Jean Vigo – L’Atalante (1934)

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In 1934, French director Jean Vigo tragically died of tuberculosis at the age of just 29, leaving behind his one and only completed feature, L’Atalante (1934). A simple, yet visually complex tale of two young newly weds travelling aboard a barge, Vigo’s film has since been awarded classic status, with its director heralded as one of French cinema’s most significant auteurs despite a relatively small body of work. This new Artificial Eye collection allows completists to revisit Vigo’s newly restored magnum opus, as well as several short films from the same period. Continue reading

Carol Reed – The Third Man (1949)

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Of all the iconic images in Carol Reed’s The Third Man, none is as recognizable as the sight of Harry Lime (Orson Welles) standing in a Vienna doorway, bathed in shadow. Accompanied by Anton Karas’s unforgettable zither score, it’s one of the most iconic entrances in film history, which is befitting one of film’s most iconic characters. Although he’s only on screen for a fraction of the film’s running time, Lime stands out as one of the screen’s most chilling embodiments of the banality of evil, and a perfect stand-in for Third Man‘s vision of moral breakdown in post-WWII Europe. Continue reading

William J. Cowen – Kongo (1932)

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A remake of West of Zanibar, this strange, gut-wrenching melodrama set in the African jungles, offers a disturbing portrait of a bitter, crippled and insane megalomaniac who vents his rage via mental torture against all those who get too near. Walter Huston plays the madman who lost the use of his legs during a battle with his nemesis Gordon. The accident happened many years ago and since then Huston has dragged himself about in his jungle home making the lives of those around him waking nightmares. He has terrified the local tribesmen into total submission with his knowledge deadly voodoo (he tells them guns are magical instruments). He is even crueler to his fellow Anglos. A young white woman comes to visit one day. Believing her to be the daughter of his arch rival Gordon, he gleefully embarks upon a heavy reign of psychological abuse until the poor girl is nearly destroyed. For more fun, he gets a new doctor addicted to drugs and of course he can also torment the woman who loves him, Velez. The horror continues until Gordon suddenly shows up. Vengeful Huston quickly picks a fight and during the ensuing struggle Gordon tells Huston a bitter truth, one that leads Huston to a horrible realization. Continue reading

Max Ophüls – De Mayerling à Sarajevo AKA From Mayerling to Sarajevo (1940)

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Synopsis:
In the late 1800’s, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, falls for Sophie Chotek, a Czech countess. He’s already a problem to the Crown because of his political ideas; this love affair with someone not of royal blood breeches protocol. The Crown allows the union only after the couple agrees to a morganatic marriage. The emperor further neutralizes Franz by making him inspector general of the army, sending him afield for months at a time. In June of 1914, fearing for his safety, Sophie seeks permission to accompany Franz to Sarajevo; protocol dictates that no army troops attend Franz while she is present. An assassin strikes. Their deaths spark World War I.

— IMDb Continue reading

Richard Pottier – Le Monde tremblera aka The World Will Shake AKA The Revolt of the Living (1939)

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Synopsis:
In this sci-fi film, a scientist invents a prescient machine that can tell people when they will die. Oddly enough, the people do not want to know and therefore begin to riot…

Review:
With capital supplied by the unscrupulous banker Emil Lasser, Dr Jean Durand succeeds in creating a machine that can predict, to the nearest minute, when an individual will die. A ruthless man facing financial ruin, Lasser intends using Durand’s invention for a crooked life insurance business, but the scientist refuses to go along with the scheme, even though he is in love with Lasser’s daughter, Marie‐France. Subjecting himself to Durand’s machine, Lasser learns he has only a few days left to live. He ends up committing suicide, after leaving a note to his daughter warning her to stay away from Durand. As Marie‐France embarks on a new romance with Durand’s best friend Dr Gérard Gallois, Durand begins capitalising on his invention and soon has a steady stream of clients eager to know the exact date of their demise. The implications of Durand’s discovery soon hits home when people, knowing they have only a short time to live, begin behaving in an irresponsible manner. Durand realises too late that he has created a monster… Continue reading