Edward Yang – Qing mei zhu ma AKA Taipei Story (1985)

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Lung, a former member of the national Little League team and now operator of an old-style fabric business, is never able to shake a longing for his past glory. One day, he runs into a forme teammate who is now a struggling cab driver. The two talk about old times and they are struck by a sense of loss. Lung is living with his old childhood sweetheart Ah-chin, a westernized professional woman who grew up in a traditional family. Although they live together, Ah-chin is always weary of Lung’s past liason with another girl. After an argument, Ah-chin tris to find solace by hanging out with her sister’s friends, a group of westernized, hedonistic youths. Continue reading

Harun Farocki – Bilder der Welt und Inschrift des Krieges AKA Images of the World and the Inscription of War (1989)

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The vanishing point of is the conceptual image of the ‘blind spot’ of the evaluators of aerial footage of the IG Farben industrial plant taken by the Americans in 1944. Commentaries and notes on the photographs show that it was only decades later that the CIA noticed what the Allies hadn’t wanted to see: that the Auschwitz concentration camp is depicted next to the industrial bombing target. (At one point during this later investigation, the image of an experimental wave pool – already visible at the beginning of the film – flashes across the screen, recognizably referring to the biding of the gaze: for one’s gaze and thoughts are not free when machines, in league with science and the military, dictate what is to be investigated. Continue reading

Katherine Gilday – The Famine Within (1990)

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Katherine Gilday’s impressive documentary debut The Famine Within focuses on the debilitating and unattainable ideal of a woman, and its devastating effects on the health and morale of women, particularly, young North American women.

The film suggests that consumerism (fuelled by the gazillion-dollar diet, fitness and fashion industries) and mass media are largely responsible for creating and spreading this image. In one example, the film documents a model search. Of the 40,000 women (mostly teenagers) who felt qualified to respond in the first place, only four met the agency’s physical requirements. Even these four girls aren’t “ready” until they are polished, primped, posed and airbrushed for popular consumption. In today’s body-centered, youth-oriented culture, this image becomes a dangerous catalyst for the ever-increasing number of young North American women developing harmful eating disorders. In their obsessive pursuit of the perfect body, many women become anorexic, bulimic or, ironically, diet their way to obesity. Continue reading

Douglas Sirk – All That Heaven Allows [+commentary] (1955)

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Douglas Sirk once said: “This is the dialectic—there is a very short distance between high art and trash, and trash that contains an element of craziness is by this very quality nearer to art.” When All That Heaven Allows was released by Universal Pictures in 1955, it was just another critically unnoticed Hollywood genre product, designed to appeal to the trashy “women’s weepie” audience. Now, in retrospect, it is considered to be closer to the art side of Sirk’s dialectic, and one of his key films. But this is part of a wider process of critical reevaluation in which his entire body of work has been rediscovered and reappraised by successive generations of filmmakers and historians. Continue reading

Sergei Parajanov – Tini Zabutykh Predkiv AKA Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965)

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Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors has often been described as a Carpathian Romeo and Juliet – that is, if Romeo had the tenacity to live after his beloved’s death. Sergei Paradjanov prefaces the tragic tale set in the Carpathian mountains as the land “forgotten by God and men”, and from the austerity of the environment, it is evident that survival comes at a high price. In essence, the story is incidental to the observations of daily peasant life: the Orthodox order of mass, the rites of spring, the rhythm of the sickle cutting the fields. A young man, Ivan (Ivan Nikolaichuk), falls in love with Marichka (Larisa Kadochnikova), the daughter of the man who killed his father. As his mother’s only surviving child, he leaves the village to work as a hired laborer to provide for her. However, before he can return to Marichka, she falls to her death in an attempt to rescue an errant lamb. The story then follows Ivan through his descent into despair, marriage to the sensual Palagna (Tatyana Bestayeva), and Palagna’s inevitable betrayal. Continue reading