Jonas Mekas – Diaries Notes and Sketches AKA Walden (1969) (HD)

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Jonas Mekas, the godfather of American “underground” cinema, shot literally miles of impromptu film on a tiny, touch-and-go Bolex camera before assembling his first “diary film” and screening it before an audience of friends and fellow indie artists in 1969. At that point the home-movie ethos was somewhat less than groundbreaking, but a glance at what Mekas’s contemporaries were working on or releasing at the time—Kenneth Anger was ensconced in off-and-on production for Lucifer Rising, Stan Brakhage was toiling on the 8mm Songs cycle, and Paul Morrissey had just morphed the Warhol aesthetic into the zeitgeist-preaching Flesh—suggests just how perpendicular his project stood in relation to the remainder of the bicoastal art-house scene. Mekas, as a distributor and critic in the ‘60s, had praised and promoted films both archetypically absurd (Anger’s Scorpio Rising) and angularly as well as legally shocking (Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures); perhaps this is why the program notes prepared for the first showing of Diaries, Notes and Sketches, also known as Walden contained an uncharacteristically humble and ambivalent letter from the director of the evening’s presentation. “You are going to see maybe two, maybe three, maybe four reels, from the total of six,” it read. “It will depend on your patience, on your interest.” Continue reading

René Clair – Tout l’Or du Monde AKA All the Gold in the World (1961)

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Synopsis:
The small village of Cabosse is renowned for one thing: the people who live there can enjoy a long and healthy life, thanks to the pure country air. Seeing a chance to make some easy money, businessman Victor Hardy decides to buy up the entire village and transform it into an upmarket community for the well-off. Within a few weeks, everyone in the village has agreed to sell his house to Hardy, except one man. The elderly Mathieu Dumont refuses to sell up because he is determined to preserve an old family tradition, namely that every Dumont who has lived in the Cabosse should die and be buried there. Hardy sees a potential ally in Dumont’s timid son, Toine, and wastes no time trying to win him round. However, his troubles are far from over… Continue reading

Claude Sautet – L’arme à gauche AKA The Dictator’s Guns (1965)

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Synopsis:
Jacques Cournot, a freelance skipper, is hired by Mr Hendrix in Santo Domingo, first of all to advise him regarding the acquisition of a sailing boat. After a thorough inspection of a prospective vessel, the “Dragoon”, Cournot reports his positive appraisal to Mr Hendrix and initiates the negotiations with Mrs Osborne, the owner of the craft. Barely a couple of days later, Cournot finds himself in a bind as the police questions him about the exact kind of cruise he was supposed to organize for his principal. For the “Dragoon” is gone; Mr Hendrix has disappeared; Mrs Osborne is not aware of any deal; and the corpses of mysterious individuals, victims of a violent death, are found on the beaches of Santo Domingo.

— Eduardo Casais (IMDB) Continue reading

Tadeusz Konwicki – Salto (1965)

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In this rich and subtle dream-play, a man arrives in a small country town and demands sanctuary from an unspecified threat. But who is he, why do people remember him differently, and can he really perform miracles? Many Poles consider this Cybulski’s greatest performance and he’s certainly on riveting form, especially when performing a ‘salto’ folk dance towards the end. Continue reading

Jerzy Kawalerowicz – Faraon (1966)

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The Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center in New York City’s retrospective – History Lessons: The Films of Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 30 January to 12 February 2004, screened the major work of this Polish director whose career spanned 50+ years. The programme offered, amidst the veteran’s varied output, a very special, culture vulture/archaeologist’s dream: Pharaoh (aka: Faraon), co-scripted by Kawalerowicz with Tadeusz Konwicki, and based on a novel by Boleslaw Prus. The best cinematic recreation of circa 1100 BC Late New Kingdom Dynastic Egypt ever, photographed on location at authentic sites and environs, the production design, costumes and props were all meticulously researched. Continue reading

Grigori Kozintsev – Korol Lir AKA King Lear (1969)

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From IMDB user comments:

Black and white cinematography of Gritsius, the music of Shostakovich and the enigmatic face of Jarvet, makes all other versions of King Lear smaller in stature. Lord Olivier himself acknowledged the stark brilliance of this film. Oleg Dal’s fool lends a fascinating twist to the character. The “Christian Marxism” of Kozintsev can knock-out any serious student of cinema and Shakespeare.

Kozintsev is one of least sung masters of Russian cinema. His cinema is very close to that of Tarkovsky and Sergei Paradjanov. Kozintsev’s Lear is not a Lear that mourns his past and his daughters–his Lear is close to the soil, the plants, and all elements of nature. That’s what makes Kozintsev’s Shakespearean works outstanding. Continue reading

Peter Whitehead – The Fall (1969)

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“I ran upstairs to the top floor and took the film out of my cine-camera, put it into a tin and sealed it with tape before dropping it from a window into the bushes below, unseen by the ranks of armed police waiting to free the university from the pagan forces of anarchy. Soon I was walking through the splintered wooden doors with the other students, to be arrested. Eagerly the cops opened my camera (I had been warned) to expose the incriminating film to the light. No film. I collected it the following day. A week later I was flying back to England with twenty hours of film which would later become “The Fall”, and be shown for the first time at the Edinburgh Festival, the last film I would make about the so-called Swinging Sixties; TIME magazine having given the era its belittling name.”

-Peter Whitehead Continue reading