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Hsiao-Hsien Hou – Beiqíng chéngshì AKA A City of Sadness (1989)

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A City Of Sadness opens with a credit sequence-shot of total darkness as the solemn voice of Emperor Hirohito is heard over a radio broadcast announcing the unconditional surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945. The setting is then faintly illuminated by the warm glow of candles to reveal an anxious Taiwanese household that is preparing for the imminent birth of a child in the midst of a power failure. As the electricity is restored, the audible agony of the expectant mother gives way to the sound of a crying infant. The apparent metaphor is then reinforced in the subsequent intertitles that reveal that the concubine of Lin Wen-heung (Chen Sown-yung) had given birth to a son whom they name Kang-ming, meaning ‘light.’ However, as the film chronicles the lives of the Lin family during the turbulent four years between the Japanese withdrawal from Taiwan after 51 years of occupation in 1945, to the secession of Taiwan from mainland China in 1949, the hopeful and optimistic tone of the film’s introductory sequence seemingly proves untenable. Continue reading

Werner Nekes – Uliisses (1982)

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The film is a Homeric journey through the history of cinema. Its theme is based on the mythological Odysseus of Homer, the Ulysses of James Joyce, and the synthetic figure, Telemach/Phil, from the 24-hour-long piece «The Warp,» by Neil Oram. Werner Nekes combines these three figures, and he shows their stories within the history of «lighterature,» writing with light = film. His central theme, however, is visual language in of itself: Odysseus/Bloom is transformed into Uli the Photographer, Penelope/Molly into his model, and Telemach/Stephen into Phil, who begins his «Telemachia». The connecting of their three lives occurs during the course of a single day, in September of 1980, in Germany’s industrial Ruhrgebiet region, preceding the elections in the Federal Republic. Continue reading

Larry Jordan – Our Lady of the Sphere (1972)

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Of all my films, this is the most popular to date. Unfortunately, it is also the most cartoon-like and has an almost visible storyline: the young boy’s travels through terror, death and the Underworld. My own conception of the circus sequence in the film connotes the world’s weakness for striking up the band to cover tragedy, as when someone falls from a high wire in the circus. I did achieve certain special “break-throughs” with OUR LADY OF THE SPHERE, in that the flat surface was broken with forward and away zooms, but this is a simple thing. In the process, I had to relinquish certain subtle and more tenuous relationships between moving components and also the highly artificial gravitational formulations and inventions of such films as DUO CONCERTANTES and HAMFAT ASAR. – Lawrence Jordan Continue reading

Larry Jordan – Trumpit (1956)

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Lawrence Jordan shot TRUMPIT in the basement of a house on Baker Street in San Francisco that he shared with Stan Brakhage in the mid-1950s. Brakhage himself stars in the film (along with Yvonne Fair). Featuring a card game played on the body of a naked woman, Jordan portrays male sexual frustration while slyly satirizing Hollywood reaction shots. Beat poet and filmmaker Christopher Maclaine provides the soundtrack of voice and manipulated instruments. TRUMPIT is a charming, youthful example of the American avant-garde. – Stela Jelincic Continue reading

Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth – Tarantella (1940)

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This new medium of expression is the Absolute Film. Here the artist creates a world of color, form, movement and sound in which the elements are in a state of controllable flux, the two materials (visual and aural) being subject to any conceivable interrelation and modification. – Mary Ellen Bute Continue reading