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

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“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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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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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

Atom Egoyan – Next of Kin (1984)

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Marking Atom Egoyan’s first feature film, Next of Kin a visually assured, lucid, and thoughtful exposition on alienation, displacement, and the amorphous nature of home and family. Incorporating innovative narrative devices of circular structure and video imaging, Egoyan explores the dichotomous role of technology as both a convenient tool for communication and an impersonal barrier to true human connection (a modern-day existential angst that is similarly portrayed in Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, to which Egoyan pays homage in the film’s early sequence): Peter’s voice-over that is visually reinforced by the recurring shots of an airport baggage carousel, reflecting his sense of aimlessness and disorientation; the Foster’s videotaped counseling session that ironically serves, not to facilitate dialogue, but to further alienate the self-conscious Peter from his family; the tape recorder that becomes a literal surrogate to Peter’s articulated thoughts. Furthermore, in illustrating the residual trauma caused the Deryan’s ‘lost’ son Bedros, Egoyan introduces his recurring theme of the absent child – an unresolved emotional fracture that would propel the psychological (and emotional) trajectory of his seminal films, Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter. By exploring the dynamic – and often necessary – function of compassionate role-playing and deception in social and familial relationships, Egoyan creates a haunting and affectionate contemporary humanist fable on identity, impersonation, and connection. Continue reading

Sergei Solovyov – Assa (1988)

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The film is set in Crimea during the winter in the mid eighties. A young musician falls for mobster’s young mistress. The parallel story line involves an 18th century assassination plot.

“The face of Russia as it was in the 80’s. The image of the young generation through the face of gloomy regime. Love story of 2 young is stuck between the old norms of Soviet union and the new rising power of organized mafia, two ingredients which will affect the collapse of the 70 years socialist power. The young generation demand changes, and immediately but it’s being suffocated by both sides of the old order, and the movie ends with legendary Viktor Tsoi’s song “Changes” which became an anthem after Tsoi’s tragic death in a car accident.” Continue reading

Derek Jarman – The Last of England (1987)

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Jarman is a tough filmmaker to recommend, but he occasionally rewards. As we’ve seen from practically the first film on, he sets out to make pictures entirely for himself; with each one intellectually structured, creatively shot, but almost always a reflection of his personal thoughts and feelings, his sexuality, and England in decline. Here we have a film that combines all of these preoccupations, told in a combination of wordless images and narrated prose, with little or no clarification given as to what is actually going on. Jarman has said that he wanted the film to feel like a visual poem, but really, this is far from poetic. Instead, this seems more like something that Godard would have directed in the 1970’s; angry, venomous and always seething with contempt. The images here are violent to the extreme and the approach that Jarman brings to the editing room is visceral and heavily kinetic. Here we see the use of various colour filters, tints and distortions used alongside a multitude of film stocks and spliced-in video footage. The images of middle-class households rounded up, driven into the depths of a post-apocalyptic wasteland and detained at gunpoint must have had a shocking relevance at the time, when terrorist attacks and IRA bombings were as common as they were incomprehensible. Continue reading