José Luis Guerín – Tren de sombras AKA Train of Shadows (1997)

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Ostensibly framed as a restoration of a degraded found film recovered some 70 years after the sudden and unexplained death of its creator, a Parisian attorney and amateur filmmaker named Gérard Fleury at a lake in the village of Le Thuit in Normandy, Tren de sombras (Train of Shadows) is a dense, sensual, and richly textured exposition of José Luis Guerín’s recurring preoccupations: the nature and subjectivity of the image-gaze, the permeable borders between truth and fiction, the role of architecture (and landscape) as palimpsest of hidden histories. By placing the discovery of Fleury’s last shot footage of his home and family within the context of the ambiguity surrounding the circumstances of his death after a seemingly innocuous scouting trip early one morning to find suitable lighting conditions to incorporate into his home movie, the found film becomes both a curious artifact of the early days of cinema in its informally staged performances that suggest the whimsical, created illusions of Georges Méliès (in a performance of dancing ties and magic tricks), and also a non-fiction, historical record that can be deconstructed, reconstituted, and re-analyzed to glean further information into the real-life mystery. Continue reading

Woody Allen – Shadows and Fog (1991)

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As Wolcott Gibbs once said to Shakespeare: Kafka, here’s your hat.

That’s just one of the deliciously eccentric messages being sent out by Woody Allen in his rich, not easily categorized new black-and-white comedy, “Shadows and Fog.” Among other things, “Shadows and Fog” contemplates life, death, love, literature, movies, American humor in general, the gags of Bob Hope in particular, the music of Kurt Weill and the changing fashions in B.V.D.’s.

Kleinman (Mr. Allen) is a timid clerk in the kind of unidentified Middle European city once so beloved by Kafka, Kafka’s imitators, the masters of the German Expressionist cinema of the 1920’s and their imitators. It is always night in this closed world of miasmic fog, cobbled alleys and street lamps that shed too little light but cast photogenically deep shadows. Continue reading

Jocelyn Saab – Kanya Ya Ma Kan, Beyrouth AKA Once Upon a Time in Beirut (1995)

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“This reflexive voyage into a celluloid Beirut becomes the key to finding out to which Beirut one is returning, and to point to the new Beirut one wishes for the future.” – Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, Cineaste

Distraught over Beirut’s destruction, Yasmine and Leila embark on a journey in search of its past. Their possession of two rare, unreleased film reels lands them an encounter with Monsieur Farouk, a reclusive film connoisseur.

Through the magic of cinema, the three of them go back in time on a mythical and history-laden tour of the city. Here the movie shines with images of Beirut from the large-scale American studio efforts of the 1970’s to the Beirut of the 1960’s as seen through the lenses of Arab filmmakers, to the French-directed films of the 1930s. Once Upon a Time: Beirut offers an enchanting look at one of the Middle East’s most complex and beautiful cities. Continue reading

Michael Winterbottom – Butterfly Kiss (1995)

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Winterbottom’s theatrical feature debut Butterfly Kiss was released into UK theatres in August 1995. Set in a dystopian environment limited almost entirely to motorways, service stations and motels, it charted the dysfunctional lesbian relationship between the violent and erratic Eunice (Amanda Plummer) and the credulous Miriam (Saskia Reeves). In so doing it offered up a portrayal of Britain that had not previously been seen on its cinema screens. Although the film garnered mixed responses, a couple of reviewers such as Derek Malcolm seized on it as heralding the arrival of a remarkable new talent in British cinema (2). Indeed, the film was to lay out many of the themes and techniques that would come to define Winterbottom’s oeuvre. Continue reading

Athina Rachel Tsangari – The Slow Business of Going (2000)

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The first film of the director of Award Winning “Attenberg”. Won Best Film Award in New York Underground Film Festival, USA, 2002 and Lausanne Film Festival, 2002.

Petra Going is a migrant cyborg, an agent of the Global Nomad Project: an international “Experience Data Agency” which sends hundreds of “receivers” like her to wander the globe and record a succession of random encounters. Periodically, they return to agency headquarters where they deposit their accumulated memories into an archive. This archive is available to users who then vicariously and virtually inhabit the ready-made landscapes of touristic consciousness. The motto of the GNP: “Nostalgia For Rent.” Continue reading

Ki-duk Kim – Shilje sanghwang AKA Real Fiction (2000)

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An unstable artist (Ju Jin-mo) is sent over the edge during a walk in the park when a woman with a video camera (Kim Jin-ah) begins following him. Flying into a murderous rage, the artist begins running loose through the city, leaving dead bodies in his wake, until he winds up back in the park where he began. Director Kim Hi-duk shot this feature in “real time,” during less than four hours in one afternoon, using an armada of 20 film and video cameras set up in different locations; significantly, the film ends with the film running out in the cameras set in the park. Kim Hi-duk then edited his footage down to a compact 86 minutes. Continue reading