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

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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

Woody Allen – Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)

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There’s a real murder and a real mystery in Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery, but these plot pegs are used mainly to allow Allen to explore modern urban relationships. Allen plays a book editor, married to Diane Keaton (who replaced Mia Farrow, for reasons which were well publicized at the time). Keaton is a free spirit, ever willing to try new experiences, but Allen is a wet blanket. When it becomes apparent that a neighbor has killed his wife, Keaton is eager to investigate the mystery, but Allen thinks her suspicions are nonsensical and doesn’t want to leave his apartment. Undaunted, Keaton finds another “Nick Charles” in the form of family-friend Alan Alda, who, along with his enthusiastic wife (Angelica Huston), joins in the investigation. Slightly jealous, Allen reluctantly agrees to go along on Keaton’s clue-hunting expedition–and it is he who discovers the corpse, who as it turned out was killed after Keaton started poking around the apartment building.
— Hal Erickson @ allmovie.com Continue reading

Chantal Akerman – La Captive [+Extras] (2000)

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Quote:
Loosely based on the fifth volume of Proust’s monolithic À La recherche du temps perdu, La Captive is a dark study of obsessive love from Chantal Akerman, currently one of Belgian’s most highly rated film directors. The feel of the film is more a psychological thriller than a traditional romantic drama, with frequent references to Hitchcock’s Vertigo more than evident.
The most striking feature of the film is its austere cinematography. Most of the film is set at night or within darkened rooms (which no matter how large appear stiflingly claustrophobic), something which constantly emphasises the prisoner-gaoler relationship of the two young lovers. Add to that the restrained (yet effective) performances of the two lead actors and the result is a hauntingly existentialist work, a chilling black poem of a fairytale romance twisted and ultimately obliterated by perverse mental aberrations. Continue reading

Ilan Duran Cohen – La confusion des genres aka Confusion of Genders (2000)

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SYNOPSIS
This sexy and funny story of a fortysomething guy who wants to fall in love with a woman, but shares his bed with twentysomething guy just may open your mind.

Author, filmmaker and NYU film school graduate Ilan Duran Cohen’s second feature, Confusion of Genders, is both explicit and restrained, sexy and sublime, gay and straight, its appeal and theme of a man’s inability to grow up is unquestionable and broad. Pascal Greggory (an award winner for his performance in Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train) plays Alain, a fortyish lawyer who was once an ugly duckling. Now he’s capable of charming anyone and, like a honeybee hovering over a garden of pretty flowers, can’t decide which to sup from first, next, or last. There’s Laurence (Nathalie Richard), a peer at his law firm, whom Alain recently got pregnant and reckons he should marry; Christophe, the frisky, gay younger brother of another ex-girlfriend; the obsessed, incarcerated, but sexy client, Marc; and Marc’s entrancing hairdresser girlfriend, Babette. “The only person he has yet to charm is himself,” Duran Cohen has remarked. Continue reading

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