Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Greetings

Alan and Cyane in front of mountains Piz Bernina and Piz Palü, Engadine, Switzerland

The photo above shows a high point in Alan and Cyane's year.
You can track some of other things we did in blog postings from July and August.

The  'chapter' that follows this one is Alan's old movie suggestions, all available for those with access to Netflix movies through DVDs or download.  He offers criticism and commentary on those movies and others in the 'Wonderful Old Movies Write-up' installment.

Cyane's blog entry is a summary of her adventures with Lyme Disease.  She hopes that you do not have similar experiences.  If you are curious, you can look at the chapter "Adventures With Lyme Disease, Fall 2011."

The Movie List

72 GEMS FOR 2012
Title Year Director
The Winning of Barbara Worth 1926 Henry King
Underworld 1927 Joseph von Sternberg
Hallelujah 1929 King Vidor
White Hell of Piz Palü 1929 Dr Arnold Fanck
Scarlet Empress 1934 Joseph von Sternberg
Twentieth Century 1934 Howard Hawks
The Story of a Cheat 1936 Sasha Guitry
Pepe le Moko 1937 Julien Duvivier
Le Quai des Brumes 1938 Marcel Carne
La Bete Humaine 1938 Jean Renoir
The Letter 1940 William Wyler
In Which We Serve 1942 David Lean/Noel Coward
Le Corbeau 1943 Henri-Georges Clouzot
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp 1943 Powell and Pressburger
The Children are Watching Us 1944 Vittorio DeSica
Mildred Pierce 1945 Michael Curtiz
Paisan 1946 Roberto Rossellini
Shoeshine 1946 Vittorio DeSica
Quai des Orfevres 1947 Henri-Georges Clouzot
Yellow Sky 1948 William Wellman
Stray Dog 1949 Akura Kurosawa
Kind Hearts and Coronets 1949 Robert Hamer
The Furies 1950 Anthony Mann
In a Lonely Place 1950 Nicholas Ray
Kansas City Confidential 1952 Phil Karlson
The Golden Coach 1952 Jean Renoir
The Hitchhiker 1953 Ida Lupino
Madame De… 1953 Max Ophuls
99 River Street 1953 Phil Karlson
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 1953 Howard Hawks
Crime Wave 1954 Andre De Toth
Twenty-Four Eyes 1954 Keisuke Kinoshita
Johnny Guitar 1954 Nicholas Ray
Smiles of a Summer Night 1955 Ingmar Bergman
The Big Combo 1955 Joseph Lewis
The Man from Laramie 1955 Anthony Mann
Seven Men from Now 1956 Budd Boetticher
Harp of Burma 1956 Kon Ichikawa
Street of Shame 1956 Kenji Mizoguchi
Bigger than Life 1956 Nicholas Ray
Elevator to the Gallows 1957 Louis Malle
Bitter Victory 1957 Nicholas Ray
The Big Country 1957 William Wyler
Mon Oncle 1958 Jacques Tati
Purple Noon 1959 Rene Clement
Good Morning 1959 Yasujiri Ozu
Night Train 1959 Jerzy Kawalerowicz
Le Trou 1960 Jacques Becker
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs… 1960 Mikeo Naruse
Tunes of Glory 1960 Ronald Neame
The Human Condition No Greater Love 1 1959 Masaki Kobayashi
The Human Condition Road to Eternity 2 1960 Masaki Kobayashi
The Human Condition A Soldier's Prayer 3 1961 Masaki Kobayashi
Underworld USA 1961 Sam Fuller
Il Posto 1961 Ermanno Olmi
Cleo from Five to Seven 1961 Agnes Varda
Leon Morin, Pretre 1961 Jean-Pierre Melville
Divorce, Italian Style 1961 Pietro Germi
Hatari 1962 Howard Hawks
Harikiri 1962 Masaki Kobayashi
High and Low 1963 Akura Kurosawa
Revenge of a Kabuki Actor 1963 Kon Ichikawa
Man's Favorite Sport 1964 Howard Hawks
Au Hasard Baltazar 1966 Robert Bresson
Peau d'An (Donkey Skin) 1970 Jacques Demy
Le Cercle Rouge 1970 Jean-Pierre Melville
Army of Shadows 1970 Jean-Pierre Melville
French Connection 1971 William Friedkin
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles 1975 Chantal Akerman
The Big Red One 1980 Sam Fuller
Devils on the Doorstep 2000 Wen Jiang
The Edge of Heaven 2007 Fatih Akin

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wonderful Old Movies: The Write-up

Happy Holidays !!

