Veiko Õunpuu – Püha Tõnu kiusamine AKA The Temptation of St. Tony (2009)

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There’s no better cinematic praise than to be evocative of Béla Tarr’s tour de force Werckmeister Harmonies. And The Temptation of St. Tony is just that. Veiko Õunpuu has weaved an existential rumination on Eastern European temporality, where work is waiting and waiting is work, and a visually stunning critique of the exacerbation of difference that post-communist times have to offer. A nouveau riche class fascinated by its newly imported sense of sophistication and superiority is so in love with itself that getting a glimpse of the lower classes is as unbearable as staring at Medusa right in the eye. Continue reading

João Nuno Pinto – América (2010)

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America a tragic story told in a burlesque and ironic way, within a love triangle. Liza, a beautiful young Russian woman, is married to Victor, a small-time crook who lives on scheming and swindling, born and bred in Portugal. Fernanda, the ex wife, who ten year’s passed decides to drop by, is the gang leader, an Andalusian Spaniard. Victor has to decide which women to follow, Liza cannot really leave him, Fernanda doesn’t really want to stay. The six year old kid hangs everybody by a string. Eastern European newcomers give new business perspectives that are going to rock their small world by the beach: Cova do Vapor. A chaotic neighborhood of precarious housing located at Lisbon’s gates, where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic, where fishermen and retired factory workers coexist. An obscure little place, where everything suddenly changes, even the weather. After a violent storm, the gangster’s house gets a rusted fishing boat hanging on top of their home. In the midst of the tragedy, there’s always room for love, and most of all, hope for a piece paper called passport, sometimes fake! Continue reading

Gus Van Sant – Last Days (2005)

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Synopsis
Last Days is filmmaker Gus Van Sant’s fictional meditation on the inner turmoil that engulfs a brilliant, but troubled musician in the final hours of his life. Michael Pitt (The Dreamers, Hedwig and The Angry Inch) stars as Blake, an introspective artist whose success has left him in a lonely place, where livelihoods rest on his shoulders, and old friends regularly tap him for money and favors. Last Days follows Blake through a handfull of hours he spends in and near his wooded home, a fugitive from his own life. Expanding on the elliptical style forged in his previous two films, Gerry and the Palme d’Or winning Elephant, Van Sant layers images and sounds to articulate an emotional landscape creating a dynamic work about a soul in transition. Continue reading

Lucy Carter – Auschwitz: The Forgotten Evidence (2004)

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When an Allied photo-reconnaissance plane flew over southern Poland in the summer of 1944, following a bombing raid on 20 August, it took extraordinary images of the Nazis’ most evil extermination camp: Auschwitz Birkenau. From these photos, it is possible to see in detail how the SS organised their factory of death in which about 12,000 people were being murdered daily. But the pictures were not analysed at the time. Instead they were simply filed away. Continue reading

Jytte Rex – Silkevejen AKA Silk Road (2004)

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What follows Buddha’s quote is a mesmerizing portrait of a terminally ill paintings restorer, Christine (Ellen Hillingsø), whose harrowing reality, lucid dreams and memories of a lover long gone are intertwined into a cinematic equivalent of a bleakly delicate hypnagogic hallucination – the art of dying is taken to a poetic extreme.

As Christine’s inner world merges with the outer world, transforming its very fabric, her consciousness migrates into the ocean of the universe. The past, the present and the future become both eternal and fleeting One. By moving far, far away from the narrative conventions, Jytte Rex (Planetens spejle) creates a melancholic ode to life illuminated through the prism death. Via double and triple superimpositions she establishes a disorienting atmosphere. Continue reading

Raoul Ruiz – Poetics of Cinema 2 (2007)

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“Eleven years separate these lines from the first part of my Poetics of Cinema. Meanwhile the world has changed and cinema with it. Poetics of Cinema, 1 had much of a call to arms about it. What I write today is rather more of a consolatio philosophica. However, let no one be mistaken about this, a healthy pessimism may be better than a suicidal optimism.” Following his research in Poetics of Cinema, 1 on new narrative models as tools for apprehending a fast-shifting world, Ruiz makes an appeal for an entirely new way of filming, writing and conceiving the image. “‘Light, more light,’ were Goethe’s last words as he died. ‘Less light, less light,’ Orson Welles cried repeatedly on a set–the one and only time I saw him. In today’s cinema (and in today’s world) there is too much light. It is time to return to the shadows. So, about turn! And back to the caverns!” Continue reading

Lucile Hadzihalilovic – Innocence (2004)

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Is this a horror movie or a grim fairy tale? Dedicated to her colleague, confrontationalist director Gaspar Noé, and sourced from a work by dark expressionist Frank Wedekind, Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s stunning debut describes the purgatorial existence of schoolgirls in a sequestered rural college. In their crisp white gym shifts andpigtail ribbons colour-coded by age, these prepubescent model pupils are self-policing, save for a lone crippled mistress and a ballet teacher and the hovering threat of their ‘graduation’ ceremony in the mysterious house through the dark wood from whence none ever return. Meticulously shot by Benoît Debie with the chromatic richness of the pre-Raphaelite painters – you can almost smell the moss and decay – and miraculously acted by its predominately young cast, Hadzihalilovic’s film may make for a finally problematic feminist fable, but its unique vision conjures memories of the terrible beauty of Franju’s surreal work and Laughton’s supreme symbolist invocation of childhood, ‘The Night of the Hunter’. Continue reading