Vitali Kanevsky – Samostoyatelnaya zhizn aka An Independent Life (1992)


on the road again…

This is the second instalment of a three-part series of autobiographical films about the director’s life.

The first, which won various awards for its maker, was entitled Zamri Oumi Voskresni and was later retitled Zari, Umri, Vokresni (“Freeze-Die-Come to Life).

At the end of that film, set at the conclusion of World War II, the young Valerka was striving hard to overcome the inertia of just getting by, along with his sometime friend Galiya. In this one, he is adjusting to Galiya’s death and is back in school and is living with his mother, a prostitute. After a girl at the school is found to have been gang-raped, the headmaster chooses Valerka to be one of the scapegoats, though he had nothing to do with the deed. Continue reading

Flora Gomes – Po di Sangui aka l’arbre aux armes AKA Tree of blood (1996)


In the colorful forest village of Amanha Lundju, tradition demands that when a child is born a tree be planted. As the tree grows, it becomes the twin of the growing human being. At the same time, trees are constantly being felled for firewood and buildings, and the threat of organized deforestation by the state hovers ominously.

Dou (Ramiro Naka) returns to the village from his wanderings to learn that his twin brother, Hami, has just died under mysterious circumstances. He has to take on Hami’s widow and child, to the dismay of his promised bride, Saly (Edna Evora). Everyone seems to confuse Dou with his dead brother, including his aged, mystical mother. Dou talks to Hami’s tree to understand what ails the village, while in a breathtaking silent sequence his mother calls Hami’s spirit down from the beyond. Continue reading

Zhangke Jia – Zhantai AKA Platform (2000)


Platform opens to an appropriately temporally indeterminate sight of a bustling, crowded backstage of a provincial theater as a group of itinerant performers await the commencement of their traveling cultural education program that equally extols the country’s technological and social progress made possible by the Communist Revolution and celebrates its principal architect, Chairman Mao Zedong. However, a cut to a shot of the company tour bus as the manager provides constructive criticism on the performance of the peasant troupe (apparently caused by inaccurate mimicking of train sounds by some members who have never seen a train in real life) begins to reveal the disparity between their state-commissioned, official message of national modernization and the reality of life in the rural provinces. Continue reading

Kiumars Poorahmad – Sharm AKA Shame (1992)


Majid makes an 8-mm film with some poorly-lit sequences. To repeat the shots, Majid needs highly sensitive negatives and, therefore, some money. He comes up with the money by working as a coolie, but before buying the negative, a relative asks him to do something and Majid loses his money his money while doing it because of his shyness. Continue reading

Takashi Miike – Gokudô kuroshakai AKA Rainy Dog (1997)


“The quietest and, in some ways, most impressive film of the trilogy tells the story of Yuji, an exiled Yakuza, now living in Taiwan. In one of the film’s many similarities to Luc Besson’s Leon, Yuji is left with a young boy, supposedly his son, when an ex-girlfriend dumps the child on him without explanation. Yuji does not let the child’s presence disrupt his violent lifestyle and he continues killing rival gang members for a local crime lord. When a hit leaves Yuji with a suitcase full of Triad money, he tries to escape Tiawan. However, when you are a stranger in a strange land and cannot trust anybody, escape and survival is almost impossible. Continue reading

Steve Connelly – Americana (1992)

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User Review

Fat, Dumb and Rich
23 May 2007 | by mar9 (Newcastle, Australia)

The three nouns above were the episode titles for this 3-part documentary about the USA. “Fat” is naturally about food, and it’s no surprise to find that the portions from the perspective of an austere Englishman are mind-bogglingly huge. As are the people who eat them. “Dumb” is basically a road trip through the some of the stranger sights the US has to offer, and the stranger people who populate them. “Rich” is an exploration of the US lifestyle for those fortunate enough to be able to afford it, and the answer is that it’s pretty fine. Jonathan Ross is the perfect presenter for this show that proves that it is impossible to exaggerate the weirdness that is life in America. He gives his subjects free rein to be as mad as they obviously are, and participates wholeheartedly. Part 1 in particular is a good companion piece to “Supersize Me” and the other episodes are somewhat reminiscent of Michael Moore when he’s not being irritating and invading office foyers and boardrooms. Find “Americana”, watch it. It’s good. Continue reading