We wish you a wonderful year with a list of wonderful movies that you can enjoy in the coming months…all movies that are easily accessible on DVD though Netflix.  Since Alan is a certificable movie nutcase, (and Cyane humors him from time to time) we want to share neglected films and near classics that we have seen and you might have overlooked.   We highly recommend every one.  (We avoided the standard classics although a few of our favs slipped in.)

The list started out as a calendar…52 movies for 2012.  But we ended up with 70 gems for 2012.  We know you’ve seen some of them.  We hope to introduce you to some new ones and encourage to revisit ones you haven’t seen in a while.    That is…if you are lucky enough to love movies and have access to Netflix.

Here’s a little intro on some of the movies (and genres) in our list…

Cyane’s Favorites:  Cyane says her Favorites are lightweight, but ‘NO’!  You’ll find two remarkable Joan Crawford classics…from her late period as a goddess of feminine liberation.   There’s a throughly charming Ingmar Bergman movie (did you know there was such a thing) called Smiles of a Summer Night which is the closest movies have ever come to a Mozart opera.  You’ll discover Dr. Arnold Franck, the director of the first mountain adventure films, The White Hell of Pitz Palü in southeast Switzerland, a mountain of 3,972 metres that we hope to climb someday.    One films each by Agnes Varda and Jacques Demy, legendary directors, very French and married.    Then there is Jean Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, a minimalist classic, 3 hours and 20 minutes of the great Delphine Seyrig, as an aging prostitute, virtually alone in her apartment.  Slow, excruciating and worthy of the patience it requires to watch.  Not lightweight fare.

Alan’s FavoritesAlan’s preferences lean towards French and Japanese films,  Partly because their films open a window on cultures that are usually closed to visitors.   You’ll discover the most decadent of the Marlene Dietrich/Joseph von Sternberg pictures, The Scarlet Empress.   In a Lonely Place is Bogart’s most personal movie, and the most overlooked of his classics, a dark, brooding image of Hollywood in the 1940s directed by Nicholas Ray.  A second Nicholas Ray movie, Bigger than Life, is a brutal disection of middleclass American life in the mid-fifties, with James Mason, a school teacher overtaken by a then experimental prescription drug, Cortisone.   Lighter fare, the Jacques Tati comedy on Alan’s list, Mon Oncle, is a delicious satire on modern technology, funnier in 2012 than it was in 1956.    Another very cute comedy from the Japanese master, Yasujiri Ozu satirizes TV ownership and the coming of a comsumer society in  postwar Japan.  Ozu is celebrated for intense vivisection of the Japanese family.  Not here…Good Morning is a gentle comedy.    Another Japanese classic, Twenty-Four Eyes is not a science fiction film, but follows 12 students and their sensei.  It is a beloved and charming masterpiece about the maturation of a rural school teacher before, during and after WWII, starring one of Japan’s great actresses, Hideko Takamine.

On my list, I’ve added one very special movie…It’s titled The Human Condition, a 3 part Japanese anti-war film from the early 60s.  Its three parts run eight and a half hours.  When I saw it in one day in New York City a couple of years ago,  the film was simply the most powerful, the most divestating the most exhausting cinema experience of my life.  Challenging, engaging, and, despite its length, never boring.  However, it is a significant commitment to watch.  Because of its subject matter (Japan in Manchuria in the 1930s) and its length, The Human Condition is not for everyone.   If you are up for the challenge, you will not be disappointed.  I can not recommend any movie more highly.

