Agnès Varda – Documenteur (1981)

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Documenteur, Agnès Varda’s companion piece and follow-up to her documentary Mur murs, shares with it a filming location and a similarly punning title (a menteur is a liar, in French). But the similarities end there: while Mur murs is a more or less straightforward film that purports to document the murals, the artists who created them, and the effect the pictures have on the neighborhoods surrounding them, Documenteur, which includes shots of some of those same murals and has scenes set in those same neighborhoods, is, by its own admission, “an emotion picture.” Neither pure fictional feature film nor documentary, it’s perhaps best described as a documentary with a fictionalized main character. Continue reading

Frederick Wiseman – Deaf (1986)

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Synopsis
“Zipporah” wrote:
The School for the Deaf at the Alabama Institute is organized around a theory of total communication i.e. the use of signs and finger spelling in conjunction with speech, hearing aids, lip reading, gestures and the written word. The film shows sequences dealing with various aspects of this comprehensive training such as teaching students and parents to sign; speech therapy; psychological counseling; regular academic courses; vocational training; disciplinary problems; parents visits; sports and recreational activity; training in living and working independently; and developing skills in home and money management. Continue reading

Vitali Kanevsky – Zamri, umri, voskresni! AKA Freeze Die Come to Life (1990)

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Quote:
“Freeze-Die-Come to Life,” a first film by Vitaly Kanevski, offers a stark look at growing up in the frozen wastes of the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. A largely autobiographical work, it is the sweetly grim story of a couple of street-smart kids in the mining town of Suchan. A Russian variation on India’s “Salaam Bombay,” the film both celebrates and buries youthful innocence.

An engaging pair of nonprofessionals, Pavel Nazarov and Dinara Drukarova, are Valerka and Galiya, playmates who manage a semblance of childhood despite their sorry circumstances. And they don’t make circumstances any sorrier than in Suchan, with its towering ash heaps and streets oozing raw sewage. Ragged and hungry, Valerka and Galiya sell hot tea, a ruble a cup, to the downcast miners, the one-legged veterans and the nickel-a-night whores. Continue reading

Raoul Ruiz – Treasure Island (1985)

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Raoul Ruiz’s surrealistic modern-day riff on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel.

Review by timmy_501 @IMDb:
While this film is related to the Robert Louis Stevenson book of the same title, it certainly doesn’t resemble a traditional adaptation. The entire film is about the relationship between people and works of fiction. Treasure Island is the most important and notable of these works, but it isn’t the only one. A substantial part of the plot is about a group of people who attempt to reenact Treasure Island each year; they get so caught up being their characters that they sometimes forget they are just acting and none of them seem surprised when the bodies start piling up. Continue reading

Claire Denis – S’en fout la mort AKA No Fear, No Die (1990)

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Quote:
On desolate road near the Spanish-French border, a pensive African immigrant from Benin, Dah (Isaach De Bankolé), waits in the darkness for a poultry truck to arrive for an appointed evening rendezvous. Aboard is an old friend, Jocelyn (Alex Descas) who has recruited him to act as an intermediary and handle the business affairs of his entered partnership with an unscrupulous French restaurateur named Ardennes (Jean-Claude Brialy) and his son, Michel (Christopher Buchholz) to smuggle fight-bred roosters into the country for his plans to operate an illegal discotheque and cockfighting arena out of a condemned business property. Ardennes provides Dah and Jocelyn with a spare room in the basement of a bar operated by his beautiful lover, Toni (Solveig Dommartin), in order to covertly train the cocks in preparation for the club’s opening. Jocelyn is a meticulous trainer: prescribing a stringently measured formula diet; conducting repeated exercises to promote strength, speed, and dexterity; subjecting the animals to loud, fast-paced urban music in order to stimulate aggression. One day, Toni intrudes on the training regimen in order to complain of the music volume, but is summarily ignored by Jocelyn and Dah. Jocelyn believes that Toni’s presence is detrimental to the training of the roosters, and warns Dah to maintain distance. Nevertheless, despite the note of caution, the seemingly innocuous episode would prove to the first of many unannounced and ambiguously motivated visits by the inscrutable and alluring Toni, as the two friends soon find themselves struggling to maintain their focus on their lucrative enterprise. Continue reading

João Botelho – Tempos Difíceis AKA Hard Times (1988)

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Quote:
Even if adapted from Dickens’ Hard Times, the writer’s world fits perfectly in the Portuguese reality of these times. In a hamlet, that functions as a social microcosms, great wealth & extreme poverty mingle, so do culture, ignorance, perversion & ignorance. Griffith’s channelled via Júlia Britton. Continue reading