six, who has been diagnosed with a serious heart condition, realizes that he must do whatever it takes to get his son back and forge a meaningful bond with him while there is still time — even if that means returning to the life he thought he had left behind. Beijing’s new generation of thugs are all flash and no ethics, but Mr. Six, calling on a few friends from his past for assistance, finds that the old ways can still be used to get a difficult job done.

With Guan’s impeccable narrative power behind the camera and Feng’s subtle character-making magic in front of it, Mr. Six sees a panoply of diverse talents come together to tell a gripping story that bridges Chinas old and new. – Giovanna Fulvi, tiff


Sweet Bean

Adapted from the novel by Durian Sukegawa, the new film by Naomi Kawase is a graceful ode to the invisible essences of existence — to the beauty and joy we can discover once we learn to listen to nature and feel the life that is coursing through and all around us.

“Sweet Bean” is a delicious red bean paste, the sweet heart of the dorayaki pancakes that Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase) sells from his little bakery to a small but loyal clientele. Absorbed in sad memories and distant thoughts, Sentaro cooks with skill but without enthusiasm. When seventy-six-year-old Tokue (Kirin Kiki) responds to his ad for an assistant and cheerfully offers to work for a ridiculously low wage, Sentaro is skeptical about the eccentric old lady’s ability to endure the long hours. But when she shows up early one morning and reveals to him the secret to the perfect an — listening to the stories of wind, sun and rain that the beans have to tell — Sentaro agrees to take her on, trusting her strange ability to connect with nature. With Tokue’s new home-cooked an recipe, Sentaro’s business begins to flourish — but along with her smiles and culinary skill, Tokue is afflicted with an illness that, once revealed, drives her into isolation once again.

Credit – NYTimes.com

Using cookery to explore her perennial theme of communion with nature, in An Kawase also poignantly addresses the discrimination that condemns many like Tokue to live their lives segregated from the rest of society. Beautifully shot and quietly moving, An is a humble masterpiece from a singularly accomplished filmmaker.  – Giovanna Fulvi, tiff

Stay tuned for more on this exciting new Wave!


Passes to The Wave Film Festival ~ Pan-Asia  are available now here: http://sbiff.org/product-category/the_wave/


(Source: SBIFF)