For a related awesome film from another point of view, try Devils on the Doorstep a Chinese movie from 2002 also about the Japanese in China, this time at the end of WWII.  The war is shown from the point of peasants who have barely a clue about what is transpiring around them.    Often funny, intense and moving.

Here is the continuation of the discussion of the 70 recommended movies from Netflix...

Westerns:  Westerns are the morality tales of American society.  We picked five great ones you can build on.  Budd Boetticher is the poet of the B Western.   He directed six short Westerns all with Randolph Scott,  all about 80 minutes –  all on Netflix and worthy of your attention.  Seven Men from Now is the greatest of the group because Lee Marvin in an early role is a very bad dude.    The moral ambiguity of the West was tailor-made for the talents of director Anthony Mann.   Five of his Westerns star James Stewart and are all on Netflix.  My favorite is The Man from Laramie…if you like it try the others.  I couldn’t resist adding Mann’s first Western, The Furies, with Barbara Stanwyck and Walter Huston, in his last movie.   Even though it plays like an epic Greek tragedy, it is very entertaining.  I also added a personal favorite Western that is highly underrated, Yellow Sky, with Richard Witmark and Gregory Peck and The Big Country, an oversized epic directed by William Wyler that was marvelously engaging when we revisited it recently.

War Movies:  If I added too many war movies to the list (seven plus Human Condition), its because they are underrated and underwatched.  Like Twenty-four Eyes, Harp of Burma, a great anti-war film, emerged from Japan in the mid-50s when the Japanese where deeply questioning their recent past.    Army of Shadows is the best French film made about the French resistance during WWII, starring my favorite Frence tough guy, Lino Ventura.  In Which we Serve, Bitter Victory and The Big Red One are marvelous WWII pictures.

Noirs and Thrillers :  These don’t really need an introduction. There are seven American noirs featuring some underrated actors like John Payne (an unfortunate name), Sterling Hayden, Richard Conte and Cornel Wilde.  And The Hitchhiker is a sleek little thriller, directed by the actress Ida Lupino, who during the 50s was the only female director in Hollywood (no, make that the world).   Maybe you’ll discover my favorite Bette Davis movie, another William Wyler film, The Letter from 1940.   Despite my criteria (no classics), I added The French Connection, an acknowledged crowd pleaser,  because I saw it recently and like a fine wine, it just gets better…Night Train is a little clautrophobic Hitchcockian Polish movie featuring Zbigniew Cybulski known as the James Dean of Poland.  Dark, thrilling and undiscovered.  Perhaps you’ll look at one of  five French noirs….Le Corbeau, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s first masterpiece about paranoia in a French village shot during the German occupation, Le Cercle Rouge a police thriller from 1970 with Alain Delon and Yves Montand by Jean-Pierre Melville, Elevator to the Gallows, Louis Malle’s first feature, a tantilizing suspense film with Jeanne Moreau,  and Le Trou, my favorite prison escape film and Purple Noon, by Rene Clement, a creepy mystery/romance that introduced Alain Delon to the world.  You’ll even find three noirs made in Japan, two by Akura Kurasawa…I especially admire Stray Dog, a sweaty detective thriller, made on the summer streets of Tokyo during the occupation.  When a Woman Ascends a Stairs, is the masterpiece by Mikeo Naruse, a prolific but neglected director of films about the role of women in Japanese society.  

Subversive Favorites or black comedies:   Director, actor, screenwriter, Sasha Guitry was the Noel Coward of France.  Sassy, clever and a bit overbearing.  A stage performer, writer and director, although he distained making movies he made one very droll black comedy, The Story of a Cheat.   This is one of those, you have to see it to believe it movies.   Another black comedy, that I revisited while in London last summer, Kind Hearts and Coronets, is a mate to The Story of a Cheat in form and content.  Turns out, its director, Robert Hamer, worked with Guitry during his early career.  I had loved this movie as a teenager, but until seeing it this summer, I had forgotten how wonderfully subversive (and funny) it is.

