Jonas Mekas – Lost, Lost, Lost (1976)

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These six reels of my film diaries come from the years 1949-1963. They begin with my arrival in New York in November 1949. The first and second reels deal with my life as a Young Poet and a Displaced Person in Brooklyn. It shows the Lithuanian immigrant community, their attempts to adapt themselves to a new land and their tragic efforts to regain independance for their native country. It shows my own frustrations and anxieties and the decision to leave Brooklyn and move to Manhattan. Reel three and reel four deal with my life in Manhattan on Orchard Street and East 13th St. First contacts with New York poetry and filmmaking communities. Robert Frank shooting The Sin of Jesus. LeRoy Jones, Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara reading at The Living Theatre. Documentation of the political protests of the late fifties and early sixties. First World Strike for Peace. Vigil in Times Square. Women for Peace. Air Raid protests. Reel five includes Rabbit Shit Haikus, a series of Haikus filmed in Vermont; scenes at the Film-Maker’s Cooperative; filming Hallelujah the Hills; scenes of New York City. Reel six contains a trip to Flaherty Seminar, a visit to the seashore in Stony Brook; a portrait of Tiny Tim; opening of Twice a Man; excursions to the countryside seen from two different views; that of my own and that of Ken Jacobs whose footage is incorporated into this reel. Continue reading

Krzysztof Zanussi – Constans AKA The Constant Factor (1980)

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Apart from the conscience provoking “A Short Film About Killing” I have always found Western European audiences’ adulation of the Polish director, Krzysztof Kieslowski, rather excessive, all the more so when compared to the comparative neglect of Zanussi, that other, to my mind , infinitely greater Krzysztof. During the late ’70’s and early ’80’s he produced a remarkable body of work that, although dealing with rigorous intellectual concepts, perfectly balanced head with heart. In “Night Paths” he examines a contemporary generation’s indifference to history; in “The Contract” he uses the stag as a metaphor for the nobility and strength that, in his view, Polish society fails to aspire to, while in “The Constant Factor” he makes use of mathematics in an attempt to shed light on the awesome possibilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This latter is a multi-layered work, on the one hand dealing with the consequencies of maintaining integrity within a corrupt employment situation and at a deeper level attempting to understand the randomness of fate that mankind is exposed to regardless of political dogmas or individual standards of morality. Witold, the main protagonist of the film, is a young man whose father, a famous mountaineer, has been killed in a climbing accident. He has one objective, to follow in his footsteps by joining a Himalayan expedition. However his failure to come to terms with the corrupt working practises of his colleagues leads to their thwarting his ambition. “The Constant Factor” is without doubt one of the most deeply pessimistic films I know. When I first saw it I could hardly believe the ghastliness of its ending. Even though I consider it to be one of the most profound masterworks of cinema I have to steel myself beforehand whenever I bring myself to sharing it with anyone, let alone seeing it by myself. Continue reading

Toshiya Fujita – Shurayukihime aka Lady Snowblood (1973)

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Out of all the films director Quentin Tarantino pays homage to in his interpretation of the revenge flick, “Kill Bill”, the 1973 classic film “Lady Snowblood” takes credit for probably being the most influential to him. And rightly so; “Lady Snowblood” is one of the most original revenge films ever, particularly because of the protagonist who deals out the vengeance is not a man…but a woman. Based on a manga written by Kazuo Koike, who also created the “Lone Wolf and Cub” and “Crying Freeman” manga series, “Lady Snowblood” is one of the best revenge films I’ve seen. Continue reading

Agnieszka Holland – Aktorzy prowincjonalni AKA Provincial Actors (1979)

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Talented Polish director Agnieszka Holland who would be better known in later years because of her films like Europa, Europa (1991) or some of her American works like Washington Square (1997), hits the mark early and again with this ostensible story about provincial actors in Poland. In reality, the comedy-drama can be read as a commentary on the contemporary Polish scene in politics and society. The story begins as a savvy director arrives in a small town to put on a stage play. His leading man is filled with insecurities and goes beyond the confines of his lead role to expand his part, restore his cut lines, and generally outdo himself while taking on some of everyone else’s job, including the director’s. No one wants to lose him because of his drawing power, and the director is caught in a bind. At the same time, the lead actor’s wife is slowly losing her chances at success, being relegated to a much lesser position in the troupe. This fine comedy won the Fipresci award at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival. Continue reading

Masaru Konuma – Tsuma-tachi no seitaiken: Otto no me no maede, ima… AKA Wife’s Sexual Fantasy Before Husband’s Eyes (1980)

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I just love Japanese pinku eiga:the genre filled with rape,misogyny and erotic submission. Masaru Konuma is among the most prominent directors of Japanese erotic cinema.”Wife’s Sexual Fantasy:Before Husband’s Eyes” tells the story of a noble businessman who has a sexual affair with a prostitute. Some thugs are trying to blackmail him by framing him for the murder of his mistress and making him agree to pay a large sum of money. They viciously rape his sexy wife too. Of course the woman becomes sexually aroused by the act of rape… Another piece of utter sleaze made by Masaru Konuma. Plenty of sex,two gang-rape scenes and lots of filthy talk-what more can you ask for? However the overall tone of the film is pretty light in comparison to many other nihilistic pinku eiga films. (HumanoidOfFlesh for IMDb) Continue reading

Youssef Chahine – Awdat al ibn al dal AKA The Return of the Prodigal Son (1976)

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In this Andre Gide adaptation, an activist (Ali Mahrez) is released after many years in prison and returns home, shaking up established relationships among his family members at the farm governed by his strict father. Demonstrating Chahine’s eclecticism, this is an elegant melodrama, exuberant musical, layered allegory, and profound portrait of personal and political disillusionment. This is one of Chahine’s best movies and one of the greatest Arabic films. Great performances by Mahmoud El-Meliguy and Hoda Soltan. Continue reading

Franz Novotny – Exit… nur keine Panik AKA Exit… But No Panic (1980)

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The Year is 1980 and it’s Summer in Vienna

Most people outside of Austria will rarely get a chance to see this movie, but if you get a chance like this, don’t let it pass as you as you’re on for a real treat. ‘Exit’ is not just an Austrian cult movie, it’s a funny and at the same time disturbing and at times depressing look into Vienna in the 80’s. This is “the” movie parents in 1980’s Austria did not want their kids to see.

Viennese crook and would-be playboy Kirchhoff dreams of owning his own coffee house and having lots of beautiful women. In order to reach his goal, he is sometimes compelled to leave the straight and narrow.

Comedy, violence, sex and vandalism are the ingredients of this Austrian cult classic. Continue reading