Jon Jost – Frameup (1993)

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synopsis

Made on short ends of film left over from The Bed You Sleep In, Frameup is a freewheeling road comedy about a pair of dimwitted lovers on the run. Ricky-Lee (Howard Swain), a two-bit criminal prone to spouting lengthy, obscenity-laced soliloquies, meets Beth-Ann (Nancy Carlin), an airheaded waitress with a weakness for romance novels, at the diner where she slings coffee. Immediately smitten, she joins him on a meandering journey across the Pacific Northwest — punctuated by the occasional robbery — and on into California, where the couple dream of heading to the sunny beaches of Los Angeles. Ricky-Lee’s ineptitude catches up with him eventually, however, and their trip is cut short when a convenience store robbery goes awry. Continue reading

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José Luis Cuerda – La Lengua De Las Mariposas aka Butterfly (1999)

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Synopsis: Veteran director Jose Luis Cuerda delivered this sensitive portrait of a child coming of age during a tense political situation just before the Spanish Civil War. On his first day of school, frail eight-year-old Moncho (Manuel Lozano) is so terrified by the imposing figure of his teacher Don Gregorio (Fernando Fernan Gomez) that he flees into the nearby woods. In spite of his authoritarian appearance, the schoolmaster proves to be a kind, free-thinking Republican who teaches Moncho the virtues of being good. The boy is soon spending much of his time with the elderly Gregorio in the Galician countryside, admiring such wonders of nature as the tongue of a butterfly. Other people in young Moncho’s world include his down-to-earth mother (Uxia Blanco), his Republican father, and his older brother, who plays the saxophone with a group of local musicians. However, when the Fascists roll into town, the boy’s life changes forever. La Lengua de las Mariposas was screened at the 1999 San Sebastian Film Festival. -Jonathan Crow (AMG) Continue reading

Werner Schroeter – Malina (1991)

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In “Malina,” the German film maker Werner Schroeter’s adaptation of a novel by Ingeborg Bachman, Isabelle Huppert portrays a writer who suffers from an interminable case of existential angst.

Isabelle Huppert’s unnamed character is a chain-smoking novelist who lives in Vienna with a calm and devoted male companion, Malina (Mathieu Carriere). Although attractive and successful, she is emotionally disturbed. In the film’s opening scene, she has a vision of herself as a little girl being thrown to her death by her father from the roof of a building. The father, a demonic figure, reappears in several expressionistic set pieces, sometimes to the accompaniment of operatic music.

One day in front of a flower shop, she spies a handsome stranger, Ivan (Can Togay), whom she chases into a bank and inveigles into embarking on a steamy affair. Although Ivan enjoys the relationship, he takes it more lightly than does the woman, who grows obsessed…. Continue reading

Woody Allen – Shadows and Fog (1991)

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Quote:
In a murky, seriously deranged cityscape only a studio art department could create, a giant bald strangler (Michael Kirby) is going around killing people with piano wire. The authorities are powerless (though he stomps about freely, occasionally declaiming speeches), so vigilante posses start roving the streets. For some reason, they dragoon a noisy nebbish named Kleinman (Allen) to assist them. So Kleinman goes into the fog, kvetching, and meets Irmy (Mia Farrow), a circus sword swallower (no double-entendres, please) whose clown of a husband (John Malkovich) is two-timing her with the strongman’s wife (Madonna). Add an “et cetera” here, because the big, mostly wasted cast also includes Kenneth Mars as the strongman, Donald Pleasence as a philosophical coroner, John Cusack as a student who mistakes Irmy for a prostitute, and Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, and Lily Tomlin as the real prostitutes in whose company she happens to be at the time. None of this adds up, and the whole thing moves and feels less like a film than one of Allen’s oddball New Yorker sketches. Still, as the fever dream of an art-house addict, it has its moments. Continue reading

Tinto Brass – Fermo posta Tinto Brass AKA P.O. Box Tinto Brass (1995)

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This film is a series of letters, photos and video cassettes which women often send in to certain newspapers. By visualizing their story-telling (the name given by the psychologists to their fantasies) the film portrays the confessions, the secret longings, the adventures, recollections, dreams, desires and fantasies of these women. It is an open secret that most women dream of forbidden affairs, secret lovers and hasty encounters but when it comes down to it they lack the courage to pursue their dreams. Continue reading

Michael Haneke – Benny’s Video (1992)

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Quote:
The second part of Haneke’s “glaciation trilogy” begins with a buzz and a bang: the white noise of a television screen snow shower and then the bang of a pig being shot on the subsequent home video. Benny’s Video is the most accessible film of the trilogy, but still never departs from Haneke’s powerful concoction of brutal images and laconic montage. Benny is a neglected son of rich parents in Vienna. He spends his days and nights in his room lost in a cobweb of video equipment, cameras, monitors and editing consoles. He keeps his shades drawn at all times and experiences the outside world mediated through the camcorders he has set up outside his windows. He obsessively reviews the farmyard killing of a pig in forward and reverse, slow motion and freeze-frame. Intermittently, he flips through channels full of news on neo-nazi killings, toy commercials, war films and reports on the incipient war in Yugoslavia. One day he meets a girl at the video store and invites her back to his empty house. He shows her the stun-gun used to kill the pig and shoots her with it. The girl’s death is shot visually out of the camera’s frame although the audience is privy to excruciating minutes of screams and whimpers. In the end, Benny foils his parents’ perversely cynical attempt to cover up the murder. Continue reading

Béla Tarr – Werckmeister harmóniák AKA Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

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Synopsis:

This story takes place in a small town on the Hungarian Plain. In a provincial town, which is surrounded with nothing else but frost. It is bitterly cold weather – without snow. It is twenty degrees below zero. Even in this bewildered cold hundreds of people are standing around the circus tent, which is put up in the main square, to see – as the outcome of their wait – the chief attraction, the stuffed carcass of a real whale. The people are coming from everywhere. From the neighbouring settlings, from different holes of the Plain, even from quite far away parts of the country. They are following this clumsy monster as a dumb, faceless, rag-wearing crowd. This strange state of affairs – the appearance of the foreigners, the extreme frost – disturbs the order of the small town. The human connections are overturning, the ambitious personages of the story feel they can take advantage of this situation, while the people who are condemned anyway to passivity fall into an even deeper uncertainty. The tension growing to the unbearable is brought to explosion by the figure of the Prince, who is pretending facelessness and is lying low behind the whale. Even his mere appearance is enough to break loose the destroying emotions. The apocalypse that sweeps away everything spares nothing. I does not spare the outsiders wrapped up in scientificness, does not spare the teenage enthusiasts, the people who have philistine fears for ease, the family – nothing that the European culture preserved as from of attitude in the last centuries. Continue reading

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