Poetic realism/Neo-Realism:  During the early sound era, a genre of French films called Poetic Realism emerged most notably represented by movies by Jean Renoir, Marcel Carné, Julien Duvivier and Marcel Pagnol.  I’ve included the three best ones (all with Jean Gabin, my favorite actor) that are available from Netflix.    You’ll find a precusor to this genre, in the very entertaining 1928 silent directed by Joseph von Sternberg, Underworld.  Neo-realism, which emerged in Italy during WWII, built on the style of the Poetic Realism, but moved the action to the streets, often with non-professional performers.  I've included three of the best, less known neo-realism films on DVD, The Children are Watching Us, Paisan, and Shoeshine.

Howard Hawks:  When Cyane and I travel, I am lucky to find the leading repertory film festivals in the world.  This year I was blessed to attend the Festival Cinema Retrovato in Bologna for a week, 30 movies in seven days.   One of the programs in Bologna featured some of the neglected films of Howard Hawks.  I included four Hawks films on the list, perhaps not the most neglected (because they are not on DVD), but films easily overlooked.  Hatari is a way better adverture movie than I expected, plus it puts John Wayne movie on the list.  Both Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Man’s Favorite Sport? are very sophisticated satires.  And, on a list that may be short on comedies, Twentieth Century just might be the funniest movie ever made.

Minimalism:  Three movies, two French and one Italian:  Il Posto, Leon Morin Pretre, and Au Hazard Baltazar.   Be patient!  These films deliver slowly, with the passion and power!  Alert...Au Hazard Baltazar, is the biography of a donkey and may be the most moving films ever made.

 I hope this list isn’t too big to digest.  Enjoy, and let me know if you see some of them.   (Alan will give a prize to anyone who sees them all.)  If you have questions, just me know.

Adventures with Lyme Disease, Fall 2011

My Story
Cyane was bitten by a tick while working near the woods of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia in May 2011.  The insect(s) were not observed.  Within a week, I started to experience intense fatigue, chills and sweating, and then a bulls-eye rash.  

The doctor diagnosed Lyme Disease and prescribed 3 weeks of antibiotic Doxycycline.  I felt better.

In August, weird little pains and skin sores started.  On September 21 I had a nightmare of being attacked by an army of soldiers.  Shortly therafter, I started to feel really bad, with intense fatigue, nausea, and muscle spasms.   Also, intense involuntary muscular twitches and weakness.

September through November was a terrifying period where symptoms rapidly worsened, see list of symptoms below.  It was as if all body systems were going haywire at once: digestive, neural, cognitive, muscular, skin, etc.  There were no clear external manifestations, but energy was reduced 50%, I felt terrible, and was unable to think or sleep. 

During this period, I went to 8 doctors.  Four of the doctors, who look at tick diseases through a narrow window, observed that what was happening was not Lyme Disease, since I had been treated early.  Two doctors said they were not sure sure and recommended further testing.  The two doctors, who look at Lyme through a wider clinical symptoms picture, thought that Lyme plus other tick-borne diseases were causing my malaise and recommended treatment against the infections and also to bolster natural strength and immunity.

After starting antibiotics I felt immediately better.  Thinking clarity returned, along with more normal sleep patterns.  After taking antibiotics for over a month, fatigue is still a factor.  It will be a long road to try and get rid of all parasites and recover robust function.  Unfortunately, it is not an easy and straightforward process.  Lyme Disease bacteria and the other infectious organisms transmitted by ticks are not easily killed off even by antibiotics.  Also, they attack the body in ways that make it more vulnerable.  After harboring Lyme spirochaetes, as well as possible Babesia and Bartonella, my white blood cell numbers were very depressed. along with vitamin levels.

If I had followed the recommendations of the doctors with a narrow view of Lyme, my future health would likely have been compromised and even destroyed.  I was able to find doctors who understood tick borne diseases and were able to treat them only through talking to other people who have suffered with Lyme, or friends who had tips and suggestions.  

