In all its simplicity, a completely unique film, shot more than 10 years ago and only now edited. A poet sets off on a ‘business trip’ through inhospitable Xinjiang. The physically exhausting trip provides an existential brothel visit, bumping on bad roads and a glimpse of a disappearing world, but also 16 melancholy poems.
In 2002, Ju Anqi made a film about a tour by the poet Shu through Xinjiang, the most western-lying, autonomous Uyghur province of China. All that we know about Shu is that he plays a poet who sends himself on a business trip – an absurd, satirical starting point that sets the tone for the film.
For a variety of reasons, it was not until 2013 that Ju started editing the rough, lyrical material that he had shot in what is now a very restless Xinjiang: it’s like an excellent wine that has had time to mature. Structured around 16 poems which he wrote on the road, Shu’s physically exhausting journey takes him along endless rocky roads, passing shabby inns and through impressive landscapes from one prostitute to the next.
In its documentary authenticity, Poet on a Business Trip is also an historic document that exudes an atmosphere of loss, providing an unsentimental yet melancholy glimpse of a country in transition and a mirror for the existential irreversibility of time. Continue reading
To the many ways in which the career of Japanese auteur and action star Takeshi Kitano resembles that of Clint Eastwood, we can now add another: Both have made the increasingly obligatory geezer-comeback film. It was retired astronauts in Eastwood’s Space Cowboys; in Kitano’s Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen, we get yakuza who hobble out onto not-so-mean-anymore streets attempting to regain their fearsome reputations. A bit sillier than it needs to be to earn the laughs it winds up getting, the likeable picture (which got a Japanese release in April) isn’t colorful enough to reach beyond the director’s established fan base here. Of those who follow Kitano, some will lament his small role onscreen. Continue reading
Whether you judge by box office receipts, industry awards, or critical accolades, science fiction films are the most popular movies now being produced and distributed around the world. Nor is this phenomenon new. Sci-fi filmmakers and audiences have been exploring fantastic planets, forbidden zones, and lost continents ever since George Méliès’ 1902 film A Trip to the Moon. In this highly entertaining and knowledgeable book, film historian and pop culture expert Douglas Brode picks the one hundred greatest sci-fi films of all time. Brode’s list ranges from today’s blockbusters to forgotten gems, with surprises for even the most informed fans and scholars. He presents the movies in chronological order, which effectively makes this book a concise history of the sci-fi film genre. A striking (and in many cases rare) photograph accompanies each entry, for which Brode provides a numerical rating, key credits and cast members, brief plot summary, background on the film’s creation, elements of the moviemaking process, analysis of the major theme(s), and trivia. He also includes fun outtakes, including his top ten lists of Fifties sci-fi movies, cult sci-fi, least necessary movie remakes, and “so bad they’re great” classics—as well as the ten worst sci-fi movies (“those highly ambitious films that promised much and delivered nil”). So climb aboard spaceship Brode and journey to strange new worlds from Metropolis (1927) to Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). Continue reading
Seldom has the idea of a film as a series of tableaux been so literally appropriate as in the latest work from Austrian filmmaker and artist Gustav Deutsch. Shirley – Visions of Reality is a look at the US from the 1930s to the 1960s as seen through a series of micro-stories set in and inspired by paintings by American realist artist Edward Hopper, painstakingly reproduced and reconstructed in a film studio as life-size sets. Each of 13 paintings is used as the setting for moments in the life of a fictional actress, Shirley (Stephanie Cumming), as she moves through life, houses, trips, situations, and milestones of world history taking place in the exact year of creation of each original painting. Continue reading
Two days in the life of Saul Auslander, Hungarian prisoner working as a member of the Sonderkommando at one of the Auschwitz Crematoriums who, to bury the corpse of a boy he takes for his son, tries to carry out his impossible deed: salvage the body and find a rabbi to bury it. While the Sonderkommando is to be liquidated at any moment, Saul turns away of the living and their plans of rebellion to save the remains of a son he never took care of when he was still alive. Continue reading
Ahmet, a prominent intellectual, lost his wife and daughter in a traffic accident which happened while he was spending the night with his lover. As a person who cares about nothing and bows to nothing, Ahmet is not much affected by this tragic event and goes on with his life. After a while, without any apparent reason, he experiences certain changes in himself and his life. Small mishaps, strange misfortunes happen one after another. He is not on good terms with the woman he loves very much anymore. He has difficulties facing life and reveals unexpected weaknesses. Continue reading
A phantasmagorical vision of psychological purgatory, Horse Money (Cavalo dinheiro) will enrapture some while leaving others dangling in frustrated limbo. Only the sixth fictional feature from Portuguese writer-director Pedro Costa in the quarter-century since his 1989 debut Blood, its austere opacity will convert few to the Costa cause. But it will undoubtedly confirm his exalted status among cinephiles and cineastes as an inspirationally uncompromising and uncompromised auteur.
Winner of Best Director at Locarno and confirmed for North American festival play at Toronto and New York, this tenebrous meander around one man’s troubled psyche will likely emulate its predecessor Colossal Youth (2006) by scoring limited theatrical exposure in receptive territories off the back of what is, by this stage regarding Costa, near-automatic critical adulation. Continue reading