J. M. COETZEE’S ”In the Heart of the Country” (published here as ”From the Heart of the Country”) is written as a diary, in the fierce, scathing, half-mad voice of a woman living in near-isolation on a South African sheep farm. With its startling clarity and its paradoxically hallucinatory style, this brief 1977 novel would seem to be well out of any film maker’s reach.
But Marion Hansel, a Belgian director, has attempted to adapt it anyhow, and has done a job that is creditable if in some ways incomplete. The remote, barren setting for the story, on the veldt in Cape Province, has been hauntingly evoked (though the film was shot in Spain). And the characters, played by well-chosen, visually striking actors, are given life and stature.
Miss Hansel’s ”Dust,” which opens today at Film Forum 2, has a handsome look that manages, in the manner of the great American westerns, to be both classical and wild. If it lacks the surprise and complexity of Mr. Coetzee’s vision, and if its stillness sometimes borders on the becalmed, it nonetheless has a stark, streamlined manner and an underlying urgency. Continue reading
Plot: Owen Augustus Urban III, a creator of designer drugs, is hired by Dr John Alcore, the founder of Life Research foundation, who wants his help in obtaining a cure for AIDS. But Owen discovers that unorthodox experiments are being conducted at Life Research. He befriends one volunteer Paula Bukowsky. But then she is bitten by a crazed test subject and Owen finds that she is starting to transform into a vampire.
Richard Scheib wrote:
Red Blooded American Girl conducts the conceptually intriguing idea of a scientific exploration of vampirism. Scientific vampirism has been used in vampire literature before and on screen in the interesting Thirst (1979) and since in fine works like Ultraviolet (1998) and Blood (2000). This is the first full-blooded treatment of the theme and offers up some intriguing ideas – with requisite AIDS metaphors and the idea of salvation via blood transfusion – even if they are somewhat unfulfilled. Continue reading
Svankmajer’s music video for Hugh Cornwell’s “Another Kind of Love.” Continue reading
A little girl goes down to the basement cellar to fetch some potatoes, and finds all her hidden fears about the cellar depicted in animated form. Continue reading
A three-part depiction of various forms of communication. ‘Factual Discussion’ depicts three heads (made up of fruit, kitchen utensils and writing implements respectively) endlessly devouring and regurgitating each other. ‘Passionate Discourse’ shows two clay figures romantically intertwined, and the problems with dealing with the end product of their passion, while ‘Exhaustive Discussion’ shows two animated heads playing a bizarre variant of the old scissors-paper-stone game. Continue reading
Some university students change their views on sex after hearing a lecture on the blind Syrian philosopher Al-Maarri. He gets his way with one of them after sneaking what I imagine is rufees into one of their drinks which has disastrous consequences. After going to some wild bellydancing parties they are ensnared by a polyester-clad drug-dealer and womanizer/rapist. The victims’ friends plan to avenge her with the help of the local police. Includes numerous musical numbers and belly dancing scenes.
To the Stars by Hard Ways was first released in 1985, and the print being screened at Fantasia is the newly restored version that was shorn of 20 minutes and re-edited by the director’s son Nikolai Viktorov in 2001. Once given the Mystery Science Theatre treatment in a truncated version known as Humanoid Woman, To the Stars by Hard Ways has gained a cult-classic status among Russian youths who were attuned to the film’s blend of pop social commentary and stunning visual alchemy. The latter is a result of a varied cinematic style which incorporates poetic touches of Tarkovskian influenced naturalism (“earthy, organic” set design), shifting colour patterns (between sepia, monochromatic blue and saturated nature imagery), and simple yet inventive in-camera special effects (slow motion, reverse, dissolves, mirror shots etc.). To the Stars by Hard Ways functions marvelously well on multiple levels — as a trippy science-fiction social critique of environmental neglect, as a campy treat of mod visuals and Star Trek-influenced human and alien characters, and as a retro Communist propaganda piece. Even with these at times radical shifts in tone, the film remains a genuinely moving existential space opera.