Hector Babenco – At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991)


In a remote branch of the Brazilian Amazon, Americans Lewis (Tom Berenger) and Wolf (Tom Waits) are stranded when their plane runs out of gas. They are kept company by an evangelist missionary (John Lithgow) and his wife (Darryl Hannah). The preacher and his followers want to preach to the primitive Niaruna Indians, while others are interested in the Niaruna for more diabolical reasons-specifically, business concerns that would like to claim the Indians’ land for development. The local police chief cuts a deal with the mercenaries Lewis and Wolf: if they will agree to bomb the Niarunas out of existence, they will be paid enough money to leave the country. Instead, Lewis, part Native American himself,aligns himself with the Niarunas. From this moment on, he and the tribe are doomed. A long-standing pet project of producer Saul Zaentz, At Play in the Fields of the Lord was adapted from the best-selling novel by Peter Matthiesen. Continue reading

Alain Tanner – Jonas et Lila, à demain (1999)


Jonas et Lila: A Demain
by Paul Kalina March 2000 Senses of Cinema

So far at least, new millennium events appear to have produced little of lasting value, apart from early retirement packages for those well placed in the IT sector.

But there has been one legacy cinephiles are likely to relish. With great foresight, Swiss director Alain Tanner commemorated the new millennium and the 25th birthday of his fictional character Jonas, born of course during Tanner’s 1976 film Jonas qui aura 25 en l’an 2000 (Jonas Who Will Be 25 In The Year 2000), with a follow-up film, Jonas et Lila: A Demain (1999). Continue reading

France Culture – A History Of French Cinema (2000)

5 Radio show (France Culture) discusses the history of French cinema over a century (1895-1995):

1st Issue: Period 1895 to 1928 (1:55).
2nd Issue: Period 1929 to 1939 (1:51).
3 rd Issue: Period 1940 to 1957 (1:55).
4 th Issue: Period 1957 to 1973 (1:54).
5 th Issue: Period 1974 to 1995 (1:54). Continue reading

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