Howard Hughes – Stagecoach to Tombstone: The Filmgoer’s Guide to Great Westerns (2008)

British author Howard Hughes charts the development of the modern Western movie in this insightful, informative volume published in 2008 by Tauris & Company. By examining 27 movies he views as key, Hughes shows the evolving nature of the genre. Western fans are in for an interesting ride since the films range from classics like ‘Stagecoach’ to B-oaters such as ‘Ride Lonesome’ to misfires like ‘One-Eyed Jacks.’ Continue reading

Marijke de Valck – Cinephilia: Movies, Love and Memory (Film Culture in Transition) (2005)

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Publisher description for Cinephilia : movies, love and memory / edited by Marijke de Valck and Malte Hagener.

They obsess over the nuances of a Douglas Sirk or Ingmar Bergman film; they revel in books such as François Truffaut’s Hitchcock; they happily subscribe to the Sundance Channel—they are the rare breed known as cinephiles. Though much has been made of the classic era of cinephilia from the 1950s to the 1970s, Cinephilia documents the latest generation of cinephiles and their use of new technologies. With the advent of home theaters, digital recording devices, online film communities, cinephiles today pursue their dedication to film outside of institutional settings. A radical new history of film culture, Cinephilia breaks new ground for students and scholars alike. Continue reading

Omar Amiralay – A Flood in Baath Country aka Al Toufan (2005)

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A highly controversial and beautifully crafted film on Syria’s dictatorship.
Omar Amiralay’s film about the dictatorship in Syria highlights the devastating effects of 35 years of autocratic Baath party rule on society. Thirty-four years ago, Amiralay was an admirer of the modernisation of his country and even made his first short essay-like documentary in praise of the Baath party’s new-built Euphrates River Dam. Today however, Amiralay regrets the naivety of his youth. Continue reading

Lucrecia Martel – La mujer sin cabeza AKA The Headless Woman (2008)

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“I feel a little … I don’t feel good.” So says Veronica, the middle-aged upper-middle-class Argentinean woman who suffers a nasty bump on the noggin early on in Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman (La Mujer Sin Cabeza) and spends the rest of the movie in a semiconscious stupor, a stranger in her own body. Watching Martel’s film, which premiered midway through the 61st Cannes Film Festival, it occurred to me that Veronica’s woozy disorientation was a pretty apt metaphor for Cannes itself, where one can reliably emerge from seeing a near masterpiece only to discover that everyone — or at least the influential industry trade newspapers — has declared the very same movie une catastrophe! That was certainly the case with The Headless Woman, which was the first (though hardly the last) of this year’s competition entries to be greeted with lusty boos at the end of its press screening, putting it in such esteemed past Cannes company as Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura and David Cronenberg’s Crash. (In one of those rare alliances of Franco and Anglo sentiments, Martel’s film spent most of Cannes scraping bottom in the daily critics’ polls conducted by the British trade paper Screen International and its Gallic counterpart, Le Film Français.) Continue reading

Jean-Paul Civeyrac – Fantômes AKA Spirits (2001)

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On the surface, Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s Fantômes unfolds with a sense of haunted, supernatural disequilibrium that similarly infuses Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s atmospheric, tonal cinema. In the film’s opening sequence, a young acting student, Mouche (Dina Ferreira) stares out the window of an empty room and wistfully implores her absent lover, Bruno (Olivier Boreel) to return. Alone with her grief, she retreats into the silence of her intimate memories, briefly interrupted by what appears to be an anonymously placed, prank telephone call (in a premise that coincidentally evokes Kurosawa’s Pulse, made in the same year), before being brought back to the mundane reality of rehearsing text in Russian for an upcoming drama class during a subsequent telephone conversation with her professor, Andreï (Jean-Claude Montheil). However, Mouche’s desolation does not lie in the vestiges of a failed love affair, but rather, in the tragic loss of a new lover from a motorcycle accident. The image of the sad-eyed Mouche invoking the name of her dead lover is reflected in the dorsal shot of another distracted acting student, Antoine (Guillaume Verdier) as he stares out the window of a country house while rehearsing his lines, avoiding the gaze of his first love (Emilie Lelouch) before finally resolving to break up with her. Continue reading