Lyme Debates

It is unbelievable that the fastest growing infectious disease in America can not be accurately diagnosed - it is impossible to know for sure whether someone is infected or not.  Tests are commonly prescribed, but they measure only antibodies.  So, tests show whether one has been exposed and not whether one is currently infected.  Almost 30,000 people will be officially diagnosed with Lyme Disease each year.  Given uncertain definition and diagnosis, it is thought that the actual number of people affected each year in America is over 300,000.

Lyme Disease is not the only pathogen carried by ticks.  Lyme Disease is Borrelia burgdorfii, a spiral shaped bacteria like syphilis.  There are many variants of Borrelia.  Other parasites include:  Babesia (operates like malaria and not killed by antibiotics), Bartonella, Mycoplasma, Anaplasma, Tularemia, Ehrlichia,  and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

When one is infected (or not, depending on who is diagnosing), one automatically steps into the "Lyme Wars," that  rage in the medical community.  One camp, headed by the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), believes Lyme Disease is hard to catch, easy to cure, and co-infections are rare.  The other camp, headed by the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), believe that Lyme is easy to catch, hard to cure, and co-infections common.  Unfortunately, the two medical sides are polarized and there is little middle ground.  You can predict what a doctor will say based on which camp they are in.

IDSA doctors have a narrow definition and limit treatment.  ILADS doctors have a wider definition and treat more aggressively, based on clinical symptoms.  Unfortunately, the IDSA approach is dominant and doctors who take an ILADS approach are hard to find and oversubscribed.  The result is that many people who have had tick bites and feel a host of really bad symptoms do not get treatment for tick borne diseases.  They may end up permanently impaired.

Lyme and Associated Diseases Possible Symptoms
The symptoms of tick-borne diseases are various.  Often the only pattern is that there is no pattern/ localization to one place.  When a host of seemingly unrelated and serious symptoms appear, tick-borne illnesses should be considered.

  Joint pain, swelling, stiffness
  Muscle pain or cramps
  Aching or burning in palms or soles of feet
  Bone sensitivity, esp. of spine
  Muscle weakness
  Fibromyalgia (generalized muscle pain and tenderness)

  Bell's Palsy (partial facial paralysis)
  Burning or stabbing pains
  Twitching of muscles
  Warm or cool sensations
  Diminished reflexes
  Impaired cognition

Mental Capabilities
  Memory loss
  Confusion, difficulty thinking, 'brain fog'
  Declining performance in school or work

  Anxiety, panic attacks
  Sleep disorders

  Diarrhea or constipation
  Abdominal cramps
  Frequent need to urinate, irritable bladder
  Weight gain or loss
  Nausea, vomiting, upset stomach

Respiratory and Circulatory
  Shortness of breath
  Persistent head congestion
  Night sweats, unexplained chills
  Heart palpitations

General Well-Being
  Extreme, persistent fatigue
  Unexplained sweating
  Swollen glands
  Unexplained hair loss
  Rashes, lesions, or skin disorders

A Few Resources to Start With:

On the Internet:  almost unlimited, but start with:
Joseph Burrascano.  2008.  Diagnostic Hints and Treatment Guidelines for Lyme and Other Tick-Borne Illnesses.

Douglas W. Fearn.  2007.  Lyme Disease and Associated Diseases:  The Basics, A Plain-Language introduction to tick-borne diseases.  The Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Inc. .

International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.

Lyme Disease Association.

Pamela Weintraub.  2009.  Cure Unknown.  St Martin's Griffin.  ISBN 978-0-312-37813.

Constance A. Bean, Lesley Ann Fein.  2008.  Beating Lyme, Understanding and Treating This Complex and Often Misdiagnosed Disease.  AMCOM, American Management Association.  ISBN 978-0-8144-0944-2.

Dr. Qingcai Zhang and Yale Zhang.  2006.  Lyme Disease and Modern Chinese Medicine.  Sino-Med Research Institute.  ISBN 0-96772131-8.  Available from Zhang Health Clinic;

"Under Our Skin" available for download from Netflix.