Benoît Jacquot & Marguerite Duras – Écrire (1993)

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On Écrire
When she saw La mort du jeune aviateur anglais, she told me that the film was about me, not her. She treated me like a thief. So I offered to make another film, where she could say whatever she wanted about her life as a writer. That’s how we did Écrire. I brought the same film crew. We went to her house at Neauphle-le-Château and we set up in the room she called “the music room,” where there was a piano and you could listen to records. She settled in and for two days of non-stop filming, she talked. Continue reading

Benoît Jacquot & Marguerite Duras – La mort du jeune aviateur anglais AKA The Death of the Young English Aviator (1993)

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La mort du jeune aviateur anglais tells the story of a British airman whose grave Marguerite Duras discovered near Deauville. Although we don’t know where fiction begins, Duras’ narrative has a remarkable authenticity. A veritable manifesto of spontaneous writing, brilliantly directed by Benoît Jacquot, where the “direct writing” of Duras meshes perfectly with the unpretentious approach of the filmmaker. (Allocine) Continue reading

Peter Brosens & Dorjkhandyn Turmunkh – State of Dogs (1998)

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A cinematic poem based on the Mongolian belief that when dogs die, they are reborn as humans. At least, that’s what humans say. What do dogs think? The film introduces us to Baasar, a stray dog, before and after his death… Documentary or fiction? The pictures and sound are derived from reality, so surely it must be a documentary, but a particularly philosophical and poetic one. Not only does this film offer a lively, inspired commentary on the issue of stray animals in the urban environment, it invites us to contemplate the mystery of life and the complexity of reality. A universal parable on destiny, illustrated by Mongolian folklore. Continue reading

Veit Helmer – Tuvalu (1999)

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Silent movies require a unique visual storytelling grammar, a rhythm of clear, economical medium shots, punctuated by close-ups of pertinent objects and human faces reacting. Veit Helmer’s debut feature Tuvalu isn’t strictly a silent movie—it features sound effects and the odd exclamation—but the film is virtually dialogue-free, and heavily influenced by the grammar of the silents and the fanciful retro-futurist decay of Terry Gilliam and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. But Helmer has neither the clarity nor the rococo flourish of his predecessors, and his over-reliance on color filters and crammed, busy takes inhibits Tuvalu’s ability to charm and enchant. The film stars Denis Lavant (the craggy but acrobatic center of the contemporary French cinema classics Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf and Beau Travail) as the manager of a swimming pool in a crumbling, depressed metropolis. Continue reading

Carlos Saura – Goya en Burdeos AKA Goya in Bordeaux (1999)

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Plot:
Francisco Goya (1746-1828), deaf and ill, lives the last years of his life in voluntary exile in Bordeaux, a Liberal protesting the oppressive rule of Ferdinand VII. He’s living with his much younger wife Leocadia and their daughter Rosario. He continues to paint at night, and in flashbacks stirred by conversations with his daughter, by awful headaches, and by the befuddlement of age, he relives key times in his life, particularly his relationship with the Duchess of Alba, his discovery of how he wanted to paint (insight provided by Velázquez’s work), and his lifelong celebration of the imagination. Throughout, his reveries become tableaux of his paintings. Continue reading

Christopher Guest – Best in Show (2000)

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After parodying the idiosyncrasies of community theater devotees in the mock documentary Waiting for Guffman, actor/director Christopher Guest returns with another semi-improvised comedy that casts a satirical gaze on the world of championship dog breeding and training. A television crew is on hand to document the prestigious Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show, and competition is fierce among the canine devotees vying for top honors. Salesman Gerry Fleck (Eugene Levy), who is cursed with two left feet (literally), and his wife Cookie (Catherine O’Hara) have entered their Norwich terrier “Winky” in competition. Wealthy and neurotic Meg Swan (Parker Posey) and her husband Hamilton (Michael Hitchcock) are on hand with their Weimaraner “Beatrice,” who they fear may have been traumatized by watching them have sex. Continue reading

Jennifer Montgomery – Art for Teachers of Children (1995)

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Synopsis:
Jennifer, an intelligent but insecure 14-year-old student at a boarding school, seduces her married dormitory counselor, a photographer who has offered to teach her about his art and winds up shooting her in the nude. She is naive, and he manipulates her into an affair that eventually is discovered. Years later, as the photographer is being investigated by the FBI, the adult woman remembers her first love as a case of herself watching the artist who watched her. Continue reading