Shoah is Claude Lanzmann’s landmark documentary meditation on the Holocaust. Assembled from footage shot by the filmmaker during the 1970s and 1980s, it investigates the genocide at the level of experience: the geographical layout of the camps and the ghettos; the daily routines of imprisonment; the inexorable trauma of humiliation, punishment, extermination; and the fascinating insights of those who experienced these events first hand.
Absent from the film is any imagery shot at the time the Holocaust occurred. There is only Lanzmann and his crew, filming in private spaces and now-dormant zones of eradication to extract testimony from a series of survivors, witnesses, and oppressors alike. Through his relentless questioning (aided on occasion by hidden camera), Lanzmann is able to coax out material of unparalleled emotional truth that constitutes both precious oral history and withering indictment. Continue reading
In May of 1983, a man turns 49 and, with his 17-year old son, journeys to the village in Baden that he left 40 years before. He wants to discover what happened then, the truth about an affair his mother had with a young Polish prisoner of war, how the authorities came to learn of it, the lovers’ arrest, and the aftermath. While his son takes Polaroid photographs, he retraces the steps of his childhood and interviews those who should remember. The story is disclosed in flashbacks that focus on the lovers (Paulina and Stanislaus), on a jealous and conniving neighbor, and on Mayer, the local SS commander who wants to find a way out of inevitable consequences.
Venice Film Festival – Golden Lion – 1983 Continue reading
The central character of Szabadgyalog, nicknamed “Beethoven,” is a violinist who has been kicked out of music school in Debrecen and now makes his living as a disc jockey. The problem of marriage and responsibility again provide a central focus. At the beginning of the film, a woman gives birth to his illegitimate child and he loses his job at a mental hospital. He marries a second woman but their lack of income provokes a crisis in the relationship. Here the couple have a flat and living with parents is one of the options. Will he, his wife asks, be a permanent outsider despite his talents? Eventually, she sleeps with his brother. Continue reading
From New York Times Magazine:
Possibly inspired by the existential play No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre, this story about five people living in close quarters in a small apartment conveys the same angst as Sartre’s well-known story about the nature of hell. Like the 1962 movie version of the play, Oszi Almanach is also garishly lighted, with scenes red-tinted on one side and blue-tinted on the other. Close-ups show a dermatologist’s interest in skin, an example of the kind of bizarre abstraction that underscores the alienation in this film. A single, older mother owns the apartment, where she is tended by a nurse who has brought along a presumed lover. The sick woman’s son lives there too, constantly thinking about how to get his hands on his mother’s money. The last member of this unhappy family is a former teacher now down on his luck and out of work. The three men and the nurse are dependent on the sick woman, on her money and her apartment, just as she is dependent on them. Yet these individuals are two-faced, scheming, and prone to anger. Unable to break away and leave, at the same time they find no solace in staying — making a difficult two hours of misery for the average viewer to take on without a therapist.
by Eleanor Mannikka Continue reading
Fictional documentary about the life of human chameleon Leonard Zelig, a man who becomes a celebrity in the 1920s due to his ability to look and act like whoever is around him. Clever editing places Zelig in real newsreel footage of Woodrow Wilson, Babe Ruth, and others. Continue reading
“It’s the rawness of the film that makes us believe we are unquestionably seeing the truth.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A heavy going realistic slice of life domestic drama that is filmed in black and white. It’s a followup to Béla Tarr’s other domestic strife tales Family Nest and The Outsider. This one keys in on marital strife. It’s about a struggling young couple’s confrontations and their own inability to freely communicate with each other. Tarr was evidently influenced by the works of Ranier Werner Fassbinder and John Cassavettes. Continue reading
When experimental director Derek Jarman was serving as production designer on 1973’s The Devils, that film’s director, Ken Russell, was already established as a radical master of the biopic, turning historical and pop culture personalities into grist for his own obsessions and visual quirks. Oddly, it took Jarman over a decade to try his hand at the same approach with Caravaggio, a visually overwhelming examination of the famous painter who redefined the use of light in painting and scandalized the church by portraying sacred figures as dirty, commonplace peasants. Of course, the painter’s life was no less remarkable; a ruffian prone to fighting, gambling, and copulating apparently every waking moment he wasn’t holding a paintbrush, Caravaggio could be read in many ways as a prototype for today’s modern celebrity. Continue reading