Ildikó Enyedi – Az én XX. századom AKA My Twentieth Century [+extra] (1989)

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Synopsis:
Dorothy Segda essays three roles in the Hungarian-made My 20th Century. The film begins with the birth of twin girls to a Budapest mother (Dorothy Segda) in 1880. Orphaned early on, the girls are forced to sell matches on the streets until both are adopted by two separate families. Flash forward to 1900: Having lost track of one another, the grown-up twins take separate compartments on the Orient Express. One of the girls (Segda again) has become the pampered mistress of a wealthy man; the other (Segda yet again) is a bomb-wielding anarchist. Director Ildiko Enyedi evidently intended My 20th Century as an allegorical statement concerning the status of women in the modern mechanical age. The experiences of the twins are interspersed with shots of Thomas Edison (Peter Andorai), whom we see at the beginning of the film perfecting his incandescent light bulb on the very day that the sisters are born. The more technological advances made by Edison, the more confused the twins become in establishing their own roles in an advancing civilization. Adroitly avoiding cut-and-dried symbolism, Ildiko Enyedi keeps the audience wondering what she’s up to by including such surrealistic vignettes as a caged chimpanzee recounting the day of his capture! Continue reading

James L. Brooks – Broadcast News (1987)

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Review (Sarah Goodman, DVD Bits)
Writer, director and producer James L. Brooks, notably best known as a producer of The Simpsons, provides a satirical look at the world of television news, coupled with an absorbing character-driven romantic comedy in his 1987 feature Broadcast News. Focusing on the operations of a national network news program, the film follows the intercrossing paths of handsome anchorman Tom Grunick (William Hurt), passionate genius producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), and undervalued star reporter Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks) as they navigate their way through the treacherous journalistic jungle that is prime-time news. Continue reading

Youssef Chahine – Iskanderija, kaman oue kaman AKA Alexandria Again and Forever (1989)

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The last film in Youssef Chahine’s autobiographical Alexandria Trilogy stars Chahine himself as his cinematic alter ego, Yehia Mourad, completing his merging of fiction with real life and drama with psychodrama. Opening with Chahine’s triumph at the Berlin Film Festival, where he took home the Silver Bear for Alexandria…Why? (the first film in the trilogy–this is layered stuff), the film explores Yehia’s obsession with his young star, Amir (Amr Abdel-Guelil), while participating in the general strike of 1987. As Yehia fantasizes about the films they would make together (one of them looks like a loony take on Jesus Christ Superstar), he elevates Amir from a kind of adopted son to cinematic messiah. But while caught up in the strike, Yehia becomes enchanted by a former actress, Nadia (Yousra), turned dedicated revolutionary, and he decides to cast her in his next feature. Continue reading

Krzysztof Kieslowski – Przypadek AKA Blind Chance [+Extras] (1987)

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Quote:
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Blind Chance is a powerful political fable that provides an early glimpse at the unique style that would later lead to acclaimed international successes like the Three Colors Trilogy and The Double Life of Veronique. As with the later films, Kieslowski displays a deeply erotic, sensual sensibility and a warm humanism that inflects every facet of this complex film. He also shows signs of the spiritual outlook and interest in fate and overlapping chronologies that is especially prevalent in the films he’s best known for. Blind Chance begins with a brief, elliptical precis of the early life of Witek (Boguslaw Linda), starting with a few childhood scenes, his first love, his days in medical school, and finally the death of his father. Many of these earlier memories will later be shown to be false or at least incomplete, hazily remembered scenes from the distant past that have taken on iconic status in Witek’s mind even if the particulars aren’t quite accurate. Continue reading

Youssef Chahine – Hadduta misrija AKA An Egyptian Story (1982)

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Boldly blending personal and political histories, intercutting its fast-moving fictional scenes with documentary footage, this sort of sequel to Alexandria – Why? follows the fortunes of Chahine’s charismatic film-maker hero and alter ego, forced to review his past and learn to love himself by a critical open-heart operation. The occasionally clumsy central conceit – Yehia/Chahine standing trial for his life during surgery – is amply offset by the energy and style of this indulgent, exuberant, and immensely likeable self-portrait. Continue reading

Agnès Varda – Jane B. par Agnès V. AKA Jane B. for Agnes V. (1988)

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Quote:
There is a good theory that explains why Agnes Varda’s Jane B. for Agnes V. was never officially distributed in the United States. Apparently, the few distributors that saw it after Varda completed it in 1988 concluded that it was too abstract and therefore too risky to sign. So until recently, it had been screened only a few times at festivals and retrospectives.

Having just viewed Jane B. for Agnes V. for the first time ever, I can agree that it is different. It is a fluid experimental project that matches the audacity of Jean-Luc Godard’s early films and the quiet elegance of Eric Rohmer’s best films, but feels distinctively modern. There is a side of it that easily could have been envisioned by the late Chantal Akerman as well. There was a script for it, but once Varda started shooting the film evolved and actually expanded in different directions. (Le Petit Amout aka Kung-Fu Master! emerged as a natural continuation of this expansion). Continue reading

Peter Greenaway – Drowning by Numbers (1988)

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Quote:
Following his pair of despairing urban studies, A Zed and Two Noughts and The Belly of an Architect, director Peter Greenaway turned to the sardonic countryside of The Draughtsman’s Contract for another tongue-in-cheek murder yarn, Drowning by Numbers. Easily his most playful film in every sense of the term, this tricky and often charming film boasts some of his wittiest dialogue and makes for an ideal introduction for newcomers compared to his more experimental works. Continue reading