John Gianvito – Vapor Trail (Clark) (2010)

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Keith Ulich wrote:
John Gianvito’s new documentary, the first of two films focusing on decommissioned, and hazardous, U.S. military bases-one named Clark, the other Subic-in Pampanga province, Philippines, takes its title (minus parenthetical) from the contrails left behind by airplanes at high altitude. A pre-credits sequence shows several such images, in addition to a rolling stream at sunrise; the driver’s-eye interior view of a car, signal clicking, as it prepares to turn (which way unspecified); and faded photographs that depict, we will come to learn, incidents and asides from the Philippine-American War (1899-1913). What connects these disparate objects/mo(ve)ments is a shared sense of impermanence-the feeling that everything we’re viewing is fleeting and, likely, soon forgotten.
The three Gianvito films I’ve seen-this, 2007’s Profit motive and the whispering wind, and, my personal choice for best of the ’00s, 2001’s The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein-share a fascination with, and in some way seek to redress the human propensity toward cultural-historical amnesia. Continue reading

Alain Corneau – Stupeur et tremblements AKA Fear and Trembling (2003)

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Synopsis:
A Belgian woman looks back on her year at a Japanese corporation in Tokyo in 1990. She is Amélie, born in Japan, living there until age 5. After college graduation, she returns with a one-year contract as an interpreter. The vice president and section leader, both men, are boors, but her immediate supervisor, Ms. Mori, is beautiful and trustworthy. Amélie’s downfall begins when she speaks perfect Japanese to clients. She compounds her failure by writing an excellent report for an enterprising colleague. The person she least expects to stab her in the back exposes her work. Thus begins her humiliations. What can become of her and of her relationship with Ms. Mori and with Japan? Continue reading

Adam Curtis – The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom (2007)

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The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom is a BBC documentary series by British filmmaker Adam Curtis, well known for other documentaries including The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares. It began airing on BBC Two on 11 March, 2007.

The series consists of three one-hour programmes which explore the concept and definition of freedom, specifically “how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today’s idea of freedom.” Continue reading

Zabou Breitman – No et moi AKA No and Me (2010)

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Quote:
Lou has few friends and her mother’s addiction to tranquillisers increases her feeling of isolation. For a school project, she must prepare a presentation on homelessness. At the Gare d’Austerlitz she comes across a homeless girl who calls herself No because this is what everyone says to her. In return for a drink, No agrees to let Lou interview her. No reveals that she is 18 and has spent her whole life in care. Lou is moved by No’s story and begins to see her as a friend. When No disappears, Lou sets out to look for her, convinced that they both need each other… Continue reading

Jem Cohen – Chain (2004)

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“Jem Cohen’s Chain is a hypnotic, highly original piece about what
it’s like to live in the new global corporate landscape.”

Daily Telegraph
“Dreamlike… transforms a mundane world into something strange and
new… formidable power… fierce political intelligence.”

Village Voice

Synopsis:
As regional character disappears and corporate culture homogenizes our surroundings, it’s increasingly hard to tell where you are. In Chain, malls, theme parks, hotels and corporate centers worldwide are joined into one monolithic contemporary “superlandscape” that shapes the lives of two women caught within it. One is a corporate businesswoman set adrift by her corporation while she researches the international theme park industry. The other is a young drifter, living and working illegally on the fringes of a shopping mall. Cohen contrives to turn the entire planet into a stretch of New Jersey commercial property–a universe that feels entirely real yet has the distinct smack of J.G. Ballard otherness. Continue reading