Gleb Panfilov – Nachalo AKA Debut AKA The Beginning (1970)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Synopsis:
A film-in-film story set in a provincial town in Russia. Pasha (Churikova) is an amateur actress who plays a witch at a local club, but her dream is to play Joan of Arc. In a strike of luck she is cast as Joan of Arc in a big screen film. Now she is torn between her luck and her love to Arkadi (Kuravlev) who is a married man. Continue reading

Aleksandr Rou – Vechera na khutore bliz Dikanki AKA The Night Before Christmas (1961)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

The whimsical combination of Christmas phantasmagoria and an eccentric fairy tale makes this film an unforgettable spectacle. The action takes place both in a village of Dikanka in the Ukraine and at the palace of a Russian Empress. Blacksmith Vacula has enraged the devil himself: in a church he painted the devil’s figure in such a way that even the hell’s inhabitants could not help laughing. Solokha, Vacula’s mother, is known to be a witch, not averse to flying on a besom. Vacula’s sweetheart, Oksana, demands for a Christmas present a pair of tcherevichki (shoes) that the Empress wears. Only then she will agree to marry Vacula. And the devil promises to help the blacksmith get the Empress’ shoes, on condition that Vacula sells him his soul. Meanwhile, Christmas is almost here. Based on Gogol’s story. Continue reading

Alan Schneider – Film (1965)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Samuel Beckett, the celebrated author of Waiting for Godot, made a single work for projected cinema. It’s in essence a chase film; the craziest ever committed to celluloid. It’s a chase between camera and pursued image that finds existential dread embedded in the very apparatus of the movies itself. The link to cinema’s essence is evident in the casting, as the chased object is none other than an aged Buster Keaton, who was understandably befuddled at Beckett and director Alan Schneider’s imperative that he keep his face hidden from the camera’s gaze. The archetypal levels resonate further in the exquisite cinematography of Academy Award-winner Boris Kaufman, whose brothers Dziga Vertov and Mikhail Kaufman created the legendary self-reflexive masterpiece Man With a Movie Camera. Commissioned and produced by Grove Press’s Barney Rosset, FILM is at once the product of a stunningly all-star assembly of talent, and a cinematic conundrum that asks more questions than it answers. Continue reading

Satyajit Ray – Charulata AKA The Lonely Wife (1964)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Quote:
The opening shots of Satyajit Ray’s Charulata bypass melodrama for the feel of a fairy tale, with bored housewife Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee) flitting about her spacious Victorian home like Rapunzel amusing herself in her tower. Even shots that stay still for less than a second frame Charu behind bars, be it bedposts or the wooden blinds she jerks open in order to peer at the bustling city life below. Never again does the camera move as swiftly nor as giddily as it does when Charu, armed with a pair of binoculars, hustles along each window to follow the movement of a man she finds interesting. The scene ends as quickly as it came to life, nothing more than a fleeting distraction from the tedium of her sheltered existence. Continue reading

Martin Ritt – Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Based on Peter DeVries’ novel Witch’s Milk, Pete ‘n’ Tillie stars Walter Matthau and Carol Burnett in the title roles. Middle-aged when they first meet, eternally joking Pete and repressed “old maid” Tillie don’t immediately hit it off. Gradually, their friendship deepens into love and culminates (reluctantly, on Pete’s part) in marriage, eleven years of which is explored in this film. Throughout the funny and tragic moments, and despite the many breakups, their love endures. Oscar nominations went to screenwriter Julius J. Epstein and supporting actress Geraldine Page Continue reading

Milos Forman – Lásky jedné plavovlásky AKA Loves of a Blonde (1965)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Quote:
The flirtatious title of Milos Forman’s breakthrough comedy Loves of a Blonde says a lot about the film without even trying. Everybody in Forman’s bittersweet film thinks about sex constantly but only in terms of hypothetical scenarios that almost never come to pass. The funny thing about these daydreams of coitus is that they’re not strictly sexy. In fact, most of the time characters in Loves of a Blonde are wringing their hands about sex, even the trio of homely soldiers licking their lips at the thought of seducing a table of bored blondes at a local dance. First they send alcohol to the wrong table and are subsequently unsure of how long they should smile at the girls they plan on getting drunk and taking to the woods (they aren’t even sure if the idea of taking girls to the woods for sex is just a euphemism or not). Sex is comedy here because it breeds nothing but the kind of anxiety that the title of Forman’s film teems with. Continue reading